HC Deb 10 June 1996 vol 279 cc8-9
5. Mr. Hain

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what proposals he has to ensure that environmental considerations are included in the guidelines for the trans-European transport networks. [30605]

The Minister for Railways and Roads (Mr. John Watts)

The common position on the guidelines adopted by the Council of Ministers in September 1995 identified the integration of the environmental concerns into the design and development of the network as a priority. I fully expect the final agreed text to contain those or similar provisions.

Mr. Hain

That may appear to be an encouraging answer, but may I press the Minister more forcefully to ensure that the Government fulfil their international obligations to sustainable development and that strong environmental protection measures are included in the guidelines for each trans-European network, such as a strategic environmental assessment or a corridor analysis for each scheme? In addition, because the Council meets in secret, it is quite possible for it to thwart the pressure from the European Parliament under the co-decision procedure for that environmental protection and for the Government not to own up to that. I hope that the Minister will press for those environmental protection measures at that meeting.

Mr. Watts

The hon. Gentleman misses the point that existing legislation requires rigorous environmental assessment for any transport infrastructure project. Hon. Members will have seen the extent of that assessment in the channel tunnel rail link project, for example. Schemes on a trans-European network comprise individual schemes and, if they are cross-border, individual member states, all of which are subjected to rigorous environmental assessment under existing legislation.

Mr. Harry Greenway

Bearing in mind people's entitlement to a reasonable environment, as set out in the report, does my hon. Friend agree that the Transport Select Committee report advocating that Northolt airport become a satellite of Heathrow would be totally unacceptable to the people of Northolt, Ealing and the surrounding area and would destroy their lives, given their proximity to Heathrow airport? Will he give an assurance that it will be thrown out, as it should be?

Mr. Watts

The Department has only recently received the report from the Select Committee, which is being given careful consideration. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be replying to the report in due course in the normal way.