§ 2 pm
§ John Barrett (Edinburgh, West) (LD)
It has been almost two months since the Department for Transport published its much-anticipated and much-delayed White Paper, "The Future of Air Transport." When the Secretary of State made a statement to the House last December, time constrained and limited the number of questions that could be asked, and as a result many Members here today were unable to ask questions. When that issue was raised on points of order, Madam Deputy Speaker said that there would be many more occasions on which the White Paper could be discussed. This debate is the first such occasion, and it is to the Government's discredit that they have not afforded Members an opportunity during their time to discuss what is an important national issue and, for many of us, a major constituency issue.
For both of those reasons, I am pleased to have secured today's debate. Despite time constraints, I hope that I will be able to allow many Members to raise specifics points, ideas and concerns. For my part, I want to make some general comments about the overall implications of the White Paper. I am sure that Members will understand, however, if I focus some of my remarks on Edinburgh airport and the impact that the proposals will have on those of my constituents living around it.
The fact that almost 500,000 responses to the consultation papers were received illustrates the interest that people have in the issue, and the importance that they place on it. For all concerned, the fact that the White Paper was published after great uncertainty and delay was welcome. Many people are now in a clearer position than they were before, but others face even greater uncertainty. In some cases, that uncertainty could go on for the best part of 15 years.
§ Mr. John Taylor (Solihull) (Con)
On the question of uncertainty, I have something in common with the hon. Gentleman as regards Birmingham airport. Is he satisfied that there should be a voluntary blight compensation scheme funded by the airports, or should there be a standard national compensation scheme whereby everybody at least knows where they stand?
§ John Barrett
I shall talk about blight and compensation later. I certainly agree with the hon. Gentleman that constituents living in areas that have to be protected for airport expansion cannot have their future put on hold, as is currently planned for many people. The Government have estimated and made projections for transport growth, and have produced a set of plans on which such growth can be accommodated. That, in its most basic terms, is predict and provide, and few outside Government believe otherwise.
One of my greatest concerns about any airport and air transport expansion is the environmental impact. After all, air transport remains one of the most polluting forms of transport and any significant increase in air travel could wipe out all gains in CO2 emissions, which the UK will have to meet under the Kyoto protocols. The fact that the Government devoted an entire chapter 430WH of the White Paper to environmental impacts shows the importance that they place on the issue. The question is, what do we do to minimise the impact and ensure that the air industry makes an appropriate contribution to meeting the environmental costs that are incurred?
Unfortunately, the Government's chapter on the environment did not go down too well. The Aviation Environment Federation described the measure contained in the White Paper as "inadequate and ineffective". The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution said thatthe White Paper fails to take account of the serious impacts that the projected increase in air travel will have on the environment. It favours commerce over vital carbon dioxide reduction measures.Other organisations, such as the Environment Agency, were equally critical. It is regrettable that there is a strong feeling among the environmental lobby, which was part of the consultation process, that its views were ignored.
§ David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op)
Is not the core challenge the fact that, in the period covered by the White Paper, CO2 emissions from aircraft may rise from the proportion that they contributed in 2000 of 5 per cent. to 30 per cent? Should there not be fiscal incentives to tackle that problem?
§ John Barrett
I agree that the air industry gets off relatively lightly. There is not an even playing field for how alternative forms of transport are taxed. We will address the fiscal action that could be taken later.
The White Paper effectively pins environmental hopes on air traffic measures—more research and development and, most of all, emissions trading. However, it entirely lacks any sense of urgency and any practical targets as to how the industry's impacts on climate change will be controlled. The aviation industry supports an open emissions trading scheme but has called on the Government to resist introducing any other interim taxes or solutions. That is not surprising, as no industry wants to pay more tax—just as the average constituent does not enjoy paying income tax. However, those taxes are for a common good. The aviation industry is unlikely to be incorporated into international trading schemes until 2012, and progress so far does not fill me with confidence. Doing nothing in the short term is not an option.
Last year, the Environmental Audit Committee produced a first-class report entitled "Budget 2003 and Aviation", which laid down an environmental challenge for the Government on air transport. I agree with that Committee's frustration about double standards over transport taxes. We tax car fuel to high heaven, but aviation fuel gets away relatively scot-free. We slap VAT on to vehicles but not on to passenger tickets. There are a number of inequalities in fiscal measures in different areas of transport.
This is not only about fiscal measures. If the Minister's Department truly believes in an integrated transport policy, there must be a much greater focus on air-rail substitution. I was disappointed that in a White Paper of 49,000 words, only 560—little more than 1 per cent. of the entire document—were devoted to air-rail substitution. It concerns me that the Government are not taking this matter as seriously as they could. Short-haul flights are the most polluting flights.
431WH An excellent report by the Commission for Integrated Transport of only two days ago showed the degree to which short-haul flights could be replaced by high-speed rail. With the proper investment, Edinburgh to London rail times could be as short as two and a half hours. That journey takes me three to four hours on average—it took my assistant more than four hours today. Such times could easily be reduced if the present journeys were substituted by good high-speed rail links.
I checked the flight information for Edinburgh airport today. Of the 103 arriving flights, some 65—almost two thirds—were from airports that can be reached by rail. If the Government were to take on the mantle of air-rail substitution, we could help protect the environment and reduce the passenger forecast on which they have made so many of their projections.
Edinburgh airport is in the centre of my constituency, so I have another reason for taking a strong interest in the Government's aviation policy. It has already experienced considerable development and expansion. Between 1993 and 2002, passenger numbers increased from 2.5 million a year to almost 7 million. It makes a massive contribution to the economy of Edinburgh and the rest of Scotland. Many of my constituents are employed as airport staff, security personnel, hotel and car rental staff, and so forth. However, the airport's greatest contribution is perhaps that it acts as a gateway to the rest of Scotland—people arrive in Edinburgh, the capital, and they then move on elsewhere in the country. That brings millions of tourists to a city that is heavily dependent on tourism. It also brings businessmen and women to the rapidly expanding business parks around the city, such as Edinburgh park. It is also increasingly used by politicians who are visiting the Scottish Parliament—or who will be when, as is hoped, it is completed later in the year.
The White Paper lays out a strategic plan for the airport. The Government were right to put an emphasis on making the maximum use of the airport's existing facilities—increasing terminal capacity, extending the current runways and taxiways and increasing capacity, and specifically increasing the number of direct international air links. That will be of great benefit because it will bring more people to the city and offer my constituents greater choice for their holidays and business trips.
The biggest and most headline-grabbing part of the White Paper for Edinburgh was the go-ahead for a new parallel runway that will be constructed by about 2020. It does that on the basis that passenger demand will increase to 20 million passengers a year by 2030. Now many people, including some very knowledgeable people within the air transport industry, have told me about their doubts about whether that figure is realistic. They say that the true figure will be considerably fewer than 20 million per annum. BAA plc has acknowledged the great uncertainty contained in the Government's projections of air transport levels. That is why I said that the decision on the second runway did not have to be taken at this stage and that land to the north of the existing runway should be conserved for possible future use.
432WH However, the Government decided to take that decision now, stating in paragraph 5.7 in the White Paper thatthere is…a good economic case for a phased development…constructing a new parallel runway, probably around 2020".I hope that the Minister can explain why the Government have come out in favour of a second runway when clear uncertainty over passenger numbers remains. Why does his Department conclude that a second runaway is needed for 20 million passengers a year, when Gatwick handles more than 30 million passengers a year with only one runway? If he simply responds by saying that there would be smaller planes and that that means more plane movements, I must return to what I said earlier about air-rail substitution.
I deviated quite strongly from the White Paper about the second point in paragraph 5.7, which states that there should bemore use of the current crosswind runway for departing aircraft—although this will provide only a relatively small amount of additional runway capacity".Of course, there is strong case for having a standby runway in the event of essential maintenance or for other reasons. However, there is a world of difference between using the crosswind runway on the odd occasion that it is required, and using it for all departing aircraft, as the White Paper proposes. When do the Government predict that the crosswind runway will start being used more "intensively", as they put it? The White Paper, in paragraph 9, states that it would be used only "for a limited period." With the new parallel runway not expected until as late as 2030, a potential 26 years is hardly a limited period.
The Secretary of State, in both written answers and answers given to me on the Floor of the House, has made much of the issue of noise improvements for people living in Cramond, which is part of my constituency. That is all fine and well, and I welcome those improvements, which will be seen by my constituents in that part of the city. However, the Minister's Department never makes any mention of the hundreds of people in North Gyle, Gogarloch and Wester Broom, which are parts of my constituency, who will experience a significant increase in noise levels above their houses.
Will the Minister—he may have to write to me on this point—tell me more about the safety issues surrounding the use of two intersecting runways at the same time? I have been advised that such a scheme could break Civil Aviation Authority rules, and that there is no similar scheme in any other UK—or even European Union—airport. On a practical basis, the idea of using two runways that lie almost perpendicular to each other simultaneously sounds dangerous to me, and I fly out of the airport every week.
The White Paper has added considerable uncertainty to about 33 households in my constituency, which are within the new airport boundary—as outlined on page 66. I accept that the map is only indicative. However, it is safe to say that the airport will have to expand its boundary and that the map took in households in Carlowrie and Lennymuir. For all intents and purposes, those people have—as I mentioned earlier to the hon. Member for Solihull (Mr. Taylor)—had their lives put on hold while the local planners updated and while BAA came forward with concrete plans.
433WH Some of my constituents have contacted me to say that they are suffering from stress. Some are uncertain about the future schooling of their children and all of them are effectively living in unsaleable properties. I have impressed on BAA the importance of keeping those residents fully up to date with any developments, whether they be positive or negative. As hon. Members can probably imagine, in such small communities rumours can quickly evolve. My office has already had to deal with a number of the concerns of local residents—those are only the people who live within the boundary of the new airport. Many thousands of people live—and will be affected—immediately outside the airport.
I am hopeful of having a meeting with BAA management in the near future, at which these concerns can be raised and expected time scales for action can be agreed. I strongly believe that BAA should enter into early negotiation with these residents about buy-out schemes.
§ Mr. Paul Truswell (Pudsey) (Lab)
Would the hon. Gentleman agree that there is a need for airport operators to be required to publish a plan which describes future developments, the impact that they will have and what is being done to address that impact, so that there can be full public participation in that process?
§ John Barrett
We certainly agree on that point, although the planning process in Scotland may be slightly different from that in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. However, a major worry for constituents is that they are being kept in the dark—either deliberately, or by omission, because someone has not bothered to contact them. People should be brought into the dialogue at an early stage, and the airport operators are the ideal organisations to do that.
As I said earlier, in the case of my own constituency, waiting until BAA needs the land, possibly in 15 years' time, is not an option. I accept that planning issues north of the border are not an issue for the Minister, but I hope that he will work closely with Scottish Ministers to ensure a cross-border policy that protects the interests of those people and no doubt thousands more who are in a similar position throughout the UK.
The decision to propose an airport plan that takes over the land currently occupied by the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland was also very disappointing. The Department for Transport estimates that the Royal Highland showground would have to relocate by 2013. I appreciate that those issues are beyond the Minister's remit, but I tell him that there is considerable opposition to moving the showground. More than £10 million has been spent in the past four years developing the site into a world-class exhibition area. Since the first show there, 40 years ago, the showground has developed into a major centre that now attracts more than 1 million visitors every year and raises more than £200 million for the local economy—hotels, bed and breakfasts and shops throughout the city benefit from it. I cannot think of any other site in or around Edinburgh that can provide 18,000 sq m of space and parking for 20,000 cars. The proposal would mean that the show would have to move out of Edinburgh, and some have estimated the cost of moving to be about 434WH £500 million. I make no comment on who would pick up the bill. The society itself has understandably produced a number of determined statements opposing the idea of moving, but I have no doubt that the issue will rumble on for quite some time.
I shall end my remarks on a positive note. I was in complete agreement with the conclusions in the White Paper on the importance that it placed on improving surface access to the airport, and in particular the emphasis placed on the airport-rail link. The information document produced by the Scottish Executive at the beginning of the planning development for the rail link showed that only 16 per cent. of passengers travelling to and from Edinburgh airport did so by public transport, which is an outrageously low figure. That has put considerable strain on traffic flows on the A8—the nearest major road to the airport—and has added to the considerable pollution faced by my constituents in the villages of Ratho Station and Newbridge.
The detailed rail-link plans unveiled last week are a considerable commitment and run contrary to many of the doom-and-gloom predictions that such a scheme would never take off. Work is now expected to start in two years' time, and although there may be some disruption while construction takes place, I am hopeful and confident that people will benefit from an excellent new service from 2010.
I am aware that many other hon. Members want to contribute to the debate. I hope that this will not be the last opportunity that we have to discuss the White Paper and that the Government will not leave it to Back-Bench Members to test their luck in further Adjournment debate ballots. In the meantime, I look forward to the Minister's comments on the issues that I have raised.
§ Mr. Tony Colman (Putney) (Lab)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (John Barrett) on securing the debate. I also echo the comment that he made at the beginning of his remarks—more than 150 Members stood to catch Mr. Speaker's eye at the time of the original statement. It is a pity that since that statement was made in December there has not been a full debate on the matter on the Floor of the House. This afternoon, Mr. O'Hara, nearly 15 hon. Members are seeking to catch your eye, and it is a shame that the debate is so truncated. I will therefore keep my own contribution short.
I wish to make three points on behalf of my constituents in Putney, of which the first is the omission of rotary-wing aviation from the White Paper. Perhaps there is a sister or daughter paper that I have not identified—I understand that some 27 papers were published last night, and it might be contained in those. I am concerned that heliports and helicopters are not properly dealt with.
The Battersea heliport is just over the border in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Martin Linton), but entry and departure from it is along the river between the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith and Fulham (Mr. Coleman) and mine. The route should continue along the river and turn north or south at Barnes common and the wetland centre, but it has not been 435WH followed. I have had meetings with Battersea heliport representatives. I wish the Minister to ensure that there he has control not just over fixed wing, but rotary wing aviation. The helicopters have to come in below the Heathrow flight path, and they are coming in far below it. That problem is becoming much greater, particularly with the deviation from the route that I described, and is hitting people in east Putney and Southfields.
There is a need to ensure that security controls cover not only the larger helicopters, but the smaller ones, which are currently not regulated and offer a considerable potential terrorist threat to London. The British Helicopter Advisory Board would like the Minister to take those matters forward in a daughter document dealing with rotary aviation.
Secondly, the proposal to end the alternation of Heathrow runways, which is covered in the White Paper at paragraph 11.66, was reported in the press on the basis that it was about to happen almost overnight. On reading the document, it can be seen that that proposal is not due to come into force immediately. My discussions with officials at the Department have led me to believe that that is potentially about five years off, if it will even happen then.
There will be full consultation with all Members and groups. Before the consultation starts, an air quality study will be needed to validate and improve the noise modules relating to what any potential change in alternation would mean in terms of the appalling conditions that my constituents in Putney would suffer not every other week, but every other day.
§ Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne) (Con)
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is aware that there is a range of opinions about the future of Heathrow. However, the one thing that unites us all is an implacable opposition to any change to alternation.
§ Mr. Colman
I am extremely pleased that that unites everybody in the Chamber. The Minister should make it clear that the end of alternation is a tentative proposal and does not have the support of the Government at this time.
Thirdly, I should like to deal with the third runway at Heathrow. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) will be able to catch your eye, Mr. O'Hara, and will go into that matter in significantly more detail. I was pleased that the EU NOx limits were quoted and must be met in terms of any possibility of a third runway. I was pleased to hear from Jeff Gazzard of the Aviation Environment Federation, who said:The White Paper puts a really big barrier in the way of more development at Heathrow—legally enforceable 'never exceed' air quality limits are good news for the people of Putney. The EU limit for Nitrogen Oxides, produced in increasing volumes by aircraft exhaust emissions over West London, will undoubtedly have a major effect and could well limit future growth at Heathrow. The Government, airlines and BAA simply have to comply and actually work to reduce pollution in real terms.Amen to that. In the Minister's response to a debate on sustainable aviation on 18 November, he said:I look forward with some trepidation to the next ICAO meeting because ICAO … needs a kick up the proverbial backside to push things on far more than it has done…We can 436WH act as an exemplar to ICAO to pull its finger out and get things done more readily." —[Official Report, Westminster Hall, 18 November 2003; Vol. 413, c. 246WH.]I am not sure whether it is good or bad news, but ICAO, in its meeting last week, failed to set strong limits for nitrogen oxide emissions for airports, and by doing so made it almost impossible for a third runway to be built at Heathrow. The Minister could not attend that meeting but I hope he will be able to attend future meetings. In a sense, the officials did the people of Putney a good turn by not objecting to the weak NOx standards that were set at the time.
I have been brief, as many of my colleagues want to speak. The White Paper sets the limits on NOx, which means that the third runway will not be built. I should like confirmation that the Government are not proposing the end of alternation and I look forward to stronger controls on helicopter use, especially the use of the Battersea heliport.
§ Mr Edward O'Hara (in the Chair)
I remind hon. Members that winding up speeches in the debate will start at 3 o'clock.
§ Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con)
I shall be brief. I simply ask the Minister why, in the case of Luton, he has backed a different proposal from the two options on which consultation was taken? Why, instead of building a new runway, is he proposing to build more than a kilometre of additional runway at the end of the existing one, which points into my constituency? Why has he ignored the fact that the consultants ruled out such an option before the original consultation document? Why has he ignored the fact that the original consultation document stated that if a new runway was built at Stansted and at Heathrow, the proposed additional runway would be twice what was needed and, by implication, should not be built? Why, in the White Paper, have the Government doubled their forecast of the use of Luton if runways are built at Stansted and Heathrow? Why is the Minister proposing that Luton should be expanded to the size of Gatwick, although the surface area of the airport is only 40 per cent. of Gatwick's? Luton depends far more on people arriving by car as there is no direct rail access, and it gets a higher proportion of its revenues from parking charges.
Finally, why do the Minister's proposals make no provision for new infrastructure to cope with 30 million passengers being disgorged on to the already overcrowded roads of Hertfordshire, with the inadequate rail infrastructure?
§ Mr. Alan Hurst (Braintree) (Lab)
I am grateful to have this brief opportunity to argue against a further runway at Stansted.
Most hon. Members will have driven through the Stansted area on the M11 and some will have gone to the airport, but many may not be aware of the nature of the countryside and the heritage that surrounds Stansted airport. It is generally recognised as an area of unspoilt countryside and historic villages; my constituency includes Finchingfield, which is often regarded as the most beautiful village, if not in England, certainly in 437WH Essex. Nearby is Great Bardfield, the home in the 1950s of a renowned group of artists. This unique area of countryside would be greatly damaged if the expansion envisaged in the White Paper were to go ahead. Until 1998, the throughput of passengers was about 7 million, then came cheap flights and bargain-basement aviation, which has boosted the turn around at Stansted to almost 19 million. The growth is based on the giveaway flight policy.
In Belgium, there was a recent ruling against cross-subsidy, which may knock cheap flights there on the head. There may be similar prohibitions here in a year or so to prevent cross-subsidy. If that comes about, the number of passengers using Stansted will not grow at anything like the rate that it has in the past few years. In respect of Stansted, the White Paper is based on the use of the motor car and road transport; indeed, it queries the existing rail capacity for Stansted and makes no detailed analysis of how it could be increased if the colossal increase envisaged takes place.
The reliance on roads is contrary to so many other policies that the Government are bringing forward. The expansion of Stansted is based on that concept, and can only be further detrimental to that part of Essex and Hertfordshire. The White Paper chooses the most expensive option: building a runway a considerable distance from the existing runway and outside the existing boundaries. Consequently, there will be extensive acquisition of land, far beyond what would have been contemplated if other available options had been adopted.
The White Paper states thatThe area around Stansted has an attractive, varied landscape. with many villages and smaller settlements, including much valuable architectural heritage. We believe that these characteristics should be preserved as much as possible".The White Paper goes on, along the lines of, "I hear what you say, but at the same time it is important to consider the potential growth of the airport". Later, it states that thenew runway at Stansted would require a substantial land take and the loss of around 100 properties. The loss of two Scheduled Ancient Monuments and 29 Grade II listed buildings was a cause of particular concern in the consultation.The report recognises that problems are there, but has very little to say about how they will be dealt with. It goes on to generalise blight, as other hon. Members have mentioned. It comes up with suggestions—frankly, quite inane suggestions—that people might be helped to relocate before the airport is built. It is very difficult to relocate when one's property is blighted. I am pretty certain that such help would not include financial help.
I understand that those who represent areas adjacent to other major airports have been affected by noise for far longer than we have, but the White Paper anticipates that by 2015, 8,000 residents in north-west Essex and Hertfordshire will be affected and that by 2030, 14,000 will be affected. In my view, the entire judgment is flawed and adds to the overheating of the economy of the south-east. It contemplates a vast increase in Stansted's work force, although the unemployment levels are way below the national average. Extra employees could only come to Stansted using the road system. Although that is being improved, the numbers of employees and passengers that would be generated would be immense compared with what we have known hitherto.
438WH The thinking behind the White Paper is misconceived. It would be far better if we took a more realistic view of the place of air transport in our economy and if we thought again about the over-subsidy of air transport that takes place in practice, the obsession with cheap flights and the failure to address the taxation question. If all those points were considered more thoroughly, the villages in my area and in the adjacent constituencies, the ancient monuments and the listed buildings could still be there for generations to come.
§ Mr. John Randall (Uxbridge) (Con)
We are all grateful to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (John Barrett) for securing the debate. I have sympathy for all those affected by the blight of airport expansion.
I am pleased to see that Members for the Cliffe area are representing those who are not here today. Perhaps we can all drop out one by one. If the Minister wants to respond to fewer people, he should take Heathrow out of the equation and we will be quite happy.
I have asked several times what sustainable aviation actually means; I am always promised an answer, but I am still waiting. What do the Government propose to do about aviation emissions, which, as the Minister will realise, are the most rapidly growing source of emissions in the UK? Something has to be done about that problem, or it will drive a coach and horses through the Government's climate change policies.
Mention has been made of Heathrow and air pollution, which, as far as I can see from the White Paper, is our best reason for not allowing any further expansion. I have a few questions about that. Who will do the monitoring, how can we be sure that it will be independent, and which Department will pay? I hope that the money will not come from the ratepayers of Hillingdon. Who will make the decision? How open will it be about where the monitors will be? Over what period of time will the monitoring take place? I would like to see what figures we have already, to see whether the reduction is genuine.
I am getting a bit cynical in my old age, so I wonder whether alternation is simply being threatened. Alternation would be a living hell. My hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) recognises that it is a terrible option, and I wonder whether that threat is a way of ensuring submission: the Government will put pressure on the local residents, saying, "If you don't start agreeing to a third runway, I'm afraid you'll have to have alternation, and that'll be worse." Perhaps I am over-sensitive.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West mentioned that some of the issues that have come out of the White Paper were not in the consultation paper. A sixth terminal for our area in west London was not mentioned in the consultation paper. Whether Northolt would have to close if a third runway was built and whether realignment would be needed were mentioned during the course of the consultation, but residents of my constituency and surrounding areas had no idea what implications a third runway might have for their lives.
There are questions that I would really like answered, but most of all I ask the Government to try to find some time so that we can discuss in more depth not only the 439WH issues that are relevant to our areas, but the whole subject of aviation and its sustainability. Otherwise, in effect, there will be just a statement and a few questions.
§ John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab)
I echo the request for a full debate on this issue. Yesterday, the Minister kindly published the 27 supporting documents for the White Paper. Those papers contain more pages and words than the Hutton report, but are probably more directly related to identifying the true elements behind the Government's decision. The papers contain many details that few hon. Members have been able to take in in the 24 hours since they were published. They contain elements that allow us the opportunity—I put it no stronger than that—to contest some of the published conclusions in the White Paper.
When the White Paper was published, several of us made it clear that we did not believe that the Government had taken fully into account the environmental issues affecting our areas. In fact, it is evident in the papers published yesterday that there still has not been an overall environmental impact assessment of the development of Heathrow. Looking at the papers, I doubt that the other proposals in the White Paper have been assessed in any depth. In addition, the supporting papers prove our contention that no adequate assessment was made of alternatives to Heathrow, and that the White Paper contained no adequate appraisal of the economic case for development other than at Heathrow. I will discuss that briefly, drawing on the papers.
Although I congratulated the Government on the publication of the White Paper and do so again today, because this is the first time that any Government have said to the aviation industry that it will not automatically be able to develop further at Heathrow, I am worried about the change of emphasis that occurred in the weeks before the White Paper was published. Most hon. Members expected the Government to conclude, based on submissions from a range of interests that included the aviation industry, environmentalists and local communities, that there would be no third runway unless air pollution and other environmental effects were tackled. However, the Government's position changed subtly, but importantly, from, "No third runway, unless," to "Yes, a third runway, if." That brings me on to the point made by the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall). We want to debate in detail on the Floor of the House how the "if" relating to air quality is assessed. I have read the paper on air quality assessments that the Government published yesterday. Despite all the measures proposed by BAA to reduce the impact of emissions in the area, my constituents will still be poisoned by air pollution under the 2015 to 2020 timetable.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Colman) mentioned, we were relying on the industry to take responsibility for the development of new technology. The Minister made it clear in the last debate that pressure would be applied at the meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organisation to set stronger environmental limits for future aero-engines, 440WH but in fact the limits that have been set are extremely weak. There will continue to be a lack of pressure on the aviation industry to improve its technology to reduce emissions and the environmental and health impact.
When the White Paper was published, we were told that all examination of the options in the south-east had been undertaken fundamentally. Several hon. Members in various debates have emphasised the Marinair proposal, which examined how, in the long term, airports could be located out at sea, so that they had a minimal environmental impact. The published assessment of Marinair, which was not reported in the White Paper, states:The development of a major airport offshore is entirely feasible and offers advantages of high capacity and much reduced environmental impact.The costings of Marinair, as outlined in that publication, compare favourably with the realistic costings of the development of a third runway at Heathrow and of the blight and loss of homes, schools and community resources that would result from that development. However, that information was published yesterday in the supporting paper, not in the White Paper.
The White Paper debate focused on the economic benefits of airport development, particularly in the south-east, and the fact that Heathrow is fundamental to maximising those economic benefits. The supportiing paper published last night on air traffic demand and airport capacity stated:Calculations reported in "The Future Development of Air Transport in the United Kingdom: South East", show that the greatest economic benefits accrue from a dispersed pattern of activity around the South East—and not from concentrating capacity at a single new 'megahub'.That is completely contrary to what the aviation industry told us and to statements made by Ministers and others.
It is worth examining the 27 papers. There is a paper on Northolt that illustrates the impact on air traffic control and the risk to Northolt's current capacity for military and other air traffic. That warrants a separate specific debate, and I am sure that the hon. Members for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) and for Uxbridge will encourage that debate.
I suggest that, when we have a wider debate, the Minister comes forward with strategic proposals rather than a commentary. The first proposal should be about monitoring air pollution. All of us facing new developments want independent monitoring of air pollution in the area, and an independently set baseline for our airports. We want to establish adequately funded local working parties of all stakeholders to enable transparent and open ongoing monitoring. European Union experts who can compare airports throughout the EU should be included. We need to revisit the development of aero-engine technology and its relationship to global warming and try to develop an international strategy to reverse some of the decisions that have been made. I also plead for support for local primary care trusts in monitoring the health impacts of airports. We know about the Chicago research that has demonstrated a link with cancer, but the experience of primary care trusts and GP surgeries in our areas suggests that respiratory conditions are caused by airport development.
441WH I want the wider debate to tackle blight. The White Paper refers to the need to safeguard land in my constituency for a third runway, which means that people no longer have security in their home and long-term future. Blight affects more than homes: three schools are situated along the proposed runway, which means that 1,400 children may be displaced at some point. I do not believe that they will be displaced, but that is a risk. No proposals have been made about the impact on long-term education planning in my borough of the runway being built.
Referring to the south-east and east of England regional air services study, we need to identify the accurate information in the 27 documents that we have been given. I was told that that 300, not 33, buildings would be affected, but a study launched by the Government 10 years ago said that 4,000 homes would be affected and 10,000 people would be displaced or would find themselves living in an area that was so polluted that they would be poisoned. We need the debate to draw out the accuracy of the papers that have been published.
The cost assessments of individual developments have not been as robust as possible in term of embracing the full range of concerns, and we have not addressed the problem of terrorism and the threat to airports. That was mentioned in relation to helicopter pads, but there has been no assessment by independent experts of the risk caused to urban populations by siting airports so close to them, particularly in view of the fact that the risk of terrorist attack is greatest on landing and takeoff.
We must restructure the debate to develop a strategy in which all stakeholders can participate. We need a national aviation advisory forum of which the Government can ask questions and which can commission independent research to advise the Government on future policy. Until we have that, we will continue to rely on research by BAA, British Airways or others that, even with the best of intentions, is always tainted by their objective of further development.
§ Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough) (Con)
I shall speak briefly about an airport that has not yet been mentioned. East Midlands airport is sited wholly within the county of Leicestershire, but has recently changed its name to Nottingham East Midlands airport. That may interest the hon. Members for South Derbyshire (Mr. Todd) and for North-West Leicestershire (David Taylor) and those of us who live and work in Leicestershire. No one is better qualified to comment on the subject than my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight), who lived for many years in Leicestershire and previously represented Derby, North.
The airport company undertook no consultation about changing the name of the airport. Interestingly, the same company owns Manchester airport, and we suspect—we can do no more—that the desire to increase the number of night flight freighters coming into and out of East Midlands airport has much to do with the capacity of Manchester airport, which is reaching satiation. The company wants, understandably, to 442WH ensure that its business and ability to expand are protected, so that should its desire to expand Manchester become unwelcome, it can use Nottingham East Midlands airport, as it is now called, to increase its business.
I do not base my remarks solely on suspicion. I understand that the largest freight airport in Belgium is coming under considerable local and national political pressure. Companies such as DHL, which do an enormous amount of freighting work, might remove themselves from the Belgian airport and seek to relocate to East Midlands airport. That is not merely a fanciful fear: East Midlands airport already has planning permission for three new freight cargo terminals, resulting in 220,000 sq ft of aircraft accommodation in addition to the existing capacity of 210,000 sq ft.
That is the background. I am conscious that my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) wants to catch your eye, Mr. O'Hara, so I shall be brief. Not only will the increase in flights lead to increased movement of aircraft into and out of East Midlands airport, but the new flight path for the freighters will be over south and east Leicestershire, which covers my constituency and those of my neighbours. Aircraft altitude is apparently measured from sea level. Many of the villages in my constituency that will be directly under the flight path are 500 to 800 ft above sea level. The relative distance above the ground of the aircraft as they come into and out of East Midlands airport will therefore be much less than the measurements indicate. The noise factor will be huge. As the aircraft take off from East Midlands airport they will be using maximum thrust to get their heavy loads airborne, and as they come into land they will be doing the aircraft equivalent of braking. The noise from their engines will be at its worst and they will be at their lowest as they fly over the villages in my constituency.
There has been precious little consultation by the company that owns East Midlands airport, by the Civil Aviation Authority, or by any of the other interested Government bodies to assist my constituents and those of my neighbours to come to terms with the proposal to increase the number of aircraft flights at night. The territory of the airport comes under Leicestershire county council, which has not been consulted at all. The district councils, particularly those on the east and south of the county, have received precisely one letter each from EMA. Had EMA been interested in consulting prior to submitting its proposals to the CAA and persuading the Government to allow them to proceed, one would expect it to have done rather more through advertising and publicity schemes to make its plans better and more widely known. It has not done that. It took action at a public meeting on 19 January in Billesdon in Harborough district to bring the company face to face with the scale and intensity of public concern. Now, we are beginning to get some sort of action from the company. I ask the Government through the Minister to ensure that it is not too late.
Some other Members of Parliament and I will meet the chief executive tomorrow and we hope to see the Secretary of State for Transport on 23 February. In the meantime, I ask the Minister to ensure that the CAA and the airport company fully comply with their moral, if not legal, obligations to consult fully with the affected 443WH people in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and obviously, speaking as the Member for Harborough, south-east Leicestershire.
There is a great deal more I could and want to say. I hope that the Minister will understand that the calm and rational way in which I make this complaint is no indication of the great sense of ill use felt by my constituents. I can assure him that EMA will have a lot more trouble unless it is more thoughtful and more sensitive to the entirely legitimate needs, desires and wishes of the people of south and east Leicestershire. I look forward to his assurance that he will apply pressure on them and the CAA.
§ Mr. Mark Todd (South Derbyshire) (Lab)
I will concentrate on one point. My constituency borders East Midlands airport and many of its flights traverse villages along the Trent valley. I accept the growth of the airport within its existing capacity, and welcome the fact that no second runway has been encouraged by the White Paper. I welcome the alternative provision for express freight within the UK. The implicit strategy of concentrating everything at East Midlands airport was both logistically crazy and extremely damaging to local residents.
The critical question is how are we to achieve the stringent noise controls referred to in the White Paper as a requirement for granting support for expansion? We must recognise that local negotiations about those controls are inequitable. A well-resourced, large company deals with a diverse range of small councils, individuals and representative groups, who desperately need a template on which they can base their negotiations so that they know what sort of things they are supposed to achieve from the process. I will list some of measures that I wish to see in place.
First, there must be clear targets for the obligation to use chapter 4 aircraft—and any subsequent technological standard of aircraft. Secondly, provision must be made showing how to limit flight volume and noise generated, particularly at night. The consultation paper made it clear that three-minute intervals between night flights were a possibility, but that is unacceptable to residents of my constituency. Thirdly, there should be clear obligations regarding surface logistics. Public transport links to East Midlands airport are all but non-existent. It is a freight airport, and reliance on the road system to transport that freight to other places is completely against Government policy.
Fourthly, I expect some attempt to be made to control the routes of aircraft heading in to land. At the moment, the airport authorities seek to control the routes of aircraft taking off and track them—including the times that they fly over my house. We must attempt to control the landing routes as far as possible. I recognise that weather and other conditions make that harder, but it should be possible to make more effort than is currently undertaken. Fifthly, the airport is popular for aircraft training of various kinds, and trainees often chose to fly at antisocial times. Those flights should be controlled.
Sixthly, there should be clear parameters for the various types of ground operation that generate noise. There should be a package of compensation measures 444WH aimed at those whose houses are closest to the airport. My constituency contains few such houses; most are in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Leicestershire (David Taylor). I give the airport authorities credit for thinking about that matter. Seventhly, there should be transparency about the monitoring process. Currently, monitoring is done however the airport authorities choose. There should be an independent audit trail.
Finally, and critically, all controls should be clearly related to the growth of traffic through the airport. It is surely in the best interests of the airport and people in the area to have some certainty about the future. The company can then invest in the airport knowing that, provided that it stays within the controls, it can achieve what it wants, and residents will not have to revisit the issue time and again.
I wish I could speak more on that subject. I look forward to speaking on it again.
§ Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne) (Con)
I take your point, Mr. O'Hara, about three o'clock and will tear up 90 per cent. of what I was going to say.
Of those constituents of mine who have jobs, 26 per cent. depend directly or indirectly on Heathrow for their livelihood. It is therefore not surprising that I focus not only on the environmental issues, but on the economic issues as well. I accept that there is a hugely powerful economic argument in favour of ensuring that Heathrow remains Europe's No. 1 hub airport, but if that means further growth, it cannot be growth for its own sake. That is the starting point for my concerns.
There are good reasons to worry about the future of Heathrow. Some 13,000 jobs are being lost there and another 3,000 job losses were recently announced. It is difficult to say exactly how many, but at least 10 per cent. of those 3,000 who are leaving are likely to be my constituents. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that I want to talk about economics. There is the problem of the loss of routes at Heathrow and a possible worry about the growth of hubs elsewhere in Europe. Like the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Colman) and my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Randall), I accept that there are huge and serious environmental issues to consider. However, I do not have time to list them.
I also agree with the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell), who said that we need more facts. There is claim and counter-claim, assertion and counter-assertion: we need the truth. The ultimate decision at Heathrow must be that if those environmental issues cannot be overcome, there cannot be another runway. We need first to decide whether they can be overcome.
The only thing that I have time to say to the Minister—I hope that he will respond to it—is that airport White Papers always produce a huge volume of correspondence of shrill campaigns saying, "Don't do this here. Do this, that and the other somewhere else." I carried out research in my constituency, which could not be any closer to Heathrow and managed, one way or 445WH another, to get some 35,000 questionnaires to my 70,000 constituents. Just over 51 per cent. of the replies said that they supported another runway and just over 47 per cent. said that they opposed it. I plead with the Minister not to listen exclusively to pressure groups. He should do the research and ask everybody involved because the replies are sometimes different from those that the pressure groups adopt.
On a point of order, Mr. O'Hara. It is important in such debates that every hon. Member who wishes to catch your eye has the opportunity to do so. I am willing to sacrifice two minutes of my winding-up speech, and I invite the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Mr. Marsden) to do likewise, to enable my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) to catch your eye.
§ Mr. Edward O'Hara (in the Chair)
The next person to catch my eye on the Government Bench will be the Minister.
I am happy for hon. Members to have half a minute each, as it is important that their voices are heard.
§ Mr. Edward O'Hara (in the Chair)
What does the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Mr. Marsden) wish to do?
§ Mr. Paul Marsden (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (LD)
I am more than happy to give up a minute of my time, as I shall keep my remarks very brief.
§ Mr. Edward O'Hara (in the Chair)
We are running out of time: we have only 27 minutes left. We should proceed. Much as I appreciate what the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight) suggests, I do not think that we can achieve the outcome that he seeks.
§ 3.4 pm
§ Mr. Paul Marsden
I shall be more than happy to take any intervention.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (John Barrett) on securing this important debate. The subject is of great concern to many of his constituents and literally millions of other people across the country. It is disappointing that two months after the publication of the White Paper, we are still waiting for the Government to give us some real time in which to debate it. I agree that it is only right that those with real constituency issues should be allowed far more time to air their grievances and concerns because the issue will affect future generations. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will reply not just to questions raised today, but to the concerns of those who are unable to contribute.
The Liberal Democrats want air travel to be sustainable, but the fear is that the White Paper only pays lip service to that. It says:The Government invites airport operators to bring forward plans for increased airport capacity in the light of the policies and conclusions set out in this White Paper.There is almost a presumption that that is going to happen, no matter what, but we think that it should be a last resort. [Interruption.] I am more than happy to give way; the Minister is muttering, but he is more than welcome to intervene.
446WH The Minister must acknowledge that the White Paper's approach is flawed. The blame cannot be completely laid at the Government's door. Eleven years ago, a Conservative Government were warned about an increase in air traffic and that something needed to be done urgently, but the problem was not addressed then.
There are some key predictions with regard to environmental issues. Some 500 million passengers will use UK airports by 2030, the south-east will need the equivalent of three more runways by 2030, and ticket prices may fall by up to 60 per cent. If we manage demand better, those predictions may turn out to be totally wrong.
§ Mrs. Caroline Spelman (Meriden) (Con)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the European directive on strategic environmental assessment will come into force on 21 July? That assessment requires plans and programmes that have an environmental impact and that are in the process of being prepared, to have an environmental impact assessment before any decision is made. The directive warns that it is retroactive for any plans and programmes that have not completed all legislative phases of the procedure and achieved final adoption by 2006. The spirit of the directive would have required the horse to be put in front of the cart and for an environmental impact assessment to have been carried out before the White Paper had been published.
§ Mr. Marsden
The hon. Lady makes an interesting point. I hope that the Minister will address it.
The hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Colman) mentioned concerns about air pollution at Heathrow. By 2015, the air around Heathrow will contain higher concentrations of nitrogen dioxide than are legally permitted by the European Commission, even without a third runway. Emissions from airports and vehicles using the road access routes are a major contributor to that. The Government are not addressing those fundamental environmental concerns. As the hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) said, there should be a full impact assessment for every regional airport.
The consultation process has been flawed. It started in July 2002. We want an end to the predict-and-provide approach. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West mentioned that. There has also been no proper assessment of the fact that the aviation industry receives an £8 billion subsidy from UK taxpayers. The assumption that air travel will simply increase and more capacity will be required will presumably lead to more subsidy also being required, which will come from the taxpayer.
I appreciate that some residents have legitimate concerns about whether the capacity of regional airports will be increased, but we must make better use of their existing capacity. The right balance must be struck. My hon. Friend said that it is clear that we need direct international connections between the regional airports so that we do not have to funnel everything down to the south-east, as we are currently do. We are not moving in a sustainable direction.
I want quickly to mention fuel taxation. There is no defence for rail paying 3p a litre duty and private motorists 45.8p a litre duty on their fuel while airlines pay no duty. That is not right and it is not in line with 447WH the lip service that the Government pay to sustainability. Airlines currently pay about 18p a litre for their duty-free fuel. I suggest that a duty of 3p a litre, at the very least, would bring the industry in line with the costs currently paid by other operators of public transport.
There are many concerns about connecting with hub airports in Europe. There are also concerns about landing fees and departure tax. I want the Minister to reply to the welter of issues presented today. I also hope that he will deal with the demand for a much wider debate to be held on the Floor of the House as soon as possible.
I am disappointed, Mr. O'Hara, that you did not act on my point of order. Perhaps I should place on record that I meant no slight.
§ Mr. Edward O'Hara (in the Chair)
The right hon. Gentleman can achieve the same purpose by being generous by taking interventions from his hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman).
§ Mr. Greg Knight (East Yorkshire) (Con)
I want to place on record, Mr. O'Hara, the fact that I meant no slight to the hon. Member for Pudsey (Mr. Truswell). He was sitting studiously, so I thought that he had become a Parliamentary Private Secretary and was not seeking to intervene in the debate. I hope that he will have his day on another occasion. That underlines the point that the Government should have provided Government time for the debate on the Floor of the House.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (John Barrett) on securing this interesting and useful debate. I am probably the only Member here today who, at one time, lived near an airport. My house was next to Derby airport. That is not so grand as it sounds as it is a field in the constituency of the hon. Member for South Derbyshire (Mr. Todd). I did not suffer the sort of horror stories that we have heard from some hon. Members today, although on one occasion I recall that an aircraft that had run out of fuel nearly crash-landed on the top of one of my classic cars, which gave me some cause for concern.
I want to start my remarks by reminding hon. Members that we have recently celebrated the centenary of powered, controlled flight. It is therefore right and proper that we place on record the congratulations that many of us think are due to the United Kingdom's aviation industry for playing a major role in both civil and military aviation during that period. Aviation is critical to the UK's prosperity and we must all recognise that air travel is essential for business and for economic success. About 180,000 people are employed directly by the industry and more than 500,000 jobs depend on aviation.
Much of our tourism depends on the availability of air travel; people in more remote parts of the United Kingdom often require air services for essential journeys. I applaud the industry for successfully competing in a deregulated market in recent years and 448WH on opening up air travel to all through lower fares. The British people and the airline industry want not only improvements but certainty. That is of particular importance to those living close to our airports. I must say to the Minister that the White Paper has not ended that uncertainty. In many respects, it has prolonged it and we regret that.
The inadequate consultation process has been widely criticised. I hope that the Minister will admit today that the process was flawed. As he knows, the Government were eventually forced to extend the consultation process because, to start with, they failed to include Gatwick in their proposals. The Environmental Audit Committee has been particularly critical of the Government and of the fact that the airport consultation process did not include a formal environmental impact assessment. Indeed, the Government did not even follow their own guidelines, so at some point we must have an apology from the Minister about that.
I must tell the Minister that the flaws in the White Paper are so serious that that is likely to lead to sustained legal challenges in the months and years that lie ahead. I am not talking only about Gatwick: the proposed new runway at Birmingham airport was not subject to proper consultation as the Government refused to reissue the consultation documents to include some aspects of the proposals.
The south-east has been mentioned by some hon. Members. As for Stansted, can the Minister tell us what plans he has for extending the M11 and creating a dedicated rail link? How does that fit in with the Deputy Prime Minister's recent announcement of his plans to build thousands of more homes in the M11 corridor? Does it not show that one Department appears not to know what another Department is planning? How does the Minister intend to resolve that apparent contradiction?
Noise control has also been mentioned. I refer the Minister to paragraph 3.14 on page 34 of the White Paper, which makes a commitment to introduce new legislation tostrengthen and clarify noise control powers both at larger commercial airports and at smaller aerodromes.Can the Minister tell us when he expects that legislation to be introduced? When it is introduced, will it be subject to the pre-legislative scrutiny process? In our view, it should be. This is not a party issue; members of all parties have a genuine constituency interest in introducing the right legislation.
On page 35 of the White Paper, the Government dismiss the idea of making any changes to the Land Compensation Act 1973. Will the Minister look at that again? Some of us think that there is a case for looking at some aspects of that Act, especially the provision that does not come into play until 12 months have elapsed after a development. There is a case for revisiting that.
§ Mrs. Spelman
I am sure that my hon. Friend is aware that in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister lies the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill. I am sure he is also aware that in that Bill are requirements for community involvement before any decision making. There are also provisions for compensation for blight, which go beyond the airy-fairy suggestion in the 449WH Department for Transport's White Paper that somehow the airport operators must find all the money to provide for standardised blight. There seems to be a lack of joined-up thinking between those two Departments.
§ Mr. Knight
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I hope that the Minister can prove to us that the Government have at last got their act together on this issue.
Page 38 of the White Paper deals with local air quality. I wonder what the Minister meant by the following paragraph:local authorities and transport bodies working with airports to limit road traffic emissions associated with air passengers and employees, including through increased use of public transport".What changes does he think that he can make by encouraging more passengers to use public transport to go to the airport? The likely effect will be insignificant. Does he accept that not all travellers can use public transport when going to an airport?
As for Heathrow, part of its environmental impact is generated by road congestion in the area, yet the White Paper makes it clear that the Government have no further plans for motorway widening. Will the Minister reflect on that? If traffic is kept moving in the vicinity of Heathrow, would that not, by itself, make a large contribution to improving air quality?
The hon. Members for North-West Leicestershire (David Taylor) and for Edinburgh, West both mentioned fiscal proposals. What discussions is the Minister, or his counterpart at the Treasury, engaged in, not only with our EU partners but with other countries, to introduce some form of fiscal scheme? He will agree that if we were to introduce a scheme on a unilateral basis without securing agreement elsewhere, it would have an extremely negative impact on our industry, and would do little to solve the problem.
The issue of safety, which was touched on by the hon. Member for Braintree (Mr. Hurst), is important. We welcomed the Government's announcement to introduce air marshals. We realise that the Government need to be careful about what they reveal about their plans, but does the Minister accept that announcing a number of security measures can in itself inspire public confidence? Will he update us on some of the issues mentioned in relation to the programme of action on page 146 of the White Paper, in particular on the action points that it indicates will be implemented in 2004?
Air travel has shown the fastest growth of any type of travel in recent years, but changes are needed to reflect the growing concerns of the population, not just around London airports but throughout the UK. I hope that we will hear some answers to those problems from the Minister.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Tony McNulty)
To the extent that I can answer 14 contributions in nine minutes, I shall endeavour to do my best. First, I congratulate the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (John Barrett) on securing the debate and I welcome the chance to respond on behalf of the Government.
At this stage, I want to take a thematic approach to some responses, and I apologise to hon. Members if I do not deal with every local issue. Before publication, I met 450WH at every opportunity Members who wrote to ask to see me about any specific or general issues. I have since told them that the White Paper marks the start of the next process and is not its definitive end, especially not, as has been suggested, in the case of airports, where we start from the premise of optimising existing capacity. That brings with it a range of issues before we get on to talking about additional capacity, such as in the case of East Midlands airport. Those matters are worthy of discussion, and I thank everyone for the serious way in which they have been discussed.
I will not dwell on partisan points about the consultation process, which, however flawed, elicited 500,000 responses. Nor will I dwell on the delay to the White Paper that was caused in part by that consultation process. I want to concentrate on some broad themes. Anyone who knows anything about the genesis and history of what used to pass for aviation White Papers will understand that to describe the paper in a dismissive way merely as "predict and provide" is simply wrong. By any token, that description is wrong if one reads the whole piece. It is not simply a matter of "predict and provide". Indeed, in his own words the hon. Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Mr. Marsden) belied the notion that the paper was so by saying that it forecast 500 million passengers and three new runways in London and the south-east. If he looks very closely, he will see that we are only giving the two.
§ Mr. McNulty
No, I will not. I do not understand how that is "predict and provide".
I say to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West that I am more than happy to see him and discuss further the particular issues. Representatives from The Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland have already met the Secretary of State, and there is still much to be discussed by the Department for Transport, Edinburgh and the Scottish Executive. I am more than happy to pursue that.
To dwell on one local issue, there is a particular safety issue in using the crosswind runway, which I have visited, as it will be used only for departures for a limited period. The interaction between the main runway and the crosswind in the limited times that it will be used would not impact on safety. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman was in error when he read from the White Paper that all departures would be from the crosswind. Clearly, it does not say that. It says that some departures would be from the crosswind runway "for a limited period." I am happy to discuss local and wider issues with anyone, and am meeting representatives from the East Midlands airport in a few weeks to discuss its name change. The three real themes that I have picked up on—
§ Mr. McNulty
No, I will not give way, with respect. I have about six minutes left, and I want to do justice to earlier comments.
Three major themes that emerged were: the environment, which is entirely proper; what I would call master planning; and infrastructure or surface access 451WH issues. Again, in comparison with any other White Paper or substantial policy document on aviation, the White Paper goes some way in trying to redress the balance between environmental concerns and the future of the aviation industry. Indeed, on pages 40 and 41, paragraphs 3.40 to 3.43, we talk about emissions and other issues that hon. Members have raised, and about the adoption by airports, airlines and air traffic controllers of working practices that minimise the impact of their activities. In addition, they discuss research and development by aerospace manufacturers of new technologies to reduce climate change. We will press them on all of them.
The White Paper also talks about voluntary actions by airlines, airports and aerospace companies to control greenhouse gas, the point about the International Civil Aviation Organisation and action at a European level. We say clearly in paragraph 3.42:We reserve the right to act alone or bilaterally with like-minded partners if progress towards agreements at an international level proves too slow.The right hon. Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight) is right in the sense that there are elements of things that one can do at a national level, at regional level and at international level. We need to take the balance and interaction of all three enormously seriously.
The comments made by the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) and by others about specific local infrastructure are again well made points. Throughout chapter 12—under delivering surface access improvements—we say that we would expect those matters to be addressed.
On some of the other points raised about environment, investment and appraisals—and others too—a strategic policy document, which will be a material planning matter when it comes to discussion of planning applications, should not be confused with the planning applications themselves. Many of the points that are worthy of substantive consideration that are made by hon. Members are rightly matters of detail for planning applications, not for a strategic policy document that lays out where the Government think that aviation should go in future. That applies to the 452WH points raised by the hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) about environmental impact assessments, the issues about blight and everything else.
§ Mrs. Spelman
I am sure that the Minister will appreciate that the legal opinion on this matter is that the White Paper is very prescriptive and that it goes beyond being purely a strategic document. If a legal opinion on that is not enough, take the view of the public who, once faced with the White Paper, will feel powerless to challenge it.
§ Mr. McNulty
The hon. Lady should not traduce the planning process in such a way, and her constituents—and anyone else who does not like the absolute detail that is subsequent to any area addressed in the White Paper—should make full use of that planning process. Her point on public consultation in the genesis of regional spatial strategies and the local development framework is well made and it is statutorily in the Bill now in terms of planning and compulsory purchase.
All those processes are not precluded or ignored by the White Paper; it is not a planning document. It says quite clearly where we think that aviation should go over the next 30 years. It is entirely in order, by the by, for anything that we have rejected or something else to drop out of the blue in terms of an application. Nothing in the White Paper precludes anyone from making any sort of application that they want in terms of airport capacity. The White Paper is the way in which the Government suggest that things should go over the 30-year horizon. It will be a material planning matter when it comes to inquiries and applications. Given that it is a material matter, it will be incorporated into strategies. Therefore, the strategic policy document should not be confused with the planning document.
I know that I will run out of time. However—this is for the business managers, not for me—I would welcome a fuller debate on this issue, either on individual matters and applications or in a broader debate than that. I would say, not least because of the 27 documents and because of a range of work programmes, that we have held up pending the publication of the White Paper. However long it may seem to individuals—given their serious concerns—it is a tad premature to have that fuller debate until everything is in the public domain that needs to be there. Many things were held up because of the process—