Patrick McLoughlin makes bland statement to Parliament about runway decision delay
Patrick McLoughlin, Secretary of State for Transport, made an oral statement in the House of Commons on the government’s announcement that it is delaying a decision on a new runway. It is carefully worded, to give nothing away and be entirely non-committal. He was asked various questions by MPs after it, and his answers also give nothing away – and barely answer the questions. Some MPs wanted to know if Gatwick was now being considered. Henry Smith (MP for Crawley) asked whether, if the government decides on a Gatwick runway, he could have a “guarantee that the significant investment that will be required in housing, highways, the rail network and healthcare and all other public services will be forthcoming?” Mr McLoughlin: There are already significant commitments with regard to Gatwick; improving the infrastructure for Gatwick is already taking place and further such schemes will be coming on board over the next few years. It is vital that we get the surface access to our airports correct. That is something we are dealing with over a period of time. My hon. Friend asks whether there would be other consequences if the decision should go towards Gatwick. That will be the case for any option we choose, and of course we want to look at those options and see which ones we would want to take forward.” ie. more vague waffle.
“Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin just took the ministerial habit of not answering Qs to whole new level on issue of airport capacity”
Oral statement on Aviation Capacity, to Parliament by Patrick McLoughlin, DfT
“From:Department for Transport, The Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP and Airports Commission”
14 December 2015
Explains that the government is undertaking a package of further work before making a decision about airport expansion in the south-east.
With permission Mr Speaker I would like to make a statement about airport policy.
Aviation is a British success story.
Today we have the third-largest aviation network in the world — second only to the US and China.
But with that success comes challenges.
Heathrow is full. Gatwick is filling up.
If no action is taken the entire London system will be full by 2040.
And yet we need new connections to new cities in new economies.
There are other challenges too.
Airports create jobs and opportunities.
Technology is changing.
Planes are becoming quieter and more efficient.
But there is still — inevitably — an environmental impact.
To some, the arguments seem simple.
Oppose all expansion anywhere. Or back it — but always somewhere else.
And yes there are opportunities in the network of national airports, with global connections from cities such as Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester and Newcastle.
But growth here will come alongside growth in the south-east not instead of it.
Which is why in September 2012 Sir Howard Davies was asked to lead a commission into the issue.
Its final report was published less than 6 months ago.
It made a strong case for expansion in the south-east.
We have considered that evidence.
The government accepts the case for expansion.
And the government accepts the Airports Commission’s shortlist of options for expansion.
We will begin work straight away on preparing the building blocks for an airports national policy statement.
In line with the Planning Act 2008.
Putting this new framework in place will be essential groundwork for implementing the decisions we take on capacity, wherever new capacity is to be built.
And that is the issue I want to turn to now.
Sir Howard Davies and his team produced a powerful report.
Heathrow Airport Ltd’s scheme was recommended by the Airports Commission, but all 3 schemes were deemed viable.
We are continuing to consider all 3 schemes.
And we want to see action.
But we must get the next steps right.
Both for those keen to push ahead with expansion, and for those who will be affected by it.
So we will undertake a package of further work.
First, we must deal with air quality.
I want to build confidence that expansion can take place within the legal limits.
So we will accept the Environmental Audit Committee’s recommendation to test the commission’s work against the government’s new air quality plan.
Second, we must deal with the concerns about noise.
I want to get the best possible outcome on this for local residents.
So we will engage further with the promoters to make sure the best package of noise mitigation measures are in place.
Third, we must deal with carbon emissions.
So we will look at all the measures to mitigate carbon impacts and address the sustainability concerns, particularly during construction.
Fourth, we must manage the other impacts on local communities.
I want people who stand to lose their homes to be properly compensated for the impacts of expansion.
And I want local people to have the best access to the opportunities that expansion will bring, including new jobs and apprenticeships.
So we will develop detailed community mitigation measures for each of the shortlisted options.
We expect to conclude this package of work by the summer.
Critically, this means the timetable for delivering additional capacity set out by Sir Howard does not alter.
The commission reported that an additional runway would be required by 2030 and we intend to meet that.
In saying this I am fully aware that some would wish we could go further.
And others will wish we were not making such progress at all.
We are prepared for that because I want to get this decision right.
That means getting the environmental response right.
And in the meantime getting on with the hard work to build new capacity to the timetable set out by Sir Howard in the commission’s report
Mr Speaker, I commend this statement to the House.
MPs were then able to question Mr McLoughlin, and he gave his responses. This can be seen on Hansard at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/cm151214/debtext/151214-0002.htm#column_1306
Columns 1307 to 1325
A few comments on Gatwick from the Hansard account:
Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con): Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the independent and impartial Airports Commission clearly stated that Heathrow was the best option? If Governments in the future decide against that and wish to expand Gatwick, may I have a guarantee that the significant investment that will be required in housing, highways, the rail network and healthcare and all other public services will be forthcoming?
Mr McLoughlin: There are already significant commitments with regard to Gatwick; improving the infrastructure for Gatwick is already taking place and further such schemes will be coming on board over the next few years. It is vital that we get the surface access to our airports correct. That is something we are dealing with over a period of time. My hon. Friend asks whether there would be other consequences if the decision should go towards Gatwick. That will be the case for any option we choose, and of course we want to look at those options and see which ones we would want to take forward.
Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con): I normally try to support my right hon. Friend, but I must admit that I am struggling somewhat on this occasion. Can he give an absolute assurance that if results of the further work on air quality and noise were to go against Heathrow, the default position would be to accept Gatwick and not waste more years by setting up yet another commission?
Mr McLoughlin: If my hon. Friend looks at my statement, he will see that I made it quite clear that the Government accept that the three options put forward by the commission are the right ones for providing extra capacity, so the answer to his question is that I do accept that.
Nick Herbert (Arundel and South Downs) (Con): The Secretary of State said that the Government accepted the case for expansion. Presumably that is why they set up the commission in the first place, so it did not need three years to tell them that. He also said that the Government accepted the Airports Commission’s shortlist of options. Increasingly, he presents the case as though there are three equal options from the Airports Commission, but has the commission not made an unequivocal recommendation? Should not the Government at least be open about that? Is he aware that last week the chief executive of International Airlines Group, Willie Walsh, while expressing concerns about the cost of Heathrow, said that there was “no business case for expanding Gatwick,”
“Very few airlines support the proposal and no one would move there while Heathrow remains open”?
Mr McLoughlin: I could also cite quotes from Willie Walsh which would put a question mark over the Heathrow proposals. If we are getting into the game of quoting Willie Walsh, we will find many that could be cited on this subject. The correct thing for the Government to do is to look at all three options in light of the environmental work and the mitigation circumstances that we would like to see, and then return to the House once we have decided with which option we will go forward.
And four days earlier:
Government confirms support for airport expansion in the south-east
From:Department for Transport and The Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP
10 December 2015
– location decision subject to further consideration on environmental impacts and the best possible mitigation measures
– government agrees with the Airports Commission that the south-east needs more runway capacity by 2030
– government agrees with the Airports Commission’s shortlist of options, all of which it concluded were viable
The government has accepted the case for airport expansion in the south-east and the Airports Commission’s shortlist of options for expansion. It has also identified the most appropriate way of delivering planning consents for new capacity, it was decided today (10 December 2015) at the Airports Sub Committee.
The government will undertake a package of further work and we anticipate that it will conclude over the summer.
The government will do this quickly so that the timetable for delivering capacity set out by the Airports Commission can be met.
The Airports Commission published a large amount of very detailed analysis on air quality and greenhouse gas emissions for their 3 shortlisted schemes. The government faces a complex and challenging decision on delivering this capacity.
The Airports Commission’s air quality analysis will be tested using the latest projected future concentrations of nitrogen dioxide.
The next step is to continue to develop the best possible package of measures to mitigate the impacts on local people and the environment. This will include a package for local communities to include compensation, maximising local economic opportunities through new jobs and apprenticeships, and measures to tackle noise.
More work will be done on environmental impacts. The government expects the airports to put forward ambitious solutions.
The mechanism for delivering planning consents for airport expansion will be an ‘Airports national policy statement’ (NPS), following which a scheme promoter would need to apply for a development consent order.
Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin said:
The case for aviation expansion is clear – but it’s vitally important we get the decision right so that it will benefit generations to come. We will undertake more work on environmental impacts, including air quality, noise and carbon.
We must develop the best possible package of measures to mitigate the impacts on local people. We will continue work on all the shortlisted locations, so that the timetable for more capacity set out by Sir Howard is met.
At the first opportunity I will make a statement to the House to make clear our plans.