Full text of Maria Eagle’s speech, on Labour’s ideas on future aviation policy

This is the full text of the speech by Maria Eagle, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, to the Airport Operators’ Association. This confirms Labour will not press for a 3rd Heathrow runway. However, she says “Any serious strategy for aviation and its crucial role in the UK economy cannot start from a position that rules out additional capacity in the South East.” This favours expansion at airports other than Heathrow. And also deeper aviation carbon cuts by 2050.


Monday 31 October 2011

Time to forge a cross-party consensus on aviation and high speed rail for the
long term – Maria Eagle


In a speech to the Airport Operators Association, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary
Maria Eagle MP
 will today:   

 – Urge the government to establish a cross-party commission to set a long term
policy for aviation as part of a strategy for jobs and growth;

·        – Argue that the government’s call for airports to be ‘better not bigger’ is a
slogan, not a policy, and a blanket ban on growth and new capacity in the South
East make no sense;


·        – Accept that the third runway at Heathrow is now off the agenda because of the
local environmental impact and urge the industry to move on and look at other
solutions to the need for new capacity;


·        – Call for the Committee on Climate Change to advise on a tougher CO2 emissions
target for the aviation industry;


·       – While pledging to do nothing to put at risk or delay the vital high speed rail
line between London, Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds, back the inclusion
of Heathrow on the route which would also enable the greater use of existing transport


Setting our Labour’s offer to the government, Maria Eagle MP said


“A successful, thriving aviation sector is crucial for our economic competitiveness.
The government’s failure to set out a strategy for aviation, and the lack of any
plan to do so until late in this parliament, is now putting jobs and growth at
risk. I am therefore offering to put aside political differences and work on a
cross-party basis to establish a credible aviation strategy for the long term.
As part of that, Labour will accept the government’s decision to cancel the third
runway at Heathrow, but Ministers must accept that their opposition to any other
aviation growth in the South East makes no sense. If they agree to our proposal
for an independent cross-party commission on aviation, it should be able to look
at all options while prioritising making the best use of existing runways and airports.

  “I am also today calling on the Committee on Climate Changeto advise the government and industry on a tougher emissions target for aviation.
It’s time to bring the industry closer to the wider goal in
the Climate Change Act to cut emissions by at least 80% by 2050, compared to
1990 levels, and reflect this in future Carbon Budgets. Labour is clear that any growth in aviation must be sustainable and meet the
challenge of climate change.

“Labour’s cross-party support for the high speed rail line that we proposed in
government is clear. It is the only credible way to tackle capacity issues on
the existing main lines. However, following the cancellation of the third runway
at Heathrow, it is vital that we take the opportunity that this new line offers
to provide greater connectivity to our major hub airport.
If the government was to take the line via Heathrow it would remove the need
to build an expensive spur later while opening up the prospect of private sector
funding, potentially saving the taxpayer billions. It could lead to a new route
that makes better use of existing transport corridors and avoids an area of outstanding
natural beauty where residents were wrongly insulted as ‘NIMBYs’ by Tory Ministers. If
this were to happen it would also open up the opportunity to connect to the Great
Western mainline, bringing the benefits of the high speed line to the South West.

“The Government has so far shown that it is out of touch with the calls from
business for a credible aviation policy. I urge the new Transport Secretary to
accept our offer to work across the political divide on a long term strategy for
both aviation and high speed rail as part of the plan for jobs and growth that
the country needs.”




Editor’s notes :



  1. Full text of Maria Eagle’s speech to the Airport Operators Association conference ‘UK Airports: Delivering Jobs and Growth in Tough Economic Times’:





The UK’s airports are central to our economic prosperity and could be key drivers
of the growth without which we have no prospect of emerging from the dangerous
economic situation we are in. That’s why I am so pleased to be at your annual
conference, and why the theme you have chosen could not be more apt, and this
conference could not come at a more critical time.


It’s a year since Ed Miliband asked me to take on the role of Shadow Secretary
of State and I have done all I can to get to know the industry, and many of you
personally, over the past months. You work in an impressive industry at the cutting
edge of British innovation, science and technology – and what has struck me is
your commitment not just to the industry, but to wider UK PLC. I thank you for
that commitment, and the contribution you make every day to generating the growth
and jobs in what you rightly say are tough economic times.


I also have to say that, following Ed’s recent reshuffle, I couldn’t be happier
to be continuing in this role and ensuring that – on the opposition side at least
– you have some continuity. I am sorry that the government has not learnt from
our own mistake – and I do believe it was a big mistake – to see the Department
for Transport as a revolving door department. It’s bad for the sector. It’s bad
for good governance. And particularly for an industry that needs a long term consistent
vision from government. That said, I do wish Justine Greening well in her new
job. It’s to her credit that she honoured her predecessor’s commitment to speak
to you today so early into her new brief.


Philip Hammond is of course now off to tell the Armed Forces that they have to
be ‘better not bigger’. His first task will be to tackle the failure of long term
infrastructure and investment planning that is going to mean we have brand new
aircraft carriers before we have the planes to go on them. Runways without planes:
his aviation policy in reverse, you might say.


A Strategy for Jobs and Growth


This time last year of course, Philip Hammond addressed your conference. Re-reading
what he said to you I was struck at the complacent tone – not just on the aviation
sector, but on the economy as a whole. Considering the state of the economy today,
it is frankly incredible that he was able boldly to declare: ‘we have moved from
the danger zone…. to safety.’


I don’t suppose from where you are sitting, in a frankly precarious business,
it seems like UK PLC is out of the danger zone. On the contrary, far from moving
to safety, we have moved right to the edge of the precipice.


Of course we need to bring down the deficit. And we would have halved it across
this parliament. I’ve been criticised for refusing to oppose all of the reductions
in spending by the DfT. Backing the decision to cut nearly £2bn from our road
building programme and taking £1bn from the costs of Crossrail for example. Scrapping
public bodies, even those doing good, and significantly cutting the staff and
running costs of the DfT.


But let me also be clear: I would not have cut investment in transport so far
or so fast. The DfT accounts show quite clearly the impact on vital investment
in infrastructure with rail spending down 41% to £2.9bn and road spending down
18% to £3.8bn in the last year.


The speed and scale of cuts to public investment, combined with the complete
lack of a credible strategy for growth, are the reason the government has failed,
as Philip Hammond claimed, to ‘move us to safety’.


Despite this government complacency, you have had to hold your nerve and survive
a worldwide financial and banking crash. You live day to day with the consequences,
as businesses and families cut back on spending and investment. And our economy
faces stagnation.


And I believe that the government’s failure to set out a plan for growth is a
major failure of leadership. It is failing your industry. It is failing Britain.
And it is failing millions of families up and down the country, something we can
see more clearly every day.

A fragile economy did not need a hike in VAT. A fragile economy did not need
faster and deeper cuts in public investment than any other major country. A fragile
economy did not need a massive cull of public sector jobs, with no plan for the
private sector to fill the gap.

The result? Our economy has flat-lined. Confidence has gone. Unemployment is
up, reducing the deficit by £46 billion less than planned as tax income falls
and benefit payments rise. The government’s strategy is hurting, but it isn’t

We need an alternative: a real plan for growth. That’s why Ed Miliband and Ed
Balls have called on the government to take 5 steps now to help our economy. First,
repeating the bank bonus tax, using the money to build 25,000 affordable homes
and guaranteeing a job for 100,000 young people.

Second, bringing forward long-term investment projects to get people back to
work and strengthen our economy for the future. And that means genuinely bringing
forward investment. Government talks about bringing forward investment but the
reality is that they have kicked many projects into the long grass such as vital
rail electrification, new rolling stock and rolling out electric car charging
infrastructure. And, when the DfT contributes a third of the money, investment
from the Regional Growth Fund should actually deliver transport improvements.

Third, reversing January’s damaging VAT rise now for a temporary period, providing
immediate help for our high streets and businesses, including your own. The rise
in VAT on fuel alone has caused real hardship to families and businesses, just
at the time transport costs are being hiked across the board, with rail fares
up by an average of 8% every year for three years, hitting commuters hard.

Fourth, an immediate one year cut in VAT to 5% on home improvements, repairs
and maintenance – to help homeowners and small businesses.

And, finally, a one year national insurance tax break for every small firm which
takes on extra workers, using the money left over from the government’s failed
national insurance rebate for new businesses. Because getting people back into
work, easing the cost of living crisis facing households is the best way to also
boost spending, including on family holidays and business travel.

A plan for growth. That is how to speed our recovery. To genuinely move us ‘from
the danger zone…. to safety.’

So, yes we are in tough economic times. And any government would be facing them.
And any government would need a plan for the deficit.

The choice is whether government is part of the solution, or part of the problem.
And with no plan for growth, I fear we have a government that is failing to provide
the leadership we need.

The need for an aviation strategy

Nowhere is that lack of leadership more evident than in the failure to set out
a credible long term strategy for aviation.

A year into opposition, let me be honest with you. I do not stand here today
with a fully formed set of transport policies, half way through our two year policy

Yet for the government to say that they need the best part of the parliament
to come up with an aviation policy, when they have had thirteen years in opposition
to do so, is frankly incredible. Not least for a crucial sector on which our economy
depends. For an industry that contributes more than £11bn to UK GDP – more than
1% of the total, over 200,000 jobs directly and 600,000 indirectly across the

Consultation after consultation. Relentless industry engagement. Scoping documents.
Taskforces. None of this makes up for the lack of a policy, let alone a strategy.
With the economy on the brink, to hold out the prospect of a policy late in the
latter part of a five year parliament is frankly not good enough.

It is a total failure to prepare for government. And a total failure of the kind
of leadership that is needed now more than ever.

The government must change course. Better not bigger is a slogan not a policy,
and I am not sure I have heard one so widely ridiculed.

So let me be very clear. Any serious strategy for aviation and its crucial role
in the UK economy cannot start from a position that rules out additional capacity
in the South East.

It is a nonsense to apply a policy to a single region of the country in this

We need a strategy that works for the South East as well as for our vital network
of regional airports which are so crucial to our economy, many of which I have
been able to visit over the past year. And of course, my own constituency includes
Liverpool John Lennon Airport, so I am clear about the value and future potential
of our regional airports.

Setting a long term strategic direction for aviation, both in London, the wider
South East and across the country, is a vital part of delivering the growth and
jobs the country needs.

Our offer to government

So I have discussed with Ed Miliband how best Labour can, from opposition, support
the industry. And how we can help enable the government to set out a clear long
term strategy for aviation.

Our conclusion is the best thing that we can do for the sector is to make a constructive
offer to David Cameron and Justine Greening. To help them get out of the hole
they have dug themselves into. To offer them some additional capacity even.

So Labour is offering to take the politics out of aviation. To put aside party

I today say to the government: let’s work together on a joint aviation policy
for the good of the nation.

This is a clear unambiguous offer with no catch.

Because aviation matters to our country. To our economy. To businesses and families
up and down the country.

Yours is an industry that needs stability for the long term. And a long term
plan that straddles parliaments and governments

And as an industry you need and expect your politicians to up their game.

So, in addition to the more immediate work that the government must conclude,
let’s establish a cross-party commission to set our long term aviation strategy
for a generation and more, not a parliament.

Let’s not repeat the party political wrangling that turned the proposed third
runway at Heathrow into a political football. And let’s agree that we will then
stick to that agreed strategy whatever the outcome of the next election.

Third runway at Heathrow

When parties work together, they both have to accept where they got things wrong.
They both have to set aside firmly held views and entrenched positions.

Let’s be frank, the Prime Minister has made clear that his opposition to a third
runway at Heathrow is not up for grabs. And Ed Miliband has been clear that he
does not believe we were right on this issue in government.

I know that, over the past year, many of you have urged us to hold to our election
position and take on the government over this issue.

But any terms of reference for a cross-party look at capacity will inevitably
start with an understanding that the answer for the South East is not going to
be to fall back on the proposed third runway at Heathrow. The local environmental
impact means that this is off the agenda.

So, we will accept the decision on Heathrow, but we expect the government not
to seek to set additional caveats on the options that we will jointly explore
if they agree to our offer to work together. Any cross-party body needs the freedom
to look at all options for growth including in the South East, while prioritising
making best use of existing runways and airports.

I say to you candidly: there is a bigger prize for us putting political battles
to one side and developing a long term strategy for aviation. It’s time to move
on and find an alternative way forward.

High speed rail

I want to make one additional practical proposal to government that will be of
benefit to Heathrow.

The proposed high speed rail line, HS2, was a scheme that we first set out in
government.  It involves investment across several spending review periods and
parliaments and it is a project that requires clear cross party support.

I have looked very carefully at this project over the past year and concluded
that there was no credible alternative way of addressing the capacity issues on
our existing main rail lines between North and South. And while reducing journey
times is important and brings with it economic benefits, it is the need to increase
capacity that makes this new line so essential.

But if the main purpose of this major investment is capacity, not speed – then
it’s right that we strike the correct balance between the benefits of reducing
journey time between specific cities and ensuring the line contributes to the
wider economy. And that isn’t a balance we got right in the plans we began and
the government is taking forward.

I am convinced it is a huge mistake not to connect direct to Heathrow from the

Taking the line via our major hub airport would remove the need to build an expensive
spur later while opening up the prospect of private sector funding, potentially
saving the taxpayer billions. It would lead to a new route that makes better use
of existing transport corridors and avoids an area of outstanding natural beauty
where residents were wrongly insulted as ‘NIMBYs’ by Tory Ministers. It also opens
up the opportunity to connect to the Great Western mainline, bringing the benefits
of the high speed line to the South West and Wales. And we have to find a more
coherent way of linking to HS1, so that the opportunity to develop through services
from the continent to the Midlands and beyond can become a reality.

Consulting on this new route would allow time for work to be completed on the
precise route for the rest of the HS2 line and the entire project to be taken
forward in one piece of legislation, as Labour has consistently demanded. The
delay of up to 18months now would not cause any delay to the actual start of work
on the project or its final delivery date.

Creating a major new transport hub to the West of London at Heathrow, rather
than several miles away at a site with inadequate other transport connections,
and mirroring the hub in the East at Stratford, is the joined up thinking that
is too often lacking in our transport planning.

So, while we will do nothing to put at risk or delay this vital project, I am
today urging the new Secretary of State to agree to revise the plans for connecting
to Heathrow so that we get this right for the long term.


There is one other long term challenge that I want to address – and that is CO2

Because the choice for us is whether we are remembered as the last generation
not to take climate change seriously, or the first generation to recognise the
need to act.

Therefore, any cross-party look at the long term future for aviation must also
begin with a clear agreement on need to reduce its contribution to climate change.

From all the dialogue we have had over the past year, I know that this is something
on which you are relentlessly focussed as an industry. You can be proud of the
huge advances that have been made and the way that the industry is rising to the
challenge. It’s been clear to me as I have visited NATS at Swanwick and been shown
how they are leading in Europe and beyond on how air traffic management can contribute
to reducing emissions. Or, as I saw two weeks ago, when I joined the Prime Minister
at the official opening of the new £400 million factory in Wales which will assemble
the wings for Airbus’ A350X.

Yet, I realise that, despite all the advances that are being made, the emissions
challenge is tougher for aviation than almost any other sector.

But the reason we need to place emissions at the heart of our future aviation
strategy is clear. Without immediate action we know we face a risk of global warming
of more than 2 degrees with appalling consequences for human welfare and ecological

And transport remains a major contributor to CO2 emissions. The industry is right
to point out that while 22% of UK emissions come from surface transport, just
6% is as a result of aviation. But we all know that the forecasts of a potential
growth in air passenger numbers of 200% by 2050 would see this percentage increase
without action. So the question is not whether the sector must experience major
change but how that change should be brought about.

In government, Labour introduced the Climate Change Act which requires that emissions
are reduced by at least 80% by 2050, compared to 1990 levels. To put us on target
to achieve this, the Committee on Climate Change’s 4th Carbon Budget sets an interim
target of 50% by 2025.

In government, we agreed that aviation should not be included in this target.
Instead we worked with you to agree a plan to reduce aviation emissions in the
UK to below 2005 levels by 2050. The government has failed even to reaffirm their
commitment to this target. And, as you will know, the Committee on Climate Change
has also made clear in principle that international aviation should in future
be included as well. We believe that the government should agree to this once
the committee brings forward its advice on accounting methodology.

However, Ed Miliband and I believe that even the commitment we made in government
fails to meet the scale of the challenge we face.

Frankly, without aviation playing a greater role, we will not achieve by 2050
the broader 80% cut in emissions on 1990 levels to which we have committed. Therefore,
future aviation growth must, we believe, go hand in hand with a greater cut in
aviation emissions than we agreed when in government.

We will therefore be urging the Committee on Climate Change to set out what it
would mean for aviation to go further than the target we set in government and
relieve the burden on other sectors to ensure we can achieve our wider goal for
2050. And then the Carbon Budgets that have been set should be updated accordingly.

I know the energy and determination with which the industry will rise to this
challenge. As you will know, the industry’s own ‘Sustainable Aviation Roadmap’
makes clear that, by 2050, it is possible to get absolute levels of emissions
down to levels seen at the turn of the century – even as passenger numbers are
projected to grow by a factor of 3. So we all agree that it is possible to do

This should therefore not be seen as a threat but an opportunity. Fuel efficiency
improvements in aircraft engines and airframes. Improvements in air operations,
both in terms of more fuel efficient practices and air traffic management. The
use of alternative fuels, produced sustainably.

The UK should be at the forefront of developing the new technologies that enable
the aviation industry to thrive while reducing emissions.  Delivering jobs and
growth. Green jobs and green growth. Enabling aviation to grow, sustainably.


Let me conclude by thanking you again for the invitation to speak to you today.

We are half way through our policy review, just eighteen months after losing
an election. Something we have in common with every other party I might add.

So, while I have set out today some of our initial thinking, I want to continue
to work and engage with you over the months and years ahead.

I am, however, clear that the appointment of a new Transport Secretary provides
an opportunity for a fresh start. The offer we have made to her, and to the Prime
Minister, today is serious and genuine.  I hope she responds positively. And I
urge you as an industry to encourage her to do so.

Thank you.