Patrick McLoughlin evidence to Transport Cttee – he “very much hoped” to give runway location decision by July

The Commons Transport Committee held an oral evidence session on 8th February, inviting Transport Secretary of State, Patrick McLoughlin, to comment on the decision by the government to delay a statement on the location of a possible new runway. The tone of the session was that the Committee was eager for a decision to be made rapidly, with concern that undue time was being taken. Mr McLoughlin explained that even an EU referendum in June would not rule out a decision before Parliament’s summer recess.  He said though there has been a delay, partly due to air pollution problems and the VW “defeat” scandal, he hoped the government was ensuring all necessary research had been done, to minimise the chance of legal challenges causing yet further delays. The timetable the government is working to is a runway by 2030, though Heathrow and Gatwick would prefer it to be by 2025. Mr McLoughlin said he “very much hoped” there would be a statement to Parliament at least several days before summer recess  (starts 21st July) to allow time for MPs to comment etc. He stressed how the 2008 Planning Act would make pushing a runway through fast, and gave the various timings, with only 6 months for a planning inquiry and examination in public.


Patrick McLoughlin, on the timings of getting a runway through

See Q 51  at Link

“There is no doubt that there is frustration about all the legal requirements and the hoops that we sometimes need to jump through, but we just have to accept that that is the right thing to do. If you are putting a new piece of major infrastructure in an area where it has not hitherto been, you have to expect that people will want their views heard. They will want to make sure that the right environmental work has been done, and the right kind of inquiries as to how it may affect their lives or the lives of their neighbourhoods are things that need to be judged. Yes, it is frustrating. We are doing it under the 2008 Act, which has changed things and gives a much more straightforward timetable as to the time it will take.

”    …..   Before the 2008 Act came into force, Terminal 5 took something like eight years in the planning process, from application to final approval. We had a planning inquiry lasting over three years. The new airport capacity will be developed under the new Act. Under the Planning Act 2008, the inquiry period is fixed at six months. There are areas where there are other engagements of the public and Parliament in the process.

“Basically, there are six months for the planning inquiry and examination in public; three months for the planning inspector to report to the Secretary of State; three months for the Secretary of State to consider, report and announce a decision; a six-week period for any potential judicial reviews; and within that period there are also parliamentary occasions when Parliament can take a vote on the issues.”


Transcript of the oral evidence session

The transcript of the session can be seen here

Transport Cttee: “Airport expansion in the south east examined” 

On considering new economic information:

On considering new economic evidence, if it was shown that the alleged economic benefits of a new runway were incorrect, he said: 

Q59   Chair: [Louise Ellman]  Does that mean you are going to open up new inquiries into economic issues?

Mr McLoughlin:  “No, I do not want to open up new inquiries, but obviously if they come up with substantial evidence I will look at it.”


New runway will be built at Heathrow or Gatwick by 2030, MPs told

Transport secretary insists government has made progress on expansion issue as Heathrow chief reveals concern over ‘worrying’ timeline

By Gwyn Topham, Transport correspondent (Guardian)

8 February 2016
A new runway will be built at Heathrow or Gatwick by 2030 and the work being done now is vital to make sure the decision is legally watertight, the transport secretary has told sceptical MPs.

Questioned by the Commons transport select committee on Monday, Patrick McLoughlin insisted that the government had made progress on the issue of airport capacity and still hoped to give a final decision by July.

McLoughlin said questions over air quality in the light of revised government pollution targets, as well as the VW emissions scandal, meant evidence from the commission needed to be examined and more work had to be done.

He said: “I guarantee that there will be attempts to get judicial reviews on whatever decisions we take. To ensure we are in the strongest position it is right this exercise is carried out or we would have even longer delays in the process.”

The Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, made a “clear and unanimous” recommendation last June that an extra runway should be built at Heathrow, but in December the government further prolonged the debate by only agreeing that a new runway was needed, and deferring a final response on its location.

McLoughlin told MPs: “We did take a number of decisions, that we accepted the recommendations of Davies, the locations, the timescales – it was the location that we didn’t make a decision on.”

Committee chair Louise Ellman replied: “I think you know that location has to be the key decision and that’s what everyone expected the government to be announcing.”

The transport secretary said a likely EU referendum in June would not rule out a decision being made before summer recess. Previously, he had suggested the vote could further prolong the final verdict.

McLoughlin promised that a runway would be delivered by 2030, adding: “Business needs to be reassured that we are sticking by that date.”

However, the Heathrow chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, said it was “a little worrying” that the government was working to a 2030 timeline. “We’re working to 2025.”

He said he did not believe there was a need to pre-empt judicial reviews, adding: “The government has been stung by these before so I can understand them wanting to be sure it is robust.”

In an unusually strong attack on Gatwick, Holland-Kaye warned that the prime minister had a choice of a third runway at Heathrow or a Gatwick option that “will not get us to emerging markets, which does nothing for the regions of the UK, or for exports, that delivers a fraction of the jobs or the economic benefits, is less financially robust, does not have the support of business or unions, nor the local community, nor the airlines, nor politicians, nor the policy basis of the airports commission. That offers local people no respite from noise. That has only one motorway and one railway line.”

A Gatwick spokesperson said Holland-Kaye failed to mention “insurmountable barriers that had stopped Heathrow expansion time and time again”, adding: “What remains obvious is that Heathrow’s time has passed.”



Patrick McLoughlin hints that EU referendum could delay runway decision, even beyond this summer

One of the many omissions by the Airports Commission, in its analysis of whether a runway should be built, and its recommendation, is the impact of the UK leaving the EU. It was not considered. Clearly, if the UK did leave Europe after a referendum, there would be complicated economic impacts – which would take years to work through. Now the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin, speaking in an interview on LBC, has said there could indeed be a delay in the government making a decision due to the referendum and the uncertainty about that. Asked when there would be a decision, he replied: “I hope later this year. We have said we would hope to move some way by the summer of this year.” And he went on: “There’s lots of other things which are going on in the political spectrum – if there’s a referendum this summer, and the like. But I would hope by the summer of this year we will be able to make progress.” There is no mention at all of the issue in the Airports Commission’s final report in July 2015 nor in the many supporting documents, nor in its interim report, in December 2013. David Cameron has said the EU referendum will happen by the end of 2017. It may happen as early as June or July 2016.

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Long awaited Government statement on runways – decision will be delayed till summer 2016 – more work needed

After a meeting of the Cabinet Airports Sub-Committee, a statement was finally put out by Patrick Mcloughlin, the Secretary of State for Transport, at 7pm. It said that the government confirms it supports the building of a new runway in the south east, to add capacity by 2030 (earlier airports claimed they could have a runway built by 2025). The decision on location is “subject to further consideration on environmental impacts and the best possible mitigation measures.” All three short listed schemes will continue to be considered – so Gatwick is still included. “The government will undertake a package of further work and we anticipate that it will conclude over the summer.” On air pollution and carbon emissions “The government faces a complex and challenging decision on delivering this capacity.” More work is needed on NO2. “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.”… “At the first opportunity I will make a statement to the House to make clear our plans.”

Click here to view full story…   and for some of the many comments on the statement