11 Nov 2008 Heathrow debate – press clippings and links

November 12, 2008 at 7:14 am | Posted in Climate change, Environment, Heathrow | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Thirteen. That’s the number of articles worth skimming today for news on yesterday’s 6-hour Commons debate on Heathrow expansion; see Hansard for 18 pages of transcript! I’ve listed them in reverse chronological order (just like blog postings—most recent at the top).  If you only have time to glance at a couple of news reports, head straight for these two for business and European angles, respectively:

10. Heathrow runway project would strain Ferrovial

13. Brown backs third runway
 

——————————————————————

1.

THE Government’s push to expand Heathrow was weakened after Labour backbenchers hijacked a Commons debate and staged a protest

Joe Murphy, Political Editor
12.11.08
This is London, UK

A string of MPs queued up to attack proposals for a third runway as bad for the environment and a potential blight on the lives of millions of Londoners.

Their defiance, coming after the disclosure that senior ministers are divided on the issue, left Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon facing a battle with his own side if, as expected, he gives a go-ahead later this year.

(more …)

2.

Govt Clash With MPs Over Heathrow

The Transport Secretary has clashed with Labour backbenchers over a third runway at Heathrow Airport.

Sky News, UK
8:30am, Wednesday November 12, 2008

Geoff Hoon restated his support for Heathrow expansion during a debate in the House of Commons despite claims the Government’s consultation process was a “sham”.

Labour former aviation minister Chris Mullin said Mr Hoon’s position appeared to presume “unlimited” expansion for the aviation industry.

(more …)

3.

Battle lines drawn in Heathrow expansion

Financial Times, UK
By Jim Pickard, Political Correspondent
Published: November 12 2008 02:00

The expansion of Heathrow airport should go ahead in spite of any short-term fears about recession, Geoff Hoon, the transport secretary, insisted yesterday. During a Commons debate on the issue, he said the airport was at full capacity and would fall behind European rivals if a third runway were not allowed.

“We remain confident about the robustness of our forecasts,” he said.

Mr Hoon denied that the decision to give the scheme the go-ahead had already been made and insisted it would take place only if ministers were convinced that strict criteria on air quality and noise levels were met.

But the Tories decribed the Department for Transport consultation as “a complete sham”. Theresa Villiers, the shadow transport secretary, said that officials’ modelling – which used “green” aircraft not yet invented – had been “reverse engineered” to suit the government’s agenda.

“The plane doesn’t actually exist: it is a virtual aircraft . . . a fantasy plane,” she said.

(more …)

4.

No to the airport lobby? Not yet

Michael White
Michael White’s Political Briefing
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday November 12 2008 00.01 GMT

MPs get rightly criticised for debates and votes that don’t change much. Yesterday’s testy Commons debate on the government’s plans to add a third runway at Heathrow airport may prove an exception. If David Cameron wins power in 2010 and moves to cancel the runway – as he claims he will – there will be plenty of by-then-ex-Labour MPs he can quote in his defence.

As with much else on the policy front, the Tory leader is all over the place on Heathrow. His plan to ease acute congestion at Britain’s hub airport by building a high-speed rail link to the north is admirable, if implausibly optimistic. But it would only trim Heathrow’s flight overload by 3% at best. And who would finance it?

(more …)

5.

The Big Question: What would a third runway mean for Heathrow, and is it really necessary?

By Michael Savage
Wednesday, 12 November 2008
Independent, UK

Why are we asking this now?

The battle over the expansion of Heathrow airport, which would see the number flights at the airport increase from 480,000 to 700,000, is hotting up. While the Government is in favour of expanding the airport with the addition of a third runway and possible sixth terminal, opposition to the new runway is mounting, even within its own ranks.

A debate on the new runway was called yesterday after around 50 Labour MPs backed a Parliamentary motion opposing expansion. Many have environmental concerns, while others in marginal constituencies surrounding Heathrow fear that its local unpopularity could be enough to lose them their seat at the next general election. Outside Parliament, local residents already driven mad by the constant drone of planes flying over their homes gathered to protest about the Government’s apparent determination to go ahead with the third runway.

(more …)

6.

Geoff Hoon opened the throttles but failed to leave the ground

By QUENTIN LETTS
Last updated at 10:20 PM on 11th November 2008
Daily Mail, UK
… But enough of the morning’s tax tussles. A bigger event happened later in the Commons: a debate about plans for a third runway at Heathrow airport.

The ‘consultation period’ has just finished but there are rumours the Government long ago made up its mind to agree to a third runway at crowded Heathrow. It is being leaned on by British Airways and that dreadful little Willie Walsh creature.

MPs debated controversial plans for a third runway at Heathrow Airport

The British Airports Authority is also hot for another runway. It employs Tony Blair’s former spokesman, Tom Kelly.

Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon opened the debate and tried making the case for another runway. Mr Hoon opened the throttles, yanked off the brakes, and whooshed down the aerodrome at  top speed – but failed to leave the ground. His speech was heard with shaking of heads on parts of the Labour benches. Andrew Mackinlay (Lab, Thurrock) was sitting a yard or so to his right and kept shouting ‘rubbish!’ It was an opinion seemingly shared by many of Mr Hoon’s Labour colleagues

Mr Hoon tried to play things party political. Repeatedly he coated his remarks with partisan bitterness. But there were so many Labour dissidents this approach was never going to work.

The Secretary of State looked down his longish nose, pulled himself up to his full height, and claimed that the Conservatives, whose position is to oppose the runway, never cared about people’s employment prospects. Aw c’mon, Geoff. You know that ain’t so. This was lame. Mr Hoon proceeded to argue that mass air travel was good for the poor. He concluded that the Tories wanted only the rich to travel abroad. But bright Susan Kramer (LibDem, Richmond Park) argued that air travel was only cheap because it was given a free pass on fuel tax, plus other privileges, by the Government.

Demand would not be so high – and Heathrow would not need a third runway – if public subsidies were withdrawn. Mr Hoon offered no argument against this. He just insulted the LibDems.

(more …)

7.

Turbulence ahead as rebel Labour MPs attack plans for third runway …

By MICHAEL LEA
Last updated at 11:18 PM on 11th November 2008
Daily Mail, UK

Rebel Labour MPs have attacked the Government’s apparent determination to press ahead with a huge expansion of Heathrow airport. Gordon Brown summoned several to a Downing Street showdown as ministers restated support for a third runway.

But they were unconvinced, as within hours they had joined the Tories to attack the plans in a tetchy Commons debate.

Around 140 MPs, including 50 Labour members, have signed a Commons motion calling for a ‘rethink’ of the proposed expansion.

With a significant number of constituencies around Heathrow being marginals, the row is likely to be a key political battleground ahead of the next General Election.

(more …)

8.

Labour MPs attack Geoff Hoon over Heathrow expansion plan

British jobs will be lost to our continental competitors unless a third runway is built at Heathrow, Geoff Hoon, the Transport Secretary, told rebellious backbench Labour MPs.

By James Kirkup, Political Correspondent 
Last Updated: 12:57AM GMT 12 Nov 2008
Telegraph.co.uk, United Kingdom

As he faced a Labour backlash over the Government’s support for the new runway, Mr Hoon said that over 70 per cent of foreign companies moving to the UK located within one hour of Heathrow. Without a new runway, such firms would be driven out of the country, he warned.

“It is crucial that we continue to protect Britain’s position and plan for the long term,” Mr Hoon said. Blocking a third runway would mean the “steady erosion of Heathrow and the loss of British jobs,” he said.

“For those who want us to sit on our hands, do they want us to ration flights, to restrict flying to only the wealthy? Are we going to export jobs to the Continent?”

Mr Hoon clearly signalled that the Government would formally back Heathrow expansion in the coming weeks.

But Mr Hoon faced fierce opposition in the Commons from Labour MPs.

(more …)

9.

Third Runway: Fasten Your Seatbelts

Sky News, UK
Jon Craig
November 11, 2008 7:03 PM

This row is about to take off. And the ride will be bumpy. So fasten your seatbelts.

There is scarcely a more controversial issue in Parliament at the moment than the proposal to build a third runway at Heathrow Airport.

And while about 30 anti-runway demonstrators protested with placards outside Parliament, a six-hour showdown inside the Commons didn’t disappoint.

Caught in the flightpath: the new Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon, pro-expansion and a man who didn’t come into politics to turn right when he boards an aeroplane.

Before the debate, a Commons motion backed by 121 MPs, more than 50 of them Labour, had called for a rethink, backing high speed rail links and expansion of other UK airports instead.

Hoon claimed grounding the third runway would mean Heathrow losing its position as a major hub to airports like Schipol in Amsterdam and Charles de Gaulle in Paris. “The steady erosion of Heathrow, with the loss of British jobs,” he warned rebel MPs.

But that argument barely got off the tarmac, as Labour MP after Labour MP queued up – like passengers left cursing delays in a Heathrow baggage hall – to tell Hoon he was wrong.

He should just say no to the aviation industry, said former Aviation Minister Chris Mullin. “A sham!” protested the saintly Tory grandee John Gummer, referring to the Government’s consultation process.

A third runway would mean more traffic jams on the M4, it was claimed. (I didn’t think they could get any worse.) It’s already running at 105 per cent capacity, according to Slough’s normally loyal Labour MP Fiona McTaggart. “Gridlock!” predicted Reading West MP Martin Salter.

The softly-spoken Louise Ellman, who chairs the Transport Select Committee, said Heathrow was already full. “Creaking at the seams!” said ex-minister Nick Raynsford.

And that old leftie John McDonnell, whose Hayes and Harlington constituency includes most of Heathrow, predicted “direct action” and “conflict”.

Statements like that make McDonnell sound like the “Wolfie Smith” of London suburban politics. But I fear that judging by the rather small demo outside Parliament during the Commons debate, he may be disappointed.

One brave Tory MP, David Wilshire from Spelthorne (that’s the Staines area near Heathrow), rebelled against his party’s policy and backed expansion. “I believe that my constituents face a clear choice: another runway or redundancy,” he said.

But as Hoon accused his opponents of talking “claptrap”, they accused him of having made up his mind about a third runway already. And it does rather look that way.

But despite the small demo outside, I suspect that inside Parliament in the weeks ahead the third runway won’t get off the ground without a row as deafening as a jumbo jet taking off.

10.

Heathrow runway project would strain Ferrovial

Building a third runway at Heathrow costing up to £13.7bn would require a big jump in airport landing charges and test the precarious financing of BAA’s majority owner, Ferrovial, experts have warned.

By Alistair Osborne, Business Editor
Telegraph.co.uk, United Kingdom
Last Updated: 7:45PM GMT 11 Nov 2008

While MPs yesterday debated the pros and cons of the runway, provisionally set to open in 2020, City and industry sources raised questions over the project’s cost, timing and reliance on transfer passengers.
 
Mark McVicar, an analyst at Dresdner Kleinwort, said the project – priced by the Government at between £8bn and almost £14bn – would require double-digit rises in landing charges when many airlines would struggle to pay them.

The Civil Aviation Authority has allowed Heathrow-owner BAA to raise its landing charges by 23.5pc to £12.80 per passenger in 2008/09 and by 7.5pc above inflation for the following four years.

Mr McVicar said another big leap in charges would be required in the next regulatory settlement to “pre-fund” the project, where airlines pay upfront for a new facility years before it is built. A similar method was used to fund the £4.2bn Terminal 5.

“You could be pretty sure they would be double-digit rises, which is something the airlines need like a hole in the head,” Mr McVicar said, citing the current downturn.

Industry experts also questioned the ability of Spanish infrastructure group Ferrovial, the 55.9pc owner of BAA, to finance the project unless passenger volumes pick up.

Traffic through BAA’s seven UK airports fell 2.8pc last quarter and the company faces new competition from the forced sale of Gatwick – and possibly Stansted.

Brian Ross, economics adviser to the Stop Stansted Expansion Campaign, said: “Anybody who believes that the aviation industry is in a ‘business as usual’ scenario is in cloud cuckoo land. It could take five to 10 years to recover.”

Ferrovial currently has consolidated net debt of €28.6bn (£23.3bn), compared to a market value of just €3.04bn. While only €2.39bn of that debt is recourse to the company, Mr Ross said Ferrovial still had to finance debts held by companies it controls.

Airlines would also be suspicious of attempts by Ferrovial’s construction arm to profit from building the new runway. “There’s a clear conflict of interest here,” said one transport banker.

Currently more than a third of Heathrow’s passengers are simply switching planes. CAA figures show that 63pc of passengers travelling from Heathrow to Mexico City fly from abroad to the UK airport and never leave it. The same is true of 62pc of Heathrow passengers to Beirut, 55pc to Dar es Salaam, 54pc to Seattle and 53pc to Phoenix and Chennai.

“These passengers are great for British Airways but don’t bring any benefit to the UK economy,” the banker said.

BAA said Heathrow was full, adding: “If airlines can’t fly to Heathrow then they will fly to other European hubs instead. That makes UK business less competitive and means fewer jobs in Britain.”

11.

Stop Heathrow expansion campaigners gather outside Parliament

Harrow Times, UK
5:19pm Tuesday 11th November 2008

CAMPAIGNERS have began to gather outside Westminster to support their MPs in Parliament as they debate about expansion at Heathrow Airport.

The demonstrators including members of HACAN and the No Third Runway Action Group are chanting “Stop Heathrow Expansion’.

The MPs, most of who have signed an Early Day Motion to lobby Prime Minister Gordon Brown to scrap the plans, are debating the plans for a third runway at the West London airport.

A decision on whether to grant the proposals is expected to be made next month.

12.

Geoff Hoon hits back over Heathrow consultation ‘sham’ allegations
Transport secretary takes on cross-party critics of government’s policy on expansion of airport

Dan Milmo, transport correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday November 11 2008 17.19 GMT

Geoff Hoon took on cross-party critics of the government’s Heathrow policy this afternoon as he rejected accusations that a consultation on adding a third runway to Britain’s largest airport was a “sham”.

In a clear indication that internal dissent within the Labour party has not swayed the prime minister, the transport secretary said that Heathrow needed more capacity. Speaking at a House of Commons debate this afternoon, Hoon said that the third runway would be built if a consultation indicated that it would meet air and noise pollution limits.

“This consultation was not about the need for new capacity at Heathrow. We recognised at the time that this would have implications for people around Heathrow, which is why we made it subject to meeting stringent applications and a commitment not to increase the size of the area significantly affected by aircraft noise.” Hoon said he expected to announce the outcome of the consultation before the end of the year.

The shadow transport secretary, Theresa Villiers, said the air and noise pollution study had been rendered pointless by the government’s consistently pro-Heathrow stance.

“How does he [Hoon] reconcile his statements that he is in favour of a runway at Heathrow with the fact that consultation has just closed? Surely this consultation has been a complete sham.”

Hoon retorted that the previous Conservative government had recognised the need for more capacity at Heathrow in 1995, when the then-transport secretary Lord Mawhinney had argued that there might be a case for a third runway.

Hoon’s claim that the government was taking “long-term decisions” for the UK’s benefit was attacked by his counterpart. Villiers said expanding Heathrow would endanger the government’s 2050 goal of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 80%. “We have got to take long-term decisions on how we achieve an 80% cut in emissions by 2050. It is Labour that are taking short-term decisions on data that is flawed.”

(more …)

13.

Brown backs third runway

Nicholas Cecil, Chief Political Correspondent
11.11.08
This is London, UK

GORDON BROWN today came out in defence of a third runway at Heathrow but faced fresh warnings that pollution limits must not be breached. 

The Prime Minister stressed that the number of people wanting to fly from London’s airports was forecast to double within 25 years.

At his monthly press conference at No 10, he said: “There is the combination of more people wanting to travel internationally and the fact that in Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt, there are either four or five runways there to deal with the traffic.”

But ahead of a Commons debate on Heathrow, EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas today warned pollution laws must not be flouted to allow expansion.

Mr Dimas told the Standard: “It is critical that member states respect EU legislation which is designed to protect the environment and the health of our citizens.”

Mr Brown emphasised the Government’s “determination” to look at the environmental impact of another runway. “Our commitment is to look at all the environmental issues that have arisen,” he said.

Mr Dimas’s intervention is the latest in a series of blows to the project which includes:

*  A European Commission belief that Britain will not meet new EU laws on nitrogen dioxide near Heathrow — even if it gets an extension to 2015 to comply — unless new anti-pollution measures are introduced.

*  The Government’s own green adviser, the Environment Agency, saying the Government has failed to make the case that the nitrogen dioxide limits will not be breached by a bigger Heathrow.

*  Barristers advising anti-expansion campaigners that a decision permitting a third runway could be challenged by a judicial review on the grounds that the Department for Transport’s environmental findings are flawed.

* Ministers admitting there are likely to be “some limited NO2 exceedences” north of the M4 near Heathrow in 2015, which would need to be addressed by traffic management.

* Environment Secretary Hilary Benn, who is seen as the leading Cabinet rebel on Heathrow, warning against trying to fudge the pollution limits.

Mr Dimas spoke out as the Government launched a concerted effort to persuade people of the benefits of a third runway in a Commons debate this afternoon.

(more …)

2 Comments »

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

  1. Two other good laughs at the debate were

    1. Martin Salter, poking fun by reading the Labour party briefing document out during the debate. Caused great hilarity as no-one believed it!

    “The Government have clearly made no decision. I am a loyal member of the parliamentary Labour party, and I hold in my hand its briefing. It clearly says —it is the job of Back-Bench MPs to read this into the record—that:

    “No decisions on Heathrow have yet been taken”,

    so Members can proceed with this debate with a degree of confidence. It also says:

    “Since the 2003 Air Transport White Paper, the Government has been clear that it supports the economic case for a third runway at Heathrow, subject to being confident of meeting strict local environmental conditions on noise, air quality and surface access.”

    There is a way for the Government to get off this hook. There is a way where they do not have to cede the economic argument—which does exist, and I have not attempted to take it apart today—about the importance of Heathrow and the need for it to expand. Their previous statements made it clear that the environmental and access considerations would be paramount. Those preconditions have not been met. We also know that technology is advancing—BAA makes that case—and there may well come a point when air travel is not so environmentally damaging and does not produce as many emissions as at present. As technology advances and aircraft are manufactured that are capable of carrying more people around with fewer flight movements and less disruption, there may be a case for a third runway at some point in the future.

    At this stage, however, why does the Secretary of State not sign up to the following three simple principles? First, there will be no expansion of Heathrow airport and no third runway without a vote in this House. Secondly, until we are able to take advantage of advancing technology to address the emissions issues, there will be no decision on a third runway. Thirdly, will the Secretary of State stick to the promise that was solemnly made in the 2003 aviation White Paper that until we resolve the all-important and overarching environmental issues, we will not proceed with a third runway at London Heathrow airport? ”

    2. Justine Greening who pointed out that the DfT Project Team “Risk Register” noted a high risk that air pollution mitigation measures would not work but the risk of reputational damage from a botched opeing of T5 was deemed to be low !

    “The DFT compiled its own assessment of the risk of expansion, called the risk register, yet when I met the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, he was blissfully unaware of the existence of the document, let alone its contents.

    The risk register states that the risk of pollution mitigation measures failing to meet air quality targets is high, but did Ministers make sure that DEFRA was aware of that? No. Did Ministers make sure that that “high risk” assessment, made back in October, got into the public consultation document, so that the public and businesses were aware of the risk assessment and the dangers? No. We should put that “high risk” assessment of pollution mitigation measures failing into context: the same team that assessed that risk as high also considered the risk of terminal 5 being a botch job, leading to reputational damage. I am sure that hon. Members will be amazed to hear that the risk attached to that was low. Of course, we all know what actually happened. The Government have shown that they did not foresee the risk of national disgrace and embarrassment in the case of terminal 5, yet we are about to walk headlong into another disgraceful risk. However, the outcomes could be far worse, and irreversible.

    Concealing information and ignoring risks are all just part of the Government’s consistently disingenuous attitude towards engaging with the public. That has pervaded all levels of the consultation process. At every stage of the modelling process, the Government’s approach can best be described as “How can we fix the data to support our policy, and how can we twist the facts to get the result we want?” “

  2. Thanks for this, Tim. I looked at the transcript for the 6-hour debate at:
    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200708/cmhansrd/cm081111/debtext/81111-0004.htm

    and I’m glad John Stewart highlighted this for us:

    Conservatives Will Scrap ALL Expansion at Heathrow

    The big news to emerge from the six hour debate called by the Government on Tuesday 11th November was the confirmation that the Conservatives are committed to scrapping ALL expansion plans for Heathrow. Theresa Villiers said in her speech in the debate that the Party would keep runway alternation and get rid of a 3rd runway and 6th terminal. Runway alternation is critical to the people of West London. When planes land over West London, they switch runways at 3pm, allowing people at half day’s break from the noise. Since the Liberal Democrats are also opposed to all expansion at Heathrow, it means expansion will probably only take place if Labour wins the next General Election (which has to be held within 18 months).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.

%d bloggers like this: