11 Nov 2008 Heathrow debate – press clippings and linksNovember 12, 2008 at 7:14 am | Posted in Climate change, Environment, Heathrow | 2 Comments
Tags: Adding c, Climate policy, Debate, Heathrow airport, Heathrow expansion, House of Commons, Houses of Parliament, Politics, Transport policy, Westminster
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:
Joe Murphy, Political Editor
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.
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.
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.
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?
By Michael Savage
Wednesday, 12 November 2008
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sky News, UK
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
Nicholas Cecil, Chief Political Correspondent
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.