With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement about the Airports Commission’s final report, published earlier today (1 July 2015).
I received a copy yesterday evening and I have had copies put in the library of the House and the Vote Office.
First, I will review the Commission’s process to date.
Second, I will describe the next steps.
In September 2012 the government appointed Sir Howard Davies to lead a Commission to consider how the UK could maintain its status as an international aviation hub.
And in particular provide capacity in the south east.
I thank Sir Howard for his leadership.
I thank his fellow Commissioners – Sir John Armitt, Ricky Burdett, Vivienne Cox and Dame Julia King – for their hard work.
I also acknowledge hon members from all sides of the House who have campaigned vigorously on behalf of their constituents.
I am sure they will continue to do this.
There are strong opinions on this issue.
It is not easy to resolve.
For the government, the task is to balance local interests against the wider, longer term benefits for the UK.
This report is part of that process.
Over 50 different propositions were considered.
In December 2013 the Commission shortlisted 3 schemes for further consideration.
Two at Heathrow, 1 at Gatwick.
It also made recommendations for improving our existing airport infrastructure, including upgrading transport connections.
We are acting on these interim recommendations.
We are working with Gatwick airport to upgrade the station there.
Network Rail is leading a study to improve the rail link between London and Stansted.
And Crossrail will soon provide a new direct route to Heathrow.
The Commission has also sought views from across the country.
Because the UK’s other airports play a big role in our aviation success story.
Airports such as Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
And connectivity to all parts of the UK is something the Commission has rightly considered.
The UK has the third-largest aviation network in the world after the US and China.
But it is congested.
And a lack of capacity holds our country back.
Since 1990 12 UK airports have lost their direct links to Heathrow.
As Sir Howard Davies says in his foreword to the report:
Good aviation connectivity is vital for the UK economy. It promotes trade and inward investment.
As the report points out:
About half of the British population travelled by air over the past 12 months.
It also says that:
While London remains a well-connected city its airports are showing unambiguous signs of strain.
Meanwhile hub airports such as Dubai and Istanbul are growing fast.
Mr Speaker, the Commission found that all 3 shortlisted schemes are credible options for expansion.
But that the Heathrow Airport northwest runway scheme offers the strongest solution.
To quote the report:
Heathrow offers a stronger solution to the UK’s aviation capacity and connectivity needs than a second runway at Gatwick”.
The report recommends action to address the impact of any expansion on the local environment and communities.
- limit on night flights
- greater compensation
- controls on air quality
- a guarantee there will be no fourth runway
Let me turn to the government’s response.
There are a number of things we need to make progress on now.
First, we must study the substantial and innovative evidence base the Commission has produced.
Second we will need to decide on the best way for achieving planning consents quickly and fairly if expansion is to go ahead.
Third, we will come back to Parliament in the autumn to provide clear direction on the government’s plans.
Mr Speaker, this is a vital moment for the future of our aviation industry.
Our aviation sector has been at the heart of our economic success and quality of life.
All those with an interest in this important question are expecting us to act decisively.
This is a clear and reasoned report.
It is based on the evidence.
It deserves respect and consideration.
And we must act.
I commend this statement to the House.
Further information on the Airports Commission’s final report