Oral statement to Parliament

Aviation capacity

Explains that the government is undertaking a package of further work before making a decision about airport expansion in the south-east.

With permission Mr Speaker I would like to make a statement about airport policy.

Aviation is a British success story.

Today we have the third-largest aviation network in the world — second only to the US and China.

But with that success comes challenges.

Heathrow is full. Gatwick is filling up.

If no action is taken the entire London system will be full by 2040.

And yet we need new connections to new cities in new economies.

There are other challenges too.

Airports create jobs and opportunities.

Technology is changing.

Planes are becoming quieter and more efficient.

But there is still — inevitably — an environmental impact.

To some, the arguments seem simple.

Oppose all expansion anywhere. Or back it — but always somewhere else.

And yes there are opportunities in the network of national airports, with global connections from cities such as Birmingham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester and Newcastle.

But growth here will come alongside growth in the south-east not instead of it.

Which is why in September 2012 Sir Howard Davies was asked to lead a commission into the issue.

Its final report was published less than 6 months ago.

It made a strong case for expansion in the south-east.

We have considered that evidence.

The government accepts the case for expansion.

And the government accepts the Airports Commission’s shortlist of options for expansion.

We will begin work straight away on preparing the building blocks for an airports national policy statement.

In line with the Planning Act 2008.

Putting this new framework in place will be essential groundwork for implementing the decisions we take on capacity, wherever new capacity is to be built.

And that is the issue I want to turn to now.

Sir Howard Davies and his team produced a powerful report.

Heathrow Airport Ltd’s scheme was recommended by the Airports Commission, but all 3 schemes were deemed viable.

We are continuing to consider all 3 schemes.

And we want to see action.

But we must get the next steps right.

Both for those keen to push ahead with expansion, and for those who will be affected by it.

So we will undertake a package of further work.

First, we must deal with air quality.

I want to build confidence that expansion can take place within the legal limits.

So we will accept the Environmental Audit Committee’s recommendation to test the commission’s work against the government’s new air quality plan.

Second, we must deal with the concerns about noise.

I want to get the best possible outcome on this for local residents.

So we will engage further with the promoters to make sure the best package of noise mitigation measures are in place.

Third, we must deal with carbon emissions.

So we will look at all the measures to mitigate carbon impacts and address the sustainability concerns, particularly during construction.

Fourth, we must manage the other impacts on local communities.

I want people who stand to lose their homes to be properly compensated for the impacts of expansion.

And I want local people to have the best access to the opportunities that expansion will bring, including new jobs and apprenticeships.

So we will develop detailed community mitigation measures for each of the shortlisted options.

We expect to conclude this package of work by the summer.

Critically, this means the timetable for delivering additional capacity set out by Sir Howard does not alter.

The commission reported that an additional runway would be required by 2030 and we intend to meet that.

In saying this I am fully aware that some would wish we could go further.

And others will wish we were not making such progress at all.

We are prepared for that because I want to get this decision right.

That means getting the environmental response right.

And in the meantime getting on with the hard work to build new capacity to the timetable set out by Sir Howard in the commission’s report

Mr Speaker, I commend this statement to the House.