Third runway at Heathrow

I voted with the majority of Labour MPs in a free parliamentary vote in favour of a third runway at Heathrow.

The Independent Airports Commission was specifically set up to remove the politics out of this issue and to take into account all of the economic and environmental issues. It recommended a new runway at Heathrow as the best solution.

The organisation that represents 40 regional airports across the UK backs the third runway. Liverpool John Lennon Airport backs the third runway and has done so for a number of years. I have backed the local campaign for the last four years. This is because of the improved connectivity it will provide to regions like our own as we currently have no connectivity to the hub for both passengers and freight and the additional runway will result in 15 per cent of landing slots committed to regional airport connectivity. A third runway at Heathrow is also backed by the trades unions and business organisations.

The Labour Party set four tests for the third runway. On capacity, climate change, noise and air quality, and regional benefits. The Shadow Transport Secretary who set those tests, Michael Dugher, wrote a detailed article in the New Statesman before the parliamentary vote in which he explained why he believed the tests have been met. You can read his article here.

As a former Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate Change and Shadow Minister for Public Health, I have long campaigned against air pollution and to protect our environment. The recent parliamentary vote means that for the third runway to go ahead, Heathrow and the government will have to deliver far more radical and legally binding measures than are currently planned to improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions.

Notwithstanding the ongoing improvements in efficiency, noise and emission reductions in modern aircraft, there will need to be a significant acceleration in the decarbonisation of other areas of our economy including land transport and energy generation, if we’re to meet our carbon reduction targets. There will also need to be much more radical action in the Heathrow area and nationally, to reduce air pollution, particularly from land transport, which is the main contributor to harmful emissions.

Aviation contributes £52 billion a year to our economy and supports nearly a million jobs. Heathrow is the UK’s main ‘hub’ airport and main ‘port’ into the country. I believe that if we’re to keep our position as a major trading and business centre we need to address its lack of capacity, which is causing congestion and the UK losing out to our neighbours. For instance, Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport has five main runways, Paris and Frankfurt four each.