Yesterday the House of Commons debated Heathrow. Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon referred to a lengthy public consultation on the matter, for which over 70,000 submissions were received.
The three options consultees were asked to consider were, Mr Hoon told the House:
"a third runway with a new terminal around 2020; secondly, mixed-mode landing and take-off patterns within existing capacity around 2010 and a third runway with a new terminal around 2020; and thirdly, mixed-mode within existing capacity around 2010, full mixed-mode around 2015 and a third runway with a new terminal around 2020."
"Mixed-mode" means using runways for take-offs and landings.
The Government announced in 2003 that it supports a third runway and additional terminal capacity. Mr Hoon stressed yesterday that this is subject to various environmental conditions – meeting European air quality obligations, not increasing the size of the area "significantly affected" by aircraft noise and an improvement in public transport, especially rail. The Prime Minister has also said that next month’s final decision will be taken in light of these considerations.
Shadow Transport Secretary Theresa Villiers outlined the Opposition’s stance:
"I am actually quite new to the House, having been a Member for only three years, but in that time I do not think that I have ever seen a Secretary of State more isolated in a debate. The right hon. Gentleman asked me several times whether I was listening to what he was saying, but I wonder whether he has been listening to what his colleagues are saying. Has he listened to the 70,000 people who responded to the consultation, or to the thousands of our constituents who send postcards to us every day about the urgency of tackling climate change? I think that the Government are deaf to the concerns of people in this country about the environment.
Labour’s determination to press ahead with a third runway at Heathrow is deeply misguided. If the Conservatives win the next general election, we will scrap Labour’s plans for a third runway at Heathrow. We will also scrap the Government’s proposal to end runway alternation at Heathrow. The simple fact is that the environmental and social costs of a third runway outweigh its potential economic benefits."
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