Aviation Question Transcript - 26 June 2017
Asked by Lord Spicer
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to publish a strategy for aviation.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Transport (Lord Callanan) (Con)
My Lords, the Government are committed to developing a new aviation strategy, and we will set out our proposed approach shortly. This will be an ambitious programme of work and we will consult widely, leading to the publication of an aviation strategy White Paper at the end of 2018.
Lord Spicer (Con)
I congratulate my noble friend on his new appointment. Does he think that it will bring out the many Members of this House and of the other place who want above all to know the date by which we will start to build a new runway at Heathrow? That date should, I think, be before Brexit takes off, as it were. Can my noble friend give us his early thoughts on this matter?
I thank my noble friend for his kind words. The Government remain committed to airport expansion in the south-east of England through our preferred scheme at Heathrow. We must remember that our manifesto contained a commitment to continue the programme of expansion at Heathrow. We are getting on with the job of delivering critical infrastructure in the national interest. A consultation on the draft Airports National Policy Statement closed on 25 May and the department is currently reviewing the tens of thousands of responses received. Once the analysis is completed and the Government have considered the responses, I assure noble Lords that we will set out our next steps.
Lord Berkeley (Lab)
Once the strategy is published, will the Minister quote the costs to the public purse of the surface access? My understanding is that those costs for the expansion at Heathrow will be even higher than the cost of the first phase of HS2. Would it not be better to expand our regional airports and to do less in the south-east?
The costs of the surface access to support the new development at Heathrow, if indeed it proceeds, will be borne by Heathrow Airport itself. Of course we also remain committed to expanding regional airports, a subject dear to my heart, and we will set out our approach in the aviation strategy White Paper that I mentioned earlier.
Lord Naseby (Con)
Since aviation policy must cover drones, is the Minister aware that the Government have been consulting for the past two years, while other countries such as the USA have legislated? Is it not time that we actually took some action so that all drones that are either bought or are already around are registered, with strict penalties for those who abuse them?
My noble friend makes a powerful point. As he says, we are consulting on the issue at the moment. There have been a number of well-publicised incidents of drones causing a hazard both to members of the public and to aircraft, and we will set out appropriate steps shortly.
Baroness Randerson (LD)
Given the Government’s repeated failure to come up with a plan to improve air quality that is consistent with EU standards, does the Minister accept that the expansion of Heathrow poses a massive additional challenge for which no satisfactory solution has been provided?
As the noble Baroness is aware, air quality is a national issue, and we take it extremely seriously. The final plan on air quality is due to be published on 31 July. If the Heathrow Airport decision proceeds, the impact on air quality will be taken fully into account. Moreover, Heathrow Airport has committed to moving passengers from their cars and on to public transport and has recently committed to no overall increase in car movements to and from Heathrow in the event of a third runway proceeding.
Lord Rosser (Lab)
I add my welcome to the Minister in his new position and I express my best wishes to his predecessor, the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, in his new role. I suspect that he will find himself spending more time inside an aircraft as a Foreign Office Minister than he did as Aviation Minister.
We have had a statement this morning about the financial support the UK Government are prepared to make available to Northern Ireland following discussions between the Conservative Party and the Democratic Unionist Party. It says:
“A detailed consultative report will be commissioned into the impact of VAT and APD—
air passenger duty—
“on tourism in Northern Ireland to recommend how best to build upon the growing success of that sector”.
Are similar consultative reports being commissioned into the impact of air passenger duty on tourism in other parts of the United Kingdom? If not, why not?
As someone who uses regional airports regularly, the issue of air passenger duty is, of course, high on my agenda. I am sure the noble Lord will understand that, as a Minister only a couple of weeks into his appointment, were I to start rewriting the Chancellor’s Budget proposals at this stage I would not last very long.
Lord Trefgarne (Con)
My Lords, when the time comes to repatriate the regulation of civil aviation, will that be vested in a revitalised Civil Aviation Authority, as in the past, or left to the European Aerospace Agency?
The whole issue of Brexit and how liberalised air transport will go forward will be the subject of negotiation. We want to ensure seamless access to European air transport matters, and I am sure the European aviation industry will want to access UK policy, too.
Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
My Lords, talking of aircraft, the Minister will be aware that the aircraft carrier HMS “Queen Elizabeth” is, as we speak, negotiating out of the fitting-out basin in Rosyth. Will he pass his best wishes to the ship’s company of that great ship, which for 50 years will ensure the security of our nation?
Vast though my responsibilities are, they do not yet include aircraft carriers.
Lord Popat (Con)
My Lords, I welcome the fact that the Government’s strategy on new aviation policy is coming very soon, but I guess we are 20 years behind. I say this as the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Rwanda and Uganda. We recently sold two airplanes to the Rwandan Government, and for the first time, some four weeks ago, there was a direct flight from Kigali to Gatwick. We managed to get only three slots. We wanted seven slots. No slots were available at Heathrow either. Post-Brexit, for us to be a genuinely outward-looking country, we need direct flights and we need more slots. Most African countries, which are a growth area, need flights. The Ugandan Government want one, Tanzania wants one, Zambia wants one, but there are no slots available at Heathrow or Gatwick. Can we speed up the process of the third runway, and maybe even a second runway at Gatwick?
I take my noble friend’s concerns on board. Many airlines want access to the south-east of England. As we proceed with Brexit, aviation will be a critical component of our engagement with the rest of the world. More people will need to visit this country; more people will need to travel abroad for a new UK sector. Of course, the expansion of Heathrow, if it proceeds, will provide extra slots and we will look at the context of slots at regional airports in the aviation strategy.
Baroness Ludford (LD)
My Lords, can the Minister tell us whether Zac Goldsmith will resign his seat if the expansion of Heathrow goes ahead?
I am sure the noble Baroness will want to ask Zac Goldsmith himself that question.