Sunday, 8 February 2009


Barry Gardiner, MP for Brent North, voted against the parliamentary motion calling for the abandonment of Heathrow expansion plans despite his recent interventions on climate change. He was joined in the No lobby by Dawn Butler MP for South Brent and a candidate for the new Brent Central seat. They voted for the government despite the opposition of Brent Council and many other London local councils to airport expansion. The vote was very narrow: 28 Labour MPs rebelled, if 32 had done so the government would have lost the vote. Andrew Slaughter, MP for neighbouring Ealing, Acton and Shepherds Bush led the revolt. Gardiner and Butler should have joined him
Doubt has now been thrown on the Government's economic and environmental case for expansion by parliamentary researchers. They question some of the claims made by Geoff Hoon during the debate. His claim that only low-emitting planes would be allowed to use the runway is undermined by the researchers who say 'aircraft designs do not at the moment incorporate many of the features highlighted by the secretary of state'. They question whether emissions can be cut to meet EU targets by 2015 stating, 'unless there are some very rapid improvements in technology, it will be some time before more environmentally friendly commercial aircraft are in widespread operation'. The DfT's estimate that the runway will bring £8.2bln benefits 'does not account for various factors' and its value could be £1.5bln or less. Finally they say that the DfT's cost-benefit analysis'does not consider' alternative schemes and the investment 'might be spent on a new airport in the Thames estuary, or high speed rail.'

The government's position also reinforces doubt over the value of public consultation. Of the nearly 70,000 responses to the consultation only a little over 8,000 wanted any form of expansion. Just 11% of people. That is, nearly 90% said no. Noise and air pollution were the biggest concerns, with nearly half the people responding expressing worries about these issues. There were 306 responses from aviation and airline companies but only a total of 241 from all other businesses. HACAN commented: “These figures give the lie to the claim that business is clamouring for a 3rd runway. Outside the aviation industry, only 241 businesses from right across the UK felt the need to express their view.

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