MPs’ plot to stop Heathrow runway

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The proposed third runway at London’s Heathrow Airport,
map Daily Telegraph

(Click map to read the original Daily Telegraph March 2008 article in which it originally appeared.)

The Daily Mail published an article last Tuesday which claimed that Ministers were helping to stir up a rebellion among Labour MPs in a bid to sink the plan to build a third runway at London’s Heathrow Airport.

John Grogan, MP for Selby in North Yorkshire, said that some senior Government figures, including Cabinet members, have privately urged him to launch a parliamentary revolt against the controversial airport expansion. Mr Grogan has sponsored an early day motion (a parliamentary device to signal MPs’ concern) urging the Government to rethink its Heathrow plans. According to Mr Grogan, there was ‘mounting nervousness’ among ministers that the runway plan could cost Labour a string of marginal seats around the West London airport at a General Election. ‘Given that airline traffic is now falling significantly, the Government surely cannot continue to base its policy on a White Paper on airports dating back to 2003.’

The motion urged the Government to rethink its plans for a third runway at Heathrow Airport and to give full consideration to alternative solutions; regrets the Government’s heavy reliance on data supplied by the BAA in assessing the case for expansion and notes the likely forthcoming break up of BAA’s ownership of three of London’s airports following the investigation by the Competition Committee; believes that the consultation paper Adding Capacity at Heathrow Airport was deeply flawed, as it paid insufficient regard to the costs of air and noise pollution in the surrounding areas and the commitment to curb carbon dioxide emissions to tackle climate change; regrets the fact that provisions to improve high speed rail lines from Heathrow to major cities have not been fully explored, along with the potential of other UK airports to handle more long haul flights; and urges the Government to initiate a consultation on a new national planning policy statement on the theme of airports and high speed rail.

The criticism of BAA supplied data is a shot across the bows to the tripartite alliance between the Government, civil servants and BAA which a year ago looked unstoppable. In March this year, The Times revealed how data on the impact of a third runway were repeatedly altered, giving the impression that its effect on noise and pollution would be negligible. Figures for carbon emissions were massaged down by the crude device of excluding incoming international flights from the calculations. BAA was effectively given a veto on the contents of the consultation document, being allowed to rewrite it. On Wednesday the new Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon told MPs on Wednesday he would make a decision after studying a summary of the 70,000 responses to the consultation. By Thursday the BBC had picked up the story as opposition leaders urged the government to to think again. By today 105 MPs had already signed Mr Grogan’s motion. Importantly, this includes some 40 Labour MPs, including former ministers Michael Meacher and Frank Dobson.

The pollution shadow from Heathrow, is generated not only by 2,612 plane movements daily (combined landings and take offs), but also by two incinerators which disperse radioactive particles and dioxins all over London and the South East. So if you live in Britain and feel that enough is enough, why not write to your local MP and urge him to sign John Grogan’s motion.

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