The government's decision on Heathrow is expected this week
The report in the Sunday Telegraph that up to 60 Conservative MPs would be willing to vote against the government on Heathrow expansion gives Labour the chance to defeat the Government if Theresa May allows a vote on this important issue.
No ifs, no buts, Heathrow is bad for climate change, air pollution and noise.
The Davies Commission which gave a heavily qualified green light to Heathrow expansion did so on the basis of a lot of small print. To meet the climate change targets it set, there was an assumption that cars, buses, lorries and trains would mostly be running on carbon-free energy in twenty years time, and that our housing stock and industry would be on the way to being super efficient energy users.
I would love all these assumptions to come true, but when you make huge efforts to reduce pollution from all these different areas of life, that doesn’t give the aviation industry an excuse to pollute more.
The Heathrow backers have applied the same logic to air pollution. We finally have a Mayor of London who is putting forward radical plans to reduce air pollution. The plans aren’t perfect and building the Silvertown Tunnel directly contradicts his other goals, but action is happening.
Heathrow justifies its expansion on the back of the Mayor’s plans and many wildly optimistic predictions about our all driving electric vehicles, plus a massive taxpayer-funded investment in public transport to Heathrow. These are wonderful ideas I fully support, but let’s see it actually happen first, then discuss Heathrow expansion.
Finally, there is the Davies Commission assumption that aviation taxes would be so high that it would stop the extra capacity that’s being built from ever being fully used. In fact, several million of the projected extra journeys at Heathrow come from there being fewer flights at Gatwick and the many regional airports in England and Scotland.
Heathrow becomes the super hub, making a super profit, but the cost of flights escalates to such an extent that it eliminates many short haul destinations in order to keep our country within the climate change targets. It is a part of the Davies Commission report that Heathrow backers don’t dwell upon.
I know that John McDonnell is passionately against expansion and so is Jeremy Corbyn. My fear is that they have already put their names to daft decisions about Labour supporting Hinkley and Trident, which they clearly aren’t happy with.
It’s time for Labour to make a united stand with the Green Party on the side of the environment and the nation’s health. We need a Parliamentary vote on Heathrow expansion and I hope that Labour gets it right this time.
Jenny Jones is a Green Party peer and a former London Assembly Member
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