Time to forge a cross-party consensus on aviation and high speed rail for the long term - Maria Eagle

31 October 2011

Maria Eagle

Maria Eagle MP, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, in a speech to the Airport Operators Association, will today:

  • Urge the Government to establish a cross-party commission to set a long term policy for aviation as part of a strategy for jobs and growth; 
  • Argue that the Government’s call for airports to be ‘better not bigger’ is a slogan, not a policy, and a blanket ban on growth and new capacity in the South East make no sense; 
  • Accept that the third runway at Heathrow is now off the agenda because of the local environmental impact and urge the industry to move on and look at other solutions to the need for new capacity; 
  • Call for the Committee on Climate Change to advise on a tougher CO2 emissions target for the aviation industry;
  • While pledging to do nothing to put at risk or delay the vital high speed rail line between London, Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds, back the inclusion of Heathrow on the route which would also enable the greater use of existing transport corridors. 

Maria Eagle MP, setting out Labour’s offer to the Government, said:

“A successful, thriving aviation sector is crucial for our economic competitiveness. The Government’s failure to set out a strategy for aviation, and the lack of any plan to do so until late in this parliament, is now putting jobs and growth at risk. I am therefore offering to put aside political differences and work on a cross-party basis to establish a credible aviation strategy for the long term. As part of that, Labour will accept the Government’s decision to cancel the third runway at Heathrow, but Ministers must accept that their opposition to any other aviation growth in the South East makes no sense. If they agree to our proposal for an independent cross-party commission on aviation, it should be able to look at all options while prioritising making the best use of existing runways and airports. 

“I am also today calling on the Committee on Climate Change to advise the Government and industry on a tougher emissions target for aviation. It’s time to bring the industry closer to the wider goal in the Climate Change Act to cut emissions by at least 80% by 2050, compared to 1990 levels, and reflect this in future Carbon Budgets. Labour is clear that any growth in aviation must be sustainable and meet the challenge of climate change. 

“Labour’s cross-party support for the high speed rail line that we proposed in Government is clear. It is the only credible way to tackle capacity issues on the existing main lines. However, following the cancellation of the third runway at Heathrow, it is vital that we take the opportunity that this new line offers to provide greater connectivity to our major hub airport. If the Government was to take the line via Heathrow it would remove the need to build an expensive spur later while opening up the prospect of private sector funding, potentially saving the taxpayer billions. It could lead to a new route that makes better use of existing transport corridors and avoids an area of outstanding natural beauty where residents were wrongly insulted as 'NIMBYs' by Tory Ministers. If this were to happen it would also open up the opportunity to connect to the Great Western mainline, bringing the benefits of the high speed line to the South West.

"The Government has so far shown that it is out of touch with the calls from business for a credible aviation policy. I urge the new Transport Secretary to accept our offer to work across the political divide on a long term strategy for both aviation and high speed rail as part of the plan for jobs and growth that the country needs.”