Kelly Tolhurst – 2020 Statement on Airport Expansion

Below is the text of the statement made by Kelly Tolhurst, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, in the House of Commons on 2 March 2020.

The Secretary of State is very sorry that he is unable to be in the Chamber today, but he is visiting the north, as part of a long-standing commitment, for discussions with northern leaders following the Government’s takeover of the Northern franchise. It is a pleasure to respond on his behalf as Minister for aviation.

Airport expansion is a core part of boosting our global connectivity and levelling up the UK. It is crucial that vital infrastructure projects, including airport expansion, drive the whole UK economy. This is a Government who support airport expansion, but we will only permit it within our environmental obligations. This Government have been clear that Heathrow expansion is a private sector project that must meet strict criteria on air quality, noise and climate change, as well as being privately financed, affordable, and delivered in the best interest of consumers.

Last week, the Court of Appeal ruled that the designation of the airports national policy statement did not take account of the Paris agreement, of non-CO2 emissions or of emissions post 2050, and therefore has no legal effect unless and until this Government carry out a review. This Government have taken the decision not to appeal the Court’s judgment. We take seriously our commitments on the environment and reducing carbon emissions. It is a complex and important judgment that the Government need time to consider carefully. At this stage the Government will not be able to make any further comment beyond what was set out in the written statement on 27 February from the Secretary of State for Transport. Following the judgment, scheme promoters have applied for permission to the Supreme Court to appeal this decision. The Government will not comment on an ongoing legal case.

Aviation will play a key role in leading our economic growth and driving forward the UK’s status as an outward-facing trading nation, attracting investment and growing our trade links with new overseas markets. Today, our airports support connections to more than 370 destinations, in more than 100 countries. Aviation drives trade, investment and tourism, contributing £14 billion to our economy and half a million jobs. The next decade will mark an unprecedented moment of opportunity for the UK. That is why we are investing in transport and infrastructure across the country: investing in our strategic road network; proceeding with HS2; and committing £5 billion of funding to improve bus and cycle services outside London.

Airport expansion is a core part of our commitment to global connectivity, but we are also a Government who are committed to a greener future, as the first major economy in the world to legislate for net zero emissions by 2050. This Government are therefore committed to working with the aviation sector to make sure we deliver on the opportunities available to us, while meeting our environmental commitments, be it on modernisation of our airspace, innovation in sustainable fuels, or research and technology. This will ensure a prosperous and sustainable future for the whole country, and the House will be updated on next steps as soon as possible.