I voted in favour of Heathrow expansion and the building of a third runway. I would like to take this opportunity to set out my reasons for doing so.
In 2015, Labour set out four tests that needed to be met before Labour would commit to backing expansion. Those tests were: 1) expansion must increase the UK’s aviation capacity; 2) expansion must go hand-in-hand with our efforts to reduce CO2 emissions; 3) that stringent requirements on both air and noise-quality would have to be met; and 4) the benefits from expansion must be truly nationwide.
Those were the tests that Labour set Heathrow when the party committed itself to backing expansion. I do not believe that the substantial issues have changed in the last three years. The requirements of those tests have now been met. It is now the right time to go ahead will Heathrow expansion.
On the question of increasing aviation capacity, then clearly an additional runway will increase the number of flights into Heathrow and the UK. Expansion along the lines of the current plans would allow Heathrow to deliver 740,000 flights per year.
With regard to the issue of reducing CO2 emissions, expansion has been planned to deliver a continued reduction that would either meet or exceed the targets set by the Climate Change Act. Moreover, both Unite the Union and Back Heathrow have committed to ensuring that legally-enforceable targets on CO2 emissions are included before expansion can take place.
I fully share the concerns that have been raised about the impact of expansion upon our environment. The expansion of Heathrow can only take place as part of a wider environmental programme – one that is committed to radical decarbonisation and the increased in sustainable transport options.
When it comes to the dual question of air and noise-quality guarantees, both the Airports Commission and the Independent Commission on Climate Change accept that those requirements have been met. Furthermore, the plans by Heathrow to invest £700 million into reducing noise pollution, and stated aim to ensure that 50% of airport-related traffic is taken by sustainable public transport means that local noise and air pollution will not increase by 2030.
As Mayor of the Sheffield City Region (SCR) I am committed to working to lower air pollution and improve the quality of the air we breathe. I will introduce an Air Quality Action Plan across the city region, and work with local authorities and communities to tackle the problem of air pollution – including fighting for investment in electric and hydrogen buses. Our environment is our most important resource and I would not support Heathrow expansion if I felt that our air would be put at risk.
Finally, expanding Heathrow is not just good for London and the South East. Expansion will deliver investment across the country, particularly in my own region, and it is estimated that 60% of the economic benefits from Heathrow will be focused outside London and the South East. Our nearest international airport – Doncaster Sheffield Airport (DSA) – is supportive of Heathrow expansion. As the MP for Barnsley Central and SCR Mayor, I will always stand up for what is right for jobs and investment in my region.
After carefully considering the four tests set out in 2015, I support expanding Heathrow. Increasing our aviation capacity will deliver a £150 billion boost to the UK economy, with the initial investment coming entirely from the private sector. And expansion will be worth 60,000 high-skilled, unionised jobs across the UK.
Politics is about making tough choices. But it is essential that those choices are taken, and that they are in the national interest. There is no use ducking hard decisions, or hiding when the going gets tough. I believe that Heathrow expansion is the best option for our country and my constituents, and I will always do what I believe is best for the community I am so proud to serve.