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How Heathrow expansion passes the four Labour tests and what the man who wrote them thinks

Posted on in Other news

In 2015, former Shadow Aviation Minister and Labour MP, Michael Dugher, set out four tests the party would use to assess whether or not to support Heathrow expansion.

Two weeks ago, Dugher tweeted that he believes the tests have all been met and now with major trade unions like Unite, GMB and Community all supporting the project – Labour MPs are set to vote on Heathrow Expansion in Parliament within weeks.

A raft of Labour MPs have already come out in support of the third runway, so below we take a look at how Heathrow expansion passes their four tests.

Michael Dugher on Heathrow Expansion meeting Labour's Four Tests (7 June 2018).
Michael Dugher on Heathrow Expansion meeting Labour's Four Tests (7 June 2018).

So what are the four Labour tests for Heathrow Expansion and how does the project meet them?

The four Labour tests were essentially created to assess how the UK Government and Heathrow ensured that the expansion project met the recommendations and issues raised by the Airports Commission.

When boiled down the tests relate to the following four areas:

  • Providing the right type of airport capacity that the UK needs;
  • Meeting climate change obligations;
  • Reducing noise and protecting air quality;
  • Supporting growth across the UK.

It’s important to note that many of these relate to the 11 community and environment conditions set out by the Airports Commission in their final report that Heathrow subsequently announced it would meet and exceed.

A combination of meeting these conditions and other actions from Heathrow and Government has ensured that the project now passes all of the Labour tests.

1. Providing the required increased aviation capacity
The Airports Commission concluded that expanding Heathrow was the best answer to providing the UK with vital hub capacity - crucial for long term growth.
2. Meeting Climate Change Obligations
The Airports Commission confirmed that a new runway at Heaathrow can be delivered in a way that is compatible with the UK's continued progress towards meeting climate change targets.
3A. Reducing Noise
It is our committed aim that fewer people will be affected by noise at an expanded Heathrow and the Airports Commission confirmed this is possible.
3B. Protecting Air Quality
We have a triple-lock guarantee to deliver a new runway whilst meeting our obligations on air quality.
4. Supporting Growth across the UK
Businesses across the UK will be able to access contract opportunities during the construction phase, boosted by four logistics hubs across the country.

Who will vote for Heathrow Expansion?

Many Labour MPs from across the UK have already announced their support for Heathrow Expansion and the benefits it will bring for their region or nation, and the UK.

Influential trade unions including Unite the Union, GMB,  and Trades Union Congress (TUC), have all been vocal in supporting Heathrow expansion for the jobs and benefits it will create for their members.

Some of the supportive Labour MPs and Unions include:

  • Gavin Shuker MP
  • Ian Murray MP
  • Mike Gapes MP
  • Virendra Sharma MP
  • Angela Smith MP
  • Catherine McKinnell MP
  • Unite the Union
  • Community Union

Many MPs, from different parties and across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, have also shown their support for the project.

In more detail: The tests and what we're doing to meet them

Since the Government announced Heathrow’s north-west runway plan as its preferred option for expansion in 2016, Heathrow has been getting on with delivering the project. Below we’ve taken a look in more detail at how Heathrow meets Labour’s Four Tests and what we’ve been doing since they were announced.

1. Robust and convincing evidence is provided that the required increased aviation capacity will be delivered with Sir Howard Davies' recommendation.

Following a £20 million, 2.5 year study by the Airports Commission, Heathrow Expansion was unanimously recommended as the best option for increasing the UK’s airport capacity. Within the report it said:

“With no availability at its main hub airport London is beginning to find that new routes to important long-haul destinations are set up elsewhere in Europe rather than in the UK. Other UK airports are increasingly squeezed out of Heathrow, with passengers from the nations and regions obliged to transfer through other European airports, or Middle Eastern hubs. That costs them time and money, and is off-putting to inward investors.”

“Overall, the analysis suggests that the strongest benefits for the UK economy are likely to come from focusing capacity where demand is strongest: be that from freight users, leisure passengers, business travellers or the international transfer passengers needed to support a dense long-haul network. In each case, the highest levels of demand are seen at Heathrow.”

“We have concluded that the best answer is to expand Heathrow’s runway capacity.”

What has happened since the Airports Commission to ensure this test is met:

  • Launch of £10 domestic charges departing passenger discount for UK routes from 1st January 2017, which has enabled new carrier Flybeto join as a new entrant to Heathrow, offering competition to services to Aberdeen and Edinburgh. This was increased by another £5 in January 2018 to £15, which was welcomed by airlines and airports across the UK
  • In June 2018, Easyjet announced that “This expansion would enable low cost airlines to provide new routes and increased competition on dozens more UK and European routes. EasyJet’s costs are significantly lower than legacy airlines so EasyJet’s fares on these services would be lower than those paid by passengers today”, saying prices for passengers could drop by a third.
  • Carriers like Flybe and Easyjet and their plans for operating domestic routes from an expanded Heathrow show the opportunity for increased frequencies and destinations from an expanded Heathrow;
  • Government have announced that they expect up to 15% of additional slots from new capacity to be used for domestic flights, and that they will hold Heathrow to account on pledges such as our £10m Route Development Fund to support new routes;
  • With expansion Heathrow will double our export capacity and add up to 40 new long haulroutes, connecting our nation’s exporters to emerging markets after Brexit. 2017 was a record year for cargo for Heathrow, with 1.5m tonnes travelling through the airport;
  • Heathrow this year welcomed the arrival of two new direct routes to the Chinese cities: Wuhan and Sanya. While these connections are clearly valuable, rival EU hub airports with capacity to connect directly to 10 other Chinese destinations, including mega cities like Hangzhou, Chengdu, and Kunmin, are facilitating more trade and investment to their respective countries. Expansion will deliver the right aviation capacity to help Britain compete in the global race.

2. The recommended expansion in capacity can go hand-in-hand with efforts to reduce CO2 emissions from aviation and allow us to meet our legal climate change obligations

The Airports Commission confirmed expansion is compatible with the UK government’s target of 37.5MtCO2 emissions from aviation by 2050. This aligns with the opinion of the independent Committee on Climate Change which also confirmed a 60% growth in passengers is consistent with meeting the UK’s climate change targets.

The Airports Commission said, “The new capacity provided by an additional runway would alleviate the constraints on the route network and provide the users of aviation with the connectivity that they need for years to come. An additional runway could deliver significant benefits for the UK without breaching the UK’s climate change commitments or requiring aviation emissions to exceed the planning assumption set by the CCC.”

“None of the schemes materially alter the likelihood of the UK exceeding the National Emissions Ceilings and the Gothenburg targets.”

What has happened since the Airports Commission to ensure this test is met:

  • The National Policy Statement sets extensive mitigation measures for carbon emissions that must be put in place, including during the construction phase. Heathrow will be held to account against these robust measures and will work with our partners and our industry to deliver them.
  • We have announced our ambition to operate zero-carbon airport infrastructure by 2050, and by 2020 we will be a carbon-neutral airport. We have already taken significant action to achieve this, cutting our carbon emissions by 37% since 1990. We are playing our part in creating a future of sustainable air travel.
  • October 2016 at the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) General Assembly – the aviation industry voluntarily agreed to reduce its net carbon emissions, introducing a cap on carbon dioxide emissions from 2020 and a 50% cut by 2050.
  • Heathrow called for the agreement, andis committed to taking a lead role in achieving it and setting out how aviation tackles climate change;
  • In February 2017, we launched Heathrow 2.0, our sustainability leadership strategy, which details our ambition for growth from our new runway to be carbon neutral;
  • In 2018, we were awarded Level 2 Carbon Trust standard for excellence in supply chain, showing how we’re working with partners to target a reduction in supply chain emissions;
  • The plan also aspires to make the airport a centre of excellence for the aviation industry, including £500,000 initial investment in an R&D incubator to minimise aviation impacts, working with industry partners, academia, and business..

Since 2017, we’ve ranked airlines according to their performance on both noise and emissions. Every quarter the Fly Quiet and Green league table ranks the largest 50 airlines across seven noise and emissions factors. The results encourage friendly competition, with airlines doing an improved job of following Government-set noise preferential routes and bringing their greenest fleets to Heathrow. Being quieter and cleaner than the planes they replace, Boeing 787 Dreamliners are a great example of progress. They emit at least 20% less carbon dioxide and, with 700 more flights in 2017 than the year before, they’re the fastest growing aircraft type at Heathrow.

3. Local noise and environmental impacts have been adequately considered and will be managed and minimised.

The Airports Commission’s final report confirmed that with a number of mitigation measures and technology advancements, the impacts of Heathrow Expansion can be minimized.

According to the Commission:

“The Commission’s conclusion is that the environmental impacts of expansion at Heathrow, once effective mitigations and generous provision for compensation are in place, do not outweigh its very significant national and local benefits.”

“In our Final Report, we acknowledge the air quality challenges facing the UK… Our analysis demonstrates, however, that the impacts of expansion at Heathrow would be a manageable part of this broader issue, which we believe the Government can feasibly devise and implement appropriate measures to address. In our view, therefore, limited weight should be placed on the suggestion that air quality represents a significant obstacle to expansion.”

“Over the coming decades the noise impacts of Heathrow are forecast to reduce significantly, as new and quieter aircraft come into service and as flight paths are redesigned and improved. With expansion, the overall number of flights would grow, but new approach and departure paths could enable the noise impacts to be dispersed more widely, limiting the impacts on any individual community.”

  • Expansion will not proceed without air quality compliance. This is reflected in Heathrow’s ‘Triple Lock’ commitment which is sealed with a promise not to release capacity until doing do does not delay compliance with legal obligations on air quality.
  • The DCO process is of crucial importance in holding Heathrow to account on issues like air quality – we will not be given consent to expand without demonstrating compliance. This process has robust safeguards, it is a crucial part of the planning process and it is a criminal offence to breach the terms of a DCO.
  • Heathrow has committed to establish an airside ultra-low emissions zone by 2025 to improve quality of life through cleaner air;
  • 50% of airport passenger journeys will be made by public and sustainable transport by 2030, supporting no more airport-related cars on the road;
  • We are planning to consult on proposals for pricing and demand management for vehicles accessing the airport, including an emissions based surcharge;
  • The National Policy Statement confirms Government support for Western Rail Link and Southern Rail Access, supporting our pledge to expand with no more airport-related traffic;
  • In a letter to Government after the publication of the draft NPS, Heathrow re-iterated its calls on the Government to ensure independent regulation of the airport’s expansion air quality plans to guarantee Heathrow meets its commitments to the public.
  • Heathrow has called for local and national partners to work together on a plan to reduce the impact of non-airport related vehicles, which are the major source of local air pollution.
  • Heathrow has committed to an extended ban on scheduled night flights to 6.5 hours, legally binding noise envelope, and predictable periods of respite for every local community
  • Heathrow has long been at the forefront of international efforts to tackle aircraft noise. Despite the number of aircraft movements at the airport going up, our noise footprint has shrunk considerably over the past few decades;
  • We continue to encourage airlines to use the quietest planes available through our Noise Action Plan and we will work with the new Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise;
  • We will work with the newly created Heathrow Community Engagement Board, Heathrow Community Noise Forum and other stakeholder forums to improve communications, respond to complaints and fund community projects.

4. Benefits of expansion will be felt in every corner of the country, not just the South East of England, and that regional airports will be supported too.

The Airports Commission said on this issue that:

“Expansion at Heathrow would enhance connections between the UK regions and London and its associated onward connectivity, reversing the trend of declining links between London and the rest of the UK witnessed in recent decades.”

“The economic impacts of expansion at Heathrow would be felt throughout the UK… It shows that the effects of expansion would be felt most strongly in the air passenger and freight sectors, but with increases in economic activity also seen across the country in other sectors with international linkages, such as manufacturing and accommodation and food services. In total, the analysis indicates that around 60% of the overall boost to GDP would be focused on areas of the UK outside the South East of England.”

What has happened since the Airports Commission to ensure this test is met:

  • As we prepare to build up our supply chain for expansion, by 2020 we will have our supply chain Business Summit events held in every region, every year. We are committed to help SMEs from every part of the UK connect to the airport and our biggest suppliers, and win business today and in the future, and these 12 annual events will be a key way of achieving this.
  • In October 2016, Lord Blunkett, Chair of the Heathrow Skills Taskforce, convened his first meeting with taskforce members, including union representation. The Taskforce will work to ensure the skills required to deliver a third runway are developed across the UK during construction phase, creating a legacy for future infrastructure projects. The Taskforce will report on its recommendations this autumn in a public document.
  • In March this year, Heathrow signed a partnership agreement with the Welsh Government, ensuring expansion maximises job creation in Wales and helps Welsh firms become part of our supply chain.
  • In 2017, Heathrow launched its search to find four logistics hubs across the UK. We are locating four hubs – offsite centres for pre-assembly and consolidation, across the country to help deliver expansion efficiently and sustainably and to source the skills we need from across the UK. Sixty-five longlisted sites are still in the running, representing sites across every region and nation
  • In 2017, Heathrow launched its 9 point plan for connectivity – Bringing Britain Closer. This sets out the actions we’ve taken to boost connectivity across the UK, and where Government can act further to boost expansion. This includes being the first airport to promote the principle of ringfencing slots, as well as urging Government to abolish APD on domestic routes and urging PSOs to be designed as airport to airport pairs, rather than city-to-city pairs.
  • For the second year, Heathrow is running its World of Opportunity grant programme for trade missions and other activities, so SMEs in every corner of the country can build their exporting capability and make the most of new capacity from expansion.