7 DECEMBER 2009
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In a wide-ranging report, the Transport Select Committee (House of Commons) called on the Government to ensure that the UK's major airports, particularly Heathrow, are connected to a future high-speed rail system. Committee Chairman, Louise Ellman MP, said:
"Aviation is important to the UK economy, both in the southeast of England and in the regions. Regional airports are important for regional economic growth and transport. Heathrow is a major European hub airport but only six UK cities have flights into it. Even with expansion, we need to improve direct access to Heathrow from the national rail network in order to maximise the economic benefits and to reduce the environmental impacts?"
The Committee concludes that the 2003 White Paper, The Future of Air Transport, continues to provide a sound basis for aviation policy but warns the Government that it must update its assessment of the economic value of aviation for the UK economy regularly and ensure that its figures are subject to independent external scrutiny.
In view of the economic benefits to the UK, the Committee endorses the Government’s support for a third runway at Heathrow, subject to the effective application of tough environmental conditions. However, it questions the need for a second runway at Stansted and asks ministers to reconsider whether Gatwick might prove to be a better location for expansion after 2019.
Stressing the need to curb pollution from aviation, the Committee calls for higher environmental standards to reduce CO2, air pollution and noise.
With regard to carbon emissions from aviation in the UK, the Committee sets out a number of principles that it believes should be applied to future UK policy in this area, and looks forward to the Committee on Climate Change’s report (8 December) detailing how the aviation industry can sensibly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions over the coming decades.
Calling for decisive effort by Government to ensure older and noisier planes are taken out of use promptly, the Committee also asks the Government to review the adequacy of current research into the effects of noise and to revisit its impact assessment procedures and compensation arrangements.
The Committee recognises the importance of Air Passenger Duty (APD), but is concerned that, when setting the level of APD, the Government needs to be mindful of the vulnerability of the aviation industry in the current economic climate. It also needs to take account of competition from other European airports.
Looking to air travellers, MPs repeat a previous call for the ATOL levy to be increased and extended to cover all international flights and not merely package holidays. They also ask the Government to clarify how much revenue is raised from aviation taxes and to set out the basis for its claim that an additional £10bn could be raised if VAT and fuel duty were applied to aviation.
This is the full text of the report.
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