BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: UK Politics
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Tuesday, 20 November, 2001, 18:51 GMT
Aid urged for Heathrow residents
Heathrow Airport
Divisions arise over balancing jobs and environment
Residents living near Heathrow Airport have sacrificed their environment for a stronger UK economy and deserve more protection, the area's MP has told the Commons.

John McDonnell pressed for a new package of safeguards and compensation as he voiced his opposition to the government's decision to approve plans for a fifth terminal at Heathrow.

Will he (the transport secretary) try to ignore the howls of protest ... from the self-appointed and the self-opinionated few

Tory MP David Wilshire
His views were tempered by other MPs whose constituencies run close to the airport, who argued that any other decision would have put tens of thousands of people out of work.

Mr McDonnell had accused Mr Byers of making an "error of judgement" by giving the go-ahead to the proposals.

New package

Pressing for a new aid package, the MP continued: "My local constituents have sacrificed their environment for the future of the aviation industry and the strengthening of the British economy.

"I think they deserve to be protected and compensated."

Mr McDonnell also complained that the conditions imposed on the terminal plans had not been used to block a third runway at Heathrow.

Mr Byers said the issue of a third runway, which was raised by other London MPs, would be settled through a study of South-East England and by next year's aviation white paper.

John McDonnell, Labour MP
Mr McDonnell says Heathrow residents have made key sacrifices
He understood the terminal plans provoked strong feelings but argued the decision balanced national needs with the concerns of local residents.

Conservative MP David Wilshire, who said his constituency boundary was only yards from Heathrow, espoused a different set of views as he welcomed the decision.

Mr Wilshire urged the transport secretary to "ignore the howls of protest that are sure to follow ... from the self-appointed and the self-opinionated few who seem hell-bent on putting tens of thousands of my constituents out of work".

"They must not be allowed to succeed. Heathrow must flourish."

Vital decision

Those sentiments were echoed by Gwyneth Dunwoody, chairman of the Commons Transport Select Committee, who predicted the "vital" decision would have an immediate effect on the hard-hit aviation industry.

Mr Byers was also pressed by many MPs on night flights, particularly in the light of a recent European Court of Human Rights decision that the rights of Heathrow's local residents were being infringed.

Transport Secretary Stephen Byers
Byers was pressed over the night flights issue
He said there would be full public consultation before decisions were taken about the "night flight quota".

Conservative transport spokesman Eric Pickles later told BBC News he was disappointed by that answer, arguing the issue was hardly "beyond the wit of man".

He said it was important to reassure the public that Terminal Five was about catching up with capacity at the airport rather than increasing it.

Mr Pickles has also raised concerns that limiting the car parking spaces at the airport before public transport improvements were complete would cause problems.

For the Liberal Democrats, transport spokesman Tom Brake said his party thought Mr Byers had made the wrong decision.

Safety worries

Among his worries was the fear that increasing the number of flights at Heathrow could put safety at risk.

Mr Byers stressed safety could not and would not be compromised and highlighted a new annual limit of 480,000 flights at Heathrow.

Public transport, especially Tube and train, would be expanded, he said.

The decision was condemned by the Green Party.

Underlining the climate change threat posed by aviation, Green MEP Caroline Lucas said the government had "resoundingly failed" the real test of its environmental commitment.

And Labour's Robert Evans, MEP for the Heathrow area, argued the terminal was all about "money and shops" and what was needed was a new airport, possibly on the Thames Estuary.

The BBC's Simon Montague
"The first check-in desks would be ready in six years"
The BBC's Rebecca Pike
"Passenger numbers are set to double"
Alex Hammond, Business Traveller Dotcom
"They have obviously decided it is the best thing for Britain"
Links to more UK Politics stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK Politics stories