John McDonnell MP
At the moment, the Prime Minister is still at COP. There will be a major discussion around air pollution and what can be done globally, but we need to ensure we are acting locally as well, so I want to raise the issue of air pollution in London overall, particularly in relation to Heathrow airport.
In the 1970s, when we agreed to the expansion of Heathrow airport through a fourth terminal, it was about jobs. At that point, we had our first inkling of what air pollution could do to the overall environment, as well as to individual health. Since then, we know so much more, which is why the inspector in the fifth terminal inquiry recommended that there should be no further expansion at Heathrow on environmental grounds. Yet the Government still have the potential for a third runway at Heathrow on their policy cards.
The latest information is that Heathrow and the area around it is the second major hotspot for nitrogen dioxide pollution in London. It breaches the legal limits, and has done for many years. To be frank, the roads around Heathrow are above the legal limits, including for PM2.5 and nitrogen dioxide, and have been for at least the last decade. We now know much more about the impact of that on the health of people in the west London area, with links to respiratory and heart conditions, and, thanks to work in the United States, we know that this is linked to cancer as well. We cannot go to COP and argue with other countries about the need to tackle air pollution while we allow such polluting expansions as the third runway. It is a stark example of the impact on people’s health.
I have raised in this Chamber before the fact that children in my local schools have to hand their puffers into a special box and our teachers in Hillingdon have to be specially trained to deal with respiratory conditions in those children. If we are talking seriously about COP and the impact we are having on our environment, there has to be a time when we draw a line under Heathrow expansion. I believe that this is it.
We have never had a full health impact assessment of the third runway expansion. We have had some health impact analyses, all of which have said that there will be an increase in mortality and morbidity linked to respiratory and other conditions.
… I made the point in the debate on the Budget, that any tax relief or tax reduction that either promotes further emissions or supports those polluting our environment is clearly contrary to Government policy, as far as I can see. On that basis, I hope that, as a result of COP, in the next few weeks or perhaps months the Government will firmly come down as opposed to further Heathrow expansion.