John McDonnell MP
I did not think that we would ever be here again, but this is like the Monty Python dead parrot sketch—it is dead; it is not going to happen. My hon. Friends the Members for Putney (Fleur Anderson) and for Hammersmith (Andy Slaughter) and the hon. Member for Twickenham (Munira Wilson) put the matter forensically, defeating the whole argument that we should expand Heathrow.
I want to talk about the blight that the Heathrow expansion proposal has caused my constituents. It has been 40 years or longer. I have been there so long that I was present at the inquiry into the fourth terminal, which we all supported, by the way—we thought that it accommodated Heathrow well, and it was the size we wanted it then. At the fifth terminal inquiry, we opposed expansion. The inspector gave an indication that there should be no further expansion, because he was worried about the two issues that we presented him with: noise and respiratory conditions. What was happening to the lungs of children in our area was at virtually epidemic proportions.
At that stage, Heathrow said, “If we get a fifth terminal, we do not need and will not seek a third runway.” Can we remember that promise? The directors at Heathrow wrote to every one of my constituents and appeared on public platforms with me to read the letter out, to loud applause. Within six months, they were lobbying for a third runway. It was a scandalous betrayal of my community.
For the next 10 years, we put the case about the respiratory and health conditions, and we discovered more about cancers, coronary conditions and the mental health effects of being disturbed during a night’s sleep, and so on. Then the world changed and we all discovered something that others had told us about, but that we had not really believed in: climate change. We came together and, all of a sudden, what had been described as a nimbyist campaign became a global campaign. I joined a climate camp in my constituency. We had seminars at which local community members met climate campers, and we talked about the implications of climate change. We were so convincing that David Cameron went into the 2010 campaign—remember this one—with, “no ifs, no buts”, no third runway. We did not realise that once he got elected, he meant it for only one Parliament.
We then had the Davies commission, which came out in favour of an expansion and a third runway. Interestingly, in that commission, it was argued for the first time that the whole concept of the hub might be outdated, and that point-to-point and the development of regional airports was probably the future. That is where we are, and that is where we are going to go. There is no way that any Government that want to be re-elected will promote a third runway while trying to convince people that they will tackle climate change. It is not going to happen. Let us put Heathrow out of its misery and say that no Government will ever approve this, and no investor will ever speculate by investing in a project that will barely take off—pardon the pun. Why not just kill it off here, so that my constituents can enjoy the comfort of their homes?
I remind the Minister that the threat of a third runway means 4,000 properties in my constituency being demolished or rendered unliveable by noise or air pollution; that is 10,000 people being forced out of their homes. A third runway means the demolition of three schools, churches and the gurdwara, a number of community centres and our open spaces—the demolition of a whole community. If the Minister thinks that there is any chance that the community will not rise up against it, I tell him that that will happen right the way across London. If this Government or any Government try to move ahead with a third runway, it will be the most iconic climate change battleground in Europe.
Let us say to Heathrow that it is over, and that it must concentrate on improving the passenger experience and looking after its workers. It was this company that started fire and rehire. It needs to start paying decent wages, restore pensions and provide decent working conditions for all workers.