Given that for 70 years we have talked the talk on airport capacity over London, it is welcome that my right hon. Friend is now laying down the plans to walk the walk and get on with building Heathrow’s third runway. Given our antiquated planning rules, is he confident that it will be completed by 2040, when the airports reach their capacity? Can he also give a commitment to local communities around all the London airports that the smarter use of airspace will be used in the interim to reduce noise and other disturbance for local communities?
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his comments, and I am absolutely clear that we aim to deliver airport expansion long before 2040. What we have now is a much more streamlined process, set out in statute—it was introduced by Labour and I am grateful for that—for securing the initial consents. If, when we reach the end of this year, the consultation confirms the recommendation that the Government are making and this House does the same, I hope that we will have effectively reached a point of outline planning consent that allows the airport to press on with the detailed preparation work for the construction and the detailed planning consents.
I think that airspace modernisation makes a real difference to communities in the south-east, because it enables us to put planes on much more exact paths. Today, sat-nav technology allows a plane to follow a much more exact route than the traditional beacons did. It enables us to manage approaches to airports, airport descent and ascent rates, and the overall use of airports so that we do not experience stacking around the south-east as we do today. I hope that the second part of the process that I have announced, which I believe is as important to communities throughout the country as the airport expansion, will allow us to ensure that the sector becomes much friendlier to the communities that it affects.