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PQT 4 March - Report of the proceedings 4
Tony Arbour (Chair, Assembly Member)
Why is it that Heathrow Airport with all its pollutants, noise and extra traffic gets a green light, whilst the basic Congestion Charge has been increased for the families with larger vehicles?
That question comes Mr Paul Godfrey. I think this is one for Damian Hockney, who is the only person I know who thinks that Heathrow should have a third runway.
Damian Hockney (Assembly Member)
The only person? In all the opinion polls, over 50% of people within the area served by Heathrow want the airport to expand. The fact of the matter remains, whether we like it or not, airline travel will increase. It does not matter. We can shout and say we hate it and we loathe it, but it is going to increase. The answer is we have to use the American and Japanese technology which is available, and we must force the Government to use that to make air travel less noisy and less polluting. If you do not focus on that aspect of the Heathrow expansion, you will fail, because it has been decided at United Kingdom and European level that Heathrow will expend. Heathrow is going to expand whether you or I want it. I am trying to say to you that is a point of reality.
The reality is that all of my colleagues have repeatedly voted to have no more airport expansion, but look what happens behind the scenes. The very Government and party to which many of my colleagues belong wants it to expand and is determined for it to expand. If you want to achieve anything, and we want to achieve anything, we have to achieve maximum compensation for the people who will be displaced and the lowest level of noise and the lowest level of pollution.
There is one more thing. If you think about it, in the last 15 years a million foreign nationals have come to the United Kingdom to work. Are we seriously saying that half a million Poles should walk to Warsaw to go home for Christmas and family celebrations? Are we seriously saying Americans (184,000 in London) should be cycling to Seattle for Thanksgiving? The answer is no. It has to happen. The others are not telling you the truth.
Will the Mayor and the London Assembly confirm to the people of Richmond, who feel very sorry for the residents of Harmondsworth and Sipson in the London Borough of Hillingdon, their opposition to this futile scheme? Will they not say that London Airport is big enough because that is what the British Airports Authority said when they built Terminal 4? I hope my friend Damian Hockney, and the former Member of Parliament for Hammersmith [Lord Soley], will consult their consultancy fees and donate them to a worthy cause.
We do not have the electronic buttons, but hands up all Assembly Members who support that gentleman. It is almost unanimous support.
This is a lighter issue rather than the Heathrow issue. They are a personal annoyance to me, but could we ban free newspapers? I know people like doing Sudoku and reading about Amy Winehouse and that sort of thing. I had a friend come over from New York and she said the streets of London are disgusting because of these free newspapers. Just get rid of the lot of them.
It is freedom of expression.
I think we do have the power to stop them from being on the Underground. The Mayor gives the contract.
Mike Tuffrey (Assembly Member)
I am Mike Tuffrey and I lead the Liberal Democrat group and speak on environmental issues. The question for Ken is: Was it not you who started the whole craze by letting the original contract to the Metro? The real answer to this question and indeed the Heathrow question is that we have to have polluter pays, because if the so called free newspapers paid the true cost of cleaning up, and indeed if the airlines paid the true environmental cost, we might get away from the nonsense where it costs £1 to fly short haul but a couple of hundred quid to take the train to Manchester.
On the Heathrow issue, here in London you will get unanimity barring one or two oddities at the end of the platform, but we need to address the national Government because currently both the Labour national Government and the Conservative Opposition are in favour of expanding Heathrow. We have to put pressure on to get the polluter pays principle so that these decisions are led by the market on newspapers and aeroplanes.
Some of that is a figment of your imagination.
This is both an environmental and transport question. The Mayor wants to get more people on bicycles, yet when you cycle into the centre of town there is nowhere to park them. There are signs saying that if you park your bike it will be removed, although there are no contact details on them for you to get it back if it is. Is that a council issue or is that just a private business issue?
It depends. Around tube stations I have the power to put in more cycle racks. 95% of the roads are run by local authorities. I think some are beginning to move. We agreed and are negotiating with Westminster and having quite good progress on this that we will introduce what Paris has done and have a hire a bike for the day scheme. You could come in long distance on the tube or the train, use your credit or Oyster card, access a bike for perhaps 50p a day, and cycle the last bit of your journey. It has been incredibly successful in Paris. We want to do it everywhere within the Circle Line to start, but then in town centres like Richmond or Kingston and so on you would want to do a similar scheme. I think that might be one way around this.
The thing that has made this successful in Paris is they have a bike of which no part can be removed and used on any other bike and it is sufficiently ugly that nobody wants them, so they are not being stolen. We have unveiled the prototype of this and you can see that nobody is going to steal it, but it is fit for purpose. It will take us about a year to get these in.
I am going to make myself unpopular now, but some of the trouble with the transport in London is because of the congestion from cars. The trouble is the cars are used. In some boroughs, if you have a car parking space for residents the only space you have is where you live, but in some boroughs you can use any space in that borough. This encourages people to use their cars within the borough and therefore creates local congestion. Could you stop boroughs from allowing people to use their cars within the borough for short journeys?
No I cannot. I do think it is quite silly that we have 33 different parking regimes and fining regimes, and different times. I do think you most probably would need a central London uniform system and a suburban uniform system, but it is solely a matter for the boroughs and how they define this on their local roads. I have no powers to direct them at all. I suspect most people on the platform do not think I should have the powers to direct them – sadly.
This question is for Mr Hockney. Quite apart from the fact that in this town the nitrogen dioxide levels are well in excess of the EU recommended levels, this business of expanding the airport is absolute nonsense. It has been said many times that building new roads creates more traffic, and the same logic applies unquestionably to flights. Goodness knows, are you going to turn the whole of South East England into Heathrow Airport? When will it end? Can you not see that it is absolutely illogical and ridiculous?
Darren Johnson (Assembly Member)
I am Chair of the Environment Committee on the Assembly so I led the Assembly’s investigation and the all party response we made to Heathrow. Apart from Damian and his colleague, we very wholeheartedly and fully opposed the expansion of Heathrow. Our investigation found that the environmental impacts had been totally understated by the Government at every level at every stage but the economic benefits were massively overstated. It was very, very questionable at every stage as well. On the economic grounds it does not make sense, on the environmental grounds it does not make sense, so clearly the overwhelming majority of the Assembly is saying no to Heathrow expansion.
If the Government ignores the results of its consultation on Heathrow, would the Mayor accept non violent but illegal direct action to make it impossible for the scheme to go ahead?
I do not think this runway will ever be built because the length of time it will take will be so long that before we get to the point where anyone starts building, everyone in the world will recognise climate change is much worse than forecast and we will have to start massively reducing emissions, which would mean no increase in air travel whatsoever. I do not think you will need to do much in the way of civil disobedience because myself and the local borough councils will be off to the courts and European courts protesting against a completely spurious consultation. It is clear they have made up their mind. They have been collaborating with the airline industry to get the result they want. Even if this challenge fails, I suspect the borough councils in the area and myself will be prepared to take it to the Law Lords, and after that it will be the European courts.
The last time I met the Secretary of State for Transport I said you just have to say it is never going to be built and the money should go into rail expansion. Why on earth do we have 5% of the landing slots at Heathrow for flights to Paris and Brussels? We should just cancel them and reduce the pressure on the airport.
Richard Barnbrook, British National Party London Mayoral Candidate
I actually tried to put this question to you before a couple of days ago at Earl’s Court. I am not going to fumble for the piece of paper now, but the question remains exactly the same. Where we are considering the concern of global warning, is it not important to view London not as a micro amongst Britain or a global concern, but actually a world concern that with the shifting of populations globally and the increase of certain cities that in itself is having a great impact on environmental concerns about traffic, air pollution and also resources being overstretched?
It is quite the reverse. Last year a majority of the world’s population lived in cities. By 2050 it will be three quarters of the world’s population. When people live in cities we can use public transport because people do not need to use the car, and we can have good locally generated electricity which is nothing like as wasteful as the big dispersed schemes. Concentrating people in cities has huge economies of scale and real environmental benefits. The real joy about this city is that a third of the people in it were born abroad. It is the most racially and religiously diverse city in the world, which is what people really like about it.
Going back to the litter situation and the free newspapers, I would like us all to look at the pavements, certainly where I live in London, and ask that they be scrubbed instead of just swept. And not only the pavement but also some of the buildings. I know a lot of them are being done. Taking into account the traffic going through and around London I think a lot of that dirt on the street is not caused by the pedestrians but perhaps by the diesel from lorries going through and maybe the aircraft as well. Could we clean up the streets of London for people to walk on and make them a pleasure for the pedestrian? Could we also have two way traffic back on Broad Lane in London N15?
Our broad presumption is against gyratory systems. One by one we are taking them out. We want to go back to two way traffic which is safer.
On the question of the dirt, the day we introduced the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) some of the TV programmes showed someone putting a white handkerchief over an exhaust that had not had the adaptor put on to clean it up and with just a five second burst from the exhaust it was thick with black particles. The handkerchief remained clean on the one that had it fitted. We will continue to expand and press on that.
On the issue of the papers, the contract was rushed through and let just before the mayoral election in 1999. It expires in about 2010. One of the reasons I think the Evening Standard is getting very nervous about the outcome of the elections is that they think somehow I will rig the contract so their sister paper does not get it. I would if I could, but I would go to prison if I was caught. I think perhaps the first thing we will do before we re let the contract is a proper opinion survey on whether Londoners want it at all. Perhaps that will be my question. Do you want to do away with the free newspapers being given out on the tube? You cannot control the ones being given out on the street. Borough councils could give licences if they choose to.
Do you want to cancel the contract for The Metro on the underground?
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