News & Current Affairs

January 15, 2009

Go-ahead for new Heathrow runway

Go-ahead for new Heathrow runway

The government has given the go-ahead for a third runway at Heathrow, saying it is the “right” move for the country.

The decision, confirmed by Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon, comes despite opposition from environmentalists, local residents and many MPs.

Mr Hoon outlined measures to limit noise and emissions but told MPs doing nothing would “damage our economy”.

The debate was halted and local MP John McDonnell thrown out after he grabbed the mace and shouted “disgrace”.

Alongside the commitment to a new runway, Mr Hoon also announced increased investment in public transport, including the possibility of new high-speed rail links from the airport.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
MPs told of decision
Planning process begins – this will take years
Legal challenge likely in days
If Tories win next election they would scrap plan
If all goes according to government plan, construction would start in 2015
Third runway due to finish 2019

In an effort to appease critics he said airlines using the new runway would be required to use the newest, least-polluting aircraft.

He told MPs the government was satisfied environmental targets could be met, as it would put an initial cap on additional flights from the new runway of 125,000, would ensure new slots were “green slots” used by only the “cleanest planes” and would set a new target on aircraft emissions – that they would be lower in 2050 than in 2005.

“Taken together this gives us the toughest climate change regime for aviation of any country in the world,” he told MPs.

He also announced he would set up a company to look into creating a high speed rail line between London and Scotland – adding there was a “strong case” for a new high speed rail hub at Heathrow.

Heathrow ‘hub’

And he said hard shoulders could be used to ease traffic on the the most congested parts of the M1, M25, M6, M62, M3 and M4, as well as motorways around Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol.

But he ruled out ending “mixed mode” use of runways – where planes land on one runway until 3pm then the other for the rest of the day to give residents a break from noise.

However, he said the Cranford agreement, which limits planes taking off to the east of the airport, would end, which he said would benefit Windsor and other towns to the west of the airport and Hatton and North Feltham to the east.

“Heathrow is the only hub airport, it’s our most important international gateway, it connects us with the growth markets of the future – essential for every great trading nation,” he told MPs.

Doing nothing would only give an advantage to its competitors, he said, adding: “The government is taking the right decisions for the long term.”

The debate was halted when John McDonnell, whose constituency borders Sipson – where hundreds of homes will be bulldozed to make way for a third runway and sixth terminal – shouted “disgrace” as the transport secretary said MPs would not get a vote on the decision.

Labour unease

After marching from the backbenches to the despatch box he picked up the mace and placed it on an MPs’ bench – he refused requests to end his protest and was ordered out of the Commons and suspended for a week.

The government has long argued, in principle, that it is in favour of the scheme, subject to pollution limits and access concerns.

But there has been deep unease within Labour ranks about the decision, with several cabinet members reported to be unconvinced and more than 50 MPs openly opposed.

At a press conference in Berlin ahead of the Commons statement, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he wanted to “protect the economic future of the country while, at the same time, meeting the very tough environmental conditions we have set ourselves”.

Shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers told BBC Radio 4’s Today any government environmental promises would be shown “to not be worth the paper they are written on” and said her party would cancel the project if they win the next general election.

In the Commons she said: “This is a bleak day for our environment and for all those of us who care about safeguarding it.”

The Liberal Democrats also oppose the third runway and have urged ministers to invest in high-speed rail links instead.

Their spokeswoman, Susan Kramer, told the BBC the arguments in favour of expansion were “glib” and south west London would become a “pretty miserable” place to live.

“There’s this conventional wisdom amongst business that you must grow the airport … it just isn’t held up by the reality. Actually Heathrow has been serving fewer destinations over the last ten years.”

The statement to MPs – it is not subject to a vote in the Commons – marks the start of the planning process which would be a lengthy one, even without the opposition and legal challenges expected.

Work on a new runway is unlikely to start until 2015 and it is not expected to be operational for at least a decade.

About 700 homes will have to be demolished to make way for the runway, which will increase the number of flights using Heathrow from about 480,000 a year now to 702,000 by 2030.

‘At risk’

Campaigners have bought some land earmarked for the construction of the runway in an effort to frustrate the expansion plans.

Environmental campaigners say proceeding with the new runway will leave the government’s legal commitment to cut carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 in tatters.

Energy Secretary Ed Miliband told the the plans represented “constrained expansion” with strict rules on air quality and noise.

But Greenpeace director John Sauven said: “If Gordon Brown thinks this is a green runway then he must be colour-blind. This package is designed to patch up a cabinet split and will do very little to reduce the huge environmental impact of an expanded Heathrow, which will now become the single biggest emitter of carbon-dioxide in the country.”

Supporters of the runway say Heathrow is already operating at full capacity and the UK economy will lose business to the rest of Europe if it does not go ahead.

They point out that rival airports such as Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam already have at least four runways and that Heathrow is at risk of falling further behind.

Former Labour MP Lord Soley, campaign director of Future Heathrow, which represents groups in favour of expanding the airport said Heathrow brought jobs and “prosperity” to west London and the Thames Valley that was “at risk”.

The boss of British Airways, Willie Walsh, said he was “very pleased” by the decision and welcomed the fact the scheme would be subject to “very strict environmental conditions”.

Virgin Atlantic’s Paul Charles told BBC Radio 5 Live that if there was no third runway “jobs won’t be created and people will go to Europe instead”.

Richard Lambert, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, said: “This approach to expanding Heathrow’s capacity makes real sense. It will create the integrated transport system necessary for an economy that needs to grow in an environmentally sustainable fashion.”


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September 26, 2008

Terror suspects held on KLM plane

Filed under: Latest, Politics News — Tags: , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 2:46 pm

Terror suspects held on KLM plane

The KLM passenger carrier was destined for Amsterdam

Police in Germany have arrested two terrorism suspects on a plane preparing to take off from Cologne-Bonn airport.

The two men, both in their early 20s and of Somali origin, were under surveillance for months, police say.

They were said to be “possibly planning attacks” and had left suicide notes at their flats expressing their wish to die in a “holy war”.

The KLM airliner, which was bound for Amsterdam, was eventually allowed to take off after a luggage search.

Police boarded flight KL1804 at 0655 (0455 GMT), police spokesman Frank Scheulen said.
“The police did not storm the plane – it was done by ordinary police, special forces were not used,” he added, contradicting earlier reports by KLM staff that commandos had made the arrests.

He said the suspects – a 23-year-old Somali and a 24-year-old Somali-born German citizen – were “under suspicion of participating in a jihad [holy war] action and of possibly planning attacks”.

The remaining passengers were ordered off the aircraft for a baggage inspection.

The plane was cleared for departure just over an hour later and has since landed in Amsterdam.

Germany’s federal crime office said on Thursday it was hunting for two Islamic militants believed to be on their way to Germany.

The arrests in Cologne are thought to be unconnected with that terror alert.

August 5, 2008

Ronaldo saga over, says Ferguson

Ronaldo saga over, says Ferguson

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson says the Cristiano Ronaldo transfer saga is now “closed” and the winger will remain at the club.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid president Ramon Calderon hinted the Spanish side may have ended their pursuit of the winger.

Real have been linked with Ronaldo throughout the summer, but signed Rafael van der Vaart on Tuesday.

“Van der Vaart is the first and possibly the only signing of the summer for Real Madrid,” Calderon said.

The 25-year-old signing from Hamburg was unveiled at Real Madrid’s Bernabeu stadium on Tuesday and Calderon said he was unlikely to further add to his squad.

Calderon has repeatedly said he would like to sign Ronaldo, but his latest comments come amid signs that Real’s bid to recruit the Portugal international have stalled due to United’s refusal to sell the 23-year-old.

606: DEBATE

Ronaldo is under contract at Old Trafford until 2012 but has been heavily linked with a move to Madrid and the player appeared to be keen on a move.

But Ferguson has remained adamant that Ronaldo would stay at Old Trafford and has now moved to end the saga.

He said: “The matter is closed now. He is a Manchester United player – it’s finished. He’ll be playing here next season believe me. It’s finished.”

Real have been relatively quiet during this summer’s transfer window.

The Spanish champions signed Argentine defender Ezequiel Garay from Racing Santander at the end of last season but under the terms of the deal the player will only join the club in the 2009-10 season.

In addition, midfielders Javi Garcia and Ruben de la Red, who were in Spain’s triumphant Euro 2008 squad, have rejoined Real after a season with Osasuna and Getafe respectively.

“We believe that this squad is full of quality, of plenty of talent. It’s a team which is a great family, very close,” Calderon added.

Rafael van der Vaart

Van der Vaart’s move to Madrid may scupper Ronaldo’s transfer

“We said that the new arrivals would be few but of great quality. That seemed logical after two successful seasons in which we’ve brought in 19 young, promising players.

“This [the low number of signings] was a request of the board of directors.”

Ronaldo is recovering from surgery on an ankle injury and is due to visit a specialist in Amsterdam to discover how successful the surgery has been.

He is likely to be sidelined until the end of September, missing their opening five Premier League matches.

United are on a pre-season tour of Nigeria United where they play four friendlies, including one against Community Shield opponents Portsmouth.

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