?I wanted to write this week on two important developments: the EU Referendum vote and, closer to home, on the upcoming Operational Freedoms Trials at Heathrow airport.
?I know that the role of the UK Government in Europe is issue that many of you feel very strongly about. I would like to take this opportunity to give my views and explain why I voted against the EU Referendum motion that was debated in Parliament.
I am a Eurosceptic. I believe too much power has been transferred to the European Union and that the process not only needs to be halted, but put in reverse. I believe the biggest strengths of the EU are those upon which it was founded: tariff-free trade, a bigger market and the prevalence of peace. Like the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary though, I have grown increasingly concerned about the decline in our sovereignty in recent years and I fully support any plans to repatriate decision making that we have wrongly lost in the past.
However, I do not believe that the answer is to leave the EU altogether. Right now, the Eurozone faces an unprecedented economic and financial crisis whilst our own economy is still in very fragile recovery. Further destabilisation, ignited by a proposal from one of the largest, richest member states to leave the EU altogether, would inevitably have dire consequences for Britain. I think we should continue to focus on creating jobs, rebuilding the economy, promoting wealth creation, reducing the deficit and improving living standards – issues that we have been working tirelessly to improve since we were elected. The government cannot afford to divert attention away from what are vital, everyday issues.
I feel very strongly that we should renegotiate the terms of our membership of the EU. However, I do not believe that now is right time to do so. At the last election, the Conservative Party promised three things: to stop the passage of further powers to the EU; to put in place a ‘referendum lock’ requiring a referendum to be held by law on any transfer of powers from Westminster; and to bring back powers from Brussels to Britain. Within two years, we have already delivered on the first two of these pledges and I am pleased that the Prime Minister has said he remains firmly committed to bringing back more powers from Brussels. As I write this, a three-part Eurozone rescue package has been agreed which is in our national interests and will not require any additional bailout cash from Britain.
Closer to home, there are some significant developments at Heathrow, with the start of the Operational Freedoms Trial on 1 st November. Put simply, this trial allows the airport to use both runways simultaneously in certain conditions to clear a backlog of planes either stacked in the sky or waiting to take off. This already occurs during the busiest hour of operation at Heathrow, from 6 to 7am.
This trial is part of the airport’s efforts to reduce delays and improve efficiency – to create a ‘better not bigger’ airport. There will be no increase in the number of flights at Heathrow during the trial. It is also important to make clear that this trial does not mean that the government has moved away from its commitment to maintain runway alternation at Heathrow. There will, however, be occasions when the planned period of respite for residents is broken temporarily so that delays can be cleared.
I understand the pressures to increase punctuality and resilience at Heathrow. However, I am extremely disappointed with some of the conditions that have been agreed for the trial. I believe local residents will appreciate the need for ‘special measures’ following a long period of snow or volcanic ash for example, but it is simply not acceptable for operational freedoms to be triggered by minor delays of 10 minutes or so to a flight.
I will continue to put this point in the strongest terms to BAA and CAA who are running the trial. We must ensure proper safeguards are in place to protect the quality of life and wellbeing of those who live and work near Heathrow. During the trial, I would encourage all local residents to monitor carefully the impact of the new operational freedoms and to take the opportunity to provide full feedback to BAA’s Community Relations team via email to email@example.com or 020 8745 5791.?