HEATHROW The Government announced they want the additional runway in the South-East to be at Heathrow. When the third runway is built, the half of the constituency not currently under the approach path to the existing two runways will find themselves in the noisiest built-up area in Europe (see map here).
But I don’t oppose the expansion of Heathrow merely because of the constituency interest. I do so because it’s too costly, too risky, and there are better solutions to the UK’s aviation capacity problems.Of course I am committed to improving the UK’s connections with the rest the world, particularly to the emerging markets, and to creating better transport links within the country. But I don’t see that we need yet more capacity at Heathrow to achieve that. Both Heathrow and Gatwick could deliver extra capacity with an additional runway. Gatwick will do so more effectively, more quickly and at considerably less cost.
Prior to the publication of the Airports Commission’s Final Report, Labour set out four key tests which we said would guide our response to the report’s recommendation. Two of the tests have not been met – the pollution /environmental impacts, and the economic impact on the whole of the UK.Importantly, the Airports Commission’s economic case for Heathrow was very marginal. Government figures show that the Davies Commission that recommended a third runway at Heathrow overstated the benefits of a third runway by up to £86bn. That would mean the economic benefit of expanding Gatwick - £54bn - would only be marginally less than that of Heathrow (£61bn) under the revised figures. "Heathrow overvalued by £86bn" is the Times' splash.
HOUSING FRONT BENCH: I was delighted to join Labour’s front-bench in the housing team led by John Healey. Housing is a huge issue for so many people across the country where, as a result of this Government’s policies, owning a home is an unattainable dream, and for many even having a stable home is impossible. I look forward to holding the Government to account, and developing policies for delivering affordable housing under a Labour Government..
My first outing in the chamber on the front bench was DCLG and Housing questions. We highlighted the Tories’ record on housing in six years of failure on all fronts - from homelessness (doubled) to home-ownership (down by 200,000). Needless to say I didn’t much of an answer from the Minister.
THE HOMELESSNESS REDUCTION BILL Labour supports the aim of Homelessness Reduction Bill, which draws on changes made by Labour in Wales in the Housing (Wales) Act 2014, and could make some difference to the scandal of rising homelessness here in England too. The Bill must be fully funded if it is to achieve its aim. It must not be used as an excuse for the government to devolve responsibility to councils without proper funding, or to shift blame to councils for the government’s failure on homelessness.
The Bill will not succeed in significantly reducing homelessness if the government presses on with the decisions which have caused rising homelessness since 2010: a steep drop in investment for affordable homes, crude cuts to housing benefit, reduced funding for homelessness services, and a lack of action to help private renters. Labour will continue to campaign for action on these fronts to end homelessness. The Party has released analysis showing how Conservative cuts and decisions since 2010 have led directly to higher homelessness. From overseeing soaring private rents, to the loss of affordable homes. We are calling on the Government to act now to tackle the root causes of rising homelessness – build more affordable housing, act on private renting and re-think the crude cuts to housing benefit for the most vulnerable.
In Hounslow, statutory homelessness has increased to 542 households and at least 25 people are sleeping rough. Labour has warned that homelessness will not be significantly reduced unless the causes of rising homelessness in the last six years are addressed.
THE EU: Four months on, there is still no plan for Brexit. During Questions to the PM and to Ministers Labour has been highlighting that the Tories are falling into a chaotic Brexit that threatens jobs, livelihoods and our public services. Britain voted to leave the EU, not for economic misery.
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BOUNDARY COMMISSION REVIEW: In September the Boundary Commission released draft proposals for new boundaries for Parliamentary constituencies which will go to a vote in Parliament in September next year. NB – These DON’T affect Council or ward boundaries. Labour is opposing the whole programme of the review: It is not fair to cut the number of elected MPs from 650 to 600 at a time when the unelected House of Lords is growing faster than ever, to over 800. However, in assuming the review will continue, the Labour Party has proposed alternatives including a Brentford & Hounslow, and a Feltham and Heston seat. Seema Malhotra and I supported Labour’s proposals at the review hearing in Kingston.
We will both carry on serving all our constituents as normal, as at this stage the proposed boundaries are simply proposals and, even if passed, will not come into force until the 2020 General Election. If a General Election is called before then, the existing boundaries will be used.
KEEPING IN TOUCH
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