Sir Mike Penning says Luton Airport expansion must be curbed if the categorical promises on noise mitigation are not kept.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate. I am sure he is aware that the flights blight not only the lives of his constituents, particularly in rural areas, but the rural parts of my constituency, particularly the Markyate and Flamstead area. The people who live there are the experts on the issue because they have planes flying over them all the time. They were given categorical promises that as the growth took place, noise mitigation would also take place, and that has not happened. Would that not be a good reason to curb the speed of the increase in flights until the airport has done what it promised to do in the first place?
I thank my right hon. Friend for that intervention. To add to his point, which I agree with entirely, it is my case that the proposed expansion of Luton airport to the level of 38 million passengers is first unsustainable and unsuitable for the local area that includes not just my constituency but his and that of my hon. Friend the Member for St Albans (Mrs Main), and secondly—this is a particularly serious point—could undermine trust in government for tens of thousands of Hertfordshire residents because Luton Borough Council owns the airport, receives income from it and yet also acts as the planning authority.
I would go further than my hon. Friend. He, his predecessor, my hon. Friend the Member for St Albans (Mrs Main) and I have been campaigning on the issue for many years. I can only speak for my constituents, but I am afraid the trust has gone already. Promises have been made so many times in the past, and they have never been fulfilled. Instead of trying to work with the communities, the airport makes noise about doing tests and this and that, but when it comes to the crunch, it never fulfils its promises. This is another classic example where there is growth before the mitigation is put in.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that. Perhaps it is because I am new—perhaps I am optimistic and generous—but I do agree with him that trust is crucial. Trust between the citizen and Government, both local and national, is one of the most fundamental underpinnings of our or any democracy. Many of my constituents have lost trust in recent borough council management of the expansion of Luton airport over recent years, as my right hon. Friend describes, and one reason for that is the highly unusual situation whereby Luton Borough Council owns Luton airport and at the same time is the planning authority currently responsible for approving its expansion. I must make it clear for the record that I am not accusing Luton Borough Council of any legal or procedural impropriety. However, there is a significant conflict of interest.