5.3 The process leading up to the publication of the UK December 2003 Aviation White Paper
In case you are not familiar with the British government’s legislative process, Box 2 briefly describes the role of the ‘White Paper’.
Box 5 The UK’s legislative process
The white paper falls within the first stage of the UK government’s legislative process, which is the consultation stage. This includes gathering opinions from experts (e.g. consultants, academia), pressure groups (e.g. industry, NGOs, religious organisations) and the public. There are several motives for initiating a white paper process, including political party manifestos, international treaties (the European Union being a major source in recent years), proposals from individual members of parliament and, finally, proposals from the government itself (which are called ‘green papers’ and are used to gauge interest in initiating the much more extensive and expensive white paper process). White papers usually contain detailed and specific proposals for legislation. These documents are therefore the foundation of many legislative bills proposed by the UK government providing factual information, an indication of public support and, finally, guidelines for policy. After the UK government has published a white paper, then it will either produce a legislative bill and present it to Parliament for debate and/or enact policy changes aimed at facilitating the implementation of the white paper recommendations. A bill is only necessary if major changes in or additions to existing laws are required. The bill has to be approved by both the House of Commons (elected chamber) and the House of Lords (unelected chamber) before it finally becomes law as an ‘Act of Parliament’.
In June 1998, the UK government published a white paper on land, sea and air transport for the UK called ‘New deal for transport: better for everyone’ (DfT, 1998), which announced, among other things, the government’s intention to produce a new UK airports policy that would look 30 years ahead.
The new airport expansion process officially started on 12 December 2000, with the publication of the national consultation document ‘The Future of Aviation’ and the stated intention of producing an ‘Aviation White Paper’ in a couple of years. This work was initiated by the then Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions. This is now the responsibility of the Department for Transport, DfT, due to a government reorganisation – a reorganisation which, in itself, may have significantly affected the outcome of the ‘Aviation White Paper’ process, since the Minister for Transport no longer had ‘environment’ as an area of direct responsibility.
It is useful to note here that the UK government at that time had only recently taken power. The Labour Party (supposedly of centre-left orientation) had swept to power in a landslide victory in the 1997 general election, marking a big change for a country which had previously been dominated by the centre-right Conservative Party for almost two decades. The new government was keen to immediately make a mark and so set about implementing a series of reforms, including in the area of transport. Alistair Darling was installed as the Minister for Transport with the brief to radically change the face of UK transport. The ‘Aviation White Paper’ was reputedly one of his major achievements during his term in office.
Under the leadership of the Department for Transport, the approach to the ‘Aviation White Paper’ decision-making process had two main thrusts. The first involved detailed research undertaken by private consultancy firms intended to provide the government with objective data. These were often described as ‘studies’ and were published by the DfT. The second approach involved extensive nationwide consultation with particular stakeholders and the public at large. The DfT had a comprehensive website [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] and provided public roadshows of potential expansion options throughout the process. Consultation responses could either be carried out on paper and posted to the DfT or submitted online.
Box 3 shows the ‘Aviation White Paper’ timeline, starting with the publication of ‘The Future of Aviation’. Each major step in the decision-making process is marked by the publication of key documents. As you will see, the studies and consultations did not always follow each other in a logical sequence.
The timeline is hyperlinked to copies of the original documents. For example, ‘The future of aviation’ document was supported by two key publications: the ‘Air traffic forecasts for the United Kingdom’ and ‘Valuing the external costs of aviation’. You may want to familiarise yourself with the timeline and associated reports. There is, however, no need to read all the reports in detail. These have been included to give you access to the actual studies and consultations just in case you are interested in exploring the original material used within the decision-making process.
Box 6 The ‘Aviation White Paper’ timeline
The white paper, ‘New deal for transport: better for everyone’, announced the government’s intention to produce a new UK airports policy that would look 30 years ahead.
UK government announced plans to produce a national consultation document and to commission several regional studies on airport expansion.
Concorde crash on 25 July 2000 in Paris ultimately resulting in the withdrawal of the whole Concorde fleet by 2003.
Release of national consultation document, ‘The Future of Aviation’ and supporting documents.
‘Study into the Potential Impact of Changes in Technology on the Development of Air Transport in the UK’
‘Air traffic forecasts for the United Kingdom’ (this document provided the estimates for future demands which underpinned the consultation documents)
End of consultation period on national consultation document. 550 responses received.
Regional studies to assess the potential for and impact of airport expansion initiated in seven UK regions.
Terrorist attacks in New York and Washington DC. (11 September 2001).
Summary of national consultation responses released on DfT web site.
Planning permission for Heathrow Terminal 5 granted. (20 November 2001).
Seven regional consultation documents, based on the regional studies, were published collectively as 'The Future Development of Air Transport in the United Kingdom'. This included the consultation document on the South East (2nd edition published Feb 2003).
Deadline for submission to regional consultations extended to June 2003 by High Court ruling.
Publication of 'Aviation and the environment: using economic instruments'.
Close of consultation period on regional consultation documents. Example responses are (note these responses are also provided in print in Book 1 Readings):
Proposed response to the Government's revised consultation on air transport in the UK from Wandsworth Borough Council
Stansted: The case against irresponsible growth from Stop Stansted Expansion group of North West Essex and East Herts Preservation Association
New EU legislation makes airlines pay compensation for flight delays. (15 October 2003)
Publication of Aviation White Paper, ‘The future of air transport’ (and Summary), and supporting documents, including a regulatory impact assessment and the South East report on responses to the Government’s consultation.
New A380 Airbus announced. (7 May 2004).