To James Duddridge MP: Carbon emissions and Southend Airport

Michael Downer
5th January 2011

James Duddridge MP
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA
Dear Mr Duddridge,
Further to our meeting at your constituency office on the 26th November last; at your request I left my handwritten notes behind with an aside to your caseworker Jonathan Hodge that he remind you to read them. It is only too likely that you found them illegible.
If I may be permitted to refresh your memory, you were unsure at the time whether you would be able to attend the briefing meeting on the Energy Security and Green Economy Bill at Portcullis House on 1st December. You assured me you would read the notes on the meeting notwithstanding. You also gave me your view that cutting emissions by 40% for 2020 was unrealistic. Well of course it is, if governments, like the previous one, lack the necessary courage to act.
My own view concerning Local Carbon Budgets is that central government should set the local target figures based on population size and the number and nature of local workplaces – but not prescriptively, leaving local authorities in consultation with any National bodies (e.g. NHS) in the area and interested local groups to work out the details. I do not think it has to be an either/or situation of central government dictat versus local government caprice as you suggested was likely to be the case.
Regarding the Government’s continuing to subsidise Bio-Fuel Power Stations, you seemed to think this was about supporting local small scale Bio-Mass generators – e.g. supplying blocks of flats with CHP (Combined Heat and Power). You clearly appreciated the dangers of large scale generators creating more demand for Palm oil with its attendant deforestation. However, I have to tell you that Forth Energy (a consortium of Scottish & Southern Electricity and Forth Ports) have made planning applications for four Bio-Fuel Power Stations (at Dundee, Grangemouth, Leith and Rosyth). I am therefore requesting that you ask the minister to withdraw the subsidy for Bio-Fuel power stations and limiting it to small-scale Bio-Mass generators only.
You appeared to agree that the Government should reform Air Passenger Duty by transferring it from the passenger to the Plane and Freight. Again, I am requesting that you ask the minister to consider this.
Which brings me to the point in our meeting when I was told that my twenty minutes was up and my parting words to you about your ‘unhelpful’ comments regarding the use of Legal Aid to launch a Judicial Review over Southend Council’s handling of the Airport issue. As a democrat and presumably defender of those with little power confronted by corporate power, you should welcome the hard-won inclusivity of English Law in its defence of Civil Rights.
There was a certain irony in hearing you support the leader of a council complaining about the cost to the council-tax payer of the Judicial Review – A council which showed scant regard for the same tax payer when it sold the airport which it had been running, in 1994 for £1 to the newly formed London Southend Airport (LSA). To compound this Malfeasance the contract signed between the council and LSA contained a clause which stated in the event of a future sale, Southend would have a share in the profits. As you know it has been sold for £16million to the Stobart Group – with the possibility of a further £5million if the runway extension goes ahead. Unfortunately for the council-tax payer the sale was conducted by LSA’s Holding company, Regional Airports – so the clause was invalidated. This huge loss to the tax-payer makes a nonsense of the comments of the council leader. Seriously, one is left wondering whether this is sheer ineptitude or legal malfeasance.
You should also know that since 1994, £1.3million was received in rent by the council from LSA, whilst since that date the council has spent about £5.2million on projects at the airport, including £1.1million to the rail station and £1.4million to the new control tower. This represents a £3.9million loss to the council tax payer. Further, the new road to be built if the runway extension goes ahead by the Stobart Group will be brought up to Highways standard with council funding.
Finally you should also know that the council spent thousands of pounds on two public consultations with regard to its airport-centred JAAP. This attempt at democratic dialogue was shown to be bogus when attempts from the public to extract the results were greeted by spokespersons with, ‘it was not in the public interest to reveal them’. The Freedom of Information Commissioner forced the revelation that approx 76% of the responses were opposed to the runway extension.
I hope that you now understand why I (and many others) regarded those comments as ‘unhelpful’.
I wish you, ‘A very happy new year’ and look forward to receiving any comments on the above you care to make.
Yours Sincerely,
Michael Downer

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