Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mary Honeyball and London City Airport

Mary Honeyball finally responded, albeit late, to some of our questions last night by email. She also wrote a public response on her own blog.

A resident initially emailed Mary on 7 November 2007, at the same time as emailing all other London MEPs. Mary failed to respond at that time, as did Robert Evans, though her colleague Claude Moraes, as well as other MEPs did respond. We accept what Mary says that the original email may have gone into her spam filter.

Mary came back onto the radar of the group when a resident discovered that she had declared her use of free parking at London City Airport, she was in fact the only London MEP who has declared use of this free parking. We understandably were interested in how many times Mary had used this facility, whether she flew a lot and how she felt about the impact of the airports expansion on the local area. We asked Mary for her comment and her side of the story on the parking issue and also the airports impact on the community as we offered to put her response on this blog. We highlighted the issue of excessive noise affecting childrens development and health and also Newham having the highest mortality rates in under 30's in the country. This request was sent to Mary on her online message form on Tuesday 5 May.

On 12 May we had decided that Mary perhaps wasn't going to respond at all and went ahead and blogged another article expressing our frustration with her for not responding to residents. We know that despite Mary having not responded, her office had spent a lengthy amount of time on our blog and website over a period of a few days.

We finally received an email from Mary last night:

'Thank you for writing. I did try and publish a comment on your blog but you appear to not allow comments, whereas I do. I've posted this response

on my blog.

Can you arrange to send me the 17 month old correspondence please? If the correspondence was emailed sometimes things get caught in my spam filter. I have checked for written correpondence, and can find nothing outstanding. Another possibility is that Claude Moraes MEP would have responded because he covers East London for Labour. The 3 Labour MEPs have divided London up into thirds for the last 5 years for casework. Robert Evans has covered West London. Claude Moraes has covered East London including Newham, and I have covered Central and South London. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,
Mary Honeyball
Labour MEP for London'

Ok, so Mary offers some explanations as to why she didn't respond in 2007, and we accept those. However Mary didn't answer all the queries we raised and we are still no further in knowing what she thinks about the expansion of London City Airport and the associated negative effects.

But also, although we accept that Mary has only used the car parking once in a year, we are very concerned that a privately owned airport (London City Airport) is offering free parking to ALL travelling MEPs. Is this morally right? Could this not be seen as a sweetener to keep MEPs on the airports side, particularly at a time when Global Investment Partners, (they are Credit Suisse and General Electric, the owners of London City Airport) are planning to expand flights to 176,000 over the most densely populated area in the country? And it goes further, this very same consortium are also bidding for Gatwick Airport.

This raises some serious issues, and of course we don't blame Mary for using the offer of free parking. However we do feel that MEPs whom use such offers from business should be more sensitive to the implications as they could be construed as a conflict of interest. At a time when the air above London City Airport exceeds EU directive levels by 50% and London is going be fined for this by the EU - it seems strange that the airport should give free parking to MEPs, and that it has been taken up.

We responded to Mary last night:

'Hi Mary

Thank you for the response.

Our blog site is for information
and articles only, it is not set up for comments - purely because we have the email address, and also on the website we have a contact form which is automatically emailed in. I'm happy to publish your response on the blog if you wish though.

I have a list of the MEPs whom were emailed/written to and it indicates that you were emailed on 07.11.07. I'm afraid as I sent that email from a different PC I'm unfortunately unable to locate a copy. Claude replied on the 20.11.07 - but unfortunately yourself and your other colleague Robert Evans did not respond at all.

I'd be really interested to hear your position on the airport expanding and how you feel that the current air quality can be improved whilst it expands in this densely populated area. Currently the air quality exceeds EU levels by 50% over the airport, and this clearly has enormous health implications for the residents of South and East London. Do you think it is acceptable that the airport failed to take noise and air readings for 8 years and that the application to expand was based on 'estimated' noise data? More so how do you feel in regard to the London Borough of Newham not enforcing the Section 106 planning agreement and allowing these breaches of planning law to take place over such a long period of time? Were you also aware that planes were operating illegally from the airport for almost a year, and the company was found guilty and fined at Stratford Court?These are all extremely worrying issues.

I realise that you are an MEP and therefore your focus is on European issues, but clearly these regional issues overlap into the European remit and I would value your comments on them and how you feel you could assist in addressing them for Londoners within your role.

Yours sincerely'

This response to Mary, simply repeated some of the previous requests raised in the email sent to her on 5 May. We really hope Mary can take the time to respond to all the issues raised as they are important to the community, as they affect us all in one way or another.

Picking up on Mary's comment about us not having a comment facility - those of you that know us and those of you that don't have long been commenting to us directly, and these comments are published as requested. You may also be aware that this blog is written by a selection of contributors. But most of all the point is that we are always open for dialogue and always have been, that is why we email asking questions and for opinions.

You can contact us on: or alternatively you can use the contact page on the website. We're always open for business!