Early decision urged over Heathrow expansion

July 8 2015  

Early decision urged over Heathrow expansion
Government’s failure to immediately back the Airports Commission’s recommendation that Heathrow should expand points towards a protracted delay in making a decision over new runway capacity, a former Transport Secretary has suggested.
Lord Adonis told the Runways UK conference on Monday that the Government now has two options available: action or inaction. “What Sir Howard Davies has done is make it very difficult for any other proposal to proceed in the near future. But it doesn’t mean that it (Heathrow expansion) will happen.”
He added that a decision will “probably be taken in the spirit of crisis” such as during a period of further economic turbulence or if a large company threatens to relocate from the UK.
“Government did not take a firm and decisive lead last week and we are promised a decision in the autumn,” he said. “But it doesn’t take six months for Government to make up its mind.”
Lord Adonis described next year’s London Mayoral election as the next big political test for whether to build a third runway at Heathrow and added that a divided Conservative party adds to the difficulty for Government to come to a decision. “It is not going to be easy for Government to take a firm decision when Conservative Mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith and the current Mayor are strongly against it and a third of the Cabinet is known to be hostile or severely hostile to expansion.”
A lot will depend, he predicted, on competing demands of the Prime Minister later this year including a EU referendum, welfare cuts and whether Mr Cameron will want to back a project that could be seen to represent a personal U turn.
“There will be at least one new runway built in the South East over the next 20 years,” Lord Adonis concluded. “But we still cannot be sure whether this will be at Heathrow, Gatwick or elsewhere.”
Also at conference CBI deputy director general Katja Hall said that delaying a decision to build a new runway would not be acceptable. “Time really is money. We are not just missing out on future economic opportunities but we paying a price here and now,” she said.   
Her message to Government was stark: “Get it built. The UK desperately needs new runway capacity. Waiting until 2016 to make a decision is leaving it too late. We need Parliament to get behind it.”
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said in a statement: “My department has received the final report from the Airports Commission and will now consider that advice in detail. As a nation we must be ambitious and forward looking. This is a once in a generation opportunity to answer a vital question.”
(Photo: LHR Airports Ltd)

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