PM faked the case for Heathrow third runway claims Cameron
16.6.2008 (Evening Standard)
Joe Murphy, Political Editor
David Cameron today accused the Government of faking the case for Heathrow’s
third runway for the sake of political point-scoring.
In his most powerful assault on the planned expansion of Britain’s premier airport,
the Conservative leader charged Gordon Brown with exaggerating economic benefits
and betraying the environment.
The Prime Minister’s “fetish” for a third runway was driven “by political calculation,
not conviction”, claimed Mr Cameron in an exclusive article for the Evening Standard.
“With Brown it’s always about the politics, not the policy,” he claimed. “The
Prime Minister has noticed that since I became leader of the Conservative Party,
I have pushed the environment higher up the political agenda.
“He sees this as a political threat. So he tries to define the issue of a third
runway as a ‘tough choice’ between the economy and the environment. If you back
a third runway you’re on the side of jobs, business and prosperity. If you don’t,
you’re somehow not serious, putting lightweight environmental concerns ahead of
The Conservative leader backed former BA chief Bob Ayling who has dismissed the
key economic argument for the expansion plans, which revolve around using Heathrow
as a giant hub to attract transfer flights.
Mr Ayling argues the value to the economy from passengers stopping to catch flights
to other destinations is minimal – little more than the price of a cup of coffee
each in many cases.
Mr Cameron said the chaos when Terminal 5 was opened showed Heathrow’s management
could not handle an even greater expansion to 700,000 flights by 2030. “I think
the whole country can agree that the most important priority for Heathrow is making
it better, not bigger,” he said.
“That means looking seriously at competition issues surrounding BAA and how our
airports are managed.”
Mr Cameron’s attack on Heathrow’s growth may be popular with residents, especially
in west London, fearing more noisy flights. But Labour believes the wider public
will choose expansion if they think it will mean the era of cheap holiday flights
The Tory leader’s article coincides with a speech to environmentalists in which
he will try to reassure hardpressed families that going green need not make them
“The fifth part of our Blue/Green Charter – and a vital part of the change we
want to bring – is to renew our national transport infrastructure. We’ve got to
transform the way we get travel in our country – not just because of the environment
but because of our economy.
“Gridlocked roads. Slow, packed and expensive trains. Our country is grinding
to a halt – and we need big changes in our infrastructure. High speed rail to
connect the country quickly. Giving parents a real alternative the school run
to ease congestion. Tackling our worst road bottlenecks. Opening up the capacity
of our ports. These are all part of a serious long-term national transport plan.
What is not serious is the Government’s approach to another vital part of our
transport infrastructure – Heathrow Airport.
“Why on earth are they so hell-bent on pressing ahead with a third runway at
Heathrow without a proper and rigorous analysis of whether we need it? Just like
their approach to 42 days detention, this is about political positioning, not
getting the substance right. Gordon Brown says a third runway for Heathrow is
vital for the future of our economy – that we won’t be able to compete without
“But if you get behind the headline, his argument falls apart. For example, the
case for a third runway is based on Heathrow as an even bigger hub airport with
a massive increase in the number of transfer passengers. The economic value of
transfer passengers is hotly disputed. And there are so many examples of the hub
model going wrong.
“It contributed to the bankruptcy of almost every US airline that has gone out
of business over recent years. And it contributed to European failures like Sabena
as well. Why? Because passengers are people, not statistics.
“Faced with airport inefficiencies like missed connections, lost baggage and
delayed flights, passengers will vote with their feet and go elsewhere. After
the recent fiasco at Terminal 5, there must be severe doubt about whether the
Government and BAA are even capable of managing the expansion of Heathrow to cope
with over 700,000 flights a year by 2030.
“I think the whole country can agree that the most important priority for Heathrow
is making it better, not bigger – and yet Gordon Brown is pig-headedly pursuing
a third runway just to try and prove a political point. What a ridiculous way
to plan for the future.
“The Heathrow argument is not one where you have the economic case on one side
and the environmental case on the other. There are now increasing grounds to believe
that the economic case for a third runway is flawed, even without addressing the
serious environmental concerns. The important decisions for our economic competitiveness
– and for ending the national embarrassment of the state of Heathrow are the competition
issues around BAA, looking at how our airports are managed, and seeing what can
be done to make them better.
is such a bad Prime Minister – and how a new Conservative Government would be
else, is driven by political calculation, not conviction.
issues or the causes that he champions, it’s never about the national interest,
it’s never about making life better for people and addressing their concerns,
it’s always about creating “dividing lines” with his opponents – whether it’s
the Conservative Party or his opponents inside Labour. This was the case with
the 10p tax fiasco, where he was trying to pose a tax cutter, and the issue of
42 days, where he was posing as tough on terror. With Brown it’s always about
the politics, not the policy.
a fetish of the need for a third runway at Heathrow, constantly citing it as an
example of making “the right longterm decisions”. For those who haven’t yet understood
how things work in Brown’s Britain, this is what’s going on.
Party, I have pushed the environment higher up the political agenda. But rather
than engage with the green agenda, either driving it forward in government or
indeed openly rejecting it, he has decided to play politics with it.
the economy and the environment. If you back a third runway you’re on the side
of jobs, business and prosperity. If you don’t, you’re somehow not serious, putting
lightweight environmental concerns ahead of the economy.
substance of the argument.
based on making Heathrow an even bigger “hub” airport, with a massive increase
in the number of transfer passengers. As Bob Ayling, former chief executive of
British Airways, has said: “This is a classic exercise in misguided central planning.”
Forget for a minute that the economic value of transfer passengers is hotly disputed
– after all, they often spend only the price of a cup of coffee in the UK. The
real issue is the “hub” model itself, which contributed to the bankruptcy of almost
every US airline and Sabena in Europe too.
missed connections and lost luggage with their feet and don’t come back. And after
the recent fiasco of Terminal 5, there must be severe doubt about whether the
Government and BAA are even capable of managing the expansion of Heathrow to cope
with more than 700,000 flights a year by 2030.
is making it better, not bigger. That means looking seriously at competition issues
surrounding BAA and how our airports are managed.
agenda. He thinks we’ve got to choose between fighting climate change and boosting
our economy. For him, it’s one or the other. The reality is that it must be both.
when they fill up their car or pay their gas bill, it’s not that we can’t afford
to go green – it’s that we can’t afford not to go green.
the green agenda in a way that strengthens the economy and strengthens family
finances. Today I’ve been setting out how we can make this reality. It’s called
the Blue/Green Charter, and it has five elements.
For example, it’s obvious we’ll never become truly green if our cars continue
running exclusively on petrol or diesel. And it’s equally obvious that we should
never expect people to give up driving. So we need clean cars – and to get there,
we will set an aggressive emissions target for all new cars. Every car developer
will know that unless they get researching and developing, they won’t survive.
Brown’s alternative is a tax on the Ford Mondeo you bought seven years ago – just
another stealth tax.
doesn’t get this. He sees green taxes as a way of getting more money for the Government.
We understand that green taxes can change behaviour – but every penny raised should
be offset against tax reductions elsewhere. That’s how we can go green while helping
families save money.
We simply cannot keep relying on unstable countries for our oil and gas. It’s
not just bad for the environment and our cost of living – it’s bad for our national
security. That’s why we’ve developed plans for a new system of decentralised energy
so it makes economic sense for people to generate their own energy – and get paid
for it. It’s worked in Germany where they now employ more than 200,000 in the
renewable energy sector, and it can work here too.
individuals being responsible with their energy use. But the latest thinking in
how to influence behaviour suggests that government can do a lot more to help.
Research has shown that when people see that they’re using more energy than others,
they bring their own use down. That’s why we will make sure every gas and electricity
bill has information on it showing each household how their energy use compares
with other households.
comes back to Heathrow. When we’ve got gridlocked roads and slow, packed and expensive
trains, we should be putting our energies into seeing whether we can get high-speed
rail, and finding ways to unlock our transport infrastructure and get Britain
the real dividing line is not between the environment and the economy. It’s between
the past and progress. I know which side I’m on. And I know which side our country
should be on.
of a party I could never have thought I would support), is in sharp contrast to
the weasel words and out right deception of this government. Some of the more
1. Air quality will be protected (yet this government is seeking an extension
of its waiver for air quality for London from EU ahead of its desire to increase
flights by 60,000 a year destroying quality of life)
2. Noise levels will not increase (this is a triple deception – the area is drawn
smaller but the population effected will rise. The noise regime around Heathrow
is not considered independently of total noise for ALL airports-this is why the
court ruling re night flights was thrown out-the level of noise will not increase
above 57DB – again this is an average and quiet aircraft simply don’t exist and
will not be built for 20-30 years)
3. The expansion will in the words of a government department lead to ‘increased
It’s shocking when our European neighbours have built new facilities over the
last 20 or so years that in part were planned to reduce impact on humans, this
government wants to plunge a huge number of people into an unremitting regime
of constant aircraft noise with all the attendant health impacts – so we can die
as long as Heathrow can expand – is it credible!
– Christian Ball, London, UK