Theresa Villiers: BAA free to make case for 3rd Heathrow runway. But adds “the commercial interest of BAA …. is not necessarily the same as the economic needs of the overall economy”
Theresa Villiers has confirmed that Heathrow may argue its case for another runway during the forthcoming aviation consultation. She told the FT that “of course we’ll consider their representations and the evidence they submit.” She also said the government had to balance the needs of the economy with concerns about the environmental impact of aviation. And also – very tellingly – that: “The commercial interest of BAA is one thing – it’s not necessarily the same as the economic needs of the overall economy. We have a wider picture to look at.” For far too long it has been generally assumed that what is good for BAA and the airlines is necessarily good for the rest of us. It is a relief that this government has seen through the spin, and is not persuaded by the arguments, which the aviation industry never backs up with hard facts.
… And AirportWatch letter in response to FT article below …
Villiers: BAA free to make case for third Heathrow runway
21 May 2012
By Sophie Griffiths (TTG Digital)
Heathrow’s owner will be free to make the case for a third runway during the government’s consultation on how to maintain the UK’s status as an airport hub, the transport minister has said.
Speaking in the Financial Times today, Theresa Villiers reiterated the government’s opposition to an expansion of Heathrow, but said BAA could “lobby for a change of policy.”
“If BAA wants to come along and argue for a different approach – of course we’ll consider their representations and the evidence they submit,” she told the newspaper.
However, Villiers said the government had to balance the needs of the economy with concerns about the environmental impact of aviation.
“We have to make a decision, as a government, based on the evidence of what’s best for our economy and UK plc,” she said.
“The commercial interest of BAA is one thing; it’s not necessarily the same as the economic needs of the overall economy. We have a wider picture to look at.”
Villiers acknowledged that Heathrow was “very full”, but reportedly questioned whether the UK was actually suffering from a capacity crunch.
She added that the aviation sector needed to consider whether certain flights currently flying into Heathrow could be relocated to other airports in the south east which have spare capacity, to enable the hub to focus on destinations which provide “the greatest economic added value”.
“There’s a conversation to be had about how we can use our spare capacity in the south-east,” she said.
Meanwhile, Villiers hit back at claims ministers were being slow by not coming to a conclusion on how to respond to the issue of airport capacity in Britain until next spring.
She also rejected claims that the government’s decision to reject Labour’s previous plans for a third runway at Heathrow was a way of securing votes in west London, where residents have objected to the noise of aircraft flying into the airport.
The Financial Times article:
Heathrow ‘free to lobby on third runway’
by Andrew Parker
Full article at :
Ms Villiers highlighted how the general election manifestos of both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrat opposed a third runway at Heathrow but said: “If BAA want to come along and argue for a different approach – of course we’ll consider their representations and the evidence that they submit.”
Ms Villiers responded by saying the government had to balance the needs of the economy with concerns about the environmental impact of aviation.
“The commercial interest of BAA is one thing – it’s not necessarily the same as the economic needs of the overall economy. We have a wider picture to look at.”
While acknowledging that Heathrow was “very full”, Ms Villiers questioned whether the UK was suffering from a capacity crunch.
Ms Villiers said the aviation industry needed to consider whether some flights coming into Heathrow could land at other airports in south-east England with spare capacity, so that the hub could focus on destinations “with the greatest economic added value”.
Full FT article at:
AirportWatch letter in response to the FT article:
Theresa Villiers is right to inject some much-needed realism into the debate surrounding Heathrow and airport capacity (FT, 21/5/12). Contrary to the impression often given by the aviation industry, Heathrow is not full. While its runways are close to capacity, it has the terminal capacity to accommodate another 20 million passengers each year. BAA, the airport’s owner, is failing to exploit the opportunities this presents. BAA’s focus should instead be on working with government to develop market mechanisms which encourage the airlines to take advantage of this spare terminal capacity in order to bring more inter-continental business passengers to London through the use of larger aircraft. This will not happen, though, as long as BAA remains so focused on a third runway.
In its campaign for a third runway it is also in BAA’s interest to down-play the excellent connections London already has with the key business centres of the world. The 2011 survey by the global property consultants Cushman & Wakefield confirmed that “London is still ranked – by some distance from its closest [European] competitors – as the leading city in which to do business”. The survey found it owed its position to its excellent links to the rest of the world.
The Government is right to ask in its forthcoming public consultation on its draft aviation strategy for hard evidence as to whether more capacity might be needed in the future for London to maintain its premier position. A sensible conclusion will only be reached if we start by acknowledging the current reality.
Comments from AirportWatch members:
At last. A comment from the Minister that government recognises that the self interest of BAA, (and other parts of the aviation industry) is not necessarily the same as the interests of the rest of the economy. Or of society, for that matter.
The Government is now backtracking on HS2, and it is unlikely they will come out in support of a third runway in this parliament as they are in enough trouble as it is. Presumably they are just allowing BAA to make their case out of fear of a judicial review.