FT says Tories now back Heathrow 3rd runway, if they can get outright majority at next election
The Financial Times says that David Cameron has now quietly swung his support behind a 3rd Heathrow runway, but this is deeply opposed by the Lib Dems. Therefore, though the coalition is committed to no 3rd runway in this term of parliament, the Conservaties would now try and get it passed, if they won the next election (? May 2015) by an outright majority, without the Lib Dems. There will be the two aviation consultations this summer (July probably) on aviation policy and hub capacity, but the FT says – after discussion with a senior government figure – that “the official response to this – a final policy paper on hub airport capacity which was earmarked for March 2013 – is now set to be delayed for several years, effectively postponing any firm decision until after the general election. The next three years will therefore feature efforts by the coalition to prove it can improve Britain’s hub airport capacity, while making no big-ticket decisions.”
Comment from HACAN:
HACAN Chair John Stewart said, “It was always unlikely that decisions on new runways would be taken in this Parliament. But, if, after the election, the Conservatives were to reconsider a third runway, it would be the mother of all u-turns which would lead to the mother of all battles.”
The story confirms what we have been hearing for some time that the Tories will look at the 3rd runway again after the next election if they win with a reasonable majority but with their current difficulties, at the moment that looks unlikely. The really new bit in the story is the uncertainty around the forthcoming consultation.
July 1, 2012 5:10 pm (Financial Times)
Government U-turn on Heathrow expansion
By Jim Pickard and Andrew Parker
( a few extracts …)
Now, as prime minister, he has quietly swung his support behind the expansion of the west London airport, convinced by business leaders that it is the most practical way to expand aviation capacity in the south-east.
As a result, the prime minister and chancellor will only be able to execute their Heathrow U-turn after 2015 – and, only then, if the Tories win an outright majority in the general election.
Crucially, the official response to this – a final policy paper on hub airport capacity which was earmarked for March 2013 – is now set to be delayed for several years, effectively postponing any firm decision until after the general election.
The next three years will therefore feature efforts by the coalition to prove it can improve Britain’s hub airport capacity, while making no big-ticket decisions.
Instead the focus will be on small-scale attempts to enhance capacity at existing airports. One option would be to encourage more large aircraft to land at Heathrow. Others, such as more night flights, are opposed by the Lib Dems.
Ms Greening would be moved to a different job if the Tories win a second term without the Lib Dems, to avoid forcing her to preside over an excruciating U-turn.
For now, the transport secretary is determined to publish the initial call for evidence imminently to end speculation about Heathrow’s third runway. She is fighting some cabinet colleagues who have argued that this non-committal publication should be dropped altogether.
Previous attempts to get a third runway built at Heathrow ran into enormous opposition from local residents and environmentalists concerned about noise and carbon dioxide emissions.
Other business leaders may welcome the indication that the Tories are now set on expanding Heathrow – although only if they defy the opinion polls and increase their share of the vote in 2015.
A spokesman for the transport department said its business plan still included a target of March 2013 to adopt its new aviation framework.
July 1, 2012 10:30 pm (Financial Times)
Coalition puts Heathrow decision on ice
By Jim Pickard, George Parker and Andrew Parker
The coalition is planning to delay a decision on whether to build new runways in the south-east amid deep splits between the Tories and Liberal Democrats over the expansion of Heathrow.
The Conservative leadership has decided to make a decisive switch away from the party’s outright hostility to a third runway at the west London airport by making no mention of Heathrow in its general election manifesto, according to senior party sources. That would clear the path for a majority Tory government to proceed with the project after 2015.
Under the original plan the (Aviation White] paper should have been published three months ago, with the government formally adopting its preferred options in March 2013. But the Treasury and Downing Street are pushing for the paper to include a long “lead time” of several years, supposedly to allow aviation companies enough time to work up properly costed responses.
In reality the delay means ministers may not have to make a firm commitment to any new hub capacity before the election, avoiding a showdown between the Tories and the Lib Dems, …….
The Lib Dems want to find other ways to increase capacity at Heathrow in the next few years without resorting to either unpopular measure.
A three-year delay on final decisions about UK aviation policy could infuriate some in the industry, who accuse ministers of being slow to resolve the UK’s hub airport capacity crunch. BAA argues it is struggling to support new aviation links to emerging markets because the airport is operating at near full capacity.