Peter Mandelson, in the Times, says Heathrow decision needs an independent panel
Peter Mandelson says Heathrow can be massively expanded even with Committee on Climate Change carbon targets, and “more flights need not be at the expense of tackling climate change.” He says “politics and the search for partisan advantage make decisions about big infrastructure projects difficult. Local communities and pressure groups usually oppose them. The economic benefits of new developments are long-term and spread widely, while the drawbacks are more immediate and tangible for those affected.” And “ministers should take the ultimate decision with due accountability to Parliament and the public.” But “My proposal would be for the parties to hand the issue to an independent panel of wise people which, working to a clear timetable, would assess the evidence and recommend the best approach.”
Only the wise men can land an airport policy
The Heathrow decision must be removed from party politics. Set up an independent panel
Air travel, competitiveness and prosperity are intertwined. Future growth in demand for air travel may not be quite as fast as in the recent past, but it will rise steadily as business gets more global and leisure travel from the Bric nations increases. Over the past 40 years passenger numbers at UK airports have grown sevenfold to 210 million. Figures published by the Department for Transport forecast an extra 125 million passengers by 2030 and a further 135 million by 2050.
And more flights need not be at the expense of tackling climate change. The independent Committee on Climate Change has concluded that, with aircraft fuel-efficiency improving, our climate targets could be met even with UK flights rising to 3.4 million by 2050. Flights from a third Heathrow runway would make up less than a fifth of the extra flights compatible with the 2050 climate target.
Future growth in demand, economics and climate change point firmly to the desirability of building new airport capacity. The question is whether politicians will take the decisions that are needed.
How can we avoid delay and procrastination? Of course, ministers should take the ultimate decision with due accountability to Parliament and the public. But identifying the options and building consensus behind the most rational choice will not be achieved by passing the file from one ministerial desk to another as Parliament punctuates the process with fractious setpiece debates.
Some of the politics has to be taken out of the situation and the ground prepared for an objective decision. My proposal would be for the parties to hand the issue to an independent panel of wise people which, working to a clear timetable, would assess the evidence and recommend the best approach.
remove the issue from party politics. If something like this does not happen, we will see politicians circling around the issue for decades to the cost of the economy and the environment.
Lord Mandelson was Business Secretary, 2008-10