Airport capacity consultation delayed by coalition tension – main policy consultation to be published today
The government will today publish its consultation on future UK aviation policy, covering noise, night flights, carbon emissions, air quality and regional airports. The more controversial part, on expanding south east airport capacity, with perhaps a new runway, or runways, has been so contentious, and caused such internal difficulties for the coalition government, that it will be postponed till an unknown date in the autumn. The line the industry and the media are all taking on the news is to bemoan the delay in dealing with the south east because expansion is, allegedly, so important to business. The media are also disappointed that for them the “sexy” part of the consultation has been delayed, particularly as many of them are under the impression that the Government will name airports, which is unlikely. The delay to the second part of the consultation is not a huge problem, but the current consultation is absolutely key, because it is the basic document which will set overall policy; if and where expansion is needed (the second paper) will fall within that framework.
Below is some of the media coverage of the announcement of the delay.
2 July 2012 (BBC)
Airport consultation delayed by coalition tension
A consultation on expanding airports in south-east England has been delayed again amid reports of tensions within the coalition over the issue.
The consultation had been due to be announced later but is now unlikely to go ahead until the autumn.
The Lib Dems are opposed to expansion, and the coalition agreement rules out new airports in the region.
But there is speculation that Chancellor George Osborne is warming to the idea of a third Heathrow runway.
Several Tory MPs are also openly supporting the plan, says BBC transport correspondent Richard Westcott.
They have been accused of trying to delay everything until after the next election, when they believe they could be in power as a single party.
It is another delay for a consultation that was meant to start in March, then delayed until the summer, and is now likely to wait until the autumn.
It was dealing with some of the thorniest issues in aviation, including whether to build a third runway at Heathrow airport in west London, or perhaps build extra runways at Stansted or Gatwick.
Some concerns have been expressed about the environmental impact of a third runway at Heathrow and the potential for it to damage people’s quality of life.
Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith, a well known environmentalist, said he would not stand as a candidate for the party at the next election if it supported a third runway.
London Mayor Boris Johnson also opposes a third runway at Heathrow, but has campaigned for a controversial new airport in the Thames Estuary which has been dubbed “Boris Island” by some.
However, another aviation paper dealing with noise, emissions and regional airports will go ahead on Thursday.
Rows in the Coalition delay airport plans until at least autumn
12 July 2012
Justine Greening’s consultation on the Heathrow expansion will be delayed until the autumn
Plans for a major review of airport capacity looked set to be shelved last night because of bitter infighting within the Coalition.
Transport Secretary Justine Greening was due to publish a long-awaited consultation today on whether to expand Heathrow or build a new airport in the South East to maintain Britain’s position as a global ‘hub’.
But sources said the vital review, which is already four months late, will be delayed until at least the autumn following a last-minute intervention by Downing Street.
Instead Miss Greening will simply publish a bland ‘Aviation Policy Framework’ on emissions, noise levels and regional airports.
Last night it was unclear if the delay had been ordered to appease the Liberal Democrats or to paper over the Tories’ own divisions over airport expansion. But it prompted a furious reaction from the aviation industry and business, with senior figures warning it will cost jobs.
The International Airlines Group IAG, which controls British Airways, Iberia and BMI and whose chief executive is Willie Walsh, issued a statement saying: ‘While we prevaricate, other countries like China and Middle East states storm ahead.
‘They understand that aviation is a key economic driver for growth and jobs. Every delay is another step backwards for Britain.’
The delay also risks fuelling perceptions that the Coalition has become so riven with infighting that it can no longer take strategic decisions.
George Osborne initially said the ‘call for evidence’ on airport capacity would be published in March. In the Budget that month the Chancellor said the Government would publish the consultation in the summer.
Heathrow: Business leaders believe that without airport expansion London will lose its reputation as a global hub
Transport sources said the consultation was ready for publication and Miss Greening is thought to have been keen to release it immediately.
Airport policy has been a source of friction within the Coalition. David Cameron controversially ruled out a third runway at Heathrow before the last election – a stance confirmed in the Coalition agreement.
Nick Clegg went further, ruling out any airport expansion in the South East.
London’s Tory Mayor Boris Johnson, meanwhile, is pressing for a £40billion airport in the Thames Estuary, dubbed ‘Boris Island’.
There’s strong opposition to a third runway on environmental grounds
Business leaders, and many Tories, believe that without airport expansion London will lose its reputation as a global hub, leading to the loss of billions of pounds to the economy.
The Free Enterprise group of Tories last week called for two new runways at Heathrow. Mr Osborne and Mr Cameron have both hinted that they may consider a rethink in the party’s next manifesto.
Adam Marshall, director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: ‘Aviation strategy must be at the heart of a credible plan for growth, not a political football.
‘Businesses are tired of indecision and equivocation on aviation.’
Mike Carrivick, chief executive of the Board of Airline Representatives in the UK, said: ‘Delaying important decisions until later in the year demonstrates a lack of courage and the paralysis afflicting strategic policy-making within the Government.’
Last night Mr Cameron’s spokesman said: ‘I expect us to say something about aviation policy shortly.’
Labour’s transport spokesman Maria Eagle said: ‘Ministers must end their dithering.’
South East England Airport Capacity: Decision To Delay Third Runway And Boris Island Consultation Slammed
PA/Huffington Post UK
It means the announcement by Transport Secretary Justine Greening will not include the setting out of such options as extra runways at Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted airports.
And there will be no discussion, for the time being, on two Thames Estuary new-airport plans – the “Boris Island” scheme backed by London Mayor Boris Johnson and the £50 billion project put forward by architect Lord Foster.
There may be some regional airport options in the policy document but Ms Greening is expected to confine herself to such aviation matters as noise levels, night flights and emissions.
The postponement on the consultation on how the UK can best maintain a global hub airport has infuriated airlines and businesses.
Their anger has been fuelled by the fact that the policy document and consultation had already been put back to the summer from their original announcement date of March this year.
Mike Carrivick, chief executive of the Board of Airline Representatives in the UK, which represents many airlines, said:
“Delaying important decisions until later in the year demonstrates a lack of courage and the paralysis afflicting strategic policy-making within the government.”
He went on: “While this government struggles internally to establish a clear and defined hub airport policy for the future, competing nations will continue to take away the trade and commerce that should be welcomed in this country.
Adam Marshall, director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “The government has spent years working on a strategy for UK aviation, so reports that there will be yet more delays beggar belief.
“Businesses are tired of indecision and equivocation on aviation.
“Ministers can’t tell businesses to look for new opportunities in emerging markets like Brazil and China, and then fail to provide the basic infrastructure needed to get there.”
He added: “The consequences of inaction are stark. If the government does not act swiftly to increase capacity in south east England, strengthen our regional airports, and support the development of more connections to emerging markets, the UK will lose both investment and jobs.”
Institution of Civil Engineers director general Nick Baveystock said: “The ongoing delay in addressing our hub capacity issues is disappointing and only adds to the frustration and uncertainty.
“When it comes to the UK’s airport infrastructure needs, there are some tough political and public choices, but the UK’s reputation is on the line.
“We must ensure there is sufficient capacity to improve connectivity and maintain our competitiveness. Hopefully the autumn consultation will put all options on the table for consideration, so we can secure the best outcome for the environment, society and the economy.”
Friends of the Earth’s head of campaigns Andrew Pendleton said: “Industry spin about the need for aviation expansion is deeply misleading.
“The reality is we don’t need more airport capacity in the south east – London already has more flights to the world’s top business centres than any of its European competitors.
“Building more airports or runways will have a devastating impact on local communities and our environment and undermine UK efforts to tackle climate change.”
Other business leaders and trade union bosses condemned the Coalition for delaying the consultation on airport capacity needs.
In a letter to The Times, they argued that the indecision over expansion to airports in the south east was leaving the UK lagging behind international competitors.
Eight signatories including Simon Walker, director general of The Institute of Directors, the TUC’s general secretary Brendan Barber and John Longworth from the British Chambers of Commerce, wrote: “If we stand still then our international competitors will sweep up business opportunities and overtake us….It is beyond doubt there must be some sort of expansion in our airport capacity.
“The UK can not afford to ignore such a pressing need, and this issue must not be kicked into the long grass.”
Baroness Jo Valentine, chief executive of London First, said: “Difficult decisions on the location of additional hub airport capacity cannot be avoided. The UK is already at a competitive disadvantage.
“How much longer are we going to leave Heathrow running at 99% with planes continually stacking, whilst our global rivals who have spare hub capacity expand their links to growth markets?
“It’s simply not good enough.”
Meanwhile, Lord Mandelson, the former Labour business secretary, argued that an independent panel should decide if and where new runways can be built rather than politicians.
In an article for the newspaper he wrote: “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.”
Government accused of ‘playing into Europe’s hands’ over airport expansion
11 July 2012
The Government was today accused of “playing into the hands of our European rivals” after again delaying a major consultation on the UK’s aviation crisis.
Transport Secretary Justine Greening had been due to announce the full consultation on how to maintain a global hub.
The Government was expected to examine options including expanding Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted as well as Boris Johnson’s favoured solution of building a new airport in the Thames Estuary.
But the consultation will now be delayed until the autumn.
The aviation policy paper she will shortly publish will now be restricted to proposals on emissions, night flights, noise levels and regional airports.
The Standard understands that Ms Greening is ready to launch the full consultation now and is very disappointed at the latest delay.
The Mayor today launched a scathing attack on Downing Street and said it is “vital” that the aviation crisis is immediately addressed.
Mr Johnson said: “It is extremely concerning that the Government is to delay even further the vital work required to develop the aviation strategy this country desperately needs.
“It is crystal clear to the business and aviation sectors, and to anyone who travels to Heathrow, that more capacity is required, but every further day of Government delay plays into the hands of our European rivals, who have already built mega four runway hub airports of the type we need in this country.”
Tory MPs also told of their disappointment today.
MP for Spelthorne Kwasi Kwarteng, who had called for major expansion of Heathrow, said: “I’m disappointed that this consultation hasn’t come out.
“I want there to be a solution. We need aviation capacity and there should be an answer. What I think is very difficult is the fact there has been no movement at all and we haven’t heard anything.”
Some insiders believe the latest delay is a bid to allow David Cameron to make a major U-turn and leave the door open for expansion of Heathrow in the party’s 2015 manifesto.
There have also been suggestions that it could allow the Prime Minster to move Ms Greening – who as MP for Putney campaigned against a third runway – in an autumn reshuffle.
A spokesman for airline group IAG, owner of British Airways, said: “It is incredibly frustrating that we seem to have stumbled over our own feet before we’ve even started.
“This doesn’t just hand the advantage to our European rivals – it gives it to our global rivals as well. You look at places like China and they understand the importance of aviation to their economy and their global standing.”
Mr Johnson is concerned that the Government will introduce so-called “mixed mode” flights at Heathrow as a short term solution.
Mixed mode would allow both runways to be used all day for both takeoffs and landings – meaning 60,000 more flights per year.
Mr Johnson added: “It would be utterly unacceptable to try and alleviate this fudge by proposing that Heathrow’s already congested runways take on thousands more flights through a mixed mode arrangement.”
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “The Department remains committed to publishing its Aviation Policy Framework and Call for Evidence later this summer.”
and many more similar stories from other sources ….