David Cameron will not drop opposition to Heathrow third runway until at least 2015
David Cameron will not drop opposition to Heathrow third runway until at least 2015
David Cameron refuses to drop opposition to third runway at Heathrow until after next election, despite growing business pressure.
By Robert Winnett, Political Editor (Telegraph)
28 Aug 2012
The Prime Minister is prepared to consider the case for a new airport to the east of London, but has ruled out expanding Heathrow until after the next election.
His decision came as Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, said the Liberal Democrats would block any move by their Coalition partners to build a third runway.
Justine Greening, the Conservative Transport Secretary who has campaigned against expanding Heathrow, said a change in policy would make her position “difficult”.
Mr Cameron ruled out a third runway despite being challenged to change his mind and prove whether he is “man or mouse” by Tim Yeo, a former Conservative environment minister.
In an article in The Daily Telegraph Mr Yeo urged Mr Cameron to “seize the political initiative” or risk “presiding over a dignified slide into insignificance”.
Mr Yeo is among a growing number of senior Conservatives who believe that Mr Cameron should abandon the party’s opposition to a third runway.
Grant Shapps, the housing minister, said last week that expanding Heathrow must be considered while George Osborne, the Chancellor, is thought to be in favour.
However, both the Conservative manifesto and the Coalition agreement rule out a third runway.
The Prime Minister has previously stated that this was an absolute commitment with “no ifs, no buts”, giving him little room for manoeuvre.
Next month, the Government will unveil a long-delayed call for evidence on Britain’s future airport capacity.
Yesterday, senior Government figures said the consultation would focus on whether an entirely new airport to the east of the capital will be necessary.
The Daily Telegraph understands that Mr Cameron has not ruled out the prospect of a third runway altogether but will not make a decision on the expansion until at least 2015.
The delay angered business leaders, who said that expanding Heathrow was vital to Britain’s economic recovery.
Simon Walker, Director General of the Institute of Directors, said: “Airports are a crucial economic link to opportunities for exports and inward investment, and we cannot afford to fall behind by not having enough capacity.
“It is concerning that the Government appears to have ruled out Heathrow. There is no doubt that we need more airport capacity, and the longer the Government delays deciding where it will be, the more chances for trade we will miss.”
Colin Stanbridge, chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “There is a short-term capacity crunch that can only be addressed by a third runway at Heathrow. To rule it out of any consultation is a short-sighted move which will damage the competitiveness of the economy.
Today, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Aviation will say that efforts should be made to “ensure the UK retains and grows hub capacity” at Heathrow or another purpose-built airport.
In a report published today, the MPs warn say that expanding Britain’s airport capacity will provide a “firm foundation for the UK’s economic growth”. However, senior ministers said yesterday that they would not bow to the growing pressure to allow Heathrow to expand.
Miss Greening, who is a long-standing opponent of a third runway at Heathrow, said: “The Coalition agreement is very clear that we do not support a third runway and in fact there is now cross party consensus against a third runway.”
“I don’t think any of the facts have changed around the third runway.”
She added that the Government would not seek views on the expansion of Heathrow in the consultation although she expected interested parties to “make their case” [typo here with part of the sentence left out…] for a take the modern bigger planes is not the right thing for Britain.”
Mr Clegg also restated his opposition to the expansion. He said: “We’re not going to give the go-ahead to the third runway at Heathrow because we said very clearly as both parties that we wouldn’t do so, so we’re going to stick to the Coalition agreement. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to stick our heads in the sand over the aviation debate about capacity.”
The comments indicate the Government is prepared to consider the case for a new estuary airport to the east of London. Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, has campaigned for the new airport. He also indicated yesterday that Mr Cameron was right to reject expansion at Heathrow and claimed the Prime Minister may be in favour of his scheme.
He said: “I think he’s [Cameron’s] a man of dynamism and greatness and he will seize the moment to give this country the long-term solution that it needs.
“It is plain the argument over aviation capacity is not going to vanish. You can’t long-grass this. It is necessary to come up with an answer. Business needs an answer and I’ve no doubt the Prime Minister is going to provide one.
“They have moved a long way. They have shown great foresight in abandoning a position that said no runways ever, and they are now looking at expanding aviation capacity.”
See also article by Simon Jenkins:
Yeo’s runway taunt is big-willy politics, and that is the most dangerous politics of all
The third runway appeals to paranoid machismo, not reason. A recession is no excuse for pushing through dumb projects
28 August 2012
Well worth reading.
‘There will be NO third runway’ Downing Street rules out Heathrow Airport expansion
28 August 2012 (Standard)
Downing Street today categorically ruled out a third runway at Heathrow Airport.
No 10 insisted the coalition would stick by its commitment despite growing pressure to reconsider the move.
A spokeswoman said: “The coalition parties have made a pledge not to have a third runway and that is a pledge that we will keep.
“We don’t see the argument for a third runway.”
The announcement comes on a fast moving day over the future of Heathrow. Earlier Transport Secretary Justine Greening issued a veiled warning to David Cameron that she will quit the Government if a third runway is given the go ahead.
The Conservative MP admitted she would find it “difficult” to remain in a Government if the Prime Minister caved into renewed pressure to approve the expansion.
Her comments – widely seen as a move that she would leave the Cabinet – come on a tough day for the Coalition over the issue as a senior Tory questioned whether Mr Cameron had the character to take the politically explosive decision, which would involve tearing up the Coalition Agreement and risk a damaging split within his own party.
Former minister Tim Yeo, chairman of the Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee, goaded Mr Cameron by asking whether he was “man or mouse” and said the move would give his Government a “sense of mission”.
He urged the Prime Minister to show “political courage” and said a third runway could be approved even without Liberal Democrat support.
He sensed the “tide is turning” inside the Government in favour of Heathrow expansion.
The business case for the move is now “overwhelming” and environmental concerns have been addressed by aviation being brought within the European Union emissions cap, Mr Yeo said.
He insisted he was not “throwing down a gauntlet” to Mr Cameron, but told the BBC: “I am saying there is a terrific opportunity for him to show really strong leadership from the front and to set out, something which is not clear to everyone yet, what his vision of Britain is going to be in 2020.
“I think we would like some clarity on that and I hope he shares my view that we need to be a business-friendly country.
“I think that David Cameron still has a large number of well-wishers in the Conservative Party, of whom I am one. I am a supporter of him, but I do want him to say, in what I would think is a very mature way, when circumstances change, when the needs of the country evolve, I am prepared to revisit decisions I made four years ago.
“I think he would have tremendous support both inside Parliament and outside if he is brave enough to do that this month.”
Mr Yeo added: “There’s really every possible argument in favour of it, what it does need is political courage. That’s what I’m calling for.
“I think the opportunity is there, I think there is a sense inside the Government that the tide is turning on this issue, but I would just like to see it happen sooner rather than later.”
He called for Mr Cameron to show “a bit of steel on the economy” and “if the Lib Dems don’t like it then maybe there’s a majority in Parliament without them on this issue”.
But the Transport Secretary, a prominent campaigner against a third runway which she fears would directly affect the quality of life of her constituents in Putney, south-west London, insisted there was now a consensus against the development.
She said a third runway would not be “the right thing for Britain” because it would become rapidly outdated and insisted that a wholesale review of air capacity was needed.
Asked on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme whether she could continue to serve in government if a third runway was approved, she said: “I think it would be difficult for me to do that. But I think, at the end of the day, the process I’m about to kick off is one that will see us come up with a much better, longer-term, solution.”
The planned runway was opposed by both the Tories and Liberal Democrats at the general election and the Coalition Agreement between the two parties explicitly cancelled the expansion.
Conservative London Mayor Boris Johnson also opposes a third runway at Heathrow, favouring instead a new airport in the Thames Estuary to the east of the capital.
But senior Conservatives have become increasingly vocal about the need to expand London’s main airport in order to increase capacity to maintain the city’s global economic status.
In a stinging attack on Mr Cameron in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Yeo wrote: “The Prime Minister must ask himself whether he is man or mouse.
“Does he want to be another Harold Macmillan, presiding over a dignified slide towards insignificance?
“Or is there somewhere inside his heart – an organ that still remains impenetrable to most Britons – a trace of Thatcher, determined to reverse the direction of our ship?
“An immediate go-ahead for a third runway will symbolise the start of a new era, the moment the Cameron Government found its sense of mission. Let’s go for it.”
The call comes after Housing Minister Grant Shapps warned that a third runway was needed to ensure the UK remained a “great trading nation” and Mr Johnson accused Mr Cameron of “pussyfooting around” on aviation expansion.
Former environment minister Mr Yeo was previously a high-profile opponent of expansion but now argues that European Union carbon emissions caps will force airlines to use greener planes if they want to use new capacity at Heathrow.
Ms Greening, whose Putney constituency would be affected by the increased air traffic, said: “The Coalition Agreement is very clear that we don’t support a third runway and in fact there is now cross-party consensus against a third runway.
“But what we do need to do is to start the process of saying well, if we’re not going to have a third runway, how do we make sure we have got the hub capacity that our country needs going forward?”
The Transport Secretary said she would begin that process when the Commons returned from its summer recess.
She told Today: “We do need to look long term. One of the problems with the third runway, in my opinion, aside from the issues of noise and air pollution and surface access, getting there, is really that actually it’s not a full-length runway.
“It’s a half runway, essentially. It can’t take the major new planes at the moment that are coming on to the market.
“Actually the question is if you have a third runway, where would the fourth one go? What this all shows is it’s time to move away from what we have had in the past, which has been a piecemeal approach to aviation capacity.”
There was a need to be “bold” and look at what the country would need in 50 years – including the possibility of a new hub airport.
“It’s clearly one of the options,” she said. “It will be open to people to put that forward as an option.”
It would also be open for Heathrow’s operator, BAA, to put forward its own expansion plans, but Ms Greening said: “I don’t think any of the facts have changed around a third runway.”
She added: “Britain deserves better and deserves much longer-term aviation plans than it’s had in the past and that’s a process we’re kicking off right now.”
MP for Richmond Park and north Kingston Zac Goldsmith announced in June that he would not stand as Conservative in the next election if the party supports a third runway.
Heathrow third runway not right for UK, says Greening
August 29, 2012 Justine Greening has said the government remains opposed to a third runway at Heathrow, despite calls from Conservative MPs for a change of heart. She said it was “not right” for the UK and other options needed to be considered – including building a new hub airport. Ms Greening, whose Putney constituency is on the Heathrow flight path and who personally campaigned against a third runway before becoming a minister, said the coalition agreement was “very clear” in its opposition to a new runway at Heathrow. “I don’t think any of the facts have changed around a third runway,” she told Radio 4’s Today programme. “The facts remain as they were at the time of the election.” She said concerns over increased noise, pollution and disruption to the surrounding area had not been addressed and suggested that a new runway would not be long enough to accommodate new, larger planes and would be full “within a few years”. Click here to view full story…
Caroline Lucas: Heathrow expansionists must drop their third runway obsession
August 29, 2012 Caroline says those in favour of endless airport expansion must finally accept that there are ecological limits to aviation growth. Tim Yeo’s calls for a Heathrow U-turn to mirror his own on the matter back in March this year have been slapped down for now by the transport secretary, Justine Greening, and Number 10, but we can be sure that the poorly informed debate will continue. The reality is that endless growth in aviation capacity is not sustainable. Aviation already contributes 13% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions once non-CO2-emissions including soot, nitrogen oxides and water vapour are taken into account. Worryingly, those non-CO2 effects are not even included in the Climate Change Act, and therefore are not in the Committee on Climate Change’s advice to government on aviation, despite the warming impact being nearly double that of CO2 alone. Unchecked growth in airport capacity would make it impossible for the UK to meet its target of reducing emissions by 80% by 2050 – a target which already falls short of what the science demands. Click here to view full story…
Environmental case for Heathrow expansion is as weak as ever. Why Tim Yeo is wrong on aviation and the EU ETS
August 29, 2012 This is an article from BusinessGreen, with a good and clear explanation of why Tim Yeo is utterly wrong with his pronouncements on aviation and the ETS. You would have thought someone who is Chair of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee should know this. The ETS cannot and will not prevent aviation emissions from rising, because of the current weakness and failures of the ETS, meaning it does not work properly, largely as the carbon price is too low and dubious credits are imported from outside. However, supposing the ETS did work perfectly, it would drive up the cost of flying hugely as permits become scarce and expensive as carbon cuts are harder and harder for other sectors to make. There would then be no need for more runways as demand would fall greatly. So no need for a new Heathrow runway, or a new airport. Unless planes could become virtually zero carbon – of which there is no current prospect. Click here to view full story…
Tim Yeo demands PM backs Heathrow 3rd runway and claims it’s a leadership issue
August 28, 2012 It is August. And the end of the Silly Season, with little hard news. So the media have given a disproportionate amount of coverage and hype to repeating this old one, with a few additions. Writing in the Daily Telegraph, (where else?) Tim Yeo, who now backs Heathrow expansion, urged David Cameron to act or risk “presiding over a dignified slide towards insignificance”. The Telegraph etc suggest top ministers are reconsidering their opposition to a Heathrow 3rd runway. However Justine Greening has repeated, yet again, that there was a “political consensus” against a new runway, that the coalition ruled out any expansion before the next election, and that a short runway at Heathrow is not a “solution” to any alleged south east runway capacity shortage in the south east, and that there has been no change in the facts since 2010. Labour also currently opposes the idea of a third runway. Tim Yeo also says, for unaccountable reasons, that the “environmental objections” to the expansion of Heathrow were “disappearing”. On the day when the Arctic ice has reached an all time low. Click here to view full story…