Geoff Muirhead, who has been a commissioner at the Airports Commission, has agreed to step down. This comes in response to the challenge from Stop Stansted Expansion, due to Mr Muirhead’s previous work for the Manchester Airports Group, which now owns Stansted. Mr Muirhead continued to work for MAG in an advisory capacity even when he had accepted his role on the Commission. As MAG owns Stansted, which is one of the sites being seriously considered for expansion and a new runway, there is an obvious conflict of interest. Despite the claim that he was impartial, it has been clear all along that he is very pro-aviation. The problem now remains that Mr Muirhead has been with the Commission for almost a year, and his input may already have influenced the Commission. It will be necessary to establish to what extent the process may have been tainted by his involvement. SSE included this point in their pre action protocol letter that was sent to the Secretary of State for Transport, and Howard Davies in August.
SSE comment below.
20 September 2013 (Airports Commission)
The Airports Commission has been informed that Geoff Muirhead and the Secretary of State have decided by mutual consent that Geoff will stand down from his role on the Commission.
The members of the Airports Commission would like to thank Geoff Muirhead for his valuable and insightful contributions to their work programme. Throughout his time with the Commission, he has consistently demonstrated his impartiality. However, while they regret that this decision has been necessary, they accept that in the changed circumstances following Manchester Airports Group’s submission of its proposals for expanding Stansted Airport, it has become appropriate for Geoff to stand down to safeguard against any perception that the integrity of the process may be compromised.
Airports Commission: membership update,
DfT news story, 20 September 2013
The Department for Transport has today (20 September 2010) announced that Geoff Muirhead CBE, former Chief Executive of Manchester Airports Group, is stepping down from the Airports Commission.
A spokesman for the Department for Transport said:
It has been decided by mutual consent that Geoff Muirhead will step down from his role as a member of the Airports Commission. The Secretary of State would like to thank Mr Muirhead for his contribution to this important work.
Mr. Muirhead was appointed to the Airports Commission in October 2012, at which point Manchester Airports Group (MAG) did not own Stansted Airport. MAG has since purchased Stansted and following its submission to the Airports Commission concerning options for the expansion of Stansted Airport, questions have been raised about the appearance of a potential conflict of interest. Although there is no evidence whatsoever of bias towards the MAG submission concerning Stansted, we have agreed that the prudent course is for him not to continue as a Commissioner to avoid any perception of a potential conflict of interest. Both the Secretary of State and Mr. Muirhead are fully committed to the success of the Airports Commission’s work.
We are quite clear that there is no implication against Mr Muirhead’s integrity, which is emphasised by the importance he has placed on maintaining public confidence in the work of the Airports Commission.
20.9.2013 (from Stop Stansted Expansion)
Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has welcomed the announcement today [20 September] that Geoff Muirhead, the former chief executive of Manchester Airports Group (MAG) is stepping down from the Airports Commission.
The Airports Commission, led by Sir Howard Davies, is currently examining the need for additional UK airport capacity and is due to report with a shortlist of options in December.
Geoff Muirhead’s role on the Commission was called into question by SSE because of his links with MAG who could be beneficiaries of any decision to expand Stansted Airport which MAG now owns.
The campaign group first raised the issue of a potential conflict of interest with Mr Muirhead last November on the day his appointment to the Commission was announced. Subsequent correspondence with Sir Howard Davies and the Secretary of State for Transport, then led SSE last month to issue a formal notice of judicial review proceedings unless Mr Muirhead resigned.
SSE is however disappointed that it has taken so long for Sir Howard Davies and the Secretary of State to recognise that it was untenable for Mr Muirhead to remain in post.
Peter Sanders, Chairman of SSE, said: “By ignoring our concerns and allowing the matter to drag on, Sir Howard Davies and the Secretary of State have potentially compromised the work of the Commission already and created the possibility of considerable extra delay, which is in nobody’s interests.”
“Given that Mr Muirhead has been actively involved as a member of the Commission for almost a year we now need to know to what extent the work of the Commission may already have been tainted,” he continued. “It is only when we have answers to the questions sent to the Secretary of State and Commission by our legal advisers that we will be able to ascertain how much of the Commission’s work to date may need to be revisited.“
Mr Sanders concluded: “It is important to make clear that SSE’s purpose in pursuing this action has always been – and will continue to be – to ensure that the issues regarding potential airport expansion are examined fairly, impartially and independently, and that this is seen to be the case.”
Sunday Times ££
by Karl West
22 September 2013
says SSE has continued to fight, saying he was a key influence in establishing the commission’s “sift criteria”, which will be used to choose a shortlist of sites for a new runway. T They say when the sifting criteria were published on May 3, it appeared to ensure that Stansted expansion options would be favourably assessed.
SSE thinks the process has been compromised and wants the commission to draw up fresh criteria and delay publication of its short-list of best options for airport expansion, which is due in December.
The Airport Commission wrote to SSE after the resignation to try and persuade them to drop their legal challenge.
Full Sunday Times article at