A new campaign urging politicians to secure Britain’s future as a global business centre has attracted support from some of the biggest names in the City, including Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP, Rupert Soames of Aggreko, George Weston of Associated British Foods and Next chief executive Lord Wolfson.
The “Let Britain Fly” campaign will mark a significant development in the debate over new runways in the South East, which has so far been dominated by airports, airlines and business lobby groups.
While the campaign will stop short of backing a single solution, members hope politicians from across the spectrum will agree on the principle that airport capacity must be expanded in the South East to ensure Britain remains competitive.
A government-appointed commission examining where new runways should be built will not deliver its final recommendations until 2015, but it is understood business leaders are keen to avoid further delays which could be caused by a lack of political consensus.
In an article for The Telegraph ahead of today’s campaign launch, Sir Martin says capacity constraints threaten “to hamper the UK’s success as a global business centre and at the same time the ability to forge a lasting economic recovery”.
He adds: “We live in a world where connectivity is key – not only in digital but also in physical terms. This means we urgently need MPs to put our long-term national interest ahead of short-term politics”.
The campaign comes as Sir Howard Davies, chairman of the Airports Commission, prepares to publish a shortlist next month of the potential sites where extra runways, or even a brand new airport, could be built.
Britain has not opened a new full-length runway since the Second World War.
The list of their signatories is at http://letbritainfly.com/our-signatories/
Hype and exaggeration mark the birth of Let Britain Fly
Blog on Let Britain Fly, By John Stewart
Let Britain Fly had a difficult birth today. Its proud parent, London First, surrounded by a glittering array of big names from the business world, overdid the hyperbole. Baroness Jo Valentine, chief executive of London First, said that it was not acceptable for politicians “to dither” over new runways “and let our economy wither.” She even went on to ask somewhat over-dramatically, “Do we really want to become an also-ran in the global race?”
Baroness Valentine must know this is exaggeration, even scaremongering. Whatever the pros and cons of expansion in the longer term, the facts are clear: there is no rush for a decision to be taken. The Department for Transport has said that there is enough spare runway capacity in London and the South East until nearly 2030. And survey after survey shows that London remains the top city for business in Europe because of its unparalleled air connections to the rest of the world.
The annual, and influential, survey, carried out by global property consultants Cushman & Wakefield, The European Cities Monitor rates London the top city in which to do business in Europe. In 2011, it found London topped the league for the 22nd year out of 22. Cushman & Wakefield commented: “London is still ranked – by some distance from its closest competitors – as the leading city in which to do business. Paris and Frankfurt remain in second and third place respectively.” The survey found London owes its position to its excellent links to the rest of the world. It has the best external transport, best internal transport and top telecommunications. The 2012 survey produced the same result.
Despite the alleged “dithering” more passengers fly in and out of London than any other city in the world. Paris, its nearest European competitor, is in 5th place.
There is a genuine debate to be had about future airport capacity but Let Britain Fly – and his parent body London First – will lose credibility if it continues to exaggerate the urgency of the need for expansion.
London First and its backers also face another challenge. It is easy for London to make general calls for airport expansion without exploring its impacts on local communities. We hear the obligatory words that the needs of local residents must not be overlooked. But it has never publically faced up to the question: is there any occasion when the environmental and social impacts of expansion at any particular airport are so unacceptable that expansion should be ruled out, whatever the economic benefits? It needs to do so if it is to engage fully in the debate.
Let Britain Fly will have a gilded childhood. £500,000 is going to be spent over the next two years. But its parent body and supporters need to get over the excitement of its birth, calm down and stop giving the impression that London’s economy is in crisis because of a lack of runways. It is simply not true.
The “Let Britain Fly” campaign wrote to hundreds/thousands of people today to say:
The Let Britain Fly founding statement has been signed by over 100 business leaders from Britain’s top companies, along with organisations including the British Chambers of Commerce, British Hospitality Association, Federation of Small Businesses, Institute of Directors, London Chamber of Commerce and Industry and London First – you can view the full list and the statement on the website: http://letbritainfly.com
Let Britain Fly has successfully renewed the debate on how we secure Britain’s aviation future. It has received coverage in the FT, The Telegraph, BBC News online and ITV News, whilst figures including Sir Richard Branson, Sir Rod Eddington, Sir George Iacobescu and Sir Martin Sorrell have all written articles of support. Finally, the campaign has tonight been endorsed by a leader comment in the Evening Standard.
Whilst we are pleased with the coverage today, the launch of Let Britain Fly is merely the start of a programme of activity. Throughout this Parliament, in the run-up to the 2015 General Election and beyond, we will work hard to keep this issue at the top of the political agenda and maintain the pressure on our politicians to act in the national interest and take swift action to modernise our airports’ infrastructure.
With this in mind we hope you will join and support us in the coming months and years.
Campaign Director, Let Britain Fly
c/o London First
3 Whitcomb Street, London WC2H 7HA
D: 020 7665 1435 T: 020 7665 1500 F: 020 7665 1537
Director, Gavin Hayes.
He has an interesting background. He joined London First on the 29th July as their Aviation Campaigns Director. He joined from a job as General Secretary of Compass, a left/green pressure group within the Labour Party. He’s a member of the Labour Party. He was formerly with an organisation called Policy Review Intelligence which seems to have been critical of the banking crises. Looking at his tweets on twitter, he is clearly a man of the left. Does all this mean, I wonder, if the main target of the London First campaign is Labour?
London First getting businesses to fund campaign “Let Britain Fly” to press for airport expansion
Their “founding statement” says:
Before the next general election we urge the three main party leaders to immediately acknowledge the need for more air capacity, commit to finding a cross-party solution to modernise our airport infrastructure; and in their manifestos commit to be guided by what the Airports Commission recommends for the long-term; pledging to maintain, protect and enhance Britain’s status as a global aviation hub.
It’s time to Let Britain Fly.
Media coverage of the launch on 19th November of “Let Britain Fly”
19 November 2013
London Evening Standard
19 November 2013
Sir Richard Branson
19 November 2013
BBC News Online
19 November 2013
The Daily Telegraph