Boris Johnson doled out “vulgar abuse” in the row over a third runway at Heathrow airport, the boss of a government-appointed commission has said.
Sir Howard Davies criticised the top Tory for his use of “colourful language” and accused him of failing to “illuminate” the debate on airport expansion following the publication of interim findings last month.
Boris Johnson recently called Heathrow expansion ‘completely crackers’
Mr Johnson is fiercely opposed to the possibility of increasing capacity at Heathrow and branded the Airports Commission report, which short-listed the option, as “gloopy and tangled”, “perplexing” and “biased”.
But Sir Howard dismissed the Mayor of London’s criticism of the report, insisting they were at odds with transport experts, and vowed to “press on with the job”.
Asked about the comments at the Transport Select Committee, the commission chairman replied: “He would say that wouldn’t he?
“I completely dismiss what the Mayor has said about our report. It’s completely at variance with what everyone else has said – transport correspondents, the airports themselves, other economists.
“Unfortunately, as far as the Mayor is concerned we don’t seem to have produced the answer he wants us to produce. We will proceed with our analysis in the way we have been asked to do.
“The Mayor has a particular view about hub capacity and a particular view about Heathrow and that’s where he starts and that’s where he ends.
“Anything that is at variance with that is dismissed. Personally I don’t think it is at all helpful that he uses this rather colourful language but I guess that is a matter of style.
“But I don’t think it particularly illuminates the debate to do so.
Sir Howard Davies speaks to the Commons committee
“But we will not react, we will simply press on because I think there are some important issues to resolve about the future of demand for aviation in this country, about the environmental consequences, about the cost consequences of different solutions. Among those is an estuary option on which we are doing further work.
“So, I will attempt to rise above this vulgar abuse and press on with the job.”
Sir Howard said he thought they had had a good relationship before the publication of the interim report but added: “You are only as good as your last game”.
The commission put forward suggestions for boosting UK air capacity by building a new runway at Heathrow or Gatwick.
Both plans would result in hundreds of houses being destroyed, and cherished buildings being razed.
Sir Howard’s team also kept the door open for a Thames Estuary airport scheme, favoured by Mr Johnson, with the commission saying it would look further at the Isle of Grain option in the first half of next year.
But the commission has not shortlisted proposals for expansion at either Stansted in Essex or Birmingham.
Ahead of the committee hearing, Transport for London (TfL) published a critical response to the report, claiming it placed too much weight on “accommodating short-term commercial interests”.
It said neither option recommended in the Airports Commission report would address the need for a long-term solution.
“The interim report and the recently published appraisal criteria places more weight on accommodating short-term commercial interests than a strategic vision for aviation which is able to secure the UK’s long-term economic prosperity,” the response said.
“The commission identify a significant capacity gap in 2050, but do not address this. They focus instead on runway capacity options to 2030.
“This does not provide the UK with a long-term plan. Their approach also places inadequate weight on public health and quality of life, including air-quality impacts, which are not considered in any detail.”
Daniel Moylan, the Mayor’s chief aviation advisor, said: “The Mayor, as the person directly responsible for London’s strategic development, has a legal responsibility for a range of matters closely related to airports and their effects. It’s therefore disappointing that Sir Howard has ‘completely dismissed’ a detailed and professional critique of his Interim Report published by the Mayor’s aviation team only this morning.
“We would hope he will look again at our concerns, concerns that are motivated by the desire to solve our aviation capacity crisis for the long term good of the UK, and we are pleased tonight that Sir Howard has now proposed that he and the Mayor meet in the next few weeks to discuss next steps.”
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