Tories pledge to axe Heathrow third runway

7.10.2009   (Evening Standard)

by Sri Carmichael, Consumer Affairs Reporter

The Tories will include a commitment to scrap plans for a third runway at Heathrow in their general election manifesto, the Standard reveals today.

Shadow transport minister Julian Brazier said:   “We are absolutely firm on our opposition to expansion at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. It will definitely be in the manifesto. “

The pledge, putting the Conservatives on a collision course with corporate Britain,
caused campaign groups to claim that the extra runway was now “dead in the water “.

It comes three months after shadow international development minister Geoffrey Clifton-Brown hinted that the policy was open to debate.

He said he expected the issue to be “revisited “ after the election and this was
seized on by Labour as evidence the Tories were being “secretive” about their true plans for Heathrow.

But at the Conservative party conference in Manchester, Mr Brazier was adamant his party’s stance on airport expansion would not change.  He said: “Building more runways at London airports is not the answer.

“We want to focus instead on improving capacity at regional airports and building
more high-speed trains. We are absolutely clear on that. “

He said he did not “buy “ arguments from the air travel industry that extra capacity
at Heathrow was vital for UK business.   “Only a quarter of passengers travelling through there are doing business in Britain,  “ he said.     Mr Brazier clashed with Tom Kelly, head of corporate affairs at airport operator BAA and a former Downing Streetpress officer under Tony Blair, over the issue at a fringe meeting held by Right-wing think tank Policy Exchange.
Mr Kelly claimed UK companies lost £1 billion every year a third runway was not

He said: “For decades we have known that we don’t have enough runway capacity
in this country and we didn’t think it through. We muddled on as Heathrow got
fuller and fuller. The price of that is very real. “     Last week, British Airways echoed Mr Kelly’s warning, saying it would be forced to scrap “significant “
numbers of domestic and European flights out of London if no third runway is built
at Heathrow.

Anti-airport expansion campaign group HACAN Clearskies said the Tory position
“effectively means the third runway is dead in the water “. Chairman John Stewart said: “That huge figure for how much business would lose if it isn’t built doesn’t
factor in any of the associated costs such as noise, emissions and traffic congestion.
Therefore its claims are exaggerated . “ Greenpeace‘s Anna Jones, said:   “This is big news that will delight people across London.  If the polls
are to be believed then this move will all but kill off the third runway.

“It’s smart politics from the Tories, who know that come the election a Heathrow
swing in west London constituencies could cost Labour seats.    It’s not too late
for the Government to beat the Conservatives to it, cancel the runway and get
serious about the fight against climate change. “