Evening Standard EXCLUSIVE: ‘Dithering’ Cameron puts off Heathrow decision – with Commission
The Standard, desperate as ever to promote a 3rd Heathrow runway, reports that David Cameron has announced that an independent commission will decide the future of Heathrow – but only after the next general election. He has called for a cross-party deal to settle the alleged “crisis” (Standard’s words) in aviation capacity in the South-East. The issue is too divisive to be carried through without support from the 3 parties. The former business chief Sir Howard Davies will be asked to head the commission and recommend in summer 2015 whether a third runway or a new airport is needed. Sir Howard Davis was head of the CBI and was a deputy governor of the Bank of England. Labour said it was “sceptical” about a 3rd runway, a word the Standard says is carefully chosen to keep all options open. Mayor Boris Johnson has sworn to oppose such a plan in a “sustained public campaign”. Cameron said “I’m hoping to make an announcement about this over the coming days”.
Evening Standard EXCLUSIVE: ‘Dithering’ Cameron puts off Heathrow decision
5.9.2012 ( Evening Standard)
The prospect of a third runway moved closer today as David Cameron announced that an independent commission will decide the future of Heathrow — but only after the next general election.
In a surprise move in the House of Commons, he called for a cross-party deal to settle the crisis in aviation capacity in the South-East.
The Evening Standard has learned that former business chief Sir Howard Davies will be asked to head the commission and recommend in summer 2015 whether a third runway or a new airport is needed.
Significantly, Labour said it was “sceptical” about a third runway, a word carefully chosen to keep all options open — and a shift in position by party leader Ed Miliband, who was firmly against Heathrow expansion a year ago.
A Labour spokesman accused Mr Cameron of “dithering” but said the party was willing to co-operate depending on the terms and membership of the commission.
The new process means the door to creating a third runway is now wide open. Today Mayor Boris Johnson swore to oppose such a plan in a “sustained public campaign”.
Setting out his thinking in the Commons, the Prime Minister said that only a cross-party agreement
could solve the crisis in air capacity: “Let me be very frank about this: very large infrastructure projects are extremely difficult for individual governments to take and to deliver.
“What we need to do is build a process that hopefully has cross-party support, so we can look carefully at this issue and deliver changes that will address the problems of capacity we will have in future years, and address the issue of the hub status of the UK.
“I’m hoping to make an announcement about this over the coming days, but I think it’s important we work across party lines because this won’t happen unless parties sign up to a process they can deliver.”
No 10 would not say who would lead the commission, but the Standard understands that it will be Sir Howard, who was head of the Confederation of British Industry and is a former deputy governor of the Bank of England.
Sources predict that if a deal is struck, both main parties are likely to say in their 2015 manifestos that they will assess the recommendations of the Davies panel. A similar formula paved the way for university fees to go up in 2010 without a pre-election row.
A transport insider said: “It will be up to the airlines industry and Boris Johnson to make their case to the commission.” An interim report may be published before the election, but there will be no decision until afterwards.
The Mayor raised the stakes today by calling on the Government to “end the uncertainty and rule out the third runway both now and in the future”.
Mr Johnson said the commission “means endless delay. It is ditherama. He [Mr Cameron] must level with the London public. This is a fig leaf for a U-turn — the Government must come clean. It is a political decision, they can’t hide behind a committee of worthies.” Later on BBC radio, Mr Johnson refused to rule out standing in a Westminster by-election to oppose Heathrow expansion. “My job is to follow the interests of the people of London, I was elected on a very clear mandate to oppose the third runway at Heathrow, expansion of Heathrow … and that’s what I’d like to see and do,” he said.
Despite Labour today failing to rule out a third runway in the future, Streatham MP Chuka Umunna said: “The thing is about the third runway is that frankly it’s a sticking plaster solution.” He criticised the “uncertainty” caused by the Government’s delays, adding: “We could have had these cross-party talks, we could have had this commission many months ago.”
The Tories’ 2010 manifesto vowed to block a new Heathrow runway, but business leaders have called on ministers to change their minds to boost the economy. The ousting of Putney MP Justine Greening as transport secretary in the reshuffle was seen as paving the way for a potential U-turn.
Zac Goldsmith, Tory MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston, said his party had “already backtracked” by accepting a third runway as an option. He has said he would not stand for election again if the Conservatives do not rule out the idea in the next manifesto.
“I made specific pledges around Heathrow, and I’ll stick to them. So we’ll see, it remains to be seen,” he said.