Many MPs want Sir Howard Davies to name his favoured airport site by the end of 2013, rather than in 2015

The Sunday Telegraph reports that the Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, is due to produce its interim report by December. He is considering ways to improve the capacity at Heathrow, in the short term, and taking evidence on whether there is a need for more airport capacity, and if so, which schemes should be taken forward. MP Zac Goldsmith now says ministers are now considering asking Sir Howard to choose one airport option, when he makes his report at the end of the year, rather than deciding this two months after the 2015 election. Zac (who bitterly opposes Heathrow expansion) says this would enable Sir Howard and his Commission to spend the time in 2014 and 2015 in working out how to deliver the preferred option. Zac said: “I cannot think of a single MP who supports waiting until after the election before forming a policy.”  Any suggestion that a decision on airport expansion was being brought forward would anger the Lib Dems, who oppose any increase in runway capacity. There are so many complex arguments and so much detail to be digested that a measured and fully considered decision on a new runway/runways cannot sensibly be taken so fast. 


MPs urge action on airport expansion

A “preferred option” on whether to build a new airport or expand existing ones could be delivered by the end of this year, as ministers attempt to quell unrest among business leaders and Conservative backbenchers.

By Deputy Political Editor (Sunday Telegraph)

10 Mar 2013

Sir Howard Davies, who is leading the commission investigating airport capacity, is due to produce an interim report within the next nine months.

He is considering various options, including a third runway at Heathrow, a new airport in the Thames Estuary or finding another way to ease congestion in Britain’s skies.

David Cameron had previously said that no final decision would be made until after the next general election in 2015, when Sir Howard publishes his full report.

However, the Prime Minister has been stung by criticism that “dithering and indecision” over airports is undermining the economic recovery and jeopardising the Tories’ election prospects.

Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative MP for Richmond Park and formerly an adviser to Mr Cameron, said ministers were now considering asking Sir Howard to pick a favoured option when he makes his first report later this year.

Mr Goldsmith, who has vigorously campaigned against a third Heathrow runway, said: “The most obvious, and most elegant solution, is for the Government to ask Davies to identify a preferred option in his interim report and to spend the remaining time working out how to deliver it. I know the Government is now considering this. The dithering and indecision means that MPs representing the many areas that could be affected by airport expansion are feeling increased pressure and anxiety from voters.

“The delaying policy was supposed to minimise the political pain by kicking the issue into the long grass, but it’s becoming clear that it is having the opposite effect. I cannot think of a single MP who supports waiting until after the election before forming a policy.”

Bob Stewart, the Conservative MP for Beckenham, also called on Sir Howard to name a “preferred option” later this year.

“I want an airport built fast,” he said. “We’ve been talking about airport expansion since Noah was a lad. It’s time to get on with it.”

The Sunday Telegraph has learnt that more than 20 Tory MPs — including Jonathan Djanogly, John Redwood, Mark Reckless, and Eleanor Laing – believe that a failure to reach a decision before the next election will represent a “severe handicap” to Tory MPs seeking re-election anywhere near an airport that could be expanded.

Tim Yeo and Bernard Jenkin, who both chair powerful Commons select committees, share these fears.

However, any suggestion that a decision on airport expansion was being brought forward would anger the Lib Dems, who oppose any increase in runway capacity.

Business groups have repeatedly warned that the “capacity crunch” in Britain’s skies is discouraging overseas investment and undermining the claim that the UK is “open for business”.




Unfortunately it seems a foregone conclusion that Sir Howard and his Commission will recommend some airport expansion, rather than realise there is no need for it.
The reason why the decision on which site or plan to proceed with has been delayed until summer 2015, after the next election, is that the Lib Dems are deeply opposed to any more runway building, so a decision to back this could not be made during the current coalition government.
In reality, though it would reduce uncertainty for many to have an earlier decision, or even one that said there is no need to build any new runways, the arguments are complex and to do a through job, the Commission would need many months to fully understand and digest all the facts and arguments.  Longer than just between now and December.
A rushed decision will, of its very nature, be at risk of being a bad decision  – and will be criticised as such.  And probably be legally challenged.
The Commission staff are not even working 5 day weeks, but only one or two days per week, so the actual time available to absorb and analyse all the detail – the background information on all the general issues, as well as all the site specific issues – is very limited.