Build the 3rd runway at Heathrow now, says Alistair Darling – but it’s not Labour policy

Alistair Darling, who was Labour Chancellor under Gordon Brown between 2007 and 2010, is apparently keen to do that job again, if the opportunity presents itself. He has told the press that he wants this government to get on with building a third runway at Heathrow immediately, rather than wait for the Airports Commission to report in summer 2015.  He was Transport Secretary between 2003 and 2007.  He has been backing a 3rd Heathrow runway for many years, or another Stansted runway, and  claims there is a lack of airport capacity.  He has also been opposed to an estuary airport for at least 10 years. Alistair Darling  wants the UK to urgently build “big-ticket infrastructure projects” such as a new runway in order “to prevent a lost decade of flat economic growth and rising debt” though quite how encouraging more foreign holidays and visits to friends and family will do that is not explained. Last October, Labour abandoned its support for expansion, when Maria Eagle, the shadow Transport Secretary, said “the 3rd runway at Heathrow is now off the agenda because of the local environmental impact”.


Build the third runway at Heathrow now, says Alistair Darling

A third runway at Heathrow should be built immediately, rather than wait for a review to report back in five [it is actually 2 years, not 5] years, former Chancellor Alistair Darling has said.

Alistair Darling in Inverness.


By , Senior Political Correspondent (Telegraph)

14 May 2013

Mr Darling, who had considered airport capacity in the south east when he was transport secretary 10 years ago, said the Coalition should get on with it.

He told a meeting of the Parliamentary Press Gallery said: “I have long said that in relation to the south east of England we need extra runway capacity.

“A third one would make a huge difference to Heathrow’s capacity. You either build it there where you have the infrastructure or Stansted.  It has the advantage of having space, quite [sic] of terminal capacity and it has almost got planning permission for a second runway.”

The Coalition is committed to abide by the decisions of a review by economist Sir Howard Davies, which is due to report later this year on an interim basis and in the months after the May 2015 general election.

This delay would in effect push any final decision well into the second half of the current decade. He said: “Surely we decide now… if we are serious about saying Britain is open for business I cannot see the argument for simply sitting on this.”

“Never mind the cost – it happens to be populated by a large number of very heavy geese and other birds who tend not to mix with jumbo jets flying at a very low level.”  [ He has been expressing opposition to an estuary airport since 2003 or before   link  ]

Mr Darling’s comments come after the House of Commons’ transport select committee backed a third runway at the hub and rejected the case for a new hub airport in the Thames estuary.

In a question and answer session with journalists Mr Darling suggested that Britain could be in a Japan-like depression that could last for a decade.

He said: “It has come to a pretty pass when people say that bumping along the bottom is OK because we are not going into a triple dip recession.

“My fear is that we could be bumping along the bottom for an entire decade if not longer. Look what happened in Japan.”

Mr Darling, who was Labour Chancellor between 2007 and 2010, also conspicuously failed to quash speculation that he would like to have another go at running the Treasury.

He said he was occupied with leading the cross-party campaign to persuade Scots to vote in favour of staying in the Union.

But asked if he would like to succeed shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, he said: “Nothing else will command my attention between now and September of next year. Although I will maintain an interest in wider affairs as I always do and would like to long after my retirement.”



Alistair Darling’s enthusiasm for a 3rd Heathrow runway is not new. See a comment by John Stewart in August 2012:

“When I read in today’s Independent on Sunday that Darling was still supporting a third runway – – I had to remind myself that he was once Secretary of State for Transport.  I just don’t recall anything he did.  He certainly didn’t attempt to shake the Department for Transport out of its bias towards the aviation industry. ”



Darling defies Miliband over third Heathrow runway

26.8.2012 (Independent on Sunday)

Alistair Darling, the former chancellor, has defied the Labour leader Ed Miliband and called for a third runway at Heathrow to be approved.  Britain’s ability to attract foreign investment is being undermined by a lack of capacity at its biggest airport, Mr Darling warned.

In an interview with The Independent on Sunday, he said: “You can’t just ignore the problem and hope it will go away. Everybody who flies wants a runway, and nobody who lives near one wants one at all. There is a consensus we actually do need more capacity.”

The coalition government is split on the issue: George Osborne is keen to reconsider opposition to a third runway. Yesterday, Grant Shapps, the housing minister, told The Daily Telegraph he backed the Chancellor’s position “to the hilt”.

Last October, Labour abandoned its support for expansion, when Mr Miliband backed Maria Eagle, the shadow Transport Secretary, who said “the third runway at Heathrow is now off the agenda because of the local environmental impact”.

But Mr Darling rejected the idea of a new airport in the Thames estuary, which he said would attract high landing charges and damage business in west London.

Additional capacity was needed at Heathrow to bolster growth, Mr Darling said, as he took aim at George Osborne’s stewardship of the economy. “An impression is beginning to emerge that both the Chancellor and the Bank of England have given up,” he said.

Change of heart on airport expansion

December 2003 Alistair Darling backs a third runway “to meet the pressures we know we’ll face as a result of a growing economy”.

June 2008 David Cameron burnishes green credentials to oppose third runway, declaring: “We are not going to drop the environmental agenda in an economic downturn.”

January 2009 Government approves plans.

May 2010 Conservative manifesto pledges to “stop the third runway”.

October 2011 Justine Greening, MP for Putney who opposes expansion at Heathrow, appointed Transport Secretary.

March 2012 IoS reveals George Osborne wants a third runway “back on the table”.

[Then Justine Greening reshuffled 4.9.2012  link ]




‘Government too slow on transport’ – shadow minister Jim Fitzpatrick

 29 Jan 2013

Shadow transport minister Jim Fitzpatrick has slammed government policy when he addressed GTMC (Guild of Travel Management companies) members in London.

He said the government’s decision to split the High Speed 2 routes into two bills, with the second – including the crucial Heathrow spur link – not being announced until 2015 was “very disappointing, because we think they could move forward much more quickly”.

The Poplar and Limehouse MP said the south-east of England needed a four-runway hub, but warned that by the time the Davies Commission on aviation reports in 2015 the country would have “lost a decade”.

He added: “The coalition are slow on aviation, and slow on HS2.”

Fitzpatrick said when Labour promised a third Heathrow runway at the last general election, Conservatives opposed it “because a clutch of west London seats were up for grabs and they thought opposition to the third runway would win those seats for them.

“In the event they won two seats in west London, and both of those were on the back of the expenses scandal – not Heathrow.”

He said surveys of people in west London showed overwhelming support for Heathrow because it is the economic driver for the whole area, as well as the M4 corridor and beyond.

Fitzpatrick added that GTMC members were “in a pivotal position” between their corporate clients and the airlines, and urged them to engage with these partners to “speak more loudly” to decision-makers within government.

New GTMC chief executive Paul Wait said the guild plans to invest in research and data capabilities to strengthen its lobbying activities, and to reinforce awareness by government and corporates of the return on investment in business travel.

“Research proves that investment in travel benefits the bottom line,” said Wait.




Darling to coalition: stop dithering over new runway

Former chancellor says decision on airport capacity needed urgently to prevent lost decade of flat economic growth and rising debt

by  (Guardian)

14 May 2013 17.

The coalition must move urgently to promote big-ticket infrastructure projects such as a new runway at Heathrow or Stansted airport if it is to prevent a lost decade of flat economic growth and rising debt, the former chancellor Alistair Darling has warned.

Ministers’ current plans to postpone a decision on overstretched airport capacity in the south-east until the Sir Howard Davies report is published in 2015 will only delay a decision without resolving any of the existing dilemmas – including the threat to key marginals around both airports, he said.

It has taken seven years to build Terminal 5 inside Heathrow and Britain cannot wait, Darling said: “It is nonsense not to make up our minds.”

He told journalists at Westminster that, as transport secretary 10 years ago he had published a white paper backing a second runway at Stansted, for which planning permission existed: “Labour tried to do something about it in far more benign circumstances when airlines were willing to spend money.”

….. and it continues




Tim Yeo demands PM backs Heathrow 3rd runway and claims it’s a leadership issue

28.8.2012It is August. And the end of the Silly Season, with little hard news. So the media have given a disproportionate amount of coverage and hype to repeating this old one, with a few additions. Writing in the Daily Telegraph,  (where else?) Tim Yeo, who now backs Heathrow expansion, urged David Cameron to act or risk “presiding over a dignified slide towards insignificance”. The Telegraph etc suggest top ministers are reconsidering their opposition to a Heathrow 3rd runway. However Justine Greening has repeated, yet again, that  there was a “political consensus” against a new runway, that the coalition ruled out any expansion before the next election, and that a short runway at Heathrow is not a “solution” to any alleged south east runway capacity shortage in the south east, and that there has been no change in the facts since 2010.  Labour also currently opposes the idea of a third runway. Tim Yeo also says, for unaccountable reasons, that  the “environmental objections” to the expansion of Heathrow were “disappearing”. On the day when the Arctic ice has reached an all time low.