Campaign – ‘Let Britain Fly’ – launched by London First, calls for urgent action to increase airport capacity

On 10th October, business lobby group London First announced it would be launching a new campaign called “Let  Britain Fly”.  It has now had its blast of publicity, with a splurge of media coverage. The campaign will cost £250,000 and London First is seeking £25,000 each from businesses, trade unions and London boroughs to fund it. They have  got a number of Britain’s large companies, including Aberdeen Asset Management, Land Securities, Lloyds Banking Group, Next, Associated British Foods, WPP and many others to sign up. They want a new runway built somewhere, complaing the UK has not built a new one in the south east for 70 years. They want politicians of all parties to agree on the principle that airport capacity must be expanded in the South East “to ensure Britain remains competitive”. They want there to be no delays in getting a new runway built. The campaign stems from the questionable belief that airport capacity constraints threaten “to hamper the UK’s success as a global business centre and at the same time the ability to forge a lasting economic recovery”.


Expand Britain’s airports, top businesses urge

Leading British companies back a new campaign – ‘Let Britain Fly’ – calling for urgent action to increase airport capacity

Anti-austerity strikes cause flight cancellations

More than 100 businesses are backing a new campaign urging action on airport capacity. 
By , Leisure and Transport Correspondent (Telegraph)

19 Nov 2013

More than 100 of Britain’s leading companies, including Aberdeen Asset Management, Land Securities, Lloyds Banking Group and WPP on Tuesday joined forces to call for an end to almost 70 years of inertia over airport capacity in Britain.

A new campaign urging politicians to secure Britain’s future as a global business centre has attracted support from some of the biggest names in the City, including Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP, Rupert Soames of Aggreko, George Weston of Associated British Foods and Next chief executive Lord Wolfson.

The “Let Britain Fly” campaign will mark a significant development in the debate over new runways in the South East, which has so far been dominated by airports, airlines and business lobby groups.

While the campaign will stop short of backing a single solution, members hope politicians from across the spectrum will agree on the principle that airport capacity must be expanded in the South East to ensure Britain remains competitive.

A government-appointed commission examining where new runways should be built will not deliver its final recommendations until 2015, but it is understood business leaders are keen to avoid further delays which could be caused by a lack of political consensus.

In an article for The Telegraph ahead of today’s campaign launch, Sir Martin says capacity constraints threaten “to hamper the UK’s success as a global business centre and at the same time the ability to forge a lasting economic recovery”.

He adds: “We live in a world where connectivity is key – not only in digital but also in physical terms. This means we urgently need MPs to put our long-term national interest ahead of short-term politics”.

The campaign comes as Sir Howard Davies, chairman of the Airports Commission, prepares to publish a shortlist next month of the potential sites where extra runways, or even a brand new airport, could be built.

Britain has not opened a new full-length runway since the Second World War.


The list of their signatories is at



Hype and exaggeration mark the birth of Let Britain Fly

Blog on Let Britain Fly, By John Stewart


Let Britain Fly had a difficult birth today.  Its proud parent, London First, surrounded by a glittering array of big names from the business world, overdid the hyperbole.  Baroness Jo Valentine, chief executive of London First, said that it was not acceptable for politicians “to dither” over new runways “and let our economy wither.”   She even went on to ask somewhat over-dramatically, “Do we really want to become an also-ran in the global race?”

Baroness Valentine must know this is exaggeration, even scaremongering.  Whatever the pros and cons of expansion in the longer term, the facts are clear: there is no rush for a decision to be taken.  The Department for Transport has said that there is enough spare runway capacity in London and the South East until nearly 2030.  And survey after survey shows that London remains the top city for business in Europe because of its unparalleled air connections to the rest of the world.

The annual, and influential, survey, carried out by global property consultants Cushman & Wakefield, The European Cities Monitor rates London the top city in which to do business in Europe.  In 2011, it found London topped the league for the 22nd year out of 22. Cushman & Wakefield commented: “London is still ranked – by some distance from its closest competitors – as the leading city in which to do business. Paris and Frankfurt remain in second and third place respectively.”  The survey found London owes its position to its excellent links to the rest of the world. It has the best external transport, best internal transport and top telecommunications.  The 2012 survey produced the same result.

Despite the alleged “dithering” more passengers fly in and out of London than any other city in the world.  Paris, its nearest European competitor, is in 5th place.

There is a genuine debate to be had about future airport capacity but Let Britain Fly – and his parent body London First – will lose credibility if it continues to exaggerate the urgency of the need for expansion.

London First and its backers also face another challenge. It is easy for London to make general calls for airport expansion without exploring its impacts on local communities.  We hear the obligatory words that the needs of local residents must not be overlooked.   But it has never publically faced up to the question: is there any occasion when the environmental and social impacts of expansion at any particular airport are so unacceptable that expansion should be ruled out, whatever the economic benefits?  It needs to do so if it is to engage fully in the debate.

Let Britain Fly will have a gilded childhood.  £500,000 is going to be spent over the next two years.  But its parent body and supporters need to get over the excitement of its birth, calm down and stop giving the impression that London’s economy is in crisis because of a lack of runways.  It is simply not true.



The “Let Britain Fly” campaign wrote to hundreds/thousands of people today to say:

The Let Britain Fly founding statement has been signed by over 100 business leaders from Britain’s top companies, along with organisations including the British Chambers of Commerce, British Hospitality Association, Federation of Small Businesses, Institute of Directors, London Chamber of Commerce and Industry and London First – you can view the full list and the statement on the website:

Let Britain Fly has successfully renewed the debate on how we secure Britain’s aviation future. It has received coverage in the FT, The Telegraph, BBC News online and ITV News, whilst figures including Sir Richard Branson, Sir Rod Eddington, Sir George Iacobescu and Sir Martin Sorrell have all written articles of support. Finally, the campaign has tonight been endorsed by a leader comment in the Evening Standard.

Whilst we are pleased with the coverage today, the launch of Let Britain Fly is merely the start of a programme of activity. Throughout this Parliament, in the run-up to the 2015 General Election and beyond, we will work hard to keep this issue at the top of the political agenda and maintain the pressure on our politicians to act in the national interest and take swift action to modernise our airports’ infrastructure.

With this in mind we hope you will join and support us in the coming months and years.

Gavin Hayes

Campaign Director, Let Britain Fly

c/o London First
3 Whitcomb Street, London WC2H 7HA
D: 020 7665 1435 T: 020 7665 1500 F: 020 7665 1537
Twitter: @LetBritainFly




Director, Gavin Hayes.

He has an interesting background. He joined London First on the 29th July as their Aviation Campaigns Director. He joined from a job as General Secretary of Compass, a left/green pressure group within the Labour Party. He’s a member of the Labour Party. He was formerly with an organisation called Policy Review Intelligence which seems to have been critical of the banking crises. Looking at his tweets on twitter, he is clearly a man of the left. Does all this mean, I wonder, if the main target of the London First campaign is Labour?





London First getting businesses to fund campaign “Let Britain Fly” to press for airport expansion

10.10.2013London businesses are to fund a major campaign for airport expansion after Sir Howard Davies said the Airports Commission provisionally is backing new runways in the South-East. Business group London First will put pressure on the main political parties to heed the Commissions’s recommendations when published after the 2015 election. The “Let Britain Fly” campaign will cost £250,000 and London First is seeking £25,000 each from businesses, trade unions and London boroughs. The cash will be used to fund academic studies and advertising. The lobby group insists it will not campaign in favour of one particular airport. It believes extra flights can be put on at Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick  in the next five years regardless of the outcome of a decision on runways. The City of London Corporation is set to contribute to the campaign, with Canary Wharf Group, Sir Robert McAlpine, the Berkeley Group, John Lewis and Segro also committed. “London First” is an aggressively pro-growth lobby organisation, whose stated mission is to “make London the best city in the world in which to do business.”



Their “founding statement” says:

Founding statement

Access to high quality international air travel is vital to attract new business to Britain and for the success of the wider economy. Yet unless action is taken in the near future to modernise our airport infrastructure our capital city could face an air capacity crunch. London Heathrow has been full for over a decade, whilst all of the capital’s airports, including Gatwick and Stansted are forecast to be full by the mid-2020s.Historically as a country we have always forged strong global connections and been at the forefront of harnessing the dynamism of new economies. For the last three centuries or more Britain has been home to the busiest port or airport, infrastructure that has played a strategic role in making us the economic power we are today.Now more than ever Britain’s economic competitiveness demands greater international connectivity. While trade patterns are dominated by traditional partners, global economic growth is increasingly being driven by emerging markets. Easy access to developing and developed markets is a key to boosting growth and creating jobs. Yet our capital city is already at a competitive disadvantage with fewer weekly flights than its European rivals to seven of the eight growth economies identified by the IMF. Over 20 emerging market destinations are served by daily flights from other European cities but not from London. Britain is quickly falling behind.If our economy is to flourish in the future it is vital we continue to be one of the best connected countries in the world. This is why we believe Britain remaining Europe’s most important aviation hub is of strategic national importance. If our politicians fail to act there is a real risk that our economy will lose its competitive edge. Aviation policy should form part of a wider transport and infrastructure plan which reconciles different economic priorities across Britain, with modernised aviation and transport infrastructure contributing to economic growth in all parts of the country.Whilst we support the Airports Commission in coming up with a sensible aviation policy, we have concerns that unless its solutions win cross-party support, the growing economic cost of deferring a strategy to deliver new runways – which is costing our economy billions in trade and investment every year – will not be halted.Our ask of politicians

Before the next general election we urge the three main party leaders to immediately acknowledge the need for more air capacity, commit to finding a cross-party solution to modernise our airport infrastructure; and in their manifestos commit to be guided by what the Airports Commission recommends for the long-term; pledging to maintain, protect and enhance Britain’s status as a global aviation hub.

It’s time to Let Britain Fly.



Media coverage of the launch on 19th November of “Let Britain Fly”