A Conservative MP has claimed the government was trying to push through a third runway at Heathrow by hiding behind initial recommendations made by the independent airports commission led by Sir Howard Davies, whose interim report is due out next week.
Zac Goldsmith, the MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston, accused George Osborne of “yearning for a China-style government”, saying on Twitter: “Osborne has spent public money on a review whose only purpose is to make a 3rd runway decision look like it was reached independently.”
His outburst came after sources close to the inquiry, which will recommend where a new runway for London should be built, claimed Davies would set out three options for extra airport capacity in the south-east in the interim report: a third Heathrow runway, a four-runway Heathrow, and another runway at both Heathrow and Gatwick.
The Davies commission is due to issue its interim report on December 17 giving a shortlist of optio for long-term airport expansion in the south-east and evaluating whether expansion at Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted or the Thames estuary scheme favoured by Boris Johnson should continue to be considered.
If the initial speculation is correct it would mean all options would start with Heathrow expansion – a potential source of embarrassment for the government, which wanted to defer such a toxic political question until after the next general election, when the Davies committee is due to reach its final conclusion.
However, in a brief conversation after the Heathrow speculation surfaced, Davies said it was “untrue” that all options he would recommend would involve a Heathrow runway and said he did “not recognise” in the commission process anything of Goldsmith’s criticisms.
One source said Davies had been asked by No 10 to broaden the shortlist to avert any outcry about Heathrow. But this could not be verified.
Davies has already indicated he would like to narrow the options as much as possible within the constraints of his remit, which was in effect to produce a recommendation for where a new runway should be built in a final report to be delivered after the 2015 general election.