Let Britain Fly and pro-runway lobbies want MPs to commit to rapid runway decision, post election

The election campaign starts in earnest on 30th March, and voters are not to be given proper information on what their MPs and parliamentary candidates think about a new runway, or whether they back one at Heathrow or Gatwick. Or neither. The government deliberately told the Airports Commission it should not report till after this general election. The Lib Dems have confirmed they do not back either runway (though individual MPs appear to back a Gatwick runway). The official line by Conservatives is that they will be waiting for the Commission’s recommendation (expected by the end of June). Labour has also said this and Ed Balls announced that Labour would quickly set up an Infrastructure Commission, to get things like a new runway approved quickly. Now an article in the Independent, sourced largely from the lobby group “Let Britain Fly” and the right wing Conservative 1922 committee, wants a rapid decision after the election, for at least one more runway.  This ignores the fact that the Airports Commission’s own work shows this cannot be built, without threatening the UK’s carbon target. The Commission’s analysis has left much to still be considered. It would not be possible to agree on a runway, till a great deal more work has been done by government, on carbon, noise, air quality, cost to the taxpayer, extent of economic benefit and local social and health impacts. Among other things.




Airport expansion: Choose Heathrow or Gatwick soon, MPs urge Government

“There is mounting concern that the main parties have not committed themselves to backing whichever option is eventually selected by the Airports Commission”
29.3.2015 (Independent on Sunday)

Nearly 60 MPs, including the chairman of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee, have demanded a quickfire decision from the next government on expanding Heathrow or Gatwick airports.

Graham Brady [the Conservative MP for Altrincham and Sale West,and Chairman of the right wing 1922 committee, the body that represents Tory backbenches ] said: “It is critical we address the issue of airport infrastructure as soon as possible – we’ve clearly put off a decision for decades now. It’s important we make sure there is at least one new runway built in South-east England to prevent us falling behind other countries in terms of trade.”

[See Graham Brady’s voting record – very “right wing” indeed, on They Work for You] .

There is now mounting concern among MPs that the main parties have not committed themselves to backing whichever option is eventually selected by the independent Airports Commission led by Sir Howard Davies when it reports this summer. MPs pledging support for a quick decision will be published on the Let Britain Fly website tomorrow.

The coalition has previously been criticised for failing to push through multibillion-pound runways at Gatwick or Heathrow during its five-year term of office.

Expansion is considered vital to the economy, particularly as rival international airports grow – Dubai took Heathrow’s top spot as the world’s busiest hub for international travel in January.

But many Tories in west London and Sussex are worried that expansion would see them lose the votes of residents opposed to more aircraft noise, and the pollution and roads chaos caused by construction work. Other campaigners are critical of the enormous costs.

Louise Ellman, chair of the House of Commons Transport Select Committee, said there was “too much delay” in relation to airport expansion. Clive Betts, chair of the Local Government Committee, added that the issue risked “getting lost” in the event of a hung Parliament.

Gavin Hayes, director of Let Britain Fly, said: “Growing numbers of MPs from across the political spectrum understand the urgent need to expand London and South-east airports to support future jobs and economic growth.

“The clear message from Parliament and the back benches is that they want the next government to make a quick decision on airport expansion.”






Parties accused of lack of transparency over airports policy

Pressure is mounting on Labour and the Conservatives to spell out whether they favour expansion at Gatwick or Heathrow


The two main political parties are under fire for trying to duck a sensitive debate in the run-up to the General Election over whether to expand Heathrow Airport or its rival Gatwick.

Aviation minister Robert Goodwill said it would be “disastrous” to turn airports expansion into a general election issue, prompting anger from residents living close to both airports, who claim it is “totally unfair and unreasonable” for Britons not to know which policy they are voting for when they go to the ballot box.

London’s Mayor Boris Johnson has also challenged other politicians to make clear their position on Heathrow or Gatwick expansion, after his own plans for a new hub airport in the Thames Estuary were dumped in September.

The Liberal Democrats are sticking to their policy of no new runways in the South East, despite efforts by the party’s leadership to garner support for Gatwick expansion.

Mr Goodwill suggested both the Conservatives and Labour will likely come up with “pretty similar wording” in their election manifestos, which will avoid either party having to make a firm statement on which airport they favour or whether they will enact the recommendations of the Airports Commission, a body which is investigating the best location for Britain’s next runway.

Mr Goodwill was speaking before the Commission on Tuesday launches a national consultation on three expansion options, which were short-listed last year.

The commission, headed by Sir Howard Davies, will also publish an independent analysis of the three options – two plans for expansion at Heathrow and a second runway at Gatwick – which will allow a like-for-like comparison for the first time.

Speaking at a conference organised by the Airport Operators Association on Monday, Mr Goodwill said: “I think what would be the biggest disaster… for this particular debate would be to make it a general election issue.”

John Stewart, chairman of the anti-Heathrow expansion campaign group, HACAN, said for residents in West London airports expansion is “the only general election issue”.

“It is an issue which could determine the way people actually vote and because it is such a big issue it should be put in front of the people at general election,” Mr Stewart said.

Sally Pavey of the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign said it is “totally unfair and unreasonable” that Britons won’t know what they will be voting for at the General Election.
“It is unfair to expect residents to vote for someone if they are not able to answer the question [on airports expansion]” she said.

Mr Johnson’s chief advisor on aviation, Daniel Moylan, said: “No single politician aside from the Mayor has yet had the courage to come forward and nail their colours to a particular solution.”

Sir Howard, a former director of the London School of Economics, will on Tuesday produce his own forecasts for how much each short-listed option will cost and other major factors such as the effect on local communities and how easily the project can be delivered. Until now, both Gatwick, Heathrow and Heathrow Hub, a private company behind the third option, have presented conflicting evidence and forecasts.

However, the commission will not state how it will eventually rank those factors when it makes its final recommendations after the General Election next summer.

Gatwick says its second runway can be delivered by 2025, at a cost of £7.8bn and will deliver a £90bn economic benefit. Heathrow’s third runway, to the north west of its current site, will £15.6bn cost, can also open in 2025 and will boost the economy to the tune of £100bn, according to the airport.

Heathrow Hub, which is proposing to extend the West London airport’s northern runway and effectively split it in two, says the total cost, including rail and road improvements would be £12bn. The company says its design could be delivered by 2023 and would benefit the economy by as much as £70bn.