Government will not make a runway decision soon, and not till “before Christmas”

The Financial Times has reported that it has been informed by a Whitehall source that Ministers will not provide a formal response to the Airports Commission’s recommendation on a runway till about “before Christmas.”  The official told the FT there would just be a cursory acceptance of the report (expected in late June?) by senior ministers. It had been thought for sometime that the DfT would have to do at least 6 months work, considering the Commission’s verdict,before a final decision could be made.  The Commission has left many gaps in its analysis, with many questions unanswered.  The FT reports that: “Civil servants say they need to start work on any proposed legislation & prepare for legal challenges that are considered almost inevitable.”  The decision for the Airports Commission has not been an easy one, because there are overwhelming arguments against a new runway at either Gatwick or Heathrow. The Cabinet faces division on the issue of Heathrow, with George Osborne in favour and other senior members deeply opposed. The pro- runway lobby has been complaining vociferously that a runway decision must be made quickly.  Labour’s Mary Creagh has accused David Cameron of “unforgivable delay” on the issue, and putting party stability “ahead of the national interest.



‘No quick decision’ on airport expansion

10 June 2015 (BBC)

There will be no immediate response to the final report of the commission looking at airport expansion, government sources say.

The Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, is expected to publish its final report this summer.

It has shortlisted three options: a third runway at Heathrow, lengthening an existing runway at Heathrow or building a second runway at Gatwick.

The Financial Times reports there will be no decision until Christmas.  BBC assistant political editor Norman Smith said government sources had told him ministers would take “some time” to consider Sir Howard’s findings.

The Conservative Party’s manifesto promises to “respond” to the final report of the commission, which began its inquiry three years ago. The results were put off until after the general election.

Paul Everitt, chief executive of aerospace national trade association ADS, said any delays could harm the UK’s global competitiveness.

“We don’t have a specific view on just which airport should get a new runway but we need a decision soon,” he said,  “We have been waiting a long time for this.”

A third runway at Heathrow was proposed by the last Labour government but the plan was scrapped when the Conservatives and Lib Dems formed their coalition government in 2010.

A number of high-profile Conservatives are opposed to Heathrow expansion, including London Mayor Boris Johnson and Richmond Park MP Zac Goldsmith, who is bidding to replace him.

On Twitter, Labour leadership contender Mary Creagh, a former shadow transport secretary, accused David Cameron of an “unforgivable delay” on the issue, saying the prime minister was putting “Tory party management ahead of the national interest”.

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: “We are determined to make progress on this vital issue but we need to carefully consider the Airports Commission’s full body of work before setting out next steps.”

Campaign group Let Britain Fly, which lobbies for airport expansion, called for an end to “political procrastination”, adding that “kicking the can down the road for another year is no longer an option”.

A Heathrow spokeswoman said: “There has to be a quick decision following a long and thorough process by the Airports Commission.”



Decision on UK runway faces more delay

By Jim Pickard, Chief Political Correspondent (FT)


Ministers will not provide a formal response to the Davies commission on aviation until the end of the year in a move that will provoke fears of procrastination over Britain’s next new runway.

The independent group will issue its final report in late June and will recommend either Gatwick or Heathrow as the optimal site for a new runway in the southeast. The report will clear the way for a political decision on the long-delayed issue.

But one Whitehall official said there would be no immediate response beyond a cursory acceptance of the report by senior ministers. A more detailed reaction would not be issued until “before Christmas”, he said.

That will come as a blow to aviation executives who had expected a full government response in the late summer.

Business groups have repeatedly called on the government to make up its mind and authorise a runway somewhere close to London to deal with future capacity constraints.

The signal of a delay reinforces the reality that there is no political consensus on where to build another airport given the huge complications around the two main options. Many business groups would prefer the expansion of Heathrow over Gatwick because the former is an existing hub with links to most destinations around the world.

Yet approving a third runway at Heathrow would anger several cabinet ministers who have staked out positions against the project, including Justine Greening, Greg Hands and Philip Hammond.

There is also opposition from figures including Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond, who declared on Tuesday that he would run for London mayor next year. Mr Goldsmith is a vehement critic of the third runway and has threatened to resign as an MP if it goes ahead. Boris Johnson, the current mayor, has promised to lie down in front of the bulldozers if the project is approved.

The aviation commission is chaired by Sir Howard Davies, former head of the CBI, who is about to become the chair of RBS.

If ministers wait six months to respond to the Davies Commission it will prompt anxiety at the Department for Transport, where officials are keen for a speedier decision.

Civil servants say they need to start work on any proposed legislation and to prepare for legal challenges that are considered almost inevitable.

The transport department refused to comment.


Delaying runway decision will play into hands of opponents, say City chiefs

By NICHOLAS CECIL (Evening Standard)


City chiefs today warned the Government that delaying a decision on airport expansion could give opponents time to build their campaign to block another runway in the South-East.

The Airports Commission, headed by former London School of Economics boss Sir Howard Davies, is due to deliver its final report, recommending another runway at either Gatwick or Heathrow, within weeks.

But the Government is not expected to respond until later in the year.

London business bosses are concerned a lengthy delay could play into the hands of local groups, politicians and environmentalists who are against expanding either airport.

David Leam, infrastructure director at business group London First, said: “The big risk from a business point of view is leaving a vacuum over the autumn that the opponents of air expansion will fill.

“Any decision will take time and be subject to lots of challenges but it won’t get any easier by leaving it and allowing the debate to be taken over. If the Government lacks nerve, the decision could lose momentum.”

Heathrow called for a “quick decision” to be made following the “long and thorough process by the Airports Commission”.

Paul Everitt, chief executive of the aerospace national trade association ADS, said, “We need a decision soon”, adding: “Without additional capacity, our global competitiveness is under threat.”

John Stewart, chairman of anti- Heathrow expansion group HACAN, also warned about a delay in the Government’s decision, possibly not until shortly before Christmas. He said: “Business will not welcome the uncertainty but it will also mean continued blight for local residents faced with the threat of their homes being demolished or those who face the prospect of living under a new flight path.”

The Standard has also been told David Cameron is reluctant to do a U-turn over his opposition to a third runway at Heathrow.

The Prime Minister’s 2010 flagship pledge to block expansion of the west London airport is said to have been a genuine commitment based on concerns over the impact of another runway.

Chancellor George Osborne is believed to be have been swayed towards the case for a bigger Heathrow. But the final decision on whether to expand the west London airport or Gatwick will be made by the Prime Minister, the Standard understands.

A Tory source said: “When he made that commitment it was a genuine one. He will want to stick to it.”

One senior pro-Heathrow MP said Mr Osborne was the “only member of the Cabinet who is seriously in favour” of expanding the airport, with several Cabinet ministers opposed. They include Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening and Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, as well as Boris Johnson.

Sir Howard is due to deliver his final report at the end of this month or the beginning of next.

Industry insiders had expected the Department for Transport to take about six months to consider the Commission’s verdict before a final decision was made.

But No 10 is said to have been examining whether a quicker announcement could be made.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “We are determined to make progress on this vital issue but we need to consider the Airports Commission’s full body of work carefully before setting out next steps.”