West Country MP says “London mustn’t have a veto on Heathrow” – led to believe a runway would benefit his region

An MP from the South West, Dr Liam Fox (MP for North Somerset) has said that a decision on a runway for the south east should not be made by people in London alone. Though he does graciously concede that: “Residents of west London who live beneath the flightpath do have legitimate concerns” he says “the capital must not be allowed to dominate a debate that is about the future of the whole UK.” And he produces the figures of benefit of a 3rd Heathrow runway to the South West of “a £10 billion increase in economic activity, as well as 12,300 new jobs.” Unfortunately these figures are actually up to 2050. They also come from a (4 page) paper from consultants employed by Heathrow airport, long before the Airports Commission’s final report.  Dr Fox believes there will be a big expansion in business air travel, and that there will be many more flights to regional airports, like those in the SW. He does not seem to have read the Commission’s comments about there being regional flights to only 4 domestic airports (from 7 now) by 2050, or Howard Davies’ comments to the London Assembly about regional airports being likely to close. Dr Fox – and other MPs in the regions – would perhaps do well to understand the limitations and failings of the Commission’s work on wider UK economic impacts of a SE runway.



Liam Fox (Tory MP in the west country) says “London mustn’t have a veto on Heathrow”

Liam says :*The expansion of the hub airport is in the national interest – it will boost the economy by billions*

By Liam Fox (Conservative MP for North Somerset)


As we approach the London Mayoral election in 2016 there will be an increasing tendency for London-based media and politicians to see issues even more in terms of the capital than is usual. For those of us outside the M25, it will be an opportunity to show how “London” issues can have a huge impact on the rest of us. A prime example is the need for greater runway capacity.

Three years have passed since the Coalition asked Sir Howard Davies’ Airports Commission to identify the most effective option for expanding the UK’s airport capacity. The commission has now provided a “clear and unanimous’’ recommendation that a third runway at Heathrow would provide “more substantial economic and strategic benefits’’ to Britain than any other option.

The Davies commission was endorsed by the Conservatives and Labour. Its recommendations enjoy wide cross-party support. Graham Brady, chairman of the Conservative 1922 Committee of backbench MPs, suggests that up to 600 MPs would support the findings if it came to a vote in the Commons.  [The 1922 Committee is a group of back bench, right leaning MPs. Link ]

Yet the airport question is still considered a purely London issue. [Not clear why he says that?].  While MPs whose constituencies lie closest to Heathrow have certainly been the most vocal in their opposition, the capital must not be allowed to dominate a debate that is about the future of the whole UK.

Residents of west London who live beneath the flightpath do have legitimate concerns. One of the great benefits of the commission’s recommendation is that it includes measures to reduce drastically noise pollution from the airport. [Really? The measures proposed seem to make little difference and end up with much more noise overall].

As a Somerset MP, though, my first question for any proposal must always be: “How does this benefit the South West?’’ A third runway at Heathrow offers my region a £10 billion increase in economic activity, as well as 12,300 new jobs. [That is up to 2050. The origin of this claim is not given by Liam Fox, but comes from a 4-page document, undated, with no authorship, or contact details, produced for Heathrow by Quod.   Link  Details below.]

This is partially facilitated by the Government’s pledge to construct a £500 million rail link connecting the Great Western mainline directly to Heathrow Terminal 5. This link, which includes a tunnel under the M25, will reduce journey times to London by half an hour and allow passengers to board a train at Bristol and travel directly to their terminal. It will put one in four people in the UK within one change of the airport.

The Great Western Mainline link will carry its first passengers in 2021, well before any runway will be finished. Yet it will have the effect of making Heathrow a “local airport’’ for South West England, creating jobs and allowing the region to share in the prosperity as Heathrow connects Britain to the global economy.

National business groups such as the Institute of Directors and CBI agree with regional bodies such as Plymouth Chamber of Commerce, the Dorset Chamber of Commerce, Newquay Cornwall Airport and the Cornwall Chamber of Commerce that Heathrow should expand as soon as possible.

The airport debate cannot be allowed to become London-centric. While the benefits to the South West are significant, they merely reflect of the benefits that expanding our best-connected airport will bring to the entire country.

The commission, moreover, is clear in its recommendation of Heathrow over Gatwick. True, both airports are equally convenient from the capital, but London is not a city-state. We must ensure that all corners of Britain are included in this decision.

“The capital must not be allowed to dominate a debate that is about the economic future of the entire UK”

The Government and those in the capital must unite behind Heathrow, and move towards a prosperous vision of the future for the entire United Kingdom. The London mayoral candidates will have their own views for those they represent, but they must remember there is a bigger constituency outside the capital.

Dr Liam Fox MP is chairman of the South West Conservative MPs Group


The evidence that Liam Fox takes for his hopes of economic benefit for Somerset, and the South West, is from some research by an independent consultancy called “Quod.” http://www.quod.com/

The document is only 4 pages long, has no date, no identity or contact address, no named authors, and gives no references for any of its numbers (many come from Airports Commission documents, but there are no links to them).

Quod say:

“The majority of the catalytic jobs identified by Heathrow were as a result of trade and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Both trade and FDI are forecast to increase as a result of productivity gains and increased business travel that will arise at an expanded Heathrow, as a result of lower fares and greater connectivity and therefore an increase in face to face business meetings. The distribution of benefits is therefore partially related to the origin of business passengers in the UK. [There has been a decline in the amount of business air travel, and no indication that this will necessarily reverse.  Link    AW comment].

“10. The current pattern of business travel is not the sole determinant of the spatial distribution of trade and investment impacts. The future pattern of business travel is likely to be very different at an expanded Heathrow with a greater number of regional connections within the UK. [The report presumes that there will be more flights between a 3 runway Heathrow, and regional airports. The Airports Commission final report says there will actually be fewer.  Link   AW comment]  It will also reflect existing patterns of employment in trade and FDI [Foreign Direct Investment] which is not be the same as the origins of business travel. Links into Heathrow are important, but not the only factor that determines how regions will benefit.”

The figures it gives are up to 2050.




Comment by AirportWatch members:

This really makes one wonder about the ability of politicians to understand  numbers or misrepresent them. Does Liam appreciate that the alleged  £200bn is over 60 years, rather than per year? Does he explain that it is a guesswork number with all the faults on multipliers, outbound tourism spends, transfer passengers, additionality, and plain wishful thinking)?  And how he expects 5% of this to end up in Somerset is another undocumented leap of faith. If 600 MPs believe this sort of economic cloud cuckoo land, then UK is in real trouble.


Virtually no-one is strongly and systematically rebutting claims by the Airports Commission of economic benefit, whether of aviation or anything else. We need to have these issues of “misleading economics” addressed specifically.


A runway should not be supported by MPs from the regions, who have been given the mistaken impression by Heathrow (for its own purposes) that they will gain huge future benefits. The reality is that a new SE runway would remove any chance for the regional airports to provide profitable long-haul links in future. The vast subsidies from the tax payer, to fund all the associated infrastructure for a SE airport, would need to be paid out of the taxes of people across the country. Yet another example of money being channelled, yet again, into the south east. So much for the Northern Powerhouse idea, and spreading growth out across the regions.




Airports Commission report shows fewer, not more, links to regional airports by 2030 with 3rd Heathrow runway

The Times reports that analysis by Transport for London (TfL) of the Airports Commission’s final report shows that, with a 3rd runway, Heathrow would only serve 4 domestic destinations by 2030, compared to the 7 is now serves. It would serve only 3 with no new runway by 2030. (The Gatwick figures are 7 domestic destinations by 2030 with a 2nd runway, compared to 10 now). Heathrow has been claiming that its runway will be important for better links to the regions, and improved domestic connectivity by air. The Heathrow runway has been backed by Peter Robinson, the first minister of Northern Ireland, Derek Mackay, the Scottish transport minister, and Louise Ellman, the chairwoman of the transport select committee – on the grounds that it would help the regions. The Commission’s report says: (Page 313) “15.8 ….without specific measures to support domestic connectivity even an expanded Heathrow may accommodate fewer domestic routes in future….” The Commission cannot see effective ways to ensure domestic links are not cut in future, as less profitable than long haul, but they suggest public subsidy by the taxpayer for these routes. This is by using PSO (Public Service Obligations) which could cost £ millions, is a bad use of public money, and may fall foul of EU law.

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