Heathrow expansion won't happen, says Vince Cable


Vince Cable says there is "formidable" cross-party opposition to a third runway

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An expansion of Heathrow Airport is "not going to happen", Business Secretary Vince Cable has said.

His comments came after the government launched a commission on how to increase the UK's aviation capacity, amid fears business is losing out.

Mr Cable told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show the value of this exercise was to "look at the alternatives".

Several senior Tories say Heathrow must expand, but others, including London Mayor Boris Johnson, oppose the idea.

Environmentalists and many residents of west and south-west London have raised fears over pollution, noise and damage to the area's way of life.

A commission chaired by ex-Financial Services Authority boss Sir Howard Davies to examine ways to expand airport capacity will report in 2015, leaving the decision to the next government.

'Political commitment'

The 2010 coalition agreement between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats included not expanding Heathrow. The previous Labour government backed a third runway, but now opposes the idea.

However, there have been growing calls among senior Tories for a change of policy, with supporters arguing that UK business is losing out to international rival "hub" airports, such as Schiphol in the Netherlands.

But Mr Johnson, who opposes the expansion of Heathrow, has called the decision to set up a commission a "fudge".

And Tory and environmental campaigner MP Zac Goldsmith, who represents Richmond Park and North Kingston, in south-west London, has threatened to resign if the Conservative Party changes its policy.

Mr Johnson is understood to have discussed the idea of standing in any resulting by-election as part of a bid to fight plans to expand Heathrow Airport.

Liberal Democrat Mr Cable, who also represents a south-west London seat, Twickenham, said: "This is not a parochial little problem for south-west London. There are potentially two million people affected by this.

"There's an absolute political commitment not to expand Heathrow."

He added: "It's not going to happen, so the value of the commission that the prime minister has looked at is looking at the alternatives."

'Difficult debate'

These could include Mr Johnson's proposal to build a new airport east of London, partly on reclaimed land in the Thames Estuary.

The new transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, has said the commission - headed by former Financial Services Authority boss Sir Howard Davies - will identify and recommend to government "options for maintaining this country's status as an international hub for aviation".

In a written statement, Mr McLoughlin said: "This is a very difficult debate, but the reality is that since the 1960s Britain has failed to keep pace with our international competitors in addressing long-term aviation capacity and connectivity needs."

The Davies commission will publish an interim report by the end of 2013, with ideas on how to improve the use of existing runway capacity over the next five years and an assessment of what is needed to maintain the UK's global hub status.

That will be followed, in the summer of 2015, by its final report.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 415.

    Frankfurt has 3 runways, Paris has 4, Amsterdam has 5 and Emirates alone has 8 flights a day from London The cost of not increasing the UK's capacity will far outweigh the cost of failing to compete! If the UK wants a sustainable presence in the worlds airline transport economy there needs to be some immediate action, not in 2015 but now, today.

  • rate this

    Comment number 298.

    When I arrive in UK at 06:30 I want to arrive in London. Arriving in Liverpool or Birmingham to face a further journey by train would leave me with the more attractive option of flying to Charles de Gaulle or Schiphol followed by a short flight to London City Airport.
    I come from Merseyside but that is not where I need to be on arrival and the following three or four days when business is done.

  • rate this

    Comment number 295.

    There's no sensible alternative to a completely new airport in the Thames estuary. Other massive new airports have been built on reclaimed coastland - e.g.Singapore, Hong Kong, Osaka and Shanghai. Cost has never been anything like the ridiculous figures quoted by scaremongering British economists. Noise and pollution problems are solved at a stroke.London's location is tailor made for it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    When I travel internationally from Glasgow I often change planes at Heathrow, Gatwick, Paris or Amsterdam. If London wants a large share of transit business it needs to get its act together quickly or it will lose out to international competition. It is all about connections. Splitting the business between several medium sized airports, rather than one mega-airport, cuts the number of connections.

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    So we have to wait until 2015 and when will the decision taken. In the meantime we will be delegated to the third division in international league of Airports and China will probaly build few more airports. The decision making powers of this Governmet need some injection of Oxygen so help us God.


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