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 287.

    OK crossie, we get the message. East Midlands is hardly 'the back streets of Birmingham' and there is a fast rail link to Euston. Have you been to Heathrow recently. Last time I was there seemed to already be a medium sized town, why make it even bigger. Get real, indeed.

  • Comment number 286.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    We built an airport here in Sheffield. We had to close it as nobody came.

    As dmglasgow #277 says: you have to put the airport where the demand is. Spare capacity only exists at airports where people do not wish to travel.

    For many foreign travellers - business and pleasure, if they cannot come to Heathrow they will not come to Britain at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    An expansion of Heathrow Airport is "not going to happen", Business Secretary Vince Cable has said.
    If he turns that into an election pledge how long before the bulldozers start?

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    When are we going to see a proper mature debate on the UK’s infrastructure, devoid of pundits, already fat, fat cats on the take. I personally hate the fact that the rest of the UK has zero voice when comes to thing’s such as this, when are we going to have our say, we control London’s power, and it’s food supply perhaps we should work to rule and force London to listen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    LBA-AMS- The World

    MAN-AMS/The World

    To get to Thiefrow from either is slow by whatever means and Schiphol is a far better airport then Thiefrow.

    Also most people do NOT live in London nor is it the centre of the unviverse!

    Develop regional airports as part of a co-ordinated transport plan LOL

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    I frequently travel from Glasgow to London on business. It is faster and cheaper to fly than to take the train. For journeys to London any airport will do. I regularly fly to Luton, Stansted, Gatwick, Heathrow or London City. My favourites are Luton and Stansted, in the North. These are much quieter and offer slightly quicker journey times. I only choose the busier airports if I am connecting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    278. teddy555
    Leftie Cable should join Labour . Cant Cameron get rid of the pest ?
    Cable is just as entitled as Cameron to be where he is, whether he's a lefie or not. Live with it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    "Heathrow expansion won't happen," says Vince Cable.

    Yeah, like university fees will not be allowed to rise, or the NHS will be protected or... well, any number of things that Cable and other politicians have lied about. He can say whatever he likes, but I'll check when he says the sun is shining before I believe it is!

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    Leftie Cable should join Labour . Cant Cameron get rid of the pest ?

  • 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 276.

    Are we really sure that demand for air travel will continue to increase at the current pace for decades to come? It looks more than likely that oil production will peak soon and with China/India/Brazil wanting a bigger share of the worlds resources there isn't going to be a lot left to fuel flights to here or any other developed country. I can't see planes powered by batteries any time soon either

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    @266 Dennis Harvey: Many of those narrow bodied planes you see landing at Heathrow are bringing transit passengers from places like Glasgow, Edinburgh, Leeds and Manchester. If you get rid of those planes then Heathrow won't need expansion because we won't be able to get there, but the northern airports certainly will.

  • Comment number 274.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    "If the Northerners want to use it, jump on HS2 when it happens. Deal with it."
    Rude, but the opposite is a good solution; develop other cities and use the HS2 to get into London. Companies could be bigger and better with the resources of our "other cities" on tap - there is a lot of talent outside London.

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.

    It is totally unacceptable we can't make a decision on this and quick! We need to look past politics and agreed on what right for the country, if its a new runway lets get on with it! We need to get tough with the decision makers and set realistic time limits, we should be able to work this out in a matter of months not years!

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    joined up thinking - not.
    Filton in Bristol has an 8000ft runway that's being shut at the end of this year.
    Doesn't suffer Fog like Bristol airport, has a railway line within 200m, M4 and M5 within 1 mile.
    Bristol airpot is miles from the M5, and no railway connection
    Cardiff is also very difficult to get to, if has a railway line, but they haven't thought to capitalise on it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    Has anyone looked at the sky lately? Is it me, or do the planes now pollute the sky so much as to actually block out the sun day after day? Do people even notice this??

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    Since Heathrow is not British owned and BA is now half Spanish - I wonder what the UK interest is in being a great airport hub - transit passengers hardly bring much to the UK economy in the few hours of their stop-over. It is time to think very long term - where do we want the great Heathrow replacement airport to be located?

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    Hello London.

    I'm broadcasting from the North. We are still alive. We need airport expension. We need motorways. We need jobs. Don't forget about us until the next election.



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