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 307.

    Farewell the age of ENLIGHTENMENT and sadly we have thrust upon us the age of EN-DARK-ENMENT, where practicality, reason, and LOGIC are nothing more than bellybutton gazing exercises of a government that just seems to be waiting for a sign from a mythical diety to say get off your... and do what is Necessary for the betterment of the Nation, not just the upper 1%.

  • rate this

    Comment number 306.

    The need for another runway at Heathrow or anywhere in the S.E. whilst apparent now will quickly dissapear over the next 5 to 10 years.. The world is rapidly running out of oil and planes need oil to fly. With oil depletion will come economic and social turmoil which will greatly reduce the amount of disposable income people and businesses have. The end result will be a massive white elephant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 305.


    "Oh, sure, we can trust Vince Cable and completely believe anything he says. After all, this is the man who had "declared a war on Rupert Murdoch." And we all know what happened to that..."

    As I understand it war WAS declared on Rupert! In spite of his good friends in the Tory party.

    So maybe VC is the trustworthy one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 304.

    Build 4 or 5 runways and then in 20 years some more, NICE ONE

  • rate this

    Comment number 303.

    Hey , why not expand Cumbernauld airport , there is a nearby mainline rail line where a station could be built , excellent motorway links to the whole country and plenty of space to build . The housing also tends to be of better quality , along with a far better price than London and there is a probable better lifestyle for raising a family . Could help the country as a whole !

  • rate this

    Comment number 302.

    Thing is if you put a third runway in you do create a lot more flights from the destination, and the fact is most people fly from Heathrow because that's where most package holidays fly from, to suddenly change it to say a northern airport like Manchester would mean you would have to encourage leisure company to fly from there, think of the prices rising as more fuel is needed. (I'm on the fence)

  • rate this

    Comment number 301.

    We need to stop this constant obsession with expanding London. There are a lot of other places in the UK and developing their business regions and the transport infrastructure will do a lot to increase financial equality across the UK and ease the pressure on the capital. It's not ALL about LONDON! Creating a new business hub in the north will probably cost less, and have more impact nationally.

  • rate this

    Comment number 300.

    @238 myself

    I should clarify, working to rule means, starting and leaving work, doing your job according to regulations, no rushing around to get things done, so walking out if it is safe to do so etc. Yes this will cause problems that’s the point, just like to see what will happen when the fridges at London’s private member clubs have no power as hospitals take priority.

  • rate this

    Comment number 299.

    @285 Froh: they didn't come to Sheffield because there were already several airports relatively nearby - Leed, Manchester etc - that doesn't mean everyone in the UK only wants to travel via London.

    If you really believe tourists and business people only want to visit London, then we might as well shut the rest of the country down and move all 65 million of us to London immediately,


  • 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 297.

    The reason these debates go on sooooooooooooo long is because the politicians have to win the hearts and minds of the elctorate before they go ahead with the plans that were already devised years ago. They know what they're going to do this dithering is just a smokscreen and spin to sell you the idea. In the end we will make the decision they have persuaded us to make and a new airport will emerge

  • rate this

    Comment number 296.

    For heaven's sake, London needs a bigger airport to cope with international demand. I'm sorry that some people will be affected (and yes I do live on the flightpath) but get over it.

    Give Heathrow it's third runway (take note that Beijing's new airport is expected to have EIGHT commercial runways plus one for military use...), stop pussyfooting around people's sensitivities... and do it fast.

  • 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 294.

    The Country needs Air capacity - like it or not - Heathrow is in the wrong place and is a nightmare to get to. The expansion of Birmingham Airport coupled with HS2 and a properly laid out and expandable new site in the Thames Estuary would help not only the Airport capacity the country needs, but two large infrastructure projects would help to boost the UK economy.

  • Comment number 293.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    Is the answer not simple ? ....... stop centralising EVERYTHING in London , there is no REAL reason to do so , especially with modern communications.

    This might also bring financial benefits to less well funded areas , as well as allowing a decreased demand for the already very limited London housing market.

    There IS civilisation OUTSIDE London ( some might say , that is where it starts ,even)

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    Because the politicians dither and are incapable of making the decision that is best for the country, an independent commission is most likely to come up with the solutions that are, including how best to use the airport capacity we have. Why on earth should it take 3 years?

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    number 277 does not understand the meaning of hub.
    Go to google maps and look at Chicago airport, or better still Atlanta. These are places where INTERNATIONAL travellers change planes. Not some pennyandy travelling from a small place to a larger place.
    Amsterdam has SIX runways. To fit that into Heathrow is impossible. If you want to move ahead flatten Swindon and build a proper hub there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    Plenty of spare capacity at other Airports. Birmingham is 75 minutes from central London by train and they could double their capacity overnight as the infrastructure is in place. The runway extension will be ready in 2 years. Politicians seem reticent to consider such options and airlines are fixated with the SE. Someone needs to bang some heads together - it's not rocket science!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.

    I find it difficult to understand if this is such a concern to Britain's economy why does it take 3 years or more to look into alternative venues. Surely it should not take that long


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