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 427.

    "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."

    London and the S.E. has 7 runways. Heathrow x2, Gatwick x1, Stanstead x1, Luton x1, London City x1, Southend x1...

  • rate this

    Comment number 426.


    ….officer class were all from a certain class…


    I understand the RAF comment, then going supersonic needs a space devoid of windows! However, the whole certain class comment is kind of the point that that area has been on the take, for 100’s of years, and it has done everything it can to prevent the rest of us from taking action to take back what's our's.

  • rate this

    Comment number 425.

    Remember all those railway lines that were dug up, built over or otherwise rendered unusable now that we really need them? Remember that Heathrow was actually built with SIX runways?

  • rate this

    Comment number 424.

    @ 411.
    This Is England
    What is the difference between a flight from Liverpool or Manchester to London City than a flight from Amsterdam or Paris?
    Look at your comment from an alternative angle and many, many other people have to do it now, to get to and from the regions

  • rate this

    Comment number 423.

    This has all the makings of a circular problem. By increasing air traffic into London we will increase pollutants in the air, leading to global warning, leading to flooding of the new Thames Estuary Airport. Flying Boats anyone?

  • Comment number 422.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 421.

    Mr Cable appears to be the most practical and able of all in the coalition, however, I add a caveat; he's just another member of the political class & as a general rule they're not known for their candour or lack of ambiguity. That said he does stand head & shoulders above the entire coalition so I hope he's not talking with forked tongue on this issue. On verra, as they say in France.

  • rate this

    Comment number 420.

    "I can't afford to circle for half an hour in a holding patterrn waiting for a permission to land. Or 45 minute in the line for take-off."

    Expansion will not fix this. It's been reported that most flights out of Heathrow are less than Half full. Better management by Airlines and filling planes will reduce the waste generated at Heathrow. Any expansion will fill up again with half filled planes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 419.

    @414. paulmerhaba

    And your point is? Other than rather contradicting one of your previous posts regarding consumer responsibility that is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 418.

    Get the Chinese to build it and send us the bill. They built a number of large airports on artifificial islands and it would be ready by 2015 so no need to waste time with the enquiry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 417.

    so nick you cant see any place other than london that people would need to get too
    not everyone needs or wants to be in london and if you do well you are well served right now however if you dont you are stuffed so give all those others the same choice you demand london wont be the center of anything soon the way bankers are destroying british reputations

  • rate this

    Comment number 416.

    Does anyone else think when someone mentions the word NIMBY, they themselves lose all credibility? No argument, just finger pointing.
    Or is it just me?

  • 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 414.

    395. bangers64
    As I said, the products look identical and if you were in business nowadays and understood the actual practicality of making money in this country
    Why is that i can go to wholesalers and buy at a third to a half of the cost i would pay in a shop?

  • rate this

    Comment number 413.

    The Estuary plan seems the most logical especially if it can be self financed. This country seems to reach for a plaster rather than pay the cost of surgery - bold action required.

  • rate this

    Comment number 412.

    Plenty of existing capacity in the UK, just need to spread it out over regional airports. Less outward bound tourism from London airports could be moved, and we do have an ANNUAL 15 billion pound tourism deficit, which is also roughly the same amount as those in favour of another runway at Heathrow claim the UK could lose in TEN YEARS due to lost business due to not having that extra runway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 411.

    "298.Nick: 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..."

    The business brain in action! Anyone else with common sense would just book one of the many existing planes that actually went to London ;-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 410.

    I wouldn't be so sure!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 409.

    Midlands & Northern manufacturing in keeping this country afloat with massive exports and billions upon billions of turnover as big as London's finance sector and these companies do not want to fly from heathrow. We need local airports, not stuck on the motorway or trains for wasted hours or days.

  • rate this

    Comment number 408.

    "Airport Expansion is the largest scam of the 21st century."

    As a foreign traveller I avoid Heathrow like a pest.

    I can't afford to circle for half an hour in a holding patterrn waiting for a permission to land. Or 45 minute in the line for take-off.

    Schipol&CDG already took over some of Heathrow's business and now Munich and new Berlin Int. are going to take even more.


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