UK Politics

No Heathrow expansion decision yet, insists transport secretary

The government has not ruled out any options on airport expansion in south-east England, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has said.

The independent airports commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, is set to release an interim report on Tuesday.

The Independent on Sunday has reported that Sir Howard will shortlist two options for expansion at Heathrow.

But Mr McLoughlin said the government would stick to its pledge not to build a new runway at Heathrow before 2015.

He told BBC 2's the Andrew Marr Show: "What we said at the last general election was that we would not build a third runway in this Parliament.

"We will not be building a third runway in this Parliament. We will stick by our manifesto commitment."

'Catastrophic'

But, he said, it was "right for the long-term future of the United Kingdom" that the airports commission had been established, and was doing "a proper and comprehensive job" of investigating the issue.

"I want to see what their interim report is this week and their final report in 18 months' time and then we'll be able to say which is the right way to go forward," he added.

London Mayor Boris Johnson, who favours the construction of a new airport in the Thames estuary, said last week that Heathrow expansion would be "environmentally disastrous" and "bad for London and the country".

Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith said it would be "catastrophic" for Prime Minister David Cameron if he reversed his earlier position and supported a third runway at Heathrow.

Mr Goldsmith, who has been a leading opponent of the expansion, has said he would not stand as a Conservative MP in the 2015 election if the party's manifesto supported Heathrow expansion.

Sir Howard said in October that the commission's "provisional conclusion" was that extra runway capacity would be needed in the South East in the coming decades.

Labour had approved a third runway at Heathrow, but the plan was abandoned by the coalition government when it took power in May 2010.

Map showing three possible locations for a third runway

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