Heathrow Airport expansion: CBI chief urges third runway decision

Graphic image showing an impression of how a third runway might look Image copyright Heathrow Airport
Image caption A third runway could bring £147bn in economic growth, a report suggests

The government should take "decisive action" and support a third runway at Heathrow, the head of one of the UK's biggest business groups has said.

CBI president Paul Drechsler will tell the group's annual conference on Monday that ministers should "get on" with it.

In July the Airports Commission published a report backing a third runway, saying it would add £147bn to the economy and 70,000 jobs by 2050.

A final government decision is expected by the end of the year.

Mr Drechsler will also tell the business group that he welcomes a move by Chancellor George Osborne to launch the National Infrastructure Commission to oversee £100bn of spending on infrastructure projects.

Image copyright CBI
Image caption Mr Drechsler has been a member of the CBI Board since 2012

"The commission is a chance to end the cycle of politicisation and procrastination that has plagued British infrastructure for decades," he will say.

"However, we must not duck infrastructure decisions which must be made right now.

"On airport capacity, we need strong political leadership and decisive action from government. Britain needs that new runway, so let's get it built."

The issue of Heathrow's expansion has been a long-running and contentious issue.

In 2009, while in opposition, David Cameron ruled out Heathrow expansion, saying "no ifs, no buts".

The Airport Commission's recommendation in July was criticised by competing airport Gatwick, and by London Mayor Boris Johnson, who has argued for a whole new airport.

'Far from perfect'

Earlier this month, it was revealed that the most senior member of the civil service in the UK, Sir Jeremy Heywood, wrote to government ministers in the run up to the party conference season, warning them against speaking out about the matter.

Environmentalists and residents who live near the flight path of the proposed third runway have also campaigned against it.

On the subject of Europe, Mr Drechsler will tell the 1,000 delegates at the CBI's London event that he hopes the UK will remain part of a reformed European Union.

"The majority of our members think that, on balance, the advantages of EU membership outweigh the disadvantages.

"And when we see the reforms the prime minister achieves and expects to achieve over time, we will ask you again for your views.

"Of course we know that Europe is far from perfect. New regulation must be a last resort, not a first response."

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