London

Heathrow expansion: Zac Goldsmith warns taxpayers will foot bill

Heathrow airport Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A government announcement on airport expansion in south-east England is expected shortly

London MP Zac Goldsmith has warned taxpayers they could end up paying for the expansion of Heathrow Airport if it goes ahead.

The Richmond Tory MP said the company that owns the airport had significant debts and would be forced to turn to the government for financial support.

He has repeatedly said he will quit his seat if the government approves the building of a third runway at Heathrow.

Heathrow said investors were ready to fund its expansion plans.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme Mr Goldsmith said: "Heathrow is massively over-leveraged already, there is no prospect of their being able to raise the finance necessary to deliver this project without turning to the taxpayer."

A spokesman for Heathrow Airport said: "Our shareholders include three of the world's top five sovereign wealth funds, as well as a UK pension fund, and the world's largest privately-funded infrastructure fund - all ready to deliver a shot in the arm of private investment for Britain."

The government is expected to make an announcement on where to build a new runway for south-east England shortly.

The other options under consideration have been a new runway at Gatwick or an an extension of one of Heathrow's existing runways.

Former Prime Minister David Cameron put off the announcement by calling for a new environmental impact study to be carried out in December last year.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Richmond MP Zac Goldsmith says he will stand down as an MP if the government approves a third runway at Heathrow

A third runway at Heathrow has the backing of the Davies Commission on airport expansion, which published its findings last autumn.

Mr Goldsmith, who failed in his bid to become London mayor, told Today: "My position is the same as it was nine years ago.

"I promised my constituents before I was ever elected in 2010 that I would trigger a by-election were the government to give a green light to Heathrow expansion. My position has never changed."

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