Airlines and businesses express dismay at policy 'delay'


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The Independent Online

Airlines and businesses have expressed dismay at reports that the long-awaited Government announcement on aviation has again been postponed.

A policy framework document had been expected to be announced in March but was put back to summer 2012.

Now, with Parliament sitting for the last time next Tuesday before the summer recess, it is believed that the draft document and a consultation on airport capacity needs has been put back.

Mike Carrivick, chief executive of the Board of Airline Representatives in the UK, which represents many airlines, said: "Delaying important decisions until later in the year demonstrates a lack of courage and the paralysis afflicting strategic policy-making within the Government."

He went on: "While this Government struggles internally to establish a clear and defined hub airport policy for the future, competing nations will continue to take away the trade and commerce that should be welcomed in this country."

Adam Marshall, director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "The Government has spent years working on a strategy for UK aviation, so reports that there will be yet more delays beggar belief.

"Businesses are tired of indecision and equivocation on aviation.

"Ministers can't tell businesses to look for new opportunities in emerging markets like Brazil and China, and then fail to provide the basic infrastructure needed to get there."

He continued: "The consequences of inaction are stark.

"If the Government does not act swiftly to increase capacity in the South East, strengthen our regional airports, and support the development of more connections to emerging markets, the UK will lose both investment and jobs.

"Trade with fast-growing markets requires Britain to have a strong, resilient hub airport.

"New runways, at Heathrow and elsewhere, will be required to safeguard the UK's status as a global aviation hub in both the short and long-term.

"Continued delays only put the UK further at a competitive disadvantage.

"Aviation strategy must be at the heart of a credible plan for growth, not a political football."

Friends of the Earth's head of campaigns, Andrew Pendleton, said: "Industry spin about the need for aviation expansion is deeply misleading.

"The reality is we don't need more airport capacity in the south east - London already has more flights to the world's top business centres than any of its European competitors.

"Building more airports or runways will have a devastating impact on local communities and our environment and undermine UK efforts to tackle climate change."

Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Director General, Nick Baveystock, said: "The ongoing delay in addressing our hub capacity issues is disappointing and only adds to the frustration and uncertainty. When it comes to the UK's airport infrastructure needs, there are some tough political and public choices, but the UK's reputation is on the line.

"We must ensure there is sufficient capacity to improve connectivity and maintain our competitiveness. Hopefully the autumn consultation will put all options on the table for consideration, so we can secure the best outcome for the environment, society and the economy."

Prime Minister David Cameron's official spokesman told reporters: "I expect us to say something about aviation policy shortly."

He refused to be drawn on the exact timetable for an announcement, which he said would cover a broad range of aviation issues, including airports.