Call for action on aviation policy

 

The Government must aim for a secure and lasting aviation policy after "almost 50 years without effective action", aviation, business and union leaders said today.

The call came in London as the Government put the final touches to its publication on aviation policy, including consultation, due in the next few weeks.

The Government has accepted the need for further runway capacity in south-east England but is still opposed to an extra, third runway at the UK's biggest airport, Heathrow in west London.

This has led the aviation, business and union leaders - members of the Aviation Foundation - to fear for the UK's future economic well-being, particularly as one of the alternative measures, a new Thames Estuary airport, would take years to come to fruition.

Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways parent company IAG, said today: "We've had years of government inactivity on aviation policy and this consultation must result in a plan of action and the commitment to see it through - not another fudge.

"It's the UK that loses out while around the world they will rub their hands with glee as we stumble along our path of inactivity".

Colin Matthews, chief executive of airport operator BAA, whose airports include Heathrow, said: "Whatever decisions emerge from the next Government policy review, history shows they will not be implemented without real leadership by all political parties.

"The current aviation policy review is the last chance for Britain's political leaders to work together in the national interest and prevent the UK slipping out of the premier league of global connectivity.

"It is time for narrow political interest to be put to one side and for our political leaders to grasp the nettle and work together for the good of the UK as a whole."

The Aviation Foundation said that any successful aviation policy must:

:: Deliver a clear policy conclusion that can be progressed without further delay;

:: Aim for cross-party consensus and a commitment that lasts beyond the term of one Parliament and ensures the policy will be implemented;

:: Achieve cross-departmental consensus and support Britain's economic growth, consistent with our trade, tourism, transport, environmental and climate change strategies;

:: Be based on a policy process that has considered all options rationally and objectively on their merits.

The foundation added: "The tests are designed to ensure the forthcoming Government consultation on aviation policy does not become a pretext for further delay.

"While leading trading nations across the globe have quickly recognised that a thriving aviation industry is vital to future economic growth, British politicians have debated this point for almost 50 years without effective action.

"As a result Britain is falling behind as an economic powerhouse at the worst possible time."

Virgin Atlantic chief executive Steve Ridgway said that, in his 11 years in the role, there had been "not a single strategic aviation policy that has met the country's needs".

He went on: "In the UK, crazy taxation and ongoing indecision on how to deal with the crippling lack of capacity is stunting economic growth and having a strangling effect on tourism."

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: "Aviation provides hundreds of thousands of skilled, well-paid jobs for our members. In these difficult times, such jobs are at a premium.

"Of course, it is vital that our environmental and climate change commitments are taken into account as we develop the sector, but I am confident that can be done."

John Longworth, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: "The Government must stop tiptoeing around on aviation because of short-term political considerations.

"Unless politicians grasp the nettle and make some tough decisions, both our export and inward investment potential will suffer."

The last Labour government supported a third runway at Heathrow Airport, but this was ruled out by the coalition Government in May 2010, with ministers saying they also had no plans for additional runways at Stansted and Gatwick Airports either.

But the Government's stance has now changed somewhat, with Chancellor George Osborne saying in this year's Budget that the country had to "confront" the lack of south-east England runway capacity.

Earlier this year Prime Minister David Cameron said the Government was "not blind" to the need for more runways.

Last week he said the Government's position on Heathrow had not changed, although there was a need to ensure Heathrow operated better.

London Mayor Boris Johnson also opposes a third runway at Heathrow, and backs a "Boris island" plan to build a new airport for London in the Thames Estuary.

Another Thames Estuary airport plan - a four-runway, £50 billion scheme - has been put forward by architect Lord Foster.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: "The Government wants aviation to grow, but to be able to do so it must be able to play its part in delivering our environmental goals and protecting the quality of life of local communities.

"This summer we will consult on a new aviation policy framework which will set out our overall aviation strategy. Alongside this, we will issue a call for evidence on maintaining the UK's aviation hub status.

"The Government's position on a third runway at Heathrow has not changed."

Transport Secretary Justine Greening said that the arguments against a third runway at Heathrow had not changed since the Government ruled it out in 2010, and suggested that the UK may eventually need a hub airport with as many as four runways.

Ms Greening, whose Putney constituency lies under Heathrow flight paths, told the Evening Standard: "I don't think any of the facts have changed in relation to the arguments for or against a third runway. The impact on people, on congestion, on air pollution are all still there."

While supporters of a third runway were looking at a 10 to 15-year timescale, Ms Greening said: "My job is to say 'what do we need for the next 20, 30, 40 or 50 years?' What if we realise we need a fourth runway? Where would that go at Heathrow?"

She insisted she would not be bounced into a "quick fix" in the aviation strategy she is due to launch in the summer, warning that Britain is suffering the results of piecemeal decisions in the past.

"I think the mistakes of the past have been characterised by piecemeal, ad hoc and often rushed decisions which ultimately have got us into a position today where there are really difficult decisions facing us," she said.

"We can't have people come up with solutions if they are not prepared to say how those solutions would adapt if we need more capacity than we currently think.

"This is not a consultation about a third runway. It is something far more fundamental about what our aviation needs are for the UK."

Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle said: "The Government's continuing dither and delay over formulating a strategy for aviation is now putting jobs and growth at risk and the industry is right to be exasperated.

"As the aviation industry and wider business community has said very clearly, we need to achieve a cross-party consensus that lasts beyond the term of one Parliament to provide certainty and ensure any policy is actually delivered.

"That's why, to end the wrangling of the past few years, Labour accepted the Government's decision to cancel the proposed third runway at Heathrow and is not pressing for that position to be reversed. As a result, there is now the potential for agreement for the long term on how to address the UK's future aviation needs.

"Ministers should now listen to these growing calls for action and take up our offer to work together on a cross-party basis to develop a sensible alternative to the options they have already rejected and Boris Johnson's unworkable and unaffordable fantasy Thames Estuary proposal."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Sport
football
Life and Style
Agretti is often compared to its relative, samphire, though is closer in taste to spinach
food + drink
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
i100
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?