Government confirms there will be no pre-election decision on airport expansion

 

There will be no firm decisions on UK airport expansion before the next general election, the Government confirmed today.

A future airport policy independent commission, to be chaired by former Financial Services Authority chairman Sir Howard Davies, will not publish its final report until the summer of 2015, the Government said.

A decision on whether to support any of the recommendations in the commission's final report will be taken by the next government, new Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said.

The announcement means that the debate over whether Heathrow should have a third runway or whether a new airport should be built in the Thames Estuary will drag on for many more months.

The coalition Government was initially opposed to a third runway at Heathrow - an expansion which was supported by the last Labour administration.

But leading Tories have, of late, called for a third runway, while London Mayor Boris Johnson and architect Lord Foster have proposed new estuary airports.

The Heathrow debate dominated Prime Minister David Cameron's Government reshuffle this week, with an anti-Heathrow expansion minister, Justine Greening, being removed from her post as Transport Secretary.

Announcing the Davies Commission in a written Parliamentary statement today, Ms Greening's successor Mr McLoughlin said the commission would identify and recommend to Government "options for maintaining this country's status as an international hub for aviation".

Mr McLoughlin said: "This is a very difficult debate, but the reality is that since the 1960s Britain has failed to keep pace with our international competitors in addressing long-term aviation capacity and connectivity needs."

He went on: "The Government believes that maintaining the UK's status as a leading global aviation hub is fundamental to our long-term international competitiveness.

"But the Government is also mindful of the need to take full account of the social, environmental and other impacts of any expansion in airport capacity."

Mr McLoughlin continued: "Successive governments have sought to develop a credible long-term aviation policy to meet the international connectivity needs of the UK.

"In each case the policy has failed for want of trust in the process, consensus on the evidence upon which the policy was based and the difficulty of sustaining a challenging long term policy through a change of Government.

"The country cannot afford for this failure to continue."

The Davies Commission will provide an interim report to the Government no later than the end of 2013, setting out:

:: An assessment of the evidence on the nature, scale and timing of the steps needed to maintain the UK's global hub status, and;

:: Recommendation(s) for immediate actions to improve the use of existing runway capacity in the next five years - consistent with credible long-term options.

The Commission will then publish by the summer of 2015 a final report, for consideration by the Government and Opposition parties, containing:

:: An assessment of the options for meeting the UK's international connectivity needs, including their economic, social and environmental impact;

:: Recommendation(s) for the optimum approach to meeting any need;

:: Recommendation(s) for ensuring that the need is met as expeditiously as practicable within the required timescale, and;

:: Materials to support the Government in preparing a national policy statement to accelerate the resolution of any future planning application(s).

Mr McLoughlin said the Government wanted the commission to be part of a process that is fair and open and which took account of the views of passengers and residents as well as the aviation industry, business, local and devolved government and environmental groups.

He added: "We would like, if possible, to involve the opposition as part of our work alongside Sir Howard to finalise the arrangements for the commission."

The commission will also look at possible expansion at two other major London airports - Gatwick and Stansted.

Mr McLoughlin said today: "Germany, France and the Netherlands have all grown their capacity more extensively than the UK over the years, and so are better equipped, now and in the future, to connect with the fast-growing markets of emerging economies.

"The consequences are clear. Our largest airport and our only hub airport - Heathrow - is already operating at capacity. Gatwick, the world's busiest single-runway airport, will be full early in the next decade, while spare capacity at Stansted airport is forecast to run out in the early 2030s."

Sir Howard, 61, was executive chairman of the Financial Services Authority from 1997 to 2003 and was deputy governor of the Bank of England from 1995 to 1997.

He was director of the London School of Economics from 2003 until last year.

Earlier in his career he was director general of the CBI and was special adviser to the then chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel (now Lord) Lawson in the 1980s.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

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: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
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