Tories set for a U-turn over opposition to third runway at Heathrow
A consultation on airport capacity has been delayed, allowing a decision after the election
The Conservatives are preparing for a controversial U-turn over their opposition to building a third runway at Heathrow.
The party strongly opposed the expansion of Britain's busiest airport at the last election and the Coalition Agreement ruled out the construction of extra runways at Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted.
But senior Tories expect to leave open the option of a new runway at Heathrow in response to fears that lack of airport capacity in the South-east of England is undermining Britain's economic competitiveness.
George Osborne, the Chancellor, has been pressing for a change of heart over Heathrow's expansion.
However, Justine Greening, the Transport Secretary, is a strong opponent of the move – not least because her west London constituency is under the airport's flight-path. The Liberal Democrats, as well as several prominent Tory MPs including Zac Goldsmith, also remain resolutely against expanding Heathrow.
Problems over the policy were underlined when Ms Greening scrapped plans to begin a consultation yesterday on future airport capacity in the South-east. It has been delayed until the autumn at the earliest, signalling that final decisions over how to cater for increased numbers of flights have been put off until after the general election expected in 2015.
The latest delay was condemned by the CBI's director general, John Cridland. "We have no time to lose in getting on with solving the UK's aviation capacity issues, if we are to double our exports by 2020," Mr Cridland said.
"Everyone understands this is a difficult issue, and not one with any easy answers. However, political deadlock is getting us nowhere."
Mr Osborne has cooled on the idea of building a new airport in the Thames estuary – either the "Boris Island" plan backed by London Mayor Boris Johnson or a £50bn proposal for an airport near the Kent coast – on cost grounds, as well as the time it would take to build. An ally of the Chancellor said: "Justine Greening needs to realise that if you are a cabinet minister, you have a wider responsibility than being just a constituency MP."
Asked if anything had been ruled out, the Prime Minister's spokesman said: "We have not even begun the process yet, that is something for later in the year, so we will set out the position then. We are asking people for their views."
Culinary experts in The Netherlands thought it was 'fresh' and 'tasty'
- 1 Nokia no more: Microsoft drops once-ubiquitous mobile name – in favour of its Lumia brand
- 2 Renee Zellweger on plastic surgery: 'I'm living a more fulfilling life and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows'
- 3 Jimmy Carr's controversial Oscar Pistorius joke goes too far at the Q Awards
- 4 Australian café owner sparks debate after saying 'No' to having unruly children on premises
- 5 NHS staff banned from drinking tea or coffee on the job because it looks like they're not working hard enough
Renee Zellweger on plastic surgery: 'I'm living a more fulfilling life and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows'
Isis releases first video showing the stoning of woman accused of committing adultery as her father shouts 'don't call me Dad'
Diwali: What is the festival of lights – and how is it celebrated around the world?
Nathan Cirillo: Final pictures emerge of soldier moments before he was shot dead by Ottowa gunman
Ottawa shootings: Terror strikes Canadian capital as attacks leave one soldier and one suspect dead
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...
£32000 - £39000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Man...
£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...
£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are looking for Founda...