Vince Cable: London 'is sucking the life out of the rest of the country'

Business secretary warns against Heathrow airport expansion

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Indy Politics

The Business Secretary Vince Cable has warned London is “becoming a giant suction machine draining the life” from the rest of the country, as he discussed the possibility of a third runway at Heathrow airport.

His comments came as he discussed his opposition to expanding UK airport capacity by adding the runway at Heathrow, arguing expansion should be achieved by making “more use of provincial airports”.

He stood by his previous stance that expansion of the country's biggest airport - the flightpath of which crosses his Twickenham constituency - "is not going to happen", and said: "I was making a firm declaration of my own view and my own position and indeed my own party's position. That hasn't changed."

A new or extended runway at Heathrow and a second at Gatwick were the three preferred options to deal with growing demand for flights put forward by a commission led by Sir Howard Davies.

But it ruled out pre-2030 expansion at Stansted in Essex or Birmingham.

The Lib Dem minister argued regional capacity had not been sufficiently addressed in the Whitehall commissioned review and said some “more balance was needed”.

“One of the big problems we have at the moment - which I don't think the report sufficiently addresses - is that London is becoming a kind of giant suction machine, draining the life out of the rest of the country, and I think more balance in that respect would be helpful,” he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

“What this report is doing - and it is actually a very well-argued report as you would expect from Howard Davies - is trying to reconcile two different things: one is to try to ensure that from the economic interests of the country we have more connections to the big emerging markets; on the other hand we have hundreds of thousands of people in London living under the flightpath with very serious issues of noise, and all the parties have made clear we can't make that problem worse.”

Asked if it was a matter over which he would resign from the Government, he said: “No. There are a lot of issues I feel very strongly about and argue ferociously about in the coalition but I don't rush around resigning every month.”

At a Westminster media briefing later, David Cameron's official spokesman did not seek to distance the Prime Minister from the Business Secretary's remarks.

Instead, he highlighted the PM's earlier comments about the need to rebalance the UK's economy towards areas outside London and the South-East.

“I think the Prime Minister has been clear about the importance of rebalancing the economy,” said the spokesman.

Additional reporting by Press Association