Thursday, 12 July 2012

Is it time for a decision on aviation capacity? No, let’s take Parliamentary Recess

The government today announced that it is to delay a decision regarding airport capacity in the south east until the autumn. Instead of dealing fully with aviation policy, they are expected to publish a consultation paper on emissions and aviation noise with a debate over aviation policy not expected for several months.


It is thought that the reason for the delay on a decision is due to tensions within the coalition over whether to allow new runways in the south-east. A person, who declined to be identified, indicated that the paper has in fact been completed but was delayed by Downing Street as the details in the paper would cause frictions between the coalition.

If the above was true, it would appear that the Conservative led coalition would be open to increased capacity, something that would infuriate the Lib Dems after a founding agreement between the parties stated that ‘the government was opposed to new runways at Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted airports.’

The government looks to have also cooled on plans for a Thames estuary airport due to costs involved and any existing plans would appear to centre on increasing Heathrow’s capacity rather than Gatwick or Stansted. Heathrow’s operator BAA have claimed that the UK risks missing out on trade of £14bn over the next decade as it falls behind services to the world’s emerging markets.

The delay to the consultation document will eventually be followed by a policy document which will now not be released until after the next general election.

One prominent objector to the plans is Baroness Jo Valentine who is chief executive of London First. She said: ‘Difficult decisions on the location of additional hub airport capacity cannot be avoided, It’s simply not good enough for government to keep kicking the issue into the long grass.

The actions by the government are a true case of party politics being put before the interests of commerce, UK citizens and the travel industry. The Conservatives are delaying a decision in an attempt to not upset the Liberal Democrats and to break the coalition whilst also protecting Justine Greening who has vested personal interests over Heathrow’s lack of expansion. They are also rather confident in their own popularity if they believe they will gain a majority at the next election.