10 December 2015

Half way through the Coalition Government, the two sides were at loggerheads over the possible expansion of Heathrow airport and Prime Minister David Cameron decided to get someone impartial to examine the issue.

Accordingly Sir Howard Davies was asked to look at the options and report back with a recommendation.

Having ruled out such flights of fancy as a new island in the Thames estuary, Sir Howard, fairly predictably, came down on the side of Heathrow — with a note that developing Gatwick would be feasible but the economic benefits would be considerably smaller.

The Prime Minister indicated that a final decision would be taken by the end of this year but now faces a further split, not with Coalition partners this time but within his own party.

Boris Johnson and Zac Goldsmith are just two high-profile Conservatives who are vociferously opposed to expansion at Heathrow.

All the indications are, therefore, that the decision will be pushed back for another six months - a move that has not gone down well in the business community.

CBI Director-General Carolyn Fairbairn has called for real leadership on the issue and warned that failure to have a new runway up and running by 2030 will cost the UK as much as £5.3 billion a year in lost trade to the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries alone.

Chris Richards, Senior Business Environment Policy Adviser at EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, agreed, saying: “If a decision on building a new runway has been ducked then it marks another blow for Britain’s exporters. Delay and dithering is bad for business. I hope the Government moves quickly to dismiss this speculation by sticking to its promise to make a clear decision before the end of this year.”