Cameron Urged to Press On With Heathrow Decision as Party Splits

  • Delays put jobs at risk, transport committee chairwoman warns
  • Prime minister promised runway decision by end of the year

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron needs to make a decision quickly on whether Heathrow Airport should be expanded to boost airport capacity in southeast England, the chairwoman of a panel of lawmakers said on Sunday.

Louise Ellman, who chairs the House of Commons Transport Committee, said the longer the decision is delayed the worse it will be for economic growth and jobs as airlines switch their attention to competing hub airports. She was responding to a report in the Sun newspaper on Saturday that Cameron is planning to delay an announcement until after the election of a new mayor of London in May.

Former Defence Secretary Liam Fox also drew up a letter signed by 30 lawmakers from Cameron’s Conservative Party calling for a third runway at Heathrow, to the west of the capital, The Sunday Telegraph reported. That clashes with Mayor of London Boris Johnson, Zac Goldsmith, the Tory candidate to succeed him, and International Development Secretary Justine Greening, who all oppose the expansion of Heathrow.

“If we delay any longer it doesn’t mean we stand still, it means we lose routes to other European hubs and places like Dubai, it means the loss of jobs and the weakening of our economic prospects for the future,” Ellman told Sky News. “It really is time for decision making.”

Cameron commissioned a report on airport capacity from Howard Davies in 2012 in order to avoid making a decision before May’s general election. Davies, who published his report in July, recommended building additional capacity at Heathrow, while also leaving open the option of a new runway at Gatwick, south of London. The prime minister promised to respond by the end of the year.

Cameron opposed the expansion of Heathrow before coming to office, saying “no ifs, no buts” that he would block it, and referring to “Labour’s third runway” in an attempt to make then prime minister Gordon Brown’s government the focus of opposition in west London, where people are concerned about the impact of additional flights on their homes.

Goldsmith has pledged to quit as a House of Commons lawmaker if Cameron chooses to expand Heathrow, and the Sunday Telegraph reported that Greening, who represents Putney in west London, refused to rule out resigning from the cabinet over the airport.

Cameron’s office said the prime minister still expects to respond to the Davies report this month.

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