Osborne Must Take Lead Over Heathrow Economic Case, Tyrie Says

  • Treasury committee chair says airport commission case opaque
  • Published analysis not sufficient for decision on runways

Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the House of Commons Treasury Committee, wrote to Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne to urge him to take the lead in assessing the economic case for expanding airport capacity in southeast England.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s government in December delayed a decision on airport expansion until after London’s mayoral election in May, arguing that a state-backed commission led by Howard Davies hadn’t properly assessed the environmental impact of an additional runway. It also appears to have failed adequately to consider the economic case, Tyrie said, faulting the commission for analyzing costs and benefits of only one of the five possible scenarios it created.

“The decision on airport capacity is crucial to the future of the British economy,” Tyrie wrote in the letter to Osborne, which he made public on Monday. “It therefore cannot be left to the Department for Transport, and you will need to take the lead.”

Cameron, who campaigned against building an additional runway at Heathrow Airport in west London when he was in opposition, appointed the commission three years ago to sidestep an issue that would have cost his Conservative Party support in areas under the flight path. The commission recommended a new runway at Heathrow, Europe’s busiest hub, and the premier delayed the decision again to protect Zac Goldsmith, a Tory candidate for Mayor of London and an outspoken critic of expansion at the airport.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said last month that a proposal to expand Gatwick Airport, south of London, remains in government consideration along with two options for expansion at Heathrow. 

Tyrie said he had written a public letter to the chancellor because the Treasury had failed to answer questions posed under the usual procedures for members of parliament asking questions of ministers.

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