Airports committee launch hints at serious effort to decide on new capacity

PM to chair high level committee to consider Davies commission recommendations.

David Cameron

Concern that consideration of the Davies Commission’s recommendations on where to build a new south east airport runway might flounder in years of prevarication have been allayed (slightly) this week.

Creation of an economic affairs airports subcommittee in Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister is being seen as indicating that government is taking the issue seriously.

Members of the committee are all senior ministers representing the economy, environment and the regions  – three of the key areas of debate that will affect any final decision. Expansion somewhere seems to be on the agenda.

No London MPs are included indicating this is being seen as a decision that affects the whole country rather than just the capital. It also offers cover to ministers and MPs from the capital who might be reluctant to be drawn into the battle over where a new runway should be sited.

The committees members sitting with David Cameron include Chancellor George Osborne, Business Secretary Sajid Javid, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin, Environment Secretary Liz Truss, Climate Change Secretary Amber Rudd and Chief Whip Mark Harper

Also there are Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell and Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Greg Hands representing the regions and indicating the importance of regional connectivity. And last but not least there is Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Letwin whose duties include advising the PM on how to implement government policy and the resilience of the UK’s infrastructure.

The Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies came down firmly behind the north west runway option that would give Heathrow a third runway. But it did set new parameters about night flights and noise pollution and raised concerns that need to be addressed over air pollution.

However Gatwick, the Heathrow Hub option, Stansted and the Estuary Airport are seen by commentators to still be firmly in the mix.

Association for Consultancy & Engineering has welcomed the creation of the committee.

ACE is glad to see some movement on the aviation issue and that the government seems to be taking their promise to report by the end of the year seriously,” It said. “Our concern, however, is that this might be another delaying tactic, as matters are discussed interminably in Cabinet. We urge those involved to bear in mind the urgency of the situation, and that every delay sees the UK fall further behind our competitors, and inward investment, economic expansion, and prosperity curtailed.”

See CBI's Katja Hall call for strong political leadership on Heathrow

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