UK Politics

Heathrow: Cross-party calls to speed up Davies Commission

A plane flying over west London
Image caption A third runway at Heathrow is among the options being examined

A cross-party group of politicians and campaigners has written to Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin urging him to bring forward the Davies Commission report on UK airport expansion.

The letter said voters should be told of the commission's proposals before the next general election.

Sir Howard Davies's commission, set up to examine ways to expand airport capacity, is due to report in 2015.

A Transport Department spokesman said decisions could not be "rushed".

Options being considered include a third runway at Heathrow and a new four-runway facility in the Thames estuary.

Sir Howard, the former boss of the Financial Services Authority, will also look at possible expansion at two other major London airports - Gatwick and Stansted.

The joint letter to the transport secretary expresses support for the commission's work but raises concerns about the length of time before it makes its final report.

Signed by leaders of nine Labour and Conservative councils, six MPs, two peers and campaign groups, it calls for Sir Howard to "lay out very clearly the direction of his thinking" in his interim report at the end of this year.

Among the signatories are Conservative Zac Goldsmith, Labour MPs Mary Macleod, Seema Malhotra, John McDonnell and Andy Slaughter and Lib Dem peers Baroness Hamwee and Baroness Kramer.

"We argue that such a lengthy period of uncertainty is not at all helpful to businesses seeking to make investment decisions or indeed the wider economy of the UK," the letter states.

A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: "Previous attempts to tackle the question of airport capacity have failed, often due to a lack of consensus on the evidence. We do not believe that a rushed decision can be a solution.

"We know that to stay ahead we need to plan for the future and build a strong political consensus, which is why we have asked Sir Howard Davies to conduct a detailed, independent review of all the options in order to develop a lasting solution to maintain the UK's global hub status."

A "shortlist of credible proposals" will be outlined in the interim report at the end of the year, with the final report due in summer 2015, the spokesman added.

The Conservative and Lib Dems both opposed Labour-backed plans for a third runway at Heathrow and scrapped the plan when they went into coalition government.

But a number of Conservative MPs have called for a rethink and the third runway is back on the table after being included among the options Sir Howard Davies is examining.

Ministers have said the final decision on UK airport expansion will be taken by the next government.

London Mayor Boris Johnson, who opposes the expansion of Heathrow, has called the decision to set up a commission a "fudge".

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