Tory peers urge ministers to back Heathrow third runway

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Runways at Heathrow Airport
Image caption,
Lord Spicer said construction of a third runway should start "as soon as possible"

The government has been urged by Conservative peers to abandon its opposition to a third runway at London Heathrow.

Lord Tugendhat and Lord Spicer both warned of the economic consequences of refusing to expand airport capacity.

Labour peer Lord Soley also said a third runway would cost the public nothing and "add about £8 billion to the GDP of this country".

The government will begin an aviation consultation this summer.

At Lords question time, Lord Spicer, a former aviation minister, said: "Surely the government should accept that Heathrow airport is now full up and there is a desperate need therefore for the construction as soon as possible of a third runway."

'Brake on growth'

Lord Tugendhat, a former chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority, added: "Heathrow and Gatwick are two great national assets and the expansion of both airports would do wonders for the British economy.

"It would be very beneficial both in terms of the work to be done in the short term and the expansion of capacity.

"If the government refuses to allow a third runway at Heathrow it will be imposing a brake on the growth of the British economy."

Earl Attlee, government transport spokesman in the Lords, said that following the consultation, the government's future aviation strategy would be announced next spring.

But he reiterated that ministers were opposed to a third runway and, on the issue of the consultation, added: "I think it is unlikely that we will discover that we have not maxed out on what Heathrow's affected population can tolerate."

In January, the Free Enterprise Group of more than 30 Conservative MPs also called on the government to rethink its decision to rule out a third runway, saying the UK was falling behind other European cities in terms of transport links.

It suggested compensating homeowners near Heathrow with up to £40,000.

In his Budget speech, Chancellor George Osborne said the country must "confront the lack of airport capacity in the south east of England".

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