Westminster Column - Heathrow Expansion

29th June 2018

Expanding airport capacity is always going to be controversial. The decision to proceed with a third runway at Heathrow was approved on Monday night by the House of Commons with a majority of 296, which I supported alongside MPs from both sides of the House.

This is a momentous vote that has been 50 years in the making and represents the biggest transport decision in a generation - the first full length runway in the South East since the Second World War. At stake is global connectivity and our ability to compete on an international stage to win new trade and visitors, as well as thousands of new jobs.

For me, expanding Heathrow was the best option for South Shropshire. Maintaining the west of London hub - far more accessible for those travelling from Shropshire for business or pleasure - is preferable to expanding Gatwick, or other London focussed airports. Shropshire Chamber of Commerce have called it “a very good thing and really important for the infrastructure in the UK”.

But I was also encouraged by the key commitments put forward by the government. This included an assurance that there would be no cost to the taxpayer - the new runway scheme will be privately funded and the government will work with industry to keep airport charges down.

This decision should benefit the whole UK, with 15 per cent of new slots at Heathrow committed for domestic routes, alongside new rail links, and new global opportunities for regional business. It does not preclude further expansion of Birmingham, Manchester and other regional airports in future.

I appreciate that much of the concern about expansion has rightly focussed on environmental issues. Government assurances have been given that expansion must be delivered within existing climate change and air quality obligations and will introduce a longer curfew of six and a half hours on scheduled night flights.

Heathrow’s pledges are to be legally enforceable, with punishment of unlimited fines or grounded planes if promises are broken.

Decisions around airport capacity have been put off by successive governments, to the cost of us all in lost economic growth. But this can be put off no longer, with government forecasts showing all five of London’s major airports will be full by the mid-2030s. So with this expansion comes the opportunity to deliver a massive economic boost for the country, with new international routes, more than 100,000 new jobs, doubled freight capacity and benefits of up to £74 billion to passengers and the wider economy.

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