George Osborne has told Theresa May to get on with a verdict on airport expansion

Mark Sands
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Osborne was dismissed by May in the aftermath of the summer's Brexit verdict (Source: Getty)

Former chancellor George Osborne has warned Theresa May to get on with a verdict on airport expansion, admitting successive governments had “dragged heels” over approving a new runway.

Osborne blasted across the Prime Minister's bows in his first appearance in front of a select committee as a backbench MP, having been dismissed by May over the summer.

And responding to questions on industrial strategy, Osborne said: “The country has collectively over several decades, about 60 years, dragged its heels over airport expansion.

“At least the Cameron government has set us up for a decision on Heathrow or Gatwick, but we've got to take it as a country.”

He added: “We can't claim we are going to be trading with the rest of the world we don't have airports that planes can land on.”

Read More: Heathrow gets Brexit bump on September exports

The government is expected to issue its verdict on a potential new runway later this month.

Osborne also denied that new business and energy secretary Greg Clark's recent comments on developing a less uniform strategy were an implicit criticism that Osborne had failed to evaluate the strengths of different regions of the UK.

“Although the Northern Powerhouse is a particular concept which I think is unique to the north of England because of the geographical proximity of the cities there, that doesn't mean that we weren't active in trying to prime science and agritech in East Anglia,” he said.

"Nothing is ever going to be a perfect fit and you shouldn't be looking for something that is completely perfect. You have to live with the geography of the country.”

Read More: George Osborne could be about to unveil a Northern Powerhouse think tank

His comments came after former Liberal Democrat business secretary Vince Cable bemoaned the lack of co-operation during May's time in charge of the Home Office under the coalition government.

“There were bits of government that didn't engage,” Cable said.

“The Home Office weren't [engaged]. On visa issues and overseas students there was a big division of opinion. That mattered because we saw higher education as a major British export.”

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