As MPs from different parties representing different parts of London, it’s not often we find ourselves unambiguously agreeing. But it is clear that to seize the opportunity for Londoners that comes from being at the heart of the global economy, we urgently need a government decision on airport capacity. And we need it to be in favour of Heathrow expansion.
This might seem surprising. News coverage can give the impression that all Londoners and their representatives are against a new runway at Heathrow. This is very far from the case. A vocal minority of opponents in and around the capital has been successful in capturing the lion’s share of media attention. But failure to act on Heathrow expansion would be to the detriment of the majority of Londoners and the wider UK economy.
A strong economy is the beating heart of our city. Without it Londoners’ livelihoods are at risk. The 100,000 people who have already signed up to the grassroots Back Heathrow campaign supporting the airport’s growth recognise the jobs and economic benefits expansion would deliver for their children, for London, and for the country as a whole.
The independent Airports Commission inquiry found expansion at Heathrow would be far better economically than any other option. The Commission forecast it would generate 71,000 jobs and £58.6bn of economic benefits in London and the South East out of a total 180,000 jobs and £211bn in benefits nationally. Heathrow has even pledged to create 10,000 apprenticeships if expansion goes ahead.
There is also overwhelming support from London’s business community. The London Chamber of Commerce, London First and West London Business are among the groups who back Heathrow expansion.
From Londoners signing petitions to business leaders writing to the Prime Minister, all recognise the value for the capital of having a world-beating hub airport in London. None of us wants London to fall behind. International competition for jobs and trade has never been more intense. We can’t afford to take the capital’s position on the global stage for granted.
London’s future success as a global city, and as a centre for finance, investment and prosperity, will depend on the strength of links with existing and potential markets. With Heathrow full today, London is already losing out to expanded airports in Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt which are competing for new routes and the benefits they bring to their cities and countries. The lack of capacity at Heathrow already means that you can fly to more cities in China from Paris than you can from London.
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Importantly, the airport has now shown conclusively how it can be both bigger and better. There is no longer the need for a trade-off between the environment and economy.
Heathrow has in the last couple of weeks not only accepted the stringent conditions recommended by the Airports Commission but actually gone further than it needed to. These conditions included a £1bn compensation package, important safeguards in respect of air quality, and a 30 per cent increase in the length of the ban on aircraft movements at night.
With the London elections now passed and the European referendum campaign approaching its final stages, there is no reason for any further delay. It’s time to make the right choice for our constituents, our city, and our country. The last chocks have been removed and Heathrow expansion should be cleared for take-off.