Thursday 30 June 2016 9:59 am

A decision on airport expansion has been put back until "at least" October

A decision on airport expansion will be delayed until "at least October", the transport secretary has said.

In Parliamentary questions this morning, Patrick McLoughlin said while he had hoped the government would be able to announce a decision this summer, it will now be delayed. 

"Being realistic, I cannot foresee an announcement until at least October," he said. "[However], the government is fully committed to delivering this important infrastructure project."

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Last week it was suggested a decision could come as soon as mid-July – but that was before the surprise outcome of the EU referendum threw the Tory party into confusion. 

Business leaders have called for a quick decision, after a commission led by Sir Howard Davies last year recommended Heathrow's third runway as the best option for expanding airport capacity in the South East.

But the government has umm-ed and ahh-ed over the decision. In March, international development secretary Justine Greening suggested building a second runway at Gatwick may be a better option

"Trying to expand Heathrow is like trying to build an eight bedroom mansion on the site of a terraced house," she told the Telegraph.

This morning a spokesman from Heathrow urged the government to make a decision as soon as possible. 

If Britain wants to be confident, outward-looking and at the centre of the world’s economy then expanding Heathrow must be a key building block in the government’s Brexit plan.

It will allow British exporters to trade with all the growing markets of the world, strengthening Britain’s position as one of the great trading nations. And at a time of uncertainty a £16bn privately funded infrastructure investment will create jobs and growth across the UK. Government can send the strongest possible signal that Britain is open for business and confident in its future by expanding Heathrow.

If Boris Johnson wins the Tory leadership race, the decision may become even more complicated. During his time as Mayor of London, Boris advocated a £70bn floating hub airport in the Thames Estuary, dubbed "Boris Island". However, that was ruled out by the Airport Commission in September 2014 as being too large and too time-consuming

Gavin Hayes, director of campaign group Let Britain Fly, said: "One of the first tests of leadership for the next prime minister, and the clearest way of demonstrating we have strong government again, is to make this long overdue decision. There is too much economic turmoil right now to delay this any longer."