The summer is an opportunity for most of us to take a week or two off to recharge our batteries. Politicians are no different, with our elected officials off to their constituencies to deal with mountains of casework before heading to the beach (or in our Prime Minister’s case, the Swiss Alps).
But September brings MPs back to Westminster, the government back to Whitehall and the Prime Minister back to Downing Street to face a daunting in-tray ready, hopefully, to finally make a decision on Heathrow expansion during this Parliamentary term.
Various members of the government, including the Chancellor, Transport Secretary and the Prime Minister, have said that they hope to take a decision on airport expansion by October. This bodes well for the hundreds of thousands of local residents who are fed up of the continued uncertainty.
One of the first steps towards making a decision will be to appoint a new cabinet sub-committee to consider airport capacity in the south-east. This was previously chaired by David Cameron as Prime Minister and Theresa May has said that she will chair the new incarnation - it will be interesting to see who she appoints to it.
When making their decision, the members of the sub-committee will be doing so in the national interest having considered all the evidence. With a new runway at the UK’s largest port projected to generate 180,000 new jobs and £211 billion across the country, Heathrow is the clear favourite after the Airports Commission unanimously recommended expansion at our only hub airport.
The cabinet sub-committee should also examine the opinions of local people living near Heathrow. They should consider that more than 50,000 local residents told the Airports Commission that they backed Heathrow expansion compared with just 161 from the main opposition group.
They may also be interested in the latest poll by Populus which surveyed more than 10,000 people in the twelve constituencies nearest to Heathrow. This poll, from last month, found that 51% of residents supported Heathrow expansion whilst only 35% opposed.
Heathrow has the support of a growing number of local MPs with Virendra Sharma (Ealing Southall) and Stephen Pound (Ealing North) the latest to back expansion. They join MPs like Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) and Kwasi Kwarteng (Spelthorne) whose constituencies border the airport. London boroughs from Harrow to Tower Hamlets have also joined 34 councils to write to the Prime Minister in support of a new runway at Heathrow.
One or two media reports have suggested that Theresa May’s constituents in Maidenhead are opposed to Heathrow expansion. However, that is certainly not the impression we get from speaking to our many supporters in Mrs May’s constituency. Maidenhead residents have told us – and Mrs May herself – how a new runway at Heathrow will improve their lives by boosting jobs and local businesses, increasing investment and improving travel through new transport links such as Western Rail Access.
As Prime Minister, Theresa May must make a decision in the national interest, but should she look to her own constituency, then she can feel confident that, come October, she can approve Heathrow expansion for the good of the country, the local area and Maidenhead itself.
It has been a turbulent few weeks in British politics following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. We have witnessed the resignation of David Cameron, a coup against Jeremy Corbyn, Boris Johnson’s non-running for the Tory leadership, Michael Gove and Andrea Leadsom’s short-lived running in that race, a new Prime Minister and the appointment of a new government.
Hidden amongst all this extraordinary news was the quiet confirmation that the decision on airport expansion in the south-east has been delayed once again, this time until at least October.
Those who care about seeing Heathrow expanded shouldn’t feel too despondent. Theresa May has pledged that her new government will make a decision “in the proper way, in due course” whilst taking into consideration the Airports Commission’s report which unanimously recommended building a new runway at Heathrow. She will be supported by new Transport Secretary Chris Grayling who we also encourage to take decisive action.
A recent poll by YouGov found that more than three quarters of MPs (76%) think an expanded Heathrow is an important factor in Britain’s future, especially following the vote to leave the European Union. No fewer than 74% of MPs say that expanding Heathrow would be the primary way of demonstrating that the UK is open for business and ready to be a leading trading nation, compared to only 12% who think the same of an expanded Gatwick.
Many of the recent headlines have focused on the cabinet promotions of Boris Johnson and Justine Greening, two prominent opponents of a new runway at Heathrow. But less media coverage has been devoted to the many Heathrow supporters in the cabinet such as new Communities Secretary Sajid Javid and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox.
Outside of the cabinet, the British Infrastructure Group of thirty-six Conservative MPs, along with five MPs from other parties, recently wrote a report highlighting that a lack of runway capacity at Heathrow is causing "substantial damage to the industry as a whole" and that the delay in making a decision is costing the UK up to £6m a day. Similarly, the Northern group of Labour MPs has backed a new runway at Heathrow to create 5,100 jobs in the North East.
There is enormous political support for building a new runway at Heathrow – across all parties, inside and outside government, in London and throughout the whole country. Meanwhile, not one MP representing areas near Gatwick supports expansion there. Theresa May must know that there would be massive opposition from her own backbenches and in the Tory heartlands to building a second runway in the Sussex countryside.
There is a vocal minority who vehemently oppose Heathrow expansion but they shouldn’t prevent Theresa May making a decision of huge national significance. An elegant solution would be to allow a free vote in Parliament. This would negate the need for any frontbench resignations, allow MPs with a constituency interest to vote against or abstain while freeing the government and main opposition parties to - hopefully - approve expanding Heathrow.
Local residents living near Heathrow have been waiting far too long for politicians to provided clarity on expansion. In the light of Brexit, it is imperative that the UK demonstrates to the world that it is open for business – what better way than by approving a new runway with many more trade routes at the UK’s largest port and only hub airport? A new government brings new opportunities and there is a golden one at Heathrow if our new Prime Minister genuinely wants to act in the national interest.
Exactly a year since the Airports Commission unanimously recommended that Heathrow be allowed to expand, hundreds of local residents gathered to demonstrate their support for building a new runway at the UK’s only hub airport.
Organised by Back Heathrow, the event was held near the airport. Attendees were made up of local residents, families and supporters of Back Heathrow who were united in demanding that the next Prime Minister make an urgent decision on expansion following the Brexit vote.
The EU referendum result makes expansion at Heathrow even more important if the UK is to be a confident, outward-looking nation ready and able to connect with the whole world. At a time of economic uncertainty, the jobs, investment and 10,000 apprenticeships that will come from a new runway at Heathrow will be vital for the local area and the country as a whole. The government’s continued delay in making a decision is simply not sustainable: action is needed and it is needed now.
Speakers at the rally included John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow Airport Chief Executive, Joe McGowan, Lead Aviation Officer for Unite the union and Barry Nelson-West, a local resident.
Joe McGowan said: “The benefits of expansion at Heathrow will be felt in every corner of the country. A new runway will deliver massive investment in skills, training and jobs, providing a huge boost to local communities which is a key reason why Unite is backing Heathrow to grow.”
Barry Nelson-West said: “Some say expansion is not what local people want. Well you do not speak for me, you do not speak for everyone here today, you do not speak for the 100,000 plus supporters of this campaign. And, you do not speak for local people. I’m local and I back Heathrow.”
It was a fantastic event and we thank everyone for attending. But as well as it being a great day out, the rally also demonstrated the huge amount of support for a new runway that exists in the communities near Heathrow.
The government’s continued delay in making a decision on Heathrow expansion is deeply disappointing and frustrating for all local residents. The next Prime Minister has to listen to residents, most of whom support expansion, and finally approve a new runway to allow local communities and the whole country to move forwards.
London MPs have confirmed what many residents around Heathrow have been saying for years - most Londoners do not oppose Heathrow expansion.
In an article in City AM this week, Labour MP Wes Streeting and Conservative MP Mike Freer pushed for a government decision on Heathrow expansion. They said: “Failure to act on Heathrow expansion would be to the detriment of the majority of Londoners and the wider UK economy.
“News coverage can give the impression that all Londoners and their representative are against a new runway at Heathrow. This is very far from the case”.
Political opposition is dwindling. Beyond Boris Johnson and his bluster, very few MPs are standing with him to oppose Heathrow. Last month the usual opponents tried to corral London's politicians against Heathrow; despite strenuous efforts, they could only manage to drum up one fifth of London's politicians to oppose Heathrow expansion.
Those against expansion have set up a ‘Coalition Against Heathrow Expansion’ made up of just eight MPs (out of 73 in London and 650 nationally). Last year they sent out 1.6 million anti-Heathrow leaflets to households across London encouraging residents to attend what was billed as “the biggest rally ever”.
Zac Goldsmith MP had spoken of a ‘one-million-strong’ army of Heathrow opponents and Windsor MP Adam Afriyie promised that 15,000 people would rally against expansion from his town alone. But come the day, just a few hundred people turned out to protest in Parliament Square.
The truth is that while there is some opposition to expansion at the UK's hub airport, even the leaders of the anti-campaign acknowledge that more people in local communities support a new runway than oppose it.
A vocal minority claim widespread political opposition to expanding Heathrow but independent polling from ComRes has shown strong cross-party support across Parliament for Heathrow expansion, including Conservative MPs (68%) and Labour MPs (66%). The chairman of the influential 1922 committee of backbench Conservative MPs has claimed 600 of the 650 MPs would vote for Heathrow expansion.
Some media commentators are suggesting that the government is set to give a green light to Heathrow expansion after the EU referendum. This would be the right thing to do and whilst we can hope, we can’t assume such things.
One thing is for sure: today, six months on from the Prime Minister’s delayed announcement, those living in the areas surrounding Heathrow are still waiting for the certainty that will come from a decision on expansion. It is the Prime Minister’s duty to end the uncertainty that is damaging local communities and provide clarity for both opponents and supporters of a new runway at Heathrow.
Heathrow Airport celebrated its 70th anniversary this week with a series of special events.
Seventy plaques have been unveiled across the airport and photos of Heathrow from the last 70 years have also been released, showing a new side to the UK’s only hub airport and how it began officially operating as London Airport on 31st May 1946.
The airport has hosted many memorable moments including in 1952 when the former Princess Elizabeth stepped onto UK soil for the first time as Queen- her father, King George VI, had died while she was touring Kenya.
The airport has also welcomed the Beatles back to the UK after their first world tour in 1964 and the England rugby team arrived from Australia as World Cup winners in 2003.
It all began during World War II when the government requisitioned land around the ancient village of Heath Row to build a base for long-range military aircraft. The first commercial flight, on 28 May 1946 by Lancastrian G-AGLS Nelson, took 63 hours to reach Sydney.
The first terminals were marquees on Bath Road, equipped with fresh flowers, comfy sofas and Heathrow’s first retail store – a WH Smith.
By 1951 Heathrow was welcoming 796,000 passengers a year and designs were drawn up for a red brick control tower, a passenger terminal called the Europa Building and an office block called the Queen’s Building.
Terminal 1 opened in 1969, by which time five million passengers a year were passing through the airport as the jet age arrived.
Demand for air travel created the need for Terminal 4 which opened for business in 1986 before Terminal 5 opened in March 2008 (below). In 2014 Terminal 2 opened which marked the latest phase of an £11 billion private sector investment that has transformed Heathrow.
Heathrow has progressed hugely over the past 70 years but further changes are needed if it is to thrive in the next 70 years, not least because its two runways are full. In 1949, 400,000 passengers travelled through Heathrow but in 2015 that figure had risen to 73 million. That’s why we at Back Heathrow continue to campaign for Heathrow to be expanded so that it is bigger, better and equipped to succeed in the future.
To find out more about Heathrow's 70th anniversary please click here
Onlookers in central London may have been rubbing their eyes in disbelief as a giant white elephant passed them on Wednesday.
The elephant – full name ‘Gatwick 2nd Runway’ – was nattily dressed in Biggles-style flying cap and goggles as he made his way around Parliament Square, passing the Houses of Parliament before flying down Whitehall.
The Gatwick White Elephant passed the Prime Minister’s Downing Street residence and also made a flying visit to City Hall, soaring over Tower Bridge.
You can watch a video showing how the elephant's tour progressed here
It was all a bit of fun that we at Back Heathrow hope makes a serious point and sends a clear message. We wanted to demonstrate why a new runway at Gatwick risks becoming a white elephant if it is not used by major airlines. Many want to use an expanded Heathrow but are prevented from doing so as it is already operating at full capacity, unlike Gatwick.
BAR UK, a trade organisation representing over 70 scheduled airlines operating in the UK, has stated that: "The majority of BAR UK airlines have maintained their view that expansion at the UK’s existing hub airport, Heathrow, provides the most compelling solution [to a lack of aviation capacity]."
Willie Walsh, Chief Executive of IAG, has stated that there is "no business case" for Gatwick expansion while Dame Carolyn McCall, Chief Executive of EasyJet, has said: “No one is screaming for capacity at Gatwick. There is no demand. Everyone is screaming for capacity at Heathrow.”
The UK desperately needs additional aviation capacity in the south-east and the answer has always been to expand at Heathrow. It is the clear and unanimous choice of the independent Airports Commission; MPs, airlines and major UK business groups all prefer Heathrow expansion over Gatwick; Heathrow is operating at full capacity with more than 30 airlines wanting access; and airlines often move from Gatwick as soon as slots at Heathrow become available.
It makes the most sense to expand at the airport where demand is highest and that means in West London not West Sussex. Building a new runway at Gatwick risks building an expensive, giant white elephant that may sit underused because airlines would still prefer to fly from Heathrow.
The government has acknowledged that the UK needs additional air capacity in the south-east but for far too long it has dragged its heels over making a decision. It’s time to make that decision and it’s time to expand Heathrow.
This week’s announcement by Heathrow Chief Executive, John Holland-Kaye that Heathrow will meet and exceed the conditions laid down by the Airports Commission is great news for anyone interested in the future prosperity of west London, the Thames Valley and the whole of the UK.
Our country has been plagued by indecision on airport expansion in the south east for months, years and even decades but this important announcement will help sweep away the barriers to finally building a vital new runway.
The news is a tribute to supporters of Back Heathrow and to the positive way they have conducted themselves during this campaign. Our supporters are local people who care passionately about their communities and want them to thrive and prosper in the future. They are united by a desire to see local jobs protected and Heathrow’s future secured.
The government has long known why Heathrow is the answer to Britain’s aviation capacity problem; a new runway at the UK’s only hub airport will offer new flights to emerging markets, protect existing jobs and create 77,000 new jobs and thousands of apprenticeships in the local area. It was the “clear and unanimous” recommendation of the independent Airports Commission – set up by the Prime Minister.
But Heathrow’s new announcement takes the process to the next stage and strips the government of any lingering excuses for not supporting a new runway. Even anti-expansion campaigners said Heathrow had “gone further than expected” and that the move “could turn out to be significant”.
Click here to view full details of Heathrow’s announcement.
As the UK’s largest port, a successful Heathrow is vital to the health of British economy - it is the only way to connect all of Britain to global growth and the only way to guarantee its future success is to expand.
With these new commitments in place Heathrow has passed the test of balancing the huge economic gain from expansion with the local and environmental impact. The case for a new runway at Heathrow is overwhelming; it’s time to get on and build it.
When is 53% not a majority?
When is it wrong to say 50% over 33% means 'most people support something'?
And the answer to both questions is... when it comes to campaigning for Heathrow expansion. At least, that is the view according to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) which last week controversially banned one of our adverts following complaints from a handful of anti-expansion campaigners. The full ruling can be found here.
The ASA ruled that we cannot use the phrase: 'Most people living in communities near Heathrow Airport support its expansion' - mainly because 50% is not 'most people'. Ironically, if we had used the phrase 'More people living in communities near Heathrow Airport support its expansion than oppose it', this would have been OK.
Evidence clearly shows that in a major independent poll of 12 parliamentary constituencies, 50% of local residents support Heathrow expansion whilst 33% remain opposed. But what makes the ASA decision truly confusing is the fact that based on the ASA's own definition of what constitutes 'near to Heathrow' no fewer than 53% of local residents back a new runway.
It is highly likely that most people (!) won't care about the technical detail but the ruling will still stand, we think, unfairly. The reaction of a small but increasingly vitriolic number of anti-Heathrow protestors to the ruling is exactly why the Back Heathrow campaign is needed. They despise the fact that we are giving oxygen to an alternative view - one backed by huge numbers of local residents - when for too long they have had the floor to themselves. We are shattering the myth that it is always 'big business' v 'little residents' when it comes to major infrastructure projects - and our opponents, spearheaded by well-organised and determined green fanatics, do not like it one little bit.
In the recent Airports Commission public consultation, 82% of the 70,591 responses were in favour of Heathrow expansion. Most of these were local residents so we think the ASA is on wafer-thin ice with its ruling. More local people support Heathrow expansion than oppose it - that's a fact. And our new adverts will prove it.
The aviator glasses glinted in the spring sunshine as a bouncing crowd of Back Heathrow supporters wearing yellow flight attendant hats gathered outside the Houses of Parliament on Wednesday. Living near Heathrow airport, these residents came to central London for a fun campaigning day with a serious message.
We were in Westminster to launch our new Captain Cameron campaign and to deliver a letter to the Prime Minister on behalf of 100,000 local residents who want a positive decision on Heathrow expansion and no more delay. Campaigners were joined by special guest Captain Cameron, in full pilot uniform, to call on ‘Captain’ David Cameron and ‘First Officer’ George Osborne to land Heathrow expansion and watch the UK take off.
First stop was College Green outside Parliament to meet the media for a photo-opportunity and interviews. Captain Cameron then led the way along Whitehall to Downing Street to deliver a letter to the Prime Minister (who looks uncannily like Captain Cameron). The full text of the letter can be read here
The letter urges the Prime Minister to end the uncertainty surrounding airport expansion and give the green light to a new runway at Heathrow. It refers to the £211bn economic benefits and 180,000 jobs up and down the country which would come with Heathrow expansion. The letter also asks why the Prime Minister would risk huge protests in an unspoilt area of rural England by backing expansion at Gatwick, an option for which there is little support.
Captain Cameron was in high demand for photographs from tourists and passers-by but there was no time to waste before we headed off to the Department for Transport to deliver a letter to Secretary of State, Patrick McLoughlin, asking him to back Heathrow expansion and end the uncertainty for residents living near the UK's hub airport.
Our day in Westminster was hugely enjoyable and served to remind the Prime Minister that despite the looming EU referendum, the pressing matter of Heathrow will not go away. This was a final call for Captain Cameron. The Prime Minister now needs to show real leadership to land Heathrow expansion. A new runway at the UK’s only hub airport can be approved with confidence because it is backed by most local residents living near the airport, businesses, exporters, airlines, trade unions, regional airports and a majority of MPs. It’s been a long-haul but there must be no more delays.
Keep an eye out for our new campaign advert in the coming weeks. You can see it here
The European referendum has been dominating news coverage as politicians, as well as the rest of us, decide whether to back remain or leave.
The current political focus on debating the pros and cons of EU membership means that David Cameron has delayed the decision on expanding Heathrow – a damaging action which is costing our economy millions. However, it was interesting to see the Prime Minister kick off his EU campaign at O2 in Slough.
O2 is one of many top companies backing Heathrow whilst Slough is home to more headquarters of multinational companies than Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland put together. They are there because of Heathrow. As he talked up the importance of trade and business in the EU, the Prime Minister will have been aware that the local MP, council and most residents in Slough support Heathrow expansion.
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye made clear his view on the EU debate this week saying: "A vote to remain offers the best of both worlds – it secures our place as a powerhouse in the global economy, while remaining in the world’s largest free trade zone.” Yet he also warned that a Brexit would make a new runway even more urgent.
Heathrow clearly has a global reach but it is also well connected to European destinations. Heathrow handles over 1.5 million metric tonnes of cargo every year and over 200,000 passengers every day. It employs 76,000 people within the airport boundary (equivalent to the population of Guildford), and as the UK’s largest port responsible for a quarter of all exports from the UK by value, Heathrow is well placed for the future no matter what the referendum result. But running at 98.5% capacity, it must expand.
Back Heathrow has over 100,000 supporters across West London and the Thames Valley. Clearly there will be different views on the UK’s role in Europe amongst our supporters but what unites us is a desire to see local jobs protected and Heathrow’s future secured.
The Government already knows that a new runway at the UK’s only hub airport is the answer to the problem of airport capacity in the south-east. Extra capacity at Heathrow will offer new flights to emerging markets, protect existing jobs and create 77,000 new jobs in the region. These include 10,000 apprenticeships from the boroughs neighbouring the airport which would help eradicate local youth unemployment. In total, 180,000 jobs will be created across the UK and the benefits to the country are worth £147 billion.
What we all need to do over the coming weeks and months is to keep banging the drum for Heathrow so that once the EU referendum is over and David Cameron finally sits down to make his decision on airport expansion, he knows that there is only one answer. And he will be warmly welcomed back to Slough when he chooses Heathrow.