Decision time... why the Prime Minister commits a U-turn if Heathrow is not given the green light
By Mike Appleton
You might be forgiven for thinking that following the strong Heathrow recommendation by the Government-backed Airports Commission the future of the UK's only hub airport has been resolved but that is not yet the case.
Following the report, the Prime Minister announced that the Government would provide a response by the end of the year, something that we keenly anticipate. In the meantime, this has not stopped a great deal of debate in the media and at political events during the past few weeks.
At the Conservative Party conference, the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne dropped his biggest hint yet that Heathrow should get the nod to expand. On the eve of the conference, he announced that he was setting up the Infrastructure Commission headed by former Transport Secretary Lord Adonis. Several commentators noted that Lord Adonis is a high profile supporter of expansion at Heathrow, whilst the Chancellor told conference:
“We turned our country around, and together we’ve made sure, Britain is working again. Now we must build on those foundations….Build the new roads, and railways, and runways.”
This is a welcome boost for our campaign and a reminder that the Government is well aware of the urgency and importance of pressing ahead with a decision. Whilst the Chancellor made clear that he wants to get going on important infrastructure projects like Heathrow, the Prime Minister has had more than 50,000 reminders of how important this runway is to local people.
Last month, a group of Back Heathrow supporters paid the Prime Minister a visit at 10 Downing Street to deliver some of the 50,000 postcards that have been sent by our supporters urging him to back a new runway. With this and the unanimous backing of the Airports Commission, UK businesses and most local residents, the Prime Minister now has everything he needs to say YES to a bigger and better Heathrow.
But what of Heathrow's opponents? Those opposed to expansion have also been busy, setting up a ‘Coalition Against Heathrow Expansion’ made up of just eight MPs (out of 73 in London and 650 nationally). They have sent out 1.6 million leaflets to households across London. These leaflets claim to show areas that “could be impacted” by expansion before admitting in small print that the maps shown are not indicative of final flight paths, and have been delivered as far away as Tower Hamlets in east London.
The leaflets also encouraged residents to attend what was billed as “the biggest rally ever” in central London on 10 October. This rally was designed to show off the ‘huge’ support against Heathrow expansion, and it had certainly been built up as a major display of force.
Zac Goldsmith MP for Richmond Park had previously spoken of a ‘one-million-strong’ army of Heathrow opponents, and a campaign “the likes of which has never been seen before”. Meanwhile, 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.
This protest followed a similar anti-expansion event in March, which was again billed as ‘the biggest rally of the year’, but gathered only around 300 people, despite expectations to fill the 600-seat venue.
This is not to detract from the valid concerns those protesting may have, but it raises serious questions about whether the level of opposition to Heathrow expansion has been exaggerated for so long, it has become part of the media narrative.
Make no mistake, for a small number of people, the effects of Heathrow expansion will be significant, and their concerns must be listened to, and properly addressed. The airport has an absolute duty to treat those worse affected with the greatest of care and fairness. Heathrow also has a responsibility to continue to reduce noise and pollution if it wins the expansion argument.
It will soon be time for David Cameron and his Government to make a decision on Heathrow expansion. People on all sides of the debate now require certainty so they can plan for the future.The Prime Minister will see that 82% of the 70,000 responses to the Airports Commission public consultation were in favour of Heathrow expansion, and he will know that there is wide cross-party support in Parliament for Heathrow to grow. There will never be a better time to give a green light for Heathrow expansion. Given that the Prime Minister set up the Airports Commission it will be an extraordinary U-turn for Mr Cameron to then ignore its recommendation.
Campaigners deliver thousands of messages backing Heathrow expansion to Downing Street
By Mike Appleton
Campaigners from Back Heathrow visited Number 10 Downing Street this week to deliver some good news for the Prime Minister and his top team.
If David Cameron decides to support the recommendation of the Airports Commission in a few weeks’ time, he now knows there will be no shortage of welcoming voices from the residents of west London and the Thames Valley. Local businesses, residents and workers have waited nearly 10 years for a decision on Heathrow, and the vast majority want to see a growing and successful airport.
That was the message a delegation of campaigners and residents took to Downing Street this week, when we delivered the final batch of tens of thousands of postcards which have been sent to the Prime Minister over the past couple of weeks.
Our visit to No 10 is the latest evidence of local supporters far outweighing opponents. A hard core of opposition will remain but their numbers have been diminishing. Sadly some anti-expansion protestors have turned to unpleasant tactics, including threats to individuals and unsavoury abuse on social media.
For years the media and politicians have been sold tall tales of a local population uniformly opposed to expansion, but it is now clear that this was a myth. This is backed by hard evidence in the Airports Commission public consultation. No less than 82 per cent of all responses backed Heathrow expansion. More than 53,000 responses came from local residents who support growth at Heathrow. Submissions from opponents of expansion numbered just a few hundred.
Polling by Populus tells the same story. These large polls, of 1,000 respondents in each of the 12 constituencies near Heathrow show pro-expansion supporters easily outnumbering opponents. This popularity is being felt in Westminster where MPs are lining up to back expansion at Heathrow.
Chairman of the Conservatives’ influential 1922 Committee Graham Brady said that now is the “perfect moment” to overcome the political indecision on expansion and to reap the benefits. He estimates that 600 out of 650 MPs would vote in favour. Meanwhile, the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne told the CBI that when it came to the Airports’ Commission’s recommendation, “we’re going to take the decision and get it built.”
Opponents of Heathrow expansion have a right to be heard, but they should not bully those residents who disagree with them. Thousands of our supporters joined the campaign because they are fed up of being shouted down by a vocal minority.
The Back Heathrow campaign has already proven that the majority of people in west London and the Thames Valley support expansion at Heathrow. Our supporters, their friends and relatives will continue to make their voices heard. Now we need the Prime Minister and the Government to listen.
Campaigners fired up to say YES to Heathrow
Campaigners fired up to say YES to Heathrow
More than 300 Back Heathrow campaigners and their families came together for a summer BBQ in Hounslow last weekend. It was a great opportunity to thank some of our hard-working activists and meet a few new faces.
Anyone at the event would have been in no doubt about the strength of support amongst the attendees who came from across the local area. Residents from Ealing, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Slough, Spelthorne, and Richmond gathered in glorious sunshine.
Guests at the Back Heathrow event showed a real cross-section from across our local communities, with people from all walks of life and a range of backgrounds. The one thing that united everyone there was their hope for a secure future for their family, friends and neighbourhoods. Happily the event proved very popular, but the limited places meant that we couldn’t cater for many supporters who wanted to attend. However we will hold more campaign gatherings in the coming months.
Since its launch nearly two years ago Back Heathrow has sought to bring together and give a voice to those who support a bigger and better Heathrow. Our latest get-together was yet another vivid example about how far and wide our message has travelled.
Many of the hundreds present had volunteered in our office, opened envelopes, signed up their neighbours, written to MPs or sent their views to the Airports Commission.
Our campaign co-ordinator Rob Gray gave a short speech where he thanked everyone at the event for playing their part in the campaign, pointing out that 53,000 Back Heathrow supporters wrote to the Airports Commission calling for expansion at the UK’s hub airport. They made up a huge chunk of the 86% of respondents who backed Heathrow. Rob reminded those present that there is a long road ahead before a new runway can be built to bring jobs and prosperity to Heathrow’s local communities. But at least we now have more than 100,000 supporters to help us!
We never need reminding that a small, but vocal minority oppose expansion. As if on cue, a handful of protestors picketed the gate into the venue hoping to make their point. In total around 10 of them turned up in the sweltering heat, including paid spokespeople from protest groups. It was a real shame that they used negative tactics to try to disrupt a BBQ for local residents, but ever the compassionate campaigners, Back Heathrow took out some ice cream to help them cool down.
Local residents were not intimidated by the protest, and continued to enjoy the food, entertainment and the fabulous raffle, which included prizes generously donated by our friends and supporters.
To round off the afternoon, some of our attendees posed for the photograph you can see (above) which shows very clearly how we feel about what the Prime Minister should do next.
If you agree with our aim to make Heathrow bigger and better whilst helping local communities reap the benefits that expansion would bring, why not send your views to the Prime Minister and ask him to back expansion at Heathrow. Thousands of our supporters have already written to the Prime Minister, but we need your help too!
Don’t delay, make sure you sign today! Click here: http://www.backheathrow.org/
Widespread support must convince the Government to back Heathrow
By Mike Appleton
As you will have seen, the Government backed Airports Commission has announced that they have chosen Heathrow as the location for extra airport capacity in the south east of England.
Officially, it will mean a new full length runway to the north west of the existing northern runway, but in practice it will mean much more than that for our community, our region and the whole of the UK.
According to the Airports Commission, this will mean a huge difference to our local economy, with thousands of new jobs and apprenticeships. Nationally, it could mean up to 77,000 new jobs and £147bn of economic benefits to the whole of the United Kingdom. Heathrow’s unique role as a hub airport will connect cities and airports across the British Isles to the emerging markets of the world.
This has only been possible with the huge backing that we have enjoyed from our supporters. In just two years, Back Heathrow has grown to now having more than 100,000 supporters. Our supporters come from right across our local area, and from all walks of life and it is this diversity that has made our campaign so vibrant and, to date, successful.
Those opposed to expansion often accuse Back Heathrow of being a group that ‘only’ represents airport workers, and it is true that some of our supporters do work at Heathrow - good for them! Yet many do not work at the airport and live in the local community, seeing the positive impact that Heathrow has on their local area.
It’s not just residents who have supported our calls for a bigger and better Heathrow. Good numbers of local businesses across west London and the Thames Valley have given their support, engaged their staff and decorated their vehicles for Back Heathrow. One of our first supporters was the owner of a post office. When asked why he supported expansion, his answer was simple: he replied that the majority of his customers worked at the airport. He knew that if his business was to grow and prosper, the airport has to grow and prosper as well.
Last Tuesday, residents and businesses joined forces with the UK’s largest trade union, Unite for a reception at Parliament. The reception brought together local business folk with airport workers and residents alongside trade union activists and representatives to call for expansion at Heathrow and the enormous benefits it would bring.
Slough’s MP, Fiona MacTaggart gave a rousing speech, rightly calling Heathrow the ‘engine of not just Slough and the Thames Valley, but the whole of the UK’. She was followed by Diana Holland, the Assistant General Secretary of Unite, who noted that expansion had been voted through by Unite’s general committee. This was not just about workers at one airport... Unite’s members from across the UK had agreed expanding Heathrow is the right way forward.
Following the publication of his report, Sir Howard Davies wryly observed that if you have The Sun and The Financial Times on your side, you’ve probably done the right thing. But support for Heathrow expansion goes further.
Far from the old, lazy narrative of Heathrow’s opponents saying it is ‘residents vs big business’ there is now a wide-ranging coalition of support for the UK's hub airport, from residents to small businesses, community groups, trades unions, international airlines and FTSE 100 companies calling for an additional runway and the benefits it would bring.
However, it is the breadth of our local support that has marked out this campaign. In the recent Airport’s Commission public consultation, 82% of respondents backed Heathrow expansion. No fewer than 53,000 of the 70,000 responses were from our supporters, and the accompanying map (on page 21) shows the areas of west London and the Thames Valley who submitted.
Despite this ringing endorsement for Heathrow, it will still require support at the highest level of Government to ensure that expansion goes ahead. We will be working with our supporters to ensure that their voice is heard and their views are put to the top of the agenda.
If you support a better and bigger Heathrow, let the Prime Minister know. Simply fill in this super-quick online form with your name, address and postcode to ask David Cameron to implement the Airports Commission's recommendation for Heathrow.
There is a significant cross-party support for Heathrow expansion, but the Prime Minister set up the Airports Commission – surely now he must back its findings.
Back Heathrow gets to business
By Pedro Diogo
Your local greengrocer might not be the first business that springs to mind when thinking about who needs Heathrow but in the communities around the airport, thousands of small businesses indirectly rely on it to succeed. Whether you’re buying Dutch flowers from your local florist or sipping a cup of Colombian coffee – Heathrow probably played a huge part in making that possible, and hundreds of businesses have been in touch with us to voice their support for growth at the UK’s hub airport.
Recently, Back Heathrow volunteers decided to pound the streets of west London to meet these businesses – and find new ones – who rely on Heathrow. The response was fantastic: nine in ten high street businesses, from West Drayton to West Ealing and from Southall to Staines, told us that the airport enriches their local communities and plays a major role in the economic success of town centres in west London.
Many wanted to get involved in the campaign and to show their support for a bigger and better Heathrow. The easiest way for businesses to do this is to put up Back Heathrow posters in their shop windows – and over 200 did this in just a couple of weeks! Every high street our volunteers visited demonstrated overwhelming support for our campaign. The image above shows just a few of the hundreds of businesses supporting Heathrow expansion in the boroughs around the airport.
We know how big a role Heathrow plays in the local economy. The airport handles over £86bn of UK goods each year – as much as Southampton and Felixstowe ports combined – connecting local businesses on its doorstep with the world’s markets. It’s no wonder that 32 chambers of commerce, representing thousands of businesses, including many from Hillingdon, Windsor, Hounslow, west London and the Thames Valley are backing Heathrow to grow.
Since we started the campaign, business owners from the communities around the airport have been in touch to pledge their support for growth at Heathrow. They want to feel the benefits of expansion – including up to 180,000 new jobs – meaning an opportunity to grow their businesses alongside the airport. Economic benefits for the UK could reach £211bn, securing jobs and 10,000 apprenticeships for local people if Heathrow is allowed to expand.
The future of Heathrow and that of local communities are intrinsically connected. A bigger and thriving airport gives our high streets the chance they need to grow and succeed. That’s why over 100,000 residents alongside businesses and local organisations have joined our campaign to back Heathrow.
If you run a local business and support growth at Heathrow, please get in touch if you would like us to send you a pack of materials to show your support for a bright and successful future for Heathrow and our local communities.
How Heathrow’s opponents pollute their own arguments
By Rob Gray
Opponents of Heathrow expansion are getting very excitable because they believe that air pollution is THE issue that will stop a new runway being built. But by singling out UK airports they are in serious danger of overlooking the main cause of a growing environmental problem. Do they care?
Next month, the UK Airports Commission is expected to deliver its recommendations on where new runway capacity should go. Before the Commission reports it continues to carry out further work on the impacts of air pollution and it is right to do so. Heathrow must ensure that any pollution from a three-runway airport in future is lower than today’s two runway operation.
Some might say that is not possible. Anti-expansion protesters are quick to point out that “Heathrow exceeds EU limits on air pollution”. However, they are slow to admit that at the only two monitoring points near the M4 where limits are breached, airport-related emissions account for just 16% and 6% respectively of pollution at those sites. The vast majority of emissions come from vehicles on the roads close to Heathrow, traffic that is neither heading to or from the airport.
In fact, Heathrow has made significant progress in reducing its own emissions but you won’t hear much about this from the airport’s detractors. In the past five years alone, Heathrow has cut emissions by 16%, using cleaner, greener energy for more efficient terminals (like the new T2) and introducing new ultra-low emission vehicles for airport cars. Heathrow already hosts the world’s largest single site employee car share scheme, the busiest bus and coach station in the UK and has the UK’s first publicly accessible hydrogen refuelling site.
Heathrow has also announced a 10-point air quality blueprint which can be read here.
More can and will be done by the airport to reduce emissions and improve the air quality for our local communities, but anti-expansion protesters are determined to demonise the airport whilst ignoring the main cause of air pollution (nitrogen dioxide emitted by millions of vehicles used across London and beyond).
Put simply: the criticism flies in the face of logic.
Last week Ray Puddifoot, leader of Hillingdon Council and long-standing Heathrow adversary, said: “[Sir Howard] Davies is telling us that Heathrow can vastly increase flights, passenger numbers and its freight operation, but that there will be no extra traffic on local roads. This is not credible or realistic.”
What Cllr Puddifoot forgets is that unlike today, millions of passengers will have a vastly greater choice about how to travel to a bigger and better Heathrow. Today, if passengers want to get to Heathrow by public transport, they have just three choices: train from Paddington, tube from central London or the bus.
By 2030, in addition to these choices, they will also be able to choose trains from Wales and the West Country via Slough and Reading, central and east London via Crossrail and possibly direct trains from Clapham Junction and Waterloo. This will mean at peak times no fewer than 32 trains serving Heathrow per hour. That is more than one train every two minutes.
This significantly improved public transport service to Heathrow will mean fewer cars, less congestion on our local roads and more importantly: fewer damaging emissions. The airport also has comprehensive plans to introduce an Ultra-Low Emissions Zone for the roads serving Heathrow. This would remove the dirtiest and most polluting vehicles from those roads improving air quality even further.
Anti-Heathrow protesters will tell you that air pollution is a road block to any expansion plans. Expert evidence from the Airports Commission suggests that they are wrong. Yet in their midst, opponents have a man who could help solve the air pollution problem in west London, if they can just bring themselves to separate two things that have been wrongly linked - Heathrow and the vast majority of non-airport related traffic. The question is whether the Mayor of London can be bothered.
Whisper it… Heathrow’s getting quieter
By Pedro Diogo
The definition of noise is an unwelcome sound, and aircraft noise is, understandably, a concern for some people living under the Heathrow flightpaths. They want to know how the airport’s expansion would affect them if it is given the go-ahead by the UK Airports Commission and Government. In a remarkable development, a small laboratory in central London may well have the answers - and even opponents of a new runway at Heathrow are quietly impressed.
The Arup Sound Lab was originally created to help with the acoustic design of concert halls but is now being used to demonstrate how noise will impact on local areas if an extra Heathrow runway was in operation. Arup is a globally renowned professional services firm which specialises in engineering, design and planning. It has been commissioned by Heathrow Airport to carry out this work but Arup is strictly independent for the sake of its own reputation, and all studies are peer-reviewed and checked.
Using independently collected recordings and studies from locations in west London, Arup’s acoustic experts have been able to recreate these local environments in the Sound Lab. The experience is delivered in a neutral way so as to allow listeners to draw their own conclusions.
Video: The Guardian / Arup
Recently, the Back Heathrow team visited this world-class facility. Sitting in the quiet room of the Sound Lab, we heard for ourselves what an expanded Heathrow would sound like for local residents under the flight paths in set locations close to our office in Hounslow and also in Richmond. We heard:
- How older aircraft sound today
- How new aircraft sound
- What newer aircraft in the future will sound like, using new procedures, steeper approaches and better noise insulation
And the difference is very clear. Aircraft from the time a new runway is built will sound quieter, fly higher over communities around Heathrow and, with a new runway to the north-west of the airport, for example, places like Richmond could get complete noise relief for days or even weeks at a time. Local politicians should definitely pay the Sound Lab a visit!
These ground-breaking changes in technology and an improved noise insulation package proposed by the airport mean that a new runway could improve the quality of life for many residents and offer communities substantial relief from aircraft noise. Even critics of Heathrow expansion acknowledge the benefits of new technology in the air.
John Stewart, chair of HACAN, the leading opponent of Heathrow expansion, said, “It’s a useful tool to show how quieter planes will impact on local communities. On noise grounds it makes the prospect of a third runway a little less of an issue: what this did show me is that the new generation of planes will be quite a lot quieter than the current planes in the sky.
“The critical question is if they could prove a third runway would lead to more respite for communities than they get today. Then they may be on to a winner.”
We have always said that expansion at Heathrow can only go ahead if the airport reduces its noise footprint in future. The good news is that Sound Lab shows how Heathrow really can quieten the doubters.
READ MORE about the Arup Sound Lab in this Guardian article.
100,000 reasons why Heathrow expansion is the only option for the UK
By Rob Gray
Back Heathrow is delighted to announce that we now have 100,000 supporters living in the communities surrounding the UK’s only hub airport. We must push home this incredible advantage, which proves that Heathrow is the only politically deliverable option for airport expansion in the south east. A map showing the location of Back Heathrow’s supporters can be found here.
It has been less than two years since Back Heathrow was launched to provide a voice for local people who support growth at Heathrow and the thousands of jobs that the airport provides. Until Back Heathrow was founded, local people who support and rely on Heathrow were left out of the discussion, allowing a vocal minority opposing expansion to do all the talking.
From a starting point of just a few hundred supporters, Back Heathrow has grown into a movement of thousands. We were delighted when 20,000 local people signed up to the campaign, followed soon after by reaching the impressive target of 50,000. By the start of 2015, our campaign numbers had soared to more than 80,000 supporters, and the race to sign up 100,000 people was on.
Now, just a few short months later, we have reached this important and significant milestone. There are now:
- 100,000 reasons why a bigger and better Heathrow will deliver for local people.
- 100,000 reasons why Gatwick cannot compete with Heathrow: their neighbours do not want expansion.
- 100,000 reasons why the Airports Commission must listen to local people near Heathrow.
But, the story is not over yet. Back Heathrow has really taken off, and we’ve reached the cruising altitude of 100,000 supporters. However there is still much work to be done before we can help land an extra runway. Back Heathrow will continue to make the case for a quieter, cleaner and bigger Heathrow and to fight for the best deal for our local communities. If you would like to be part of this, why not sign up here?
No one questions the scale of opposition to Heathrow….but they should
By Rob Gray
On Tuesday, opponents of Heathrow expansion held what was billed as “the biggest rally of the year” at 664-seat Church House in central London. The event had been advertised extensively, with the first publicity appearing last year, followed up with social media and thousands of pounds worth of full-page adverts in local newspapers.
The rally organisers, HACAN, promised a major event that would be an opportunity to ‘show Westminster your opposition’ but unfortunately the number of attendees failed to match expectation, with the venue remaining around half full.
We are well aware that there is opposition to the expansion of Heathrow, and indeed any infrastructure project. Look around the country, whether it’s Heathrow, Gatwick, new railway lines or housing, any major infrastructure project has its opposition groups. Yet even the organisers of Tuesday’s rally have previously admitted that the majority of people in west London support Heathrow expansion.
Far from being the biggest rally of the year, this event is the latest in a long line of unfortunate attempts by Heathrow’s opponents to overstate their support. Last month, HACAN was left red-faced after they claimed that Twickenham MP Vince Cable was speaking at this week’s rally on behalf of the Government. Local business leaders were angry that Vince Cable had been billed as speaking as ‘Secretary of State for Business’, appearing to be in breach of official rules. When challenged, organisers of the event claimed that this billing was an ‘error’.
But it wasn’t an ‘error’ because they were warned several weeks prior to the event that this information was misleading, but they chose to go ahead anyway and promote Dr Cable’s appearance as ‘Secretary of State’ in their advertising blitz.
This followed misleading claims that Heathrow Airport had received more than 90,000 individual noise complaints. It was revealed that more than half of them were from just 50 people, with around 30,000 of those complaints being sent using automatic software. The numbers had been artificially inflated by those who are trying to claim that the opposition to expansion is greater than it really is.
Anti-Heathrow protestors have also been pushing anyone opposed to expansion to sign a petition on the Hounslow Council website. The petition has been advertised widely, including an expensive letter drop to houses across the London Borough of Hounslow, whilst national anti-aviation groups have been urging people to sign online, no matter where they live. So far it has fewer than 850 signatures despite running for more than six months.
Although the petition was aimed at Hounslow residents, a quick scan down the list of signatories reveals that many names are from people living nowhere near Hounslow, including residents in Lambeth, Windsor and Richmond. The petition even allows you to sign if you’re not resident in the UK! How’s that for local?
This week the Airports Commission said that during the consultation they received 68,000 responses, and whilst we don’t yet know exactly how many Back Heathrow supporters responded, we know that many of our supporters have been in touch to say that did. When the Commission publishes its final report, it will also publish the responses it received and it will be fascinating to see how these break down.
Those opposed to expansion will register their opposition, and they have every right to do so. It is important that those who may lose out have their views heard, and more importantly, are treated fairly and adequately compensated if plans get the go ahead. Unlike some who oppose expansion, we do not try to gag those who hold a different view.
However, there has been a clear and consistent pattern of deliberately overstating the amount of opposition to expansion, whether through electronic fakery, or struggling to half-fill venues. This now raises some serious questions about the level of opposition to Heathrow expansion. No one has challenged the wild numbers bandied about by the anti-Heathrow campaign....until now.
Anti-Heathrow rally dogged by speaker controversy
By Mike Appleton
Organisers of a controversial anti-Heathrow rally will have red-faces today. This morning it was reported that Vince Cable is in trouble because two west London business leaders have reported the Secretary of State to the Prime Minister for an apparent breach of the Ministerial Code of Conduct.
Anti-Heathrow expansion group HACAN has being trying to put together a ‘Rally Against the Runway’ to draw together a few hundred people in central London next week. Heading a line-up of the usual suspects dominated by the ‘green blob’ is the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.
This billing is highly unusual as the Ministerial Code makes it very clear what Ministers can do as a constituency MP, and what they can’t do as a Minister. The Code is there to make sure that Ministers are doing what is right for the entire country, rather than just for the constituency that they represent. Section 1.2 (h) of the code is very clear:
“Ministers in the House of Commons must keep separate their roles as Minister and constituency member”
This week, the Chief Executives of both Hounslow Chamber of Commerce and West London Business, representing thousands of businesses in west London, wrote to the Prime Minister to complain that the Minister responsible for business, manufacturing and exports appears to be using his official position as Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills to campaign against Heathrow expansion.
It is no surprise that the CEOs are unhappy about Vince Cable’s impending appearance as Business Secretary at next week’s protest when businesses are overwhelmingly in favour of expansion at Heathrow. In their letter to the Prime Minister, which you can read in full here, they make clear that more than 30 Chambers of Commerce representing many thousands of businesses throughout the UK support expansion at the airport, alongside bodies like the EEF which represents UK manufacturers.
When this story broke earlier today, HACAN immediately acknowledged that Dr Cable wasn’t speaking as Secretary of State, claiming it was an ‘error’. But if this is true, why did they ignore the same warnings that we gave them in early January, seven weeks ago? Why did they then go ahead, taking out full page adverts in local newspapers advertising the top speaker as ‘Secretary of State’ and ‘Cabinet Minister’? Why did Vince Cable retweet a flyer promoting the rally clearly showing him topping the speaker line-up as Secretary of State?
HACAN should have made clear from the start that Dr Cable was appearing as a local MP, rather than trying to overstate support for their rally. How on earth could the UK’s business secretary allow his privileged position and title to be used to promote an event that is so anti-business and anti-growth? We may never know because today he is busy opening the International Festival for Business which helps UK companies export in a global marketplace. You couldn’t make it up.