Labour Transport Secretary backs Tory Council Leader: Mayor Boris Johnson is off-the-wall on proposed new airport

In yesterday’s Lords Question Time, the Secretary of State for Transport, Lord Andrew Adonis, in answer to a supplementary¬†question I raised, put the boot into Mayor Boris Johnson’s proposal for a new London airport in the middle of the Thames.

The exchange went as follows:

“Asked By Lord Trefgarne

    To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their policy with regard to a third runway at Heathrow.

The Secretary of State for Transport (Lord Adonis): My Lords, the Government’s policy with regard to a third runway at Heathrow remains as announced to the House in January last year. We support a third runway at Heathrow, subject to conditions, including an initial limit on the overall number of flights. It is for the airport operator, the BAA, to bring forward a planning application in the light of this announcement.

Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, I am grateful to the Secretary of State for that reply. Is he satisfied that the consultations conducted by the BAA are being properly conducted? They have been widely criticised. In the light of things that have happened since the Government made their announcement in this matter, is he satisfied that their original decision is still correct?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I am satisfied with the consultations that have been conducted. If the noble Lord wishes to draw any particular matters to my attention, I would be glad to look at them, but I am not aware of any which give me cause for concern. The decision to allow a planning application to come forward for a third runway, subject to conditions being met, has stood the test of time, despite two years of recession. Heathrow is still running at near 100 per cent capacity, despite the downturn in business at other airports. It is our main international hub airport. The lifeblood of our national economy depends on it. This Government will not betray the national interest by refusing to take a decision which is manifestly in the best interests of the country.

Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the Mayor of London has taken up a position opposing a third runway at Heathrow on the grounds of noise and pollution, but in favour of building a new airport floating in the middle of the Thames to the east of London? Will my noble friend comment on whether that policy position is consistent and in the national interest?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, the proposal for an estuary airport has been widely dismissed by sensible commentators, including most of the official spokespeople of the Conservative Party. The official Tory spokesperson says that Boris takes an independent line as Mayor of London. I thought he was a Conservative, but clearly this is not the case for the purposes of this and so many other decisions. Paul Carter, the leader of Kent County Council, the second largest Conservative-controlled authority in the country, says:

“There is a growing consensus that the estuary airport is undeliverable, unaffordable and unnecessary”.

I could not put it better myself.”

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