Within days of Gordon Brown making a speech designed to give him a green sheen, the subtext supposedly being that the government would have tougher carbon-emission targets, Ruth Kelly comes out with plans for the expansion of Heathrow Airport.
So, here’s how it goes: Brown hints at something positive for the environment or the masses, or both. Then a week later a firm decision is made to plough ahead with something unpopular, but good for the ruling class…
McDonnell kicks off Heathrow fightback
by TOM MELLEN
HAYES and Harlington MP John McDonnell accused the government of “betrayal” over Heathrow expansion on Thursday and warned that it faces “the biggest environmental campaign in British history.”
Mr McDonnell, whose constituency includes Heathrow, said: “The government has betrayed the communities that will be devastated by this massive expansion of Heathrow airport and betrayed all those who believed the Prime Minister’s promises to tackle climate change.”
Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly has put out proposals for “consultation,” which include a third runway at the west London airport, a sixth terminal, changes to runway take-off and landing patterns and changes in the routes that Heathrow aircraft take.
The public has until February 27 to make its views known, but many believe that the government has already made up its mind, especially after Wednesday’s revelations that airport operator BAA had helped it to draw up the consultation documents.
Mr McDonnell stressed that proposals “go well beyond the plans set out in the original aviation white paper and will double the size of the airport.”
He predicted that the plans “will result in the forced clearance of up to 10,000 people from their homes, with the demolition of whole communities, homes, schools and churches.”
Natalie Evans of the British Chambers of Commerce maintained that “the British economy is being held back by transport infrastructure that is not fit for purpose.”
Aviation union Unite official Brian Boyd agreed, saying that “London is in grave danger of losing out to Frankfurt, Paris and Amsterdam.”
Fellow aviation union GMB London regional secretary Ed Blissett also backed the expansion plans after meeting Aviation Minister Jim Fitzpatrick on Thursday morning.
But transport expert Christian Wolmar rubbished the idea that Britain’s economy would grind to a halt if Heathrow did not expand.
“The most rational policy would be to build an airport away from London connected by high-speed rail links,” Mr Wolmar said.
“Heathrow is in the wrong place and expansion will merely ensure it blights the lives of west Londoners for generations to come.”