17 Tory MPs condemn obsession with Heathrow and tell Cameron to back regional airports
The Government should expand regional airports including Birmingham and resist pressure to focus on Heathrow, according to 17 Tory backbenchers.
While some Conservatives including former Environment Minister Tim Yeo are devoting their energies to getting a third runway at Heathrow, these Tories are warning "the current debate apparently ignores the immediate and future economic needs of the UK as a whole."
And they set out an alternative vision for Britain's future aviation strategy which would have "Birmingham as a major gateway at the centre of the UK . . . and leave Heathrow as a gateway for London and the South East."
Edit: It's been pointed out that the letter talks about building a second runway at Birmingham Airport. This proposal was included in the 2003 Aviation White Paper, but has since been rejected by the airport itself, which says it can expand without building a new runway (it will extend the runway it already has).
However, the airport's view (as it has previously stated, and confirmed again today) is that it will not need a second runway before 2030 and is not ruling out further expansion around that time.
The MPs set out their case in an open cross-party letter, also signed by Labour MPs as well as business leaders. Labour's Ian Austin (Lab Dudley North) was one of the organisers. In the context of the row taking place inside the Conservative Party about Heathrow, I think the involvement of 17 Conservative MPs (and three MEPs) is worth highlighting, but that's not to say the Labour MPs deserve any less credit for the initiative.
For those who aren't familiar with Birmingham Airport's campaign, it is lobbying Ministers to allow it to become a recognised national airport, and says a planned runway extension - enhancing the existing runway rather than building a new one - will allow it to expand passenger numbers dramatically.
Some of the Tory MPs involved have also backed a third runway at Heathrow, but they warn: "For the UK, over-reliance on one large, full airport, risks national resilience and leads the rest of the world to believe there is just one gateway to this country."
The full letter and a list of signatories is below:
With the current debate raging about the future of the UK aviation, focus remains that a 'hub airport' in the South East offers a single solution to the future aviation needs of the
United Kingdom. But this continues to favour a small, congested, and already economically strong part of the country. The current debate apparently ignores the immediate and future economic needs of the UK as a whole.
Economic rebalance around the regions will help resuscitate our wider economy. To secure growth, we need gateways close to the manufacturing, research and development of the Midlands and the north, linking these regions directly to BRIC and other emerging markets.
Evidence suggests overseas investors are discouraged from investing where there are no global links. For the UK, over-reliance on one large, full airport, risks national resilience and leads the rest of the world to believe there is just one gateway to this country.
Airports in our great industrial cities have huge spare capacity. In the West Midlands, Birmingham Airport's current spare runway capacity is 27 million passengers per annum.
Birmingham is at the heart of the rail and motorway networks, and its airport is the most accessible in the UK. The Airport and NEC station will be the hub of the proposed HS2 network, potentially with half of the population less than one-hour away.
Longer-term, developing Birmingham as a major gateway at the centre of the UK would reduce unproductive surface travel time and leave Heathrow as a gateway for London and the South East.
With its proposed second runway, Birmingham's spare capacity could rise to over 50 million and create 50,000 jobs in an area with some of the UK's highest pockets of persisten unemployment.
We call on Government to encourage and assist Airports to work with Local Enterprise Partnerships and stakeholders to declare longer-term options to benefit UK Plc. They should examine how the impact on local communities can be mitigated, and a balance be struck between employment, economic growth, and local nuisance.
Government infrastructure planning needs to both recognise airports and provide sufficient confidence for airports to be able to plan well into the future both their contribution and
connectivity. But in so doing, recognise that UK aviation is not just a South East issue, but is a driver for regional economic growth - growth in areas that have languished behind the South East. Importantly, Government must support expansion of Birmingham's airport to maximise the regional growth opportunity.
We must encourage growth now. The solution should lie at the heart of the UK in the Midlands.
Conservative West Midlands MPs
Mark Garnier (Wyre Forest)
Michael Fabricant (Lichfield)
Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin)
James Morris (Halesowen & Rowley Regis)
Jesse Norman (Hereford & South Herefordshire)
Richard Shepherd (Aldridge Brownhills)
Aidan Burley (Cannock Chase)
Andrew Griffiths (Burton & Uttoxeter)
Chris Kelly (Dudley South)
Harriett Baldwin (West Worcestershire)
Paul Uppal (Wolverhampton South West)
Robin Walker (Worcester)
Dan Byles (North Warwickshire)
Marcus Jones (Nuneaton)
Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury & Atcham)
Gavin Williamson (South Staffordshire)
Margot James (Stourbridge)
Conservative West Midlands MEPs
Labour West Midlands MPs
Ian Austin (Dudley North)
Gisela Stuart (Birmingham Edgbaston)
Steven McCabe (Birmingham Selly Oak)
Valerie Vaz (Walsall South)
Dave Wright (Telford)
Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich West)
Tom Watson (West Bromwich East)
Khalid Mahmood (Birmingham Perry Barr)
Liam Byrne (Birmingham Hodge Hill)
Emma Reynolds (Wolverhampton North East)
Labour Council Leaders
Cllr. David Jamieson (Solihull)
Cllr. Tim Oliver (Walsall)
Cllr. John Mutton (Coventry)
Cllr. Darren Cooper (Sandwell)
Conservative Council Leaders
Councillor Mike Whitby
(Leader of the Conservative Group and former Leader of Birmingham City Council)
Chambers of Commerce
Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Group
West Midlands businesses.
GeoPost UK LTD
Mezenet Solutions Ltd
Roadlink International Ltd
Sydney Mitchell LLP
BSA Machine Tools Ltd
Minor Weir Willis Ltd
Byron P Head
Mills & Reeve LLP
The Acme Whistle Co Ltd
Stone Consulting Ltd
Erlsmede Consulting Ltd
Glenn Howells Architects Limited
Harrow Green Ltd
Wedge Group Galvanizing Ltd.
Holiday Inn Birmingham Airport
Al Fereej Trading UK Ltd
Clear Solutions Wealth & Tax Mangement Ltd
Professor Mary Carswell
Birmingham City University
Progress Care Solutions
Ms Amina Bukhari
Acorn Primary School
UK Property group
Guerbet Laboratories Ltd
Mrs Joy Farrall
Learning Impact International Ltd
Mark Tonks & Associates Ltd
Effigy Blinds Ltd
Federation of Small Businesses
Wesleyan Assurance Society
The NEC Group
Evans Derry Solicitors
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra