Expanding Heathrow will help the economy to take off

By Philip Davies MP, Cons, Shipley

Long before the Airports Commission delivered their unanimous recommendation to expand Heathrow, the market had delivered the same unambiguous response. The airport has been full for a decade. There’s a queue of airlines wanting to put on more flights from Heathrow but there simply isn’t the space. 

EasyJet is just one of these. They have said that if Heathrow expands, they will start operating from the airport. They would compete with British Airways on existing short haul routes. That would lead to lower fares and better service for passengers travelling to London, or through Heathrow and onwards to the rest of the world, from domestic airports in the UK currently only served by British Airways.

The low cost airline has also committed to reconnecting areas of the UK that have lost their link to Heathrow due to the lack of capacity – such as Inverness, the Isle of Man, and Jersey. It is embarrassing that Schiphol airport in Amsterdam now markets itself as the UK’s favourite hub airport with British businesses now having to encourage many export buyers and investors to reach British shores via the European mainland. This is simply because our Government has failed to allow private shareholders to invest their money in a successful British asset.

Along with domestic routes being squeezed out, the UK’s links to crucial emerging markets are not being developed. With Heathrow full, airlines are not putting on flights to Kunming from other UK airports, they are taking their business to our competitors in mainland Europe: Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt. It is these airports – along with Heathrow – that have the scale and the transfer facilities to make routes to vital new markets commercially viable. The French, Germans and Dutch all recognise this and are investing in their hub airports – not to mention the newer airports in Istanbul and the Gulf.

This investment is good news for passengers because it means there is now fantastic competition between these hub airports. One only has to look at the transformation of the passenger experience at Heathrow over the last decade to realise it. But we are placing the British horse at a disadvantage in the global race. This helps to grow the economies of our competitors in Europe, and grow ticket prices for UK passengers.

The Airports Commission was absolutely right to conclude that if we allow Heathrow to expand, “All passengers will benefit from enhanced competition.” It is a simple case of supply and demand. Demand for air travel is continually growing. The places that British business needs to reach are often a long way away. In many cases, there is no alternative. Yet, as a country, we continue to constrain supply.

The extent to which this is damaging the British economy is clear from the strength of support for Heathrow expansion. Chambers of Commerce the length and breadth of the UK have voiced their support for expansion. All the major employers’ organisations including the Confederation of British Industry, Institute of Directors and Federation of Small Businesses have joined them. Here in Yorkshire and the Humber, both Leeds Bradford airport and the local Chambers of Commerce have recognised that Heathrow expansion could be worth up to £9bn for the economy and create over 11,000 jobs in the region.

If manufacturers in our region are to boost their exports, they need to be able to access those markets. If we are going to attract more high value tourists from the new middle classes of the Far East and South America, then need to be able to get here. If we our banks and business are to attract increased levels of foreign direct investment, we need to be connected to those investors. Heathrow is that connection and expansion offers Yorkshire – and all the nations and regions of the UK – a competitive advantage in the global economy. These are the people and the companies who make up the British economy. They have made their voices heard and we, as elected representatives, should listen.

If one is still in any doubt, let us finally turn to the results of the General Election. A Conservative Government was elected on a manifesto of securing the prosperity of Britain. Three fundamental pillars of this are cutting the deficit, boosting the UK’s exports and upgrading our outdated infrastructure. We will not be able to deliver on and of these – not to mention remaining firmly at the heart of the global economy – if we give up strategic competitive advantages like the trading links that Heathrow offers.

Any further delay in full throttle Government support merely serves to keep British business grounded. Expanding Heathrow will help the economy to take off. The market has spoken; business has spoken; the people have spoken. The Government must now support the expansion of Heathrow and allow the private sector to deliver for Britain.