20 APRIL 2015


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Article from BTNews 20 APRIL 2015

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COMMENT:   The party manifestoes – Nothing is not an option

Last week BTN’s COMMENT column “Election misgivings” noted that one issue has been more or less neglected so far from the forthcoming General Election debate and that is air transport.

This has now been just about put right with the manifestoes, but in a very low key way. 

It is progress of some sort.  When the current coalition government came to power the deteriorating airport situation was virtually ignored and we lost five years.  At least we have the impending report by Sir Howard Davies and his team to look forward to. 

The Conservative manifesto is fairly light on aviation matters, merely stating that the party will “respond” to the Airports Commission’s Final Report.  There is plenty about funding new infrastructure (£100bn over the next Parliament) and delivering the National Infrastructure Plan.  Boosting tourism is also mentioned, including setting targets for VisitBritain and VisitEngland to ensure that more visitors travel outside of London, and speeding up and simplifying the issuing of visas.
With Labour there is even less and we quote:  “Following the Davies Review, we will make a swift decision on expanding airport capacity in London and the South East, balancing the need for growth and the environmental impact.

The manifesto also stated Labour will introduce a small charge on non-visa visitors to the UK, in order to recruit an additional 1,000 borders staff. 

The party also reiterated its support for the construction of HS2 but there was no mention of Air Passenger Duty (APD).
The Labour Party also makes a commitment to set up a National Infrastructure Commission “to assess how best to meet Britain’s infrastructure needs”.
With the Liberal Democrats, the party more or less responsible for present Heathrow discomfiture, their pledge is to complete the goal of a zero-carbon Britain by 2050 whilst ensuring airport infrastructure “meets the needs of a modern and open economy.”

They remain opposed to any expansion of Heathrow, Stansted or Gatwick and any new airport in the Thames Estuary because of “issues of air and noise pollution” and ensure that there will be “no net increase in runways across the UK.”

UKIP are unlikely to form part of the next government but they say they want to re-open Manston Airport.  We have said enough about Manston. John McEnroe summed it up.  “They can’t be serious.”

The Scottish Nationalists make the case for the early devolution of APD so they can use their new power to encourage more direct flights to Scotland, with a reduction of 50% and longer term plans to abolish APD altogether. 
The British Air Transport Association welcomed the decision on airport expansion and said a “speedy decision will enable substantial progress to be made during the life of the next Parliament.”

This was more or less reiterated by Tim Alderslade, Head of Public Affairs at the Airport Operators Association (AOA).  “We have been saying for some time, the Government of the day needs to act on the recommendations as soon as possible in the new Parliament, whilst also ensuring that policies are put in place to make best use of the capacity that already exists in the system, through areas such as APD reform and improving surface access.  The fact that the two largest parties, which contain the only leaders with a realistic chance of becoming Prime Minister, have kept open the possibility of increasing UK airport capacity is a welcome development.”

Let Britain Fly is just as positive saying that the message to whoever forms the new Government requires to be constructive: “Doing nothing on airport expansion is not an option.  The country needs a quick decision to expand London and South East airports.”

And that sums up the view of  Business Travel News  as well.  Nothing is not an option.

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OUR READERS' FINEST WORDS (All times and dates are GMT)

All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum

David Bentley , Manchester, UK

The UKIP thing about Manston is only because Farage is the candidate for Thanet. Of course they aren't serious. As for the rest of them, there was supposed to be cross-party support for Davies' recommendation. Fat chance of that. But what do you expect from politicians, the most untrustworthy species on the planet?