Steve Double is Member of Parliament for St Austell and Newquay.
It is now over a year since the Independent Airports Commission unanimously and unambiguously reported back in favour of Heathrow expansion to deliver more substantial economic and strategic benefits than any other option. Yet still the decision to grant Heathrow a third runway and deliver these promised benefits has not been taken.
I am confident that the Conservative Party is the only party that can – as we have been doing since 2010 – secure a stronger economy for people and their families across the UK. And as part of this, we should approve the Heathrow expansion to deliver our manifesto commitment to secure our economic recovery by investing in infrastructure to attract businesses and good jobs across the whole of the UK. As Conservatives, we have a responsibility to encourage growth and enterprise, back the job-creators and make sure that no region of the country gets left behind. We must not stand in the way of infrastructure development that is so clearly in the national interest.
Last year, we won a majority precisely because we were seen as the party best placed to deliver a growing economy by creating more jobs since 2010 than the rest of the EU combined. The Great Recession gave way to a Great Revival but with the uncertainty that has followed the EU referendum vote, we must ensure that it does not stall. Whatever your view on the recent referendum, at a time of short-term uncertainty about Britain’s economy and a longer-term debate about our place in the world, it is vital that all regions have convenient connections to the markets of the world. Heathrow expansion is the only option that can provide this connectivity – only Heathrow has all the cargo infrastructure already in place – to safeguard our Great Revival, whether you live in Newquay, Nairn or Newry.
This is why 38 UK airports back Heathrow; they understand that a third runway will connect their regions to the 40 new long haul routes to emerging markets that expansion would secure. The Conservative manifesto recognised that we need to move away from the slow-growing economies of Europe to achieve our long term economic plan and focus on fast growing economies to drive direct investment and increase tourism. Heathrow provides the readymade plan – and proven track record – to deliver this whilst fulfilling our manifesto pledge to grow the economy, increase employment and raise living standards. And as an added bonus – Heathrow expansion is completely privately funded. It will inject £16 billion of private money in to the UK economy.
Alongside this, I am proud that since 2010, this Government has committed to the challenging task of rebalancing the economy; something that was allowed to go unchecked for too long. With clear policies to improve the connectivity of the South West, Northern Powerhouse, Midlands and East of England – the Conservatives are committing to a truly national recovery. By connecting the nations and regions with modern transport links, we can enable great towns and cities to pool their strength. Securing the UK’s global hub status and showing that we are open for business will improve the ability of constituencies like mine in St Austell and Newquay to be able to trade with the world. Expanding Heathrow would give this plan a kick start by spreading £114 billion of economic benefits to UK areas outside of London and the South East.
It seems counterintuitive to make all corners of UK more accessible to business, if the front door – Heathrow – remains too crowded to get through. Gatwick is not an option; it cannot sustain routes to emerging markets that Britain needs to secure its post-Brexit future. New research published this week shows that despite its spare capacity, Gatwick made a net loss of four frequent long haul flights over the past six years, whilst Heathrow – at capacity – made a net gain of six.
This is comprehensive proof that British – and international – businesses want Heathrow. As Conservatives, we pride ourselves in listening to the markets and encouraging business growth to create jobs and life chances. Yet, by delaying Heathrow, we are ignoring the markets – and conventional Conservative wisdom – and hindering the economic growth we were elected to deliver. As a Party, we must stop putting our hands over our ears, listen to the rest of the world knocking at our front door and expand Heathrow.