Airports Commission

MQT on 2015-09-16
Session date: 
September 16, 2015
Question By: 
Richard Tracey
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Were you surprised at Sir Howard Davies' answers at the recent Assembly Plenary?


Answer for Airports Commission

Answer for Airports Commission

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Thanks, Dick.  I was surprised by what Sir Howard [former Chair, Airports Commission] had to say, particularly when he cast aspersions and doubt on the work of TfL’s officials, who in my experience over a long time have done a fantastic job for this city..  It was a grave misstep, I believe, which in my mind casts further doubt on the reliability of his role as Chair of the [Airports] Commission.

Richard Tracey AM:  Thank you, Mr Mayor.  Certainly his attacks on the professionals of TfL were very much uncalled‑for.  I think we all felt that around the Chamber.  Frankly, what I see is that many parts of the report of the Airports Commission seem to have been shot to bits by findings by TfL staff and by others.  In the session last week, Sir Howard Davies was not able to give us a categorical answer on night flights, nor indeed on the fourth runway.  He hoped that legislation would prevent the fourth runway but it seems as though the Commission’s work has been, to a very large extent, discredited.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Yes.  The report itself reveals that the air quality in some instances would be impossible to deal with and then it proposes, absurdly, that the runway should be built but not used until the air quality problems have been solved.  There is clearly a huge hole in the logic in saying that you can build a third runway but then legally prevent a fourth runway.  There are all sorts of nonsense about trying to ban night flights when already Heathrow Airport is contesting that.  They are also contesting the ban on the fourth runway. 

I thought it was very telling that this massive increase in noise pollution that London would suffer and air pollution that London would suffer does not deliver an increase in connectivity that we really want from a hub airport.  You do not get that many more destinations being served.  In fact, you get fewer domestic destinations and hardly any more international destinations.  We would continue, by going for a third runway at Heathrow, to lose ground to other European and other international airports.  It is the wrong solution for Britain and it is certainly the wrong solution for London.

Richard Tracey AM:  Those findings about connectivity seem to have been unearthed by TfL professionals from the body of the report.  It was never made particularly obvious to us when the Commission’s report was presented.

The other thing which TfL has raised is the whole question of potential road gridlock and so on around Heathrow itself.  As I see it, this is a very serious matter that ought to be taken seriously by the Government in its deliberations as to where it is going to site-- or indeed whether it is going to expand Heathrow or expand Gatwick and so on.  Would you agree with that?  It is just unacceptable now that this Commission’s work is taken as absolutely 100%.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  The Commission’s report is full of holes.  I have indicated some of them.  The Government is now in a very difficult position because the Commission has tried to skew the report so as to make it very difficult for any alternative scheme to be approved.  There will be some serious problems.  The reality is we are faced with a choice of going ahead with a very bad option that would be disastrous for London or going back to some of the ideas that were first mooted in this place a long time ago - not least by Kit Malthouse, and others - that we should really go for a radical, long‑term solution.  We will end up getting back to that answer and it is a great shame. 

I predicted all of this.  It had a grinding inevitability about it because the difficulty with the Heathrow Runway 3 is not something with which Londoners are unfamiliar.  We all know the problems.  It is interesting to see the transition that has taken place in the Labour party over the last few days and I am longing to know what impact it will actually have in Parliament.  I note that the two most senior members of the Labour front bench now are both opposed to a third runway at Heathrow.  I obviously do not agree with them about much but, on that point, they are not wrong. 

Richard Tracey AM:  Are you hopeful that with the aspirant to the mayoralty in the Labour Party and the Leader of the Labour Party, and indeed within the four mayoral candidates in the Conservative Party, the Government is going to listen to all that and actually change its view? 

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  As I said, the Government’s position is very difficult.  Do not forget that to go for Heathrow would necessitate a very considerable U‑turn by the Prime Minister ‑‑

Richard Tracey AM:  Yes, it would.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  ‑‑ and that is not something that any Prime Minister would like to have to do.  David Cameron [The Rt Hon David Cameron MP, Prime Minister] will want to find a way through in terms of a good, long‑term solution.