Villiers: Hoon turns to BAA to write his aviation policy
Geoff Hoon’s first move as Transport Secretary has been to approve plans to increase the flight numbers at Stansted airport.
Commenting on the announcement, Shadow Transport Secretary, Theresa Villiers said:
“We have always taken the view that Stansted could, with some important safeguards, handle more passengers with its existing runway. Nevertheless we are concerned about a number of issues particularly as it seems to have taken less than a week for Geoff Hoon to allow BAA to start writing Government aviation policy.
“Will the extra flights mean that flying hours will be extended with implications for quality of life for local residents? It was only two years ago the government tried to lift the night cap on designated airports - a move we fought strongly against. And what is being done to improve the rail service to Stansted, which has actually deteriorated in recent years?
“As with a third runway at Heathrow, Conservatives strongly oppose a second runway at Stansted.”
This is puerile politics. It is fatuous to accuse BAA of writing government aviation policy. Only a few weeks ago it was announced that BAA had to lose two of its airports. I suspect it would be difficult to imagine BAA penning that particular policy. BAA has no doubt put forward arguments and they have been accepted - either in whole or in part. I too am very sceptical about the merits of expanding Stansted, but to turn your face against any sort of expansion in the South East is to turn your face against economic expansion in general. Now that they have ruled out expansion at both Heathrow and Stansted, does this mean the Conservatives now support expansion at Gatwick? I suspect not. In which case, the natural implication is that they are happy for business to disappear over the channel to Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt. It's a reasonable position to hold, but one I never thought I would see the Conservative Party promulgating.
If you accuse BAA of writing government aviation policy, it is then perfectly reasonable for Labour to accuse the Tories of allowing their aviation policy to be written by Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace. Either accusation is, of course, laughable, but then so is this press release.