Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tory Concerns Grow Over Villiers Airports Policy


UPDATE 5pm: Thanks to the reader who emailed me this poster. Very funny!

There is growing disquiet among Tory MPs, and the Shadow Cabinet, about Theresa Villiers witchhunt against BAA. The Shadow Transport Secretary issued a press release yesterday headlined PROMISES FROM BAA CAN'T BE TRUSTED. The release went on to accuse BAA of breaking all its promises on a third runway.
BAA are right to admit that they have lost the trust of Parliamentarians and local communities over the third runway. However today's letter is just the next in a long line of promises which may have been sincere at the time, that were subsequently cast aside by the company. We have seen this all before. What BAA needs to realise is that people do not want a third runway, we do not need a third runway, and under a Conservative Government there will not be a third runway.

All this was said in response to a BAA proposal that a completely independent body should be set up to ensure that it is impossible for promises to be broken. Surely that was something a Shadow Transport Secretary should welcome. One has to ask what kind of message this sends out to private companies who want to act responsibly? "Sorry, we don't trust you so don't bother trying".

I have been a fierce critic of BAA in the past for its lack of investment in its airports and the terrible impression foreign visitors get when they first set foot in Heathrow. I also think that in the past it has been its own worst enemy in some of the policy positions it has adopted. It's certainly not beyond criticism now. But that criticism should be measured and logical and not driven by the agenda of a bunch of environmental fundamentalists.

Yes, BAA has changed its position on a third runway since 1994 when it said there wouldn't be one. If that's the basis of Villiers' increasingly strident and personal campaign against them (which seems to rely on West London Friends of the Earth for most of its ammunition) perhaps she should look at the transport policies of the Conservative Party and see how they have changed in the last 14 years. By her logic, no one should trust the Conservative Party either. Why are politicians allowed to change policy every two minutes, yet private companies with shareholders have to maintain the same policy for ever?

It comes to something when a group of Conservatives feel the need to form a lobby group to stand up for the aviation industry in opposition to their own front bench spokesman. But if needs must. But they are not alone. There are a substantial number of Shadow Cabinet members who are furious at Villiers' stance, and the leadership's apparent endorsement of it. Perhaps they will soon have the balls to speak out.

11 comments:

Lambeg Drum said...

Its seems Ms Villiers has joined the candidate for Richmond Park in espousing open hostility to private enterprise and consumer demand.

The question she needs to ask herself is, is the Conservative Party really the right party for her?

Primly_Stable said...

"By her logic, no one should trust the Conservative Party either. Why are politicians allowed to change policy every two minutes, yet private companies with shareholders have to maintain the same policy for ever?"

A very good point. But wasn't it just yesterday that you were castigating the PM for considering one policy (raising VAT) but then ditching it at the last minute?

Chook Overlord said...

We don't need more runways when our ability to produce oil is in decline (9% per year according to the IEA)

We do need more cycleways, and a better faster train service.

Why on earth would you build more runways in a world of peak oil? It just doesn't make any logical sense.

To bureaucrats and BAA lobbyists it might, but to geologically aware technocrats it is the height of stupidity.. with all due respect ;)

troymolloy said...

This fine mess aside, Villiers really is bloody awful; when she appears on telly she just seems to present a compelling reason not to vote Conservative. Is there anybody more annoying on the Tory benches? Having her anywhere near a front-bench role is no better from a Public Relations perspective than, say, appointing Mr Redwood as leader. Of course that's the only way in which they bear comparison; Redwood actually has talent and brains.

Blackacre said...

"By her logic, no one should trust the Conservative Party either."

Join the queue of non-trusters!

On this policy I just do not see the Cons seeing it through sadly - I will still have to vote Liberal.

Malcolm Redfellow said...

Or, for a really mixed-message, try Blasted Boris and his daft mega-airport , to be built adjacent to Britain's biggest unexploded bomb (the SS Richard Montgomery: look it up).

It's proposed for an area in which the GLA has no remit.

It's totally beyond credible finance.

The pilot study will be by Oakervee, the project manager for HKG airport ($20B and the opening made T5 look a raving success). The HK authorities denounced Oakervee pretty comprehensively. Oakervee is currently Head Lar of Crossrail -- which is partly underwritten by BAA, on the expectation of plenty at LHR. Doh! [Oh, look, Private Eye is doing a full piece on just this.]

According to GLA question no. 2449/2008, Johnson assures us: "The review is underway and will be completed by the end of the year." Wowza! some £10B sorted within the next six weeks!

And -- phew! -- according to GLA answer no.2557/2008, Johnson believes there is no conflict between his ideas, those of Ms Villiers, and anyone with a smidgeon of realism: "Conservative Party aviation policy is clear."

scott redding said...

And to think that so many people bought into the idea of "Vote Blue, Go Green" ... when push comes to shove, it's about the corporate interests of BAA, not the environmental damage (emissions plus noise pollution) that an expansion of Heathrow will bring.

African Mum said...

So, the Conservative Party doesn't care about people's quality of life then?
We elected a Tory council as they cared about this runway issue and are putting people before profit. Villiers is merely following the same honourable path.
Interesting to see many in her party seem to think she's wrong.

trevorsden said...

I like to think of myself a gool'ol right wwing Tory

I think BAA are a bunch of robbing bastards. I happen to think that an umpteenth runway at Heathrow will be an absolute disaster - the access is appalling as it is the problems for the locals will be awful. The downside is zero. If BAA want to build another overpriced shopping mall then let them build it elsewhere, if the management do not liked it, let them bugger off back to Spain.

Real progress for the 21st Century would be to build a new airport on reclaimed land (like the Japanese) and turn Heathrow into something useful.

BTW - lumping a customer fleecing monopoly like BAA in with 'private enterprise' is a pathetic miserable joke.

Simon Lamb said...

Just this week the Government has added further costs on the airline industry:
huge increases to the passenger duty (a good Tory idea from Kenneth Clarke)
confirmed aviation will form part of the Climate Change levy from 2012.
So who is so sure they need another runway at Heathrow. Airlines are folding almost as rapidly as Tory MPs on election night in 1997. Most MPs who spoke in the recent Heathrow debate in Parliament -from all parties - oppose further expansion at Heathrow.
Not sure why you have such a personal animus against Theresa Villiers - not because she is younger than you, and happened to win a safe Tory seat in 2005 is it?!

Malcolm Redfellow said...

OK, OK -- I'm not an agent provocateur (Gawd! she's wearing their underwear! Pant, pant!)

Nor a euro-fanatic. (As if, as if!)

But, seriously:

What's wrong with having international connections ninety minutes from St Pancras? All it involves is a check-in for "sealed carriages" (it worked in April 1917, for Lenin to the Finland Station) and direct transfers to CDG or AMS (with a lot less finance than anything involving LHR, or the Blasted Boris's £10B fantasy).

Let's be honest: what, apart from some national bragging right, is to lose?