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Greater Birmingham & Black Country MPs rally in defence of Birmingham Airport

Greater Birmingham & Black Country MPs rally in defence of Birmingham Airport

🕔17.Dec 2013

MPs from across the West Midlands demonstrated uncharacteristic solidarity during questions to the Secretary of State for Transport over the interim report from the Davies Commission.

The Commission’s initial report focused heavily on proposals for expansion in London and the South EastThe three principle recommendations in the interim report concern expansion at Heathrow or Gatwick (with the Thames Estuary, also known as Boris Island not completely ruled out), leaving Birmingham to wait until decisions are made about the runway after next for 2050 and beyond.

In response to the report, MPs from across the Midlands – overcoming party lines – corralled around the Birmingham cause in the House of Commons during questions to Patrick McLoughlin.

Opening the barrage, Jack Dromey cited  both Birmingham Airport CEO Paul Kehoe and the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce stating that the report “entrenched” the South East’s economy to the “detriment” of the regions, going on to say:

“Does the Secretary of State recognise that in circumstances where Birmingham wants the expansion of its airport, where the expansion of Birmingham Airport will be key to economic growth in the Midlands, that Britain cannot succeed through London and the South East alone?”

McLoughlin responded: “I am a passionate believer in the role of airports outside London. The first time I appeared before the Select Committee, I said that we should stop describing airports such as Birmingham and Manchester as regional airports, because they are major international airports in their own right. I want to see those airports—along with East Midlands airport—serving their local communities. On page 195 of its report, the commission says that it does not see ‘a strong case for expansion at Birmingham'” at the moment, but that may well change by 2050. Moreover, being served directly by HS2 will give the airport a great opportunity for the future.”

Ian Austin, Gisela Stuart and Steve McCabe went onto express Labour frustration that any recommendation from the Commission for expansion at Birmingham Airport would be delayed until mid century.

Austin said the ‘people of the Midlands’ would be “utterly staggered that they should have to wait until 2050 before any consideration will be given to its expansion” while Ms Stuart quipped: “I’m not sure I derive much comfort that the expansion of Birmingham being decided in 2050 – by which time I’ll be 95 years old.” Steve McCabe went on to ask:

“Can I point out that it will cost at least £6 billion to build a new runway at Heathrow? Birmingham could cater for two thirds of the projected passenger increase at less than two per cent that cost without the need to demolish schools, villages or homes. Why aren’t these considerations worthy to be looked at now?

Alluding to the presence of Aston University’s Professor Dame Julia King, the cabinet minister commented: “Those considerations were looked at by the commission, and there is someone on the commission who works in Birmingham.”

If McLoughlin expected an easier ride from Government backbenchers, he was to be disappointed. Conservatives Caroline Spelman and Karen Lumley as well as Liberal Democrat Lorely Burt all expressed dissatisfaction at the omission of Birmingham Airport from the recommendations, while Mark Garnier captured the Midland MPs feelings by stating “My Right Honourable friend made mention of the fact he is seeking political consensus across the chamber – by now he will no doubt have gathered there is practically political unanimity behind Birmingham Airport.”

James Morris delivered perhaps the most pragmatic line for Birmingham’s case to be included in the immediate shortlist:

“Would the secretary of state share my disappointment that the commission hasn’t been bolder in looking at Birmingham Airport as a long term solution and wouldn’t it have made more sense if we are considering options in London and the South East to have an option outside London and the South East which is credible?”

However, the Transport Secretary batted away their efforts, describing MPs as the Birmingham “mafia”, accusing them of running a “lobbying exercise”:

“What I see, and what I see everywhere I go is a very strong lobbying exercise – or representation exercise – on behalf of Birmingham Airport and quite rightly so to – it’s a very good airport, it’s one airport I like and use regularly. But what I would say is this, that I think Birmingham by what it has already done – it’s expansion, in its extending the runway – will be able to offer more services to the people of the West Midlands and I very much hope to take advantage of it.”

He went onto say: “I’m pleased to see the Birmingham lobbying exercise spreading to the whole of West Midlands. They are a united front as far as the West Midlands is concerned. But there is nothing to stop, and indeed I would want to encourage, Birmingham to expand.”

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