Lord Soley Flies In The Face Of Popular Opinion

Former local MP says 'Heathrow expansion critically important to economic prosperity’

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The strength of feeling against the expansion of Heathrow Airport is unmistakable, but what of those who support the Government’s Aviation White Paper?

Campaign group Future Heathrow, led by former local MP Lord Soley of Hammersmith, was set up to highlight the economic importance of Heathrow and encourage sustainable expansion at the airport. Made up of a coalition of business groups, trade unions, airlines and professional organisations, the group seeks the modernisation of Heathrow, a third runway and an emphasis on sustainability in aviation.

Before his knighthood, Clive Soley represented Hammersmith and then Ealing, Acton and Shepherds Bush as an MP for 26 years.

He said “Heathrow is critically important to the economic prosperity of West London and the Thames Valley and is a uniquely valuable asset to London and the UK.

“However, there’s a real threat to the airport unless its development continues. Visit any modern airport in Europe and you will see how Heathrow has fallen behind. In 1990, Heathrow served more destinations in Europe than any other airport except Frankfurt. By 2004, it was overtaken by Amsterdam, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Munich and, without the third runway, will be overtaken by Madrid, Milan and Rome, by 2015. These airports will continue to increase their competitive advantage over Heathrow until it is able to increase its capacity.

“We believe Heathrow can develop in a way that is sensitive to environmental issues and the needs of the local population. We have a duty to address the local residents’ concerns but their economic welfare is linked to Heathrow and no one will thank us for ducking difficult decisions now if we store up greater problems for the future.”

On the issue of climate change Lord Soley said “Virtually everyone now takes climate change very seriously and that includes nearly everyone in the aviation industry but we need a planned reaction, not a panic reaction. The Stern report indicates the way forward and everyone in business and all of us in our personal lives need to do our best to reduce carbon emissions. But we will do no one any favours if we target Heathrow’s modernisation and expansion in the naïve belief that this will solve the problem of climate change. The majority of the population know that we need a more sophisticated response to this problem.”

The latest Civil Aviation Authority passenger survey of Heathrow showed that:
34% of passengers were business travellers;
33% were visiting relatives and friends;
28% were leisure travellers.


February 21, 2008