Mayor of London lobbies for Thames estuary airport but prime minister says he won't be given veto on third Heathrow runway
David Cameron has slapped down the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, for attacking a major inquiry into airport expansion.
The prime minister said Johnson was wrong to dismiss the option of a third runway at Heathrow, adding that the mayor would not be given a veto on the issue.
"In the end the decision is a national decision that the government has to lead," Cameron told the Times. "What is not right is to say, I only want my options considered and not anyone else's."
The rebuke came after Johnson stepped up his criticism of the airports commission, suggesting that it would not be reasonable or impartial and that the plan for final decisions to be taken after 2015 was far too slow.
Johnson said the inquiry, headed by the former Financial Services Authority chairman Sir Howard Davies, should not even consider a third runway at Heathrow, which he said would be "a complete disaster for the people of London".
The mayor, who favours a new Thames estuary airport, said it would be toxic for the Davies commission to report after the 2015 general election, adding that it represented a "policy of utter inertia".
However, Cameron said it was right that Sir Howard went into his probe with a "completely open mind".
"What I would say to Boris, what I have said to Boris is that for the first time a government has properly put all the options, including estuary options, on the table," the premier said.
"Boris is passionate about the idea of an estuary airport. Now he has a forum in which to put forward his arguments in a way that he hasn't in the past."
The Tory grandee Michael Heseltine has also stressed the need for urgent decisions on aviation capacity, while Sir Howard has admitted that the timetable could be construed as kicking the issue into "the long grass".
But he said "political reality" had to be taken into account and there was a "strong case" for building consensus in the crucial policy area.
Sir Howard's task is to bring out an interim report by the end of 2013 and a full report in summer 2015, after the next general election.
Airlines and airport operators are pushing for more capacity, particularly in the south-east. But there is disagreement on how to achieve this, with Johnson backing a new airport and others preferring to see expansion at Heathrow or one of the other big airports.
- David Cameron
- Boris Johnson
- Airline industry
- Heathrow third runway
- Travel and transport
- Air transport