For people living and working across the South West, the provision of adequate transport infrastructure is essential to ensure we stay connected with each other and the rest of the country. I recently welcomed the Government’s commitment to invest £7.2 billion in the South West’s transport infrastructure over this Parliament, which should bring jobs, growth and investment across the region.
I am now calling on the Prime Minister to take a bold step to secure national connectivity for years to come by making a decision on airport expansion.
I welcomed the Airports Commission’s recent report which recommended expansion at Heathrow to boost jobs, growth and investment across the country. After almost three years examining the issue in detail, the Commission concluded that an additional runway at the airport was the best decision for Britain, with stringent measures in place to mitigate the noise, air quality and environmental impacts.
I was encouraged that David Cameron responded positively to the report, and acknowledged the need for additional airport capacity in the South East. In our 2015 manifesto we pledged to respond to the Commission’s work, and I am confident that in his reply the Prime Minister will take into account the national case for expansion.
In my view, one of the most significant conclusions of the report was how expansion at Heathrow could support and improve air links between London and the regions and nations of the UK. Over the past ten years as the airport has filled up, flights to domestic destinations across the UK have been ‘squeezed out’, falling from 19 in 1990 to just seven today. This has meant that cities such as Inverness, Liverpool and of course Newquay Cornwall airport in the constituency I have the honour of representing, have lost their flight connections to the UK’s only international hub airport.
Air links with London are vital for businesses, tourists and residents across the UK. A connection with Heathrow – which doesn’t just open up access into the capital, but on to international markets, both emerging and established – is greatly valued by cities across the country, and could be delivered through expansion.
While the Government’s recent intervention to support the air link between Newquay and Gatwick was a welcome boost for the region, it does not and cannot provide the same benefits as a link with the country’s only international hub airport. An investment in Heathrow is an investment in national infrastructure, and could deliver up to £211bn in economic growth and 180,000 new jobs. From my own conversations with Heathrow, I believe that there is a good chance that expansion would bring a connection to Newquay, and with it economic growth and opportunity.
In my mind, it is clear. Now an unequivocal recommendation has been made by the Commission, expansion needs to be delivered in a timely manner. A decision must be made by the end of the year, followed by a vote in Parliament by summer 2016.
The issue of airport expansion has suffered from years of dither and delay, and it is not just London which needs the certainty of a decision. I would be proud to be part of a Government and a party which put an end to indecision and finally delivered on expansion – an act which could bring benefits not just to the capital, nor to the constituents in Newquay and the people of Cornwall, but to businesses and communities across the country.