Alok Sharma, the Member of Parliament for Reading West, speaking in Parliament last week, called for an expansion in airport capacity in the south-east of England at the earliest opportunity.
In a House of Commons debate on the future of aviation strategy on Thursday 24th October 2013, Alok spoke about the need for the political parties to “show a bit of backbone” and to implement the recommendations the Airport Commission when it publishes its final report in summer 2015, “whatever those recommendations might be”.
Making the case for an expansion in airport capacity Alok explained that “the lack of certainty is bad for business and investment” and that other European rivals, such as “Frankfurt, Schiphol and Charles de Gaulle are all getting ahead in the global race that we want to win.” Pointing out the severity of the situation with regards to the lack of available capacity, Alok pointed out that: “more flights leave Frankfurt for cities in China in a week than leave Heathrow for the whole world in a weekend. That must tell us something.”
Alok encouraged the Airport Commission to consider all the options and to not shy away from imaginative ideas, such as the proposals by the Centre for Policy Studies which “talks about doubling capacity from two to four runways and suggests that that can be done at no cost to the public purse.”
However, Alok did make clear his support for keeping Heathrow open. He said: “the one thing I would find disturbing in any final recommendation would be a solution that ultimately led to the closure of Heathrow. That would be bad news for business and jobs.”
Highlighting the economic benefits that Heathrow Airport brings to the region, Alok referenced figures from an economic impact report commissioned by the Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership, stating: “£1 in every £10 of UK economic output is generated in the western wedge area around Heathrow, and ... aviation and related activity at Heathrow supports about 120,000 jobs there.” In addition to those 120,000 jobs that directly rely on Heathrow Airport, Alok also pointed to evidence that suggests that “the closure of Heathrow would put at risk another 170,000 jobs in the western wedge area.”