Campaigners against airport expansion are calling for a judicial review of last week’s decision by the Airports Commission to recommend a third runway at Heathrow.
The Teddington Action Group is seeking the review as it argues there is a potential conflict of interest due to Howard Davies’s decision to accept the chairmanship of Royal Bank of Scotland – the bank for companies which own Gatwick and Heathrow airports.
It also feels the Commission’s consultation on air quality was “rushed” and “insufficiently publicised” so not enough time was given to respond.
A treasury solicitor acting on behalf of the Airports Commission has rejected the claims stating that “no resolutions” have yet to be passed to put Davies on the board of RBS. “He therefore has no formal employment or other contractual relationship with RBD during his tenure as chair of the Commission.
Teddington Action group spokesman Paul McGuinness said: “A fair minded and informed observer knows that Sir Howard is to become chairman of RBS.
“It has long been in the public domain and widely publicised by interested parties. And more to the point, Sir Howard Davies has, during the most sensitive period of the Airports Commission's work, known that he would become Chairman of RBS, a bank that has a financial interest in the recommendation to which he has steered his Commission. And, as a fair minded and informed observer could tell you, the absence of a currently binding contract of employment doesn't alter that fact.”
McGuinness added: “We are advised that the Treasury Solicitor's response, on behalf of the Airports Commission, is inadequate and that we should be able to see this Judicial Review through to a successful conclusion.”
‘Tip of the iceberg’
“Delaying the decision to build a new runway will have a very real economic cost for our country. The Commission has been clear in its recommendation to the Government, and so are we – get on with building it without delay,” said CBI deputy general director Katja Hall.
“A new runway will help rebalance our economy, prevent us handing opportunity to our rivals and avoid a future bill for our inaction.”
She added: “Our failure to increase flights to BRIC countries alone will cost the UK as much as £31 billion in lost trade in the period it takes to build a new runway.
“That’s just from a lack of flights to the BRIC countries – just the tip of the iceberg.
“In fact, in 15 years, if we still don’t have capacity up and running, the cost of lost trade to the BRICs will reach up to an additional £5.3 billion a year. If we get to this point, we could be paying in excess of £600,000 an hour in lost trade.
“With timescales of 10-15 years to build new capacity, we shouldn’t have got this far down the line without a plan of action.
“That’s money down the drain - there’s nothing we can do about it now. But what we can do is avoid any future delays.”