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Labour U-turn on Heathrow "short-sighted"

Frustrated industry leaders appeal to government following news Labour could block Heathrow Airport's third runway

Pictured: Labour sources have said they will block the third runway plans at Heathrow on environmental grounds

"Frustrating" and "short-sighted" is how events professionals have reacted to news that Labour could move to block the expansion of Heathrow Airport.

The party has indicated that it would vote against the third runway, after senior allies of Jeremy Corbyn told the Financial Times they were opposed on environmental grounds. It puts at risk plans for the £16.5 billion runway, with up to 60 Tory MPs opposed to the expansion of Heathrow.

Jason Geall, vice president and general manager for Northern Europe, American Express Global Business Travel said: "It is frustrating to learn the Labour Party is likely to vote against the expansion of Heathrow Airport when the issue comes before Parliament. 

"Labour previously expressed concerns about the proposed third runway at Heathrow, but it appears somewhat short-sighted to oppose the plans at this stage given that during the general election campaign the leadership committed to expanding airport capacity in the South East.

"Following the decision to leave the EU, it remains imperative that we seek to improve the current infrastructure network to support international trade – airport expansion remains, of course, a crucial facet.

"At a time when official government policy seems committed to leaving the Customs Union and forging new trade deals, it makes little sense to restrict our key international trade artery. Now is the time to make decisions that bolster our trade connections with marketplaces around the globe – this must include an expanded hub airport."

The Guild of Travel Management Companies CEO Adrian Parkes similarly said the decision by Labour MPs was "frustrating".

"Like any organisation that represents the views and needs of UK businesses, the GTMC has long made its position clear; airport expansion is a must for the UK economy, not a nice to have. Our research, conducted in partnership with Oxford Economics, shows a direct link between air connectivity and economic prosperity. Just a one per cent increase in international air travel for business has the potential to increase trade by around 0.09 per cent, the equivalent to around £600 million. Empowering greater air travel through new routes has significant positive knock-on benefits to the wider economy," he said.

"The GTMC represents the business travel industry, a sector that supports and manages the international expansion of UK businesses worldwide through their ability to travel. There is no scenario in which curtailing air connectivity can mean growth for the UK economy. Heathrow is at capacity, both as an international gateway and a regional hub for UK airports outside of the South East.

"We yet again urge politicians of all parties to seriously review any possible plan not to approve airport expansion. Parliamentary decision makers need to think beyond the next election, and take a long term view that considers the nationwide impact of not allowing air connectivity to stimulate economic growth. The infrastructure to access other growing markets is essential post-Brexit to avoid UK businesses becoming disadvantaged compared to overseas competitors. Without greater air capacity jobs will be lost to other countries."

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