Government denies runway split

NUMBER 10 last night dismissed reports the Cabinet was deeply split over whether to build extra runways at Stansted Airport.It was reported that Prime Minister Tony Blair favoured expanding at the Essex airport rather than at Heathrow because fewer Labour votes were at stake in the largely rural area.

NUMBER 10 last night dismissed reports the Cabinet was deeply split over whether to build extra runways at Stansted Airport.

It was reported that Prime Minister Tony Blair favoured expanding at the Essex airport rather than at Heathrow because fewer Labour votes were at stake in the largely rural area.

Reports said the Prime Minister backed expansion at Stansted and the Chancellor supported Heathrow. It was said ministers were divided along Blair/ Brown lines with the Chancellor Gordon Brown preferring Heathrow on stronger economic grounds.

The reports stated the estimates suggested a runway at Heathrow would earn at least £16bn more than one at Stansted.


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Anti-Stansted expansion campaigners were yesterdayangry that party politics were dictating what they said should be an economic and environmental decision.

Carol Barbone, campaign director of Stop Stansted Expansion, which is set to meet Aviation Minister Tony McNulty on Monday, said: "The lack of an economic case for expanding Stansted has clearly been acknowledged by Gordon Brown.

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"BAA also admits that a second Stansted runway would not be commercially viable without cross-subsidisation from Heathrow.

"The economics just don't stack up. For Tony Blair to make party politics the prime consideration is wholly unacceptable – and in flagrant breach of the whole consultation process."

She added: "If the Prime Minister thinks he is going to have an easy ride by forcing his views on the people of this region, he'll be taking on more than he bargained for."

Tony Blair's official spokesman yesterday dismissed the rumours at his morning meeting with Lobby journalists.

He told reporters: "To characterise this issue as a dispute or a row is wrong. The fact of the matter is that a process of consultation is currently under way.

"This will result in a Government White Paper to be published in December and a preference will be announced then."

He added: "Until then, we have nothing further to say about the issue."

The row comes the day after the EADT reported that a leading economist has cast doubts over the feasibility of creating extra runways at Stansted.

In his report, The Economics of Stansted Airport, Professor David Starkie argued the airport's perceived success in recent years was achieved by attracting low-cost, low-airfare airlines.

It had only managed to finance itself by drawing on cash generated at BAA's two other main airports, Gatwick and Heathrow.

The issue of extra runways at Stansted has sparked controversy in East Anglia with former Beirut hostage Terry Waite and chef Jamie Oliver, opposing the "concreting over" of land containing some of the highest concentrations of listed buildings in the UK.

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