Government accused of being 'gutless' over latest Heathrow delay

Reaction to the government's announcement that it is to delay a decision on the expansion of Heathrow airport by at least six months features in today's newspaper round-up.

The Telegraph reports that Prime Minister David Cameron last night "provoked a furious reaction from business leaders" and was accused of being "gutless" after putting off the decision. The newspaper quotes John Longworth, the director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, saying: "Businesses will see this as a gutless move by a government that promised a clear decision on a new runway by the end of the year."

An editorial in the newspaper calls for a Parliamentary vote to decide on the issue. It says that "since both Zac Goldsmith, the Tory [mayoral] hopeful, and Labour’s Sadiq Khan are against Heathrow’s expansion, whoever wins will use their City Hall platform to campaign against it. Since this is a nationally important project, the only way to end this farce is for the government to put the options to Parliament and let MPs decide. Someone has to."

The Times (subscription required) reports that the owner of British Airways has threatened to give up on Heathrow and move overseas after warning that passenger charges will double to pay for a "gold-plated" third runway. The newspaper says that Willie Walsh, the chief executive of BA’s parent company, said that he could "develop our business" in Dublin or Madrid rather than pay for the expansion of Heathrow.

Writing in the Financial Times (subscription required) the economist Martin Wolf says that, to expand the supply of housing, government "must slay the sacred cows, the green belts around cities being the holiest of all." Wolf adds: "Local governments must be hugely rewarded for promoting development. To its credit, the government has made tentative steps in the right direction. It must now go further."

The Guardian’s Pass Notes column looks at the thorny issue of green belt development.


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