The biggest airport expansion for 60 years will be approved today when the Government gives the go-ahead to a £9 billion third runway and sixth terminal at Heathrow.
Why, then, do I suddenly hail Lord Mandelson as a saviour? The less obvious reason is the inaction announced this week – over a new runway at Heathrow .I described on this page last year the overwhelming economic and business arguments against the expansion of Heathrow – and since then most of these contentions have been confirmed There is debate in Westminster about Lord Mandelson’s precise role in dissuading the Prime Minister from his economically stupid, environmentally destructive and electorally suicidal obsession with expanding Heathrow. But the decision to delay this foolish project bears the hallmarks of the more sophisticated and pragmatic understanding of the interactions between politics, economics, public opinion and business lobbying that Lord Mandelson brings to government.
Poor Anatole, a brilliant writer who has specialised lately in confessing errors. However this one was avoidable if he had listened to noises off from the Westminster lobby or had pricked up his ears at Prime Ministers Questions, hours before his copy deadline.
Q Will he now make a pledge that any further expansion at Heathrow will be subject to a vote in this Chamber?
The Prime Minister: The hon. GentlemanI thinkknows the procedure that we are following on this. First, there was a decision in principlesubject to air noise, subject to pollution and subject to access. The Secretary of State is examining this matter and he will report to Parliament. There will be a debate about what he says in the questions that follow. Then, if the matter were accepted and a proposal were put by the Secretary of State, it would go to a planning inquiry
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London