It now looks as though a decision on expanding Heathrow (or Gatwick), which had been pencilled in for this summer, could be slipping back again.
Patrick McLoughlin, the Transport Secretary, certainly seemed to be bracing us for more waiting when quizzed over airport expansion on LBC yesterday. The current deadline is the summer. But McLoughlin said the busy political timetable could get in the way of that – and spoke about summer as aspiration rather than a firm deadline.
‘I hope later this year, we have said we hope to move some way by the summer. There are lots of other things that are going on in the political spectrum – if there’s a referendum this summer and the like, but I would hope by the summer of this year we’ll be able to make progress.’
The apparent delay is not the first time the Government has prevaricated over the toxic decision of airport expansion. Previously, it was widely thought the mayoral campaign and Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith’s staunch opposition to making Heathrow larger was the reason behind the timetable shift. Zac has said he’d resign his seat in protest if the government went for Heathrow, a squabble that neither need midway through a Mayoral election campaign. Zac’s main selling point, remember, is his good relations with the Tory government.
Speaking to Nick Ferrari, McLoughlin again stuck to the Government’s line, saying the mayoral contest ‘didn’t have any bearing’ on the earlier delay.
But the latest shift in language does give an insight into the focus ministers will be giving to the EU referendum. Whether the decision is made in the summer or later this year, though, the final ruling is not getting any easier for the Government.