Alok Sharma, the Member of Parliament for Reading West, on Monday 1st July 2014, chaired a debate in Parliament at which business leaders from the Thames Valley made clear their opposition to proposals to build a new airport in the Thames Estuary to the east of London.
The Thames Valley Business Summit debate, co-hosted by Alok Sharma and Mark Reckless MP, on the future of airport capacity in the UK was attended by around 50 business leaders located in the Thames Valley region. During the debate, a straw poll was conducted on support for a new airport being built in the Thames Estuary and not a single attendee indicated support.
Alok chaired the panel discussion, which was sponsored by Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership, Medway Council and Kent Council, in the prestigious Churchill Room in Parliament.
Also on the panel with the MPs were Nigel Milton, Director of Policy & Political Relations for Heathrow Airport, Alastair McDermid, Airports Commission Director at Gatwick Airport, Frank Wingate, Chief Executive of West London Business and Steve Lamb, Chair of Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership.
There was a lively debate on the future of airport capacity in the UK, with each of the panel members summarising their arguments in five minute speeches, before taking questions from the audience.
Alok Sharma said: “I was pleased to chair this important debate in Parliament on the future of airport capacity in the UK. What was clear from this event is that the business community across the Thames Valley is unequivocally opposed to a new airport to the east of London that would lead to the eventual closure of Heathrow Airport.”
Alok continued: “Given that current projections from the Department for Transport indicate that we will have reached capacity in the South East by around 2030, I would be happy to see both Heathrow and Gatwick airports expand. However, I very much hope that the Airports Commission will consider the views of Thames Valley businesses when it publishes it proposals next year and will not make any recommendations that would ultimately lead to the closure of Heathrow.”
Steve Lamb, Thames Valley Berkshire LEP Chairman said: “Heathrow is a critical economic driver of not just Thames Valley Berkshire but for the west of London economy overall. This region generates £1 in every £10 of UK economic output. An expanded Heathrow would offer an economic uplift of £3.4bn and create 35,000 new jobs for the area and improved connectivity and productivity benefits worth up to £300m a year by 2040.”
Steve Lamb continued: “A recent survey that we conducted as part of the Heathrow Economic Impact study stated that a third of business respondents within Thames Valley Berkshire said that Heathrow is "very important" to their company's operation - and that nearly a quarter said that they would significantly reduce the size of their operation if Heathrow were to close. We need to have a 21st century infrastructure to support one of the world’s great economic regions. In summary we are fully supportive of Heathrow expansion for sound economic reasons - but we are equally clear on the need for further improvements to mitigate the impact of the airport operations on residents under the flight path.”