On October 25, after years of delays, the British Government will announce whether it favours expanding runway capacity at either Heathrow or Gatwick airport. However, its recommendation will be followed by a: “full and fair public consultation” period before MPs can take a binding vote on the matter. That means no final decision about building more runway capacity will be possible for at least another year.
The recommendation decision will be taken by the nine members of the government’s airport sub-committee, chaired by the Prime Minister Theresa May, rather than the full cabinet.
As some senior figures within the government strongly oppose the construction of a new runway at Heathrow, some see the Government’s creation of the sub-committee as evidence that it will opt for Heathrow next week.
The former Labour Government of Gordon Brown approved the building of a new runway for Heathrow in 2009. However, David Cameron, the then leader of the opposition and later Prime Minister, campaigned to reverse that decision saying, “The third runway at Heathrow is not going ahead, no ifs, no buts.”
Then, in July 2015, the Government-formed Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, backed a new third runway at Heathrow but, crucially, also left a window of opportunity for Gatwick.
Whatever decision is taken next week, a long-running political and legal battle looks sure to follow.