Former Financial Services Authority chairman Sir Howard Davies is to chair a commission to consider ways to expand the UK’s airport capacity.
The move by Prime Minister David Cameron was immediately condemned as a “fudge” by London mayor Boris Johnson who opposes developing a third runway at Heathrow in favour of a new hub airport in the Thames Estuary.
But the move effectively means a decision on expanding Heathrow has been sidelined until after the next general election in 2015 as the commission will not report until after that date.
Heathrow owner BAA said it was “vital that there’s cross-party consensus over the commission – so whichever party wins the next election its recommendations will be implemented”.
Cameron faced a number of queries on aviation policy during Prime Minister's Questions.
He said: "What we need to do is build a process that hopefully has cross-party support so we can look carefully at this issue and deliver changes that will address the problems of capacity we will have in future years and address the issue of the hub status in the UK."
Asked by west London Labour MP John McDonnell whether he would rule out sanctioning a new runway while he was prime minister, Cameron said he would "not be breaking my manifesto pledge" not to build a third runway at Heathrow.
Sir Howard, also a former director general of the Confederation of British Industry, is due to deliver an interim report next year with the final findings being delivered after 2015.
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