Friday, 20 December 2013

New and Improved: no new runways.

At a time when the country needs to be spending taxpayers` money on improving health care and care for the elderly, education, social housing, rail and road transport, and ensuring the less fortunate and low-paid can afford to live with dignity, is it not clear that the whole idea of spending billions on a new runway in London is ludicrous? Whether it can be afforded, whilst new Accident and Emergency centres and new schools can`t, or indeed, whether a new runway is actually needed, appears irrelevant. We are repeatedly informed that massive expenditure on London`s airport capacity is essential to the economy, not only now, but for years to come, but who is feeding us this propaganda? The Heathrow lobby has obviously played a blinder recently, but are we expected to believe that trade deals with emerging countries, or new business contracts, will not take place unless the taxpayer  forks out a hundred billion or so on airport expansion?  Is it true that businessmen cannot use technology like the rest of us, and  Skype their counterparts in Brazil, or video conference potential customers in India? The lack of a third runway, or whatever, does not seem to stop Russian billionaires from buying up property in London, or American bankers manipulating exchange markets in the City, or even foreigh football coaches dominating the premier league.We have already so many incentives for foreign businessmen to work in London, from accountancy firms willing to advise on tax avoidance for around 8% of the amount not paid to the Treasury, and scams like "patent box" which mean their company will only pay 5% corporate tax, to even having a chancellor fighting their cause in Brussels against having to pay a financial transaction tax.They don`t even have to pay a "mansion" tax on their London homes! Is the prospect of less time spent circling London in the air, or two extra flights to Vietnam a week, really going to attract more foreign businessmen, or improve the country`s balance of payments?
      It seems clear that, yet again this government, so "committed to transparency" it tells us, is being influenced by lobbyists focusing on their bonuses, rather than what is best for the country, and the result is the rich benefit at our expense. Apparently 80% of London`s air passengers have no connection with business, but this fact is never discussed; who knew, whilst Heathrow is heavily committed to the UK and European short-haul market, Gatwick airport is seriously under-used?
     An obvious solution, which is far cheaper than any proposed so far, is to divert the short-haul traffic to Gatwick, and free up space for Heathrow to concentrate on expanding business flights to Asian and South American destinations. It would free up government cash,and enable taxpayers` money to be spent on resources benefitting the people who need help most. However, that`s exactly why this idea will not even be on the table.It wouldn`t enable Johnson to gloat over his London achievements, or Cameron to boast about this particular "vanity project", with HS2 being the other, similarly in need of serious revision for many of the same reasons.
    Infrastructure does need government investment, but not on schemes promoted by lobbyists, which only benefit small sections of our society, nearly always the very rich; not on ones, either, which add to, rather than reduce, pollution problems. That other proposal, the one to build a new northwest runway at Heathrow, does have one thing going for it; it would take planes over Eton, making the school almost uninhabitable!

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