Page last updated at 11:02 GMT, Friday, 23 March 2012

UK 'must stay competitive on air'

The UK will maintain its status as an international aviation hub, Transport Secretary Justine Greening has told MPs.

During the Budget debate on 23 March 2012, Ms Greening told MPs the government was determined to ensure the UK remained internationally competitive on air.

Chancellor George Osborne announced a U-turn on aviation policy in the Budget statement on 21 March, by saying that the country had to "confront the lack of capacity in the south-east of England".

Ms Greening said: "We should remember that our country and our capital are right up there with the very best when it comes to international connections.

"Only China and the USA have aviation networks more extensive than ours."

But, she told the Commons: "If we are to maintain that status we have to take on the tough challenges facing the industry, whether it's improving the passenger experience or enhancing capacity and connectivity while tackling the industry's impact on climate change and the local environment, we are determined to look at those difficult issues.

"So as the Budget makes clear we will set out our thinking on aviation capacity and sustainable aviation framework this summer."

The government had ruled out expanding south-east England airports when it came to power in 2010.

Proposals for a third runway at Heathrow have been ruled out by the three main parties.

The transport secretary's review on air will set out government thinking later this summer.

Shadow transport minister John Woodcock said the government had "no practical thinking" on alternatives for a third runway at Heathrow.

He said plans for an airport in the Thames estuary were being met with a "barrage of opposition", adding the idea was a "huge distraction" from the need for immediate new capacity.

Mr Woodcock said: "There is more dither, more delay, while competitive hubs in continental Europe get on with providing new capacity that could transform their economies.

"The government came to power with just one policy on aviation capacity, to abandon the Heathrow third runway, and since the election the government has come up with no practical thinking on alternatives."

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