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The Labour Government’s 2003 aviation White Paper generally supported a ‘predict and provide’ approach to aviation. It envisioned demand for air transport increasing over the following 25 years. Consequently, it generally supported the growth of regional airports outside the South East to grow those economies and divert flights away from the congested London area.

The Coalition Government published its Aviation Policy Framework in March 2013 – this was largely a collection of technical but important changes that could be made to airports to increase capacity, improve efficiency and ensure that aviation growth in the UK would be sustainable in terms of noise and environmental pollution.

The Airports Commission, under the chairmanship of Sir Howard Davies, was set up in September 2012 and tasked with making recommendations as to the timing and scale of any future airport capacity. The Commission’s interim report, published in December 2013, said that while demand was forecast to increase in London and the South East, no regional airport option could replace the need for existing capacity in that area.

Its final report, published in July 2015 recommended a third runway at Heathrow: the Government has yet to accept this recommendation. Whether Heathrow and/or Gatwick expand, at the end of the day there is likely to be an impact on domestic flights between those airports and other airports across the UK.

Regional airports have had mixed responses to the Commission’s work as a whole with some of the bigger of them arguing that they can play a much larger role in accommodating excess capacity from the South East than the Commission allowed.

Information on airports in the South East and London generally, Heathrow, the Thames Estuary airport proposal, and air passenger duty can be found on the Aviation Topical Page of the Parliament website.

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