David Cameron is poised to appoint former business chief Sir Howard Davies to report on a way forward for UK aviation, the London Evening Standard has reported.
It said Mr Cameron will ask the former CBI chief to head an independent commission to recommend in summer 2015 whether a new airport is needed or if Heathrow should be expanded.
Mr Cameron repeated his pledge not to build a new runway in this government term, but has not ruled out a U-turn following the general election. Speaking at prime minister’s questions today, he said an announcement would be made “within days” about the future of aviation strategy.
An independent commission would allow the decision to be delayed until after the build-up to the election, however it would be likely to form a central part of campaigning in the run-up to the next election, in constituencies including Justine Greening’s, in Putney, Roehampton and Southfields.
Ms Greening was removed from her position as transport secretary yesterday, replaced by Patrick McLoughlin, allowing her to campaign without having direct influence on the final decision over whether to expand Heathrow.
Critics will say the decision has already been delayed by too long, with prominent industry figures including ODA chairman Sir John Armitt among those to call for a final decision to be made as a priority before business is lost overseas as Heathrow nears full capacity.
Sir Howard is former deputy governor of the Bank of England and first executive chairman of the Financial Services Authority. He was forced to resign as director of the London School of Economics over its links to deceased former Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi last year.