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Vince Cable: Heathrow third runway will be considered

Business secretary Vince Cable has insisted the government’s consultation on aviation capacity next month will consider “all options”, including a third runway at London Heathrow Airport.

Speaking about the coalition’s position against building a third runway at Heathrow ahead of the consultation paper, Mr Cable said the government wants to have a “proper and right debate about all options” for aviation capacity.

However he added: “It’s important that we recognise this was not some capricious decision, it was made with some thought and both [government parties] felt strongly about it. It is partly about the environment but you are also talking about [it affecting] five million people.

“It could happen in ten years time but it doesn’t solve the immediate problems of capacity of the terminals. Capacity will be eaten up quickly and it is still not dealing with the fundamental problem that you cannot have a big hub airport in a built-up area. It’s not feasable to think about it as the location for a big hub airport.

“But we do need to look at all options and I recognise the business concerns. In the short-term we need to make better use of capacity. There are places being offered as hub alternatives like Birmingham and the Thames Estuary.”

The business secretary exclusively told Construction News that he has asked major contractors for views on how contractors and government can help tackle the housing shortage when they meet in a fortnight’s time.

Mr Cable spoke about the need to progress priority infrastructure projects and also about attempts to find new financing mechanisms to replace PFI.

He said: “I don’t have an ideological view on PFI. It is a funding mechanism that in some cases gave good value for money and in some cases was awful but we have moved on from the traditional model of bank lending.

“The reason we are now looking at new financing plans is because the traditional model cannot be extended in the current environment. The finance markets collapsed and we are dealing with the aftermath of that.

“The government can borrow at extraordinarily levels of interest rates so the questions is how do we translate that into projects? We have to balance that with the government’s own credit worthiness.”

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