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Heathrow Expansion 'sham' slammed

Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon has been forced to confront mounting opposition to expansion of the UK's biggest airport, Heathrow.

In a debate last night at the house of Commons, transport secretary Geoff Hoon laid down his support for expansion at Heathrow. He referred to the White Paper of 2003 - "The Future of Air Transport", which outlines a positive case for aviation expansion for the next thirty years.

MPs called the paper outdated and demanded that Government policy should be revised.

"Does he not accept that the world has moved on significantly since 2003, both for the [climate change reason] and because of the potential for high-speed rail and the developments in transport elsewhere?" said Liberal Democrat shadow transport secretary Norman Baker. "It is simply unwise to rely on a 2003 White Paper to work out what should happen to aviation in 2008."

Conservative shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers called the consultation on Heathrow: "a complete sham" as the transport secretary Hoon had already made up his mind.

Labour backbenchers queued up to attack ministers' support for a third runway at Heathrow amid fears it would ruin the quality of life of local people. The current gridlock on the M4 was raised as well as the possibility of airport development in the Thames estuary.

Hoon insisted British jobs were at risk unless capacity increased.

"Aviation in general continues to make a significant contribution to the UK economy," said Hoon. "It brings in around £11bn a year, and it supports 200,000 jobs directly, and many more indirectly."

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