Today the Competition Commission published the penultimate report into the break up of the airport operator BAA. Although the final report doesn't arrive until Feb/March, the CC has made it clear that it's likely to force them to sell Gatwick, Stansted and Edinburgh.
'Hurrah!' I hear you say. And so do I. And so does Theresa. So far so good.
But the airport that really counts is Heathrow, and making it into a world-class 'hub' is what BAA should be focused on. All the major countries of Europe have competing hubs, and the UK must have one if it wants to stay competitive and an attractive place to do business.
But Theresa Villiers has today made an extraordinary claim, namely that the decision by the CC has come about because of the pressure she has exerted...
For over a year, we have been calling for BAA's monopoly over airport capacity to be broken up and I'm delighted the Competition Commission has backed our stance.When I first read her press release, I presumed that there had been a very welcome change in party policy on ruling out any airport expansion. Because the CC has been very specific about its reasons for favouring break-up, namely that BAA's monopoly position had slowed down the building of new runways.
The CC, therefore, thinks the best deal for passengers would be new runways at Heathrow, Stansted AND Gatwick. Yes, three new runways, built as soon as possible.
But Theresa has already stated on the record that she opposes any new runways anywhere in the UK. So it begs the question as to how she can both agree and disagree with the CC's conclusions at the same time?
Furthermore, the enquiry into BAA's monopoly started long before Theresa took up the transport brief (well over a year, in fact), and even before they were taken over by the Spanish. It seems a stretch for her to claim responsibility for the decision.
I cannot understand how the Conservative Party got itself into this position, and it's difficult to see how it can extricate itself. It's one thing trying to prove your green credentials. But it's another to be quite relaxed about seeing one of our most important transport related industries wither on the vine. This is more about the future of BAA, or even the development of a single new runway. It's about the future of the whole aviation sector in Britain - and this goes far more widely than airports. If this vital industry is given the signal that it is not wanted here, expect to see it gradually move its operations overseas, and taking with it hundreds of thousands of jobs.
I for one am not going to sit idly by and watch the Conservative Party plunge ahead with this potentially disastrous policy.