BAA Accused of Trying to Influence Decision over Stansted Runway

Article excerpt

Byline: HUGH DOUGHERTY

THE row over the controversial decision to site a new runway at Stansted Airport deepened today.

Airports operator BAA stands accused of using an extensive Whitehall lobbying team to influence the outcome of the Government's consultation on coping with growing demand for air travel.

Ministers and the company are already facing possible legal action by an unlikely alliance of airlines and environmental campaigners if, as expected, Transport Secretary Alistair Darling gives the go-ahead for a second runway at the Essex airport later this month.

Critics claim the second runway would be a "white elephant" that would be unlikely to meet the need for extra capacity on long-haul flights that now operate out of Heathrow and Gatwick.

The extent of BAA's lobbying campaign for Stansted can be revealed for the first time today.

Its 12 permanent in-house lobbyists have secured various meetings with ministers before the final decision about where to site extra capacity.

Critics accuse the formerstateowned company of using its links to government to open doors.

In recent years it has seconded an employee to Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott's office, and two former chief executives have got posts on government quangos. The firm is also Britain's biggest political donor, paying [pounds sterling]1.3 million a year so MPs and MEPs can have free airport parking. …