20th September 2013

Airports Commission – Departure of Geoff Muirhead

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has welcomed the announcement today [20 September] that Geoff Muirhead, the former chief executive of Manchester Airports Group (MAG) is stepping down from the Airports Commission.

The Airports Commission, led by Sir Howard Davies, is currently examining the need for additional UK airport capacity and is due to report with a shortlist of options in December.

Geoff Muirhead’s role on the Commission was called into question by SSE because of his links with MAG who could be beneficiaries of any decision to expand Stansted Airport which MAG now owns.

The campaign group first raised the issue of a potential conflict of interest with Mr Muirhead last November on the day his appointment to the Commission was announced. Subsequent correspondence with Sir Howard Davies and the Secretary of State for Transport, then led SSE last month to issue a formal notice of judicial review proceedings unless Mr Muirhead resigned.

SSE is however disappointed that it has taken so long for Sir Howard Davies and the Secretary of State to recognise that it was untenable for Mr Muirhead to remain in post.

Peter Sanders, Chairman of SSE, said: “By ignoring our concerns and allowing the matter to drag on, Sir Howard Davies and the Secretary of State have potentially compromised the work of the Commission already and created the possibility of considerable extra delay, which is in nobody’s interests.”

“Given that Mr Muirhead has been actively involved as a member of the Commission for almost a year we now need to know to what extent the work of the Commission may already have been tainted,” he continued. “It is only when we have answers to the questions sent to the Secretary of State and Commission by our legal advisers that we will be able to ascertain how much of the Commission’s work to date may need to be revisited.”

Mr Sanders concluded: “It is important to make clear that SSE’s purpose in pursuing this action has always been – and will continue to be – to ensure that the issues regarding potential airport expansion are examined fairly, impartially and independently, and that this is seen to be the case.”

Campaigning to ensure Stansted Airport's authorised operations stay below harmful limits