4th December 2003

Stop Stansted Expansion Motorcade Targets BAA and Cabinet Ministers

A motorcade comprising 70 cars emblazoned with posters, driven by campaigners from Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE), descended upon Whitehall and travelled to BAA’s Head Office in Victoria on Thursday 4 December.

The purpose of the protest was twofold:  to demonstrate to Ministers attending the weekly Cabinet meeting the continued community opposition to plans for a second Stansted runway, and to deliver a shareholders’ statutory resolution (under section 376 of the Companies Act) to BAA aimed at stopping the company handing free car parking perks to MPs and other politicians worth more than £1 million a year.

The resolution will allow shareholders to decide whether BAA’s free parking scheme for politicians should be allowed to continue at BAA’s next AGM.  The company currently gives free parking passes to 475 MPs, 78 MEPs and 284 members of the House of Lords.  The MPs passes are valid for four years and are each worth £5245 a year.

The action came as the government prepared to publish its White Paper – due out around 16th December – which will set out policy on managing the nation’ s air transport over the next 30 years, including the siting of any new runways.

The weekly Cabinet meeting was also held on Thursday morning and the Stansted motorcade provided government ministers with a highly visible reminder of local opposition, on their way out of Downing Street.

Brian Ross, spokesman for Stop Stansted Expansion, who presented the shareholder resolution said:  “BAA is desperate for government endorsement of its plans for more runways at Stansted and elsewhere and also desperate to avoid a challenge to its monopoly position in the South East through its ownership of Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.  We think it is an affront to our political system  that BAA should be offering ‘freebies’ to the very people who have responsibility for making these decisions.”

Mr Ross added:  “From a purely commercial standpoint, it beggars belief that BAA management are even contemplating investing £4 billion in a white elephant.  Even without a new runway at Stansted, BAA’s debt is projected to increase from £2 billion to £6 billion over the next five years. Shareholders and investors will wish to scrutinise the rationale”.

There is immense opposition from Stansted where the construction of a new runway by BAA would mean the loss of thousands of acres of protected countryside and ancient woodlands, as well as numerous natural and historic heritage sites, including 29 listed buildings and two scheduled ancient monuments.  Previous governments have consistently rejected BAA’s plans for a second Stansted runway because of the severity of the environmental impacts.

Most of the major airlines are also strongly opposed to expanding Stansted, which has never been a commercial success.  A new runway would cost around £4bn to build and BAA admits this could not be financially justified unless the costs were shared with users of Heathrow and Gatwick.

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