A MAJOR debate is due to begin later this afternoon (Tuesday) as MPs from all parties attempt to discover how much political support there is for expansion at Heathrow.
The discussions will take place in the House of Commons at 5pm and as part of the high profile build-up the pressure group HACAN has called on Prime Minister Gordon Brown to back away from expansion if he is serious about creating long-term jobs during the forthcoming recession.
The group claims the Government's own figures show that there will be fewer people working at Heathrow with a third runway than there are today and in the last decade jobs had actually fallen despite a rise in flights.
Chairman John Stewart said: "A major reason for this has been the introduction of new technology.
"The credit crunch will mean that the demand for flying will fall significantly. Already a number of airlines have been forced out of business with subsequent job losses. And, as the oil begins to run out, air fares will rise, meaning demand will fall even further with even more job losses.
"The Government and it allies in lobby groups such as Future Heathrow is giving people false hope that jobs can be secured through airport expansion. It's a cruel trick."
Fifty Labour MPs have signed an Early Day Motion opposing a 3rd runway which prompted the Government and secretary of state for transport Geoff Hoon to call today's debate.
Meanwhile West London Business (WLB), the sub-region's Chamber of Commerce, is reaffirming its support for the third runway at Heathrow, ahead of the debate.
Frank Wingate, WLB's Chief Executive said: "Maintaining the status quo and not expanding Heathrow is not an option, as it poses a serious threat of the airport declining, putting jobs and prosperity in West London at risk.
"Heathrow directly employs some 72,000 people and supports another 100,000 jobs in our locality. Furthermore, businesses in West London have named Heathrow as the single most important factor affecting their future.
"It's important to remember that Heathrow airport has played a large part in the success of West London's economy to date."
The group supports the view a new estuary airport in Kent would be impractical and also denies high speed rail links will reduce the demand for flights as much as some claim.
BAA, which owns Heathrow and is pushing for the third runway, said ahead of the debate: "Heathrow supports jobs and business by providing transport links between the UK and the rest of the world. In an increasing globalised economy it is vital for Britain to have access to world markets.
"Heathrow is full. Its two runways already operate at 99% of capacity. By contrast Frankfurt has three runways and is building a fourth; Paris has four; and Amsterdam has five.
"If airlines can't fly to Heathrow then they will fly to other European hubs instead. That makes UK business less competitive, means inward investment will go elsewhere, and means fewer jobs in Britain. That's why supporting a third runway is vital for jobs and the UK economy."
It reiterated no expansion would take place until strict European air quality targets could be met and insisted upcoming changes in aviation would make that possible.