British aviation policy has been thrown into further confusion after chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne refused to rule out a third runway at London Heathrow Airport.
The development has been much sought by the business community in the UK, which claims additional aviation capacity in the south-east of England is essential, but remains against official government policy.
However, announcing a £50 billion programme of infrastructure investment, Osborne said Heathrow development remained “an option”.
“We need more runway capacity in the south-east of England,” Osborne said.
“Then there is a question of where it should go - Heathrow, new Estuary airport, Stansted, Gatwick?
“What I would say is, let us examine all the options.
“Let us make sure we can try and create a political consensus.”
The comments are being widely interpreted as an offer of support for the third runway, despite opposition from government.
Official coalition policy states no runway can be approved during the present parliament.
A committee report into aviation policy has twice been delayed as rival factions within the government attempt to assert control.
Labour also presently opposes a third runway at the airport.
David Cameron was last week challenged to support the development, with Conservative MP Tim Yeo asking whether he was a “man or a mouse” on the issue.