Government committed to airport expansion despite cross-party opposition

A third runway at Heathrow could be approved by Gordon Brown within weeks, despite opposition from Conservative and Labour MPs.

Both the prime minister and transport secretary Geoff Hoon believe that a quick decision is vital to the UK's future economic competitiveness, the Daily Telegraph has reported.

The decision will be announced before the end of the year, possibly as early as next month.

The Tories oppose the new runway, campaigning instead for a high-speed rail link from London to the North of England.

Labour MPs have expressed similar opposition, with at least 38 Labour backbenchers signing a Commons motion against the new runway.

Junior health minister Ann Keen, who represents a west London constituency, publicly declared her opposition to the airport expansion.

Geoff told informed the Daily Telegraph that international firms such as Microsoft could leave Britain, risking thousands of jobs, if Heathrow did not expand.