Midland business leaders have hit back at waded into the Willie Walsh controversy after the British Airways chief executive accused the Government of “warm words and cold action”.

Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Group reaffirmed its belief that the UK’s national airports, such as Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool, could provide breathing space for the overcrowded south-east.

It follows last week’s attack by Willie Walsh on the Government for what he called an absence of a coherent aviation growth plan.

He claimed the Government was leaving the UK without a feasible aviation policy, highlighting that there are 21 emerging market destinations served from other European hubs but not from the UK.

“If we do not have a hub airport that links us directly to world growth, we will suffer for it,” he said.

But Jerry Blackett, chief executive of Birmingham Chamber, said the UK’s national airports, including Birmingham, could provide the breathing space that the aviation sector needs. “The decisions that we make today will shape our economy for decades to come.

“It is vital that we do not rush into anything and consider all of the options available.

“Our national airports outside the South East have a huge amount of spare capacity and can provide the UK with the breathing space that it needs.

“New runways and new airports cannot, with the best will in the world, be realistically delivered in the next ten to 15 years.”