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Windfall from London airports to be shared amongst BAA's shareholders

Accusations of "profiteering" as BAA plans a windfall payout to its investors.

A dividend of £240m is to be payed out to foreign investors this year. BAA Ltd, which runs Heathrow and Stanstead airports, say that the payout would be set at an inital £60m per quarter. This will be the first windfall annuity to shareholders since 2006.

Ryanair accuses BAA of "overcharging" its passengers in order to supply such a payout, calling for the operator to sell Stanstead on the grounds that traffic at the London airport has seen a major collapse in the last four years, from 24 million to just over 18 million. In 2009 the Competition Commission demanded that BAA offload the London airport. The operator is currently appealing against the ruling.

The dividend plans mean Ferrovial, which holds just under 50 per cent of BAA shares, can expect to receive £120m this year. The remaining £120m will go to the Canadian pension fund CDPQ, Singapore's sovereign wealth fund GIC and the US infrastructure group Alinda Capital Partners.

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.