The transport secretary will today defend the government’s decision to delay a decision on airport expansion in the southeast.

Patrick McLoughlin will argue it was “the responsible thing to do”.

Opponents of airport expansion “could not have been more wrong” if they saw the latest delays to a new runway as a victory, he is to claim tonight in a speech to the British Air Transport Association.

He is due to say: “Of course I know that many in the industry were disappointed that we delayed the final decision.

“It wasn’t something I took lightly. But when opponents of expansion hailed the delay as some sort of victory they could not have been more wrong

“The decision was delayed because it was the right thing to do. The responsible thing to do. To make sure we’re fully prepared. So we know from the outset that we will get the job finished.”

He will reaffirm plans to do more work on the impact airport expansion will have on carbon targets, noise and air quality, the Telegraph reported.

McLoughlin will also reveal that officials are conducting “extra economic analysis” on the potential benefits of a new runway to the regions.

A Department for Transport spokesman said the work was an analysis of the findings of the Airports Commission, designed to provide “assurance” of those findings.

The final decision on airport expansion was pushed back in December until after the London mayoral election and the EU referendum this summer.

The Commission recommended a third runway for Heathrow in July last year but the government has not committed to following the recommendation that Heathrow should get a new runway.

The other options of extending an existing runway at the west London hub airport or a new runway for Gatwick are still officially on the table.

McLoughlin will say: “We will make a decision once this work is finished. It will be the right decision for Britain.”