Doubts surface about Third Runway following election

Doubts have been cast over Heathrow expansion following the collapse of the Tory majority, leading to speculation this weekend that a Third Runway may – once again – be kicked into the long grass.

Protesters in Harmondsworth hit out at Theresa May's u-turn over the third runway in October last year. Stop Heathrow Expansion says that was the beginning of the unravelling of her "Strong and Stable" mantra.

Protesters in Harmondsworth hit out at Theresa May’s u-turn over the third runway in October last year. Stop Heathrow Expansion says that was the beginning of the unravelling of her “Strong and Stable” mantra.

Zac Goldmsith, the Tory MP for Richmond who narrowly reclaimed his seat with a 45 vote margin, tweeted on Friday: “Heathrow expansion… not going to happen.”  Goldsmith told The Sun: “Heathrow expansion already faced huge obstacles, not least a very strong legal challenge by Local Authorities and appalling air pollution implications.”

His tweet prompted the Daily Telegraph to note that as many as 40 Conservative MPs are against a third runway in the new Parliament.  A free vote for ministers being mooted for the third runway, combined with anti-expansion support among some Labour and Lib Dem MPs, could see a vote lost.

Where they stand

Conservatives

Remains the manifesto position and there is no suggestion currently that the Tories are abandoning their policy of support.  However, in addition to Zac Goldsmith’s vocal opposition:

  • Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, is an ardent opponent of a Heathrow third runway.
  • Anti-Heathrow Education Secretary Justine Greening fought off a strong Labour campaign to hold onto her Putney seat.

SNP

Supports a Third Runway but has seen its numbers in Parliament slashed.

Labour

The election manifesto committed the party to expand Britain’s airport capacity.  However:

  • Labour is divided on the issue.
  • John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, is opposed to a third runway.
  • The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is also against the proposal.

Lib Dems

Remains opposed to a Third Runway.  Following Tim Farron’s resignation as leader, Sir Vince Cable will be more prominent and a strong voice against Heathrow over the coming years.

Stop Heathrow Expansion said after the election that Theresa May’s u-turn on Heathrow expansion last October 2016 was the beginning of her unravelling as a ‘strong and stable’ prime minister.

Rob Barnstone, Campaign Coordinator, said:

“Theresa May’s U-turn on Heathrow expansion last October marked the beginning of her dramatic series of U-turns which exposes her as anything but a conquering hero.”

“The Government were relying on a large parliamentary majority – including many new and loyal backbenchers, to push through a third runway. Now that Theresa May’s gamble has left her in an unstable position the future of the project looks much less certain and potentially in jeopardy.”

But the noise against a Third Runway, in many ways nothing new, is not just coming from politicians and the usual suspects.

Industry magazine Construction News highlighted the impact on Heathrow as one of seven “top takeaways for construction”.  It also noted that the foreign secretary’s odds at becoming the next Prime Minister tumbled from 66/1 to just 5/1 as the outcome of the general election played out, reminding its readers of Mr Johnson’s pledge that he would “lie down in front of bulldozers” to stop Heathrow.

The travel industry itself has voiced doubts.  Travel Weekly said, immediately following the election, that plans for a third runway at Heathrow were now in jeopardy, while the SNP’s plan to eventually abolish Air Passenger Duty in Scotland – could also now face serious opposition.

Following the consultation on the draft National Policy Statement on Heathrow this Spring, the final NPS is currently due to be published either late in 2017 or early in 2018, with a subsequent vote in Parliament.

 

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