Tim Yeo demands PM backs Heathrow 3rd runway and claims it’s a leadership issue
It is August. And the end of the Silly Season, with little hard news. So the media have given a disproportionate amount of coverage and hype to repeating this old one, with a few additions. Writing in the Daily Telegraph, (where else?) Tim Yeo, who now backs Heathrow expansion, urged David Cameron to act or risk “presiding over a dignified slide towards insignificance”. The Telegraph etc suggest top ministers are reconsidering their opposition to a Heathrow 3rd runway. However Justine Greening has repeated, yet again, that there was a “political consensus” against a new runway, that the coalition ruled out any expansion before the next election, and that a short runway at Heathrow is not a “solution” to any alleged south east runway capacity shortage in the south east, and that there has been no change in the facts since 2010. Labour also currently opposes the idea of a third runway. Tim Yeo also says, for unaccountable reasons, that the “environmental objections” to the expansion of Heathrow were “disappearing”. On the day when the Arctic ice has reached an all time low.
August Bank Holiday and the media are “suffering the effects of a late-onset, post-Olympics silly season” …
Hence …..with little other proper news to report, the press has now gone with this one ….. It is likely that this publicity given to Tim Yeo et al is being used by those who have a wider agenda to attack Cameron and, in particular, to persuade him to reshuffle Justine Greening.
Top Tory goads Cameron on Heathrow
Senior Conservative Tim Yeo has goaded David Cameron over the expansion of Heathrow airport, urging him to decide if he is “a man or a mouse”.
The former environment minister, who chairs the Commons energy committee, insists that environmental objections to controversial calls for a third runway are disappearing and claimed backing the move would give the Government a “sense of mission”.
In a stinging attack he questioned whether the Prime Minister would preside “over a dignified slide towards insignificance” and suggested the leader’s heart was “impenetrable” to most voters.
In an article for The Daily Telegraph he wrote: “The Prime Minister must ask himself whether he is man or mouse. Does he want to be another Harold Macmillan, presiding over a dignified slide towards insignificance?
“Or is there somewhere inside his heart – an organ that still remains impenetrable to most Britons – a trace of Thatcher, determined to reverse the direction of our ship?
“An immediate go-ahead for a third runway will symbolise the start of a new era, the moment the Cameron government found its sense of mission. Let’s go for it.”
It comes after housing minister Grant Shapps warned a third runway was needed to ensure the UK remained a “great trading nation” and Mayor of London Boris Johnson accused Mr Cameron of “pussyfooting around” on expansion.
Mr Yeo was previously a high profile opponent of expansion but now argues European Union carbon emissions caps will force airlines to use more environmentally friendly planes if they want to use new capacity at Heathrow.
He added: “The environmental objections are disappearing. Last January, greenhouse gas emissions from flying were brought within the EU cap. Indeed, we could cover the whole of Surrey with runways and not increase emissions by a single kilogram – if Heathrow expands, so remaining the European destination of choice, airlines will fly their newest and quietest aircraft to it.”
Transport Secretary Justine Greening said there was cross-party consensus against having a third runway. The minister told BBC Breakfast that when Parliament reconvenes it needs to examine a more long-term and imaginative solution to increasing airport capacity to serve the country’s needs.
and the BBC:
28 August 2012 (BBC)
Heathrow third runway: Tory MP Yeo urges Cameron to act
Transport Secretary Justine Greening: “Having a third runway at Heathrow is not the right thing to do”
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Tim Yeo, who backs expansion, urged him to act or risk “presiding over a dignified slide towards insignificance”.
It has been suggested top ministers are reconsidering their opposition.
But Transport Secretary Justine Greening said there was a “political consensus” against a new runway.
The coalition agreement between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats rules out any expansion before the next election.
Labour also currently opposes the idea of a third runway.
Dismissing the fresh calls, Ms Greening – whose Putney constituency is on the Heathrow flight path and who campaigned against a third runway before becoming a minister – told the BBC that the facts on the issue had not changed since the 2010 election.
But writing in the Telegraph, Mr Yeo said the “environmental objections” to the expansion of Heathrow were “disappearing”.
He said the prime minister’s government must find its “sense of mission” and immediately approve the building of a new runway.
“The prime minister must ask himself whether he is man or mouse,” wrote Mr Yeo, chairman of the Commons energy and climate change committee.
“Does he want to be another Harold Macmillan, presiding over a dignified slide towards insignificance?
“Or is there somewhere inside his heart – an organ that still remains impenetrable to most Britons – a trace of Thatcher, determined to reverse the direction of our ship? Let’s go for it.”
Mr Yeo, a former Conservative environment minister, was previously a high-profile opponent of expansion, but now argues that European Union carbon emissions caps will force airlines to use more environmentally friendly planes if they want to use new capacity at Heathrow.
“The environmental objections are disappearing,” he wrote.
“Last January, greenhouse gas emissions from flying were brought within the EU cap. Indeed, we could cover the whole of Surrey with runways and not increase emissions by a single kilogram.”
The coalition government scrapped Labour’s plans for a third runway when it came to power, following widespread opposition from councils, residents and green groups.
However, a number of Conservatives have been converted to the runway cause.
Mr Yeo’s comments in the Telegraph come after Housing Minister Grant Shapps said “all the options need to be considered while being mindful of our election manifesto”.
Ms Greening told the BBC that she would find it “difficult” to remain part of a government which reversed its position on Heathrow expansion but she said this was a purely “hypothetical” scenario.
She said a third runway would quickly fill up and the UK needed to be “bolder” on airport capacity – considering what the country’s needs would be in 40 or 50 years’ time.
“There is no sense we are going to move away from an anti-third runway position,” she said. “I don’t think any of the facts have changed around a third runway.”
The BBC’s political editor Nick Robinson said the business community saw the future of Heathrow as a “totemic” issue but the prime minister would certainly not want “to eat his words” over it.
Some residents who live under the Heathrow flight path oppose the third runway, saying better use could be made of existing airport capacity.
Campaigners have urged the government not to rush into any decision.
Tory MP Zac Goldsmith has said he will not stand as a Conservative MP at the next election if his party supports the idea. Mayor of London Boris Johnson also opposes expansion and is lobbying for a new airport in the Thames Estuary.
A £50bn project to build an airport east of London has been put forward by architect Lord Foster.
A consultation on the future of air capacity in south-east England has twice been delayed by the government. It is now expected to begin in the autumn.
Other similar articles today are:
‘Are you man or mouse, Cameron?’ Senior Tory demands PM backs third runway at Heathrow and claims it’s a leadership issue
- Tim Yeo attacked Mr Cameron and said he needs to be more like Margaret Thatcher and less like Harold Macmillan
- A third runway is the only option, Yeo said, as Britain is ‘falling behind’ the rest of the world
- Unless the PM backs it he will be toppled as leader, he claims
Heathrow expansion: Cameron must decide whether he is man or mouse
David Cameron must decide whether he is ‘man or mouse’ and drop his objection to building a third runway at Heathrow airport, one of the most high-profile environmentalists in the Conservative Party warns.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/aviation/9502284/Heathrow-expansion-Cameron-must-decide-whether-he-is-man-or-mouse.html Lead story in Daily Telegraph 28.8.2012
Briefing from AEF:
Runways, emissions and the EU ETS: why Tim Yeo is wrong
This response to the Tim Yeo, last time he came up with his Heathrow 3rd runway support statements, back in March 2012, came from the AEF (Aviation Environment Federation). Tim Yeo says the environmental impacts of a new Heathrow runway would now be less (based on no evidence – and also ignoring noise, air pollution, or destruction of local villages).
Even just on the climate aspect of aviation, on which Tim Yeo says aviation being in the EU ETS is enough to deal with CO2 emissions, he is wrong.
AEF’s 2-page briefing Runways, emissions and the EU ETS explains why.
Blog from HACAN – by John Stewart:
It may be a first. I certainly can’t recall any previous occasion when voters have taken direct action in an attempt to influence a cabinet reshuffle. Reshuffles are usually of less interest to most people than the football results of the Scottish third division. (I’m an exception to that incidentally having watching my parent’s home team Ross County move from the lowest tier of Scottish football to a proud fourth in the premier division).
However, David Cameron’s reshuffle is different. And all because of one woman: the Transport Secretary Justine Greening. West London residents have taken to posting ‘I’m backing Justine’ stickers all over the underground – see report in the Evening Standard: http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/poster-battle-to-save-greening-from-reshuffle-8078787.html.
The fact that residents are going to this length – and are now calling for a demonstration in favour of the Transport Secretary – shows the strength of support there is for her and for her stance on a third runway.
Justine Greening must be the first member of any Cabinet to be under threat because she is supporting Government policy. But the aviation industry has been gunning for her from day one. Her position was untenable, its representatives argued, because of her well-known opposition to Heathrow expansion and because her Putney constituency was under the flight path. Just like the Egham constituency of her predecessor, Philip Hammond. But the industry never raised that as a problem.
The current argument that the industry and its friends in business and the media use is that she must go because she is a block to a sane discussion about future aviation policy which must include the option of a 3rd runway.
What actually bugs them is that the debate about a 3rd runway has been had and they lost it. What bugs them even more is that there are three ministers at the Department for Transport – Justine Greening, Theresa Villiers and the Liberal Democrat Norman Baker – who are independent-minded and not in the pocket of the aviation industry.
As Chair of HACAN, I know these ministers have changed the department. The previous “collusion” with the aviation industry – ironically exposed by Justine Greening when she was in opposition http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/Test/politics/article82312.ece – has been replaced by a serious debate about future aviation policy which includes environmental organizations and residents’ groups as well as the aviation industry.
And that brings us to Alastair Darling….and Labour’s Transport Secretary Maria Eagle.
When I read in today’s Independent on Sunday that Darling was still supporting a third runway – http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/darling-defies-miliband-over-third-heathrow-runway-8081429.html – I had to remind myself that he was once Secretary of State for Transport. I just don’t recall anything he did. He certainly didn’t attempt to shake the Department for Transport out of its bias towards the aviation industry. Somehow it is difficult to imagine an ‘I’m backing Darling’ campaign.
With the backing of Ed Miliband, Labour’s current shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle has reversed Labour’s backing for a third runway. I’m not too sure either of them would thank me for saying this but I see real similarities between Justine Greening and Maria Eagle.
Both are straight-talking, no-nonsense northern women, educated in comprehensive schools. Both are more interested in developing serious, evidence-based polices than giving into the demands of interest-based groups. Both value practical results above empty rhetoric. That’s why I backing Justine….and Maria.
A third runway could be a U-turn too far for Cameron
The PM declared in 2010: “No ifs, no buts, no third runway”.
It’s the ferocity of Conservative MP Tim Yeo’s attack on David Cameron, rather than the subject in question (a third runway at Heathrow) , that is most notable. “[T]he Prime Minister must ask himself whether he is man or mouse,” the former environment minister writes, before damning Cameron with the faintest of praise “as the leader who made the Tories (nearly) electable again”.
He goes on to compare him unfavourably to Harold Macmillan (“presiding over a dignified slide towards insignificance”) and finishes with the requisite reference to Thatcher (a Tory leader who won elections).
The reason Yeo’s intervention is damaging for Cameron is that the chair of the energy and climate change select committee, who cannot be dismissed as a rent-a-quote maverick, has vocalised the concerns held about his leadership across the Conservative backbenches.
Tory MPs increasingly fear that Cameron, to borrow Thatcher’s phrase, is not “one of us”. The Prime Minister’s heart, writes Yeo, is “an organ that still remains impenetrable to most Britons”.
For Cameron’s MPs, his willingness (or not) to abandon his opposition to a third runway at Heathrow has become a litmus test of whether he is a true Tory. But even for the PM, a man with a penchant for U-turns, this would surely be one policy reversal too many.
Both the Conservative manifesto and the Coalition Agreement explicitly opposed a third runway and the presence of Liberal Democrats in Cameron’s cabinet (a political reality many Tory MPs conveniently ignore) means that the PM would struggle to change course even if he wanted to.
With Ed Miliband opposed to a third runway on principle (he almost resigned as Climate Change Secretary over Gordon Brown’s support for the proposal), Cameron will also face no pressure from Labour to change course.
Yet Justine Greening’s faltering performance on this morning’s Todayprogramme suggests that the Transport Secretary has little confidence in the PM’s word. Repeatedly asked whether she could remain in the cabinet if the government backed a third runway, she initially ignored the question (amusingly, she declared: “Yes, I did do a campaign against a third runway. But really this is not a full length runway”) before finally conceding: “It would be difficult for me to do that”. At no point did she state that she would not be forced to resign because the policy is not changing. When she declared her interest (“my constituency is under the flightpath”), before swiftly adding, “so is Philip Hammond’s, as a matter of fact, my predecessor”, she sounded like a woman desperate to avoid being reshuffled.
But it’s election leaflets such as the one above, issued by Greening, that mean the odds are still against such a flagrant breach of trust. For the aviation minded, “Boris island” or a new hub airport, as proposed by Lib Dem MP Julian Huppert, still looks a better bet.
AUGUST 28TH, 2012
Green lobbyist and part-time MP Tim Yeo has taken a break from the golf course to make some waves today by calling for an expansion of Heathrow airport. Writing in this morning’s Telegraph, his main gripe seems to be that he can’t fly directly to some parts of China:
What better way to kick-start Britain’s sluggish economy than by boosting trade with China? Perhaps with Chongqing, with 28 million consumers, many enjoying rising incomes. Or Chengdu, with 14 million. Or how about Wuhan, with 10 million? We could not only boost exports – we currently sell more to Ireland than to China, whose population is 250 times bigger – but might also tap into the bulging coffers of the Chinese for some job-creating investment in Britain. There’s just one problem: you can’t fly directly to those three cities. Getting to and from China is harder from Britain than from our competitors.
While he does broadly make a good point, Yeo is not one to intervene unless he has a dog in the fight. So imagine Guido’s surprise at some other news today from Biofuels International:
“Developer of second generation biofuels technology TMO Renewables has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the authorities of Heilongjiang, China. The MoU will see TMO provide long-term large volume biomass feedstock supply for future bio-fuel production facilities from Heilongjiang State Farm, the largest state owned farming corporation in China.”
And who is the well paid Chairman TMO Renewables? Step forward one Mr. Tim Yeo. The day his company sign a new deal in China, Yeo uses his position as Chairman of the Energy Select Committee to lobby for more direct flights from London to China.
The man is shameless…