Grant Shapps says allowing a free vote (un-whipped) on Heathrow would be ‘a fudge and dodge’
Date added: September 10, 2016
Channel 4 has obtained evidence from a document photographed on the London Underground, that the Cabinet may be considering a free vote on the runway issue. This was a printout of an email to Sue Gray, the director general of the Cabinet Office’s propriety and ethics team. A free vote would enable Ministers to vote according to conscience, and speak out against a runway choice, rather than having to share collective Cabinet responsibility. Now Grant Shapps, who was for several years a minister but had to resign earlier (over the Tory bullying accusations) has said this would be “a fudge and a dodge”. He now heads the British Infrastructure group (BIG) of cross party MPs, and wants a decision to expand UK airport capacity as fast as possible. The group put out a report, which has been strongly criticised on facts, in July to that effect. Mr Schapps says a free vote would be “entirely wrong because it would be leaving the future of our infrastructure pretty much to chance” if some Ministers did not back government policy. The decision could be open to criticism if the Cabinet and the Conservative government do not make a collective decision, and take on full responsibility. John McDonnell asked whether we would now have free votes on virtually every infrastructure issue.
Heathrow free vote would be ‘a fudge and dodge’
Any plans to give ministers a free vote on Heathrow expansion would be “a fudge and a dodge”, former minister Grant Shapps [who wants a fast runway decision] has said.
His comments came after Channel 4 News reported that a document carried on the London Underground by a civil servant was filmed by another passenger.
It discussed the “potential waiving of collective responsibility” ahead of a decision on airport capacity.
The government has said it will make a decision on Heathrow “in due course”.
The Airports Commission recommended in July last year that a third runway should be built at Heathrow.
However, the Department for Transport said further investigation into noise, pollution and compensation would be carried out before a decision was made.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell, whose Hayes and Harlington constituency would be affected by expanding Heathrow, said any proposal for the site would be defeated in the courts because of the environmental concerns.
He told Channel 4 News: “The government on this issue seems to be in absolute chaos. On free votes, it’s usually for major constitutional matters or moral conscience issues or an individual MP will be given a waiver because of their constituency interests.
“I speak as the constituency MP for Heathrow and I would have expected a proper debate and then a vote. To have a free vote in this way means that [for] virtually every major infrastructure people will be demanding a free vote and now, on other issues, why not grammar schools, why not every other major policy issue?”
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said suggesting there could be a free vote on Heathrow was “farcical”.
He added: “This is a huge decision and the Conservative government has to make a collective decision and take full responsibility.”
A government spokesman said: “The government remains committed to taking a decision on airport expansion and delivering additional runway capacity as planned by 2030. We will set out next steps in due course.”
He has been the MP for Welwyn Hatfield since May 2005.
The “British Infrastructure Group” BIG does not have a website, but the only information about it is on Grant Shapps’ website at http://www.shapps.com/2016/01/big/ This says:”The British Infrastructure Group (BIG) is led by The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP and brings together cross-party Members of Parliament dedicated to promoting better infrastructure across the entire United Kingdom.”
BIG produced a report on aviation on 24th July 2016 advocating a new runway fast.
Heathrow expansion: Free MPs vote on third runway would be ‘absolute dereliction of duty’, says top Tory
Grant Shapps calls for Theresa May to lay down the law to her MPs over another runway serving London
By Rob Merrick, Deputy Political Editor (Independent)
Airline staff wave flags at the arrival of a British Airways Airbus A380 at Heathrow in 2013 AFP/Getty
A free vote on whether to expand Heathrow Airport – proposed in a leaked Government paper – would be an “absolute dereliction of duty”, a senior Tory MP has told Theresa May.
Former party chairman Grant Shapps hit out at the suggestion that Cabinet ministers and other Conservative MPs would be able break ranks on such “an enormous decision for Britain’s future”.
inRead invented by Teads
“It would be leaving the future of our infrastructure pretty much to chance. Who knows which way that vote would go?” Mr Shapps said.
The criticism followed the revelation that the Prime Minister could seek to resolve her Heathrow headache through a “potential waiving of collective responsibility” – a free vote for her MPs.
Runway row intensifies as Gatwick claims ‘triple-counting’ of international passenger numbers at Heathrow
Theresa May warned by MPs ‘urgent’ decision on Heathrow expansion is needed
Heathrow third runway decision needed ‘as soon as possible’ after Brexit
Cabinet big-hitters Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, and Education Secretary Justine Greening are among those fiercely opposed to expanding Heathrow to provide London with another runway.
A document discussing a free vote was filmed by a passenger on the London Underground and given to Channel 4 News, ahead of this autumn’s decision on expanding airport capacity.
Details of the proposal were contained in an email sent to Sue Gray, the director general of the Cabinet Office’s propriety and ethics team.
The document suggests that “one route for waiving collective responsibility would be a free…” with the next few words then obscured by the thumb of the woman holding the printout.
The sentence continues “… allowing ministers to speak against the Government’s position in the House”.
The document goes on to refer to the differing positions held by Liberal Democrats and Conservatives during the Coalition government and to Cabinet colleagues being in opposing camps in the EU referendum campaign.
Isis supporters threaten attacks on Heathrow and US airports
In July last year, the Davies Commission recommended the building of a third runway at Heathrow, but the Department for Transport announced that further investigation into noise, pollution and compensation would be carried out before a decision was made.
David Cameron was expected to announce which project would get the go-ahead – Gatwick is also seeking permission to build another runway – after the EU referendum, but his resignation following the Brexit vote left the decision to Ms May’s new Government.
Mr Shapps said a free vote would be a “terrible” idea and a “fudge”, saying he did not believe the Prime Minister would embrace the suggestion.
He said: “If it is being considered beyond the civil service, I think it would be completely wrong and a dodge on an enormous decision for Britain’s future.”
A Government spokesman said: “The Government remains committed to taking a decision on airport expansion and delivering additional runway capacity as planned by 2030. We will set out next steps in due course.”
More about the report Grant Shapps and his BIG wrote in July:
Claims that Heathrow runway delay “costs UK £6 million per day” shown to be massively exaggerated
August 16, 2016
Claims have been made about how important it is for the government to make a runway decision fast, and how massive amounts of money are being (allegedly !) lost to the UK economy every single day of delay. A new grouping – the “British Infrastructure Group” – BIG – led by Tory MP Grant Shapps suggests the sum is “up to £6 million per day”. Full Fact has looked into this, and how the claims are calculated, and they find them to be very dodgy indeed. It’s complicated economics, but at heart they looked at the possible maximum benefits that the Airports Commission said a Heathrow might generate, over 60 YEARS. Then they worked out that, backwards, to a sum per day. There are various assumptions that should, and should not, be made when working out that sort of calculation and assessing possible future values. Their sum of “£6 million per day” depends on Heathrow producing a national benefit of £147 billion over 60 years. But the Airports Commission’s own figures show that if the costs of carbon in the carbon capped scenarios reduce the possible national benefit of a Heathrow runway to around (amazingly tiny) just £1.4 billion over 60 years. That, divided up by day, is an insignificant amount (up to £64,000). Full Fact says: “Any precise figure will be uncertain.”
including more details about BIG, its members, its claims etc.
The first demand of the BIG report was:
“1. Make an urgent and immediate decision on hub airport expansion. The problem of capacity at the current hub, Heathrow, is causing substantial damage to the industry as a whole. It erodes confidence in the Government’s stated ambition of growing the economy and our international trade. The evidence has been gathered by the Airport Commission. Now a decision is needed, to show the new leadership’s mettle.”