Heathrow more likely to get MPs’ backing as Jeremy Corbyn suggests Labour MPs could have free, unwhipped, vote
Jeremy Corbyn has suggested it would not be easy to whip Labour MPs to vote against a 3rd runway at Heathrow, despite his personal opposition to it, largely on environmental grounds. He has not yet decided whether to hold a free vote, but it could be difficult to get his MPs to agree that the runway and expansion would cause harmful air pollution and noise impacts. A vote in favour of Heathrow expansion is more likely to go through if Labour MPs are allowed to vote with their conscience. This matters as the Conservative majority is small, and there are dozens of Conservatives MPs who are against it. The decision on whether to build a runway, and if so, at Heathrow or Gatwick, is set to be put to a free vote of Conservative MPs in the coming weeks, to allow Cabinet ministers to vote against Heathrow, without having to resign – avoiding the need for collective responsibility. Mr Corbyn told The Guardian that there was a “huge debate in the party about it” and that his shadow cabinet would have to “have a discussion and debate” to work out a way forward. He said, of his rebellious MPs: “What I’ve discovered is whipping Labour when Labour doesn’t want to be whipped is not an easy thing to do.” Heathrow has worked hard to persuade MPs in the regions that its new runway would mean more domestic flights and more economic prosperity for them – however uncertain that is in reality. MPs whose constituencies are not affected across the country hope for local benefits.
Corbyn doubtful he can make his MPs oppose Heathrow expansion
Labour leader says he has not decided whether to hold free vote, with many of his MPs likely to back plans for third runway
By Rowena Mason and Jessica Elgot (Guardian)
Thursday 29 September 2016
Jeremy Corbyn has suggested it would not be easy to whip Labour MPs to vote against a third runway at Heathrow, despite his personal opposition to the infrastructure project.
The Labour leader said he has not yet decided whether to hold a free vote, but it could be difficult to get his MPs to fall into line with his view that the proposed project would cause harmful pollution and noise.
A vote on Heathrow is more likely to go through if Labour MPs are allowed to vote with their conscience, as there are dozens of Conservatives who are opposed to expansion at the airport in west London.
Theresa May is expected to announce a decision within weeks about whether to proceed with expanding airport capacity at Heathrow, which was recommended by the Davies commission.
It was reported in the FT on Thursday that government whips believe they have the numbers to push it through the House of Commons if there is a decision in favour.
However, the numbers are particularly uncertain because the prime minister is likely to give her own MPs a free vote to stop the resignations of a number of cabinet ministers who have constituencies that would be affected.
It is thought a majority of Labour MPs would support the scheme if given freedom to vote how they like, even though Corbyn and John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, are against the plan. The Scottish National party has hinted it could be in favour if given assurances about routes to Scotland.
Speaking to the Guardian, Corbyn said he had never been a supporter “because of the issues of noise and pollution across west London”. He acknowledged there was a “huge debate in the party about it” and his shadow cabinet would have to “have a discussion and debate and try and work out a way forward but also improve rail links so we reduce the number of internal flights”.
Asked whether he would ask his MPs to vote against the plan, Corbyn said: “What I’ve discovered is whipping Labour when Labour doesn’t want to be whipped is not an easy thing to do.”
Corbyn has already held free votes on Trident and Syria as Labour was so split on the issues, with many MPs taking a different view to their leader.
It is still not certain that May, whose Maidenhead constituency is near the airport, will opt for Heathrow expansion over Gatwick or another option.
There is huge pressure on the prime minister to make a decision after years of procrastination by David Cameron, who was reluctant to break a pre-2010 promise he made about opposing Heathrow expansion with “no ifs, no buts”.
A shadow cabinet reshuffle, including replacing Andy Burnham so the shadow home secretary can concentrate on the Greater Manchester mayoral race, is expected within weeks.
Allies of Corbyn have insisted he is able to fill a shadow cabinet without elections from the PLP, but critics including the deputy leader, Tom Watson, have called for a return to elections by MPs.
The Unite union’s general secretary, Len McCluskey, said he believed there would be at least partial elections, as long as the leader had the power to sack MPs from their positions. “I can envisage in a fairly short space of time, a matter of a few weeks, that he will have put together a shadow cabinet to deal with the election element of the PLP,” he told the Telegraph.
McCluskey said there would be no need to change the party rulebook or have it approved by the NEC, but elections could be at the discretion of the leader. “Jeremy can offer X number of seats – it doesn’t need to be a rule – it is in his gift. And I think he may well do that.”
McCluskey also repeated his challenge to Watson, his former flatmate, to “test his mandate” as the party’s elected deputy leader. “I fear for him what the result would be,” he said.
Boost for third runway at Heathrow as Jeremy Corbyn suggests Labour MPs could have free vote
Jeremy Corbyn said it could be difficult to get his MPs to fall into line with his view against expansion
By Christopher Hope, chief political correspondent (Telegraph)
29 SEPTEMBER 2016
A new third runway at Heathrow airport has received a boost after Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn hinted his MPs could have a free vote on the issue.
The decision is set to be put to a free vote of Conservative MPs in the coming weeks, to allow Government ministers to vote against a Heathrow third runway without having to resign.
Mr Corbyn – who opposes expansion on environmental grounds – said it could be difficult to get his MPs to fall into line with his view against expansion.
Animation shows what third Heathrow runway would look likePlay! 01:21
This could lead to Labour MPs also being allowed a free vote. It is thought a majority of Labour MPs would support the scheme if given freedom to vote how they like.
Mr Corbyn told The Guardian that there was a “huge debate in the party about it” and that his shadow cabinet would have to “have a discussion and debate” to work out a way forward.
Asked whether he would ask his MPs to vote against the plan, Mr Corbyn said: “What I’ve discovered is whipping Labour when Labour doesn’t want to be whipped is not an easy thing to do.” Mr Corbyn has already held free votes on Trident and Syria as Labour was split on the issues, with many MPs taking a different view to their leader.
Separately, Heathrow airport said it wanted to be able to fly scores of extra flights every day in the four years before a new third runway opens in a move which it says would give a £1.5billion boost to the economy.
The airport said it wanted to add 25,000 more flights to the existing annual limit of 480,000 between 2021 and the opening of a third runway in 2025.
The news is likely further to increase opposition to the plans among Cabinet ministers like Boris Johnson and Justine Greening, who are against a third runway at Heathrow.
A new third runway at Heathrow will increase annual flights from 480,000 a year to 740,000 per year, allowing it to compete with European hubs in Amsterdam, Paris, Frankfurt for routes to emerging markets.
Plans could mean new routes to UK destinations such as Dundee, Newquay and Liverpool, and to growing international markets including the Japanese port city of Osaka, Ecuadorian capital Quito and central Chinese city Wuhan.
Heathrow proposals for pre-runway flight increase, to try and win Government backing for runway
Heathrow will be putting forward some proposals at the Conservative party conference, to be allowed to start increasing the annual number of flights from 2021 by 25,000 per year (about 68 more per day). “New technology and better use of existing runways will achieve this.” (ie. largely loss of runway alternation part of the day, and narrow flight paths?). Heathrow is selling this as a way to start to give a quick “Brexit boost”, even before its hoped for 3rd runway is operational. Heathrow is claiming that the “environmental constraints” will all be met (it is unclear how this will be done) with no more noise problems, no more air pollution problems etc. All that is proposed is more money for home noise insulation, (£60 million – it has already said it will spend £700 million) and a congestion charge – no details – for vehicles travelling to and from Heathrow. The plans will be subject to consultation and Government approval. There is a mention of talks with government in future to perhaps delay the start of scheduled flights to 5.30am from the current 4.30am. The main thrust of Heathrow’s plans is to say the extra flights will be vital for the economy, with slots set aside for domestic flights. There would be a £10 domestic passenger discount to support “small and large exporters, boosting competition.” There are claims of 5,000 more local jobs over 5 years by this pre-runway expansion, and extensive economic benefits for all the UK …. £1.5 billion in the period 2021 – 2015.
Anti-Corbyn Labour backbenchers plan party vote – to back Heathrow runway
The Parliamentary Labour Party has various committees, one of which is on Transport. This is chaired by the young MP for Luton South, Gavin Shuker. The membership of this backbench committee does not appear to be publicly available. There is nothing online about the committee or its work. Mr Shuker says his committee has now produced (or is about to produce) a report that proposes Labour should back a Heathrow runway. They plan to present this report to a meeting of Labour MPs and peers, when Parliament returns after the party conferences. Mr Shuker has been critical of Jeremy Corbyn for the past year or more, and he now wants to get the Labour party to reverse his opposition to a Heathrow runway by getting a vote on the issue within the party. Gavin Shuker said the vote could be the day after the Labour meeting. As well as Jeremy Corbyn, the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, is deeply opposed to a Heathrow runway as his constituency would be badly affected by it. Mr Shuker wants the party to challenge Jeremy Corbyn on a number of policy issues. Heathrow is just one of many, and is a symptom of party disunity. On the same day, it was revealed that the Heathrow-funded and sponsored group, Back Heathrow, had asked for John McDonnell’s constituency boundary to be redrawn, to exclude Heathrow – to help their case. Amazing.
FT reports Tories feel they have enough backing in Parliament to push through Heathrow runway
The Financial Times says the Conservative Party Chairman, Patrick McLoughlin, has done a vote assessment, and found that there would be enough support in Parliament for a Heathrow 3rd runway. It is considered possible that the Cabinet’s runway sub-committee -chaired by Theresa May – will come to a runway location decision on the 11th or the 18th October. The Cabinet would need to agree to the decision by the sub-Committee, and it would then be announced in Parliament, by Chris Grayling. There could be a Parliamentary vote soon afterwards, perhaps only be a week later. The government would not want to risk a vote on this, unless they knew they would get a majority. The FT understands that Heathrow would easily win enough votes, but there is not enough backing for a Gatwick runway. Though there is massive opposition to a Heathrow runway due to its widespread and seriously negative impacts, and therefore it is likely Theresa May would allow a free vote. It is not clear the Labour leadership would try to whip hostile MPs on the runway issue, at a time of wider party disunity, though Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell are against the Heathrow runway. The FT reports that one insider cautioned it is “not a foregone conclusion” that Mrs May will back the Heathrow runway — or even that there would be a vote. An aviation executive said the prime minister “is like a sphinx on this”. ie. inscrutable.
Times reveals, from leaked document, members of Cabinet sub-committee on runway issue – and free vote plan, suspending “collective responsibility”
The Times says it has seen a leaked document showing the membership of the Cabinet sub-committee, the “Economy and Industrial Strategy (Airports)” sub-committee, that would make a decision on a runway. The list omits Ministers most critical of Heathrow’s expansion, Boris Johnson, (Foreign Secretary, and Justine Greening, Education Secretary). But Sajid Javid (Communities Secretary), who is a Heathrow supporter, keeps his place on the sub-committee, as does Patrick McLoughlin, (Conservative Party Chairman) – who as Transport Secretary was a strong supporter of Heathrow. Theresa May herself will chair the sub-committee, (David Cameron chaired it previously). Other Ministers on the sub-committee are Philip Hammond, (Chancellor), Greg Clark, (Business and Energy Secretary), Andrea Leadsom, (Environment Secretary), David Mundell, (Scottish Secretary), and the chief whip Gavin Williamson. [The previous members were: David Cameron, George Osborne, Sajid Javid, Patrick McLoughlin, Liz Truss, David Mundell, Greg Clark, Amber Rudd, Oliver Letwin and Mark Harper.] It is not known if there will be a free vote on the issue, suspending the normal Cabinet “collective responsibility” as was suggested last week, to overcome the problem of so much opposition to Heathrow. The Times believes that the announcement might be on Tuesday18th October.