Boris and Justine may be “unavoidably away” to avoid embarrassment on Cabinet runway vote
The Observer expects that the meeting of the runway sub-committee of the Cabinet will be on Monday 17th October, with the Cabinet decision on 18th – and the announcement in Parliament. But that may still be speculation …. The Observer also says that to avoid “embarrassment” to Boris Johnson and Justine Greening (fierce opponents of a Heathrow 3rd runway), it is likely they would both be “unavoidably away” when the Commons votes on the issue. They would therefore not have the awkward situation of being in Cabinet ….“Boris can easily be arranged to be on tour and Justine could be researching grammar schools in Malawi, or some such,” said a government source … (is this ethical or democratic?) Though it is likely there would be a free vote in Parliament, to endorse the Cabinet decision on a runway location, the Cabinet would probably be required to support of the government’s position. Boris will not resign if there is a vote for a 3rd runway, but may believe even if approved by Theresa May, the runway may never in reality go ahead. Journalists appear to believe, or have been told by Whitehall sources, that Heathrow is the preferred location. Zac Goldsmith has warned that taxpayers could end up paying for Heathrow’s expansion, as the airport has significant debts and could be forced to turn to the government for financial support.
Top anti-Heathrow Tories will miss vote on third runway
Theresa May set to support expansion and spare opponents including Boris Johnson and Justine Greening embarrassment
By Daniel Boffey Observer policy editor
Saturday 8 October 2016
[….. Extracts below ….]
The most high-profile cabinet critics of a third runway at Heathrow – Boris Johnson and Justine Greening – will be “unavoidably away” when the Commons votes on the issue.
With the prime minister expected to announce her support soon, No 10 is devising a strategy to avoid embarrassment for key figures.
A Whitehall document leaked last month suggests Theresa May could hold a free vote, potentially allowing some ministers to oppose a third runway. However, it is understood that the cabinet, at least, is more likely to be instructed to vote in support of the government’s position.
Johnson, the foreign secretary, and Greening, the education secretary, will quietly be given leave to miss the vote. “Boris can easily be arranged to be on tour and Justine could be researching grammar schools in Malawi, or some such,” said one senior government source.
Johnson, the MP for Uxbridge in west London, has previously said he is prepared to lie down “in front of bulldozers” to stop a third runway from being built. However, it has been reported that he is now willing to accept such an outcome.
Theresa May will chair a cabinet committee to make the final decision on 17 October, when she is expected to side with Heathrow’s bid.
Zac Goldsmith, the MP for Richmond Park, has said he will quit his seat if the government approves such a plan and claimed on Friday that the expansion project would have to be bailed out by the taxpayer because it was “over-leveraged”, a claim denied by Heathrow.
Boris Johnson ‘resigned’ to Theresa May pushing ahead third runway at Heathrow, allies say
By Steven Swinford, deputy political editor (Daily Telegraph)
7 OCTOBER 2016
Boris Johnson is resigned to Theresa May pushing ahead with a third runway at Heathrow but will not quit the Government over the issue, The Daily Telegraph understands.
The Foreign Secretary is still campaigning against a third runway but his allies said they believe that the “mood music” suggests that Mrs May will push with the plans.
Allies of Mr Johnson suggested that if Mrs May pushes ahead with expanding Heathrow he will make clear that his views haven’t changed but will not leave the Cabinet.
They instead believe that the Prime Minister is likely to hold a free vote on the issue, enabling Mr Johnson to express his opposition without breaching the collective responsibility of Cabinet.
Justine Greening, the Education Secretary and MP for Putney who is also opposed to a third runway, said this week that she is still fighting the plans and refused to rule out quitting.
Mr Johnson, the MP for Uxbridge in west London, has previously said that he is prepared to lie down “in front of bulldozers” to stop a third runway from being built, and was heavily opposed to expansion as Mayor of London.
Friends of Mr Johnson, however, said that just because Mrs May is likely to sanction the expansion of Heathrow it does not mean the project will go ahead.
Local authorities and campaign groups are preparing to mount a legal challenge which could stop a third runway at Heathrow from being built.
Ms Greening, a former transport secretary and MP for Putney in South West London, makes clear her opposition to Heathrow on her website.
It says that she “will continue to stand up for the thousands of residents who are concerned about aircraft noise and she’ll keep working to make sure our local community is listened to”.
She said earlier this week: “It’s a debate that I’m still aiming to win… It’s one of those issues that has people with very different views, but I’m certainly going to put my views across, and we’ll see where we end up on the decision.”
When asked by the BBC if her position in Cabinet would be “untenable” if the decision went against her, the minister simply said the scenario was “hypothetical”.
Mrs May is personally chairing a Cabinet committee which will decide on Heathrow’s third runway plan. Whitehall sources suggested that the Government is “leaning towards” Heathrow.
It has been suggested that the Prime Minister could give Tory MPs a free vote on a new runway in the South East to stop ministers having to quit the Cabinet. Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, has said he wants to “move rapidly” with a decision on Heathrow in order to provide “certainty” to businesses. A decision is expected later this month.
Heathrow expansion: Zac Goldsmith warns taxpayers will foot bill
7 October 2016 (BBC)
London MP Zac Goldsmith has warned taxpayers they could end up paying for the expansion of Heathrow Airport if it goes ahead.
The Richmond Tory MP said the company that owns the airport had significant debts and would be forced to turn to the government for financial support.
He has repeatedly said he will quit his seat if the government approves the building of a third runway at Heathrow.
Heathrow said investors were ready to fund its expansion plans.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme Mr Goldsmith said: “Heathrow is massively over-leveraged already, there is no prospect of their being able to raise the finance necessary to deliver this project without turning to the taxpayer.”
Mr Goldsmith, who failed in his bid to become London mayor, told Today: “My position is the same as it was nine years ago.
“I promised my constituents before I was ever elected in 2010 that I would trigger a by-election were the government to give a green light to Heathrow expansion. My position has never changed.”