Labour knows the Heathrow 3rd runway plans fail their 4 tests – so may vote against the NPS
Date added: June 7, 2018
Theresa May’s plans for Heathrow expansion are facing an unpredictable Commons vote after Labour indicated that the runway plans do not pass its four key tests. These require (1). noise issues to be addressed, (2). air quality to be protected, (3). the UK’s climate change obligations met and (4). growth across the country supported. Labour may refuse to vote for the plans when they come before MPs for a vote on the National Policy Statement (NPS) – ie. the runway – in the next 3-4 weeks. With Boris Johnson expected to be (so convenient …) “out of the country” and several Tory MPs voting against it, the government needs Labour and the SNP to vote in favour. However, Jeremy Corbyn’s office said the issues of air pollution, noise for residents, regional connections and greater capacity were crucial. The revised NPS, published on 5th June, is barely changed from the draft and does not include measures that convincingly pass the 4 tests. This suggests that Labour could either whip a vote against the 3rd runway plans or at least order its MPs not to back the Government. The SNP has not so far indicated if it will vote in favour, though they have become aware that the Heathrow runway is likely to damage Scotland and its airports. Labour and SNP MPs are concerned about yet more money being spent on London, rather than in the regions, and on the possible vast cost to taxpayers.
John McDonnell joins Tory rebels to oppose Heathrow third runway
Shadow chancellor hopes to help persuade undecided MPs to vote against expansion plan
John McDonnell has joined Conservative rebels against Heathrow’s third runway to attempt to persuade MPs who may still have reservations about the project to vote against it.
The shadow chancellor, a longstanding opponent of expansion, is working with the Tory former transport secretary Justine Greening and the backbench MP Zac Goldsmith, both also firm critics, to try to halt the government’s expansion plan.
At an emergency meeting in the Commons on Tuesday after the transport secretary, Chris Grayling, confirmed that the government would back a third runway, the cross-party group agreed their strategy ahead of the key vote, which is expected to take place in about two weeks’ time.
John McDonnell has highlighted the potential multimillion-pound cost to the taxpayer in the event that the government, including any future Labour administration, should change its mind on expansion.
In a letter to Grayling, he raised concerns over how much, if any, of the £14bn project would be publicly subsidised if Heathrow’s plans for a third runway did not proceed.
McDonnell wrote: “There appears to be no end date to this agreement. This means that taxpayers could be left picking up a bill of multiple millions of pounds if the government does not proceed with developing the Heathrow north-west runway scheme.
“I am extremely concerned that through this agreement the government has tied itself into a considerable liability that could fall upon the taxpayers’ shoulders and preempts the decision of parliament on this matter.”
The senior Labour MP, whose Hayes and Harlington constituency includes Heathrow, asked the Department for Transport to reveal whether it had made any assessment of the financial liabilities that taxpayers could be exposed to.
The DfT signed a cost recovery clause with Heathrow in 2016 in its statement of principles, which said the airport would be able to pursue “legal and equitable remedies (including cost recovery)” if the government opted for an alternative scheme or withdrew its support.
Labour has said it would consider whether its four tests on airport expansion had been met before deciding whether to back the plans, raising the prospect of the government being defeated on Heathrow expansion in the Commons.
McDonnell tweeted on Tuesday: “I remain implacably opposed to expansion at Heathrow and after listening to the transport minister, Chris Grayling, today I am even more convinced that this would be a costly, environmental and social disaster that will never be built.”
A Labour source said: “John doesn’t believe that the tests have been met yet and is quite confident that is not going to change.”
However, many backbench Labour MPs and the unions support a third runway. Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite, the party’s biggest union backer, was quoted in Heathrow’s official response to the announcement.
Jeremy Corbyn’s spokesman confirmed that the Labour leadership believes the government’s plan for a third runway does not pass the party’s “four tests”, increasing the likelihood that Labour will vote against it, and leaving Theresa May reliant on SNP and Labour votes to get it through.
“We’re in favour of airport expansion in the south-east but it has to meet those four tests and so far what we’ve seen, it looks like the existing proposals don’t do that, but we obviously need to see the detail,” he said.
He said that “several” of the tests, which cover capacity, noise and environmental impact, climate change and regional connectivity, had not yet been met, adding that the government doing so was a “clear requirement” of successful airport expansion.
A DfT spokesperson said: “The government has made clear that it believes a new northwest runway at Heathrow is the best scheme to deliver the economic and connectivity benefits this country needs.
“It will be privately financed and the costs will not fall on the taxpayer. The point around potential financial liability has been taken out of context from a non-legally binding document, which makes clear that it gives Heathrow no legal right to any costs or losses from the government should their scheme not proceed.”
Labour Says Heathrow Plans Fail to Meet Environment And Jobs Tests
May facing knife-edge vote after surprise move
By Paul Waugh Executive Editor, Politics, HuffPost UK
Theresa May’s plans for Heathrow expansion are facing a knife-edge Commons vote after Labour signalled the project currently failed key tests on jobs and the environment.
Jeremy Corbyn’s spokesman told HuffPost UK that “so far” the Government’s proposals for a third runway had not met the party’s four conditions on noise levels, climate change, aviation capacity and improved connections to the regions of the UK.
The tough message confirms for the first time that Labour may refuse to vote for the plans when they come before MPs for approval in the next four weeks.
With Boris Johnson expected to be out of the country and several Tory MPs poised to rebel, ministers were hoping to rely on Labour to avoid a possible defeat on the much delayed aviation plan.
However, Corbyn’s spokesman said the issues of air pollution, noise for residents, regional connections and greater capacity were crucial.
Asked by HuffPost if the test had yet been met, he replied: “We’re in favour of airport expansion in the south-east, but it has to meet these four tests.
“So far, from what we’ve seen, it looks as though the existing proposals don’t do that.”
His words suggest Labour could either whip a vote against the plans or at least order its MPs not to back the Government.
That could leave the PM relying on the SNP, which has so far refused to say which way it will vote.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell is the leading opponent of Heathrow within Corbyn’s top team, though many Labour MPs have gone on record to support its expansion.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling gave the go ahead for the expansion this week, ending decades of postponements.
In a further sign of backbench opposition, former Cabinet Minister Justine Greening warned Theresa May on Wednesday that taxpayers were in danger of picking up the multi-billion pound bill for the private airport operator if the Heathrow scheme collapsed.
Justine Greening, who has long opposed a third runway, used Prime Minister’s Question time to warn May that there was a nasty surprise buried in the aviation proposals, with one clause leaving taxpayers liable if the scheme falls apart.
“Heathrow have played an absolute blinder with the DfT [Department for Transport]. ..they’ve somehow managed to get a poison pill clause agreed by the DfT that means the taxpayer has to cover all their costs if things go wrong.
“Isn’t this the worst kind of nationalisation – the public sector and taxpayers owning all of the Heathrow downsides and risks but the private sector owning all of the upside and financial returns?”
May insisted the plan “demonstrates this government’s commitment to delivering the jobs and major infrastructure that this country needs to thrive”.
The PM stressed that the expansion of the airport would be “fully financed by the private sector” and appeared to reject Greening’s claims.
“The Statement of Principles [signed between Heathrow and the Government] is clear that it does not give Heathrow Airport Ltd the right to claim any costs or losses from government should their scheme not proceed,” she said.
Greening was so furious at that reply that she later raised it in a Parliamentary point of order, accusing DfT officials of having “misinformed the Prime Minister” about the deal.
She cited a clause in department’s 2016 agreement with Heathrow which says the airport’s owners can “pursue any and all legal and equitable remedies” in the event that ministers back an alternative scheme or withdrawal their backing for expansion.
Labour prepares to block Heathrow as former minister Justine Greening slams “worst kind of nationalism”
By Catherine Neilan (Head of politics and investigations at City A.M)
Labour appears ready to instruct its MPs to block the government over its Heathrow expansion plans unveiled yesterday, despite getting backing from Unite the union.
The move, which goes against Labour’s long-held support for airport expansion in the south east of the country, was hinted at by the opposition’s spokesman who told reporters the initial assessment of the government’s proposals suggested they would not pass the party’s four tests.
They are that any expansion meet the UK’s capacity demands; does not breach noise and air pollution obligations; allows the UK to meet its climate change targets in their entirety and supports growth across the whole country.
The spokesman declined to say which of the four the proposals did not meet, saying there were “several” areas that it failed on. “We are sceptical on the basis of what we’ve seen so far,” he added.
That would put Labour leadership at odds with Unite, which yesterday urged MPs to back the plan for a third runway at Heathrow.
General secretary Len McCluskey said it “answers the demands of many Unite members across the UK – for more skilled, well-paid and sustainable jobs.
“Expansion will deliver these jobs and growth to every nation and region of the UK, whilst Heathrow deliver on the work they have been doing to address environmental concerns; all at a critical time for UK workers.”
A threat has also been mounted by former Cabinet minister Justine Greening, who tore into the proposals during Prime Minister’s Questions today, dubbing them “the worst kind of nationalisation”.
The Putney MP claimed the proposals put forward meant the Department for Transport had given Heathrow “an active monopoly status”.
“They have somehow managed to get a poison pill clause agreed by the DfT that means the taxpayer has to cover all their costs if things go wrong,” she told the Commons.
“Isn’t this the worst kind of nationalisation – the public sector and taxpayers owning all of the Heathrow downsides and risks and the private sector owning all of the upsides and financial returns.”
John McDonnell: Heathrow expansion will never happen – it cannot meet 4 vital tests
March 4, 2018
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell believes a 3rd runway at Heathrow will never get built because of the serious environmental issues the expansion would cause. McDonnell, MP for Hayes & Harlington, and a close ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been a longstanding campaigner against the runway, due to the devastating impact it would have on his constituency. He does not believe Heathrow can get round the problem of air pollution from the runway and associated road traffic. At a local meeting about Heathrow’s expansion plans, John said: “As soon as any decision is made, Hillingdon and the other boroughs will be straight back in court again”. …“I just don’t think Heathrow is the runner that it might have been with the governments in the past.” There is due to be a vote in Parliament in the summer on the runway; as things stand, the government would win backing for the runway. However, though many Labour MPs are keen supporters, there is a real possibility that Labour may be able to block it – especially if it won a general election. Labour set out 4 tests the runway would have to meet, and currently it cannot pass them. The tests require (1). noise issues to be addressed, (2). air quality to be protected, (3). the UK’s climate change obligations met and (4). growth across the country supported.