Tory MPs opposed to 3rd runway warn of chaos in the party if PM opts for Heathrow

The Sunday Times understands up to 60 Conservative MPs are against a 3rd Heathrow runway – which would be the biggest parliamentary rebellion since Theresa May took power.  In the summer a Comres poll of 150 MPs showed 20% against the Heathrow runway. That would translate to a lot more than 60 MPs, out of the full 650, even ignoring the SNP and the regions.  There may be such an outcry that the party could have to reverse any support for Heathrow, if that decision is made in the next few weeks.  Zac warns that the risk of Heathrow plans having to be abandoned should worry its potential investors.  The Tory MPs opposing the Heathrow runway say they plan to use every parliamentary tool available to delay the final approval of the runway, if Mrs May declares support for it.  There could be a “regret motion”** in the House of Lords to show the depth of feeling in Parliament, which would cause damage and increase the chances of a judicial review being successful.  The rebel MPs also plan to use 3 consultations expected to be launched if Heathrow gets the go-ahead – on planning approval, air space changes and the local impact of expansion – to increase MP opposition.  Dozens of Labour MPs are against the runway, though it is thought that Jeremy Corbyn would not be able to enforce a whipped vote for opposition.


Tory revolt over Heathrow third runway as 60 MPs oppose plans and warn of ‘catastrophe’ for party

Ministers are expected to make a decision of airport expansion by the end of October

By Ben Riley-Smith, assistant political editor (Telegraph)

15 OCTOBER 2016

Theresa May is facing a Tory revolt over Heathrow’s third runway as her own MPs vow to fight the move and warn the “betrayal” will not be forgiven by supporters.

The Sunday Telegraph understands up to 60 Conservative MPs are against expansion at Heathrow in the biggest parliamentary rebellion since Mrs May took power.

Zac Goldsmith, the party’s candidate for London mayor just months ago, has renewed his promise to quit as an MP if the Prime Minister gives the go-ahead to the project.

He warns in a piece for this newspaper that the Tories would be “badly damaged” with core supporters in West London if Heathrow’s bid is approved, raising the possibility of council losses.

Meanwhile, four Tory-led local authorities – including Mrs May’s local council of Windsor and Maidenhead – have gathered a £200,000 fund to fight her through the courts. [And Greenpeace has now joined in as well]. 

Lawyers have drafted letters ready to be submitted within hours of a decision demanding a judicial review that could see Heathrow’s bid caught up in the courts for a decade.

Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, and Justine Greening, the Education Secretary, are also likely to come under local pressure to stand by their long-held opposition and publicly criticise the move.

Mrs May’s government could make a decision on airport expansion as early as this week, though well-placed sources have suggested an announcement later this month was more likely.

Whitehall figures insist no decision has been taken on which of the three plans will be picked: a third runway at Heathrow, extending one of its existing runways or expanding capacity at Gatwick.

However MPs and bookmakers are increasingly confident that Heathrow’s third runway will get approval.

The option was backed by an independent reviewer, Sir Howard Davies, in his Airports Commission report last year and is favoured by business.

However, it directly contradicts a “no ifs, no buts” promise David Cameron made over blocking the third runway when he was Tory leader before the 2010 election.

Conservative opponents warned back-tracking on that promise – which once saw Mr Cameron “adopt” a tree near to the third runway site in a publicity stunt – would trigger a “catastrophe” in party trust.

Writing for The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Goldsmith repeats a promise to stand down and trigger a by-election if Heathrow’s third runway is approved, and warns of a backlash.

“There is no doubt that despite huge gains against the Lib Dems in West London in recent years, the Conservative Party would be badly damaged in the event that Heathrow gets a green light,” the Richmond Park MP writes.

“I promised voters I would step down and hold a by-election if Heathrow gets the go-ahead and I will stand by that pledge, but the fallout will be much wider, and it will hard for our brilliant local councils to weather the storm.”

He also raises the prospect that outcry could force the party to reverse any support for Heathrow that may be given in the coming weeks.

“If I were investing in Heathrow, it would worry me greatly because there is a very real risk that as soon as the polls tighten, the party will feel the need to reverse its policy, yet again,” he says.

Mr Goldsmith is not alone. Earlier this summer one in five (ie. 20%) Tory MPs asked by the pollster ComRes for their views said that they were against a third runway at Heathrow.

Tory rebels have told this newspaper that they plan to use every parliamentary tool available to delay the final sign-off of Heathrow’s expansion should Mrs May announce it.

Some hope to table a “regret motion” in the House of Lords to show the depth of feeling in Parliament. “It would cause damage and help the position for judicial reviews,” one Tory MP said.

Others plan to use three consultations expected to be launched if Heathrow gets the go-ahead – on planning approval, air space changes and the local impact of expansion – to lobby MPs into opposition.

“There would be a lot of MPs then realising on the detail how problematic Heathrow will be,” one Tory critic in Parliament said.

“The penny will drop over the betrayal with many MPs. Business people will just go nuts. There will be more critical voices. People think this is over; it is only the beginning.”

Tory whips were this week tapping up MPs to work out where they stood ahead of an expected vote, with party analysis suggesting there is a clear majority for Heathrow.

While a vote in the House of Commons this year is not essential, Cabinet sources said they expect a speedy vote to be held after Cabinet signs off a decision.

To limit the political fallout from backing Heathrow, the Government is expected to give MPs a free vote, meaning politicians would not be told by the party which side to back – though no decision has been taken.

The move is seen as a way to allow Mr Johnson and Ms Greening to stick by their principled opposition to Heathrow while not having to resign from the Government.

John McDonnell, Labour’s shadow chancellor, is among dozens of Labour MPs who also oppose Heathrow expansion and are expected to vote against the move.

The airport expansion cabinet committee is expected to meet either this Tuesday or the one after to discuss which option to pick, with the decision to be ratified at full Cabinet afterwards.

Windsor and Maidenhead council – which represented many of Mrs May’s constituents – is one of four which has pledged to seek a judicial review if Heathrow is approved.

Maidenhead and the other three councils – Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth – have each set aside £50,000 to fight the legal challenge.

Manchester Airports Group, which owns Stansted, has also warned it will take legal action if speculation that both Heathrow and Gatwick will win approval is proved true.

Asked about concerns the airport expansion decision would trigger a Tory backlash, a Number 10 source said the Prime Minister would act in the national interest.


** A regret motion:

Critical amendments and motions

9.03  There are two ways in which members of the House can table amendments or motions on a statutory instrument to express criticism without challenging the instrument directly.

9.04  First, an amendment or motion may be moved regretting some aspect of a statutory instrument but in no way requiring the government to take action. This provides an opportunity for critical views to appear on the order paper and be voted upon which would otherwise simply be voiced in the debate. Such motions are invitations to the House to put on record a particular point of view. Even if carried, the motion or amendment has no practical effect: the House passes the instrument in any event.

9.05  Secondly, a motion or amendment may be moved calling on the government to take some specific action. Such motions have been used to invite the government to amend subordinate legislation, thereby avoiding the need to vote on the legislation itself.

….  more details at


Politicians urge May to back Heathrow third runway

16 October 2016 (BBC)

The prime minister has been urged by 50 politicians to give the green light to a new runway at Heathrow.

The group from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland called on Theresa May to approve a third runway at the airport, describing it as “our gateway to the world”.

The government could make a decision as early as this week.  [Probably not this week].
Mrs May is believed not to favour a compromise option that would see both Heathrow and Gatwick build new runways.

The group urging the prime minister to approve Heathrow expansion includes Welsh Conservative MP and former cabinet minister Stephen Crabb, Northern Irish DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds and Welsh Labour’s Stephen Kinnock.

All three signed the letter to Mrs May which argued: “Although Heathrow is in London, it is the UK’s hub airport.

“Other countries are investing in and supporting their hub, or looking on enviously as they hub through other countries.

“Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales all have our own successful and growing airports.
“But Heathrow is our gateway to the world, bringing tourists to our attractions and helping our exporters reach new markets.

“Whether we are connected by road, rail or air, we know that connections to Heathrow are a key driver of investment decisions.

“Expanding Heathrow will create nearly four times more jobs in our three nations than other options being considered.”

‘Fight tooth and nail’

Mrs May faces considerable opposition to a third runway at Heathrow within her own cabinet as well as the Conservative Party and former Prime Minister David Cameron repeatedly put off making a decision.

Tory MP Adam Afriyie said he would vote against Heathrow expansion in defiance of party whips if there was no free vote in the House of Commons.

The Windsor MP told the BBC’s Sunday Politics show: “Oh, 100% yes. I’m going to fight tooth and nail.”

Conservative MP MP Zac Goldsmith has already warned Mrs May she faces losing Conservative MPs and councils if she backs Heathrow expansion.

The former London mayoral candidate has promised to quit as an MP if Mrs May give her backing to a third runway at the airport.

Fellow Tory MP Kwasi Kwarteng [always in favour of the runway, despite the impacts of Heathrow on his constituency of Spelthorne] said reports that there are 60 opponents within the party are “way off the mark”, telling the programme there are about “20 hardcore people” .

A cabinet sub-committee is due to meet, possibly as early as this week, to examine the arguments for the three options set out in last year’s Airports Commission report.
The commission recommended in July 2015 that a third runway should be built at Heathrow.
Other options are extending the airport’s existing northern runway or building a second runway at Gatwick


The Labour MPs below signed a letter in support of Heathrow.  Below is a little detail about why they may have done this:

Jim Fitzpatrick MP  (Poplar and Limehouse); Aviation Minister under Labour when they were proposing 3rdrunway.  Genuinely believes in the case for it.

Mike Gapes MP   (Ilford South). Understood to believe big infrastructure generally is a good thing.

David Lammy MP  (Tottenham)  May have been convinced by Heathrow’s arguments.

Siobhain McDonagh MP  (Mitcham and Morden)  Has family connections to the Blairite wing of the Party that pushed so hard for a new runway under  Labour

Gareth Thomas MP  (Harrow West)  Ws a leading light in SERA (Labour’s internal environment pressure group).  Now wants runways everywhere!

Stephen Timms MP  (East Ham) Long-time infrastructure man.  Big supporter of City Airport expansion too.

Virendra Sharma MP (Ealing, Southall) Changed his mind under influence of Heathrow.  Resigned from his junior post in the Labour Government in protest against the 3rd runway.  Now believes the conditions will mitigate the impact.  Lots of Heathrow-related jobs in his constituency.

Wes Streeting MP  (Ilford North)  New, young bright MP.  Supportive of the opposition to City Airport, but believes Crossrail will open up opportunities for his constituents to get to Heathrow.  New Labour.