Contenders for Theresa May’s job – and their (pro) Heathrow runway views
The New Civil Engineer has looked out the positions of the leading contenders to replace Theresa May as Prime Minister. Apart from Boris Johnson, (who conveniently managed to be abroad at the time of the Heathrow NPS vote, in order to avoid publicly voting …) every one voted for the 3rd runway (the vote was whipped). Every one other than Boris has made positive statements in the past about Heathrow expansion. Eg. Dominic Raab: “I support the expansion of Heathrow in principle, due to the economic benefits a third runway will bring – especially as Britain looks to forge a stronger global trading role” (and a few inaccurate statements on economic benefit, costs etc). Michael Gove said the 3rd runway was crucial to “ensuring the UK maintains its position as a global leader in aviation”. Sajid Javid in July 2016 said: “We should quickly give the green light to a third runway at Heathrow.” And so on. Remember what Boris said: after being elected as an MP in 2015, he told supporters: “I will lie down with you in front of those bulldozers and stop the building, stop the construction of that third runway.”
Heathrow and HS2 in firing line of many prime minister front runners
There are now 11 horses in the Tory leadership race and each of them takes a slightly different stance on High Speed 2 (HS2) and Heathrow expansion. Whether either project follows May out the door remains to be seen, but several Prime Minister hopefuls have previously called for one, if not both, schemes to be scrapped.
Does Boris Johnson spell the end of Heathrow expansion plans? Would the election of Dominic Raab or Michael Gove mean HS2 is paused? Whichever way the leadership race runs, the infrastructure sector waits with baited breath.
Tory leadership hopefuls’ infrastructure stance:
Boris Johnson – 6/4 (Odds via Skybet)
At present, Johnson is the favourite to succeed Theresa May. The former foreign secretary has never voted on new high speed rail infrastructure, but he has stated that HS2 should be scrapped and that the government should focus on building a new TransPennine high-speed line instead.
Despite his previous vocal opposition to Heathrow expansion, the MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip abstained on the key parliamentary vote concerning the subject. However, it should be noted that after being elected as an MP in 2015, he told supporters: “I will lie down with you in front of those bulldozers and stop the building, stop the construction of that third runway.”
Johnson was also a huge supporter of the now scrapped Garden Bridge scheme. In total, the Garden Bridge Trust – which was fully responsible for the construction and management of the project – spent £53M on the project which was never granted planning permission. But, in early 2018 the ex-mayor of London claimed the Garden Bridge would have been “adorning the river now” if he were still mayor.
Dominic Raab – 9/2
When asked about HS2 by BBC presenter Andrew Marr earlier this year, Raab responded: “I would want to review it to make sure we got full value for money and that its benefits are really seen in the North.”
However, his stance on Heathrow is less ambiguous. Following his vote for expansion, he said: “I voted in favour for local and national reasons. I support the expansion of Heathrow in principle, due to the economic benefits a third runway will bring – especially as Britain looks to forge a stronger global trading role.
He added : “The new runway will create new international routes, more than 100,000 new jobs (three-quarters of which will be in London and the South East), doubled freight capacity and benefits of up to £74bn to passengers and the wider economy over 60 years. The government has made clear this will be delivered at no cost to the taxpayer.”
Michael Gove – 11/2
Despite casting votes in favour of both phases of HS2, his commitment to the project is uncertain. According to Sunday Times journalist Tim Shipman, Gove privately floated the idea scrapping HS2 and spending the money saved “on local transport links in the Midlands and the North” to a group of MPs in June last year.
The current environment secretary also voted in favour of Heathrow expansion, arguing a week later that expansion was crucial to “ensuring the UK maintains its position as a global leader in aviation”.
He added: “The National Policy Statement takes into account public and industry feedback and recommendations made by the [Commons] transport committee to ensure that airport expansion in the south east will be delivered in a way that is cost-efficient, sustainable and in passengers’ best interests.”
Andrea Leadsom – 8-1
Leadsom voted in favour of Heathrow expansion, but she has been a longstanding critic of HS2. At the start of the 2016 Tory leadership race, which Theresa May eventually won, the campaign group ‘Stop HS2’ even said that of the declared candidates Leadsom had “the strongest Stop HS2 credentials”.
Jeremy Hunt – 14-1
The foreign secretary has consistently been supportive of HS2 and has before claimed that it demonstrates “success in business” and can lay down the mantle for “High Speed 3 and High Speed 4”.
Earlier this year, the MP for South West Surrey also called HS2 “absolutely vital”, arguing that it signalled post-Brexit ambition. He added: “What signal would it send if we cancelled our highest profile infrastructure project and weakened our commitment to share prosperity around the country?”
Hunt also voted in favour of the third runway at Heathrow Airport. Justifying his vote for the National Policy Statement, he argued: “Heathrow expansion will deliver a boost of up to £74bn to the economy and ensure the UK maintains its position as a global leader in aviation.
”This will be the first full length runway in the South-East since the Second World War, which sends a very clear message that this country is open for business.”
Rory Stewart – 16-1
Stewart voted in favour of a High Speed Rail link between London and the West Midlands and supports construction on the second phase of the HS2 rail network.
As well as voting in favour of Heathrow expansion last year, he was among a Conservative group of MPs that in 2012 argued for at least one new runway to be built at Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted in the next 10 years. Andrea Leadsom was also part of that group.
Sajid Javid – 25-1
Javid is an advocate of the HS2 project and in late 2018 defended the scheme in response to Boris Johnson’s calls for it to be scrapped in favour of a new east-west line across the Pennines.
Javid told the Birmingham Mail: “Boris is not a member of the government. The government is absolutely behind HS2. A huge amount of effort and investment has already gone into that.”
Prior to voting for the construction of a third runway at Heathrow, Javid was also a vocal supporter of the proposal. In July 2016, he said: “We should quickly give the green light to a third runway at Heathrow.”.
Javid in 2017 also called on the government to borrow more money to invest in infrastructure “that leads to more housing” and to do so by “[taking] advantage of some of the record low interest rates that we have.”
James Cleverly – 25-1
The Brexit minister became the 11th Conservative MP to enter the race to replace Theresa May as prime minister. He voted in favour of building a third runway at Heathrow and is dedicated to the HS2 project. Just this month he insisted that the Conservative party should fulfil its promise to deliver on HS2.
Mathew Hancock – 40-1
Matthew Hancock voted for the construction of the HS2 rail link from London to Birmingham in 2016 and is in favour of building the second phase of the HS2 rail network. He also voted in favour of Heathrow expansion.
Ester McVey – 66-1
The Tatton MP voted in favour of a third runway at Heathrow, but is a big opponent of HS2. She has before stated that she opposes the high speed rail project on the grounds that “the economic case has not been made”.
Last month, she said: “As each day passes, the case for HS2 gets weaker.” She added: “What the vast majority of the public want is a fast rail link connecting all the cities across the north of England as well as better local transport, not a vanity project whose cost keeps increasing.
”Furthermore local residents are concerned that the geographical complexities of Cheshire in terms of cost, design and safety have not fully been taken account of.”
McVey has already vowed to scrap HS2 in her bid to advance “blue collar conservatism”, if she becomes leader of the Conservatives.
Kit Malthouse – 66-1
Malthouse favours of pushing on with both phases of HS2, but in 2014 he did concede that the project was “possibly faltering as a scheme in terms of both political support but also practicalities when the bill seems to be going up and up”. He also voted in favour of Heathrow expansion.
Meanwhile, at the 2019 Local Government Association Planning, Housing and Infrastructure Conference earlier this year, Malthouse vowed “no part of the country, in theory, will be untouched by construction”.
Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, has scheduled the vote days before publication of a government report warning that surging aviation emissions would destroy Britain’s greenhouse gas reduction targets. It means MPs will have had no chance to read the report, from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) on Thursday, before voting.
The report will warn that aviation and other emissions are growing so fast that homeowners and businesses may have to sacrifice gas cookers, central heating boilers and petrol cars for Britain to meet its climate change targets.
News of the “deception” left Labour infuriated. “This is outrageous,” said Andy McDonald, the Labour transport shadow secretary. “MPs will be voting in ignorance of the key facts about emissions from aviation. It’s a free vote but I am recommending all Labour MPs oppose Heathrow expansion.”
Last year UK aviation emissions hit 37m tonnes, close to the pre-recession peak of 37.5m tonnes in 2005. The CCC says this must not be exceeded if the UK is to meet its 80% carbon reduction target. However, a report published on Grayling’s department website last week says aviation emissions will hit 43m tonnes of CO2 by 2030 if Heathrow expands.
Lord Deben, chairman of the CCC, has written to Grayling, warning of the perils of expanding aviation. He said: “Aviation emissions at 2005 levels in 2050 means other sectors must reduce emissions by more than 80%, and in many cases will likely need to reach zero . . . Levels higher [than 2005] in 2050 must not be planned for, since this would place an unreasonably large burden on other sectors.”
By “other sectors” Deben is referring to the emissions generated by private cars, buses and trains, plus those from central heating boilers, gas cookers and fires, as well as from businesses.
The UK emitted 800m tonnes of CO2 in 1990 and pledges to cut this to 344m tonnes by 2030 and 160m tonnes by 2050.
Deben’s letter has prompted angry private exchanges. Yesterday Grayling issued a statement supporting Heathrow expansion. “This country can no longer afford to wait for extra aviation capacity,” he said. “Parliament has the opportunity to take a bold and decisive step to deliver a strong free-trading global Britain after Brexit. The alternative is unthinkable.”
Others disagree, including Johnson whose Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency lies under the Heathrow flight path and who once threatened to “lie down in front of the bulldozers”. His overseas trip was contrived to let him avoid having to confront Grayling or vote.
The CCC’s figures suggest that Grayling’s plans to expand UK aviation, including a near-doubling of passenger numbers by 2050, are incompatible with Britain meeting its carbon reduction targets. Last year it warned that by 2030 Britain’s CO2 emissions would still be 100m-170m tonnes higher than they should be. Its report on Thursday will say this gap has increased.
Environmental groups warn that expanding aviation will in effect take Britain out of the Paris agreement on climate change. James Beard, a climate specialist at the World Wide Fund for Nature, said: “We can live up to our commitments to tackle climate change or we can build a third runway. It’s almost impossible to do both.”