Transport secretary Justine Greening lost her job in Tuesday’s cabinet shuffle in a move taken to mean a switch in favour of Heathrow expansion by David Cameron.
Greening, MP for Putney, opposed building a third runway before becoming transport secretary. She is replaced after less than a year by government whip Patrick McLoughlin, with Greening demoted to international development.
McLoughlin, MP for West Derbyshire, is the third transport secretary since the 2010 election, emphasising the lack of continuity the sector faces in dealing with ministers.
Aviation minister Theresa Villiers also changed jobs, becoming Northern Ireland secretary. Villiers has overseen Atol reform and pledged to bring airline sales of holidays into protection. Chelmsford MP Simon Burns takes her place, moving from the health department.
Greening’s departure was slammed by Tory London Mayor Boris Johnson who said her opposition to a third runway was the “only possible” reason. Johnson accused the government of preparing to “ditch its promise” of no third runway and said: “We will fight this all the way.”
Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt moved to head the Department for Health and was replaced by Maria Miller, MP for Basingstoke. Hunt was slammed for his role in overseeing Rupert Murdoch’s bid for BSkyB. Consumer affairs minister Norman Lamb also switched roles, becoming minister for care services. Lamb gave the go-ahead for plans to limit airline debit-card fees at the weekend.
Other ministers responsible for travel matters remained in post: chancellor George Osborne, foreign secretary William Hague, home secretary Theresa May and business secretary Vince Cable. However, environment secretary Caroline Spelman left the cabinet, replaced by Owen Paterson.
The new transport secretary, McLoughlin, was a junior transport minister for three years under Margaret Thatcher. A former member of the National Union of Mineworkers, McLoughlin has spoken once in Parliament in the past year and voted for a “rethink” of policy to expand Heathrow under the last government.
Abta head of public affairs Luke Pollard said: “We’ll wait to see what moving Greening and Villiers means. [But] it’s essential the government addresses airport capacity and taxation. We’ve already been in touch seeking early meetings with the new ministers.”
The Board of Airline Representatives in the UK welcomed the arrival of McLoughlin.
The organisation’s chief executive Mike Carrivick said: “The UK’s economy has been hampered by the total lack of policy clarity for hub airport capacity, embracing global connectivity to existing and new markets, and the infrastructure to support it. The challenge facing Mr McLoughlin is to provide that missing clarity.
“In headline terms, that means being open to all options and providing firm timelines by which policies will be published. Only then can longer-term investment and business commitments be made.
“As an organisation that represents over 80 airlines, we look forward to working with Mr McLoughlin and his team in their policy development.”
Downing Street insisted yesterday that there was “no change of policy” on Heathrow, but the independent commission on airport capacity is expected to be set up shortly.
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