Heathrow campaigners claim anti-expansion ministers sidelined

Heathrow campaigners claim anti-expansion ministers sidelined

Ministers who have a constituency interest in deciding on airport expansion will not be involved in the government’s response to the Airport Commission’s report backing a third runway at Heathrow.

Campaigners against Heathrow expansion claim critics of a third runway have been "excluded" from a new cabinet sub-committee to be chaired by prime minister David Cameron which will decide the issue.

The Cabinet Office said ministers with the "greatest policy interest" in the decision had been asked to attend.

None of the committee members represent London seats or constituencies that would be directly affected by building a new runway at Heathrow.

John Stewart, chairman of anti-Heathrow expansion group HACAN, said the decision looked like a move by Cameron “to sideline” third runway opponents.

Leading Conservative opponents of Heathrow expansion include London mayor Boris Johnson and Zac Goldsmith, the Richmond Park MP who is hoping to succeed him.

Goldsmith told the London Evening Standard: “This will give people even more reason to believe that the Heathrow decision is being rigged in favour of the Heathrow lobbyists.”

The make-up of the new cabinet airports sub-committee was disclosed in a written ministerial statement.

Its terms of reference are to "consider matters relating to airport capacity in the south-east of England in the light of the Airports Commission's report".

Aside from David Cameron, other attendees include chancellor George Osborne, business secretary Sajid Javid, transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin, environment secretary Liz Truss, climate change secretary Amber Rudd and chief whip Mark Harper.

But neither home secretary Theresa May, MP for Maidenhead or foreign secretary Philip Hammond, MP for Runnymede - both of whose constituencies are under the flight path - have been invited to attend.

Neither international development secretary Justine Greening and Putney MP who has been a vocal critic of Heathrow expansion nor chief secretary to the Treasury Greg Hands, who represents Fulham, feature on the committee.

The Northern Ireland secretary and Chipping Barnet MP Theresa Villiers is not on it either, but Scottish secretary David Mundell is.

Cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Haywood said: “It is right that ministers should be able to undertake their duties as an MP, and to represent the views of their constituents.

“The prime minister is also clear, however, that decisions on the government’s response to the commission must follow due process, and be taken solely in the national interest.

“To facilitate this, the prime minister has decided to establish and chair a new Cabinet sub-committee to consider these issues.

“This committee will be made up of ministers from those departments with a direct interest in the matter, in the usual way.”

Reigate Conservative MP Crispin Blunt described the move as “a further nail on the coffin” for Gatwick’s case for a second runway.

He said Gatwick’s proposition has been “substantially built on political deliverability and they have identified these five senior ministers, with constituencies close to Heathrow, who could prevent the Heathrow option being approved.

“Now the unanimous individual and collective view of the five commissioners that have considered this issue for over two years will be judged by an untainted Cabinet committee, it is very difficult to see how they could possibly come to a different conclusion to that of the Airports Commission.”

Osborne insisted on Tuesday that a final decision on whether to expand Heathrow or to opt for a new runway at Gatwick - also deemed feasible by the commission - will be made by the end of the year.


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