A decision on airport expansion may be delayed to September, a senior Cabinet minister has admitted.
Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin warned “the timetable is very tight” for prime minister David Cameron to oversee a decision before parliament breaks up for its summer recess.
“I’m very keen that we get an airport decision this year,” he told the London Evening Standard when asked if it could come before the summer break.
“It’s very tight. It may or may not be possible to get a decision before the House rises in July,” he said.
“What I’m certain is that you can’t take this decision when the House of Commons is not sitting.”
McLoughlin pointed to the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war as being among priority issues demanding Cabinet attention after the EU referendum is over on June 23.
He was speaking after Gatwick made a last ditch bid for expansion by promising to start construction on a second runway before Cameron leaves office if chosen.
The Airports Commission recommended Heathrow expansion a year ago, naming Gatwick as second favourite and leaving the Cabinet to make the final decision.
Cameron postponed a decision in December for at least six months for extra research on noise and pollution.
But industry figures fear a “Whitehall logjam” of major decisions delayed by the referendum could push it back to the autumn.
Conservative MPs opposed to a third runway think the government is edging towards giving Heathrow the go-ahead for a third runway within weeks.
“I get the feeling from talking to colleagues that there could be a swift decision to back Heathrow in July,” the newspaper reported one critic as saying.
“The prime minister won’t be standing for re-election in 2020 so he no longer has to worry about the public reaction, and he won’t worry too much about what [London mayor] Sadiq Khan says on this issue.”
Khan pledged to oppose Heathrow expansion in his manifesto.
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