Former London mayor and opponent to Heathrow expansion, Boris Johnson, is reported to have been “frozen out” of a cabinet committee that will decide the future of London’s airports.
Downing Street is refusing to confirm which senior ministers have been chosen for the body that will take the decision on airport expansion, which is expected next month.
However, a leaked document that reveals the membership of the cabinet sub-committee shows that Heathrow’s most vocal critics have been excluded, The Times reported.
While both foreign secretary Johnson and education secretary Justine Greening are not members, communities secretary Sajid Javid, a Heathrow supporter, keeps his place as does former transport secretary Sir Patrick McLoughlin, now chairman of the Conservative Party.
The presence of the party chairman, a position with no obvious connection to airport capacity, will in particular fuel speculation that prime minister Theresa May is leaning towards approving a third runway at Britain’s biggest airport, according to the newspaper.
Others on the economy and industrial strategy (airports) sub-committee, chaired by May, include chancellor Philip Hammond, business and energy secretary Greg Clark, environment secretary Andrea Leadsom, Scottish secretary David Mundell and chief whip Gavin Williamson.
Cabinet office documents leaked last week revealed that May was considering suspending collective cabinet responsibility in an attempt to defuse the row over airport expansion. That could mean that ministers would be allowed to speak out on both sides of the debate and would be given a free vote on the issue in the Commons.
Industry figures expect the cabinet sub-committee to meet early next month, with October 18 pencilled in as a date for the final decision.
Even if Heathrow receives the go-ahead, some believe that May could also decide to encourage Gatwick to expand on the grounds that the UK must do all it can to expand its export capacity after Brexit, according to The Times.
A cross-party group of MPs warned over the summer that continued delay over taking a decision on whether to expand the airport was damaging the country’s economy.
But group that includes cross-party MPs and leading Midlands business figures, has written to May warning that an expanded Heathrow would choke regional growth.
They said: “Allowing a third runway at Heathrow would re-forge its monopoly, undermining the benefits brought by the break-up of the BAA, and restrict the growth of direct flights to and from our great regional cities.”
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