Katy Balls Katy Balls

Theresa May lays the groundwork for Heathrow expansion

After years of delays, point-scoring and heel-dragging, the government will next week announce which airport — or airports — will get the green light for expansion. While it’s a decision that eluded Cameron during his premiership, Theresa May’s spokesman confirmed today that the outcome is now imminent. However before anyone gets their hopes up that the airport saga will soon be over, it’s worth pointing out that the final vote will not take place for at least another year.

The government decision will be made by a cabinet sub-committee, with no London MPs among its members. Those on the committee include May, Philip Hammond, Greg Clark, Chris Grayling and Sajid Javid. While the Chancellor is on the record as a Heathrow-sceptic — supporting proposals for expansion at Gatwick — Treasury sources have suggested this week that Heathrow is the best option for kickstarting economic growth. What’s more, Chris Grayling used his conference speech to say that it was important any airport expansion linked to the rest of the country. This is a clear sign that the Transport Secretary is leaning towards Heathrow, which connects to more regional airports than Gatwick.

With speculation now rife that Heathrow will be granted permission for a third runway, the Prime Minister did offer ministers opposed to the plans an olive branch at today’s Cabinet meeting — announcing that she will lift Cabinet collective responsibility for a ‘limited period’. This would allow ministers opposed to the plans — such as Boris Johnson and Justine Greening — a way to make their feelings known without having to resign or fall out with their constituents. However, the letter to ministers on the issue makes clear what they can do or say is very limited.

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