Heathrow expansion fears after Putney MP Justine Greening’s dismissal as Transport Secretary
Putney MP Justine Greening’s dismissal as Transport Secretary has sparked fears that expansion at Heathrow may be back on the Government’s agenda.
David Cameron yesterday decided to appoint Patrick McLoughlin in place of Ms Greening, who will now take up the lesser-known role of International Development minister.
Ms Greening has been vociferously opposed to the idea and campaigned on the matter in the 2010 general election.
Her demotion has generated a raft of criticism, including from within her own party.
Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, reacted angrily to the news which he believes demonstrates the Government’s backtrack on its previous stance not to build a third runway.
Speaking after the decision to demote Ms Greening, The Mayor was unflinching in his response.
He said: "There can be only one reason to move her - and that is to expand Heathrow.
"The third runway would mean more traffic, more noise, more pollution - and a serious reduction in the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of people.
"We will fight this all the way. Even if a third runway was built, it would not do the job of meeting Britain's needs.
Airport expansion supporters believe the addition of a third runway at the airport is essential to the country’s hopes of remaining a global business centre.
But Mr Johnson added: "If we are to remain Europe's premier business hub we need a new four-runway airport, preferably to the east of London, that addresses the problem of aviation capacity before it is too late, and business is driven into the arms of our European competitors.
"It is time for Patrick McLoughlin to look at all the options, including bolder solutions that would deliver massive benefits in jobs and growth.
"And it is time for the government to level with Londoners. Are they in favour of a third runway at Heathrow or not?"
Thousands of residents, who live under the proposed flight path and a coalition of London councils, the 2M Group, have campaigned alongside MPs including Ms Greening against the potential plans.
Speaking on Radio 4's Today programme last week the Putney MP insisted a "cross-party consensus" meant a third runway at Heathrow would not be considered as it was not a “long-term solution".
She said: "We do need to look long term. One of the problems of the third runway – aside from noise, air pollution and surface access – is that it's not a full-length runway, it can't take the major new planes. The question then is, where would the fourth one go?
"It's time to move away from the piecemeal approach to aviation capacity. We need to look long term, start to be more bold, and think what our country needs in 30, 40, 50 years' time."
But pressed on whether she would stay in her job if a third runway was approved, Ms Greening regrettably admitted that it "would be difficult” for her to remain if expansion was supported.
Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith, who has also campaigned against the issue, yesterday tweeted: "Greening's appointment 11 months ago indicated the PM's position on Heathrow was solid. Yielding so easily suggests panic, not principle.”
Downing Street insists the Government's position is unchanged since the coalition agreement of 2010, which committed ministers to scrapping extra runway plans drawn up under Labour.
But it has launched a consultation process on future airport capacity and Chancellor George Osborne hinted at a possible U-turn by saying he believed more runway capacity was needed in the south-east of England and all options should be examined.