The Government is poised to give the go-ahead for the fifth terminal at Heathrow, a decision that will intensify accusations that the war on terrorism is being used to "bury" difficult announcements.
Senior officials at the Department of Transport have been told to ready themselves to release the news, at the very moment when Britain appears to be about to join a land war against the Taliban.
There are strong suspicions in Whitehall that the beleaguered spin doctor Jo Moore, who was forced to apologise after suggesting that her civil servants "bury" bad news in the aftermath of the 11 September attacks, has been involved in the decision. The news will add to the pressure on her boss, Stephen Byers, the Transport Secretary, who has stood by Ms Moore in the face of calls for her resignation.
Officials believe that the Government wants to conceal its approval of the terminal – which had not had been expected until next month – under cover of the first overt involvement of UK soldiers in Afghanistan. One source said: "She's at it again. She doesn't seem to have learned from the furore over the leaked e-mail.''
The construction of the terminal has long been opposed by residents' organisations, local authorities and environment groups. Further doubts have been raised about the project by the downturn in air travel caused by the events of 11 September.
A spokesman for the Department of Transport would not confirm that the go-ahead for the fifth terminal was about to be announced or that Ms Moore was in any way involved in the issue. He said the decision was now in the hands of the Secretary of State.Reuse content