Theresa May appeared set to announce a new Heathrow runway after revealing that cabinet ministers will be allowed a “temporary period” to express opposition to any decision on airport expansion.
The Prime Minister’s spokesperson said the "special arrangement" to allow ministers like Boris Johnson and Justine Greening to voice dissent, reflected their publicly-known "long held views" on expansion.
The move represents Ms May’s bid to avoid a major cabinet split on the issue to be decided early next week, but it could fail if Heathrow’s opponents are forced to fall into line after the temporary period ends.
Ms May told a meeting of the full cabinet today that the final decision would be taken at a sub-committee of ministers.
Her spokesperson said: "The Prime Minister also set out, in terms of the process moving forward, she wanted to approach this in a mature way, recognising that a number of ministers have long held views on this issue and previously set out positions.
"And that, in light of that, there would be a certain period of time after the committee has taken a decision, where they would be able to express those views and they would not be expected to publicly support the government’s position."
Neither Foreign Secretary Mr Johnson nor Education Secretary Ms Greening, the two main opponents to Heathrow expansion, will sit on the committee taking the final decision.
Mr Johnson in particular has been a vocal critic during his tenure as London Mayor, in which he suggested building an airport in the Thames Estuary as an alternative option, dubbed Boris Island.
A Heathrow third runway was recommended by the independent Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies.
It has also gained backing from Labour this week with shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald saying there needs to be "overwhelming evidence" that the Commission’s conclusions are flawed for it to be ignored.
The Scottish National party has also said it backs the Heathrow expansion. Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: "Suspending collective responsibility to avoid a tricky vote is something that Corbyn does to try and paper over the massive schisms in his party, and now, it seems, the Prime Minister has taken a leaf out of his book."Reuse content