Theresa May has set out strict rules in a bid to control how Cabinet ministers like Boris Johnson raise objections to an expected decision to approve Heathrow expansion.
The Prime Minister is allowing “exceptional and limited” dissent from some ministers to avoid a major Cabinet split, but has set out mind-boggling restrictions on what they can and cannot say.
In a letter to ministers, she also reveals that after a Cabinet-committee decision to approve expansion next week, the final proposals may not be put to the House of Commons until the early part of 2018.
Ms May’s message said that she recognised some colleagues have “strongly held views” and in some cases had constituency matters relating to airport expansion.
As a result she would put in place a “special arrangement” to allow some designated ministers a chance to avoid backing the Government position and to set out a personal position on the matter. Any minister wishing to voice disapproval must “seek my approval”, she said.
The letter goes on: “This special derogation from normal rules of collective responsibility will also be subject to a number of important caveats.
“No minister will be permitted to campaign actively against the Government’s position, nor publicly criticise, or call into question the decision making process itself.
“Ministers will not be permitted to speak against the government in the House [of Commons].”
The rules are likely to hit Education Secretary Justine Greening and Foreign Secretary Mr Johnson, not known for verbal restraint, who both have already been vocal in their opposition to Heathrow.
Setting out the process Ms May explains that once the Cabinet committee has made a decision on which proposal for expansion to back, it will then go to a full public consultation before "a final decision is put before the House" in the winter of 2017/18.
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 Pparty 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