Plans for a controversial third runway at Heathrow airport have been given the go-ahead by the cabinet, transport secretary Chris Grayling has announced.
The divisive project was approved by the cabinet’s economic subcommittee, before being rubber-stamped by Theresa May’s top team on Tuesday.
MPs will be given a vote on the scheme by early July, although hardened critics of the project such as Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, will reportedly be allowed to be out of the country on the day of the vote.
Mr Grayling told the Commons: “Today, I am laying before parliament our final proposal for an airports national policy statement, which signals our commitment to securing global connectivity, creating tens of thousands of local jobs and apprenticeships, and boosting our economy for future generations by expanding Heathrow Airport.”
He added: “My department has met with local residents and fully understands their strength of feeling but this is a decision taken in the national interest and based on detailed evidence.”
It comes after the transport secretary faced pressure over chaos on the railways, with Ms May describing recent disruption as “unacceptable”.
The decision faced criticism from other prominent Tory MPs, including former cabinet minister Justine Greening, who said: “This decision is not only wrong for the UK and its competitiveness, it’s wrong for London communities who will be blighted by the pollution from an expanded Heathrow.
“The secretary of state says that the runway cannot be opened unless air quality conditions are met, but can he confirm that, given in the Heathrow Airport Ltd statement of principles there is a cost recovery clause for Heathrow in the event that the project does not proceed after this decision, that this could mean taxpayers have to pick up a bill that costs billions and billions of pounds?”
Mr Grayling insisted air quality was a “broader problem for London and other cities that will need to be dealt with well before we get to 2026”, adding: “That’s why the government has brought forward its air quality proposals and that’s why we are determined to see changes in our society that tackle the air quality issue.”
Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said Labour would consider the proposed Heathrow expansion against four tests.
He told MPs: “Expansion should only happen if it can effectively deliver on the capacity demands, if noise and air quality issues are fully addressed, if the UK’s climate change obligations are met in their entirety, and that growth across the country is supported.
“We owe it to future generations to get all of these factors absolutely right, but if the correct balance isn’t found then the law courts will quite rightly intervene.”
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