Transport Secretary Grant Shapps suggests Boris Johnson could scrap Heathrow third runway plan
Grant Shapps has suggested that Boris Johnson could abandon plans for a third runway at Heathrow Airport.
The Transport Secretary said it was unclear whether the project “stacks up” financially and comes amid doubts over whether the new Prime Minister would pursue the project that he has long voiced opposition to.
Mr Johnson vowed to lie down “in front of those bulldozers” to stop its construction when he was elected as the MP for South Uxbridge and Ruislip in 2015.
But MPs last year overwhelmingly backed Theresa May’s government over building at the west London hub after years of wrangling over whether to opt for a second runway at Gatwick instead.
Mr Johnson, who was then Foreign Secretary, was heavily criticised for missing the vote after travelling to Afghanistan.
When asked what the new Government’s position was on the £14bn runway, Mr Shapps told Sky News: “My view and the Prime Minister’s view is the same actually.
“He was obviously and famously so against it. Of course Parliament has voted for it with a massive majority.
“Most people accept we need more south-east airport capacity, Parliament’s voted for Heathrow."
But he added: "There are questions about whether the whole plan stacks up.
“This is privately funded. They’re going to need to make sure they bring in enough income to justify the billions of pounds spent on it, that’s something that we'll be taking a really, really close look at, I certainly will as the new Transport Secretary.”
When asked whether the project, backed by 415-119 MPs last year, would go ahead despite the PM’s opposition, he added: “[Mr Johnson has] also said that subsequent parliaments voted for it.
“But there are of course court cases to do with emissions, that sort of thing so what we’ve said is we’ll watch that process very carefully and in the meantime I’ll be having a really close look at whether figures stack up or whether building more capacity, another runway there, would add to the charges to such an extent that it doesn’t.”
MPs from across the House have been divided over the case for a third runway amid fears that it could disrupt local communities and over its impact on the environment.
Labour last year gave its MPs a free vote on the issue, with Shadow Chancellor and Hayes and Harlington MP John McDonnell one of the project’s staunchest opponents.
A Heathrow spokesperson said: “The Secretary of State is right, Parliament overwhelmingly voted in favour of expanding Heathrow because our plan stacks up.
“Our plan is currently out for statutory consultation – it’s affordable and meets strict, legally-binding environmental targets.
“This critical project is entirely privately-funded, and over the next few years we will create tens of thousands of new skilled jobs, boost British exporters by billions and generate the competition and choice that will lower airfares for passengers.”
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe