Theresa May confirms Boris Johnson will dodge embarrassing Heathrow vote
Boris Johnson will be spared the embarrassment of the crunch Heathrow vote next week, Theresa May has confirmed.
The Prime Minister said the Foreign Secretary will become “the living embodiment of global Britain” on a foreign jaunt which will clash with the Commons showdown.
Mr Johnson has been a longstanding opponent of building a third runway at Heathrow and promised to “lie down in front of those bulldozers” if the plans went ahead.
But the Conservatives have imposed a three-line whip on MPs to back expansion at the west London airport, meaning Mr Johnson would have to quit the Government to vote against it
Rumours had been swirling that the Uxbridge MP will be conveniently shipped abroad during the vote - and Mrs May confirmed the reports today.
“The Foreign Secretary early next week will be what I would describe as a living embodiment of global Britain,” she said at a press conference in Downing Street this afternoon.
“He will be out there actually showing the UK’s continued presence around the world and the work that the UK continues to do around the world with our diplomacy, working on so many of the issues and challenges we face across the world today.”
Earlier today trade minister Greg Hands put pressure on his Cabinet colleague by quitting his job to vote against expansion at Heathrow.
He said on Twitter: "As the Government will be whipping the vote on Monday, this means I am resigning from the Government.
"It has been an honour to serve the Prime Minister (and her predecessor) for the last 7 years and I wish the PM & the Government every continuing success."
The minister promised his constituents in the 2017 election campaign that he would "be voting against the proposal when it comes before Parliament".
He has now been replaced by Mrs May's own private secretary, George Hollingbery.
Labour said Mr Hands' shock decision to quit "piles the pressure" on the Foreign Secretary to do the same.
"Greg Hands' resignation piles the pressure on Boris Johnson who promised his constituents he would 'lie down in front of the bulldozers' to stop a third runway," Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald said.
"Instead he is jetting off... on Monday to avoid the vote because he is too weak to stand by his promises.
"Labour opposes a third runway at Heathrow because it doesn’t meet our four tests and we are calling for a free vote for all parties on Monday."
It emerged yesterday that Labour would be officially opposing Heathrow expansion - but the party will not be whipping its MPs to support its stance, meaning the vote is guaranteed to pass the Commons.