Heathrow’s third runway agreement has become imminent after Theresa May announced that ministers will be allowed to express their opposition to airport expansion for a period of time after the decision is made next week. The Prime Minister told colleagues at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday that the decision had been “delayed for too long” and that it was important to now make it “in the national interest”. She also pointed out that opponents of whatever conclusion is reached would have a “temporary period” to speak frankly about their opposition. The Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and the Education Secretary Justine Greening, who were strongly against the Heathrow expansion, will not sit on the committee taking the final decision.
May’s spokeswoman hinted that ministers would eventually have to accept the government’s decision, “The decision will be subject to the ministerial code, in the usual way, including the rules of collective responsibility, but with this special arrangement for a limited time. May would not confirm if the period would cover the timescale for a vote in the Commons.” The idea of expansion has been subject to much opposition in the past. Philip Hammond, a former Transport Secretary, has previously expressed his concerns about congestion and pollution from Heathrow and believed that the airport should be improved rather than expanded. The Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, was skeptical about the suspension of collective responsibility in order to avoid a tricky vote. He said, “The Conservative party made a ‘no ifs, no buts’ promise to people in west London – waiving collective responsibility to save the hides of a couple of ministers will not fly. People will remember this and hold the Tories to account for their actions.”