Tories swing to R3?

A number of prominent Conservative MPs have spoken out in favour of expansion at Heathrow.

Over the weekend, Housing Minister Grant Shapps, tipped by some to take over as party chairman in an expected reshuffle, said that “all options should remain open” when asked about aviation capacity in an interview with the BBC.

Tim Yeo, a former environment minister, went further, saying that a decision should be taken now  to expand Heathrow, and that since the “environmental objections were dissapearing”, the government should “go for it”. Former Labour chancellor Alastair Darling also spoke in favour of a third runway.

Transport Minister Justine Greening opposes any expansion at Heathrow, but there is speculation she may lose the brief in the expected reshuffle. Other prominent Conservatives also oppose R3 – including Boris Johnson and Zac Goldsmith. The 2M group of local authorities, which includes LB Hillingdon and LB Hounslow, the two authorities with most to gain in terms of employment from a third runway at Heathrow, has long campaigned against expansion.

The issue has the potential to split both leading political parties in the run up to a future General Election. Meanwhile, most business opinion suggests the prevarication over whether to expand at Heathrow, or to seek capacity improvements elsewhere in the south east risks a dangerous downgrading of London’s status as a World City, and of the UK’s ability to compete on the global stage.

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