Government secures backing for £14bn Heathrow expansion


MPs have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a £14bn third runway at Heathrow, which will expand the airport's capacity by hundreds of thousands of flights.

The Government won the key vote in the Commons by 415 votes to 119 - a majority of 296.

Opposition to the runway came mainly from Labour, which has opposed the plans but allowed a free vote on the issue to appease unions. Some 116 Labour MPs voted for the plans with 95 against, whereas just eight Tories voted against them.

The Conservatives imposed a three-line whip to support the proposals. The eight rebels were notably not joined by foreign secretary Boris Johnson who took a trip to Afghanistan to meet its deputy foreign minister, despite vowing to 'lie down in front of the bulldozers' to prevent the expansion happening.

The trip, which some say was hastily not to mention conveniently arranged, came just weeks after he hosted senior Afghan officials in London. 

His absence was highly embarrassing for the Government after Mr Johnson was mocked openly by colleagues, and his own department could not confirm his whereabouts on the morning of the vote.

Chancellor Philip Hammond, whose constituency is under the flight path, and Home Office minister Nick Hurd were also absent.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling told the Commons that approval from Parliament for a national policy statement - the mechanism for agreeing the runway, would set a 'clear path to opur future in the post-Brexit world'.

The plans will boost Heathrow from 480,000 flights a year to 740,000 and lift the number of annual passengers to 130 million.

Over the coming days, the transport secretary is expected to designate the final Airports National Policy Statement approved by Parliament, which will set the policy framework for Heathrow’s northwest runway development consent application.

In a statement the airport said: 'Heathrow is currently preparing to hold a second public consultation on its plans before submitting a development consent order application to the Planning Inspectorate, kick-starting an approval process expected to take 18 months. In addition to Heathrow’s consultation, the development consent process will provide further opportunities for residents and stakeholders to influence Heathrow’s proposal. If Heathrow is granted development consent, construction would begin in 2021 ahead of the new runway opening in 2026.'

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