Labour Hint That They No Longer Back Third Runway

Senior figure says 'no way' party would vote in favour at the moment

Plane landing at Heathrow. Picture: Ian Wylie

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There is widespread speculation that the Labour party is preparing a significant shift in its position on the Third Runway at Heathrow.

In an interview with the Financial Times a ‘senior Labour figure’ said that “if the vote is any time soon there is no way we would back it.” Without support from the Labour party in parliament the plans may struggle to proceed.

Sources within the party say that this does not represent a shift from their manifesto which committed to backing the expansion with certain conditions as it is now thought that the new runway cannot meet environmental standards.

Labour are now believed to be claiming the project will not meet four tests any locations for airport expansion had to pass in order to gain its support. The four tests include addressing noise issues, UK climate change obligations and ensuring growth across the country is supported.

It is believed that the change in language on the airport from Labour reflects the increasing influence of John McDonnell the Shadow Chancellor, a long-time campaigner against the third runway.

Ruth Cadbury MP for Brentford & Isleworth said, "Expanding Heathrow doesn’t just mean ever worsening congestion and pollution in West London, and new noise for many more Londoners, but it would require an unacceptable cost to the UK taxpayer, for little economic benefit. The third runway fails the four tests that Labour set, and I am therefore glad that the front bench are reviewing party policy on the issue. We must also be clear that not only is Heathrow's third runway unacceptable, but so are more flights on the existing two runways".

There is expected to be a vote on the National Policy Statement on Airports in the first half of 2018 and without Parliamentary approval the plans for the airport would be stymied.

John Stewart, the chair of HACAN, the residents’ group which opposes a third runway, said, “This could be a game-changer. If Labour joins the Liberal Democrats and rebel Tories, Theresa May could struggle to get a majority for a new runway.”

Robert Barnstone, Coordinator of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said, “The Government need to be challenged on this project which is not only incredibly damaging to the environment, but will also come at a very high price to passengers who will pay for the third runway and UK taxpayers who will pay for road and rail upgrades – costing up to seventeen billion pounds; money that could be spent on desperately needed infrastructure in other regions of the UK.”

A Back Heathrow spokesman said, “Polling shows that over 70% of MPs (cross-party) support building a new Heathrow runway, including 74% of Labour MPs.

“Heathrow expansion has the support of residents, local businesses, community groups and politicians from all major parties. They back it because of the huge number of jobs, apprenticeships, investment and other benefits that will come to the local area and the wider UK.

“These ‘sources’ should speak to west London MPs such as Virendra Sharma and Stephen Pound, as well as other Labour MPs in Wales, the North-East, Scotland and other areas, all of whom want to see Heathrow expanded.”

In the autumn the Transport Select Committee in Parliament will assess the proposals which the Government will put to a vote next year.

August 25, 2017

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