The Government got a majority of 296 after the debate in Parliament last night (25th June) on a third runway. It now officially becomes Government policy.In total 415 MPs backed it; 119 opposed. 119 Labour MPs backed it; 94 opposed (Labour MPs were given a free vote). The Conservatives imposed a 3 line whip: 8 MPs defied the whip and voted against: Justine Greening, Greg Hands, Adam Afriyie, Sir David Amess, Bob Blackman, Zac Goldsmith, Matthew Offord and Theresa Villiers. The SNP abstained on the grounds that the guarantees of more flights to Scotland weren’t firm enough.
What happens now:
The local authorities, backed by the Mayor of London and Greenpeace, are preparing a legal challenge. They have six weeks to submit it. Heathrow Hub will also mount a legal challenge. The courts would be expected to hear the cases in the autumn.
Heathrow will start drawing up its detailed plans for the new runway. This is part of the DCO (Development Consent Order) process. These plans will be consulted next year with a view to going before a Planning Inquiry in 2020. Heathrow would be looking to get final permission in 2021, with a view to opening the new runway in 2025.
HACAN initial reaction:
- The majority was a little higher than expected. We had been expecting majority of around 250.
- With a majority of 296 the Government will feel they have a strong mandate to build the runway.
- There has been little change in the position of MPs over the last two years. In 2016 (in advance of the Government’s autumn 2016 announcement of its preferred runway option) HACAN spent £10,000 lobbying MPs. The indications then were that just over 300 MPs would back a third runway.
- Heathrow will be relieved that more Labour MPs backed a third runway than opposed, lessening their fears that a Corbyn Government would be able to overturn the decision
- The SNP played it very cleverly. They knew it would be safe to abstain as the third runway, which they back, would go through but by abstaining retained their position of never having voted with the Conservatives since 1979 (important for public consumption in Scotland) and put pressure on the Government to firm up the guarantees to Scotland on flight numbers.
- The Government and Heathrow will be under pressure to deliver on the conditions (such as a tougher night flight ban; respite for more communities) which may be made more stringent during the DCO process. This was repeatedly mentioned by MPs both for and against a third runway in the debate and the lack of firmer guarantees was the reason why Lilian Greenwood, the respected chair of the Transport Select Committee, voted against the Government.
- There remain doubts if Heathrow can overcome sheer logistics involved building the new runway