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According to media reports the Prime Minister, Theresa May, announced at Cabinet today that Government Ministers will be granted a limited window of time to express their personal opposition to whatever airport expansion plan is announced next week.
This is the strongest hint yet that the Government is preparing to back the view of the Davies Commission for a third runway at Heathrow. With high profile Ministers like Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (I can’t believe I just wrote that…) and former Transport Secretary Justine Greening still, at least theoretically, strongly opposed to Heathrow expansion, Prime Minister May presumably sees this period of open disagreement as a necessary compromise.
There can be little doubt about the result though: the ad-hoc Cabinet sub-committee that is actually driving Government policy on airport expansion counts no London MPs amongst its nine members, and the Prime Minister has been outspoken on the issue, stating the decision “has taken far too long” and is “in the national interest”. You don’t need to be expert Westminster-watcher to read the runes here.
The Prime Minister’s spokesperson also made clear that Cabinet collective responsibility will apply as usual following the period of tolerated disagreement , meaning that when it comes to any actual votes on the issue, all Government Ministers will be expected to vote with the Government or resign from the frontbench.
So, unless something extremely unexpected happens, by the end of next week the official Government position will be to support the expansion of Heathrow – but does that mean it will actually happen?
Analysis to follow shortly.