This week’s Cabinet reshuffle has seen both the transport and aviation ministers replaced. Transport Secretary Justine Greening has been made Secretary of State for International Development, and Aviation Minister Theresa Villiers has been made Northern Ireland secretary. Both MPs had been firmly opposed to a third Heathrow runway and Justine Greening actively campaigned against it while in opposition.
Also in the last couple of days press reports indicate that the Government is considering setting up an ‘independent’ commission to address the question of airport expansion.
Both these developments could make it easier for the Government to renege on its commitment not to build a third Heathrow runway, although Foreign Secretary William Hague has since ruled out any change to the Government’s position. Zac Goldsmith, Conservative MP for Richmond Park has said he would resign his post if the Government were to backtrack on the high profile commitment made in the coalition agreement concerning Heathow.
As part of a stream of media speculation about the Government’s position on a third runway, on 27th August fellow Conservative TimYeo challenged David Cameron to prove that he was a man not a mouse. How? By giving in to industry lobbying and performing a U-turn in relation to Heathrow expansion.
Yeo had in March announced his own U-turn to support a third runway. He had two reasons: that the economic case in favour had changed, and that aviation is now part of the EU ETS. This latter development means, he said this week, that “We could cover the whole of Surrey with runways and not increase emissions by a single kilogram”.
Smell a rat? You’re right to, and AEF’s updated 2-page briefing Runways, emissions and the EU ETS explains why.