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Heathrow expansion plans approved for take-off after commons vote

Heathrow expansion plans approved for take-off after commons vote

By Press Association Political Staff

Heathrow expansion moved a step closer after the Government easily won a vote on controversial plans for a third runway.

Support from Labour MPs helped push through the proposals to expand Europe’s busiest airport with an overwhelming majority of 296.

But a group of councils and campaigners against the plans are preparing to take the Government to court to block the move.

A judicial review against the decision is being launched by four London local authorities affected by the expansion – Wandsworth, Richmond, Hillingdon and Hammersmith and Fulham – in partnership with Greenpeace and mayor Sadiq Khan.

Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven said: “If ministers don’t want to uphold the laws protecting us from toxic fumes and climate change, we’re going to ask a court to do that.”

An hour before MPs voted, environmental activists staged a lie-in just metres away from the Commons chamber.

Police locked-down the Central Lobby area after the 12 protesters, who described themselves as from a “pop-up” Vote No Heathrow campaign, sprawled across the floor while chanting.

The plans have been met by pockets of strong opposition within both Labour and the Conservatives.

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers was one of eight Conservative MPs to rebel against the Government, as well as Greg Hands, who quit as a minister ahead of the vote so he could oppose the plans.

Boris Johnson, a long-time opponent of expansion, missed the vote as he was in Afghanistan.

The Foreign Secretary, who could have been forced to quit the Government if he had voted against the Government, was mocked for failing to appear with MPs shouting “where’s Boris?”.

Labour is officially opposed to the move but allowed a free vote on the measure that is backed by unions like Unite.

The plans will create 114,000 extra jobs in the area around the airport by 2030, with an extra 16 million long-haul seats by 2040, according to officials.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said support for the new runway would set a “clear path to our future as a global nation in the post-Brexit world”.

He said: “This is a really important moment in the history of this House and the history of this country.”

Tory former international trade minister Greg Hands, who resigned from Government to oppose Heathrow’s expansion, said the plans were “fundamentally flawed”.

“But this vote is also about integrity and about the pledges we make to our electors. It is to be regretted it’s now not a free vote but I urge colleagues to vote against this proposal tonight.”

Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald outlined Labour’s official opposition to Heathrow expansion and accused Mr Grayling of making “a complete shambles of a vital national project”.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell, speaking from the Labour backbenches, warned that villages which have existed for 1,000 years will be “wiped off the face of the earth” by Heathrow expansion to enable a company to maximise its profits.

He said: “There are human costs to this decision that this House needs to recognise and contemplate before they vote tonight to worry and blight my community once again on a programme that will never – pardon the pun – take off.”

Pic by Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire

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