Page last updated at 14:24 GMT, Sunday, 18 January 2009

Mayor blasts Heathrow vote ruling

Boris Johnson on Heathrow 'madness'

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has accused the prime minister of not having the "guts" to let MPs vote on plans to build Heathrow's third runway.

Pledging to support a legal challenge, the Tory mayor said: "I have absolutely no doubt we are going to be successful. This runway will not be built."

Ministers say MPs never vote on "quasi judicial planning matters".

They say a new runway, subject to environmental restrictions, will boost jobs and keep Heathrow competitive.

The Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and up to 50 Labour MPs oppose the plans but will not get the chance to vote.

One Labour MP, John McDonnell, who represents Heathrow, was suspended from the Commons for angrily protesting against the decision.

Security risks

Speaking to BBC One's Andrew Marr Show, Mr Johnson said: "They haven't got the guts to call a Parliamentary vote on this matter."

He challenged the prime minister to turn up to a public debate on the third runway and claimed the vast majority of people in London were against it.

The notion that we have just rolled over and given the aviation lobby or business what they want is palpable nonsense
Tony McNulty
Minister for London

"They haven't even got the nerve to put it to a vote of the whole of Parliament, let alone in London."

Mr Johnson favours building a new airport in the Thames estuary, which is not official Conservative policy, but admitted it was a "bit of a longshot".

However he said all options, including looking at capacity at other airports like Stansted, Gatwick, Luton and Manston in Kent, should be considered - as well as looking at the Thames Estuary.

New jobs

"Heathrow airport is basically a planning error of the 1940s, we are mad to be intensifying that error by greatly increasing the number of flights over London," he said.

"I think we've got to think big."

He confirmed he would contribute 15,000 of public money to help support a legal challenge, possibly on the grounds of noise, congestion and the security risks of having planes landing over highly populated areas.

MPs told of decision
Planning process begins - this will take years
Legal challenge likely in days
If Tories win next election they would scrap plan
If all goes according to government plan, construction would start in 2015
Third runway due to finish 2019

The government announced on Thursday that it would back plans for a third runway and sixth terminal.

It would allow the annual number of take-offs and landings to increase to 605,000 by 2020 - up from 480,000 today.

But it also announced some restrictions, including an initial cap on flights from the new runway, a commitment that only the cleanest planes could use the new flight slots, and new emissions targets.

The decision has been backed by businesses, some unions, airport operator BAA and British Airways, who argue that Heathrow is already "jam packed" and could lose out to European rivals. They also say building a new runway and terminal alone will create 60,000 jobs.

But it still has to go through the planning process, faces legal challenges alongside direct action from protesters and would be scrapped if the Conservatives win power, the party says.

Minister for London Tony McNulty strongly defended the plans on BBC One's Politics Show.

Asked whether he was condemning many Labour MPs in the area to losing their seats at the next election, he said: "I don't doubt that many of my colleagues have actually been quite pleasantly surprised by the extent of the environmental dimension to this package."

Tory poll lead

While the decision may be unpopular in some areas, it had to be taken in the interests of the city's, and the country's economy, he said.

"Most intelligent people know there is a need for some greater capacity around London - Heathrow currently provides the only outlets to the emerging markets in India, China and parts of south America," he said.

Many in the business community would be disappointed by the restrictions on the new runway, he said.

"The notion that we have just rolled over and given the aviation lobby or business what they want is palpable nonsense."

Meanwhile a YouGov poll for the Sunday Times suggests the Conservatives have extended their lead over Labour in the past month.

The online survey of 2,077 adults across Britain on 15 and 16 January put the Conservatives on 45%, up four points on last month, 13 points ahead of Labour who were down three on 32%. The Liberal Democrats were down one on 14%.

A ComRes telephone poll of 1,009 adults on 14 and 15 January for The Independent on Sunday also suggested the Tories were widening their lead over Labour.

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