The most high-profile cabinet critics of a third runway at Heathrow – Boris Johnson and Justine Greening – will be “unavoidably away” when the Commons votes on the issue.
A Whitehall document leaked last month suggests #Theresa May could hold a free vote, potentially allowing some ministers to oppose a third runway. However, it is understood that the cabinet, at least, is more likely to be instructed to vote in support of the government’s position.
Johnson, the foreign secretary, and Greening, the education secretary, will quietly be given leave to miss the vote. “Boris can easily be arranged to be on tour and Justine could be researching grammar schools in Malawi, or some such,” said one senior government source.
Johnson, the MP for Uxbridge in west London, has previously said he is prepared to lie down “in front of bulldozers” to stop a third runwayfrom being built. However, it has been reported that he is now willing to accept such an outcome. The decision on airport expansion in south-east England was repeatedly delayed under David Cameron, who once ruled out a third runway at Heathrow with “no ifs, no buts”.
That option was recommended by the Davies commission in 2015, but put off for further environmental studies until after the London mayoral election. The Conservative candidate in that poll, Zac Goldsmith, was fiercely opposed to expansion.