MPs approve plans to expand Heathrow Airport as colleagues criticise Boris Johnson for missing crucial vote

  • MPs vote 415 to 119 to build a third runway at Heathrow Airport.
  • The plan had support from almost all Conservative MPs and a significant number of Labour MPs.
  • Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was criticised for making a mysterious trip to Afghanistan and missing the vote.
  • Johnson previously vowed to “lie down in front of the bulldozers” to oppose the plans.

LONDON – MPs have voted in favour of plans to build a third runway at Heathrow Airport as Conservative colleagues openly criticised Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson for missing the vote.

Parliament gave its approval to the proposals on Monday evening by a majority of 415 to 119, with the plan receiving support from almost all Conservative MPs, and a significant number of Labour MPs.

Protests were held in Parliament while MPs debated the issue on Monday night, and the vote was greeted with immediate promises of legal action. The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg reported on Twitter following the vote that Greenpeace, London mayor Sadiq Khan, and some local councils plan to go to court over the Heathrow plans.

The debate over the merits of expanding Heathrow has raged for over two decades. The last Labour government backed the idea – and won a Commons vote on the issue – but it was mothballed by the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition that took power in 2010.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling wrote in the Telegraph on Monday that the plans were crucial to Britain’s post-Brexit future, arguing that increased capacity at the UK’s biggest airport would help Britain to be “self-confident, ambitious, and relentlessly internationalist.”

Boris in Afghanistan

The government knew it would win the vote because it had a three-line whip on its own MPs and the support of many Labour MPs too.

Much of the media focus fell instead on the whereabouts of Boris Johnson. The MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip once vowed to “lie down in front of those bulldozers” in order to prevent Heathrow expansion, with his constituents largely opposed to plans which they say will cause severe disruption and noise pollution.

But as a minister, Johnson would have needed to resign to vote against the government, so he managed to whisk himself to Afghanistan for some last-minute business and avoid voting at all. His whereabouts was revealed after much speculation by a tweet from Afghanistan’s foreign ministry.

In a letter obtained by the Evening Standard, Johnson told his constituents he wouldn’t be resigning because it would have “achieved absolutely nothing.” But his all-too-convenient trip was subjected to a barrage of not-so-subtle barbs from Tory colleagues on Monday.

Greg Hands, the MP for Chelsea and Fulham, who resigned as a trade minister last week to keep his pledge to vote against Heathrow expansion, tweeted: “Great to arrive back in the U.K. at Luton Airport in time for the match today and to vote against #Heathrow expansion tomorrow. I wouldn’t want to be abroad for either of those. #commitments.”

Justine Greening quoted Hands, and added:

Simon Fraser, the most senior civil servant at the Foreign Office between 2010 and 2015, tweeted on Sunday: “Is there Cabinet Office guidance on how long former @foreignoffice permanent secretaries have to go on biting their tongue about @BorisJohnson?”

And during the Parliamentary debate prior to the vote, some Labour MPs shouted: “Where’s Boris?”

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