Minister resigns ahead of parliamentary vote on Heathrow expansion

Greg Hands MP.

Junior trade minister Greg Hands has resigned from the government to oppose the expansion of Heathrow Airport.

Hands decided to resign over the decision of the government to whip its MPs in favour of Heathrow expansion when MPs vote on the issue on 25 June. Announcing his decision on Twitter, Hands said: “As the government will be whipping the vote on Monday, this means I am resigning from the government. It has been an honour to serve the prime minister (and her predecessor) for the last seven years and I wish the PM and the government every continuing success.”

As a minister whose responsibilities include international trade, it seems likely that Hands could have found a reason for being absent from the vote next week, in common with his colleague the foreign secretary Boris Johnson who is expected to be out of the country on the day of the vote. However, he clearly wanted to make a statement by voting against the proposed third runway at Heathrow, which made his ministerial position untenable.

Hands represents the Chelsea and Fulham constituency in London and he pledged to oppose the new runway at the 2017 election.

The government has confirmed that the vote on the Airports National Policy Statement will take place on Monday 25 June. Ministers approved a draft national airports policy statement in October but Parliament has to give its approval for detailed planning to start. A number of MPs from the government side are expected to oppose development at Heathrow while Labour is also divided on the issue, with high profile MPs like shadow chancellor John McDonnell, opposed to it, but many of the party’s trade union backers are in favour. Labour MPs are being allowed a free vote on the issue.

With the SNP in favour of Heathrow expansion, the Lib Dems opposed and with the government ordering Conservative MPs to vote in favour, it is almost inevitable that the Heathrow expansion plan will be backed when the Commons votes next week. Such a decision will be welcomed by the construction sector and the embattled transport secretary Chris Grayling who said that the airport’s expansion would provide a “vital legacy” for the British economy.

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