A vote on expanding London Heathrow airport would win the backing of about 600 of Britain’s 650 lawmakers, a senior member of Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative party said.
Construction of a third runway at Europe’s busiest hub would secure overwhelming support if it was put to Parliament before Christmas, Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of rank-and-file Tory lawmakers, said Tuesday in London.
“It’s a dangerous prediction but I think it’s about right,” Brady said in an interview after speaking in favor of Heathrow’s expansion at an event arranged by the airport’s owner. The opposition Labour Party, the Scottish National Party and the bulk of Tories all back the plan, he said.
Some prominent Conservatives, including London Mayor Boris Johnson, remain vehemently opposed to growth at Heathrow, citing concerns over noise and pollution, while Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne is among those backing the plan.
Johnson has said he wouldn’t view a government decision to go ahead with a new runway, recommended by the state-appointed Airports Commission under Howard Davies, as cause to resign, though London lawmaker Zac Goldsmith, also a Tory, plans to force a by-election in his constituency over any such move.
“As with all of these things, we have to be sympathetic to local concerns,” Brady said. “But this is a national infrastructure project and most politicians recognize that. It’s a national decision.”
Cameron has said he’ll reach a judgment in the autumn on whether to develop Heathrow into a 135 million-passenger-a-year superhub at a cost of 18 billion pounds ($28 billion).
Brady said the start of a five-year legislative period with the first Tory majority since the 1990s presents the “perfect moment” to settle an issue that’s been troubling politicians for decades, pledging: “We’ll make sure that happens.”
The plan to expand Heathrow, chosen ahead of a proposal to grow London’s rival Gatwick hub or build a new complex in the Thames estuary for which Johnson was a cheerleader, has backing from both ends of Britain’s political spectrum.
At the meeting where Brady spoke, the third-runway project was also supported by Paul Nowak, assistant general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, an umbrella labor group, and Paul Drechsler, president of the Confederation of British Industry, who said his message to Cameron was “just get it built.”
John Holland-Kaye, chief executive officer of Heathrow Airport Ltd., said Britain has begun to successfully embrace “big infrastructure” with projects such as the London Gateway container port and Crossrail train route, and urged Cameron to “show leadership” in implementing the Davies recommendations.