Pro-Heathrow campaigners are hopeful of securing a yes vote in the Commons later tonight as it looks increasingly likely that MPs will back the third runway proposal.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling said he would be canvassing MPs in parliament today for last-minute support for the vote, expected to take place at 10pm after almost seven hours of debate.
The vote is expected to pass despite uncertain support from Labour MPs and key Conservatives Boris Johnson and Phillip Hammond being absent. If it does get the green light, Heathrow Airport Ltd (HAL) will start preparing for a development consent order application in 2020.
After a conspicuous absence, it has emerged that Johnson flew to Afghanistan today for a meeting with the country’s deputy foreign minister.
A three-line whip has been issued for Conservative MPs to back expansion, leading to calls that Johnson should resign to vote against the third runway.
Johnson defended his decision to avoid the vote by claiming his resignation would have “achieved absolutely nothing”, despite previously saying that he would “lie down in front of the bulldozers” to prevent expansion.
Chancellor Philip Hammond is also out of the country, although Hammond stressed he would have voted in favour of expansion.
A third runway at Heathrow is a vital part of the infrastructure that will support a prosperous global Britain. I am fully in favour of #HeathrowExpansion and would be voting in support if I wasn’t in Mumbai for the @AIIB_Official Annual Meetings.— Philip Hammond (@PhilipHammondUK) June 25, 2018
Grayling later urged MPs to support the third runway tonight as it would make “a real difference to Britain”.
He told the BBC: “I’m cautiously optimistic, it’s never over until it’s over and the vote has actually happened, but there is strong support from across the political spectrum on this.”
Several key Conservatives, including ex-trade minister Greg Hands who resigned to oppose expansion, are expected to rebel and vote against the runway.
Although the Labour party is against expansion, its MPs are free to vote as they please. More than 100 MPs have indicated they will vote for the third runway.
The Green party and the Liberal Democrats are against expansion, and while the SNP does not have an official position its MPs are also expected to vote against expansion.
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