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Boris Johnson mocked by MPs over absence from Heathrow expansion vote

The Foreign Secretary was teased by MPs in the Commons over his trip to Afghanistan.

Campaigners are preparing a legal challenge to the plans (PA)
Campaigners are preparing a legal challenge to the plans (PA)

Boris Johnson has faced MPs for the first time since missing a crunch vote over the expansion of Heathrow.

The Foreign Secretary, who previously pledged to lie in front of bulldozers to stop a third runway, was absent from the vote on Monday night for a diplomatic visit to Afghanistan.

Mr Johnson, who could have been forced to quit the Government if he had voted against the move, was mocked by MPs at Foreign Office questions for his no-show.

Labour MP Paul Sweeney (Glasgow North East) joked: “The Foreign Secretary’s looking rather sprightly this morning after his overnight flight, I hope the jet lag wasn’t too severe.”

Boris Johnson is opposed to Heathrow expansion (Victoria Jones/PA)

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry also ribbed Mr Johnson over his absence, she said: “May I first sympathise with the Foreign Secretary that due to his emergency duties abroad he was unable to join last night’s fight against Heathrow expansion.

“Four years ago he was asked the biggest lesson that he had learned from his supposed hero Winston Churchill and his answer was, I quote, ‘never give in, never give in, never give in’.

“For some reason Churchill didn’t add ‘unless you can catch a plane to Kabul.”

The comments drew laughs and jeers from Labour and SNP MPs but Mr Johnson, beyond a wry smile, did not respond to the comments directly.

The controversial plans for a third runway were approved by 415 votes to 119.

But a group of councils and campaigners against the plans are preparing to take the Government to court to block the move.

A judicial review against the decision is being launched by four London local authorities affected by the expansion, Wandsworth, Richmond, Hillingdon and Hammersmith and Fulham, in partnership with Greenpeace and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.

Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven said: “If ministers don’t want to uphold the laws protecting us from toxic fumes and climate change, we’re going to ask a court to do that.”

An hour before MPs voted, environmental activists staged a lie-in just metres away from the Commons chamber.

Police locked-down the Central Lobby area after the 12 protesters, who described themselves as from a “pop-up” Vote No Heathrow campaign, sprawled across the floor while chanting.

The plans have been met by pockets of strong opposition within both Labour and the Conservatives.

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers was one of eight Conservative MPs to rebel against the Government, as well as Greg Hands, who quit as a minister ahead of the vote so he could oppose the plans.

House of Commons vote: Heathrow third runway. Infographic from PA Graphics.

Labour is officially opposed to the move but allowed a free vote on the measure that is backed by unions like Unite.

The plans will create 114,000 extra jobs in the area around the airport by 2030, with an extra 16 million long-haul seats by 2040, according to officials.

There are human costs to this decision. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said support for the new runway would set a “clear path to our future as a global nation in the post-Brexit world”.

He said: “This is a really important moment in the history of this House and the history of this country.”

Heathrow: options for new terminal (PA)

Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald outlined Labour’s official opposition to Heathrow expansion and accused Mr Grayling of making “a complete shambles of a vital national project”.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell, speaking from the Labour backbenches, warned that villages which have existed for 1,000 years will be “wiped off the face of the earth” by Heathrow expansion to enable a company to maximise its profits.

He said: “There are human costs to this decision that this House needs to recognise and contemplate before they vote tonight to worry and blight my community once again on a programme that will never, pardon the pun, take off.”



From Belfast Telegraph