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Tory former transport secretary slams ‘poisoned pill’ Heathrow expansion deal

Theresa May has been warned she faces a battle in the courts if MPs back Government plans for a third runway at Heathrow.

Former transport secretary Justine Greening used Prime Minister’s Questions to hit out at the “poisoned pill” Heathrow expansion deal.

The Tory former cabinet minister told Theresa May the agreement represented “the worst kind of nationalisation” — with the public sector bearing all the risk and the private sector taking all the reward.

The decision to press ahead with expansion of the airport was announced on Tuesday after years of wrangling and delay.

Ms Greening, whose Putney constituency lies under the Heathrow flight path, said Heathrow had “played an absolute blinder” in getting the Department for Transport to sign off on the deal.

She said: “They’re a privately-owned company that now have DfT policy to give them an active monopoly status.

“Better still for them they’ve somehow managed to get a poisoned pill agreed by the DfT that means the taxpayer has to cover all their costs if things go wrong.

“Isn’t this the worst kind of nationalisation? The public sector and taxpayers bearing all the Heathrow downsides and risks but the private sector owning all of the upside and financial returns.”

Mrs May responded saying Heathrow’s expansion demonstrated the Government’s “commitment to delivering the jobs and major infrastructure”.

She added: “The airport expansion will be fully financed by the private sector, the statement of principles is clear, that it does not give Heathrow Airport Ltd the right to claim any costs or losses from Government should their scheme not proceed.”

The announcement to back the expansion came after the independent Airports Commission concluded in 2015 that a new north-west runway for Heathrow was the best option for delivering extra airport capacity – a decision endorsed by ministers in October 2016.

A senior Labour source said the party was “sceptical” over whether the Government’s plans for Heathrow would meet its four tests for airport expansion in the South-East, revolving around capacity, noise, environmental protections and regional connectivity.

The source said Labour would have to examine full details of the proposals before deciding whether its MPs should vote for the third runway plans, but added: “It has to meet those four tests. So far, what we have seen looks like the existing proposals don’t do that.”

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