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UK Lawmakers Debating Heathrow Expansion

UK Lawmakers Debating Heathrow Expansion

Monday, 25 June 2018 02:38 PM

LONDON (AP) — British lawmakers debated Monday whether to expand Europe's biggest airport, a decision the government described as the most important for transportation in a generation.

The decision on a third runway at Heathrow Airport comes after years of study and debate over how and where to expand airport capacity in southeastern England.

Approval of the 14 billion-pound ($18.6 billion) project is certain to be challenged in the courts.

Prime Minister Theresa May's government supports the expansion, saying it demonstrates Britain's commitment to expanding international trade and transport links and would have long-term economic benefits.

Business groups have strongly backed the government. They argued that increasing the capacity at Heathrow would be tantamount to putting out an "open for business" sign as Britain prepares to leave the European Union.

"This is a really important moment in the history of this House and the history of this country," Transport Secretary Chris Grayling told the House of Commons as he appealed for lawmakers to "move on from decades of debate and set, to my mind, a clear path to our future as a global nation in the post-Brexit world."

Opponents object to the third runway on environmental, noise and financial grounds. Friends of the Earth described it as a "morally reprehensible" move that would result in Heathrow emitting as much carbon as the whole of Portugal.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has pledged to join local government councils in filing legal action to block the expansion and has said Heathrow already exposes the city to more aircraft noise than Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Munich and Madrid combined. He argues that the project would also push toxic emissions above legal limits.

"This will be a critical moment, and for the sake of Londoners affected by poor air quality, disruption from noise and the costs needed to improve transport connections, I will do what I can to stop these poor plans," Khan said in a statement.

May has directed Conservative Party lawmakers to vote for the project. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who once pledged to lie down in front of bulldozers to stop the expansion, avoided a confrontation with the prime minister because he was visiting Afghanistan on Monday.

His absence did not go unnoticed. Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said Johnson, who represents the Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency near Heathrow, should resign.

"If he is unable to be present, then we have to ask the question what on earth is he doing and who is he representing?" Corbyn said.

Johnson, in a letter to councilors in his parliamentary district obtained by the Evening Standard newspaper, said that staying in the Cabinet would allow him to keep fighting against the runway.

"Some of my critics have suggested that I should resign over the issue. No doubt they have my best interests at heart," the newspaper quoted him as saying. "But it is clear from what is likely to be a large majority of (lawmakers) who are in favor of a third runway that my resignation would have achieved absolutely nothing."

Another member of the Conservative government, Greg Hands, resigned as international trade minister last week rather than break an election promise to oppose Heathrow's expansion.

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British lawmakers debated Monday whether to expand Europe's biggest airport, a decision the government described as the most important for transportation in a generation.The decision on a third runway at Heathrow Airport comes after years of study and debate over how and...
APFN,EU,Britain,Heathrow
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2018-38-25
Monday, 25 June 2018 02:38 PM
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