Hilary Benn, the environment secretary, broke cabinet ranks yesterday to warn that Heathrow’s controversial expansion plans should be rejected unless noise and air pollution are dramatically cut.It depends on how you read this as to whether Benn really is breaking ranks and whether this illustrates that the Cabinet is split. Benn did give an absolute assurance that the EU air quality directive will not be breached after 2015, something that Ed Miliband previously declined to do. But apart from that, this is the basis for the story:
Benn’s remarks lay bare the growing tensions within the government over the issue. While Heathrow’s supporters in the cabinet, such as Hoon, pay lip service to the pollution and noise concerns, they prefer to concentrate on the economic arguments in favour of expansion.
In contrast, Benn did not say a word of support for the third runway during his 45-minute interview.
“The government has had a consultation,” he said. “We are currently looking at the results. What I have been looking at in particular is air quality and noise.”
He suggested the effect of a third runway on Britain’s overall carbon emissions was also a key issue.