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Does Greening's move herald third runway for Heathrow?

5 Sep 12 Construction lobby groups and associations are this morning picking over the runes of the ongoing government reshuffle, trying to predict implications for the industry.

Third runway opponent Justine Greening has been moved from Transport
Third runway opponent Justine Greening has been moved from Transport

The biggest tell maybe the change at the Department of Transport. Justine Greening, MP for Putney who has made her career by campaigning against a third runway at Heathrow, has been moved to International Development in what is generally regarded as a demotion.

Loyal Patrick McLoughlin, a former coal miner, moves from chief whip to transport secretary, making it more likely, it is assumed, that the government will push through plans for a third runway at Heathrow rather  than adopt the ‘Grand Projets’ approach of a whole new airport east of London, as favoured by London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Ms Greening’s move prompted this response from Mr Johnson: “There can be only one reason to move her – and that is to expand Heathrow Airport. It is simply mad to build a new runway in the middle of west London. It is clear that the government wants to ditch its promises and send yet more planes over central London. The third runway would mean more traffic, more noise, more pollution – and a serious reduction in the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of people. We will fight this all the way.”

Other construction-related moves see the Tigger-ish housing minister Grant Shapps becoming co-chairman of the party, a promotion, and replaced by Mark Prisk. Mr Prisk moves across to the Department of Communities & Local Government from the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills, where as minister for business and enterprise he was responsible for construction and co-chair of the Green Construction Board.

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Mr Prisk will be replaced at BIS by Michael Fallon, regarded as an old school Tory right winger whose campaigns in the past have included a place for Latin on the schools curriculum.

Also possibly significant is the arrival of Nick Boles as planning minister, taking over from Greg Clark who is promoted to financial secretary. Mr Boles, a think-tank policy wonk, whose quoted position on planning is: “Business investment is deterred by the bureaucratic rigidity of our outdated planning regime.” That's clear enough, then.

Other construction-related changes include transport minister Mike Penning moving to Northern Ireland, replaced by Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond, who helped formulate Conservative rail policy when the party was in opposition.

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