The transport secretary insists there will be no third runway at Heathrow airport, despite a senior Conservative calling for Cameron to prove whether he is "man or mouse" over the decision.
Transport Secretary Justine Greening said the opposition to a third runway at Heathrow airport came from across the coalition government and admitted it would be "difficult" for her to remain in the cabinet if the government changed course.
However her comments follow a rallying call from a leading Conservative MP for the prime minister to reconsider. In a stinging article published in the Daily Telegraph on Tuesday, Tim Yeo questioned whether the prime minister had the character to take the politically explosive decision, which would involve tearing up the coalition agreement and risk a damaging split within his own party.
His attack follows criticism over the government's West Coast rail line deal with FirstGroup. Labour has called for the contract signing to be delayed so that local MPs could debate the deal while the Transport Select Committee chair called for an investigation into the deal.
As a former environment minister who chairs the Commons energy committee, Mr Yeo was previously opposed to the Heathrow expansion, but now insists that environmental objections are no longer valid. He questioned whether the prime minister would preside "over a dignified slide towards insignificance" and suggested the leader's heart was "impenetrable" to most voters.
'Man or mouse'
He said the expansion of Heathrow would embolden the government and give it a "sense of mission".
"The prime minister must ask himself whether he is man or mouse. Does he want to be another Harold Macmillan, presiding over a dignified slide towards insignificance?," he wrote.
An immediate go-ahead for a third runway will symbolise the start of a new era, the moment the Cameron government found its sense of mission. Let's go for it. Tim Yeo MP
"Or is there somewhere inside his heart - an organ that still remains impenetrable to most Britons - a trace of Thatcher, determined to reverse the direction of our ship?
"An immediate go-ahead for a third runway will symbolise the start of a new era, the moment the Cameron government found its sense of mission. Let's go for it."
Cameron accused of 'pussyfooting around'
The coalition government scrapped Labour's plans for a third runway in response to widespread concerns from environmental groups, residents and councils. The decision forms part of the coalition government, but David Cameron has more recently made it clear that the decision will be revisited in 2015.
However a number of Conservatives say that airport expansion should be reconsidered sooner, rather than later. Housing Minister Grant Shapps warned a third runway was needed to ensure the UK remained a "great trading nation" and Mayor of London Boris Johnson accused Mr Cameron of "pussyfooting around" on expansion.
Mr Yeo was previously a high profile opponent of expansion but now argues European Union carbon emissions caps will force airlines to use more environmentally friendly planes if they want to use new capacity at Heathrow.
"The environmental objections are disappearing," he wrote on Tuesday. "Last January, greenhouse gas emissions from flying were brought within the EU cap. Indeed, we could cover the whole of Surrey with runways and not increase emissions by a single kilogram: if Heathrow expands, so remaining the European destination of choice, airlines will fly their newest and quietest aircraft to it."
24 August 2012
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15 August 2012