Labour’s shifting position on expanding Heathrow Airport came under renewed attack at today’s Mayor’s Question Time, with the party facing criticism both from Mayor Boris Johnson and political opponents on the London Assembly.
All four parties currently represented at City Hall were previously united in opposition to any expansion of the airport, a position reiterated in their respective 2008 and 2012 manifestos.
However Labour’s position has shifted in recent weeks, with the party’s Assembly transport spokesperson saying it was necessary to “take the time to examine” the Airports Commission’s recent recommendation for a new runway at Heathrow.
Val Shawcross AM also said any final decision needed to be “evidence based” and has called on ministers “to issue a prompt response” rather than allowing the issue to become bogged down in “years of paralysis and indecision”.
Shawcross repeated those sentiments today as AMs questioned the Mayor over his response to Commission’s report.
Mr Johnson re-iterated his opposition to any further development at Heathrow and said the report’s recommendations were already “collapsing” as the evidence for them is examined.
The Mayor told Labour AMs that Londoners would be “incredulous” that they’re u-turning on manifesto pledges and, he suggested, were now happy for a “huge number of people” to be subjected to noise levels of up to 70 decibels.
He called on Labour “to explain why you’ve changed your position from opposition to support” for Heathrow, a move he described as “sad” for the Londoners whose lives would be “blighted” by an increase in flights to and from the airport.
Green Party London Assembly Darren Johnson said it was “disappointing that Labour are wobbling” and urged the Mayor to continue working with those parties on the Assembly which remain firmly opposed to a new runway.
Labour group leader Len Duvall defended his party’s position, saying it was right to examine the Commission’s recommendations before rushing to condemn them.