British Steel urges MPs to back Heathrow bid as vote looms

By Scunthorpe Telegraph | Posted: 25 Jun 2018

British Steel bosses have nailed their colours to the mast when it comes to the big Heathrow vote in Westminster today, as a major UK manufacturer and potential construction hub.

In a statement issued on social media, the team said: “The expansion of Heathrow would give a major boost to the UK’s economy and our steel industry. Vote yes for Heathrow.”

As reported, the resurgent Scunthorpe works hosted a visit last month from Andrew Haynes, the world-leading airport’s procurement director, who described North Lincolnshire’s bid as a “very compelling offer”.

He was getting a feel for the long-listed site, under consideration for a logistics hub.

Today, MPs will be asked to back a National Policy Statement for Heathrow expansion. It would pave the way for planning and the additional runway.

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director-general, said: “Time is up on indecision and delay on the new runway at Heathrow. The UK must be open for business, and to the world. A new runway is critical for our economy, and we have reached the day when Parliament needs to say yes.

“New air routes from Heathrow will unlock billions of pounds in growth, create tens of thousands of jobs in all corners of the UK and enable entrepreneurs to export to the booming growth markets of the world. Any more delay, and our competitors – who have been busy building their own aviation capacity and trade relationships – will pull further ahead.

“Strong economies need strong leadership. From Truro to Thurso, firms are counting on their MPs to vote for a stronger economic future.”

MORE: British Steel's Heathrow expansion ambition

On the visit in early May, which felt a little like a political lobbying exercise too, Mr Haynes picked up on synergies with global reputation and national pride, as well as the scale and accessibility of the sprawling works – so well connected to the national motorway network and Humber major ports complex. 

He met with deputy chief executive Paul Martin, Baroness Redfern and LEP chief Kishor Tailor, all keen to outline the brownfield opportunity, itself equidistant between two regional airports. 

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said he is "cautiously optimistic" that the expansion of Heathrow will be backed by MPs this evening, with high-profile oponent, former London mayor and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, expected to be out of the country.

It is understood he will miss the Commons vote on a third runway at the London airport, although Mr Grayling said he had "no idea" where his Cabinet colleague would be.

Mr Johnson once said he would lie down in front of bulldozers to prevent construction.

He was challenged on Sunday by a Tory colleague to "put his money where his mouth is" and resign as Foreign Secretary over his opposition to the scheme.

Senior backbencher Sarah Wollaston said that Prime Minister Theresa May's decision to allow him to avoid her three-line whip in support of the Heathrow plan by going abroad "won't wash" and called on him to make a "principled decision" to stand down.

Former whip Stephen Crabb told BBC Radio 4's Westminster Hour that Mr Johnson would "need to look his constituents in the eye and explain where he was on the night of the Heathrow vote".

Conservative MP Greg Hands quit as international trade minister in order to vote against the plan because members were being whipped to support the expansion.

He said that he "wouldn't want to be abroad" for the vote, in a pointed reference to Mr Johnson's absence.

Labour is officially opposed to the expansion but leader Jeremy Corbyn has allowed MPs a free vote on a measure that is supported by trade unions but opposed by the shadow chancellor John McDonnell.

Scunthorpe's Labour representative, Nic Dakin, appears to have pledged his support, though is keen to see work on air quality, local community impact and a push on public transport use as part of an approved package highlighted by a colleague who is not of one a pact of at least 40 vowing to say no.

Middlesborough South MP Simon Clarke was quick to pledge his support, with British Steel active in the North East too, with Teesside sites in Skinningrove and Lackenby, as well as a joint venture stake in Redcar Bulk Terminal

The Conservative member of the Treasury Select Committee said: "I will be (voting for), rest assured of that. A hugely important day for UK plc and future competitiveness."

Martin Vickers, MP for Cleethorpes, said he would be supporting the Government.

The backbencher said he had held meetings with Heathrow executives about the expansion coming with additional regional services.

But he said his main reason for voting to expand the major London airport was due to the need for more flight slots in and out of the capital to be made available.

“Quite simply we desperately need to make a decision on this," he said. "There has to be further capacity in the South East.

“As regards Humberside, our connecting airport for international flights will continue to be Amsterdam whilst we have the three services [a day] from Kirmington.”

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