It appears that Gordon Brown has avoided a Cabinet rebellion on his go ahead for a third runway (R3) at Heathrow by requiring airlines that will use it to be only the newest and least polluting aircraft.

Speaking on the Today programme (listen again here), Shadow Transport Secretary Theresa Villiers said those requirements are worthless.  She told Radio 4 listeners that Labour had made many promises before that have not been kept.  She noted a promise by Stephen Byers a few years ago to limit flights to 480,000 a year but for that promise to be broken within a year.  She also noted that the Government was seeking derogations from EU laws on air quality.  Ms Villiers vowed that a Conservative government "absolutely will cancel these plans" and had the capacity to do so because there was "no chance of the planning process being completed" by the time of the next General Election.

Theresa Villiers’ position is strongly supported by London Mayor Boris Johnson but it is said that there is strong opposition within the shadow cabinet and from backbenchers including Graham Brady, John Redwood, David Wilshire and Ian Taylor.  Mr Taylor wrote the following recently:

"For both good and ill, Heathrow will continue to be the major
British airport. Presently Heathrow’s runways are full and the
consequences of this include delays, failed connections and missing
bags. Furthermore if ground capacity for landing and take-off is not
improved, the nuisance from over-flying because of ‘stacking’ will get
worse (and stacked aircraft are certainly not environmentally
friendly). One issue which requires further investigation is how to
improve surface access to Heathrow by road and rail. The bus links from
Reading and Woking are important but more strategic planning is needed. Meeting
the environmental challenge requires sensible strategies as opposed to
transient tactics. Decisions should be guided, but not blinded, by
environmental conscience."

> On Platform today Nick Cuff makes the case for expanding airports other than Heathrow.
> Iain Dale backs R3

12.30pm: Speaking on Radio Two’s Jeremy Vine show Boris Johnson predicted that
the legal and environmental objections to a third runway would be
"insurmountable".  He dismissed the Government’s decision as "pointless
political machismo" engineered by Peter Mandelson.  Heathrow was a
planning error from the 1940s and it was wrong to expand upon that
failure.  He discussed the possibilities of expanding other airports on
London’s perimeter including Manston but also building a new airport in the Thames Estuary.  He challenged Gordon Brown to debate the issue with him.