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New ministers fail to rule out policy change on Heathrow

Speculation is mounting that the government’s policy on a third runway at Heathrow will change following yesterday’s cabinet reshuffle.

New BIS minister Michael Fallon told the BBC’s Newsnight that there would be no change to the governement’s commitment that there would not be a third runway “in this parliament”. But he and other senior members of the government have not ruled out a change to the policy after this parliament ends.

New Conservative party co-chairman Grant Shapps, formerly the housing minister, said on the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning that the government’s review of aviation policy would hear evidence from pro-third runway campaigners.

He said: “The key thing is that people know we are not just going to turn a blind eye to how we ensure we have the right infrastructure in place to build a bigger economy.”

Anti-Heathrow expansion Conservative MP for Richmond Park Zac Goldsmith previously pledged to trigger a by-election in his constituency if the government changes its policy. Following the reshuffle he said it was time for the government to get off the fence. “It’s not fair to keep people in a state of limbo,” he said.

Mr Fallon also told Newsnight that he would “step up the pace” on infrastructure and housing proposals in his role at the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills. Announcements are expected later this week.

He denied that he had been appointed to “keep an eye” on business secretary Vince Cable. He said he was there to work on growth and business and to aid Mr Cable in helping British business to create jobs.

Mr Fallon is expected to be higher profile in BIS than his predecessor Mark Prisk, who is now the housing minister. In his role at BIS Prisk had responsibility for construction.  

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