UK Politics

Labour MPs plan their own Heathrow vote

Heathrow Airport Image copyright PA

Labour backbenchers intend to seek control of the party's aviation policy with their own vote on a third runway at Heathrow.

They plan to present a report on Heathrow to a meeting of Labour MPs and peers when Parliament returns.

The chair of Labour's backbench transport committee Gavin Shuker said MPs were "deeply frustrated" about a lack of leadership on key policies.

He said the report's conclusions could go to a vote the day after the meeting.

The committee's conclusions are thought to fly in the teeth of the views of shadow chancellor John McDonnell, who as a west London MP has long fought Heathrow expansion.

'Clear position'

Mr Shuker told the BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "On a number of key issues on Syria on Trident and otherwise we have dodged the question the British people have put to us about where we stand.

"You can't just keep on going through the process of free votes and abstentions.

"People don't know what we stand for and if there isn't going to be clear leadership on these issues I don't think anyone should be surprised that within the rules of the Labour Party we're going to utilise those to make sure that we have a clear position."

Labour has committees of backbenchers shadowing each of the government departments. They are largely chaired by MPs sceptical about Jeremy Corbyn.

It is understood their heads met the chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party John Cryer on Sunday and told him they intended to start moving motions and reports. They have taken part in two events at Labour's conference fringe.

'Alternative shadow cabinet'

Mr Shuker said: "I would be surprised over the coming year unless there is a significant change in the way in which we've been led that other chairs won't seek to move their own motions off the back of reports that they right."

One former cabinet minister told the Today programme that the chairs of backbench committees could mirror, and outperform, shadow ministers, forming "an alternative shadow cabinet".

They would be used by opponents of Mr Corbyn to demonstrate competence and attack the government rather than the leadership.

A vote on a backbench report would require the agreement of a separate Labour committee.

Some of those leading the backbench committees are enthusiastic about challenging the leadership and want to see similar initiatives, while others are much more cautious.