MP an­gry at ‘out­ra­geous’ Heathrow bound­ary plan

McDon­nell hits out at group ‘that wants MP to ef­fec­tively be­come a lap­dog for air­port’

Harefield Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - By Alexan­der Ballinger alexan­der.ballinger@trin­i­tymir­

A PRO-HEATHROW ex­pan­sion cam­paign group has been ac­cused of an ‘out­ra­geous at­tempt at ger­ry­man­der­ing’ af­ter launch­ing a cam­paign to move the air­port out of the Hayes con­stituency of Labour MP John McDon­nell.

Cam­paign group Back Heathrow has writ­ten to the Bound­ary Com­mis­sion call­ing for the con­stituency to be re­drawn so the air­port is out­side of the Hayes and Har­ling­ton area, which is rep­re­sented by the Shadow Chan­cel­lor of the Ex­che­quer, a vo­cal op­po­nent of plans for ex­pan­sion.

Back Heathrow’s di­rec­tor Rob Gray, who penned the let­ter, says res­i­dents are ‘proud of the air­port’ and calls Mr McDon­nell’s at­ti­tude ‘shame­ful’.

Mr Gray said: “If John McDon­nell doesn’t value Heathrow then there are plenty of MPs and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties who would be happy to feel the ben­e­fit of the UK’s largest sin­gle site em­ployer in their elec­toral ar­eas.

“Mr McDon­nell’s shame­ful at­ti­tude to­wards Heathrow is an un­funny joke and of­fen­sive to most of his con­stituents.”

Back Heathrow claims to rep­re­sent more than 100,000 res­i­dents who live near the air­port who are in favour of build­ing a third run­way.

John McDon­nell has pub­licly op­posed expanding Heathrow, call­ing it ‘a threat to our vil­lages’.

In re­sponse to the let­ter, Mr McDon­nell has con­demned Back Heathrow as a ‘front or­gan­i­sa­tion for Heathrow Air­port PLC’ and has ac­cused them of in­ter­fer­ing in the Bound­ary Com­mis­sion’s ex­er­cise.

Mr McDon­nell said: “This is an un­prece­dented in­ter­fer­ence by a pri­vate com­pany in a con­sti­tu­tional process. I have never heard of a pri­vate com­pany try­ing to fix a con­stituency bound­ary like this and there­fore in­ter­fere to fix a lo­cal Par­lia­men­tary elec­tion.

“By seek­ing to in­flu­ence a con­stituency bound­ary to se­cure an MP that will ef­fec­tively be­come a com­pany lap dog is an out­ra­geous at­tempt at ger­ry­man­der­ing.

“I will be rais­ing this mat­ter with the Speaker and the Bound­ary Com­mis­sion.”

Sweep­ing changes to the cur­rent par­lia­men­tary con­stituen­cies have been pro­posed to re­duce costs and even up the num­ber of vot­ers in each con­stituency. The num­ber of MPs across the coun­try would fall from 650 to 600, but the pro­pos­als have been crit­i­cised by the Labour Party who think changes would ben­e­fit the Con­ser­va­tives.

In the let­ter, Back Heathrow state: “Many Hayes and Har­ling­ton res­i­dents are proud of the air­port and are frus­trated they are rep­re­sented by a coun­cil and an MP as neg­a­tive as Hilling­don’s John McDon­nell.

“This neg­a­tiv­ity and lack of en­gage­ment has also caused con­sid­er­able frus­tra­tion within neigh­bour­ing lo­cal au­thor­i­ties which wish to main­tain good re­la­tion­ships with Heathrow, the area’s largest em­ployer. Mr McDon­nell has been a vo­cif­er­ous op­po­nent of Heathrow, rarely miss­ing an op­por­tu­nity to crit­i­cise the air­port, de­spite thou­sands of his con­stituents re­ly­ing on it for their liveli­hoods and be­ing strong sup­port­ers.”

Back Heathrow sug­gested the new run­way could be a Spe­cial De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion, which would give all six plan­ning au­thor­i­ties in the area a say.

A 12-week con­sul­ta­tion on the ini­tial pro­pos­als for new con­stituen­cies, pub­lished by the Bound­ary Com­mis­sion, is cur­rently un­der way.

The com­mis­sion is set to make a rec­om­men­da­tion on changes in Septem­ber 2018.

The Prime Min­is­ter is ex­pected to make a de­ci­sion on expanding ei­ther Heathrow or Gatwick air­ports in Oc­to­ber.

n PROTEST: John McDon­nell with anti-ex­pan­sion sup­port­ers

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