Mayor says replacement of transport secretary signals Tories are set to perform a U-turn over Heathrow expansion

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has hit out the replacement of Justine Greening as transport secretary in the government reshuffle, saying the move indicates a change of position on the expansion of Heathrow airport.

Johnson, who backs airport expansion in the south east but opposes a third runway at Heathrow, said the move to replace Greening, MP for Putney, with Patrick McLoughlin, MP for the Derbysire Dales, indicated the Conservative Party was set for a U-turn on a third runway at Heathrow.

Greening had campaigned against a third runway at Heathrow in the last election.

Johnson said Greening had been a “first rate” transport secretary and that “there can be only one reason to move her - and that is to expand Heathrow airport”.

He said: “It is simply mad to build a new runway in the middle of west London. Nearly a third of the victims of aircraft noise in the whole of Europe live in the vicinity of Heathrow.

“Now it is clear that the government wants to ditch its promises and send yet more planes over central London.

“The third runway would mean more traffic, more noise, more pollution - and a serious reduction in the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of people.

“We will fight this all the way.”

Greening’s removal also sparked criticism from Zac Goldsmith, Conservative MP for Richmond Park - also a prominent opponent of a third runway at Heathrow.

On Twitter he said: “Greening’s appointment 11 months ago indicated the PM’s position on Heathrow was solid. Yielding so easily suggests panic, not principle.

“Real leadership requires clairty [sic], not subterfuge. It’s time for the Govt to be honest: has it changed its view on Heathrow; yes or no?”