Lisa Nandy defends Labour over Grant Shapps row

Lisa Nandy says accusations of pilot Grant Shapps lobbying his OWN Government to stop houses being built on airfields are ‘incredibly murky’ as Labour faces claims of ‘hyperbole’ after Angela Rayner accuses him of a ‘complete and total breach of decency’

  • Grant Shapps said to have used body to protect airfields from development
  • He has held pilot’s licence for 25 years and said to have his own £100,000 plane
  • Labour accused him of ‘complete and total breach of… decency in public office’
  • But Department for Transport has dismissed the claims made against Mr Shapps 

Lisa Nandy today insisted lobbying accusations made against Grant Shapps are ‘incredibly murky’ as Labour faced claims of ‘throwing around’ allegations against ministers. 

Mr Shapps, a keen pilot who is said to have his own £100,000 aircraft, has been accused of fighting plans by his own Government to build homes on little-used airfields. 

The Transport Secretary disputes claims made in the Sunday Times that he ‘set-up and diverted public money’ to a new team within the Civil Aviation Authority to lobby against planning developments that infringe airstrips.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said that Mr Shapps’ ‘conduct represents what appears to be not only a breach of the Ministerial Code but a complete and total breach of any standards of integrity and decency in public office’. 

Ms Nandy, the shadow foreign secretary, was challenged this morning to provide evidence to back up Labour’s claims as she was told the party risked being accused of ‘hyperbole’.  

Lisa Nandy today insisted lobbying accusations made against Grant Shapps are ‘incredibly murky’ as Labour faced claims of ‘throwing around’ allegations against ministers

Mr Shapps, a keen pilot who is said to have his own £100,000 aircraft, has been accused of fighting plans by his own Government to build homes on little-used airfields

The Sunday Times said objections by the Airfield Advisory Team had helped to frustrate Homes England’s plans for 3,000 homes at Chalgrove, an airfield in south Oxfordshire, while also opposing ambitions to build a battery gigafactory on Coventry airport.

But Department for Transport (DfT) officials said the team was not a lobbying body and instead provided ‘support to general aviation on a range of matters affecting their operations’. 

BBC Radio 4 Today programme presenter Nick Robinson told Ms Nandy in an interview this morning that Labour had issued ‘extraordinarily strong words’ against Mr Shapps as he asked if the party has the evidence to back up its claims.

Ms Nandy said Labour and ‘most of the public’ are ‘absolutely fed up’ with the ‘series of revelations that are coming out about the Conservative Party’.

She added: ‘It seems that there are a number of members of the Cabinet who think that they can use their privileged position for private gain.’

Mr Robinson interrupted and said: ‘I asked you about a very specific complaint you made and having enough and being fed up and being cross and not liking Boris Johnson, well that comes with the job of wanting to replace him at the next election… but you are accusing an individual of “a complete and total breach of integrity and decency in public office”.

‘What evidence have you got that Grant Shapps has behaved in that way?’

Ms Nandy replied: ‘That is why we have asked for a further investigation but I think this is incredibly serious and I don’t think that we should downplay it as just somehow us not liking the Conservatives.’  

Mr Robinson then said: ‘Are you saying a transport secretary is not allowed to say that what is referred to as the general aviation sector needs to be preserved? It is part of the policy of the Civil Aviation Authority to have and maintain private airfields and he set up a unit to ensure that they do.

‘He is not involved privately, he has not been paid for this, he is not on the books of any particular company.

‘So I put it to you again, instead of saying can we take a look at this, you have declared in a letter from the deputy leader of the Labour Party that this is a total breach of standards of integrity. Where is the evidence?’

Ms Nandy replied: ‘I think this is incredibly murky. His department, under his watch and his authorisation is spending public money funding lobbying against some of the Government’s own stated objectives, whether that is housing or climate change.’

Mr Robinson asked if Labour needed to be ‘very careful of hyperbole’ and added: ‘Doesn’t politics just get damaged if people just throw around these allegations?’

Ms Nandy replied: ‘No, politics gets damaged when members of Parliament and particularly members of the Cabinet use their own privileged position whether that is public money or their own private finance in order to promote personal gain and that is the allegation in this case involving the Transport Secretary.’ 

The Transport Secretary is reported to own a £100,000 Piper Saratoga aircraft similar to the one above

A Government source dismissed the claims made against Mr Shapps, saying: ‘This body is not a lobbying body, it is an advisory body to help general aviation with problems they may have, which may be planning or anything else.

‘It is not essentially anti-housing – indeed, housing can sometimes be a solution for financing an airfield.

‘As Secretary of State for Transport, it is his function to protect general aviation and we’ve seen a decline in the number of airfields across the country.’

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: ‘It is right that the Transport Secretary works to promote all aspects of the department’s brief including the general aviation sector, which contributes £4billion to the economy and supports 40,000 jobs, especially as we focus on our recovery from the pandemic and on building a diverse workforce that’s fit for the future.’ 

Mr Shapps is believed to have held a pilot’s licence since 1995, before he entered Parliament. 

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