The head of the civil service, Sir Jeremy Heywood, has written to government ministers advising them to keep quiet over the issue of Heathrow expansion, it has emerged.
The BBC reports that the leaked letter, sent in the run up to the conference season, tells ministers that they should only repeat previous statements made before the Airports Commission report was published in July.
The news suggests that, despite recent reports of a thawing of hostilities inside the cabinet over the issue, the subject remains as difficult for the government as ever.
Prime minister David Cameron, and chancellor George Osborne, have promised to make a decision by Christmas, after the Airports Commission recommended Heathrow be allowed to expand with a third runway.
However senior Conservatives, including current mayor Boris Johnson and Tory candidate for mayor in the 2016 election Zac Goldsmith are bitterly opposed to the Heathrow plans. Although the chancellor is reported to be keen on Heathrow.
Also embarrassingly for David Cameron, any decision in favour of Heathrow from the Government will see the prime minister reminded of his own ‘no ifs, no buts’ 2009 pledge against a third Heathrow runway.
There are also concerns over potential legal challenges to any decision, with climate activists not to mention Gatwick signalling the potential for a legal battle.