Runnymede and Weybridge MP Philip Hammond has had a baptism of fire in his new role as Secretary of State for Transport, with a proposed strike by British Airways (BA) cabin crews, as well as the volcanic ash from Iceland bringing further disruption to British flights.

It was announced the former shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury would have to settle for a different portfolio in Government, after a coalition deal was struck between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

Although faced with the strikes and the volcanic ash in the first days of his appointment, Mr Hammond still found time to announce plans to privatise motorways and trunk roads funded by tolls.

Mr Hammond told the Elmbridge Guardian the past week had been “busy and a steep learning curb”.

He said: “There are a lot of long term projects to deal with, but there are also events that need responding to.

“Up until the day after the General Election, I had expected to be Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

"But with this coalition, we had to look at things differently and a key element to it is binding the Liberal Democrats into the tough decisions that need to be made - so it was almost inevitable a Liberal Democrat would be given that position.

“However, I am very happy to be in cabinet at all - some were not so fortunate.”

Speaking specifically about the BA strikes, Mr Hammond said: “As we speak, Unite is appealing against the injunction by the High Court calling off the strike.

“But the injunction won’t make the underlining issues go away and the two sides need to get together to resolve the longer term, substantive issues so BA can be a prosperous company.”

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