Nick Clegg has set himself on a potential collision course with party activists at the start of the Liberal Democrat autumn conference by backing new airport runways in Britain.
The Deputy Prime Minister said technological advances would help to negate the environmental impact of flying and pave the way for airport expansion.
As Lib Dems gather in Glasgow, Mr Clegg also attacked his party’s Coalition partners, declaring “compassionate conservatism is dead”.
He will attempt to energise activists at a rally in the Scottish city tonight amid gloomy poll ratings, with some research putting the party’s support as low as 6%.
The Lib Dems have previously insisted there would be no airport expansion in the South East ” because of local issues of air and noise pollution” but the position on Gatwick may be softening, according to The Times
In an interview for the newspaper, Mr Clegg said : “I do happen to think the environmental impact can … be consistent with some form of airport expansion given the rapid improvement in environmental performance of modern aircraft.”
….. and the article continues on other topics ……….
Meanwhile, a poll of 735 party members for the website Liberal Democrat Voice showed 80% continue to support the coalition, but that two-thirds expect the party to slip below 40 MPs at the next election.
Vince Cable: Gatwick runway is “a preferable alternative” and “less problematic” than Heathrow runway
Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat business secretary, is reported as saying, at the LIb Dem party conference, that he backs the expansion of Gatwick over Heathrow. His speech on Monday did not mention airports, but he is reported by the BBC as saying expansion at Gatwick was “a preferable alternative” and “less problematic” than a third runway at Heathrow. His constituency of Twickenham is close to Heathrow, and badly overflown. So it unsurprising that he has previously voiced his opposition to a new Heathrow runway. In December 2013 Mr Cable said: “The Davies Commission interim report has put Heathrow at the front of its thinking which is questionable economically, damaging environmentally and probably undeliverable politically…. I fully support the need to improve UK business links with airports in the emerging markets of Asia which is important for jobs, but this could be achieved more quickly by reforming and reallocating airport slots; by building up point to point services; and by strengthening the capacity of UK regional airports.” He wants the UK economy to be “knowledge based, outward looking, and green.”
Lib Dems and their Zero Carbon Britain aspiration
[now to include a new runway !]
“The environment has always been a top priority for the Liberal Democrats and while we have achieved a huge amount on our green agenda in the Coalition, it’s hardly a secret that this has been one of the biggest areas of tension.
“Liberal Democrats see our duty to protect our environment for future generations as a central political and moral challenge. This is not something we can, or should, try and sidestep. In this Parliament, we’ve made a big step forward particularly on green energy, but other areas have not seen such progress. So we want to use the next Parliament to make a major leap forward on the environmental agenda across the board.”
“So the choice is clear: if you care about the environment and want to see a greener, cleaner Britain then only the Liberal Democrats can deliver this in Government for you.”
[For their early September pre-manifesto. But now within a month they appear to be trying to go back on their aviation manifesto, so could anyone take the Zero Carbon Britain aspiration any more seriously? AW note].
Among the other aviation industry lobbying at the Lib Dem conference, which starts on 5th October, there are these fringe events:
Monday 6th. 13.00 CILT Vision for the future of aviation
Monday 6th 17.30 AOA / ABTA dinner Aviation and tourism. A conference discussion [cost of that??]
Tuesday 7th 13.00 AOA / ABTA Trade, tourism, aviation – is Britain winning the Global Race?