Tories to block third runway at Heathrow

17.6.2008   (Guardian)

Nicholas Watt

Conservative government is likely to block a third runway for Heathrow airport,
David Cameron indicated yesterday as he criticised Gordon Brown for “pig-headedly”
pressing ahead with the scheme.

In his first big environment speech of the year, the Tory leader called on the
government to make Heathrow “better, not bigger” and denied that the party was
abandoning its green agenda.

“I think the whole country can agree that the most important priority for Heathrow
is making it better, not bigger,” Cameron told environmental group leaders. “And
yet Gordon Brown is pig-headedly pursuing a third runway just to try and prove
a political point. What a ridiculous way to plan for the future.”

Cameron said his objections to Heathrow were not just on environmental grounds.
“The case for a third runway is based on Heathrow as an even bigger hub airport
with a massive increase in the number of transfer passengers,” he said. “The economic
value of transfer passengers is hotly disputed. And there are so many examples
of the hub model going wrong …”

Ministers believe Cameron’s apparent opposition to a third runway shows he has
yet to move from being an opposition politician to a prime minister-in-waiting.
They say as prime minister he would face the pressures they face: from the City
to improve Heathrow and from airlines to ensure that Heathrow acts as a European
hub. Ministers also say the Tories hold marginal seats in south-west London, such
as Putney, and hope to gain others, such as Richmond Park, where there is strong
opposition to a third runway.

Cameron, who recently set out a three point plan for Downing Street which made
no mention of the environment, said he was still committed to the green agenda.
Calling for “realistic environmentalism”, he said: “The truth is: it’s not that
we can’t afford to go green – it’s that we can’t afford not to go green.”

One way of promoting energy efficiency would be to show people on their utility
bill the average amount being spent on gas and electricity in their local area.