Lib Dems resolute on no 3rd Heathrow runway and no Gatwick or Stansted runways

At the Liberal Democrats’ autumn conference in Brighton, they have voted against new runways at Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted. They also voted against a Thames estuary airport. Dr Julian Huppert told members it was time for the party to set out an aviation policy which “balances the need for growth with the clear environmental threat that we face”. He said we simply must not build airport capacity which would force us to miss carbon reduction targets, and that there is space at existing airports with existing infrastructure for growth in passenger numbers. Many have spare capacity, including Gatwick, Stansted, Manchester and Birmingham. We  need to use existing capacity better. The would like a new hub airport however, but only if  other runways are closed to make up for it, so there’s no net increase in runways or total capacity. However, Nick Clegg has said he will wait to see the outcome of the Davies commission.


Lib Dems resolute on runway debate

23.9.2012 (UKPA)

Julian Huppert Julian Huppert

Liberal Democrats have sent a strong message to their coalition partners that they are “not for turning” on the issue of building a third runway at Heathrow.

Delegates at the party’s autumn conference in Brighton also voted overwhelmingly to reject London Mayor Boris Johnson’s “fantasy” plans to construct an airport in the Thames Estuary.

Dr Julian Huppert, Lib Dem MP for Cambridge and co-chair of the Parliamentary Party Committee on Transport, told members it was time for the party to set out an aviation policy which “balances the need for growth with the clear environmental threat that we face”.

He said: “Aviation is the fastest-growing contributor to our emissions, we simply must not build airport capacity which would force us to miss those carbon reduction targets, it’s as simple as that.”

Dr Huppert claimed passenger numbers could be increased without building new runways anywhere in the country, arguing there was space at existing airports in the UK, including Gatwick, Stansted, Birmingham and Manchester which had usable capacity. He said: “We don’t need to build new capacity, we need to use it better.”

There was a “clear need” for Britain to have a global hub airport in order to remain competitive and the party should look for a better option, Dr Huppert said. He added: “Our long-term vision is a new hub if we can find somewhere that’s better than we already have, but only if we close other runways to make up for it, so there’s no net increase in runways or total capacity.”

“Boris Island”, he argued, was “not a proper suggestion”, adding: “It is, simply put, a bad idea. The location is wrong, the cost too high, the environmental damage too great, and that’s just the start of the problems.”

Dr Huppert turned his fire on Labour, claiming they did not have a policy on Heathrow and branding them “irresponsible in government, irresponsible out of government”. He also criticised his party’s coalition partners over their aviation policy, saying the Conservatives “were wavering all over the place, their party is astonishingly divided”.

Lib Dem Transport Minister Norman Baker said if a third runway at Heathrow was built it would generate more extra carbon emissions each year than Kenya and cause “untold extra misery” for hundreds of thousands of people in west London.

He said: “Now it seems some Conservatives are buckling as well – well the Lib Dems are not buckling. We said in our manifesto we were against a third runway, we said it again in the coalition agreement and I’m saying it again today: There will be no third runway at Heathrow on our watch.”


23 September 2012 (BBC)

Liberal Democrats reject South East airport expansion

The Liberal Democrats have voted against new runways at Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted and against plans for a Thames Estuary airport.

Delegates at the party’s conference passed a motion rejecting major aviation expansion in the South East.

Lib Dem Transport Minister Norman Baker said a new Heathrow runway would cause “untold extra misery” for Londoners.

Earlier this month the government began a review of how the UK might expand its airport capacity in the South East.

However the coalition also said it remained opposed to a third runway amid calls for a rethink by some Conservative MPs and claims that Transport Secretary Justine Greening was removed from her post as a prelude to a U-turn.

Some MPs argue that increased airport capacity is needed to help bring the UK out of recession.

‘South East obsessed’

Lib Dem MP Julian Huppert, chairman of the party’s transport committee, said: “Britain has to get the right balance between our need for international connectivity and the environmental threats we face.

“At the same time, we have to solve decades of bad planning, which has resulted in a quarter of all those in Europe who are affected by noise pollution living under the Heathrow flight-path.

“The motion which the Liberal Democrats have adopted today strikes the right balance for Britain.  It puts a stop to expansion at Heathrow. It puts an end to the bonkers idea of Boris Island. And it says ‘no’ to a South East obsessed aviation policy.”

He added: “Instead, for the short term, we will make the best use of the capacity we have, and in the long term we will work with the government commission to look for a new hub, but crucially one which will not allow for total capacity above climate change targets, and one which will not become a blight on local lives and local wildlife.”

‘Pussyfooting around’

Both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats ruled out a third runway at Heathrow in their 2010 general election manifestos and the coalition agreement continued this commitment.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said ahead of conference that he was absolutely against a third runway at Heathrow and “was not persuaded by a Thames Estuary airport” but would wait for the findings of the independent commission.

The commission will consider evidence from all sides and make recommendations to the government, but no decision is due until after the next election, due in 2015.

London Mayor Boris Johnson, who favours building a new airport east of London, has accused the government of “pussyfooting around” on airport expansion.

He has called for the issue to be settled once and for all by ruling out a new runway beyond 2015.


image of Louise Stewart
Louise StewartPolitical editor, South East (BBC)

The Transport Minister Norman Baker said the motion reinforces the Liberal Democrats’ opposition to airport expansion.

Today’s vote puts the party at odds with the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg who said, other than a third runway at Heathrow, he would look at all the other options.

Mr Clegg said in a BBC interview he “was not persuaded by the argument for an airport in the Thames Estuary” but said there could be other options for a hub airport such as in the Midlands.

He said he was not an aviation expert but he would wait for the findings of the Davis Commission set up by David Cameron and would consider all the options.




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 Liberal Democrat Voice says:

What Lib Dem members think about the third Heathrow runway and increased aviation capacity

Lib Dem Voice polled our members-only forum recently to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 550 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results.

Big thumbs-up to party’s continuing policy to oppose third Heathrow runway…

LDV asked: Do you support or oppose building a third runway at Heathrow airport?

      12% – Support
      79% – Oppose
    9% – Don’t know

The Tories may be preparing to U-turn on a third runway in readiness for their 2015 general election manifesto, but Lib Dems remain resolutely opposed to a further increase in capacity at the Heathrow, with four-fifths of members opposed.

Three-quarters of Lib Dems back increase in aviation capacity

LDV asked: But support for overall increase in aviation capacity, preferably outside London and the South-east: Which of the following statements best reflects your view on aviation capacity:

      17% – I oppose any increase in aviation capacity in the UK
      41% – I support some increase in aviation capacity as long as it is outside of London and the South-east
      36% – I support some increase in aviation capacity including inside London and the South-east
    5% – Don’t know / No opinion

Opposition to the third Heathrow runway may be overwhelming but it’s a more complex picture when Lib Dem members are asked about aviation capacity more generally. Just 17% are opposed to any increase anywhere; 77% support some increase in capacity — it all depends where. A narrow plurality, 41%, think any increase in capacity must be located outside London and the South-East, with a focus instead on regional hub airports such as Birmingham. However, over one-third (36%) support increases also within London and the South-East — this figure will include the small minority who back the third Heathrow runway, but also includes those prepared to consider expansion at Gatwick, Stanstead or even ‘Boris Island’.

  • Over 1,200 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with Some 500 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 19th and 22nd September. NB: most responses received before Nick Clegg’s apology broadcast.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However,’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past offered accurate guides to what party members think.
  • For further information on the reliability/credibility of our surveys, please refer to FAQs: Are the Liberal Democrat Voice surveys of party members accurate? and polling expert Anthony Wells’ verdict, On that poll of Lib Dem members.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.






Lib Dem motion to party conference, by Julian Huppert, says no new south east runways

Julian Huppert  Julian Huppert MP

15.8.2012 (Liberal Democrat website)

Julian Huppert, Lib Dem MP for Cambridge, has put forward an aviation policy motion for the Lib Dem party conference in September. The motion aims to balance the benefits the aviation industry brings with the harm it causes to the environment. It reinforces the party’s opposition to new runways at London’s airports, and if firmly rejects a Thames estuary airport. It proposes making better use of existing capacity in the South-East and at regional airports to meet short to medium-term demand, and an independent, evidence-based study to find a location for a hub airport or a suitable airport to expand into a hub for the long-term. Importantly, it pushes for no airport capacity expansion which could allow for aircraft movements above the carbon emissions cap set by the independent Committee on Climate Change. They want minimum impact on local people and on the environment. The mention the Per Plane Duty (PPD).

See the full motion