Lib Dems hoping to get more votes by dropping opposition to Gatwick runway

The Liberal Democrats voted at the 2012 conference, exactly two years ago, against any new runway at Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted or the Thames estuary.  But just a short time later, they have apparently abandoned their environmental principles, and decided to change policy, in the hope of saving some of their declining vote. Their pre-manifesto put out only on 9th September, reiterated the No New Runways message, though by June there were indications that they were wavering. Not there will be an amendment at the conference for a change to this policy, and for the Lib Dems to only oppose a runway at Heathrow. They are thus effectively discussing backing a Gatwick runway.  Looking at the map showing location of Lib Dem constituencies, this is quite a cynical move. It seems the party has been led to believe that planes will become substantially “quieter” and “cleaner” and so a new runway would be environmentally acceptable. The problem is that there are no step changes in either aircraft carbon emissions or noise expected for decades. There will be a debate at the Lib Dem conference on Tuesday, and the industry will be there in force, lobbying hard. 



Clegg backs new airport runways

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.”

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Lib Dems and their Zero Carbon Britain aspiration

[now to include a new runway !]

This says:

“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?


Opinion: You can allow airport expansion and protect the environment

By Christine Jardine  (the Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Gordon, in Scotland)

Airport expansion equals controversy.

It sparks inevitable tensions between the demand for larger airports to fuel our economic growth, and concerns about the impact on the environment.

For those living closest to our major airports, especially Heathrow, those fears can be particularly acute as they endure current noise levels and view the prospect of increased traffic with dread.

And for Liberal Democrats it can often feel that our drive to create a stronger economy is being placed in direct opposition to our desire to protect our environment for future generations.

But I believe the two do not have to be mutually exclusive.

It’s because of our cherished commitment to a creating a greener future that our pre-manifesto – includes a commitment to no net increase in runways across the UK.

But if we are to be equally true to our visions for a stronger economy and fairer society we must also look for opportunities for growth across the whole of the UK.

For those of us – like me – who live in areas where our air links will be vital to that economic expansion the current proposal seems short sighted, particularly when you take into account the fact that our concerns about pollution and noise from today’s aeroplanes may be less relevant to the next generation of cleaner and quieter aircraft in twenty, thirty and forty years’ time.

We don’t yet know how technology will improve air travel: carbon emissions may fall faster or slower than currently predicted, and our policy response must be flexible to accommodate the evidence as it emerges.

To rule out new routes now for airlines offering a chance to explore new markets and encourage investment may risk vital missed opportunities and prejudice decades of growth.

Take my own airport for example in Aberdeen. The energy capital of Europe.

It provides a link between our energy industry base onshore and its production facilities offshore, as well as providing connections with others centres in the northern isles and the foreign markets with which trade and the export of our technology is vital to future growth.

But Aberdeen is also a growing hub for alternative energy.

It is no exaggeration to say that limiting the prospects expansion of Aberdeen airport risks strangling growth in our energy industry – traditional and alternative.

And when the high speed rail links which will boost growth in the south become a reality regional airports in those areas which don’t directly benefit can look to exploit the slots at Heathrow which will inevitably become available to ensure they too can see some economic dividend.

None of this means I do not hold our target of Zero Carbon Britain to be sacred.

I think our airports strategy must be evidence based and designed to limit carbon and noise emissions from aviation.

But within these limits we must seek to target economic opportunities across the UK, as well as helping rebalance the economy.

There is no doubt we need an economy where growth is better shared across the country, not purely around the capital.

And in the future we should be able to dramatically reduce carbon emissions, as well as reap the benefits of growth in investment and jobs thanks to sustainable airport expansion.

For these reasons I will be supporting an amendment to our pre-manifesto at conference in October.  [Not brave enough to say which one. She is probably referring to the amendment by Lorely Burt to drop opposition to Gatwick and Stansted runways].

I want to stress the enemy is the carbon and the noise, not the aeroplane or the travel.

I do not want to commit to a policy that, with the best of intentions, could sacrifice tomorrow’s economic growth on the altar of today’s carbon and noise emissions.

Do we really want to commit to a policy which, with the best of intentions, has the potential to sacrifice tomorrow’s economic growth for the same of carbon targets that wouldn’t actually be jeopardised



Clegg backs more airport runways in defiance of his own party policy

Nick Clegg: cares about environmental impact [in theory]


Nick Clegg is risking the wrath of Liberal Democrat activists by supporting the construction of more airport runways.

Speaking before the party’s conference in Glasgow, the deputy prime minister said that airport expansion was “a hot topic in Lib Dem land”, with a debate expected on Tuesday.

He said that he cared about the environmental impact of new runways but that the issue could be solved with improvements in aircraft technology. “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,” he said.

This is at odds with the Liberal Democrats’ pre-manifesto, which says: “We remain opposed to any expansion of Heathrow, Stansted or Gatwick or any new airport in the Thames Estuary, because of local issues of air and noise pollution.” The policy would ban any new runway unless others were closed elsewhere.

Mr Clegg accepted that the policy recommendation was that there should be “absolutely no expansion anywhere” but he added: “There’s a very strong body of opinion elsewhere in the party, people like — various MPs elsewhere in the country — who’ve written some letters and tabled amendments to the conference and so on saying, ‘No hang on, look. We can’ .”

Aware that his comments might provoke a row, he then said: “So that’s one of the open debates we will have and I will not try and say too much.”

The party’s opposition to expansion at Heathrow was never likely to change, a source said, amid some hints that they could adopt a softer stance on Gatwick.

In an interview with The Times,

…. and the full article is at






Standard reports that “Lib-Dems ready to drop Gatwick runway ban from election plans”


The Evening Standard reports that the LibDems are set to use their election manifesto to open the door to a 2nd runway at Gatwick while still opposing a 3rd runway at Heathrow. The Standard says the party is moving towards scrapping its blanket ban on airport expansion in the South-East. “It could be replaced with a series of tests on climate change and local pollution, as well as on levels of noise suffered by communities around airports.”  (Whatever that is meant to mean). The process of writing their election manifesto is being overseen by MP David Laws. It is still at the committee stage of drawing up key policies to be put to members for approval at the LibDem conference in the autumn. A “senior LibDem” is quoted as saying: “We will not endorse an expansion in airport capacity which would increase current noise pollution for the hundreds of thousands of residents living beneath the flight path, or which would break the Committee on Climate Change’s recommendations on aviation, which are needed to meet our carbon reduction targets.” (The CCC targets are rather weak and permit a new runway, with various provisos).



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

23.9.2012At 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.