LibDem conference votes against new runways in south east, keeping existing policy

LibDems have voted against an amendment, by Lorely Burt (Solihull) and Stephen Gilbert (St Austell and Newquay), to reverse Lib Dem policy of no new net runways. Party policy remains opposed to a new SE runway. The amendment proposed continuing opposition to Heathrow, but backing Gatwick expansion (Gatwick helped with conference expenses – and lobbied relentlessly). It was supported by Nick Clegg, Danny Alexander, Vince Cable, Ed Davey and Susan Kramer. However, no cabinet minister spoke in favour of it during the debate. Ed Davey and others made rather poorly informed comments about aviation becoming “cleaner and quieter” in future, meaning a new runway could be built without breaching environmental limits. “According to one party source, Clegg was also worried about going through an election campaign saying the Lib Dems would block a new runway, only for it to be agreed by parliament soon after the election.” LibDems will not back a new runway if in coalition after 2015. Julian Huppert played a central role in defeating the amendment.  Caroline Pidgeon spoke strongly against it, and tweeted that “softening on airports is bad for environment, for London and for the LibDems‘ credibility.” What this does to voters’ faith in LibDems not selling out to big business, at the expense of the environment, in future is not clear. 



There were several speeches denouncing the excessive lobbying at the conference by Gatwick. Like supplying free WiFi, below.

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Or sponsoring the conference App:

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Lib Dem conference 2014 – Clegg defeated as Lib Dems

vote to block Gatwick expansion: Politics live blog

Rolling coverage of all the day’s developments at the Lib Dem conference in Glasgow, including the vote on whether the Lib Dems should drop their opposition to a new runway in the south east


An AirportWatch member who attended the conference writes:
Julian Huppert MP (Cambridge) played a central role in defeating the amendment and thereby maintaining Lib Dem opposition to any new runways at either Gatwick or Stansted. Without his efforts, which galvanised the support of grassroots party members, the vote may well have been lost.
For those who are not aware, the intention of the amendment was to narrow down – and strengthen – Lib Dem opposition to a third runway at Heathrow but to open the door for extra runways at Gatwick and Stansted.
It was a very divisive amendment, strongly supported by the Lib Dem leadership, notably Nick Clegg, Danny Alexander, Vince Cable, Ed Davey and Susan Kramer.  It was tabled by Lorely Burt (Solihull) and Stephen Gilbert (Cornwall).  Gilbert spoke at a Gatwick-sponsored fringe meeting yesterday arguing for airport expansion.


  7 October 2014 Last updated at 01:44

Lib Dems could change position on airport expansion


The Liberal Democrats are heading for a possible U-turn over their opposition to airport expansion.

The party has been committed to a blanket ban on the construction of any new runways in south-east England.

But two Lib Dem MPs at the party’s conference in Glasgow have tabled an amendment that would allow Gatwick Airport to be exempted.

The party leadership backs that plan – putting them on a collision course with many party members who support the ban.

The issue will be debated on the conference floor on Tuesday.

Sources close to Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg are suggesting that airport expansion could take place without increasing carbon emissions due to technological advances.

BBC political correspondent Iain Watson said dropping opposition to any new runways at Gatwick, Heathrow or Stansted could make any future coalition talks easier.

The airport expansion amendment has been tabled by Solihull MP Lorely Burt and Stephen Gilbert, who represents St Austell and Newquay.

There is no guarantee that it will be adopted as party policy and it is likely to face fierce resistance, with high profile figures including former London mayoral candidate Lord Paddick expected to speak against it.

‘See sense’

Business Secretary Vince Cable has said expansion at Gatwick was “a preferable alternative” and “less problematic” than expansion at Heathrow, which is near to his Twickenham constituency.

But Peter Chivall, of the Green Liberal Democrats group, urged the party leadership to “see sense”.

“We will be giving away thousands of votes in the South East and elsewhere if we approve amendments like this and showing, in effect, we’re just a patsy for big interests,” he told BBC News.

“We know that the only way you can restrict aviation and restrict the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by planes is to restrict the number of runways. And that’s the way we have to go.”

So far, former minister Jeremy Browne is the only senior figure in the party – apart from Mr Cable – to throw his weight behind an extra runway.

“For an internationalist party like the Liberal Democrats to consciously cut us off from the rest of the world would be a big mistake. So I’m with the runway option,” he told BBC Two’s Daily Politics.

Lib Dem Transport Minister Baroness Kramer said the government must be prepared to defy the recommendation of Sir Howard Davies’ Airports Commission, which is due to report after the general election.

“Any government that says ‘we will automatically do what Davies recommends’ is abdicating the responsibility they were elected to exercise,” she told a fringe meeting.

Sir Howard’s three shortlisted options include adding a third runway at Heathrow, lengthening an existing runway at Heathrow, and a new runway at Gatwick.