May 23 2013 Latest news:
Sunday, September 23, 2012
Liberal Democrats have voted overwhelmingly to reject London Mayor Boris Johnson’s plans for an airport in the Thames Estuary.
And the party also sent a strong message today at their autumn conference to their coalition partners that they were “not for turning” on the issue of building a third runway at Heathrow.
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.”
Mr Baker said he was determined to see aviation prosper, but not at any price, and that the environment should be respected through a sustainable aviation policy.
The motion backed by a majority of members calls for the UK to make best use of existing capacity and improve transport links at current airports.
It also recommends an independent, evidence-based study to find a suitable location for a hub airport, or a suitable airport to expand into a hub, with no net increase in the number of UK runways and greater recognition of serving the north and south.
It also included agreed amendments to reject all plans to build an airport in the Thames Estuary and to end night flights at Heathrow between 11pm and 6am except for emergencies.