Lord Brian Paddick writes… Is it reasonable to ban runway expansion across the UK?

Runway photo by Today is a good dayThis Conference we will be debating our Pre-Manifesto.  Of the huge number of policy proposals there is one likely to incite a great deal of considered debate within the Party – the commitment to no net increase in runways across the UK.  The pre-manifesto bans any expansion at Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick and it prohibits a new airport in the Thames Estuary.  Is this a reasonable position to take?

I am a loyal Liberal Democrat and like most of us, I am conscious of the need to protect our environment.  I don’t have a car.  My world is my Oyster Card and unless I’m late for a very important date, I take the bus, train or tube everywhere.

However, I do admit that, due to both work and family life, I do fly regularly.  My husband lives in Oslo, Norway and unless I take the two hour flight, it would take me more than 24 hours to get there by land and sea. As with many people in our more and more interconnected, smaller world, I have friend and colleagues in the USA and South Africa and if I did not fly, I would never see them.  Whenever I can, I take the low carbon option and am always mindful of my, and everyone’s, responsibility to reduce my carbon footprint and use of energy.

Many business people have even more legitimate reasons to fly.  Our economy and our shared wealth relies on exports and 40% of Britain’s trade goes by air.  But it’s not just about overseas travel.  There are parts of the Lib Dem empire, in the South West and in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, that greatly benefit from air connections to the South East, and from there to the rest of the world.  The long-term solution domestically is high speed rail but that will take decades to reach the north of Scotland and anyone who has travelled from Newquay to London by rail will know that it is anything but ‘high speed’.  The reality is, we need more airport capacity.

Liberal Democrats in government played a key role in ensuring decisions on the future expansion of airport capacity in the South East were not left to the whim of politicians but were informed by an independent, objective Airports Commission (the Davies Review). That Commission has drawn-up a shortlist of two schemes for expansion at Heathrow and one at Gatwick.  Yet our Pre-Manifesto is saying that whatever conclusions that independent, evidence-based commission comes to, we will ignore it.

What I believe the Pre-Manifesto is trying to achieve is to ensure that there is no increase in noise or air pollution from aviation and that we do not increase the nations’s carbon footprint from increased air travel.  I agree 100%.  Banning any net increase in runway capacity is not an end in itself, it’s a means to an end, which is to protect the environment.  But is there another way?

Aircraft are becoming much quieter and more fuel efficient and rapid progress is being made on introducing aviation biofuels.  The Independent Committee on Climate Change reported in July that a significant increase in flights by 2050 is compatible with the government’s overall carbon reduction targets.  In fact, the cumulative carbon footprint of the UK’s 18 largest airports has shrunk since 2010 while passenger numbers have increased.  Between 1986 and 2006 the number of people significantly affected by noise at Heathrow fell from 2,000,000 to around 250,000 despite a 75% increase in flights.  Of course, what level of noise is ‘significant’ is controversial, which is why I support the setting-up of an independent noise authority, something the Tories have refused to agree to.  More runways does not necessarily mean more pollution.

Our party has previously said that we will “carefully consider the conclusions of the Davies Review” and that we want to “ensure our airport infrastructure meets the needs of a modern and open country.”  We are not out of the economic woods yet and our near neighbours are ahead of the game when it comes to air connectivity.

I believe we can carefully consider the conclusions of the Davies Review without compromising our green credentials.  Let’s say “no” to any increase in noise, “no” to any increase in air pollution, “no” to any increase in the carbon footprint caused by aviation, but let’s not prejudge the issue of runway expansion.

Photo by Today is a good day

* Brian Paddick Is Liberal Democrat spokesperson on Home Affairs. He was Deputy Assistant Commissioner in London's Metropolitan Police Service until 2007, the Lib Dem candidate for the London mayoral election in 2008 and 2012, and a life peer since 2013. He is joint President of LGBT+ Lib Dems.

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  • Yes, I can see how spending yet more money on London, and ignoring the needs of the regions, is surely the perfect way to win the hearts and minds of the ‘left behind’, who are heading for Ukip?

  • To those who say we shouldn’t rule out runway expansion, I would ask where precisely they would like it to happen.

    That is the problem. Otherwise simply saying “We’re not ruling it out” isn’t a meaningful policy, is it?

  • If Brian Paddick now wants Heathrow expansion he should say so.

    What he has written here reads like the worst sort lobbyist-inspired double-speak. How on earth can he say he agrees with something “100%” and then go on to list his reasons for believing something else?

  • A very well put statement. I agree the pre-manifesto on airport expansion is a tad backwards looking and has the potential to harm us as a country economically. That is not to say I don’t disagree on the environmental front but their has to be a better trade off.

  • Eddie Sammon 4th Oct '14 - 3:41pm

    John Tilley’s comment made me laugh. I agreed with the headline, but the article was a bit lobbyist double-speak. The problem is Mike Thornton tried to be straight talking and was ridiculed for saying along the lines of “big picture folks”. 😀

  • Duncan Hill 4th Oct '14 - 4:55pm

    “My world is my Oyster Card” – oh Brian, there’s a whole other world out there! Whether you fly or take the train to Newquay you’ll still find most of Cornwall (where I grew up) out of reach by public transport – and most Cornish people would struggle to find the fare to London by whatever means. I think you make some good points overall, but please do try not to sound too much like the “metropolitan elite”.

  • Brian Paddick 4th Oct '14 - 6:30pm

    John D it’s not about spending more money in London. It’s about connecting the UK to the rest of the world to make sure we have as much, if not better access to emerging markets than our competitors.
    RS, I am addressing the conference motion. I am calling into question the ‘no net increase’ commitment. The Independent Commission we insisted on will make recommendations as to the best way forward and I am not going to second-guess what Howard Davies says. He does however short-list two options for expansion at Heathrow and one at Gatwick but I am not expert enough to say which is best and so I am not going to say. I am not ruling out expansion at Heathrow if the independent advice is that this is the best solution.
    John T, you can increase runway capacity and increase flights without increasing pollution because of technological advances in aircraft and the development of biofuels for aircraft. It is not inconsistent.
    Duncan, the Oyster card comment was supposed to be funny (I obviously need to work on my humour!) I have lived all my life in London and I have a good income so if that is what you define as “metropolitan elite” then I accept it. I am not going to claim to be something I’m not (never have done!) What I would say is that, if wealthy investors from China, India or Brazil want to invest in Cornwall, like the Japanese and others have invested in places like Sunderland, we need to enable them to get there easily. That means more runways connected through an international airport hub. If it is easier for them to get to Holland or France or Germany, they may be more likely to invest there.

  • Brian I am afraid you need to look at London from the outside.
    “What I would say is that, if wealthy investors from China, India … we need to enable them to get there easily. That means more runways connected through an international airport hub.”
    No it doesn’t. We need to enable them to get to where they want to go. The Midlands has only just been “allowed” a connection to India and China through the runway extension at Birmingham International. No longer is going through the hell that is Heathrow, plus more hours traveling the only option. Off course, if you want to direct all investment into the South East this a bad thing. Why not a second runway at Birmingham (or Manchester) and a national transport strategy ? An option dismissed by the independent report even though it generates “spare capacity” at the London airports, as users exercise a local choice.

  • Toby Fenwick 5th Oct '14 - 8:19am

    Brave article, Brian.

    There is no capacity crinch outside the SE; if the demand existed for Birmingham-Chengdu or Manchester-Rio then it is reasonable to expect hard nosed airlines yo want to provide thesd services. That they don’t is a reasonable indicator that the demand isn’t there.

    The pre manifesto commitment is the inverse of evidence-based policy making. We should be supporting the Davies Review with a noise board, and if it says new runways at LHR & LGW (funded by the owners, please note, and including a bill for Western Rail Access to Heathrow) then we should go with it.

    Personally, I’d have preferred a new hub north of London to replace LHR and Luton as proposed by Tim Leunig. But the reality is that there will be LGW or LHR or both, and to rule out both is another tuition fees moment in the making. Let’s credit our voters with a bit more sense, and go with the Davies Commission.

    (NB, I live under the southerly LHR approach, too.)

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 5th Oct '14 - 9:40am

    As Toby said. This is another tuition fees moment – saying one thing and having to cave in later. Go with the Davies Commission or start planning to defend pie in the sky!

  • Toby Fenwick 5th Oct ’14 – 8:19am
    Brave article, Brian.

    Toby Fenwick playing the part of Sir Humphrey in Yes Minister.
    “Brave, very brave…… … One might even say courageous!”

  • To those in this thread who talk about “considering the outcome of the Davies Ommission” why don’t you drop the obfuscation and admit that you now support the expansion of Heathrow???

    There is no doubt that Davies was put there to pave the way for Heathrow expansion. As soon as the General Election is out of the way the conclusion he was put there to reach and he has flagged on several occasions since will be published and the lobbyists, the rich, the 1% will have won and the ordinary people who will suffer directly have lost.

    For those of us in the Richmond Park constituency who have had councils and MPs and candidates who have campaigned against Heathrow expnasion for forty years, and the voters who have voted against Heathrow expansion will be treated with contempt. But Brian Paddick will be safe jetting round the world or sitting in the unreformed House of Lords rather than standing for election so why should he care, he is safe from the voters now.

  • Toby Fenwick 5th Oct '14 - 11:29am

    John Tilley,

    I make no apologies for awaiting the outcome of Davies. My personal preference was for a new hub SW of Luton, yes on the green belt, and closing LHR to provide a new town inside the M25. This isn’t on the table.

    So, do I support 3 or 4 runways at LHR? As a least worst option, with safeguards as Brian proposes, with the noise reduction measures Tim Leunig demonstrated, and biennial auctions of slots to maximise the usefulness of them, yes I do. And with all due respect to the Richmond Park team and a great candidate in Robin Metzler, making a high profile, non-evidenced based commitment that we won’t be able to keep is both disingenuous and political madness.

  • Paul Kennedy 5th Oct '14 - 11:38am

    I can understand we might wish to debate the issue of airport provision in the UK as a whole, but why is the currently proposed amendment to the pre-manifesto – which reads as if it might have been written by the aviation industry – also abandoning our longstanding opposition to expanding airports in the South-East?

    And why does the amendment pointedly rule out the option of expanding Heathrow but not Gatwick when the Davies review is known to be considering either Heathrow or Gatwick? Were representatives in Surrey and Sussex consulted?

    The amendment is an affront to the principle of localism. Why is Federal Conference being asked to take sides between Heathrow and Gatwick with an appeal to the worst kind of nimbyism amongst Heathrow opponents by inviting them to dump their problems onto Gatwick instead.

    And why are those living under the flight path being denied a right to object to expansion, and instead only being given a right to ineffective forms of mitigation?

    Please reject the amendment which is a kick in the teeth to campaigners affected by Gatwick expansion and our credentials as a party which believes in protecting the environment.

    If Brian and others are unhappy with the proposed rejection of net expansion of airports across the UK they should ask for those words – and those words only – to be referred back.

  • Toby Fenwick 5th Oct '14 - 11:47am


    I agree, I’m not at conference but would have amended the motion to remove the block on SE runways or to hace accepted the Davies Commission proposals. Presuming to settle the answer for LGW befire Davies reports is madness, especially as the likely outcome is an additional runway at each airport.

  • Toby Fenwick 5th Oct ’14 – 11:29am

    Zac Goldsmith will welcome your comment

  • Paul Kennedy 5th Oct ’14 – 11:38am
    “…. why is the currently proposed amendment to the pre-manifesto – which reads as if it might have been written by the aviation industry – also abandoning our longstanding opposition to expanding airports in the South-East?”

    Paul you have answered your own question. It all makes complete sense if you work on the basis that the amendment and indeed Brian Paddick’s masterpiece in obfuscation are written by the aviation industry or similar corporate interests.

  • Toby Fenwick 5th Oct '14 - 11:59am

    So John, what is your proposal to deal with increasing demand for air travel in the SE? And how are you going to pay for it?

  • Brian Paddick 5th Oct '14 - 3:13pm

    Well I actually wrote the article myself, not the aviation industry. The Davies Review looked at expanding airports in the Midlands instead of the South East and their conclusion was that this would not solve the problems the UK faces. I do not think the majority of the constituents in seats around Heathrow would object to increased runaway capacity if there was a guarantee of no increase in noise, no increase in air pollution and an increase in jobs, both locally and nationally. In any event, the conference motion amendment rules out expansion at Heathrow.

    This is another ‘tuition fees’ moment. If there was no advantage to the UK in expanding its runway capacity, if there was no cost to the UK’s international competitiveness or its attractiveness to overseas investors from failing to allow increased runway capacity, of course it makes sense to block all further development. Meanwhile, back in the real world increased runaway capacity is a necessary evil if the UK economy is not to lose out, not just to its traditional overseas rivals but to the emerging economies.

  • Tony Greaves 5th Oct '14 - 4:17pm

    I don’t know whether Brian wrote the headline to this piece, or who, but the idea that Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and the Thames Estuary add up to “across the UK” seems to be remarkably geographically illiterate (iggraphicate?) even for a died in the wool Lond oner!

    If the argument is for a new hub airport it does not need to be in the South-east. If the argument is about business use capacity, that can be easily made available in the existing London airports by cutting down on the number of leisure journeys made from them and moving them out of the South east. (Gosh – people in London might have to go to Birmingham to catch a plane to Torremolinos. Just like people have to go to London for lots of such flights now. Tough.)


  • Toby Fenwick
    You frame your question in terms of —“..increasing demand for air travel in the SE”

    My father-in-law (a pilot) lived in Glasgow — when flying elsewhere in the world he would often have to travel to Heathrow first and then fly to his destination.

    Now it might be possible to count such travel to and from Heathrow as SE demand if you were trying to make a case for Heathrow expansion. I am not sure if you are doing that. But you might like to explain to me why there are millions of journeys which pass through Heathrow which involve people who are not actually starting or ending their journey in London or the South East.

    In a different thread I mentioned why I would have no objection to Aberdeen Airport expanding. Southampton, Bristol, Nottingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmigham may also be suitable places for airport expansion if indeed such expansion were necessary and desirable. Expansion of those airports could accommodate a transfer of existing flights from Heathrow. If you are not starting your journey nor ending your journey within 200 miles of Heathrow that might be a more sensile approach.

    Brian Paddick you talk about expanding UK capacity when you mean expand Heathrow. Is that not your case?

  • To ny Greaves seems to have posted the same point at the same time.
    Why does it have to be just Heathrow or the South East?

  • Toby Fenwick 5th Oct '14 - 4:29pm

    Tony Greaves: there is nothing stopping Manchester becoming a hub, except lack of local demand. Hubs work because the combination of point to point demand and transfer traffic makes routes viable that otherwise may not be. How many Lagos – Aberdeen flights are there? None, but plenty via London.

    John: The population of London is burgeoning and the broader SE growing strongly. This leads to increased demand. A UK hub is beneficial for tge reasons of marginal connectivity I set out above; London is the only place that’s going to happen, and with Luton SW out of the picture that means LGW & LHR. So what’s your alternative to growth at one or the other or both? Or is this simple nimbyism?

  • Toby Fenwick

    Answer the question. The growth of the population of London is neither here nor there if most Londoners never fly from Heathrow.
    It is even less relevant to the millions of flights to and from Heathrow which involve people who are neither beginning nor ending their ounrey within 200 mles of Heathrow.

    In the 1940s it may have been sensible to put London’s Airport in place called Heathrow.
    We are no longer living in the 1940s. Maybe thinking should have moved on a bit and you should stop pretending that Heathrow is an airport for London and the South East.

  • Toby Fenwick 5th Oct '14 - 5:16pm

    John Tilley

    LHR is relevant to Londoners who never fly from it as an economic asset. And demand fir air travel is rising in the SE, which you continue to ignore. LHR is a ln airport for the SE, but hub status makes it an asset for the UK as a whole.

    I’ve provided you with my preferred option, abd fall back which does involve LHR expansion. What’s yours?

  • Toby — I have answered your question at — JohnTilley 5th Oct ’14 – 4:19pm

    If airport expansion is needed there is a long list of existing airports which could be expanded instead of expanding Heathrow.

    For many people in the South East it is much easier to get to those airports than it is to get to Heathrow.

  • Toby Fenwick 5th Oct '14 - 6:06pm

    John you’re missing the hub point, wilfully, I presume. The point of hubs is that the transfer traffic in effect subsidises marginal routes, resulting in greater connectivity, as well as the economic contribution of those transfer passengers. To blithely propose expansion where there is not already capacity constraints is nonsense, as you must realise. And to suggest that it is easier “for many in the SE” to get to eg BHX or Bristol is also a nonsense.

    To be clear: I’d prefer a new hub NW of London SE of Luton. But this isn’t going to happen, so expansion at LHR and LGW as I expect Davies to recommend is in the national interest. For this reason, I suppport it subject to my earlier caveats, and I’d prefer it to be approved subject to HS2 extension to LHR and to Edinburgh/Glasgow, which I meant to mention earlier.

  • Toby
    I am not “wilfully” missing your point. I am expressing a view which is different from your view. My views are based on the facts rather than on your theories.

    I Iive a bus ride away from Heathrow, 30 minutes if I take the express bus that comes through Kingston. The train journey via Surbiton to Southampton Airport would take me an hour longer.
    Woking in terms of travel times is equidistant between Heathrow and Southampton. Anyone in the South East between Woking and Southampton could more easily and more quickly travel to Southampton.
    From Watford (within the M25) the journey time to Birmigham International Airport is one hour and thirty minutes. From Watford to Heathrow the journey times might be twenty minutes less.

    My point was about ease of access to other existing airports for people living in the South East. The facts speak for themselves. Even on a good day the travel advice for people going to Heathrow is to allow additional time because of congestion, because Heathrow is already over-crowded. The transport infrastructure around Heathrow is already inadequate for the existing number of runways. Expansion of Heathrow will not make that congestion disappear.

    No proper train link has been built to link Heathrow to a mainline route in the last seventy years. Your proposal for an HS2 extension would cost what and be ready when?

  • Toby Fenwick 5th Oct '14 - 8:54pm


    Historically, LHR has been poorly served by rail, but in point of fact you’re simply wrong. Piccadilly reached LHR in 1977, and heavy rail arrived in 1998; with Crossrail arriving in 2018 & Western Rail Access before 2020, LHR is going to be better rail connected than ever. In return for expansion, it is going to be important to get s106 funding towards the HS2 link and Airtrack that would revolutionise access from the SW.

    In other words, sensible public transport developments of LHR are essential. To suggest that Southampton or Birmingham are substitute hubs for LHR is laughable. I hope on Tuesday conference votes down the current text and either replacest it with a pro Davies motion, or refers the whole thing back.

  • Toby
    Move the rhetorical goalposts as many times as you like. The key fact is that Heathrow is already overcrowded and the transport infrastructure is inadequate for the existing number of runways. It will be even less than adequate for your “hub”. It does not add to your argument to use the word “hub” as if it were some magic charm that frees you from considering the facts of Heathrow as they are.

    BTW — the Piccadilly line connects central London (not the rest of the South East) to Heathrow. If you think it is any good for someone in Watford or Woking that really would be laughable.. Crossrail will not connect to the rest of the South East, it will connect West London to East London, so long as you are north of the river. For those of us south of the river it will still have to be the bus, car or taxi. Have you ever been on a bus to Heathrow and stuck in traffic congestion ? Is so you would not be unusual— thousands of people have been stuck on a bus, or in a car or taxi on the way to Heathrow because of the traffic congestion that comes from from Heathrow being already overcrowded.

  • Toby Fenwick 5th Oct '14 - 11:23pm


    LHR is already a hub, expansion would ensure that it stays that way. Hub status ensuring that London had more direct flights to places that it would not otherwise is the prize for the UK that is worth hanging on to.

    Going from Putney to LHR, I usually take the District and change for the Piccadilly at Earls Court. In other words south Londoners can and do use the tube to reach LHR. The number of people with suitcases getting off the Piccadilly at KX rather suggests that it currently is used as a feeder to mainline connections there.

    You’re missing the point about Crossrail. Farringdon will make places as diverse as Kings Lynn and Brighton 1 change to Heathrow; Crossrail as a whole means that an arc from Norwich – Southend is one change from Heathrow, too.

    So if we can agree that the surface transport options are in the process of being significantly upgraded, and that in return for approval of expansion we should leverage further enhancements (eg Airtrack, which would really benefit Richmond) I struggle to see your opposition if Brian’s sensible noise safeguards are in place as something other than nimbyism. It certainly isn’t about “the 1%” you so blithely cite above.

  • @Toby Fenwick (5th Oct ’14 – 11:23pm)
    > Farringdon will make places as diverse as Kings Lynn and Brighton 1 change to Heathrow; Crossrail as a whole means that an arc from Norwich – Southend is one change from Heathrow, too.

    Brain dead thinking! You are suggesting that it will be wonderful that people will ignore: East Midlands, Norwich, Cambridge, Stansted, Luton, London City, Southend, because Heathrow is a ‘hub’. Yes people may today have to travel to Heathrow because there is no other choice.

    I don’t see why you are so anti Birmingham airport. If HS2 was actually being designed by competent people, the route would of placed Birmingham Interchange directly under or beside Birmingham Airport, putting this airport at circa 30 minutes from central London – closer than LHR via the Piccadilly line.

  • Alex Macfie 6th Oct '14 - 8:44pm

    If we used the Channel Tunnel more effectively (it is currently running at slightly more than half its maximum capacity) we could cut out most short-haul flights between SE England and mainland Europe.

  • Brian Paddick 7th Oct '14 - 7:04am

    I am trying to address two separate issues in one piece, which may have caused some confusion! The first issue is the pre-manifesto proposal to ban all net runway increase anywhere in the UK. On that front, if we do not build more runways here, they will be built in Europe or in the Middle East. The only places you will be able to fly to will be hub airports in another country. The impact on global aviation’s carbon footprint will be zero or worse than if we expand in the UK. If you fly to Beijing direct from the UK, you use 40% less carbon than if you fly via Dubai, for example.

    If we have a world-class hub airport in the UK and instead of restricting runways we restrict noise levels, pollution levels and insist on biofuels, we can have a global impact on the aviation carbon footprint. Aircraft from across the world that want (and they do want) to use the UK hub will have to improve technically to comply.

    The second issue is the Independent Airport Commission report into airport expansion in the South East. On that report, I say “wait and see what it says.”

  • Brian Paddick


    Reading this FT report of the Clegg line on Heathrow expansion and The Scotsman headline that specifically mentions Clegg and Heathrow, any ordinary person might think that it is an extraordinary coincidence that your piece in LDV, written by you and not by lobbyists, appears at the same time that the spin doctors are pushing the Clegg pro-corporate interests line to expand Heathrow.

    The interests of the ordinary people who will suffer as a result can be ignored. You say in your piece that 250,000 will be significantly affected by this. To be fair you point out that others suggest the figure is 2,000,000. But even if is is “only” 250,000 is the party just going to write them off so that the jet-setting fraternity can have their macho status symbol of a “hub”?

  • I think Brian you are either confused or deliberately being misleading.

    The only pace where airports are mentioned in the pre-manifesto is in a bullet point in section 2.4 “Making the connection: transport and broadband infrastructure” under the list heading “We Will:” The exact text being:

    “Ensure our airport infrastructure meets the needs of a modern
    and open economy, without allowing emissions from aviation
    to undermine our goal of a zero-carbon Britain by 2050. We will
    carefully consider the conclusions of the Davies Review into runway
    capacity and develop a strategic airports policy for the whole of
    the UK in the light of those recommendations and advice from
    the Committee on Climate Change. We remain opposed to any
    expansion of Heathrow, Stansted or Gatwick and any new airport
    in the Thames Estuary, because of local issues of air and noise
    pollution. We will ensure no net increase in runways across the UK
    as a whole by prohibiting the opening of any new runways unless
    others are closed elsewhere.”

    Lets take this rather long bullet point apart:

    “Ensure our airport infrastructure meets the needs of a modern
    and open economy, without allowing emissions from aviation
    to undermine our goal of a zero-carbon Britain by 2050.”
    These statements are a recognition of both the importance of airports to the economy and also that airports are part of the British economy and hence are not exempt from the challenges of achieving a zero-carbon Britain. I can foresee a situation where an airport could be zero-carbon in its operations with the sole exemption of aviation fuel. However, this statement doesn’t preclude expansion of airports and/or aviation.

    ” We will
    carefully consider the conclusions of the Davies Review into runway
    capacity and develop a strategic airports policy for the whole of
    the UK in the light of those recommendations and advice from
    the Committee on Climate Change.”

    This statement clearly leave the door open to ‘considered’ airport and/or aviation expansion, ie. strategic need rather than commercial opportunism.

    “We remain opposed to any
    expansion of Heathrow, Stansted or Gatwick and any new airport
    in the Thames Estuary, because of local issues of air and noise

    This statement is clear, regardless of the above, the LibDems are opposed to further expansion of three major London airports or the creation of a new major London hub in the Thames estuary. This statement however does not preclude the creation of new airports/runways or expansion elsewhere in the UK (although support for such expansion would be governed by the previous statement concerning strategic need).

    Which brings us to the final sentence:
    “We will ensure no net increase in runways across the UK
    as a whole by prohibiting the opening of any new runways unless
    others are closed elsewhere.”

    The key points are “no net increase in runways” and “new runways”, I suggest that the upgrading of the runway and expansion of airport facilities at say RAF Northolt to handle more and larger civil aircraft is neither a “new runway” nor a “net increase in runways”, since the meaning of ‘runway’ has not been restricted and airport expansion has not been ruled out (except at a few named London airports). [Aside: similar considerations apply to any UK airport such as Aberdeen, I chose a London airport as an example because I appreciate for many, such as Brian, the convenience of the London ‘elite’ is all that matters.] The only challenge this statement gives is when you want to build a new runway as then you have to identify a ‘runway’ that can be closed, however, I note the ‘runway’ that is to be closed doesn’t have to be attached to an airport or even currently operational! Hence we can ‘close’ the runway at Wisley airfield and build a new runway elsewhere in the country!

  • Re: “. The only places you will be able to fly to will be hub airports in another country. The impact on global aviation’s carbon footprint will be zero or worse than if we expand in the UK. If you fly to Beijing direct from the UK, you use 40% less carbon than if you fly via Dubai, for example.”

    I would like to see an independent study on this, as I suspect rationalising the worlds airline network to a series of hubs and spokes would reduce global aviation’s carbon footprint, the only question being where those hubs get located and hence who gets the jobs and revenues that go with operating a hub…

    As for the example journey, ignoring the wildly differing carbon footprints the various calculators give for the same flight, whilst there is a major difference between flying direct from the UK, over Russia to Beijing and flying via Dubai, there is negligible difference between flying direct from the UK and flying via an EU hub airport such as Charles De Gaulle (although taking the train from London to CDG would result in a smaller carbon footprint…). Hence I suggest using carbon savings as a reason to have an international hub airport in the UK is a poor argument.

    “If we have a world-class hub airport in the UK and instead of restricting runways we restrict noise levels, pollution levels and insist on biofuels, we can have a global impact on the aviation carbon footprint. Aircraft from across the world that want (and they do want) to use the UK hub will have to improve technically to comply.”
    This is wishful thinking, a UK-based international airport hub only really has leverage if there is no competition; I suggest that to implement any substantive changes in global aviation along the lines you are suggesting, a UK hub would have to work with both Charles De Gaulle and Schiphol and possibly others. [Aside: this raises the question about whether as good and committed Europeans, we should be improving connectivity between EU hub airports.]

    Remember one of the reasons why we can get away with incrementally increasing regulations is due to the existing investment airlines have made in an airport, making it more costly and difficult to move. It is this investment and operational convenience that is the rationale behind much of the industry lobby for expansion at Heathrow.

  • @JohnTilley – Looking at the way things are going, with an hour to go before the conference vote, I expect to see many lobbyists having an excessive lunch toasting their success in nobbling a UK political party and key members of the UK government and all above board….

  • Roland
    You are right. And those lobbyists will not be the only ones.
    Tory MPs in the South East will be over the moon that our party has been caught in the grip of the Heathrow Lobby thus letting those Tory MPs off the hook next May.
    The Green Party may also be celebrating as the possible recipient of hundreds of thousands of votes that for the last thirty years have gone to Liberal Democrats.

  • Well goodness me. I was wrong. The conference delegates actually voted against expansion of runways.

    I am delighted. I look forward to Clegg and Paddick sticking to this policy agreed by the conference.

  • Glad I’m not a betting man. It does give the Davies review a chance of making a recommendation that based on the UK’s wider economic needs rather than the vested interests of a well heeled minority.

  • Toby Fenwick 7th Oct '14 - 8:34pm

    Roland: when you say “a recommendation that based on the UK’s wider economic needs rather than the vested interests of a well heeled minority”, what do you have in mind?

    If you’re looking to meet existing demand for additional capacity, let alone future demand, then why would you build anywhere where that’s already got spare capacity?

  • Toby Fenwick
    You are flogging a dead Pegasus.

  • From the Telegraph reporting on the overwhelming defeat for Clegg and the airport lobbyists —

    At the end of the debate Duncan Brack, the deputy chairman of the manifesto working group, urged activists to reject the proposal – which had been proposed and seconded by high profile MPs.

    He said: “If you expand airport capacity, as amendment four calls for, the number of aircraft, the number of flights, the amount of emissions, will all increase – it isn’t complicated.

    “Amendment four claims we are going to do this and still meet our zero carbon target – presumably by magic, because it is completely silent on how.

    “This is not serious… amendment four is simply not credible.”


  • Toby,

    This was more an expression of hope that Davies will take the LibDem vote as an encouragement to include in his report options outside of the strait-jack of the primary term of reference given to the Airports Commission (how the UK can maintain its status as an international hub for aviation) and the conclusion the moneyed lobbyists are wanting (a new runway in London and specifically at Heathrow)…

    I get the distinct feeling that the political focus on the UK international hub is overshadowing our other aviation needs. We’ve seen this vividly recently, with various LibDem’s talking about the value and importance of their (non-SE) regional airports and then saying they support expansion of a major London airport, with no real indication of how the two might be related.

    My feelings are that with a political class united behind one or other scheme (Heathrow/Gatwick), alternatives got lost (okay “Boris Island” may become an exception) because they don’t fit the preconceived ideas of the politicians; we’ve seen this is spades over HS2, where the politicians grasp at anything that can be distorted to justify their vanity project.

    So, what is important is that Davies comes up with an answer that is evidenced based and rational ie. stands up to public scrutiny, as what is certain, whatever Davies recommends will be the wrong answer! Hence the Davies report will not be the end of the debate but simply just the end of a round. I expect the next round to revolve around who can deliver quicker, with less disruption etc. etc. (a key part of this debate will be the land holdings of the various airport operators, it will be interesting to see just how much of the land between Heathrow and the M4 is now owned by BAA et al.).

    Yes the capacity and demand challenge, the reason why we have a hub at Heathrow is because at the time it was conceived, that was where the spare capacity was, demand simply went were the facilities were! The challenge we have now is how to create a larger hub (if we wish to continue to be a major international hub) which does not cause massive upheaval at our established hub(s) such that airlines don’t decide it is cheaper etc. to relocate their hangers etc. outside of the UK, thereby destroying the hub. Hence the simplest solution is to enlarge the existing facilities at Heathrow, the next simplest is to enlarge the facilities at an existing established international airport – which creates opportunities for new operators. The problem is that UK aviation has changed dramatically since the early 1980’s when basically Heathrow was the UK’s only major international airport servicing scheduled flights, we now have several albeit smaller regional international airports, the question is whether we wish to reward and encourage their development. I suspect part of the solution is to acknowledge that we have tier-1, tier-2 (and even tier-3) international hubs and plan accordingly. This may mean that Heathrow will end up serving a smaller group of client airlines.

    Finally, I’m aware that I’ve not directly answered your questions, but that is because I don’t see a simple black-and-white solution to either airport capacity or aviation emissions in the coming decades. But as I hope I’ve pointed out in my previous comments, the LibDem policy isn’t as binding or anti-airport expansion as some would like to believe.

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