This 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.
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