September 29 2022, Kimpton Fitzroy London
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Liberal Democrat party members have voted against changing their opposition on airport expansion for the south east of England.
The party has always backed a complete ban on the construction of any new runways in the UK but yesterday two Lib Dem MPs tabled an amendment that would allow Gatwick airport to be exempt, which was rejected at its annual conference in Glasgow today.
It had looked like there was going to be a U-turn on Lib Dems stance of airport expansion after senior officials including leader Nick Clegg and business secretary Vince Cable spoke out in support of building a new runway at Gatwick airport.
Speaking after the vote, Cambridge MP Julian Huppert told The BBC that the party "has made a clear decision", adding the issue would be "an important part of coalition discussions" with other parties if there was another hung Parliament.
The Lib Dems' "pre manifesto" for next year's general election, published last month, said: "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".
This follows its last general election manifesto which promised to "cancel plans for a third runway at Heathrow and other airport expansion in the South East."
However, last week Clegg hinted he wanted to end the party’s outright ban on new runways. “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 told The Times.
The energy and climate change secretary also came out in support of Gatwick: “We have shown in government that you can have greener energy and still have affordable energy, that you can have growth and it can be green, that you can have cars but it can be zero-carbon cars,” Davey told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“If you look at the future of flight it is possible to imagine, with technological innovation, that we have zero-carbon flight in the future. It is not a U-turn on environmental criteria.”
He added: “If those criteria can be met elsewhere they clearly cannot be met at Heathrow. We are not against flying, we are not against people using their cars, we are not against people enjoying life. We just want people to do it in a low-carbon way.”
Both Heathrow and Gatwick airports have been shortlisted for potential new runways by the Airports Commission which will be making its final recommendation for expansion in the south-east in summer 2015 after the next general election.
A new airport in the Thames Estuary - supported by London Mayor Boris Johnson – was last month ruled out by the Commission.