Friday 30 September 2022, JW Marriott Grosvenor
November 2022, Virtual
21 November 2022, Hilton London Metropole
Disagreement over reform of the upper house is emblematic of a wider lack of coalition consensus, which in turn will have ramifications for the aviation industry, says Gareth Morgan
COULD THE FUTURE OF airport capacity in the next few years depend on Lords Reform? A link isn’t immediately obvious, but the health of the coalition government is at stake and it is the balance of the coalition that is so important for aviation.
Lords Reform has gone from being a quiet side-project presided over by the deputy prime minister to one which is putting serious strain on the coalition.
The Liberal Democrats are hugely frustrated by the fact that they cannot rely on their partners in the coalition to get the required legislation through the Commons. In fact, they have seen the opposite from backbench Tories, gleefully voting against their policy. The Lib Dems have in turn decided that if the Tories can renege on a deal then they can, too, and have withdrawn their support for boundary reform.
Conservatives are livid because they say it was never a deal about constituency boundary changes and Lords Reform, but between Lords Reform and legislating for an alternative vote (AV) referendum, which they delivered on.
In short, it is a mess. What does this have to do with airport capacity? Well, at some point the powers that be are going to need to look at how they keep the coalition on the path to 2015 – that’s when the next general election is. Currently, it looks a long way away.
The options appear to be to try and make do as is, firefighting an ever increasing number of rebellions from backbenchers that view 2015 with trepidation, or to re-launch the coalition, perhaps by renewing the deal that underpins it.
The Coalition Agreement has a limited shelf-life, particularly when the major strands have been legislated for early in the parliamentary term. An Agreement mark II would allow the coalition to inject some renewed vigour into their plans and ensure both sides saw they were getting something in the coming years. The question for us is: where would airport capacity figure in these negotiations?
The lobbying by the industry has created a sizable chunk of Conservative backbenchers who are against the moratorium on airport expansion in the south-east, and who have published a succession of papers setting out how the policy should be reversed. The resultant pressure has apparently caused a change in stance from senior Conservatives on aviation capacity, but the hindrance to making any progress is the Lib Dems’ refusal to shift away from the no-expansion policy.
In the negotiations for an Agreement mark II then, the demand for additional capacity in the south-east would be something that a large part of the Conservative party would wish to see included from their side. The Lib Dems would then need to think about whether there was anything they wanted which could entice them to give up their position.
However, one thing is clear: airport capacity is too tied-up in coalition politics to make any significant headway until a deal is done. Otherwise we may well have to wait and see what the world looks like post a 2015 general election before seeing any significant changes take place.