BLOG: NO to Heathrow Expansion

Robin_speaking_in_Heathrow_debate.jpgToday, I spoke at the Liberal Democrat conference which sets party policy for the next parliament.

The entire party - from the grass-roots members to the parliamentarians - were united in opposition to expansion at Heathrow airport. This is important news for residents in Richmond Park, maintaining as it does the position we have held uniquely in British politics for a generation.

What was striking from today was that the very idea of any expansion at Heathrow was rejected as a non-starter by every speaker at every level of the party. I do not believe either the Conservatives or Labour will be able to match that.

The Conservative party is the reason that Heathrow expansion even came back on to the national agenda. Senior Tories around George Osborne say we must expand Heathrow because it is at full capacity.

Yet there is existing capacity in London and in the UK which is under-used. Not least due to the ridiculous situation of passengers from regional airports travelling through Heathrow to get to the continent, on planes which take up slot space with no incentive to change.

The one thing that IS at full capacity is the spending power of the Pro-Heathrow campaign.

They have lavished who knows how much on lobbying and advertising and dodgy residents' mailings extolling the virtues of the economic boom that they could bring.

Tory MP Zac Goldsmith is on our side of the argument. But nationally - where the power is in the Tory party - his party doesn't listen to him.

Last year the British Medical Journal published the latest evidence, in a study of 3.6 million residents near Heathrow. It suggested the risks of stroke, heart and circulatory disease were as much as 20% higher in areas with the highest levels of aircraft noise.

This is what the Tories are willing to accept.

This is what the last Labour government was willing to accept.

Well, I am not prepared to accept it. And just as we Liberal Democrats blocked the Conservatives from expanding the airport during this Parliament, so we go into the next election with a policy that could not be clearer: No to Heathrow expansion.