Shadow Transport Secretary Theresa Villers has come in for quite a bit of stick for her position on aviation, including from my CentreRight colleague Matthew Sinclair.
Readers might like to see her statement in the House of Commons yesterday about Heathrow:
That this House urges the Government to rethink its plans for a third runway at Heathrow Airport and to give full consideration to alternative solutions; regrets the Government’s heavy reliance on data supplied by BAA in assessing the case for expansion and notes the likely forthcoming break-up of BAA’s ownership of three of 5 London’s airports following the investigation by the Competition Commission; believes that the consultation paper Adding Capacity at Heathrow Airport was deeply flawed, as it paid insufficient regard to the costs of air and noise pollution in the surrounding areas and the commitment to curb carbon dioxide emissions to tackle climate change; regrets the fact that provisions to improve high-speed rail lines from 10 Heathrow to major cities have not been fully explored, along with the potential of other UK airports to handle more long-haul flights; and urges the Government to initiate a consultation on a new national planning policy statement on the theme of airports and high-speed rail.
I welcome the support of the Liberal Democrats for the motion, which is lifted verbatim from early-day motion 2344, tabled last year by the hon. Member for Selby (Mr. Grogan), with cross-party backing. The issue is of grave importance, and rightly spans party boundaries.
Let me first explode a myth peddled by the Secretary of State. To oppose a third runway is not to oppose flying. We recognise the importance of aviation and the benefits of flying for our economic competitiveness and for holidaymakers. We applaud the work of the budget airlines in bringing air travel within the reach of a wide range of people, for whom it would have been a distant aspiration less than a generation ago.
However, there comes a time when stuffing thousands and thousands more flights and millions and millions more passengers into the same overcrowded corner of the south-east of England starts to impose an unacceptable cost on our environment and our quality of life. We believe that Heathrow needs to be better, not bigger. That is why we and so many others oppose the Government’s plans to build a third runway."
Mrs Villiers also said that the Party was not looking at the option of building an airport in the Thames Estuary (a policy favoured by London Mayor Boris Johnson and Kit Malthouse, a Deputy Mayor) but added that the Conservatives "acknowledge the possibilities and benefits that could come from the proportionate and carefully considered expansion of regional airports".
She also confirmed that the Party wants a "viable alternative to a third runway—namely, a top-class, high-speed rail link between Leeds and Manchester and London".
Over to you guys!