Advance copy of the report: ConservativeHome has a copy of the Quality of Life report due to be
launched tomorrow at 10.30am. Interestingly it doesn’t have an
executive summary. Reports without executive summaries nearly always –
in my experience – don’t want to be fully open about what they contain.
Discouragement of home improvements: There are a number of taxes on cars and aeroplanes as expected. So far I have discovered one very controversial new policy that hasn’t been flagged yet: Page 72 recommends that any householder wanting to improve their homes via, for example, a loft conversion or adding a conservatory will be required to make "cost-effective energy efficient improvements to the existing structure". This proposal could have major implications for homeowners’ ability to afford home improvements. While "cost-effective energy efficient improvements" may pay for themselves in the long-run the requirement for whole-house energy-efficient measures will discourage many people on tighter incomes from improving their homes.
Airport expansion: I have just been interviewed for Radio 4’s World Tonight. Before I spoke David Wilshire was interviewed. His constituency includes Heathrow and he encouraged David Cameron to disown the report’s recommendations on airport expansion and discouragement of domestic flights. Mr Wilshire warned that restrictions on the expansion of UK airports will simply see airline business migrate to Amsterdam, Paris and Frankfurt. He complained that Zac Goldsmith didn’t understand the aviation industry and had not met him to discuss his concerns despite requests for him to do so:
"Zac doesn’t understand aviation – it’s a global business. British aviation produces 1.6% of global emissions. If we fiddle about on an entirely unilateral basis, we will damage the British economy, cost my constituents jobs and then we can watch the Chinese open up another 49 airports. You can’t fiddle about with aviation and make gestures, price people out of flying and make it an elitist activity for the wealthy."
MPs from the North West and East Midlands have also been in touch with me over recent days to talk about the importance of airports to regional economies. My understanding is that David Cameron has rejected the report’s blanket restrictions on airport expansion.
Achievable environmentalism: David Cameron should, in my opinion, not unilaterally attempt to save the planet. Any marginal gains that can be achieved in Britain will be quickly overwhelmed by economic growth in India and China. Instead Conservatives should focus on ‘achievable environmentalism’. This should include planting trees, recycling, cutting waste, investing in renewables, protecting natural habitats and so on.