Only the Green Party are being honest on airport expansion

Every argument in favour of airport expansion has been exposed as a con, so why are we still talking about it?

Every argument in favour of airport expansion has been exposed as a con, so why are we still talking about it?

We don’t want to see any new runways across the South East. This is – and has always been – the Green Party’s position on airport expansion.

Whilst we are clear and honest about our position, the positions of the three traditional parties are, to say the least, ambiguous.

After many a U-turn, our prime minister has let all parties off the hook by allowing them to avoid taking up a position on expansion until after the General Election.

When David Cameron set up the Davies Commission in 2012, there was a rising crescendo of business pressure for new runways.

Cameron effectively kicked the issue into touch until after the 2015 General Election, ostensibly with a brief to Sir Howard Davies to consider whether expansion in the South East was necessary.

Since then, the huge budgets of the pro-expansion lobby have been busy trying to convince people that expansion is our only choice. It’s a con that has thankfully been exposed by the Sunday Times over the weekend.

However, the reality now is that every debate begins by asking where expansion should take place, when the real question which needs to be asked is whether it should take place.

For the Greens, major airport expansion, such as adding a new runway into the mix, doesn’t add up. Nothing has changed since 2009/10 when Labour lost the arguments to build a third runway at Heathrow.

Britain is already amongst the most frequent flyers in the world and contrary to public opinion, does not have a capacity crisis. I repeat, does not have a capacity crisis. Excluding Heathrow, every other airport across the UK, including Gatwick, is underused.

Furthermore, nine of the ten most popular destinations from Heathrow are short haul flights. Existing rail services could offer workable alternatives on most of these routes, thus freeing up landing slots for longer haul flights. As trains are ten times less polluting than planes, this would also be better for the environment.

Sadly, the climate change arguments also seem to have been lost. When I wrote to Sir Howard Davies last month to argue that government policies on climate change and airport expansion are mutually incompatible, I was disappointed to hear in response that he thinks “additional capacity can be provided in the UK while meeting the climate change targets”.

This would only be feasible if all airport growth – across the entire country – is completely halted, which is never going to happen. Recent analysis by the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) found that if you added a new runway to the South East, even if you then constrained all regional airports to today’s level of flying, you’d still overshoot the emissions limit by 2050.

It’s simply untrue to suggest that we are losing business to other countries because of our decision not to build new runways. More passengers fly in and out of London than any other city in the world.

Additionally, the employment benefits of expansion have been overplayed. Claims that airport expansion will create thousands of new jobs to help the country through the recession are based on unreliable statistics. Furthermore, expansion actually results in more UK tourists going abroad, which creates a ‘tourism deficit’.

What’s more, the aviation industry can’t even stand on its own two feet! At present, as I found out in detail at a ‘Taming Aviation’ event I hosted in the European Parliament last month, the aviation sector receives an enormous amount of direct and indirect subsidies from European taxpayers.

While every European consumer, small business and haulier has to pay, on average, a tax of 48 eurocents per litre of fuel whenever they fill up their vehicles, commercial airlines based in the EU and flying into the EU don’t pay a single penny of tax on their fuel. Shockingly, aviation’s state aid and exemptions from fuel tax and VAT amount to €43bn every year.

This all begs the question of who expansion is even benefiting. In the UK, 15 per cent of the population take 70 per cent of the flights. To generalise, these are taken by more affluent people who can afford to fly regularly, not one-off holidaymakers. In 2013, 55 per cent of the population took no flights.

After the Sunday Times revelations, we must start to question the need for expansion again.

Keith Taylor is the Green MEP for the South East region. Follow him on Twitter

18 Responses to “Only the Green Party are being honest on airport expansion”

  1. Norfolk29

    Why no simply admit that you and the Greens are against everything. If this was 1668 you would want London rebuilt exactly as it was before the great fire. You were against the Iraq War and probably WW1 and WW2 and every other war. How do you expect anyone to take you seriously?

  2. Bob Baker

    Being against wars is a serious business

  3. swat

    So this ‘Hub’ Policy. What we need are Regional Airports which offer long haul flights to mall destinations, so you don’t have to arrive at London HRW and then be shuttled off to Manchestder; when you could fly direct to Manchester in the first place. The same goes for smaller Airports like Norwich or Southend.

  4. JoeDM

    Yep. Back to pre-industrial wattle & daub houses and a life expectancy of 40 for most people.

  5. JoeDM

    Boris Island is the best long term solution.

  6. Julian

    @norfolk29 – oh the irony of what you say. Much of the medieval pre-fire street pattern remains in the City of London – precisely because the businesses and vested interests could not agree on a new redevelopment plan and wanted to retain the established pattern of land holding.

    The reason people are against airport expansion is because we don’t think it is necessary, and the article points out the many fallacious arguments being put forward.

    I personally would like to see more use of rail, put in the link from Reading which would give the West, Wales and the Midlands direct access to the airport. Also build a spur line from High Speed 1 to Heathrow Airport, this would allow long-distance passengers arriving/departing Heathrow to transfer by train to and from places like Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Cologne instead of flying.

  7. Selohesra

    Anything but Gatwick as far as I am concerned!

  8. Guest

    Rail in the UK is too expensive sadly, yet it is growing faster than many other country. Flying even around the UK is often cheaper that by rail. The sooner rail privatision is reversed the better. Simple national ticketing, that does not penalise those who pitch up at a

  9. Merlin Milner

    Sorry glitch with IE. Rail in the UK is too expensive sadly, yet it is growing faster than many other country. Flying even around the UK is often cheaper that by rail. The sooner rail privatision is reversed the better. Simple national ticketing, that does not penalise those who pitch up at a station for a ticket. Also better prices for commuters. As for flying, it should be more expensive across Europe. This will reduce demand and lessen any capacity demands.

  10. madasafish

    “It’s simply untrue to suggest that we are losing business to other countries because of our decision not to build new runways. More passengers fly in and out of London than any other city in the world.”

    So you make a statement and justify it by making another totally unrelated statement.

    If that is typical of Green Party thinking, then you are on a par with UKIP..

  11. GreenVision

    If we dont start thinking about sustainable development we will end up where you said. We cant go on as we have been and expect everything to work out. The Green Party is the only one facing up to this at present.

    The Green Party are not against everything. We know that we need to build houses but lets build the right sort of houses. We know we need transport but again we need the right sort of transport.

  12. Leon Wolfeson

    Look, I get it, you’d rather see the airport expansion happen in other countries, who will then benefit. At our expense.

    China etc. is linking with other EU airports because we don’t have the capacity.

  13. Leon Wolfeson

    Shame about the normal people who want housing and transport, right.

  14. Leon Wolfeson

    That’s *London Southend* Airport, swat.

  15. Leon Wolfeson

    So penalise those nasty business visitors and help stop the middle class taking those eviiiil foreign breaks. Not to mention further discouraging paying tourists and students, etc.

  16. Leon Wolfeson

    Yea, those rail links to China.

  17. Chris Lovett

    There is spare capacity in the UK equivalent to SIX more runways. NOW! That’s why in the era of “point to point” flights, the need for expansion is just not there.

  18. littleoddsandpieces

    Austerity cuts just make a nation more in debt. All pension and welfare reform has done is plunge the nation into more debt from the admin and constant IT changes costs, whilst starvation has risen 70 per cent in the UK since 2010.

    The denial of state pension payout of 7 years for a couple has not saved one penny, as the money since 2013, all £30 billion of it, is sitting pretty in the National Insurance Fund and being called a ‘surplus’ by government and Labour party alike.

    The state pension with the flat rate pension will leave huge numbers of women born from 1953 and men born from 1951 with NIL STATE PENSION FOR LIFE and three quarters of rest with even less than current lowest level of all rich nations bar poor Mexico.

    https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/state-pension-at-60-now

    The Green party will not shout from the rooftops how The Greens would pay off national debt AND end starvation by their new and unique policies:

    – Replace the cruel benefits regime costing billions in admin with a nil admin cost of:

    – universal, automatic Citizen Income, non-withdrawable
    to the level of the basic tax allowance

    – Full State Pension for all citizens, irregardless of National Insurance contribution /. credit history, mostly lsot due to benefit rule changes and early retirement in lieu of redundancy under the massive austerity job cuts, that will only get worse with state spending due to fall to 1930s levels, before the 1945 welfare state.

    Both above have a supplement for those living alone and for the disabled.

    If The Greens put those policies on billboards throughout the towns and cities of England and Wales, they would pass all the other parties like they were standing still.

    Anybody?

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