What some people don't seem to realise is that the vote this week wasn't actually a vote on Heathrow's third runway, in that it doesn't have any impact at all on whether or not there will be a third runway. It's not a matter for legislation, it's a matter for the planning process, and we weren't voting on legislation.
What we were voting on was a typically brazen Tory Opposition Day motion. Brazen in that it contradicted their previous support for the economic case for exansion. Brazen in that the frontbench has admitted they aren't against airport expansion in the south east per se, which makes something of a mockery of their environmental arguments (and of course Boris wants it in the Thames, although not sure what how he's going to avoid a Hudson-river type scenario - unless his Bullingdon club mates are going to enjoy some shooting first). Also, brazen in that it flagged up the high-speed rail alternative, which would of course be a good thing, but we all know a Tory government, committed to billions of cuts, would never be able to pay for. And brazen in that they couldn't go further than calling for a 'rethink' as too many Tory MPs actually support the third runway proposals. So it was typical Opposition day debate stuff.
The Labour amendment to the Tory motion, which I voted for, was:
“This House notes the Government’s commitment in the 2003 Aviation White Paper to limit noise impacts and to be confident both that statutory air quality limits will be met and that public transport will be improved before expansion is permitted at Heathrow; welcomes the Government’s new enforceable target to reduce UK aviation carbon dioxide emissions below 2005 levels by 2050, and the commitment that increases in capacity at Heathrow, beyond the additional 125,000 movements a year already agreed, will only be approved after a review in 2020 by the Committee on Climate Change of whether the UK is on track to meet this independently monitored target; notes that development at Heathrow will be conditional both on requirements that the size of the 57 decibel noise contour will not increase compared with 2002 and on adherence to the requirements of the European Air Quality Directive; notes the decision not to proceed with mixed mode, thereby ensuring that neighbouring residents will have predictable respite from aircraft noise; welcomes the proposal that new slots at Heathrow should be ‘green slots’ using the most efficient planes; recognises the economic and social importance of Heathrow; and welcomes proposals on ultra-low carbon vehicles and new rail links to the west of Heathrow and new high-speed services from London to the Midlands, the North and Scotland linked to Heathrow, to the benefit of the UK as a whole.”
We've got four more Opposition day debates next week, including a Lib Dem one entitled "Legal, decent, honest, truthful: the case for urgent reform of Parliament". (Maybe they should look those adjectives up in the dictionary first, and apply it to their own behaviour on the campaign trail?) I'm not against the premise, that Parliament needs urgent reform - it does, and I will blog about that later. But there's no way I'm voting for a piece of holier-than-thou Lib Dem posturing. And I don't think we should be spending two whole days next week debating such motions; we should be devoting more time to scrutinising legislation. At the moment big Bills get a one day Second Reading, then go to Committee, and then usually have one more day on the floor of the House when amendments are debated (and of course, their time in the Lords). Often Second Reading debates are curtailled, and many amendments don't get called. We should spend more time on this legislation and not on pointless party political scrapping.