Saturday, 31 January 2009

Voting for the other side

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.


Chris Hutt said...

So it "wasn't actually a vote on Heathrow's third runway". That's funny, because hundreds of commentators seem to think it was.

Perhaps if you'd reproduced the parts of the Tory motion that your amendment replaced we might have understood why so many outstanding experts in the field seem to have got the wrong idea.

Kerry said...

It was a vote following a debate on the issue, it wasn't a vote on legislation - so what I meant was that the vote itself wasn't about whether or not the runway would actually happen. That's a planning decision, not a matter for legislators. I'm not sure what the implications of the Opposition winning an Opposition Day debate are, but seeing as there wasn't any legislation on the table, I can't see it would have any impact. I guess defeat would have been followed by a vote of (no)confidence in the Govt which the Govt would have won.

Kerry said...

PS The Tory motion was fundamentally dishonest. Taken at face value, it had merits - but I don't take the Tories at face value.

Chris Hutt said...

So you're saying that if the vote had gone against a third runway it wouldn't have made any difference? Why then was the government so concerned about defeating the Tory motion?

Surely such a vote by the supreme representative chamber of the United Kingdom would have sounded the death knell for a third runway? If not why was so much attention given to the debate?

SteveL said...

Clearly the underlying problem is that this government isn't going to offer a vote on the LHR expansion, so this was all the MPs -our representatives -were offered. Now it may have been a fairly weak motion, but it was all there was, and all the Bristol Labour MPs followed the party line: LHR growth is good, we can make our EU pollution goals and 80% reduction in CO2 goals.

Sadly, the Campaign for better transport has shown the maths is wrong for CO2, pollution is pretty optimistic too.

The only good thing bristol gets from it is a new "transport hub", where we may be able to change from FirstGW diesel trains to eurotunnel trains. But wait a minute, how about having electric trains all the way to parkway, even cardiff? And trains from Cardiff to Paris, Brussels, Berlin, via Bristol. That would be useful. But the LHR expansion, even with its transport hub, doesn't deliver that. All it does is give the conservative party something to look good on in terms of Green policy come the next election. That doesn't mean you can take them at face value, as you point out. But you can't believe that the LHR pollution limits are going to be kept, because every single promise on Heathrow expansion made over the past 20+ years has been broken. By every party.

Now, given that the economy isnt going to be a strength come that election, and the green vote is being thrown away by this -Gordon's M3/A34 bypass battle- I dont see much going for this goverment right now. Welcome to the second winter of discontent.

Kerry said...

LHR expansion doesn't deliver electrification - but that doesn't mean it's not going to happen. It's on the cards, as I said on here earlier in the week.

Jon Rogers said...

Having a small plot of land, courtesy of Greenpeace, I get emails from the organisers.

Their takes was, "The opposition to the runway has clearly made its mark on parliament, and when it came to the vote last night, we saw a historic rebellion.

Twenty-eight Labour MPs voted against the government's plans to add a third runway to Heathrow – supporting the 'opposition day motion' brought by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

That's a bigger rebellion than even we were expecting – Gordon Brown clearly has a serious political problem on his hands over aviation expansion. It was the biggest Labour rebellion on an opposition motion since they came to power in 1997"

Is that true and if so why do you think that might be?


PS. Warming to this blogging stuff, though shame that you have to moderate the comments. Do you think it is because people can post anonymously? Perhaps some don't care what they say?

yellowbelly said...

"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"


I thought that landing in the Hudson River and saving the lives of all on board was a GOOD thing Kerry? Better than landing in downtown Manhattan or Central London, anyway.

And your Bullingdon boys comment is just infantile and does you no credit. Mind you, I bet your good socialist(!) friends like Shaun Woodward and Quentin Davies have bagged a brace or two in their time!!

Kerry said...

OK, let me explain.

A pilot skilfully landing his plane in the Hudson River and managing to save the lives of all on board = a good thing.

A plane having to crash land in the Hudson River in the first place because of a flock of geese = not a good thing.

Kerry said...

"PS. Warming to this blogging stuff, though shame that you have to moderate the comments. Do you think it is because people can post anonymously? Perhaps some don't care what they say?"

Jon, I didn't use to moderate comments and I think I was the only MP who didn't but then they got more and more offensive, to the point where I was embarrassed to tell people - particularly BME school pupils - that my blog existed. So I had to put a stop to that. I don't allow anonymous comments, but there's nothing stopping people using pseudonyms and you're right, that does give them something of a licence to say things they would never dare say if their names were on the record. It also means they can make things up, (or at least I suspect they do)and justify sexism by pretending to be female, or racism by pretending to be married to a black person, or using 'some of my best friends are'... but can't see any way round that. I rarely delete comments, unless they're overtly racist or completely off-topic or downright rude depending on what mood I'm in).

Jon Rogers said...

Thanks for your reply to my PS above, but may I ask what is your reply to Greenpeace and your readers when they say, "It was the biggest Labour rebellion on an opposition motion since they came to power in 1997"?

I get the impression that quite a number of the Labour group were unhappy with Hoon.

What do you say to the Labour MPs who voted for the motion, the two Labour Ministerial aides who resigned so they could support the motion and the many Labour MPs who abstained on the government amendment?

And I guess that on this blog "Paul" is Paul Smith? I can hear his voice saying what "Paul" writes anyway! On past form, I would guess that "Paul" is rather unhappy with the Labour position?


Kerry said...

"The biggest Labour rebellion on an opposition motion" - normally very few MPs would ever vote for an opposition motion, at the worst they would abstain. That's because opposition motions are usually about party political posturing rather than anything more meaningful. On this, I think the size of the Labour vote and in particular the two resignations was due to local concerns - they were MPs for Ealing, which would be affected by expansion.

Paul can answer for himself, but I believe he's generally opposed to any airport expansion.

Not answering any more of your questions till you answer mine on the previous post!

Chris Hutt said...

Kerry, ask Jon about the Lib-Dem position on the expansion of Bristol Airport. He got a rough ride on that on Charlie Bolton's blog.