Clegg defeated on airport plans

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg attends day four of the Liberal Democrat autumn conference
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg attends day four of the Liberal Democrat autumn conference
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BLOCKING AIRPORT expansion could see the Liberal Democrats forced into another tuition fees style policy U-turn, Nick Clegg has warned.

The Deputy Prime Minister pleaded for his party to think again after its rank-and-file rejected a policy change that could have opened the door to extra runways at Gatwick and Stansted.

He insisted the current approach did not make “sense”, suggesting the Lib Dems were repeating the mistakes of the student fee debacle - when it was forced to stage a highly damaging U-turn after the election.

The policy amendment, proposed by Mr Clegg’s ally Lorely Burt, would have maintained the party’s opposition to making Heathrow bigger.

But the blanket objection to new runways anywhere in the country would have been dropped - in particular deleting references to Gatwick and Stansted.

Mr Clegg argued over the weekend that improvements in aeroplane technology made it possible to expand airports without harming the environment.

Mr Clegg said: “I just don’t think it makes sense to say you’re never going to have a single metre of extra concrete anywhere, in any runway anywhere in the United Kingdom.

“I don’t think it makes sense, but I lead a political party that quite rightly is very punctilious about its internal democracy. The argument I and others made has not won the day.

“But it will need to be discussed again because, how can I put it, I’ve seen the perils of the past of putting something which you know in your heart of hearts is not necessarily deliverable.”