LIBERAL Democrat leader Nick Clegg has admitted that his party’s decision not to back airport expansion in the south of England doesn’t make sense.
His comments came after the decision, reached after a vote at the party’s annual conference in Glasgow, received fierce criticism from business groups, which wrote it off as damaging.
John Cridland, director general of the Confederation of British Industry, said that pre-empting the outcome of the Airports Commission – the panel set up to decide where to build additional runways in the south east – was an “unhelpful” move by the Lib Dems yesterday.
“Growing airport capacity in the south east is critical to the UK’s economic future. Business will be extremely disappointed that the Liberal Democrat delegates fail to recognise this,” Cridland added.
Both the Federation of Small Business and the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) also hit out at the decision, with the BCC warning that the party was “out of touch with British business needs when it comes to aviation and airports”.
Yesterday, Clegg appeared to broadly agree with the criticism, but added that his party was not a sect and had the freedom to decide what went into its manifesto. “I really don’t think it makes sense to say you’re never going to have a single metre of extra concrete on any runway anywhere,” he said.
Clegg announced yesterday that his party would increase the tax-free personal allowance to £11,000 in the first year of the next parliament, giving 29m people a tax cut. To pay for the policy, he vowed to increase capital gains tax and cut tax avoidance.
Today, Clegg will herald a new era for mental health care on the NHS with a £120m funding boost and a waiting time pledge to match physical health.