Two bad decisions by our government were reported in yesterday's papers.
The one that hit the front pages was that parliament has approved, with a huge majority, the government's plan to build a third runway at London Airport. The Conservatives were whipped to vote in favour but Labour MPs were given a free vote. Happily the Liberal Democrats voted against.
I believe this is a bad decision for three reasons:
- Because of its polluting and global warming effects we should be aiming to cut down on air travel rather than encouraging more of it. The argument that an expanded ariport is necessary for business doesn't hold up. Only 10% of the passengers who travel through LAP (as we called it when I lived and worked under the flight path) are on business, 70% are simply tourists. So we comfortably-off cling to our right to trash the planet for our enjoyment whilst taking the view that it's advisable to leave potential migrants looking for a better life to drown in the Mediterranean, because rescuing them might encourage more to try..
- It's yet another huge infrastructure project for London. Regional diversification is flavour of the moment. If we must have more ariport capacity then let it be in the Midlands, the North, Scotland or Wales. (Actually I've read somewhere that the best southern site would be the Pas de Calais, which would enable high-speed rail links to Paris and Brussels as well as London)
- The current projected cost is £14.3bn. According to Nils Pratley this is almost bound to be over-run and in the end the taxpayer will be asked to fork out to subsidise the foreign owners of LAP (Ferrovial and Qatar Investment Authority)
By comparison to the LAP expansion this was to cost a mere £1.3bn, would have generated much needed employment and growth in Wales, and is just the sort of renewable power-generation technology in which the UK ought to be investing.
In fact it baffles me that, given the amount of shore we have relative to our size, we aren't world leaders in tidal power. The argument against power generated by the wind and sun is that the wind doesn't always blow and the sun doesn't always shine. But the tides go in and out, not once but twice, a day- indeed four times in the Solent. And that's every day.
The phoney argument was advanced over the weekend, when there was much in the media about the Defence Secretary's demands for a vast increase in military spending. The reason given, quite shamelessly in the reports I heard and read, was not that we should be better defended (against whom?) by all this extra outlay, but that this would increase British influence.
So we're are called upon the spend another £20bn or so a year just so our politicians and generals can strut around the world feeling important.
The easiest way to retrieve and then perhaps even increase Britain's influence is to remain in the EU and play a co-operative and constructive role with our partners rather than, as in the past , standing on the sidelines complaining and demanding opt-outs.
Post Script (added 30th June)
This article by Simon Jenkins in yesterday's Guardian:
gives further and better particulars about the pointlessness of Britain's attempts to remain a so-called "tier one" military power.