Kelly offsets Heathrow expansion with emissions cap

Labour resisted the temptation to use today’s sustainable communities debate to stake a leading role in the green agenda.

Setting out the government’s transport agenda, Ruth Kelly voiced environmental concerns but made clear the government would consider these alongside economic and security needs.

Unlike the Liberal Democrats’ and Conservatives’ green approach, Ms Kelly rebranded the transport debate as part of sustainable communities.

She said jobs, travel and housing needs must meet Britons’ rising aspirations as well as minimising the effects of climate change.

Ms Kelly said the government would continue to “consult” on plans for a third runway at Heathrow. She said the controversial airport expansion was “vital” for the UK’s international competitiveness and British jobs.

As compensation, the transport secretary said the government would push for a European cap on aviation emissions, set below current levels.

Ms Kelly said the UK was also working in the UN for the European emissions trading scheme to form the basis of international regulations.

She defied a 1.7 million-strong petition to tell the Labour conference it needed to debate road pricing. It will not be possible to build a way out of congestion and now the government must look at ways of changing travel patterns, she told delegates.

Ms Kelly did call for a greater priority for cycling, including plans for cycling training in all schools.

Bus services have emerged as a quiet theme of the conference, with a stream of government ministers acknowledging frustrations in their constituencies. Today Ms Kelly said councils would have stronger powers over bus services.

The transport secretary also said she was “working around the clock” to bring Crossrail to London.

Yesterday, mayor of London Ken Livingstone said the project was 98 per cent funded and appealed to the City to meet the additional costs.