Ann Keen Accused of Setting New Double Standards

Demonstrators highlight inconvenient truth of MP’s "hypocrisy" over climate change

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The Brentford and Isleworth constituency

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Local MP Ann Keen has been accused of setting new double standards after voting in Parliament against controls on CO2 emissions and noisy night flights then hosting a screening of Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ – a film explaining the need for urgent action on climate change.

The allegation came from Lib Dem leader Andrew Dakers who, despite an invitation to the event, was denied entry to the screening because “they had run out of chairs”. Ann Keen's office later wrote to Cllr. Dakers to apologise saying that she had been unaware he wished to attend and he would have been very welcome but he had not responded to the original invitation to the event.

The incident occurred just days after Labour group leader Cllr Sharma said a motion passed by Hounslow Council, which requires executive members to sign off Council invitations to the borough’s MPs until their policy of non-cooperation with the Council comes to an end, was “short-sighted and, frankly, small-minded”.

Cllr Andrew Dakers, Leader of Hounslow Liberal Democrats, said “Ann Keen’s behaviour would seem extraordinary if it were not so consistent with her usual hypocritical actions. Her vote against controls on night flights in 2005 demonstrates that she ignores her constituents’ views, and is instead swept along by the short term interests of an airline industry set on expansion. Heathrow aircraft emit about 38% of UK aviation emissions, which is equivalent to 14 million tonnes per annum in 2005.”

Members of the local community staged a demonstration outside Brentford’s Holiday Inn where Ann Keen was hosting the screening. Campaigners waved placards and handed out leaflets to draw attention to the fact that the government, members of which attended the event, had presided over an increase of nearly 40,000 flights per year at Heathrow since the general election 1997.

The demonstration was organised by the Independent Community Group (ICG), and was supported by members of the Liberal Democrats. Commenting after the event Community Group councillor Phil Andrews said, "Ann Keen is to be commended for staging this event, but the big names she flaunts are the very same people who are backing the expansion of Heathrow at the expense of our local community. Mrs. Keen demonstrated once again in 2005 that her own career and personal advancement mean more to her than her own constituents, who continue to suffer the effects of night flights.

"Under the circumstances this event would seem to have more to do with keeping her name in the headlines than with an honest attempt to highlight the very real problem of climate change."

However, Ann Keen MP disagrees claiming that the material distributed outside the climate change event last Sunday is deliberately misleading. A spokesperson for the local MP said "After many months of campaigning and lobbying throughout 2005/6 Ann was able to celebrate the first concession by any government in relation to Heathrow on 8th May 2006. The then Department for Transport Minister, Derek Twigg MP, announced that there would be no increase in night flights. This is guaranteed until 2012 when a consultation will be held. Ann lobbied Ministers right up until the debate, through a cabinet re-shuffle and with a new Secretary of State.

"During the debate the Minister acknowledged the strong lobbying Ann has undertaken on behalf of her constituents, and congratulated her on putting forward the views vigorously and strongly. He stated that the Government had listened to Ann on night flights."

John Stewart, Chair of campaining group HACAN Clearskies said, “We know she voted with the Government on the Civil Aviation Bill. But we are relaxed about this as this was not a vote to ban or restrict night flights at Heathrow and we know that, as a member of the Government, Ann Keen would be expected to vote with the Government. We are pleased and value Ann’s support.”

Speaking after the event Ann Keen said, “Climate change is the single most important issue we face as a global community. It is a reality and it is essential we work together to protect our planet. Many individuals and groups have campaigned long and hard, increasing scientific and public understanding of the threat of climate change. This event is an excellent opportunity to learn from each other. The highly acclaimed Stern Review on Climate Change has generated much debate and enthusiasm on the international stage. However, Brentford is the ideal location for our Climate Change conference as Sir Nicholas Stern grew up and had his family home here.

"As businesses, organisations and individuals we can all play our part to reduce both our impact on the environment and our emissions. I am honoured to have the permission of former U.S. Vice President Al Gore to show his film and I’m pleased to welcome our exhibitors who have an important message about what can be done to tackle the global challenge of climate change."

May 10, 2007