THE long-awaited consultation on the third runway and other plans for Heathrow expansion came out this week.

I am not a great traveller and on average fly only once or twice a year - and usually not from Heathrow. But I have been there often enough to know just what a national embarrassment it is - crowded, dirty, inefficient and prone to long delays.

It clearly needs better facilities and changes to operations to prevent the gridlock that happens given bad weather or other disruptions - and this may mean some expansion. However, I am not persuaded that the level of expansion mixed mode (ie subjecting nearby residents to all-day rather than half day noise) or the third runway will provide is justified. But I will listen to all views, particularly those of constituents, as the debate goes on.

One of the strongest arguments against airport expansion, especially where improved rail services can replace short haul flights, is the effect on climate change. So I was pleased by Gordon Brown's major speech on the issue last week. There are three major bills in the Government's programme which bring forward proposals to reduce carbon emissions - the Climate Change, Energy and Planning Bills.

Brown has committed Britain to meet tough targets on use of renewables and cutting emissions.

Currently the target is to cut CO2 emissions by 60 per cent by 2050 but the Government has launched a consultation on how we can make this 80 per cent. This and the renewed commitment to wave, wind and solar energy have been welcomed by environmental pressure groups.

What remains more controversial is the part nuclear energy will play in preventing climate change.

Personally, I think we will need some reliance on nuclear fuels provided assurances can be given about both cost and safety. It is unrealistic to achieve the reductions in emissions we all want without this, and it is also necessary to ensure security of supply given the increasing instability of fossil fuel-producing countries.