It’s Time to Phase Out Air Passenger Duty

Britain already pays exorbitant aviation taxes. With a new emissions tax added to current duty - will flying once again become the preserve of the super-rich?

We can't afford more taxes
Syed Kamall MEP
On 26 July 2011 09:02

We cannot live without aviation in the modern world. 

It brings us food and goods from across the globe and has given people a freedom to travel which was once the preserve of only the super-rich. Aviation also enables tourists to come here and see these spectacular British Isles and learn about our nation’s rich heritage.

A new initiative entitled, “Hands off our holiday, Mr Taxman!”, has been launched to safeguard this progress.

The emerging economies of Brazil, India and China – countries which will be vital for future UK trade – are looking for new routes from their fast growing cities into Europe. And just because London Heathrow was once the central hub of the aviation universe, they will not be making hard headed economic decisions based on sentimentality about the past.

There is no doubting the need for the British Government to put our economy back on track and to tackle the ongoing deficit and rising level of national debt. But putting up taxes on aviation will damage the UK’s connectivity.

Businesses could think twice about investing here and tourists will be put off coming to the UK. Slower growth will mean less tax revenue overall and that will make the gargantuan task of paying off our debt even harder.

Air Passenger Duty – or APD – was introduced by Ken Clarke in 1994 and has since been remorselessly ratcheted up under the Chancellorship and Premiership of Gordon Brown, under the guise of ‘green’ taxation. Over the last four years it has risen by one hundred and forty percent for short-haul flights and three hundred and twenty-five percent for long-haul flights.

To put that into context, a family of four traveling to the USA will pay £240 in tax from the UK, in comparison, a family flying from France will only pay £14.50, and those traveling from the Netherlands will pay nothing. George Osborne froze the level of APD in his March 2011 Budget, but is now considering a double inflation increase next year. A recent survey showed that only six percent of people would support this increase.

On top of this proposed increase, next year the aviation sector in the UK – along with the rest of the EU – will be entering the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), further increasing the price of an air ticket.

Whilst other EU countries are phasing out their versions of APD to compensate for the revenue to be raised by the EU ETS, the UK is talking about keeping it and even increasing it. The effect of this will be that even more passengers will first travel to other European airports to avoid our uniquely high level of taxation – already eight and a half times higher than anywhere else in Europe.

The UK’s high unilateral aviation taxes will do nothing to stop the carbon dioxide emissions that scientists say heat the planet; they merely displace them to Europe or the rest of the world – along with the jobs and revenue, which aviation creates with them.

Climate change is by definition a global problem, requiring a global solution. It is simply not sensible for the UK to punish its own citizens and disadvantage its own industry and economy in pursuit of a solution to a problem which needs to be addressed by co-ordinated international action.

The danger of our current tax arrangements is that Britain could revert to a place where you have to be wealthy to fly anywhere. I believe flights should be taxed at a reasonable level which does not stop UK citizens enjoying their holidays and which does not deter tourists from visiting us.

Those taxes which are levied should be used to make Britain a greener nation. I also believe that in order to gain public support, "green taxes" should be revenue-neutral. So I am supporting the ‘Hands off our holiday’ campaign which aims to persuade the Government to stop the double inflationary increase in Air Passenger Duty next year. Make sure you show your support too.

Syed Kamall is a Conservative Member of the European Parliament representing London.

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