Expanding Heathrow Is A Start, But Now We Must End The War On Aviation By Cutting Air Passenger Duty

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THIS ARTICLE WAS FIRST PUBLISHED AT CONSERVATIVES FOR LIBERTY

 

With the government’s announcement that Heathrow will finally get a third runway, it is time to end the decades-old war against aviation by slashing Air Passenger Duty too

About this time every year, my Texan wife and I glance at the calendar and realise, with dread, that the time has come to book plane tickets to the States for Christmas. To be clear, the dread has nothing to do with visiting my in-laws, whom I love very much – no, what ties my stomach in knots every autumn is the nagging question of how much money the British government intends to extort from me for the privilege of flying away from this rainy island for a couple of weeks of Texas sunshine.

Every year, Air Passenger Duty – that invidious, regressive, anti-business tax – creeps ever upward. And while the government may deign to excuse certain people from this extortion (children under sixteen were made exempt this year, in a blaze of self-congratulatory glory), for the rest of us APD keeps on inching upward. At a time when falling oil prices should mean that air fares reach historic lows, in Britain at least the cost of air travel is kept artificially high thanks to this ill-conceived tax – by far the highest in the developed world.

And why? Primarily as a sloppy wet governmental kiss to environmentalists, who some time ago decided that nothing poses a greater threat to the Earth than a working class person enjoying a holiday in Florida, or taking a cheap excursion to one of the sunnier parts of Europe. Air Passenger Duty is nothing so much as the collective howl of outrage from well-heeled leftist environmentalists that poor people are forgetting their place (i.e. receiving benefits and being thankful for them) and daring to travel the world as wealthy people did before them.

Remember the leftist credo, everybody: Fashionable celebrities flying private jets to Davos to moralise about carbon emissions made by the rest of us = good. Nasty working class folk flying Ryanair for a fortnight in Lanzarote or a stag weekend in Riga = bad.

Now that the government has taken the painful and very belated decision to proceed with the expansion of London’s Heathrow Airport (something which should have happened a long time ago) there will be inevitable calls for punishing new environmental levies to offset the terrible “damage” that is supposedly wrought when the state takes its jackboot off the throat of the aviation industry. There will likely be calls to raise Air Passenger Duty even further to help pay for this crucial national investment, even though the exorbitant tax already places Britain at a huge comparative disadvantage.

The government must resist any and all calls to raise APD. In fact, there could be few clearer signs that this government is committed to championing UK aviation and supporting the economy through the uncertainty of Brexit than a bold, dramatic cut in Air Passenger Duty from the current level of £13 short haul / £ 73 long haul / £146 premium cabin rates back down to the single digits. When my wife and I connect in Houston or Dallas Fort Worth on our way from London to the Rio Grande Valley, we pay the state of Texas no more than a few dollars for the privilege of transiting through DFW or George Bush Intercontinental airport – and both of those hubs put London’s Heathrow and Gatwick to shame.

At a time when the government is considering cutting Corporation Tax as low as 10% as an incentive to firms to invest, grow and remain in the United Kingdom, we should not be discouraging business executives and holidaymakers (72% of whom come to the UK by air) from choosing Britain by mugging them before they even step off the jet bridge. Cutting Corporation Tax is great, but the government should not forget individuals, who currently labour under all manner of punitive stealth taxes and would greatly welcome the relief. Neither should the government forget the aviation industry, which is every bit as vital as shipping to an island nation, and which for too long has been stymied and suppressed by cowardly politicians who refused to take critical decisions in the national interest.

With the long-overdue decision to build a third runway at Heathrow Airport, the government has finally called an end to years of dithering and inaction and made a necessary decision in support of the economy. But the benefits of this decision could yet be killed in the crib unless Britain also signals its intention to stop being the high-tax, anti-aviation country which prioritises impractical, virtue-signalling environmentalism over necessary infrastructure investment and tax reform.

There is no earthly reason why you or I should have to pay £73 for the privilege of taking off from Heathrow Airport, whether it has two runways or three. And if Theresa May and Philip Hammond are serious about signalling that Britain is open for business then slashing this one small but immensely harmful tax would be a great place to start.

 

THIS ARTICLE WAS FIRST PUBLISHED AT CONSERVATIVES FOR LIBERTY

 

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Top and Bottom Images: Pixabay

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Nicola Sturgeon’s Failure Of Courage

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75 days after her massive tantrum about the EU referendum result, a meek and humiliating climbdown from Nicola Sturgeon

From the Guardian:

Nicola Sturgeon has shelved plans for a quick second referendum on Scottish independence after dire spending figures and a fall in public support for leaving the UK.

The first minister told Holyrood on Tuesday that her government only planned to issue a consultation on a draft referendum bill – a measure which falls short of tabling new legislation in this year’s programme for government.

Two months after telling reporters a referendum was “highly likely” within the next two years, she told MSPs that that bill would now only be introduced if she believed it was the best option for Scotland.

Her officials later said that consultation process could start at some time in the next year, with no target date in mind for its launch or its conclusion. Sturgeon’s official legislative timetable, the programme for government, described the referendum as an option and not as a goal.

Well, well, well.

Looks like a tacit admission that running a creaking, statist, big government petro-state north of the border – all based on a fiercely irrational cult of personality – doesn’t produce the kind of dynamic, resilient country which could frolic its way to independence without an economic care in the world after all.

Who could have possibly known?

 

Postscript: But let us not be too smug. The same report also tells us that the SNP plans to use the Scottish government’s discretionary fiscal powers cut the outrageously high Air Passenger Duty tax by 50% – a good first step in reducing it even further, back to the kind of levels which no longer put passengers off flying to or connecting through the UK:

She confirmed that the SNP would cut air passenger duty at Scottish airports by 50% from April 2018 to stimulate spending, a plan lambasted by Labour and the Scottish Greens as it would damage efforts to tackle climate change.

The day that the Conservative Party can lecture Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish National Party on pro-consumer, supply-side economic reform with a straight face will be the day when Philip Hammond stands at the despatch box and promises an even greater cut in APD for the rest of the UK in his first Budget.

Until then, the Conservatives continue to disappoint expectations, preferring to virtue-signal their environmentalist credentials and rob leisure and business travellers of their money than usher in the aviation revolution that this country sorely needs.

 

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Top Image: Daily Record

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Let’s Fly

Apparently the Conservative-led government can no longer be relied upon to do anything that doesn’t make me want to bang my head repeatedly against a brick wall in open-mouthed astonishment at their zesty blend of rank incompetence and lack of principle, so it was particularly refreshing today to read this piece in The Telegraph, reporting that the Taxpayers’ Alliance is renewing their call for an abolishment of air passenger duty (the ludicrously huge tax on passenger air travel in the UK).

The Telegraph reports:

The pressure group – which was formed in 2004 and supports lower taxes for UK residents – has given its backing to the Fair Tax on Flying campaign, which is urging the Government to reduce or abolish APD.

“Britain’s punitive taxes on flights, now the highest in the world, are an incredible burden on families taking a well-earned break,” said Emma Boon, campaign director at the Taxpayers’ Alliance. “Jobs are also at stake as tourists and business travellers choose a destination to visit or invest where they won’t get ripped off. APD should really be abolished, but the very least politicians can do is cut this tax to a fairer level.”

Absolutely. Air Passenger Duty is just another typically, depressingly British example of the government picking an arbitrary thing to fixate upon, and gradually cranking up the tax in each successive Budget to help fund whatever addle-headed, moronic scheme happens to be flavour of the month at that particular time. It penalises business travellers, leisure travellers, people trying to visit far-flung family, people in long distance relationships and  anyone else whose only crime is their need to transit through one of Britain’s dilapidated airports.

The article goes on to explain:

APD is paid by all travellers departing from a UK airport. Following the most recent rise in the tax, an eight per cent hike made in April, a family of four travelling to Europe must pay £52 in APD, while those flying farther afield are hit even harder. The cost of APD for a family of four flying to the United States or Egypt, for example, is £260; for those travelling to the Caribbean or South Africa, it is £324; and a family visiting Argentina or Australia must pay £368.

Those figures are doubled for those flying in premium-economy, business- or first-class cabins.

That level of taxation is simply not funny, in fact it is intolerably ridiculous, and ought not to be allowed to remain under a Conservative government. Staggeringly, in 2005 this tax was only £5 per person for a European flight and £20 for a longer distance flight. A 360% rise in any tax over just seven years is quite ridiculous, and this one is proving to be a real dampener on the economy at a time when we need to be keeping business and family costs down the most. It’s typical of this rudderless, unprincipled government that yet further rises are also planned this year.

I strongly encourage everyone to sign the petition to scrap Air Passenger Duty at this website.