The government has been accused of lacking joined-up thinking it its approach to taxes and aviation.
The attack came from trade body the British Air Transport Association (Bata) as deputy prime minister Nick Clegg called for a greener tax system on the day that the Department for Transport issued results of a poll revealing public opposition to high taxation on aviation.
The DfT study into public attitudes to climate change and the impact of transport found that 54% of respondents were opposed to increased aviation tax or other charges.
“Most adults were opposed to the ‘push’ measures which would affect them financially: higher taxes to discourage car use and to discourage air travel,” the report said.
“Only a fifth (20%) of respondents said they were willing to reduce the amount they travelled by plane, while over twice as many (46%) were unwilling to do so.
“Even among those who were very concerned about climate change only 28% were willing to reduce their air travel, while 40% were unwilling to do so.
“Of the government policy options asked about in the survey, higher taxes to encourage less air travel was one of only two policy options for which there was net opposition (35%), with 19% of people supporting increasing aviation tax or other charges – while 54% of respondents were opposed.”
The survey results coincided with Clegg’s speech on cutting taxation, which he said is aimed at “the young couple who used to look forward to the holiday they would book or the car they would buy, but who now know that if the boiler breaks or the washing machine packs up, the money just isn’t there.”
Clegg said: “We need to look at what more can be done to ‘green’ the tax system. Not just because we care about the planet we leave our children – although that would be reason enough. But because, when the decision is between taxing pollution or taxing hard-graft, the right impulse is obvious.”
But Bata chief executive Simon Buck attacked the comments, saying: “It’s all very well for Nick Clegg to talk about cutting tax for the poor and looking at ways to make the tax system ‘more green’ but his aspirations do not square with the government’s actions and its own findings on public attitudes.
“For example, this government is choosing to make an annual sunshine holiday less affordable for many hard-pressed families by imposing the highest taxes on flying in the world and will increase the tax even further from 1st April.
“Bizarrely, the deputy PM’s remarks are made on the same day as the government publishes its own survey, showing that most people are opposed to ‘push’ measures that would affect them financially, such as higher taxes aimed at discouraging air travel.
“If there were annual awards for lacking in joined-up thinking, this government would win hands down.”