Comment: Government must listen to voters on APD

My constituents are telling me APD is too high; the government must listen, writes Brian Donohoe, Labour MP for Central Ayrshire

Aviation is an issue that I have been interested in for a long time. It has tremendous benefits for our economy, as well as letting families take a well-deserved break in the sun.

In my capacity as MP for Central Ayrshire representing Glasgow Prestwick Airport and chair of the Aviation All Party Parliamentary Group, I have written many times on the issue of Air Passenger Duty (APD) – the UK’s aviation tax, which is, by some way, the highest in the world. However, from being almost unheard of just four years ago, APD is now gaining something of a cult status as one of the UK’s least-liked stealth taxes.

Over the past eight weeks, the A Fair Tax on Flying campaign, a broad cross section of airport, airline and tourism organisations, has highlighted the high levels of APD passengers pay, and encouraged the public to lobby their Parliamentary representatives on this issue.

Over 100,000 people have emailed their MP, raising their concerns about APD and telling parliamentarians that the tax is now too high. I have received well over one hundred emails from constituents about APD. And I know that many of my Parliamentary colleagues have received many more, including both Labour leader Ed Miliband and Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls.

I wholeheartedly support the objectives of the A Fair Tax on Flying campaign, and I am delighted it has been able to mobilise voters on this issue. Those constituents who are backing the campaign are calling for an independent review of APD and its impacts on the wider economy. I support these proposals not only for the UK economy but also for my local economy; and I hope that my colleagues in Westminster can help support this aim.

APD is no longer cited as an environmental tax, so the case for it becomes even more uncertain, especially as aviation entered the EU Emissions Trading Scheme in January of this year. In responses I have received from the Treasury on APD, they say that it makes a valuable contribution to the public purse, especially during this period of austerity.

But what we need is a real long-term plan for jobs and growth from this government. Aviation can help deliver this thorough increased connectivity to emerging economies, like China and India but we are at a competitive disadvantage compared to our European counterparts, which levy much lower rates of air passenger tax.

For 100,000 people to have written to MPs to make their voice heard is an astonishing show of opposition to the current levels of APD and concern about the impact they are having on both ordinary families and on the economy.

 I will continue to back this campaign over the coming months, and the Aviation All Party Group will shortly be publishing a report which sets out some recommendations on the future of aviation in the UK, including APD.

I hope the Chancellor listens to these recommendations and takes notice of public opinion, and like the recent pasty tax and fuel duty rise, he sees sense and cancels planned increases. As a result, he will see economic growth and more tourists visiting the UK, which are much needed for his failing economic plan.

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