A leading Conservative Party commentator has told the industry to expect no shift in government thinking on Air Passenger Duty (APD) because “it’s not on people’s minds”.

Instead, he said the sector “should put a lot more into Labour Party contacts”.

Tim Montgomerie, editor of influential Tory website ConservativeHome, told the UKinbound conference in Windsor yesterday: “There will not be a huge change in trajectory by the government because the [coalition] parties cannot agree.

“Straight after the Eastleigh by-election on February 28 we’ll have the budget and that will be the last opportunity to do anything [before an election in 2015].”

Montgomerie said: “I don’t have good news on APD. When we survey MPs, party members, the public, APD is not one of the taxes on people’s minds.

“Freezing APD may be your most realistic hope. More than that is not on the agenda.”

However, he had better news on airport expansion, telling representatives of the inbound industry: “There is no question why the Davies Commission was set up. It will give the green light to a third and even a fourth runway at Heathrow.

“There is no way they would have taken this action if they were not going to do that.”

Montgomerie said the industry had also made progress in persuading ministers to ease visa constraints for visitors. “MPs are lobbied on this almost more than any other issue,” he said.

But he added: “Visas are a problem because immigration is the top concern among voters the Tories need to win. Tourist visas are not the same as immigration, but the worry is once people are here they will stay. That is the problem and the cabinet is split over it.”