Transport Airlines

British government criticized for taxes that turn travel into a “toy” for the rich

Nov 03, 2012 12:36 am

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Active petitions, criticism from MPs on all sides, and even foreign shock at the taxes faced by average British families suggest that it’s only a matter of time before the tax is lowered.

— Samantha Shankman

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Graham Brady, the chairman of the Conservative backbench 1922 Committee, joined MPs on all sides in attacking Air Passenger Duty in a Commons debate.

“It should not be the case that air travel becomes once again a luxury that can only be afforded by the rich,” Mr Brady said.

“It isn’t a luxury in the modern world. Air travel, whether it be for business or for leisure, is an essential part of modern life. It’s opened up the world, it’s opened people’s minds, it has enhanced the quality of life for all of us.”

This was not the first time that senior ministers, including the Chancellor, have been accused of being out of touch with the problems faced by ordinary families as well as being embarrassed by the high cost of transport.

Philip Hammond, the Coalition’s first Transport Secretary, who presided over some eye-wateringly high rail fare increases came under fire when he admitted that train travel was in danger of becoming a “rich man’s toy”.

Britain is not only one of a handful of countries which imposes a tax on plane tickets, but the rate is double that of anywhere else.

In April an eight per cent rise in APD meant that a family of four flying economy class to the Caribbean would have to pay £440 in tax, compared with £80 as recently as 2005.

The MPs backed a call by Priti Patel, a Tory backbencher, calling on the Government to carry out an economic assessment of the impact of APD.

Leading airlines have argued that the tax is having a damaging impact on the economy as a whole, stifling economic growth and costing jobs.

“We are in a global race right now and while looking at the future of APD, we have to remember where we stand in terms of our own international competitiveness,” she said.

“We are competing in a global environment that is tougher and more competitive than ever before.

“Foreign businesses which can bring in much-needed investment into our economy can now relocate to other countries.”

Roger Gale, a senior Tory backbencher, added: “There comes a point when you are killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.”

Labour MPs also voiced their support for an inquiry with Graham Stringer, a former minister, saying that APD was the first economic issue to trigger more complaints from his constituents than animal welfare.

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