Air Passenger Duty is currently charged on all passenger flights from airports in the UK except in Northern Ireland. Air Passenger Duty was introduced in 1993 and came into effect on 1 November 1994, but powers to set Air Passenger Duty have now been devolved to Northern Ireland and Scotland. The Scottish Government has consulted on proposals for a tax to replace Air Passenger Duty in Scotland from April 2018.
I share the concerns of the ‘Fair Tax on Flying’ campaign about Air Passenger Duty in the UK. The Conservative Government must do more to support regional English airports if they are to compete with airports in devolved nations.
Ahead of the Scotland Act 2016, which devolved powers over Air Passenger Duty to Scotland, the Labour Party urged the Government to ensure that English airports are not disadvantaged after Scotland and Northern Ireland set their own levels of Air Passenger Duty. The Conservative Government has provided three possible options for tackling the issue: devolving Air Passenger Duty in England; varying Air Passenger Duty rates in England; or providing aid to regional airports. I am concerned that none of these options resolves the situation, nor do they assist our regional airports in competing with airports in devolved nations.
The Government has been consulting on the future of air travel in the UK, particularly the impact of taxation on competitiveness, and it is expected to publish a White Paper by the end of 2018. The Treasury has said it will continue to keep Air Passenger Duty under review and return to it once the UK leaves the European Union. It has been confirmed that Air Passenger Duty rates for 2018-19 will be up-rated in line with the Retail Price Index and that rates for 2019-20 will be set at the forthcoming Autumn Budget.
I am concerned that we now have many aviation challenges and while a strategy is certainly needed on Air Passenger Duty we also need a strategy to improve road and rail access to all international gateways, to modernise airspace, to tackle noise, to promote biofuels and to deliver on climate change commitments. I know that my Labour colleagues in the Shadow Treasury team will continue to put pressure on Conservative Ministers to take regional inequality seriously.