Air travel duty a stealth tax, not a green tax

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Air Passenger Duty rises will damage tourism without helping the environment.

Charles Starmer-Smith makes a powerful ten-point case against the first of two increases in Air Passenger Duty (APD) which came in on 1 November.

First, APD of £5 (short haul) and £20 (long haul) was imposed as a 'green' tax in 2004. Since then, the airlines have improved the efficiency of their fleets, yet the government is raising the tax by up to 425% of the 2004 level. This is a stealth tax, not a green tax.

Second, private jets are exempt (so Roman Abramovich is OK, then). As (third) are cargo planes. Why, if this is a 'green' measure?

Fourth, a new banding system means travellers flying 11 hours to LA incur less duty than those flying just 8 hours to Barbados. And (fifth) Tunisia incurs tax of just £11 while Egypt is socked with £40. Why?

Sixth, premium-economy passengers pay most. The tax on them will rise from £80 to £150 by the end of 2010. If four of you fly to the Caribbean, that's £600 in tax. It could make premium-economy uneconomic.

Seventh, the tax will damage the economy. The Netherlands' APD brought in €300m last year but cost the Dutch economy €1,200m. Eighth, while posing as 'green', not one penny generated by APD is being spent on environmental causes.

Ninth, with the Olympics coming in 2012, is raising APD the best way to encourage tourism? And tenth, anyone travelling from within Britain to (say) London and then changing planes to fly abroad will pay not just one, but two sets of tax on their journey. Which means travellers will choose to fly to an overseas hub rather than London. Another dent for the UK economy. Thanks, Gordon.

Dr Butler's book The Rotten State of Britain is now in paperback.