Air passenger duty: rates of duty from 1 April 2018

Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 9:25 am ar 24 Hydref 2017.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General

It is a pleasure once again to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Howarth. Clause 43 will ensure that rates of air passenger duty for the tax year 2018-19 increase in line with the retail prices index. The changes will ensure that the aviation sector continues to play a part in contributing towards general taxation.

APD forms an important part of Government revenue. The Government have raised APD by RPI each year since 2012, and the clause continues that trend. With no tax on aviation fuel or VAT on international and domestic flights, APD ensures that the aviation sector plays its part in contributing towards general taxation, raising £3.1 billion per annum. The aviation sector continues to perform strongly. The UK has the third largest aviation network in the world, and passenger numbers at UK airports have grown by more than 15% in the past five years.

Clause 43 sets the APD rates for the tax year 2018-19 in line with RPI. The changes will increase the long-haul reduced rate for economy class tickets by just £3 and the standard rate for all classes above economy by just £6. The rounding of APD rates to the nearest pound means that short-haul rates will remain frozen for the sixth year in a row. That will benefit 80% of all airline passengers. To give industry sufficient notice, we will announce APD rates for 2019-20 at the autumn Budget 2017, legislating in the corresponding Finance Bill.

APD is a fair and efficient tax, where the amount paid corresponds to the distance and class of travel of the passenger. The changes made by clause 43 will ensure that the aviation sector continues to play its part in contributing towards general taxation, raising £3.1 billion a year.

Photo of Anneliese Dodds Anneliese Dodds Shadow Minister (Treasury)

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Howarth. I have a couple of questions. Air passenger duty is a matter of considerable public debate, and debate within the industry, so it is appropriate that we probe this.

First, can the Minister provide us with a little more understanding of what he views as the purpose of this tax? In his introductory remarks, he appeared to reduce it specifically to revenue raising. Others have seen the duty as a potential green tax as well, although clearly it is not hypothecated for that purpose. It would be helpful to know whether he believes the duty has any kind of deterrent effect.

Secondly, in the light of the Scottish Government’s policy approach, does the Minister anticipate a race to the bottom in relation to APD in future, particularly given the representations made by Newcastle airport and others about potential unfair competition from across the border?

Finally, mention has been made in some of the discussions on this duty of the potential impact on those with protected characteristics who might need to travel more frequently on long-haul flights, for example. It would be helpful to hear the Minister’s views on whether these changes might have a disproportionate impact on certain ethnic minorities. That has come up in some of the debates around APD.

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General

I thank the hon. Lady for her questions, which I will answer in order.

The purpose of APD is clearly, as the hon. Lady identified and as I explained in my opening remarks, to raise revenue—£3.1 billion in this instance. Like all taxes, it will also change behaviour to some degree, and to the extent that it makes flying a little bit more expensive, it could be expected to have the effect of diminishing demand for air travel. The lower rates for economy, which takes up more space on aircraft than first class, assist in ensuring that flights are as full as they can be.

The hon. Lady mentioned the Scottish Parliament and the devolution of APD, which will become air departure tax in Scotland. That tax has not yet been switched on, although devolution arrangements are in place, and we will of course monitor the issues that she has understandably raised in respect of competition with airports, particularly in the north of England. On long-haul flights and the impact on various groups, including ethnic minorities, I would be happy to write to the hon. Lady with any information that we have.

Photo of Kelvin Hopkins Kelvin Hopkins Llafur, Luton North

I am glad that the Minister has raised the question of ethnic minorities. My constituency has a large Caribbean community, who are concerned about air passenger duty’s effect on flights to the Caribbean to see family and so on. Has the Minister received any specific representations on that? The other question, of course, is about the airlines themselves. In Luton, we have London Luton airport. What representations have the airlines made to the Minister?

Photo of Mel Stride Mel Stride Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General

If I may, I shall write to the hon. Gentleman on the specific questions that he has raised about the consultation on these measures.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 43 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 44