Lobbying the Chancellor Alistair Darling on Air Passenger Duty with Andy Slaughter MP, Dawn Butler MP and Kate Hoey MP, July 2009
Climate change is a huge concern to many Hackney North and Stoke Newington constituents. I probably receive more letters and emails on environmental issues than on anything else.
But I do not think the recent decision to increase Air Passenger Duty addresses the problem fairly.
The extra costs added to flights as of Nov 2010 are calculated according to how far you fly in miles. However rather than being based on the exact destination the passenger is flying to, the duty will be based on the capital city of the country the passenger is flying to. This means that flying to the Caribbean will always incur a higher Air Passenger Duty than flying to the USA, even though many places in the USA are further away from London than the Caribbean is.
In July 2009 I met with Alistair Darling, then the Chancellor to ask him to reconsider the plans because a great number of my constituents have family in the Caribbean. They do not fly as tourists in the true sense of the word, but to visit family and friends, and attend wedding and funerals. Many will have saved up for years to make the big trip back to their country of origin and it seems unfair to penalise them more than those visiting the US.
This decision not only means they will have to pay at least £75 more a ticket – a 50% increase on the previous amount, while those flying the longer journey to LA and California, will pay just £60 more – an increase of 33%.
But I am also concerned that the current proposals put an unfair disadvantage on the Caribbean.
It seems wrong that Caribbean tourism will be worse hit than the USA despite North America being arguably the biggest contributor to global carbon emissions.
I am all for imposing “environmental” taxes that work to reduce carbon emissions. And I know that people in the Caribbean are also in favour of fighting climate change (not least because the region has started to feel the effects, and many of the smaller islands are at risk of flooding and submersion).
I would like to see an air tax brought in that is truly environmental, that penalises airline companies that are not working to reduce their emissions – for example by flying half-empty planes or flying inefficient planes – and that recognises the fact that many people save up for years to return to their country of origin to visit friends and family.
I will continue to voice my concerns over this measure to the new Coalition government.