Graham Brady is Chairman of the 1922 Committee, and is MP for Altricham and Sale.
Earlier this year, the Prime Minister unveiled a “family test” that would be applied to all new Government policies. But a new campaign is arguing that one historic policy fails this test spectacularly.
Scrap the Tax on Family Flights – a campaign supported by MPs as well as an alliance of aviation, tourism and travel groups – is calling for the government to scrap Air Passenger Duty (APD) on children’s flights. Currently, children pay the same tax on their tickets as adults, making travel hard to afford for families on modest incomes.
Scrapping APD on family flights would give hardworking – and hard-pressed – families the break they deserve by helping to make their annual holiday more affordable. Polling by ComRes has found that more than four in five (83 per cent) British adults say that hard working families deserve a decent holiday next summer after a difficult few years and over three quarters (78 per cent) say an annual family holiday should be part of every child’s life.
Air Passenger Duty not only fails the Prime Minister’s test – it also fails any test of fairness. The air tax paid by families in the UK is already the highest in the world, with APD adding £52 to the cost of a family of four’s economy class flights to destinations in Europe and £276 to economy class flights to destinations such as the US.
Only four European countries (Austria, Germany, France and Italy) levy a similar tax. A number of others (Denmark, the Netherlands and Ireland) have scrapped their departure taxes entirely in recent years, recognising that they were damaging to competitiveness. UK passengers pay more than twice as much per flight than those in Germany, which charges the second highest rate in Europe. This makes the UK a less attractive destination for foreign tourists, who end up spending their dollars, yen and renminbi elsewhere.
Families planning a “staycation” can be particularly badly hit by this unfair tax if they take a domestic flight. In fact, because APD is a departure tax, if they take a return flight from London to Edinburgh, for example, they will be taxed twice. According to Scrap the Tax on Family Flights, three quarters (75 per cent) of British adults say that it is unfair that British families pay a flight tax while families from other countries do not get charged. Almost two-thirds of those surveyed said that children’s flights should be exempt from APD.
Everyone appreciates that the national debt and the deficit leave the Treasury – and the Chancellor – with very little room for manoeuvre on tax. But abolishing APD on flights for children aged under 12 would cost just £50 million – less than two per cent of the £3 billion that the Treasury expects to raise from APD in the next financial year. That’s small change for the Exchequer but it would make a huge difference to hard-pressed families.
Many of us believe that APD is fundamentally flawed, holding back business as well as hurting family budgets. At little cost, this is a way in which George Osborne could relieve the burden, at least for those who feel it the most.