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Air Passenger Duty

Volume 634: debated on Tuesday 16 January 2018

Her Majesty’s Treasury regularly engages with the airline industry on air passenger duty. At the autumn Budget, we froze 2019-20 APD rates at 2018-19 levels for all short-haul passengers and for long-haul economy passengers. That provided a freeze for 95% of passengers.

May I congratulate my hon. Friend on his appointment? He has done extremely well.

Airlines such as Flybe, which is based at Exeter airport in my constituency, undertake a disproportionate number of domestic flights. As my hon. Friend will be aware, domestic flights, unlike international ones, are currently hit twice by APD—at both take-off and landing. Treasury officials, of course, will tell a new Minister that any change is impossible and hide behind EU rules, but as we exit the EU, will my hon. Friend look at addressing that anomaly?

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his kind remarks. I pay tribute to my predecessor, my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Andrew Jones), who was well regarded across the House.

As my right hon. Friend says, the Government are unable to exempt the return leg of a domestic flight. Of course, as we leave the European Union that could change, and the Treasury will keep the issue under consideration. We certainly recognise the economic significance of regional airports such as my right hon. Friend’s in Exeter. For that reason, we have kept short-haul rates frozen since 2012. In 2015, of course, we took the significant step of exempting children.

The Government’s own figures show that Newcastle airport will be most affected by any cuts to air passenger duty or air departure tax in Scotland. The continued uncertainty about this issue is also incredibly damaging. From his newly elevated position, will the Minister tell us what progress has been made on the issue? Is he in a position to confirm how English regional airports will be protected from the effects of any cuts?

The hon. Lady is right to raise this issue, as Newcastle airport and others are very important to the economy of the north-east. As she heard during my response to the previous question, EU rules prevent us from changing the rules regarding the return leg of a domestic flight. We will keep the matter under consideration. We have, of course, taken other important steps, such as keeping the rates frozen and exempting children. It is worth saying that air passenger duty raises more than £3 billion a year, so it makes an important contribution to public services.

There would be substantial benefits from reducing or removing air passenger duty, including GDP growth, job creation, and an impact on trade, foreign direct investment and tourism. The duty particularly distorts trade between airports in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. There was a commitment in the Budget to have a review of air passenger duty. Will the Minister give us an update on where that review is?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. As he knows, in the autumn statement we committed to a review of not just air passenger duty, but the impact of VAT on tourism in Northern Ireland. That review is under way and will report back in time for this year’s autumn Budget.