18 MARCH 2013

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Article from BTNews 18 MARCH 2013

COMMENT:

Aviation Policy Statement

These are difficult times in the world of air travel.  We know that on Wednesday (20 March) the Chancellor will make his budget statement.  By the end of the month the Aviation White Paper is also due!

Will Mr Osborne increase Air Passenger Duty (APD), which is promised, keep it at the same rate (possible), or reduce it (very unlikely)?  Will he make it a point-to-point tax, which makes sense, but for some reason not in favour with the Treasury?  Or could he make a sop to the UK regions by stopping or reducing the very unfair double taxation travellers to and from the Provinces have to suffer.  As the Transport Minister pointed out at the recent airports dinner Mr Osborne needs every penny he can grab.  His advisors do not seem to understand that a reduction of tax could actually see a rise in the bottom line.

Maybe at the dinner the current holder of the post, Patrick McLoughlin MP, had something else on his mind.  Before the end of March we are told, he will announce an Aviation Policy Statement.

If dear reader, as a traveller, booker or supplier to the industry (or indeed involved in Westminster) you are confused do not worry.  So is Business Travel News.

In March 2011, the Government (Minister Phillip Hammond) launched a scoping exercise towards developing a new sustainable policy framework for UK aviation.

In July 2011, the then current holder of the post Justine Greening published what was termed a Draft Aviation Policy Statement which ran to 96 pages, and also a Draft aviation policy framework impact assessment, merely 16 pages.  She said that more than 600 organisations and individuals had responded.

Last September the Davies Commission was set up and told not to report back until 2015.  By then a new Government will be in power and the fine words of Sir Harold’s wise souls will only be a recommendation.  There will be nothing on the statute book.

Taking out the south east airport issue the so-called draft was more a statement of facts than a preparation document.  There were at least a dozen announcements in the paper.  Why was it called a ‘draft’ and not an interim document? Perhaps it was written by the same confused souls who decided on capital-to-capital taxation for APD (except for Russia, west of the Urals you pay more.  Vladivostok does not have a lobby in the UK).

So what should we expect with the 2013 Aviation Policy Statement?  Another 180 pages of information much of which will be quickly out of date.  Will the business aviation sector get a fair hearing (see the excellent report by Alison Chambers on the British Business and General Aviation Association annual gathering)?

The previous 2003 effort was published the week before Christmas. 

It introduced itself with these words.

“This White Paper sets out a strategic framework for the development of airport capacity in the United Kingdom over the next 30 years, against the background of wider developments in air transport”.

Is this likely to also be the introduction for the 2013 Aviation Policy Statement too?

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