With consummate timing, the Government used April Fool’s Day to bring in an increase in Air Passenger Duty (APD), which rose by around 8%. This applies to every seat on flights departing UK airports, although there are some variations and exemptions for connecting flights. This has not gone down well with the aviation industry, which has put on a rare show of unity in protest.
More guff on Tufton Street
And joining that protest has been the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), with chief non-job holder Matthew Sinclair weighing in with a typical set of false assumptions, false assertions, and – predictably – false figures. He cites newspaper reports of costs rather than indulging in the complexities of bothering to do five minutes’ Googling, which does not help his cause.
So when he asserts that a family of four flying to Australia will pay £500, the amount is in fact £368 (assuming they travel in the less expensive seats), and that same family flying from Scotland or Northern Ireland “to visit relatives in England three times a year” pays not £420, but £312. The sums are significant, but it does not help the TPA’s cause if Sinclair doesn’t get his numbers right.
This is followed by a false assumption, as Sinclair tells that 2007 levels of APD were estimated to be sufficient to pay for the carbon footprint of commercial aviation, with a small surplus. He is assuming that the assessment undertaken in 2008 still applies today, and that APD is only there to correct for climate change costs. The thought that there are other reasons does not enter.
And then come the false statements. “They are blocking airport capacity” asserts Sinclair, but Government is not “blocking” anything. Does he mean “not increasing capacity”? Because there is no shortage at Stansted or Luton, or at any number of airports outside London. There are rail alternatives to Scotland, France and Belgium. And even Heathrow can do more, if smaller and shorter haul aircraft are reduced.
Then he tells “airline passengers pay for the infrastructure through their tickets”, which is at least questionable, given the disputes over implicit subsidy that follow low cost carriers. And saying “airports aren’t built with taxpayers’ money” is selling the pass. Apart from London City, there isn’t an airport in the UK that wasn’t built without public funds. Several are still wholly or partly publicly owned.
It doesn’t get any better when Sinclair talks of people who “have to pay more to get to Britain”. APD works on flights going the other way, Matthew. None of us likes having to stump up our taxes, but the TPA spinning their line with a raft of false and misleading information will gain them no converts.
But that, of course, is the TPA way: work back from the conclusion and hope that nobody notices the logic leaps. No change there, then.