As the Wales bill passed through the house of lords the argument regarding Air Passenger Duty (APD) was raised once again with many Lords adding their voices to the argument that at the very least, Long Haul APD should be devolved..
Air Passenger Duty is a tax imposed by the UK Government on flights from the UK and can add up to £188 onto the price of a ticket of a long haul flight. There have long been calls for this tax to be devolved to Cardiff Bay as it stifles growth at Wales’ national airport and the wider economy.
In the House of Lords this week Baroness Finlay of Llandaff voiced her calls for the tax to be devolved pointing out that Cardiff has a much larger runway than other regional airports such as Bristol. She also showed the environmental benefits of long haul travel from Cardiff easing congestion from London.
Lord Kinnock also called for it to be devolved saying there was an opportunity to lower travel costs.
Bristol Airport is fearful it may lose out if APD is devolved to Wales and has used what some have described as “Project Fear” tactics such as threatening huge economic losses in the region to garner support from local MP’s but former Labour Welsh Secretary Lord Murphy disagrees saying that a “whole swathe of England” would benefit from long-haul business in South Wales, something which Bristol Airport cannot provide. He added: “I cannot for the life of me understand why this Bristol versus Cardiff argument in this case applies.”
Other members supporting the call were former Cardiff Airport Chairman Lord Rowe-Beddoe, Welsh Labour AM for Mid Wales, Baroness Morgan and Plaid Cymru’s Lord Whigley who said “Although I would like to see the power over the whole tax devolved as in the case of Scotland I appreciate that this narrow form of APD was the recommendation”
APD has already been devolved to Scotland and Northern Ireland and despite calls from high-profile lords, business leaders and Cardiff Airport, Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns MP (MP for the Vale of Glamorgan) has refused to include APD devolution in the latest Wales bill in a move which his under-secretary, Tory MP Guto Bebb (MP For Aberconwy) described as “right and proper“.
In a recent in interview with Aviation Wales, Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies told us how he thought his westminster colleagues were wrong on APD and in his mind there was no question that it should be devolved. He said “From where I sit looking at the evidence I can’t see a sensible reason why APD cannot be devolved, although I do get the politics of it, and I think its more a political discussion rather than a rational one.”
Welsh Minister Nick Bourne though has given the strongest signal yet that APD will be devolved saying that APD will be revisited and it may be appropriate to do that as BREXIT approaches.
Westminster narrowly avoided defeat on the bill in the House of Lords and Welsh Assembly Members (AM’s) will vote next week to accept the new Wales bill with the result in Cardiff Bay far from a foregone conclusion with UKIP already stating they will vote against the bill. If the bill is not accepted by the Senedd then it will not become law.