Decision not to devolve air passenger duty to Wales good for Bristol Airport

APD June 2016 2A Bristol MP has welcomed the government’s decision not to devolve powers over Air Passenger Duty (APD) to the Welsh government.

Last winter Karin Smyth (Bristol South) had expressed to Ministers local fears that a delegation of APD powers to Wales would lead to a fall in air traffic as Bristol Airport passengers could find it significantly cheaper to instead travel from Cardiff.

On Tuesday (14 June) the Labour MP again spoke on the issue, this time in a Commons debate on the Wales Bill. She welcomed the government’s decision not to devolve APD, reminding MPs of the importance of Bristol Airport to the region’s economy, since it employs 11,000 people and welcomes 7 million passengers per year.

APD June 2016Karin Smyth says: “Bristol Airport wants to continue investing in facilities and creating jobs. APD devolution would have broken up the level playing field on which it currently operates, so the government’s decision not to devolve these powers to Wales is very welcome news for the south west’s economy.

“Aviation has long been part of Bristol’s economic success story and our local airport’s capacity is central to further growth.”

Extract from Hansard, 14 June 2016:

Karin Smyth (Bristol South) (Lab): On air passenger duty, Bristol airport lies just outside my constituency of Bristol South, in which it started its life. We had a good debate in Westminster Hall on regional airports, led by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North (Catherine McKinnell). Bristol airport employs 11,000 people and has 7 million passengers, many of whom are from Wales. Our relationship with Wales is obviously important for trade and commerce, notwithstanding the issue of bridge tolls, and I am grateful that we have been able to consider that. This issue is about the equalisation of air passenger duty across the United Kingdom. Does the Minister agree?

Guto Bebb (Parliamentary Under Secretary State for Wales): Air passenger duty has been raised during the debate, and the fact that we are not proposing to devolve it has been criticised, although I think that that is right and proper. Silk made it clear that there is a need to devolve provisions for long-haul passengers, but there has been no consensus on that issue. I also ask what benefits such a measure would bring to north Wales in terms of the impact on the Welsh devolution financial settlement. At this time I think it is the right decision not to devolve air passenger duty, and I am happy to stand by that.

Note: APD devolution would have allowed the Welsh government to remove APD from Cardiff flights, potentially making it a cheaper option for passengers.