Commenting on the Government’s response to the Transport Select Committee’s report, ‘Smaller Airports,’ Gordon has criticised it as a lost opportunity to examine positive solutions for supporting smaller airports and for side-stepping legitimate concern in the regions about supporting English airports over APD air taxes.
Speaking as the report was published on Friday 24th July, he said: “The Committee’s excellent report rightly drew attention to the effects that Scotland and Wales setting their own APD air taxes could have on English airports on the border. But the Government is ducking the issue and there are flaws in each of the three options that the Government is considering to address this.
“Devolving taxation to local authorities while cutting their funding would only be a devolution of blame, something this Government is very practised in doing. Whitehall setting variable APD rates for different airports could produce unpredictable effects on traffic across the UK and distract from the key recommendation of the Airports Commission to the Government of the need to expand aviation capacity.
“And Ministers cannot rely on the Regional Air Connectivity fund to mitigate any adverse effects from the devolution of APD, given that the Fund’s impact so far has been relatively limited and only managed to spend 20% of its budget as too many medium-sized airports are excluded from support. Even in today’s Government Response, there is still no commitment to the future of the Fund and Transport Ministers seem to have done little so far to make a strong case on this to colleagues in the Treasury.
“The Government has missed an important opportunity for regional growth by ignoring the Select Committee’s call for a proper review that looks at the challenges that smaller regional airports have been facing, and what cross-departmental approaches might be expanded to help them thrive. Local airports need to be strongly linked into Local Enterprise Partnerships and other infrastructure decisions in the region, and logistical and regulatory support need to be reconsidered.
“They have ignored the potential strategic growth and economic impact smaller airports can contribute, not least on freight and within their regions and sub-regions, as well as the factors that have handicapped smaller airports in terms of the level of operational standards they are required to bear. The Government must match Labour’s commitment to make sure any expansion in the South East benefits airports and economies across the country, including by securing affordable runway slots for regional airports, which today’s Response has failed to do.”