Government will also freeze fuel duty to make it cheaper to drive
The government will cut taxes on domestic flights to make it cheaper to fly within the UK, Rishi Sunak has announced – despite being told by his climate advisors that he needs to reduce aviation.
In a budget delivered just days before the UK hosts the Cop26 UN climate conference in Glasgow the chancellor said he wanted to make internal air travel cheaper to “cut the cost of living”.
And he also announced that the government will continue to freeze fuel duty, a policy which has made it increasingly cheaper to drive compared to more environmentally sustainable alternatives.
Mr Sunak’s announcement has attracted the ire of environmentalists, with Green MP Caroline Lucas warning that the chancellor did not “get the memo on the climate emergency”.
It comes a day after the government’s Climate Change Committee (CCC) told it that the government needed to discourage people from flying and that its net zero strategy had “nothing to say” on aviation.
Mr Sunak’s policy in flights is the polar opposite of some other European countries – which have increasingly moved to restrict domestic air travel where rail alternatives are available.
But the government is moving to push passengers from rail to flying by cutting the price of internal flights while rail fares are set to rise for the fastest rate in a decade from January.
“Right now people pay more for return flights within and between the four nations of the United Kingdom than they do when flying home from abroad,” Mr Sunak told MPs on Wednesday afternoon.
“We used to have a return leg exemption for domestic flights, but were required to remove it in 2001.
“But today, I can announce that flights between airports in England, Skottland, Wales and Northern Ireland will from April 2023 be subject to a new lower rate of air passenger duty.”
Mr Sunak claimed the policy would “help cut the cost of living with nine million passengers seeing their duty cut by half”.
“It will bring people together across the United Kingdom, and because because they tend to have a greater proportion of domestic passengers it is a boost to regional airports like Aberdeen, Inverness and Southampton which are major regional employers.”
The Chancellor also confirmed he would extend state support to English airports for a further six months to “help them get through the winter”.
Mr Sunak also said he would create a new “ultra long haul band” of air passenger duty affecting just 5 per cent of passengers would increase air passenger duty on flights over 5500 miles long.
In a statement earlier this week the CCC, a statutory“ body which advises the government on meeting its climate change targets said: “The government does not include an explicit ambition on diet change, or reductions in the growth of aviation, and policies for managing travel demand have not been developed to match the funding that has been committed.
“These remain valuable options with major co-benefits and can help manage delivery risks around a techno-centric approach. They must be explored further with a view to early action.”