With the UK Government giving its clearest signal yet that it is willing to consider devolving Air Passenger Duty (APD) to the Welsh Government, Bristol Airport has once again decided to throw its toys out of the pram releasing a statement onhow it would be bad for Britain PLC and result in revenue and loss to the region.
Now, first of all before we go any further you need to understand that when Bristol Airport talks about Britain PLC what they actually mean is England PLC, or more to the point, South West England PLC. Once you realise that then it all makes sense.
Bristol Airport has done its homework (well they’ve read a report done by someone else) and established that if APD is devolved, and subsequently lowered by the Welsh Government that Bristol Airport would lose 33 routes and upto a million passengers (feel sorry for them yet?) and the net effect to the region would be something in the region of 843million in value added benefits (GVA) along with up to 1500 jobs over the decade following APD reduction. Bristol Airport also states “A preferential rate of APD in Wales would also jeopardise Bristol’s ambitions for direct long-haul services and put the Airport’s major investment programme at risk” – in truth their short runway with no possible option for extending is more of a barrier to that than APD but I digress.
Going back to their point about losing routes, passengers and GVA then you will remember that Bristol Airport stated that this was bad for BRITAIN PLC. Now, granted, all of these things might come true however a decrease in APD at Cardiff Airport would result in the opposite. More routes, more passengers and added GVA for Wales. Now, last time I checked Wales was still part of Britain ergo Bristol Loss + Cardiff Gain = Britain PLC All Square. However as we established, Bristol Airport actually means South West England PLC which, granted, will probably lose out but sorry Bristol Airport, the country is bigger than all of us and frankly Britain PLC doesn’t care where the money is coming from as long as it comes. Robert Sinclair says as much himself when he states “It is important that English regions do not lose out”
What Bristol Airport needs to realise that whilst Wales is part of Britain it is also a country in its own right and therefore should have powers of taxation over its people and assets. They also need to remember that it is a government in England that currently sets the APD rates and will continue to set them for English Airports following devolving of powers. In the same way that the Welsh Government will set APD for Welsh Airports.
They may find it unfair that they have had it all their own way for the last two decades and are now suddenly faced with an expanding neighbour who is slowly but surely growing passenger numbers and that APD reduction would cause a faster expansion and prove more attractive to airlines, especially long haul operators. (did we mention our runway is bigger than yours?). But hey, that’s life Mr Sinclair.