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The 2nd reading of the Wales Bill went through Parliament this week and one of the big topics for Wales, that affects everyone in Wales was discarded. Largely as it was bad for England so it begs the question, do Welsh MP’s really care whats right for Wales?
The topic in question is Air Passenger Duty. Now lets iron out a few facts before we delve deeper into whats in (or rather, what isn’t in) the Wales Bill.
Fact No 1 – Scotland and Northern Ireland, the two other devolved nations in our United Kingdom have devolved Air Passenger Duty.
Fact No 2 – Air Passenger Duty typically adds £73 onto the cost of your flight (it is applied to ALL outbound flights)
Fact No 3 – Air Passenger Duty stifles air travel and can even make it cost prohibitive for many.
Fact No 4 – Air Passenger Duty stifles long haul growth from regional airports.
Fact No 5 – Air Passenger Duty stifles tourism across Wales & England.
Fact No 6 – With Air Passenger Duty stifling air travel, it also stifles growth in the Aviation Industry.
Now, in 2014 the Silk Commission published a report about devolved powers to Wales. Part of that was a recommendation that Air Passenger Duty (APD) should be devolved to Wales (in particular for long haul air travel) as it would boost not only air travel from Cardiff Airport, but would also boost the economy and tourism industry across Wales. As a result, devolved APD should have been in the new Wales Bill, but it wasnt….
During the 2nd reading in parliament this week we got an answer to some of the questions of why it wasnt in the Welsh Bill. To understand why we have to look at 2 key figures. Alun Cairns MP for the Vale of Glamorgan and Guto Bebb MP for Aberconwy – Welsh Secretary and Junior Welsh Minister respectively.
During the reading Jonathan Edwards MP asked why Wales was getting a second-rate deal compared to Scotland, in particular with devolved APD. Guto Bebb responded with this:
“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.“
Now bear in mind that Guto Bebb, as Junior Welsh minister in this instance, not MP for Aberconwy, has chosen to put his constituency before the nation claiming he sees no benefit to North Wales. We contacted Mr Bebb to clarify his comments however he chose to hide behind a claim that we tweeted a conversation between him and Liz Roberts MP and that we misrepresented him when in fact, the quotes we used were Guto Bebbs own words from his statement in Westminster not from any tweet with another MP. Mr Bebb declined the opportunity to clarify his statements or correct his claimed “misrepresentation”.
The Silk Commission, Scores of Welsh economy leaders and tourism representatives have all called for the devolution of Air Passenger Duty and all have said the same thing, it will benefit Wales. Not South Wales, not North Wales but Wales, as a whole.
It would make Cardiff Airport more attractive to long haul airlines offering new trade opportunities and a real alternative to London as a gateway to the UK. Wait, as I type that I see a problem. “A real alternative to London”….. I’ll just leave that out there.
The silence is deafening
So we come back to the same problem. Why would Welsh MP’s decide not to devolve something that provide a massive boost to the Welsh Economy and improve the lives of us Welsh citizens? Personally, if I was a Welsh MP I would be demanding the devolution of Air Passenger Duty but apart from some notable exceptions, largely Plaid MP’s, the silence is almost deafening.
In contrast MP’s for the South West region have been very vocal in their call to not devolve APD to Wales as admittedly some of the boost to the Welsh economy could be detrimental to Bristol Airport. I for one am slightly jealous of their action which is polar opposites to that of Welsh MP’s.
Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns has not campaigned for the devolution of Air Passenger Duty yet Cardiff Airport, which is one of the largest employers in his constituency, is stifled by it and the management team there have long been calling for it to be scrapped.
So what can you do to let your MP know you want the same rights as Scotland and Northern Ireland? Email them, call them, tweet them, sign the petition. Just let them know that you want to fly for lower prices, have more choice of where to fly and see Wales flourish by welcoming visitors and business from across the world.