Wales

Cardiff Airport: Devolving air passenger tax explored

Cardiff Airport sign
Image caption The arguments over the issue have raged for a number of years

Stimulating demand at Cardiff Airport is good for all of Wales, a leading Welsh MP has insisted.

The comment by the chair of the Welsh Affairs Select Committee came on a visit to hear the arguments for devolving air passenger duty (APD) to Wales.

David TC Davies MP also said he thought the Treasury would be "persuadable".

The Welsh Government has long argued it should have powers over APD, allowing it to attract more long-haul flights.

UK ministers have previously said it would give Cardiff an unfair advantage over rivals such as Bristol.

APD is a tax levied on passengers - with those on economy class outbound flights of more than 2,000 miles currently paying £78, or £156 for long haul business class.

While it has been devolved in part to Scotland and Northern Ireland, it is still controlled by the UK government in Wales.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Could Cardiff attract more long haul flights if the tax was devolved?

The Welsh Affairs Committee is a cross-party group of 11 Welsh MPs chaired by Tory David Davies, and includes Labour's Geraint Davies and Plaid Cymru's Ben Lake.

Members watched a presentation by the airport's executive board so they could consider how the commercial benefits weighed against potential for negative side effects for north Wales and surrounding English airports.

Mr Davies said he could not come out for or against the idea until the committee had made its recommendations.

He said the passenger numbers at the airport were good but could be better and, and that devolving APD would benefit the whole of Wales, particularly south Wales.

However he also said that he was not sure it was true that Bristol Airport would be put at a disadvantage.

Labour MP Anna McMorrin told BBC Wales it was important that APD was devolved.

'Subsidy'

However Chris Davies, Conservative MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, said he remained sceptical and that the millions of pounds potentially involved could be spent elsewhere in Wales.

"We have looked very carefully at this. This airport was bought with £52m and it's had nearly £40m spent on it, and do we want to give it yet another subsidy."

The Welsh Government owns Cardiff Airport, and in 2017 then-First Minister Carwyn Jones said he wanted control over the tax, so he could abolish it.

He said: "Why is it that Scotland has been given that power and Wales hasn't got that power?

"This is not about taking passengers from other airports, those that are over the border, this is about growing demand in Wales."

A report for Welsh ministers suggested abolishing APD could increase annual passenger numbers by 62,000 while having a "marginal" impact on Bristol Airport.

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