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Last Updated: Monday, 24 April 2006, 14:15 GMT 15:15 UK
Brown under fire over air travel
Aeroplanes at Heathrow
Aviation is blamed for causing much of the UK's pollution
Chancellor Gordon Brown has come under fire from MPs angry at what they see as a lack of measures in his Budget to cut the rise in aircraft emissions.

The Treasury Committee says ministers need to give "serious consideration" to increasing the cost of air travel to have an impact on climate change.

The MPs say government reasons for freezing air passenger duty for a fifth year are "incoherent and unconvincing".

Mr Brown says the developed world has a moral duty to tackle climate change.


In last month's Budget he tried to prove his green credentials by increasing the rate of road tax for big, 4x4 vehicles.

But the cross-party Treasury Committee report said the only measure in the Budget to tackle the problem of greenhouse gas emissions from aviation was to widen the scope of air passenger duty (APD) to cover Croatia.

We recommend that the government gives urgent consideration to how it can best use the tax system to increase incentives to reduce the harmful environmental effects of aviation
Treasury Committee

Over the past six years, receipts from APD had fallen by 8%, despite a 35% rise in passenger numbers.

"In the context of the challenges facing the United Kingdom in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we find the government's attempt to justify freezing air passenger duty for the fifth year running to be incoherent and unconvincing," the report said.

"We consider it entirely inappropriate that, between 2000 and 2004, tax receipts from APD should have fallen by 8% whilst passenger numbers have risen by 35%.

"If this trend continues, the government risks allowing APD to become an ineffective policy instrument which does nothing to recognise or address the contribution made by aviation to greenhouse gas emissions.

"We recommend that the government gives urgent consideration to how it can best use the tax system to increase incentives to reduce the harmful environmental effects of aviation."

'Independent probe needed'

John McFall, the committee's Labour chairman, said: "The UK is currently lagging behind on its domestic CO2 targets, and greenhouse gas emissions in the EU from international aviation rose 73% between 1990 and 2003.

"In this context, the explanations offered by the Treasury about the behavioural effects of its environmental tax policies and air passenger duty in particular, were unconvincing."

The MPs argued that the government should consider continuing to press for an independent investigation into the operation of the European gas market amid concern about rising energy prices.

While the effect of the price increases on the British economy had so far been "muted", the MPs said it was still an issue which ministers needed to address.

"We expect the government to have something to show for its stated commitment to press for independent investigation for European gas markets later this year," Mr McFall added.

'Social issue'

Last week Mr Brown argued that the climate change issue was an ethical one.

"If it is affecting both our habitat and environment and affecting those people who are dependent on that environment the most - and that is poor people in poor countries - then this has got to be looked at, not just as an economic issue but a social issue," he said.

"And you could therefore say that it's got an ethical dimension as well."

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