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Last Updated: Sunday, 11 March 2007, 09:25 GMT
Tories plan green tax on flights
The Tories say air taxes would be offset elsewhere
The Conservatives are planning a series of new environmental taxes on flights aimed at combating climate change.

The party will publish a consultation document on Sunday asking people for their views on various proposals.

The proposals include levying VAT or fuel duty on domestic flights and a green air miles scheme.

Shadow chancellor George Osborne said the tax proposals would be targeted at frequent fliers and not families taking their annual holiday.

Another measure under consideration in the Greener Skies consultation paper is scrapping air passenger duty and replacing it with a new "per flight" tax based on carbon emissions.

BBC political correspondent Sean Curran said the Conservatives had been forced to "grasp the nettle" of tackling air travel by making the environment one of the party's political priorities.

But he said it remained to be seen whether voters would accept the measures as necessary to tackle climate change.

'Maximum impact'

Mr Osborne said: "We're saying that taxes on aviation need to increase.

"That's because we think you need to take the tough long-term decisions to tackle climate change."

George Osborne
George Osborne said the target was not the annual family holiday

But he said the taxes needed to be designed so that they did not "hit people who only have one package holiday a year" and that they target "more dirty engines on aeroplanes".

"That way we have the maximum environmental effect and we also don't tax people out of their one foreign holiday a year," he said.

He added that the measures would not mean an overall increase in taxes for families because for every pound the party increased aviation taxation, a pound would be cut in taxes elsewhere.

Dave Timms, of Friends of the Earth, welcomed the proposals to tackle the environmental problems of air travel.

"What's good about this announcement is that the Conservatives are recognising that the cost of aviation has to rise," he told the BBC.

We believe taxation is an extremely blunt instrument in terms of reducing carbon emissions
British Airways

"Aviation is the fastest growing area of the UK's carbon emissions, and if we don't do something about it we have no chance of meeting international targets, or any targets that the government might set."

But the Treasury said the green taxes would not have the intended effect of reducing greenhouse gases.

A spokesman said: "For example, domestic taxation of aviation fuel in the UK would only lead to importation of fuel from countries where tax is not levied."

'Damage economy'

Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander accused the Tories of being "more interested in making a headline".

He said: "There is no evidence they have thought through these proposals.

"At the most basic level the taxation of aviation fuel is governed by international law and cannot be changed at a whim."

Virgin Atlantic said "green" taxes would not work and urged the Conservatives to invest instead in developing lighter and cleaner planes and fossil-free fuels.

The airline's communications director, Paul Charles, said the proposals "would damage the UK economy" because they would "make UK airlines less competitive and shift jobs to other countries in Europe".

British Airways said taxation was "an extremely blunt instrument in terms of reducing carbon emissions".

Easyjet dismissed air passenger duty as "probably the worst tax ever invented" but it gave a cautious welcome to the idea of a "per flight" tax, saying it would help to sideline airlines using "dirty" aircraft.

One major airline's reaction to the proposals

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