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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 September 2007, 20:35 GMT 21:35 UK
Tory group backs new flight tax
John Gummer, David Cameron and Zac Goldsmith
Mr Cameron welcomed the "comprehensive" report
Tax rises for UK short-haul flights and for "gas-guzzling" cars are needed to combat climate change, a Conservative policy review group has said.

The Quality of Life Group said it was "illogical" cars and trains were taxed more than flights, adding the UK should be a "world leader on green growth".

It wants to suspend airport expansion and increase investment in railways.

Tory leader David Cameron responded to the report by saying "there is much of it...we will include in our manifesto".

The recommendations come from a group headed by former Environment Secretary John Gummer and the environmentalist Zac Goldsmith, and form the last of a series of "policy reviews" by the Conservatives.

No further airport expansions for now
Rethink Heathrow's proposed runway
No new runways at Gatwick or Stansted
VAT on UK domestic flights and short-haul trips to Europe
Upgrade railway network
Encourage people to take trains, not flights, within the UK
Variable "showroom tax" on new vehicles
Rebates on stamp duty and council tax on "greener" homes
No stamp duty for "zero-carbon" homes
Cap on energy use by domestic appliances
Source: Quality of Life Group report for the Conservatives

The recommendations are not binding on Mr Cameron, who said any extra money raised from new green taxes would be used to cut taxes on families.

At the launch of the report, Mr Gummer said he hoped "the green revolution could do for Britain at this time what the industrial revolution did a couple of hundred years ago".

It calls for VAT to be introduced on domestic flights to end the "unfair and illogical bias that taxes cars and trains more than flights".

"There are 30 or more flights a day from London to Manchester and other cities like that. That's a terribly bad [way] of pouring emissions into the atmosphere. What we need is a better train service," Mr Gummer told the BBC.

'Families penalised'

The report also suggests putting airport expansion on hold and a reconsideration of plans for a third runway at Heathrow.

"We think there is no need for a new runway at Stansted or at Gatwick," Mr Gummer added.

"We want to have a moratorium on the discussions as far as Heathrow is concerned while we look at whether it's true - which is what the airport says - that if you did some change there, you could actually reduce emissions."

My quality of life will improve when my partner and I are no longer taxed until it's painful
A King, Newbury

However, the chief executive of budget airline EasyJet, Andrew Harrison, said domestic air travel was "already very highly taxed" while rail was "slow, expensive and often non-existent" to Northern Ireland, Scotland and the north-east.

Former Labour energy minister Brian Wilson, who chairs travel industry organisation Flying Matters, said such taxes would penalise "families who save and work hard to fly once a year".

"Those who are well-off - the David Beckhams of this world, the businessmen - will continue to fly," he added.

'Showroom tax'

Green Party co-principal speaker Sian Berry described the proposals as "fiddling around the edges when what is needed is urgent and radical action". She said eco-taxes would "hit the poor in our society hardest".

BBC political editor Nick Robinson
Imagine trying to levy VAT only on certain domestic flights
BBC political editor Nick Robinson

But the proposals were backed by Green Alliance director Stephen Hale, who urged Mr Cameron to commit to the "imaginative policy proposals".

Other proposals from the group include a "showroom tax", where larger, less fuel-efficient cars would pay more, and cleaner, small cars would receive VAT relief.

"People are increasingly concerned that the government knows about climate change and is doing nothing about it," Mr Gummer added.

He said the report took the approach that "if you want to pollute you pay more, and if you are prepared to do something about the environment, you pay less".

Mr Cameron said: "This report is probably the most thoughtful and comprehensive that any party in Britain has produced on the environment.

Plane at Heathrow
The report wants VAT on domestic flights and halt airport expansion

"It is a very good report and there is much of it that we will include in our manifesto."

Lib Dem environment spokesman Chris Huhne said the proposals were at odds with another policy review on economic competitiveness.

He said: "John Redwood wants more roads, runways and growth, while John Gummer proclaims a 'significant moratorium' on roads and airport expansion.

"Even David Cameron's circus skills will be tested by trying to ride these two horses in opposite directions."

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Andy Burnham said: "The Tories' problem is that they are proposing unfunded tax cuts, billions of pounds of extra spending promises and cuts to borrowing, all at the same time."

Campaigner Zac Goldsmith discusses 'green taxes'

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