A cross-party group of MPs and peers will today launch an inquiry into the impact of government policy on UK aviation.
The move comes amid growing unease among leading Conservatives at the government’s block on expansion at Heathrow and Gatwick.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Aviation announced the seven-week inquiry this morning and has invited aviation industry stakeholders to submit written evidence by May 16.
The group expects to hold a series of committee hearings over the coming weeks.
In a letter to industry leaders the group says: “We believe that if the aviation sector becomes uncompetitive, it will not be possible for the UK economy as a whole to prosper.”
Senior Conservative Party member Tim Yeo, chairman of parliament’s energy and climate change committee, said at the weekend he had “changed his mind” on a third runway at Heathrow. Yeo said: “We cannot wait around any longer. We have to get on with this.”
Prime minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne both signalled last week they would look afresh at the case for airport expansion in the southeast, through a strategy paper on airport capacity to be published this summer.
All-party parliamentary aviation group chairman Brian Donohoe MP said: “The UK’s aviation industry is at a crucial juncture. Air Passenger Duty [APD] will rise next week by twice the rate of inflation and the government has announced it is re-igniting the debate on airport capacity in the southeast.
“The industry makes an enormous contribution to the UK economy, directly employing more than 352,000 people and paying in excess of £8.6 billion in tax each year as well as contributing £50 billion to GDP.
“However, it is simply not competitive internationally: the World Economic Forum’s tourism competitiveness report ranked the UK 134th out of 138 countries for air ticket taxes and airport charges.”
Donohue said: “This inquiry will explore to what extent government policy-making is responsible for this and what can be done to improve the long-term prospects of the UK as an international aviation hub.”
He said the inquiry will look at a series of issues that affect the UK industry’s ability to compete internationally, including APD and its impact on competitiveness, the importance of the sector to the UK economy as a whole, and the impact on the environment and sustainability.
Donohue is Labour MP for Ayrshire Central. The All-Party Parliamentary aviation group consists of 20 MPs, including 10 from the coalition government parties.
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