A Labour Party manifesto pledge to take a ‘swift decision’ on airport expansion has been welcomed by UK airlines.
But a plan for an extra passenger charge on non-visa visitors to recruit 1,000 more border control staff should Labour win the general election was condemned as making the UK less competitive by trade body the British Air Transport Association (Bata).
Labour said it would make a swift decision on expanding airport capacity in London and the southeast, balancing the need for growth and the environmental impact.
It pledged a swift decision on expanding airport capacity following the report of the Airports Commission, due soon after next month’s election.
Bata chief executive Nathan Stower said: “I welcome Labour’s commitment to make a swift decision on expanding airport capacity in London and the south-east.
“Whichever option is proposed in the commission’s final report there will be controversy and some disagreement, but the UK cannot afford further delay. I hope that a speedy decision will enable substantial progress to be made during the life of the next Parliament.”
However, Stower added: “Border Force must have the resources it needs to deliver a safe and secure border while meeting passenger expectations for queue times and customer service, but imposing a new charge on non-visa visitors to fund 1,000 additional staff is not a sensible approach.
“Visitors from countries like the USA and Australia already pay the highest air passenger tax in the world to visit the UK by air at £71.
“Adding yet another charge will make the UK more uncompetitive in attracting international tourists, businesses travellers and inbound investment.
“We will propose alternative means of funding additional Border Force staff if Labour form the next government.”
Bata last month outlined five key policy areas where action is required in the next parliament:
- Tax – abolition of Air Passenger Duty to transform the UK’s competitive position, lower the cost of flying and deliver significant benefits to the economy;
- Airport capacity – the green light for new runway capacity without imposing pre-funding on today’s passengers, alongside further improvements to surface access to support airline growth at other airport;
- Sustainability – including support for the commercialisation of sustainable aviation fuels and controlling development near airports to support the industry’s actions in limiting the number of people seriously affected by noise;
- Border & Visas – keep Britain open for business and tourists whilst protecting the border, including providing Border Force with the resources it needs to maintain service levels and the need to make further progress on visa accessibility and competitiveness;
- Protecting passengers – secure lasting reform to European law to deliver clearer consumer rights and support industry progress in improving the passenger experience for persons with reduced mobility.
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