Much of today’s politics takes the form of campaigns waged by big businesses and their PR advisers. They draft standard emails and letters for people to send to their MPs. They get friendly MPs to table motions and pose questions to supplement their campaigns. They brief the media.
This Parliament the most successful by far, if measured by the number of people sending in the standard email, has been the campaign to cut Air Passenger Duty. This summer many individuals and families have taken to the air for their holidays, or have flown on business, only to find that APD is now a large sum. It is even more noticeable if you have taken advantage of cheap fares from low cost airlines, or from early booking, as it can add a large sum to the total cost as a proportion of the original fare.
I have no time for high taxes of any kind. There are all sorts of taxes I would like to see lower. Nonetheless it has surprised me that out of all the unpopular tax impositions on people it should be APD that has attracted such a high level of criticism.
It implies that the government’s proposed switch of taxes from taxing “goods” like work and saving to taxing “bads” like pollution and carbon dioxide emission has not proved as popular as they hoped. APD is one of the few ways they have been following this policy, along with higher fuel duties on petrol and diesel which are also proving very unpopular.
I doubt if the government are about to give in and cut APD. They would be wise, however, to call a halt to extra “green” taxation. It is encountering a lot of consumer resistance. The problem with APD is that for the better off it is yet another modest attack on their lfiestyles which they probably afford to pay. For people on low incomes it may be the straw which breaks the camel’s back. APD is now at a level where it may stop someone flying altogether. That, of course, was the stated intention. It does not make it popular, and in a democracy the voices of the people have a role to play.