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Boris Johnson Rails Against Aviation Report Delay As Howard Davies Launches Aviation Commission

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Boris railed against the government's position to delay any airport expansion decisions until after the next election | Getty Images

Boris Johnson, mayor of London, publicly denounced the government's decision to delay the publication of a crucial report into the UK's future airports as "toxic and disastrous".

Johnson has previously accused the government of a "fudgerama", and has campaigned strongly in favour of an airport in the Thames Estuary - dubbed Boris Island by the press.

His comments arrived on the day Sir Howard Davies laid out his intentions for the new Aviation Commission, designed to examine ways for the UK to expand aviation capacity.

Sir Howard faced criticism before his commission was even announced, after the government decided the report and any recommendations shouldn't be considered until 2015 - after the next general election.

Speaking on the BBC's Today programme, Johnson said: "It's a great shame Howard Davies isn't able to come up with the logical solution. It's going to be toxic and disastrous to go into 2015 with Heathrow still on the agenda and millions of Londoners still going through noise pollution.

"This is the wrong way forward. What Howard, with great respect, should do is accelerate his timetable.

"There is absolutely no need for us to delay to 2015. Can I tell you, in the next nine years, how many runways they’re going to build in China? They’re going to build 52. How many in the UK? None at all. It is a policy of utter inertia."

Sir Howard has acknowledged criticisms of the government for kicking the airport decision into the long grass, but said decisions over timetables were "above my paygrade".

Speaking to the Today programme, Davies insisted his report, which will include an interim statement at the end of next year, would be a "really expert piece of work" and would build political consensus around the eventual solution which at the moment was "lacking".

Expansion options include a third Heathrow runway, connecting Heathrow and Gatwick, a new airport in the Thames Estuary or the expansion of Stansted and the expansion of the UK's smaller regional airports.

Elsewhere, the amount of tax passengers in the UK pay was debated in the House of Commons on 1 November, asking whether the UK’s airport passenger tax was acting as a barrier to economic growth and whether there was a need to consider the financial impact on families of the rising costs of airport passenger duty.

airport

A Tory backbencher called for a motion to review the amount of tax UK passengers pay for flights

Priti Patel MP told the house: "The motion calls on the Treasury to respond to the concerns of 200,000 members of the public and business representatives about the air passenger duty system.

"It specifically calls on the Treasury to conduct a comprehensive study of the system’s full economic impact and urges the Government to use the evidence gathered from the study to inform future policy making on aviation taxes.

"The evidence that I have seen, the views of families and businesses in my constituency, and views from the aviation sector, suggest it is time that the government considered aviation taxes."

Tory backbencher Patel explained that when air passenger duty was introduced in November 1993, it was supposed to be a small duty on all air passengers from United Kingdom airports that would create £330 million a year.

"It now raises 10 times more than that, and a family of four travelling economy class to Florida this winter will pay £260 in APD," she said.

"If that same family of four were travelling to Australia, they would have to fork out £368. Those figures are not small and are having a severe effect on households with modest incomes throughout the country, including pensioners who wish to visit relatives living abroad."

Conservative MP Graham Brady agreed with Patel's appeal, saying: "Air travel should not again become a luxury that only the rich can afford... Air travel, whether for business or leisure, is an essential part of modern life. It has opened up the world, opened people’s minds and enhanced the quality of life for us all."

And Labour MP Brian Donohue added that he had heard from constituents that consumers were now being encouraged to fly long haul from Europe, rather than the UK, to save hundreds of pounds in air passenger duty.

"As we know from the length of the Davies (aviation) Commission, the government appears to be in no rush to address the competitiveness problems of the UK aviation industry, which are impacting on the whole of our economy.

"The abolition or reduction of APD has the potential to make the UK more internationally competitive. As a minimum, I urge the minister’s department to undertake research to find out what the impact of APD has been on the aviation industry and what it means for that industry."

The house backed Patel's call for the Treasury to review of APD, making it the second review for chancellor George Osborne's team in one day, after the commons called for a review of the beer duty escalator.

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