Green party

Airports plan based on flawed economics and massive subsidies, report claims

15 November 2002

Plans for the biggest expansion to Britain’s aviation industry in history are based on a flawed economic model, according to a report to be published on Monday.

The Government’s proposals for new runways and airports across the country are based on a threefold projected increase in demand, but this projection ignores the effects of more than £10 billion a year in tax breaks, hidden subsidies, ill-health and environmental clean-up, it says.

Green Party MEP Caroline Lucas, whose South East England constituency has been earmarked for a new four-runway ‘hub’ airport the size of Gatwick at the Thames Estuary in Kent, said: “These astonishing figures reveal the massive extent to which demand for flying is being artificially stimulated by a massive package of Government aid. Without these subsidies, which amount to £180 a year for every man, woman and child in the country, there would be no need for an airport building programme on this scale.

“The Government must now revisit its proposals, and consider whether its building programme is in fact necessary at all,” added Dr Lucas, who wrote the foreword to the report.

Aviation’s Economic Downside, which has been produced by transport consultant John Whitelegg, is published on Monday to coincide with Aviation Awareness Month and the on-going public consultation on the Government’s plans, which runs until November 30 Professor Whitelegg’s key findings include:

  • The health costs of the UK aviation industry are £1.3bn a year

  • The Government foregoes £7bn a year in lost tax revenue on aviation fuel, new aircraft and ticketing, all of which are zero-rated

  • Air passenger travel in the UK is responsible for a drain on the balance of payments of more than £8bn a year

  • Unless the Government acts to level the playing field between transport sectors, demand for flying will increase by 300 per cent by 2020 to 400 million passenger journeys a year – that’s the equivalent of four new airports the size of Heathrow.

The Green Party, which commissioned the report, is part of a coalition of organisations fighting the proposals. It has called for an immediate review of the sector, an end to subsidies, introduction on emission charges on all airlines operating out of European airports, and investment in less polluting alternatives.