Boris Johnson backs cutting air passenger duty on domestic flights
The prime minister has backed cutting air passenger duty on domestic flights, following the publication of an interim review into transport between the UK nations.
The review, which is being carried out by Sir Peter Hendy, will publish its final findings in the summer. But in the interim report published on Wednesday, Hendy called for a dedicated UK strategic transport network.
The report argued that such a network, which would include "significantly" expanding and upgrading direct transport links across road, rail, sea and air, would help reduce current delays and bottlenecks as well as stimulate economic growth.
Hendy said: "Devolution has been good for transport, but it has also led to a lack of attention to connectivity between the four nations, due to the competing priorities and complex funding.
"A UK strategic transport network could resolve this, with its core objective centred around levelling up across the whole of the UK."
Writing in the Daily Telegraph in response, Boris Johnson said the lack of a country-wide transport strategy had created "inadequate connections" and the review "gives us the tools we need to deliver on our ambitions for a UK-wide transport network".
He added: "I also want to cut passenger duty on domestic flights so we can support connectivity across the country. It seems wrong that someone flying from Belfast to London and back pays more UK tax than someone flying from Dublin to London and back."
A cut in passenger tax is likely to be welcomed by airline operators, which have been hit especially hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.
But it is likely to face opposition from environmental groups, who argue that reducing flying is essential if the UK is to meet its net zero carbon emissions target by 2050.
The government said the consultation on aviation tax reform, announced in last year's budget, will be published this spring.
The creation of a UK-wide transport network will form the main focus on the rest of Hendy’s investigations, with his final report due to identify what specific transport upgrades would be required.