The government shamelessly pilfered the Conservatives' policy portfolio for a flagship green initiative yesterday, announcing plans to switch green taxes on aviation from passengers to planes in a move that will raise up to £2.5bn annually by 2010.
The new and higher duty - to take effect from November 1 2009 and bringing in an additional £100m in the first 12 months and £520m the following year - was welcomed by green groups but upset some airlines. The plan has previously been most trumpeted by the Tories.
Passengers on short-haul flights out of Britain pay £10 duty per economy class ticket, a cost doubled by Gordon Brown last year to raise £2bn annually. But Mr Darling said aviation should make "a greater contribution" in respect of its impact on greenhouse gas emissions. "For this to be as environmentally effective as possible ... I intend to levy the duty not on individual passengers but on flights, to encourage more efficient use of planes," he said.
The government also promised - from November 2008 - to correct an anomaly that those travelling on business class-only fights avoided standard rate air passenger duty (APD).
John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace, said: "A tax that penalises airlines for flying half empty planes makes a lot of sense, but the government's support for the unrestrained expansion of UK airports seriously undermines its credibility."
EasyJet welcomed the chancellor's decision. Andy Harrison, EasyJet's chief executive, said: "A tax that penalises families but excludes private jets and charges passengers travelling to Marrakech the same as those travelling to Melbourne, is just plain wrong. A structure that taxes a passenger in the newest, cleanest aircraft the same as someone in an old gas-guzzler cannot be allowed to continue."
Ryanair and BA were more dismissive. A spokesman for Ryanair said: "This government lied when it proposed to spend the £1bn raised from doubling APD on the environment. Not a penny has been spent on the environment and they are back stealing more from ordinary passengers going on holidays."
Dave the Chameleon": a person who is willing to say whatever he thinks voters want to hear. Recently, however, the government stands accused of stealing three big ideas first presented by the Tories that appear to be popular among voters. The subject of this entry is the green tax on air travel first proposed by Cameron and the Conservatives earlier this year. Gordon Brown's successor as Chancellor, Alistair Darling, presented the details of this green tax which mirrors the line that flights, not passengers, should be taxed. What goes around comes around, eh, New Labour? This comes from The Guardian: