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Early Day Motion not Early Morning Congestion

news release

Manchester Friends of the Earth [1] are calling for the public to urge their MPs to sign an Early Day Motion (EDM) [2] that would stop the aviation industry getting away with not paying over 9 billion pounds of tax. This money, the campaigners are arguing, would be better spent improving buses and trains and other public services. Taxation, as the Treasury admits [3], would also be a leverage to reducing climate change emissions from the industry.

Until 20 November readers can go to planetruth to download a letter to send to their MP. This asks them to sign the Early Day Motion.

Why is this important to Manchester and the North West?

The Government received a record number of responses to its consultation earlier this year and has told the industry’s lobby group ‘Freedom to Fly’ that they should stop going on about environmental arguments because they have already lost them. But they are also losing the economic arguments:

  • The Government’s own computer model predicts that there would be no need for any new runways or airports if the aviation industry would not receive an astonishing tax break of £9.2 billion a year [4].
  • Because of the huge tax breaks given to the aviation industry the North West is potentially missing out on over £1 billion each year. This would pay for about 21,000 additional teachers, nurses or policemen [7]!
  • It has been shown that have poor ground transport is a reason for businesses to move away. Aviation provides the means for them to uproot and relocate. [12]
  • Only about 22% of passengers on UK scheduled flights are business, the rest beingmainly tourist/holidays and other personal trips such as study. The proportions are forecast to remain roughly the same in 2030 [8].
  • Tourism takes far more money out of the country than it brings in! In 2001 UK residents spent £18.7 billion abroad compared with £7.6 billion brought into the UK. Still the industry and government want us to believe this is an economic advantage [9].
  • Manchester Airport is responsible for 20% of the traffic on key congested links of the motorway system serving the airport [11]. Traffic congestion damages local, regional and national economies.

Kerstin Moritz of Manchester Friends of the Earth says:

“It’s time that we get the economics right. The industry and the government make great play about the fact air travel can bring investment and jobs into the country. But they never mention the fact that it can equally suck investment and jobs away. The viation industry is receiving £9.2 billion each year through tax breaks – only £1.5 billion would be needed to improve Manchester’s rail network. Unfortunately there is not enough public money and funding is unlikely until at least 2010.”


Notes to Editors

[1] Manchester Friends of the Earth is a prominent pressure roup, raising awareness and lobbying for policy changes at a local, regional, national and international level. The group consists ntirely of volunteers, and its campaigns are funded by membership fees and individual donations. Up-to-date information is available on their website: Manchester Friends of the Earth is part of a national network of local groups, affiliated to the national organisation (further information can be found at

[2] Link:

[3] The Guardian 28 October 2003

[4] There is no tax on fuel, no VAT, and duty-free sales continue except for trips entirely within the EU.

per year
5.7 Fuel tax @ 45.8p per litre (the same rate as applied to car fuel)
4.0 VAT
0.4 Duty free
-0.9 Deduct Airport Departure Tax (currently £5 or £10 per ticket)
9.2 Net tax subsidy

The DfT’s SPASM computer model is used to assess transport demand and was the basis for the Government’s airport expansion proposals announced last July. At the request of CPRE, AEF and Friends of the Earth, the DfT carried out new runs on SPASM to test different assumptions from those used by DfT officials. The new assumptions include that by the year 2030 aviation fuel will be taxed at the same rate as motor vehicle fuel (45.8p per litre), and that air travel will be subject to VAT. The new prediction is that the number of passengers using UK airports would rise from 180 million a year in 2000 to 315 million a year in 2030 (instead of the official forecast figure of 501 million passengers. On that basis there would be no need to build any new runways.

[5] Aviation Environment Federation report: ‘The Hidden Costs of Flying’, Feb 2003.

[6] Berkeley Hanover Consulting report: ‘The Impacts of Future – Aviation Growth in the UK’, Dec2000.

[7] Friends of the Earth worked out the how this £9.2billion subsidy could be allocated to the regions,counties and districts in the UK using a simple pro rata basis based on population size. The iguresdo not therefore take into account the concentration of flights in the South East, they merely provide an illustration of what the subsidy means on a local level. The figures for all the local councils in the UK are listed at the following web link:

[8] Report “Aviation Briefing”, June 2003, link:

[9[ HACAN: ‘Air transport and the economy’, 2002

[10] Telegraph: “Looking forward to a happy landing”, 23/03/2002

[11] Consultation Document for the North of England, page 146

[12] The Economics of Aviation: a North West England perspective’ Professor John Whitelegg, 2003

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