Labour’s planned UK private jet ban will not fly

Alasdair Whyte
By Alasdair Whyte November 4, 2019 21:14

Labour’s planned UK private jet ban will not fly

The UK today demonstrated that the single biggest threat to business aviation worldwide is environmental regulation.

Today the Shadow Transport Secretary (the official opposition to the actual Transport Minister) has suggested that the UK should ban all traditional private jet flights by 2025. If he has his way, only electric business jets would be allowed after this time.

The Labour MP, Andy McDonald tweeted: “The multi-millionaires & billionaires who travel by private jet are doing profound damage to the climate, and it’s the rest of us who’ll suffer the consequences. A phase-out date for the use of fossil fuel private jets is a sensible proposal.”

His remarks are particularly significant as the UK will be holding a General Election on December 12. Labour is one of two parties that are likely to win.

McDonald was responding to a report by Common Wealth, a left-wing thinktank with a strong relationship with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, and A Free Ride, a campaign group that argues for a tax on frequent flyers.

The report argues that banning traditional jets would speed up electric aircraft. “Because the user base for private jets has access to vast reserves of private capital, we suggest that a near term deadline for prohibiting fossil powered private jets from using UK airports could serve to accelerate R&D time-to-market horizons in the electric aerospace sector,” says the report.

It would be mistake to get worried because of one comment from a shadow transport minister. Shares in Gama Aviation, the listed business jet company with an significant UK business, actually rose this afternoon. Labour (the party formerly led Tony Blair and Gordon Brown) is also not expected to win the next election (but who knows what could happen).

Like many of Corbyn’s policies (others include nationalising private schools, railways and utility companies), it would be a difficult law to implement. It is hard to see how the UK could impose this on foreign business jets without renegotiating bilateral air-transport treaties (so UK-registered business jets could be registered overseas). Defining a private jet, business jet or business jet operator is also very difficult (as EU VAT cases have shown). Would the government also want to ban general aviation aircraft, helicopters and charters of commercial aircraft? Would the government also stop medivac flights?

It is also not clear if this policy will make it into the Labour manifesto. McDonald later added: “Labour will examine these proposals closely and consult with industry on the introduction of a phase out date for the use of fossil fuel private jets.”

McDonald may not have realised quite how many thousands of people work in business aviation in the UK – and that there are significant business jet airports in Labour target constituencies (including Luton South). He may also have forgotten about the thousands of fanatical planespotters who live in the UK.

But this is a warning for the industry worldwide. Business jets are an easy target – the report lazily focuses on high net worth individuals – and in this time of polarised politics the UK will not be the only country where this policy is suggested.

There is one other major problem with McDonald’s suggestion. When (or if) the UK leaves the European Union it will need to negotiate new trade deals and air transport agreements with other countries. One of the key future partners is the US.

Can you really see President Trump making concessions if he has been forced to fly over in seat 45B on American Airlines?

Alasdair Whyte
By Alasdair Whyte November 4, 2019 21:14

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