Prime Minister David Cameron was dubbed “dithering Dave” in a Commons debate as West Midland MPs urged the Government to back Birmingham Airport .
Labour condemned the delay in making a decision about whether or not to allow Heathrow Airport to expand , warning that regional airports needed certainty.
Black Country MP John Spellar (Lab Warley) told MPs it was “utterly extraordinary” that there was still no decision when both industry and trade unions had urged the government to make an announcement, saying: “Dithering Dave is still holding back on bringing a decision to Parliament.”
An independent Airports Commission was set up in 2012 to decide where to create new aviation capacity and concluded last year that Heathrow should expand. But the Government then announced a further delay and is expected to make no decision until later this year.
Solihull MP Julian Knight (Con) urged Ministers to allow the planned new West Midlands Combined Authority to set its own regional level of air passenger duty, to ensure Birmingham Airport is not disadvantaged when Scotland gains the right to set its own air tax rates.
Mr Knight said Scotland and Wales should be free to change air passenger duty, but added: “I want to see such change in other areas as well. We have to be careful, because if we act in terms of favouring one region over another within England, that process will be open to legal challenges. Regarding all the combined authority deals, we should consider devolution of air passenger duty.”
There should also be air passenger duty “holidays”, in which the tax is suspended for new flights to areas of economic importance, he said.
This would help airports such as Birmingham to expand and make better use of existing capacity.
Mr Knight said: “The regional airports are vastly underused.
“My own airport – Birmingham Airport, on the edge of my constituency - is at only 27 per cent capacity.”
He added: “It is a great shame that in 2010 this country traded more with Ireland than with Brazil, Russia, India and China. One reason is that we do not have regional connectivity with those emerging – well, in many cases, emerged – economies. So I would consider the idea of air passenger duty holidays for new flights in economically important markets.”
Transport Minister Robert Goodwill said a decision on a third runway at Heathrow had been delayed to allow time for a investigation into the impact on the environment.