Tim Yeo used to the Conservative Environment Spokesman. He's given an interview to GMTV in which he seriously proposes that all domestic flights should be abolished. It will be broadcast on GMTV's Sunday programme which runs from 6.00 to 7.30am, repeated from 7.30 till 9 on ITV2.
GLORIA DEL PIERO: I wanted to talk to you about that other concern of yours, the Environment, in a week where the Prime Minister said that we don’t need to sacrifice our long haul flights, science will save the planet for us. Is he right about that?
TIM YEO: Not entirely no. Because although we have technology that makes it possible to drive a car with very low carbon emissions, aircraft produce carbon emissions in substantial bodies. What we should be doing is tackling the domestic flights first. There is no reason at all why people should fly around the UK, fly from London to Edinburgh, London to Scotland, London to Glasgow, London to Manchester, London to Newcastle. Those flights should be knocked out. What we should do is tax domestic flights so heavily and use the money to improve the railways so that in five years time everyone is choosing to go by train within the UK. That would make a big step in right direction, the long haul flights are harder to tackle, but the domestic flights we can be taking action on right now and we should be.
GLORIA DEL PIERO: So you’re actually saying that you think that we shouldn’t have the right to fly internally in the UK?
TIM YEO: Well I think we should make the price so unattractive, obviously…
GLORIA DEL PIERO: So only rich could fly around the UK?
TIM YEO: Well, I mean the fact is that most people now go by train from London to Paris, and from London to Brussels. That service is replacing the aircraft to a considerable extent. The same could happen, if we made the trains better from London to Glasgow, London to Edinburgh, they’re a little better than they were on the Manchester line, if we made them better and also made them cheaper than flying then we are not forcing people to do something, but the logical alternative is to say if I can get to the centre of Edinburgh on the same time on the train, and probably in more comfort and for a lower price… Well, it’s a no-brainer. And the government has really been pretty timid about aircraft taxation. There is an opportunity here to show that Britain is really serious about climate change, about carbon emissions, about reducing the amount of flying, and if we did that I think the world would sit up and pay attention and we’d be setting an example that other countries could follow.
GLORIA DEL PIERO: But you’re pretty much effectively saying to me that you don’t there should be domestic flights in the UK, they should be banned, they should be…
TIM YEO: I’m not saying they should be banned, but I certainly don’t think we shouldn’t be using them in anything like the volume that we are now. Because I’ve become concerned myself about this, I’m choosing to go to Scotland by train as a matter of conscience now. I think more and more people would like to do that, we need to make it easier for them, and those people who don’t think of it in that sort of way we need to give them a price signal. But I honestly do believe that within ten years there should be virtually no domestic flights.
Well there you have it. This is almost as in touch with reality as THIS piece of muddled thinking from Sir Ming Campbell in which he says that the poor do not benefit from cheap flights, only the rich do. It really is just as well that Tim Yeo doesn't want to attack long haul flights. After all, he would have missed out on all these junkets which he enjoyed during 2006, not to mention the helicopter flight Mr Yeo took to visit Norfolk and other areas of the country during the General Election campaign.
6-8 November 2005, to Cyprus, as a guest of Lanitis Development, owners of Aphrodite Hills, a hotel and golf resort. (Registered 21 November 2005)
3-10 January 2006, to California, US. My fares and three nights' accommodation provided by the World Affairs Council of Orange County. (Registered 14 February 2006)
3-6 April 2006, to Singapore. My outward flight from London to Singapore and my onward flight from Singapore to Hong Kong, and my accommodation in Singapore were paid for by Sentosa Leisure Group. (Registered 2 May 2006)
4-10 November 2006, to California, US, to attend the annual Fall Conference of the Environmental Markets Association. My fare and accommodation was paid for by the Environmental Markets Association, a Washington based trade body. (Registered 15 November 2006)
16-19 November 2006, to Cuba, to visit Government officials. My fare and accommodation was paid for by Sherritt International, a Canadian mining and energy company. (Registered 21 November 2006)
As one of the commenters has just pointed out, Mr Yeo would also have had to forgo a trip he did as golf columnist for the Financial Times - in one day, he golfed at three of Britain's best courses in a single day courtesy of a flight on private jet company Netjets.
This sort of muddle headed thinking has echoes of John Major's back to basics campaign, where politicians were held to account for their apparent 'don't do as I do, do as I say' attitude. If you can't defend your own actions, you shouldn't preach to others.
UPDATE: Zak Goldsmith has endorsed Tim Yeo's comments on Sky News just now.
UPDATE: A correspondent writes: Your list of Tim Yeo's junkets from the Register merely scratches the surface. If you look at his FT column you will see that over the past year he has reported from Cuba, China (twice), California (twice), Philadelphia, Singapore, Dar Es Salaam and Georgia (plus Loch Lomond while he admitted he should have been at the Party Conference). Who pays for these flights? How do their emissions compare with his train journeys to St Andrews? Can he really square all this with chairmanship of a Select Committee that consistently rails against aviation (while consistently ignoring calls to prove that higher taxes would improve aviation's environmental performance)?