Ulster Unionist MP Danny Kinahan has said that ‘the time has come for action’ on Air Passenger Duty.
Mr. Kinahan, who sits on the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, was commenting after the Committee published its report ‘promoting the tourism industry in Northern Ireland through the tax system.’
The South Antrim MP said:
“During our inquiry, the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee received evidence from a wide range of stakeholders from the tourism industry. What was made abundantly clear is that we are not using all the levers available to us to maximise our great tourism potential.
“In particular this report identifies the decision of the Northern Ireland Executive not to devolve and cut short-haul Air Passenger Duty (APD) as a failure to grasp the nettle on this issue. APD continues to put Northern Ireland airports at a competitive disadvantage with airports in the Republic of Ireland, where customers are not burdened by such an additional cost. The Scottish Government has demonstrated much more ambition on this issue than the Northern Ireland Executive, opting to halve APD by 2018, with a long term objective of removing it altogether when feasible. The time has come for action on this issue yet unfortunately we have no Executive in place to take the strategic decisions necessary.
“The possibility of lowering the UK rate of VAT on hospitality and tourism services to 5 percent across the UK or to establish a specific Northern Ireland rate, which will be possible after Brexit, is something we must examine closely. This is another area where the Republic of Ireland gains a competitive advantage currently, having recently introduced a 9 percent rate for tourism related services.
“While this report has looked at how tax can be used as a tool to boost the tourism industry, we must also keep in mind other issues, which can be just as influential, such as improving Northern Ireland’s underdeveloped physical infrastructure, including road and rail capacity. Northern Ireland’s outdated licensing laws are also frequently raised by representatives of the tourism and hospitality sector as a major drawback and the Bill brought forward by the previous DUP Communities minister did not go far enough in terms of reform.
“I hope this report is seriously considered, both at Stormont and at Westminster, there is clearly much more to be done to boost our tourism sector.”