Wilson responds on further devolution of Air Passenger Duty powers
Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson today responded to Sinn Fein’s Daithí McKay MLA on the further devolution of Air Passenger Duty powers.
~ Wednesday, 13 March 2013
Sammy Wilson said: “Daithí McKay accused me on prevaricating on the further devolution of Air Passenger Duty (APD). Nothing could be further from the truth.
“Our first priority was to secure the future of the direct air link between Belfast and Newark – vital for Foreign Direct Investment and tourism. It wasn’t possible to devolve short haul powers at that time because of the need for urgent action to protect the Newark route. But my position on APD is clear. I firmly believe this is an unfair tax that impacts disproportionately on regions like Northern Ireland with limited alternative transport options. I have continually pressed the Government on this and as they impose and set this tax, the onus is therefore on them to address the negative impact this has.”
Referring to the recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study highlighted by Mr McKay, the Minister continued: “I too hope that the Government will consider this carefully in the run up to the Budget. It conveys a strong argument that abolishing APD would be good for the UK as a whole. Unfortunately with the Government very much in revenue raising mode I don’t have any immediate expectation of a material change. However, I am very encouraged by the analysis which suggests that the direct APD revenue lost would be offset by increased receipts from others taxes. Clearly something Treasury need to consider.
“But it needs to be recognised that this would not work for Northern Ireland were we to seek further devolution of APD. We would, under EU rules, face a block reduction of an estimated £60 - £90million per annum but would not get the increased revenue from the other taxes. This would clearly have an impact on value for money and indeed the provision of vital services such as health and education.”
In terms of the DFPs further consideration of this matter the Minister stated: “My Department along with others are considering what more can be done to improve our connectivity, including whether further devolution would be the right course of action. Such an assessment is not straightforward and with a potential bill to Northern Ireland of £60 – £90million per annum, a huge sum of money, it is only right that we give this careful consideration.”
Concluding, the Minister said: “Daithí McKay has no grounds for complaining about APD since he and his party have been in full support of the damaging environmental taxes because of their adherence to the scare stories on air travel and global warming. Further devolution of APD could only be worthwhile if we were confident it would benefit the economy and passengers in terms of lower fares. That’s not clear and is precisely why we are conducting this analysis. When the findings are clear I will do what is best for Northern Ireland.”
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