Air passenger duty should be abolished on all flights departing Northern Ireland's airports and on direct flights into Northern Ireland from Great Britain in order to mitigate threats caused by the tax to Northern Ireland's economy, says the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee in a report published today.
The MPs recommend that air tax bands A and B be merged, with the application of a zero duty rate, and that the Treasury considers this option as a matter of urgency.
The detrimental impact of air passenger duty on the Northern Ireland economy is significant and its continuation may threaten the viability of Northern Ireland’s connections to Great Britain and North America.
Laurence Robertson MP, Chair of the committee, said,
"If the current tax rate is not addressed as a matter of urgency, the implications for Northern Ireland are deeply troubling.
Witnesses to our inquiry highlighted serious concerns, including Northern Ireland’s geographic location and reliance on air travel, the fact of sharing a land border with a sovereign state which levies air duty at an extremely low rate—which will soon be abolished altogether—and the need for inward investment from business and tourism. We also recognise that for many people there is a personal impact in terms of being able to visit family living in the rest of the UK and in the US."
By abolishing the tax, Northern Ireland’s business, enterprise and tourist industry stands a chance of being able to compete with the Republic of Ireland, which is due to abolish its already low rate of air passenger duty.
Local measures to mitigate the local effects of the tax on Northern Ireland must be considered, says the committee, as the Treasury is clearly unlikely to remove air passenger duty across the UK in the near future.
On devolving responsibility for air passenger duty to Northern Ireland, the committee says it is not convinced of the viability of pursuing this option at this time. Devolving the power would be a drawn-out process, and a short term solution is required.