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Air Passenger Duty

Volume 525: debated on Wednesday 23 March 2011

3. What assessment he has made of the likely effects of changes in air passenger duty on business travel between Northern Ireland and London. (47494)

I have had meetings with the Northern Ireland Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and with my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury to discuss air passenger duty. My Treasury colleagues fully understand the issues involved. The rates that took effect last November were, of course, set and legislated for by the previous Government.

I thank the Minister for his answer. He will be aware that, in addition to air passenger duty, Heathrow and Gatwick intend to levy passenger landing charges for regional flights, which will compound the problem. Will he confirm that this matter is at the top of his agenda, so that we can ensure that Northern Ireland businesses have access to the capital?

Indeed; these things have been discussed at ministerial level. I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury is here to listen to the hon. Lady’s comments. We take this matter very seriously. A lot of the issues to do with Gatwick and Heathrow are commercial matters that are more properly dealt with by BAA.[Official Report, 4 April 2011, Vol. 526, c. 12MC.]

Will the Minister continue to speak to the Chancellor of the Exchequer about the possible dangers that a per plane duty could pose for businesses in Northern Ireland, given the geographical situation of the Province?

My hon. Friend raises a good point. It is worth pointing out that 75,000 fewer people—business men and tourists—went to the island of Ireland every week last summer. It is important that we keep up the amount of people who come here. I think that his question might be better directed to Ministers after the Budget, which will follow in a few minutes, but I am sure that his comments will have been heard.