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Air Passenger Duty

Volume 533: debated on Wednesday 19 October 2011

6. What discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the effect in Northern Ireland of changes to air passenger duty. (74409)

I have had regular discussions with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who came to Northern Ireland in June, heard at first hand from local businesses about the importance of the issue and became personally involved in resolving it. As a result he announced a cut in air passenger duty next month for all direct long-haul flights from airports in Northern Ireland.

May I welcome yesterday’s announcement and say how encouraging it is to other parts of the UK that think that particular tax is unfair? Will the Minister keep the House updated on the progress of the tax cut so that we may learn something and get a change in other parts of the UK?

I think the hon. Gentleman is asking me to stray into areas that are not my responsibility, but I pay tribute to him and his friends on the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, who rapidly produced a report making a convincing case for the change. I would like to put on the record that it was a team effort. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State worked closely with the hon. Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson) and with the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, Arlene Foster. The key person was the Chancellor, who saw the need for the change following his visit, took a real personal interest and pushed it through.

I thank the Secretary of State, and indeed the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for taking swift and timely action on air passenger duty in Northern Ireland. When will the Secretary of State consider giving the Northern Ireland Assembly the power to set the level of corporation tax?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for leading the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee and for getting the report through. I announced two weeks ago that a ministerial working group would be set up, chaired by my hon. Friend the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, and it hopes to meet in early November.

Has the Secretary of State had any discussions with members of the Northern Ireland Executive about the devolution of taxes other than corporation tax to Northern Ireland?

Order. We need particular reference to the importance of the air passenger duty. I am sure the hon. Gentleman meant to mention that.

I discussed air passenger duty with members of the Executive, namely the First Minister and the acting Deputy First Minister, yesterday, and I have discussed corporation tax. I have not discussed the devolution of any other taxes.

With respect to the devolution of air passenger duty, will the Secretary of State be pressing for a swift timetable to take that forward? Will he also consider other double-duty taxations caused by people having to travel through GB airports?

My hon. Friend the Economic Secretary made a statement yesterday confirming that from 1 November the long-haul rate will be reduced. I hope to see that followed through swiftly by the Treasury, which is working closely with Executive Ministers so that this issue can be devolved as soon as possible.