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Air Passenger Duty

Volume 550: debated on Tuesday 11 September 2012

11. If he will commission research to determine the effect of air passenger duty on UK holidaymakers, employment and economic growth. (120144)

12. What assessment he has made of the effect of air passenger duty on tourism and the regional economy. (120145)

The Government undertook an extensive consultation on air passenger duty last year. The consultation gathered views and evidence from stakeholders—more than 500 responses were received from all sectors. The Government published our response to the consultation on 6 December 2011 and we have no plans to commission further research.

As the Minister is aware, the issue of direct long-haul flights has been dealt with. However, that is a small but important part of the market—most people will travel to or through another UK airport, and passengers from Northern Ireland will pay APD twice, because there is a restricted number of through-carriers. Do the Government believe there would be merit in reviewing APD generally so that it is more supportive of tourism and business, and of growth?

The hon. Lady is passionate about this issue, and I thought she would welcome the measures that the Government have taken, which have made a significant contribution. I hope she joins me in realising that the Government have made substantial progress. He also knows that the Chancellor announced in the previous Budget that the Government are looking at other things that can be done to boost the Northern Ireland economy.

I thank the Minister for his answer, but could he advise the House on what discussions he has held with the Northern Ireland Executive on the need to scrap APD for short-haul flights between Northern Ireland and Britain and Europe?

I have not had any such discussions since I was appointed, but I look forward to having them in future and will report to the hon. Lady when I do.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his appointment to the Front Bench. I am sorry to ask him a difficult question to begin with, but what consideration has been given to the impact of APD on our Commonwealth cousins? It is having an impact on many economies. We would not want our Commonwealth cousins to turn to the black economy or illegal activities, or even to require more overseas development aid. Will he look again at the impact of the policy on the Commonwealth?

I thank my hon. Friend for his warm welcome and for his characteristically strong question. As far as I am aware, the Government have not looked specifically at the impact on the Commonwealth, but I am willing to do so and will get back to him.

I welcome my hon. Friend to his new position. Will he look at the position of the Caribbean in that regard? Will he also look at the conclusions of the all-party group on aviation report on APD and at the impact APD is having on regional economies such as Yorkshire that compete as tourism destinations for people coming from China and the US?

I thank my hon. Friend for her welcome. I will take a look at that, but given the amount of money from APD on which the Government rely to deal with the fiscal deficit we inherited, it is appropriate to point out that, if we changed the banding, APD might have to rise for others.