The Government meet regularly with the airline industry to discuss a range of issues, including the future of air passenger duty and the domestic aviation market. I met a number of UK-based airlines earlier in autumn prior to the Budget.
I make no apologies for continuing to lobby Treasury Ministers on the iniquity of air passenger duty and the discriminatory application of it to Flybe, based in my constituency at Exeter airport, which is the UK’s largest domestic carrier. Will the Treasury look again at Flybe and its particular set of circumstances?
My right hon. Friend is nothing if not persistent, but we are not able to vary air passenger duty under EU state aid rules for different regions of the United Kingdom, including the south-west. That will change, or may, depending on the final state of things once we have left the European Union, but we have taken action in government: we have frozen short-haul rates for eight years in a row and exempted children going on family holidays, including to the south-west.
I thank the Minister for his response. He is well aware of the issue for Northern Ireland—the disadvantage that we have and the advantage that the Republic of Ireland has. Dublin airport has grown tremendously over the last period of time, so has he had any opportunity to speak to those in charge of Belfast International airport or Belfast City airport to gauge their opinion on how we can grow the economy?
My right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary visited Northern Ireland earlier in the year and met representatives of the aviation sector. We announced at the Budget that we will be proceeding with a technical working group to look into and analyse further the remaining issues with respect to the hon. Gentleman’s proposal to devolve air passenger duty in Northern Ireland.