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Electronic Travel Authorisation Scheme: Tourism

Volume 734: debated on Wednesday 21 June 2023

4. What recent discussions his Department has had with representatives of the tourism sector in Northern Ireland on the implementation of the electronic travel authorisation scheme. (905484)

I am glad to tell my hon. Friend that the Department most recently met with Northern Ireland tourism organisations alongside the Home Office for discussions on how to communicate the ETA requirement on 7 June. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State also hosted a tourism roundtable with sector leaders at Hillsborough castle on 20 April. The Government will continue their engagement with the tourism sector, which we recognise plays a vital role in Northern Ireland’s economy.

I am grateful for that answer, but does my hon. Friend acknowledge that if an ETA exemption was granted for tourists—or, indeed, people claiming to be tourists—travelling from the Republic of Ireland, that would undermine the integrity of the whole scheme?

My hon. Friend is right, and that is the Government’s policy. We have engaged closely with not only the tourism sector but our friends in the Irish Government on this issue. I hope that we will be able to work together to ensure that there is a consistent and coherent communication strategy to ensure that tourists know they must register for an ETA and must continue to comply with the UK’s immigration requirements. I should say that whether one stays at Hillsborough castle, the Travelodge or any of the other great hotels in Northern Ireland, it is a wonderful place to visit.

Does the Minister recognise that Ireland is marketed internationally as a single entity with respect to tourism? Does he understand that treating movements on the island of Ireland the same as any entries into the UK from the rest of the world is not fair and does not recognise the specific circumstances that exist on the island?

I am most grateful to the hon. Member. We do recognise elements of what he said, and indeed we have had those conversations most recently with the Irish Government at the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference. It is the Government’s position that we should not create a loophole through the ETA scheme, but we do need to ensure that we communicate clearly with everyone the need to register and comply with immigration requirements. He may know that we have created an exemption for third-country nationals who are ordinarily resident in Ireland, and of course the requirement does not apply to citizens of the UK or Ireland under the common travel area, which we will continue to honour.