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MLAs back Air Passenger Duty bid

Stormont supports bill allowing it to set flight tax

By John Mulgrew

Assembly members have backed a bill which would allow Stormont the right to set its own taxes on direct long-haul flights.

SDLP finance spokesman Dominic Bradley said with the devolving of Air Passenger Duty (APD) comes the “potential of an estimated benefit of £100m to the local economy”.

Finance Minister Sammy Wilson brought the APD Bill in front of the Assembly on Tuesday.

The second stage of the Bill was passed on an oral vote.

It came about in reaction to a threat over Northern Ireland’s only direct long-haul flight to New York’s Newark airport, operated by Continental Airlines.

The airline also operates a daily service from Dublin which has a much lower rate of duty.

If passed the Bill would devolve powers to vary the level of long-haul rates to the Stormont Executive.

Dominic Bradley said the bill could lure new routes from around the globe including China and India.

“With the devolution of Air Passenger Duty comes the potential of an estimated benefit of £100m to the local economy,” he said.

“There are potential benefits to this that are worth exploring,” he

added. “It will be at the consideration stage next week and general speaking amendments can be made.

“But since there is an all party agreement, it’s unlikely that there will be any amendment.

“This will allow the Executive to have the powers over air passenger duty for long-haul flights.”

The DUP’s Peter Weir welcomed the Assembly’s support for the bill and said that while a cost would be “borne by the Executive” it is an investment “which can bring returns in the longer term”.

“The intention when seeking the devolution of these powers has always been to reduce our APD rate to zero which can not only secure existing routes, but also seek to attract in new carriers and increase our connectivity for both business and tourism,” he said.

“This will hopefully bolster the good work of Northern Ireland’s two airports and the benefit they bring to our local economy.

“Indeed, it is particularly welcome that it was confirmed today that the Enterprise Minister has already been in talks with a Canadian airline with a view to setting up a route from Belfast.”

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