Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Scrap unfair air tax now before it kills tourism

I AM writing with regards to your editorial on September 14, entitled 'We can't be left up in the air over tax'.

I share these serious concerns about Air Passenger Duty and have been campaigning strongly at Westminster regarding this matter.

I am also a Member of the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee which recently actively called for the scrapping of APD.

Earlier this month, I asked the Chancellor in the House of Commons what action he will take on APD, given that the current level has an acute impact in Northern Ireland, where it places a burden on business, a barrier to tourism and - most worryingly - jeopardises our single remaining direct transatlantic connection.

While the Chancellor stated that he is engaging with all parties and is aware of the importance of the issue, I remain concerned that there is insufficient urgency in Treasury on this matter.

There is a real urgency to this situation - if a favourable decision is not taken soon, the situation may be taken out of his hands by Continental Airlines, as the current situation is just not sustainable.

This would not just affect the existing Belfast to New York flight, but the possibility of any future transatlantic routes would also be all but extinguished.

If the Chancellor is serious about economic growth in Northern Ireland, this is an opportunity to take the initiative.

The loss of the transatlantic service here would place a massive barrier to inward investment and tourism.

Naomi Long MP

Alliance Deputy Leader and MP for East Belfast

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