Argument 'still strong' for cutting air tax duty, says report
A report rejecting the argument for abolishing air passenger duty (APD) contained "unreasonable" assumptions, according to a critique commissioned by Belfast International Airport.
Consultants Mott MacDonald will today say there was still a "strong economic case" for abolishing or reducing APD despite the earlier report by the Northern Ireland Centre for Economic Policy (NICEP).
The consultants were commissioned by Belfast International Airport to examine last month's report, which found that there would be no net benefit to the economy of abolishing APD.
Mott MacDonald, in their 46-page retort, claimed there was "calculation error, outdated data and unreasonable, unexplained or unsupported assumptions" in the earlier report.
APD has been lifted on long-haul flights out of Northern Ireland but remains in place for short-haul flights.
The consultants said: "We have found there is a strong economic case for the benefits of reducing or abolishing APD in Northern Ireland."
Belfast International Airport said the Executive had failed to support the case for devolving APD, "in marked contrast to Scotland and Wales".
Airport managing director Graham Keddie, who will give evidence to the Assembly's finance and personnel committee on the subject of APD this morning, said: "This analysis blows the NICEP report out of the water. It shows it to be flawed and unreliable. The consultants have found that there are large positive net economic benefits to doing away with APD.
"That, in our book, is reason enough for ministers in the Northern Ireland Executive to think again.
"At the very least, they should study this document from one of the top firms in aviation and transport matters and acknowledge that a mistake has been made."
He said there was "much to gain" from securing APD.
"Even if the tax was cut by half, Mott McDonald says it might support 3,800 additional jobs and £200m per annum in gross value added (GVA).
"That makes this worthy of a second look. We shouldn't run away and hide from securing APD power."
The additional jobs that consultants say will be created if tax is halved