Alasdair McDonnell, SDLP. Photograph: Paul Faith/PA Archive/PA Photos


012, UK, Refugee News Network )-SDLP Leader Dr. Alasdair McDonnell has called on the government to consider Northern Ireland?s unique circumstances  and devolve powers to set the rate of Air Passenger Duty (?APD?) on short haul flights or scrap the tax entirely.

Dr. McDonnell was speaking following the publication of a report published in the House of Commons by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee today:

?I welcome the publication of today?s report on an Air Transport Strategy which I have considered along with my colleagues on the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee. We have concluded that the Treasury and the Northern Ireland Executive must pursue ways to reduce-or preferably abolish APD on short-haul flights.

?Short-haul flights make up to 98.5% of all flights to Northern Ireland. I have consistently pushed the Secretary of State and Government to scrap APD on such flights in order to help re-balance the Northern Ireland economy.

?Having already achieved devolution of powers to set APD on long haul flights it is imperative that the government devolve powers to set APD in respect of short haul flights as soon as possible or abolish it entirely. This will be crucial to support our economy and strengthen links to our businesses in Northern Ireland.   

 ?The business community in Northern Ireland has been united in highlighting the detrimental impact high rates of APD are having on our economic growth and development of the tourism industry.

?The potential for economic prosperity in Northern Ireland is great but can only be realised when our local businesses have access to Britain and vice-versa.

?Air travel is fundamental for the people of Northern Ireland in their family and economic life. It would be highly unfair for people who have no real alternatives to flying for business or their family life, are not unduly penalised by taxes on air travel.

?I would urge the government to consider scrapping APD totally or devolve powers to set the rate to the Northern Ireland Executive. This has the real potential to improve our business links and boost the local economy.?


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