North’s Finance Minister calls for air duty powers

Ó Muilleoir wants to discuss disparity with Republic’s passenger tax with UK government

The Republic abolished air passenger duty in 2014. Image: iStock

The Republic abolished air passenger duty in 2014. Image: iStock

 

The North’s new Minister for Finance wants the Northern Ireland Executive to have “full control of air passenger duty”, the £13 (€16.75) tax that is charged on every short-haul ticket from any of the three airports in the North.

Airlines and airport operators have repeatedly warned that the tax is costing Northern Ireland investment and jobs and also helps to encourage local travellers to fly from airports in the Republic, particularly during the busy summer season, where there is no equivalent tax levied on passengers.

The Republic abolished its air passenger duty (APD)on all flights in April 2014.

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said he is keen to meet UK government officials to discuss APD.

“It’s my view that the Executive should have full control of APD so that we can make decisions in the interest of our community in terms of tourism, business and job creation.

“We need an early review of the ongoing application of APD by London on all short haul routes across Britain and Europe.”

Lobbying

Graham Keddie, the managing director of Belfast International Airport has in the past lobbied the Executive to introduce a more level playing field on the island when it comes to air taxes.

Mr Keddie has claimed “thousands of new jobs would be created and dozens of new air routes developed if APD was removed from the equation”.

Both Willie Walsh, the chief executive of International Airlines Group and Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary have also warned that the travel tax is hurting the local economy.

Mr Ó Muilleoir’s position on APD is in contrast to the views of previous local finance ministers.

Both his immediate predecessor Mervyn Storey and Simon Hamilton warned that any cut to APD could negatively impact on the North’s block grant from the UK government.

Block grant

Mr Hamilton, who is now Minister for the Economy, previously said: “The cost to the NI block grant and other public services would be significant - between £60 - £90 million a year.”

Mr Ó Muilleoir visited Belfast International Airport on Wednesday en route to New York, on his first overseas ministerial visit.

He will be undertaking a number of personal and ministerial engagements with Irish Americans in the city including the philanthropist Loretta Brennan Glucksman and John Kiernan, President of the NYC Bar Association.