|Previous Section||Home Page|
The Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Michael Morris) : Order. So far as I am concerned, the debate will be only on the airport tax.
Mr. Enright : I accept that absolutely, and I shall speak only to the airport tax.
In conclusion, I remind the Government of the closing words of the film "King Kong" :
"Oh no! It wasn't the aeroplanes. It was Beauty killed the beast."
Mr. Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) : Sir Michael
The Chairman : Order. The hon. Member should use the terminology "Chairman" or "Mr. Morris". Either of them is appropriate.
Mr. Mackinlay : I am much obliged, Mr. Morris.
My constituents will not immediately notice the impact of this tax because, unhappily, a high proportion of them never have the opportunity of travelling on aircraft. However, they are concerned about any dampening of enterprise and commerce in this country, because it has an impact on their capacity to get employment. They are also conscious of the fact that close to my constituency is the underused airport at Stansted, which has a great opportunity for enterprise and creating work. However, the opportunities for Stansted to expand will be affected by the imposition of this tax. Clearly, Stansted airport relies on the creation of new routes from inland airports in the United Kingdom and the islands. This tax will deter airlines and those wanting to create new routes into London from expanding or creating new enterprises.
The imposition of the tax, and the work and duty that it places on airlines to collect it, and do all the paperwork, makes a nonsense of the Government's claim that they are in the business of deregulation and making life easier for commerce and enterprise. It is nonsense when an Essex Member of Parliament who is the Minister of tourism, the hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Sproat), says in documents released to us that he will take a personal interest in promoting tourism and then sees his colleagues imposing a tax which will have an immediate impact on those who want to expand tourism and mobility in the United Kingdom.
I am the Secretary of the all-party Manx group. My comments are not made on behalf of the group ; nevertheless, I am pleased to take an interest in the fortunes of the Isle of Man and the people there. It is wrong for some hon. Members to assume that people who live on the Isle of Man are wealthy. For many, the position is quite the reverse. Many ordinary, working people on the Isle of Man depend on the opportunity of travelling to the United Kingdom, especially those who have children following further and higher education in the United Kingdom. The cost of travelling to universities and colleges in the United Kingdom is a heavy price for parents who live on the Isle of Man to pay. I am sure that the same is true with regard to Jersey, Guernsey and the other islands.
The proposed tax is unfair. Have the Governments on the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands been consulted about the impact of this tax? I believe that there is a convention that they should have been consulted. It seems that the Government have not complied with the spirit of that convention. I hope that the Minister was paying attention to my question so that he can reply to it. There is a customs arrangement in relation to the Isle of Man, and it seems to me that there is a danger that the Government
Column 703of the Isle of Man may well feel forced to react to this tax by imposing a similar tax within their jurisdiction. Again, I hope that the Minister is paying attention and that he will be able to respond to that point.
There have been speeches from Labour Members on behalf of the highlands and islands, and I have been pleased to refer to the interests of the people who go to and from the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. Many of those people reside in the United Kingdom and they will take note that it is a Conservative Government who are imposing the tax, and I hope that that will be remembered in future. The tax will also affect those who use Liverpool airport to go to the Isle of Man. The fares for students from Liverpool to Douglas will increase by 25 per cent. as a result of the tax, and that will have an impact in Douglas and at Liverpool Speke airport.
I am also aware that there have been no speeches in the debate from hon. Members from Northern Ireland, none of whom is present. I hope that it will be noted in the six counties that Labour Members have spoken up against the tax on behalf of the people, not just of the mainland but of the six counties of Northern Ireland. The airports at Belfast, Belfast City and the new airport at Derry, or Londonderry, will be hit by the impact of the tax, and the beneficiaries of that will be airport enterprises in Dublin. That will be the effect of the tax, and the Minister should be aware of that, having previously been a Northern Ireland Minister. It will put at a grave disadvantage those whose incomes and enterprises depend on their work at the Northern Ireland airports.
Mr. Andrew Smith : We have had a full and thorough debate on the issue, thanks to the excellent speeches of my hon. Friends who have launched a battery of attacks on the iniquities and the administrative burdens of the tax.
There has been a special emphasis and strength of feeling throughout on the position of the Scottish islands, and the damage which the tax would inflict on their economy, culture and family visits. There is one significant point of which the House and the country will want to take note. There have been speeches from around 14 Labour Members, six Conservative Members--that stretches it, because two of them were not happy with the tax and one was the independent hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason)--and two speeches from Liberal Democrat Members. Is not it extraordinary that, on an issue which so concerns the people of the highlands and islands of Scotland, not for one instant have we heard the sound or seen the sight of the Scottish National party? When the people for whom it claims to speak needed it to speak on their behalf, it was absent and that fact will not be lost on the electorate of Scotland. The imposition of the tax is damaging to communities that depend on air transport for a lifeline. It is bad for the airline industry and it imposes an administrative burden which, in any other circumstances, Conservative Members would describe as a job-killer. The legislation shows every sign of having been rushed forward without the consultation which should have taken place. The Government have no mandate for this poll tax on wings, and we shall be pressing our amendment to a vote.
Column 70410 pm
Sir John Cope : We have had a long and sometimes repetitive debate running over many of the points that arise from the air passenger duty. I spoke about some of those points in my opening speech. Other points will arise later in the Standing Committee stage, as will some of the same ones.
All sorts of things have been mentioned, including Daedalus and Icarus, referred to by the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Enright). I was not sure whether I was cast as Icarus or Daedalus, but never mind--he moved on to Sunday trading fairly quickly. That did not seem to matter.
The first point that I wish to make is that consultation on the air passenger duty has not finished. Some hon. Members tried to make out that it had. Quite a few hon. Members quoted the letter from the chairman of British Airways. That letter was part of the consultation process with British Airways. One of the arguments that hon. Members made in quoting that letter was in favour of a sales tax. They argued that it would be easier to collect. That is wrong. It would be more difficult to collect and control, particularly when sales took place outside the United Kingdom.
The taxable event would be outside United Kingdom jurisdiction. It would be difficult to collect the tax from a large number of traders who have no presence and no business in the United Kingdom It would mean, in turn, that the tax would bite more heavily on United Kingdom citizens because foreign travellers who purchased their tickets outside the United Kingdom could escape the charge.
Many other points were raised in the debate, including transfer passengers, stopovers and so on. If hon. Members care to consult clause 30, they will see that the detailed arrangements for connected flights, and the definitions which affect the matter, will be found in secondary legislation, about which we are also consulting. All sorts of other combinations of flights were also mentioned by various hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Stevenson). They are summarised in the document that was issued on Budget day, but the detailed arrangements will be found in the secondary legislation in due course. We even had a reference to air miles, which are simply another way of paying for a ticket. Such tickets will be dealt with in the same way as any other.
Many more detailed points came up--
Mr. Wilson : Will the Minister give way?
Sir John Cope : I will not give way to the hon. Gentleman. He spoke earlier and I gave way to him in my opening speech.
Mr. Andrew Smith : Will the right hon. Gentleman now give me the assurance that he refused to give earlier? Will he assure the House that the Government, who have no mandate for the air passenger duty, will not raise the tax before the next general election?
Sir John Cope : I said clearly earlier in the debate that we believe that we have set the right rate for the tax. Of course, as the hon. Gentleman and the House know perfectly well, I shall not forecast future Budgets.
Column 705The hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) made a point about children, particularly children under two. We shall use the airlines' definition. I am sure that that is the best thing to do. There was--
Mr. Wilson : Will the Minister give way?
Sir John Cope : I will not give way. There was a series of other points--
Mr. Wilson : Will the Minister give way?
The Chairman : Order. The hon. Member who has the Floor is not giving way. That must be painfully obvious to the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson). I should be grateful if he would recognise that fact. Perhaps I may also say that the House should listen to the Paymaster General, who is responding to some interesting speeches made this evening.
Sir John Cope : Several other detailed points were raised which will come up during discussions in the Standing Committee. Several hon. Members spoke about the Scottish islands. I referred to them at the beginning of the debate. The matter will also come up later.
Mr. Wilson : Will the Minister give way?
Sir John Cope : No, I will not.
In all the speeches made by Labour Members this evening, no one responded to the point that I made about Labour's interest in such taxes, expressed in the London Policy Forum headed by the hon. Member for Peckham (Ms Harman). The report clearly said :
"Labour will consider introducing an airport tax such as that levied in many other countries."
At another stage, it said :
"This could mean examining options such as a tourism tax". That is another of the attacks that has been made on the tax. Her Front-Bench colleagues seemed not to listen to the hon. Member for Peckham's views in that report, but she may find that the Government have listened to her more on this occasion.
I reject the amendment, but we will consider much of the detail that has been raised during further debates later in Committee. Question put, That the amendment be made :--
The Committee divided : Ayes 278, Noes 312.
Division No. 94] [10.4 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane
Adams, Mrs Irene
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret
Beith, Rt Hon A. J.
Bennett, Andrew F.
Berry, Dr. Roger
Bray, Dr Jeremy
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E)
Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, D. N.
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry)
Clark, Dr David (South Shields)
Column 706Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Corston, Ms Jean
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)
Donohoe, Brian H.
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Ms Angela
Evans, John (St Helens N)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Don (Bath)
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Godman, Dr Norman A.
Golding, Mrs Llin
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Harman, Ms Harriet
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)
Home Robertson, John
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Johnston, Sir Russell
Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)
Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Mo n)
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S)
Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)
Khabra, Piara S.
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil (Islwyn)
Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Lynne, Ms Liz
Maddock, Mrs Diana
Marek, Dr John
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe)
Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)
O'Brien, William (Normanton)