With the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer’s budget statement taking place on 23rd March 2011, the Honourable Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism, has announced that they are “remaining hopeful” the UK will amend the banding structure for Air Passenger Duty (APD).
Speaking in London about the issues related to APD, Minister Bartlett said that he welcomed comments made recently by the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Justine Greening MP. At a recent adjournment debate on APD and the Caribbean, Ms Greening said that the UK government recognised the importance of the “strong ties” that exist between the UK and the Caribbean countries.
Since the announcement of the revised APD system in 2008, Caribbean governments, the Caribbean Tourism Organisation and the UK-Caribbean Diaspora have been campaigning against the discriminatory nature of the four band system.
The Caribbean is one of the most tourism dependent regions in the world, and has been arguing that the tax will severely impact upon tourism arrivals from the UK to the Caribbean, as well as being particularly damaging to UK voters in the Caribbean community. It has put forward alternative proposals highlighting how a simpler two band system could be revenue neutral for the UK Treasury while encouraging more environmentally friendly forms of travel where there are alternatives to flying.
Mr Bartlett said he: “recognised the valuable support provided by British parliamentarians in both Houses, in particular through the British Caribbean All Party Parliamentary Group chaired by Diane Abbott MP.”
He went on to say: “I’m delighted that the UK branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association has taken the issue up with the UK Government and to hear that the Chairman of the CPA UK Executive Committee, Sir Alan Haselhurst MP, has written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer about APD and the Caribbean”.
Speaking about the Jamaican community in the UK he said that they were united on the issue. The Diaspora has been lobbying their constituency MPs to ensure that its concerns were well represented in parliament. He said he has been told by community activists that they are “ramping up their campaign” so that there can be no mistake about the strength of feeling in the Caribbean community.
On the subject of the March 23 budget, Mr Bartlett said: “The UK government said that it will consult on any major changes to APD. It is my hope that on 23 March a change to the current structure is proposed and that all interested parties will then have the opportunity to consult on the proposed changes. It would be great to see a revised system that affords fair treatment to all countries implemented as soon as possible”. Mr Bartlett continued: “Jamaica’s government will be looking closely at the UK’s response in respect of the Caribbean”.