Rates of Duty

Clause 14 – in the House of Commons at 9:45 pm on 3rd April 1995.

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Photo of Denis MacShane Denis MacShane , Rotherham 9:45 pm, 3rd April 1995

I beg to move amendment No. 83, in page 10, line 13, after 'State', insert 'or Cyprus or Malta'.

The amendment deals with the transport by air from this country to two Commonwealth nations that lie within the European geographical area: Cyprus and Malta.

Some 50 years ago, the air over Malta was full of aeroplanes—those of the Nazi Luftwaffe trying to crush that little island out of existence. Britain owes a debt to Malta and, as we celebrate VE day, the Bill provides the House with an opportunity to give the people of Malta a small present by reducing from £10 to £5 the air passenger duty that British holidaymakers must pay when they fly to Malta.

10 pm

As hon. Members may know, we have two rates of air passenger duty: £5 for the European Union and the European Economic Area; and £10 for the rest of the world. The amendment simply proposes that, as Commonwealth countries, Malta and Cyprus should be treated on an equal footing with the European Union in that regard and people travelling by air from the United Kingdom to either Malta or Cyprus should pay only £5 in air passenger duty.

The sum involved is minimal. Some 500,000 holidaymakers from the UK go to Malta each year and a little under 1 million go to Cyprus, so the Cypriot tourist industry is suffering. To make that concession just to Malta holidaymakers would cost less than the share options to be exercised by the chairman of the National Grid. Given that this is a chance to pay a practical tribute to the Maltese people by encouraging our citizens to go on holiday to Malta, I ask all hon. Members to vote for the amendment.

Photo of David Heathcoat-Amory David Heathcoat-Amory , Wells

I hate to disappoint the hon. Gentleman—[HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] Actually, that is not true; I do not mind disappointing the hon. Gentleman because this is not one of his brainier schemes. In Committee, he had the idea of exempting all members of the Council of Europe from the full rate of air passenger duty. That was rejected, and I invite my hon. Friends to do the same to this amendment.

The £5 rate of duty was originally restricted to European Union countries as they are easily identifiable. That is an important consideration because travel agents and airlines around the world will have to administer the duty and distinguish between the £10 and £5 rates, so we chose the European Union as a readily identifiable group of countries. We then extended the rate to the European Economic Area because, by law, we must extend to it privileges of that nature granted to the European Union. There we must stop, however, because there is no clear case for singling out Malta and Cyprus, brave and plucky though at least one of them may have been during the second world war.

The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that a relief may come the way of those two countries as both have applied to join the European Union. If and when they succeed in doing so, they will qualify for the £5 rate of air passenger duty. I would rather leave it to the forces of time and history to grant them that privilege than do so this evening in the House.

Amendment negatived.