Budget Bill: Second Stage

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 8:30 pm on 9th February 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP 8:30 pm, 9th February 2016

I thank the Member for his intervention. Of course, it is not a black hole in our finances in so far as we have the money coming towards us. What the Member perhaps means is that we get more from Westminster than we raise in taxation, and that is absolutely right. One of the ways in which we fix that problem, or try to improve it, is by growing our economy and the private sector. It will be exceptionally difficult for us to completely bridge that gap, because when you have a capital city the size of London, where, I think, £1 out of every £7 in taxation comes from, with the growth that is there, it will always be difficult for other regions. I think that only London, the south-east and the eastern region are net contributors to the UK economy whereby more money is brought in through taxation than is spent on public services. We need to fix that. We also need to make sure that we grow our private sector and that we have more jobs and opportunities, which I will come to later, so that we can also reduce the size of the welfare state, take people off welfare and make sure that they are in work instead.

One of the reasons why I support the Budget is that I believe that it is a continuation of the positive policies that have helped us in Northern Ireland over the last number of years. What have the Executive been able to do? Let us first look at rates. The Executive have used the lever that we have for rates to help our economy and business here: 4,437properties have benefited from industrial derating. Business regional rates here have increased at a much lower rate than in the rest of the UK, and 35,600 properties have benefited from the small business rate relief scheme. That is to be welcomed because it has helped our small businesses, and I am glad that we will continue it.

What else have we done? We have used the rates tools available to us, but we have also invested in infrastructure. As a Member representing East Antrim, I am absolutely delighted at what the Executive have delivered on infrastructure. If you now want to visit Larne or Carrickfergus, you will be able to get there in a very short time, thanks to the massive investment that we have had in those projects. Of course, we see that in other parts of the Province as well since devolution returned. The road to Dungannon, which is, I think, the A4, the A5 and the A6 are other transport corridors that will benefit from Executive investment. So, we need to continue that investment in infrastructure.

In addition, look at what we have been able to do on tax with some of the powers that we have. It is good that we have devolved corporation tax, as it is another tool that we now have. We can say that we have a date and a rate, and we can go out there and sell that to businesses and investors.

On air passenger duty, I have used the United service from Belfast to Newark a number of times, and it is good that we have been able to maintain that service because of the devolution of air passenger duty on long-haul flights. I would say to the Minister and his successor, the next Economy Minister, that it is imperative that action be taken on air passenger duty across the whole of the UK. I do not believe that we can sort out that issue ourselves, but it would be of benefit not only to us but to the whole of the United Kingdom if the Westminster Government realised that that is a tax that we should not have.

I look at the example of the Netherlands. It brought in air passenger duty for, I think, only a year or two. It raised over €300 million as part of that duty, but it is estimated to have cost its economy €1·2 billion. I therefore urge the next Executive to ensure that we push the Government to get rid of that tax across the whole of the United Kingdom, because I believe that that would be of benefit to the whole of the United Kingdom. We need a hub airport in the UK, and we need to increase our aviation capacity in the south-east, and that should not be going to Amsterdam, Frankfurt or anywhere else.