Ritchie in call for VAT cut for tourism sector

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Monday, February 17th, 2014
SDLP MP for South Down Margaret Ritchie has called for the Treasury to immediately reduce the rate of VAT on tourism sector following her Westminster debate on the issue. Speaking after the debate, which received wide cross-party support, Ritchie said, “This debate demonstrated the strength of feeling on this issue. “The tourism industry is central to our economy in Northern Ireland and has enormous potential for growth. Unfortunately the British government’s policy of a high rate of VAT, combined with excessive APD charges, has left our local industry at a distinct disadvantage. “The Treasury’s own modelling shows that a VAT cut for the sector would generate jobs, raise revenue and support local businesses who have faced very difficult times since the financial crisis. This measure would also go some way to addressing the current youth unemployment crisis given the high proportion of young people who find employment in the tourism sector. “We have developed a strong all-island tourist market in Ireland, and visitors are largely blind to the border. Sadly, the only barrier to them travelling across the island is the excessive charges they face in the North as a result of the poor support given to the tourist industry by the British government,” she insisted. “The Irish government are light years ahead on the issue and have seen an enormous benefit in terms of jobs and visitor numbers as a result of cutting their sales tax to 9%. To develop our own market and build a fully all-island tourist economy we need to be operating on the same playing field. “It was extremely encouraging to hear MPs from across the House speak up in favour of this measure, but equally disappointing to hear the Treasury Minister dismiss the case so quickly. The UK is the only EU member state that do not offer some form of cut to any part of their tourism industry and Northern Ireland is suffering because of this. Ritchie added, “This government spend a lot of time complaining about the constraints and restraints of the EU well, here is the perfect chance to offer flexibility and they are refusing to take it.”
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