Wednesday, 26 January 2011
Finance Bill 2011: Committee Stage
Pearse Doherty (Donegal South West, Sinn Fein)
Yes but this is where we introduce aspects into law. The budget proposals will not mean anything for Ryanair or Aer Lingus, and it will not change the signals to those who want to come to this country. That will be affected by what we decide to introduce into legislation. The amendment looks to put into legislation an airport travel tax of €2, which Fine Gael would secure if the Government accepted the amendment.
The Deputy is correct in that it would send out the wrong signals to the tourist. This is a sector with the potential to reach significant numbers of people and create jobs. God above has provided assets for this country that we have not exploited properly, including our scenery, cultural tourism, language and the hospitality and good nature of Irish people. We must tap into the goodwill within the Irish diaspora to help the country regain its position in the eyes of the world. There is much potential in the tourism sector. I will not focus any more on Fine Gael bar to say that if we are to have an election debate, we must be honest with people. There is no point saying that the airport tax will be scrapped while at the same time introducing an amendment fixing a €2 rate.
The Minister's reduction of the rate to €3 does not go far enough. We should be clear that the airport travel tax should be scrapped, as this would not just be revenue neutral but would benefit the Exchequer because of an increased tourist flow to the State. It must be acknowledged that the amendment presented by the Government is an acknowledgement that introducing a travel tax of €10 was wrong. This is acknowledged through the amendment put before the House.
The Government may not be in a position next year to introduce a budget to correct the wrongs of this budget. Just as it was wrong to introduce a €10 charge, which is being acknowledged in the amendment, it is equally wrong to introduce the €3 charge. I know, coming from the north west, the impact of the downturn of the numbers of tourists coming to the region. Other measures in the Finance Bill relate to increases in petrol and diesel, which were dealt with in section 39, but we must look at the Finance Bill as a unified piece of legislation. All these measures have an impact on tourists.