LONDON — The likely review of the British Government’s Airline Passenger Duty (APD) has been cited as a good example of what can be achieved when the UK Caribbean community in the United Kingdom (UK) works together.
Conservative Member of Parliament, Julian Smith told the Caribbean Question Time meeting in London on Tuesday night (June 21), that the lobbying by nationals of the region in the UK is likely to solve the problem of the inequality of the tax measure.
The APD is an excise duty paid by airline passengers travelling from UK airports. The tax is levied according to groups of countries and by the class of travel used.
Jamaica and other Caribbean Governments have lobbied against anomalies in how the APD is structured, because flights to the Caribbean attract a higher tax than flights to the United States, which are further away.
Caribbean tourism and government officials, including Jamaica’s Prime Minister, the Hon. Bruce Golding; and Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, have had meetings with British ministers on the matter, who have made representation in Parliament.
Finance Minister George Osborne, in May, announced the launch of a consultation on the APD “to achieve a tax system for aviation that is fair, simple, and efficient. The consultation period, which ended June 17, considered the views and evidence submitted by interested stakeholders.
The consultation document made it clear that any restructuring of APD will be achieved on a revenue-neutral basis.
Former Labour Member of Parliament for Brent, Dawn Butler, who also addressed the meeting of Caribbean nationals, urged them to remain vigilant, noting that while changes to the APD may solve the issues of inequality, the duty could prove to be even more expensive.
Other issues raised during the meeting included the planned increase in tuition fees for universities and its likely impact on black students; the effects of new UK immigration regulations on Caribbean nationals; and increasing the political influence of the UK Caribbean community.
On the issue of education, Chaplin to the Speaker in the House of Representatives, Rev. Rose Hudson Wilkins, said the community needs to take more responsibility for educating their children and make “serious sacrifices” for their welfare.
She also called on business owners in the community to do more to provide scholarships, work experience and internships for young people.
Other panellists were Labour Member of Parliament for Tottenham, David Lammy; Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament (MP), Councillor Mike Tuffey on the Greater London Assembly.
Caribbean Question Time is a series of meetings organised by the Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS), which provide an avenue for Caribbean nationals in the UK to dialogue with their political representatives, share their views, and get answers about community issues from key political and civic leaders.
This is the second year that the JNBS is staging the meetings and similar sessions are scheduled for Manchester, Nottingham, and Birmingham.
The London meeting was chaired by General Manager of the JNBS UK, Paulette Simpson, while attorney-at-law Courtenay Griffiths QC moderated.
By VIVIENNE SIVA, JIS Reporter