Northern Ireland

Hamilton seeks reduced VAT rate for hospitality sector

DUP MLA Simon Hamilton is calling on the Treasury to consider reducing the rate of VAT for some tourism-related services in the UK, especially in Northern Ireland.

He is bringing forward a motion in the assembly on Monday to debate the issue.

Mr Hamilton said a reduced rate would have a "tremendously beneficial impact" on the economy.

He said a cut to 5% could create more than 3,000 jobs and help achieve tourism targets set by the executive.

"I am bringing this motion to the floor of the assembly today to press the executive to make serious representations to HM Treasury in London that we need a reduction in the VAT rate for the hospitality sector right across the UK and especially in Northern Ireland," he said.

"The evidence from around Europe where 13 member states, including the Irish Republic, have reduced VAT for restaurants and catering services is that whilst there is a natural initial reduction in the overall tax take, in the long-term the benefits to the economy flow with trade up, new businesses opened, jobs created and other tax revenues rising.

"The executive has invested massively in our tourism infrastructure with the likes of Titanic Belfast and the new visitor centre at the Giant's Causeway and Northern Ireland's tourism potential is undoubted. Just think what it would do to the sector to have a reduced rate of VAT as well."

'Pivotal sector'

Mr Hamilton said a "vibrant and healthy" hospitality sector was essential to the economy.

"Our land border with the Irish Republic - and it's recently reduced VAT rate - puts us at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to the VAT that our pubs, hotels and restaurants across Northern Ireland have to pay.

"A reduced rate would mean that this cut could be passed on to customers or used to upgrade facilities to improve the tourism offer.

"With the coalition government at Westminster talking about refocusing on economic growth, this is the sort of stimulus measure they should seriously consider as a means to create jobs and boost a pivotal sector in our economy.

"The executive recognises that being competitive is at the centre of rebalancing our economy and any influence we can exert on Her Majesty's Treasury to make this a reality must be taken."