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The Queen’s Speech to Parliament confirmed government plans for a speedy move to a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union and devolution of tax-raising powers to Scotland
The government plans an EU Referendum Bill to pave the way for an in/out vote on the EU, possibly as early as next year.
A Scotland Bill will give the Scottish Parliament control of 40% of the country’s tax and 60% of its public spending budget, allowing Holyrood to set the rate of Air Passenger Duty (APD).
The Scottish National Party (SNP) which dominates Scotland’s Parliament has already pledged to cut APD by 50% from Scottish airports as soon as it has the power.
Airport Operators Association chief executive Darren Caplan called for any cut to be extended across the UK.
Caplan said: “The Scottish Government has been clear that once the power to set APD rates is devolved it intends to reduce the tax by 50%, with a view to abolishing it altogether later.
“Whilst we support any reduction, such action must be replicated across the UK to ensure passengers and airports outside Scotland are not put at a disadvantage.”
He added: “During the general election David Cameron clearly stated that a reduction in APD north of the border would distort competition and damage airports and businesses in the rest of the UK if not matched.
“A cut anywhere must be matched by the same reduction everywhere.”
The Queen’s Speech also confirmed government plans for a National Insurance Contributions and Finance Bill in line with a Conservative election pledge that there would be no rises in income tax, VAT or national insurance before 2020.
An Enterprise Bill will aim to cut £10-billion worth of red tape on business, with a new Small Business Conciliation Service designed to help settle disputes between small and large businesses, especially over late payments.
The speech also referred to plans to improve the business rates system ahead of a revaluation in 2017.
And it confirmed the government’s determination to press ahead with the ‘HS2’ £50 billion high-speed rail link.
Work on the first phase of HS2 between London and Birmingham should begin in 2017.
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