IAN Paisley, the MP for North Antrim, was the only Northern Ireland politician to present a petition signed by his constituents to the House of Commons opposing the 20% rise in VAT for static caravan holiday homes.
Mr Paisley, one of 30 MPs to present petitions from their constituents, has long been fighting for the government to reverse their decision on introducing the tax, which was announced in the latest budget by Chancellor George Osborne.
Mr Paisley says the scheme could have a big impact in North Antrim.
He views the petition, which was signed by constituents from all over North Antrim, as an “important step in the process of getting this unnecessary and ill-thought out tax removed.”
The VAT rise has been met with cross-party opposition since its announcement and Mr Paisley has been conducting a thorough campaign alongside MPs from both sides of the house. Critics claim that the plan will cost thousands of jobs across the UK and believe it is unlikely to generate sufficient revenue for the Treasury to justify its introduction.
Mr Paisley says North Antrim will be significantly affected by the rise, as the North coast of the area boasts a healthy amount of caravan sites which are used and enjoyed by people from all over the country and beyond.
And he says the owners of one of North Antrim’s most prominent site, Ballyness caravan park in Bushmills, fear a rise in VAT could cost them sales of new caravans of up to 30%.
The move means a £30,000 caravan would increase in price to £36,000 and could discourage a significant amount of potential buyers. Mr Paisley is concerned that local businesses and infrastructure around the North Coast caravan sites would suffer due to a loss of tourism to the area.
Speaking after he presented the petition, Mr Paisley said: “The presentation of this petition is an important step in the process of getting this unnecessary and ill-thought out tax removed. The fact that we had 30 MPs from all parties present tonight including the Conservatives is key as this is one of their policies but it is apparent they do not have their whole delegation in agreement.
“This is a vital issue for me and for North Antrim. We have so many caravan parks especially around the North Coast areas of Portrush, Portstewart, Portballintrae and Castlerock. The list goes on and on but the important point to note here is that the local businesses and economy around these areas would suffer if this bill goes through.
“What we will see here is a large number of people who would have purchased caravans opting instead to holiday elsewhere as they cannot now afford them. The government needs to look at the bigger picture here. They will not be stimulating our economy through this VAT but rather punishing our local small businesses who they are relying on to push us out of this recession. They will be discouraging internal tourism, cutting spend to local suppliers and impacting upon jobs in 500 British industries in the supply chain.
“Stifling and cutting investment to our local towns and holiday destinations is not the way to cure our economic difficulties and I will continue to fight with velocity against this bill in Westminster,” said Mr Paisley.