Simon Kirby is the Member of Parliament for Brighton Kemptown and Peacehaven. Follow Simon on Twitter.
It's not often I feel the need to write to Ed
Miliband. Here in Brighton the sun is shining, hundreds of thousands of
visitors are spending money, and I am busy working hard as a local MP. For example, the last fortnight saw me supporting Brighton Pride, celebrating 130 years of the
Volk's Railway, picking litter off the beach, and attending the Rottingdean
Village Fair, to name but a few diary engagements. These all have one
thing in common: tourism.
Tourism is Britain’s fifth-largest
industry, our third-largest export earner, and worth about £115 billion a
year. It employs some 2.6 million people and supports over 200,000 SME’s. Overseas
visitors contribute £3 billion to the Treasury every year. Locally, tourism is worth a staggering £1
billion per year to Brighton & Hove's economy, and supports over 13,000 full-time-equivalent local jobs. According to
labour market statistics, there are 137,000 jobs in Brighton & Hove and, based
on City Council’s own report, around 14 per cent of these jobs are supported by tourism
Whilst Brighton has
worked hard to reinvent itself in a way that a number of other seaside towns
have sadly failed to do, I am always conscious of the need to keep Brighton competitive
and attractive to potential visitors to keep them coming to sample the many
excellent facilities the City has to offer. I was therefore very worried to hear that
Labour's front bencher Sadiq Khan was suggesting a tourism tax, which was how I
found myself in the unusual position of writing to Ed Miliband, asking him to
abandon Labour’s Tourism Tax policy.
Such a tax would have damaging implications,
particularly for businesses who rely on visitors for some or most of their
trade. In the current competitive environment we should be doing all we
can to encourage people to the UK, and I would certainly encourage people to
visit my constituency of Brighton Kemptown and Peacehaven. By introducing
punitive taxes on tourists, Labour will be driving people into the arms of other
grateful destinations and by doing so they would be doing great damage to an
important industry, employing many people up and down the country. It is a
disastrous policy idea and Labour should abandon it immediately.
I shall wait for a
response from Ed Miliband, but I won’t hold my breath.