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Simon Kirby MP: A Labour tourism tax would damage seats such as mine in Brighton

Simon Kirby is the Member of Parliament for Brighton Kemptown and Peacehaven.  Follow Simon on Twitter.

Screen shot 2013-08-15 at 11.21.16It'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 generated turnover.

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.


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