Belfast Telegraph

Friday 31 October 2014

Robinson hopes for deal on economy

Peter Robinson is hoping for a deal on an economic pact with the UK Government

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson has said he hopes there will be agreement on an economic pact with the UK Government later this week.

A substantial new package is being created by ministers in London and Belfast, the Northern Ireland Secretary has told Westminster.

The Government is looking at measures to encourage enterprise, boost infrastructure and improve access to bank finance, according to Theresa Villiers.

Mr Robinson told the Stormont Assembly: "The key element in terms of Friday of this week, if that is the date that we can get the pact agreed with Her Majesty's Government, the key element of course is not just the commitment that they will definitely take a decision (on corporation tax) in the autumn of 2014, but as important to us is that there is a positive decision and it would be implemented during the term of this coalition Government."

The Government has promised to make a decision on devolving the power to lower corporation tax to Northern Ireland by autumn next year after the Scottish independence referendum.

Advocates of the change argue it could allow the region to compete with the Republic of Ireland for foreign direct investment but any reduction could be linked to a reduction in the block grant from Westminster for public spending by Stormont.

Mr Robinson said: "There will, I hope, be a number of features to the pact that is presently being discussed with the Prime Minister and Secretary of State.

"If our key focus has been on corporation tax, the big issue - and I suppose the measure of success or failure - will be whether there is a commitment that the tax-setting powers, if they are to be granted by the Government in the autumn of 2014, will be implemented during this term. That was not the case when we last met with the Prime Minister. It was one of the reasons for suspension (of talks) to allow further consideration of that."

Stormont Finance Minister Sammy Wilson said he hoped the economic pact would put in place interim arrangements to deal with some of the economic difficulties facing Northern Ireland over the next number of years while waiting for a decision on corporation tax.

Ms Villiers has said Stormont's Executive should develop economic and social measures, including work on a shared future. She said in April: "Put simply, it is a two-way street - the greater the Executive's ambition, the more the UK Government will be able to help."

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