Belfast Telegraph

Jeremy Paxman at the President's Banquet

By Claire Williamson

Infamous political interviewer Jeremy Paxman was the guest speaker at the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce's annual President's Banquet at Titanic Belfast.

On Thursday night he provided the audience with a number of reflections and opinions on Northern Ireland where he was based as a reporter covering the Troubles in the 1970’s.

The award-winning journalist and author also spoke about the dramatic changes to the political and physical landscape since he left Northern Ireland after living there for three years.

The annual event brings together more than 550 members of the local business community.

The message delivered by the President of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce Kevin Kingston and Industry NI Chamber was the Executive must embrace corporation tax powers so as business can deliver game changing private sector growth.

Dignitaries present at the event included Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon, Chief Constable George Hamilton and the ministers for enterprise, trade and investment, finance and personnel, employment and learning and regional development. 

Speaking at the event, Mr Kingston said: “If the power to set and vary the rate of corporation tax is ultimately devolved, it will be the business community that will be charged with the responsibility of investing the additional capital released to employ more people, and create more wealth, and generate more tax.  

He continued: “The next few years are going to be difficult no matter what, but without the catalyst of Corporation Tax, we face a vicious circle of cuts and austerity - inevitably proving the point that we already know - that our private sector is simply too small to support the needs and aspirations of our people.”

“We will have to adapt to fill some of the gaps created by budgetary pressures. Added to this, is the size of the public sector, the challenge of welfare reform, the £800 million of austerity cuts and the investment needed to cut Corporation Tax, were we to get the power. Cuts are an inescapable reality in the short term, but shrinking our way out of the problem will not work in the long run - we have to grow our future.  The crucial point when it comes to the Corporation Tax decision is that, unlike austerity cutbacks, it is an investment in the private sector to grow new opportunities and to put new jobs on the ground for all of our communities.”  

Mr Kingston concluded: “Whilst there is an acknowledgement that the power to set and vary Corporation Tax is not a silver bullet that will regenerate the Northern Ireland economy overnight, there is an acceptance that it could be transformational over time, delivering game changing private sector growth.”

The NI Chamber President’s Banquet was supported by BT, Carson McDowell, 4c Executive Search and the Keys Group.

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