Stormont 'should set NI tax rates'
Published 15/10/2012 | 16:52
The Government has come under pressure in the House of Lords to give the Northern Ireland assembly the power to set its own corporation tax rates.
A joint ministerial working group on rebalancing the Province's economy is considering the issue and is likely to conclude its discussions soon.
Bombardier, Northern Ireland's biggest private sector employer, called for power over corporation tax to be transferred to Stormont - a move that would allow the current rate of 24% to be brought closer into line with the Republic of Ireland's rate of 12.5%.
The plea was echoed by peers including former secretary of state for the province Lord Reid of Cardowan and former leader of the Ulster Unionists Lord Empey.
At question time in the House of Lords, Labour's Lord Reid asked: "Will the Government bear in mind that Northern Ireland truly is a unique case - not only because of its border with another sovereign state, which is the only nation in the United Kingdom to have one - but because of the decades of very difficult and danger circumstances through which the people there have come?
"And also because of this ultra-high dependence on the public expenditure both in terms of the economy and employment. Will the Government at least look for some additional spark to move the dynamism of the private sector in Northern Ireland to the benefit of all the people there."
Lord Empey said: "The case for devolution for these powers is stronger than equivalent demands from the Scottish Government."
He urged the Government not to be influenced by the campaign for Scottish independence when making their decision.
Liberal Democrat Lord Alderdice, former speaker of the Northern Ireland assembly, called for an assurance that the interests of the people of the province would not be set aside because of "excessive rigidities" from the Treasury or "inappropriate comparisons with other parts of the United Kingdom which do not have and I trust will continue not to have an international frontier".
Lord Newby, answering for the Government, said the joint ministerial working group was currently examining the "issues associated with potential devolution of corporation tax".