Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 17 April 2014

DUP minister 'not at odds over tax'

Northern Ireland Finance Minister Sammy Wilson

Sammy Wilson has denied that he is at odds with his party over taxation.

The Finance Minister has warned the Assembly of the unstated dangers of engaging with the Treasury in altering how Northern Ireland's block grant is determined.

Yet the DUP's manifesto backs reducing VAT on construction work to 5% and slashing corporation tax.

Mr Wilson told an Assembly debate: "If the cost of a reduction in corporation tax is that we get an immediate hit on the block grant, which is bound to have an impact then on spending in Northern Ireland and on the move towards a recovery, that is not a price worth paying.

"It is not inconsistent with my party's position either where we have said that if we have leverage we would seek to negotiate the advantage which a reduction in corporation tax would bring without the cost being attached."

The DUP's manifesto wants to reduce the rate in line with the Republic of Ireland. Irish businesses pay the levy at 12.5% compared to 30% in Northern Ireland.

However, in a written Assembly answer published earlier this week, Mr Wilson said: "In the current UK fiscal environment, any engagement with HM Treasury which seeks to open the Northern Ireland block allocation could have very damaging consequences.

"For these reasons, and because HM Treasury has already declared its position by accepting the two Varney Reviews in full, I would advise against engaging further with HM Treasury on this issue at this point in time."

He dismissed criticism from Ulster Unionist David McNarry, who said at least one department had sought legal advice about the safety of the revised spending plans.

"This entire process illustrates a mismanaged department," he claimed.

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