The Government has been told to stop “dithering” over its plans for Northern Ireland's corporation tax rate.
Labour's Vernon Coaker has gone on the offensive over the economy — and branded Secretary of State Theresa Villiers and her predecessor Owen Paterson “out of touch”.
Giving his first conference address as Northern Ireland spokesman, the north Londoner urged the coalition Government to “catch itself on” with spiralling youth unemployment.
He told supporters in Manchester: “No job, no hope and no future are no choices at all for Northern Ireland's young people.”
He also pledged that a Labour Government would have |convened cross-party talks on dealing with the legacy of the past.
Mr Coaker was given a standing ovation from sections of the part-full arena yesterday on the closing day of the Labour conference.
Mr Coaker said: “What makes Northern Ireland so special is its people. But they are being let down by this Tory-led Government. One out-of-touch Secretary of State has been replaced by another. But changing the Tory faces at the Northern Ireland Office isn’t what counts. They need to change the Tory policies on Northern Ireland.”
A year ago, then Shadow Secretary of State Shaun Woodward came under fire from Northern Ireland's business leaders after an outspoken attack on the corporation tax plans.
Yesterday his successor struck a different tone, instead highlighting the lack of progress — although Labour has yet to confirm whether it backs the plans.
“After two years of talking about devolving corporation tax powers to Northern Ireland there is still no agreement about whether it should happen and what it would cost. And with estimates of the cost to the block grant varying from £200m to £700m, there is still a significant gap between the Treasury and the Executive that needs to be bridged.
“But rising unemployment and major job losses show that Northern Ireland’s economy can’t wait. The Tory-led Government needs to catch itself on. The Secretary of State and the Treasury need to stop dithering. Northern Ireland needs action now.”