Peter Robinson has warned that corporation tax powers will not be devolved to Northern Ireland until at least 2016 — but he remains hopeful it will happen.
The DUP leader and First Minister said that even if the Prime Minister does give Stormont the power to set its own business tax rate, it would take years to implement changes to the computer systems and introduce legislation.
David Cameron is currently considering a final report outlining the financial options this week.
Mr Robinson made the comments in a wide-ranging interview with the Belfast Telegraph ahead of his party conference this weekend.
The DUP leader also stated:
- His commitment to delivering shared education, but said SDLP and Sinn Fein “won’t sign up for it”.
- He attacked the Alliance Party for holding up the publication of the long-awaited strategy on Cohesion, Sharing and Integration.
- He said that when hard decisions have to be taken, Sinn Fein leaves the DUP “on our own”.
- He said there is “no void” in the current abortion legislation in Northern Ireland.
- He said the G8 would not have come to Northern Ireland had it not been for the work of the Executive.
- He insists he will lead the DUP into the next Assembly elections.
Mr Robinson pledged to keep his party moving in the more liberal direction he outlined last year. Then he said the DUP aimed to be a centre right party, attractive to Catholics as well as Protestants and supportive of integrated education.
“That is still the right way to go.
The party has grown as a result of the position it has adopted so we will keep the same direction,” he said.
When asked whether he would stay on past the next Assembly election, Mr Robinson said: “At 63 coming on 64, obviously I have to start thinking about the end of my career, but there is a lot of work still to be done and I am pretty sure that carries into the next term.”
On the issue of abortion, he said that the risk of suicide is a valid reason for the termination of pregnancy under the law. He added that pregnancy through rape and incest, and foetal abnormality, should be factors in a doctor’s decision-making on whether to perform an abortion.
“This is a very sensitive issue. I believe that if there is any danger to the life of a mother, whether that is a mental health danger or straightforward physical danger, then that must be taken into account,” Mr Robinson said.
He added: “Where there is any risk to the life of a mother it is permissible under existing law to carry out an abortion. I would have thought that threats of suicide are a fairly clear indicator of risk to life.”
He believes that abortion guidelines, currently being prepared by Health Minister Edwin Poots, should reflect the fact that the law allowed this.
Mr Robinson also spoke of improved relations with Sinn Fein.
In his keynote speech on Saturday, he will set out the economic and social achievement of the power-sharing administration.