Belfast Telegraph

Enterprise Minister's plea over key foreign investment

By John Mulgrew

Northern Ireland must set a date and rate for corporation tax and ensure it returns to a stable government in order to attract key foreign investment here, the Enterprise Minister has said.

Jonathan Bell said the entire business community "without exception" wanted to see a stable government at Stormont.

He was speaking to the Belfast Telegraph after his own party, the DUP, pulled the plug on future Executive meetings following the exit of the Ulster Unionists.

Decision-making at the top of the Stormont government has ended up grinding to a halt, with politicians engaging in talks with both Secretary of State Theresa Villiers and Irish Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan in an attempt to resolve the deadlock.

"There's a real interest in Northern Ireland. We are attracting more foreign direct investment (FDI) into Northern Ireland than any other part of the UK," Mr Bell said.

"All of the companies without exception are saying they want a stable government.

"Business relies on confident and stable government. If we can offer that stable government then we can continue the trajectory we are on.

"We are speaking to companies who are looking to invest in Northern Ireland, because we have young people, very willing to work and we just need to build on that trajectory upwards."

And on the devolution of corporation tax, Mr Bell said companies say they "will invest immediately" if a lower rate and implementation date are finally worked out.

The devolution of corporation tax to the Northern Ireland Assembly has already gone through Westminster, but it's dependent on agreement over welfare reform and the Stormont House Agreement.

"Businesses are telling us, give us the date and give us the rate. Companies are saying, if you can get that, we will invest immediately, we won't wait," Mr Bell said.

Belfast Telegraph