Belfast Telegraph

Prosperity still key to peace: Balls

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls has said peace in Northern Ireland must be underpinned by prosperity - but suggested cutting corporation tax was not the sole means of securing such prosperity.

The Labour politician was speaking in Newry as a guest of the city's Chamber of Commerce, which is celebrating its 120th birthday. He was joined by Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Vernon Coaker .

Mr Balls said the Labour Party under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown had helped bring peace to Northern Ireland but that more needed to be done.

He said he had lunched with DUP First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy Prime Minister, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness, whose joint presence was a mark of the progress which had been made.

But Mr Balls added: "It's really, really important that there is no complacency as we are still at a very early stage in this process.

"We will make sure that progress on peace is underpinned and cemented by rising prosperity for all. That is the way to make peace more lasting for the future.

"We are as committed to delivering that prosperity, as committed as Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were. There is a collective responsibility, not one which London can walk away from."

He said the present UK government was not doing enough to assist Northern Ireland, which he said would benefit from measures such as a temporary cut in Vat or a national insurance holiday.

But he rejected the idea that giving the province extra help was perpetuating its long-term dependency on Westminster.

"I think that you've got to recognise one, that the euro crisis has hit Northern Ireland harder and that secondly, there are legacy issues from the Troubles which means that the challenge of getting jobs investment into Northern Ireland is tougher.

"Thirdly, parts of policy aren't devolved therefore the Vat rise, a decision made by the Chancellor in Westminster, had a very dramatic effect here in Northern Ireland. It was the wrong tax rise at the wrong time."

He described corporation tax as a "long-term issue". "We are open-minded but the reality is that this was a promise made by the Conservative Party before the election two years ago.

"There has been lots of talking but nothing has happened."

He added: "We should be acting to get the economy moving rather than sitting on our hands and having this debate."


The Shadow Chancellor wants to cut Vat to this amount in Labour's plans