Belfast Telegraph

Shaun Woodward to hit out at corporation tax cut ‘risk’

Former Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward will today attack the planned cut in corporation tax, branding it a "huge gamble".

Speaking at the Labour conference in Liverpool, the party's Northern Ireland spokesman will distance himself from the Coalition government's proposal to devolve the power to Stormont.

He will also accuse the coalition of "careless cuts" that have left one in five young people jobless, accuse ministers of stalling over the Bill of Rights promised in the Good Friday Agreement, and call for an immediate inquiry into the death of solicitor Pat Finucane.

A decision is expected in the coming weeks on whether to allow the Assembly to set its own rate of corporation tax, in order to allow Northern Ireland to compete with the lower rates in the Republic.

Conservative Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson has thrown his weight behind the policy, as part of a package aimed at "rebalancing the Northern Irish economy".

Mr Woodward, who today accuses Mr Paterson of denying access to Downing Street to the First and Deputy First Ministers "as a badge of honour", will back this week's intervention by George Osborne on air passenger duty, but say that the planned corporation tax could "make a bad situation worse" because of the corresponding reduction in the block grant.

Finance Minister Sammy Wilson recently said any cut in duty would be four years away, and Mr Woodward is calling for a more immediate solution.

He will say: "We share the ambition to rebalance the economy in Northern Ireland.

"We need to know that the price won't just be paid in the jobs of those - who through the years of the Troubles -never walked away."

On the possible Finucane inquiry, promised by former Prime Minister Tony Blair, Mr Woodward will warn the Government: "Beware of breaking your promises."

He will also tie his speech into Labour leader Ed Miliband's conference address, which received mixed reviews, in which he introduced the terms "new bargain" for his vision of the country.

Belfast Telegraph