Belfast Telegraph

More devolved powers call by NI21

NI21 has called for more devolved powers be handed to the Stormont Assembly.

The new political party, headed by former UUP MLAs Basil McCrea and John McAllister, said Northern Ireland should be allowed to set its own income tax and stamp duty.

At its inaugural party conference, leader Mr McCrea said such powers would allow local politicians to drive a strategy to kick start the local economy.

"Westminster is giving the regional assemblies more power to tailor policies that are in the best interests of their economies, and electorates," he told delegates.

"In Northern Ireland, apart from a narrow and so far fruitless debate about corporation tax and enterprise zones, we have not been part of this wider conversation."

Mr McCrea said the power to set taxes - and not just income tax and stamp duty - is any government's primary means for setting out a strategic direction for the economy.

"We desperately need access to those means," he said.

The NI21 leader said it would not be seeking "wholesale change" on income tax but would like to introduce measures for specific objectives.

"The prospect of devolving income tax will concentrate the minds of the politicians and the electorate a like," he said.

"It will provide a transparent link between the pound in your pocket and political decisions.

"This is normal politics."

Mr McCrea predicted the proposal would be opposed by unionists and welcomed by Sinn Fein.

But he warned it would make Stormont politicians more accountable and fit in with further devolved powers across the UK.

Mr McCrea said NI21 would mount a three-pronged campaign, based on being a viable alternative to established parties, devolving fiscal powers and changing Northern Ireland's political institutions.

The party believes in a social market economy, which is pro-business and expects the economy to improve the lives of all individuals in society, he said.

It also wants to establish an official Opposition in the Assembly, rename the Office of the First Minister and D eputy First Minister as the Office of the Joint First Ministers, and allow for the election of the Assembly Speaker by secret ballot.


From Belfast Telegraph