Belfast Telegraph

Peter Robinson fumes at business tax delay

By Noel McAdam

Government moves to push back a verdict on corporation tax powers for the Assembly have come under fire from First Minister Peter Robinson.

The DUP leader conceded a new ‘taskforce’ announced by Secretary of State Owen Paterson last week is likely to delay a decision until the New Year.

But he reminded Assembly members yesterday that Chancellor George Osborne, on a visit to the province during the summer, said the decision would be made in the autumn. Mr Robinson, who will be taking part on the new committee along with the Deputy First Minister, John |O’Dowd or Martin McGuinness — if he loses the Irish presidential race — said he was “disappointed” by the further delays.

Mr Paterson’s announcement at the Conservative Party conference last week was viewed as a signal that he may be losing his battle with the Treasury over the corporation tax transfer.

Arguing the issue has become “more complicated” than he first realised, Mr Paterson appeared to be managing expectations even though Prime Minister David Cameron denied the Government is getting “cold feet”.

In response to a question from the SDLP’s Alban Maginness yesterday, Mr Robinson also reiterated that he did not detect any “lessening” of support from those who had been in favour of the move at Westminster.

“We will continue to press the Government for an early decision,” he said.

And despite signs of tension on the Executive — with Finance Minister Sammy Wilson saying a lower rate is unlikely to be implemented during this Assembly term — he told Mr Maginness he should be “under no doubt” about the level of support on the Executive for the measure.

The aim of the taskforce is to drill down into how much the handover of separate rights to Northern Ireland will cost the province in terms of the annual block grant. Mr Cameron also said, however, he knew people were frustrated over how long it is taking to decide on the issue.

Story so far

Secretary of State Owen |Paterson has warned the issue of devolving powers to lower corporation tax are “in the balance”. First Minister Peter Robinson has argued the rate should be lowered to 10% to help create jobs and boost the economy through foreign investment and growth by local companies. Other politicians and economists have argued in favour of a cut to 12.5 %, allowing the province to compete on a level playing field with the Irish Republic.

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