Belfast Telegraph

Power-sharing critics should eat their words: Paisley

By Lindsay Watling and Richard Wheeler

Critics of power-sharing at Stormont should "eat their words and hopefully choke on this Bill", Ian Paisley has told MPs as they debated the devolution of corporation tax.

Speaking during the third reading of the Corporation Tax (NI) Bill in the House of Commons, the North Antrim MP said the policy was what Stormont was set up to achieve.

He said: "It [devolution] was supposed to allow the economies that make up the United Kingdom to compete to their strengths, allow them to set their own pace of change, to be agile and to be able to compete.

"For a long time many of us argued for this change and at last we now see the legislation in print and we see it moving forward on a very positive footing.

"So those who oppose devolution or they say that nothing really changes I think today they can eat their words and hopefully choke on this Bill."

Now that MPs have agreed the legislation devolving the power - following the Stormont House breakthrough in the political impasse over the budget - the Bill will go before the House of Lords for further scrutiny. It grants Stormont the power to set the corporation tax rate over most trading profits and enables the Executive to reduce it to be more in line with the Republic's 12.5% rate.

Earlier, Treasury minister David Gauke said: "I believe this legislation is vital in allowing the Northern Ireland Executive greater power to rebalance the economy towards a stronger private sector, boosting employment, growth and the standard of living.

"The unique challenges faced by Northern Ireland have been recognised by both sides of the House and I welcome the efficient and effective debate so far."

Alliance MP for East Belfast, Naomi Long, called for an investment in skills to go with a reduction in tax, warning that companies would not invest in Northern Ireland if the workforce was not up to scratch.

She added: "There is also a challenge I believe in terms of dealing with investment in skills, which are absolutely required if we're going to see the full benefits of any reduction in corporation tax.

"There is no point in reducing corporation tax to get new businesses to come in and invest if we do not have the skilled workers to be able to take up employment in those companies.

"Because as part of the due diligence that any company does before investment, they will look at our skills base and that will be one of the key issues."

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