Seize opportunity over business tax, PM David Cameron urges Stormont
The Prime Minister has said Northern Ireland should grasp the opportunity to set its own corporation tax with both hands.
Around 34,000 businesses here are set to benefit from a cut in the tax after the Government tabled a bill devolving powers to the Stormont Assembly.
Ministers said the change could be "transformative" for an economy which has been over-dependent on the state.
Legislation introduced in Westminster yesterday is expected to be completed before May's general election and should allow Northern Ireland to set its own tax rate from April 2017.
David Cameron said: "This is a great opportunity for Northern Ireland - one that I hope its leaders will grasp with both hands. With these powers Northern Ireland itself will be able to set the corporation tax rates that best support our shared ambition to rebalance the economy."
Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers said the coalition Government was prepared to try to legislate for the change before the general election if the local parties implemented a deal on financial issues and other problems which have threatened powersharing at Stormont.
A reduction in the rate from the UK-wide 21% to match the 12.5% for firms in the Republic, a competitor for foreign direct investment, has been described as a "game-changer" by advocates who consider it valuable in persuading firms to create jobs here. But it could lead to a substantial reduction in the block grant paid by Westminster to run public services.