Ministers from the UK Government and Northern Ireland Executive (NIE) have met today for the first meeting of the Ministerial Working Group on Rebalancing the Northern Ireland Economy. The group has agreed a work programme for the coming months aimed at examining in detail issues raised during the course of the recent Government consultation, the formal response to which will be published before Christmas.
The meeting was chaired by the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, David Gauke. Other attendees were Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Owen Paterson, Minister of State Hugo Swire, First Minister Peter Robinson, deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, and Northern Ireland Minister for Finance and Personnel Sammy Wilson.
The creation of the Ministerial Working Group demonstrates the UK Government’s willingness to engage seriously with the NIE on the implications of devolving the power to vary the rate of corporation tax in Northern Ireland to the Northern Ireland Assembly. The NIE have indicated in their Programme for Government that they wish to have powers relating to corporation tax devolved.
The Group provides an opportunity for both the UK Government and NIE to explore all of the issues associated with the devolution of corporation tax. These include the potential costs to the block grant resulting from a reduction in Northern Ireland’s corporation tax rate, as well as the associated administrative and legislative options. All of these must be examined in greater detail before a final decision is taken.
Speaking after the meeting, David Gauke said:
This was a useful first meeting of the Ministerial Working Group. I welcome the ongoing engagement with the Northern Ireland Executive as we seriously examine the implications of devolution of corporation tax rates, including on costs and the impact on businesses, before we can decide whether devolution would be in the interests of both Northern Ireland and the UK as a whole.
Owen Paterson said:
We made an election and then a Coalition Government commitment to consult on a paper on rebalancing the Northern Ireland economy. We have delivered those commitments and together we now need to discuss this in real detail before the Government decides whether or not to proceed further. The discussion at today’s meeting was a most constructive first step.
Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness said:
We welcome the fact that the group has met and we look forward to working together to reach a position where we have the powers to set out our rate of corporation tax.
Notes for Editors
The UK Government and the Northern Ireland Executive have a common objective to rebalance the Northern Ireland economy, to increase the size of the private sector and drive faster economic growth in the area.
The UK Government consultation on rebalancing the Northern Ireland economy ran from 24 March 2011 to 8 July 2011.
The Ministerial Working Group on rebalancing the Northern Ireland economy, comprising ministers of HM Government and the Northern Ireland Executive, was established in October 2011 to consider issues raised by the consultation.
Further details of the Government’s response to the consultation and a summary of responses received will be published before Christmas.
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