Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP, Secretary of State for NI, today attended the 45th Plenary Session of the British-Irish Parliamentary Session in Glasgow.
Speaking at the Conference this morning, Ms Villiers spoke of her priority to revive Northern Ireland ‘s economy;
“As Secretary of State, I want to work closely with the Executive to see what more we can do together on inward investment. Northern Ireland has a huge amount going for it and it is a great place to do business in. It has a highly skilled workforce and NI is the first region in Europe to have 100% broadband access, with Belfast due to become one of the UK’s first ten super-connected cities, so it’s not surprising that there has been real success when it comes to attracting inward investment from companies like Citi Group and the New York Stock Exchange.”
Acknowledging the distinctive challenges facing the Northern Ireland economy, she continued;
“We are over-dependent on the public sector, and unemployment and economic inactivity need to come down, especially amongst young people. There are some truly world-beating businesses in Northern Ireland , but we need more of these success stories if we are going to expand the private sector, bring down unemployment and create jobs for the future. That’s why it is crucial to create the best environment for growing a business.”
Pointing to the key role the Coalition Government was playing in reviving the economy, she said;
“Reducing the record deficit we inherited is vital if we’re to keep interest rates low and maintain the confidence of global markets. We have brought the deficit down by a quarter since coming to office and we have cut income tax for over 600,000 people in Northern Ireland, taking 25,000 out of tax altogether. And we know that reducing business taxes is crucial if the UK is to compete in the global marketplace.
We have brought down the main rate of corporation tax from 28% to 24% and by the end of this Parliament it will be 22%. That will give us the lowest corporation tax of any major developed economy. But I know there are calls within Northern Ireland to do more and for many that means devolving corporation tax. A great deal of work has been done on this by the Treasury and the Executive in the Working Group chaired by David Guake. Some real progress has been made and we now know the broad shape of what a devolved corporation tax regime for Northern Ireland might look like. There are still important alternatives to consider and issues to be resolved before the Government can decide in principle whether or not to proceed, but we will take stock, write up our findings and reporting them to the Prime Minister in the next few weeks.”
Ms Villiers also praised the excellent relations between the UK and the Republic of Ireland** **
“It seems to me that the relationship and spirit of co-operation between the two countries has never been stronger. London and Dublin are working closely together as we start a decade of centenaries marking a series of events that had a profound impact on the political destinies of both our countries. An important task I face as Secretary of State is to help ensure these significant anniversaries are approached with a spirit of mutual respect and inclusiveness, and I welcome the commitment of the Irish Government to co-operating with us to ensure that this shared goal is achieved.”
Finally she praised the role of BIPA and the important role they played in delivering the political stability that Northern Ireland now enjoys. Ms Villiers said;
“I know how much this institution has done to foster closer relations between the UK and Ireland and I am also very conscious of the important role so many of you played in delivering the political stability Northern Ireland enjoys today. It is thanks to the work of members of this institution that I am able to talk to you this morning about a Northern Ireland that is looking towards a confident future.”