29/06/2011

Ritchie Can't Believe Wilson On Corporation Tax

SDLP Leader Margaret Ritchie has claimed Finance Minister Sammy Wilson "doesn't believe" in the policy of reducing corporation tax, despite leading the negotiations with the UK Government.

Ms Ritchie said "we have a problem" in that the person charged with negotiating terms with the Treasury for cutting the tax levied on outside corporations doesn’t believe in the project.

Sammy Wilson is this week involved in negotiations to have the powers to control corporation tax devolved to the Assembly.

At present, Northern Ireland's tax on corporations is the same as the UK's at 26%. However, many on the Assembly are arguing that the Republic of Ireland's relatively low 12.5% has put them at an economic advantage, making it harder for the North to attract direct foreign investment.

Margaret Ritchie said that Minister Sammy Wilson has in the past made it clear he does not share his Party's enthusiasm for a cut, and that he was completely at odds with the position of his Party Leader, First Minister David Robinson.

Ms Ritchie said: “I have made it clear many times that the position of the SDLP is one of strong support for the devolution of tax-varying powers and lowering of corporation tax here.

"If we are to move our economy out of recession, and onto a new growth trajectory, then we need to take control of more economic levers."

Ms Ritchie added that the vast majority of public representatives and the five parties in the Executive were fully behind lower corporation tax, and called the minister a "dissenter".

"He is the person whose job it is to lead the team that will negotiate the terms and ultimately the cost to all of us, of lowering corporation tax. And my question is this - how can he lead a successful negotiation for a concession he does not believe in?"

Supporting Ms Ritchie's comments, DUP Assembly Member for Strangford, Simon Hamilton said on Tuesday the reasons for a reduction are clear, "as are the benefits".

"Failing to positively pursue devolving Corporation Tax powers is in effect consigning Northern Ireland to an economic future of more of the same.

"If we need an illustration why, we need only look across the border to the Irish Republic: in spite of its economic woes it has reported record exports fuelled by companies attracted to Ireland by its low corporation tax rate."

(DW/GK)

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