Elliott Highlights UUP Role In PfG Strategy

There has been further reaction to yesterday's publication of draft Programme for Government (PfG) at Stormont.

The Ulster Unionist Leader Tom Elliott has given his reaction: "The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) was foremost in calling for the agreed Programme for Government.

"We wanted an agreed PfG to be drawn up immediately after the Election so are disappointed at the length of time it has taken, but we nonetheless welcome the fact that it has been published.

"The Ulster Unionist Party looks forward to scrutinising the PfG and the Draft Investment Strategy and to participating in the consultation process," he added.

With regard to the PfG itself, the MLA continued: "I am heartened to see that so many of the Ulster Unionist party's own proposals regarding the PfG made it into the document, and I am also pleased to see that so many of the successes of Ulster Unionist controlled Departments in the last Assembly have been highlighted, with particular regard to the Health Department under the stewardship of Michael McGimpsey.

"The Ulster Unionist Party also led the way on several key issues such as a lower rate of Corporation Tax for Northern Ireland and a reduction in Air Passenger Duty," he claimed.

He added that, with regard to a Corporation Tax, it should not be forgotten that while the reaction of key figures in other political parties ranged from lukewarm to sceptical to downright hostile, the Ulster Unionist Party "stayed the course".

"We were so convinced of the importance of a lower rate of Corporation Tax that we enlisted the support of David Cameron when the Conservatives were in Opposition, and pressed the case to the stage where the Treasury have engaged and are exploring how we might devolve the powers to vary Corporation Tax to the Assembly and are now working out the costs," he said.

On Air Passenger Duty (APD), he said that the UUP led the fight to reduce it and the reduction announced by the Treasury was precisely the call made by the party, so that APD on flights from Northern Ireland Airports for long haul flights is being reduced to the short haul rate of £12 for economy passengers and £24 for business passengers.

"I would also sound a note of caution with regard to Executive's proposals to press ahead with local Government re-organised on an 11 council model.

"The Ulster Unionist party has consistently argued for a 15 council model, under which the boundaries for Westminster, Assembly and Council elections would be coterminous.

"We have serious reservations about certain aspects of the 11 council model, particularly with regard to the boundary between the eastern edge of Belfast and the proposed Lisburn and Castlereagh Council, which we believe defies logic and does not reflect the interest and identities of local people in that area.

"We want a boundary that reflects the reality of the City of Belfast that exists in the 21st Century," he insisted, on Thursday.

"I can promise that [we] will continue to promote ideas and policies which will benefit the local economy and deliver tangible benefits for the people of Northern Ireland," he concluded.


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