24/03/2003

De-rating will cost many manufacturing jobs warn MLAs

Alliance Assembly member Sean Neeson has claimed that the Government's proposals to abolish industrial de-rating could cost hundreds of manufacturing jobs in Northern Ireland.

The former Deputy Chair of the Assembly's Enterprise, Trade and Investment committee said he would be meeting with the Finance Minister to discuss the matter further.

Mr Neeson said: "I have been contacted by many manufacturing companies right across Northern Ireland who stand to lose millions of pounds if the Government continues with its proposals.

"Clearly, industrial de-rating was introduced to compete with the much lower levels of corporation tax in the Republic of Ireland. Even recent inward investment has been introduced on the understanding that this incentive would continue."

Mr Neeson added that the Government had failed to deal with high electricity costs in Northern Ireland, despite having the opportunity to do so through the Energy Bill.

"Many companies have also expressed their concern to me about the continuing high levels of electricity costs here. It was civil servants who recently prevented the opportunity of the buy-out of the long-term electricity contracts, which has been the source of these high energy costs.

"For this reason, I am seeking an urgent meeting with Enterprise Minister Ian Pearson to intervene before it is too late and that these unnecessary job losses can be prevented."

Sinn Fein Mid Ulster MLA, Francie Molloy also called for a radical rethink on the ending of industrial de-rating.

Mr Molloy, who is former Chairperson of the Assembly Finance and Personnel Committee, said he would also be seeking an urgent meeting with Mr Pearson. He added: "Industrial de-rating has played an important role in supporting local manufacturing but it was an often blunt instrument.

"Sinn Fein want to see support through the non-domestic rating system that is targeted to those sectors that are most at risk and that can benefit most from such support, particularly the small and medium sized businesses that play a vital role in our economy. Industrial police must also effectively target areas of social need."

Mr Molloy said that Mr Pearson needed to listen to the voice of local business and local political parties and not make any decision which could potentially destroy thousands of jobs.

"Any decision of the future of industrial de-rating should be made by a local Assembly," he concluded.

(MB)

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