Posted on Wednesday 18 March 2015 by Ulster Business

Business urges stormont to agree on welfare

Business leaders have joined the Secretary of State in urging the Executive to come to agreement on welfare reform to speed up the process of devolving corporation tax-setting powers to Stormont.

They said Northern Ireland’s companies, potential inward investors and Invest NI need assurance the law will definitely be enacted as well as an idea of when it will take place so they can put in place plans to use what they see as a competitive advantage.

“We urge all of Northern Ireland’s political parties to commit to the Stormont House agreement so we can proceed to set a ‘rate and date’ for the implementation of Northern Ireland’s new Corporation Tax rate,” Ann McGregor, Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber) said. “Consensus needs to be reached so that Northern Ireland businesses can put growth plans in place and Invest NI can start selling the proposition to potential inward investors across the world.

“This must happen sooner rather than later or we risk losing investment opportunities.”

The comments follow news legislation to devolve tax setting powers has been passed through the House of Lords.

While the progression has been welcomed, Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said the bill needs agreement in Stormont before progressing.

“The new tax-setting powers will only be commenced if the Executive parties put their finances on a long-term sustainable footing,” she said. “Changes to the welfare system are a key part of this. I hope the parties will continue to work hard to resolve current issues and ensure this enormous opportunity is not lost.”

Meanwhile, business advisors Grant Thornton have pointed out that Chancellor George Osborne’s plans to up the number of enterprise zones in the UK – as announced in the Budget - damps the corporation tax argument somewhat.

“(This is) not good news for Northern Ireland as we were aiming to capitalise on that status for the region,” Peter Legge, Tax Partner at Grant Thornton, Northern Ireland, said.

However, he still believes the tax move is a game changer.

 “Corporation tax devolution to Stormont remains the significant step and key to creating large scale employment and sustained economic growth for Northern Ireland.”  

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