Question Time: Enterprise, Trade and investment Tuesday 10 February 2015

The devolution of corporation tax and the potential impact that a reduction in the tax could have on public finances was on the agenda during today’s Question Time with the Enterprise, Trade and investment Minister, Arlene Foster. The eventual rate will be finalised by the Executive. The Minister expects that it will land around 12.5% and conceded that a rate of 10% “would require a bigger adjustment to public finances but would also be more attractive to investors.” The Minister also agreed that we could see more companies setting up base in Northern Ireland even before the planned reduction in corporation tax as most businesses work to 2-3 year plans and could form a base in the country in preparation for the new rate.

Mrs Foster added that “of course we are going to gain from the corporate tax take because we are paying for it through our block grant. We will gain the benefit from whatever increase in corporation tax we get. Obviously, there will be a cost initially, and that will not come all in one year. That cost will be tapered up to 2020. That is why we need to get out and start getting the benefits of a lower rate of corporation tax as soon as possible.”

Gregory Campbell then asked the Minister about how she intends to build on the tourism potential of the internationally renowned events that have been staged in Northern Ireland with a particular eye on the Open Golf Championship coming to Royal Portrush in the next few years. The Minister’s belief is that, “To grow visitor numbers and, more importantly, visitor spend, we need to ensure that we invest in the product offering, develop visitor-inspired experiences and increase the capacity and competitiveness of our tourism industry.” In relation to building on the Open Championship, Mrs Foster revealed that infrastructure preparations are underway, funds have already been set aside and it is her hope that it will not be a one-off and that Royal Portrush will be placed on the Open rota for years to come.

The Minister also answered questions on the economic legacy of the G8 summit, jobs in North Antrim and the incentives to encourage transatlantic air carriers. During topical questions Mrs Foster also discussed the recent trade mission to the Middle East, high-speed broadband in Northern Ireland and the number of hotels in Belfast.

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