Question Time: Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister Monday 16 February 2015

First Minister, Peter Robinson, provided the House with an update on the devolution of corporation tax during today’s Question Time. The First Minister affirmed that “developing corporation tax-setting powers is a key commitment in the Programme for Government, as a wide range of evidence has shown that there is significant economic benefit to lowering the rate in Northern Ireland.” The legislation to transfer responsibility is currently working its way through Westminster and should receive Royal Assent before the general election. Consultation events are being organised and HMRC is already making preparatory arrangements. It is unlikely that arrangements will be in place to reduce the tax before April 2017 but we should see inward and foreign investment put in place before then in anticipation of the change.

Daithi McKay also enquired about the Department’s strategy for international relations into the future. The international relations strategy “aims to enhance Northern Ireland's international credibility and develop mutually beneficial relations with targeted regions around the world. Securing investment, improving trade and attracting tourists and international students to Northern Ireland are key to the strategy.” Offices in Brussels, Washington and Beijing play a key role in implementing the strategy. Invest NI have achieved unprecedented success in attracting US investment here. The Chinese government’s plans to open a consulate general in Northern Ireland are at an advanced stage.

The First Minister (and Junior Minister, Jonathan Bell) also answered queries on support for clerical abuse victims, pensions for victims of the Troubles and the safeguarding of culture and arts in the reorganising of Executive Departments. During topical questions Mr Robinson also answered questions on a proposed Irish language Bill, welfare reform and the social investment fund.

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