Robinson gives details of the economic package


Peter Robinson briefed the Assembly on the details of the economic package agreed with the Westminster government, on 2 July 2013

"This important initiative contains a range of measures to help rebalance the local economy and secure a shared future for everyone in Northern Ireland," Mr Robinson said.

The first minister emphasised that the package was "not a substitute for the Executive's aims in relation to corporation tax".

He said they would to push for the devolution of corporation tax hours.

The wide-ranging measures included in the statement included additional EU funding and an increase in the RRI borrowing limit, a commitment that Northern Ireland would retain its Special Area Status and a joint ministerial taskforce on possible support for local banks.

Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle asked about the 10 shared education campuses envisaged in the "Together: Building a United Community" document. He questioned the development of the campuses "without reference to integrated education".

The first minister said the education campuses represented "a significant proposal" and that the ultimate goal was one educational system in Northern Ireland.

Megan Fearon of Sinn Fein asked about the benefits of retaining assisted area status.

Mr Robinson said there was considerable concern among the parties when the threat to special area status emerged.

He said Northern Ireland "would have been very vulnerable" without that status or the ability to vary rates of corporation tax.

Colum Eastwood asked about the plans to had over more former MOD military bases to the Executive.

He wanted to know who would pay for decontamination of the sites.

The first minister said there had been discussions about sites where there was existing housing and that the costs of contamination could be partly addressed by "more clever use of the foot print of the site".

The UUP's Leslie Cree wanted to know long the assisted area status would continue.

Mr Robinson said the status was there for the short to medium term. His understanding was that if the Executive achieved control over corporation tax powers the status would be reconsidered.

Lord Morrow of the DUP wanted to know if all 10 sites for shared education campuses would be identified within the next five years.

The first minister said he hoped to see work commence on all ten within five years.

"I hope that we end up in a situation where we have to choose ten rather than having to go out and twist arms in order to get ten," he added.

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