Northern Ireland

Ed Balls: NI 'obsessed' by corporation tax

Image caption Ed Balls says there is an obsession with corporation tax

The shadow chancellor Ed Balls says Northern Ireland has become obsessed with the devolution of corporation tax.

Speaking to Newry Chamber of Commerce - right after its president had delivered a message on the importance to the local economy of the devolution of corporation tax - Mr Balls said there were more pressing issues.

Labour had shifted its position on the prospect of the Northern Ireland Executive getting the power to set its own rate of corporation tax, to merely being open to the possibility.

But now Mr Balls has taken a step further in retreat saying that it could be a useful long-term possibility, but giving the debate so much focus has meant that we've lost sight of other ideas that could stimulate the economy much more quickly.

"It worries me that corporation tax is the only debate happening here. I don't want you to think we're dodging the bullet on this one.

"We're not. It's just we shouldn't be sitting on our hands while we're having this debate about corporation tax," he said.

His alternatives for economic regeneration focus on spending the 4G spectrum sale money on construction projects, and delivering banking reform.

The shadow chancellor is on a two-day visit to Northern Ireland before meeting the Irish deputy prime minister in Dublin on Friday for talks focussing on the eurozone.

Mr Balls said in Newry that a consensus between government and business over future plans was essential for economic growth to begin, adding "you in Northern Ireland know how hard but how important consensus is".