Ulster Unionist deputy chairperson of the new Stormont Economy committee, Steve Aiken MLA, has responded to the new Economy Minister’s opening statement.
Steve Aiken said:
“In as far as it goes, I welcome Simon Hamilton’s opening statement as Minister. In particular, his commitment to economic growth, and his expressed support for cutting Corporation Tax to 12.5%. However, his rhetoric about focussing on a skilled workforce and reinvesting in our higher and further education sectors, especially in those sectors that are essential for building an adaptive, innovative and flexible workforce, belies the reality of disinvestment in these areas in the current budget.
“Again, his commitment to supporting our tourism sector is to be welcomed, but I would also like to see concrete commitments to reducing air passenger duty, and a more even distribution of the funding that we provide to Tourism Ireland for the effective promotion of Northern Ireland as a holiday destination.
“Perhaps after Corporation Tax, assuming his Executive partners agree, he will address the major issues impacting on our own business sectors; the issue of rates and the very high cost of energy in Northern Ireland in comparison to the rest of the British Isles.
“While we would expect a pro- economy Minister like Simon Hamilton to support the best strategy for growing the Northern Ireland economy, is it too much to expect that the Minister would join us and call for the United Kingdom to remain within the EU? - a measure all major business sectors in Northern Ireland support”.