Non-domestic Rating Review: Update

Oral Answers to Questions — Finance and Personnel – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:00 pm on 25th January 2016.

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Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP 3:00 pm, 25th January 2016

7. Mr Poots asked the Minister of Finance and Personnel for an update on the review of Northern Ireland’s non-domestic rating system. (AQO 9456/11-16)

Photo of Mervyn Storey Mervyn Storey DUP

Thank you, Mr Poots, for the question. The review of the non-domestic rating system is out for consultation, a process that officially closes today. I am, however, allowing it to run until the end of the month because a number of respondents asked for a little more time to make a submission. It is too early, therefore, to state the final number of responses. Once all responses have been received and considered thoroughly, my Department will report to the Finance Committee on its findings and those of the consultation. That will prepare the way for developing options for change and for decisions to be taken by the Executive early in the next mandate.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

We all remember that Peter Hain, when he was Secretary of State, introduced industrial rates of 30%, with the intention of driving that up to 100% pre-devolution. Will the Minister give an assurance that it is his intention not to raise industrial rates, as, had Mr Hain's decision stood, it would have decimated our industrial base and ensured that thousands of jobs were lost in Northern Ireland?

Photo of Mervyn Storey Mervyn Storey DUP

I thank the Member for his supplementary and for reminding us all of someone from the past, Mr Hain. The Member will be aware that my predecessor stated on a number of occasions that industrial derating will continue and that there are no plans to remove that support from manufacturing. The support provides a valuable boost to the manufacturing sector in Northern Ireland, which, although growing in Northern Ireland, has not been without high-profile difficulties in recent months. I know all too well the challenges faced by my constituency. The relief is of the magnitude of some £58 million a year. It helps 4,300 businesses, and last week's Budget committed to it for 2016-17. My predecessor said that she intended to retain industrial derating, following a business rates review that is under way. I confirm to the House that I support that position and that there are no plans to remove the support, which I see as key to building and supporting manufacturing in Northern Ireland.

The wider review officially closes today, although some engagement with stakeholders has been undertaken this week at the close of the formal consultation period.

Photo of Robin Newton Robin Newton DUP 3:15 pm, 25th January 2016

That ends the period for listed questions. We now move on to 15 minutes of topical questions.