Finance spokesperson, Dr Stephen Farry MLA stated:
“Without tax-varying powers, we will continue to only have a second-rate form of devolution.
“Despite the progress of recent years, the Northern Ireland economy remains in weak state. As a region, it has only 80% of the UK average. This situation has to change. But at present, government economic forecasts do not envisage any meaningful convergence.
“In fact, it is clear that successive British Governments have regarded London and the South-East of England as the main drivers of the UK economy, something to be protect at all costs. They seem to be prepared to tolerate significant financial subsidy to the regions of the UK and dependency rather than give them sufficient autonomy to allow their regional economies to be become more sustainable.
“This must change. The real challenge for this Assembly is stand up to this and to demand the necessary powers to make a real difference. This means Northern Ireland needs to have the ability to vary tax.
“Perhaps, the real tragedy in all of this is that there continues to be people inside and outside this Assembly who seem to be happy to accept and even collude in the preservation of the status quo.
“Such powers to not mean the advocacy or acceptance of a higher overall tax burden for Northern Ireland, rather it is about putting in place the full range of powers for the Assembly to engage in policy innovation.
“The power to vary corporation tax is clearly the best example in this regard. This could have a real impact on the ability to attract inward investment. Northern Ireland may wish to do creative things with environmental taxes too.
“It is important to stress that this is not an endorsement of the potential of the current executive to use such powers wisely, but rather a recognition from the opposition that the ability to deliver real change to the people and economy of Northern Ireland depends upon this Assembly having fiscal powers.”