Conor Murphy MP/MLA - Fiscal Autonomy - Ard Fheis 2012
The Programme for Government of the Assembly in the North is based on developing the economy in a way which promotes equality and targets objective need. Now, more than ever, that is our challenge.
To this end we have the shared objectives of building the economy and tackling disadvantage. We need to ensure that those most in need benefit from economic growth.
The lack of fiscal powers at the Assembly limits our ability to tackle the economic crisis. Without the necessary tools we cannot design the policies to assist economic recovery on the island and are simply reduced to redistributing an ever decreasing block grant from London.
The reality is that no British Government budget is about easing the burden of the people in the North. Economic policies emerging from Whitehall are not designed for our long term economic benefit.
The reality is that the Tory led British Government has slashed the Executive’s budget by around half a billion pounds on top of their cuts effecting Social Welfare programmes. This is having a devastating effect on the most vulnerable in our society.
The likelihood is that the Tories will continue to impose even more severe cuts that will have a direct impact on the Executive’s finances and we are completely powerless to prevent the British Government’s smash and grab tactics on our resources until we take control of our own economic destiny. It is imperative that give ourselves the ability to mitigate against the worst effects of British economic policy.
The work to devolve Corporation Tax powers to the Assembly is a welcome beginning but we must not stop there. The Executive needs to press the Treasury for accurate figures on the total tax take for the North and then set about, systematically, securing for itself the economic levers to allow us to act in the interests of those who gave us that responsibility.
The position of our Finance Minister that he doesn’t want any more fiscal powers transferred from London to Belfast because he is a unionist is a complete abdication of his responsibility to those who elected him.
On one part of the island we have Ministers who don’t want fiscal powers in case it offends the Union, while in the Southern part we have Ministers surrendering the state’s economic sovereignty lest they offend the bankers in Europe. Meanwhile the people of Ireland suffer.
It is time for elected leaders across this island to stand up for the people who elected them, to take responsibility for economic recovery and to do so in the interests of all of our citizens.