15/12/2011 12:34 GMT | Updated 15/12/2011 12:44 GMT

Stormont Hosts Corporation Tax Talks

Government ministers from London and Belfast have held talks on devolving corporation tax powers to Stormont.

The discussions in Belfast marked the first meeting of the Ministerial Working Group on Rebalancing the Northern Ireland Economy. Both sides described the talks as constructive but indicated that they face complex negotiations around the issue.

Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury David Gauke said: "This was a useful first meeting of the Ministerial Working Group.

"The Northern Ireland Executive has signalled that it wants the power to vary corporation tax rates and I welcome the ongoing engagement with the Executive as we seriously examine the implications of devolution, including on costs and the impact on businesses, before we can decide whether devolution would be in the interests of both Northern Ireland and the UK as a whole."

The meeting was chaired by Mr Gauke and included Secretary of State Owen Paterson, Minister of State Hugo Swire, First Minister Peter Robinson, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and Stormont Finance Minister Sammy Wilson.

Officials said the group's work provides an opportunity for the UK Government and Northern Ireland Executive to explore all the issues associated with the devolution of corporation tax. These include the potential costs to the block grant resulting from a reduction in Northern Ireland's corporation tax rate, as well as the administrative and legislative options.

In a statement the group said all of these must be examined in greater detail before a final decision is taken.

The First and Deputy First ministers said: "Moving ahead we look forward to working together to reach a position where we have the powers to set our rate of corporation tax."

Mr Paterson said: "We made an election and then a coalition Government commitment to consult on a paper on rebalancing the Northern Ireland economy. We have delivered those commitments and together we now need to discuss this in real detail before the Government decides whether or not to proceed further."