Sinn Fein slammed over tax proposal

THE DUP last night said "no-way" to Sinn Fein calls for the Assembly to have tax-varying powers – calling republicans' brand of Marxism "more Groucho than Karl" in its ineptness.

Party MLA Simon Hamilton declared "it is no surprise that a tax-and-spend left-wing party" would bring such a motion before the House.

Sinn Fein MLA Mitchel McLaughlin tabled the proposal, warning that without the ability to levy taxes the Assembly could fail.

Finance Minister Peter Robinson, who is faced with the difficulty of managing a tight budget, did not back the idea.

And Mr Hamilton explained why.

Firstly, he cited the fact that Northern Ireland can already levy taxes in the form of the regional rate, should it wish to do so.

Then he pointed out that the Scottish Parliament was granted this power under the terms of the 1997 Devolution Referendum but has so far refused to use it for fear of either provoking public backlash or cutting back on essential services.

The MLA said: "Sinn Fein's Marxist ideology is an indicator of what their intentions are although their politics often bear more resemblance to Groucho Marx rather than Karl.

"What they are asking for is to empower the Assembly to pilfer even more of people's hard-earned income. Northern Ireland politicians already have the power to levy taxation via the regional rate. I and my party are opposed to high taxation.

"Our record in local government shows that. We believe that people in this country are already paying enough tax without local politicians trying to help themselves to more of their income."

UUP MLA Roy Beggs Jnr agreed: "I have no doubt that for 'tax-varying power' we should be reading 'tax-raising power', no doubt with a view to facilitate a new additional local income tax or business taxes.

"Some politicians appear to believe that they can solve our economic problems by simply imposing additional taxes on workers and companies to increase public expenditure. For Northern Ireland to progress economically we must carefully consider what effect any changes may have on jobs in the real economy."

But Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness made the case for taxation powers.

"I think it is a perfectly natural and normal thing to do," he said.

"We have to play the hand that we are dealt with, we intend to do that to ensure that whatever decisions we make will make life easier."

He wants more money for water and sewerage provision and roads.

Mr McGuinness added the intervention was not about tax rises and said that matters would become clearer once the Treasury-appointed Varney Review team delivered its report on the matter.