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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 November 2006, 18:57 GMT
Brown pledges 50bn 'peace cash'
Gordon Brown
Chancellor Gordon Brown was asked for extra money
Chancellor Gordon Brown has pledged a funding package of 50bn for Northern Ireland over the next 10 years.

Mr Brown said the government would agree the funding, which would include 35bn over the next four years, if power is devolved at Stormont.

He made the comments after meeting the political parties at Downing Street, in what was described as a "first pitch" for a so-called peace dividend.

NI secretary Peter Hain said the cash was a "very significant boost".

"On All Saint's Day, it's a very good, saintly day, for Northern Ireland," he added.

Mr Brown said the funding would be worth 50,000 per household in Northern Ireland.

People want to see action and they want to see it now
Basil McCrea
Northern Ireland Manufacturing Focus Group

He said the money was "to do more on social and public services and the reform of them and to build the infrastructure necessary for the economic development of Northern Ireland in the future".

"I also said today that we would be prepared to have a 10 year agreement about investment in infrastructure for the future, not just four years but 10 years, worth about 18bn in that period.

"And that we stand ready to support the innovation and science and the technology in Northern Ireland that's going to be necessary to create the jobs of the future."

Peter Hain has welcomed the cash announcement
Peter Hain has welcomed the cash announcement

It is thought the parties were agreed on the key items on the shopping list - they want massive investment in infrastructure; a cut in the rate of Corporation Tax and a concession on water charges.

There were also to be calls for a reduction in fuel duty, even though the government recently rejected this idea.

The parties said they were keen to lay the foundations for a package that would underpin devolution.

Speaking after the announcement, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said they had asked how much of the cash was additional money, but added this would be worked out as the parties studied the details of the package.

'A clear signal'

"This is about getting the all island institutions back in place and then having the capability to deal with the bread and butter issues," he said.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson said the financial package was "a necessary precondition for any restoration of devolution".

"Unless the financial package is satisfactory, then there is little benefit in any return of devolution," he said.

Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey said the parties would be presenting a united front to Gordon Brown.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland businessmen have been making a plea to the chancellor to cap industrial rates.

Basil McCrea, spokesman for the Northern Ireland Manufacturing Focus Group, said the business community needed some form of rates relief.

"People want to see action and they want to see it now," he said.

"Capping industrial rates at 25% is a thing the government can do now.

"It would send a clear signal to the business community and the people of Northern Ireland that the government is listening to what we want."

In July, Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain refused to cap rates at 25%, amid industry claims that rate increases would cripple the manufacturing sector.




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