Northern Ireland

Ed Miliband urges Northern Ireland parties to press ahead on welfare reform

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Media captionLabour Party leader Ed Miliband urged parties to "press ahead" with welfare reform

Ed Miliband has urged Northern Ireland parties to press on with welfare reform and avoid penalties from the Treasury.

The Labour leader said his party would abolish what he calls the "bedroom tax", but said Stormont parties must carry on with welfare reform.

Northern Ireland faces penalties for not endorsing welfare reforms passed by Westminster in February 2013.

There is no political consensus at Stormont on the reforms and Sinn Féin and the SDLP have opposed the changes.

Speaking in a BBC Northern Ireland interview at the Labour conference in Manchester, Mr Miliband said: "The government in Northern Ireland has to continue its work getting on with the process of welfare reform, but obviously we'll be making some changes if we win the election in May 2015."

He also said his party would "continue to reform welfare, but we would listen to the people of Northern Ireland as we do it, as it's not happening under this government."

Mr Miliband also confirmed that under a Labour government, the Barnett funding formula, which is used to calculate funds for the Northern Ireland Executive from London, would remain in place.

Barnett formula

He said there "are many complaints about the Barnett formula, but it's the least worst system there is".

The formula is named after Labour politician Joel Barnett, who was chief secretary to the Treasury in the 1970s.

It is a mechanism to adjust the amounts of the public spending allocated to Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales to reflect changes in spending levels allocated to public services in England.

Mr Miliband said the Barnett formula is "the right thing for the future".

On the issue of giving Stormont the powers to set its own level of corporation tax he said he had some concerns about devolving such powers.

"Our anxiety is you don't want corporations to be persuaded to be crossing borders in a game where the corporation tax keeps going down," he said.

Mr Miliband also confirmed that Labour would establish a constitutional convention following the Scottish referendum vote.

The convention will examine what kind of powers the different parts of the UK should have and will examine devolution.

He said "obviously the voice of the people of Northern Ireland is very important in any constitutional convention we have".

Asked about whether his party would contest future elections in Northern Ireland he said his party should not get involved electorally.

He said "If we started standing candidates in Northern Ireland it would give us an selfish interest in certain outcomes and I don't think at this stage its the right thing to do".

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