My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State held discussions on economic matters, which are largely devolved to Northern Ireland, with Irish Government Ministers when he was recently in Dublin. The trade and business development body, which aims to enhance the economy on both sides of the border, is a forum operating under the North/South Ministerial Council that also allows Northern Ireland and Irish Ministers to discuss those matters.
Yes, we certainly continue to study that. It is worth pointing out that despite the economic slowdown experienced in recent years the Republic of Ireland continues to attract major foreign direct investment. Indeed, the Republic of Ireland’s stock of direct inward investment is five times greater than the OECD average. According to one leading accountancy firm, there have been well over 50 investment projects this year alone. It is significant, we believe, when spending is being cut and many taxes are going up, that the one set of taxes that are not being touched in the Republic is the low rates of corporation taxes.
I thank the Minister for his answer. Does he accept and agree with me that cross-border co-operation is vital for economic recovery in border areas of Northern Ireland? Does he agree that because of the banking crisis there are major cross-border interests that we need to deal with at a British-Irish level?
I most certainly do, bearing in mind that a lot of these decisions are up to the Assembly and the Executive. The hon. Gentleman will no doubt welcome, along with us, the forthcoming investment conference in Washington under the patronage of Secretary of State Clinton, as well as the advance trip to Northern Ireland by her husband, former President Clinton, at which representatives from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will be present hoping to attract inward investment, which will benefit the very cross-border communities to whom the hon. Gentleman has alluded.