The creative industries in Northern Ireland are worth £500 million a year and employ more than the agriculture sector. The new relief announced in the Budget will assist the industry directly and help to attract further blockbuster productions such as “Game of Thrones”, which was—indeed, is—filmed in Northern Ireland, creating 800 jobs.
After the Oscar win for the excellent Northern Irish film “The Shore” and the financial boost given to the film industry by the Chancellor, does my right hon. Friend agree that Northern Ireland has a creative industry to be proud of, bringing in investment in skills and jobs?
I certainly do agree, and we should not forget that for every £1 spent on the arts, the economy benefits to the tune of £3. There is absolutely no reason why the Cathedral quarter in Belfast cannot rival Temple Bar in Dublin or Covent Garden in London in terms of new creative industries and technologies, and we are very excited by that prospect.
My hon. Friend is right, and of course it is not just about those designers and textile manufacturers in Northern Ireland; it is about those around the world. I refer him to Patrick Grant, the Savile Row tailor of E. Tautz—judging by the look of my hon. Friend, he has been to visit him on a number of occasions—as well as Jonathan Anderson and others. There are a huge number of people, both in Northern Ireland and outside, in the industry, and we are—to repeat myself—very excited by the prospects for the industry. [Interruption.]
For my hon. Friend I repeat above the hullabaloo that Northern Ireland is a world-class destination for film and TV production. I welcome the moves taken in the Budget to encourage further investment there. The Paint Hall studio in the Titanic Quarter has recently been used for “City of Ember”, the mediaeval comedy “Your Highness”, and, of course, the first two series of the European “Game of Thrones”, which has so far brought about £43 million to the Northern Ireland economy. Yes, we are open for business, and if anyone out there is watching—I am sure there are many—come to see us in Northern Ireland and we will assure you of an excellent service.
I rather hoped that was what I had just done, but I welcome the right hon. Gentleman’s question so that I can repeat again that Northern Ireland is a great location, providing a great landscape, very willing people, a hard-working work force, financial incentives and great studio production facilities. More than that I cannot say.
Although it is well and good to encourage the creative industries in Northern Ireland to create short-term employment on some occasions, what can the Minister do to encourage the small to medium-sized companies in Northern Ireland that are currently on their knees? [Interruption.]
The Budget provided a number of measures and most of them apply, of course, to Northern Ireland as an integral part of the United Kingdom. I am looking forward to visiting a number of these companies with the hon. Gentleman in the forthcoming days or weeks. The Budget was designed for the United Kingdom as a whole to retain the fiscal responsibility that is the signature of this Government. Everyone benefits from low interest rates and from taking lower-paid people out of taxation altogether. This is not just for small companies in Northern Ireland; it is for small companies the length and breadth of the kingdom. It was a good Budget to help this country on the road to economic recovery, which it deserves.