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Economic Growth

Volume 559: debated on Wednesday 6 March 2013

7. What recent assessment she has made of the prospects for economic growth in Northern Ireland. (145443)

The Government are committed to dealing with the deficit to create the right conditions for growth and economic recovery. We are working with the Executive to rebalance the Northern Ireland economy and boost the private sector.

Does the Secretary of State agree that the important thing is to increase our exports for the UK as a whole? What role does she think Northern Ireland can play? What support can she give businesses in Northern Ireland to increase exports?

I am working closely with Northern Ireland Ministers on this matter. There are huge opportunities this year to highlight Northern Ireland as a great place in which to invest, not least when the eyes of the world focus on County Fermanagh as the G8 summit comes to Northern Ireland, thanks to the personal decision of the Prime Minister. [Interruption.]

Order. In my experience the hon. Member for Ealing North (Stephen Pound) rarely has difficulty in making himself heard, but there is a lot of noise at the moment and so, just in case, let us have a bit of quiet for Mr Stephen Pound.

Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I am mortally obliged, sir.

Some 111,000 working families receiving tax credits in Northern Ireland will lose out because of the Government’s tax on strivers. At the same time, the Government will give a tax cut for those earning £1 million and above. Does the Secretary of State think that economic growth will be helped or hindered by having Christmas in April for millionaires?

The Government are fully committed to their welfare reform programme. We believe that welfare reform is essential to ensure that work always pays. We believe that it is deeply irresponsible for Her Majesty’s Opposition to continue to oppose all the reforms of welfare, which are designed to get the welfare bill down. That spiralled under their tenure of the economy.

Like many other peripheral regions of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland has suffered most during this recession. We understand that reckless expenditure will damage the economy, but would the Secretary of State support the calls by all the regional administrations in the United Kingdom for a fiscal stimulus for capital expenditure, which will create short-term jobs and increase the economy’s capacity in the long run?

As Finance Minister for the Northern Ireland Executive, the hon. Gentleman has options available to him within the block grant, which he receives under the Barnett arrangements; his grant remains considerably higher than the UK average. We are happy to continue to work with him and his colleagues in the Executive to generate inward investment for Northern Ireland and to ensure that our macro-economic policy, for example, on reducing corporation tax, is delivering the maximum benefits possible to rebalance the Northern Ireland economy.

Does the Secretary of State understand the strength of feeling from the political parties and the business community about the case for the reduction of corporation tax in Northern Ireland so that it can better compete with the Republic?

I certainly understand that and I gather that the right hon. Gentleman had some lively discussions on that matter at the Alliance party conference. The Prime Minister is well aware of that perspective on corporation tax and I have discussed it with him and with the Chancellor and Deputy Prime Minister on a number of occasions.