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Inward Investment

Volume 566: debated on Wednesday 10 July 2013

3. What recent discussions she has had with Ministers in the Northern Ireland Executive on inward investment. (163462)

The Secretary of State and I have frequent meetings with Executive Ministers about further inward investment in Northern Ireland. That was a key focus of the economic pact that was concluded and agreed on 14 June. Our efforts are now focused on the G8 investment conference in October, which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will attend.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his reply. Will he join me in welcoming the announcement of a business-led taskforce to look at how EU rules are holding back businesses? Does he agree that that initiative will be vital for Northern Ireland’s economic development as much as for the rest of the UK?

I welcome the taskforce and the Northern Ireland Executive’s promotion of the 5,900 jobs that they would like to see with an investment of £375 million through foreign direct investment. That is something we support.

Further to the question from the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan), inward investors will look at governance as part of due diligence before investing in any region. Given the serious allegations about political interference in public housing contracts, does the Secretary of State agree that it is within her remit to call for a full independent inquiry under the terms of the Inquiries Act 2005, in consultation with the Executive?

Northern Ireland has an excellent police force and their investigations will look into any accusations that are made. We look forward to hearing from the police.

On a recent visit to the United States, members of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee were told that bad publicity from certain paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland would be a deterrent to inward investment. There is, however, a lot of good news in the Province, so what will the Minister do to promote that over and above the very rare occurrences of bad news?

The good news, and particularly the G8, showed the whole world the good things that are going on in Northern Ireland, and how its normalisation process has moved forward enormously. All that good news and good publicity will go if there is anything like what we saw on the streets in terms of rioting and paramilitary activity, which we should all condemn.

I hope that Members on these Benches will welcome the cross-community efforts made by the hon. Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon)—an orange suit on Monday and a green suit today.

May I ask the Secretary of State how the Government intend to capitalise on opportunities for inward investment that originate from the G8 conference in Northern Ireland, and the good news that has flowed from that?

The October investment conference that the Prime Minister will attend is the next step forward in showing normalisation and that Northern Ireland is a good place to invest. Before that, the world police and fire games—the second largest sporting event in the world—will be held in Northern Ireland, and 7,000 competitors and thousands of supporters will be in Northern Ireland to see how well it is doing.