I had extensive discussions with Executive Ministers prior to the publication of our economic package, “Building a Prosperous and United Community”. I look forward to working with the Executive on implementing this important programme of work.
The G8 was tremendously successful. We have had some rather grim matters to discuss this morning in the House, but we should not forget that the world saw a positive picture of a scenically beautiful Northern Ireland that is open for business. The next opportunity to capitalise on it is an investment conference in October, which the Prime Minister will attend.
I recently met the head of Tourism Ireland, who told me about the great success of the new Titanic museum in Belfast. Does the Secretary of State agree that this shows that marketing Ireland as a whole can help to rebalance and benefit the Northern Ireland economy?
There are some advantages to that. We are looking at ways to encourage visitors to the Republic of Ireland to extend their stay to visit Northern Ireland. That is why our economic package contains proposals for a visa waiver pilot to enable those from certain countries with an Irish visa to travel to the UK.
Further to that last, excellent question, I am sure the House would agree that it would be mean spirited and churlish to do anything other than welcome the announcement of the economic package, notwithstanding that it was a re-stating of much that was announced by the previous Government, but may we have a little more detail about what has been agreed with the Northern Ireland Executive, and, above all, may we have some knowledge of the time frame for implementation?
The package includes top-ups for the Peace IV programme and structural funds; the retention of 100% assisted area status; a major G8 conference in October; measures to boost lending to business; a £20 million investment plan for research and development; agreement on the potential mechanism for taking forward further work on corporation tax devolution; a commitment to a new way forward on enterprise zones; a potential visa waiver pilot; and a number of other measures.