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Investment Conference

Volume 571: debated on Wednesday 27 November 2013

The investment conference was attended by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and successfully highlighted the many benefits of doing business in Northern Ireland. Although it is too early to assess the full impact, Invest Northern Ireland has said that it is actively engaging with a number of companies as a direct result of the conference.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that Northern Ireland is a fantastic location to do business, as demonstrated by the firms that have already invested there, such as Allstate, HBO and Bombardier? Does she also agree that what would be disastrous for the Northern Irish economy as a location for investment and jobs would be any repeat of the scenes we saw because of the flag protest in the run-up to last Christmas and earlier this year?

I agree that there have been tremendous success stories in Northern Ireland in terms of inward investment, including the ones that my hon. Friend has mentioned and others like the New York Stock Exchange. It is true that riots on the streets are a huge deterrent to inward investment and I strongly urge anyone involved in protesting to make sure that their protests are both peaceful and entirely lawful.

Will the Secretary of State agree with me that we need to see more conferences of this type? It was successful; investment will come from it. But will she also agree that the companies that attended it were impressed by the skills base in Northern Ireland and the innovation shown by companies?

I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman. The education system in Northern Ireland produces some tremendous results. Its two universities are producing thousands of excellent graduates every year. That is one of the reasons why companies investing in Northern Ireland are so successful. They may come for the low cost base but they stay for the people.