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Inward Investment

Volume 584: debated on Wednesday 16 July 2014

6. What recent representations she has received on levels of inward investment into Northern Ireland; and if she will make a statement. (904830)

I regularly discuss inward investment with Northern Ireland Executive Ministers, including at the recent meeting between the Prime Minister and the First and Deputy First Ministers.

Some 16,000 new employee jobs were created in Northern Ireland over the last year, the vast majority of them in the private sector. As we see in Wales, so we can see in Northern Ireland that the Government’s economic strategies are working well. What plans does my right hon. Friend have for building on this success, particularly through Invest Northern Ireland, to ensure that it continues into the future?

The Government are working closely with the Northern Ireland Executive on economic matters. Following the economic pact we signed last year, we have recently published an update demonstrating achievements on improved lending to small businesses—that is up 46% on last year—and we have got the enterprise zone set up, and access to finance initiatives from the business bank are also helping to restart the economy in Northern Ireland. Securing 100% assisted area status for Northern Ireland is also hugely helpful to Invest NI in attracting inward investment.

The economic package agreed between the Prime Minister and the Northern Ireland Executive is now a year old. It was designed to rebalance the economy. What specific measures in that package have now been implemented that will assist in attracting inward investment, dealing with youth unemployment and rebalancing the economy?

There are some which I just mentioned; the specific inward investment conference attended by the Prime Minister, which prompted 800 new jobs at Convergys and EY; the banking transparency measures, which were a specific ask of the business community—we now have details of lending to small and medium-sized enterprises published for the first time in Northern Ireland; the enterprise zone has been set up; we are pressing ahead with projects from the green investment bank on anaerobic digestion in parts of Northern Ireland; and we are pressing ahead with a UK-Ireland visa system, which means that business people from China and India can visit our two countries with just a single visa, thus encouraging tourism, business links and inward investment.