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Executive: Sustainable Finances

Volume 606: debated on Wednesday 2 March 2016

5. What steps she is taking to ensure that the Northern Ireland Executive's financial position is sustainable. (903784)

The Stormont House and fresh start agreements set out a number of measures to assist with the sustainability of the Executive’s finances. These include packages of financial support of around £2.5 billion, implementation of welfare reform, and measures to improve the efficiency of the public sector.

Does the Secretary of State accept that there is a major threat to the sustainability of the Executive’s finances if her view prevails and the UK leaves the European Union?

My colleague the Minister has stated the Government’s position on those matters. The Northern Ireland Executive’s finances are on a more stable footing than they have been for many years. As a result of the fresh start talks, we have settled a budget crisis that was threatening to collapse the institutions. The Labour party should support us in maintaining that financial sustainability.

What assessment has the Secretary of State made of the impact on Northern Ireland’s financial position of leaving the European Union? What assessment have her civil servants made of it, and is she allowed to see it?

The Government are publishing several documents setting out their position on the European Union. As I have said, we should welcome the dedicated work of the UK Government and the Northern Ireland political parties to settle a budget crisis that was threatening to collapse the institutions and a return to direct rule, which would have been a major setback.

The question was supposed to be about the financial position of the Northern Ireland Executive. The hon. Gentleman is, as he knows, a very cheeky chappie.

The Federation of Small Businesses indicates that some 32,000 jobs will be created by the corporation tax provisions, which the fresh start agreement secured. Sixty per cent. of those jobs in Northern Ireland are in the small and medium-sized business sector. What discussions has the Secretary of State had with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment to ensure that small and medium-sized businesses benefit from the corporation tax reduction?

I have had many discussions over the years with the Executive and Invest NI on those matters. We believe that the devolution of corporation tax could have a hugely positive impact on the Northern Ireland economy, including for small businesses.