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Northern Ireland Economy

Volume 643: debated on Wednesday 20 June 2018

This Government are delivering a fundamentally strong economy for Northern Ireland, with unemployment down to 3.3% from over 7% in 2010. Nearly 19,000 new jobs have been created over the last year, the highest number on record, meaning that more people have the security of a regular pay packet for themselves and their families.

Redditch has a proud history of manufacturing businesses that trade with Northern Ireland. One such business is Trimite, which manufactures specialist coatings for the defence and aerospace industries. What assurances can my right hon. Friend give to my constituents at Trimite and other businesses that there is a prosperous global outlook after Brexit?

My hon. Friend makes a very important point about the opportunities for United Kingdom manufacturers—those in her constituency of Redditch and those based in Northern Ireland. The Trade Bill will enable the UK to continue with existing trading arrangements, and that will provide certainty, continuity and reassurance for businesses such as Trimite.

Companies such as Siemens in my constituency show an interest in and have an important stake in Northern Ireland. Has my right hon. Friend made any recent assessments of the economic impact of their remaining in the UK?

Northern Ireland benefits substantially from being part of the world’s fifth largest economy, with access to an internal UK market of about 65 million people—the most significant market for Northern Ireland businesses, worth £14.6 billion in sales and supporting thousands of jobs. This Government have built a strong economy that can invest in services such as the NHS and deliver public spending. On Monday, I visited Omagh to see the Strule shared education campus, which is benefiting from £140 million of funding from this Government.

13. The uncomfortable truth is that production output in Northern Ireland has fallen by 5% and foreign direct investment has fallen by 50%—both being the largest falls in any region of the UK. Does the Secretary of State put that down more to her Government’s complacency about the peace process or their reckless mishandling of the Brexit process? (905874)

The prospects and opportunities for Northern Ireland are absolutely fantastic. I am working to make sure that Northern Ireland benefits from all the opportunities that Brexit affords the United Kingdom.

In welcoming the progress in the economy in Northern Ireland, does the Secretary of State realise that sport plays an important part in that? On Friday, the Commonwealth Games Federation will meet to decide whether Belfast will get the youth games. It is a small amount of money. Birmingham is getting a huge amount for the Commonwealth games the following year. The permanent secretary has said no, so will she step in?

As I said to the right hon. Member for Belfast North (Nigel Dodds), I urge party leaders across Northern Ireland to make the views of the parties known, so that the civil service of Northern Ireland can make the right decision.

15. Investment in young people is vital if the businesses of the future are to succeed. What investment is my right hon. Friend making to support the young people of Northern Ireland? (905876)

I have just referred to my visit on Monday to the Strule shared education campus in Omagh, which is benefiting from £140 million of UK Government funding—funding that is only available because this Government are delivering a strong economy.

We know that the greatest roadblock to economic growth in Northern Ireland is the lack of an Assembly being in place. That economic difficulty is being created because no decisions can be made. What measures are the Department and the Secretary of State taking to allow that to happen, so that we can go forward?

The hon. Gentleman will know that there is an appeal against the Buick judgment, which I think is what he was referring to. That appeal will be heard on Monday, and we await the outcome of it, but the Government stand ready to take whatever decisions are necessary.

The economy really will be damaged if planning decisions cannot be made. May I urge the Secretary of State to take swift action to ensure that planning decisions can be made by civil servants in the Executive if necessary?

I assure my right hon. Friend that we will take whatever steps are necessary in the light of the appeal that is due to be heard on Monday.