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Economic Prospects

Volume 677: debated on Wednesday 24 June 2020

What recent assessment he has made of the prospects for the Northern Ireland economy in the next 12 months. (903599)

While the Northern Ireland economy does have its challenges, as we do across the United Kingdom as we come out of covid-19, I am confident that Northern Ireland has a promising economic future as we recover from this crisis. We will continue to work with business, the Executive and local partners to make sure we do everything we can to get the economy not just back up and running, but turbocharged as it moves forward, laying the foundations for a stable and sustainable economic future.

I thank the Secretary of State for that response. Does he agree with me that the much talked about reduction in corporation tax in Northern Ireland to 12.5% would be a major boost to the economy of the Province? If one or two parties in Northern Ireland are not keen on that idea, would the Government consider introducing it once we are free of the shackles of the European Union in that respect?

I think we are all looking forward to being completely free of the shackles of the European Union. We in the UK Government remain committed to supporting the Executive to achieve the devolution of corporation tax, so that they will have the power to make the decision that my hon. Friend has outlined. In the Stormont House and subsequent “Fresh Start” agreements, we made it clear that these powers would be devolved and provided, subject to the Executive’ demonstrating that their finances are on a sustainable footing for the long term. It is for the Northern Ireland Executive to take the steps necessary to place those finances on a sustainable footing, such as by putting in place the fiscal council, which I hope they will do very swiftly.

There are 600 job losses at Bombardier, 400 at Thompson Aero, and another 200 at risk from the cancellation of the Airbus neo—new engine option—project. Northern Ireland cannot afford to lose these jewels in the crown of its economy, so will the Secretary of State ensure that the Government step in with a strategy and support for the aerospace sector similar to that provided by France, Germany and the US?

The hon. Lady asks a very important question about the aviation industry more widely. Obviously, I have spoken to the chief executive of Bombardier in particular, and my colleagues at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Worcester (Mr Walker), have been in constant co-ordination and contact with the relevant companies.

The UK Government have provided some £2.1 billion through the covid corporate financing facility to the aerospace sector and airlines more widely, and additional flexibility for UK Export Finance to support £3.5 billion of sales in the next 18 months, as well as putting £0.5 billion into our aerospace research and development over the next few years. We are determined to do everything we can to support all sectors of our economy, including the Northern Ireland economy.