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International Investment in Northern Ireland

Volume 737: debated on Thursday 14 September 2023

4. What steps she is taking with Cabinet colleagues to help increase international investment in Northern Ireland. (906368)

Just yesterday I was in Belfast, where my Department delivered the Northern Ireland investment summit in partnership with the Northern Ireland Office and Invest Northern Ireland. I would like to take the opportunity to thank the Secretaries of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and for Northern Ireland for their support in making it a success. Five hundred delegates, including investors from 24 countries around the world, attended to see at first hand the unique opportunities for inward investment in Northern Ireland across a range of sectors, including life sciences and advanced manufacturing.

What consideration has my right hon. Friend given to creating an investment zone that covers the whole of Northern Ireland to bring much needed investment to that much loved part of the United Kingdom?

It is a very interesting idea. Investment zone policy is owned by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, so I will raise it with the Secretary of State there and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Officials from the UK Government and the Northern Ireland civil service continue to work closely to explore developing investment zone policy in the country. The lack of a functioning Executive there has, of course, limited the scope and nature of engagement on investment zones. If the Executive is restored, we will work together to progress an investment zone at pace, and if it is not formed, we will set out different plans in due course.

First, I thank the Secretary of State and the Government for the investment conference they held in Belfast over the last two days. It clearly shows a commitment to Northern Ireland, and I am very pleased to see that. When it comes to international investment, we are happy to see in Northern Ireland that Harland & Wolff, which has specialised in ship repair and shipbuilding for some years, has recruited almost 1,000 people in the last few months. What discussions has the Secretary of State had with the relevant Department back home to ensure that Northern Ireland can play its part in the UK shipbuilding industry and therefore benefit from that investment?

The hon. Gentleman is quite right: this is an area where Northern Ireland has a comparative advantage. As we hosted the summit, we all looked out on the docks, and we could see that shipbuilding is integral to the country. UK Export Finance is supporting many of the companies that build ships and want to export this magnificent UK product all across the world. My hon. Friend the Minister for Industry and Economic Security spoke about the UK shipbuilding guarantee. We have been talking about this all week. Maritime investment is key, and if the hon. Gentleman would like further details on what we are doing that has an impact on his constituency, we can provide him with that information.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. Business investment is lower in the UK than in any other G7 country and we rank 27th out of 30 OECD countries, ahead of only Poland, Luxembourg and Greece. More than half a trillion pounds-worth of under-investment by Government and business has left our economy trapped in a growth doom loop. What is the Secretary of State doing to undo this damage?

What the hon. Lady did not say is that business investment is increasing at a faster rate than in other countries. She is right that investment has been lower here, but that is why the Chancellor brought in policies such as full expensing to tackle this issue. She also did not mention the fact that we are the top destination for investment across financial services and many other areas. The UK is actually doing very well when it comes to inward investment, and we will continue to create policies that ensure we stay at the top of the pack.