asked Her Majesty's Government:
What was the purpose of the visits by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to the United States; who the Secretary of State met; what Northern Ireland Office officials were present; and how much the officials' visit to the United States cost. [HL1152]
The United States continues to make a vital contribution to the peace process in Northern Ireland. As such it is important that my right honourable friend maintains regular contact with the US administration, key political interests and other influential opinion formers in order to help sustain their support for the peace process and critically achieve Stage 2 devolution. Such visits also enable my right honourable friend to support the devolved administration in the crucial area of attracting inward investment in Northern Ireland.
The Secretary of State was supported by a private secretary, the NIO political director and, on the visits in July and October, by the director of communications. For details of costs I refer the noble Lord to the Answer I gave on 28 January (Official Report, cols. WA 86-87).