The Government have a clear manifesto commitment to work towards a comprehensive and ambitious set of city deals across Northern Ireland to boost investment and help to unlock Northern Ireland’s full potential. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and I have already had some early discussions with partners in the Belfast city region.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s commitment to developing city deals in Northern Ireland. Can he confirm that the city deals that have been developed by this Government have been a success across Great Britain and that Northern Ireland stands to benefit immensely from their development over there?
I can. The fact is that Northern Ireland has had no city deals, whereas England, Scotland and Wales have made 33 deals worth up to £4.9 billion. This is about the change that city deals bring and the other finance that city deals are able to unlock. That is why we strongly believe there is a firm place for city deals in Northern Ireland, and we are committed to advancing them.
Will my right hon. Friend assure us that, as in England, it is important that provincial towns benefit from city deals? Will he ensure that not just Belfast but the whole of Northern Ireland benefits from the growth that city deals can bring?
Absolutely. We want the benefit of city deals to be felt across Northern Ireland. Although, yes, the Belfast city region has been advancing its own proposals, it is right that we look across Northern Ireland—to the north-west and to all parts of Northern Ireland—to see that the benefit and the transformative effect of city deals is firmly felt.
The Secretary of State should be encouraged that discussions continue apace at a local level in the Belfast city region, as well as with officials at a regional and national level. But with no Assembly sitting and a democratic participative deficit in this arrangement, how will he encourage the involvement of representatives of the Belfast region—and indeed of representatives in this House—so that the project comes to fruition?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, I had discussions with hon. and right hon. Members, as well as with Belfast City Council, during the initial phase. We are looking carefully at how that work can move forward practically through officials and by other means. I am determined to see city deals taking effect, with their benefit being felt. This engagement will continue to ensure that that happens.