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Northern Ireland Economy

Volume 671: debated on Wednesday 5 February 2020

Northern Ireland is a leading destination for inward investment, with employment at a record high and unemployment at a record low. However, there is more to be done to unleash Northern Ireland’s economic potential. The UK Government are providing significant funding to Northern Ireland, including through a £1 billion Barnett-based investment guarantee and £562 million for city and growth deals that cover the whole of Northern Ireland.

When the Minister discusses these matters with the Executive, will he consider discussing—along with corporation tax, which he should raise—the levels of VAT on tourism and air passenger duty? I understand that both have been reduced in the Republic of Ireland.

My hon. Friend raises some important points. Northern Ireland’s tourism potential is enormous. I can confirm that, as was previously committed, the Government are reviewing the devolution of APD, and that review is ongoing.

We welcome the success of Invest NI and others in attracting investment to Northern Ireland, but it is essential that we continue to have unfettered access to our biggest market, which is Great Britain. Economic growth is dependent on that and we need the Government to honour their commitments to ensure that we continue to have that access in both directions.

I absolutely recognise the importance of the issues that the right hon. Gentleman raises. We will honour our commitments and have committed, through the “New Decade, New Approach” deal, to specific legislation on the issue. I look forward to working with the right hon. Gentleman and the other parties on delivering that.

Will the Minister indicate the timescale within which the Government hope to bring forward legislative measures? It is essential that business has the certainty that it needs at this time to take investment decisions.

As the right hon. Gentleman will know, the commitment is to have the legislation in place by the end of the year, but there will of course have to be discussions through the usual channels as to the precise timing.

I thank the House for returning me to the Chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee.

A strong economy requires access to a skilled, motivated workforce. Clearly, we have to ensure that the skills base in Northern Ireland is supported and grows, but will my hon. Friend assure me that the voice and needs of the Northern Irish economy will be heard loudly in the Home Office as we finesse our immigration policies?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his re-election as Chair of the Select Committee. He makes a very important point, which I have also heard loud and clear from Northern Ireland businesses. I think they welcome some of the indications from the Migration Advisory Committee report. Of course, the Northern Ireland Office will ensure that the concerns and interests of Northern Ireland businesses are communicated across Government, including to the Home Office.

The Minister is right to say that the Northern Ireland economy has enormous potential, and there is no doubt that restoration of the Executive will unlock a great amount of that potential. Will he also explain the benefits that the Northern Ireland economy will receive from being part of the fifth largest economy in the world—that of the United Kingdom?

My right hon. Friend speaks with enormous knowledge of this area. She is absolutely right: Northern Ireland’s economy benefits enormously from its membership of the United Kingdom, and there will be new opportunities for Northern Ireland as we trade more globally and strike new free trade deals around the world.