International Profile

Oral Answers to Questions — Northern Ireland – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 11th January 2006.

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Photo of Mary Creagh Mary Creagh Labour, Wakefield 11:30 am, 11th January 2006

What steps he is taking to raise the international profile of Northern Ireland.

Photo of Angela Smith Angela Smith Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Northern Ireland Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office)

Northern Ireland already has a good international profile maintained through trade missions and participation in international business, cultural and sporting events. We are continuing to build on the talents of the people of Northern Ireland and the fact that the economy is buoyant, with low unemployment and rising employment, productivity and exports.

Photo of Mary Creagh Mary Creagh Labour, Wakefield

I thank my hon. Friend for her reply. What steps is she taking to enable small and bigger businesses in Northern Ireland to benefit from the opportunities that present themselves in the fast-growing economies of India and China?

Photo of Angela Smith Angela Smith Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Northern Ireland Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office)

My hon. Friend is right: there are two huge and fast-growing economies in China and India, and we need to be proactive to take advantage of them. I recently took a small delegation of businesses from Northern Ireland to China and opened our Shanghai office. A number of local businesses are going to India with Enterprise Northern Ireland, and the Secretary of State has plans for a trade mission to India later this year. We are very proactive, but we must ensure that the people of Northern Ireland have the skills to take advantage of the investment. That is why the Secretary of State has launched our skills and science strategy.

Photo of Nigel Dodds Nigel Dodds Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury)

One of the best ways to promote the international profile of Northern Ireland is to emphasise the links between Belfast and the Titanic. At the moment, the last remaining White Star vessel afloat in the world—SS Nomadic—is on sale and ready to go to the scrap heap. Will the Department for Culture, Arts and Leisure give money to ensure that that important artefact is brought back to its home in Belfast, so that it can be used to promote the Province and the city of Belfast for future generations?

Photo of Angela Smith Angela Smith Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Northern Ireland Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office)

Many of us would like to see the SS Nomadic came back to Northern Ireland. Although I am not the Minister with responsibility for culture, arts and leisure, I have met those responsible. I understand that a favourable loan was offered to the council to try to address the issue. We are working across Departments in partnership with the council to find out whether we can do something to help, but we must consider all the associated costs.

Photo of Alasdair McDonnell Alasdair McDonnell Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Health), Shadow Spokesperson (Education), Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury)

What discussions have the Government had with the Irish Government about using the north-south bodies to promote Northern Ireland and, especially, the tourism and industry aspects of the all-Ireland economy?

Photo of Angela Smith Angela Smith Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Northern Ireland Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office)

The matter is the subject of continued discussion among Ministers, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State met Dermot Ahern yesterday. We continue to have relationships between the north and south because great benefits can accrue to the economy through such events.