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Economy

Oral Answers to Questions — Northern Ireland – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 18th May 2011.

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Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns Conservative, Vale of Glamorgan 11:30 am, 18th May 2011

What recent assessment he has made of the state of the Northern Ireland economy.

Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

Like many in Northern Ireland, I believe that we need to rebalance the Northern Ireland economy and boost private sector growth and investment. The Government will work closely with the Northern Ireland Executive to help make Northern Ireland a beacon for foreign investment and growth.

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns Conservative, Vale of Glamorgan

Enterprise zones in England are an exciting opportunity to grow the private sector, and I hope they will be delivered in my constituency by the Welsh Assembly Government. Will the Secretary of State update the House on what progress is being made in Northern Ireland to deliver such an innovative opportunity?

Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the question. I have been travelling to Northern Ireland for nearly four years and wanting to turn the whole of Northern Ireland into an enterprise zone, making it an attractive place for investment and building on all the advantages that it now has. On my hon. Friend’s specific question, enterprise zones as described in the Budget are now in devolved hands and I hope the devolved Ministers grasp the opportunity with both hands. [Interruption.]

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow Spokesperson (Education), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Treasury)

Recently the Irish Republic abolished air passenger duty, which has put at risk cross-Atlantic flights from Northern Ireland and had an impact on the tourist and investment strategy of the Executive. Ironically, that was done as a result of loans facilitated by the UK Government. Will the Secretary of State ensure that in the renegotiation of those loans or any further loans, conditions are attached that stop the Irish Republic gaining such competitive advantage?

Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his re-election, and re-election to his Ministry. He is right that maintaining good, cheap and quick transport links between Northern Ireland and the rest of the world is vital. I have discussed APD with Treasury colleagues. A consultation is going on and I would like to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss how we work together on the matter. In meetings with the Government in Dublin, I will also raise the issue.