The Economy

Oral Answers to Questions — Northern Ireland – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 10th July 2013.

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Photo of Heidi Alexander Heidi Alexander Opposition Whip (Commons) 11:30 am, 10th July 2013

What her policy is on the Northern Ireland economy; and if she will make a statement.

Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

The Government wish to rebalance the economy to help Northern Ireland compete in the global race for jobs and investment. This is the aim of the economic package agreed between the Government and the Executive. The successful G8 has also demonstrated to the world that Northern Ireland is very much open for business.

Photo of Heidi Alexander Heidi Alexander Opposition Whip (Commons)

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for that reply. She will be aware that at the beginning of this month the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association warmly welcomed the initiative being spearheaded by the shadow Business Secretary, my hon.

Friend Mr Umunna, to make 7 December “small business Saturday”. Will she put on record her support for that proposal and outline the concrete steps she will take to ensure that it is a success?

Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

Small business Saturday was raised with me by Glyn Roberts of NIIRTA when I met small businesses just a few days ago. The Government are determined to rebalance the economy to create the right conditions for growth in Northern Ireland. That was the aim of the extensive economic package that we agreed with the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, which was broadly welcomed by people such as the Taoiseach, the US President and even the shadow Secretary of State. That provides a good platform to help small businesses.

Photo of David Simpson David Simpson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills)

One of the obstacles to the growth of the economy in Northern Ireland has been the lack of funding from banks to help small and medium-sized enterprises. What discussions has the Secretary of State had with the banks so that funding can be made available to these companies?

Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

I have had extensive discussions with the banks, Treasury Ministers and the Finance Minister of the Northern Ireland Executive. That informs an important part of the work stream that we will take forward as part of the economic package.

Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SDLP Spokesperson (Treasury)

The Secretary of State will agree that, because of the shape of the Northern Ireland economy, public contracts represent a significant part of the market opportunity for our private sector. Does she therefore agree that any implications of sleaze or partisan hands being greased in relation to public contracts or any other governmental decisions that could favour the private sector should be investigated to the full?

Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

These are devolved matters. It is, of course, for the Assembly to investigate any allegations made along those lines. It is not for me as Secretary of State to intervene in those allegations. I am sure the Assembly and Executive will deal with them in an appropriate manner.