I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. It is the Assembly that is not rolling along. I am rolling along very well actually, just to let you know—no problem with me. Even though I am a diabetic—type 2—I can still keep going, and the Duracell battery is what I have to keep me going. The rest of the batteries fail—Shannon still keeps going. Just remember that. [Laughter.]
More money has been allocated to my area, which can only be a good thing, as we are in desperate need of basic infrastructure. There is huge potential in my area and local towns for international investment and so much more. We have state-of-the-art office space, UK-wide connectivity and low business rates. The long-term goal is to show the world that Northern Ireland is the place to invest in business. It is the place to produce television shows—scenes from “Game of Thrones” were filmed locally and supplied by local people. We can provide a high-class graduate labour force and an abundance of admin staff as well.
One of the key components to unlocking local investment is the ability to connect easily, and that includes good roads and transport. I will seek additional funding to improve connectivity to Belfast airport for those looking for the perfect place to invest. With due respect to my colleagues, the perfect place to invest is Newtownards and the surrounding areas. Infrastructure has a massive role to play. I have said it before, but I will say it again—this is the end of term: we need the Ballynahinch bypass. That town is being held back from growing the way it should because it does not have a bypass. The land is acquired and the scheme is in place, but the go-ahead needed from the Northern Ireland Assembly is not there.
Spending on the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs rose from £13.6 million in 2016-17 to £50 million in 2018-19, but our upcoming exit from Europe means that more funding must be allocated. I was pleased to read that additional funding has been allocated specifically to address Brexit issues, not simply for DAERA, but across the Northern Ireland Departments. I am pleased with what DAERA has done in my constituency. It has allocated and committed significant moneys to the Northern Ireland countryside management scheme. The money allocated to tackling rural poverty and social isolation—something else I am particularly interested in—has increased for the last three years. The substantial money for the rural development programme in the last year has also been great. This money has addressed many of the issues that are prevalent in the countryside. DAERA is doing that. It could do better if we had a Minister in place, but it is doing very well.