Tourism: Funding

Oral Answers to Questions — Enterprise, Trade and Investment – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:45 pm on 26th March 2001.

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Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP 2:45 pm, 26th March 2001

7. asked the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment to detail the steps he is taking to ensure equality of funding for tourism projects throughout Northern Ireland.

(AQO 1173/00)

Photo of Reg Empey Reg Empey UUP

The Northern Ireland Tourist Board approves funding for projects which meet published criteria and follows standard appraisal procedures. This process is applied equally and consistently to all tourism projects in Northern Ireland where financial support is sought.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

When will the Minister stop paying lip service to this issue? There is abundant evidence that those promoting tourism in Lagan Valley have not received a slice of the cake commensurate with their effort. Will he even indicate a willingness to lift the current moratorium on grant aid for hotel development in that area? This is inhibiting the growth of tourism in Lagan Valley.

Photo of Reg Empey Reg Empey UUP

I am not paying lip service to anything. The Member raised this issue last November. My response at that time was that the moratorium on grant aid to hotels in the Greater Belfast area was in place because hotels are being built without recourse to public money —

Photo of Reg Empey Reg Empey UUP

That may be the case, but the problem is that there are no applications from Lagan Valley. There is not one before the Department at the moment.

I said last November, and I repeat, that the decision to have a moratorium is not a statutory one. It is an administrative decision, based on what has been the practice with the commercial sector and what has been the best judgement. I do not think that the Member would want to see subsidies being paid to companies to build hotels when, commercially, they can stand on their own two feet.

We should bear in mind that the moratorium does not apply to the entire Lagan Valley area. It probably applies up to Lisburn town, but thereafter it is not included. If a project or a proposal comes forward, I am quite prepared to look at it on its merits.

I attended a meeting of Lisburn Chamber of Commerce last week when the Member of Parliament, Mr Jeffrey Donaldson, and others in the audience raised this matter. Some Assembly Members were also present, and I indicated that if a particular proposal were put forward it would be looked at on its merits. It is in the public interest to ensure that where it is commercially viable and possible for projects to proceed without recourse to public funds, they do so, and that will be entirely consistent with the views of Members.