Enterprise Zones

Oral Answers to Questions — Enterprise, Trade and Investment – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:45 pm on 30 September 2002.

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Photo of Joe Byrne Joe Byrne Social Democratic and Labour Party 2:45, 30 September 2002

6. asked the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment to outline his policy on designating enterprise zones that attract grant-aided incentives.

(AQO 195/02)

Photo of Reg Empey Reg Empey UUP

The Department has no plans to designate enterprise zones that attract grant-aided incentives. It uses other measures that are based on the new TSN maps, as well as a comprehensive series of policy initiatives that involve Invest Northern Ireland, to stimulate economic activity across Northern Ireland.

Photo of Joe Byrne Joe Byrne Social Democratic and Labour Party

I pay tribute to the Department’s work in creating more industrial parks in Omagh and Strabane. However, in order to promote the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector, especially in provincial areas, will it seriously consider incentives beyond selective financial assistance? Will the Minister assure Members that, to encourage economic development, the Department and the district council will seriously consider support for Fintona, which does not have an industrial park?

Photo of Reg Empey Reg Empey UUP

You know what they say, Mr Deputy Speaker: if west Tyrone does not get you one way, it will get you another.

Past policy has been to focus on industrial land and parks in centres of significant population in each district council area. Therefore, as Mr Byrne said, not every town or village necessarily has such a facility. That would spread resources very thinly over a wide area, rather than concentrate them on a limited number of areas.

We have pushed hard in the past few years to attract investment to west Tyrone, with some success in Omagh and Strabane. The Member will recall the recent investment by Rixell Ltd at Doogary Road near Omagh.

As far as incentives other than selective financial assistance are concerned, we offer industrial derating, which is not given anywhere else in these islands. Other incentives include help with training, professional advice, and advice on broadband services. I am prepared to consider suggestions for other forms of assistance. It is something that must be kept under review and should not be curtailed because of bureaucratic requirements.

If the Member has specific ideas that would help his constituency, the Department will be happy to consider them. The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development and I have other strings to our bow, be they based on European funds or LEADER, to help promote development. The combination of those incentives ought to give us a significant package to offer.

Photo of Ken Robinson Ken Robinson UUP

I am taken by the Minister’s specific references to aid. Given the loss of over 2,000 jobs in east Antrim, and in the light of the severe ongoing job losses there, will he urgently consider declaring east Antrim a strategic employment location in which innovation and entrepreneurship can be fast-tracked to arrest the serious and ongoing decline in the manufacturing sector there?

Photo of Reg Empey Reg Empey UUP

In view of my responses to the Member for North Antrim, who is no longer in the Chamber, and the Member for West Tyrone, I shall not answer the Member’s question specifically, because it does not relate to the question tabled. I understand his point and I shall write to him about the particular matters he referred to, but he has strayed considerably from the original question.

Photo of Conor Murphy Conor Murphy Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. Has the Minister had any discussions with the Tánaiste and her Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment in the South about any potential benefits that could be gained from cross-border industrial parks on both sides of the border, given the economic decline there? What benefits might be accrued from such an establishment?

Photo of Reg Empey Reg Empey UUP

Tax incentives are not a matter for this Administration; they are a reserved matter for London. Therefore, I do not hold discussions with Ms Harney about tax incentives. I am not in a position to deal with them. However, we co-operate in other areas, and we have been working closely together, as have Invest Northern Ireland and IDA Ireland, particularly in the north-west, where an initiative is under way.