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Economic Difficulties

Part of Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 am on 13th October 2008.

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Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson DUP 2:30 am, 13th October 2008

The Member is right. During the latter part of last week, I received an email that indicated that around 25% of jobs in the aggregates sector had already been lost, with the fear that more job losses were to come before the end of the year. If that part of the construction industry is being so affected, one cannot help but conclude that the same impact will be felt elsewhere.

Representatives from the construction industry met the deputy First Minister and myself some weeks ago, and we considered a series of possibilities, one of which was the acceleration of the capital spend programme that I referred to in my answer to Mr Ford. It is worth pointing out that that programme is more substantial than has ever been the case in Northern Ireland’s history, and it is a programme that could go a long way to making the difference.

The construction industry was keen to be provided with a long-term vision of what measures will come on stream so that it can be involved in the planning process. We have been in touch with the Scottish and Welsh Executives and, by and large, the steps that they are examining are in line with the decisions that we have taken in various Departments: reshaping our capital spending; adjusting the planning and regulatory environment to help individuals and businesses; targeting support at the most vulnerable individuals and businesses; and alleviating the effects of rising energy prices and promoting energy efficiency.

Those are the four key drivers on which the Executive can have an impact. We can have very little impact on the wider global economy and the issues that flow from that, but I have outlined the issues affecting Northern Ireland in respect of which a local hand can make a difference.