Finance Ministers

Finance and Personnel – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:45 pm on 15th March 2011.

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Photo of Declan O'Loan Declan O'Loan Social Democratic and Labour Party 2:45 pm, 15th March 2011

4. asked the Minister of Finance and Personnel if, since taking up office, he has had any contact or has held discussions with the former Irish Minister for Finance.  (AQO 1300/11)

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow Spokesperson (Education), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Treasury)

I have probably answered the question, as the Member well knows. I am a bit surprised at the question. I have made statements in the House on this on a number of occasions, and I have referred to meetings that I have had with Minister Lenihan in the past. I do not think that I need to elaborate on that.

Photo of Declan O'Loan Declan O'Loan Social Democratic and Labour Party

Let me return to the question of NAMA. Some £350 million of the NAMA loans relating to Northern Ireland property relate to buildings or projects that are in the course of construction. NAMA has said that it may be prepared to give loans so that those projects may be finished, if it makes financial sense to do so. Has the Minister raised that matter with NAMA representatives, and does he have an assurance that they will do so equally in Northern Ireland?

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow Spokesperson (Education), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Treasury)

I am glad that the Member raised that issue. I should perhaps have said something in reference to that in my last answer. Yes, we did; it was one of the issues that we discussed with NAMA representatives last week. They indicated to us that they have £7 billion — perhaps it is £5 billion, I cannot remember offhand — to provide as working capital for projects. The building that Google bought in the middle of Dublin is an example of where working capital was put in to allow a project to be finished. NAMA has given us assurances. We will make representations where projects are identified in Northern Ireland as being able to add value if some working capital is made available for them. We will be in constant contact with officials in NAMA to ensure that that happens. No indication has been given that there will be an allocation to each jurisdiction. It will depend where opportunities arise to add a bit of value, offload an asset and realise some money from it.

Photo of William Humphrey William Humphrey DUP

Does the Minister agree that there is irony in the Member asking that question? Perhaps if the Member had had more contact with the Minister for Social Development — his Minister, the stay-away Minister in last week’s debate on the Budget — that Minister could have advised the Finance Minister and his other colleagues of his decision to announce the housing at Girdwood, which he did without Executive approval.

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow Spokesperson (Education), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Treasury)

I am sure that the Minister for Social Development, when making an announcement about housing in north Belfast, was well aware that it was an opportunity to present a good picture coming up to the election. I expect that we will find that many other Ministers want to do the same. I just hope that, when they make those announcements, they all have the money to deliver on them because, as Finance Minister, I am concerned about whether those things are deliverable or are simply promises floated before an election that will lead to disappointment for people after it.