Programme for Government: Westminster Election Impact

Oral Answers to Questions — Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 27th April 2015.

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Photo of Lord Maurice Morrow Lord Maurice Morrow DUP 2:30 pm, 27th April 2015

T4. Lord Morrow asked the First Minister and the deputy First Minister whether the First Minister believes that the outcome of the Westminster election will have any implications for the Executive's Programme for Government. (AQT 2404/11-15)

Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson DUP

The Executive are first going to update their Programme for Government, because, after the original Programme for Government was published, a decision was taken to extend the term of the Assembly from four to five years. My understanding is that that is moving forward. Members will be able to make their comments on that in, I hope, a matter of weeks.

On the future Programme for Government, we obviously have to have some knowledge of the comprehensive spending review that a new Government will bring forward in order to know what funds will be available for us to be able to action our Programme for Government. Some of the elements of our Programme for Government might be improved if there were a statistical advantage gained by the presence of Northern Ireland Members of Parliament. I hope that they would use that not for any selfish party interest but in the interests of Northern Ireland as a whole. In those circumstances, there could be real benefits in a new Parliament.

Photo of Lord Maurice Morrow Lord Maurice Morrow DUP

I thank the First Minister for his fairly comprehensive and detailed response. On the next Programme for Government, does the First Minister believe that there is the potential to create more wealth and prosperity for the people of Northern Ireland?

Photo of Peter Robinson Peter Robinson DUP

Any time that I get a question like that, I respond first by pointing out just what we have succeeded in doing, because we have a very negative media in Northern Ireland that are happy to tell us all the things that we are not doing or are doing wrong but slow to tell us that there is more foreign direct investment per head of population coming to Northern Ireland than anywhere else in the United Kingdom, including London and the prosperous south-east. The media do not tell you that Northern Ireland has had more investment than at any time in its history, even against the backcloth of a global recession. Nor do they tell you that we have the lowest taxes in the whole of the United Kingdom. Nor do they tell you that we have had more infrastructure build in Northern Ireland than at other times in our history.

We have done a great deal — so much, in fact, that Invest Northern Ireland has exceeded its targets, even though we set targets that were very demanding of it. In that context, what the Executive need to do is to continue on the path that they have been on, which is getting growth into our economy, particularly growth that is export-led. All of that is important and requires us, as an Executive, to be investing in the drivers of growth, which include innovation, skills and training, infrastructure in certain areas, and trying to drive up productivity. That is what provides real stimulus to the economy, meaning more jobs. From a Treasury point of view, it means that there is more income tax. It means that there is more being spent in shops. People's earnings go up. Increasing growth is the way to prosperity.

Photo of Mitchel McLaughlin Mitchel McLaughlin Speaker

I call Mr William Humphrey. Mr Humphrey, there may not be time for you to ask a supplementary question, so you may want to swap.