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T2. Mr McGlone asked the Minister of Finance and Personnel to state at what level of advancement negotiations on enterprise zones are proceeding with the Westminster Government and the Treasury, given that he knows that some research has been carried out, with a scoping exercise having been completed, either by her officials or other departmental officials. (AQT 2992/11-16)
As the Member knows as Chair of the Enterprise Committee, we were granted the prospect of having an enterprise zone, and Coleraine was put forward. The letter from the First Minister and the deputy First Minister has been sent to Her Majesty's Treasury to request that that is allocated as an enterprise zone.
On the wider issue of further work on enterprise zones and other matters, and I know that some of his colleagues have been raising issues in and around city deals, for example, and other issues, we are looking at all those issues in the round to see what is the best fit for Northern Ireland, particularly in regional disparity, and whether there are some other ways in which we can deal with those issues that are suited to Northern Ireland.
First of all, it is a pilot, so we have to see how Coleraine works and give that a bit of time. However, that should not stop my Department, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and the Department for Social Development engaging. I had a very useful meeting with both those Ministers in the summer in and around how we could develop further the concepts that were there and how we could make the best fit for Northern Ireland as opposed to just copying what was happening on the mainland. I think that it is important to do what is right for Northern Ireland. Is it at an advanced stage? No, it is not, but I think that we have to wait and see how the pilot works in Coleraine first.