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Job Creation

Oral Answers to Questions — Enterprise, Trade and Investment – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:00 pm on 10th November 2015.

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Photo of Lord Maurice Morrow Lord Maurice Morrow DUP 2:00 pm, 10th November 2015

2. Lord Morrow asked the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment how he plans to create jobs over the next five years. (AQO 9042/11-16)

Photo of Jonathan Bell Jonathan Bell DUP

The Executive’s economic strategy sets out an overarching goal to 2030 to improve the economic competitiveness of the economy through a focus on export-led economic growth, and this will remain our priority going forward. Our most important exporting sector is manufacturing, and, despite the recent bad news about Michelin, the manufacturing sector has been posting strong growth in output and has created over 1,800 jobs in the past year to March 2015. It is interesting to note that the manufacturing sector is outperforming the UK average.

As we look to refocus the economic strategy, we will continue to invest in the key drivers of innovation, research and development and skills in order to create the conditions that will allow businesses in all sectors to grow and prosper. That is how we will contribute to the Executive’s collective goal of delivering economic growth, increasing prosperity and creating jobs.

Photo of Lord Maurice Morrow Lord Maurice Morrow DUP

I thank the Minister for his response. Having listened to it, I suspect that he will agree that manufacturing jobs are the future. He outlined that some 1,800 jobs have been created in the manufacturing sector over the past year or thereabouts. What is his target for the next five years, particularly in the manufacturing sector?

Photo of Jonathan Bell Jonathan Bell DUP

Manufacturing is a vital sector, accounting for 14% of all local economic output. It accounts for one in every nine of our local jobs. Despite the bad news, the output was 3·2% over the year to quarter 2 in 2015, which outperformed the UK average. The latest DETI research on the cost of doing business showed that we are competitive on all costs against the rest of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland but that we cannot compete globally on cost alone.

I am targeting trying to compete for higher-end jobs that require high skills. That is where our competitive edge lies. That is why I am looking to life sciences, agrifood, advanced materials and advanced engineering. I note the success of the Member's constituency in accounting for some 21% of all jobs in manufacturing.

Photo of Sean Lynch Sean Lynch Sinn Féin

Does the Minister accept that regional targets need to form part of Invest NI's corporate plan and the Programme for Government going forward?

Photo of Jonathan Bell Jonathan Bell DUP

We have to be careful. All of us want jobs to come to our constituency, and that is natural. I want jobs for Strangford as much as you want them for anywhere else. However, we have to be careful and look at the evidence from the last census: 40% of the people working in all constituencies work in areas outside the parliamentary boundary that they live within. We have to be very careful because we cannot instruct businesses where to go. Businesses will determine that on that on the basis of whatever factors are in their criteria. We will seek to put the best-case scenario right across Northern Ireland to attract jobs because we are conscious that nearly half of our people work outside their parliamentary boundary.

Photo of Mitchel McLaughlin Mitchel McLaughlin Speaker

My apologies, Mr McGlone. I should have called you as the Chair first. Please accept my apology.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

Tá tú ceart go leor. You are all right. Agus mo bhuíochas leis an Aire chomh maith. Thanks very much to the Minister as well.

Much has been made, Minister, by the manufacturing sector of the need for a more strategic approach and the development of a manufacturing strategy. Has the Minister deliberated on a stakeholder-type approach involving manufacturers, the social and trade union sector and his Department in order to develop a more contemporary manufacturing strategy?

Photo of Jonathan Bell Jonathan Bell DUP

The manufacturing strategy that the five parties, including the Member's, came to was the economic strategy, and DETI's manufacturing strategy is within that. I have met unions, and I have tried to take forward some of their ideas. They have asked me specifically to do things around energy costs, and I think that everyone in the House knows what we did, particularly in relation to Bombardier, our biggest manufacturer.

Sadly, we will never see the truth. I was ready to sign off a three quarters of a million pounds grant investment to Michelin to try to bring its energy costs down. I can work with trade unions on some things; I do not think that other things that they have asked me to do, like appointing additional junior Ministers, would be acceptable to the House. We will work together to support them in the way they are and to continue their growth.

Photo of Mitchel McLaughlin Mitchel McLaughlin Speaker

I inform Members that question 9 has been withdrawn.