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Budget 2016-17

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 6:00 pm on 19th January 2016.

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Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party 6:00 pm, 19th January 2016

The last thing that you want to do is penalise people and make it more difficult for them to access education. Fundamentally, from the SDLP's point of view, education is a liberator. It frees things up. It allows people to advance themselves, their families and their communities. Historically, that has been the case, so we certainly do not want to leave people feeling that they are less able to access education and the form of economic and social liberation that education brings with it. Go raibh maith agat as sin, a Mháirtín.

There are key issues and elements. A significant reduction in non-ring-fenced resource DEL is apparent in the Invest NI and tourism bracket of the Budget; there is a £10 million reduction. Will that reduction in non-ring-fenced DEL be appropriately supplemented by capital and additional allocations, as mentioned in the Stormont House Agreement? The figures and facts have to be returned to us. We spoke with officials today at the Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committee. They did not have access to the level of detail as to what the budgetary commitments were for Invest NI or Tourism NI, specifically around job creation. How much has been committed? How much leverage is left? How much financial elbow room is left for job creation? That is a key element that we need to know. Tied in with corporation tax, and any potential that arises from it, will be the capacity of Invest NI to respond to requirements of FDIs and the capacity to have an economic environment and skill set here that matches the requirements of those FDIs. That is crucial in the context of corporation tax. Nobody has ever said that it is a silver bullet. We want to make sure that, whatever type of bullet it is, the other aspects of what can make it work will be there through the appropriate investment.

A very key aspect that has not been looked at or mentioned is Brexit. What do I mean by that? From 2007 to 2013, we have had investment here of £2·4 billion. I have just caught up on some figures. In the 2014-2020 programme of EU funding, there is the potential to realise €229 million under one of the EU programmes. Under INTERREG, there is another €240 million.

With that comes the potential to realise €40 million and €42 million respectively in match funding. Has any consideration been given to or any assessment made at departmental level of the potential impact of the loss of that funding? Mr McMullan referred to the number of people who avail themselves of such payments for the success of their farming business. I had an Assembly question for written answer responded to today. The number of people who availed themselves of the basic farm payment or whose farms are eligible for the payment as businesses is 22,213.

The output of the Northern Ireland economy is estimated to be £33 billion per annum. Research shows that a Brexit —