Budget Bill: Second Stage

Part of Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 8:30 pm on 9th February 2016.

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Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP 8:30 pm, 9th February 2016

No, I do not represent North Antrim. It is one step better: East Antrim. I think that we have a much longer coastline than North Antrim does. George Robinson, who is sitting beside me, mentions East Londonderry as well. We have beautiful places all over Northern Ireland, and we want to make sure that we attract as many people here as possible.

The Executive have done a very good job of using the tools that are at their disposal to help our economy. If we are looking for some figures to prove that, in the year to September 2015, 12,000 private-sector jobs were created in Northern Ireland. That does not happen by itself. Those jobs were not created because we did nothing; rather, they happened as a result of the policies enacted by the Executive. That is to be very much welcomed.

Therefore, I support the Budget because of its priorities, and I support it because of the continuation of positive policies that have delivered so much for Northern Ireland. I also support the Budget because I believe that it is forward-looking. Some have criticised it for a lack of vision, but that is completely ill-founded criticism.

The new Department for the Economy is covered from page 55 onwards, and I am very encouraged by what I see there. We have an Executive that understand where we need to be. We cannot do things in the way in which we have always done them. We cannot continue to do what we have done in decades past, because our world has changed and the economy has changed. Recent job losses in Northern Ireland have demonstrated that, as a result of the globalised economy in which we now operate, we need to be more competitive than ever. Our workforce needs to be of the highest quality, with the best skills, and we need to be out there ensuring that we have that type of workforce so that we can attract jobs for our people. I read the document, and I see that the Minister has indicated the importance of stimulating:

"research & development, innovation and creativity".

It is also very clear that he has indicated that we need to prepare for the skills implications of the introduction of the lower rate of corporation tax, and that is absolutely right. Corporation tax is a very important tool that we have at our disposal, but we cannot just cut the rate and wait for the jobs to come. We have to prepare for it, and that is something that the Executive are taking seriously.

Investing in economic infrastructure, working with others and investing in innovation, research and development are all really important so that we can have the jobs for our people in the 21st century. That is very welcome.

We have before us a one-year Budget. I know that there has been a bit of discussion about that, and some people think that we should perhaps have had a longer period. As we come to the end of a mandate, it is right that we do not set a Budget that ties the hands of the next Executive. What we have is a road map for the way forward for the next 12 months. It will then be up to the new Executive and the new Assembly to decide their priorities.

I very much welcome the Budget. It is a springboard for us to move forward, and I thank the Minister for his work on it. I challenge the other parties: if you are going to vote against the Budget, you need to say very clearly where you will take money from and where you will put it. Otherwise, you are just doing a disservice to the people we represent. I support the Bill.