Ministerial Statement – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 12:00 pm on 22nd February 2016.

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Photo of Jonathan Bell Jonathan Bell DUP 12:00 pm, 22nd February 2016

With your permission, Mr Speaker, I wish to make a statement to update Members on the announcement last week by Bombardier about its global restructuring.

I wish to take this opportunity to express my deep regret at last week's announcement by Bombardier Inc that it is planning to reduce its workforce in Northern Ireland. The impact of that decision will be hard felt in Northern Ireland, particularly by those who are personally affected. First and foremost, my thoughts are with the workers and their families as they continue to absorb the news.

Bombardier took the decision to rationalise its workforce across all its sites to ensure its viability for the future.

While the news was deeply disappointing, Bombardier Inc made it clear that the decision was taken to safeguard the company's long-term future globally and here in Northern Ireland. I want to take this opportunity to assure the House that I am already working with my colleague the Minister for Employment and Learning to do all that is possible to limit the impact of the redundancies that will take place during the coming weeks and months. Bombardier has reaffirmed its commitment to the CSeries programme and to Northern Ireland's critical role in its delivery.

While we try to absorb the news of significant job losses, it is important to note that Air Canada has signed a letter of intent for up to 75 CS300 aircraft. I view that as a positive development for the CSeries project as a whole, particularly as the wings for the aircraft are designed, developed and manufactured here in Northern Ireland. The CSeries CS100 aircraft received Transport Canada certification in December 2015, which was a significant milestone in the programme's transition into service. I look forward to the CSeries entering service with Lufthansa Swiss as planned by the middle of this year.

The Government at Westminster, and the Northern Ireland Executive, primarily through Invest Northern Ireland, work closely with Bombardier here in Belfast and at its corporate headquarters in Montreal to ensure that the company's Northern Ireland operations are fully recognised in the strategic contribution that the company makes to UK aerospace. I have met senior and top management of Bombardier on five occasions since taking up the post of Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, and I intend to continue that contact.

Since the privatisation of Short Bros plc by the UK Government in 1989, Bombardier has invested £2·6 billion in its six sites in and around greater Belfast: in facilities, equipment, research and development; and in the training and development of its workforce. That is a formidable achievement that we must not overlook. It is indicative of the high-value nature of this important industrial sector.

Over the years, my Department, through Invest Northern Ireland and its predecessor agencies, supported Bombardier as it transformed its Northern Ireland operations through a strategic programme of investment aimed at maximising the company’s capabilities and competitiveness. That equipped it to win major work packages for Bombardier's own aircraft families and for third-party customers, including Rolls-Royce and Airbus. Between 2002 and 2015, Invest Northern Ireland offered £75 million worth of assistance to Bombardier, including £21 million for the CSeries, in support of investment commitments totalling £844·5 million. While Bombardier said that there was nothing we could do to reverse last week's decision, we will continue to work closely with the company and explore other ways to support its drive for greater efficiencies.

It is important to recognise the cyclical nature of the aerospace sector worldwide and the peaks and troughs experienced by all major companies operating in that sector — Bombardier is not unique. It is true to say that Bombardier is experiencing challenges, but it is necessary for it to take action now to address those on a global basis to secure the company's long-term future. Northern Ireland is affected by the restructuring decisions announced last week, but other locations have been hit particularly hard as well, especially Canada and Germany.

I wish to take this opportunity to say something about the importance of Northern Ireland aerospace as a whole and the contribution that our vibrant aerospace cluster already makes to the local economy and the global aerospace sector. Northern Ireland is a global leader in aerospace technology. We have a dynamic, rapidly growing international aerospace industry founded on a strong engineering heritage and rich in knowledge, skills and experience. Major aerospace corporations depend on Northern Ireland's reliable supply chain to provide quality, high-value-added products and services cost-effectively and on time using excellent logistical services.

In addition to Bombardier, on which my focus is today, Northern Ireland firms are working to support major international companies including Airbus, Boeing, Embraer, BAE Systems, Spirit Aerosystems and GKN Aerospace. We have a strong presence in the aerospace cluster involving over 60 companies, and Invest Northern Ireland has been working closely with this supply base to enhance its competitiveness and support its continued growth.

In recent months, Invest Northern Ireland has brought delegations from Boeing and Airbus and their top-tier suppliers to Northern Ireland to see the advanced aerospace design and manufacturing capabilities that have been built up over many years. I must pay strong tribute to Bombardier for the major part that it has played in the development of this supply chain that is now able to offer expertise in key technologies including precision machining, composites design, manufacturing advanced metal forming, seating and interiors, and design and stress, along with tooling design and manufacturing.

There is an ongoing programme of investment by Northern Ireland aerospace companies in technology, people and R&D to support expanding production rates in many of the world's aerospace programmes. Invest Northern Ireland has been leading a programme of improvement through the 21st century supply chain initiative in conjunction with the industry association, ADS UK, and is strongly supported by Bombardier Aerospace and B/E Aerospace in Kilkeel to drive improvements in on-time delivery and quality. These are crucial to success in this high-value sector of the manufacturing economy. This programme has already delivered significant improvements in turnover and profitability in the aerospace sector, which, in turn, are helping to create additional jobs in Northern Ireland. This initiative is also helping to reduce the dependence of the participating companies on Bombardier, as a number are successfully diversifying their sales base into other key customers worldwide. The strategy for Northern Ireland aerospace launched by my distinguished predecessor, Arlene Foster, in 2014 is already delivering benefits in internationalising the Northern Ireland aerospace brand, and I shall continue to support the implementation of this strategy in every possible way.

Shortly after taking up the post of Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment last year, I led a group of Northern Ireland companies to the Paris Air Show. I am pleased to say that an even larger group plans to exhibit at the Farnborough International Air Show in July this year. Such was the interest and enthusiasm that has been shown for Farnborough by our companies that Invest Northern Ireland is significantly increasing the size of its stand this year; I find that greatly encouraging. In April, Invest Northern Ireland will be taking a group of companies to the Aerospace and Defence Supplier Summit in Seattle, USA. I feel strongly encouraged by the enthusiasm with which Northern Ireland aerospace companies are embracing these opportunities. This is further evidence of the ambition and confidence with which our aerospace companies are seeking to take their expertise to the four corners of the world.

My focus so far has been on the immediate challenge of the Bombardier job losses. Working with Minister Farry to soften the blow as much as we can, we will continue to work with the company to secure its future and to help those affected to find new jobs. We must now also look beyond that immediate challenge to the future of the manufacturing industry and the overall economy. The job losses at Bombardier, along with those at Michelin and JTI, are serious blows, but we must be neither despondent nor complacent. In the midst of these recent devastating redundancies, it is important to remember that the total number of jobs in manufacturing continues to grow. Recently, total numbers employed in manufacturing passed 80,000 for the first time in a number of years. We can and we must build upon that base.

I want to see flourishing manufacturing companies at the heart of our growing economy, with Northern Ireland supplying the world with everything from complex aircraft structures to portable defibrillators and quarrying machinery, to name but three. As I visit companies across Northern Ireland, I meet inspiring, brilliant people in every sector. I have witnessed at first hand a wealth of entrepreneurial flair and talent working with first-class research and development capacity in our universities.

Our job in the Executive is to create the right environment for that talent to take root and to flourish. It starts with having the right strategy in place. Work is under way in my Department on a major refresh of the Executive's economic strategy. I have tasked my officials with putting manufacturing at the centre of that new strategy, as one of its major themes. Those will not be just warm words. I want to see a real focus on the role of manufacturing as the bedrock of our economy. In that strategy, there will be three key themes to support manufacturing: tax, talent and competitiveness.

First, on tax, the lowering of the rate of corporation tax to 12·5% from April 2018 will be a game changer. Members are familiar with the headline figures: in excess of 30,000 additional jobs; an economy that is nearly 10% larger; and an up to 5% improvement in productivity. Lower corporation tax will not merely grow our economy — it will transform it. Northern Ireland's corporation tax regime will enable our indigenous companies to grow and will bring new forms of foreign direct investment. We already have a well-earned reputation for attracting major back-office and support functions, and we can now look forward to attracting, and retaining, major profit centres. Those profits will in turn drive investment in research, development and innovation, leading to more and better jobs.

Secondly, on talent, we will place a real focus on skills. New jobs in manufacturing and other sectors will depend on having a supply of people with the right skills ready to take up the opportunities. Building that supply chain of skills will be at the core of the new Department for the Economy, working closely with colleagues in schools, further education colleges and universities.

Thirdly, on competitiveness, we must create the right policy environment to ensure that our manufacturing is competitive. For example, the challenge of energy costs is already well recognised. We know that energy costs have fallen in recent years and are at a six-year low, but that means that they are at a six-year low for all our competitors as well. Other countries focus their energy policies on growing the economy and supporting business: we must do the same. That is why I established the energy and manufacturing advisory group, on which we have brought together expertise from manufacturing, energy and academia to generate new ideas on the way forward. The group's work is progressing well, and I look forward to receiving its report in the coming weeks.

The broader policy environment also needs to change, with every part of the public sector sharing the responsibility for growing the economy. With the support of my Executive colleagues, my Department is leading on a programme of deregulation, cutting red tape and reducing the burden on business. The aim, quite simply, will be to make the entire public sector much more business-friendly.

In conclusion, I and my Executive colleagues will do everything that we can for the people who are directly affected by the job losses, and we will continue to support Bombardier — I will stand shoulder to shoulder with Michael Ryan and the men and women on the shop floor in Belfast — to secure its future. Beyond that, the economic strategy will reflect our unshakeable belief in the future of manufacturing in Northern Ireland, which will continue to be the centrepiece of our economy and the envy of the world.

I commend the statement to the Assembly.

Photo of Mitchel McLaughlin Mitchel McLaughlin Speaker 12:15 pm, 22nd February 2016

Thank you very much, Minister. Before I call for the first question, I advise the House that the statement has attracted a very high level of interest and many Members have put their names down to ask a question. I am sure that Members will agree that as many as possible should be given the opportunity to ask their question. For that reason, I ask Members to ensure that their question — and I emphasise "question" in the singular — is as brief as possible and relates to the ministerial statement.

Having said all that, I call Mr Patsy McGlone, the Chairperson of the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment. I will give the Chairperson the usual latitude in making some comments.

Photo of Patsy McGlone Patsy McGlone Social Democratic and Labour Party

Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. Mo bhuíochas leis an Aire as an ráiteas sin. Thanks very much, Mr Speaker. I will not need latitude; all I want is some answers with a degree of precision.

I note that the Minister stated that he had met the management of Bombardier on five separate occasions. I also noted, with some interest, that he — that is the Department — will:

"continue to work closely with the company and explore other ways to support its drive for greater efficiencies."

Perhaps he would care to explain what he means by "greater efficiencies". For the rest of us who have listened to this bad news, efficiency usually equals further cutbacks. I would not like to think that that was indeed the case.

Photo of Jonathan Bell Jonathan Bell DUP

I thank the Member for his question. As he outlined, I met representatives of the company on five separate occasions. I met them twice in Montreal, most recently with Mr Bellemare. In all those meetings, the critical nature of what we wanted to do was to ensure that the Belfast plant is a key part of Bombardier going forward.

We know that Belfast is critical to Bombardier. Indeed, many of the discussions centred on how Bombardier cannot see a future without the Belfast plant. We have the research and development, the patents, the skills and brilliant manufacturing workers. Indeed, 90% of Bombardier's manufacturing staff are accredited, and it is probably a world leader in accreditation.

We know that, in the future, we have to be competitive and efficient. The honourable Member is wrong when he asserts that, when a company becomes efficient and cost-competitive, it always reduces its staff. History would tend to argue against that. We want to see Bombardier in a position where it can win not only orders for the CSeries but other orders.

Michael Ryan and I had a very positive and constructive meeting with many of the trade unions this morning. We are agreed on the critical nature of manufacturing in Belfast and how we take that forward. In the future world economy, cost-competitiveness will be key for Northern Ireland to ensure that we have the jobs in Belfast. I am determined to see those jobs in Belfast.

Photo of Sammy Douglas Sammy Douglas DUP

I thank the Minister for his very comprehensive statement. What plans does his Department have to look at areas such as retraining for the unfortunate people who will lose their jobs?

Photo of Jonathan Bell Jonathan Bell DUP

I spent most of the last 72 hours working with the Minister for Employment and Learning. I want to put on record my deep thanks to Minister Farry, who has been available pretty much 24/7 as we worked together to first absorb the news and then channel our energy into seeing what we can do for the workers affected.

We know that 580 jobs will go by Christmas 2016, and we also know of the announcement of up to 500 jobs going by 2017. I understand that about 380 of those jobs are with a recruitment agency and are part of the complementary labour force. Together with Minister Farry's Department — effectively the two Departments are amalgamated in driving forward support for the workers — we are looking to ensure that the other manufacturing work that we believe to be out there can be introduced to those in the complementary labour force, who are in the most immediate position of losing their jobs.

Secondly, to answer Mr Douglas, I know that many members of the workforce are in the East Belfast constituency, and, as he knows I grew up beside the factory.

We know that there are up to 3,500 jobs coming forward in manufacturing. We want to ensure that, of the 200 who will lose their job in this period, we can seek, where we can, to have those people re-skilled. In many cases that will mean getting accreditation for the skills they already have and programmes of retraining. I am informed by the industry experts that over 90% of the workforce in Bombardier are accredited skilled engineers, and part of our job is to see how we can put them in the best position to attract the new manufacturing jobs that are coming forward.

Photo of Máirtín Ó Muilleoir Máirtín Ó Muilleoir Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. I thank the Minister for his full statement.

First of all, we should emphasise and echo your statement of standing with the workers and management of Bombardier in this city today. All of us from all parties will, despite our differences, do our best in the days ahead to boost the fortunes of Bombardier. In that respect, I will travel to New York later this week to meet the New York City Comptroller, who owns millions of dollars of stock.

Minister, you have said that, as the manufacturing sector grows, you might try to pivot or move some of the workers who are being made redundant into some of those jobs. Can I ask you also to look at the apprentice schemes? I am particularly concerned about the plant at Newtownabbey and the plants at Dunmurry. It is important that some of the other engineering companies take up some of the slack from Bombardier, because those are highly prized and valued apprentice schemes.

Photo of Jonathan Bell Jonathan Bell DUP

I am pleased to do that. Anybody who knows either Stephen or myself knows how deeply we value apprenticeships and how we see them into the future. I understand from the company that it will be suspending the scheme, not ending it. It is a suspension of new apprenticeships. All apprentices in the current scheme will have their full apprenticeship programme honoured. I look forward to a time when we can see that suspension lifted and apprenticeships going forward. Minister Farry and I agree completely that apprenticeships are the way forward.

I also thank the Member for the work that he is doing in the United States. He shared some of that with me on both a private and a commercial basis. I am encouraged by it, because right around the world they are looking for us to stand shoulder to shoulder to protect these jobs. This was a global initiative that Bombardier took. In the UK we took 17% of the pain, Canada took somewhere in the region of 50% of the pain and Germany took a higher degree of pain than we did. I will work with everyone in the House, whatever they have said in the past, if they can bring forward fresh ideas about how we can attract new markets and ensure that manufacturing industry in Northern Ireland is best placed to take advantage of the new opportunities that are emerging.

Photo of Adrian Cochrane-Watson Adrian Cochrane-Watson UUP

Minister, there are some issues in your statement that I very much welcome. First, I highlight the priorities set by Manufacturing NI: the cost of energy, which you have addressed, and the manufacturing strategy being at the heart of the economic strategy moving forward in the new Programme for Government. That is very welcome.

I have two questions for you, Minister. Following on from the previous question on the apprenticeship programme, I used to accredit the apprenticeship programme for Bombardier at both Interpoint and Queens Island, and I strongly urge you, if there is any influence on Michael Ryan and senior management, to re-establish that programme. Do not let it drop because, in three or four years, when, hopefully, economic conditions will be a lot better, these young people will come out of these programmes highly qualified and highly skilled —

Photo of Adrian Cochrane-Watson Adrian Cochrane-Watson UUP

I am passionate about that. Could you do that, Minister? Secondly, the question, Minister —

Photo of Mitchel McLaughlin Mitchel McLaughlin Speaker

It is one question.

Photo of Adrian Cochrane-Watson Adrian Cochrane-Watson UUP

— when setting industrial rates —

Photo of Mitchel McLaughlin Mitchel McLaughlin Speaker

When I make an announcement, I mean it: one question. Minister, if you get multiple questions, I would much appreciate it if you could answer just one so that I can get as many in as possible.

Photo of Jonathan Bell Jonathan Bell DUP

OK. Well, you have heard what I am going to do on energy with the manufacturing group and you have heard the answer that I gave to Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, who raised the question of apprenticeships. I have been speaking with the unions this morning, and we will do all that we can on that. As we take our manufacturing industry forward, be assured, Mr Cochrane-Watson, that putting apprenticeships and young people at its core will be a key priority for me and Minister Farry.

(Mr Principal Deputy Speaker [Mr Newton] in the Chair)

Photo of Robin Newton Robin Newton DUP

There are no points of order until the end of a Minister's statement.

Photo of Chris Lyttle Chris Lyttle Alliance

I, too, express my sincere regret at the Bombardier announcement as someone with a close relative who has given 40 years' proud service to the company. As someone who has experience of the impact of this type of redundancy, I will make myself fully available to assist any workers affected by this devastating news. What, specifically, will the Minister and the Alliance Minister for Employment and Learning be able to do to ensure that workers have access to redundancy advice and retraining so that they can get alternative employment in the wider manufacturing sector?

Photo of Jonathan Bell Jonathan Bell DUP

I grew up in east Belfast — my father had a church there — alongside people in families who, for generations, earned their livelihood in manufacturing. I believe that, into the future, Northern Ireland will have a bright aircraft manufacturing industry. It is worth about £1·1 billion and employs somewhere in the region of 8,500 people in Northern Ireland. I want to see that grow to 12,000 people, and I want to see that £1·1 billion value to our economy grow to £2 billion by 2024. Specifically, all the resources of DEL are being put behind the workers through careers advice, reskilling and retraining and into how we can ensure that the complementary labour force, where there are other manufacturing areas that need skilled workers, can see people married to those positions. Into the future, as we build the SC21 supply chain, we will look to see how those workers can be reskilled and retrained to take advantage of those opportunities. Let us not forget that every major aircraft corporation in the world is accepting manufacturing from Belfast and Northern Ireland.

Photo of Gordon Dunne Gordon Dunne DUP

I thank the Minister for his comprehensive statement today. I think we are all concerned about the loss of the engineering jobs. Coming from the neighbouring constituency of North Down, we recognise the excellent employer that Bombardier is. Will the Minister indicate what financial support has been given to Bombardier and what involvement there has been by Invest NI in trying to secure the future of Bombardier?

Photo of Jonathan Bell Jonathan Bell DUP

I share the Member's concern. I represent Strangford, another neighbouring constituency with a plant, and we are all desperate to ensure that we retain as many jobs as we can. Part of the success that Mr Dunne refers to is down to Michael Ryan and the chairman, Mr Brundle, and I pay tribute to both of them. I talked with the unions this morning and with people from the shop floor in Bombardier late into Friday night, and what they told me is that they share my confidence in Michael Ryan and the team there. We will stand shoulder to shoulder with them as we go forward.

Over a 13-year period, you will see that the investment has been some £75 million. That has triggered £844·5 million of investment in Bombardier. If you take the work specifically on the CSeries that Invest Northern Ireland and UK BIS have done — my last engagement with Alain Bellemare, which was with Lord Maude, the then Trade and Industry Minister, when we went together to present a united front for the jobs in Belfast — you will see that there has been about £135 million in investment in the CSeries. We should not dismiss the fact that Bombardier itself placed £520 million into the company. That is the largest single investment ever made in Northern Ireland, and it is something that we deeply respect.

Photo of William Humphrey William Humphrey DUP

I thank the Minister for his statement and his answers so far. I share the regret and sadness of other Members at this devastating news for those who will be made redundant at Bombardier. Indeed, I took the opportunity to speak to a senior official from Unite the Union on Saturday.

Can I ask the Minister for his assessment of the effect that the reduction in corporation tax will have on helping manufacturing in Northern Ireland?

Photo of Jonathan Bell Jonathan Bell DUP

As I said before — this will not be applicable in every sector, but it is applicable in many sectors across Northern Ireland — I do not see a reduction in corporation tax as something that will improve the economy; I see it as something that will transform it. I take the message of Manufacturing Northern Ireland around the world, and I make this commitment: I will go anywhere in the globe where I can attract jobs in manufacturing to Northern Ireland. We have a key message that is not only about corporation tax, as the Member says: we are running at about 84% to 85% of the business costs of the rest of the United Kingdom and about 95% of the business costs of the Republic of Ireland. Add to that the talent of our people. I have major companies employing well over 2,000 people in Northern Ireland saying to me, "Jonathan, we came for your costs; we stayed for your people". Then we add the third unique offering: after 1 April 2018, we will have the most competitive rate of corporation tax in western Europe. That three-pronged strategy is a winning prize that I believe will deliver results, not least the independent advice that I get from the Economic Policy Centre at Ulster University that we can grow our economy by up to 10%.

Photo of Fearghal McKinney Fearghal McKinney Social Democratic and Labour Party

I think, given the scale of the job losses, that it is incumbent on all of us to reflect on the individual and collective impact on the workers, and I do that today. It is our job as Assembly Members to critique the Minister and his Department. Anyone who has criticised the Executive's economic policy in the past has been rebuked —

Photo of Robin Newton Robin Newton DUP

I ask the Member to come to his question.

Photo of Fearghal McKinney Fearghal McKinney Social Democratic and Labour Party

I am coming to it now, Mr Principal Deputy Speaker — has been rebuked, I believe wrongly, in the past, but is the Minister's announcement today of a new manufacturing strategy in the dying days of the mandate not simply an acknowledgement of failure to date?

Photo of Jonathan Bell Jonathan Bell DUP

I think that the Member does not understand the current position of manufacturing. I am in a difficult position, and I shared this with the trade unions this morning. I speak to the industry and to Manufacturing Northern Ireland, and the Member should be aware that the manufacturing strategy is part of our economic strategy for Northern Ireland. If he had listened appropriately when I said that I would give it a renewed focus and a central place, he would have known that I am doing so because the manufacturing industry tells me that it thrives on confidence. It has asked me, as Minister, to do everything that I can to promote confidence. However, if I do not talk about crisis and disasters and tsunamis and all the other hyperbole, I do not give the manufacturing industry confidence, and then I get accused of complacency.

I believe in Northern Ireland manufacturing, and the reason is that we have turned a point this year where we have more than 80,000 manufacturing jobs. We have not been there since 2008, and, if the Member would care to reflect on the HMRC figures, he will be aware that manufacturing in Northern Ireland is growing at a faster rate than that in any other part of the United Kingdom. I look at some of my critical friends, like Stephen Kelly at Manufacturing Northern Ireland, who has refreshingly told the media that manufacturing is growing in Northern Ireland; I look back at two Programmes for Government; and I see 18,000 manufacturing jobs and £3 billion invested in manufacturing in Northern Ireland. That is why I will stand shoulder to shoulder and give confidence to the manufacturing industry and, as part of a refreshed economic strategy, give manufacturing its place. I believe in Bombardier, and I believe in manufacturing in Northern Ireland. We can go into the future and grow jobs in this sector of our economy.

Photo of Andy Allen Andy Allen UUP

I thank the Minister for his comprehensive statement. It is encouraging that both he and the DEL Minister are doing everything to support those affected by the devastating news. Will he tell the House whether he shares the confidence of the Invest NI chief executive that there will be no further job losses?

Photo of Jonathan Bell Jonathan Bell DUP

I can tell the Member that, between Alastair Hamilton and me, we will do everything — I mean "everything" — that is humanly possible to ensure that there are no further manufacturing job losses in Northern Ireland. No Member can ever say that, in this industry, we can guarantee no job losses. All Members understand that, as do the public.

The chief executive was referring to the specific situation in Bombardier, and I place this on record: we are very fortunate to have the skills of the men and women in Invest Northern Ireland for what they have done for our aerospace manufacturing sector. Why do I say that? It is their skills and the manufacturing base in Northern Ireland that have taken some 60-plus of our Northern Ireland companies to a position where they contribute £1·1 billion to our economy. Under the distinguished work that my predecessor Arlene Foster took forward with Invest Northern Ireland, they took all our companies and looked at the whole supply chain. The world needs tens of thousands of new aircraft. We looked at SC21 over the last number of years, with a long-term focus, for what we could do to ensure that our companies in Northern Ireland are best placed on that supply chain. The position today is that there are companies dependent on Bombardier to a huge degree, but there are also companies that have diversified so successfully under the work of Invest Northern Ireland that they are in a position in which more than three quarters of their work does not include Bombardier work. That is a huge success for aircraft manufacturing in Northern Ireland. We supply every major aerospace sector on the globe from our supply chain in Northern Ireland. I see that growing into the future and am determined to drive it from a £1·1 billion industry to a £2 billion industry by 2024.

Photo of Paul Givan Paul Givan DUP

Northern Ireland has undoubtedly been buffeted by global decisions taken by international companies, and, in the global market in which we operate, we will always be susceptible to that. I encourage the Minister to keep sustaining and building those relationships and developing new ones across the globe. Will he outline how, particularly through a reduction in energy costs, we can help not only to sustain our indigenous manufacturing companies but to attract foreign direct investment?

Photo of Jonathan Bell Jonathan Bell DUP

We have to go to every corner of the globe, and I go inspired by a man whom I never had the privilege to meet. I have read the missive that he set out for us, which was that we should not let anyone tell us that Northern Ireland cannot compete against the best in the world and win. He did it not once with his company but twice, when he bought that company back. Sir Allen McClay's message is to the front of my mind when we go to global markets with Invest Northern Ireland. We will continue to go to them because, in every part of those global markets in the aerospace sector, we are attracting jobs and investment to Northern Ireland through the long-term strategic approach that we took with SC21.

We know that energy is a factor. Some people have wrongly made it out to be the number one factor in why we have lost jobs. Companies have said that that is not the case. We know, however, that it is an issue, and we want the manufacturing and energy advisory group to look at the short, medium and long term for what we can do to reduce those energy costs and make us as competitive as possible to the emerging new world markets.

Photo of David McIlveen David McIlveen DUP

I thank the Minister for his statement. He is aware that the news that the good people of east Belfast had to come to terms with last week is something that my constituents in North Antrim have had to face up to on at least three occasions recently, with the closure of Patton's and the announcements by JTI and Michelin. In that context, will he advise the House what support Invest NI has given to the wider manufacturing sector in recent days?

Photo of Jonathan Bell Jonathan Bell DUP 12:45 pm, 22nd February 2016

In relation to some of the areas that the Member has mentioned, we know that over 18,000 manufacturing jobs have been created over the last two Programmes for Government and that, as we stand — I will not go into individual companies — there are some 3,500 manufacturing jobs coming on stream in Northern Ireland.

What particularly concerned me about the Member's area was that many who had joined those companies and built up their skills base had never been formally accredited. What we have done in those areas through Northern Regional College is, where necessary, put short courses in place to allow people to have their skills accredited immediately or after a short period of training.

We will, through Invest Northern Ireland and DEL's Careers Service, provide them with hours of individual work with careers and skills advisers, who will also inform them where new jobs in manufacturing are coming. I have been working with companies, particularly Michelin, on an individual amount for each person to see what we can do for them because, at the end of the day, every job is individual. The question is what we can do for the individual. In many cases, companies like Michelin have been saying, "Jonathan, if there is a programme of training that will help the individual worker and it goes a little bit over that time, we will, as long as it is not excessive, look positively at that." It is about skills support and careers advice so that those men and women are best placed, with a competent CV and the necessary accreditation, to take advantage of the 3,500-plus new jobs in manufacturing.

Photo of Kieran McCarthy Kieran McCarthy Alliance

I thank the Minister for his statement. Of course, we are all devastated by the loss of so many skilled jobs. I welcome the Minister's commitment to work with others, including Dr Stephen Farry, the Minister for Employment and Learning. It just shows that we can work together in this place for the good of all our community. The second of the three key themes was talent. What extra measures can be taken to place a real — "real" being the important word — focus on skills to move us forward?

Photo of Jonathan Bell Jonathan Bell DUP

I thank the Member. I paid tribute to Stephen earlier. He and I have been synonymous with what the two Departments can do to help the workers. To all intents and purposes, we are nearly amalgamated already, in that we have both put our shoulder to the wheel.

The thing that I found most valuable was talking to workers in Bombardier just after the announcement was made. I was in the boardroom for the announcement, but I talked to many workers on the shop floor and after their shifts, including in their homes in Newtownards, until about 8.30 pm on Friday. They deeply appreciate that we did not get involved in party politicking or any nonsense. Instead, we reacted immediately to put all the resources of our Departments and the Northern Ireland Assembly behind the workforce.

I believe that, particularly with the complementary labour force, there will be key new areas with alternative manufacturing options. I further believe that, with the skills support that DEL has given, coupled with the investment advice and the intelligence of Invest Northern Ireland on where new manufacturing markets will open, many of those who have unfortunately lost their jobs on this occasion will be able to find new work in manufacturing.

I am not sure that Minister Farry and I have an open door; it is more of a revolving door between our Departments to ensure, first, that those who lose their jobs are in a position to take advantage of what comes on stream and, secondly — Mr Farry, has an ambitious skills agenda, which I want to encourage, and I know that he gained some additional money through his work with the then Finance Minister — to look constantly at our skills barometer to ensure that we have what we need now and, through the comprehensive work that Invest NI is doing, particularly in light of corporation tax, the skills sets ready for new jobs as they emerge.

Photo of Gordon Lyons Gordon Lyons DUP

I thank the Minister for his statement. Last year, the Minister visited my constituency and saw the work that some people were doing in supplying Bombardier. Can the Minister inform the House what effect this announcement will have on the aerospace supply chain in Northern Ireland?

Photo of Jonathan Bell Jonathan Bell DUP

I took the opportunity to visit specific projects with Mr Lyons. I was pleased to see young people, particularly those who are hard to reach, being able to get into the market. In his constituency, through to North Antrim and others, I have looked at projects that have particularly tried to help young people who are out of work and have problems with alcohol and other forms of chemical dependency to re-enter the market. We have sought to get all our companies in the supply chain to diversify. What we are reaping today are the benefits of years of work that Arlene Foster put in when she was in this job to ensure that eggs were not placed in one basket. Invest Northern Ireland worked with every major company around the globe to see where, with the UK SC21 supply chain, they could take best advantage of the expertise and excellence of manufacturing in Northern Ireland.

These are early days to assess the specific effects of the Bombardier announcement for the supply chain. Remember that, on the back of this announcement, we also had the hugely significant announcement from Air Canada that it intends to purchase 75 CS300 aircraft. There will be difficulties with Bombardier but, as we supply right across the entire supply chain, we have ensured that many of our companies will take advantage of the need for tens of thousands of new aircraft across the globe. When you go across the globe, whether it is to the Paris Air Show or one of the many others, one thing that becomes clear is that, when people come and look at our manufacturing industry in Northern Ireland, they look at its excellence and efficiency. The two things that we have to ensure into the future are that quality is maintained and that we have delivery on time. That way, we will grow from a £1·1 billion industry to a £2 billion industry by 2024.

Photo of Seán Rogers Seán Rogers Social Democratic and Labour Party

I thank the Minister for his statement. I acknowledge the great work of the aerospace industry and how it contributes to our economy, particularly B/E Aerospace in my constituency of South Down. The Minister talked about the competitive rate of corporation tax. In the refresh of the economic strategy, has he considered that we could be on the edge of western Europe or an integral part of Europe after the referendum in June?

Photo of Jonathan Bell Jonathan Bell DUP

The excellence of our manufacturing industry will tell, well into the future. Our aircraft industry in Northern Ireland is very well established, not just within the European Union but with Embraer in Brazil and in other areas. I am confident that, as Sir Allen McClay taught us, the manufacturing industry in Northern Ireland can compete against the best in the world and win. They are coming to Northern Ireland on the basis of the quality of our product. They are coming to Northern Ireland on the basis of the huge investment that has been put into research and development. They are coming to Northern Ireland because of the talent of our engineering workforce.

Bombardier possibly leads the globe — it is certainly highly significant in the global industry — in having up to 90% of its workforce qualified and accredited in the work that it does. In research and development, talent and the years of work that have gone into ensuring that we are a critical part of the UK SC21 supply chain, I believe that aircraft manufacturing has a positive future in Northern Ireland.

While I experience all the difficulties and pain at Bombardier, one thing that I know is that there is no future for Bombardier that does not include Belfast. Another thing that I know is that our research and development, our manufacturing, our patents, our complex composites and our metallic structures for the wings of the CSeries lead the world.

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice

Despite the Minister's anxiety to assure us about how much he is doing, I am not minded to blame him for the global losses at Bombardier. However, does he not accept that his party conference speech just three months ago, at which he said:

"Don't let anyone tell you that manufacturing in Northern Ireland is in a difficult position." spoke to complacency and a lack of alertness to what was coming down the tracks? Is there a contingency plan for Bombardier if the CSeries does not achieve its hoped-for level of sales? Will he remind Mr Rogers that the bulk of our aerospace trade is outside the EU?

Photo of Jonathan Bell Jonathan Bell DUP

I thank the Member for his question. Some people were foolish enough, within minutes of the announcement being made, to try to engage in silly party political nonsense. When you are on the shop floor meeting people in Bombardier, you can say that it did not go down well. People were looking for the Assembly to do what Minister Farry and I did, which was immediately to put our shoulders to the wheel to focus not on ourselves but on the 580 people who, up until 2018, will lose their job and on retraining, on accreditation and on where we can find extra work for them.

I appreciate the Member's honesty. I think that most people with a reasonable IQ understand that, when a company globally restructures and Germany takes more pain than the UK, we take 17% of the pain and Canada takes over 50%, trying to blame a devolved Minister in Northern Ireland talks more of the silliness of the person who does that than the message that they are trying to give.

I answered the Member's question earlier. I ask him to work with me. The manufacturing industry in Northern Ireland has asked me, in my privileged position as their Enterprise Minister, to project confidence in the sector. I talked with the unions this morning about the damage that will be done if we talk down our manufacturing industry, talk about disasters or tsunamis, if we are stupid enough to talk about them, or talk about manufacturing having no future, if we are silly enough to do so. The industry says that confidence drives its order book. Confidence in the industry drives jobs and apprenticeships. Confidence is key.

I look at the independent advice that I am given. HMRC is telling me independently — you can study the figures for yourselves — that manufacturing in Northern Ireland is growing at a faster rate than in any other part of the United Kingdom. In two Programmes for Government, £3 billion has been invested in manufacturing. Over two Programme for Government periods, 18,000 jobs have been created, sustained and promoted in the manufacturing industry. The fact is that we now have more manufacturing jobs in Northern Ireland than at any time since 2008. We have crossed the barrier of 80,000 manufacturing jobs. That is why I make no apology for saying that I believe in Northern Ireland manufacturing. That is why I will stand shoulder to shoulder with Alain Bellemare, Michael Ryan and all the critical people in our manufacturing industry. We will stand shoulder to shoulder with them to have confidence in the product in Northern Ireland.

Yes, there have been huge challenges. Nobody knows that more than the people who have endured the pain of job loss. However, as I said earlier, even Manufacturing Northern Ireland, which is a critical friend, is saying that manufacturing is growing in Northern Ireland. I make no apology for giving confidence to the people who have the expertise in manufacturing on the shop floor or for telling the facts about a growing manufacturing industry as they are given to me independently.