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York Street Interchange: Industry Discussions

Oral Answers to Questions — Economy – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 25th October 2016.

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Photo of Jennifer Palmer Jennifer Palmer UUP 3:15 pm, 25th October 2016

T1. Mrs Palmer asked the Minister for the Economy to outline the discussions he has had with Northern Ireland industry on the economic impact of the long-term delay to the York Street interchange. (AQT 406/16-21)

Photo of Simon Hamilton Simon Hamilton DUP

That issue has come up in discussions. I have met the CBI, for example, and the chamber. It certainly came up in discussions with the CBI; it was one of the infrastructure programmes that it emphasised as important to the economy moving forward. I think it came up in conversations with the chamber. If it did not, I am sure it will in future conversations, as I am sure it will with other organisations and individual businesses as I move around the country and meet them on a regular basis.

Photo of Jennifer Palmer Jennifer Palmer UUP

Thank you for the response, Minister. In view of the significant economic impact that has been highlighted by all stakeholders, including many manufacturing and logistics companies in my constituency, will the Minister seek to engage with the Minister of Finance to look at alternative funding mechanisms directly with the Chancellor, thereby bypassing the extremely short-sighted perspective of the Infrastructure Minister?

Photo of Simon Hamilton Simon Hamilton DUP

The Member will know that I served as Finance Minister for a time, and one of the things I learnt, especially with capital investment, is that there are always many, many more deserving capital projects than the capital budget will permit you to develop in any one budget year or period. I understand the circumstances the Infrastructure Minister finds himself in with the issue. He was hoping to avail himself of some European funding, but the call for that will come in and around the time the UK exits the European Union and, therefore, there is some uncertainty about future commitments on that. I understand the issue he finds himself with, and, whilst I agree with the Member that the York Street interchange is an incredibly important development not just for that small part of north Belfast but for the whole of Northern Ireland and its economy, it is wrong to create the impression that there are no other major infrastructure projects going on. Obviously, the A5 and the A6 are moving forward. Both are of importance to the economy, particularly to those strong manufacturing businesses located in the middle of Northern Ireland, as are the transport hubs in Belfast and Londonderry that are going forward. So there are major capital projects that I am sure the Department for Infrastructure will take forward.

I have always been open to alternative financing, but that is principally a matter for the Department for Infrastructure in conjunction with the Department of Finance to take forward. If there is anything I can do to help with that, of course, I will not be found wanting. I served as Sammy Wilson's apprentice for some time and learnt a lot from him and forgot a lot.

[Interruption.]

Some of it I have already forgotten. One thing I did not forget him saying — he repeated this recently — is that, given that the very profitable and very successful harbour estate will benefit greatly from the work at the York Street interchange, it is perhaps time once again to look at the option of it making a significant contribution to the work at York Street.

Photo of Danny Kennedy Danny Kennedy Deputy Speaker

I remind the Minister that the two-minute rule still applies.