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Heathrow Airport: Third Runway

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

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Photo of Trevor Clarke Trevor Clarke DUP 3:15 pm, 25th October 2016

T4. Mr Clarke asked the Minister for the Economy for his opinion of today’s announcement about Heathrow Airport. (AQT 409/16-21)

Photo of Simon Hamilton Simon Hamilton DUP

I warmly welcome the decision by Her Majesty's Government to support extension at Heathrow. The decision to favour the option of the third runway has been taken by the Government and will be subject to various planning and environmental impact assessments, but it is a decision that I welcome. I think that the business community in Northern Ireland will welcome it and that everybody in Northern Ireland should praise the Government for their decision, because our connectivity, as we know — particularly as a peripheral region in the United Kingdom — is incredibly important. We need more direct routes from Belfast and I am glad that we are increasing them. London is a key business route in and of itself, for Northern Ireland, and Heathrow is a crucial hub airport that is a gateway to the world. I welcome, and I am sure the business community in Northern Ireland will also welcome, the long-awaited decision by Her Majesty's Government to give the go-ahead for a new runway at Heathrow.

Photo of Trevor Clarke Trevor Clarke DUP

I thank the Minister for his answer and, in his usual fullness, he managed to answer my supplementary on connectivity. With the answer he has given, I am satisfied that he has answered my question on connectivity for Northern Ireland.

Photo of Simon Hamilton Simon Hamilton DUP

I re-emphasise the fact that connectivity is incredibly important. We have had challenges in Northern Ireland in ensuring that we have good connectivity through direct flights, but there is a particular interest on ensuring that Belfast has direct connectivity. That is not always possible and can be challenging, but, through hub airports like Heathrow and Amsterdam, into which we have a direct route, and Brussels, that can be just as vital not only for inbound tourism but for business and trade.