We need your support to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can continue to hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Dame Cheryl, and I join many other Members in congratulating Emma Little Pengelly on a superb speech and on having secured this debate—third time lucky. I was disappointed when previous debates were postponed, and am delighted that we have had the opportunity to have this debate today and hear some excellent speeches.
The hon. Lady rightly spoke about Northern Ireland’s proud industrial history and its bright, optimistic future as part of the UK. I strongly believe in upholding the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom—a family of four nations that are safer, stronger and more prosperous together. Northern Ireland benefits from being part of the world’s sixth-largest economy. Being part of the UK allows the 66 million people living across the four nations to work together to create jobs and opportunities.
As we have heard from many hon. Members, the Northern Ireland economy is strong, with an economic performance that sits alongside the growth of the wider UK economy. Employment is at a near-record high and unemployment is at a near-record low. The UK Government are serious in their commitment to grow the economy and to support innovation in Northern Ireland and across the whole UK.
I will set out some details of the UK Government’s investment in the Northern Ireland economy. We are delivering on our commitment for an ambitious set of city and growth deals across Northern Ireland. Since the funding announcement for the first city deal for Northern Ireland, the Belfast regions city deal, at the autumn Budget 2018, the total regional economic investment from the UK Government has exceeded £600 million. That commitment was reinforced by the Prime Minister’s announcement that £163 million has been allocated to complete the deals for the causeway coast and glens and the mid, south and west regions of Northern Ireland.
The UK Government have announced funding for all 11 council areas in Northern Ireland. That investment will significantly boost economic activity and attract private sector investment. The proposals are an example of what can be achieved when politicians of all backgrounds, local businesses, community leaders, academia and local government stakeholders come together to shape the economic future for their local areas and Northern Ireland as a whole.