HC Deb 12 January 1978 vol 941 cc1849-51
17. Mr. Edwin Wainwright

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many officials in his Department are engaged in industrial promotion work outside Northern Ireland; where they are based; and if he is satisfied that his team is adequate for the task of attracting foreign investments to the Province.

Mr. Concannon

Seven staff from the Department of Commerce are engaged in industrial promotion work outside Northern Ireland. Three are based in New York, one in Stuttgart, one in Brussels, one in the Ulster Office in London and one, based in Belfast, covers Japan.

The efforts of these officials are augmented by the employment of four consultants, one operating full-time from Gothenburg, the others on a part-time basis from Tokyo, Dusseldorf and Montreux.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I are reviewing, in consultation with our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the adequacy of the total promotional resources currently available to Northern Ireland in the light of its need for new investment.

Mr. Wainwright

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the money that we are spending for these teams abroad is bringing in sufficient investments from EEC countries and especially the United States of America? Also, could he say something about industrial training? Is he happy about the amount of training that is done in Northern Ireland, especially when one compares it with what is happening in the Republic of Ireland?

Mr. Concannon

On industrial training, we have a very good record. In no part of Northern Ireland is anyone more than 25 miles from a Government training centre, and the level of training is 10 times that in the rest of the United Kingdom. Regarding new investment, especially from the United States of America, I returned from there only this morning and I can tell my hon. Friend and others hon. Members that as the security situation improves and the political situation seems to have taken Northern Ireland off the front pages of the newspapers and off television it makes our task a little easier, as the Americans said to me, in "talking turkey" on the subject of investment.

Mr. McNamara

Is my right hon. Friend aware that he is to be congratulated not only on his new honour but on the great amount of work that he has done on behalf of industry and job creation and maintenance in Northern Ireland? Can he expand more on his activities in the New World and the degree of future investment that he thinks will be coming from that quarter to Northern Ireland?

Mr. Concannon

I was received better than I was on my previous investment tours in the United States. I could not say at the moment what has been brought back in terms of employment. I saw this trip as more or less sowing the seeds and telling people about the new investment package in Northern Ireland. I was received very well, and the news that is coming out of Northern Ireland was received much better in the United States than was the case on previous occasions.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

The right hon. Gentleman has the sincere congratulations of us all on his new appellation. As regards European investment, when will the European Community's office be established in Belfast? It already has offices both in Wales and in Scotland.

Mr. Concannon

It sounds like a "love Don Concannon" day today. The EEC office is a matter for the Commission, and I understand that it is actively concerned in making sure that the office is opened as soon as possible.

Mr. Kilfedder

Is there any hope of persuading the American Administration to change their mind about waiting for peace before giving financial help to Northern Ireland?

Mr. Concannon

I think that the American Administration has been particularly helpful to us over the past year, especially in its attitude towards cutting off some of the funds to the terrorist organisations.