HC Deb 20 April 1989 vol 151 cc445-6
3. Mr. Tim Smith

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on inward investment in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Viggers

The attraction of overseas companies to Northern Ireland, and their development, is given a high priority by the Industrial Development Board since it recognises that such investment brings new products and technologies as well as fresh management skills.

I am very pleased to say that 1988–89 was a record year for IDB, which promoted seven overseas projects with a job content of 1,856.

Mr. Smith

Is that not good news for the Northern Ireland economy and employment in the Province? Is it not clear that inward investment is making a major contribution to economic recovery? Therefore, will the IDB redouble its efforts, given the fierce competition from other parts of the United Kingdom and from the rest of the Community?

Mr. Viggers

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks. Northern Ireland has been successful in attracting inward investment. It is worth noting that, of the projects that have come to Northern Ireland, two have been from Great Britain, one from France, one from South Korea, one from the United States, one from Germany and one from the Republic of Ireland. I look forward to entertaining some visiting Japanese business men this evening.

Mr. Maginnis

Can the Minister assure us that decisions on inward investment do not reflect only short-term benefits? I refer the Minister to the recent disturbing debates in the Irish Dail concerning one prospective inward investor whose attempts to monopolise the beef industry would be to the long-term disadvantage of the producers and could tie Northern Ireland to general allegations of swindles relating to the Irish beef industry and EEC payments.

Mr. Viggers

I noted the remarks to which the hon. Gentleman referred. The purpose of the IDB, when promoting inward investment, is to ensure that the jobs that are promoted are long term and viable.

Mr. Thurnham

My hon. Friend has been successful in attracting inward investment from the French motor industry. If he meets the Italians will he ask them to join the French in being more co-operative by allowing the free entry of cars made in the United Kingdom, whatever brand?

Mr. Viggers

I suspect that my hon. Friend's comments may lie in an area slightly outside my terms of responsibility. I assure my hon. Friend that we are assiduous in courting all prospective inward investments. I am delighted to say that, last year, investment in home industry in Northern Ireland totalled £280 million, supported by IDB assistance of £90 million.