§ Mr. Trimble
To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what information he has as to how many firms in England and Wales experiencing shortages of skilled workers have transferred to or established subsidiaries in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Hanley
Over the last five years, 12 companies from England and Wales have accepted financial assistance from the Industrial Development Board (IDB) to establish operations in Northern Ireland. These operations are in addition to public sector organisations, such as the Inland Revenue, the Department of Social Security and the Passport Office which have set up in Northern Ireland to serve clients in Great Britain.
It is unlikely that their decisions were based entirely on the skill shortages being experienced by many companies in Great Britain, although this may have been the driving force in some instances. Certainly the Province's abundant supply of well-educated and skilled people, eager for work, is a compelling attraction; but Northern Ireland also offers an excellent infrastructure, including a state-of-the-art fibre optic telecommunication system, a lower operating cost base and a very good quality of life for managers who may be asked to transfer. It is for a combination of these reasons, plus the availability of assistance from the IDB, that Ministers remain confident that companies from Great Britain will continue to locate in Northern Ireland.