§ Mr. Callaghan
To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on commercial and industrial development in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Atkins
After law and order, strengthening the economy is the second highest priority of the Government in Northern Ireland. Our economic development strategy aims to achieve higher levels of employment opportunities. This depends on Northern Ireland industry becoming internationally competitive and the economic development agencies have been working towards this aim by encouraging inward investment and by helping with activities which will improve business performance.
The annual report of the Industrial Development Board (IDB), published in September, recorded a year of considerable achievement for the organisation. There were 10 new inward investment projects offering almost 2,000 new jobs—IDB's second most successful year ever. Several of these projects, including Texmaco and Seagate Technology, will not only create employment but also introduce new products and technologies to Northern Ireland. In addition 2,800 new jobs were created during 1992–93 in IDB client companies which received financial assistance towards investment projects in 59 established companies with the aim of improving their international competitiveness.
The Local Enterprise Development Unit (LEDU), the small business agency, also had a successful year in 1992–93. During the year there was a net increase in employment of 1,020 in LEDU client companies, a significant reversal of the previous year's results which showed a net decrease in employment of 650. There was also a marked rise in activity levels across the range of LEDU's activities, including 3,716 individuals receiving enterprise training and 1,429 new business start ups.
During 1992–93 the Industrial Research and Technology Unit (IRTU) played a significant role in the development of Northern Ireland's research and development capabilities through the provision of a range of financial and other support to industry. Particular emphasis was placed on encouraging collaboration between industry, government and other organisations engaged in research.
Development in the commercial sector continues to be buoyant and numerous projects have been started or completed in the last year. Major projects completed include developments in Belfast such as a 10-screen multiplex cinema and associated multi-storey car park, and a number of significant office developments including a major development in the Laganside area, which will be a priority area for commercial development over the next 15 years. In Londonderry a £10 million development known as Quayside has recently been completed. Projects currently under way in Belfast include further development of sites within Laganside, together with prestige office developments on other sites. In Londonderry work has started on a £65 million retail and office development to be known as Foyleside.