HC Deb 26 May 2004 vol 421 c1644W
12. Helen Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on changes in the Northern Ireland economy since the Good Friday Agreement. [174932]

Mr. Gardiner

Official statistics show that since 1998, when the Good Friday Agreement was signed, the Northern Ireland Economy has performed remarkably well. Employment is at record levels, increasing by 61,540 jobs since March 1998 and the current unemployment rate of 5.2 per cent. is 2.8 percentage points below the EU 15 average. Since 1998 growth in Gross Value Added of 19.1 per cent. makes Northern Ireland one of the fastest growing UK regions.

While these headline figures are encouraging, manufacturing employment has declined and the levels of economic inactivity remains high relative to other UK regions.

Kevin Brennan

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what recent discussions he has had with political parties in Northern Ireland on restoring the Good Friday Agreement institutions. [174933]

Mr. Paul Murphy

Discussions with the parties took place on 27 April and 4 May as part of the Review of the Belfast Agreement. There is now a break in formal Review talks for the period of the European election campaign, although informal contacts continue with the parties. Formal Review activity will recommence after 10 June, and we hope to engage soon after in a period of intensive dialogue.

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