Unemployment Motion 22/10/2012

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I oppose the motion and the amendment.  I find it difficult to understand what has motivated some of the comments that we have heard in the Chamber today.

I think that everyone in the Chamber recognises the difficulties that there are for those who are unemployed, and I believe that all are sympathetic to their situation.  An unemployment figure of 8·2% is unacceptable.  The fact is that we live in a global economy, so it should not surprise us that, when other areas are doing badly, there is a knock-on effect on Northern Ireland.  However, we could, in fact, be doing worse.  I looked up some of the figures, including the figures for Birmingham.  It is a part of the UK economy that is not distinctly different from Northern Ireland in that it was dependent on heavy industry.  The unemployment figure in the Ladywood area is 12·1%.  In the Hodge Hill area of Birmingham, it is 10·3%.  Again, in Middlesbrough, an area of England that has a similar economic history, the figure is approaching 10%.  Of course, the Republic of Ireland has an unemployment figure of 14·7%, which is its highest unemployment figure in 17 years.  That is not to do down the situation.  

I take exception — that is probably too strong a term — I am surprised by the comment on Invest NI made by Mr McGlone, who holds the position of Chair of the Committee:  

"Invest NI appears to display an attitude of resigned acceptance to the trend of jobs moving overseas".  

It is not my job to defend Invest NI; Invest NI is big enough to do that itself.  However, as Chair, Mr McGlone ought to recognise that Invest NI lives in a difficult economic situation, a global situation.  Those words say an awful lot more about Mr McGlone than they say about the author or speaker of those words, Alastair Hamilton.  They do not recognise that we are in a global environment and that capital will invest where it gets its best return.  The very same comments were made by Mrs Overend.   

Remarks were made about the green new deal.  On this particular day, when the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment has announced an initiative on the renewable heat incentive, to criticise the green new deal at this stage is very poor timing, and you know that timing is everything in politics.  Those Members, particularly those who are members of the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, knew that, when the green new deal proposals were put forward, the economic case for those proposals did not stack up.

Thank you, Mr Speaker.  As a member of the Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committee, the Member well knows the situation that arose and the risks that were being taken.  The economic case did not stack up.  

With regard to where the Northern Ireland economy is, we live in a global economic situation, and world conditions are challenging.  The economic recovery that was predicted — not by economists in Northern Ireland or in GB but by economists who operate in a global environment — has not come to pass as expected, and the UK entered again into a recessionary position earlier this year.  The Republic of Ireland is benefiting from an export-led recovery, but that is the only area of that economy expecting real growth.  Northern Ireland will continue to feel the impact of the challenging economic conditions in its key sales markets, especially those markets and companies that rely on exporting to the Republic of Ireland.  It is a difficult time for Northern Ireland companies, but, rather than challenging the companies at this stage and the incentives that have been agreed by every party around the Executive table, we should get behind the incentives, the initiatives and the strategies and drive those strategies forward.