Report on Strategy 2010 Inquiry
VOLUME 5 - WRITTEN SUBMISSIONS RELATING TO THE REPORT
COMMITTEE FOR ENTERPRISE, TRADE AND INVESTMENT:
MEMBERSHIP AND POWERS
The Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment is a Statutory Departmental Committee established in accordance with paragraphs 8 and 9 of Strand One of the Belfast Agreement and under Assembly Standing Order No 46. The Committee has a scrutiny, policy development and consultation role with respect to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and has a role in the initiation of legislation. The Committee has 11 members including a Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson and a quorum of 5.
The Committee has power:
- to consider and advise on Departmental budgets and Annual Plans in the context of the overall budget allocation;
- to approve relevant secondary legislation and take the Committee Stage of relevant primary legislation;
- to call for person and papers;
- to initiate enquiries and make reports;
- to consider and advise on matters brought to the Committee by the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment.
The membership of the Committee since its establishment on 29 November 1999 has been as follows:
Mr Pat Doherty (Chairperson)
Mr Sean Neeson (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Alex Attwood
Mr David McClarty
Mr Jim Wells*
Dr Alasdair McDonnell
Mr Wilson Clyde
Ms Jane Morrice
Mr Duncan Shipley Dalton
Dr Dara O'Hagan
Mrs Annie Courtney*
*Mr Campbell was replaced by Mr Jim Wells on 3 October 2000.
*Ms Lewsley was replaced by Mrs Annie Courtney on 29 January 2001.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
VOLUME 5 APPENDIX 5
Where in any of the following submissions reference is made to graphs, photographs, maps, or extracts from publications which have been omitted, these will be available for viewing by Assembly members in the Assembly Library and by the public in the Committee Office.
Annex 24 - Northern Ireland Business Alliance
Annex 25 - Sir George Quigley
Annex 26 - Industrial Research & Technology Unit (IRTU)
Annex 27 - Local Enterprise Development Unit (LEDU)
Annex 28 - University of Ulster (UU)
Annex 29 - Moyle District Council
Annex 30 - Ulster Society of Chartered Accountants
Annex 31 - Ards Borough Council
Annex 32 - Further submission by Ards Borough Council
Annex 33 - Further submission by Ards Borough Council
Annex 34 - Equality Commission for Northern Ireland
Annex 35 - Falls Community Council
Annex 36 - Strabane District Council
Annex 37 - Further submission by Strabane District Council
Annex 38 - McCormick Properties
Annex 39 - City Partnership Board
Annex 40 - Derry Investment Initiative
Annex 41 - Banbridge District Council
Annex 42 - Sinn Féin Ireland
Annex 43 - National Association of Teachers in Further & Higher Education (NATFHE)
Annex 44 - Sainsbury's Supermarkets Limited & Messrs Drivers Jonas
Annex 45 - Craigavon Borough Council
Annex 46 - Youth Council for Northern Ireland
Annex 47 - Eurotrack Ireland
Annex 48 - Training & Employment Agency (T&EA)
Annex 49 - Industrial Development Board (IDB)
Annex 50 - Further submission from the Industrial Development Board (IDB)
Annex 51 - Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI)
NORTHERN IRELAND BUSINESS ALLIANCE
1. The Enterprise Trade and Investment of the Northern Ireland Assembly invited the Confederation of British Industry, (CBI) Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NICCI), Institute of Directors (IoD) and the NI Growth Challenge to submit written evidence in respect of the Committee's inquiry into Strategy 2010.
2. The following submission represents the collective views of the members of the Northern Ireland Business Alliance which is an informal grouping comprising CBI, NICCI, IoD and Growth Challenge.
3. The Business Alliance was established in 1998. It is an informal alliance brought about by the recognition that there would be mutual benefit in improving communications, co-ordination and contacts between the bodies, and with Government and the Public Sector.
4. Through the Alliance we believe we can enhance the input of business thinking to policy development and ensure that key messages and issues are communicated effectively to Government. We also believe the Alliance will result in stronger business led initiatives aimed at strengths, focus and, indeed, constituents, and these will continue to be maintained.
5. The Business Alliance welcomes the opportunity of submitting this paper to the Committee. We have attempted to respond to the Terms of Reference where we feel it has been appropriate to do so. We initially make some comments on the background and processes involved in the creation of Strategy 2010, we address the issue of priorities in Strategy 2010 and conclude with some general comments on economic development.
6. We have attempted, in this paper, to identify the actions which both industry and Government must take to enable the Northern Ireland economy to realise its full potential during the next decade.
7. The Business Alliance has been strongly supportive of the process undertaken in the development of the Economic Strategy Review which resulted in the publication of Strategy 2010. We acknowledge that, ultimately, it is the responsibility of companies, individually and collectively, to ensure their own development through on-going commitment to remaining globally competitive.
8. We believe firmly, however, that a joint public/private sector approach is most likely to produce effective policies and initiatives which will lead to a more dynamic, self-sustaining and competitive economy offering more opportunities for employment.
9. The Business Alliance greatly welcomes the return of devolved Government to Northern Ireland. We strongly believe that the local accountability and knowledge of a Northern Ireland Assembly, and Northern Ireland Ministers, will significantly improve the process of Government and will enhance the attractiveness of Northern Ireland both as a trading partner and as a location for internationally mobile investment.
10. It is, however, essential that we now move forward quickly and enthusiastically to implement the agenda for economic development set out in Strategy 2010, modified and/or prioritised in the light of consideration by the Minister and the Assembly. The Business Alliance is anxious to play its part in helping to accelerate economic growth in Northern Ireland and will co-operate with the Northern Ireland Assembly, with the Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committee, with Ministers, and with all the social partners in achieving the high level of economic success and social development which we all wish to see in Northern Ireland.
11. Given the Committee's interest in the examination of the original objectives for the Economic Development Review we have set out below a business prospective on how we believed the Review should best proceed. We believed that a number of key matters needed to be addressed if the review was to be effective:
- The importance of the Ministerial endorsement to reflect the significance of the review.
- The Terms of Reference should emphasise the cross-departmental aspect of the review and have a strong focus on enterprise, competitiveness, growth and development (in the broader, social sense).
- Recognition that the private sector must have a leading role to play in regional policy design (and delivery), including involvement from the earliest stages. But also stressing the importance of an inclusive approach.
- The review should build on the work of Northern Ireland Growth Challenge. The structure and process involved in developing Growth Challenge should be closely reviewed.
- Experiences from other EU regions should be drawn upon. The processes undertaken by Forfas in developing "Shaping our Future" should be reviewed. Both the process and the product of this exercise received favourable comment from business colleagues in the Republic of Ireland. Those involved suggested that their timescale (of over 18 months) was too tight, and more time was required once the consultants' reports become available.
- The process would derive significant benefit from having world-class facilitators - this should be backed up by utilisation of the best of consultants in addressing specific topics.
- The importance of consensus within all Government Departments on the process rather than "internal consensus within the DED"
- The benefits in developing a staged process with various review points. This could provide the opportunity of securing consensus as the process moved forward.
12. The process embarked on by DED was critical, not only in delivering the product but in creating the understanding and ownership necessary for the effective implementation of policies.
13. Growth Challenge, which was established to develop innovative, private sector approaches to economic development, was invited to co-ordinate the industry input to the Review, and the Sector Working Groups which were established to develop individual sector strategies, drew heavily on the work which Growth Challenge has undertaken during the last five years. The Sector Groups, with the exception of the Agri-food production group, were based on existing Growth Challenge cluster teams.
14. Each Sector Working Group produced its own analysis of the state of its sector and of its future prospects. Each Group also produced detailed recommendations on the actions which, in its view, need to be taken to maximise its potential. This paper does not seek to reiterate those recommendations. Rather it seeks to highlight what the Business Alliance considers to be the essential aspects of the Sector Working Groups' reports and to offer a business community perspective on the broader issues which will need to be addressed if we are to realise the vision of Northern Ireland as a 'fast-growing, innovative, knowledge-based economy where there are plentiful opportunities and a population equipped to grasp them'.
15. Whilst we can be broadly pleased with the process which was undertaken during 1998 and into the early months of 1999 one important weakness was the decision to speed up the review process and bring the end point forward by six months, resulting in a much shorter period (about six months for the sectoral groups) than desirable to undertake the necessary research, analysis and development of detailed action plans. While not impacting on the overall thrust of Strategy 2010 there are some areas where a greater focus would have been desirable e.g. management development.
16. This was an ambitious and challenging exercise and the involvement and contribution of so many people, some 250 from a wide range of sectors and companies as well as for tourism and education, is no mean achievement.
The UK Context
17. While the political situation now offers the prospect of greater economic policy autonomy, it is important to recognise that the degree to which we can control the Northern Ireland economy is limited. The performance of the local economy will be determined, to a considerable degree, by international factors, in particular those in the United Kingdom, in the Republic of Ireland, and, of-course, in Europe and beyond. We believe that it is essential to build a Northern Ireland economy that fits effectively with those of our near neighbours and takes full advantage of the growth and development in those areas. It is essential that Northern Ireland economic policy, whilst not slavishly following policy devised for the UK as a whole, takes account of the policies being developed by the DTI in its White Paper, 'Our Competitive Future'.
18. In particular we believe that Northern Ireland must move quickly to become a knowledge-based economy and we commend the Information Age Initiative as a useful first step in this direction.
19. We acknowledge the difficulty in persuading the UK Government to afford Northern Ireland the fiscal autonomy to revise the rate of Corporation Tax effective in Northern Ireland or to introduce some other appropriate measure. We are convinced, however, that Northern Ireland will continue to suffer a considerable disadvantage in competing with the Republic of Ireland while the current disparity continues. Northern Ireland's performance in attracting new mobile investment will continue to be inhibited by the disparity in the respective tax regimes and we recommend that the Assembly, and responsible Ministers, urgently seek a method of improving Northern Ireland's competitive position through some form of fiscal re-structuring. We believe that the new Northern Ireland administration should take up the issue as one of high priority.Recommendations and Priorities
20. In general terms the Business Alliance is strongly supportive of Strategy 2010, its vision and key principles for the Northern Ireland economy, and its recommendations for the future direction of economic development policy in Northern Ireland. As with many strategy documents it may not be perfect and each organisation, and indeed individual, will have different views and comments, some critical, on various aspects of the strategy. However we believe that commentators who have criticised Strategy 2010 should set out their alternative approach.
21. Strategy 2010 should perhaps be more accurately described as a framework on which a more detailed strategy and implementation plan can be developed. However we believe it is the best framework we have, and is unique in Northern Ireland terms in that it is the most inclusive review of its kind to be undertaken here. As with all strategies, it will need to be continuously updated and reviewed. It is, in our view, vitally important that we start making progress in implementation. In some areas further consultation or research may be needed. In this context we have welcomed the consultation on the various recommendations relating to energy policy undertaken in the autumn of 1999 and the decision to proceed with the Information Age Initiative. We are convinced, however, that delays in general implementation, and in securing 'early wins,' risk dissipating the strong private sector commitment which was a key element of the review process.
Sectoral Emphasis and Development
22. We commend the work of the Development Agencies during the last five years and, in particular, the increasing emphasis on improved international competitiveness, export development and benchmarking. The recent difficulties experienced by our 'traditional' sectors such as Food Processing, Textiles and Apparel and Engineering highlight the need for continuous improvement and adaptation in these areas whilst, at the same time, developing our capabilities in 'new' sectors such as Health Technologies, Information and Communication Technologies and Tradable Services.
23. We believe that, while we must continue to support individual companies to expand and develop, we need urgently to develop sectoral approaches to the development of both traditional and new industries in order to develop sustained competitive advantage. We believe strongly that doing so will produce quantum, as opposed to incremental, growth and generate totally new employment and wealth creation. This, in turn, will expand our economy and compensate, at least in part, for the reductions that are expected to occur in the traditional sectors.
24. Government support must be targeted carefully to ensure both development of the new sectors whilst, at the same time, maximising the potential of those companies in our traditional industries who have niche positions and who are ready to exploit new technologies. In all sectors, only those companies capable of, and willing to, demonstrate a clear determination to improve competitiveness, become world-class and accelerate growth, should receive support.
25. That determination to improve competitiveness must manifest itself in radical programmes to improve quality, design, and product and technological development, and to invest in human resources. Government and the private sector need to differentiate between short-term strategies and programmes aimed at immediate considerations, and those which are required to build the long-term economic strength and performance that Northern Ireland needs to survive as a thriving regional economy.
26. The Business Alliance believes that Government must concentrate a much higher level of activity and assistance on new and emerging high-technology sectors if the Northern Ireland economy is to grow and develop in the next decade and if we are to compensate for the levelling out of Northern Ireland's traditional industries.
27. Much greater emphasis needs to be given to strategies for the development of knowledge/creativity-based sectors, in particular Health Technologies, Information and Communication Technologies and Tradable Services. The development of these sectors will require a clearer understanding by Government and by the private sector of the factors critical to growth. In particular it is essential that appropriate steps are taken to ensure the necessary supply of appropriate skills for these sectors.
28. It is also essential that we do not lose sight of the fact that the influence of, and benefits which flow from, the fast-developing Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), are not restricted to the so-called 'new' industries. It is becoming increasingly obvious that the success of our traditional industries will also depend, to a significant degree, on their ability to introduce and exploit ICT. We are already seeing encouraging examples of companies in the Food and Drink, Textiles and Engineering sectors who have successfully adopted ICT.
29. It is essential that ICT skills are seen as essential in all sectors of industry.
30. The Information Age Initiative has made a useful start in accelerating the implementation of ICT. It is essential that this activity is intensified.
31. Government must examine how the lever of inward investment policy can be used to support the development of sectors with an appropriate mix of strongly competitive indigenous and international companies with high technology products and services. The Business Alliance also believes that inward investment policy should seek to fill gaps in Northern Ireland's manufacturing/service sectors with the overall aim of strengthening existing industries and clusters.
32. Sectoral development should set out to support intelligent collaboration, both within Northern Ireland and, where appropriate, with organisations and companies overseas, to realise the benefits of the clustering concept which is being increasingly developed in other successful regions. The continued improvement of Northern Ireland's image as a successful investment location should allow Northern Ireland to become selective in our inward investment targeting and this activity should increasingly be 'cluster related' i.e. Northern Ireland should attempt to build strength and expertise in certain specific areas rather than simply 'taking what we can secure.'
33. We recommend that a greater proportion of DETI's industrial development budget should, over a specified period, be set aside to provide structured support for the development and implementation of sectoral strategies. Such a policy would be in line with the current DTI policy of encouraging Regional Development Organisations to facilitate the development of clusters and networks. Scottish Enterprise is also engaged in similar exercises.
34. We need to adopt a more rigorous approach to the identification of gaps in Northern Ireland's industrial and commercial infrastructure and use that analysis to inform our inward investment, and indigenous development strategies.
35. Strategy 2010 identified the importance of improving the current system of careers guidance in the education sector. The private sector, especially in the knowledge/creativity-based sectors needs to be more creative and aggressive in persuading Northern Ireland's young people to regard industrial and commercial careers as attractive alternatives to entering the professions. In particular, the public and private sectors need to intensify their efforts to stimulate an increasing flow of young people into the Information and Communication Technology industry to enable it to exploit the potential which it undoubtedly holds. Greater use of the modern technology which the present school generation uses i.e. Websites, CD ROM's etc should be used to give a greater insight into the industry and the employment potential it offers.
36. As a region of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland needs to absorb entirely the implications of current Government policy for the development of the knowledge-driven economy and deliberately play our strengths into that industrial policy context. As a region with characteristics, constraints and resources similar to those of the Republic of Ireland, we need to refine our understanding of the implications of the Republic's plans for continued economic development. We should seek to exploit the opportunities which are already becoming apparent as the manpower resource in the Republic comes under increasing pressure. We should seek to build mutually beneficial, collaborative relationships within sectors and between firms on both sides of the border, building on the work of Chamberlink and the IBEC/CBI Joint Businesses Council.
37. The Business Alliance believes that the development of Inter-regional clusters could be of benefit to a number of sectors in Northern Ireland. Co-operative links have already been developed in the Tourism, Textiles and Apparel, and Aerospace Sectors and we believe that there may be scope for further such co-operative links. Growth Challenge recommends that DETI should encourage this activity.
The Education Challenge
38. There has emerged from the Review a universally held concern that the education system in Northern Ireland is not adequately equipping school-leavers for employment in a world of increasingly rapid technological change. It is recognised that our system produces a high percentage of school-leavers who can, and do, proceed to third level education. The system also leaves many school-leavers with no formal qualifications, and indeed a significant number of school-leavers lack even the most basic literacy and numeracy skills that they require to survive in a modern society. The Business Alliance believes that this inadequacy has left a legacy of 25-55 year olds who lack basic working skills and, if this deficiency is not addressed urgently, the resultant social exclusion experienced by school-leavers with these problems could cause very considerable social instability and squander a resource which Northern Ireland cannot afford to waste. Certain members of the Business Alliance firmly believe that the current system of selection at 11+ is one of the primary causes of this inadequacy in our education system and welcomes the proposal to review the selection process. We hope, and anticipate, that this review will lead to a fundamental overhaul of the selection procedure.
39. We are also keen to ensure that there is adequate business input to the current review of the school curriculum. As noted above we believe that career guidance, as currently available, is not adequate to deal with the requirements of school-leavers or employers. We recommend greater involvement of the private sector in the area of career guidance and the possible engagement of private sector organisations to assume responsibility for this aspect of education.
40. We believe that Government should challenge industry to provide a specified number of 'holiday placements' for both students and for those teachers engaged in career guidance. These need only be of a few days in duration - sufficient to give teachers and imminent school leavers a 'sampler' of life in industry.
IT Skills in the Education System
41. Although an ever-increasing number of students now have access to computers, a disturbing number still lack the familiarity with information technology that they will be required to demonstrate in order to secure employment.
42. There is also an urgent need to ensure that FE and HE curricula change and adapt to the evolving needs of industry.
43. We commend the recent IDB/LEDU workshop aimed at bridging the gap between industry, Government and the FE sector. A number of very worthwhile initiatives have been undertaken by FE colleges to understand better the recruitment needs of companies in their areas. There is, however, no formal forum, involving Government, industry and the FE sector within which dialogue on the future recruitment/educational needs of Northern Ireland's major industrial sectors can be examined.
44. There is growing recognition that language capability within companies will be increasingly important in enhancing international capability. The companies, and countries, with which Northern Ireland will have to compete, and in which we need to develop business opportunities, are increasingly multi-lingual. There is already an obvious disparity between the language capabilities of school-leavers in Northern Ireland and those of our neighbours in the Republic of Ireland and other European states. There is an urgent need to review:
(a) which languages are taught;
Should we concentrate on German and Spanish or should we extend to Asian languages.
(b) how they are taught;
Languages tend currently to be taught with a literary bias - we need to raise fluency levels.
(c) to whom they are taught
Languages tend to be favoured by students pursuing academic careers. Languages must be more widely and more effectively taught.
45. One of the hallmarks of successful economies around the world is the high level of understanding of what makes a successful company/region work. We believe that the Business Literacy programme initiated by DED has made commendable progress but it is felt that an imaginative programme to extend the programme beyond the original target groups is now essential.
Establishing a Management Development Culture
46. It is generally accepted that successful companies are those who invest, and continue to invest, in the development of the management structure. Companies' performance in this area should be one of the criteria examined by Agencies when assessing eligibility for assistance. Government should encourage companies to devise, and adhere to, management development programmes.
47. The Business Alliance welcomes the establishment of the Northern Ireland Management Council and hopes that this initiative will result in the raising of management standards in Northern Ireland, especially in our small and medium-sized enterprises.
Targets and Milestones
48. As noted, we regard Strategy 2010 as a framework for economic development for the next decade. We consider it essential that this framework is translated into a clear implementation plan with clearly defined, and stretching targets and milestones. Work has already begun to draw up action plans building on the strategic recommendations submitted by six of the sector working groups. These are Food and Drink, Engineering, Textiles and Apparel, Software, Tradable Services and Health and Life Technologies.
49. We are convinced that, if Northern Ireland is to achieve its true economic potential during the next decade, we must set ourselves ambitious, but achievable targets which represent quantum improvements in our economy. More of the same should not be acceptable!
Co-ordination of Government Policies and Activities
50. While the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment will continue to play the lead role in economic development, the success of its policies and activities will depend, to a significant extent, on the degree to which those policies and activities are co-ordinated with those other NI departments whose work impacts on the economy. In particular it is essential that there is close co-ordination between DETI, DE, DRD and DHFETE.
Partnership between Government and the Private Sector
51. One of the most important aspects of the Economic Policy Review, which resulted in the production of Strategy 2010 was the degree of co-operation that developed during the review process. More than 150 industrialists, from a wide range of sectors and companies, took part in the review and gave freely of their time, knowledge and experience in producing an agenda for economic development for the next decade.
52. The Business Alliance firmly believes that this partnership must be further developed and was delighted that our recommendation on the establishment of an Economic Development Forum was implemented. We consider it essential, however, that the contact between the public and private sectors be strengthened and deepened. We recommend that the Public Service develops a two-way secondment programme which will afford career civil servants the opportunity, at a relatively early stage in their careers, to gain experience of the private sector. We also believe that short-term secondments into the public service would significantly enhance the private sector's understanding of the challenges faced by Government departments.
53. The Business Alliance is currently engaged in a programme designed to promote contacts between members of the NI Senior Civil Service, at Permanent secretary level, and senior representatives of the main business bodies. Growth Challenge hopes that the committee, DETI and all NI Government Departments will respond positively to this initiative.
54. The Business Alliance believes that it will be essential to raise the awareness of Strategy 2010 and to move forward decisively in addressing all the challenges identified in Strategy 2010. There are, however, a number of aspects of the Strategy which we regard as matters of high priority.
55. There is strong agreement on:
- the need to create a single economic development agency;
- the importance of the Economic Development Forum to drive and champion Strategy 2010
- the need to stimulate higher levels of Research and Development and innovation
- the need to develop closer links between industry, education and training
- the need to progress the development of an Information-based economy
56. The Business Alliance firmly believes that Strategy 2010 provides a working agenda for the development of the Northern Ireland economy for the next ten years. The very tight timeframe, within which the Review had to be completed, reduced the time available for detailed statistical analysis. It does, however, provide sectoral perspectives based on the experience and knowledge of the business people who operate in those sectors and it sets out the measures which, in their opinion, need to be implemented if the Northern Ireland economy is to achieve its real potential and if we are to exploit fully the new opportunities which are now presenting themselves.
57. We believe that, with the support and encouragement of the Assembly, and of the responsible Ministers, the Northern Ireland business community will play its part in achieving the vision for Northern Ireland set out in Strategy 2010.
58. We will be pleased to discuss any aspects of this submission with the Committee if this is considered helpful.
SIR GEORGE QUIGLEY, CHAIRMAN ULSTER BANK GROUP
1. My involvement in the preparation of Strategy 2010 was as Chairman of the Energy Working Group, whose recommendations were largely accepted by the Steering Group and are reflected in the Report. The only significant recommendation which was not adopted was that, in order to facilitate the restructuring of the contracts made with the electricity generation companies which acquired the power stations on privatisation, there should be clawed back from the Treasury the extra proceeds from sale which it was able to attract because of the nature of those contracts. Access to such resources (which did not benefit the Northern Ireland Public Expenditure Block) should help to accelerate progress towards convergence between electricity prices in Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.
The Key to Regional Prosperity
2. The pivotal figure in developing a strategy for regional economic development is the productivity measure, Gross Domestic Product per worker rather than GDP per head of population. The level of the former is the ineluctable outcome of two characteristics of the region. The first is the sectoral distribution of employment. Far too little of our employment is skewed towards the high value added end of the spectrum. The second factor is the level of productivity actually achieved within any given sector, whatever its importance within the economy may be. When all the fancy concepts are stripped away, the key to regional economic development lies in doing whatever is necessary to alter the economic structure and in benchmarking global best practice and ensuring that, sector by sector, productivity performance matches it. This latter is necessary because the size of a regional economy depends largely on its export base, which in turn depends on its international competitiveness.
3. Perhaps the most important passages in the Report are therefore those on pages 111, 112 and 113. The statistics therein indicate that in 1996 the Gross Value Added (GVA) of local manufacturers was £27,400 per person employed compared to a UK average of £32,600. Northern Ireland was at the bottom of the UK regional league table, even lower than Yorkshire and Humberside and East and West Midlands, which were also below the UK average.
4. The statistics also indicate that some 40% of our manufacturing employment was in the food, drink and tobacco and the clothing and textile sectors, where GVA across the UK is low, with NI companies tending on average to be below the UK average. The comparable figure for the UK as a whole is 20%. Such sectors are at acute risk from low cost competitors abroad. As the Report points out, too many of our manufacturing companies depend on price competitiveness to penetrate export markets rather than on quality and technical sophistication. Experience recently in the clothing and textile sector suggests that there may be no option but to accept that the sector will inevitably contract and that the only realistic strategy is to focus on upgrading the innovation capability of those companies which have the best prospects of survival, based on products which sell on design and quality. The Report (page 94) delivers the hard but probably correct message that the industry is likely to evolve to one consisting of companies which to a much greater extent, develop, design and market from Northern Ireland products which they source or manufacture globally (i.e. outside Northern Ireland.)
5. The size distribution of NI firms is also a factor in our relatively poor GVA. Statistics on page 73 of the Report show that, in Northern Ireland, firms of fewer than 50 employees contribute 28.2% of GVA, whereas the comparable figures for Scotland and Wales are 20.3% and 17.5% respectively. The contribution in Northern Ireland from firms of over 500 employees is 27.6% compared with 40.1% for Scotland and 34.9% for Wales.
6. The above are, to my mind, the key messages of Strategy 2010. To respond to them, resources have to be prioritised in the interests of modernisation and transformation rather than conservation. Only thus can the engines of wealth generation be built. A strong flow of inward investment is vital but we also need more local business with the capability (in Professor Michael Best's terminology) to source and integrate technologies from around the world and thereby unleash the power of technology to foster regional growth. I would strongly recommend that the Committee seek evidence from Professor Best, who has been undertaking work for the NI Economic Council on this and related topics.
7. In the context of restructuring, it is critical that Northern Ireland should seize all the opportunities offered by the e-commerce revolution, particularly for companies which enable and support the new systems on which 'business to consumer' and 'business to business' applications depend. As well as enabling companies of all sizes to access what is fast becoming a genuinely global market for consumer products, the revolution is transforming supply chain management and any company which fails to capture the efficiencies and savings (e.g. in procurement) which the 'business to business' aspects of e-commerce can yield is bound to be at risk.
8. It follows from the above (with its emphasis on change and innovation) that those parts of the Report which deal with Research and Development and Education and Training are vital. R&D spending in Northern Ireland, although improving, is still far too low and the boost just announced to support for R&D in universities here is very welcome. But, just as important as increasing R&D capacity, is ensuring that companies recognise the need for R&D and are able to manage effectively the technology function. Successful implementation of Strategy 2010 will require far more attention to this aspect. Competitiveness calls for constant innovation in product, process and organisation within companies. Developing capability through the intelligent management of innovation releases the potential for company growth.
9. Radical restructuring of the economic base will be impossible if investment in human capital is neglected. The statistics on page 116 of the Report speak for themselves. In 1996, 4.9% of manual workers in Northern Ireland received job-related training in any 4 week period - just over half the overall UK figure. For non-manual workers the figure was 12.4% here compared with 18.3% nationally. And it should be borne in mind that the UK generally is by no means a role model in this respect.
10. Education and training in preparation for employment need to be shaped in line with the best estimate which can be made of the likely skill profile over, say, the next 10/15 years. That this cannot be predicted with precision does not provide an alibi for failure to skew the output of the Education and Training system in the way which best supports the objectives for economic development. The software sector, for example, (page 82) is targeting an 8 fold increase in employment - from just over 3000 to 25,000. This has massive implications for careers guidance in schools as well as for further and higher education.
11. Northern Ireland's credibility as a region seeking greatly accelerated growth will be at risk so long as the gross deficiency of Higher Education places persists. It should be a winning marketing tool that we have the highest proportion of school-leavers in the UK going directly into higher education. But by giving so many of them no option but to obtain places on courses elsewhere (and some 85% of these then stay away) we have largely deprived ourselves of the benefit and ensured a steady exodus of talent and skill. The creation of the 12,000 or so additional places required to bring supply into balance with demand would furnish the opportunity to provide a higher education system in line with the expected pattern of employment.
12. It is inherent in the weakness of the existing industrial structure that jobs will continue to be lost. A painful process of adaptation therefore lies ahead. It is important that it should be relieved by the buoyancy of job creation in other sectors. But, such is the pace of industrial change, there will be job loss even in the newer parts of the economy. In 1999 in the Republic (which has benefited for years from a massive inflow of new investment much of it in the high-tech sectors) there were over 9000 job losses in IDA-supported companies but they were far more than offset by the 17,500 new jobs created in IDA-backed companies.
Implications for targets and measurement
13. If the restructuring of the economic base and the elements which support that restructuring are central to the strategy, it follows that the focus should be on the related targets and measurements. Unemployment trends and job creation are therefore not per se appropriate measures of regional success. Since what we need is well structured sustainable growth, we should be setting targets for improvement in our Gross Value Added figures (para 3 above) and monitoring trends. Ditto for the share of high-tech industries in total employment (currently only 2.9%). In its discussion of Implementation and Targets (pages 217 et seq), the Report deals with the latter (target: 6% by 2010) but not the former. Improving GVA trends would provide an appropriate context for the progressive narrowing of the earnings gap between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK which the Report rightly targets. Measurement of GVA trends would also provide a perspective on the effectiveness of the inputs to the Strategy which the Report targets (particularly Business R&D, up from 0.6% to 1.5% of GDP, and workforce qualifications, with the % employed workforce qualified to NVQ Level 4 up from 23% to 35%.)
14. The aim of regional policy should be regional convergence in income that is not based on transfers from central government or elsewhere which are merely palliative, in the sense that they attempt to compensate for what, in the absence of radical restructuring, will remain a permanent inability on the part of the region to draw level with the rest of the UK.
15. As improving GVA is reflected in solidly based income growth, consumer spending (with its impact on the services sector) will provide an increasingly powerful engine for growth, as has happened in the Republic.
Strategy 2010 overall
16. It will be clear from the above that I strongly support the thrust of the Report. I doubt if there is any significant factor (global, national or local) impacting on our growth prospects which it overlooks. I should also be surprised if it has failed to identify any issue of importance which needs to be addressed. Its menu of measures is impressively inclusive. It is however implicit in my observations above that there may be merit in distilling what I believe to be the central message and setting the priorities accordingly. This may make it easier to gain more widespread awareness of the kernel of the Report and of what lies at the heart of the Strategy.
17. For the rest, I confine myself to highlighting briefly aspects of the Report whose significance, given the very comprehensive coverage of so many issues, may not stand out sufficiently starkly or where I feel that certain caveats should be entered.
18. The recent improvement of industry morale is encouraging but the need for an urgent survival plan remains. Even this, however, will merely provide a breathing space for urgent preparation of a plan for the necessary long-term restructuring. The last CAP settlement was clearly only an interim step. Forthcoming world trade negotiations as well as European enlargement will force the pace of change. Such pressures, coming on top of our current difficulties, could only prove catastrophic. Pre-emptive action is vital. The recently constituted Task Force under the chairmanship of the Department's Permanent Secretary provides the obvious means of discharging these essential tasks.
19. Probably no sector holds out as good prospects for a swift upturn - with effects felt throughout Northern Ireland - than Tourism. Its rapid development to meet the challenges of growth effectively should be a priority.
20. I recall seeing only a brief reference to Lifelong Learning - and then only in the context of a discussion of the Information Age Commission. It is a fundamental theme which should inform and pervade all discussion of the Education dimension of the Strategy.
21. It is inherent in the Report that the flexibility to allocate resources from the NI Public Expenditure Block in line with Northern Ireland priorities should be fully exploited. This is vital. I have the impression that there is now a tendency to match almost automatically allocations in the rest of the UK - thereby pre-empting the possibility of adopting radically different priorities. However skilfully public expenditure is managed, it will simply be impossible to fund from the public purse all that has to be done. This suggests that Government should exit from any function which (subject to appropriate regulation as to standards etc) can be undertaken outside the public sector and that, for services which have to remain within the public sector, the full potential of Public Private Partnerships should be exploited. We cannot afford to have anything on the Government's balance sheet which can be put elsewhere.
Financial Support for Industry
22. The Report argues for reduced/refocused grant support - particularly in respect of "existing inward investors and indigenous industry" (page 171). This recommendation needs to be considered in terms of the fact that there is a highly competitive market for new investment, whether undertaken by companies seeking new locations or already within a region. The Republic's low tax rate of corporation tax (together with the beneficial cluster effect now present through the high concentration of plants in particular sectors) has proved to be a powerful magnet. The Report makes a strong case for a similar measure in Northern Ireland. Anyone doubting the contribution of the Republic's tax incentives to its ability to attract a massive inflow of investment should read the relevant passages in The Making of the Celtic Tiger by Ray McSharry and Padraic White, published this year by Mercier Press. Mr White joined the IDA at its foundation in 1970 and was its Managing Director 1981-90. The book states (page 250):
'The [tax] incentives remain to this day the unique and essential foundation stones of Ireland's foreign-investment boom. It has always been a core IDA principle that Ireland should offer the investor the longest possible time horizon on the predictability of taxes . Since no other country has been able to match such a long-term commitment, Ireland retains a unique advantage that reflects a deep understanding of investor needs.'
And of course the tax regime was so successful as to become a 'dynamic source of revenue'.
Another quotation from the book (page 255): '.such a distinctive low tax, favouring enterprise and investment, . has been central to our continuing ability to attract foreign investment. When the after-tax return on investing in Ireland was compared with other European alternatives, the result made a persuasive case for this country over more than four decades. The tax advantage helped overcome so many of our natural disadvantages of size and location, such as our distance from Continental markets, and the small size of the domestic market for a company's products.'
Restructuring of economic development bodies
23. The Report argues (page 206) for 'a single body covering the services currently delivered through IDB, LEDU, IRTU and the company development side of T&EA'. An alternative model which should be considered would have inward investment separated out and conducted by a specialist agency on the grounds that this function is very different and calls for different competencies and qualities. On this model there would need to be an industrial policy and co-ordination board sitting alongside, not on top of, the other two. It may be that the new Economic Development Forum could discharge such a role.
'Shaping our Future'
24. The Report recognises the importance of the spatial strategy set out in 'Shaping our Future'. A successful economic development strategy will be facilitated if developments in Housing, Transport etc seek to support that strategy. Without a spatial strategy, balanced growth and the goal of a region offering opportunity to all its citizens are unlikely to be achieved. Some parts of the region will experience excessive growth and become congested, with adverse consequences for quality of life, whilst others will be marginalised and suffer further decline.
25. No document as ambitious in scope and intention as Strategy 2010 will ever command total support on all sides and it has provoked a healthy debate. But it is a key strength of the Report that it is the outcome of a public/private partnership and that it has the support of the key economic players on whose commitment and energy success depends. It can be modified and refined as time goes on in light of the debate which it has stimulated - and many useful pointers to its further development have emerged from the debate. In particular, attention has been drawn to the need for more work on the relationship between inputs and final and intermediate outputs; on how one determines the absolute and the relative impact of different policies and measures; and on the implications of this for priority setting. This need not hold up urgent action on the core concerns of the Report, where it is hardly conceivable that effective implementation of the Recommendations would be other than beneficial. It is implicit in my observations that, throughout the process of implementation, the sharper the focus on core concerns the better.
20 June 2000
INDUSTRIAL RESEARCH & TECHNOLOGY UNIT (IRTU)
Thank you for your letter of 30 May offering me the opportunity to submit comments on IRTU's behalf to the Committee's inquiry into Strategy 2010.
I suggest the most useful contribution we might make to this exercise is to provide you with a copy of the IRTU Boards observations on Strategy 2010 which our Chairman passed to the DETI Permanent Secretary when the Strategy was first published last year. This is attached. I hope the Committee finds it helpful.
Mr G LoughranPermanent Secretary
Department of Economic Development
BELFAST BT4 2JP
6 June 2000
economic development strategy review
Thank you for your letter of 26 March 1999 inviting the IRTU Board to comment on the Report of the Economic Development Strategy Review. Unfortunately the Easter holiday and the short timescale available for this exercise has meant that the Board has been unable to meet to reach a consensus view on the Report. Nevertheless, within those constraints and, in order to meet your deadline, we offer the following quick observations.
Innovation in Companies (Paragraphs 9.8.1-9.8.2)
The IRTU Board is, of course, gratified to see the high priority which the review places on innovation, R&D and Design and the recognition of their fundamental importance in achieving business growth. We strongly support all the Steering Group's recommendations in these areas and we see these recommendations as a clear endorsement for the continuation and development of the work which IRTU has engaged in over the past seven years. As you know the Agency has energetically promoted innovation through its awareness activities and its investment support programmes. It has been instrumental in almost doubling the numbers of local companies engaging in R&D since 1992 as well as achieving a 31% (in real-terms) increase in R&D investment between 1993 and 1996. Although there is still a long way to go the improvement in the overall picture since 1992 is indicative of what can be achieved by an Agency fully focussed on the task in hand. The achievements are all the more noteworthy given IRTU's limited resources and augur well for our potential to make further progress in the future. However, to make that progress (and to reach the challenging target of 1.5% of GDP by the year 2010) will require extra resources certainly in terms of staffing, technology and probably also in extra programme money.
Improving Industry/University Links/Exploiting the Science Base in the Universities (Paras 9.8.3-9.8.9)
Although significant progress has been made in recent years, much more should to be done to improve the linkages between industry and the universities and to put stronger systems in place for helping our universities exploit the commercial value of their own research. Again the Board welcomes the Report's recommendations in these areas. If implemented properly, they have significant potential for building up the local research infrastructure, for translating research ideas more effectively into commercial products and for transferring knowledge from the universities to companies. It is our belief that strong and dynamic industry university partnerships are the key to success and we strongly recommend that vigorous efforts be made to promote those partnerships. In Northern Ireland, in the Polymer Processing Centre at QUB, we have one good example of how these linkages can work effectively. This facility is sector orientated and has on its steering group all interested parties (Government, all relevant Departments in the Universities, TCS representatives and industry). All of these work together very practically and learn from each other. This example, particularly if combined with a strong IRTU input, could provide a very useful model for replication in other sectors.
The Board particularly welcomes the Science Park proposal, believing that it offers significant prospects for enhancing the commercialisation of NI's research capabilities and for attracting increased inward investment. In bringing this proposal to successful implementation it is important that both universities are encouraged to play full participating roles.
We note, however, the absence in the Review of any reference to the exploitation of the IRTU/NIGC Foresight exercise as a means for planning for the future. If Northern Ireland is to implement an effective economic strategy then it must ensure that steps are taken to develop new technologically based industries. Which sectors are best suited for inclusion in such a strategy have yet to be clearly identified. A mini Foresight exercise would help clarify this and help focus the action to be taken.
Design (Para 9.8.10)
We were pleased to note that the importance of good product design has been recognised and we fully endorse the proposal that design should be promoted more widely throughout industry, schools and with the wider public. In recent years IRTU has had some success, again within extremely limited resources, in raising the profile of industrial design among companies. However, we agree that significantly more needs to be done and we strongly support the expansion of design awareness and support activities.
Sustainable Development (Paras 9.5-9.5.1)
While we welcome the reference in the Report to the importance of sustainable development we believe that this is a much more important topic than the few short paragraphs in the Report would suggest. IRTU has been extremely active in this area for some time and, through its awareness, support and advisory activities have helped many companies to reduce the adverse environmental impacts of their production operations. The Report's recommendation, we suggest, is much too general and we would hope that during the implementation stage a sharper focus is placed on this vitally important area. We would certainly wish to contribute to this work.
Information Age (Paras 9.7-9.7.1)
The IRTU Board is in total agreement on the central importance of digital technology and the fact that economic success is increasingly dependent on our ability to effectively handle electronic information. Northern Ireland is in danger of falling far behind our competitors in this regard and, while we welcome the proposal to establish an Information Age Commission, the e-commerce sector is developing so fast that we must act now rather than await new structures. At the very least we should immediately initiate action to ensure that the DED Agencies, all of which are operating to some degree in this area, work together to achieve maximum impact.
More generally there is widespread concern amongst industrialists and academics that there is a major shortfall in IT literacy in Northern Ireland and that this needs urgent attention if existing and new businesses are to flourish. There are a number of initiatives where schools and universities in Great Britain are endeavouring to improve the level of IT literacy and we believe that Northern Ireland should be in the forefront of this revolution.
Rebalancing the Incentives Package/Priorities for Financial Support/Private Equity Finance (Paras 9.11-9.13.2)
On the question of the move from grants to equity some members were generally supportive of this recommendation, provided there was a common and concerted appraisal by all the DED agencies on this front. Other members, however, did not wholeheartedly support the rationale for such a move, given the smaller size of companies in Northern Ireland and the fact that many of them are competing against major global and European companies. In many cases the availability of grants help Northern Ireland companies compete on more level terms. The view from these members, therefore, was that grants should be directed towards supporting companies that have robust business plans, incorporating elements of innovation and continuous improvement.
DED Structures (Paras 9.24-9.24.2)
There is some divergence of opinion among members about the suggestion that there should be a single economic development body.
All members are strongly of the opinion that IRTU's success is to a large extent attributable to the clear focus which it, as a separate Agency, has been able to bring to its work. Some would support the establishment of a single economic development organisation provided that, within that structure, a strong focus on innovation, technology and R&D could be maintained. Some members feel that the 'single body' concept is more to do with customer interface - the one stop shop idea - and that actual structures do not have to be changed very much. Other members are highly sceptical as to whether the aspiration for Northern Ireland to have a "rock-solid commitment to R&D which is leading edge, high quality and industry focused..." can be met if IRTU is to be incorporated within a 'single' body. They make the case that the Review (implicitly, at least) envisages a broadening of IRTU's remit and that this argues for an independent and expanded IRTU.
All Board members feel it important also to ensure that the repository of skills and experience built up by IRTU's staff is maintained. In this context, we mention, particularly, the high level of professionalism and expertise of IRTU's scientific staff who provide many vital technological advisory, testing and consultancy services to local companies. The continuation of those services is crucial to helping companies utilise modern technology and incorporate best practice manufacturing methods.
I hope you find the above comments helpful.
professor p mckie
Based on special board meeting held of Monday 12th April 1999
1. The Board's first consideration was to give a broad overview of the document.
The document is wide ranging, radical and exciting in terms of some of the proposals it includes. The Board were very supportive of the great majority of the recommendations which have been set out in a very readable format.
The Board are anxious to ensure that their comments add constructively to the debate and are not seen as being in any way negative.
In making their points the Board were also conscious that the review was addressed to a variety of different audiences and that it would be for the new Assembly to make final decisions in which recommendations to take forward.
- There was a degree of concern that perhaps it did not take us far enough. There was little to put us ahead and we seem to remain rather firmly in 'catch up mode'.
- There was insufficient explicit recognition that NI's most effective strategy in the medium term might be to 'ride the coat tails' of the ROI, making more effective use of N/S rather than E/W linkages. Targeted growth rates should be more in line with those forecast for ROI?
- There was a degree of concern that there was insufficient evidence that our regional strengths were really strengths and had delivered competitive benefits in the past. If they had not it could be dangerous to build competitive strategy round them.
- The recommendations and targets had not been ranked or weighted - they all seemed "good things to do" but cannot be of equal importance in terms of impact.
- The Board believed that the review and its recommendations sat comfortably with the current priorities and approach to economic development which were being pursued by LEDU - the future success of NI economy would continue to be highly dependant on small firm success with at least six of the declared targets requiring major contributions from the small firm sector. They wished to put on record the performance of LEDU in recent years in terms of delivering success against challenging targets in difficult circumstances.
- Care will be required, going forward, that there is not an expansion in the number of bodies, discussion forums etc and effective use should be made of existing structures.
2. The Board then turned to more detailed responses to the groups of recommendations in section 9, with particular reference to the small business sector
2.1. Equality and Social Cohesion
Very strong support for the significance of this principle. Small business growth has potential to continue to make a very important contribution to achieving TSN objectives.
The Board agreed that the concentration on the nine hubs is the correct approach for FDI but it is important to recognise that small business development policy requires wider flexibility - a very high percentage of small businesses are started within five miles of the promoter's home for instance.
The achievement of TSN impact through the location of FDI within NI must not be allowed to confuse or cloud the clarity of marketing NI's case - it may be more appropriate to ensure equality of opportunity by means of investment in transport infrastructure for example.
2.2. Knowledge-based economy
The need is to accelerate progress in relation to ICT applications across all sectors of commerce. The Information Age Commission should be implemented as quickly as possible but should not be an impediment to the rapid development of any existing plans in this area. Work such as that currently underway with LEDU's leadership should not only continue but, where possible, be accelerated.
Improving the start up rates of technology based companies is already a key target for LEDU but more work can usefully be done here. This needs to be fully integrated with 'mainstream' small business support processes and should not be allowed to become seen as a separated operation.
9.8.3. was viewed as particularly important. There should be some further attention given to 'near market' development activity by Universities as a route to encouraging innovation and product development in the smaller businesses.
LEDU has many good examples of networking initiatives. Small businesses in particular can benefit from focused networking. The Board is strongly supportive and has seen the benefit of the work currently being undertaken by the LEDU executive in this area and, regardless of future structures, believe that this should continue to be developed.
2.4. Enterprise - Celebrating Success
The Board was very positive about this section of the review. They agreed that there is much work to be done in this area with involvement in the education of our young people a crucial area. The promotion of business studies and initiatives such as mini business should become well integrated within the school curriculum. Small business role models can often provide the most compelling examples of success and enterprise to stimulate young people and help them make more informed career decisions although many business owners are reticent to make their success public. In LEDU's experience there are also dangers in small business owners taking their "eye off the ball".
2.4.1. The Incentive Package
The proposed changes in incentive packages for indigenous companies fit very well with the direction LEDU had been taking in recent years and were welcomed so long as support for small businesses retained flexibility.
There was a lengthy debate on the issue of tax incentives. Differentiating the tax regime for FDI was not favoured. It would prove difficulty and controversial to implement and would unfairly discriminate against the need to encourage the growth of profitable indigenous business.
That said, the Board considered that a competitive rate of corporation tax is an extremely valuable marketing tool in attracting mobile, profitable FDI and promoting successful indigenous businesses. It furthermore considered that the 'headline' rates for corporation tax and capital gains tax applicable in the jurisdiction of our nearest neighbour and competitor in this activity have been significant factors in their successes of recent years.
It believed that an innovative approach to this area by the authorities would be an important ingredient in successfully delivering of the enhanced growth targets suggested on pages one of this response.
The argument for the benefits gained from generous capital allowances would seem flawed if we wish to concentrate on encouraging knowledge based industries.
In terms of marketing NI for FDI in an increasingly competitive global environment, the Board considered that a 'competitive' corporation tax regime was a very valuable tool.
In the area of private equity finance the Board commented that there would be clear advantage to small businesses in the suggestions being made. A number of these have already been implemented by LEDU and these could be used as a starting position.
The planning regime is not always seen as helpful to small businesses and the Board commended the need for faster and more flexible responses, particularly in rural areas.
Infrastructure, the environment and planning are key ingredients for market effective decision making in economic development and in these circumstances there needs to be the closest possible teamwork between relevant governmental departments.
2.5. Outward Looking
Here the Board considered that initiatives aimed at improving N/S linkages need to be given high priority.
NI must become more European in outlook. The recommendation for a stronger presence in Brussels is welcomed. The Board considered the NI economy would benefit from increased informal activity and networking which would result from its implementation.
There was strong support for initiatives which will encourage people to gain experience outside NI and this should be afforded a high priority. It is suggested that work here should not wait for political decisions on the overall document.
2.6. Self Help
The Board agreed with the diagnosis of the local Economic Development scene, recognising the significant work that LEDU has done/continues to do in this area. They believe that LEDU's profile and experience here will enable it to take the lead role. It would be important to undertake this work sensitively to ensure that local commitment/enthusiasm is built on and the necessary rationalisation is not seen as central government interference in local affairs.
They would commend the work initiated under the auspices of LEDU's NI Small Business Development Strategy as an important mechanism for engaging with a wide cross section of active growth small business and the support infrastructure. There will also be opportunities to expand on the development of e-commerce.
2.6.2. Rural Economy
LEDU is active in supporting the rural economy but the Board agreed that, as this was an area with very significant overlap/duplication of initiatives cross-departmental co-ordination/operation would have to be improved.
2.6.3. Energy Policy
Under the heading of energy policy the Board highlighted the very significant fuel (diesel/petrol) differences which currently exist with respect to ROI.
2.6.4. DED Structures
There was considerable debate on the question of DED structures. The Board reflected on the successes of LEDU and its management on delivering on its mandate for quite some years and on the belief that its client base responds well to the support that LEDU gives it. In these circumstances and speaking from a LEDU Board perspective they wondered that "if its not broke, why does it need to be fixed.".
That said, the Board recognised that a single Agency with separate operating divisions addressing the different markets and with common service support would have the potential for rationalisation and more efficient deployment of DED resources in its overall task of developing the economy.
The Board considered that the attraction of FDI and the support of small/medium sized indigenous businesses are quite separate roles requiring different skills. For the strategy now proposed to be successful, challenging targets under both headings will have to be met. Both aspects require strong market/customer focus but with very different approaches.
The Board debated the characteristics of successful organisations of the type required and considered that they:
- are highly change orientated, often anticipating what is happening in the marketplace
- are biased towards customer facing activity with minimal support staff and using out-sourcing where appropriate/cost effective
- are capable, through reputation, of attracting the best skills available
- set challenging but not quite achievable targets
- reward performance financially and in terms of career prospects.
While the Board recognised that the impact of such an institution would be dependant on the quality of its leadership, on balance it considered that these characteristics would more readily be achieved within a 'company' rather that as a direct vehicle of the public service.
In the above context the Board would be concerned that any partial restructuring such as that suggested in the McKie report would not be appropriate. All change should be made with a clear picture of the final form of the proposed organisation to minimise confusion and loss of momentum.
UNIVERSITY OF ULSTER
1 March 2000
The University welcomes the opportunity to comment on 'Strategy 2010'. Universities are now regarded as key contributors to regional economic development, and it is crucial that in Northern Ireland the universities are involved in strategic decisions about economic development, as well as in the execution of activities and programmes.
'Strategy 2010' is a lengthy and detailed document with far-reaching and wide-ranging recommendations. In framing this response the University has restricted comments to key matters raised in or related to the report, in which the University has a particular interest.
The University fully supports the statement that the education system should place 'major emphasis on the world of work and on skills that increase the employability of students and prepare them for the transition to work, including self-employment and entrepreneurship'. This university has in place a major student placement programme, involving more than 1,200 undergraduate students annually in a full-year placement, and many others in shorter periods.
With QUB, the University has submitted a bid for funding to establish the Northern Ireland Centre for Entrepreneurship (NICENT). The universities are also involved in a number of planned initiatives which would complement the Centre; pending the outcome of the bid, many of these have been put in place. Examples of such initiatives are:
- £10k Award for New Entrepreneurs - this initiative, supported by PricewaterhouseCoopers and venture capitalist Hambros, is being run in association with both universities and Belfast City Council and will encourage entrepreneurship and successful technology transfer involving undergraduates and postgraduates at the two universities.
- Technology Entrepreneurship and Innovation (TEI) Support Programme - The University of Ulster and the Queen's University of Belfast are partners in a programme which aims to promote innovation and the formation of technology-based companies by offering access to the expertise and resources of both universities to scientific entrepreneurs and innovative small businesses from outside the academic sector.
- Graduate Enterprise Programme - Northern Ireland will be one of the first regions to pilot the expansion of the 'Young Enterprise' scheme into higher education; this programme will enable students to discover how to run a successful business while developing attitudes and skills necessary for personal success, lifelong learning and employability.
- Entrepreneurship Modules are to be incorporated into all taught programmes and research studies in science and technology at the University of Ulster.
Recently announced funding for the University of Ulster under the Higher Education Reach-Out to Business and The Community (HEROBC) scheme will facilitate the establishment of a Regional Development Office (RDO) in the University. This Office will take responsibility for managing the range of the University's activities which impact on business and the community and liasing with business and community partners, and regeneration agencies. A Dean of Regional Development will be appointed to manage the RDO and will work closely with a Director of Lifelong Learning, a newly created post. These staff will be charged with ensuring that the University's programmes take account of the skills needs of the region.
It is clear that the university sector in Northern Ireland has been energetic in promoting and encouraging initiatives which will allow Northern Ireland to take best advantage of its knowledge base. With the possibility of devolution there is now an opportunity for higher education policy in Northern Ireland to respond to the specific needs of Northern Ireland and to relate to the regional development agenda. The Department of Higher and Further Education, Training and Employment has already announced a review of support for students undertaking HE programmes, and it is urged that this should be conducted to take full account not only of current socio-economic factors but also of strategic economic development considerations. It is suggested that the question of support for part-time studies in priority areas be considered as part of this review.
Closely related to the knowledge base is the process of innovation. 'Strategy 2010' has set out a list of recommendations under the heading of 'Innovation', although some of these are concerned rather with the need to support the core activities, including R&D.
Adequate funding of the research base in higher education is crucial in order to attract and retain high quality staff and students, to give them an appropriate working environment and to allow them to undertake basic research.
It is also necessary to have in place measures, mechanisms and funding to promote technology and knowledge transfer and to stimulate innovation. Significant progress has been made in the past two years by the universities and government in setting in place the necessary framework, including University Challenge funding, and development of incubator facilities and the Northern Ireland Science Park. Through UUTECH Ltd, the University of Ulster's technology transfer company, campus incubators are operational at Magee and Coleraine, and are planned for the Jordanstown and Springvale campuses. The Science Park sites are designed to support university spin-out companies post incubation, and to attract to Northern Ireland companies which will benefit from access to the facilities, advanced research equipment and research capacity of staff at the nearby campus. It is important that momentum be maintained in relation to these activities.
A further area of importance is intellectual property protection and exploitation. This is a crucial aspect of any innovation strategy.
The balance of public and private sector R&D
Because of the preponderance of SMEs in Northern Ireland, the universities have a particular role in making their expertise available to SMEs. SMEs are often reluctant to invest in R&D, and should have access to publicly funded R&D. While funding has been provided to support centres of technological excellence in the universities, these centres have in the past been given the mission to become self-financing. If such centres are to provide the service required by SMEs, it is not feasible for them to be funded on this basis. It is therefore recommended that any future schemes take full account of the role of these centres in relation to SMEs.
One of the recommendations in 'Strategy 2010' is that 'efforts to increase R&D in the HE sector should be a stated priority as well as support for R&D in the private sector'. The Northern Ireland Economic Council report 'Publicly Funded R&D in Northern Ireland' (1999) also stresses the need for greater investment in university research funding.
"Therefore, given the importance of strong local universities to regional economic strategy and the potential contribution of the universities to that strategy, the Council recommends that block funding for university research in Northern Ireland should be increased so as to reinforce R&D and innovation links between universities, Government and industry. Block funding for Northern Ireland universities would have to be £8·5m more than planned to reach UK average per capita levels in 2001-02."
The NIEC report also recommends that:
"increased public expenditure should be committed to the encouragement in an appropriately balanced way of both private and public sector R&D and innovation in Northern Ireland, based on a long-term capabilities-building and public-private partnership approach."
This recommendation is welcomed and supported by the University of Ulster.
The University believes that it is timely for a review of priority sectors to be undertaken - those which form the basis of current planning and resource decisions are based to a great extent on historical factors; it is timely to decide a small number of priority sectors on which Northern Ireland should now focus, in the light of the emphasis on 'Strategy 2010' on the knowledge-based economy and innovation.
Targets for government agencies should be revised to relate to these priority sectors and to reflect the emphasis on the knowledge-based economy, for example, inward investment efforts should be directed towards companies at the high end of the technology spectrum.
The University of Ulster believes Northern Ireland now has no alternative but to plan for a 'knowledge-driven' economy. It must be recognised that Northern Ireland is a player in a global economy, and strategies and structures to enhance its competitiveness should take this into account.
It is opportune to quote a final paragraph from the report 'Publicly Funded R&D in Northern Ireland'.
"The economic potential of Northern Ireland is strong. Effective knowledge management based on innovation, partnership and enterprise, both internally and externally to the region, must be marshalled to realise this potential. Northern Ireland must set up the institutions and instil the political and economic attitudes capable of sustaining it into the new millennium as a knowledge-driven economy."
MOYLE DISTRICT COUNCIL
4 July 2000
1.0 Moyle District Council welcomes the opportunity to comment on the Strategy 2010 document and acknowledges the importance and need to draw together a strategy for Economic Development of Northern Ireland.
Local authorities were not consulted in relation to this report, and at this stage, the Council feels that the task of creating a framework for economic development within 12 months is too short to allow for adequate examination of the issues and provide for real and meaningful consultation.
1.1 A general observation on first reading the report, would be that it does not appear to take into account the first basic principle of strategic planning of "where are we now?" and therefore it is lacking a starting point and a good sound basis upon which to build. There is no critique of present or past policies, strategies or structures. Presumably there have been several valuable and effective initiatives which could be successfully built upon. In the absence of this it is difficult to ascertain whether this strategy will afford the opportunity for real added value.
1.2 The recommendations tend to read like a 'wish list'. They need to be explained in the context of what has gone before, where the weak points have been, how this strategy will address those in practical terms and have clear indicators which will tell us if the plan is achieving its objectives. It also needs to take more cognisance of what is happening elsewhere. There are many new plans and strategies being drawn up at the moment. The Community Structural Funds, District Council Strategies, Community Initiatives, e.g. Leader and Interreg.
1.3 It is also vital that a strategy for economic development, emanating from government, addresses the aspiration for 'joined up government' if we are to avoid duplication and waste of resources.
2.0 Focusing Economic Development in 9 Key Areas
2.1 The report itself recognises that the Locational policy is at odds with statements on Equality and Social Cohesion, yet it does not pursue the issue, instead it is highlighted and dismissed in a statement on page 144. "To bring industrial projects to every village is neither feasible nor economic".
The detrimental and negative implications of a policy which creates 9 elitist areas which will be the main focus for the future location of industry, and relegates others to a lower tier, cannot be overstated.
2.2 The Moyle area is, at present, the area with the highest unemployment in Northern Ireland. Furthermore, the largest town, Ballycastle is viewed as having limited potential to attract inward investment and to develop indigenous businesses.
These views and policies serve to further exacerbate problems of deprivation and isolation. From this view point, it is difficult to see how this strategy would provide equality of opportunity for the people of the Moyle area.
2.3 Although the overarching themes of the strategy are to be commended more thought and additional measures, even a dedicated action plan, to address the problems of development in "lower tier" areas are needed if equality of opportunity is to be given more than rhetorical recognition.
3.0 People Development
3.1 Generally, and despite the statements about Equity, the document does not detail practical measures for tackling deprivation and disadvantage.
3.2 Furthermore, the important role played by local communities and the significant contribution they make to the economic development of Northern Ireland needs to be emphasised as does the development of people.
4.0 Rationalisation of Economic Development Bodies
4.1 Rationalisation is always welcome if it leads to a more effective and efficient service for the community. The recommendation on page 206 of the report to create a single economic development body may meet these objectives. A common sectoral approach to the delivery of economic development services, together with improved information sharing through the introduction of a unified IT database, is to be welcomed. However, the Council would urge that an effective mechanism is built into any new arrangements which will ensure, local accountability and the capacity and will to engage with local sectors in the delivery of economic development.
4.2 The report has not acknowledged the substantive role which local government has played in the economic development of Northern Ireland nor does it give local government a role in the implementation of the future economic development plans.
This is completely unacceptable to the Council and is most surprising considering the recent, very positive evaluations of local authorities' economic development action plans (LRPD, 1998, University of Ulster, 1999). Indeed, the Council would argue on the basis of these evaluations, that local authorities should be given an increased role in the implementation of a Regional Economic Development Strategy.
5.0 Local Authority Efforts to Attract Inward Investment
5.1 The comment on page 195 of the report that Councils' efforts to attract inward investment "can duplicate the work of IDB and LEDU and create confusion among customers", the Council would agree that greater co-ordination between statutory agencies and local authorities is required to avoid such confusion.
5.2 The Council feels that it is vital for a local authority to promote its own area for inward investment. This is an informed opinion, as Moyle decided in 1995 to entrust this work exclusively to the IDB and not to pursue a programme of promotion itself. This decision was welcomed by the IDB. The record of IDB activity in the Moyle area is testimony to this mistake. In the past five years:
- There have been no visits by potential investors
- There have been no jobs created
- There have been no jobs safeguarded
6.0 Tax Incentives
6.1 The Council would support efforts to increase tax incentives for enterprise, (particularly for the purposes of targeting social need) in order to accelerate development and believe that it would be a powerful stimulus for economic growth.
7.1 The Council would strongly oppose the recommendation on page 209 of the report, to privatise harbours, transport companies and water and sewerage.
7.2 This is potentially a highly controversial subject and surprisingly is given only a couple of lines in the report. The rationale for such a radical move is not explained other than the short sighted motive of fund raising.
8.1 Given the importance of the tourism sector for the Northern Ireland economy and the fact that it has enormous potential for growth, the absence of any discussion on this topic within the paper is disappointing.
8.2 It does get one mention in the context of farm diversification and a recommendation that deregulation of the bed and breakfast sector should be considered.
The present minimum standard is not difficult or prohibitively expensive to attain. A line has to be drawn somewhere in order to protect the overall reputation of the region as a desirable holiday destination. The absence of such a regulation has the potential to do untold damage. The notion that standards will be maintained through a market based approach is naïve and represents a backward step for the industry. Northern Ireland's 1992 Tourism Order is viewed by other regions of the UK as an example to be followed and indeed Scotland has recently imposed a minimum standard.
9.0 Farming Incomes
9.1 The Council welcomes the assertion at 9.21.2 that farm management on a part-time basis should be facilitated as will actions for the long term sustainability of rural communities.
9.2 However, the Council feels that the Rural Planning Policy is not conducive to this type of development. The issue of farm viability and therefore the potential to gain planning permission for dwelling houses to accommodate the family in the countryside are very restrictive. The council would urge that cognisance be taken of this when developing the ideas.
10.1 The recommendation on page 193, that Twinning Arrangements with other regions is welcomed. Again the role for District Council should be detailed in this as they have demonstrated considerable capacity to formulate relationships with other EU countries and more recently in the USA.
THE ULSTER SOCIETY OF CHARTERED ACCOUNTANTS
8 June 2000
I refer to your letter of 30 May regarding the above Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committee Inquiry. Thank you for notification of the continuation of this inquiry and the details surrounding it.
Last year the Ulster Society published a response to Strategy 2010, I have attached a copy for your attention.
Since the suspension of the Assembly the Ulster Society of Chartered Accountants has been invited to undertake an independent research project into the financial structures of Northern Ireland's SME business sector on behalf of the Industrial Development Board for Northern Ireland and LEDU.
We view this study as a natural progression to some of the principles of Strategy 2010 and we believe that it will significantly contribute to current economic debate. We believe that it is important that the Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committee are aware of this study and we will of course make copies of our report available to the Committee when it is published early next year.
The Policy Group of the Ulster Society of the Institute of Chartered Accountants met on 20 September to develop and draft a first response to the Strategy 2010 (Economic Development Strategy Review document) published in March 1999 by the Department of Economic Development.
The central endorsements of the Group were:
- the broader, all-encompassing approach of the Report was welcomed as it went beyond pure business/ economic issues to include the influence of factors such as education, energy, transportation and the political context.
- there was satisfaction that the Report was the result of a partnership between the public and private sector. Previous reports on the economy have been solely the product of the public sector and while the private sector may have been consulted it is encouraging to see such widespread involvement.
- the two major influences on the Northern Ireland economy were agreed as:
(i) the rapid pace of economic change
(ii) the new political and economic opportunities of peace
As Chartered Accountants the Group chose to focus on the professionally relevant areas of selective financial assistance, taxation and fostering international competitiveness including currency factors.
The conclusions of the Group were:
- the review process brought public and private sectors participants together in a very constructive way to produce a pragmatic and realistic view of economic development. Perhaps uniquely in Northern Ireland, the Report charts out a business development agenda which could assist in advancing the prospects for political consensus.
- it is essential that the Report be moved forward into specific actions. The pace of change in the business environment, both locally and internationally, is such that we cannot allow practical recommendations for action to be postponed or abandoned because of the lack of political progress in the Assembly. For this reason, the Ulster Society would like to see the Economic Development Forum established immediately, bringing together the social partners to oversee the development and implementation of the Report.
- a mechanism should also be found to involve representatives of the political parties, especially their economic spokespeople, with the work of the Forum so that they remain close to the process, even if there is no ongoing political development.
- an early priority for the Forum should be to address the issue of rebalancing the incentives package for business. Strategy 2010 addresses two aspects relating to incentivising business investment and expansion - selective financial assistance and the use of fiscal incentives. We believe it is essential that the Report is not used purely to provide a grant cutting agenda. More thought is needed to develop specific packages to address the needs of investors. The existing trend towards 'softer' aid packages not based on capital spend should be encouraged. In addition it is important that enterprises are able to access the best advice possible, be this marketing, production, design or financial from both the public and private sectors.
Strategy 2010 failed to come to realistic recommendations on the issue of corporate taxation. A special corporation tax rate for Northern Ireland, while desirable, is not politically achievable (and certainly not in the absence of an Executive). We would be strongly opposed to a tax regime which was available only to inward investment as recommended by Strategy 2010. Assistance, fiscal or selective financial packages, should be available to internationally competitive businesses, whether indigenous or internationally owned.
- an early priority of the Forum should be the establishment of a high powered Group representative of both the private and public (including the Treasury) sectors. The Group's remit should be to devise tax based incentives within the current rate structure which will encourage the development of internationally competitive businesses in a way which will, at worst, be revenue neutral. The experience of the Republic of Ireland is that lower corporate tax rates can have the effect of increasing investment activity, creating employment and ultimately of increasing tax revenue. The Group noted that the RoI exchequer currently earns more per capita from corporate taxation than the UK. The development of more Enterprise Zones could be one way forward.
- The Society also felt that despite its exhortation to be outward looking, Strategy 2010 could have paid more attention to the marketing and infrastructure development opportunities that would be available or should be pursued if the East/West and North/South bodies and institutions under the Belfast Agreement were to be set up as intended. Should political progress be halted there should be no lessening of the intention to maximise these opportunities and their associated markets.
- Finally, the Ulster Society would like to see significant emphasis and resources being applied on the overseas promotion of the industrial/investment attractiveness of Northern Ireland. On an ongoing basis but particularly for political settlement we must be prepared to highlight Northern Ireland's selling points of high quality/educated workforce and supportive technology including the fact that we are the most advanced area in the UK for establishing Euro based trading companies.
The Communications Group now invites the members of the Ulster Society to contribute to the debate on the Strategy 2010 document in order to finalise this draft commentary for submission to the Department of Economic Development.
ARDS BOROUGH COUNCIL
23 February 2000
1. Ards Borough Council recognises the importance of such a document and welcomes the opportunity of being consulted.
2. Local Authorities now play a crucial role in the promotion and implementation of Economic Development at local level. It is therefore important that their comments are taken into consideration. Local Authorities are often asked to facilitate local projects and have a crucial role in forming local partnerships representatives of all interests.
3. It is therefore important that the views of Councils are taken into consideration and incorporated in any future Economic Development Strategy.
4. Ards Borough Council considers that the recommendation made on page 145 of the document and which states that Belfast, Londonderry, Craigavon, Antrim, Ballymena, Coleraine, Omagh, Enniskillen and Newry should be the main focus of the future location of industry in Northern Ireland is utterly flawed.
a) In the first place, "Shaping our Future" on which this recommendation is base is only a consultative document and is not or should not be policy at this stage. It is therefore wrong to base definite proposals on it.
b) Secondly, even if the report could be used as a basis, there could be no reason for including Enniskillen as a major growth area with a projected 1200 new dwellings (initial report figure) and treating Newtownards as other than a major growth area with a projected 1500 new dwellings.
c) The methodology in "Shaping our Future" for arriving at major growth areas was flawed in that it related only to the housing growth potential of the District town as the planners saw it. This ignored the growth potential of a Borough such as Ards as a whole which has 14 separate towns and villages.
d) Furthermore, the figure included for the Ards Borough is completely unrealistic. The total of 3950 new dwellings projected for the 14 year period of the strategy would have slashed its annual growth rate by almost two thirds which would have created major problems. Our present growth rate is some 600 new starts per annum - second fastest in Northern Ireland.
e) This fact was accepted by the planners at the Enquiry in Public in Londonderry when they, the Planners suggested a new figure of 7,000 for the 14 year period. The Panel report recommends 7,500 new dwellings for Ards.
f) Given that the Ards Borough is clearly going to continue to be a major growth area, with over 500 new dwellings per year, it is clear that there will be a need for a drive for new industry for the Borough in that period also.
g) Government policy discourages the use of cars for commuting and the best way of achieving this is to provide jobs where or as near as possible to where the people live.
h) The Ards Borough has been hit in recent years with major job losses in the textile sector to a point where unemployment here is above the NI average. 600 additional jobs will go within the next 2-3 months with the closure of Bairdwear and the Lamont operation in addition to redundancies recently in Regency Carpets and Hawkesbay and these, being largely local jobs will render unemployment in the Borough among the highest in Northern Ireland - in the region of 9%.
5. Given the projected high growth of the Ards Borough in the future - still among the highest in Northern Ireland, this Council contends that the Ards Borough must be designated among those proposed for future major development, i.e. added to the nine previously identified.
6. To do otherwise would have devastating effects on the Borough as it would limit its potential to attract foreign direct investment and to develop its own indigenous businesses and so counteract the problems arising from the change which is affecting so disastrously traditional textile areas.
7. The Ards Borough, with its close proximity to Belfast is strategically placed to attract potential inward investment and to benefit from the buoyant economic activity of the City. The Borough has excellent infrastructure, benefits from a close proximity to ports and airports and has a well educated and versatile workforce but government attention is required in the plan period to help recovery.
8. Ards Borough Council also considers that the reference at section 9.2 page 195 to "the efforts of District Councils to sell their area to potential inward investors can duplicate the work of IDB and LEDU." Should be removed and that this matter should be rethought. Any future strategy should rather try to integrate the work of district councils and recognise it as complementing the work of the Agencies. In the case of the Ards Borough, the Council had to take steps to promote its area as it is not considered as a TSN area (a matter which, given our present state of affairs, we are also contesting). The Ards Borough does not therefore benefit from attractive levels of grants for inward investors. The work undertaken by the Council consisted in a series of Trade missions which are now revealing themselves as being very positive. In this process, any attempt to obtain assistance and co-operation from the Agencies did not succeed. It is obvious that more co-operation is needed and that duplication did not occur. The Council had an obvious gap to fill in as the area was not being promoted. IDB, LEDU and the T&EA are working closely with the Council at present and this should be allowed to continue.
9. The Council acknowledges the need to consider options for co-ordinating and improving the local development efforts and would consider supporting the idea of a "District Council Pilot Project".
10. Given Ards Borough Council's involvement in the South Eastern Consortium and the number of projects which have been successfully implemented by it (Southern Region Business Start Programme, The Craft Consortium, the Kingdoms of Down, the Rural Down Partnership, The Fishing Villages Programme, the Tradenet Programme etc.). It is felt that such a pilot programme could be tested in the Southern Region.
11. Ards Borough Council considers that the role of Councils is unclear in the document. Councils are only mentioned once and that in a negative manner. However, they possess the local knowledge and are best placed to think and implement Economic Development strategies at local level. This kind of local Economic Development is strongly encouraged by the European Union and should therefore be supported by the Northern Ireland Assembly. Councils are an essential part of democracy and are accountable to the people they represent. They are accountable and responsible for the monies spent and are therefore better placed than any other body to carry out economic development actions. Councils should be given additional powers as soon as possible to be in a position to encourage and support their local economy. Such powers should include the purchase, development and management of land for industrial purposes and a power of general competence should be granted to Councils involved in Local Economic Development.
12. As far as the creation of a knowledge based economy is concerned, all efforts should be made by the T&EA, the FE Colleges and the training organisation to provide effective training and re-training programmes. With the process leading Northern Ireland from an industrial society to a post industrial society, mass unemployment in certain traditional sectors has occurred. It is essential that structures are created by the above mentioned organisations to ensure that the workforce is versatile and re-employable in other sectors of industry such as IT.
13. The Council welcomes the establishment of an Information Age Commission and the creation of a new Science Park in Northern Ireland.
14. However, the Council wishes to highlight again the issue of location. From previous discussion, it appears that the main amenities will be situated in Belfast. However, the Council sees it as essential that satellite sites are established in other peripheral areas. The Ards Borough should not be denied the opportunity of attracting high tech companies and developing its IT base because of a centralisation of these activities to the main urban areas.
15. The creation of a well resourced Northern Ireland Regional Office in Brussels is welcome. However, this role could be fulfilled by the Northern Ireland Centre in Europe instead of creating a new structure which would duplicate the work of NICE.
16. Finally it is felt that the Strategy 2010 document would benefit from further consultation with local authorities and also with the small business sector as this sector seems to have been neglected by the document. Cross border co-operation is also missing from the document and given Ards Borough Council's co-operation in the Belfast-Dublin Corridor, it is felt that this area should be further investigated by the document.
ARDS BOROUGH COUNCIL
5 June 2000
Thank you for your letter dated 30 May 2000 regarding the above.
As you will be aware the Strategy 2010 document was based on the earlier "Shaping Our Future" paper which dealt with planning issues and concentrated on nine major areas.
As "Shaping Our Future" has been amended in light of recent public consultation the Council is keen to see the 2010 document similarly altered to take account of these changes and in particular to reflect the Ards Borough's continued growth status.
Director of Administration
ARDS BOROUGH COUNCIL
(1) Strategy 2010 is based on "Shaping our Future" the Draft NI Planning Strategy Document.
(2) Under that draft the Ards Borough would have changed from being one of the fastest growing Council areas in Northern to being one of low growth, being allowed 3,500 new dwellings for the 15 year period as opposed to the previous average growth of 580 per year (last 5 years).
(3) Paragraph 4.1 of "Shaping our Future" designated district towns as "Major service centres" and "Key service centres" depending on their perceived ability to expand.
(4) "Major service centres" were those where most growth would occur whereas "Key service centres" would provide mainly for their own indigenous growth as opposed to inward migration.
(5) Newtownards was seen as greatly restrained - by Strangford Lough, Scrabo Hill and green belts toward Dundonald and Bangor.
(6) The assessment of "Major" centres therefore did not take account of the capacity for growth in the Ards Borough's other 13 towns and villages.
(7) Strategy 2010, perhaps understandably, based as it was on this Draft document highlighted the 9 "Major service centres" as the locations where most industrial development action should be focused.
Problems for Ards
(8) The Ards Borough has been suffering from the decline in traditional industries such as textiles, having lost some 700 jobs earlier this year alone.
(9) Criticism has in the past been levelled at Ards for little industrial growth. This has resulted from 2 factors:
(a) A lack of available land zoned for industrial development - leading to us losing local companies as they expanded and being unable to take advantage of some new opportunities, and
(b) Government policy which did not see the Ards Borough as a priority.
(10) These factors together have seen a downturn in economic activity leading to a present unemployment rate of 6.6% as against the NI average of 5.4% and a Belfast travel to work area figure (of which we are a part) of 5.1%. Ours is now among the highest unemployment area levels in NI.
(11) The Examination in Public hearings on the draft "Shaping our Future" document led to their Report which made 2 very relevant recommendations:-
(a) That the Department should move away from the designations of "Major" and "Key" service centres, and
(b) That the Ards Borough allocation of new house provision for the 15 year period 2000 - 2015 should be increased to 7,500 restoring the Borough to continuing rapid growth.
(12) These recommendations have been accepted by the Department of the Environment in its response to the Panel report.
(13) These developments render invalid the basis on which the "Strategy 2010" proposal to concentrate efforts toward new industrial development in 9 centres was arrived at - especially in relation to the Ards Borough.
(14) The Strategy should therefore be amended to allow for emphasis on industrial growth in the Ards Borough in line with this Council's vision of a growing Borough which provides sufficient jobs for that growth within its Borough boundries.
(15) The Strategy should also emphasise industrial growth here in order to address the serious plight of our local workforce faced as they are with the serious consequences of a change in traditional industrial activity and to encourage the development of modern sustainable jobs.
(16) The Council's vision (as at 14 above) is fully in line with Planning Policy which seeks to reduce the use of cars - by reducing the need for commuting.
ANNEX 34EQUALITY COMMISSION FOR NORTHERN IRELAND
11 July 2000
The Equality Commission, which was formed from 1 October 1999, is responsible for all the functions previously exercised by the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Fair Employment Commission. In addition the Equality Commission has full enforcement responsibilities for the Disability Discrimination Act.
The former bodies were each concerned with the importance of economic development to equality. The Equal Opportunities Commission made a submission to the Strategy Review. The Commission for Racial Equality included in its review of the Traveller Economy, Out in the Country, recommendations on economic development. The Fair Employment Commission regularly reviewed the operation of the labour market and its effect on the relative employment opportunities of Protestants and Roman Catholics. The Northern Ireland Disability Council was keen to ensure that economic policy provides for the inclusion of disabled people in society. Accordingly the Equality Commission is most concerned that the commitment to building an economy which is based on the principles of equality of opportunity and social inclusion is effective.
The Equality Commission welcomes the recognition of the Steering Group that equality of opportunity and equity of treatment are key to the economic success of Northern Ireland, that is that they are more than desirable aims in their own right. However the range of initiatives proposed by the Steering Group to realise such equality is limited. On their own these recommendations are unlikely to be sufficient.
The Commission welcomes the vision of the Steering Group (Para 8.4) of a society in which every individual has the opportunity to realise his or her full employment potential. To achieve such a fully participative economy the Steering Group acknowledges the need for creative and flexible policies to encourage full participation including high quality public transport initiatives and better childcare arrangements. The Commission welcomes this but is strongly of the view that the Steering Group could have made more specific recommendations which relate to these commitments.
In particular the Equality Commission would welcome specific recommendations to encourage employers both in the public and private sectors to take action to ensure full participation in employment by, for example:-
- the development of family friendly policies,
- the making of reasonable adjustments to facilitate the participation of disabled people in the economy, and
- the promotion of affirmative action including recruitment from those not in employment.
The Steering Group have given consideration to locational policy and the Equality Commission supports the recommendation that the distribution of industry must be inclusive. However in addition to ensuring that the focus for future location is the main cities and towns it will also be important to ensure that within each location people have good access to the employment opportunities. This will include improved public transport to ensure that workspaces are accessible to all communities, and specific measures by employers to ensure good and harmonious working environments.
The Equality Commission also welcomes the commitment of the Steering Group to the mainstreaming of equality in public policy development. We wish to emphasise the importance of impact assessment of public policies arising from Section 75 and Schedule 9 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998. The Commission has now received for approval the Equality Scheme from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment. We note and welcome the commitment within that Scheme to equality impact assessment of policies relating to inward investment and its location. Without measurement of the effect of particular economic development policies it will be impossible to know if such policies assist or hinder equality of opportunity. An example is New Deal, part of the Welfare to Work Programme, in which a recent London School of Economics analysis has identified considerable gender bias.
The Equality Commission supports the vision of the Steering Group to building a knowledge based economy. This would be established by, among other sources, the development and training of employees and the recruitment of skilled staff. We consider it particularly important, in this context, that specific consideration is given to the need to improve and develop the skills of people who have been in the past unable to fully participate in the labour market. In our view it will only be possible to involve all potential employees in a knowledge based economy by investing in a wide range of measures which improve the employability of these groups including women, those with disabilities, minority ethnic groups - especially the traveller community - and those who have not been in employment for a long time. We would welcome within Strategy 2010 a commitment to the development of specific training programmes to address the skills deficits within these groups.
The Equality Commission supports the inclusion of targets for the Year 2010. It is widely recognised that the economy will not function successfully if the labour market is not characterised by equality and society does not provide respect for diversity. We would accordingly encourage the inclusion of equality targets to measure the success of Strategy 2010.
Assistant Chief Executive
ANNEX 35FALLS COMMUNITY COUNCIL
With devolution come the related tasks of finding the right level of autonomy for the north of Ireland in addressing challenges of globalization and competition. There are the challenges of embracing and operationalizing government as a system of multi-level governance.
Success of an economic development strategy means a better future for the residents of the north of Ireland, with all that that implies for political stability.
Economic development in 1990's generally marked a radical departure in Government's approach to economic development. Government was to change its relationship to business. Likely to enhance economic progress was the whole climate of reform of industrial policy away from reliance on government subsidy and restructuring the public sector.
Financial assistance was to be reduced and re-directed refocusing the role of industrial policy away from industrial subsidies towards a more enabling role, as well as complementing the demand side. The public sector was to be restructured to increase firm rivalry making it a much more exacting and sophisticated buyer thus exerting favourable effect on demand conditions.
Automatic capital subsidies were not to dominate assistance to business. Instead of straight subsidization of capital, softer areas of business activity, for example, training, technological development, marketing, promotion of research and development and innovation, were to be targeted with a greater reliance on the private sector for funding capital investment.
There were moves to replace dependency culture with enterprise culture. Human capital was to be assisted rather than physical capital.
Re-iterating targeting of human resources both in education and training, technological development, great emphasis was to be placed on upgrading skills, providing a good educational system and promoting innovation and research and development.
A key element of Government's economic strategy was also the creation of a fairer, more equal society.
There is the theme that economic development is a wider concept than economic growth, involving reduction in poverty and other forms of economic and social marginalization/exclusion. There is the emphasis on tackling social exclusion and poverty and a range of associated problems.
Recognized is the need to reduce social exclusion, increase employment growth and longer-term unemployment and the contribution of re-distributive policies that are progressive rather than regressive.
Securing growth and fairness are critical to the future development and prosperity of the north of Ireland.
The advent of political stability provides an excellent opportunity to promote self-sustaining growth.
However, much remains to be done before the north of Ireland has a set of credible policies and recommendations that will provide step-change in economic performance.
The north of Ireland's economic and political culture remains largely set in the climate of the 'expansive welfare state'.
There is a high level of public expenditure per capita compared to other parts of UK as a result of or related to high unemployment, LTU low income, poverty etc. etc. This encourages unrealistic expectations about the degree to which the state can solve the region's social and economic problems.
Additionally, the existence of many subsidies/grants has created a certain climate of dependency and stunted healthy competition.
(Manufacturing firms in the north of Ireland are more dependent on the state for financial assistance while much of the income of farmers is dependent on heavily regulated pricing and import restricting regime that characterizes CAP).
Strategy 2010 is Government's consultative economic strategy document for the north of Ireland for the next 10 years. The aim is to promote economic development and the document contains extensive proposals for progress. Strategy 2010 sparks debate for wider consideration of the way forward in economic development.
Initially, over 300 people from public, private, voluntary and community sectors have been involved in the Strategy 2010 exercise. There has, however, been no period of 'formal' consultation or engagement in constructive dialogue. There have been such few public meetings that it has been difficult to find out what local providers are planning.
This is inconsistent with the Minister's view in his Foreword to Strategy 2010 that 'it is for discussion and debate in the first instance' and smacks of more 'retail politics' and more of maintaining status quo than creating an atmosphere of improvement.
In any event, Strategy 2010 argues for enterprise culture in which capital assistance should be reduced and/or shifted to other areas.
An important feature of local industrial policy over the past few decades is relatively high levels of public assistance that is available for industrial development, whether indigenous or external investment.
There is the emphasis on growth in the future coming from private sector (with government providing the appropriate policy framework) and a fall or slow down of public expenditure in the north of Ireland.
It is suggested that this should gradually pressure the north of Ireland to improve its economic performance. This should result in less of an over-dependence by industry on government grants and encourage more competition and entrepreneurial activity.
Government argues that the reduction and re-allocation of assistance to industry will contribute towards raising the north of Ireland's productivity and hence standard of living for benefit of all residents of the north of Ireland.
There has been set the target of raising GDP per capita in the north of Ireland from 80% to 90% of the UK average by 2010 to make a 'step-change' in the economic performance of the local economy. The document also envisages and emphasizes economic growth and success through innovation and a knowledge-driven economy.
It is, in fact, questionable that the north of Ireland will close the gap in living standards with the rest of UK by a half over the next 10 years, not least for the reason that there would seem the lack of sufficient public funds to implement Strategy 2010.
Contained in Strategy 2010 there is also the public expenditure commitment of an extra £77m pa for road investment and an additional sum in regional of £52m pa to provide more higher educational places in the north of Ireland. It is not clear that sufficient funds exist to implement such spending commitments.
Moreover, if sufficient funds do exist, then the issue of priorities needs to be considered. Strategy 2010 does not address the issue of priorities.
With an increasing knowledge-driven economy, it is vitally important too that the education system produces able, well-trained, articulate and confident individuals from more effectively run education system (resulting in positive effects on labour market and economic development) yet there is no mention of additional funding to education.
Clearly Strategy 2010 needs further work before there is a solid basis for economic development in the north of Ireland.
The document might be in line with the whole 'national policy framework' but there remains need for highly focused regional and local programme which takes full account of the north of Ireland's unique 'local' situation.
Strategy 2010 is not a well thought out, coherent strategy that can be implemented without delay. (Although aspects are already being implemented). More time and further discussion is needed to create a solid strategic basis for economic development in the north of Ireland.
Debate and dialogue are needed and without these things it is unlikely that Strategy 2010 can deliver the 'step-change' in economic performance capable of realizing its vision for north of Ireland of a fast-growing, competitive, innovative and knowledge-based economy.
Change has to come about through a better-considered and collaborative process in which community/voluntary sector plays a full role.
The community/voluntary sector is in a position to contribute considerable energy, drawing on experienced expertise to ensure quality of outcome.
Proper partnership is essential to developing successful arrangements and creating a sense of common ownership and it makes better sense to have the co-operation.
Any success in the future that Strategy 2010 may have requires more local commissioning, more openness and more public involvement.
There needs to be a greater influence of local and integrated assistance. There can be success if successful alliances and partnership is made with the wide range of organizations outside the private and public sector.
In addition, the economic dimension in the north of Ireland cannot be separated from political dimension as it is in Strategy 2010.
History matters. Economies evolve and are path-dependent. Strategy 2010 needs to be better situated to properly address the weakness of the local economy.
The ability of local economy to adjust successfully to challenges has been impaired by the political instability of the past 3 decades. The area has been adversely affected by legacy of violence. Conflict has had a profound effect on the local economy, labour and housing markets and the ability of industry and commerce to generate new jobs.
War made it difficult to attract new inward investment, blunted local entrepreneurial activity and shaped the sort of local investment that was made in the local economy.
There is a bias in the north of Ireland towards the maturer slower growing low technology sectors such as shipbuilding, textile etc. etc. Compared to industrial structure of UK, the local economy of the north of Ireland has been much less successful at increasing employment.
War worsened economic conditions and made the task of job creation more difficult for private sector. This then contributed to increased demand for public services including social security, health and housing.
Economic performance of local economy depends not only on its ability to generate jobs or in the reduction in grant rates consistent with intentions of current competitiveness strategy for industrial development and recent development in UK policy in this area, but also on the wider political and economic environment.
Peacetime situation better facilitates economy building and the promotion of sustainable growth. However, the area's economic conditions worsened by war need to be factored into future plans (eg the fact that war has discouraged entrepreneurial activity and Research & Development and 'marketing'.
There have been other obstacles to growth including the mass exodus too of those that could provide leadership for future growth in economy.
Peace and political stability should help aid industrial policy in the north of Ireland, eliminate economic uncertainty and lead to investment decisions that are more likely to promote economic growth and development in local economy.
The tourist industry should be aided, as should inward investment with projects less risky in the longer term.
Entrepreneurs should be more willing to start up local firms than leave for other destinations. Firms from elsewhere in UK or EU are more likely to bid for business in local economy etc. etc.
Economic prospects for the local economy are favourable. The world economy is growing and there is substantial good will towards the north of Ireland as evidenced by assistance from US and EU.
In terms of the social dimension to the Strategy 2010 debate and the plight of unemployed, for example, it is hard to see that LTU and persistently high level of unemployment won't remain major issues and major failings of the local economy.
A feature of LTU is that people are frequently likely to enter low wage, low skill occupations, reflecting their low educational attainment and human capital.
What is required is a comprehensive, cohesive strategy to be adopted and to be all-inclusive in its formulation and administration.
There can never be the single question of economic growth or social progress or equity. They need to persued concurrently.
CONCERNS OVER STRATEGY 2010 REMAIN THAT:
Government policy is pushing in the general direction of securing economic stability, encouraging work, promoting enterprise, and creating a fairer society.
There is an atmosphere of ongoing changes to the public sector that form part of a UK wide programme of re-structuring; (reducing size and culture of civil service, continuing privatization, introduction of market based incentives and organisation in areas such as health and education, reduction in security related expenditure in the north of Ireland).
These measures serve to help create an entrepreneurial culture or at least counteract the ingrained culture of dependency. There is the idea that the strength of private sector combined with elimination of economic uncertainty will be sufficient to provide basis of sustained period of economic growth.
The recommendations are within the national policy framework. However, the regional economy of the north of Ireland is no microcosm of the wider national economy.
There remains the need for a more focused local programme to take full account of local situation.
The recommendations do not contain discussion of evidence and reasoning on which they are based. The research basis is questioned here.
In addition, use could have been made of information filtered directly from community level as additional input of data, case studies and alternatives for informed opinions on many of issues at hand.
Leading on, more co-operation, openness, and effective two-way communications should be established good practice.
Wider discussion is necessary in order to shape and inform future strategy and deliver the right incentives to encourage economic growth.
Community groups have a certain 'moral' authority that the Government can't afford to overlook in formulating policy.
Significantly, too, national 'top-down' driven programmes haven't in the past been able to account for local needs.
The recommendations are too diffuse and cover too many areas.
How will targets in Strategy 2010 be realized?
Or perhaps more realistically - what targets can be set so that the degree to which the strategies realized can be measured?
There is the need to focus and better target.
Proposals and suggestions not costed.
Priorities are not specified.
More work needs to be carried out.
What are the public expenditure commitments of Strategy 2010?
How are they to be prioritized?
The largely ad hoc nature of the recommendations reflects the lack of explicit model of economy.
There is not a defined and coherent economic development strategy that focuses on development of regional capabilities.
There is no attempt to evaluate the success or failure of current policy. IDB should have been under scrutiny.
This is a cause of particular concern in light of the findings of NI Audit Office (1998) and NIAC, earlier this year, that there is a serious discrepancy between the jobs promised by IDB and jobs created.
Furthermore, the inequality in the location of jobs, the evasiveness in relation to TSN wards, the attention to traditional industries (such as H&W and Shortts) and the subvention to such companies in large volume, are all evidence of the contribution IDB has made to sustaining, particularly the unemployment differential.
No attempt has been made to compare or contrast current policy, for example, the relationship between DED's Economic Strategies and the recommendations of Strategy 2010.
There has been no attempt to review past implementation of economic development.
There is no reference to Competing in the 1990's and Growing Competitively. It has been suggested that one might have expected these documents and evaluation of them to be the starting point for Strategy 2010.
'That past government policy is not referred to, never mind evaluated, is an inexplicable omission'.
No attempt has been made to quantify the reduction in capital assistance to be achieved.
There is the absence of any discussion of a north-south dimension.
There must be co-operation on an all-Ireland basis. There must be close co-operation with the authorities in Republic to ensure consistency and extended local networks.
No economy can afford to stand in isolation.
Moreover, the northern and southern economies are small open economies that share problems of high unemployment, LTU, reliance on agriculture and low level of Research & Development.
The benefits of cross border co-operation are obvious; not to mention the increased opportunities for increased trade and investment.
There needs to be new policy departures, particularly on all-Ireland dimension.
There is the need to extend range of activities and perhaps in an 'institutional' context as well.
There is the absence of any language of equality. Government remains ultimately unaffected, at this time, by the new statutory obligations to promote equality of opportunity.
Mention is made of unemployment and LTU without any kind of reference to affirmative action or supplementary measures to assist those long term unemployed.
Affirmative action would redress imbalances in unemployment. Nationalists are currently twice as likely to be unemployed as Unionists are. But the commitment to promote equality of opportunity, so as to ensure employment is shared more fairly, is just not there.
There is no hint, much less any suggestion or proposal of any special measures which might be taken to promote a more representative distribution of employment in the workforce which would give all sections of the community equal access to employment opportunities.
Ostensibly 'particular weighted measures in favour of one community, is considered as 'unfair bias' rather than 'affirmative action'. Clearly Government policy remains constrained by the idea that action taken to assist one disadvantaged group does not happen at the expense of another.
In order to create equality, Government must address the legacy of discrimination.
There is the considerable gap between rhetoric and reality.
Firm measures are required to reduce the disparities.
The challenge is to translate rhetoric into reality.
THERE ARE QUESTIONS TO BE ANSWERED:
1) How does Strategy 2010 complement, supplement New TSN policy, Making Belfast Work, CRISP & other policy that has come out of DOE's Urban Regeneration Group. International Fund for Ireland, Northern Ireland Single Programme, other central government policy, other cross-border initiatives, other local and economic development strategies, EU initiatives?
What is the over-lap, if any, of such existing policies?
2) In what manner does it contradict?
3) Do the issues of economic development contained in Strategy 2010 address deprivation and disadvantage, environmental concerns etc. etc?
4) If so, what weight is given to such social, economic, environmental issues?
5) How do the authors of Strategy 2010 plan to work with community groups to develop local 'visions' for the future? What exact discussion is planned for the future (lack of consultation at grass-roots level in the past)?
6) Will it allow local communities to concentrate on issues that are locally relevant and close to their hearts?
7) Have issues identified by communities been investigated? What exact analysis?
8) Reference has been made to its subsequent 'quick implementation'. Thus it is no 'evolutionary' document. So what progress to date? How is it sliced? What are the areas/regions that reflect/demonstrate 'quick implementation'? How successful?
9) Should there be implementation? Can it succeed if seen to be more of a 'work in progress'?
10) Reference made to 'continuing', 'additional' - what exactly are these 'continuing', 'additional' plans/policies/ ambitions?
11) Much criticism of document and its results on the basis of poor research, E.g. lack of reference and analysis of previous failed techniques in successful building of the north's infrastructure - reference to IDB & DED.
Research is limited and selective. It has not been situated. It has not been published.
Consultation was 'closed shop'.
12) Same general themes running through government and much of current thinking in economics yet there is the obvious lack of appreciation for New Labour's desire for 'joined up government'.
There is still trickle down economics from above. It hasn't succeeded before now (unreliable tactics).
13) There is a lack of appreciation for the 'Celtic Tiger' and the success of IDA and initiatives in the south of Ireland. There is no mention of the economy of the island of Ireland/north and south. What about the growth/evolution of the economy of Ireland as a whole? Is there any reference to the rest of Ireland?
14) Is there cross-party support for Strategy 2010?
15) Is Strategy 2010 going to be the guiding principle that will govern the north of Ireland's economic policy making for the next 10 years?
16) Comparable to New TSN - vague, more of the same, has potential but not thorough enough or concerted/coherent strategy.
17) The more things change the more they stay the same. Like New TSN - there is no new approach or radical initiative.
This is in sharp contradistinction to what is happening/paralleled in the political arena - yet politics and economics are bound up and run parallel.
Socio-economics is critical for success of peace and is part of the equality agenda.
18) The recommendations of Strategy 2010 put many onuses on private sector.
To what extent in terms of formulation of policy etc. etc. Was private sector involved? And since then in terms of the 'realisation' of such suggestions?
ANNEX 36STRABANE DISTRICT COUNCIL
22 June 2000
NOTES ON STRATEGY 2010
Section 1 Summary
Action on Transportation Infrastructure giving priority to the Dublin-Belfast route
The key cross-border transport corridors identified by the DoE in "Shaping our Future" should have equal priority. Giving priority to the Dublin-Belfast route will give further disparity to the transportation problems of the West of the Province.
Section 6 Sectoral Overview
It is imperative that this new telecom infrastructure reaches the parts of Northern Ireland that are most deprived or are most dependent on the traditional declining industries. To achieve this it is necessary for the ADSL to be rolled out to these TSN areas and not just Belfast and other large urban centres.
It is also imperative that pre-skilled labour pools are created in the areas of greater need such as Strabane.
Direct support is necessary for the tourism infrastructure in Northern Ireland. It is necessary to support start up accommodation in TSN areas. This will assist with the period of sustainability and off-set 'the catch 22' situation of 'no tourists because of lack of infrastructure and no infrastructure due to lack of tourists'.
6.28 - 6.31
The Textiles and Clothing Industry must receive special support to allow the transition of the sector. Areas of high dependency such as Strabane must be given priority support.
Section 7 Opportunities and Challenges
7.31 - 7.32
It is evident from the statement in para. 7.32 that university places are too few for the population of Northern Ireland. If 62,000 graduates are emigrating to study for their degrees, this is contributing to the 'brain drain' suffered by Northern Ireland. Action.
Section 9 Recommendations
DoE's 'Shaping our Future' Regional Strategic Framework proposes "major" and "key" service centres or Regional Towns. These designations have been adapted by Strategy 2010. Strabane District Council is firmly of the opinion that industrial development including inward investment in New TSN areas such as Strabane should be a priority for investment even though it is designated as a key Service Centre. This position has been reflected in the Council's response as part of the West Rural Region to Shaping Our Future and the Report of the Public Examination Panel.
ANNEX 37STRABANE DISTRICT COUNCIL
21 September 2000
The Council recently responded to the consultation process for Strategy 2010. The purpose of this second paper is to outline the key issues/realities for Strabane District Council within Strategy 2010 and to present the positive attributes of Strabane District in its own right and as a strategic location within the North West.
Within our submission of June 2000, we have outlined the key issues within Strategy 2010 that affects the growth of our District. Within this paper we would like to reiterate our response and further outline issues of concern to the Council.
2. Issues and Realities in Strabane
Strabane is strategically located in Northern Ireland on the border between Counties Tyrone and Donegal. It lies at the heart of the North West Region or Ireland North West as it has recently been branded. Strabane's strategic location means it can add to its available labour pool from bordering centres of population including Londonderry, Letterkenny and Omagh. This wider region draws on a population of approximately 300,000.
The nature and extent of Strabane's deprivation and disadvantage are well-rehearsed. The District is widely seen as NI's most deprived District, with
- 10 of its 16 wards falling within the most deprived 20% of NI's 556 wards.
- 14 of its 16 wards for example are classified by the IFI as disadvantaged.
Within those broad classifications Strabane has, relative to NI, overall;
- higher levels of unemployment;
- lower levels of car ownership;
- lower levels of housing owner occupation;
- lower educational attainment (in certain schools with higher achievement than the NI average in a number of grammar schools);
- and a higher reliance on benefits.
Within the context of Robson, Strabane is the most deprived District in Northern Ireland in terms of both Degree and Extent of deprivation: it is the third most deprived (after Belfast and Derry) in terms of Intensity of deprivation.
- 4 Strabane town wards (i.e. as they were in 1991) show a Robson deprivation index well above the NI average: they run from 2.92 to 11.69, whilst the NI average would be 0.00.
- The Townsend Index of deprivation (a "pre-Robson" index based on car and home ownership; overcrowding; and unemployment) identifies Strabane as the most deprived District in NI with a "score" of -6.96.
- Strabane District has, after Antrim, the worst "habit of going away" in Northern Ireland (excluding Belfast). Between 1981 and 1991, 3511 people (10% of the 1981 population) left the District. Strabane, with Belfast and Antrim, were the only three Districts to suffer a net population loss between 1981-1991.
3. Strabane District Council Within Strategy 2010
3.1. Crisis in Textile and Clothing Industry
Strategy 2010 in Section 6 recommends that the Textile and Clothing Industry must receive special support to allow the transition of the sector. Areas of high dependency such as Strabane District must be given priority support.
Strabane District Council supported by the Committee's Chairman, recently met with the Minister for Enterprise Trade and Investment. The purpose of this meeting was to emphasise the Strabane's heavy dependence on the Textile and Clothing Sector. In the Strategy 2010 document it forecasts a downturn in the Sector of 2% per annum, equating to a 5% loss in 10 years. This is particularly optimist bearing in mind Strabane's experience of losing 15% of the sector's employment in the district in 2 years. The small rural village of Plumbridge was devastated by the loss of 124 jobs following the closure of the Daintyfit Clothing Factory. Indeed the North West is once again shocked with the recent announcement by the Coats Viyella Group closures.
Strabane District Council compliments the Minister on his swift action of appointing Curt Salmon Consultants to review the needs of the Sector. The Council would urge the committee to ensure that work of appointed consultant be brought to an early conclusion to best support the industry.
The recently published strategy for the UK Textile and Clothing Industry cited the weaknesses of the Industry and made recommendations to address these weaknesses. The Northern Ireland Textiles and Apparel Association and Strabane District concurs with these recommendations.
The need for Government to ensure a level playing field
It is argued that the NI Assembly should adopt a 'Buy Northern Ireland' campaign for all Government Contracts. The local populace should also be encouraged to check labelling for country of origin and try to fight back on the multi-nationals flooding our retail market with foreign produce.
The importance of easier access to the right kind of public sector support
The industry need the full support of the Public Sector to effect the transition that the sector is going through. At present it is felt that the sector is seen as a second class industry. The industry should receive the same kind of support and enthusiasm as the ICT sector. It is easier to retain an existing job than create a new one.
The need for universities and colleges to offer appropriate training opportunities
If the Textiles and Clothing Industry is to move their sector into a competitive position, the training needs of the industry need to be supported by universities, colleges and the T & E A.
Opportunities exist which can be exploited, particularly in areas such as technical textiles, designer wear, dyeing and finishing, branded clothing, capital intensive manufacturing and high value niche markets. The report highlights the fact that much of the know-how needed to exploit these opportunities is already present in the UK but is not effectively engaged with the textile and clothing industry.
3.2. Public Sector Jobs
In the June presentation to the Minister, Strabane District Council made an appeal for Public Sector Jobs for the District. The grounds for this appeal included the statistics from the NI Labour Market Statistics which quoted the average gross weekly earnings of full-time employees by travel to work area in April 1999 to be £261.70 per Strabane employee, £70.40 lower than the neighbouring District of Omagh an £75.10 lower than its neighbour in Derry. This represents 28.6% less income and spending power in the Strabane District. The trend seems to be that the few public service jobs that are here are moving. This is demonstrated by the move of the Social Service Offices to Omagh and Derry and the Housing Executive is also moving out of Strabane. Mr. Durkan's office has responded that he intends to develop a civil service office accommodation strategy that will incorporate a review of the current policy on job location. This is all very well but in the meantime jobs are being moved from Strabane rather than re-located to Strabane.
While we are not arguing that Strabane economy in the next decade shall be based on public sector jobs - we are however demanding our fair share - we have the right people to fill these jobs. We are arguing for a good mix of Public Sector and Private Sector Investment.
3.3. Investment in Strabane
Despite the fact that IDB client companies have increased from 12 to 13 since 1995/96, jobs created by the IDB have reduced from a high of 2,627 to 2,423. This is a net loss of 204 jobs with an increased number of clients. In 1997/98, IDB projects, job investment and assistance was reduced to nil, with only 2 investor visits to the area. This has improved somewhat for 98/99. However, to date any investment has been with indigenous Strabane companies and with the 2 externally owned companies in Strabane, Adria and Octopus (both within the Textile and Clothing Sectors). Also the Advance factory has remained idle since it was built in 1996.
On a positive note, the Council has recently worked closely with officials from the IDB to research the needs of Strabane Companies and to collect valuable data for inclusion in a newly printed marketing brochure. This close proactive approach has been beneficial to both the council and the IDB. It has enabled the council to collate data that can be used for a positive Strabane message.
As a result of discussions with Board Members and Officials of the IDB at the IDB Roadshow on its visit to the North West in March of this year, and a subsequent meeting of the Boards of the IDB and the IDA, both organisations are now working together to bring investment to the North West.
It is essential that this initiative brings real investment, new jobs and new heart to Strabane.
Strategy 2010 recognises the potential growth for tourism in Northern Ireland, particularly with the peak in activity in 1995 following the 1994 ceasefires. It states that Northern Ireland has only had 1% growth between 1968 and 1995, compared with 7% in the Republic of Ireland which employs 12,500 people. If Northern Ireland Tourism were to increase by a modest 5%, then 20,000 new jobs could be created. No other sector could increase employment at such a rate with indigenous enterprise.
Direct support is necessary for the tourism infrastructure in Northern Ireland. It is necessary to support start up accommodation in TSN areas. This will assist with the period of sustainability and off-set 'the catch 22' situation of 'no tourists because of lack of infrastructure and no infrastructure due to lack of tourists'.
The Sperrins Tourism Limited organisation has been formed recently to support a Regional Tourism Strategy for the Sperrins Area. It is actively working towards producing a 'product' for the Sperrins areas together with Marketing, Training and Communications. This organisation is supported by 4 of Councils of Strabane, Omagh, Cookstown and Magherafelt, together with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Northern Ireland Tourist Board.
3.5. Infrastructure Development
The key cross-border transport corridor identified by the DoE in "Shaping our Future" should have equal priority with the Dublin-Belfast route which is highlighted in the Strategy 2010 document. One of the recommendations of Strategy 2010 suggested that "cities and towns identified in the DoE's 'Shaping our Future' regional plan should be the main focus for the future location of Industry. This recommendation conflicts with one of the key principles in that same document "Promote equality and social cohesion". The road infrastructure of Northern Ireland requires major investment if we are to support economic development. The key cross-border transport corridors identified in Shaping Our Future should have equal priority to the Dublin-Belfast route to ensure that the North West/West of the Province is not further disadvantaged.
Strabane District has no motorway or dual carriageway provision. The District's main road is the A5 which runs north-south from Derry to Omagh. This road has a daily capacity of 11,000 vehicles. An estimated 3,000 vehicles per day cross the border at Strabane. Some comparative daily traffic flows are; Border crossing at Newry 11,500; Limavady/Londonderry 12,100; Craigavon Bridge/Derry 12,000.
The planned improvements to the A5 are the creation of a bypass at Newtownstewart, the extension of the Strabane By-Pass and the "third lane provision" between Strabane and Derry which is underway.
The Council calls for the immediate commencement of the by-pass improvements to alleviate the delays on these roads. It should be noted that the journey time from Strabane to Belfast can take over 2 hours. This contributes to the peripherality of the District and its people.
3.5.2. Gas Pipeline
Strabane District Council welcome the decision of the Regulator for a new gas fired power station at Coolkeeragh, a joint venture between Coolkeeragh and the ESBI, and are urging a speedy resolution on awarding the gas pipeline licence. This will allow cheaper electricity and choice of power and will assist in the continued growth and prosperity of the community. Group 22 supports the Regulator's recent call for a 10 year derogation to the Climate Change Levy, instead of the 5 years announced in the Chancellors last budget. The North/North West needs 10 years, given that our infrastructure will take up to five years to put in place.
Extending the provision of natural gas to the North West is vital to its environmental sustainability and economic development. Strabane District Council must not be omitted from the benefits of Gas to the North West. The Pipeline must be extended to Strabane District so that Strabane can compete and play its rightful role in the development of the North West.
3.5.3. Telecommunications Infrastructure
It is imperative that the new telecom infrastructure, cited in Strategy 2010 as the an infrastructural development for Northern Ireland, reaches the parts of Northern Ireland that are most deprived or are most dependent on the traditional declining industries. To achieve this it is necessary for the ADSL to be installed in these TSN areas and not just Belfast and other large urban centres.
The recent IDB roadshow paper, presented on behalf of the North West Councils, indicated the need for the ADSL infrastructure to be rolled out to the North West if we are to even be considered for the ICT sector. The IDB have responded that they have had a meeting with BT and some progress may be possible for Derry.
It is imperative for Strabane's success to have this infrastructure rolled all the way to Strabane, otherwise, Strabane will fall farther and farther behind in economic terms.
3.6. Agricultural Diversification Project
Strategy 2010 recognises the severe difficulties faced by the agriculture sector in the face of globalisation and recurring agricultural crises, along with their detrimental impact on rural communities. A strategic priority must be to ensure rural sustainability and to continue to recognise the invaluable contribution of rural society to Northern Ireland. Adequate resources will need to be directed to Agriculture and Rural Development to support the restructuring of the Industry as it develops its role as custodian of our countryside.
The recent 'Sperrins Celebration Event' (Sept 5th), attended by the DARD Minister, celebrated the contribution to deprived rural areas, identified by the Department of Agriculture, and outlined the focussed investment in ABSAGs (Area Based Strategy Action Groups). The Council understand that this programme of support will not be continued in this format. Two ABSAGs were based within the Strabane District Council area, both of which were extremely successful in adding value to these deprived rural areas.
The Council would urge the Committee to seek a reinstatement of these initiatives from DARD.
The Leader II project, administered as a joint project between Strabane and Omagh District Councils, was particularly successful in addressing rural training issues and diversification. It encouraged and supported a number of Food Processing initiatives together with assisting farmers to added value products in vegetables, meat and dairy produce. This type of training should be encouraged with Strategy 2010.
Other rural training initiatives included Stonewalling and Thatching, examples of rural cultural skills that could be lost without encouragement.
3.7. Advance Factory Sales/Revenue
The Advance Factory in Strabane has been built for over 4 years. During that time a number of local businesses have been interested in purchasing it and thus creating jobs. It has been difficult for both the IDB and the Council to support these locals businesses. On the one hand it meant immediate jobs on the other hand it meant that we would no longer have an advance factory for a potential investor.
If the revenue received by the IDB for the sale of the factory could have been re-invested in developing a further factory on the adjoining site, we believe that this would have created a momentum for the development of the Orchard Road Industrial Estate.
3.8. Workspace/Factory Development
In the past 4 years, the Council has supported the Community Sector in developing over 90,000 square feet of workspace throughout the District - all of which is full. This proves that there is a local need for factory space. However, the market is not sufficiently buoyant in Strabane to encourage the private sector to speculate in workspace.
A programme of support to stimulate the private sector in developing workspace is needed.
3.9. Pilot Project for Strabane
Strategy 2010 recognises Northern Ireland's natural advantages and attributes in the Software Sector which if built upon could see the sector grown to employ 25,000 people by the year 2010. Strabane District Council believes that our district is a strategic location for the development of this sector. Strabane requires a special project to re-shape its economy and create a catalyst for the development of the ICT sector. There are an emerging number of small local companies setting up in Strabane. In recent months 5 new small companies have set up to develop software, to build computers, to develop the internet service and to deliver network services to local companies. Indeed, a further existing young software company is developing a transcription project with a major hospital group in the District's Sister City of Sioux Falls - a prime example of the Council's networking through the Sister Cities Programme assisting the economic prosperity of its people.
These ICT companies are spread throughout the district and are therefore invisible as an emerging sector in Strabane. If a pilot project were to be developed to give support for development, accommodation and marketing, this would encourage further entrepreneurs and would be visible to an inward investor.
3.10. Tax Incentive for Investors
The Strategy 2010 recommends a rebalancing Incentive Package for Enterprise. It recommends a special rate of Corporation Tax for new inward investments over a period of 5 years.
Differentiation in the rate of corporation tax between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland leaves business development and investment at a disadvantage in Northern Ireland. The Strategy should identify the border regions as a pilot region for a special rate of Corporation Tax for new inward investment to counteract the differentiation affecting the Northern Ireland Border Regions.
The Strategy also recommends that the Assembly should discuss further options for tax incentives with the Chancellor.
Strabane District Council and the North West have called many times over the last few years for a further extension of the Enterprise Zone that was piloted in both Belfast and Derry in the early 90's. The evaluation of these zones proved the pilot to be successful in developing enterprise park, albeit that many of these parks have now been inhabited by Retail Stores. Development is development despite its nature.
The Retail Sector, together with the Petrol Service Stations in the border areas, have suffered acutely from the differentiation in the currency together with the extra taxation on petrol in Northern Ireland. A system of rebate should be introduced to off-set this differentiation.
3.11. Advance Pool of Labour
Strategy 2010 in section 6.10 cites the biggest obstacle to meeting the growth targets in the ICT sector could be a lack of suitable skills. The ICT sector is a growth industry that is a priority for the IDB and the North West Region. If Strabane District Council is to try and re-balance its economy it is crucial that a prior training policy is put in place so that Strabane can compete as an option for ICT projects.
The recent report prepared by the NIERC, A Study of the NI Labour Market for IT Skills, carried out on behalf of DHFETE ( A NI Skills Task Force Report), confirms that "over 90% of firms cited the lack of person with the required technical ability as important in explaining unfilled vacancies.a lack of people with sufficient experience of working in IT organisations was cited 85% of firms."
This report is an important tool in advising the training needs of the IT industry.
It is imperative that an advance pool of skilled labour is put in place to allow Strabane to compete in the ICT sector.
3.12. Determining Local Resources for Inward Investors
The recent report prepared by the NIERC, A Study of the NI Labour Market for IT Skills, carried out on behalf of DHFETE ( A NI Skills Task Force Report), confirms that "over 90% of firms cited the lack of person with the required technical ability as important in explaining unfilled vacancies.a lack of people with sufficient experience of working in IT organisations was cited 85% of firms." It further forecast that there would be an increase in the ICT sector from 6,000 in 2000 to 12,000 in 2006. This report is an important tool in advising the training needs of the IT industry.
Earlier this year, while working closely with the IDB, it became evident that there was no information available on the specialist or soft skills in the District. This information would help to inform the future development of education and training programmes to focus on the deficits in this area and thus assist with the re-shaping of our economy. The modern technology industries being pursued by the IDB, must be given some assurances of potential skills in an area. Without proof that the skills are available, or being developed, it will be difficult to interest a potential investor in an area like Strabane or the North West.
It is vital that the Skills Task Force carry out a study to identify the level of skills among both the employed and the unemployed, as well as the future needs analysis of employers.
3.13. Raising Economic Development Funding based on Rates
A Consequence of basing district councils' potential spend on local economic development on the rateable value in the area is that it restricts deprived council areas to relatively low levels of spending. For example in 1992-93 Strabane District Council, with the highest rate of unemployment in the UK, had only £696 per 1,000 population to spend on local economic development (a total budget of £52,000) compared with an average for NI of £957 per 1,000 population. (The unemployment rate in the Strabane TTWA was 23.6% in September 1992 compared with 10.1% in the UK) There is some evidence that the allocation of at least one measure, Local Economic Development measure, favoured more prosperous, eastern councils with a high rating capacity and comparatively low levels of deprivation. This conclusion was drawn from an analysis of the allocation of funding under Phase 2 of the LED. Future funds for local development should be allocated on the basis of need or at least weighted in that direction.
3.14. Locational Policy
DoE's 'Shaping our Future' Regional Strategic Framework proposes "major" and "key" service centres or Regional Towns. These designations have been adapted by Strategy 2010. Strabane District Council is firmly of the opinion that industrial development including inward investment in New TSN areas such as Strabane should be a priority for investment even though it is designated as a key Service Centre. This position has been reflected in the Council's response as part of the West Rural Region to Shaping Our Future and the Report of the Public Examination.
Strategy 2010 cites Northern Ireland's youthful population as a key strength that, if developed properly, will help the economy succeed. It also points out as a significant weakness the fact that educational standards in the lower ability ranges are low by international standards and that our technical education is not providing the level of skills industry needs. A key action within the Knowledge Based theme for a prosperous future includes strengthening integration between business and education & training systems.
It is crucial that these are embraced on an inter-departmental basis and that they influence DENI and the educational boards at a policy level. This is needed in order that the linkages are evident at an operational level. To date, schools have not prioritised education-business linkages at a strategic or even operational level, as reflected in budgeting priorities and the degree of input to date on education/business partnerships. Building crucial links as envisaged in Strategy 2010 requires a culture change within schools on how education is seen as contributing to the needs of business and industry.
Strengthening our culture of enterprise is another key theme for building a prosperous economy. This culture must be engendered from a young age and applied right across the schooling system.
The development of a highly skilled workforce is essential to advancing the region's economic base. Educational standards in the lower ability ranges are low by international comparators and our technical education is still not providing the level of skills industry needs. Investment in education, particularly in the New TSN area, must be made a high priority in order to achieve proper integration between the skills needs of business and what education and training systems can produce.
3.17. University Places
It is evident from the statement in paragraph 7.32 that university places are too few for the population of Northern Ireland. If 62,000 students are emigrating to study for their degrees, this is a contributing factor to the 'brain drain' suffered in Northern Ireland.
This outflow of students has been addresses by DHFETE on the 19th September, 2000, with a recommendation to change the structure of grant support for students. They have also called for better support for students in terms of means tested grants and a deferral of payment of tuition fees until after graduation.
Within the Self-Help theme a key action involves creating new mechanisms for partnership between the private and public sectors in pursuing our economic goals.
This should also include partnership between these two sectors and the social economy sector. This will contribute to the key theme of Equality and Social Cohesion. Partnership between the public sector and the social economy sector in particular should embrace innovation in the delivery of programmes to promote employability, such as New Deal. Greater flexibility is required from government departments in the delivery of employment programmes and a partnership approach should be adopted. There must also be a means for pilot initiatives to be mainstreamed.
3.19. Joined Up Approach
The separation of the roles of the Government Agencies such as LEDU, IDB, T & E A, IRTU - previously known as the DED family - causes unnecessary confusion to businesses. Government Departments should work together to strategise for industry's needs both now and in the future. They do not appear to have worked closely in the past and with the T & E A now part of a different Government Department, DFHETE, it would appear that the problem will grow rather than lesson.
These Agencies must work together to identify the needs of Industry now and for the future.
4. Positive Attributes of Strabane
- Of a total population of 37,000 in Strabane District Council, 23% are aged between 20-34 with 27.3% under 16. This youthful profile bodes well for future growth and investment.
- The latest Labour Force Survey (August 2000) reported an unemployment figure of 10.2%. This is an increase in the June 2000 figure of .08% accounting for the university and school leavers joining the register.
- Ranges of indicators show that Strabane's youthful population is increasingly well educated and qualified. This is partly because the District's young people are now more likely to remain in further education, either by staying at school, continuing to Institutes of Further Education or Universities or attending Training Centres. Strabane Convent Grammar was highlighted as the top performer in the Western Education & Library Board area in 1999 with 96% of its students achieving 7 or more GCSE passes at grades A* -C (the NI Grammar School average is 88%). Recent press coverage declared Strabane Grammar School as among the Top Ten Schools in Northern Ireland.
4.2. Strabane District within Ireland North West
As an example of self-help, the Council has worked closely with the North West Region Cross Border Group which includes the 4 Councils of Strabane, Derry, Limavady and Donegal County Council. Through this body, a new marketing message has been developed to see the Region as Ireland North West, an entity which quotes a catchment population of over 300,000. Both the IDB and the IDA have started to explore the benefits of marketing Ireland North West for a win win situation for both Agencies.
4.3. The Community Plan
The Council is taking a very firm civic leadership role in developing A Community Plan for the District in association with the Strabane District Partnership. The consultation process is at present ongoing. The Community Plan will integrate the plans of all agencies working within the District together with voicing the aspirations of its citizens on the development of Strabane up to the year 2006.
The Council plays an important role in creating a link between the community and the statutory agencies.
4.4 Strabane 2000
The Council, in partnership with the Strabane Chamber of Commerce and Industry, supported by the Department of Environment, has developed a vision for the regeneration of the Strabane Town Centre. The partnership, Strabane 2000, has employed an architect to take this regeneration project forward. Together, the partnership is aiming to have Phase I implemented within the next 6 months. The vision has encouraged private investment in the area together with the recent announcement of the Library/Resource Centre being incorporated in the Council's development of the old Market Site.
4.5 Finding new operator for Mari Project
Following the withdrawal of the Mari organisation from the ICT training initiative in Strabane, the Council has led the original funders to facilitate the continuation of a further development programme with the retention of all equipment. The North West Institute for Further and Higher Education has successfully bid for to retain and invest in the training centre in Strabane and continue to deliver the programme for the next 5 years. This is a significant accomplishment in turning around a deficit in our training infrastructure to a full focussed investment in the ICT training needs of Strabane.
There is a continuing need for integrated support for locally focussed initiatives.
4.6 Working with IDB on researched document to assist in attracting industry to Strabane
The Council employed a researcher for a short contract to develop a focussed marketing document to assist the IDB to market the Strabane District Council area. This document was recently launched during a visit by the IDB Board to Strabane. IDB Executives are currently working closely with the Council Officers to create opportunities for Strabane.
4.7 Ireland North West
Strabane District Council is working closely with its neighbours in Donegal, Derry and Limavady to market a meaningful regional focus for Ireland NorthWest. Through the North West Regional Cross Border Group, the Investment Task Team has developed a new marketing brochure and web site entitled Ireland North West. An initial launch took place in Pacificare Call Centre in Letterkenny and a Dublin launch will take place later this year.
4.8 Inward Investment Success
Through the Council's own contacts we have recently succeeded in acquiring a small inward investor to locate in Donemana. The project is a new proto-type telescopic crane developed for the Film Industry. The project promoter has developed the crane and has moved the manufacturing of the product to Donemana from London. Three engineering jobs have been created already with planned expansion over the year to six jobs.
ANNEX 38MCCORMICK PROPERTIES LIMITED
5 June 2000
Re: Applying STRATEGY 2010 Recommendations
To drive forward Urban and Rural Regeneration in Northern Ireland
I enclose a slightly revised version of a short paper, of 30 May 2000, which we submitted to the Londonderry Development Office of the Department of Social Development, in response to its public call for suggestions as to how to regenerate the Inner Waterside area of Londonderry. Our short submission has a mix of suggestions - but is fundamentally based on applying the recommendations of STRATEGY 2010. (I have also attached two extracts from "The Irish Times" of the following day which highlighted in very clear terms the hugely energetic drive of private sector companies released by this development strategy of their Government.)
So while it is useful that our proposals are clearly focussed on an actual, particular neighbourhood - I need hardly say that the same principles apply to any regeneration need in any Northern Ireland constituency: urban/rural/ residential/commercial. With this Government encouragement, existing local companies will create additional wealth and additional jobs.
COLM M CAVANAGH
HOW THE INNER WATERSIDE CAN BE TRANSFORMED -BY APPLYING THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF "STRATEGY 2010" OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ENTERPRISE, TRADE 7 INVESTMENT.
A SUBMISSION BY MCCORMICK PROPERTIES LTD TO:
The Inner Waterside Regeneration Initiative,
Sponsored by Londonderry Development Office,
Department of Social Development
30 May 2000.
INNER WATERSIDE REGENERATION INITIATIVE
(Sponsored by Department for Social Development, Londonderry Development Office)
The regeneration Initiative has been devised to carry out an analysis of current conditions, proposals and improvement opportunities within the Inner Waterside area. Having taken account of the various reports and studies already carried out and after consultations with all of the relevant interested parties, it is proposed to draw up an advisory 3 year Action Plan for the regeneration of the area.
The core of the area comprises Spencer Road, D uke Street, Clooney Terrace and portions of roads and streets adjoining these, for example, Victoria Road, Dungiven Road, Glendermott Road, Simpsons Brae and Bonds Hill.
Members of the general public are invited to submit suggestions for improvements to the area. Your ideas are welcomed.
Information relating to current land use is now available in map form at the Inner Waterside Regeneration Office, 102 Spencer Road. Members of the public are welcome to inspect these maps by appointment during the office hours of 9.00 am to 1.00 pm Monday to Friday.
Should any members of the public wish to discuss any matter relating to the regeneration initiative please do not hesitate to contact the undersigned by telephone at 028 7131 8114.
Responses, which should be in writing, are required to be submitted on or before 22 May 2000 to:
Inner Waterside Regeneration Office
102 Spencer Road
C J MORRISON
Project Officer D
Belfast Telegraph, Friday, April 14,2000
McCormick Properties Ltd is pleased to continue to contribute to the regeneration of Spencer Road. Our current development proposals are approaching start-up for:
(a) new apartments above our Spencer Road multi-storey Car Park (planned start of construction: autumn 2000); and
(b) new office development at Lower Fountain Hill (projected start date early New Year).
"The Steering Group believes that economic growth must be driven by a resurgent private sector in Northern Ireland, supported only as necessary by the State"
("STRATEGY 2010": 9.25)
"Tax incentives work with the grain of an entrepreneurial approach; they encourage profitability, enhance the rewards of enterprise and leave more resources to be put back into business development .
"We now have the opportunity through the new Assembly to seek other profit-related (and time-limited) tax concessions which would accelerate development without compromising the drive for a more entrepreneurial business ethos"
("STRATEGY 2010": Section 9:
Recommendations - Tax Incentives)
"Industrial de-rating should be extended to companies in the Tradeable Services Sector".
("STRATEGY 2010": Annex B
Tradeable Services Sector Recommendations)
"The Steering Group also suggests that the Assembly should introduce a more favourable rating regime for small town centre retail businesses"
("STRATEGY 2010": Recommendation 9.15.2)
"Tax concessions could include:-
- extending the 100% first year allowance created by the Chancellor's Initiative to all businesses in Northern Ireland;
- extending the Industrial Building Allowance to selected sectors outside manufacturing, and raising the rate;
- extending industrial de-rating to selected sectors outside manufacturing;"
("STRATEGY 2010": Section 9 - Tax Incentives)
"Northern Ireland should have a special rate of Corporation Tax for new inward investments over a period of 5 years."
("STRATEGY 2010": Section 9
Recommendations - 9.10.3 - No 2)
1. Tax Incentives are the Easiest and Cheapest way to Regenerate the Inner Waterside
The success of the foregoing recommendations of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment's STRATEGY 2010 is evidenced by the success of Enterprise Zones in the UK, and by the very striking achievement of Tax Incentives for urban regeneration in the Republic of Ireland.
- Developers will build with reduced financial risk.
- Businesses follow the availability of people and quality premises.
- People will follow quality housing.
- The private sector is strengthened.
2. The Forthcoming Development Brief for the Distillery Brae/Former Waterside Library Site, will be Crucially Important for the Regeneration of the Inner Waterside
- This site should be designed to generate people traffic (i.e. it should be used to provide space for major employment - not for housing).
- To increase traffic movement, the bottom of Distillery Brae should be re-opened to
traffic downwards from Spencer Road.
3. Government De-Centralisation of Civil Service Jobs Should Target the Inner Waterside at Least in Part
4. Personal experience of our staff members indicates that drivers currently avoid Spencer Road (but not Clooney Terrace) because of the strong likelihood of traffic blockages.
Therefore serious consideration should be given to:
(a) simply enforcing existing parking regulations; or
(b) accommodating all existing car-parking on only one side of Spencer Road along its full length (presumably the west/Chapel Road side, for reasons of safety and sightlines); or
(c) prohibiting all on-street car parking on Spencer Road; or
(d) making Spencer Road one-way between Dungiven Road and Craigavon Bridge; As well as
(e) re-opening Distillery Brae to allow one-way traffic downwards from Spencer Road.
ANNEX 39THE CITY PARTNERSHIP BOARD
20 June 2000
RESPONSE TO STRATEGY 2010
The City Partnership Board was established in 1995 to facilitate production of an agreed long-term strategy for the development of Derry/Londonderry. It comprises representatives of the public, private, community/voluntary and trade union sectors and is chaired, jointly, by the Mayor of Derry and the Permanent Secretary of the Department for Regional Development.
During two years of extensive community consultations, which sought to identify the main challenges facing the future city, over 8,000 individual citizens and hundreds of local organisations participated in what has been described as the most inclusive civic initiative ever undertaken in Northern Ireland. It has been recognised as a unique and profoundly democratic planning process, allowing local people to determine how their aspirations should be addressed.
In February 2000 the City Partnership Board published "City Vision 2020 - First Plan for Progress 2000 - 2005. This is the first comprehensive development strategy produced for Derry/ Londonderry. The Plan received endorsement from Derry City Council and the Minister for Regional Development, Peter Robinson. It is now being actively promoted as a blueprint to transform the city physically and improve the quality of life for its citizens through a series of proposals that cross the economic, cultural, social and environmental spectrum.
One of the sections in the "First Plan for Progress" centres on the economy and sets out a number of key themes and objectives. These are:
A Regional Capital
Objective: Develop Derry/ Londonderry's status as a regional capital and hub of the North West of Ireland.
Investing in People
Objective: Provide high standards of education and training as pre-requisites for strong and sustained levels of economic growth.
Objective: Increase the number of people who see value in a career in locally owned business and self-employment.
Objective: Ensure local companies can operate competitively from a Derry/ Londonderry base.
The City Vision process has already exerted some influence on Strategy 2010. John McGinnis presented a draft report prepared by the Economy Issue Group to the Strategy Steering Group and the thinking within that document was subsequently reflected in Strategy 2010.
City Vision has enabled local people to genuinely influence the decisions that will be taken about their city. This is in keeping with Strategy 2010's own view that "..... Any new strategy should be based on the principles of equality of opportunity and social inclusion. It is important that all people in Northern Ireland not only have an equal chance of sharing in its increasing prosperity but also instinctively know that they do. They should become stakeholders ...." (9.1). It is expected, therefore, that appropriate weight will be given to the recommendations in the "First Plan for Progress" in the implementation of Strategy 2010.
The City Partnership Board, therefore, welcomes the recommendations on a knowledge-based economy set out in Strategy 2010 as mirroring those within the City Vision process. Both Strategies recognise the importance of improving links between business and schools. We share the emphasis placed on "activities including the building of education/work relationships, work placements, development and the exchange of experience between teachers and managers." The First Plan for Progress identifies the means by which these objectives can be delivered.
Several of the recommendations on education and training run parallel in the two documents:
- Economic development strategy must inform education and training policy and its funding and delivery mechanisms.
- Collaborative clusters of schools, businesses and colleges should be established.
- The current system of careers guidance should be enhanced.
- Teacher training should include an industry placement module.
City Vision First Plan for Progress
- Establish a forum for Education and Training Excellence.
- Improve direct links between schools and local business.
- Ensure future labour requirements are met by providing effective skills development programme.
- Provide dedicated sites to facilitate the growth of clusters of hi-tech companies.
We share Strategy 2010's view that greater recognition should be given to the importance of business and that business success should be celebrated. The First Plan for Progress sets the target of establishing a programme to encourage entrepreneurship that includes an annual awards ceremony showcasing local successes.
The City Partnership Board is aware of the move away from over-reliance on Government financial support to more targeted support for actions that will enhance competitiveness and is, therefore, encouraged by Strategy 2010's recommendations in relation to the establishment of a venture capital fund. These coincide with the need we have identified for increased venture capital investment in the North West.
The City Partnership Board also welcomes the recommendations that Northern Ireland should have a special rate of Corporation Tax for new inward investments over a period of 5 years. The First Plan for Progress comments that Northern Ireland must enhance its current corporate tax structure, which is unattractive to foreign investors in comparison to the Republic of Ireland. Corporation tax has been a mainstay of the Republic's industrial development policy and a comparable tax structure must be put in place here. As a border region the North West is vulnerable to competitiveness shocks arising from the dual currency system presently in operation. The First Plan for Progress suggests that options for the standardisation of the region's regulatory framework such as income tax and customs should be examined.
Areas of Concern
As City Vision now acts as a reference against which other local strategies are measured, those areas of Strategy 2010, which are clearly at odds with the First Plan for Progress, should be considered.
The Infrastructure Linkages with other regions as set out in Strategy 2010 is an area of serious concern. The First Plan for Progress stresses the importance of focusing attention on the economic needs of the North West and seeks to develop a common approach that not only benefits Derry but also Donegal, Strabane and Limavady. We cannot share the view that "access to the main gateway out of the regions is sufficiently developed to meet the foreseeable needs of the economy to 2010". Nor do we accept that port and airport facilities are "of sufficient standard".
The City Partnership Board believes that external road, rail, sea and air links must be enhanced to support the changing and growing demands of the next 20 years. This will include new investments in the rail and road networks with a strong focus on enhanced public transport services.
Strategy 2010 recommends development of the Belfast - Dublin road as a matter of priority. However equal priority must be given to the Derry -Dublin route if the North West is to function effectively as a regional hub.
Strategy 2010 generally does not give sufficient weight to the cross-border dimension within which Derry operates. Consequently there is insufficient emphasis on the economies of scale achievable in the North West by working on a cross border basis.
The City Partnership Board broadly welcomes Strategy 2010 as a process which complements at a Northern Ireland level the work it is undertaking locally. We do, however, have concerns that the importance of Derry/Londonderry as the regional capital of the North West of Ireland has not been sufficiently recognised in terms of infrastructure development. Therefore if Strategy 2010 is to be translated into an operational framework which commands widespread support it is important that appropriate communication is opened with the City Vision process.
ANNEX 40DERRY INVESTMENT INITIATIVE
20 June 2000
RESPONSE TO 'STRATEGY 2010' BY DERRY INVESTMENT INITIATIVE
Derry City Council has responded comprehensively to the Strategy 2010 document in a recent submission. As a sectoral initiative focusing on inward investment, Derry Investment Initiative would concur with the response from Derry City Council and would wish to emphasise those points relating to the inward investment.
It is important to reflect on Strategy 2010, with regard to inward investment and the necessary developments required to create a competitive location, in the context of significant revisions to 'Shaping our Future' with respect to the Derry/Londonderry and the North West. The report of the panel conducting the public examination of 'Shaping our Future' recommends that paragraph 11.7 should be titled "The North West" and the paragraph amended to read "to develop a strong North West based on Derry/Londonderry".
Furthermore, it recommends that "the section on the North West should bring out the largely discrete social and economic nature of the sub-region which calls for a separate local approach" and that it should "highlight the links, and the need for co-ordinated local planning, with Co Donegal".
Within this context, revised since the initial launch of Strategy 2010, Derry Investment Initiative would agree strongly with the vision statement for Northern Ireland.
"A fast growing, competitive, innovative, knowledge-based economy where there are plentiful opportunities and population equipped to grasp them."
Derry/Londonderry, as the recognised 2nd city of Northern Ireland should benefit from the recommendation regarding locational policy in Strategy 2010, namely:
"The cities and towns identified in the DOE's 'Shaping our Future' regional plan should be the main focus for the future location of industry."
Given the above statements, there is a need to elucidate a clear path of progress from the current economic position of Derry/Londonderry and the North West to that of a major economic driver of the Northern Ireland economy.
With a current unemployment figure of around 9% (40% greater than the NI average), a higher dependency on clothing and textile production, poor transportation infrastructure and an underdeveloped third level education sector, it remains to be seen what measures will be taken to ensure that the development of a knowledge based economy occurs within the North West.
The North West is clearly in a position whereby its resources - in terms of people skills, industrial land development, telecommunications, transportation - are underdeveloped. To what extent will the 'separate local approach' to development in the North West tackle these issues and how will that approach be manifested locally?
Two particular examples of the discrete approach required for the North West include; support for property development to ensure optimum strategic utilisation of single use business parks to support knowledge based industries where the property market is not as buoyant as that around the Greater Belfast area; the effect on unemployment, in the North West, of the downsizing of the clothing and textiles industry, will be significantly more than the 2% figure aggregated over the whole of Northern Ireland.
If government is serious about creating an equal and socially cohesive economy, then such issues, as outlined above, must be considered from a regional perspective, and solutions determined accordingly. Not to do so is to underestimate the size of the challenge and under-resource the solution.
It is of vital importance that both the challenge and the solution are recognised within the context of a 'joined up' government approach. Economic development must be seen as the combination of efforts from across all relevant departments to create the human and physical resources necessary to ensure successful growth across all regions of Northern Ireland.
In inward investment, the challenge lies in creating that product, of people, skills, premises, land and infrastructure, which will make the choice of location obvious to any potential investor. To ensure that the North West, in fulfilment of both Strategy 2010 and the revised 'Shaping our Future', becomes that location, it is of vital importance that the local knowledge and understanding of the issues involved are transmitted to the relevant powers that be, and are acted upon accordingly. Communication and analysis must be the process in order that a solution may be reached.
ANNEX 41BANBRIDGE DISTRICT COUNCIL
1.0 Banbridge District Council acknowledges the importance of Strategy 2010 as a review of economic development in Northern Ireland and welcomes the opportunity to respond to the document and to participate in discussion about future economic development policy.
Local authorities play an important role in promoting local economic development and in forging partnerships which stimulate enterprise development at a local and regional level. It is important, therefore, that the views of Councils, both individually and collectively, are taken on board and incorporated into the proposals outlined in the Report.
2.0 Banbridge District Council considers that the recommendation at page 145 of the document which states that the two major cities and seven identified towns should be the "main focus for the future location of industry" is essentially flawed.
The Council is opposed to what is effectively a 3 tier framework for development which relegates District towns, including Banbridge, into a lower "division" with limited potential to attract inward investment and to develop indigenous businesses. Furthermore, this recommendation specifically fails to acknowledge the strategic location of Banbridge in the heart of the Belfast-Dublin Economic Corridor. The attraction of Banbridge as a potential "magnet" for inward investment is further enhanced by the stated intention of the Industrial Development Board (IDB) to locate a 90 acre Business Park on the A1 transport corridor at Banbridge and by the recent granting of planning approval for the Gilford Tourism Outlet Centre.
2.1 Furthermore the Council considers that the reference, at section 9.2, page 195, to the "efforts of District Councils to sell their area to potential inward investors can duplicate the work of IDB and LEDU ..." should be removed. Rather any future strategy should seek to integrate the activities of local and central Government agencies in assisting Northern Ireland to compete in the international market place.
2.2 Banbridge District Council acknowledges the need to consider options for rationalising and improving the local development effort and welcomes the idea of a "District Council Pilot Project".
The Council proposes that the Southern Area region should be considered as a suitable location for the pilot project. There already exists a high degree of regional economic development activity in the southern region which renders it an ideal location for a consortium initiative. These include:
(a) Southern Region Business Start Consortium (7 Councils)
(b) The Craft Consortium (5 Councils)
(c) Canal Corridor Partnership, Leader II (4 Councils)
(d) Rural Down Partnership, Leader II (3 Councils)
(e) ABC Millennium Awards Programme (3 Councils)
(f) US Outreach Project (2 Councils)
(g) Eurolinks (3 Councils)
(h) Kingdoms of Down Marketing Consortium (5 Councils)
The Council considers that, as a result of the existing high levels of regional economic development activity, the conditions already exist for the development of a pilot project in the Southern Region.
2.3 The Council agrees with the recommendation at page 206 that a "single economic development body should be created" to integrate the services currently delivered through IDB, LEDU, IRTU and T&EA. However the Council would emphasise the importance of maintaining local accountability and ensuring that any new body demonstrates both a capacity and a will to engage with local actors in the delivery of economic development policy. The Council would point to the potential of the LEDU regional offices as an effective mechanism for ensuring greater local co-operation and partnership in delivering local economic development. The Council would caution against creating a "super agency" which remains aloof from local actors and which is not receptive to genuine "partnershipping".
3.0 Banbridge District Council also submits the following general comments:
3.1 The creation of a "well-resourced Northern Ireland regional office" in Brussels is welcomed. The remit of the Northern Ireland Centre in Europe should be enhanced and expanded rather than a new office created. NICE has built up considerable expertise and the investment, particularly by local authorities, in recent years should not be overlooked.
3.2 The recommendation, at page 193, that twinning arrangements with other regions should be developed, is welcomed. Local authorities have demonstrated considerable capacity to formulate twinning structures with other European regions, including Central and Eastern Europe. This should be acknowledged in the document as should the role of Councils in developing twinning opportunities.
3.3 The Council welcomes and supports the recommendation, at page 197, of the Steering Group that "deregulation of the bed and breakfast sector of the tourism industry should be considered".
4.0 In conclusion the Council considers that Strategy 2010 would benefit from a more intense consultation with the local authority sector and with the wider community, particularly the small business sector and local area partnerships. It is vital that the document and the process of review and strategy development should be more inclusive and reflective of a broader community of interests.
ANNEX 42SINN FÉIN IRELAND
Sinn Féin welcomes the inquiry initiated by the Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committee into Strategy 2010 and welcomes the opportunity to inform the debate around economic development strategy in the north of Ireland.
While acknowledging the massive amount of work which went into producing the Strategy 2010 document - as evidenced by the breadth and width of the subject matter and the long list of recommendations emanating from it - we believe that the whole thrust of Strategy 2010 contains fundamental flaws. We list our main concerns below and offer alternatives for your consideration.
We are pleased to note that the status of Strategy 2010 is not a static blueprint for future government economic policy. We believe that this provides us all with an opportunity to improve dramatically on the original 2010 document and to redress the flaws contained within it. We are not too late to put a much more effective, inclusive and innovative economic development strategy in place. However, this can only be done by government and all the social partners working closely together every step of the way. This means the Assembly, the Irish government, the All-Ireland Trade and Business Body, local communities, the voluntary and community sector, trade unions and business organisations working cohesively at the planning, policy development, implementation and monitoring and evaluating stages of 2010. In this way, new economic possibilities can be opened up to every single person on the island of Ireland.
Sinn Féin believed that a new economic development strategy needs to be given the widest public debate and discussion, taking the issues into local communities where its benefits are most needed. Only by drawing on the insights and contributions of local communities will an effective strategy be put together. That is why we have raised - and will continue to raise - our concerns about the exclusion of key sectors from within the community. Effective economic development demands clear public accountability from those charged with its implementation. Ongoing monitoring, assessment and evaluation needs to be a central part of any new strategy.
Composition of the SSG
The composition of the SSG is an example of the exclusionary nature surrounding Strategy 2010 which needs to be redressed. No one is arguing against the involvement of the civil service and business interests in such a venture, indeed their input is vital. However this should not be to the detriment of other interests, particularly the voluntary and community sector which was largely excluded from this process. This does not make sound economic sense and instead creates time-wasting and diversionary controversy and resentment where none is needed.
The heavy input from the civil service as one of the main drivers of Strategy 2010 is also a cause of concern in that government departments and agencies bear a large part of the responsibility for economic development failures of the past. Again, this is not to say that these individuals and organisations have no role to play, they clearly do. They cannot, however, be the main drivers for economic development policy. The key formulation of policy must be made by elected representatives, together with the communities they represent, and all the social partners in society.
The creation of the Economic Development Forum provides us with an opportunity to redress the imbalance and make up for mistakes in relation to exclusionary practices. We would urge the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment to ensure that the EDF fully and accurately reflects the make up of wider society and would argue for the inclusion of more interests from the community and voluntary sector.
We believe that Strategy 2010 failed to incorporate into its thinking the key need to view equality, in all its senses, as an absolutely essential component of economic development strategy. The document was heavy on the rhetoric of social inclusion and equality and light on actual and effective policies in this area. A major area of concern is that equality would take second place to market forces. This is not acceptable and we would argue that equality must imbue every aspect of a new strategy in order that the benefits of economic development are received by those most in need.
One of the key developments over the past decade or more has been the promotion of the largely business-led single island economy project, articulated by individuals such as George Quigley and bodies such as the CBI and IBEC. This all-Ireland economic project has paralleled developments in the political field, in particular Strand Two of the Good Friday Agreement, the North-South Ministerial Council and the various All Ireland Implementation Bodies, including the Trade and Business Development Body. We believe that Strategy 2010 failed to take these developments into proper consideration. Rather, it treated the economy of the south of Ireland in an unacceptably narrow sense, viewing it primarily as a competitor rather than a partner. If the full benefits of economic development are to be realised throughout the island of Ireland then there needs to be a closer working partnership between the two economies, north and south. Any economic development strategy must, therefore, have as its foundation an explicit all-Ireland dimension and context.
Assessment of past strategies
The starting point for any strategy must be a full and comprehensive assessment of past strategies that have been pursued in the north of Ireland over the past two decades. These include Pathfinder, Competing in the 1990s and Growing Competitively. All available evaluations and analysis of economic strategies must be drawn upon - such as the extensive analysis undertaken by bodies such as the NIEC, the NIAO, and individual academics and researchers. These findings then need to inform debate and influence the formulation of appropriate, effective and accountable strategies.
The IDB is the key player in economic development strategy in the north of Ireland, in terms of the amount of public funding it receives and the potential impact it can make on the economy and the lives of people and their local communities. Nor surprisingly, over the past decade or so, the IDB has been the focus of detailed analysis from a broad spectrum of opinion. Without exception these analyses and reports have been consistently critical of the IDB in terms of its continued failure to meet jobs and investment targets, its funding of projects which would have gone ahead irrespective of public assistance (the so-called deadweight issue), its poor inward investment record, especially in terms of locating plants in TSN areas, and, perhaps above all, its lack of public accountability and its consistent failure to respond to criticism. This is a damning list of indictments by any standards of such an important public body. There can be no doubt that serious flaws exist within the IDB. A new strategy for economic development must, therefore, consider in detail the role, functions and appropriateness of public bodies like the IDB.
Strategy 2010 has been the subject of much debate. Serious concerns have been raised across a broad spectrum of opinion about Strategy 2010. We welcome this debate and believe it to be very healthy. We would urge the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment to take on board and act on the concerns expressed. Just as we have the chance for a new political beginning, we also have the chance for a new economic beginning; a beginning that would do away with the economic inequalities that this society has suffered from for too long. People and communities are at the heart of any society. Therefore, people and communities - especially those who have suffered from disadvantage, exclusion and discrimination - need to be at the heart of any economic development strategy. Strategy 2010 has, thus far, failed to address these issues beyond the realms of rhetoric. This situation must be redressed immediately. Sinn Féin believes this can only be done by new and innovative thinking, by real and meaningful social partnerships and by the creation of an all-Ireland economic development policy.
ANNEX 43(NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF TEACHERS IN FURTHER AND HIGHER EDUCATION) NORTHERN IRELAND OFFICE (NATFHE)
8 February 2000
STRATEGY 2010 REPORT - SECTION 9 RECOMMENDATIONS - SKILLS AND EDUCATION
I attach for consideration by the Committee a comment by NATFHE in respect of the Section 9 Recommendations of the Strategy 2010 Report.
NATFHE is the largest post-school union, representing some 64,000 lecturers in further education colleges and universities in the United Kingdom. In Northern Ireland NATFHE represents around 2,000 lecturers in further education colleges and the University Colleges Stranmillis and St Mary's, and approximately 100 tutors in training organisations.
NATFHE is affiliated to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. NATFHE's Northern Ireland Official represents the ICTU on the Board of the Training & Employment Agency, and the Further Education Consultative Committee. He is also a member of the New Deal Task Force.
NATFHE has a particular interest in Section 9 of the Strategy 2010 document.
STRATEGY 2010 REPORT
SECTION 9 RECOMMENDATIONS - SKILLS AND EDUCATION
Comment by NATFHE - the university and college lecturers' union
1. The Dearing report should be speedily and comprehensively implemented.
NATFHE has been critical of the report in its approach to the reviews conducted by Lord Dearing. Strategy 2010 takes account only of the recommendations of Lord Dearing in respect of higher education in Northern Ireland We accept the recommendation but would point out that Lord Dearing presented an equally significant report reviewing qualifications for 16-19 year olds. That report pressed strongly the case for parity of esteem between vocational and academic qualifications - a matter, in our view, central to the promotion of a knowledge-based economy and to skills development. Strategy 2010 was remiss in not acknowledging the value of that report and in failing to advocate its implications.
2. Economic development strategy must inform education and training policy and its funding and delivery mechanisms.
NATFHE supports this recommendation with the caveat that economic development is not the sole raison d'être of post-school education. FE colleges and universities have a crucial role to play in the promotion of learning for its own sake, and in the promotion of social tolerance and cohesion. NATFHE would suggest that the Committee should take note of the recent report on Education for Diversity which points out the importance of our educational institutions in promoting citizenship.
3. Collaborative clusters of schools, businesses and colleges should be established.
We support this recommendation, but suggest that such will only happen in the context of a government led strategic approach. Funding arrangements for schools and colleges are predicated upon the notion of competition between providers, particularly in respect of the recruitment of students. The basis makes collaboration difficult, and stretches relationships beyond that of co-operation. The Labour Government has begun the process of promoting partnership; government in Northern Ireland should continue to lead in that regard and establish guidelines for the objectives and operational arrangements for such collaborative clusters.
4. A valued sub-degree level vocational educational programme should be established.
NATFHE does not understand this recommendation. Such a programme already exists within the further education sector. In our view, the FE programme of technician-type qualifications leading to HNCs and HNDs should be significantly expanded.
5. A clearer focus is needed for the Further Education sector.
We believe this recommendation to be true. Under the 1997 Further Education Order, individual colleges have to produce development plans. These are not made public, and are regarded by Governing Bodies as being "market sensitive". This results in the efforts of individual colleges not being focused towards wider strategic objectives. This point is firmly substantiated in the final report (October 1999) by Price-Waterhouse Coopers titled "Study of the Current Links between the Output of the Further Education Sector and the Needs of the Northern Ireland Economy and an Analysis for Better Development" commissioned by the Further Education Consultative Committee. NATFHE believes that government should ensure that the development plans of the further education institutes, as well as those of providers of higher education and training, are shaped to mesh together to ensure that issues such as addressing adult literacy, the merger of FE colleges and training centres, FE/HE links, and the development and expansion of course are taken forward on a co-ordinated and collaborative basis.
6. The current system of careers guidance should be enhanced.
We agree with this recommendation. The current system of careers guidance does not involve sufficiently lecturers in the further education colleges (who for the most part have industrial/commercial backgrounds) in this area of provision. Careers Guidance systems should integrated fully within all sectors of post school education and training.
7. Teacher training should include an industry placement module.
NATFHE would support this recommendation with the qualification that an industry placement module should apply only where such is relevant to the subject area of the teacher concerned.
ANNEX 44CHERTON ENTERPRISE LTD ON BEHALF OF
SAINSBURY'S SUPERMARKETS LTD AND MESSRS DRIVERS JONAS
15 August 2000
Sainsbury's Supermarkets Ltd., Messrs Drivers Jonas and ourselves are all most grateful to the Chairperson of the Committee for allowing us to re-submit to the Committee after the due date for written representations, a submission on S2010 made initially to the Department's Strategy Review Unit. I therefore enclose a copy of Drivers Jonas earlier submission and of the Department's response.
In the interests of time I have not represented the submission in the form prescribed in the Guide. It is, however, I believe, well signposted and, I hope, in a format acceptable to the Chairperson and Committee. I enclose the required 15 copies.
You will see that the submission represents both Sainsbury's supermarkets and the Sainsbury Group's Homes and Gardens outlet, Homebase.
Although dated April, the facts remain the same. Purists might say in the context of the second paragraph that a planning decision - consent - has in fact since been issued in respect of D5, but given that it is presently the subject of a Judicial Review, Sainsbury's is effectively still waiting for this planning decision.
I do hope that the Committee finds this submission useful. Both Sainsbury's and Drivers Jonas would be only too willing to assist the Committee further if that would be helpful.
W T PINKERTON
6 Grosvenor Street
Strategy Steering Group
c/o Strategic Review Unit
Department of Economic Development
Belfast BT4 2JP
27 April 2000
Dear Sir or Madam
On behalf of our clients Sainsbury's Supermarkets Ltd, we write with representations on Strategy 2010. Our representations relate to the lack of recognition that Strategy 2010 places on the importance of the retail sector to the Northern Ireland economy and its inconsistency with the emerging Regional Framework (RSF) for Northern Ireland.
There are currently seven Sainsbury's supermarkets in Northern Ireland including five with petrol filling stations. The stores are located in Armagh, Ballymena, Coleraine, Craigavon, Londonderry, Newry and Newtownbreda. Where possible these stores have been located in centre or edge of centre locations such as Armagh, Ballymena, Craigavon and Newry. Coleraine and Newtownbreda (Forestside) were both chosen because of the benefit of existing planning consents. Planning decisions are currently awaited in Newtownabbey, Sprucefield and D5.
There are six Homebase homes and garden centres located in Drumahoe - Londonderry, Newtownabbey, Forestside - Belfast, Sprucefield - Lisburn, Bangor and Craigavon.
Both Sainsbury's Supermarkets and Homebase are firmly committed to local sourcing of their products. Since 1995 Sainsburys Supermarkets has increased its annual local purchasing by over 50%. In 1995 Sainsburys Supermarkets purchased c£80m of local produce in Northern Ireland. By late 1999 the figure had reached c£125m with a commitment to raise it to £200m. Over the same period, the company has widened its supply base from 17 suppliers in 1995 to over 100 in 2000.
The Sainsbury's Group capital investment in Northern Ireland since 1996 completed and committed is over £110m. Further investment opportunities within Northern Ireland are currently being appraised for both Sainsbury's Supermarkets and Homebase. If developed these projects would result in further investment by the group of between £30m-£50m and provide additional full and part time jobs.
Sainsburys Supermarkets and Homebase together generate significant revenue expenditure that directly benefits the local economy. This includes:
- £25m in wages and salaries
- £2.2m in local rates
- £2.5m through contracts with local businesses for store cleaning, waste disposal, maintenance, landscaping, security etc
In addition to this, extensive and wide reaching economic activity is generated in businesses in the professional, construction, building supply and service sectors.
Strategy 2010 Recommendations
Strategy 2010 lists key recommendations on pages 178 to 180 of the document which relate to the planning system. The recommendations are:
- No further out-of-town shopping developments for five years
- The Assembly should introduce a rates regime which helps to nurture small indigenous retail businesses
The supporting text makes reference to the delays in the planning process and the detrimental effect which this has on industrial and commercial decision making. However, no recommendations are made regarding this important issue.
Lack of Recognition of the Role of Retailing in the Northern Ireland Economy
Our key concern about these recommendations is that the Strategy fails to adequately address retailing and its importance to the Northern Ireland economy. In our view this is a serious omission. The document notes on page 77 that a number of sectors have a marked potential for growth. These are identified as electronics, telecommunications, software, health technologies, tourism and tradable services. A further six sectors are identified as having less favourable prospects. Each identified sector is the subject to an analysis of its prospects. Each analysis was undertaken by a working group of experts as listed in Annex A of the document. It appears that retailing sector was not considered sufficiently important to merit its own detailed analysis. There was therefore no opportunity for input from the retail industry and no detailed analysis of the potential for growth in the retail sector.
The graph at page 69 of the document indicates that growth of GDP in Northern Ireland has broadly mirrored growth in the UK economy as a whole for the past 30 years. Our own analysis demonstrates that there is a very close correlation between growth on the economy generally and growth in retail expenditure generally. This growth in retail expenditure has, and will continue to fuel an increase in demand for additional floorspace both in town centres and outside them. It also creates pressure to improve the efficiency of the existing stock of retail floorspace. The retail sector is therefore one of the most innovative and dynamic sectors of the economy. The key objective of the Economic Strategy should be to seek to ensure that the pressure for change is encouraged to develop in a way that creates maximum benefits for the Northern Ireland economy.
Consistency with the Draft RSF
Of particular concern is the need to ensure consistency between this document and the draft RSF. Since Strategy 2010 was published the RSF has been the subject of a major Public Examination and the Panel's report into proceedings has been published. The Department for Regional Development has agreed to take the panel's views into account when PPS5 is reviewed.
One of the issues debated at the Public Examination was retail development. In particular, the following issues were identified:
- Is the strategy consistent with the Department's policy statement on retailing and town centres (PPS5)?
- Would it sustain and enhance the vitality and viability of city and town centres and help to maintain an efficient, competitive and innovative retail sector?
A wide range of interests were represented at the Public Examination including District Councils, retailers, developers, the Institute of Directors, the Northern Ireland Economic Council and the Research Consortium.
The Regional Strategy has therefore been through a very thorough and open process of consultation and its findings will carry considerable weight. The Panel have produced recommendations regarding retail policies which will protect established town centres and foster an efficient and innovative retail sector. They have also produced recommendations to improve the efficiency of the planning system in Northern Ireland.
In contrast, the draft economic strategy makes recommendations based on the views of "business people" about the perceived harm to town centre economies. Whilst the protection of town centres is an entirely legitimate planning objective, that objective must be balanced against the wider objective of ensuring a competitive, innovative and efficient retail sector. An efficient retail sector will have spin-off benefits for the wider economy.
The strategy does not appear to be based on any detailed forecasting of the demand for retail floorspace. In particular it fails to take account of the fact that retailing is a significant growth area of the economy. The strategy should aim to set out how that growth potential should be channelled to secure maximum benefit.
The recommendations regarding the planning system and control of retail development in particular appear to be based on limited analysis and consultation. The recommendation of no further out of town retail development for five year appears to be a knee jerk reaction to a perceived planning problem.
It is essential that Strategy 2010 is consistent with the Regional Strategy. At present the recommendations of Strategy 2010 and the RSF are inconsistent. Given the limited analysis in the Strategy 2010 document and the advanced stage of the Regional Strategic Framework any recommendations in Strategy 2010 regarding the planning system generally or retail development planning in particular should be revised to be consistent with the draft RSF.
DRIVERS JONAS, cc D W Glass - Department for Regional Development
ANNEX 45CRAIGAVON BOROUGH COUNCIL
1 March 2000
Response by Craigavon Borough Council, from the perspective of a local authority, with the lead role in local economic development in one of Northern Ireland's leading District Council areas, designated in the RSF document as the region's third major growth centre and with the largest manufacturing base outside Belfast.
The Council is aware of the criticisms which have been levelled at the Strategy 2010 document. There appear to be many valid criticisms in the critique by Bradley and Hamilton, which require to be addressed or responded to before the report could achieve widespread acceptance and ownership. It is unnecessary to rehearse these criticisms in this response, but the Council would be interested in how these criticisms would be countered.
There have also been more positive responses to the Report, from a less academic, more pragmatic approach, and it remains to be seen how the proposed inquiry will deal with the issues of whether the Review Steering Group achieved the original objectives, the validity of the criticisms of the Report, alternative proposals to Strategy 2010 and how the recommendations may be improved upon.
From a Local Authority perspective, pending any outcomes of the consideration of the wider strategic criticisms, the Council would wish to register its concerns in the following areas:-
- Disappointment that local authorities, especially Elected Members were not consulted during the review period.
- No reference made to the potential role of local government in the implementation of Strategy 2010.
- The composition of the Economic Forum, in particular in relation to the absence of Elected Members and also the inclusion of three NICVA representatives.
It is recognised that this is a vision document; it requires still to be converted into a coherent strategy with operational programmes with identified priorities.
There is agreement that there are positive proposals in the document and the Council would seek to put Craigavon forward as an area capable and willing to address and implement such proposals on a practical, local basis.
Craigavon believes it possesses very many qualities which enable it to serve as a model or pilot area for many of the proposals and approaches in Strategy 2010:-
- The diverse manufacturing base incorporating both industries in decline and high value-added enterprises with substantial Research and Technological Development budgets.
- An ideal location with excellent infrastructural linkages.
- Capacity for considerable growth, including the largest IDB land availability of any area.
- A forward looking Council keen to avail of the opportunities presented to it, highlighted in both Strategy 2010 and the Regional Strategic Framework.
Craigavon would wish therefore to work together with the Department, in seeking to progress those elements of Strategy 2010 which can be actioned at local level.
While the criticism has been made concerning the lack of local authority input, particularly at Elected Member level, Craigavon Borough Council would be of the view that the report offers an unprecedented opportunity to Local Government to properly establish its role as the 'hub' of local development, irrespective of any future reorganisation of local authority boundaries. In view of the generally accepted opinion - particularly in business circles - that there are too many suppliers of economic development products (for example, 105 in the Food Sector in a recent LEDU study of six District Council areas), any rationalisation process must surely be based upon the primacy of the locally-elected body, property resourced and staffed.
Strategy 2010 (Recommendation 9.20.2) recommends a District Council pilot project to rationalise the number of players in the local economic development areas. Craigavon epitomises this scenario of multiple provision, including as it does, all the major forms of local partnership, together with the strongest and most developed voluntary and community sector outside Belfast. The Council has made some preliminary moves towards achieving a rationalisation and would propose that the Department consider Craigavon as the pilot area, providing assistance and support to facilitate the process.
The Council is actively considering the role of Craigavon as a model area for clustering approaches, as highlighted in Strategy 2010. It is important to determine whether the industry cluster approach offers a new business development practice with potential at local level. A study to determine the feasibility of formal and informal alliances between local firms and institutions in areas such as Research and Development, product and process innovation, Information and Communication Technologies, training policy and so on may be appropriate and support for a pilot study from the Department would be valuable.
The Council would also consider that Craigavon is ideally placed as a location for inward investment projects, to complement and strengthen its indigenous enterprises. The Council would not wish to see the area, with its strong manufacturing ethos and spirit of enterprise disadvantaged and deprived of consideration as an inward investment location. In the period of the Single Programming Document 1994-1999, only one inward investment project was located in the Borough.
A rigorous implementation of TSN policies could adversely affect Craigavon's sustainability as a major economic centre, as further setbacks to the traditional industry sectors could result in a serious increase in the unemployment rate, without the area having new industrial development to provide alternative employment. It will also be necessary to address the issues of childcare and pre-school education provision.
In conclusion, the Council would also wish to point up these issues which it feels should be addressed in the inquiry:
- There is no recognition of the position of Craigavon as the third growth centre in the RSF. If the recommendations in the report are to be operationalised, it is necessary to begin to specify how and where actions will be targeted. The RSF clearly points to the pre-eminence of Craigavon as the major growth centre outside Belfast and Derry.
- The requirement to provide natural gas and competitively priced energy to local business, if the local economy is to survive and prosper. A natural gas supply to Craigavon is an issue not only of local but of (sub) regional importance.
- The necessity to increase support for enhanced links between universities and industry and between further and higher education centres and business to ensure that available skills match the demands of business and industry, and that every assistance be afforded for potential spin off enterprises arising from the research outputs of the local Universities.
The Council would wish to submit these comments for consideration and awaits the outcome of the inquiry into Strategy 2010 in the hope that it will begin the process of realising its vision.
ANNEX 46YOUTH COUNCIL FOR NORTHERN IRELAND
(A Young Persons Focus Group)
October - December 1999
Focus Group - A Youth Challenge
The Department of Economic Development published, in March 1999, the document "Strategy 2010" which outlined a possible economic strategy for Northern Ireland. It drew together an analysis of the current situation and proposed the way ahead as seen by a group of leading members of the business and professional communities. Various other consultations were set up to carry the proposals forward.
In discussions between Jim Caves of NI Business Education Partnership, and David Guilfoyle, Director of the Youth Council for Northern Ireland, it was agreed that it would be essential to provide an opportunity for young adults to contribute to the debate on this important strategy which would have a significant impact on their future. This initiative would be established under the umbrella of the Children and Young Persons' Intersectoral Forum.
It was agreed that the target composition of the group should be:
a) 50/50 Protestant/Catholic
b) 50/50 Male/female
c) have representatives from both the city and rural areas
d) have young people currently experiencing education and training
e) in the age range 16-22 years.
In order to establish this focus group, discussions were undertaken to identify individual young people keeping the above criteria in mind. These discussions were held over a three week period with:
a) a Divisional Youth Officer from an Education and Library Board
b) a Venture scout leader
c) the leader of a Church based youth group
d) a Senior Lecturer in a College of Further Education
e) a detached youth worker in an inner city project
f) the Director of the Northern Ireland Youth Forum
g) a women's group in a housing estate
h) a leader of a peer education project
i) a teacher in a grammar school
j) a leader in a project for young people with a disability.
As a result of these 10 meetings a total of 21 young people were identified as providing a group with the required balance. Individual interviews were then held over a further three week period during which 16 young people indicated their willingness to participate.
In addition to the 5 criteria for group make-up, this group now additionally had:
a) several young people who had experienced unemployment
b) a young mother
c) a young person who had overcome a physical disability to gain employment with a major store
d) a student with dyslexia studying for 'A' levels
e) a young person in a "gap" year
f) several young people who were volunteers in youth organisations
g) two young people in training in non-traditional areas (female - engineering; male - nursing)
h) some young people who were highly computer literate while others had little competence in this area.
An initial get-together for the selected group was held on 7 October (see Appendix 1) in central Belfast. After some food and a couple of icebreaker activities, the group was divided into two to discuss relevant issues, as outlined by Harry McCammon who was acting as co-ordinator for the project (see Appendices 2, 3 and 4).
During the feedback session the following main issues emerged:
Education Computer literacy/information age
Streaming in schools
League table effects
Lack of careers advice or too late
Academic pressure/teaching quality
Too little sport and creative activities
Too little work experience
Training Managing agents
Communication difficulties including forms
Money for medical expenses such as dental treatment
In the next month the young people's focus group was kept up to date by mail with progress on Strategy 2010 including some critical articles from the local press (see Appendices 6, 7, 8, 9 for details).
The Main Event
The meeting of the young people and the Intersectoral Forum Cluster Group members took place in the Wellington Park hotel on Tuesday, 7 December 1999 between 5.30pm and 9.00pm (the agenda is given as Appendix 5).
Twelve of the young peoples group were in attendance with 8 representatives from the Intersectoral forum.
1. David Guilfoyle, Director, Youth Council for NI
2. Cecil Holmes, CCEA
3. Brian Smart, NI Business Education Partnership
4. Caroline Wilson, National Union of Students
5. Clare Harvey, Youth Council for NI
6. Tom Redmond, T&EA Career Service
7. Gilbert Bell, Welfare Youth Adviser, NEELB
8. Nigel Hamilton, Permanent Secretary, Department of Education
After a stimulating presentation from Nigel Hamilton, David Guilfoyle and Caroline Wilson acted as facilitators for two discussion groups with a mixed membership.
Summary of Issues raised by Young People
Notes from Discussion Group 1 (Rapporteur: Caroline Wilson)
- Access to Internet is difficult - limited due to size of classes and number of machines.
- Hardware - slow and out of date.
- Some schools charge for access after school hours - negative effect on usage.
- It is not right to rely on home computers - only some pupils can afford this.
- Resources are not well advertised within universities - regarding open access centres.
- Familiarity with IT should start from primary school and not be crammed into 6th form as currently happens - exam pressure is enough at that stage. It also means that some leave at 5th form without any computer literacy.
- One school represented arranged with local further education college a mandatory after-school hours course allowing pupils to access their greater number of computers.
- Employers expect more 'add-ons' than before - language; IT etc.
- Teachers unable to diagnose dyslexia - should be trained in recognising this earlier.
- Languages should be introduced at primary school.
- The introduction of languages should be standardised - if one school offers two languages in first year, all schools should offer this. This means that pupils are not disadvantaged by their choice of school.
- French/German in business are attractive modules in 6th year.
- National curriculum limits choices at 3rd year - mostly without adequate or appropriate careers guidance - often no careers guidance.
- Lack of vocational courses in schools was noted.
- 11+ labels children at an early age.
- Guidance is not given on 'real life' skills such as budgeting money, living on your own, drugs education.
- School does not develop your self-esteem - more space should be given to public speaking, drama and participation in conferences.
- School ethos is about the collective rather than the individual - it was compared to the youth service ethos where you are valued for who you are.
- School systems need to be transparent - pupils should be informed of choices available to them and decisions made on their behalf.
- League tables were a negative force in education.
- Teachers will not risk putting through students who they believe will not pass - denies students the right to try.
- Emphasis is on teachers' achievement rather than pupils.
- Pupils can be asked to leave if their 'A' level prospects do not look good and will risk bringing down the average of the school in the league table.
- A*s degrade normal A grades.
- Careers guidance - too little, too late.
- More frequent work experience should be offered so that students can try out a number of career options. Companies need to recognise the advantages in this and offer more work opportunities.
- Teachers need to give more individual attention - this could be supported through a peer mentoring/coaching scheme which is well resourced and supported by the school. It develops motivation and personal development for coached and coach.
- Community relations - effective CR is non-existent - no political discussion - teachers afraid of heavy issues.
- EMU programme needs re-vamped.
- Student funding needs to be reviewed - leaving university £10,000 in debt is unacceptable.
- Impossible to get a mortgage with this debt.
Notes from Discussion Group 2 (Rapporteur: Clare Harvey)
Scope for schools to progress
- How can education keep up with rapid progress (such as IT)? Education system seems very slow to respond to dynamic economic and social change.
- NI only beginning to catch up with USA system where all pupils are given laptops, hold e-mail discussions etc.
- Resources for IT are varied - left to individual schools to draw up their own IT schemes, lot of time wasted because of shortage of computers. There should be national standards for IT provision in schools and universities - standardisation gives equal opportunities.
- Remove barriers to IT access - should be free Internet charges for schools to go online, as is case in USA.
- However computers shouldn't replace the interaction between pupil and teacher - seen as very important relationship.
Work experience and enterprise
- Needs to be greater interaction between schools and private sector. Going to work is a culture shock for young people -behaviour which is accepted in schools is not accepted by employers. Work experience placements can acclimatise pupils to their future environment.
- Work experience should be offered at an earlier stage (not just in 5th/6th forms). Placements should be more structured, pupils should be prepared for the placement, it should match their career aspirations. Should also be space to review what has been achieved on work placement.
- Simulated trading in schools very effective to give pupils a view of the real world. Learn better by experiencing a real situation such as a school company. Enterprise experience within the school is also useful when later applying for jobs.
- Schools don't educate on life skills - how to use a bank, sign cheques, manage money, drive a car etc. Schools should be providing more life skills and practical skills.
Style of Teaching
- Method of teaching doesn't allow pupils to speak own opinions. Learning is by regurgitation rather than critical thinking. Style of teaching restricts freedom of expression or creativity - this is a major challenge for schools.
'Streaming' in schools is unfair
- Dividing classes into groups according to ability labels pupils and is very demoralising. Putting all the 'messers' together encourages peer pressure to do badly. The worst teachers are allocated to the most difficult pupils. There needs to be a better disciplinary approach within schools, and better ways of addressing the needs of the 'messers'. Categorisation needs to be abolished.
- Poor experience of this. Teachers are not the best qualified people to give careers advice.
- Advice is sidelined to infrequent sessions. Instead there should be more sessions, offered from an earlier age.
- Mock job interviews with teachers are not useful - should be done by external people.
- Third year is too early to choose which subjects to take.
- Not enough subjects to choose from at A level stage in some schools.
- Both careers guidance and work experience were felt to be very important, and both need 'to be done right' - the right professionals, the right time allocated, intervention starting earlier at school, need to take the right approach to young people. It was also noted that parents and peers also influence chosen career paths.
What are the good aspects of school?
- 1 female: "Having a good relationship with the teachers is important. My school has good atmosphere and I enjoy school."
- 1 male: "I liked school at the time, but with hindsight realise I was given poor careers guidance, and I think school limited my options and creativity."
- A general feeling that the education system in NI is relatively good within UK - should aim to stay ahead of the rest of UK.
- Education for diversity needed - this shouldn't just be about Protestant/Catholic, but in preparation for NI becoming a multi-cultural society.
- Overt sectarianism appears 'worst' around P7, when children can be cruel to each other. By age of 16 pupils generally have more sensitivity to others - hence education for diversity needs to start at the primary level.
- Tuition fees in higher education are unacceptable - university is no longer open to all.
- Should be more integration of disabled within mainstream schools.
- Employers are not looking just for people who can pass exams, they are looking for people with skills. The university entrance system perpetuates the archaic examination system.
A feedback session was organised when speakers from each group presented their conclusions. During the feedback discussions the following main areas obtained full support:
1. The groups were in agreement about the development of e-commerce and the growing impact of the computer and the Internet.
2. They endorsed the Permanent Secretary's remarks about the world becoming a global village and, despite the growing influence of the English language, supported the idea of developing fluency in a foreign language but felt that this should commence in the primary schools.
3. The groups felt that more urgent and dynamic action was required from the Education authorities to give the young people the opportunity to compete for jobs in tomorrow's world.
4. The groups were keen to see recently erected barriers to education rescinded and sought
a) removal of fees
b) improved grants to avoid student loans and remove the pressure on students to have part-time work.
5. The groups felt that more general skills should occupy part of curriculum time eg cooking, learning to drive.
6. Teaching methodology could be improved in several ways:
a) More training for teachers in i) ICT; ii) understanding disability including dyslexia.
b) Better and earlier careers advice.
c) Longer and better structured work experience placements.
d) Encouragement of creativity.
e) Use of peer educators.
f) More engaging teaching methods rather than didactic lessons all the time.
7. There should be better liaison between the education system and employers so that schools could more adequately prepare their students with the skills that employers want.
8. Careers education - schools should have a policy statement that students and parents could refer to.
9. 'Shadowing' a parent/relative or neighbour to work should be encouraged with a planned follow-up.
10. Students should be assisted to make a personal career plan. To do this students would need well informed choices about subject selection and higher education entry requirements.
11. The question of 'bullying' and improving behaviour in class required attention.
The evening's discussions were drawn to a close by Brian Smart, who summarised some of the key themes arising from the session.
Focus Group Participants
1. David Brady Belfast
2. Sean Cassidy Belfast
3. Phil Conn Newtownabbey
4. Barry Graham Belfast
5. Carol Higgins Holywood
6. Lisa Ann Lamont Portstewart
7. Brenda McBrien Belfast
8. Eddie McBurney Bangor
9. Aine McCabe Belfast
10. Maura McDonnell Belfast
11. Joseph McKearney Bangor
12. Fiona Mulholland Belfast
13. Chris Mussen Lisburn
14. Emmet Norris Belfast
15. Neil Reid Dundonald
16. Louisa Ward Belfast
17. Catherine Woods Craigavon
Youth Council for Northern Ireland
24 September 1999
Arising from the major youth conference Generation 2000 in the Waterfront Hall in October 1997 the Youth Council for Northern Ireland has sought to promote the idea of Youth Proofing. In order to find a more effective method of ensuring that young people have a more effective voice on decision making bodies they now wish to recruit a group of young people to hold a discussion with the senior members of various agencies involved in the Strategy 2010 report.
This document considers what the world of work will be like in 10 years time and the measures needed to ensure an effective work force. The plan is for the decision makers and young people to have a meal together and then have a discussion afterwards. The Wellington Park Hotel has been suggested as a suitable venue. This evening is planned for the middle of October.
It will be necessary to hold a preliminary meeting of the young people involved so that we can get to know each other and discuss strategy.
This has been arranged for:
Date : Thursday 7 October 1999
Time : 6.00 pm
Venue : Northern Ireland Youth Forum, 24a Ann Street, Wilson Court, Belfast.
It is proposed to start this meeting with a snack meal and to complete the discussion by 8.00 pm.
I hope that you will be able to attend but in the event of the unexpected, please let me know if you are unable to come: 01232-644768.
GROUP DESIGNEMPOWERMENT power to influence real decisions
INCLUSIVE varied backgrounds
REPRESENTATIVE varied experiences of education and youth service
EQUAL ACCESS neutral venues
RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
1. To listen to others
2. To be listened to
3. To respect the views of others
4. To have them respect your views
5. To be free from abusive or intimidating language
1. "Meaningful participation by young people in the decision making process is of the utmost importance."
Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995
2. "Services for young people should be planned by listening to young people and involving them actively."
Youth Work - A Model for Effective Practice
Department of Education NI 1998
3. "What distinguishes those who are serious about involving and consulting young people from those merely aspiring to current fashionable theories, is the ability and commitment to turn visions, however laudable, into meaningful and effective actions - the time test."
Speak Out - A Guide to Youth Consultation
Thompson A (1997) T.V.P. (London)
INTERSECTORAL FORUM EVENT - FORMAT
5.30 pm Arrival and Introductions
6.00 pm Finger Buffet
6.30 pm Welcome/Introductions - David Guilfoyle
Opening Remarks - Nigel Hamilton (Permanent Secretary, Department of Education)
6.50 pm Discussion Groups (2)
8.00 pm Plenary Session - Feedback from both groups
8.30 pm Closing Remarks
Among the most important recommendations was a call for "greater integration of economic and educational policy and more collaboration between business and education and training, in delivering the skills and capabilities needed by business."
Progress in last couple of months
- Information Age Initiative - to promote the use of Information and Communication Technologies.
- Science Park planned.
- Teaching Company Scheme expanded.
- Roadshows for 2010 in Belfast, Antrim, Cookstown, Newry, Derry, etc.
- Targeting Social Need project action.
- Economic Development Forum formed.
- Viridian Growth Fund established.
- Energy Action Plan developed.
- Skills Task Force created with a focus on IT Skills, Modern Apprenticeships and Lifelong Learning.
- Website opened 2010.com
ANNEX 47EUROTRACK IRELAND
5 June 2000
Strategy 2010 - Economic Strategy Review
With reference to the above report relating to the future Economic Development of Northern Ireland, please find enclosed herewith a copy of this company's proposals for the future development of the Northern Ireland railway network.
Whilst railway development has always been considered to be the responsibility of the Department of the Environment, and therefore outside the remit of the Department of Economic Development, there is no doubt whatsoever that if our proposals can be fully implemented the railway network will have a very substantial part to play in the future economic development of the Province, and will play a major role in the attracting of inward investment, and in the creation of new employment opportunities.
Copies of the enclosed documents have also been submitted to the Department of Regional Development for consideration by the Transportation Review Panel; to the Northern Ireland Select Committee Study team; to all members of the Northern Ireland Executive, and to all the Northern Ireland political parties.
We trust that the enclosures will throw some light on how we believe the future economic development of Northern Ireland can be considerably enhanced, and we would be willing to provide any additional information you may require.
Trusting the enclosed is acceptable, and awaiting your acknowledgement in due course.
STATEMENT OF PRESENT POSITION
When this company first prepared its proposals for the development of a direct rail route between Northern Ireland and Continental Europe in 1993, those proposals were based on the potential for reinstatement of the former Belfast & County Down Railway route through east Belfast to Ballynahinch and Newcastle, with an extension from Ballynahinch to a new International Freight Depot at the Maze. The Directors always had, as a long term objective, the possibility of acquiring the present routes of Northern Ireland Railways, if and when the company's plans for this originally proposed route had been successfully implemented.
Towards the end of 1999 however, when the present problems of Northern Ireland Railways first became evident, the Board of Directors of EUROTRACK IRELAND decided to attempt to put together a financial package which would be offered to Government as a possible means of solving the financial problems of N.I.R., and in doing so agreed to increase the Share Capital of the company to £500 million. Since then the company has been working tirelessly in its efforts to secure support for its proposals, and has been engaged in negotiations with a number of major International Companies and Financial Institutions, many of whom have indicated a sincere interest in entering into partnerships with the company, subject to the purchase of Northern Ireland Railways being a possibility.
Over the last number of weeks as the reports of N.I.R.'s, worsening position have continued, culminating in the latest report by Arthur D. Little & Co., it has become evident that the system is on the verge of collapse, and that the Government's reluctance to provide the necessary funding to salvage the network would suggest that Eurotrack Ireland's proposals for Privatisation offer the simplest and best way forward!
In attempting to prepare a detailed Business Plan to sell the company's proposals to potential investors however, the company's efforts have been frustrated by the distinct lack of detailed information relating to the operating costs of N.I.R., the detailed figures required simply not being available. The published Accounts and Annual Reports of N.I.R. give only sufficient information to meet statutory requirements, and do not provide the detailed information which would allow EUROTRACK IRELAND to assess clearly what changes to procedures might be implemented in order to put the rail network on a profitable footing. Much of the information to be provided to potential partners and investors has therefore had to be prepared from the limited information available, by guesswork, or by using information gleaned from personal experiences.
A request for more detailed information has been made to the Chairman of the Northern Ireland Transport Holding Company, the former Minister for Regional Development Mr. Peter Robinson MP., and also to the present Minister Mr Adam Ingram MP. In a reply to Mr. Peter Robinson MP., Translink has refused to provide the necessary information on the grounds that it is "Commercially Sensitive".
The relevant factual information available is as follows, the figures being taken from the most recent N.I.R. Annual Report and Accounts:-
- N.I.R.'s Annual Revenue from fares etc., was approximately £14.7 million.
- The Annual Government subsidy (PSO) amounted to almost £9 million
- The Annual Operating Loss amounted to £1.4 million.
- The £20 million value of the Permanent Way has been written off and it is now valued at Zero.
It is also known from the recent report by Arthur D. Little & Co. that the network requires an estimated expenditure of some £183 million over the next ten years simply to maintain safety standards, this figure being additional to any Annual Subsidies or operating losses incurred. Assuming an annual subsidy (PSO) in the region of £10 million, and continued operating losses at the present rate of about £1.4 million per annum, an additional £114 million will need to be provided over the next ten years to simply keep N.I.R. afloat, bringing the cost to Government to a total of approximately £300 million; and that does not allow for any further expansion or development, but will simply allow the system to maintain the status quo!
On the basis of these figures it is difficult to see at first glance how the rail network might be turned around to make it into a profitably undertaking, but the Directors of EUROTRACK IRELAND believe that if an agreement can be reached with Government, and a figure agreed for the acquisition of N.I.R., the investment necessary for such an acquisition, for the upgrading of the network, for the provision of new rolling stock, and for the expansion of the system, can be secured. To substantiate this view the company offers the following by way of explanation:-
- The provision of new rolling stock, properly maintained, and with up to date low emission Diesel engines, which the company has already investigated and can secure, could reduce the operating costs of trains per mile by up to 50%.
- Under present operating conditions almost every time a train breaks down (which is a regular occurrence), buses are dispatched by Ulsterbus to take passengers to their destinations. These buses are charged against N.I.R. by Ulsterbus, the cost becoming an Operating Expense for N.I.R., thereby distorting the Operating figures, and becoming a Revenue to Ulsterbus, also distorting the Ulsterbus Revenue figures. With the provision of new rolling stock this Operating Expense would no longer be necessary.
- EUROTRACK IRELAND proposes to enter into a Maintenance Contract with its rolling stock supplier. Such an agreement can reduce the maintenance costs by approximately 20%, and can ensure availability of stock.
- Much of the permanent way of N.I.R. currently needs upgrading or replacing. Whilst undertaking this work EUROTRACK IRELAND would propose to alter the gauge of all trackwork within Northern Ireland (with the exception of the Belfast-Dublin line) to 1435 mm gauge, thereby making the system totally compatible with the rest of the United Kingdom and Europe, yet maintaining a vital link with the Republic of Ireland. Spain and Portugal have already commenced regauging of their railways to bring them into line with the rest of Continental Europe. During gauge alteration the standard of track will be improved to U.K. Mainline equivalent standards, with a capability of 100 mph. running in most places, and with Automatic Train Control Systems installed throughout. These costs have been taken into account when seeking investment.
- The introduction of freight facilities as detailed in the company's proposals, with the introduction of a Rail Ferry between Northern Ireland and Scotland, will be given priority, and will offer Northern Ireland Road Hauliers and Exporters the possibility of a 12/14 hour journey time to mainland Europe, compared to the present 36 hour drive via the M6. This service will provide a major revenue improvement for the company thereby improving profitability, as will the proposed introduction of overland Express Passenger services between Northern Ireland and London. Neither of these would be possible without the change of track gauge.
- EUROTRACK IRELAND proposes to introduce a new Fare Structure which will be more beneficial to the rail user, but which will improve profitability, and has prepared a number of other innovative proposals which will make the system more attractive to the travelling public. The company also proposes to introduce a new "Hands On" Management Team who will be directly accountably and accessible to its patrons.
In view of the present state of N.I.R., the Government currently has a number of possible options available:-
1. To close the network completely and thereby to save money! Such a step would however be disastrous for commuters, and would place an unmanageable number of cars onto commuter routes, particularly around Belfast, during peak traffic periods. Needless to say, it would do nothing for the atmospheric environment of the Province, particularly in the Greater Belfast area, so total closure is not really an option, although it has already been indicated that the closure of some unremunerative lines is already being considered!
2. To retain the network for operation by Translink by providing the funding necessary for upgrading, bearing in mind the necessary total costs in excess of £300 million required over the next ten years. Integrated Management of bus and rail services has never worked in any country where it has been tried, so if the Government insists on retaining the combined management system for bus and rail, it cannot expect to see the railways returning a profit, and must be prepared to provide additional funds as and when necessary in order to keep the network afloat.
3. To make the necessary investment but to give the railway system a separate Board of Management who will be solely responsible for its operation. It is only by having the railway network operated as a separate entity that there can be any possibility of it becoming profitable, but only if the initial investment is guaranteed, and at that, only if additional investment can also be guaranteed for upgrading and for the expansion of the system.
4. The possibility of Public/Private Partnerships has been muted over the last few years, but considering the present state of N.I.R. is it any wonder that no one has come forward to provide Private Funding? Northern Ireland is too small for the type of privatisation that has been implemented in the UK Mainland; such a system is too restrictive with regard to fare structures etc, particularly for an operation of the limited size of N.I.R.. Public/Private Partnerships cannot possibly provide the kind of funding that is necessary considering the present run down state of the system!
5. Total Privatisation. Such a decision would relieve the Government of any financial commitment towards the railways other than an Annual Subsidy, thereby saving at least £200 million over the next ten years. EUROTRACK IRELAND believes that, because of the improvements and developments that are proposed, it could be possible to operate without this subsidy by the expiry of that ten year period. Unless Government is prepared to make the necessary investment, and is prepared to 'take the bull by the horns' and put the railways under a separate Board of Management which will have total control of the company, and its development, then total privatisation is the only way forward if they wish to see the railway network being developed!
EUROTRACK IRELAND would naturally favour the last of these five options, and the Directors believe that, subject to terms being agreed with Government for the acquisition of N.I.R., the network could be returning an Operating Profit within a matter of 18 months to 2 years. As a locally based company EUROTRACK IRELAND is committed to the development of the Northern Ireland economy, and the Directors believe that the company's proposals offer the best possible opportunity for the future of rail travel within Northern Ireland. Equally important are the proposals for the development of the Province's links with Mainland Europe, for the future development of fast freight services, an alternative means of travel between Northern Ireland and London, and for the long term reinstatement of closed routes within Northern Ireland. The Directors of EUROTRACK IRELAND do not believe that any UK mainland operator coming into Northern Ireland would have the total committment to develop the network along the lines that this company has proposed.
In order to progress its proposals, and to allow for the creation of the new inter modal systems for freight which the company anticipates, it would be necessary to have a close working relationship with Government, as legislation would be necessary for the change of track gauge. The full co-operation of Government would be necessary so that such legislation could be passed through Parliament without undue delay.
Should the Government be unwilling to negotiate terms for the sale of Northern Ireland Railways to EUROTRACK IRELAND, the company will have no alternative but to proceed with its original proposals for the reinstatement of the routes through east Belfast, and would hope to negotiate terms for the acquisition of the trackbed of the former Belfast & County Down Railway between Belfast and Comber which is in the ownership of the Department of the Environment. If any of the options other than Total Privatisation are to be considered by Government, then there is little doubt that this route will not be required for expansion of the present network, and could therefore be made available to the company for the implementation of its original proposals.
The future of the Northern Ireland railway system now rests fairly and squarely with British Government, and it will depend entirely upon their decision whether or not the railway network has a future! EUROTRACK IRELAND can offer that future, but can make no further progress until such time as Government make their decision known. In the meantime the Directors will be continuing in their efforts to secure additional Private Sector funding, and to attract new potential Partners.
NORTHERN IRELAND RAILWAYS
A BRIGHT FUTURE OR A CONTINUING NIGHTMARE?
WHY THE PROPOSALS OF EUROTRACK IRELAND
ARE THE BEST WAY FORWARD!
To understand the arguments for, or against, EUROTRACK IRELAND's proposals for the future development of the Northern Ireland railway network, and for a direct freight route to Europe, it is first necessary to understand clearly two different technical terms which appear repeatedly within the proposal document. These are "Track Gauge" and "Loading Gauge", and the importance of these two controlling factors on the operating of our railways cannot be over stated.
"Track Gauge" refers to the distance between the two rails on which the wheels of a train run, being measured between the inside edges of the two rails. In Great Britain and Europe the distance between the rails is 4' 8½", or 1435 mm, whereas in Ireland, including Northern Ireland, the measurement is 5' 3", or 1600 mm. You can see quite clearly therefore, that the trains of one system will simply not fit on the tracks of the other!
"Loading Gauge" on the other hand refers to the overhead clearances within which trains operate. Whilst in this case Northern Ireland and most of Great Britain are much the same, Continental Europe has a much more commodious Loading Gauge which allows articulated lorries to be carried by train, thereby removing them from the roads for the major portion of their journeys. In Great Britain Railtrack have now commenced increasing the loading gauge clearances to allow commercial vehicles to be carried on trains on certain routes, incuding the West Coast Main Line from Carlisle to London and the Channel Tunnel. This is the route that EUROTRACK IRELAND proposes to use.
Why regauge the track in Northern Ireland? EUROTRACK IRELAND has been challenged on this part of its proposals on a number of occasions, the following being put forward as the principal arguments against such a move:-
- The cost of regauging the track cannot possibly be justified, and would be too expensive.
- The "Rail Freight Revolution" forecast for the UK mainland has not materialised, and there is little possibility of the situation being any different in Northern Ireland.
- The time factor for delivery of freight to Europe is not critical and therefore a faster service is unlikely to attract a great deal of traffic.
- The change of gauge will cut the Northern Ireland railway system off from the Republic of Ireland.
- A difference of about 5½ inches in the track gauge won't make any difference.
- It is not possible to operate two different track gauges in Northern Ireland.
- Ireland has used this gauge for over 150 years, there is no need to change it now.
Perhaps the following explanations may give some insight into the reasoning behind the steps proposed by EUROTRACK IRELAND, and possibly answer a few other questions along the way:-
- Because of Northern Ireland's position on the periphery of Europe, and the fact that Ireland is the only major land mass within the European Community that does not have an overland link with mainland Europe, we need to reduce the effects of our peripheral position by providing a totally integrated system for the transfer of freight between the Province and the European mainland, which, the government has told us, is to be our principal market for exports. A truly intermodal operation which allows road vehicles to be carried by rail for the major portion of their journeys is not physically possible at the present time because of the difference in track gauge between Ireland and the rest of Europe. Spain and Portugal have a similar track gauge problem, but both countries are in process of regauging the routes which link them to other European countries.
- Over the years Northern Ireland has lost a great many investment opportunities because many international manufacturing companies who have considered Northern Ireland as a European base have rejected it on the grounds that the infrastructure for the transportation of their finished products to customers in Europe is totally inadequate, a fact which only goes to emphasise how our peripheral position in relation to mainland Europe affects our ability attract industry and inward investment. That is not in any way a reflection on the road haulage operators, who provide the fastest and most efficient service they possibly can, within the restraints of their operational ability, but who are being strangled by escalating fuel costs, increased vehicle registration fees, ever tightening European regulations, and the fact that it is a long way by road from Northern Ireland to mainland Europe.
With the system that EUROTRACK IRELAND proposes to introduce, delivery times to Europe could be reduced by up to 60%, operating costs of the road hauliers could be reduced considerably, and much new investment (and associated employment) could be attracted to Northern Ireland, none of which can be achieved whilst the railway system is out of gauge with the UK and the rest of Europe, and is thereby incapable of providing a totally intermodal system of operation.
- One of the arguments against the change of gauge, and indeed against EUROTRACK IRELAND's proposed intermodal system, is the fact that delivery times to Europe are not critical, and therefore a faster service is unlikely to attract much traffic. This argument can be counterbalanced by the fact that air freight traffic between Northern Ireland and Europe is increasing dramatically because of the need for faster, more efficient delivery!
What EUROTRACK IRELAND is proposing by the change of track gauge is to offer a system which will allow for faster delivery of all types of freight to the European marketplace. Whilst delivery times in some cases may not be critical, it would be a foolish road haulier who would not use a system which would allow him to deliver the goods to/for his customer faster, reduce his overheads, save wear and tear on his vehicles, reduce his driver hours, improve his profitability, and yet enable him to have his vehicle back in Belfast in less time than it currently takes it to go one way! Whilst delivery times may not be crucial, profit to the haulage operator, and to his customers, is a major factor! A manufacturer who can guarantee earlier, or equal delivery times from Northern Ireland, compared to his counterparts on the UK mainland, will have a greater opportunity of becoming a major player in the European marketplace.
- The latest report produced by A D Little & Co, on behalf of Northern Ireland Railways, advised that N.I.R. requires an expenditure of some £183 million over the next ten years, simply to maintain the present levels of safety. That figure does not take into consideration:-
- Any development of the present system, or reinstatement of closed lines.
- Any additional maintenance that may become necessary during that time.
- The present government subsidy which is currently in access of £9 million per annum.
- The current operating losses which are running at around £1.4 million per annum, and which must be recovered from some source.
- Allowing for these additional items, the total cost to government suddenly becomes a figure in the region of £350 - 400 million over that ten year period, with no guarantee of a return, but rather with the strong possibility of mounting losses under the present operating regime!
EUROTRACK IRELAND is preparing to put in place the funding to undertake the necessary work to the track, to provide a new Management team who will undertake not only the upgrading of the present system, but who will also look seriously at the reinstatement of closed routes, the provision of a direct freight route to Europe, the provision of new rolling stock, and the implementation of a programme which will make the system more attractive to the travelling public, thereby attracting additional revenue, whilst rationalising operating costs. Other benefits of the change of track gauge have already been detailed above or will be evident from the remainder of this document. EUROTRACK IRELAND's directors believe that they can turn Northern Ireland's railways into a profitable undertaking, and that, in line with the Private Train Operators in the rest of the United Kingdom, the government subsidy could be phased out over the period of the next ten years, rather than the government's expenditure having to increase.
- Alteration of the track gauge will allow EUROTRACK IRELAND to purchase or lease rolling stock from UK mainland manufacturers, or Train Leasing Companies, without the additional expense involved in design alterations because of the difference in track gauge, or the additional costs incurred for conversion of existing stock. It will also create a situation whereby additional stock can be acquired quickly, if required, because of its ready availability, rather than having to wait two years, as Translink have found to be the case, for the delivery of new trains.
- The recent report by A D Little & Co, referred to above, advised that several portions of the present system need to have the trackwork replaced. These include:-
- The Belfast - Bangor line
- The Belfast - Larne line
- The Coleraine - Portrush branch
- Much of the line between Antrim and Londonderry
Considering the sections that require attention there is very little of the present system that does not need its track replaced, these being the Belfast - Dublin route which has recently been upgraded, and on which EUROTRACK IRELAND would not be proposing to change the gauge anyway, and the Lisburn - Antrim - Bleach Green line. This being the case, the cost of actual alteration to the track gauge would be minimal, as most of the portion on which the gauge change is proposed needs replacing anyway! The present run-down condition of the system therefore offers a unique opportunity to provide Northern Ireland with a rail system which will be fully compatible with the rest of the UK and Europe, and which will have the capacity to provide considerably greater benefits to the entire community. EUROTRACK IRELAND believes that the cost of the change of track gauge can therefore be fully justified, the alteration being carried out within the framework of the track renewal process that A D Little & Co has identified as being necessary.
- EUROTRACK IRELAND has identified an additional freight traffic flow which currently by-passes Ireland, but which could be easily, cost effectively, and efficiently routed through Northern Ireland. At the present time there is a considerable volume of containerised traffic from the United States and Canada to Europe. Most of the vessels that carry this traffic by-pass Northern Ireland enroute to European ports, the journey time from passing Northern Ireland, to for example, Hamburg or Rotterdam, being about two days; they usually have a day lying off the port waiting to dock, following which they unload, reload, and return via the same route, passing Northern Ireland again about two days later. If we can successfully direct these vessels into Londonderry Port, the containers could be transferred to rail for trans-shipment to Europe, where they could be delivered to their recipients in a matter of hours, thereby saving the vessel operator five days sailing time; constituting a considerable saving on the operating costs of a vessel of that size. Return loads could be waiting at Londonderry Port to be loaded for the return journey.
There is no guarantee that this traffic could be secured, but it is another possible advantage to be gained from the change of track gauge, and it is a traffic flow which EUROTRACK IRELAND proposes to investigate fully. It is however a volume of traffic that could not possibly be considered if the railways are retained in their present form.
- At the present time the main drive by government appears to be to attract investment and jobs in the IT industry by the development of Call Centres etc, Whilst this has created much needed employment it has resulted in a decline of manufacturing industries, a situation which cannot be sustained indefinitely. The manufacturing industry is vitally important to the future economic development of Northern Ireland, and EUROTRACK IRELAND believes that the implementation of its proposals can offer the opportunity for the development of new manufacturing industries in the Province by attracting international manufacturing companies looking for a foothold in the European marketplace. This cannot be done unless we are in a position to offer such companies a fast, efficient, and cost effective system for the delivery of their products to mainland Europe. As stated earlier, Northern Ireland has already lost many such opportunities, and cannot afford to lose any more.
- A major concern of government at the present time is Environmental Pollution, and this is particularly relevant in and around Belfast. Currently, large numbers of heavy freight vehicles travel via the M1, M3 and M2 en route to the ports of Belfast or Larne. The same vehicles, on leaving the vessels at Stranraer or Cairnryan, travel along the A75 to Dumfries, on to Carlisle, and then drive the full length of England via the M6 to reach mainland Europe; creating considerable environmental pollution along the way.
If the proposals of EUROTRACK IRELAND are implemented, these vehicles will be removed from the road network at the Maze on the M1, and will not be returned to road until they are close to their final destination on the European mainland, with through routes being available by rail to Spain, Germany, Italy and Belgium etc, During the main portion of their journey therefore the vehicles will not turn a wheel, thereby reducing environmental pollution in Northern Ireland, in Scotland, along the full length of England, and the countries through which they would normally travel. Each train will, under present operating restrictions, remove in the region of 30 to 40 vehicles from the road network, and in doing so will reduce Environmental Pollution and improve traffic flows.
- From press statements it would appear that the Department of Regional Development has been considering the possibility of Public Private Partnerships (PPP's), and is apparently considering adopting the same system that has been put in place on the UK mainland, only with the Department possibly retaining control of the track, and the operation of trains being Franchised to Private Operators. The Directors of EUROTRACK IRELAND believe that such an idea could certainly be made to work in Northern Ireland, but, as on the UK mainland, it would not be to the advantage of the travelling public.
Before the Private Operator calculates his fares he has to take into consideration the Access Charges of the track owner, who also has to make a profit; so straight away the fares are inflated to cover the profits of the track owner to allow sufficient funds to maintain and upgrade his trackwork, and with a bit extra added on to pay a dividend to his shareholders. The Train Operator can then calculate his own operating costs, add sufficient to make a profit to maintain his rolling stock, possibly pay for the lease of his rolling stock, plus a bit extra to keep his own shareholders happy. The Operator then adds the two calculations together to determine his fare, whilst the passenger in the meantime is contributing to the profits of two different companies, and is paying for the dividends of two sets of shareholders.
EUROTRACK IRELAND believes that it is in the interest of the travelling public that the track and trains be under the same ownership, not only for the reasons given, but also for the reason that, if the Train Operator controls his own track, he can operate additional trains as and when necessary without consultation with a separate track owner, by whom such requests can often be refused, particularly if additional operations are to be carried out at short notice, as is often the case.
- At the present time the only options available to those travelling between Northern Ireland and London are:-
- By Air.
- By Ulsterbus/National Express Coach.
- By taking their own car.
With the implementation of its proposed change of track gauge EUROTRACK IRELAND intends to introduce a fast rail service between the two capitals, thereby providing the traveller with a fast, comfortable, no fuss service which will offer a compromise between air and coach. Two services a day in each direction are to be considered initially, one leaving each Capital at about lunch time, and an overnight sleeper service leaving late each evening. With the upgrading of the West Coast Main Line the travelling time between the two cities is expected to be in the region of 7½ hours, that being from city centre to city centre. With the proposed reinstatement of the direct rail route between Stranraer/Cairnryan and Dumfries, the travel time could be reduced to under 6 hours.
- On the domestic front EUROTRACK IRELAND has looked closely at the services currently being provided, and a complete upgrade of domestic services is to be undertaken if the Company's proposals are implemented. These will include:-
- New trains for internal services.
- A new Timetable.
- A new Fare Structure.
- Possible new routes - those to be considered including:-
- Belfast - Newcastle and Ballynahinch.
- Comber - Newtownards.
- Portadown - Armagh.
- Goraghwood - Newry.
- Portadown - Dungannon.
- Kingsbog Junction - Ballyclare.
- Ballyclare - Larne with a new line from Ballymartin to Ballyclare. This will be principally a freight route to carry traffic between the freight depot at the Maze and Larne Harbour.
- A new "loop line" at Belfast to allow direct interchange between the Bangor and Larne lines.
- Possible new stations - these to include:-
- Belfast International Airport.
- Belfast City Airport.
- D5/Tesco development at Tillysburn.
- New Platform at Holywood for short commuter workings.
- New Marketing Strategy
- A number of other new initiatives which are currently being kept under wraps.
All the arguments advanced so far are explaining why the acquisition of Northern Ireland Railways by EUROTRACK IRELAND, and the implementation of the proposals for regauging the track, are to the advantage of the future economic development of Northern Ireland. In looking at the advantages, it is difficult to find valid reasons why those proposals should not be implemented, but it is only fair that the negative side should also be considered. The following therefore are the points to be considered AGAINST such a move:-
- From a historic viewpoint Irish railways have always been "different" from those of the rest of the British Isles. They have had an atmosphere and an aura that has been all their own, and there is the danger that the regauging process could result in the loss of much of that individuality. It would certainly mean that groups such as the Railway Preservation Society of Ireland (RPSI), who operate their preserved steam trains on the present 1600 mm gauge track, would be unable to operate on most of the lines within Northern Ireland, although they would still be able to run on the main line between Great Victoria Street station in Belfast and Dublin, a route which would not be regauged, and throughout the railway system of the Republic of Ireland. The use of the Belfast - Dublin route has now also been restricted to the RPSI following the recent upgrade, and they are no longer permitted to operate vintage carriages on this route.
This loss could however be offset by the importation of steam locomotives from the UK mainland for the operation of special steam trains by EUROTRACK IRELAND, or by the RPSI, something which has hitherto been impossible, but which the company has already considered and investigated. The tourism potential of such operations could be quite substantial, and the belief is that these trains would attract considerable overseas attention, and could result in the "loss" becoming a substantial "gain". Also, there comes a time when sentimentality has to give way to economic and to commercial viability. In Northern Ireland's case that time has arrived!
- Clearly, if EUROTRACK IRELAND were to purchase Northern Ireland Railways outright, government would loose its interest in this particular area of Public Transport, although government support would still be required for the passing of the legislation which will be necessary to allow for the change of track gauge. The loss of ownership of the system would be offset by the removal of the financial burden on government, thereby leaving the investment normally assigned to the railways available for other purposes such as Education or Health.
For over 150 years the railways of Ireland have been at a considerable disadvantage because of the difference in track gauge. Northern Ireland is now in a position whereby, because of its peripheral position in relation to mainland Europe, changing market trends, and the development of the Single European Market, it can no longer afford the extravagance of a railway network that cannot "deliver the goods". Its peripheral position demands that the rail system must be fully integrated, and its rolling stock be fully interchangeable, with the railway networks of Great Britain and Europe.
The present state of the railway network offers a unique opportunity for present shortcomings to be reversed by regauging the track whilst replacing a system that is already worn out, and which the consultants have advised needs replacing anyway. The additional cost of such a change, in the present circumstances, would be minimal, but the benefits would be substantial.
Failure to grasp this opportunity will leave Northern Ireland permanently isolated from its European markets, and ultimately leave it industrially redundant!
NEW OPPORTUNITIES FOR
NORTHERN IRELAND'S RAILWAYS
EUROTRACK IRELAND is a project aimed at providing the northern part of the island of Ireland with a transportation system which will be capable of taking the region into the new Millennium, and into Europe. The promoters of the project are confident of achieving a number of objectives which will considerably improve both internal and external transportation for passengers and freight; will provide a foundation for improved economic development and will considerably improve the region's atmospheric environment.
Having taken on board the present state of Northern Ireland Railways which has recently been highlighted in the press, the Directors of EUROTRACK IRELAND consider the company to be ideally placed for take-over and have agreed to put together a financial package to purchase the company and its assets. EUROTRACK IRELAND's original proposal for the reinstatement of the lines of the former Belfast & County Down Railway is now to be considered as an extension of the present Northern Ireland Railways operation.
Having discussed the original proposals with a number of major companies, and in the light of the announcement made by Lord Dubs regarding possible privatisation of N.I.R., consideration is now to be given in the first instance to the possibility of acquiring from government what remains of the Northern Ireland railway system, and to superimpose the company's original proposals for freight and passenger development onto the N.I.R. network.
If this can be achieved it is intended to bring all the routes within Northern Ireland, with the exception of the Belfast-Dublin line, into line with the rest of the United Kingdom and Europe by re-gauging the system to the International track gauge of 1435mm. This will allow for the operation of freight from any part of Northern Ireland directly through to Europe, and will upgrade the whole system to International standards. Freight and ferry operations can be transferred to Larne instead of Belfast, although the possibility of a terminal at Belfast is not to be ruled out. Two freight routes will be available from the Maze, one via Antrim, and one via the proposed new route via Ballynahinch. Whilst the Antrim route will not initially have sufficient overhead clearances to carry road vehicles on 'Piggy-Back', it will still have the capability of handling containers and swap bodies; the construction of the new route via Ballynahinch will allow for vehicular traffic to be carried 'Piggy-Back' style, so the construction of the route must be considered to be a priority.
Alongside these developments it is proposed to introduce a system of diesel railcars which will operate on commuter routes, providing a circular service from Belfast via Bleach Green, Antrim, Lisburn, Ballynahinch, Saintfield and Comber, with a new service into Belfast International Airport. A similar service will also operate in the reverse direction.
All passenger services will be centred on Great Victoria Street Station, where connections from the remainder of the system, and from London, can be made with the Belfast - Dublin 'Enterprise'.
It is proposed to introduce new modern Diesel railcars with considerably upgraded accommodation on all internal services, and where possible, to introduce Park-and-Ride facilities.
NORTHERN IRELAND TRANSPORT
THE PRESENT POSITION
All public transport in Northern Ireland is presently under Government control, being the responsibility of the Department of Transport which is a subdivision of the Department of the Environment. The entire operation is overseen by the Minister for the Environment, and all bus and rail operations are currently under the combined management team of 'Translink'.
From 1948 all transport operations, both road and rail, were undertaken by the Ulster Transport Authority. In 1966 the 'Authority' was wound up and responsibility for transport operations was vested in the Northern Ireland Transport Holding Company which now owns all railway stations, bus depots, and all transport related property, but which itself is wholly-owned by the Department of Transport. The 'Holding Company' in turn established four separate operating companies:-
1. Northern Ireland Carriers, which was a road freight operation and which was subsequently disposed of.
2. Citybus, which is responsible for all public transport within the Belfast Municipal boundary, operating the services previously provided by the former Belfast Corporation Transport Department.
3. Ulsterbus, being the provider of road passenger services throughout the rest of Northern Ireland on routes previously operated by the Ulster Transport Authority. Additionally there are services to various destinations in the Republic of Ireland, which are operated in association with Bus Eireann, and to a number of destinations in the United Kingdom in association with National Express. A parcel service is also operated on most routes.
4. Northern Ireland Railways, operating what remains of the rail network in Northern Ireland. The Company also operates the cross border route between Belfast and Dublin in conjunction with Irish Rail. No freight services whatsoever are operated by N.I.R., although a somewhat limited freight service is operated on the Belfast - Dublin route by Irish Rail, based on the Adelaide Freight Depot near Belfast.
Until recently, all three remaining companies operated quite independently, each having its own Board of Management, and indeed Ulsterbus and N.I.R. competed on numerous routes.
Northern Ireland Railways Co Ltd is currently under the control of the combined management team of 'Translink', a team which is also responsible for the operation of all bus services in Northern Ireland. The company is currenty in a state of disarray, rolling stock being prone to 'lie down' quite regularly, resulting in delays and cancelled services and thereby creating problems for passengers.
There has been little or no government investment for a very, very long time, other than on the Belfast - Dublin line which is operated jointly with Irish Rail, that investment being made only because there was a substantial European subsidy. Neither is there any possibility of government investment in the near future and there is a fear that the company may founder because of its inability to maintain services.
Since the 1840's the railways of Ireland have operated on a track gauge of 1600mm, whilst the rest of the UK and Europe has used the international gauge of 1435mm. Irish railways have therefore been totally isolated, a situation which has been of little consequence until now, when, with the opening of the Channel Tunnel, Ireland has become totally isolated from the rest of Europe.
Since its formation in 1966 Northern Ireland Railways has carried no freight what-so-ever, concentrating its efforts entirely on passenger services.
The company is presently ideally placed for take-over, and we at EUROTRACK IRELAND believe that the proposals which we have formulated offer a unique opportunity for the system's development. Next to the continuation of peace in Northern Ireland, these proposals offer the greatest possible opportunity for the future economic development of both Northern Ireland and the border counties of the Irish Republic, and will make the Province a more attractive proposition for US manufacturing companies looking for a base which will allow for easy and direct access to the European Marketplace. The Company has received support from all shades of political opinion in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland Railways currently operate the remnants of what was once an extensive railway network in Northern Ireland. Only passenger services are operated, freight being handled by Irish Rail, and all lines are operated on the standard Irish gauge of 1600mm (5'3").
In 1948 the railways in Northern Ireland were absorbed, along with all road transport, into the Ulster Transport Authority, the lines of the Great Northern Railway remaining independent until 1958 when those also became part of the UTA. Unfortunately the Ulster Transport Authority was very much a road orientated organisation, and little or no effort was made to return the railways to profitability.
Within a few weeks of its formation the UTA Board announced the closure of the entire Belfast & County Down Railway system, with the exception of the Belfast - Bangor branch, and very soon afterwards many of the lines of the former London, Midland & Scottish Railway - Northern Counties Committee were also closed. On acquiring the former Great Northern Lines in 1958 many of those were soon closed, and by the end of 1965 only the Belfast - Dublin main line of the former GNR(I) remained open. The Lisburn - Antrim branch was subsequently re-opened by N.I.R. solely for the purpose of linking the two parts of the network, as no connection between the former GNR(I) and NCC lines was available following the closures of 1965.
Passenger services are currently operated on the following routes:-
1. Belfast - Bangor
2. Belfast - Larne
3. Belfast - Londonderry
4. Colraine - Portrush
5. Lisburn - Antrim
6. Belfast - Dublin (In association with Irish Rail)
At the present time rail services appear to be based more on the convenience of operating practices than on the provision of services for the convenience of the travelling public. Because of the return to the single Board of Management greater emphasis is clearly being placed on the development of road transport. There is no doubt what-so-ever that the Cross-City rail link at Belfast was built only because European funding was available. Had that funding not been available the future of the railway network would have been in serious doubt.
During the past 50 years there has been a very serious lack of investment in the railway system, and a distinct lack of desire to make the railways pay their way. Public opinion of the railways is at an all-time low, and it is going to take considerable effort to turn this situation around and to persuade the travelling public to make full use of the services. Given the desire and the will of the Board of Directors of EUROTRACK IRELAND to achieve this aim, there is no doubt what-so-ever that, given the necessary investment, this can not only be achieved, but can be achieved on a grand scale!
Belfast - Bangor (12 miles)
Because Bangor is only 12 miles from Belfast, literally thousands of people commute to Belfast on a daily basis. For most of the route the railway line runs close to the main Belfast - Bangor road, a good proportion of which is Dual Carriageway, and because of this, and the public image of the railways, a great many people use their own cars, whilst Ulsterbus offer a directly competing service. Having said that, the Belfast - Bangor line is the busiest route in Northern Ireland, carrying a heavy commuter traffic in the mornings and evenings, and a busy tourist traffic during the Summer season, but this volume could be considerably increased if the service were to be improved, the trains upgraded, and the whole system made more 'passenger friendly'!
Belfast - Larne (24 miles)
Being the direct route between Belfast and Larne Harbour (offering the shortest sea crossing between Ireland and the UK mainland), one would expect this line to be reasonably busy, but nothing could be further from the truth. The line carries a degree of commuter traffic, particularly on the portion of the line between Whitehead and Belfast, but this is minimal in relation to the traffic potential.
Because the passenger ferries at Larne are all Drive-On/Drive-Off, the majority of traffic attracted to the port is vehicular traffic, and only the odd foot passenger uses the train. Furthmore, with the withdrawal of services, particularly the overnight sleeper services on the UK mainland, it is now impossible to travel by rail to London or any of the principal cities in the UK, so the only alternative for intending passengers is to use the air services out of Aldergrove or City Airport at Belfast. The only overland routes are the Ulsterbus/National Express coach services, which are more a test of endurance than a comfortable alternative.
The future of the line between Whitehead and Larne is questionable, and indeed the Benson Report of 1963 suggested its closure.
The Company, considering its proposals for the reinstatement of the Stranraer/Cairnryan - Dumfries line, and the provision of a through service from Belfast to London, consider the future of this route to be vitally important to the future economic development of Northern Ireland. It is also considered that with the improvements which the Company proposes in customer services, comfort, track and rolling stock up grading, this route could be made to be extremely profitable.
Belfast - Coleraine - Londonderry (92½ miles)
Coleraine - Portrush (6 miles)
The Belfast - Londonderry route suffers from the severely competitive services operated by Ulsterbus. When one considers that the time taken for the journey by train, which is supposedly the faster mode of transport, is almost double that taken by the competing bus service, it does not take a genius to conclude that there is something seriously wrong. The average train journey from Belfast to Londonderry takes 2½ hours, which works out at an average 37 miles per hour. The alternative bus service can complete the journey, albeit by a more direct route, in 1½ hours.
The fault lies not only in the public image of the railways, but also the fact that the rail route has been so badly neglected over the years to the extent that there are speed restrictions of only 30 miles per hour in place at various locations. There is also the fact that the rail service takes a more circuitous route than the competing bus services, but there is no reason why, given proper track maintenance, that trains could not at least equal the bus as regards timings.
The Portrush branch, which leaves the main line at Coleraine, should be a busy tourist route during the summer, as Portrush is one of the principal tourist resorts in Northern Ireland. The resort of Portrush was promoted by the former London, Midland & Scottish Railway - Northern Counties Committee as a major tourist destination, but has shown serious decline since the transfer of all rail services to the UTA in 1948, and more recently whilst in ownership of N.I.R.. It was once a regular destination for Sunday School Excursion traffic from both Belfast and Londonderry, but because of the shortage of rolling stock the UTA and later N.I.R. put such a high price on such operations that they were lost to road transport.
The line also serves the campus of the University of Ulster at Coleraine, but the fare structure is such that few students can afford to use the services.
The Company believes that with the upgrading necessary for the carrying of freight services on the Londonderry route, the provision of new passenger rolling stock, the improvements to customer services, and a desire to win back much of the tourist traffic, these routes could be made to provide a good return on investment.
Lisburn - Antrim (20 miles)
The Lisburn - Antrim line was closed by the Ulster Transport Authority in the 1960s but was later reopened by Northern Ireland Railways purely as a link for the movement of rolling stock between the former NCC and GNR lines, as no connection between the two systems existed at Belfast. A limited passenger service is operated between Lisburn and Antrim, and although the line passes close to the Belfast International Airport at Aldergrove, no attempt has been made to link it into the airport terminal. In fact Mr Ted Hesketh, the Managing Director of the combined transport organisation (Translink) recently stated publicly there is not seen to be a necessity for such a link as there is an adequate bus service between Belfast Europa Bus Centre and the airport.
With the proposed reopening of the line between Bleach Green and Antrim, which is now scheduled for 2001, having been originally scheduled for 1996, fears have been expressed that it is not beyond the realms of possibility that the Lisburn - Antrim line will be closed as traffic is so light.
The Company can see a good future for passenger traffic on this route. It is our proposal to provide a link into the International Airport, and to operate a service of modern diesel railcars on a circular route serving Belfast, the International Airport, and various major towns along the way. This line is seen however as the most important part of the system in relation to freight operations, being the direct link between the proposed International Freight Depot at the Maze, and the Port of Larne. It is imperative therefore that the Company can put its financial package in place, and secure the Northern Ireland Railway network before any drastic steps can be taken to terminate services on this vital artery.
BELFAST - DUBLIN (112 miles)
The Belfast - Dublin route is presently operated jointly by Northern Ireland Railways and Irish Rail, each taking responsibility for track maintenance in their own respective areas, and each providing their own units for the operation of services. The principal services on this route are the Inter-City "Enterprise" expresses which operate regular non-stop services between the two cities. Additionally there are other through services which also call at Lisburn, Lurgan, Portadown and Newry, in Northern Ireland, making additional stops at various stations in the Republic of Ireland, with six such workings in the opposite direction; all Sunday services are so operated. Other through suburban services are operated between Bangor and Portadown, calling at Belfast Central and the various smaller stations en route.
The Inter-City services are presently being up-graded with new locomotives and rolling stock, and approximately £100 million, about 80% of which came from Europe, has been spent on the general upgrading of the route. Accelerated services have recently been introduced and have reduced the journey time between the two cities to just under two hours.
Suburban services however are suffering from the same complaints as the rest of the system - under funding, old and shabby rolling stock, and a general lack of public interest and support, this being the result of many years of neglect.
Like the rest of the N.I.R. network, this route is operated on the standard Irish track gauge of 1600mm, and because it is totally integrated into the suburban network of Irish Rail around Dublin, it would be impossible to re-gauge the route in isolation from the lines south of the border. For that reason therefore the Company considers it necessary to retain this route to its present gauge, as it can easily be accommodated at Great Victoria Station in Belfast without affecting other operations, which can quite easily be operated in isolation from the Belfast - Dublin services.
The Company would consider some improvements on the Inter-City services, but the main improvements on the route must be for the benefit of commuters on the Belfast - Newry portion of the line, these being in line with the improvements to be implemented on the remainder of the network.
The assets of Northern Ireland Railways, as detailed in the 1996 Annual Report, are valued at £168,894,003, with a depreciation, allowed to the end of March 1996 of £68,678,391 leaving the company valued at £100,215,612. In the year to 31st March 1996, N.I.R. incurred an operating deficit of £831,836 and received grants totalling £19,973,529. The company cannot therefore, in its present state, be considered as a commercially viable operation.
In order to turn these losses around EUROTRACK IRELAND believes that the measures detailed in this document are absolutely essential, and if implemented, will provide Northern Ireland with a rail network which will be extremely profitable, and which will assist in the future economic development of the Province, as well as in the development of the border counties of the Irish Republic. It will enable Ireland as a whole to become a fully integrated member of the European Community, and will provide a basis for attracting inward investment, job creation, environmental improvement and tourism development.
To bring these proposals to fruition the company proposes to raise finance to the value of approximately £500,000,000, the final figure to be determined by the completion of detailed Feasibility Studies which have been the subject of discussion between the Company and its consulting engineers Mott McDonald.
FREIGHT, WAREHOUSING AND DISTRIBUTION CENTRE
The site chosen as the ideal location for this depot is on land sandwiched between the M1 motorway and the Maze Prison. This location will allow the company to utilise a portion of the former Great Northern Railway (Ireland) track-bed alignment which once ran from Knockmore Junction to Dromore, passing close by the Maze Prison. A fair proportion of the embankments are still intact. It will allow for direct road access to, and from, the motorway, with easy access also available to and from the A3
The construction of a proposed link road between the M1 and the A3 could possibly follow an adjacent alignment, and would serve to draw heavy freight traffic away from the Sprucefield Roundabout, which is an area principally reserved for retail outlets, thereby making life easier for motorists visiting the various shopping complexes in that area, and making the access to and from the A3 much more convenient for freight operators.
The impending closure of the Maze Prison within the next few years, and the fact that a rail-connected development will be located on the land adjoining it, will offer an absolutely unique opportunity for the development of the Maze site as an Industrial Estate housing manufacturing industries. This will offer the ideal location for those international manufacturing companies whom the Government are currently trying to attract to Northern Ireland, namely those seeking a foothold in the European Marketplace, as it will be adjacent to a depot that has the ability to provide direct rail connections into the manufacturing plants located on this site, both for the export to Europe of finished products, and for the import of raw materials.
The company envisages this depot becoming the hub for Irish freight movements to and from Europe and the United Kingdom, with rail connected warehousing and distribution facilities being developed on site.
ADDITIONAL FREIGHT TRAFFIC FLOWS
As well as the outward and inward flow of goods between Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom and Europe, EUROTRACK IRELAND has been studying other possibilities for attracting freight traffic, and a potential major market has been identified and is currently being investigated as an additional source of traffic; USA - Europe!
On the surface this may appear to be a strange, or rather unlikely source of traffic for Northern Ireland, but the potential is there, and can only be tapped into if the company's proposals are fully implemented, and the line within Northern Ireland are regauged to bring them into line with the rest of the United Kingdom and Europe.
At the present time there is a considerable traffic in containerised freight from the United States and Canada to Europe, and vice versa. The vessels which carry this traffic usually dock at Rotterdam, where there is quite often up to 48 hours delay in docking, followed by unloading and reloading for the return journey. If we can attract these vessels into either Londonderry or Belfast, we can comfortably transfer their cargoes to rail (with considerably reduced docking fees), and we can have the containers into Europe, via the Channel Tunnel, in a matter of 12-14 hours, at considerably less cost.
Such an operation could reduce the sailing time from USA/Canada to Europe by as much as two days on a single journey; avoid the delay of up to 48 hours for berthing to be available, and two days sailing on the return journey. The total time saved therefore could amount to about six days (or 33%) on a return voyage, which would be a considerable saving for any vessel operator!
The company's only concern regarding this type of operation would be the availability of capacity on the West Coast Main Line to cope with such an increase in traffic flow, and the ability of ourselves and our UK partners to meet the demand.
COUNTY DOWN ROUTES
The Belfast & County Down Railway Company operated a main line some 38 miles in length, from Belfast (Queen's Quay Station) to Newcastle at the foot of the Mourne Mountains, with short branches to Bangor, Donaghadee, Ballynahinch, Ardglass and Castlewellan. The line carried considerable commuter traffic, with Queen's Quay being one of the busiest stations in Ireland, particularly during the "Rush Hour". There was also a very considerable volume of Tourist and holiday traffic between Belfast and Newcastle, the latter being one of the most popular seaside resorts in the whole of Ireland.
In 1948, following the formation of the Ulster Transport Authority, the B&CDR became one of the first casualties under the new "bus mad" regime, the entire system, with the exception of the Belfast - Bangor line (which is now operated by Northern Ireland Railways), being closed in early 1950, just over one year after Nationalisation.
Since 1950, there has been considerable population growth in the suburban areas of east Belfast which the line served, and also in the towns of Comber, Newtownards, Ballygowan, Saintfield, Ballynahinch, Crossgar, Downpatrick and Newcastle. Since the closure of the line road traffic on the southern and eastern approaches to Belfast, all of which originates in the aforementioned towns, has become so bad during peak traffic periods that an alternative means of transport is now considered to be an absolute necessity. There has also, over the same period, been considerable growth in the tourist traffic entering Newcastle (which is now one of Northern Ireland's premier seaside resorts), particularly during the summer season.
It is the Company's proposal therefore:-
1) To reinstate the main line of the former Belfast & County Down Railway from Belfast to Newcastle, along with the branch line from Ballynahinch Junction to Ballynahinch, with a further extension to The Maze, near Lisburn, using track to the standard international gauge of 4' 8½" (1435mm) rather than the normal Irish gauge of 5'3" (1600mm).
2) To reinstate the branch line from Comber to Newtownards, principally as a commuter line.
3) To construct the line with additional overhead clearances to allow for the transportation of road freight vehicles "piggyback" style. This type of service will not be available to Europe until such time as the West Coast Main Line has been upgraded by Railtrack to allow 4.13 metre overhead clearances, the work on which we understand is already well advanced. In the meantime it will be possible to operate other freight services using containers, RoadRailers and conventional rail vehicles.
4) To use modern Diesel railcars to provide a commuter service between Belfast and Newcastle, and Belfast and Ballynahinch, which will be aimed at relieving the traffic congestion on the southern and eastern approaches to Belfast.
5) By the provision of an electrification system between Belfast, Comber, and Newtownards, to operate this part of the route as a Light Rapid Transit System (LRT), which will be extended over the present system into Great Victoria Street.
6) During the course of development, consideration will be given to the possibility of linking the LRT system to the new Millennium Project at Queen's Quay and to the provision of a new tramway system to the City Hall in Belfast.
7) To provide an alternative means of transport whereby tourists and local residents can gain access to Newcastle during peak holiday periods. Newcastle is one of Northern Ireland's premier holiday resorts, and attracts a very considerable tourist traffic. There is also a very large volume of daily commuter traffic to and from Belfast.
Because all other Irish railways operate on a gauge of 5' 3" (1600mm), their rolling stock is not compatible with the 4'8½" (1435mm) track gauge which is in use throughout the rest of the United Kingdom or Europe. It is proposed however to locate an interchange facility at the Maze where containers can be transferred from Irish Rail wagons to standard gauge vehicles for the remainder of their journey to the UK mainland, or onwards to Europe.
The overall cost of the project is presently estimated to be in the region of £400 million, which will require to be raised from private sources. The estimated cost of the Feasibility Studies, as outlined by Mott MacDonald, will be in the region of £300,000 - £350,000.
An application for the funding of a feasibility study was lodged with the Department of Environment in Belfast in order to secure funds from the Northern Ireland Regional Structural Fund. This application was rejected by the Department but funding was given instead to the Northern Ireland Transport Holding Company to fund a study for a proposed 'Concrete Bus-way' along the former railway track-bed between Belfast and Dundonald, a portion of the line which forms a major part of the B&CDR Company's proposal.
Any enquiries regarding these proposals should be directed to:-
9 Kilbright Road
Co Down, BT22 2HQ
Tel/Fax: (028) 91 862075
THE LIGHT RAIL ROUTES
The proposed Light Rail Transit (LRT) operation will be provided on the route between Belfast City Centre and Comber with an extension from Comber on a branch line to Newtownards. This will incorporate an overhead electrical system using the most modern tramcar vehicles available.
Between the junction with the Bangor line and Comber, the system will operate on the normal Heavy Rail route. Whilst main line trains on this portion of the line will use conventional platforms, a low portion of platform, being the equivalent of a street level footpath, will be provided for use by LRT vehicles.
At Ballymacarrett Junction the L.R.T. will leave the normal route to become a street tramway to the City Hall and back, (also serving the Odyssey Complex - see map). The line will operate on a 'consolidated one-way route', being the equivalent of a 'bus lane', and will therefore be unaffected by road traffic congestion. It is intended that road traffic signals will be controlled from the cabs of the vehicles, thereby allowing priority to LRT vehicles, so that timings can be maintained. Passengers travelling by ordinary service trains from stations beyond Comber, on the route to Newcastle may change to the L.R.T. services at any of the stations beyond Comber and Bloomfield, and thereby gain access to the City centre at no extra charge.
The route from Comber to Newtownards will be constructed purely as a Light Rapid Transit system, not having the capability of carrying conventional heavy rail trains or freight traffic, and as such will be able to utilise routes, such as along roadways, not available to normal rail traffic. The terminus at Newtownards is proposed to be incorporated into the Castle Bawn development, but consideration is also being given to an alternative terminus near the Ards Shopping Centre.
Depending on the success of this operation, future extensions of the system to Bangor and Larne will be considered.
Why Do We Believe That We Can Make Railways Pay When N.I.R. Can't?
At the present time all public transport in Northern Ireland is under a single Board of Management with the composite name of Translink. In the year that this combined management team was initiated, the Combined Annual Reports of the government-owned transportation companies showed a 'Special Item', being redundancies paid to staff following the amalgamation of some departments. It is interesting that all redundancies were shown in the N.I.R. Accounts, with no comparable figures in the Accounts of Citybus or Ulsterbus, this surely being a true reflection of the attitude of the new Management Team towards the railways side of their operation, and clearly indicating their bus pedigree.
Translink operates a passenger only service, and the railway side of the operation receives a subsidy from government of £9.4 million (1998), being the equivalent of approximately £1.24 per travelling passenger. Rolling stock is generally well past its 'sell by date' with many of the vehicles being over 30 years old, and the company does not have sufficient stock to be able to cater for special events, or large groups, these being referred to Ulsterbus. In relation to the standard of service and the quality of the trains, fares are generally quite expensive.
The attitude of the Present Board of Management of Translink has already been referred to earlier in this document, and the present trend clearly indicates that every effort is being made to boost bus services to the detriment of the railways. The railway network of Northern Ireland will never be made to make a profit whilst it is under the management of the bus operators, and it will only be by placing the system into the Private Sector under the guidance of people who have a genuine interest in making it a viable operation, that there will be any chance of improvement.
EUROTRACK IRELAND proposes to introduce a completely new fare structure which will be aimed at making rail travel more attractive to the commuter, and by the introduction of more modern trains, as well as new commuter services, to provide a cheaper and more efficient service. The introduction of Park-and-Ride facilities will also be aimed at attracting the daily traveller, as will a number of other measures which we are currently keeping under wraps.
By the introduction of freight services it is proposed to widen the scope for the development of the railways in a way which has been ignored for the last 40 years, and we believe that a very considerable volume of traffic is available on a daily basis - we estimate in the region of 6 trains per day, as opposed to the 0.6 which the 'Combined Transport Links' study suggested. The introduction of a through passenger service to London will also provide an alternative means of travel for those who do not like to fly, but who still require a fast efficient service.
The reinstatement of the Newcastle route will provide for considerable summer traffic, as will the upgrading of the route to Portrush, and the proposed introduction of additional stock will allow the company to be in a position to cater for special events by the operation of additional services, and the reintroduction of charter train facilities. The railways in Northern Ireland always had a very considerable charter train market, but with the run down of rail services this has now all gone to Ulsterbus.
The conversion to the International track gauge of 1435mm will allow for the immediate availability of additional stock, and will make Europe easily accessible from Northern Ireland.
We believe that the measures we propose to introduce will make the railways of Northern Ireland a commercially viable operation within a very short time, and in so doing will make the Province a more attractive proposition for those international companies seeking a foothold in Europe!
If fully implemented the Company's proposals will offer the following benefits to the business community, and to the general public of Northern Ireland:-
1. A direct overland link with mainland Europe for the transportation of passengers and freight.
2. An opportunity for Northern Ireland manufacturers and producers to compete on more favourable terms with their British and European counterparts.
3. A service which will enable Northern Ireland road hauliers to service their customers more efficiently, whilst reducing their own overheads and increasing their profits.
4. A service which will allow road hauliers to offer their customers a faster and more efficient door-to-door service between Northern Ireland and Europe, and which will considerably reduce the wear and tear on their vehicles and drivers.
5. A direct surface link for freight between Northern Ireland and other principal Cities of the United Kingdom.
6. A service which will remove many heavy vehicles from the roads of both Northern Ireland and the UK mainland, thereby reducing the potential for accidents, and the possibility of goods being damaged in transit.
7. A major tool for the attracting of Inward Investment to Northern Ireland, and the associated employment opportunities that investment will create. It will be possible to offer foreign investors wishing to create manufacturing plants here, a fast, efficient, and cost effective delivery service between Northern Ireland and European destinations, without the necessity for intermediate handling or trans-shipping of goods.
8. A service which will be of considerable benefit to all areas of Northern Ireland and the border counties of the Irish Republic.
9. A direct overland passenger service linking the centre of Belfast and the centre of London, and providing a connection with the Continental services of Eurostar, a service which can compete favourably with the airlines.
10. A direct surface link for passengers between Northern Ireland and other principal Cities of the United Kingdom.
11. A direct access to Northern Ireland for European visitors, and one which will be particularly valuable to both the Belfast Millennium Project and the Dundonald Ice Bowl and Leisure Complex when organising International events.
12. An opportunity for Northern Ireland to become a totally integrated member of the European Community.
13. A transportation system which will place Northern Ireland in a much better position to take advantage of the Single European Market, and which will prepare the province for development in the new Millennium.
14. A service which will link the centre of Belfast with the Dundonald Ice Bowl and Leisure Complex), and Newcastle, one of the country's premier seaside resorts.
15. A major transportation system serving all the busiest commuter catchment areas in Northern Ireland.
16. A solution to the traffic problems encountered by commuters in South and East Belfast.
17. A solution to the traffic problems encountered by the drivers of heavy freight vehicles on the West Link near Belfast, and on the main Belfast - Larne road.
18. An alternative means of transport for the people of County Down.
19. A solution to Newcastle's summer traffic problems.
20. A major tool for the promotion of Northern Ireland Tourism throughout Europe.
21. A service which will considerably improve the environment in Northern Ireland, particularly around Belfast, by removing many heavy freight vehicles from the roads around the city.
22. A service which will further improve the environment of Belfast by removing many private cars from the roads into Belfast, particularly at peak traffic periods, and which could also serve to reduce the number of atmosphere-polluting busses.
23. A service which will further improve the environment of the city by using electric traction, thereby reducing pollution, within 8 miles of the city centre.
24. A service which will provide for considerable environmental improvement on the UK mainland, as each train will remove approximately 50 heavy freight vehicles from the M6; vehicles which normally travel the full length of the UK mainland by road between Stranraer and Europe.
25. A privately owned transportation system which will be fully commercially viable, and which will not require government subsidy.
CONSIDERING THE ADVANTAGES THAT THESE PROPOSALS OFFER
FOR THE FUTURE DEVELOPMENT OF NORTHERN IRELAND,
CAN WE AFFORD NOT TO PROCEED?
Ashcroft Trailer Hire Ltd
11 Ormonde Ave
Co Antrim BT36 5AT
Telephone 01232 832641
Fax 01232 840291
Dr Mr R Pue
Thank you for sending me your proposals, I have read them with excitement and reservation. Excitement with the concept in respect of the road haulage and reservations with the cost and time scale in which it would take to become a reality.
Hauliers can no longer afford to send vehicle accompanied to Europe because there is no money in it for them. Your proposal offers light at the end of the tunnel. Now by keeping one truck at base or home and shipping 10-15 trailers per week to Europe via Dover or Felixstowe or Channel Tunnel etc they have full utilisation of man and machine, no vehicles idle on boats or trains, and a truck doing the work of three trucks.
I see the scheme starting in your proposed site at sprucefield and running to Larne or Belfast, tying up with other networks and dropping its cargo in various countries or drop zones for distribution by agents or subcontractors, saving the operator fuel and wear and tare.
Other benefits to the haulage industry are insurance costs should drop and with less fuel being used resulting in less overheads creating a door of opportunity to smaller operators to operate in Europe without actually going there. Rates would also stabilise because no one large company would be able to dominate the rates via volume. Smaller operators should look at this scheme as not a window of opportunity but a door.
From the back of a successful Dublin-Sprucefield-Belfast freight service, which will initially have to use the piggyback and container systems, a successful internal passenger system could be developed.
At present trailers here are not ready to use the RoadRailer method, because of the inability to hold their own axles off the ground, nor do they have the additional docking points for coupling to the rail bogie. Over a period of 8-10 years, haulage companies could achieve this due to natural progression and replacement policies.
I look forward to hearing or reading further reports on this project.
Ashcroft Trailer Hire Ltd
ANNEX 48TRAINING & EMPLOYMENT AGENCY
7 February 2000
Thank you for your letter of 27 January inviting comments on Strategy 2010 to assist your Committee's inquiry.
I should start by confirming that the Training & Employment Agency (T&EA) is an executive agency of the Department of Higher & Further Education, Training & Employment. The Agency has responsibility for the provision of a wide range of training and employment programmes and services. The Agency's Corporate and Operational Plans describe in detail its objectives and activities.
At its meeting in May 1999, the Agency's Board carefully considered the Strategy 2010 Report. The Board welcomed the Report, indicated support for it and encouraged the Agency to take appropriate action on those recommendations which fall within its remit. The Chairman of the Board wrote on 25 May to Mr Gerry Loughran, Permanent Secretary of the then Department of Economic Development and a copy of the letter is enclosed.
As a consequence the Agency is taking action on;
- a review of careers guidance provision
- the identification of the skills needs of the economy through the work of the Skills Task Force
- the Lifelong Learning agenda
- strengthening the role of the Northern Ireland Business Education Partnership
- initiatives aimed at creating the skills required in growth sectors such as IT and hospitality/tourism.
I hope your Committee finds this helpful but please come back to me if you need anything more.
Mr G Loughran Permanent Secretary
Department of Economic Development
BT4 2JP 25 May 1999
Thank you for your letter of 26 March enclosing a copy of the report of the Economic Deveopment Strategy Review Steering Group, Strategy 2010, which was published on 23 March.
The T&EA Board welcomed the opportunity to consider the report in detail and discuss the various recommendations outlined in the document.
On behalf of myself and T&EA Board members, may I begin by commending the high quality of the report and welcoming the approach applied by the Strategy Steering Group. Members noted the intention to submit the document to the Assembly and expressed the hope that this would help to distil from the very wide ranging list of recommendations a clear strategic direction and specific agenda for action.
The Board suggested concentrating on the main elements which would strategically address economic requirements for Northern Ireland. The breadth of the document left some Board members feeling that many of the recommendations were aspirational rather than strategic. Because of this many of the Board's specific recommendations related to the section on Skills and Education and in particular the Knowledge-Based economy.
The Board recommended a co-ordinated approach to implementing the strategy, welcomed the idea of a social partnership as a way forward and fully endorsed the recommendations regarding Equality and Social Inclusion.
Members agreed that the T&EA and DENI could, in partnership, immediately begin to take action on the following:
- A comprehensive review of the Careers Advisory Service.
- A clearer focus is required for the Further Education Sector building on the work already commenced through the Skills Task Force.
- Collaborative clusters of schools, businesses and colleges should be established together with a single organisation to deliver education and training needs tailored to the needs of the economy.
It was noted that there was a close correspondence with three of the key areas outlined in the Lifelong Learning consultation document "A New Learning Culture for All" and in particular to:
- provide a more coherent relationship between education and training provision and the skills needs of the regional economy;
- enhance collaboration between education and training providers and the world of business and industry;
- enhance significantly the information and communications technology (ICT) skills of teachers, instructors and students. This particular recommendation is fully in line with the Strategy 2010 thrust in developing a strategic approach to the information age.
Finally, the Board endorses the implementation of the Lifelong Learning agenda in full and, in particular, recommends that a review of the careers guidance service is undertaken by the Agency/DENI as an early action.
The Skills Task Force are already addressing some of the issues referred to in the Strategy 2010 document. I am thinking particularly of the fields of Information Technology and e-commerce. The Training and Employment Agency is currently running a 250 place Graduate IT Conversion programme.
This proved to be an interesting and enjoyable debate by the Board and I hope you find the above comments helpful.
ANNEX 49IDB NORTHERN IRELAND
cc: Mr Loughran
TO: 1. PS/Sir Reg Empey
2. Mrs Cathie White
Enterprise, Trade & Investment Committee
FROM: Bruce Robinson
DATE: 8 February 3000
STRATEGY 2010 REPORT
1. Mrs White's letter to me of 27 January invited the submission of comments to the Enterprise, Trade & Investment Committee on the above Report.
2. Last year the IDB Board discussed the Strategy 2010 Report in detail. Attached is a copy of a letter dated 10 June 1999 from IDB's Chairman, Dr Alan Gillespie, to Mr Gerry Loughran, Permanent Secretary, Department of Economic Development which summarises the IDB Board's views on the Report. You will note that the Annex to that letter gives comments on all the Strategy 2010 recommendations.
3. At the next meeting of the IDB Board, on 24 February, I shall inform Members that I have sent a copy of the Board's comments on Strategy 2010 to the Enterprise, Trade & Investment Committee. If the Board wishes to submit any additional comments about Strategy 2010, I shall, of course, arrange for such comments to be forwarded via the Minister's office to the Committee.
10 June 1999
Mr G Loughran
Department of Economic Development
My letter of 12 April indicated that the IDB Board would be discussing the Strategy 2010 Report on 29 April and that I would let you have the Board's comments on the Report following that meeting.
Given the Board's intense interest in 2010 our response was redrafted and discussed again at the May Board meeting. Consequently I delayed forwarding any comments pending that further discussion. It was also very helpful for the Board to be able to raise directly with you at the Board meeting some specific issues flowing from the Report and to hear that some of the recommendations were being implemented.
The Board welcomes the fact that Strategy 2010 is a business orientated document which raises a number of important issues relating to Northern Ireland's economic growth. The Board strongly believes the Report needs ownership, accountability, to be popularised and to be implemented quickly. We were, therefore, reassured by your comments about DED prioritising and timetabling the recommendations and, with Ministerial and Northern Ireland Party Political support, implementing a number of the recommendations.
IDB's Board is particularly keen to see greater flexibility and innovative thinking relating to the selective financial assistance package to ensure Northern Ireland remains competitive in the market for mobile investment. However it is not just in terms of financial incentives that Northern Ireland must remain competitive. We must ensure our education system equips our children and young people with the skills needed for today's workplace. Businesses must become more innovative and design driven, while transport and energy costs should not put Northern Ireland at a disadvantage. Strategy 2010 proposes actions in these areas and the IDB wholeheartedly endorses those recommendations. The Board also supports the action you are proposing concerning the Information Age and Venture Capital recommendations.
The recommendation to create a new single economic development body is strongly endorsed by the Board. We have noted your comment that it should be 'new', with all that that implies. While we believe the new body should be implemented immediately, you explained why you would have to await political developments before consideration could be given to this recommendation.
More detailed comments on all the Strategy 2010 recommendations are given in the attached Annex. The recommendations have been grouped into specific sections (which align quite closely with the Report) and as well as the Board's views, several also indicate the effect implementation would have on IDB policy together with any particular caveats from an IDB management viewpoint.
You know that I personally am very committed to 2010 and it is great encouragement that the entire Board is also wholeheartedly supportive. May you have great success in implementation.
1. LOCATIONAL POLICY
IDB Board's Views
Effect on IDB Policy
Implications for IDB
Nine centres in DOE's "Shaping our Future" should be main focus for the future location of industry.
Support earmarking of centres for large new inward investment projects bringing benefits of scale and clustering for Northern Ireland's inward investment drive.
IDB would have to adopt a different land policy (ie no longer each of the 26 District Towns).
So Ministerial endorsement required.
2. INCENTIVES PACKAGE
IDB Board's Views
Effect on IDB Policy
Implications for IDB
Maintain existing grant regime for new inward investment unless/until new measures available.
NI should have special rate of Corporate Tax for new inward investment over a period of 5 years.
SFA less readily available for existing companies - funds to be reduced over 3-year period - assistance (all or part) in form of equity.
Assembly should discuss further options for tax incentives with the Chancellor.
Any measures which make the NI financial package for mobile investment more competitive should be put in place. Conscious that have lost potential projects to other European Regions (often on grounds of tax incentives available there).
Support view that assistance for existing companies be reduced but want to see a more flexible and innovative approach to provision of SFA.
Introduction of a major additional incentive could have budgetary implications.
Move to equity funding could have budgetary implications.
So Ministerial and EU endorsement required.
3. PRIORITISING FINANCIAL SUPPORT
IDB Board's Views
Effect on IDB Policy
Implications for IDB
SFA prioritised according to characteristics of companies.
Larger share of resources devoted to alternative "softer" forms of assistance.
IDB is already applying these tests (as indicated in Competing Globally).
IDB also pressing for more companies to benchmark their businesses and exploit opportunities for growth through strategic alliances.
Will see if we can further refine/enhance our evaluations of the benefits anticipated from projects.
Tougher test means more companies being refused assistance.
4. VENTURE CAPITAL
IDB Board's Views
Effect on IDB Policy
Implications for IDB
Venture capital fund for amounts up to £250,000.
Business Angels initiative and brokering services for investors/companies.
Believe there is a gap in the market re availability of smaller amounts of venture capital funding and this would address that need. Draws in outside management and expertise.
Could have linkages into Science Park ie access to such funding for innovative projects.
To seek to manage such a fund would run counter to policy over last 8/9 years. So if administered by IDB would require an investment manager/
Board of Trustees to take proposals forward.
Better to continue existing policy of developing private sector sources of finance eg Hambros managed fund.
Develop database of business angels.
5. DED STRUCTURES
IDB Board's Views
Effect on IDB Policy
Implications for IDB
Implement McKie recommendations on sectoral approach and information sharing.
Create new single economic development body.
Enthusiastically support findings of McKie Report. Believe single agency would be improve delivery mechanism with better co-ordination and through complementing the various skills. Needs to be a strong marketing organisation. Way should be found to proceed with implementation.
There are no policy implications.
If to be implemented, should be done in a way that does not stop the various agencies doing their business.
Implement using internal teams.
6. ECONOMIC STRATEGY/RESEARCH
IDB Board's Views
Effect on IDB Policy
Implications for IDB
An Economic Development Forum should be established.
A high powered, high quality research body should be established.
Too many "think tanks"/institutions with budgets for research. Need to inject business realism into economic analysis.
Research body should have Board and staff which include economists and consultants and have links to the universities and two schools of management. Work undertaken should be business relevant ie business economics as opposed to purer economic analysis.
Business focused research will help inform IDB's assessment of impact of its policies/activities.
Seek IDB involvement from the outset to ensure our needs for information and analysis are met.
IDB Board's Views
Effect on IDB Policy
Implications for IDB
Business should take every opportunity to minimise their environmental impact through measures which will also enhance their competitiveness.
Endorse the need for an environmental policy. Believe IDB is environmentally alert eg industrial estates developed sensitively; full participation in tree planting on such sites; participation in recycling projects.
No policy implications.
With a shortage of industrial sites in Belfast, IDB needs to work with DOE to produce a comprehensive plan concerning the three foreshores:-
North Foreshore - if dumping stopped this could enable development eg Science Park.
Commissioners - largest site; area needs to be cleaned up and future development policy agreed.
Much environmental work needs to be done on the foreshore sites to help drive to attract inward investment. Need to address respective responsibilities of DOE and District Councils and instil tighter degree of accountability for environmental actions.
IDB Board's Views
Effect on IDB Policy
Implications for IDB
The Dearing report should be speedily and comprehensively implemented.
Economic development strategy must inform education and training policy and its funding and delivery mechanisms.
Collaborative clusters of schools, businesses and colleges should be established.
A valued sub-degree level vocational educational programme should be established.
A clearer focus is needed for the Further Education sector.
The current system of careers guidance should be enhanced.
Teacher training should include an industry placement module.
Tailored training courses in self-presentation should be developed and introduced in all schools and colleges.
Endorse all these recommendations ie (a)-(h) as they should result in better alignment between what the educational establishments are doing (for both school leavers and graduates) and the nature of the modern workplace.
Because NI is small it should be possible to take these recommendations forward. Essential to have a "joined up" approach in all the 2010 recommendations - but particularly so in educational policy. Ministers responsible for the different areas of Education will have crucial role to play in ensuring successfully co-ordinated policy.
IDB represented on T&EA Working Group on interface with education.
Continue to involve representatives from education sector in Board Roadshows.
Ensure IDB understands the changing nature of company requirements in order to complement the advice and inputs from industry and commerce.
9. INFORMATION AGE
IDB Board's Views
Effect on IDB Policy
Implications for IDB
An Information Age Commission should be established.
This recommendation should have a high priority for implementation. It requires new thinking/approach and may need help from outside NI to drive it forward eg defining what it means. Need to get moving as quickly as possible or will get left behind. Involve the IT Departments of the Universities, generate Blue Sky thinking - E-villages (ie the whole community).
IDB in focusing on the opportunities for economic growth from E-Business. As well as ensuring it is an E- literate organisation - training staff etc.
Also encouraging companies become E-literate.
Believe IDB should not be leading on this recommendation, though IDB has a substantial contribution to make.
Much bigger task than IDB able to take forward.
10. INNOVATION AND DESIGN
IDB Board's Views
Effect on IDB Policy
Implications for IDB
There should be a campaign to promote innovation and good design.
Efforts to increase R&D in indigenous firms should be intensified.
Business should look for opportunities to collaborate on R&D.
A separate stream of funding to encourage R&D in universities is needed.
Further funding should be allocated to the Teaching Company Scheme (TCS).
Consultation is needed about the coverage of future Centres of Excellence
There should be a Northern Ireland equivalent of the "Reach Out" fund.
A programme to promote Northern Ireland as a region associated with quality design is needed.
Endorse all these recommendations ie (a)-(h), particularly in realm of self-help. Need to get the message across to companies that R&D and design are essential part of business survival.
Should consider additional policy measures to stimulate innovation eg tax breaks.
Science Park should become a natural location for research based activities.
Note how successful Italy and Denmark have been in instilling design as a key feature of traditional manufacturing products.
People with design skills have left NI and thus need to maximise opportunities here so that we can develop a stronger design base.
Competing Globally underscored the importance of these in competitive business.
If can take this message to companies will play important part in building up sales, particularly exports.
Ensure that the targets set are achieved.
11. BUSINESS LINKS WITH UNVERSITIES
IDB Board's Views
Effect on IDB Policy
Implications for IDB
University/business links should be enhanced.
The support structures for spin-out companies should be enhanced.
Universities have important role in the overall promotion of NI as place to do business. They offer a vital source of research which then needs to be applied to industry.
Believe there is a desire for academics to learn more about entrepreneurship, but they need help in this area.
Need to develop further the policy on these activities.
These should be undertaken in conjunction with IRTU.
12. BUSINESS BODIES
IDB Board's Views
Effect on IDB Policy
Implications for IDB
The Northern Ireland Growth Challenge should further develop its sectoral approach to networking.
The business bodies should co-operate to increase networking.
The Government should set up a joint working group with the business bodies to consider ways and means of celebrating business success.
Board very much aware of Growth Challenge's sectoral work and efforts to develop clusters. Can Growth Challenge be used to take forward some 2010 recommendations?
Welcome more unified approach by business organisations eg Business Alliance.
Want school-leavers to be more aware of the attractions of business. Exporter of the Year and NI Quality Awards help promote image of business.
Eases IDB's liaison with representative bodies eg delivering briefings on End of Year Results.
IDB will continue to highlight in Press Releases business successes - particularly if smaller companies have successfully built up their business.
Continue liaison with Growth Challenger Sector teams.
IDB Board's Views
Effect on IDB Policy
Implications for IDB
No further out-of-town shopping developments for 5 years.
The Assembly should introduce a rates regime which helps nurture small indigenous retail businesses.
Board recognises need for thoughtful use of land but this needs to be against background of modern mature societies. Many functions have relocated to out-of-town sites where building space is available and accessibility/parking is easier. Must also recognise that such investment into areas will stimulate construction, retail and leisure industries.
Need to foster small retail businesses which can survive hand-in-hand with the larger retail developments.
IDB Board's Views
Effect on IDB Policy
Implications for IDB
The Belfast-Dublin road should be developed as a matter of priority.
A centralised plan should be established to develop and budget for Strategic Transport Routes on a UK-wide basis.
High priority should be given to improving Belfast-Dublin link. Much more business interaction now between NI and ROI and this road link is as vital as air and sea routes with GB.
Companies in NI should not have to bear a transport penalty because of location. Government must work with the North West of England/South West Scotland Ports to ensure companies can get goods to the market competitively.
IDB Board's Views
Effect on IDB Policy
Implications for IDB
Future energy investment decisions should be made in the context of an island of Ireland energy market
The machinery for the creation of an island energy market should be established as a matter of priority.
An updated energy policy statement should be adopted.
Strategic investments in energy market may require a public/private partnership justifying public investment.
Targets should be set for use of Non-Fossil Fuels for electricity generation, for the achievement of energy efficiency and the use of Combined Heat and Power.
Note: As a subset, each industry sector to set target for reducing energy usage relative to output.
The recommendations of the Government's Utilities Regulation Review should be fully implemented.
The revision of the electricity generation contracts should be brought to a speedy conclusion and the £40 million fund, held by DED, should be used to buy out generating capacity currently under contract to NIE.
Businesses in NI should not have to bear an energy cost penalty. To be competitive, NI needs access to competitively sourced energy and Government should be putting in place access to EU energy sources.
Thus agree all these recommendations ie (a)-(g).
Develop database to ensure comparative costings can be estimated with some accuracy.
16. LINKS WITH EUROPE
IDB Board's Views
Effect on IDB Policy
Implications for IDB
There should be a well-resourced, high profile Northern Ireland regional office in Brussels.
There should be a Minister with special responsibility for Northern Ireland's interests in Europe.
A further round of special EU funding, with a particular focus on economic regeneration, is necessary to maximise the benefits of peace.
NI should have regional representation in Brussels covering not just political issues but also business related ones (industry, tourism etc).
Need to raise within NI the opportunities Europe presents in terms of exports, inward investment flows by encouraging joint ventures, exchanges, developing language skills. These are essential for business survival.
Assess if IDB's representation in Europe required adjustment following implementation of NI Brussels representation.
17. INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVE
IDB Board's Views
Effect on IDB Policy
Implications for IDB
Programmes such as the Business Education Initiative and Explorers which provide opportunities for students and business people to gain experience and knowledge overseas should be expanded, and new ones developed.
Foreign language teaching should be extended throughout the education system and the choice of languages available should be widened.
Twinning arrangements with other regions should be developed by the Assembly.
Northern Ireland should engage more actively in European, UK and, where appropriate, Republic of Ireland initiatives, in areas such as technology, competitiveness, IT and education and training.
Endorse these recommendations as they will move NI to being more outward facing.
IDB has been getting companies involved in strategic alliances and been promoting benchmarking (joint conference with Enterprise Ireland).
Widening the pool of languages students would help efforts to attract inward investment eg multi-lingual call centres.
18. PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION DELIVERY MECHAMISMS
IDB Board's Views
Effect on IDB Policy
Implications for IDB
The Assembly should address the future funding and evolution of local economic development as soon as possible.
A pilot project to explore methods of rationalising local economic development arrangements should be set up by the Assembly.
The public administration arrangements in NI should be reviewed urgently.
Believe structures currently in place result in administrative complexity and often duplication. Thus potential for inefficiencies. Difficult to know what is the appropriate administrative framework eg DOE's Shaping our Future points to 9 hub areas; Assembly has 108 members spanning 18 constituencies. Need to address Agency -v- local interface but must ensure avoid duplication.
IDB may have to adopt a different land policy.
Liaison arrangements with local organisations (ie district councils) would require modification.
19. RURAL AGENDA
IDB Board's Views
Effect on IDB Policy
Implications for IDB
New, technology-driven businesses should be promoted in rural areas.
A technology training programme targeted at farmers and others working in the rural community should be devised.
Deregulation of the bed and breakfast sector of the tourism industry should be considered.
Increased business concentration in certain centres with good transport links will enable people from rural areas to work in those centres.
However E-business means that work can be dispersed.
Thus need policies which offer local communities alternatives ie good transport to places of work outside community and bring E-business work to the community.
IDB would have to put in place different land policies.
Need to work more closely with rural development team in DANI and local authorities.
20. FINANCING LARGE CAPITAL PROJECTS
IDB Board's Views
Effect on IDB Policy
Implications for IDB
A Northern Ireland Development Fund should be established.
Recognise that amount of Public Expenditure likely to decline rather than grow. Thus NI must find resources from elsewhere ie private sector market. In interim special fund needs to be established to help finance the types of project mentioned in the Report and others not yet identified. Key factor would be that the Fund administrators would decide on priorities.
May have impact on land policy.
Should have close liaison with those managing such a fund.
ANNEX 50DR ALAN GILLESPIE, CHAIRMAN,
INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT BOARD (IDB)
11 February 2000
This is the paper of a speech delivered at the Institute of Bankers Dinner on 22 April 1999
1. The 2010 Initiative
This paper addresses some of the thinking behind the new economic strategy for Northern Ireland (NI) which was published in March 1999 by the Department of Economic Development (DED) under the title "Strategy 2010".
A Strategic Steering Group was assembled in the Spring of 1998 by the Minister for the Economy, Adam Ingram MP after the Good Friday Agreement and around the time when NI was heading towards the Referendum and the Assembly elections: a time of significant political progress. The question "what about the economy?" was tabled by many in the context of the political initiatives. What can be done for the economy by way of additional policy measures, new directions and strategic goals?
This question "what about the economy?" was conditioned by the belief that NI was in the first stage of a new era: that previous economic strategies and plans had run their course and, in light of the approaching millennium, it was time for redefinition of key objectives.
The thinking was also very influenced by developments with regard to the single currency and the fact that the United Kingdom (UK) would not be part of the Euro currency block. It was and is widely agreed that an economic strategy for NI is essential and it is time to put in place some fresh thinking.
2. What is 2010?
Since the DED published Strategy 2010 there has been considerable discussion of its content and themes. This paper addresses what it is, or, put the other way round, what it is not.
2.1. It is not an Outsider Analysis
Strategy 2010 is not an 'outsider' view, it is very much an 'insider' view, a strategic analysis and set of proposals drawn up within NI by a group from across the business and professional communities and in turn involving through consultation a further 300 individuals. This is in considerable contrast to what has happened in the past: whether it was the Matthew Report, the Wilson Report or the Cairncross Report: a distinguished academic from a non-local University was invited to study NI and come up with a set of "outsider" recommendations. This has not been the approach of Strategy 2010. Nor have those involved turned to McKinsey or Booze Allen or some major consulting firm and asked them to come in as expert outsiders to examine NI and create a strategy for us. Strategy 2010 is indeed a plan devised by a working group of accomplished individuals within NI. No one, no matter how distinguished an external academic, could have developed a better set of proposals than those who are here and operate in this economy and understand its challenges, opportunities and realities.
2.2. It is not Geographical
The second thing it's not: it is not an agenda for the shape of NI, in a locational or geographic sense. The Department of the Environment (DOE) has published its consultative document entitled 'Shaping our Future' which addresses the geographic layout of NI. Strategy 2010 doesn't address the spatial arrangement of the economy, rather it is expressed in conceptual, economic and business terms. In the past the Matthew plan was to "stop" Belfast, and had a geographic impact, while the Wilson plan was to build Craigavon. 2010 doesn't say anything should be stopped or started, controlled or built in the physical space: it really deals with the overall economy in a business and behavioural sense.
2.3. It is not Abstract Economics
Thirdly, this is not an economic thesis: 2010 is a business driven set of big initiatives. There are some economists right now who are critically pulling 2010 apart and asking for more detailed economic analysis, more sophisticated statistical techniques etc. It was not intended to be an academic economist's exercise. This is a business-led set of viewpoints, broad themes coming from within the gut, the heart, the head, whatever way you want to put it, from today's business leadership in NI. It has been drafted by men and women who every day of the week are operating in business, putting their own capital at risk and taking initiative. It is based on their feel of where we are and what's going to work. So 2010 is not an outsider's view, it's not a geographical analysis and it's certainly not an abstract economic thesis.
2.4. It is Straight Talk and it Aims to Stretch Targets
Over the twenty plus years that I have been in business in a career with two of the finest American financial institutions I have learnt a number of key guidelines on the ways in which to do business. One is that we ought to be absolutely frank and honest about where we are; truthful, transparent in our assessment, no disguise, no spin, direct and clear and sometimes, when necessary, very blunt. I think a key characteristic of a successful business, is to be absolutely frank and honest about where we are.
Another key guiding principle is that we should set the bar high in our ambition and goal setting, 'shoot for the moon'. The question is not should you shoot high, the question is rather how high should you shoot?
Strategy 2010 adopts both these helpful business principles. On the one hand it is an honest review of NI's strengths and weaknesses, unglossed and realistic, telling it the way it is - directly and frankly. Secondly, it is an ambitious reaching set of goals and recommendations, aiming high, setting ten-year targets that are a stretch to achieve.
In its assessment of NI the negatives and the positives are set out very clearly. Our problem of long-term unemployment and benefit dependency is addressed, so is the ageing and traditional industrial structure and the need for its reorganisation. 2010 discusses the high level of grant subsidy throughout our community. It indicates that in terms of job-related education and skills we fall behind other regions. It points out the low level of Research and Development (R&D) and innovation in NI, again compared to external benchmarks. The slow uptake of Information Technology (IT) and E-Commerce in our business community is identified. The high cost of our energy sources, the geographic peripherality of NI, our complex public and economic administrative structures and public sector dependency are all outlined in considerable detail.
Equally, on the positive side, our favourable demography is pointed out as a very strong plus for NI. The large numbers of young people coming into the workforce, the level of NI's educational attainment and the strength of its two Universities and higher educational sector are considerable competitive strengths. So too is the availability of labour, excellent telecommunications and attractive working and living environment which is affordable in NI, as well as the great opportunity offered by peace. These are all listed as positive features of NI's business landscape.
3. Early Reactions
Beyond this detailed analysis of strengths and weaknesses, Strategy 2010 lays out a vision for the region, a detailed set of guiding principles and then no less than sixty (60) separate recommendations. So what has been the reaction to this 260-page document which we're now describing as "Strategy Twenty-Ten"?
The reaction of the instant media in NI, radio and television, was to focus very much on one specific recommendation around tax policy and tax reform. They missed the bigger picture by their narrow focus on that one proposal.
The newspapers offered a more reflective and balanced set of reactions: The News Letter editorial said
"Strategy 2010 is an imaginative and ambitious package designed to make NI more competitive in the European and world markets. It lays firm foundations for growth and prosperity but only if its proposals are sensibly and skilfully applied."
The Irish Times, in its editorial, said
"This report shows that there is sufficient vision and wisdom within the non-political elements in NI to assist the new administration there to lead it towards a more prosperous future. We must hope that the new political leadership will have the skills and dynamism to build on this firm foundation."
Ulster Business wrote:
"The Strategy 2010 document recently published must be given the utmost consideration, not just by our politicians but by every businessman and woman in NI. Here for the first time is a credible blueprint for the future. It's not perfect, it doesn't pretend to be, nor is it a wish list as some cynics have suggested. It states what should have been said long ago and hangs it all out there for scrutiny, so scrutinise it."
4. Deserves Scrutiny
Have you scrutinised it? One member of the NI Assembly the morning it was published essentially said: "We will show the people of NI what we are made of, we will rubbish it." I am not sure it is the role of new politicians in NI to rubbish something even before the ink is dry! However, in general, the response from the economic spokespersons from the main political Parties has been open and enquiring, showing interest in scrutinising the proposals. So "scrutinise it", as Ulster Business suggests, a sound-bite which provides a good springboard.
Some have said 2010 is really a dead horse. There is no point in flogging dead horses. Because when a horse is dead, it's dead. This is not a dead horse. Strategy 2010 is very much alive and is a document we all should be prepared to scrutinise and analyse. It is a strategic analysis, a set of proposals, worthy of debate. Right now there are many in NI in the business community, in the banking community, among civil servants and politicians who are prepared to scrutinise and embrace it as a sensible way ahead.
5. Four Key Themes And Recommendations
Four key principles and the recommendations which flow from them in the sixty pages of Chapter Nine entitled 'Recommendations' are worth highlighting. They are under the broad headlines:
- that NI should be outward looking;
- that NI should promote enterprise;
- that NI should be a knowledge-based economy; and
- that NI should operate on the basis of self-help.
5.1. Outward Looking
Firstly, outward looking. There is a clear recognition in Strategy 2010 that NI will not be successful going forward if we're inward looking, blinkered and introspective. An outward looking attitude finds expression in a number of ways, for example, in terms of our infrastructure links with other regions. We can be operating quite efficiently within NI, producing goods that the world wants to buy, but we need to get them to market quickly and without cost penalty. Transport links with our adjacent regions are critically important, not just North-South links with the Republic of Ireland (Ro I), but also the West-East links into Great Britain (GB). What goes on in the North-West of England ports is critically important to NI. Strategy 2010 states very clearly we should have a transport policy well integrated with that of GB. Not just linkages in transport but also linkages in terms of energy sources. Again, NI is too small to be self-contained in the generation of power and in this world of interconnectors and pipelines between regions we need to have NI well linked, well piped with other regions to avail ourselves of energy at the most competitive rates. The warning in 2010 is very clear. If we don't pay attention to these infrastructure links, we will end up with an excessive cost burden which in the long term will hurt NI.
Another aspect of being outward looking is described as having the right attitude to our neighbours. It is clear that around Europe today no individual nation or region can operate in independence from adjacent neighbours. This is certainly true as far as NI is concerned. We must figure out a way to work with those on our doorstep, whether to the South or to the East of us. A further feature of being outward looking is that NI should be tightly linked into the European Union (EU). Many regions in the EU, particularly the German regions, below the sovereign level at the regional unit, have strong representation in Brussels with considerable benefit. 2010 puts on the table the need for NI to be well represented at the EU level, to have our voice heard and to have our own economic ears and eyes at the centre of the EU. A final theme of being outward looking is a very broad one - that is, the need to foster global perspectives. As a business community we should engage internationally, have an inquisitive interest in best practice around us to benchmark our businesses against the best of standards outside the region. With such an outward looking attitude we will be able to transact business with customers around the world and be prepared to admire and initiate business standards observed elsewhere. So under a variety of sub themes, 2010 sets out a view that NI should be outward looking.
5.2. An Enterprise Economy
The second broad sweep of 2010 is that we should be building an enterprise economy, an enterprising NI community which celebrates success and is driven by private sector initiative rather than public sector intervention. Celebrating success is something we talked about a great deal at Strategy 2010 working groups. Unfortunately NI still does not celebrate business success, as other regions do. There needs to be greater respect for business, not just amongst the business community itself but beyond in the community and certainly at the level of young people coming through as school-leavers. We want them to look at business as an attractive career alternative to the professions they usually head towards.
Building an enterprise economy also means rebalancing the incentives package and replacing lines of Government funding with private sector finance. Putting priorities in place for financial support means, for example, IDB saying very clearly to those who ask for Government support that we prioritise financial assistance to companies which bring projects which are efficient and sustainable, progressive and focus on R&D. Also important will be a willingness to embrace IT, a commitment to export, a drive for Value Added and a strong desire to bring external funding into the balance-sheet. A sub-theme under this enterprise banner is the whole notion of promoting the use of private equity capital in NI; whereby private businesses and small companies are prepared to open up their capital structure, to utilise the many sources of private equity now available.
In NI we have no yet got it right in fostering enterprise. There are entrepreneurial individuals who want to do this or that but find it a frustrating process, particularly in working with the planning system. They frequently wait a very long time for a response, even if it is going to be 'No'. On the other hand, there are those who come up with good business ideas but the first thing they do is run to Government asking them to fund their project from the public purse, rather than going to the private sector! So reality is turned on its head and there is a need to readdress and rebalance, so that those who are enterprising have the freedom to move and to move quickly. The others who have great schemes and plans should, in the first instance, turn for funding to the private capital market, to the banks or to the venture capital community rather than to Government.
5.3. A Knowledge-Based Economy
The third broad theme of 2010 is that NI should be a knowledge-based economy. In this era of the Internet, of IT, of increasing trade and commerce across the "screen", NI requires an educational system and a skill base which equips our young people to be fully employable in a knowledge-based economy. Specifically, this means the implementation of the Dearing Report, the development of better vocational training, and the notion of exposing teachers to the workplace so that they can better advise their pupils on career alternatives, because they have been there themselves. There are a variety of proposals in 2010 on how we can better equip our school-leavers with the job and life skills that are relevant in the world of E-Commerce and Internet. The recommendation in 2010 that NI should establish an Information Age Commission is a recommendation that I deeply believe in. I hope we will move with due haste and urgency. The Internet is coming into every business and those who are in denial will undoubtedly become dinosaurs.
Another aspect of the knowledge-based economy is the need to stimulate research, innovation and product development. NI by any standard is behind in terms of expenditure on R&D. Critical links need to be built with the Universities where there is extensive research underway across many disciplines and foster corporate spinouts from academic labs. Hopefully the Science Park - see Jottings above - will become a key magnet in drawing commercially viable ideas out of the Universities and have them nurtured as start-up businesses.
Much of what we are talking about in terms of building a knowledge-based economy is really Department of Education (DED) territory. This is a ten-year strategy which requires some deep changes in our approach to education in NI in order to 'tool' this region for the information age. "Knowledge-based Economy", yes, a bit of a buzz word; but all it means is that more people will be working with their heads and fewer people working with their hands. We need to educate and train and retrain to convert from the historically prevailing skill set to that which works in the future. This begins right now!
5.4. Self Help
The last broad theme of Strategy 2010 is the notion of self-help. In NI today we have a variety of agencies, departments, people, functions, responsibilities, all correctly concerned with promoting the economy, either at the regional or local scale. Strategy 2010 has come to the view that there are too many players in the economic development process resulting in inefficiency and functions tripping over one another. We have District Councils and many very good people at the district level seeking to promote their local economy. But we must have better co-ordination between what's going on at the District Council level and at the regional level through the Industrial Development Board (IDB) and the other DED agencies, such as The Local Enterprise Development Unit (LEDU) and the Training and Employment Agency (T&EA). Today it's duplicative, complex and needs to be rationalised. Equally the whole structure of the public sector in NI ought to be examined in the opinion of the Strategy 2010 Working Party. I imagine this is something our new Government will turn its attention to before too long. The overall delivery of services within the DED family of agencies and energy policy in NI also need looking at. These are not matters where we will be served up external solutions. These are issues which are in our own hands, where the principle of self-help will prevail.
These are four of the broad themes of Strategy 2010 - that NI should be outward looking, that we should have enterprise culture, that we should be a knowledge-based economy and we should proceed on the basis of self-help.
6. A Message for Everyone
In this strategy there's a message to business, there's a message to bankers and there's a message to Government.
- The message to business is very clear - business must commit to R & D, to innovation, must embrace the information age, must look to benchmarking against international best practice, and become financially more sophisticated.
- The message to bankers is equally straightforward. At a time when there is less and less Government finance available, the banks need to help clients grow through leverage, through new forms of capital structuring and wean them away from public financial sources.
- The message to Government is obvious... Stormont will have a central role, though not always a 'controller' role, in moving this community ahead in terms of the enterprise culture, IT literacy and in creating (through business-friendly policy) an environment for business to succeed.
7. Where Do We Go From Here?
7.1. Get A Copy
This brings me to a final question about Strategy 2010. What next? I hope that having given you a sampler of what is in this document you might agree that it is worthy of fuller scrutiny. If you don't have a copy you should get one! Find out what it says that might inform your business. In trying to answer the question "what next?" let me give you several signposts.
The first is this: Strategy 2010 now needs ownership, real ownership. Strategy 2010 was commissioned by the 'Westminster' Minister for the Economy, Adam Ingram MP. He has taken 'delivery' of this document and now wants to pass it on to the new 'Stormont' Minister for the Economy (when appointed) and to the Assembly for debate and implementation. Right now we are in a period when the new Executive has not been established and yet the 'old' Minister is waiting for a 'new' Minister to take this forward. Right now, greater ownership of this Strategy is needed.
The next signpost for 2010 is that it needs prioritisation. It needs to be sorted through. Perhaps there is too much in it, perhaps 60 recommendations were too many. I believe there is a fairly straightforward task to identify those recommendations which can be implemented immediately, which are in the category "just do it", which are compellingly obvious, which don't have major policy or budgetary impact. We should just get on with them in the next twelve months. Then there are those recommendations that require policy adjustment and will be implemented over the next two, three, four or five years. Deeply embedded in Strategy 2010 are those mindshifts, those fundamental changes, and those culture changes that NI needs to bring about. That is why it's Strategy Twenty Ten - it may take ten years for these shifts to work their way through. Again, we need to identify what they are and put in place the mechanisms and process for bringing about these changes. So prioritisation is now necessary.
Speed is needed, urgency is needed . the economy can't wait. This document puts it very well. It says "do what's right, do it right and do it right now". Strategy 2010 was commissioned in the Spring of 1998, it has now been published and tabled in March 1999. Another long period for further consultation and widespread public debate is not needed. There has been a year of preparation; over 300 people have been involved in an open process. It now needs to be rapidly implemented. I'm very struck as, professionally, I deal with some of the leading companies in the world, how they focus again and again on the need for a speedy response. Jack Welsh, who runs GE, undoubtedly one of the greatest business leaders of our generation, notes that in the whole process of bringing corporate change "GE had a huge advantage that accelerated our quality effort, we had a company that was open to change, hungry to learn and anxious to move quickly on a good idea." We have seen management changes in this last week at Compaq, the leading computer company. They say: "As a company engaged in transforming its industry for the Internet era we must have the organisational ability to operate at Internet speed ourselves." If the world is operating at Internet speed, if Jack Welsh highlights the importance of moving quickly on a new idea, then these are strong messages to us here in NI.
For 2010 - we need some speed; we need some urgency; and we need to get on with it.
The next headline for going forward is the need for accountability. All those who are enjoined in Strategy 2010, business, education, trade unions, community groups, civil servants, Government and so on, must take on the targets and challenges and be prepared to be measured against them. Those of us in public sector bodies like IDB must buy-in to the proposals and recommendations for which we are responsible and be prepared to be measured against them in our delivery, performance and accountability.
7.6. Make it Widely Known
Finally, Strategy 2010 needs to be popularised. We need to get this document out into the wider NI community. It probably needs to be rewritten, broken down in a way that is readable and understandable and appealing to all the people of NI, particularly our young people. This strategy envisages the needs of a child who is 8 years-old today who in the year 2010 will be 19. It is all about preparing that young person over the next ten years for the world of work in the year 2010. So we need to take Strategy 2010 and make it popular and relevant to young people. Whether it is to "disneyize" it, create a mascot or a tee-shirt or something cool and catchy, we need to re-express it in a way that our community will say "this is what we should be about".
Structural Change and Co-operation in the Global Economy
Edited by Gavin Boyd and John H Dunning
New Horizons in International Business
Edward Elgar Publishing Limited
Cheltenham, United Kingdom
This book examines corporate strategies which are driving the processes of globalisation. These strategies are evolving under the influence of national policies and of various patterns of co-operation between governments.
The authors of the 10 paper study the effects of different policy environments on the management of corporate operations. The interdependencies between countries are analysed as determinants of policies, with efforts to assess ways in which the activities of firms affect those interdependencies. Attention is given to the structural consequences of corporate strategies for decision makers shaping fiscal, monetary, financial, trade, industrial, foreign direct investment and competition policies. The authors aim to identify requirements and opportunities for co-operation between firms and governments, across border and sectors. Concerted entrepreneurship and collaborative policymaking are advocated.
One conclusion reached is that:
".Corporate strategies, for the most part, are implemented with emphasis on totally competitive rather than co-operative strategies; increasing international oligopoly power results, .and scope for innovative new firms."
ANNEX 51DETI PERMANENT SECRETARY - MR G LOUGHRAN
5 June 2000
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY REVIEW
In late 1997 the former Minister for the Economy, Adam Ingram MP decided to conduct a fundamental review of Northern Ireland's economic development strategy. This was formally announced on 29 January 1998 and the aim was to develop, by mid-1999, a new economic development strategy for Northern Ireland, to cover the period to 2010. It was to take account of anticipated trends in the national, European and world economies, technological developments and possible changes in manufacturing and the organisation of work.
It was intended that the new strategy should provide guidelines for the operation of DED and its agencies over the medium to long term and should engage the private sector in a more integral way in the delivery of necessary outcomes. The review was to be unique in Northern Ireland in that it was to be taken forward in partnership with the private sector, and should be used to inform and be informed by, the views of the local political parties.
The commitment to undertake a review of economic development strategy in Northern Ireland was included in the Belfast Agreement as part of the programme of work on Economic, Social and Cultural issues.
Terms of Reference
The Terms of Reference for the strategy review proposed that it should:-
- encompass the entire economic context and set ambitious but attainable long-term goals for the Northern Ireland economy in terms of wealth creation, employment and living standards;
- range widely, covering not only industrial development matters, but other major factors such as education and infrastructure provision, to the extent to which they will influence the rate of Northern Ireland's economic progress;
- have regard to the Government's policies on sustainable development and equality of opportunity and to the public expenditure background;
- be linked as appropriate to a regional spatial development strategy;
- identify the major priorities for action by Government, particularly DED and its agencies, and the private sector, to create the conditions for meeting these goals;
- provide strong direction for DED and its agencies and the private sector; and
- be capable of adjustment in the light of future events.
The strategy review was to be carried out by the private and public sectors in partnership, in order to ensure consensus on the direction of the strategy and acceptance by all concerned of their role in delivering it. The review was also to be wide ranging going beyond the traditional confines of industrial support policy and look at the wider framework within which business operates and which influences its efficiency and success. This meant considering areas such as education, infrastructure and business culture, and drawing in people with expertise in these areas. The review process was therefore structured accordingly.
A Strategy Review Unit was set up within the Department to provide administrative support for the review. A Steering Group was then established to oversee the review and the production of the new strategy in line with the Minister's desire to have the work carried out as a public private partnership.
The Steering Group appointed to direct the review was drawn largely from the private sector. It was well balanced in terms of members' business backgrounds - manufacturing industry and the service sector, small and large firms. There were members from the trade union movement and local government, and all parts of Northern Ireland were represented. Members of the Steering Group are listed at Annex A.
The Steering Group met on 14 occasions during the course of the review, in addition to being directly involved in 5 consultation events and a number of overseas study visits. Papers and minutes from all the meetings can be made available to the Enterprise Trade and Investment Committee.
The Steering Group was tasked with developing a vision for a modern, high value-added, skills and knowledge based economy in Northern Ireland in the years beyond 2000 and with developing an action-orientated strategy to deliver the vision, taking account of overarching policy drivers such as equality and social cohesion.
The Steering Group wished to involve the business community in the process and ensure a broad consensus and commitment to the way forward. The Steering Group felt that, given the scope and time scale for the review, additional resources were needed to assist with the work and so established a number of working groups to look at specific sectoral and cross sectoral issues.
The Strategy Steering Group recognised the need to examine crosscutting issues, which could significantly influence the performance of all sectors of the economy of Northern Ireland. It therefore established seven Cross-Sector Working Groups on the following topics: Culture, Innovation and Design, Investment and Finance, Marketing and Exports, Infrastructure, Skills and Education and Energy. The Steering Group set aims and objectives for the working groups and encouraged them to be radical in their thinking.
The Steering Group wanted to consider the various industrial sectors in Northern Ireland in detail but did not wish to repeat work already undertaken. Therefore they commissioned NIGC to build on the sectoral development work which it had been undertaking. NIGC were tasked with setting up 11 industry Sector Working Groups to look at the following sectors: AgriFood, Construction, Electronics, Engineering, Food and Drink, Health Technologies, Software, Textiles and Clothing, Telecommunications, Tourism and Tradeable Services. The Sector Working Groups examined the prospects for specific industry sectors in Northern Ireland, seeking to identify their strengths and weaknesses and identified the barriers to their accelerated development.
All 18 Working Groups produced interim reports at the end of September 1998 and final reports with recommendations by November 1998. These are detailed and comprehensive reports on which the Steering Group drew heavily in preparing its final report - Strategy 2010. Copies are enclosed.
A Consultation Panel was established as a mechanism to ensure that the Strategy Steering Group was provided, during the course of the review, with comment and views from key interest groups on the main strategic issues. The Panel was part of the commitment to take on board as wide a range of views as possible in developing the strategy. Broadly representative, it had some 60 members who offered comment and opinion on papers from the Strategy Steering Group and Working Groups through three Panel meetings and the submission of written inputs.
Inter Departmental Sub-Group
An Inter-Departmental Subgroup comprised senior members from DANI, DOE, DENI, DFP and DHSS was established to co-ordinate input and feedback by the other Central Government Departments to the Strategy Steering Group. The Group was asked:
- to make contributions to the work of the Strategy Steering Group;
- to comment on outputs of the Strategy Steering Group;
- to advise on the take delivery of emerging recommendations affecting their Departments; and
- to provide for participation and inputs as necessary to the Sector and Cross-Sector Working Groups.
The extent of involvement in the review process was unique in Northern Ireland, with over 300 representatives from the private, public, voluntary and community sectors actively participating in the review process.
The commitment in the Belfast Agreement stated that the strategy should be for consideration in due course by the Assembly and the Steering Group was anxious to keep local politicians aware of progress with the review and to seek their views on work being carried out. The Department held a seminar for all Assembly members on 2-3 December 1998. Reaction to the main thrust of the review's findings was generally positive with representatives stressing that they wanted the final report on the review to inform their thinking on economic development matters.
The report of the Strategy Steering Group, "Strategy 2010", was published on 23 March 1999. The economic development spokesmen of all the local political parties were briefed on its content on the day of publication and a further briefing session for Assembly members was held in the Long Gallery on 19 April 1999. The report was the subject of a Northern Ireland Grand Committee debate on 25 March 1999. A copy of the Hansard record of that debate is appended at Annex B.
Copies of the Report were distributed for comment, to all who took part in the review process (including the business bodies, the trade union movement, the NIEC and NIERC), members of the Assembly, the 26 District Councils and the local universities. Copies of the report were placed in all public libraries and distributed to all Education and Library Boards as well as all secondary/grammar schools. In total the Department issued some 2300 copies of the Strategy 2010 report and a further 8500 copies of the summary document.
During June and July 1999 the Department held a series of five regional road shows to discuss Strategy 2010, to which locally elected representatives, business people, community and local economic development representatives were invited. Following on from these the Department has responded to six requests for meetings with local Councils, held briefing sessions with all the business organisations, and a roundtable seminar with key economic commentators, facilitated by NIERC.
A newsletter, Action 2010, was prepared to allow for more widespread consideration and debate on the key issues arising from Strategy 2010. The first 2 editions were published in October 1999 and April 2000. The next is due for publication in late June 2000.
The Steering Group produced the report to inform the new Assembly and provide it with a range of options for assisting economic growth in Northern Ireland. In May 1999, in the absence of devolution, the Economy Minister John McFall endorsed the main principles and themes of Strategy 2010 and moved to act on issues of immediate importance for the economic future in Northern Ireland and on which there was a broad consensus for action.
Mr McFall briefed the economic spokesmen of the parties on progress on implementation on 13 October 1999.
Taking forward the implementation of Strategy 2010 included in establishment of the Information Age Initiative, actions to improve business education links, the setting up of a venture capital fund to encourage the development of small innovative businesses and the publication of an Energy Statement, Vision 2010.
The Information Age Initiative published its strategic framework and action plan, "Leapfrog to the Information Age" on 4 April 2000. A copy is enclosed.
Implementation has also included the setting up of the Economic Development Forum comprising the social partners as recommended in Strategy 2010. The role of the Economic Development Forum is to advise and make recommendations to the Northern Ireland Administration on all matters affecting the development and future competitiveness of the economy of Northern Ireland. It has met four times to date to consider the priorities within Strategy 2010.
Details of the Membership and Terms of Reference for the Economic Development Forum are attached at Annex C.
Gerry Loughran, Permanent Secretary
Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment
1 June 2000
Members of Strategy Steering Group
Chris Gibson OBE
David Gibson CB
Dr Alan Gillespie
Dr Patrick Haren
Group Chief Executive
Dr Aideen McGinley
Sir Roy McNulty CBE
Note: The position shown for each member is as at March 1999 when Strategy 2010 was published.
NORTHERN IRELAND GRAND COMMITTEE
Thursday 25 March 1999
[MR PETER ATKINSON in the Chair]
Economic Development Strategy Review
The Chairman: Before I call the Minister, I remind the Committee that the debate may continue until 5 o'clock. I have no power to impose a time limit on speeches, but it would help me to call all hon. Members who wish to speak if contributions were kept to a reasonable length.
The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr Adam Ingram): I beg to move,
That the Committee has considered the draft report of the Economic Development Strategy Review Steering Group, "Strategy 2010".
I am pleased to bring the report of the economic development strategy steering group to the Committee and to give Members the opportunity to debate the economic future of Northern Ireland. This is, of course, a critical matter in its own right, but it has an added significance in Northern Ireland because a prosperous and growing economy which provides more and better opportunities can make an enormous difference to cementing peace in the Province.
The Government have worked hard to create a prosperous economy in Northern Ireland. The Chancellor of the Exchequer provided a major boost last May with his £315 million initiative, which introduced special tax allowances for small companies, increased resources for an economically vital infrastructure, particularly for roads, and set the wheels in motion for the creation of a science park to promote new high-tech start-ups. The science park initiative will come to fruition shortly: I hope to announce it by the end of the month.
Thousands of small firms will benefit from the new 10 per cent rate of corporation tax and, as 95 per cent of Northern Ireland firms qualify as small, this is a particularly significant measure. The new research and development tax credit will encourage more small businesses to undertake research development, which is becoming ever more critical to business success. The credit will underwrite almost one third of business research and development costs. Expenditure by Northern Ireland businesses or R and D is below the UK average, so again this is a well-targeted measure from Northern Ireland's point of view. The new venture capital fund will open up opportunities for entrepreneurs with high-tech proposals that are likely to have difficulty in getting the finance they need from traditional sources. Many a promising prospect has failed to get off the ground because of the wariness of financial institutions about high-tech business. Many jobs have been lost as a result. This measure tackles the problem head on.
The Budget is a good deal for Northern Ireland in other ways too: 50,000 lower paid employees, in addition to the self-employed and pensioners, will see their tax bill cut in half as a result of the new 10 per cent rate of income tax. That is another measure to make work pay, which is especially valuable in Northern Ireland where the incidence of low pay is among the highest in the UK. In addition, the introduction of the national minimum wage will remove the worst excesses of low pay and ensure greater decency and fairness in the workplace.
[Mr Adam Ingram]
The extension of the new deal to the over-50s - about 76,000 people in Northern Ireland are eligible for this - will bring back into the labour market people who have a great deal to offer employers and the economy as a whole. The £50 million modernisation fund will boost investment in key infrastructure over the next three years, providing the modern, high quality services Northern Ireland needs.
The Chancellor's Budget is in fact a new opportunity for the UK as a whole. All that I have just mentioned is in addition to the £1.4 billion allocated to Northern Ireland through the comprehensive spending review over the three year period. The Budget promoted enterprise, rewards work, supports families and provides resources for better public services. It is firm evidence once again of a Government who are determined to deliver their promises to the electorate throughout the whole UK.
The Report before us today is an in-depth look at the Northern Ireland economy, its challenges and opportunities over the next 10 years. It is the outcome of the review that I asked to be undertaken a few months after I took up the post of Minister responsible for the economy in Northern Ireland. I could see then that there were plenty of encouraging signs. The economy had performed well during the 1990s, despite what were often difficult circumstances.
Employee jobs in Northern Ireland increased by 11.1 per cent. Between 1990 and 1998, compared with 1.4 per cent in the UK. Manufacturing output increased by 21.7 per cent, compared with 4.1 per cent in the UK. Real GDP increased by nearly 16 per cent, nearly twice the national average. Exports from Northern Ireland rose from 16 per cent of GDP in 1991-92 to 21 per cent in 1996-97 and unemployment levels are at their lowest for many years. Unemployment now stands at 6.7 per cent, lower than five other regions in the UK.
At the same time the industrial development agencies achieved creditable results and have continued to do so. In 1997-98 the International Development Board announced a record level of investment by client companies to the value of £713 million. The Local Enterprise Development Unit achieved record job creation in the small business sector in the same period with just under 3,000 jobs in 1998 - 53 per cent above target. In the past four years Northern Ireland attracted 8 per cent of the UK's total inward investment. In the critical area of research and development the latest survey for Northern Ireland shows a 31 per cent increase in real terms in R and D expenditure by business between 1993 and 1996.
The existing economic development strategy, set out in the document "Competing in the 1990s - The Key to Growth", recognised the need to increase the competitiveness of the local economy in a number of critical areas. It had clearly been serving Northern Ireland well. But the world never stands still. I therefore decide that a stock take was needed. First, we now have to think about the Northern Ireland economy much more within the global context. Globalisation is a fact. It is rewriting a lot of conventional economic and commercial wisdom. It is ratcheting up competition for all kinds of products and it is partly fuelled by the huge advances in information and communication technologies with which we, as an economy, have to come to grips.
Next, the speed of technological change in all industries is unprecedented and the knowledge content of work is ever increasing. It is beyond dispute that knowledge-based industries are the way of the future for advanced economies. Again, Northern Ireland has to come to grips with the constant upgrading and renewal of the skills of the work force, which is a major implication of such change.
Alongside that, changes are also taking place and are planned in the European Union. European monetary union and the stronger internal competition that it will bring, the reform of structural funds, the reform of the common agricultural policy and enlargement will all impact on the Northern Ireland economy. After considering the shifting economic landscape, with so many changes in motion, I felt that it was time for a review of Northern Ireland's economic development strategy.
[Mr Adam Ingram]
Let me now turn to the review process and the way in which it was conducted because I believe that the process had great value in itself. It has helped to create new linkages within the economic and business community in Northern Ireland. I hope that they will now grow and develop further to the benefit of the economy overall.
My first concern was that the review should be undertaken in partnership between the public and private sectors. The private sector creates the country's wealth when it is helped by the right type of underpinning in infrastructure terms by the public sector. The private sector knows at first hand the problems it faces in the marketplace and the strengths and capabilities of the competitors it has to match. It has direct day-to-day experience of the obstacles to growth and development that exist. That kind of knowledge and "feel" is not available in the public sector.
Therefore, it seemed to me that we needed a heavy involvement by business in the review. I wanted to get the business view of what needed to be done, and I wanted it straight from business itself. I also wanted the review to be wide ranging and to go beyond the traditional confines of industrial support policy, to consider the wider framework within which business operates and which influences its efficiency and success. That meant considering areas such as education, infrastructure and the society's culture, and drawing in people with expertise in such areas.
In following that approach though, we embarked on an experiment in economic development policy formulation that is, I think, unique in Northern Ireland. Some 300 people from business, academia, the community and voluntary sectors and local government took a direct part in the work of the review. Clearly, many others have supported and assisted them.
That is participation on a truly significant scale. The 12-member steering group appointed to direct the review was chaired by the permanent Secretary of the Department of Economic Development, but was drawn largely from the private sector. It was well balanced in terms of members' business backgrounds: they came from manufacturing industry and the service sector, from small and large firms, and from domestically and export-oriented companies. It had members from the trade union movement and local government, and all parts of Northern Ireland were represented.
The steering group set up 18 working groups, 11 to examine individual sectors such as software, textiles and electronics, and seven to consider the wider themes that I mentioned earlier. Each group produced a report that the steering group took into account when reaching its conclusions. The sectoral groups were managed on the steering group's behalf by Northern Ireland Growth Challenge, a business body that includes trade union members.
Finally, a consultation panel was formed, bringing in representatives of a diverse range of organisations - including community, voluntary, academic and youth organisations - to comment on work in progress and to put their ideas into the process.
All in all, as I have said, there was direct involvement by more than 300 people. Those who participated are listed in annex A of the report, and it is an impressive list. I want to express my most sincere gratitude to every one of those who contributed. They willingly took on a difficult task in an extremely demanding time scale; they carried it through with enormous enthusiasm, dedication and commitment, taking time away from their own business to do so. The review that we are considering is their review: it would not exist without them.
Special thanks are, of course, due to the steering groups, which masterminded the whole project. The group undertook a punishing schedule of meetings, consultation events, meetings with Assembly Members, visits to other regions and discussions with authorities on specific topics. Their energy and commitment were outstanding and the results of their labours are encompassed in the report that they have now presented to me.
I raise an important point by using the phrase "presented to me". Although I originally
[Mr Adam Ingram]
commissioned the report, it became an important element of the Good Friday agreement. Paragraph 2 of the rights, safeguards and equality of opportunity section of that agreement, which deals with economic, social and cultural issues, states:
"Subject to the public consultation currently under way, the British Government will make rapid progress with . a new economic development strategy for Northern Ireland, for consideration in due course by the Assembly, which would provide for short and medium term economic planning linked as appropriate to the regional development strategy."
I am now delivering on the commitment made by the Government under the Good Friday agreement, another example of our delivering on the requirements set out in the agreement.
I had hoped that the steering group would, by this time, have presented its report to a fully functioning Northern Ireland Assembly. Economic development will, of course, be a matter for the Assembly and will, no doubt, be given the highest priority. I hope that we will soon have a devolved administration that will give the report close and careful scrutiny and reach its own conclusions on how far it accepts the steering group's analysis and recommendations.
If, against all our hopes, a devolved administration is not formed within a reasonable period, I will arrange for the Government to give a response to the report. However, I hope that it will not come to that because the direction of the strategy must be decided as quickly as possible. Now that we have this heavyweight and comprehensive report, we cannot have a vacuum.
The steering group's report contains valuable analysis of the Northern Ireland economy. The group has identified opportunities and challenges that it believes must be addressed in a strategic context. The most important of those is clearly the opportunity presented by lasting peace and political stability in Northern Ireland. That is the single most important factor affecting the future development of the economy, and the steering group's strategy is predicated on it. Without that factor, its vision for the economy will be irrelevant. It has become a hackneyed phrase, but peace represents an opportunity that may not come again for a generation. It cannot and must not be wasted.
The steering group identifies strengths in Northern Ireland's economy. It rightly points out that Northern Ireland is favourably placed in terms of demographics compared with other European Union regions. Its population is, and is expected to remain, younger than that of the EU as a whole. It also points out that Northern Ireland has a high rate of participation in higher education, and that it is part of the most flexible labour market in the EU.
Northern Ireland has one of the best telecommunications infrastructures in Europe - an important asset given the developments in knowledge-based industry to which I referred earlier. That is a critical element of what is an attractive business environment.
The steering group argues that Northern Ireland is one of the most competitive investment locations in Europe, with a reliable, adaptable, well educated work force that has an excellent record in quality, labour relations and company loyalty. An attractive physical environment adds to the appeal, both for inward investors and for mobile, well qualified employees.
However, the report is not all good news. The steering group points to challenges that must be addressed. There is high long-term unemployment and benefit dependency rates. Too much of the manufacturing base is in low growth sectors, there is not enough investment in research and development by business, there is an over-dependence by industry on grants for project finance, and
[Mr Adam Ingram]
there is reluctance to use private equity finance. The record in technical and general education and job-related training leaves much to be desired. energy costs in Northern Ireland are high compared with the rest of the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe, representing a competitive disadvantage to local industry.
The Government have already stated tackling those issues, but the report discusses imaginatively what more can be done. The importance of the rural economy and the difficulties faced by that sector are relevant considerations, from a social as well as an economic perspective. The report recognises the difficulty in securing the long-term sustainability of the rural economy and the community that it supports. I have put in place an initiative, referred to in the report, which should be announced shortly. It will help to address some of those problems.
These are substantial challenges to the Northern Ireland economy. The steering group developed from its analyses a vision for the economy, with a set of guiding principles from which a suite of recommendations was derived. The report offered a vision of Northern Ireland's economy as knowledge driven, fast growing and competitive, with widespread opportunities and a population equipped to grasp them. The steering group recommends that to achieve this it will be necessary to develop expertise in information and communication technologies, in preparation for the new age of e-commerce; to integrate economic and education policy better, to produce the knowledge and skills needed by business; substantially to increase business involvement in innovation and research and development, with greater collaboration between universities and business and a clearer commercial focus for university research; to attract more of Northern Ireland's best talent to business careers; to promote networking between businesses, so that they learn from each other and collaborate to compete; and to encourage and reward the spirit of enterprise and acceptance of risk in business.
The group has also suggested that Northern Ireland must be prepared to look outwards. Businesses need to be encouraged to benchmark themselves against the most successful companies worldwide and to learn from best practice in the Republic of Ireland, Europe, the United States and beyond.
The report shows the need for a first-class infrastructure to support the economy. Energy, telecommunications and internal and external transportation links must be a complete and efficient as possible. The steering group also concluded that it is vital to ensure wide and fair sharing of the benefits of economic progress and growth, since only that will allow the sense of inclusiveness and widespread ownership needed to bring about the sort of economy envisaged.
The steering group and the working groups all stressed the need for strong, effective partnership between the public and private sectors in implementing economic development strategy. The review process is an excellent beginning and the report contains recommendations for developing the partnership approach further.
Economic development will no doubt be a core issue for the new Assembly. The strategy review process has drawn on much local expertise and created the momentum and appetite for new approaches. The steering group's report is an excellent basis for further debate of the issues by Northern Ireland's political parties and community. I am sure that the Assembly will also want to take account of the Committee's views on the report's analyses and recommendations. I look forward to an interesting debate.
Rev Martin Smyth (Belfast, South): I appreciate the opportunity to speak at this stage in the debate. I welcome the Minister's comments, and his initiation of the review. We could have had a better debate if we had received the review earlier. Despite speed reading, it has not been possible, given all the other demands on our time, to do it justice. I pay tribute to all those who have worked so energetically and positively behind the scenes to produce it.
[Rev Martin Smyth]
The Minister referred to the concept of peace. We are aware that, apart from the terrorist campaign, there has for many years been an economic war in Northern Ireland. That is why a former Member of the House, Bernadette Devlin, tried to contribute to its economic prosperity by saying, "Burn the factories". We must bear that in mind constantly as we try to build up the economy.
It would be remiss of me not to pay tribute to those who, over the years, have done tremendous work to advance Northern Ireland's prosperity, from the leaders of industry, down to those who have toiled on the shop floor. On the other hand, I want to enter caveat. The Minister mentioned venture capital. Perhaps because of a degree of Scottish carefulness - the Minister will understand what I mean by that - Ulster businessmen are slow to invest unless they are I hope that more venture capital will be forthcoming than in the past.
As one of the small group who pioneered the development of Belfast harbour airport, now Belfast city airport, I discovered that the industrialists and businessmen thought that that was a marvellous concept, but they were not prepared to invest any money until they saw it working. One of my deepest regrets is that we were so keen to keep an Ulster grip on the situation that we did not sell out to another airline which would have been prepared to come in at that time. We lost, but I am glad to say that the harbour has developed tremendously over the years. I enter that caveat when talking about venture capital.
I hope that industrialists are prepared to venture. In the past people wanted to go forward in Northern Ireland, but some of our own service industries and government agencies, through trusts or boards, as they were, put obstacles in their way. For example, Randox Laboratories, which has built up a tremendous export position over the years, found it difficult to break into the local health market. Some folk found it easier, perhaps because they were receiving encouragement from German manufacturers, to put the business their way, and Randox Laboratories was not allowed to tender. Therefore, I make that caveat too: we must all work together, and it is right that that co-operation exists in the strategic review.
I welcome the fact that we are thinking of long-term rather than short-term trends. I was delighted to hear the Minister say that, if for any reason the Assembly does not move forward, we must carry the review through. We are glad about that. I asked someone to give a response on the strategy and, regretfully, they said "The strategy is based around a fictitious Assembly and a fictitious peace". I hope that we can be more positive as we go forward and that we will see the strategy put into operation, whatever happens in future.
We have come through the bad days. I remember speaking to the late Mr Brown, the United States Secretary of Commerce, and I put it on record that, if American firms invested in Northern Ireland in the worst possible situation, there was no reason why others could not invest in the better days. The American firms that did invest in those worst days have done remarkably well over the years.
I have acquired a habit since coming to the House that you will appreciate, Mr Atkinson, born not only of experience in this place but also of reading detective stories and not wanting to spend my time wading through a lot of unnecessary verbiage, of going to the last page to see who dunnit. Therefore, I looked at the summaries to discover what is coming forth. I was interested to discover, with my own interest in mind, that 60 recommendations are incorporated into the strategy, but none on health. Yet Northern Ireland had led the way in many developments in health over the years. Unfortunately, those who have invented life-saving equipment have found that they have to go abroad to have them manufactured. I hope that, in the coming days, the research work being done in Northern Ireland or the United Kingdom can be developed, where possible, by your own work forces.
[Rev Martin Smyth]
In that context, I think of the work going on in the City hospital, which has now become an international centre of excellence in cancer research, led by Professor Johnston, who I noticed was one of those involved in the strategy background papers.
I welcome the sectors with growth potential. Electronic, telecommunications, software and health technologies, tourism and tradeable services are mentioned, although no details are given.
I bow to no one in the high standards of education that can be provided in Northern Ireland, but does the Minister agree that something must be wrong when there are fewer national vocational qualifications per capita in Northern Ireland than in the rest of the kingdom? We must do more in that sector. It is difficult to encourage young people to stay in education to gain qualifications because of a major problem - the lack of jobs. Where are the jobs?
I regret that I have to agree with the Minister's comments about welfare dependency. It is used too much by youngsters as a means of augmenting the family income, when they should be pulling in their belts for a period to gain the qualifications to go forward.
I come from a part of Belfast where many of us had to tighten our belts often. I remember trying to encourage a particular family to do so when I was an assistant minister some years ago. The father had a good job, the mother was in work, the son had just started as a garage mechanic and the daughter had qualified for a Queen's scholarship to go into teacher training - but the family would not allow her to do so because they wanted her out working.
I argued and debated with the father but he told me that I did not understand the circumstances. I told him that I did understand and did not object to what he had, but that we had not had a piano or television in our family home because we had to decide priorities. My family were prepared to make the sacrifices to allow me to have an education. We need to challenge all our people to pool together to equip our youngsters with the best possible qualifications. I trust that the Department of Education will move forward with greater mobility in module developments at that level.
Regrettably, sectors with less favourable prospects include construction. In the context of our global economy, I pay tribute to the work of building companies such as Mivan which have extended their empires to different parts of the world and brought needed investment into Northern Ireland. It is worrying - Mivan is not the only company to build elsewhere - to read in annex B about delays in
"the completion and publication of the DoE Regional Strategy".
I urge that that strategy be published as soon as possible. We obviously do not want half a report, but if planing and the home-based construction industry, is being held back, that is not helping our overall economy.
I am also concerned about the green economy and agriculture, one of our most basic industries, because there is a possibility of less favourable prospects in agrifood and food processing. I urge that we try to develop those sectors more.
We have a tremendous tradition in textiles and apparel. I understand the pressures. One of my own industries, the Albion, has become just a warehouse operation as it has invested more abroad. That is happening elsewhere too. I urge a coming together of the textile industry with young entrepreneurs and designers in Northern Ireland. Some of them made their mark in London and showed that they could co-operate to go into the higher tech market. They discovered that they could compete with the best in the world. Sometimes Ulster people undersell themselves.
[Rev Martin Smyth]
I understand that the Minister is not responding to the review today, but perhaps he will tell us what action the Government have taken on a recent alarming development. We have done tremendously well in attracting software investment to Northern Ireland, but we are running short of trained technicians and personnel. The Republic of Ireland has had difficulties and is now begging people who have gained experience abroad to come back. We may try to bring back some of our exports. On the other hand, it is important not to limit the training of those with the potential to develop skills in a market that is so vital to the modern world.
With all the development that has been going on, there should be a rethink to make us more competitive in the road transport and car industries. I do not wish to take up the whole debate and I am aware that other hon. Members wish to contribute, but it is impossible for anyone to do justice to the variety of matters in the report.
Some of our industrialists have pleaded for a reduction in corporate taxation to make us competitive with the Republic. Recently, one of my colleagues spoke to an industrialist, and reminded him of the benefits of corporation tax and other facilities that are available in Northern Ireland. My colleague received the following response: "Yes, but we cannot compete with the Republic, because it lets you set your own corporation tax target if you invest there." I suspect that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will have something to say to us about that, so it will not be possible for us to go down that road. We cannot claim to be part of the United Kingdom and demand unfair competition at that level with other parts of the United Kingdom.
I wish to draw attention to a surprising statement in the report, which reads:
"Investment in roads in Northern Ireland is currently around 1 per cent of GDP."
It has been estimated that there will be an improvement of 0.25 per cent in productivity for every 1 per cent of GDP invested in infrastructure. Yet, the target that is being suggested is 1.5 per cent. Sights are not being set too high. Indeed, it may be a good thing to set targets that are within reach. However, a 0.25 per cent increase in infrastructure spending will not bring a big improvement in productivity.
I regret the excessive emphasis on the all-island economy when we talk about a global outlook. Such an economy has a place and we do have the ability to share with one another. However, Northern Ireland must have a world vision - and not an island vision - if it is to compete in the world. We must, therefore, rethink out strategic planning to develop our economy and industry.
Mr William Ross (East Londonerry): Like my colleagues, I welcome the report. I have studied it carefully, but there is a lot in it, so it will take a long time to digest. One must read something more than once in order to get a complete understanding of what is involved.
I note the report's comments on energy, the high As my hon. Friend said, the theme seems to be to create an island of Ireland energy market, but some folk seem willing to forget about the interconnector which seems to me to create at least a British Isles energy market. That is what we are looking for, at least in the first instance. It may be that the market will extend beyond the boundaries of not only the island of Ireland but the British Isles and, if that happened, there would be considerable savings in costs across the board.
I welcome particularly the comments about the need for a Government statement on energy policy, on what they hope will happen to the role of the regulator, the replacement of the present contracts and future public investment in energy schemes. All those matters have been touched upon, and I
[Mr William Ross]
leave it to my hon. Friends to catch your eye, Mr Atkinson, and raise them in greater details because they make an important theme for discussion.
I want to say something about the gas supply, in particular the need for an extension of gas to the north-west.
The Minister is aware of recent reports that the American utility Keyspan and British Gas plc have submitted licence applications recently and that Viridian Power Resources and Associated Gas Supplies Limited have made a joint submission for gas conveyance and gas supply licences. It is a considerable investment totalling at least £100 million. It is intended to connect more than 80,000 households and 8,000 businesses, provided that they take what I call the northern route, which goes through Antrim, Ballymena and Ballymoney, the Coleraine area, including Portrush and Portstewart, and across the hills to Limavady and Londonderry. Getting it to Londonderry is essential because that is where the anchor tenant will be, in the form of a gas electricity generating capacity. The Minister is well aware of that, and understands the need for it.
I hope that we can move it forward rapidly for a number of reasons. Not only is it a question of the gas going through that way and catching the whole northern half of the Province - which has a considerable amount of industry - but at Coleraine in my constituency it will find the university, where there is considerable capacity for research and development.
The Minister knows that a number of visits by American firms to that general area are planned in the very near future. I was particularly pleased to hear him say that he hoped to say something about the location of the science park before the end of the month. I hope and pray that it will be the only sensible location - Coleraine. If gas can be brought to the area, the prospects for increased economic activity in the area are extremely good. I hope that the Minister will consider the matter seriously and reach swift and accurate conclusions.
I was concerned to read the brief mention of the rural economy because it did not make happy reading. Once again I hope that my hon. Friend will catch your eye, Mr Atkinson, so as to say something about that. I read of concern about long-term viability - and about the ageing work force in farming, of which I am well aware. I read about multiples' buying power squeezing producers' profit margins, and the conclusion that there was an easy entry into higher value-added products for small producers. Those who wrote those words should look again at what the multiples' grocery outlets actually do to the small high-quality producers. They should look especially at what is happening in Ballymoney, where an ice cream processing plant is closing, and the yoghurt produced there may also be taken out of production. All the multiples say, "Oh yes, certainly we will sell your product." They give 3 ft of shelf space to the local product and 30 ft to their own products. They squeeze and squeeze the price on the local high quality product until it can non longer compete. That is not a level playing. A totally different series of market conditions has been created by the supermarket chains and we need to recognise that. We will have to do something about the monopoly that has been created. I do not see the supermarkets' profits decreasing year by year as profits have for primary producers and the small better value concerns in Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.
I turn now to the question of how we create a framework in which a prosperous future can be secured for all the people in Northern Ireland, looking in particular at how differing tax rates in the global economy determine where investment goes. There is the question of the grants regime and tax rates in the United Kingdom as opposed to other countries and the whole effort that is made with packages to attract overseas investment. I greatly regret that Northern Ireland seems so dependent on investors from outwith the United Kingdom. I would like to see a lot more investment from Great Britain into Northern Ireland because such investors would be much less likely to uproot and go home when they found a softer option elsewhere.
[Mr William Ross]
My hon. Friend the Member of Belfast, South (Rev Martin Smyth) mentioned the textile industry. A number of areas in my constituency depend heavily on textiles. These companies are all moving, not because of the low quality of the product or the speed with which they can get it into the shops, but because of the low wage levels that are paid in north Africa. Things can be made cheaper there and then sold at exactly the same price as if they had been made in the United Kingdom. It is a question of profit. The primary producer costs in north Africa are hitting the textile industry in Northern Ireland hard. The investment is the same; labour costs are what matters.
Those north African countries and Turkey, which also has low wages, are much closer than Hong Kong and Taiwan. Producers there can get the designs down the telephone line. They can start cutting immediately and have the product on the market in three or four weeks, in exactly the same way as can producers in Northern Ireland. The Minister knows that textiles are bought worldwide. A big factor, in addition to the cost of labour, is the speed of delivery into the shops in the United Kingdom and Europe. The line of supply has been shortened by the rise of manufacturing processes in the south Mediterranean rim.
Another problem that has blown up recently - the row about the tax rates for road fuel - will have a marked effect on our capacity to deliver. When the Deputy Prime Minister was asked about that he reacted snappily. It is a serious issue and it does no one in this House or the country any good. It would be better to face facts rather than to milk this cow for a gallon more than she has. Ministers have reacted almost with surprise that people are kicking back about this. But the problem is not new. I wrote to the Treasury on 20 October 1998, and even earlier in January 1998, about a problem that had arisen in my constituency and just outside it.
People involved in gravel extraction were shifting their lorry fleets across the border into the Irish Republic to take advantage of the much lower vehicle excise duty there. I do not expect an answer from the Minister saying that that was happening. It was perfectly legal, and the Financial Secretary told me that there was nothing he could do about it. It happens in England as well, but instead of transferring lorries to the Irish Republic, they are transferring them to France and the Low Countries. I assure the Committee that it is much easier to transfer lorries for taxation across the border from Northern Ireland to the Irish Republic than to transfer them across the Channel. It is horrifying, because I believe that a great deal of it is going on.
I raised the matter in the Appropriation debate in July last year and I also drew attention to the effect of the fuel tax increase in Northern Ireland, so we have the twin problems of fuel and vehicle excise duty. In a letter to me the Financial Secretary said:
"In the last Budget the Chancellor announced a review of the existing system for calculating VED rates for lorries. The aim of the review is to develop a system which better reflects the environmental damage caused by different lorries."
That does not appear to worry folk outside the United Kingdom. He went on:
"It is important to remember that the total tax burden on business in the UK is lower than that of our major EU competitors."
I am not worried about the total tax on all business. I am worried about the tax on lorry owners. That was what I was writing about, and I am not amused when someone tells me "Oh, the total tax is lower on business", because every business segment exists on its own: it cannot recover the costs
[Mr William Ross]
placed on it by the taxes that lorries now have to pay.
Then we had the horrendous problem of fuel smuggling, which was addressed by the Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs. It has produced a good report showing how serious the damage was. All that markedly affects the Northern Ireland economy. In a letter to me the Minister of State, the right hon. Member for East Kilbride (Mr Ingram), said:
"We do not have evidence to suggest that this a widespread practice."
I think that there is evidence. There is evidence now, even if there was none then. I do not think that it can be denied that that is happening on a substantial scale.
A vehicle can now leave Northern Ireland, drive down to the Republic carrying a load, fill up with fuel, drive back and save a lot of money. But the problem was not raised with the Treasury this year: it has had 18 months or more to consider it, and it has not come up with a satisfactory answer. The Chancellor made only small changes in vehicle excise duty this year, but the matter is considerably worse overall.
In 1990, the duty on diesel was 19.02p a litre, and today it is 50.21p a litre, an increase of 264 per cent. In the Republic in 1990 it was 22.31p per litre, and today it is 26.62p per litre, an increase of 14.8 per cent. That has an enormous effect on our road hauliers' ability to compete, which has knock-on effect on industry. In the same period, the duty on petrol increased by 6 per cent in the Republic and by 242 per cent in Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom. Although the Minister may be aware of the problem, he is not able to solve it himself. I hope that he will talk to his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer about it.
We considered the issues after the Budget and I was haunted by the picture of a fellow who appeared on television and said, "Oh yes, I trade in the Republic. I always fill my lorry up there and make a saving of £2,200 a month." Who would not buy their fuel in the Republic? I need not go further. The Minister understands the problem and we must do something about it. The Government must do something to redress the balance not only in Northern Ireland, but in the whole of the United Kingdom.
Increase in the duty on fuel have been mirrored over a longer period in the rate of duty on tobacco. That duty has a direct and immediate influence on jobs in Northern Ireland and Great Britain. I do not smoke. It is not a habit that anyone should take up because it has serious effects. At present, 70 per cent - seven packets out of 10 - of the hand-rolling tobacco bought in the United Kingdom is smuggled. Much of that tobacco is produced at Gallagher's factory in Ballymena. It goes to the continent and is then shipped back and forth. That causes a loss to the Treasury.
As I pointed out in Budget debates, income from tobacco excise duty is expected to fall over the next few years. That will result not from a fall in consumption, but as a consequence of an increase in smuggling. Because the problem facing the manufacturers of hand-rolling tobacco are so severe, there has been no change in the duty on it for the past four years. However, the duty on cigars has gone up and, since 1993, the duty on cigarettes has gone up by 57 per cent, which constitutes an enormous sum of money.
In the past, increases in duty were announced, but they did not take effect until November. However, when the Budget was in November, they took effect immediately. The increases announced in last year's Budget, which took effect in November, and this year's increase, which took effect at 6 pm on Budget day, mean that that two considerable increases in the tax on cigarettes have occurred within six months.
[Mr William Ross]
I shall explain to the Committee the effect of those increases on the industry. Last year, wholesalers knew that an increase in duty was coming in November, so they bought ahead, stockpiled cigarettes and got them out to the shops a few days before the tax increase was applied. That meant that during the summer months there was much work going on in cigarette factories. If the Minister asks his colleagues what is happening this year in Gallagher's factory in Manchester, he will be shocked. It has brought redundancies forward by three months. Wholesalers are not stockpiling cigarettes this year because there has been a double increase in the duty and no time in which to stockpile. The increases mean that that factory, which was going to close anyway, will shut considerably earlier than it otherwise would.
Mr Bill O'Brien (Normanton): I am following the hon. Gentleman's argument about smuggled tobacco. He referred to the impact of smuggling on factories in Northern Ireland and elsewhere. Does he agree that the smuggling of tobacco and cigarettes into the United Kingdom from France is having such a great impact on young people that the problem should be addressed across the political spectrum? I share the hon. Gentleman's concern.
The Chairman: Order. Before the hon. Gentleman replies to that point, I must say that, although the question of excise duties is, of course, relevant to the subject of economic development, the document is the substance of our debate. I ask hon. Members to bear that in mind.
Mr Ross: I fully appreciate that, Mr Atkinson, but you will appreciate that we are talking about jobs in Northern Ireland. We are trying to increase the employment rate there and we cannot let it fall because of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's unreasonable tax rises on particular products. As the Minister suggested, those rises are having much effect. Unfortunately, more people are smoking. I wish that they would not, but they are. All that results from tax rises is more smuggling. There are no benefits to be reaped for the people. I highlight those matters to show the effect that taxation can have and its importance to the Government's strategy for creating employment and long-term prosperity in Northern Ireland.
The types of taxation that I gave as examples are founded on health and environmental considerations, but their effects are harmful to the economy, so a proper balance of considerations must be struck. I leave it to my hon. Friends to follow up the question of what must be done. For instance, too little is being spent on the road network, but many people are anxious about the sale of Belfast harbour to help find the funds for it.
Mr Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire): I welcome the report. It surprised me and I found it interesting. So often, such documents are badly put together or badly worded. This one encouraged me to study it as much as I could within the limited time available since I received it. I have been given hope that, if the report is implemented as recommended, a practical difference may be made to the quality of economic development in Northern Ireland.
I also welcome the report because, evidently, my earlier remarks about asteroids have had an effect on its cover, which illustrates the work of the Armagh observatory. The flash of light shown is the impact of the asteroid of hope on the economy of the Province. I congratulate the Minister on having followed my interest in that matter.
The document seems to have been written in the context of the production of deliverable results. One reason why I say that is because clear timescales are associated with the recommendations. For that, I praise the Minister and the offices that put together the document. The publication is meaningful because some of its ideas are genuinely new, and they will promote a constructive debate from which the Assembly will benefit. Assuming that the document is interpreted in the spirit in which it has been written, it will result in a direction for the Assembly. The Assembly can be
[Mr Lembit Öpik]
optimistic about enjoying co-operative behaviour from Ministers and a partnership approach between Westminster and Stormont.
The economic difficulties of Northern Ireland are well known, and I do not intend to rehearse the details. It is clear that small local businesses are more prone to such problems than multinationals. We can expect the unique political circumstances of Northern Ireland to be partly responsible for that. The document may provide us with a strategy to encourage larger organisations to enter Northern Ireland's economy and to make constructive contributions to their profits and to the economic fortunes of the Province.
We must think about the document in the context of encouraging large investors from the United Kingdom, and from Europe generally, to consider Northern Ireland as an investment opportunity. Many jobs in Northern Ireland are in the public rather than the private sector. I assume from the wording of the document that the Government want to redress the balance and increase the proportion of private sector jobs in the Province. That ties in with the high proportion of benefit claimants in Northern Ireland. I think that the two matters go hand in hand.
In the context of the macro-issue of infrastructure investment, gas pipelines have already been dealt with. I am so glad that the document deals with transport. Tourism is an important investment and revenue opportunity for Northern Ireland and is currently under exploited. I am glad that it is being given the economic importance it deserves.
I want to highlight a few points from the document that I noticed, but I stress that I mean to be helpful. We may need to be aware of some of the issues that I mention as we attempt to convert the strategy into action.
The summary, with respect to equality and social cohesion, at page 15, states:
"We seek an economy which is fair between the two communities but also offers equal opportunities for under-represented groups including women, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities."
Those are easy words, but it is likely that their implementation will require the work of the equality commission. There is an economic impetus for setting it up quickly. The concept of a new social partnership body is a nice idea but it needs funding and credibility to do its work effectively.
Infrastructure will be an important factor in ensuring that the nine key locations targeted for industrial development will be able to benefit, without being prejudiced by poor communication and transport links, from the regeneration of Northern Ireland.
As to knowledge-based investment, it is right to say that greater
"integration of economic and educational policy"
is needed. It is nice that Northern Ireland continues to perform extremely well in the higher education sector. However, the report shows that we have a serious problem - that many people migrate out of the area because of the lack of university places and opportunities to continue working in higher education. On page 115, it states:
[Mr Lembit Öpik]
"Levels of participation in higher education are good but at the upper end of thespectrum there are too few university places to meet the demand in Northern Ireland, with the result that many undergraduates have no alternative but to pursue higher education elsewhere in these islands."
That is a debilitating problem for the Northern Ireland economy, because people who could be contributing to its regeneration are forced by circumstance to study elsewhere. We all know that those who migrate from their home to study elsewhere are less likely to return than those who study near. In some ways Northern Ireland's undergraduates and graduates might be thought of as its greatest export.
The reduced dependency ratio that will continue until around 2020 is a great opportunity for Northern Ireland to exploit in the medium term. It will allow meaningful investment, with an active population who will be well placed to contribute to industry. However, there is one break in the system - the tax on higher I welcome the comments about the Dearing report on page 151, but I highlight again that the cost of tuition fees is likely to have a particularly debilitating effect on potential Northern Ireland scholars who come from an area that enjoys a lower income than elsewhere.
I was delighted to discover from page 108 the extent to which Northern Ireland has already invested in communications structures. It states:
"Northern Ireland has one of the best telecommunications structures in Europe."
That is particularly important given its geographical location. Europe is effectively only an integrated services digital network or ISDN line away. If we are serious about remote working, finding new ways to reduce society's dependence on expensive and environmentally unfriendly transport and adopting a more creative approach to work, Northern Ireland must be one of the front-runners to benefit from that.
On enterprise, it states euphemistically on page 107 that Northern Ireland has lower levels of hourly compensation than other parts of the world. Having been an employer for Proctor and Gamble, a large American multinational. I know that compensation means nothing of the sort - it means wage rates. Translated, the chart on page 107 effectively means that Northern Ireland has the lowest wage rates of the eight countries in the comparison.
That may be good news for investors who get employees on the cheap, but it is not good news for those who earn such low wages. It is not surprising that the cost of living is around 10 per cent lower in Northern Ireland than in other parts of the UK, because the wage rates are correspondingly lower. The lesson is that we must try to increase those wage rates to make Northern Irish people less badly off in relation to the rest of the UK, and the rest of Europe.
The concept of business angels is welcome, but we should not pray for a miracle solely on the basis of their work. Of course we need to find those people and ensure that we
"mobilise informal investors as best we can".
[Mr Lembit Öpik]
Those are fine words, but they will not exonerate the Government from their investment responsibilities. I treat some of these phrases with caution. We should not expect these business angels to come down from on high and solve all the problems of Northern Ireland investment.
However, proposed tax incentives to encourage investment and profitability are welcome. A good case can be made for viewing Northern Ireland as a special economic region which requires help and is worthy of specific tax incentives in the short to medium-term as it establishes a strong growth rate and ongoing development.
The document also outlines softer forms of support fairly clearly. I would advise caution until we establish the precise objectives of those softer forms of support. By definition, it will be harder to measure in its outcome, but we should at least know exactly what the outcome should be. Encouraging networking, benchmarking and exporting is clear as far as it goes, but it leaves some latitude for different interpretations.
Page 175 discuses the
"scope for charging for some export services",
with the intention of investing that money to encourage first-time exporters.
At the parochial level, I encourage the Minister to invest in Tayto crisps, which represent the greatest lost opportunity for British crisp eaters. Anyone who has eaten a packet of cheese and onion Taytos knows that they are wonderful crisps. I implore the Minister to have a word with the House of Commons refreshment department, and lead the way in making Parliament one of the few outlets for Tayto crisps. Once Members of Parliament have the privilege of tasting those crisps, they will encourage the sale of these crisps in their constituencies. That proposal clearly has cross-party support.
I turn to the question of investing in the market of the island of Ireland. The great majority of Northern Ireland's trade exports go to the United Kingdom. North-south marketing and trade opportunity may increase but, by and large, the 55 million people on the United Kingdom mainland will always be a more attractive proposition to sell to than the 5 million people on the island of Ireland. That does not mean that we should not sell to the Republic. However, that trade is not a substitute for continuing investment in the infrastructure of the British isles.
I wish to highlight the importance of ensuring that it is easy to get round Northern Ireland. That is especially significant for businesses and is implicit in the report. Continuing congestion on the Belfast to Londonderry road is unquestionably a barrier to Londonderry's economic development. I hope that problems around Toome are addressed as a direct consequence of the publication of the report.
On the question of outward-looking investment, I welcome the proposal of appointing a Minister for Europe in the Assembly. A well made argument for that appears on page 189 of the report. Northern Ireland has a strong economic message to send to other European nations. The opportunity to have a voice in the Assembly which, by implication, may travel on Northern Ireland's behalf with the formal approval of the Assembly, may be an important fillip for finding new investment.
When I was in industry, I was sometimes shocked by the degree to which the marketing of an idea influenced the likelihood of its take-up. I certainly think that we are still missing a trick in selling Northern Ireland's attractiveness as an investment centre for international business.
Mr Tony McWalter (Hemel Hempstead): Which part of the report suggests a substantial upgrading of the Londonderry to Belfast link? I could not find such a suggestion, so there seems to be no justification for the hon. Gentleman's proposal.
Mr Öpik: The hon. Gentleman is exactly right, and I apologise for not being clearer. The document does not contain specific statement about the upgrading of that road. I raised the matter in order to seek an assurance from the Minister that a proposal on it will be considered in the months to come.
As the hon. Gentleman has brought me back to that matter, I will add that it is not acceptable to connect investment in that road with selling off Belfast harbour. I may be mistaken, but I have heard that investment in the Londonderry-Belfast route will be conditional on the privatisation of Belfast harbour. That is not fair on Northern Ireland, because the two matters are not directly connected. It would be inappropriate for Londonderry and the west side of Northern Ireland to suffer if Belfast harbour is not sold.
Self-help is important. The table on page 113 shows that there is a high level of assistance per manufacturing employee in Northern Ireland. There are good reasons for that investment. I hope that, as Northern Ireland finds its way towards the peace that we all want to help to achieve, that investment will not be cut. It would be a shame if, having solved the political problems in Northern Ireland, we ended up with economic ones. The absolute figures show that Northern Ireland gets a high sum per head; but at £137 million it is reasonable to accept that such ongoing investment is required by Northern Ireland as it returns to economic normality.
I reiterate what an earlier speaker said about the importance of the rural economy. The proposed action on the rural environment and economy is still light. We need to recognise that agriculture in Northern Ireland, as in the rest of the UK, has suffered in the last few years. That has knock-on effect for related industries and shopping and trade in rural areas. A high percentage of people live in rural areas in Northern Ireland and we must not miss them out.
Finally, I underline again that I welcome the report. It is a cut above the rest in its overall clarity and intentions. But good ideas are only as good as the action taken to implement them. It is therefore essential that the report does not suffer the same fate as so many of the other, perhaps less interesting or rather woollier, economic strategies that we have debated in the past. Let us not pretend that words alone will solve the problem. My father often used to say that sooner or later even the best strategy has to degenerate into action. I hope that, after this debate, we will turn this strategy into action in the interests of the Northern Ireland economy and its people.
The Chairman: Before I call the next speaker, I remind the Committee that, as far as I can see, four hon. Members wish to catch my eye, and if the Committee wants to hear the Minister at the end, hon. Members should bear in mind that we must end by five o'clock.
Mr Jeffrey Donaldson (Lagan Valley): I welcome the publication of the report. It is a timely report. The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr Öpil) reminded us that we have a strategy for developing the economy in Northern Ireland and that, as we transform it into action, it will help to revitalise economic growth in Northern Ireland. It is worth noting that, despite the difficulties of the last 30 years of violence, our economy has sustained itself with a remarkable resilience. Yes, sectors of that economy have suffered, but as much from world market trends as from the impact of terrorist violence.
We have seen changes in the nature of the Northern Ireland economy, not least in the agriculture, textile and heavy engineering sectors. We have seen marked declines in each of those sectors which has had an impact on that economy. Yet the evolution of new industries has helped to replace some of the jobs that have been lost in some of these sectors.
[Mr Jeffrey Donaldson]
The resilience of the Northern Ireland economy is due in no small measure to our excellent education system. We turn out highly skilled, highly educated young people who are very competitive. Sadly, as the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire reminded us, many of those young people have to leave Northern Ireland to find employment elsewhere, taking with them their talents and the contribution that they could have made to our economy. That is a sad situation that we must try to address. I hope that, as we develop the economy, those young people will be encouraged to stay in Northern Ireland or to return to Northern Ireland, having received their education in Great Britain.
The review has been undertaken over the last 18 months by a steering group, and one must acknowledge the time that has been taken and the efforts that have been made to produce the report. I commend those who have given up their time in that way. Those of us involved in the political process in Northern Ireland have had to concentrate so much on the politics, that we have not had the time and energy to devote to the economic issues. I commend those, particularly from the private sector, who have been involved in the drafting and publication of the report. I look forward to a better partnership between the political community in Northern Ireland and the business sector.
The Report has 63 main recommendations. On enterprise, it recommends fewer grants for existing businesses but more support for equity finance and more extensive tax incentives. We welcome the support for equity finance, because Northern Ireland needs that. Indigenous companies in Northern Ireland often look jealously at the grants provided to companies moving to the Province, locating and investing in our economy. Some of our greatest success stories in terms of growth and expansion are the local indigenous companies, which must be provided with meaningful assistance, particularly in the form of equity finance.
There is a proposal to approach the Treasury and the European Union to obtain a special tax concession for Northern Ireland in the form of low corporation tax rates for five years for new inward investors. The Report acknowledges that it will not be easy to achieve such a concession. Indeed, the Treasury in the past, and most recently last year, ruled out such special concessions for Northern Ireland. It remains to be seen what the attitude of the Treasury and the European Commission will be toward such a proposal.
With regard to the knowledge-based economy, the report recommends a number of individual reforms to education and training, but there is no mention of the need for a strategic change. The Dearing report is being implemented at present, but there are no targets for educational achievement, nor is there any support for existing educational targets.
I recognise that the report puts a lot of emphasis on the need to link the development of Northern Ireland's education system to the king of economy that we want to develop. That is important. The partnership between education on the one hand and enterprise, business and economic development on the other must be underpinned.
The report strongly recommends that the low level of research and development in Northern Ireland be increased, with stronger university and business links, and it supports such efforts.
That again is important in the development of our economy. It is acknowledged that the provision that we make for research and development is inadequate.
The report also deals with preparations to compete in the information age and recommends the establishment of a new commission to investigate that. I welcome the recommendations, but the new commission must be set up as soon as possible, otherwise it may be seen as kicking the issue for touch.
The report is also in favour of greater networking and economic interaction in Northern Ireland. Again, we must continue to develop that. I want the Northern Ireland growth challenge to continue,
[Mr Jeffrey Donaldson]
so that not only our economy grows but the sectors within it.
The report makes some recommendations for small firms, but it is a little light on that sector and I should have preferred to see more. I am concerned about the proposal to create a single economic development agency in Northern Ireland because the emphasis could be on the larger firms, attracting larger inward investment, helping the larger firms to grow. Yet in Northern Ireland small business forms a substantial proportion of our economy. Indeed, the small business sector has provided many of the new jobs in the Northern Ireland economy. Therefore, I want to be convinced that a new, single economic development agency would safeguard the interests of the small business sector and continue the valuable work of the local enterprise development unit. I look to the Minister to provide reassurance, although I appreciate that at this stage the review is only a proposal.
On the issue of equality and social cohesion, the report supports and commends the DOE strategy "Shaping our Future", which focuses growth on the major cities and towns in Northern Ireland. I have examined the proposals in that document. Section 9 of the report refers to "Shaping our Future" and says that economic development should be focused on the two major cities of Belfast and Londonderry and seven other towns - Criagavon, Antrim, Ballymena, Coleraine, Omagh, Enniskillen and Newry. I should be grateful if the Minister would clarify what the report means by the city of Belfast. The revised "Shaping our Future" document contains a new concept known as the Belfast metropolitan area, which extends well beyond the perimeter of the city of Belfast. Under the DOE's original proposals. Lisburn, the main town in my constituency, was one of the major towns identified as a hub, but it has now been incorporated into the Belfast metropolitan area. Are we talking about the Belfast metropolitan area as envisaged in "Shaping our Future", or about the city of Belfast, which is a distinct and smaller entity?
The report also proposes the establishment of an economic development forum. I am not sure where that fits in with the proposed civic forum to be established under the Belfast agreement, on which business will have representation. It would be useful if the Minister could clarify that. I make the point simply to stress that we can have too many of these organisations. The broader we spread the focus, the less likely we are to be able to engage meaningfully in social partnership.
As regards sustainable development, again businesses are encouraged to take every opportunity to minimise their environmental impact through measures that also enhance their competitiveness. There is a dearth of sustainable development in Northern Ireland. The Province must have a coherent cohesive waste disposal strategy to underpin the economy and to ensure sustainable development.
I have often criticised the planning system when in Committee because of the time taken to process major planing applications. The report identifies this as a problem but unfortunately makes no recommendations. That needs to be tackled because of its importance to the competitiveness of Northern Ireland in attracting investment. In the development of the regions, Northern Ireland will be in a highly competitive marketplace, and the fact that a company investing in the United Kingdom can obtain planning permission twice or three times as quickly in England, Scotland and Wales as in the Province will reflect badly on the Province. Nor does the absence of a recommendation in the report help.
Mr McWalter: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the statement on page 125 of the report, that
"Current public administration structures may not represent the most efficient arrangements for the region",
is somewhat pusillanimous?
Mr Donaldson: I would have to get out my dictionary for that one.
Mr McWalter: It means fainthearted and weak.
Mr Donaldson: I thank the hon. Gentleman. The clarification is welcome. I wondered whether we were breaking into Ulster Scots.
The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point that supports my remark that, while the report does mention the matter, it needs to go further. The lack of an effective public administration to provide infrastructural support for developing our economy is another negative which hardly assists our competitiveness.
Mr William Thompson (West Tyrone): Does my hon. Friend agree that one reason for delays in handling planning applications is that there are not enough staff. In many regions staff are overrun with and overpowered by applications and related investigations. If handling time is to be reduced, more staff must be employed in the planning department.
Mr Donaldson: I am grateful for my hon. Friend's intervention. He makes a valid point, which I hope the Minister will note.
One of two recommendations on the planning system is that there should be no more out-of-town shopping developments for five years. I am greatly aware of the impact of such developments on the retail sector in town centres. I represent the town of Lisburn, with Sprucefield, Northern Ireland's regional shopping centre, on its outskirts, and I have listened attentively to the concerns of traders in the town centre. I am interested to know whether the proposed moratorium on planning developments for out-of-town shopping centres includes Sprucefield, which is identified in the White Paper "Shaping our Future" as a regional shopping centre for Northern Ireland. At present, major public inquiries are in train on a number of issues relating to the development of Sprucefield. It is not clear from the proposals whether Sprucefield is included in the proposed moratorium. If it were to be included, that would contradict the proposals in "Shaping our Future", which are commended in the report.
Mr Malcolm Moss (North-East Cambridgeshire): The Hon. Gentleman latches on to a critical point. The statement is ambiguous. Does it refer to planning applications that are already in, but have not been approved? Does it refer to planning approvals that have not started their development? Or does it refer to a moratorium on further applications? The statement is meaningless and, unless the Minister provides clarification, we are none the wiser.
Mr Donaldson: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention and I hope that the Minister will address the issue.
I welcome the proposed establishment of a venture capital fund. That is a positive development and ties in with the need for private equity finance. I support the proposal for a well resourced, high-profile Northern Ireland regional office in Brussels. It is important for Northern Ireland to have a high-profile presence in the European Union to promote inward investment in Northern Ireland.
On the rural economy, I echo the comments of the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire. Given the decline in the agricultural sector, the development of the rural economy and alternative forms of employment within it should be a priority. I hope that that priority will be reflected in the strategy for economic development in Northern Ireland.
As I said earlier, I welcome the publication of the report, and have endeavoured to make my criticisms of it in a constructive manner. The report helps to advance the argument for developing a strong economy for Northern Ireland, which, for people living there, is central to prosperity and development. The report will be the focus of much debate, to which we will adopt a positive approach.
Mr Clifford Forsythe (South Antrim): Bearing in mind your instructions, Mr Atkinson, I will keep my remarks brief. They were going to be brief, anyway, because I have not spent long on the report. It is a well-researched document, and I congratulate those who produced it. However, I need to spend more time on it.
Paragraph 9.11.4 on page 171 of the report discusses inward investment and indigenous industry. On numerous occasions, Northern Ireland's indigenous industry has not received the help it needed. We have spent millions of pounds on firms coming into Northern Ireland who then leave for world business or other reasons. However, I always felt that it was unfair that those who worked really hard in Northern Ireland did not get the finance that should have been available to help get them over a hump or to another level of business. That is a weakness.
I was therefore disappointed by the recommendations in paragraph 9.11.4. As my hon. Friend the Member for East Londonderry (Mr Ross) said, people have to stay in Northern Ireland if good local industry is to be created. So I disagree with the conclusion reached in paragraph 9.11.4.
Page 178 of the report contains recommendations on out-of-town shopping developments. My hon. Friend the Member for Lagan Valley (Mr Donaldson) spoke about such developments. I agree with the general principle that it is a shame to destroy town or village centres by building huge developments in the country that have plenty of room for car parking - but there are advantages to it. The roads and roundabouts that have been provided through such developments have been very helpful to the public purse.
The Department of Economic Development, through the Industrial Development Board, and the Planning Service, which is in the Department of the Environment, seem often to be at odds. The IDB wants one thing, and the Planning Service almost seems to do its best to prevent it. If the recommendations in the document come about, and prevent the operations in question, the report will be very advantageous.
I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Lagan Valley in some ways about the slowness of planning, because there can be reasons for it. Local people can disagree with a planning application, and put every obstacle that they can think of in the way of the Planning Service, to stop it going ahead. "Not in my back yard." Perhaps that creates difficulties for the enlargement of industry, but we must take into account the views of the people who live near the site of an application. They have a perfect right, as citizens, to make known their objections. Part of the trouble has been inconsistent treatment of planning applications. I shall not go into the matter now, because I want to keep my remarks short, but I could give chapter and verse on that claim with reference to my constituency.
Pages 196 and 197 of "Strategy 2010" deal with the rural economy. I have encountered great difficulty with certain applications for businesses in that context. I strongly support things that relate to agriculture. For instance, I am glad that the document includes a paragraph about bed and breakfast provision which is an activity into which the farming community can diversify. There are others. Farmers do not indulge in some of the planning applications that have been made in Northern Ireland for business and industry. If the document forces us to examine that issue sensibly, and bear in mind everyone's view, it will have done a good job.
I think that the shortest paragraph in the whole book is on page 209. It is about privatisation and I found it the most startling paragraph. It is a calm statement - made, I am sure, after due consideration - that harbours, transport bodies and water and sewerage should be privatised. It is incredible and I find it hard to take in.
The Members of Parliament for Northern Ireland have consistently fought against the privatisation of Belfast harbour. They want transport bodies uprated and updated, and they want better railways. They have been public bodies for years, yet we hear that the solution to the whole problem is privatisation.
Mr McWalter: In that vein, does the hon. Gentleman agree that the privatisation of Northern Ireland Electricity provides a dreadful warning about what might happen if these policies are pursued?
Mr Forsythe: I certainly agree with the hon. Gentleman and I thank him for his comments. I remember - not going back too far - another Minister in the Northern Ireland Office giving me personal assurances, but they were not worth the breath he used to speak them. I shall say no more about that.
I was disappointed that the section on energy made no reference to saving it. Some comments about the construction of houses, or running industry better to expand less energy would have been helpful. Cutting down energy use has a big effect on the generation of electricity, for example. That should be taken into account in discussions of energy in Northern Ireland.
The Minister will know about the route from the north-west coming up to Belfast or Larne. A ferry goes from Belfast to Stranraer, but from Stranraer the lorries have to get to Carlisle. Though some parts of the roads between Stranraer and Carlisle are good, other parts are dreadful. The regions committee should examine that particular road and see what can be done about it - to help that part of Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Mr William Thompson (West Tyrone): I endorse what was said previously. We welcome "Strategy 2010" and thanks are due to all who participated in the review. Annex A provides a list of those who were involved, which includes not only civil servants and academics but business people with hands-on experience of business on a day-to-day basis in Northern Ireland who have a good working knowledge of key aspects covered by the report. That makes the review all the more worthy. It deals comprehensively with business and other sectors within Northern Ireland.
I have not had time to read the whole document as closely as I would have liked, but I can see from a cursory examination that it contains a number of welcome proposals. If the recommendations are carried out, they will benefit Northern Ireland.
We are told that current public administration may not represent the most efficient arrangements for the region and should be reviewed urgently, certainly within the next 12 months. We have 22 agencies in Northern Ireland and 80 executive quangos composed mainly of the great and the good. They are rarely representative of the Unionist persuasion and mainly are a law unto themselves: it can be difficult to control anything that they do. That is further increased by 50 administration bodies and 26 district councils.
We certainly have a lot of administration in Northern Ireland and, of course, we will soon have a wonderful new Assembly with 108 new members. It will cost in the region of £238 million a year. We have not yet been told where the money is coming from, but I am pretty sure that it will not come from an increase in the Exchequer grant to Northern Ireland. When those who are looking forward to this wonderful new Assembly begin to see how much it will cost, they will ask where the money is coming from.
Local government in Northern Ireland certainly needs to be reorganised so that it compares with local government in the rest of the United Kingdom. District councils have little power and as a result many councillors spend their time discussing politics rather than local issues. There is, therefore, a case for a reorganisation of local government so that proper powers can be restored to those councils and ordinary councillors have proper work to do and can deal more adequately with the problems relating to their wards.
[Mr William Thompson]
We then turn to industry. It is suggested that there should be a special rate of corporation tax for Northern Ireland. I doubt whether that is possible. I suspect that it is desirable that rates of tax - corporation and income tax - should remain the same throughout the United Kingdom. The idea of a special rate is not tenable. It is less tenable when we are told that if it is given the Chancellor should recoup what is given by reducing the money to the Departments in Northern Ireland in compensation. That suggestion is simply a non-starter.
I appreciate that there are difficulties between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in respect of the grants given to industry there. We will need to look at it from a different perspective rather than reducing corporation tax for many of these industries. The future prosperity of Northern Ireland lies in smaller businesses. When large firms are given big grants to come in, often they come in, grab the money, and then are away again. That has happened too often in Northern Ireland.
Roads have been mentioned. I appreciate the remarks of the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire. The road to Londonderry through Toone is a pretty good road other than at Toone. The alternative route, which runs from Belfast through Ballygally, Omagh and Strabane to Londonderry, is in need of reconstruction. I therefore welcome the Chancellor's initiative some time ago to release money to improve that road, especially with bypasses through Omagh and Newtownstewart and the continuation of a bypass through Strabane.
Mr Forsythe: My hon. Friend will be aware that the new temporary bypass in Toone makes a tremendous difference.
Mr Thompson: I appreciate my hon. Friend's comment, though I think the commitment has already been made to have a proper bypass.
One of the difficulties about the Chancellor's speech was that the bypass depended on the privatisation of the port of Belfast. Not being a socialist, I am all in favour of privatisation wherever we can get it. I know that many Northern Ireland Members do not favour that, but the history of privatisation shows that it probably produces more benefits than if matters remain in the public sector. I would rather have a bypass in my area, and if that means privatising the port of Belfast, I shall not object.
Mr Forsythe: Does my hon. Friend realise that the port of Belfast is a trust port, left in trust to the people of Belfast? It is a shame to use it to raise finance, when people are being charged taxes not only in Northern Ireland, but in the rest of the United Kingdom.
Mr Thompson: I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. I do not know enough about Belfast port to be aware of all the intricacies associated with it. However, if there is some benefit to my constituency. I certainly welcome it.
The review deals with the problems of agriculture. The expectation is that agriculture will continue to decline, especially among small farmers, as it has for a number of years. Many small farmers in Northern Ireland augment the money that they earn from farming by taking part-time jobs. That diversification will no doubt continue. I therefore welcome the fact that the section dealing with the rural economy recommends that more emphasis should be placed on the tourist industry, because many farms can provide bed and breakfast. That would help them over this crisis and bring in additional money.
The food processing and manufacturing sector is important to Northern Ireland. We are told that the output totals £2.5 million, representing nearly 30 per cent of all manufacturing output in Northern Ireland. It has therefore been a tragedy that beef exports, which used to represent 50 per cent of agricultural beef, have now almost ceased. We hope that in years to come, that market will be reinstated and will again provide great benefit to Northern Ireland.
On education, the report says that we have a good university system, producing people with good degrees. However, the vocational sector should be increased. Many students with qualifications and degrees find it difficult to get jobs. If some of them had gone into the vocational sector, they might be more employable now.
This very good document demands closer scrutiny. It focuses on the future of the Northern Ireland economy and I hope that many of its recommendations will have an impact on that economy in the years ahead.
Mr Malcolm Moss (North-East Cambridgeshire): The Minister and I have just under 25 minutes between us, but it is important that, in a Grand Committee, hon. Members representing Northern Ireland should have their full say on these matters, although in this case we received the document, a serious and impressive tome, only in the last few days and have not had much time to scrutinise it.
I congratulate the Minister, his permanent secretary and his team on a document that looks good and feels good, but whether it will do us good I am not so sue. Only time will tell.
Mr Ingram: It reaches parts the hon. Gentleman never reached.
Mr Moss: That is partly true, but I did not have responsibility for the Department of Economic Development. Had I done so, I might have produced something similar, but I shall let that pass.
The report is an impressive document, not just because of its wide-ranging content but because of the way in which the Minister and his team have brought together a range of people in Northern Ireland, from all sectors of society - commerce, industry, education and the social groupings - a plethora of committees. In the end it is a bit like a horse designed by a committee - which ends up as a camel, if I have that right - and it is not Government policy, so the Minister does not have to respond this afternoon. If he responds, who does he respond as? He can express only a personal opinion, which is of as much value as anyone else's personal opinion on the document. He told us in writing that he would not comment at this stage in a way that endorsed Government policy -
Mr Ingram indicated dissent.
Mr Moss: The Minister has changed his mind in three hours. He has not had enough time to do that.
There are strange discrepancies and contradictions in the document, some of which have been highlighted by my hon. Friends. There is the little paragraph on privatisation. I could say, "Haven't we come a long way?" If the Government endorse that paragraph, which I agree with entirely, they should plead mea culpa to Opposition Members for everything that they said over 18 years against the policy that is now in this document, including the privatisation of water and sewerage. That - as anyone in Northern Ireland who knows anything about the subject will confirm - is the only way to raise the capital necessary for the work on improving water quality and sewage treatment, but that is by the by. We await the Government's response to that and other interesting recommendations.
That was an achievement well worth waiting for, but why it happened today rather than before the 10 March deadline I know not. I had a feeling at one point that was in the Minister's valedictory - that it was his crowning glory and that he had to get it into Grand Committee before the new Assembly popped it on the top shelf and forgot all about it. The document is an important piece of work. I hope that the Assembly will be up and running and that the people who take over the Department of Economic Development will examine it carefully and give their own views and recommendations.
To take up another point made by the Minister, the Government have indeed delivered on their
responsibilities under the Belfast agreement. Most of what is in the document presupposes that there will be a last peace. Growth in tourism and expansion in all sectors of the economy really do depend on a full and lasting peace. The Government have indeed delivered on everything that they signed up to, including the document, which is part of the economic basis on which they said they would deliver.
They are to be congratulated on that. Cementing the peace - another matter on which the Minister commented - is part of current Government strategy, but it is not new. It is something that we attempted to do when we were in power. It matters not which side of the political spectrum one is on because, in the final analysis, achieving peace in Northern Ireland requires not only inclusivity on both sides of the community, with people working together, but the provision of a strong, vibrant economy under which quality of life, a job and a purpose in life are so much more important than political or religious divisions.
Reading the document in the limited time that I had, I felt that it had an all-Ireland dimension. I stopped short of using the word "nationalist" but there is plenty in it to encourage those of nationalist persuasion that that dimension is there, and the Belfast to Dublin road is just one of many recommendations that seek to consider the economic problem on an all-Ireland basis. It may well be - I merely flag this up - that when the Assembly considers the document, it will find things there that it will baulk at, given the north-south dimension. But that is somewhat down the road.
I could go on for some considerable time. I prepared a speech of about an hour's length, but I will keep to a further two or three minutes on one or two issues in the document that caught my eye - in particular the recommendation in section 10 on investment in roads as a percentage of GDP, which states:
"For every 1 per cent of GDP invested in infrastructure it is estimated that there is a corresponding improvement of 0.25 per cent in productivity."
I should like to know where that came from, and whether the Government agree with it, because they certainly do not follow that principle in respect of road building in Great Britain. There is no acknowledgement of the source of that information, nor is there reference to any research. If the Government accept that policy as pertinent to Northern Ireland, it is pertinent to the rest of the United Kingdom, but, given where it came from, I think that it is also part of the Northern Ireland fixation with roads. Northern Ireland loves spending on roads above all public expenditure. Roads are not unimportant, but they loom large in its expectations. I was pleased that targets featured in section 10. Visions and key policies are all very well, but the steering group has set some ambitious targets which the Government may wish to examine. Some of those targets may be reduced, especially that for business investment in research and development which will take a quantum leap and increase by a factor of three. Given the United Kingdom's experience in that area, that is probably a target too far.
I turn to section 9, which recommends reduced dependency on public expenditure. As the saying goes: "Nice, if you can get it." Section 9 injects some realism into the report, albeit for two pages. I have already alluded to the brief mention of privatisation, which made me blink.
Section 9 addresses the level of public expenditure on education and health: that is most welcome. The Northern Ireland Office and the Assembly - if it gets up and running - must address health costs. The presence of 18 acute general hospitals in the Province in denuding the health service of front-line services. Ulster Unionist Members would disagree with that, but the matter must be addressed.
The report states that domestic rates in Northern Ireland are about 40 per cent of those in Great Britain. For too long, the people of Northern Ireland have not paid their way on rate contributions. Of course, water charges there are far lower than in the United Kingdom as a whole.
I have mentioned infrastructure in passing. Why is the north-south road connecting Dublin and Belfast earmarked as a special case? That link takes priority over other roads such as the A8, which goes from Belfast to Larne, the A26, connecting Belfast, Antrim and Coleraine, and the A3 and the A4, which are extremely important.
What evidence is used to reach the conclusion that the north-south road is so important? Where do most Northern Ireland exports go? They do not go south to Dublin, but through the ports of Belfast and Larne. The roads from the rest of Northern Ireland to those ports are more important than the north-south Belfast-Dublin road.
Mr Bill O'Brien: I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman as I have not been present for most of the debate, but I wish to follow up his statement about the north-south road. How many lorries from the Republic go through the ports of Belfast and Larne? How much work do they bring to Northern Ireland?
Mr Moss: I cannot answer that. From my experience in Northern Ireland, I can say that the majority of movements are from Northern Ireland through its own ports. I did not say that the Belfast-Dublin road was unimportant. I simply asked why the document singles out that link as the most important road. There is no reason for doing that unless the document's input has a political perspective.
I have spoken for 10 minutes, so I will stop, as I believe that the Minister should have a fair opportunity to respond.
Mr Ingram: We have had a good debate and I should like to thank all those who contributed to it. I should particularly like to thank the hon. Members for Belfast, South, for East Londonderry, for Montgomeryshire, for Lagan Valley, for South Antrim, for West Tyrone and for North-East Cambridgeshire.
One of the issues debated earlier was the short time that hon. Members had to examine the document. That was driven by several necessities, the first of which - as I stated in my opening remarks - was that more than 300 people participated. There was a danger that the information would seep out into the public domain, as people who participated talked about their participation.
I pressurised the steering group to produce a report as early as possible. There was no targets or deadlines set by other events: I simply wanted it out in the public domain and did not really care whether it was presented to me or went to the Assembly. I hoped that it would go to the Assembly because if it did, it would have meant that that which had not yet been fully delivered would have been fully delivered and another major success would have been achieved.
Once the report was concluded, it would have been wrong not to release it and to wait until the Assembly was up and running. We then started the process of informing people and producing the document as quickly as possible. We recognised that this Grand Committee fortuitously fell within the framework of the availability of the report for publication. I would have liked to have provided hon. Members with the report much earlier, but we have now commenced the debate, which is the most important consideration.
I should like to deal first with the points raised by the hon. Member for Belfast, South. He asked what would happen to the report if the Assembly did not happen. I made it clear in my opening remarks that progress must be made in many areas highlighted in the report and that the
Government have already embarked on a programme of progress. I pointed to several initiatives already seeing the light of day, irrespective of what happens in Northern Ireland over the next period.
The hon. Member for Belfast, South also mentioned skills shortages and referred to the software sector. Again the Government are already dealing with that critical area. The Training and Employment Agency has established a skills task force, which will introduce a comprehensive skills monitoring and forecast system that will initiate actions to meet key skills needs. Identification of the problem is already behind us and there is a general recognition that something must be done.
The same applies to NVQs, which the hon. Member for Belfast, South also mentioned. We agree that there are not enough well qualified young people in employment. The steering group also agrees and makes recommendations in paragraph 9.64 on page 153. The hon. Gentleman said that the DOE strategy had been delayed, but it has not. It is due to be published in May, as planned. He also mentioned the need for companies to get help at an early stage. That is true, which is why the new venture fund has been set up for small and higher risk companies.
I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman in his comments about the textile and apparel sector. We must ensure that as many of the young talented people of Northern Ireland who come out of the university and college sector, trained in design, are retained in Northern Ireland. We must try to move that sector into those areas where higher-tech and higher value added goods are being produced. There is a high quality market there in Northern Ireland and it can be built upon. The whole question is addressed in the report.
On the wider issues of corporation tax and the fiscal regime, it is worth pointing out that corporation tax is at the lowest rate ever in the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom has a most generous combination of low rates and high profit limits in Europe for smaller companies. I suspect that the steering group approached that by recognising how the Government are tackling this area. It is rowing with the tide in the change towards companies rather than the grant subsidy approach which prevailed for too long.
The hon. Member for East Londonderry raised important matters relating to electricity and gas. There can perhaps be nothing more critical to the development of an economy than having the right ingredients. Sadly - we do not have time to debate privatisation - the inherited structure of the electricity supply industry has meant energy costs that are too high in relation not just to the Republic of Ireland but to the rest of the UK and Europe. That is a drag on trying to get inward investment and industrial growth within Northern Ireland.
That is why the Government have been so proactive in getting the interconnector between Scotland and Northern Ireland established and in trying to bring new gas supplies into Northern Ireland. Those gas supplies should flow north-south to get the best benefit. There should be an enlargement of that gas market as that will encourage investors into the gas sector and to look at ways in which we can develop the gas routes to the north-west too. Those are two key areas that we are actively pursuing. Hopefully we can find some answers.
The rural community was also mentioned by the hon. Member for East Londonderry. It is important to sustain it. The whole question of the agri-food supply chain is critical too. Companies can do better in this area. Many companies are doing better. They are tackling this with vigour and are supported by Government agencies. On the way that the large multiples affect existing suppliers, we have been in close discussions with the large multiples to get them to set targets for local sourcing within Northern Ireland. It is constantly monitored. It requires those who are supplying in to adapt to change and new ideas, and thereby hopefully to capture the available business.
There are many points that I should like to make. I shall comment on the points made by the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire. He used the asteroid analogy. It seems to me that on a clear day I can see a better future for Northern Ireland. I do not know whether it is an asteroid coming in or going away in terms of his analogy, but there is undoubtedly a need for a whole new approach towards the development of the Northern Ireland economy. His analytical and critical comments on the detail of the document are most welcome.
The hon. Gentleman talked about business angels and said that that of itself was not enough. Clearly, that is the case. The report identifies that and other elements, such as venture capital, which the Government are trying to promote. Let me apologise for the potato famine in the House of Parliament. I would point out that the quality of that product derives from Scottish seed potatoes. Perhaps it is another good example of cross-cultural involvement.
Both the hon. Gentleman and hon. Member for West Tyrone talked about road improvements and the Toone bridge. There was a bit of a debate about how that would be funded. The funding was predicated on the Chancellor's package last year. It was a unique package for Northern Ireland, in the sense that the proceeds of that privatisation approach would be retained in Northern Ireland and would not go back to the Exchequer. People say that they want £100 million or £80 million of investment in the road infrastructure, but if it does not come from the proceeds, where will it come from? Hon. Members must address that question.
The hon. Member for Lagan Valley said yes to the report. The more he says, "Yes", the better it will be for Northern Ireland. If he could only say it more often perhaps we could advance other elements of the debate. He made an important point about the small business sector and the single economic development strategy. We must consider how it can best be developed to ensure that we do not lose the advantages and benefits we have had in trying to encourage the growth of the small business sector in Northern Ireland. The hon. Gentleman made his point well.
Question put and agreed to.
That the Committee has considered the draft Report of the Economic Development Review Steering Group, "Strategy 2010".
Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Committee do not adjourn - [Mr Hill].
Mr Jeffrey Donaldson (Lagan Valley): I want to use the opportunity of this brief debate to raise the issue of human rights in Northern Ireland. There are two aspects of this wide-ranging subject on which I want to focus. The first relates to the newly established Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the second concerns continuing human rights abuses in Northern Ireland.
Under the terms of the Belfast agreement, in the section dealing with rights, safeguards and equality of opportunity, it was proposed that a new Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission with membership from Northern Ireland reflecting the community balance would be established by Westminster legislation. In part VII of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, which is that Westminster legislation, under the heading
"Human Rights and Equal Opportunities"
section 68(3) states:
"In making appointments under this section, the Secretary of State shall as far as practicable secure that the Commissioners, as a group, are representative of the community in Northern Ireland."
It is clear to me that not only is there an obligation under the terms of the Belfast agreement, but there is an obligation under the legislation establishing the Human Rights Commission to ensure that its composition is representative of the community and that, in the words of the agreement, it "reflects the community balance". I am concerned about the composition of the commission and that it does not reflect the community balance in Northern Ireland. It is not a concern that I alone hold; it has been expressed by a wide range of people.
Judging by the reaction of many of the members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, if the establishment of the commission were a transferred matter which came under their purview and if the Assembly were require to take a cross-community vote on its composition, I doubt whether it would achieve a cross-community consensus. The members of the Assembly and I are not alone in our concerns about this. Sam Cushnahan, the director of Families Against Intimidation and Terror, said:
"The list of commissioners contains many people who are eminent in their own fields but not one who has made their reputation by agitating on behalf of the victims of terrorism.
This is symptomatic of an attempt by government and by voluntary agencies like the Committee for the Administration of Justice, who are heavily represented on the new commission, to exclude victims of terrorism from the human rights agenda."
There is a wide concern about the composition of the Human Rights Commission.
Mr David Trimble (Upper Bann): Will my hon. Friend give way?
The Chairman: Order. I am sorry to interrupt but in an Adjournment debate, interventions can be accepted only if both the Minister and the hon. Member who initiated the debate allow it.
Mr Ingram indicated assent.
Mr Trimble: Thank you, Mr Atkinson, for putting me right on that. I just wish to assure my hon. Friend that his comments about whether the matter would achieve the requisite cross-community support if it came before the Northern Ireland Assembly are absolutely accurate. I share his concern about the lack of balance in the commission and that concern is shared by other Unionist groupings in the Assembly. I do not think that any Unionists in the Assembly would endorse the commission as it is established because it patently does not reflect the community in Northern Ireland.
Mr Donaldson: I welcome the comments of my right hon. Friend, who is not only a member of the House, but the First Minister designate of Northern Ireland. His views represent a broad consensus within the Unionist community of concern about the composition of the Human Rights Commission. That is an important issue, because the Human Rights Commission's ability to deliver its remit and to inspire confidence in its ability to deal with human rights issues in Northern Ireland requires broad community support. That is why it was written into the Belfast agreement and into the legislation. There is wide recognition that if the Human Rights Commission is to succeed in its task, it must enjoy the confidence of the wider community in Northern Ireland.
Mr Kevin McNamara (Hull, North): When the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr Trimble) was in New York, he made a similar comment. When challenged about how many Unionists had been nominated, he could think of only one who he felt should have been on the commission, and that was a lady. There are 10 members on the commission, of whom six would be termed perceived Protestants and four perceived Catholics. As I understand it, there are three male Catholics and two female Catholics. If there is wild consternation, does he doubt the integrity of any members of the commission to carry out the task properly? If so, he should name them.
Mr Donaldson: I have sought to ascertain the religious balance of the membership of the Human Rights Commission, as have other right hon. and hon. Members, and that information has so far been denied to us. I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply given in the House by the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office to my right hon. Friend the Member for Strangford (Mr Taylor), in which he said:
"It is not the Government's policy to release the affiliation of each member" - [Official Report, 10 March 1999; Vol 327, c.286].
That may be his perception of the religious balance. I cannot comment on the accuracy of what he says, but it is not my understanding of the religious composition, nor is it the perception among the wider community in Northern Ireland. It is not a question of integrity of individual members of the Human Rights Commission; it is a question of whether the composition of this body reflects the community balance, as required by the legislation and the terms of the Belfast agreement. In my opinion it does not.
It is not simply a question of religious balance, I believe that a person's religion is not necessarily relevant to his ability to carry out a certain task. I have always supported the principle of merit as the sole basis for appointments to a body, but in political terms there is a necessity in Northern Ireland to ensure that such bodies, particularly one as sensitive as the Human Rights Commission, reflect the community balance in political terms. In my opinion the political composition of the Human Rights Commission in no way reflects the political balance in Northern Ireland. I shall give a few examples.
I do not want to discuss personalities as that would be unfair to the people concerned, but at least two members of the Human Rights Commission have a past affiliation with the SDLP and, as far as I am aware, none of them has a past affiliation with any Unionist political party in Northern Ireland. That does not inspire confidence in a political balance being achieved.
There is also the issue of the representation accorded to members of the Committee on the Administration of Justice. That is a small organisation in Northern Ireland terms, yet three members of the Human Rights Commission are closely associated with it. How can a small body like that, which is no more representative of the community in Northern Ireland, have such a large proportion of the representation on this committee when, in the words of Mr Cushnahan, the victims' organisations in Northern Ireland have no representation on the Human Rights Commission? The Committee on the Administration of Justice is a very partisan organisation in the perception of Unionists. I accept that people are not appointed because they belong to a particular organisation, but it is significant that 30 per cent of the commission's membership have an association with that committee. That is further evidence of the imbalance of the commission's composition.
I am also concerned that the Irish Government endorsed two of the successful candidates to the
Human Rights Commission, but my party, the largest political party in Northern Ireland, was not consulted about endorsing candidates. Why have the Irish Government been given a special role in a Human Rights Commission affecting Northern Ireland over which they have no jurisdiction, while the Ulster Unionist party - the party representing the greater number in Northern Ireland - is not consulted? We need some answers to that question.
In the context of that imbalance, the hon. Member for Hull, North (Mr McNamara) asked whether there were, sufficient applications from the Unionist community and what the quality of those applications was. Sam Cushnahan points to at least three individuals who he feels were eminently qualified, who would have bought a better balance to the Human Rights Commission and who applied but were overlooked. I shall mention just two of them. One is Mr Brian Garrett, an eminent Belfast lawyer who has lectured at Harvard, yet his application was passed over.
More worrying to me is the case of Lady Sylvia Hermon, Lady Hermon made an application for the Human Rights Commission and was not shortlisted. She has entered into correspondence with the Northern Ireland Office to find out why. I quote from a reply that she received dated 2 March. The letter says:
"there were two essential criteria which candidates would have to satisfy in order to progress to the next stage" - that is to the shortlist.
"These criteria covered the candidates' record of achievement in their chosen field and evidence from their applications of a good grasp of human rights issues."
The letter goes on to say, in respect of Lady Hermon:
"Your application was eliminated on the first of the two criteria listed above."
In other words, her record of achievement in her chosen field was considered insufficient by those engaged in the shortlisting process.
Perhaps I may share with the Committee Lady Hermon's personal achievement. At the age of 21, she achieved a first class hon.ours degree. At the age of 22 , she was appointed a lecturer in law at the Queen's University of Belfast. Within the next eight years, she became a leading authority in Northern Ireland on European Community law, as evidenced by her authorship of the first textbook on European Community law, written specificially for students and legal practitioners in Northern Ireland. By any judgement, Lady Hermon's record shows achievement in her own field - law - which is particularly relevant to human rights, especially those relating to European Community law. The Belfast agreement proposes the incorporation of the European convention on human rights, so European Community law will be important in human rights issues in Northern Ireland. Therefore, Lady Hermon was eminently qualified to be shortlisted.
Mr Trimble: I am familiar with Lady Hermon's academic background and can vouch for everything that my right hon. Friend said about that. However, those wishing to check that background will find that easier if they look under Lady Hermon's maiden name of Paisley, which is probably as big an obstacle to her as her married name.
Mr Donaldson: I thank my right hon. Friend for his intervention. The community in Northern Ireland, along with Lady Hermon, is entitled to know why she was not shortlisted for appointment to the Human Rights Commission. Many people in Northern Ireland who examine Lady Hermon's record of achievement will reach the conclusion that she has a proven record in an area central to human rights. I have reached that conclusion myself, and why she was not shortlisted is beyond my understanding.
In my opinion, there were no other suitable applicants. If suitable applicants had been shortlisted and, perhaps, appointed to the Human Rights Commission, a better community balance may have been achieved. In such circumstances, confidence in the Human Rights Commission may have enjoyed broader community support.
That is most important, as human rights are a fundamental issue in Northern Ireland. To allow the Minister time to reply, I will give a brief mention of ongoing human rights abuses in Northern Ireland. Those abuses give rise to the need for the Human Rights Commission. I support the idea of such a commission and I want it succeed because human rights abuses continue to be a problem.
Statistics for 1 January to 23 March show that 391 citizens in Northern Ireland have been directly affected by terrorist violence and human rights abuses. Even more frightening is the fact that 116 of those 391 citizens were children under 16.
That problem is growing in Northern Ireland. This year alone, Republicans have murdered one person - Eammon Collins - and have been involved in 12 shootings, 24 beatings, 43 cases of intimidation and 78 cases of exile, which involved intimidating people into leaving Northern Ireland. On the other side, Loyalists have been involved in at least two murders - those of Rosemary Nelson and Frankie Curry - 15 shootings, 48 beatings, 77 cases of intimidation and 85 cases of exile.
That is an appalling record, which reveals continuing human rights abuses in Northern Ireland, so I certainly endorse the need for the Human Rights Commission in Northern Ireland. Its first task should be to tackle the on-going human rights abuses perpetrated by terrorist organisations.
I will conclude with the appalling case of a 13-year-old boy, who was brutally assaulted last week by a paramilitary gang in Newtownards. A picture of that young boy in his hospital bed, with his mother next to him, appears on the front of the Belfast Telegraph. I do not know what he is alleged to have been guilty of in the eyes of the so-called terrorist godfathers, but nothing justifies the appalling abuse of his human rights. It is symptomatic of an underlying problem in Northern Ireland - a culture among paramilitary organisations that encourages them to take the law into their own hands in carrying out punishment attacks, which are a denial of the rights of individuals.
Human rights is an ongoing problem in Northern Ireland that needs to be addressed, but if that is to be done properly, the new Human Rights Commission must earn the confidence of the broad community there. Notwithstanding my concern and the concern expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Upper Bann (Mr Trimble) and many others, including Families Against Intimidation and Terror, the Human Rights Commission, because of its composition, fails to achieve the consensus of support that it needs to carry out its task effectively. The Government must do something about that.
The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr Adam Ingram): I thank the hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr Donaldson) for raising today's debate on human rights in Northern Ireland. It will provoke discussion and debate not only in the Committee but in a wider arena.
The hon. Gentleman raised two issues, one relating specifically to human rights, the other, rightly, connected with the activities of terrorist groups and paramilitaries. He mentioned exiles and the punishment acts, as they are called although they are more appropriately called paramilitary assaults because that is clearly what they are. They are brutal. There is no justification for them and they
[Mr Adam Ingram]
should be condemned at every opportunity whenever they arise and in every debate that provides an opportunity to condemn them because the pressure from our debates, from the media and from the public has an impact on the communities in which such acts have been carried out.
The hon. Gentleman right referred to the tragic circumstances of the terrible assault on a 13-year-old. The group or groups which acted in that way were sinking to a new low in their activities and we need to put an end to them. The hon. Gentleman did not comment on the disappeared, but I know that he shares my concern about that problem. Twenty-nine families do not know where loved ones who were murdered by paramilitary and terrorist groups have been buried. Everything possible has been done to try to bring some comfort to those families.
The debate is timely because it provides an opportunity to look at the progress that has been made on human rights matters and to discuss what work is still to be done as part of the wider issue. It is worth while putting on record the background to human rights in the Province because for many people those issues have been at the core of Northern Ireland's troubles since 1969. The issues were there at the beginning of the dispute that prevails today and I do not believe that a lasting settlement can be achieved in the Province without their being tackled.
In the 1960s, civil rights in Northern Ireland often focused on what mattered most in people's day-to-day lives such as housing, jobs, poverty and civil rights. Progress in all those areas has been an important backdrop to the developing peace process, but that does not mean that there is no room for further improvement. There is a great deal of cross-community support in the Province for the protection of human rights. The hon. Gentleman welcomed the initiatives, although he expressed concern about one matter that I want to address.
Politicians on both sides of the community in Northern Ireland will say that their rights have been eroded or that their rights need better protection.
Rights mean different things to different people. There is the classical narrow definition of human rights centring on political and fundamental legal rights - rights that are subject to a number of national and international protections, but discussion of rights stretches much further, for example, into questions of cultural and collective, or community, rights.
The people responsible for the greatest abuse of human rights are, of course, the terrorists, who continue to try to undermine the progress towards a peaceful settlement for Northern Ireland through their barbaric killing and maiming.
The Government, together with the police, have a duty to maintain law and order and to take the steps, necessary to protect the community from terrorist attack. The police have the full support of the Government in doing everything possible to deter and detect those responsible for terrorist attacks. So the whole question of human rights has necessarily been the subject of much debate and discussion, which will continue well into the future.
The protection of human rights in Northern Ireland is, of course, something that was discussed at the talks between the political parties which led to the Belfast agreement last year. There was general agreement that a guaranteed basic framework of rights would be an essential part of any new settlement for Northern Ireland, based on the new arrangements which the Government are introducing for the United Kingdom as a whole.
By far the most significant of the new measures for the protection of human rights in the United Kingdom is of course the Human Rights Act 1998 which will allow people to enforce in the courts here their rights under the European convention on human rights, which is an agreed Europe-wide framework for protecting fundamental human rights. Britain was one of the authors of the convention and one of the original signatories. For the first time, those rights will be brought home and enshrined in legislation throughout the United Kingdom.
[Mr Adam Ingram]
In practice that means that, for example, the right to freedom of expression, to peaceful assembly or to freedom of thought, conscience and religion can be upheld in our courts, instead of citizens having to go to the expense of taking cases to the European Court in Strasbourg. It was agreed in the talks that that would be a good starting point.
There is much debate and discussion still to take place on whether other mechanisms for the protection of rights should be built into an agreed future for Northern Ireland. Some of that was manifest in our debate today.
The outcome of the discussion was reflected in the Belfast agreement, which fully recognises the significance of the whole rights and equality agenda to the future of Northern Ireland. That agreement has the potential to draw a line under the past. It is a comprehensive agenda for political and social change - the chance for a fresh start with all parties committed to
"partnership, equality and mutual respect".
I appreciate that the hon. Member for Lagan Valley does not support what we are trying to achieve through the agreement, though he did say that he welcomed developments in respect of human rights. However, we need frameworks such as the Good Friday agreement. Discussions commenced through it and mechanisms have developed out of it.
One element of the new arrangements that the Government are trying to establish with the help of existing equality bodies is the unified equality commission to oversee a legal requirement in all public bodies in Northern Ireland to promote equality of opportunity. The Government are therefore moving forward on human rights and on equality.
The hon. Member for Lagan Valley asked about the make-up of the Human Rights Commission and made an impassioned plea for a particular individual. I do not know whether that individual wants her name paraded in front of the wider public.
Mr Donaldson: I have her permission.
Mr Ingram: Perhaps I missed that. However, it is inappropriate for anyone put forward for appointment to a public body to have all his or her arguments and issues paraded in Committee. Individuals have a right - and many avail themselves of it - to raise the issue of why they were not included, but not here.
Mr Donaldson: I was simply using her case - and I obtained Lady Hermon's permission to do so - as an example that some well-qualified people applied who, if appointed, would have brought a better balance in terms of the composition of the commission. I want the Minister to address that issue.
Mr Ingram: Surely that is a matter of judgement and the right people to make that judgement are those who are making the appointments. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Upper Bann had opportunities earlier to raise matters through interventions.
I want to deal with the allegation that the Irish Government were consulted. The Irish Government were not consulted on the matter. They had the facility to make recommendations on the same basis as any other group. We went through the full process of requesting applications to this commission and I am advised that only five people with tenuous Unionist links applied. The hon. Members for Lagan Valley and for Upper Bann want their people to be automatically appointed, irrespective of fairness to people who have an interest in the victims' case. It is a small body with only one chairperson and nine part-time members.
The debate having continued for half an hour, THE CHAIRMAN adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.
Committee adjourned accordingly at half-past Five o'clock.
Hansard © Parliamentary Copyright 1999. Reproduced by permission of the Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office on behalf of Parliament.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT FORUM MEMBERSHIP: May 2000
Chairman DETI Minister
Deputy Chairman Gerry Loughran
Chris Gibson OBE
Stephen Kingon CBE
Paul Sweeney, DRD
Ian Walters, DHFETE
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT FORUM FOR NORTHERN IRELAND
TERMS OF REFERENCE AND CONSTITUTION
Terms of Reference
1. The role of the Economic Development Forum shall be to advise and make recommendations to the Northern Ireland Administration on all matters affecting the development and future competitiveness of the economy of Northern Ireland. The agenda would be drawn from the principles and recommendations in the Report of the Economic Development Strategy Review Steering Group, "Strategy 2010", published in March 1999. The Forum would also take account of contemporary information and advice.
2. In particular, the Forum shall:
- advise on how the recommendations of targets contained in Strategy 2010 which have been adopted by the Administration may be most effectively implemented;
- monitor progress with the implementation of these recommendations and towards the achievement of the targets proposed in Strategy 2010, and make any necessary proposals for corrective action;
- advise on ways to balance the objectives of improving competitiveness, maximising economic growth, achieving sustainable development and promoting social cohesion and inclusion through an equitable distribution of the benefits of economic growth; and
- as requested by Government, to offer advice on public expenditure allocations in the light of economic development priorities.
3. In order to enable it to fulfil these tasks, the Forum shall commission economic research and policy advice as appropriate. It will be provided with an annual report on action on Strategy 2010 by the Department of Economic Development/Department of Enterprise Trade and Industry.
4. The members of the Forum shall be drawn from the social partners and constituted as follows:-
4 Government/public sector
4 trade unions
5. The Forum shall be chaired by the Minister responsible for economic development. The Permanent Secretary of DED/DETI shall be member ex officio and shall act as Chairman of the Forum in the absence of the Minister.
6. The term of office of members of the Forum shall be 3 years. No member shall serve more than 2 terms.
7. The Forum shall meet regularly, not less than 4 times per year. It may also hold ad hoc meetings either on its own initiative or at the request at the Administration.
Ordered by The Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment to be printed 22 March 2001Report: 2/00R (Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment)