14 September 2023

Northern Ireland-wide investment zone ‘very interesting idea’, says minister

14 September 2023

Creating an investment zone that covers the entirety of Northern Ireland is a “very interesting idea” and will be raised with Cabinet ministers, Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch has said.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced in the Budget delivered in March plans for 12 new investment zones, saying there would be at least one in Northern Ireland.

The designation could see areas benefit from increased funding for spending and tax incentives, and the Government says the programme has been designed to increase innovation, grow key industries and drive growth as part of the so-called levelling-up agenda.

Speaking in the Commons, Tory former Cabinet minister Dame Andrea Leadsom asked: “What consideration has (the Secretary of State) given to creating an investment zone that covers the whole of Northern Ireland that would bring much-needed investment to that much-loved part of the United Kingdom?”

Ms Badenoch responded: “I think this is a… very interesting idea. I do know that the investment zone policy is owned by the levelling up department, so I will raise it with the Secretary of State there and with the Northern Ireland Secretary of State.

“But what I think I must say is that officials from the UK Government and the Northern Ireland civil service continue to work closely to explore developing investment zone policy in the country.

“The lack of a functioning executive there has of course limited the scope, and the nature of engagement on investment zones, but if the executive is restored we will work together to progress an investment zone at pace. And if it isn’t formed, we will set out different plans in due course.”

Elsewhere in the session of questions to business and trade ministers, Government frontbencher Nusrat Ghani was challenged over concerns of a “Brexit tax” being applied to food imported from the European Union.

SNP MP Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) asked: “Perhaps she can explain why her Government’s plan for a £43 inspection fee on each consignment of food imported from the European Union represents barrier-free trade?

“Can she tell small food retailers, restaurants, and their customers in Glasgow North when or whether they are going to have to pay this Brexit tax and the higher prices that it will lead to?”

Business and trade minister Ms Ghani said: “I know that the honourable member wants to put all of his anxiety on Brexit and forget about all the opportunities that we’re securing with trade agreements around the world.

“The issue that he raises is fundamentally an issue that sits at the doorstep of the Cabinet Office and Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs). We’re working very closely with them to resolve all of them.”

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