Question Time: Enterprise, Trade and Investment 17 February 2014

Long term unemployment continues to be an issue here in Northern Ireland and Arlene Foster, the Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Investment was asked to defend her Department's record of job creation.

The Minister stated that "since its launch in 2011, the jobs fund has created over 4,300 new jobs." However, Michael Copeland raised the point that over-45s in Northern Ireland are more likely to be economically inactive than their counterparts in the rest of the United Kingdom.
The Minister stated that "It has long been recognised that we in Northern Ireland have an issue about those who are economically inactive.  It is one of the reasons why the Minister for Employment and Learning and I are engaged in a consultation on that very issue."

The cost home-heating oil was again raised in the Assembly. The Minister advised Members that the Consumer Council produces a range of current and archived retail oil prices across Northern Ireland on its oil watch web page.

The Minister also referred to the Office of Fair Trading study which considered the Northern Ireland oil distribution sector to be transparent and, more importantly, competitive on price, with cheaper retail prices than Great Britain and, indeed, the Republic of Ireland.

During the remainder of Question Time, the Minister provided the house with some interesting points:
On the issue of rural broadband she stated: "On 7 February 2014, I announced further investment of some £23·5 million from government and BT to improve broadband choice and speed to over 45,000 premises across Northern Ireland.  That work is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2015."
On the issue of Economic Rebalancing she stated: "My Department has promoted 19,329 jobs and secured investment of £1·04 billion in the Northern Ireland economy.  In addition, Invest NI has supported investment of £238 million by businesses in R&D since April 2011."

During topical questions the Minister responded to questions regarding the One Plan; her trade mission to Singapore; Loan Sharks; Agrifood Loan Scheme; and Renewable Energy.

Read the full transcript on our website.

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