Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister, Jonathan Bell, discussed manufacturing prospects for the local sector during today’s Question Time. The Minister declared “manufacturing is hugely important to the Northern Ireland economy. It makes a significant contribution to export levels and to research and development in Northern Ireland, both of which are central to wealth creation”. In the past year output is up 3.2% and the 1,870 jobs have been added. “However, a number of major redundancies have been announced, and there is no room for complacency. My Department and Invest Northern Ireland will continue to do all that we can do to support investment, create jobs and promote competitiveness in the manufacturing sector.”
During topical questions Mr Bell addressed the issue of broadband provision in rural areas. The Minister acknowledged “There are specific difficulties in rural areas. We can provide coverage for those areas, but I am acutely aware of the speed of that coverage. I am acutely aware, too, that, even when we say that we can provide 100% broadband coverage, very often, many people cannot get it due to the pressure, if it is satellite broadband, on particular beams.” The broadband improvement programme has helped tens of thousands, and there is also the superfast broadband improvement project – “All of those deliver for many businesses, but I am acutely aware that there are pockets that experience significant difficulty. Going by my postbag and the people whom I speak to at a specific time, saying that we have 100% coverage is being increasingly challenged. I will look specifically at what we can do for those areas, particularly on satellite provision.”
During Question Time the Minister also answered questions on InterTradeIreland, Year of Food and Drink 2016, the performance of Invest NI and the investment in graduates in relation to our ambitions with corporation tax.