Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Third Special Report


The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has agreed to the following Special Report:—



1. Our Fourth Report of last Session[2] dealt with Northern Ireland Railways and, in particular, with financial provision for new rolling stock in 2000-01. Our Fifth Report[3] continued our series of public expenditure based reports and dealt with inward investment. We started both inquiries when the relevant matters were the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. However, most of the relevant issues are 'transferred matters' within the meaning of the Northern Ireland Act 1998,[4] and consequently fell within the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Northern Ireland Executive by the time we reported (July 2000).[5]

2. We therefore invited the Northern Ireland Executive to comment on both reports. We are pleased to reproduce in the Appendix to this Report the Executive's responses, which have been endorsed by the First Minister and Deputy First Minister acting as co-chairs of the Executive. We welcome the Executive's willingness to respond to these Reports and hope that it will also feel able to offer appropriate comments on any future occasion where one of our Reports touches on matters for which it is responsible.




Northern Ireland Railways: Financial Provision for new rolling stock in 2000/01

In welcoming the Committee's report on the above, the Minister responsible for Regional Development, Gregory Campbell, acknowledged the years of underfunding which made forward planning with any degree of certainty such a difficult issue for Northern Ireland Railways. The Minister, at that time, also referred to the Little Review of Rail Safety and the work of the Railways Task Force which he indicated would be used to inform decisions on the way forward with regard to NIR.

The Executive is pleased to be able to confirm that considerable progress with regard to funding issues for provision of new rolling stock has been made since the Committee reported. The Railways Task Force, which produced its interim report in September, stated that railways should play an important role in meeting Northern Ireland's long term transportation needs and that the full extent of that role can best be determined as part of a regional transportation strategy. The Task Force also identified three key decisions and agreed that under a consolidation option, investment priority could be given to the busier commuter routes.

Recognising the long term strategic importance of railways, the Executive outlined, in its Programme for Government, a series of actions designed to ensure that Northern Ireland's communications and transport infrastructure is of the standard that its economy requires. Measures include the production of a ten year regional transportation strategy by the Autumn of this year (a consultation paper has already been published) that will include consideration of new funding sources; consider, in the context of the strategy, future investment in public transport; and advance a Railways Safety Bill to provide a new legislative framework to support modern and safe rail travel.

In December, the Executive agreed a budget, subsequently approved by the Assembly, to provide an additional £19.6 million for railways in 2001/02 together with an indicative allocation totalling £85 million in the following two years. Of this total funding package of about £105 million, £83 million has been earmarked to secure a significant number of new train sets.

These indicative allocations, to be confirmed later by the Assembly, will provide the funding necessary in those years to complete the consolidation option, subject to confirmation of some aspects as part of the development of the 10 year regional development strategy.

All of this represents a very significant investment in railways over the next three years. It is the first stage in revitalising railways over the next ten years and beyond and is indicative of the wider commitment of modernising the transport system in Northern Ireland as a means of facilitating economic growth and improving the quality of the lives of all the people of Northern Ireland.

Public Expenditure in Northern Ireland: Inward Investment

 The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee's informative Report draws together the views of Ministers, IDB, representative organisations and others interested/involved in inward investment activity.

The Executive notes that the report differs from the Public Accounts Committee report in looking at the general impact of inward investment and brings the debate up to the present.

The Report shows the importance of inward investment to the NI economy and offers constructive suggestions on financial inducements. It also reinforces the significant support available to IDB from the local councils and economic groups, acknowledges the changing nature of projects and highlights the importance of skills.

The Executive takes note of the Report's key conclusions that linkages with indigenous and educational institutions should be a prime area for development; that tax incentives for inward investment should be kept under review and that Strategy 2010 should subjected to wide public debate and rigorous scrutiny.

April 2001

2  HC 512. Back

3  HC 198. Back

4  Section 4(1). Back

5  Both Reports were published on 4 August 2000. Back

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