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23 Feb 2004 : Column 163Wcontinued
Mr. Pearson: Since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement Northern Ireland has attracted £242 million of New Inward Investment. In addition, during the same period expansions by externally owned companies totalled £936 million.
Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what progress has been made in improving education opportunities for those aged 16 to 19 years who have moderate learning disabilities. 
Jane Kennedy: Through its Careers Service and enhanced funding for the Further Education sector, the Department for Employment and Learning provides a range of support services aimed at improving the provision for all students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities.
In addition, an Inter Departmental Working Group is examining the transition of all young people with statements of special educational needs to adult life. The group consists of representatives from the Departments of Education, Employment and Learning, and Health, Social Services and Public Safety. The group has consulted widely and plans to produce an Action Plan in Spring 2004.
David Burnside: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether the prison authorities at Her Majesty's Prison, Maghaberry, negotiate with the leaders of the (a) Provisional IRA, (b) UDA and (c) UVF on conditions within the prison. 
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David Burnside: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the cost was of damage by prisoners to prison property and equipment in each of the last 12 months at Her Majesty's Prison, Maghaberry. 
(18) A disturbance occurred in Bann House on 14 January 2004 resulting in damage estimated at £100,000. Repair work has commenced but invoices for the actual cost of repairs have not yet been received.
David Burnside: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many prisoner officers, and what percentage of total staff, have been on sick leave in each of the last 12 months at Her Majesty's Prison, Maghaberry. 
|Month||Number of staff absent sick||Staff in post||Percentage of staff in post absent sick|
Mr. Pearson: The policy rationale for retaining industrial derating in Northern Ireland no longer exists. This view is supported by leading business and economic commentators and by the outcomes of various studies and an extensive consultation exercise in 2002. An assessment of the impact of removal on manufacturers concluded that any increase in costs would be limited and the impact significantly reduced by phasing it out in the manner announced in April 2003.
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The phase out period will begin on 1 April 2005 and end on 1 April 2011. This means that manufacturers will have been given eight years to adjust and plan for paying full rates which is longer than the timeframe proposed by the former DFP and DETI Assembly Committees. They will have to pay only 15 per cent. of their full rates liability in 200506. This percentage will rise but on a very gradual basis over the next six years. This is a sensible, modernising reform measure that will bring Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK. There are other more effective ways of supporting businesses than retaining a blanket exemption for which there is no supporting rationale. Proposals for a hardship rate relief scheme for all businesses are being examined and will be published after consultation with Councils and business organisations.
Mr. Pearson: The estimated long-term yield from the rating of the manufacturing sector is around £55 million per year. This allows for possible valuation reductions as a result of appeals and is based on around 5,100 properties currently in the Valuation List becoming liable to full rates in 2011. Applying the 15 per cent. rate liability applicable in the first year (200506), the yield in that year is expected to be around £8 million. This additional revenue will be invested through the Reinvestment and Reform Initiative (RRI) to help fund a significant programme of major infrastructure projects in Northern Ireland over the next five years. Projects contained within the Strategic Investment Programme and totalling some £2.7 billion in value have already been announced. Investment in our public service infrastructure is essential for sustained economic growth and development. This scale of planned investment will significantly enhance Northern Ireland's prospects for long-term economic prosperity and future business success. The retention of industrial derating will not achieve these outcomes.
Mr. Trimble: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps are being taken by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Industry and its agencies to ensure Northern Ireland's manufacturing industries are not disadvantaged by the enlargement of the European Union, with particular reference to the accession of low-wage economies in Eastern Europe. 
Mr. Pearson: Invest NI is working with companies in the manufacturing and internationally-traded services sectors to help them increase their competitiveness in home and international markets. Early results of research commissioned into the impact of EU enlargement on the NI economy, indicate that the overall impact is likely to be relatively limited. They also suggest that enlargement will offer opportunities, particularly for sectors with the greatest prospects for high value-added growth.
Around 60 Northern Ireland companies are already doing business valued at approximately £100 million in the Accession States. Invest NI has been active in organising a number of trade-related activities, targeted at certain Accession States.
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Mr. Pearson: There are 108 elected members of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the estimated population of Northern Ireland at mid-year 2002 is 1,696,600 people. This gives a ratio of one Assembly member per 15,710 population.
The NMC is currently consulting on a proposal that as from 1 April 2004 it will require registrants to make a declaration in relation to good health and good character as part of their application for renewal of the periodic three year renewal of registration.
Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many (a) hospital and (b) community nursing vacancies there are within North and West Belfast Health and Social Services Trust. 
|Hospital nursing vacancies|
|Community nursing vacancies|
(19) Whole Time Equivalent
|Hospital nursing vacancies|
|Community nursing vacancies|
(20) Whole Time Equivalent
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