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24 Nov 2005 : Column 2194W—continued

Empty Industrial Properties

Dr. McCrea: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what estimate he has made of the number of empty industrial properties in each constituency in Northern Ireland. [30222]

Angela E. Smith: The Rate Collection Agency's records currently show a total of 399 empty" properties as having been used for industrial purposes immediately prior to becoming vacant.

Unfortunately the Agency is unable to provide numbers on a constituency basis, but has provided them within district council area in the following table:
District nameTotal
Dungannon and S. Tyrone17
Newry and Mourne24
North Down7

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Homosexual Civil Partnerships

David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what (a) employment protection and (b) other provisions there are for (i) council staff and (ii)Registrar's Office staff with conscientious objections to homosexual civil partnerships. [31287]

Angela E. Smith: All council staff are protected by employment law. Registrars and other council staff appointed to register civil partnerships and carry out other related functions are provided with specific training which includes input from the Coalition of Sexual Orientation. It is the responsibility of the local registration authority to address any concerns individual staff might have, relating to same sex civil partnerships. The authority, however, must ensure that it fulfils its statutory responsibility of providing this service to the public.

House Prices

Dr. McCrea: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the average house price in (a) Antrim Town, (b) Dunadry, (c) Templepatrick, (d) Mallusk and (e) Ballyclare was on (a) the latest date for which figures are available and (b) 1 October 2000. [30210]

Angela E. Smith: The average price of houses in each of the localities specified is shown in the following table:
Study areasAverage selling price(16)2000Count of salesAverage selling price(16)2005Count of sales
Antrim Town62,86412876,04678

(16)The average selling price provided for 2000 is based on all of the sales in that year—not just the October sales. The 2005 figure is based on the sales recorded from 1 January 2005 to the present.

Invest Northern Ireland

Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what progress is being made by Invest Northern Ireland in increasing the percentage of the work force in Northern Ireland that is in the private sector. [31485]

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Angela E. Smith: During the past three years to June 2005 there has been an increase of over 22,000 jobs within the private sector. However, when expressed as a percentage of the total, there was a slight decline, from 73.4 per cent. in June 2002 to 72.8 per cent. in June 2005. This was due to an increase of almost 15,000 jobs within the public sector, which falls outside the remit of Invest NI.

During the same time period, Invest NI provided over 17,000 offers of assistance towards the formation and development of private sector businesses across Northern Ireland. This assistance, totalling £400 million, contributed towards a total planned investment of over £1.5 billion.

These investments are focused on that element of the private sector, which has the greatest potential for creating wealth i.e. those businesses which can demonstrate the potential for growth through the development of markets outside Northern Ireland.

During the last three financial years Invest NI made 106 offers in support of inward investment projects within Northern Ireland. These projects are anticipated to create over 6,500 new jobs, mostly within knowledge-based industries.

Within the total number of offers made, almost 8,500 offers of assistance were made to new businesses through the Start a Business Programme, which is jointly administered by Invest Northern Ireland and Enterprise Northern Ireland. These businesses are expected to create over 15,000 jobs.

The full benefits that arise from this Invest NI assistance will continue to accrue for a number of years to come.

Meat Exports

Dr. McCrea: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps he has taken since becoming Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to promote the export of Ulster (a) pork, (b) lamb and (c) beef. [31073]

Angela E. Smith: EU state aid rules limit the extent to which public funds may be used to support export campaigns that promote domestically produced meat. Nevertheless, where possible, DARD is working actively to assist exporters, for example by the development of international marketing strategies under the Food Strategy Fit for Market" initiative, facilitating state aid approvals for promotional activity carried out by the Livestock and Meat Commission. This includes a promotional campaign currently under way in the Netherlands to promote Northern Ireland lamb and a Beef Market Restoration Campaign which will commence in 2006, intended to address key issues relating to the restoration of beef obtained from cattle over-30-months (OTM) old at slaughter into the food chain, minimise the impact of OTM beef on the market and achieve early integration of this beef into the supply chain and export markets as soon as they reopen. Every effort is also being made to have the beef export ban lifted as soon as possible as this will provide a great stimulus for the industry. In addition the future sustainability of these sectors will depend on increased
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focus on customer requirements and the development of differentiated products that will enhance their ability to compete in global markets.

Property Valuations

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland pursuant to the answer of 8 November 2005, Official Report, column 428W, on property valuations, if he will place in the Library (a) the final Integrated Impact Assessment for the Draft Rates (Capital Values, etc) (Northern Ireland) Order 2005 and (b) the responses to the consultation which has taken place. [30664]

Angela E. Smith: Copies of the Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA), New TSN analysis and Rural Proofing analysis have been placed in the Library.

Responses to the consultation have been placed on


Mr. Gregory Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many passenger train journeys in Northern Ireland arrived on time in (a) 1999 and (b) 2004. [31482]

Mr. Woodward: Northern Ireland Railways does not record the number of train journeys arriving exactly on time except for the Bangor, Portadown and Larne lines where performance in 2004 was 19 per cent. The information was not collected in 1999.

However, there are additional Passenger Charter Standards against which Northern Ireland Railways measures train punctuality. For the Bangor, Portadown and Lame lines the standard is arrival within five minutes of planned destination arrival time. In 2004 88 per cent. of train journeys met this standard. In 1999 the figure was 86 per cent.

For the Dublin, Londonderry and Portrush lines the standard is arrival within 10 minutes of the planned destination arrival time. In 2004 94 per cent. of train journeys met this standard and in 1999 this figure was 95 per cent.

South Eastern Education and Library Board

Mrs. Iris Robinson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how much money has been spent to date by the South Eastern Education and Library Board on the public private partnership project for Comber high school and Bangor Academy. [29269]

Angela E. Smith: I understand from the chief executive of the South Eastern Education and Library Board that to date £513,902 has been spent by the board on the public private partnership project for Comber high school and Bangor Academy and Sixth Form College, whose capital value is currently estimated to be some £34 million. This includes £67,100 in respect of a traffic impact assessment and ground investigation surveys.

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