Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs Jnr has challenged the Department for Enterprise, Trade and investment and it’s business support unit- Invest N-I to re double their efforts in his East Antrim constituency, in the wake of the major job cuts at Engineering firm FG Wilsons.
Speaking during a debate on Unemployment in the Assembly Mr Beggs highlighted the growing concern at increasing unemployment rates over the past 3 years, particularly amongst the young . He stated, “23•5% of our young people aged 18 to 24 are unemployed. Worryingly, that rate has shown a very significant increase of 5•2% over the period. So action is clearly needed in that area.”
“A contract for youth has commenced elsewhere in the United Kingdom… we want a more effective system to be developed here. We want close working between DETI and DEL to maximise the opportunities for our young people.”
In his speech the Ulster Unionist MLA called for direct intervention by Invest NI in East Antrim.
“We have to have regard for the positive work that Invest NI does on occasions. However, I think it is appropriate that we criticise some of the comments that were made regarding jobs at FG Wilson. The BBC reported that, when the chief executive of Invest NI was asked if he would have made the same decision and moved some of the manufacturing jobs to China, he said:
“If I was in that job, in all possibility, yes.”
I do not think it is appropriate for the chief executive of Invest NI to be saying that. I hope that, with hindsight, he will have accepted that that was a mistake.
It is important that we learn lessons from that and continue to show determination to create and sustain jobs locally. I hope that lessons will be learned.
I have asked Assembly questions on the issue. Can I go into some detail and highlight issues from my constituency? Do you know how many potential investor visits to Carrickfergus there have been over the past three years? None. There were none to the borough of Larne last year. That is despite the fact that there were 350 such visits throughout Northern Ireland during the period. I hope that there is increased recognition of the need to create such opportunities in the east Antrim area going forward.”
Mr Beggs suggested that the lack of land available for Industrial development was a concern which government needed to address:
“ I have been suggesting other ideas, but I have not heard Members across the Chamber suggest positive ideas. I have identified that only 4•7 acres of Invest NI’s land bank is in my constituency, and those are in Larne. It is time that that was increased to create potential opportunities for other investors. When I pressed that issue, it was disappointing that the Minister referred to the fact that there was other land available. Yes. If you look at the nibusinessinfo website, you will see that there are a further 17 acres in the business park at Larne harbour. However, that is a very central area, and with that comes a much increased price for purchase and rental, which, in itself, could rule out some potential investors to the Larne area. I would like to see other infrastructure developed in the Larne area, as has occurred in many other areas, because the number of job losses scheduled to happen is a cause for concern. We hope that they will not happen, but they are likely to happen. I wish to create as many opportunities for future investment as possible.”