Yesterday I set out at the Autumn Statement how the UK government is building an economy that works for everyone in the United Kingdom.
It is a statement which will confront the challenges and seize the opportunities facing the country, and in doing so, build an economy that works for everyone, where every corner of the UK is part of our national success, including Northern Ireland.
The economy in Northern Ireland continues to perform robustly, with earnings growing faster here than in any other UK region over the past year. Employment has grown since 2010, with nearly 60,000 more people in work.
This economic performance sits within a wider UK economy which is fundamentally strong, growing faster than almost every other major economy. This strength is underpinned by the difficult decisions the UK Government has taken since 2010. Decisions that now provide us with the flexibility to inject £23 billion into areas that are critical to driving up productivity and growth – including investment into infrastructure and innovation.
The Northern Ireland Executive’s share equates to more than £250 million extra to invest in Northern Ireland through to 2020-21.
The extra £250 million announced in Autumn Statement yesterday, is for ministers in the Executive to decide how to invest, which they set out when the Finance Minister presents his budget to the Northern Ireland Assembly next month.
My colleague David Gauke, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, met Máirtín Ó Muilleoir recently to discuss progress towards the Executive’s desire to see corporation tax devolution and a new Northern Ireland rate in operation in 2018. They will meet again soon and I look forward to seeing the steps the Executive is taking to meet its commitment to set Northern Ireland’s finances on a sustainable footing for the longer term.
People in Northern Ireland won’t just see a difference through the significant uplift in the Northern Ireland Executive’s budget. There are a number of direct investments and measures made by the UK Government that will impact on people across Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland’s excellent universities and their private sector partners should see benefits from the £2 billion funding that the UK Government is committing to research, innovation and science, in order to ensure that the UK remains a world leader in this field.
We are also making investments in digital infrastructure such as full-fibre broadband and 5G – vital in ensuring that we are well placed to take advantage of the opportunities presented by new technologies and growth sectors.
In my Autumn Statement I set out measures that will help people across the whole of the UK. Such as freezing fuel duty for the seventh successive year, which will save the average driver in Northern Ireland around £10 every time they fill up their car, and our 4% increase on the National Living Wage, from £7.20 to £7.50 per hour, meaning that workers across Northern Ireland will benefit from a £500 a year pay rise.
These actions are part of the government’s plan to help people’s money go further, supporting jobs and earnings.
Overall, I am pleased to have been able to set out such a positive package for Northern Ireland – either through direct UK Government action, or through the increases in budgets which will allow the Executive to make its own investment decisions.
In the wake of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, there are a new set of challenges and opportunities. We must take this chance to work together, across the United Kingdom, to help create better opportunities for everyone.
• Philip Hammond is Chancellor of the Exchequer