Westminster must ‘step up to the plate’ and battle to bring jobs to Ballymena in the wake of the Michelin closure announcement, says North Antrim MP, Ian Paisley.
Speaking at an Adjournment Debate in parliament with regards to the hammer blow, North Antrim MP said the scale of this job loss to Northern Ireland equates to 30,000 jobs being most on the mainland of the United Kingdom.
The government Minister responding was the Minister of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Anna Soubry MP and she agreed with Mr Paisley that had this announcement occurred in other parts of the UK, it would have been a ‘huge story’.
The DUP MP made reference to the 1000 jobs that were lost in Ballymena just last year with the JTI Gallaher tobacco factory announcing they would close their doors in 2017.
“North Antrim used to make up 22% of Northern Ireland’s entire manufacturing sector, by 2018 that will have fallen to sub 20%, that is absolutely catastrophic to this area.”
East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson raised the issue of Caterpillar who also announced job losses in Northern Ireland this week whilst South Antrim MP Danny Kinahan asked questions about the energy costs being imposed on Michelin.
Quoting a letter from the Stormont Executive’s Department for Enterprise, Trade and Investment from October 2013, the then Minister Arlene Foster confirmed that the Executive had asked HMRC to continue the reduced rate of the Climate Change Levy on gas supplies to Northern Ireland manufacturers but HMRC rejected the request.
And Mr. Paisley added: “This closure (Michelin) together with the Gallaher factory will take £100 million per annum out of our local wage economy. Money that goes into local shops, local restaurants, local traders is now gone, that is why I have used the term apocalyptic when referring to this factory loss.”
Mr Paisley also praised the efforts of Invest NI commenting: “I salute the efforts of Invest NI and its Chief Executive, an organisation that always get it in the neck from the usual suspects. They have worked tirelessly to attract business to County Antrim and are constantly trying to push a boulder up a hill fighting for jobs in what is a very crowded place.”
“Following today’s agreement at Stormont we will have Corporation Tax reduced to 12.5% by 2018. Moving forward this is of course positive news. What we now need is support from the Prime Minister, UK Trade and Investment and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills by pulling with us, battling around the world to bring jobs to Ulster. I’m calling on the government to step up to that plate and tell us what they will do.”