Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech held at the International Investment Forum, in Belfast, on Wednesday 14th December 1994.
Mr Lord Mayor, Mr Secretary, Mr Trojan, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Let me first add to Paddy Mayhew's very warm welcome to all of you at this Investment Forum this morning, and also my especially warm welcome to those who travelled from so very far away to be with us here in Belfast this morning. I also share Paddy's slight embarrassment at this extremely early start for people who have travelled quite so far to be here, the hour perhaps may be a little unkind for those who have travelled so far, but we are determined on this occasion to make the most of the time that you have with us, in our interests, and we hope it will turn out in your interests as well.
When I announced this conference a few weeks ago I set a very ambitious timetable for holding the conference, and I did so for one reason above all, I think you felt it those of you who were with us last evening. Northern Ireland has a new beginning, I wish to keep up the momentum, I want people to see, with the minimum of delay, the benefits that peace is bringing, commerce, to industry, to everyday life, to all the people who live in Northern Ireland and have lived through such difficult times in the last quarter of a century.
Peace matters and perversely because peace matters it is worth fighting for, worth fighting for using every democratic and legitimate means available. And one of those of course is to deal with the question of prosperity, material well-
Those of you present today have made a magnificence response already to that invitation to come. And I would like to add my thanks briefly to Jean Denton who has done a great deal to bring this conference about at such short notice, to the Department of Economic Development and the IDB who have made absolutely Herculean efforts to make sure that an event, without precedent in Northern Ireland, has been organised at such speed. And after his generous words, also to express my thanks to Paddy Mayhew whose contribution during his period as Secretary of State I think cannot possibly be over-
Let me say a word directly to the businessmen and business women who are here today. Sometimes as you go around the world looking at investment opportunities I suspect you are sometimes shown a wish and a prayer, I daresay you are invited from time to time to take a gamble on a fresh investment. Well that emphatically is not what I am asking of you this morning. The facts and factors which matter to those seeking to invest are now increasingly becoming known, the evidence of opportunity is all around and becoming more evident day by day.
I said last evening that you would rightly be hard headed about your investment decisions, and those of us in Northern Ireland would expect no less of you. So let me tackle the hard and important question head on, the question that you would have to go back and explain to your own shareholders if you decided to invest here -
I think first you would want to look at Northern Ireland's track record, and I think if you did so you would find, as I found on my many visits here, that this is a place steeped in industry and steeped in enterprise. Less than one mile from this hotel where we are this morning John Boyd Dunlop invented the pneumatic tyre; another Ulsterman, Harry Fergusson, developed the farmer's tractors; at Short Brothers of Belfast, now under the wing of Bombardier of Canada, and what a successful partnership that has already proved, I had the pleasure of approving that when I was Chief Secretary of the Treasury some years ago and I think it has proved enormously successful, but under the wing of Bombardier flying boats and vertical take-
And neither is Northern Ireland's industrial pedigree just a matter of far gone past history, by no means, the ideas are still coming. Recently they have included defibrillators for the treatment of heart disease and a new one centimetre square silicone chip which can perform more than 300 million computations per second. And for those of you who have taken the time out from travelling round the world and investing to see the film Jurassic Park, you will have heard the digital sound compression techniques which were developed here in Northern Ireland.
It is therefore entirely appropriate to look at that in deciding whether this is the right place in the huge competition I know there is around the world for international investment. What is the argument for Northern Ireland? It is after all, some pessimists may say, only 15 weeks since the IRA ceasefire in Northern Ireland and only 9 weeks since the Loyalist Paramilitaries followed the lead the IRA had given. But even before then people were coming in growing numbers to do business in Northern Ireland. And why is it that they found Northern Ireland to be such an attractive and competitive location? I think there are several reasons for that.
First it has very high quality people here in Northern Ireland, sound managers and a well educated highly adaptable workforce. Northern Ireland has a lower incidence of labour disputes than anywhere else in the United Kingdom, and the United Kingdom in turn has the best current record of any major European country. Strife in all has been kept out of the workplace during the past 25 years. In the workplace people have stood together and they have got on with their jobs, and there is a premium here on training and skills which the government encourages with expert help and with financial assistance.
And second, business costs are very competitive here in Northern Ireland and very much lower than in most parts of the European Union. Coupled with a high quality workforce this gives a potent combination of low costs and potentially high productivity.
Let me offer you a third reason. Northern Ireland offers one of the most attractive incentive packages in Europe, it is comprehensive and it is flexible, it includes depreciation allowance, revenue grants to assist start-
Fourthly, for investors from Asia and North America, Northern Ireland can be a bridgehead to the single European market, perhaps the richest trading market the world has ever seen; it provides access to some 320 million consumers combined with the competitive advantages I have mentioned and an excellent quality of life.
Fifthly, the modern investor looks for technological excellence; you will find it in rich abundance here in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland has a vibrant network of industrial and academic collaboration, a worldwide telecommunications infrastructure and a regional optical fibre network. It has set up industrially-
What of the support for Northern Ireland from the British Government and from our friends and colleagues in the European Union?
The British Government has long recognised the special needs of Northern Ireland -
I would like to build on that this morning with another new initiative by the British Government -
Let me mention one other aspect of employment in Northern Ireland which is of concern overseas as it is of concern to me and to the British Government generally and that is fair employment in Northern Ireland. Unfair employment practices, sectarian discrimination in allocating jobs was one of the elements which in the past undermined community relations in Northern Ireland. We are determined to correct that legacy. Everyone in Northern Ireland must have equal access to jobs and indeed to all the new opportunities that peace will provide.
Northern Ireland now has legislation which requires absolute fairness in the recruitment and development of all employees, it ensures close monitoring of employment practices and closing the gap in employment is a slow process; it depends of course on much more than legislation -
Let me say something about external investment, its role, its importance at the present time. Let me turn directly to the impact that that can have. One figure will demonstrate why we attach so much importance to this and why you should feel also as potential investors that the climate here is already investor-
Service industries across Northern Ireland have taken off, the high-
Northern Ireland has become the shirt-
The United States of course -
Some of the biggest names in American business -
Canada is represented by two of the largest and most technologically-
And so too from Japan. Japanese businesses have been active, world-
Companies from other countries in Asia have followed, among them the massive Daewoo Group which operates a state-
Closer to home, our neighbours in western Europe have been investing in Northern Ireland for many years, Nestle, Hoechst and Michelin are perhaps leading examples of that.
Tourism of course has a wholly new future if the peace that is becoming established were to become firmly entrenched. Hilton and Radisson are developing new hotels in Belfast and Limavady and it is very easy to see why to anyone who spends some time looking around Northern Ireland -
The best evidence I can give of all this is perhaps the evidence that speaks for itself. A number of large companies -
Du Pont is today announcing a £13.5 million investment to develop prototype technologies at its Lycra factory at Maydown in Londonderry. This brings Du Pont's investment in R&D at Maydown to £38 million in the last three years.
Ford, which has had a sizeable presence in Belfast for 30 years, has decided to invest a further £15 million for the production of new engine components.
NACCO Materials Handling will be investing £11 million at Craigavon, consolidating the plant's position as NACCO's world source for its new 2-
British Telecom has decided to invest a further £30 million in a state-
Finally, Fujitsu -
Let me fit into this the broader economic picture for Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom as a whole. Northern Ireland has shared in the recovery that has been going on in the United Kingdom for the past couple of years. Unemployment here is falling month after month. In the last quarter, manufacturing output was up by 4.4% on the corresponding period for a year ago. The ceasefire has unleashed business confidence which was already on a rising curve. Belfast retailers have experienced a quite extraordinary upsurge since the ceasefire, registering increased turnover of up to 90% in some cases.
Peace will add a dividend to Northern Ireland; it will add a dividend in Northern Ireland to the sustained low-
While the change in Northern Ireland over the past three months has been dramatic, the seeds of that change were planted long ago, As you visit different parts of the Province later today, you will see for yourselves some of the results of growth. Those who go to Londonderry, for example, will see a quite extraordinary turn-
You can see similar changes in Belfast and in many small towns. In Dungannon, near the border, I saw on my last visit new hospital facilities of which any town anywhere in the United Kingdom would have been proud. In Lisburn, I visited a fascinating small museum which was equally enviable.
There are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of other examples I could quote but I would much rather you saw them with your own eyes. These are things that have come about despite the divisions in society and despite the fear of violence. What terror knocked down, time after time after time the brave people of Northern Ireland rebuilt; if they could do that in the midst of terror, contemplate what they might do in the midst of secure and lasting peace! I believe what they achieved here in Northern Ireland is a remarkable testimony to the determination and enterprise of the people of Northern Ireland -
The scars of violence are there -
I believe that Northern Ireland now has everything that it takes to grow and to succeed. I hope that this Conference will play its part in helping to find opportunities to suit your companies and your own particular interests. Above all, I hope it will lead you to return often to Northern Ireland. If you do, I know that you will find -