Plane manufacturer Bombardier will receive almost £12 million of new Government funding to secure jobs at its Belfast factory.
Chancellor Philip Hammond made the announcement on Wednesday during a one-day visit to Northern Ireland, during which he toured Bombardier’s production line in Belfast.
He welcomed the new orders of 60 A220s announced last week at the Farnborough Airshow before chairing a financial services roundtable.
The wings for the A220, which was formerly known as the Bombardier CSeries, are made in Belfast.
The new funding for Bombardier will support the company to develop the thrust reverser for the new Airbus A320 NEO nacelle.
There was uncertainty for Bombardier workers in Belfast last year after manufacturing rivals Boeing complained about the firm selling its CSeries jets to Delta Airlines below cost price.
The US Department of Commerce recommended a near 300% punitive duty on sales of the jets for five years, putting around 1,000 jobs in Belfast at risk.
But the International Trade Commission (ITC) in the US ruled against Boeing and in favour of Bombardier in January.
Mr Hammond pledged his support for Bombardier.
“We are backing Bombardier with £12 million of new money to help develop cutting edge technology – here in Northern Ireland – for modern aircraft,” he said.
“This will help to secure jobs for Northern Ireland’s economy and cement the UK’s role as a leading manufacturer of hi-tech aircraft components.”
Mr Hammond then travelled to Londonderry where he invited a bid for beefed-up development and economic powers.
During a visit to the Ulster University campus, Mr Hammond said the Government would consider an application from Derry for a city deal.
Politicians in Northern Ireland’s second city were angered last year when Mr Hammond’s Budget contained a city deal package for Belfast, but not Derry.
“Northern Ireland is leading the way within the UK in productivity growth,” Mr Hammond said.
“I want to support this progress by inviting a bid for a Derry-Londonderry City Deal, an opportunity for the region to continue to drive forward economic growth and build an economy that works for everyone.”
The Government is investing more than £1.6 billion in city deals in Scotland and Wales and is in negotiations for a Belfast City Region Deal – the first city deal in Northern Ireland.
The bespoke agreements with Government, which are already in operation in major urban centres such as Manchester and Glasgow, hand city councils greater powers to lead infrastructure developments, generate wealth and access finance.
Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley said: “I am delighted with today’s announcement, which is a positive step in progressing a city deal for Derry-Londonderry.
“It is a testament to the many local partners who have worked tirelessly for progress to be made.
“As Northern Ireland’s second largest centre for economic growth, Derry-Londonderry plays a significant role in the region’s economic success.
“I look forward to now engaging with local partners and across Government as proposals are developed and we build on the existing strengths of this area to deliver a real impact on the economy in the north west and across Northern Ireland.”
The Chancellor’s visit was welcomed by local political representatives.
DUP leader Arlene Foster met with Mr Hammond following his engagements.
She described their meeting as a “useful discussion”.
“The Government have been very clear that Northern Ireland cannot be separated from our main market in Great Britain. We will move in lockstep with the rest of the United Kingdom as we leave the European Union and there will be no border in the Irish Sea,” she said.
“It was also a useful discussion with the Chancellor on other issues impacting upon Northern Ireland.
“We have seen once again the impact that Sinn Fein’s refusal to restore devolution is having on people right across Northern Ireland. Public sector workers should not be adversely impacted because Sinn Fein put their narrow sectional interests ahead of the wider public.
“The number one issue raised by business and other stakeholders with the Chancellor was how a lack of ministerial decisions was impacting on them. The Chancellor now has a clear message that the Government must get on with making decisions for as long as Sinn Fein boycotts the Assembly and Executive.”
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood welcomed progress on a city deal for Derry.
“The benefits stemming from a substantial economic intervention in the North West cannot be overstated. Both Derry and Strabane have waited a long time to receive the investment it deserves to reach its full potential,” he said.
“A city deal for Derry will go a long way to progressing our rail networks, building new road infrastructure, developing the Ulster University Magee Campus and increasing the overall productivity of the North West.”