Page last updated at 14:04 GMT, Thursday, 3 March 2011

Enterprise Committee

A forthcoming rise in gas prices will come as a shock to consumers, MLAs were warned, on 3 February 2011.

Officials from the Utility Regulator told members of the enterprise committee that steeply rising prices on the global gas market meant that big increases were inevitable.

Neil Bingham from the regulator's gas directorate said, "Gas is traded on a global market over which we have no control".

The DUP's Paul Givan asked if the regulator favoured the regulation of heating oil.

Shane Lynch, who was recently appointed to the post of regulator, said his view was, "If we as regulators can add value, let's regulate."

The important question, he added, was whether or not they could add value.

The committee next had a briefing from representatives of business organisations on their plan for developing the economy.

Ann McGregor of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce said the eight organisations represented the collective voice of business with their members employing at least 80,000 people.

Nigel Smyth, the director of the CBI in Northern Ireland, said their plan aimed for a balanced, competitive economy.

He noted that 43% of pupils left school without at least five GCSEs at A to C grades. Mr Smyth said that unfortunately these people "would not get through the door" with his members.

Aslasdair McDonnell of the SDLP was critical of the plan. He said these were nice ideas but they were "a thousand miles in disconnect" from Quinn Insurance and the people whose jobs were threatened there.

Enterprise committee membership

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