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Paterson has worked hard for province

It is deeply ironic that Owen Paterson is being accused of 'snubbing' a debate at Westminster Hall on Northern Ireland's economy by a Labour Treasury spokesperson.

No local representative has done nearly so much to put issues around creating jobs and growing the economy here at the top of the political agenda - either in Belfast or London.

I understand that the Secretary of State had an unbreakable and long-standing engagement in his constituency.

However, just two days before the Westminster event, Owen Paterson gave an important speech at Queen's University about reviving and rebalancing our economy.

Owen Paterson has consistently been this province's most effective advocate at Westminster, in many respects becoming the local MP at the heart of Government.

He has worked tirelessly to promote the vision of a successful, prosperous Northern Ireland.

In contrast, the previous Labour government did nothing other than create unsustainable growth in the public sector, financed by enormous public debt.

Owen Paterson has been our most active, hard working and dedicated Secretary of State for many years. Just months ago, he was honoured by the business community here, which named him its Person of the Year.

If Labour really believes it can call into question his commitment to Northern Ireland, it is stretching the bounds of credibility beyond breaking point.

IRWIN ARMSTRONG

Northern Ireland Conservatives

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