HC Deb 15 November 1954 vol 533 cc25-6
41. Mr. A. Roberts

asked the Minister of Supply if, in view of the high rate of unemployment and distress in Northern Ireland, he will place further Government orders with Northern Irish firms.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

I fully realise the importance of Government contracts to Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is treated as a Development Area for the purpose of placing Government contracts, and we do all we can to place orders there.

Mr. Roberts

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that some of the conditions prevailing in Northern Ireland are reminiscent of those of the '30s in this country, and no doubt due to the harsh treatment meted out by the National Assistance Board?

Mr. Lloyd

Without making any comment on the last matter referred to in the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, I am concerned with the state of employment in Northern Ireland. We will certainly do what we can to help it.

Mr. McKibbin

Will the Minister bear in mind the particular case of Messrs. Short Bros., which I raised with his predecessor on several occasions? Is he aware that unemployment in Northern Ireland has been running at too high a rate over the last three years, although it is now on the downward level, and is he also aware that it is only recently that hon. Members on the other side of the House have taken any interest in this matter?

Mr. Lloyd

With regard to the question of unemployment in Northern Ireland, we will certainly do what we can, so far as this Ministry is concerned, to see that a high and stable level of employment is maintained, and seek to put as many contracts there as we possibly can.

Mr. Callaghan

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman bear in mind, when he is considering giving contracts, that at Newry and Londonderry, unemployment is running at the rate of one in four of the insured population and that some of us are very glad that our visit has stimulated some of the Ulster Unionist Members to take an interest in this matter?

Mr. Lloyd

So far as the first part of the supplementary question is concerned, we will certainly take this into account.

Lieut.-Colonel Hyde

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that if there were National Service in Northern Ireland and if the school-leaving age were 15 instead of 14, the number of insured persons unemployed would be the same as in England?

Mr. Lloyd

I do not think the matters which my hon. and gallant Friend has mentioned are matters for me.

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