§ 47. Mr. Pannell
asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware of the deterioration in the employment position in the last few days in Northern Ireland; and what steps he is taking, in consultation with the Government of Northern Ireland, to meet the present situation.
§ The Prime Minister
I am aware that a number of finishing trade operatives have been paid off on the completion of work on the liner "Southern Cross." It is always difficult to avoid redundancy in these trades on the completion of large passenger liners, but I have been glad to learn that Messrs. Harland and Wolff will again be able to take on the men who have been paid off as soon as the next passenger liner is far enough advanced. [Hon. Members: "When?"] It is hoped that this will be about Easter.
The general problem of unemployment in Northern Ireland is, as I have said before, under ceaseless examination between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Pannell
While I thank the Prime Minister for that reply, which will be appropriately received in Northern Ire land, may I ask whether he is aware that there is a great apprehension in Northern Ireland over this matter? At this time last week, I was addressing an audience—[Hon. Members: "Oh."]—I ask for the indulgence of the House, Mr. Speaker, because I am speaking about unemployment in Northern Ireland—[Hon. Members: "Ask a question."]—and I am speaking particularly of the men for whom—[Interruption.]—On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can I have the indulgence of the House? [Hon. Members: "No."] Can I address you, Mr. Speaker? I have a responsibility for engineers who are unemployed in Northern Ireland. Is that the sort of thing——
§ Mr. Pannell
I should be grateful, Mr. Speaker, if you would permit me to get an answer without this hullabaloo from the other side of the House. [Hon. Members: "Ask a question."] Does the Prime Minister appreciate that the Imperial link with Northern Ireland cannot be maintained merely upon the fact that it is a bastion in time of war or merely on prospective Royal visits or empty bellies? It can only be maintained in the dignity and decency of full employment and men earning a decent weekly wage. Is the Prime Minister aware, as his hon. Friends cannot be aware, of the degree of apprehension and stark terror that exists in Northern Ireland of the return of the hungry thirties?
§ Mr. Robens
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the ceaseless review to which he has referred has only resulted in an increase in unemployment in Northern Ireland? Is he aware that it is now 8 per cent. or more, and that if we had the same percentage in this country we should have over 2 million unemployed? Does he not really think that something very substantial must be done to help the people of Northern Ireland?
§ Mr. McKibbin
Is my right hon. Friend aware that, according to yesterday's "Daily Mail," the title of the world's No. 1 shipbuilders, which was formerly held by Messrs. Harland and Wolff, has been captured by a Hamburg firm, and that the reason given is that the German yards can quote a firm price and a guaranteed delivery date? In the interests of shipbuilding workers in Belfast and elsewhere, will the right hon. Gentleman cause inquiries to be made as to why shipbuilders here cannot give the same facilities? If necessary, will he give Government backing to enable them to do so?