HC Deb 16 June 1959 vol 607 cc234-5
34. Sir D. Robertson

asked the President of the Board of Trade why Government policy for the establishment of new industry in the six counties of Northern Ireland differs so much from their policy in the seven Highland counties; if he is aware that 130 new factories, employing 37,000 people, have been created in Northern Ireland, while, excluding Dounreay, only 14 new factories have been opened in the Highland counties, employing less than 900 people; and what plans Her Majesty's Government have for reducing this disparity.

Mr. J. Rodgers

Both the Highlands of Scotland and Northern Ireland are areas to which a great effort is being made to attract new industries. The conditions, however, vary so greatly between the two areas that I do not believe any useful comparison can be drawn between the two.

Sir D. Robertson

Does that answer mean that the President of the Board of Trade is not able to face the realities of this question? In Northern Ireland, not only in Belfast but in twenty other towns and villages, modern large factories have been established and have taken up a large number of workers. Does not the hon. Gentleman know that we are the most depopulated area in the United Kingdom, but that when industry becomes available, as it has done at Dounreay, we raised 1,000 regular workers within weeks? The same could be done again.

Mr. Rodgers

I am well aware of the problems of the Highlands and Islands. Nevertheless, the conditions in that part of the United Kingdom and in Northern Ireland vary. One must take account of the present numbers. There are 6,000 unemployed in the Highlands, with 1,400 in Stornoway alone and 40,000 in Ulster, many of whom are concentrated round the Belfast area.

Mr. T. Fraser

The Parliamentary Secretary refers to statistics, but is he aware that the seven crofter counties in the North of Scotland represent one-sixth of the land area of Great Britain? It is true that they have only one two-hundredth part of the population of Great Britain, but this is because depopulation has been running in the last 200 years. Does not the Parliamentary Secretary realise that unless there is some continuing employment in the shape of industrial employment the depopulation will soon reach the point of no return?

Mr. Rodgers

Steps are being taken to try to attract suitable industries to that part of the United Kingdom.

Mrs. McLaughlin

Is my hon. Friend aware that in Northern Ireland the population is increasing and not decreasing? Whatever has been done in the past, we still require more, and will he keep that in mind?

Mr. Rodgers

Certainly, we recognise that Northern Ireland requires more industries in spite of improvements in recent months.