HC Deb 18 December 1962 vol 669 cc1081-3
Q5 Mrs. McLaughlin

asked the Prime Minister (1) what steps he has taken to improve the co-operation between the Northern Ireland Government and Her Majesty's Government, in view of the urgency of the need to solve Northern Ireland's unemployment problems;

(2) if he will arrange a meeting with the Northern Ireland Prime Minister to discuss further methods of solving the unemployment problem in Northern Ireland.

Mr. R. A. Butler

I have been asked to reply.

Ministers and officials of the two Governments, including my right hon. Friend and the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, work in close cooperation at all times, and no formal arrangements for consultation are needed.

Mrs. McLaughlin

Is my right hon. Friend fully aware that in Northern Ireland there is great concern at the moment that perhaps not every stone is left unturned to find an answer to the long-term problem of unemployment? Especially in view of the statement made last night by the Minister of Labour about special requirements to solve this problem, may I ask whether means will be taken to call special meetings and if necessary a long-term committee to solve this problem as soon as possible?

Mr. Butler

Mr. Andrews, the Minister of Commerce and the Minister of Finance were here as recently as 10th and 11th December. Prior to that we had a debate on the Hall Report—the Report of the Joint Working Party on the Economy of Northern Ireland—on 22nd November and my hon. Friend may realise and feel that we have this matter continually yin mind.

Mr. Callaghan

May I ask the First Secretary whether the National Economic Development Council takes into account the position in Northern Ireland in considering its future plans?

Mr. Butler

That I shall investigate in company with my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Shinwell

Did the right hon. Gentleman observe that last night several hon. Members from north-eastern constituencies decided not to vote for the Government's Motion? If same of the Ulster Members adopted the same policy, would that make any change in the Government's attitude towards Northern Ireland?

Mr. Butler

No, Sir.

Mrs. McLaughlin

Is my right hon. Friend aware of a reply to a Written Question on 13th December by the Home Secretary in which he states that the majority of public works are the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Government? Is my right hon. Friend taking this into account when he mentions the Hall Committee's Report in which the development of public works was not recommended and yet would appear to be a satisfactory start in this effort?

Mr. Butler

I have my right hon. Friend's reply before me and can only endorse what he says.

Mr. G. Brown

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that last night the Minister of Labour deliberately excluded Northern Ireland from the areas in regard to which special action would be taken? Will he, therefore, take into account that what is required for Northern Ireland is not more meetings and more consultations but a policy, and will he reconsider what the Minister of Labour said last night?

Mr. Butler

I do not think that I can necessarily take that as an interpretation of my right hon. Friend's words. What I know is that Northern Ireland is constantly in our minds and we are perpetually taking steps to deal with it.