§ 11.5 a.m.
§ Mr. Stratton Mills (Belfast, North)
I beg to move,That this House welcomes the success of the measures which have led to the more satisfactory conditions now existing on the United Kingdom land frontier; reaffirms the need to accelerate Northern Ireland's economic development so as to bring employment up to a level existing in other parts of the United Kingdom; and believes that Her Majesty's Government, together with the Government of Northern Ireland, would be fully justified in adopting further exceptional measures to achieve these ends.Parliament has sat in Westminster for about 700 years, and although most of our modern procedure dates from the middle of last century, it must be very nearly unique that one hon. Member should be fortunate enough in the space of ten months to secure first place in the Ballot on two separate occasions. Were I a mathematician, I would endeavour to work out the odds to place before the House. However, I welcome this opportunity to have a debate on Northern Ireland, and as there are many hon. Members on both sides of the House who are interested in our affairs, and who wish to speak, I hope that hon. Members' speeches will not be unduly long so that all are given an opportunity to participate in the debate.
I welcome the members of the Front Bench who are present today for our debate. I particularly welcome my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, my hon. and learned Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aviation, and the Civil Lord of the Admiralty. I understand that other members of the Government will be coming into the debate to listen to the arguments of Northern Ireland Members 1712 from time to time. My hon. and gallant Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport, with responsibility for shipping, has asked me to apologise to the House for his absence. He has a Government engagement in Southampton which he undertook many months ago to fulfil.
I also welcome my colleagues on the Tory benches. In passing, I comment merely that although we are told by the public opinion polls that the Liberal Party is now ahead of both Socialists and Tories, it does not have a Member on its benches to represent the Liberal cause. Perhaps they know that in Northern Ireland the Liberal Party is merely an address in a telephone book!
However, we are particularly glad to see the right hon. Gentleman the Deputy Leader of the Opposition with us and very glad that he has found time to attend. What with travelling around the countryside to help out here and there, lending a helping hand in Orpington and thus assisting the Labour Party to contribute to the Treasury, and singing the "Red Flag," it is amazing that he has an opportunity to visit Northern Ireland. We welcome his visit. I quote from a report in the Northern Whig, which reports the right hon. Gentleman as saying:As far as the Parliament at Westminster is concerned Northern Ireland, as a 'stronghold of the Tory Party' is … completely out of the picture through its preoccupation with old issues regarding the Border and religion.From a right hon. Gentleman who has never attended a single Northern Ireland debate in the last ten years, what a classic piece of impudence!
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
I am all for the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) having what bit of fun he can get this morning, and I make no complaint about his references to me personally. But let us get one thing quite clear. I have attended at any rate part of every debate on Northern Ireland since I have been in the House. Speaking as a good London Irishman, I think that it is very important that I should be here and I always try to be here.
§ Mr. Stratton Mills
I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman. I confess that although I have attended two such debates, since I entered the House in 1713 October, 1959, owing to some defect in my eyesight, I have never noticed him as being present.
§ Mr. Stratton Mills
We welcome particularly the interest shown in our affairs by Labour Members who have been visiting Northern Ireland. We are a little doubtful about why, during the last nine months, we have had a constant shoal of visiting Labour Members. I am sure that if, in Northern Ireland, we had a review such as "Beyond the Fringe" the speeches of visiting Socialist politicians would occupy a dominant place in the programme.
Hon. Members have heard of Parkinson's law. I wish to put before the House a new edition of this law which, with some modesty, I call "Mills' law"—the number of Labour Members visiting Northern Ireland increases as the period before a General Election shortens. However, we welcome this interest in the affairs of Ulster. We do not question their motives. We know them only too well. They view Northern Ireland as an electoral investment. They put men and money into Northern Ireland as though into a sausage machine and expect to see coming out at the other end a number of Socialist Members neatly dressed, wearing red ties and lustily singing the "Red Flag".
Northern Ireland is considered as an electoral investment to hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I prophesy that if the Northern Ireland Labour Party does not relatively improve its position at the next election the British Labour Party will lose interest in the affairs of Northern Ireland.
I come now to the terms of the Motion. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] If I have unduly got under the skin of hon. Gentlemen opposite, I apologise. The Motion is divided into two parts. The first part refers to thesuccess of the measures which have led to the more satisfactory conditions now existing on the United Kingdom land frontier …The purpose of this part of the Motion is to enable me to refer to the I.R.A. campaign which began against Northern Ireland on 12th December, 1956. It was in operation for just over five years, and during the course of it there were over 1714 600 incidents. I emphasise that figure by pointing out that this amounts to more than two incidents per week for five years. During the campaign 32 members of the security forces were wounded, and six members of the police force were murdered.
During the last month the I.R.A. announced that its present campaign is to end. Its statement refers toa period of consolidation, expansion and preparation of the final victorious phase of the struggle.This leads me to ask whether this is sheer bravado, or whether it is a real warning. I do not know. All I can say is that we can afford to take no risks, and that we certainly cannot afford to "drop our guard" in the months ahead.
The credit for this triumph over the I.R.A. goes, first, to the Northern Ireland Government for their resolute defiance of the I.R.A. and their refusal to be intimidated; secondly, to Her Majesty's Government alt Westminster for their firm support of Northern Ireland, and, thirdly, above all, to the ordinary people of Northern Ireland who, despite immense provocation, have never once taken the law into their own hands. This is a tribute to them, for it is a monument to democracy and common sense in our Province.
The second half of the Motion is the part to which I wish to devote most of my speech. Itreaffirms the need to accelerate Northern Ireland's economic development so as to bring development up to a level existing in other parts of the United Kingdom; and believes that Her Majesty's Government, together with the Government of Northern Ireland, would be fully justified in adopting further exceptional measures to achieve these ends.In the debate on 12th May, 1961, I analysed—I fear at some length—what, in my view, were the reasons for Northern Ireland's slowness in economic development. I hope that I will not be thought discourteous if I do not today repeat the arguments I put forward on that occasion, because I prefer to regard this debate as a continuation of the earlier one and I hope that today, instead of reanalysing the position and repeating the speeches made then, we may cover new ground.
1715 On 12th March, 1962, 35,873 people were unemployed in Northern Ireland—approximately 8 per cent. of the working population. Approximately two-thirds of these were men and it is estimated that about 60 per cent. were unskilled or semi-skilled workers. A high proportion of these are middle-aged and elderly workers who, through no fault of their own, had never had the opportunity of learning a trade. This is the background to our discussion this morning.
The Minister of Commerce, in Stormont, said on Wednesday:Ten new firms have decided to set up in Northern Ireland during the year 1961–62, and 24 expansion projects have been announced by firms already here.This amounts to a total of about 6,700 new jobs coming into Northern Ireland, and hon. Members on both sides of the House will be glad to hear that this has been a record year for Northern Ireland in the provision of jobs. Nevertheless, we cannot be complacent about the situation when we realise that about 8,000 to 10,000 new jobs a year are needed if we are to have the economic "take-off" which our economy demands.
This is a sizeable achievement when we realise that 1961–62 was a cruel year for Ulster in that though considerable progress was made in some directions, nevertheless there were pay-offs in the shipyards—a falling off in certain sections of the textile trade and a further mechanisation of agriculture, combined with the fact that 1961–62 was not a good trading year for the United Kingdom as a whole. Nevertheless, the achievement is there for the record, and although it falls short of our full wishes, it is to be welcomed.
The theme of my comments is that Ulster is an economy in transition. We welcome the fact that, while old industries are running down, often for reasons beyond their control, new industries are coming forward to take their place. While in the past we relied on shipbuilding, linen and agriculture, we now have the industries of the future—of electronic computers, telephone equipment, precision engineering, synthetic fibres and plastics coming forward to fill this gap in our economy.
1716 The resilience of our economy is shown by the fact that during the last year approximately 10,000 to 11,000 workers in the shipyards were paid off, but there are at the moment only about 2,000 shipyard workers who, according to the statistics issued by the Ministry of Labour, remain unemployed; a sizeable achievement which demonstrates the skill of our Ministry of Labour in placing these men in other jobs.
§ Mr. Stratton Mills
I gave the figure a few minutes ago. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman was not in the Chamber. The figure is 35,873—approximately 8 per cent. Our economic development has so far been a success story, but it is not complete, and more chapters are required to complete this story. My case today is that a further long, steady heave is required to put the Northern Ireland economy on a sound base.
How do we prepare for this further long, steady heave? The Motion suggests how it should be done when it uses the phrase, "further exceptional measures". I hope to develop that point. The Motion is probably the most important one affecting Northern Ireland's economy that this House has ever debated, because it is a key Motion. If its principle is accepted by my right hon. Friend, Northern Ireland will be given an opportunity to make an economic break-through which could transform its economy.
This debate comes at a particularly valuable time, in that the Hall Committee, set up by the Government last year, is shortly to report to the United Kingdom Government and the Government of Northern Ireland. I hope that my right Friend the Home Secretary will have something to say on that point today. The job of this Committee is to examine the practicability of certain proposals put forward by various bodies, including the Northern Ireland Government, trade unions and the Unionist Party at Westminster. It is to act as a kind of economic litmus paper, to gauge the effectiveness of these proposals and to judge whether or not they are administratively possible.
If the Motion is accepted we shall be taking one step further, in that we shall 1717 be ensuring that the political principle of exceptional measures is accepted. In that lies the importance of the Motion, for it could open the way to the use of exceptional measures as a special economic medicine for Ulster.
I would not argue that these Measures, by their nature, must be permanent. We do not want to make Northern Ireland a kind of economic Monte Carlo. We do not want to make it that sort of special area, because we realise that we must take the good winds with the bad winds that blow through the British economy. But we do argue that there is a substantial case for moving Northern Ireland forward to a position of equality with other parts of the United Kingdom. The purpose of the Motion is to ensure a job for each of our citizens, as is his birthright.
The question may be asked: why should Ulster have the benefit of exceptional measures? There are four answers to this. First, I do not believe that we shall break the back of unemployment in Ulster without these measures. Secondly, Northern Ireland has a local Government at Stormont, which means that such measures would be easy to implement administratively. Thirdly, Northern Ireland is the only major part of the United Kingdom which is geographically situated away from the mainland. That puts it in a special position. Fourthly, in certain respects the principle of "special measures" is already in operation.
I refer, first, to the industrial coal subsidy of £700,000 given to Northern Ireland firms; secondly, the agricultural remoteness grant of £1¼ million, given to our farmers because of their distance from the British markets; thirdly, the exemption of Northern Ireland from the operation of any payroll tax if it ever comes into operation; and, fourthly, the fact that the 10 per cent. surcharge on Purchase Tax, and other duties which was one of the Chancellor's measures of July, 1961, has been specifically earmarked for the Government of Northern Ireland, to assist them in providing jobs.
Another question that might be asked is: what exceptional measures are needed to help in this economic breakthrough for the Northern Ireland economy? Certain proposals have already been submitted to the Hall Com- 1718 mittee by the Northern Ireland Government, the trade unions and the Labour Party, and a 20-page memorandum covering no less than fifty points has been submitted by the Ulster Unionist Party at Westminster. I elaborated on some of these measures in the speech I made in this House in May, 1961. It would not be very useful to take up too much time in repeating these points, since they are all with the Hall Committee at the moment. That Committee is considering their effectiveness in practice and their administrative adaptability. The important thing is the political principle behind the Motion, and, with that in mind, I commend it to the House.
I want to say a brief word about the firm of Short and Harlands, of Belfast, which holds a dominant position in our economy, as the second largest employer of labour. I was glad that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary was able to visit Northern Ireland last week. It was a highly successful visit. He was able to visit the firm of Short and Harlands and see something of its work for himself.
In the amalgamations which took place in 1960, when two airframe groups were formed, Short and Harlands remained independent, but the then Minister of Aviation said that despite this there were social reasons why the firm should not be overlooked. His actual words were:Except where specialised requirements or public policy make it necessary to do otherwise, we intend to concentrate Government orders on the five major groups."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th February, 1960; Vol. 617, c. 958.]I emphasise the words "specialised requirements or public policy". Northern Ireland, clearly, is covered by that phrase.
Two years have passed since then, and I cannot help feeling that the time is approaching when we should have a Government statement about the future of Short and Harlands. The Government should say which of the two alternatives should be adopted—whether the firm should remain an independent unit, or should enter into partnership with one of the two big groups in this field. There are strong arguments for both courses. I do not know which is the 1719 right answer; I find it a difficult technical question to gauge. But I am advised that expert opinion holds the view that it is in the interests of the firm to go into partnership with one of the "big two"—subject to certain employment safeguards.
It is interesting to note that in our debate on 12th May, 1961, the then Minister of State, Home Office, said, in reference to Short and Harlands:It is generally accepted that in the long run the best solution for this firm might be a merger with one of the two big aircraft groups."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th May, 1961; Vol. 640, c. 880.]I now ask for a considered statement on the future of this firm. I should be concerned if I felt that the situation was being allowed merely to drift. I am not suggesting that this is the case, but the South Americans have a phrase for it when they refer to the "manãna attitude". That is why I should like an asurance from the Government that they will consult the Northern Ireland Government and Short and Harlands, and will present to the House, some time within the next few months, a considered view as to the future of this firm.
I want to say a brief word about the Belfast air freighter. I shall be brief, because I have no doubt that my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) can be relied upon to provide the "commercial" on this subject, and will fill out the points that I mentioned briefly.
It is well known that a short-haul aircraft for the R.A.F. is needed to replace the Hastings and the Beverley, and from the point of view of the Treasury the modified version of the Belfast is a "dream plane". I emphasise that it is a modified version. It is the only plane at present being developed which could be adapted to do the job. I wish to emphasise that, having placed an order for 10 of the original Belfasts, the Government will put Short Bros, and Harland in grave financial difficulty unless they order some of these modified planes. It will not be possible to sell the plane to the civil airlines unless unit costs are brought down by additional Government orders. This is under consideration by the Government, but it is absolutely vital that a decision should 1720 be made within the next two or three months; otherwise progress on the Belfasts will be severely impeded.
There are many other matters to which I could refer, but I must leave something fox my hon. Friends to say. I have no doubt that the Common Market, shipbuilding, Anglo-Eire trade and other problems will be mentioned during the debate. I say that to prevent the speaker following me from saying that I have not touched on some subjects which I propose to leave to be dealt with by my hon. Friends. There is, however, one point which I wish particularly to emphasise. There must be an annual debate on Ulster in Government time. That is an absolute "must".
My researches show that during 1960 the affairs of Scotland have been discussed for 103 hours in the Scottish Grand Committee, on one Supply day and on three or four days which were devoted to Scottish legislation. I have just completed attending 23 morning sittings of the Scottish Grand Committee and I say to the House that what hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies can say in 103 hours in the Scottish Grand Committee, one Supply day and three or four days devoted to Scottish legislation, any Ulster Member of Parliament could say in one day.
As an ex-Leader of the House, I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will refer to the difficulties—I certainly do not underestimate them—of providing time for such a debate, particularly in the crowded state of the Parliamentary timetable. But now that my right hon. Friend is no longer Leader of the House, it may well be that he will not find himself inhibited and will urge on the present Leader of the House that such a debate should take place. If he cannot persuade the Leader of the House to accept the idea immediately, I might be able to assist by offering to put a Motion on the Order Paper suggesting the desirability of a debate on Ulster; or arranging an Adjournment debate on the merits of such a proposal. Hon. Members representing Northern Ireland would gladly assist in any way they can to ensure that such a debate is held.
We must take a long-term view of the kind of Ulster which we are trying to build. Firstly, we are trying to build 1721 a community in which all sections of our people will feel that they have a share.
§ Mr. Stratton Mills
Secondly, we are trying to build a community in which there is a job for each of our citizens. We have not yet got that type of community.
§ Mr. Strarton Mills
I suggest to the House that this is a noble aim, and one for which it is well worth striving. Northern Ireland is my home. I was born there, and I was at school and at university there. I was married in Northern Ireland. My business is there. All my roots are in Northern Ireland and I care very deeply for our Province. I should not be a Member of this House, or of the Unionist Party, if I did not believe that Ulster had an economic destiny and was capable of passing through a period of economic transition to economic fulfilment and full employment!
§ 11.36 a.m.
§ Mr. George Brown (Belper)
I rise to speak now only because I understand that it would be more convenient for the Home Secretary were he able to speak early in the debate, and I thought that it would be courteous if I said what I have to say before the right hon. Gentleman spoke rather than afterwards. My hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), who for a long time has taken a keen and devoted interest in these affairs, will speak later in the debate if, Mr. Speaker, he is fortunate enough to catch your eye.
The hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) has made a speech of considerable charm, and, of course, of great sincerity. I thought that the hon. Gentleman seemed a little uncertain about whether my appearance in the Chamber was a help to him or a hindrance. He showed the same sort of doubt when I was in Ulster. My visit to Short Bros, and Harland had quite an effect on my thinking, and I said so. I had no sooner left the country than the hon. Gentleman issued a very tart statement to the Press, and I got the impression that he thought I ought not to have had my thinking changed. That seemed to me a peculiar line to take.
1722 When listening to the hon. Gentleman today I felt that he was less than grateful to me. He spoke about the improvements on the Border. I think I am entitled to some recognition regarding that. On the Sunday during my visit I spent the day touring the Border and visiting the police stations. I looked at the bridges and examined all the conditions there; and the very next day the I.R.A. issued a statement saying that they would call off the campaign. Yet the hon. Gentleman made no acknowledgement to me for that.
§ Mr. Brown
I must say that the hon. Gentleman seems determined to look all gift horses in the mouth this morning.
I merely record the facts and I draw no inference from them. If anyone else is in difficulty—for example, if the Home Secretary finds that he has any difficulty regarding his responsibilities for the new territories under his control and would like me to do something about it, I shall always be at his service.
There are a number of things which I should like to put before the House. The first and outstanding problem of Ulster is its economic condition. When I was there I said—I still say it—that one of the things one sees very clearly, even during a short visit, is the extent to which there is still an over-concentration of attention on ancient issues—which to a large extent have been settled and ought to be allowed to the—at the expense of concentrating on Ulster's economic problems and what ought to be done about them. I was "tickled to death" to hear the hon. Member for Belfast, North make the speech which he did. It reminded me of the debate the other night on nurses and their salaries and conditions, when Conservative Member after Conservative Member bewailed the position. I could not help wondering once again who it is that the hon. Member for Belfast, North thinks is to blame for the economic condition of Ulster.
Not only have we had a Conservative Government, what is called the Imperial Government, for the last ten or eleven years, with pretty complete powers and a substantial majority, but there has 1723 been Conservative rule at Stormont for forty years, with absolute powers and complete authority. At the end of forty years, with all that power and authority, Northern Ireland Members have to ask for one day a year to debate a situation in which over 8 per cent. of the people are out of work, with 40,000 unemployed, and where there has been an average of over 7 per cent. of the population out of work for years.
It is as well that Northern Ireland Conservative Members should recognise that this situation exists and that they should tell the House of Commons about it. But do not let anyone be under any illusion. The responsibility is theirs. It is the responsibility of the Government which they support and of which they are Members, both at Stormont and here.
It is not only the unemployment figure of 8 per cent. which is worrying. I found a good deal of uncertainty there about the future and concern about the possibility of the situation getting worse. When I was in Belfast, I heard of mills being closed to make way for car parks. This was worrying people very much. If it was thought that this was the right use to make of a mill employing hundreds of people—to turn it into a car park employing two or three attendants—they could not see much prospect for the future.
There is grave uncertainty about the future of Short Bros, and Harland, about the aircraft industry and about the shipyards. The hon. Member for Belfast, North referred, rightly, to the special problems of Ulster. We recognise them. The sea divides Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom, and there is the problem of taking materials out and bringing finished products back. This only highlights the fact that, if Ulster is to have a bright economic future, ships and aeroplanes identify themselves as two things which pre-eminently could and should be made there. If there is the uncertainty which I discovered about those two basic industries which are so essentially suited to Ulster's geographical position, then it means that the situation there is much more worrying than even a figure of 8 per cent. unemployment indicates.
1724 What is the matter with Northern Ireland today? One of the outstanding things is the archaic local government, the archaic Government at Stormont. Someone says "Nonsense", but let us examine the situation. Here we have a Government with absolute powers, which is so autocratic that it is unbelievable and which even in this day and age does not recognise the trade unions. The hon. Member for Belfast, North got away with some nice friendly references to the trade unions and what they have said. But the Government there will not consult them, will not recognise them and will not set up a productivity council. Northern Ireland is, I believe, the only region in the United Kingdom which does not have a productivity council. The reason is that the Government will not allow the unions to participate in one. There are no trade unionists on the Chandos Council. How more archaic can one become in 1962?
The Northern Ireland Government's whole attitude to Parliamentary democracy is fantastic. While I was there, I was regaled with hearing what had been said about—and I was given a copy of the Northern Ireland HANSARD to read about it—the defence by the Prime Minister of Ministers of the Government at Stormont continuing to act as private directors. The Finance Minister at Stormont was a director of the local branch of the Midland Bank at the same time as he was the Finance Minister. He subsequently gave up his directorship, but, in case Ulstermen thought that this was because it was considered improper for the Finance Minister also to be a director of the Midland Bank, let me say that the Prime Minister went to the extraordinary lengths of saying that it would have been perfectly proper if he wanted to keep it and that his decision to give it up was a personal one. He indicated that he had no intention of suggesting that his Ministers should not be directors of private institutions even though their positions in those institutions might affect their Ministerial responsibilities.
Not only do the Government not recognise the trade union movement; they refuse to consult it. They also refuse to recognise that there is an Opposition. In fact, there are four Labour 1725 Members in Stormont, a very distinguished band of men, not only in Stormont but outside it. Perhaps the Unionists think that they should not be there. My guess is that a little later this year that number will be doubled. There is an Opposition, yet the Government in Stormont still act as though there is not. They refuse to recognise them and refuse to give them the rights of an official Opposition.
Ulster is suffering from very archaic local government in every way. I hope that the Home Secretary will say something about the relationship between the Ministers at Stormont and the Ministers in the Imperial Government at Westminster. I was there for only a short time, but the impression that I got from the one Minister to whom I spoke was that one of Ulster's problems is that this relationship is not close enough or specific enough and that when it comes to getting decisions from the Imperial Government here Ulster suffers from the unsatisfactory relationship between the Ministers in Stormont and the Ministers and Departments here. I should like to know whether that is the Home Secretary's opinion and whether something can be done about the matter.
I now turn to the problem of trying to do something about Ulster's intolerable economic situation. We on this side of the House take the view that a figure of 8 per cent. unemployment, with 40,000 people out of work, in a community the size of Northern Ireland, cannot be regarded simply as a matter of academic interest. This is a matter of men's lives, men's jobs and men's happiness. This is a very serious matter and it is a great blot on the conscience of Parliamentarians here. We should do what we can quickly to improve the situation.
In view of my remarks about the non-recognition by the Northern Ireland Government of the trade unions, I commend to the House and to the Home Secretary a document issued by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions called "Facing the Issues". It is one of the best attempts which I have seen almost by anyone and certainly by trade unionists to face squarely the economic problems and to make recommendations about their solution. I pay tribute to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions on the proposals 1726 and arguments outlined in this document. I hope that the Home Secretary will also look at a document issued by the Northern Ireland Labour Party called "Ulster Labour and the Sixties" in which there are set out in a very clear way proposals for improving economic conditions there.
It seems to me that there is a good deal of agreement about what is needed. What is lacking is a will to implement the needs. First, we have to plan for new industries to go to Northern Ireland. From my visit, it seems that there will be a continuing decline in the linen industry. There is a continuing change in the labour pattern on the farms and, again, that will continue, as far as I can see. The trend is the same as that which we have in this country. There will be a growing employment problem unless we deliberately plan for new industries to go there. They must be industries which will take the sort of labour which is available. We know from experience of development areas in this country that it is easy to get too much employment for girls and certain other people and too little employment for the type of labour which men want.
Northern Ireland needs more than sporadic attempts by industry itself. We cannot leave the matter to the outcome of the publicity put out by the Chandos Council. This will have to be a deliberate piece of planned movement. How one can plan for Northern Ireland with a Government so deliberately determined not to plan for the United Kingdom as a whole, I am not sure, but it seems to me that this is the first requirement.
We have heard reference to the Hall Committee. I should like the Home Secretary to tell us whether that Committee has been studying this kind of problem and whether its recommendations will be made public. I understand that while he was in Northern Ireland he said that he would give a pretty good account of what the Committee had said but would not publish it. A Minister's idea of what is a pretty good account and the Opposition's idea or any independent person's idea of what is a pretty good account may be two quite different things. It might be simply an account which would suit him. In my view, it would be much more satisfactory, since the Committee is publicly known and 1727 there have been so many references to it, even by the right hon. Gentleman, for its proposals to be published.
The first thing which we need to do is to plan deliberately. The second is to set up a proper development council and to give it economic and financial powers. The Chandos Council may well have done some useful work; I have no wish to be rude or even patronising about it. But it seems to me that it has neither the standing nor the powers to do the job, and a statutory development council, with the powers which could be given to it, would be a very much better instrument from now on.
§ Mr. Stratton Mills
I hope that I am not anticipating the right hon. Gentleman, but I am trying to follow his argument closely. What powers would be give to a development council, beyond those of the Ministry of Commerce industrial section and the Chandos Council? Or is it merely a matter of creating another name?
§ Mr. Brown
No. It is not merely a matter of nomenclature. I talked to the Minister of Commerce and I had the strong impression that his Ministry and the present bodies had very little powers in respect of planning of financial inducement. The Minister of Commerce is a man of great friendliness, and it was a great pleasure to meet him. Nevertheless, he staggered me with the atmosphere of complacency which exuded from him and from his chief officials there. I came away thinking that they were very complacent but, on thinking it over, I realised that it was not complacency; the problem is that they can keep asking and pressing but they can do nothing deliberate to bring about the changes which they need. I think that a statutory development council could have greater powers than are possessed at the moment by anyone in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Stratton Millsrose—
§ Mr. Brown
May I continue with my speech? I know that the Home Secre- 1728 tary has to speak fairly early in the debate and it would be better if I concluded my speech and did not delay the Home Secretary any longer.
A third point which needs dealing with is to consider whether it would not be better to have a Minister—a junior Minister or a Minister of State—here who would be responsible for the affairs of Northern Ireland. I am not a great devotee of the policy of increasing the number of Ministers, and I certainly think that we need no more Conservative Ministers; there are plenty already making a muddle. But I have some sympathy with what I heard them saying about the difficulty of making contact, and it seems to me that there is probably something to be said for the appointment of a Minister here with whom they can deal directly.
I wish to turn to two points which are of tremendous importance. One is the shipyards. We must take action there to settle the uncertainty. To some extent this is a matter of our whole shipping and shipbuilding policy, and the shipyards of Northern Ireland are the victims of it, as is the case on the North-East Coast and elsewhere. I do not want to discuss this aspect, but there are special local problems which ought to be tackled in Northern Ireland. I was impressed by the case for a new dock. It was strongly made. If we wish to do something for Ulster, shipbuilding is a "natural". It is an industry which does not have to be specially subsidised. It seems to me that there is a great case for a bigger dock. This is one feature which ought to be encouraged by direct Ministerial action from here or by setting up a development council with power to deal with that kind of thing, because if it is left to local action it will not be done—for obvious reasons.
Secondly, we must settle the uncertainty about Short Bros, and Harland, the aircraft factory. This is largely a publicly-owned factory. I cannot help feeling that Short Bros, and Harland have been the victims of the policy which the previous Minister of Aviation, in particular, pressed on the industry to bring about mergers and amalgamations between the aircraft firms in this country. They are suffering from the activities of the present Minister of Aviation, 1729 and, even more, from those of his predecessor. One of the carrots which the previous Minister used to bring about these amalgamations or associations was that work would go only where the mergers were made. Promises were clearly made about it. I have a very strong feeling that Shorts, who were not amalgamated or merged, are paying the price of the Minister's promise to the others, that this is one of the ways in which we are increasing the trouble for Shorts and that this has a direct consequence on industrial activity.
They are entitled to be told the position. I very strongly formed the impression from the workers and the workers' council which I met there that the present management of Shorts is in a state of complete uncertainty. It was my impression that the chairman, whose guest I was during part of my stay and with whom I went round the works, has no idea of the Government's intentions for this aircraft industry. This atmosphere of uncertainty applies throughout the factory. We must put it right. Do we intend this place to go on? Is it to go on as an integrated company or is it to become a series of outlying shops, building pieces for other companies? What is its future?
Short Bros, and Harland do not build only the Belfast freighter about which we have heard a great deal. I frankly confess that the views which I previously held about the Belfast freighter were modified by what I saw there. I still have grave doubts about whether it was right originally to go for a turbo-prop aircraft and not to go straight for a jet aircraft. On the other hand, there is no doubt that its carrying capacity is much more convenient for the sort of loads which will be carried commercially and, even more, for those which will have to be carried militarily than that of any of the competitors which I have seen. The fusilage has a design and a size which is very convenient indeed for the sort of things which we have to do, particularly for military requirements. Whether the odd 100 m.p.h. in speed makes all that difference, I do not know: if we are talking about carrying this kind of load over long distances, it is a matter of argument, and I suspect that it does not make as much difference as I thought it did.
1730 But it is not only this freighter which is made by the firm. I agree with the hon. Member that the Government ought to make an announcement about the freighter. It is not only a question of ordering more than ten of the present mark but a question of going ahead to get the extended versions of this aircraft and ordering those, because I think that there is more future in that aircraft, picking up the loads which it can pick up, if we can enable the aircraft to carry the loads much further. There is no future for it as it stands. It is the extended version which is important, and the Government ought to authorise that to go ahead very quickly.
I went round the missiles department of Shorts and I was tremendously impressed by the precision work being done, the high degree of skill which exists there and the tremendous success which Shorts have had in developing not only a missile of their own, almost as a private venture, but in the electronics work, too. There is a tremendous possibility there for a greater use of this, and the Government ought to state what is to be done about extending what they are doing very well.
I do not intend to speak any longer. If I did, it would be unfair to other hon. Members. I hope that I have indicated some of the things which we think ought to be done. We must end the rather dangerous degree of complacency about this. As long as the matter is discussed in the House every now and then, there seems to be contentment with the situation. We must make it clear that this is a situation which must not be allowed to continue. Unless something very specific is done, and very quickly, the position will get worse.
We must recognise, the Government must recognise, Unionist Members must recognise, that a great change in the political scene is happening in Northern Ireland. The winds of political change are blowing there, too. The little Labour group at Stormont have done magnificent work and have established themselves and will develop as the official Opposition there, whatever the Government may do. The trade unions are being extremely responsible—not only the Congress as a whole but men like my friend Norman Kennedy, who are doing a magnificent job to get concentration on a sensible political line 1731 and on a sensible relationship between management and labour and industry and the Government. It is time that we began to give them more help with specific economic actions, and it is time that the Government put some pressure on those archaic old gentlemen over there at Stormont to make them come out of their dug-outs and live in 1962.
§ 12 noon.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. R. A. Butler)
I am obliged to the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) for saying that it might be convenient for me to intervene in the debate at this stage. I have a public engagement in the country this afternoon, so I cannot be here at the end of the debate. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman also has a public engagement. The right hon. Gentleman said that his hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) would speak later. My hon. and learned Friend the Joint Under-Secretary will also speak later, to deal with further points which may be raised.
It falls to me, first, to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) on seizing the opportunity to initiate this debate. It is obviously fortuitous that he should have drawn this place, but right that he should have taken this opportunity. I cannot today give him any definite answer about what the views of the Leader of the House will be about regular opportunities, but I can say that from my point of view, both as an ex-Leader of the House and as the Minister primarily concerned with Northern Ireland, I welcome very much the opportunities we have for discussing these problems. I will go further and say that I think that they should be regularly discussed. It is absolutely essential that the House should keep a close interest and that as many constructive ideas as possible should be put forward.
I will take the Motion as I find it and deal at the outset with the first part, namely,the success of the measures which have led to the more satisfactory conditions now existing on the United Kingdom land frontier …Then I will deal with the economic situation and also try to answer some of the points raised by the right hon. Gentleman.
1732 First, I am glad to express the immense relief which we all feel that the restraint and sense of proportion with which the people of Northern Ireland have faced and overcome the threat of terrorism over the past five years and more have been rewarded. The Northern Ireland Government took firm measures to restrict the activities of the terrorists and I think that everybody in the House would like to pay tribute to the Royal Ulster Constabulary—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—and to the Special Constabulary, who have borne the main burden of opposing the campaign.
Like the right hon. Gentleman and many other hon Members, I have had my opportunity of touring the Border and have some idea of the strain this situation has meant. I also have some idea, as the House will have, of the heavy price which has been paid in the loss of brave men, whose sacrifices will not be forgotten. I think that all credit goes to the Government of Northern Ireland, who have had the full support of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom in defending our joint Border.
Throughout Britain and the whole of Ireland any sympathy there has been for the men of violence in the past has dwindled, and I have been glad to note the steadily decreasing support which has been evident south of the Border, which, I think, represents a general recognition of the evil nature of the means by which a few reckless men sought to impose their will.
They should have known that every blow at the links which bind us together with Northern Ireland serves only to strengthen these links and forge them anew. Therefore, I willingly accept the first part of the Motion and pass on our thanks, as a House, to all who have played their part in bringing about this improvement.
The rest of my speech will be devoted to the economic situation, as were the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend. In the course of my remarks I shall deal with most of the points raised by my hon. Friend and by the right hon. Gentleman, but I want to say this to the right hon. Gentleman straight away. I cannot accept his 1733 description of the Northern Ireland Government. The House would not except me to do so. He must have his little bit of fun. He must give publicity to some of these documents, which he will be glad to hear I have read. I have read "Facing the Issues" and "Ulster Labour and the Sixties". It is my duty to read them. I have met representatives of the Opposition in Northern Ireland, who have been brought to see me by the Leader of the Opposition. It is my duty to hear all sides. It is equally the duty of the House not to accept such outrageous statements about the archaic character of the Northern Ireland Government. I repudiate these statements absolutely and will not accept them for a moment. It would be difficult to find a more resilient and active Government.
Further, I do not accept what the right hon. Gentleman said about relations between Northern Ireland Ministers and Her Majesty's Government. If there is any anxiety about the closeness of the relationship it must be put right. I have met the group of Northern Ireland Ministers chiefly concerned with the economic situation, and others, on more than one occasion, and on my recent visit I obviously met them again. When I paid my visit to Short and Harlands, to which reference has been made, I was accompanied by the Minister of Commerce.
Our relations are close and friendly. I repeat that, if they need to be brought closer and if there is any desire that they should be made closer, I and my hon. Friends the Ministers at the Home Office would be only too glad to make them closer. As I believe that the right hon. Gentleman's point was put forward constructively, I accept it in that spirit and agree that there must be the closest possible co-operation. There is always a certain tendency for one side to say that something is the business of the other—for those of us on this side to say that it is the business of the other side, and for the other side to say that it is the business of this side. That cannot be helped. It is a joint affair with a responsible Government, and I will certainly do my best to help them.
In dealing with the economic situation as a whole and with the points raised so far in the debate, I do not want 1734 the impression to get abroad that, despite the severe unemployment problem, with which I shall deal, we need take a gloomy view about the future of Northern Ireland, because I think that there are all sorts of reasons why we should not. Northern Ireland has a great future. It has many achievements, some of which I shall refer to in my speech. I have been involved in this task for some time. When I was Chancellor of the Exchequer I invited Lord Chandos to be Chairman of the Northern Ireland Development Council. I was in on the appointment of the Plowden Committee. I have over these years taken a close personal interest.
This enables me to refer to a point raised by the right hon. Gentleman, namely, the necessity for planning new industries. If it had not been for our appointment of the Chandos Council and the great vision Lord Chandos has shown with his Council, I do not believe Chat there would have been the really remarkable introduction of new industries to Northern Ireland which we have seen. It remains the responsibility of Government to encourage and initiate measures to help out the situation. Last year the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland Governments set up a Joint Working Party under the chairmanship, at that time, of Sir Herbert Brittain, whose untimely death we all deplore, and now under Sir Robert Hall. The Working Party is just nearing the end of a comprehensive study of the situation and of possible means of bringing about permanent improvement.
From my point of view, I am sorry that the debate could not have taken place a little later, when I could have gone into the details of the Report, which I have not yet received. So the House will understand that the debate takes place too early to give a considered view of the Report. The right horn. Gentleman asked whether the Report will be published. I answered a query from the Press on this subject when I visited Northern Ireland. I should like to go further in the House this morning and say that, when we receive the Report, we will decide whether to publish it, but I will bear in mind the request for publication.
Thus, I go a little further than I did when I answered a question on this matter in Northern Ireland, because the 1735 one thing we want to get quite dear in dealing with this very serious economic problem is that there must be the utmost frankness between all of us on both sides of the House in attempting to find a solution to what has been a particularly intractable and difficult problem. Therefore, I will certainly take any step I can in relation to publication, and in agreement with the Government of Northern Ireland, as long as I can make the final decision when I receive the Report.
The right hon. Member for Belper referred to his visit to Shorts and Harland and to the fact that he was struck by the skill of the workers when he was going round the missile section. While I shall be coming back in a later part of my speech to Shorts, in so far as I can deal with it today I should like to stress that myself.
There is, of course, a degree of skill in Northern Ireland labour which has not been really exploited or praised up to date. Anyone going round that section of Shorts, and seeing the precision with which this work is being done, would find work like it being done practically nowhere else in the world. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman drew attention to the matter, because it particularly struck me in my visit there only a week ago.
I was also impressed by the intensity and skill of small farming in Northern Ireland. The conduct of the growth of grass is one example. It would be a credit to agriculture in any part of the world for its intensity, whether in Denmark or Holland or anywhere else where there is intensified farming.
For small farms, I would say, in passing, that we are increasing our help under the Small Farmers Scheme, notwithstanding the undoubted shock of the Price Review this year to farmers in Northern Ireland. That has been deliberately done because we knew that the Small Farmer Scheme applied more particularly to Northern Ireland than to any other part of the United Kingdom. We are maintaining that on purpose, and I believe that it will mitigate to some extent the burden of the Price Review which, for economic reasons, had to be imposed this year.
1736 There is considerable anxiety about the entry into the Common Market on the part of the farmers in Northern Ireland, just as there is among several other people in other parts of the United Kingdom, because everyone is anxious to see what the result will be. The small farm problem in Europe is probably more intense and more difficult than it is in Northern Ireland and than it is in this country.
I am convinced that farming interests generally in connection with the Common Market are desirous of finding a solution which will be fair to the farmers of each country. I am hopeful that we shall find a solution to the small farmers' problem which is fair to Northern Ireland and to her farmers—at any rate, that is the undertaking that I give in taking an interest in the negotiations.
I said that I did not want to underestimate the rate of unemployment, or its gravity. Two years ago my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr), in opening a similar debate, drew an analogy between the economic situation in Northern Ireland and that of the Red Queen, who had to run as fast as she could to stay in the same place. My hon. Friend will remember that debate. Last year, in opening a debate on 12th May, my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North gave the unemployment figures over a period of ten years to illustrate the same point.
The present figure, as has been agreed across the Floor of the House, is about 8 per cent. and it shows that our efforts must be intensified. I feel that I should bring again to the notice of the House the efforts which are being made to offset the decline in the old industries, a point made by the right hon. Member for Belper. I should like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the economy of Northern Ireland has been changed—its face has been changed to an immense extent.
The last two years have been particularly successful in bringing in new industries. For example, in 1960 there were 16 new developments and 13 expansions of existing Northern Ireland firms, promising eventually 4,500 new jobs. In 1961 there were 13 new firms, promising 6,400 jobs and, furthermore, 1737 17 expansions of existing firms, promising 2,200 jobs. That shows increased activity, and for this all credit is due to the authorities in Northern Ireland.
I am also able to announce—and the House will be glad to learn—that an important Midland company, Birmingham Sound Reproducers Ltd. which already employs about 1,200 men in Londonderry, has recently agreed to build another large factory there, which is expected to bring the total of men employed by the company in Londonderry to 2,400. The site preparations will begin early this summer. The company is already making an important contribution to employment in Northern Ireland and to exports to all parts of the world. We warmly welcome this new development, added to the figures which I have just given.
These developments have brought new strength to Northern Ireland economically and it has been able to stand up to some extent to a contraction of employment in its main traditional industries, particularly shipbuilding, which, in earlier times, would have had much more serious results. My hon. Friend, in moving the Motion, drew attention to the terrible wastage which occurred due to redundancy in the shipbuilding industry. I think that we have managed in 1961 and 1962 to meet that by the advances which we have made in other sectors. But the really serious part is that, owing to the decline in shipbuilding and the unemployment caused there, we have not been able to show the improvement which the figures I have given would otherwise undoubtedly have shown. That has to be remembered in making an assessment of the position.
I am certain that Northern Ireland will continue to make every effort to find further fresh industries. For example, I am very glad that Harland and Wolff has shown recent success in capturing orders for a naval assault ship and a large tanker in a time of especial keenness in competition in the shipbuilding industry. That is a partial answer to what the right hon. Gentleman said about the shipbuilding industry.
I would say this as a United Kingdom Minister who has put this point to my colleagues in the Government of 1738 Northern Ireland—that the more competitive the tenders from Northern Ireland can be, the better it will be. Admiralty tenders are at present all on a basis of competition and it is absolutely vital, if Harland and Wolff is to have the success that it has had recently in obtaining these forward orders, that it should continue to put in competitive tenders. I wish it all success in the future.
The right hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend asked me questions about the future of Shorts.
§ Mr. Butler
I was asked questions about the dry dock when I was in Northern Ireland, and I have considered this with the Minister in Northern Ireland. I said there that it would be most satisfactory to the workers in the shipyards if they did not just see a ship slide off the slipway and never see it come back again owing to their not having their own dry dock. The real difficulty at present is the lack of local support for the dock. If we could feel satisfied that there was more local support for the dock we might consider that matter more favourably.
§ Mr. Butler
Not only us, but other authorities who might help us with the establishment of the dock. I cannot go further than to say that if there were support for the dock it would be a desirable addition to the general armoury.
§ Mr. Mellish
This dock may cost £4½ million. Do I take it from what the right hon. Gentleman has said that, if the idea is accepted over there, Her Majesty's Government would be willing to find the money for it?
§ Mr. Butler
I cannot give a final answer today, except to say that it is no good taking part in a debate like this unless one sees that every possibility for the future development of Northern Ireland will be considered.
I have not any final answer on the subject of Shorts to give today. I am aware of the truth of what the right hon. Gentleman said about the Belfast air freighter. I am aware of the exactitude 1739 of his remarks in relation to its future, the mileage it can do, and its design. It is already a most remarkable aircraft, and the fact that the right hon. Gentleman went to criticise and came away to praise is a good thing.
As the House knows, the freighter can lift a tank, and can lift not only that but many of our most modern weapons. It is not only useful for that, but for the transport of men to a very much larger extent than any other aeroplane known in the world. The freighter has, I am sure, proved its worth, and I would agree immediately that the whole question of the future of Shorts—whether it is to remain independent, or whether it is to be amalgamated—is a matter that must be decided.
On my own visit I formed the same impression as did the right hon. Member for Belper, namely, that there is the most urgent need, in this beautifully-equipped aircraft factory, with a range for the construction of large aircraft almost unrivalled in the world, and with its access to the waterfront, for certainty, not only about the organisation but also about future orders. I do not think that the future of Shorts can be settled, however clever the workmen are, on the basis only of missiles, because the relationship of the capital involved and the size of the issue mean that its future must clearly be settled in relation to the major orders.
As I say, I am sorry that this debate has taken place at a time when a final decision cannot be given, but I can assure the House that I am in close touch with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation and that as soon as we are able to take the matter further and give some certainty we shall do so, because we realise how vital is the future of Shorts to the situation in Northern Ireland.
I have said a good deal this morning to show the improvement in the situation that has occurred, thanks to the new industries and the new chances of employment. I have said a good deal to show our satisfaction at peace having been restored on the Border, although the guard must never be dropped, and eternal vigilance must remain the order of the day—
§ Mr. Butler
I have expressed the support which Her Majesty's Government desire to give, and have given, to the Northern Ireland Government.
The Motion asks for the adoption of… exceptional measures to achieve these ends.I must make one reservation, which any Minister of any Government would have to make when speaking in any debate, and it is that exceptional measures when applied to a particular part of the United Kingdom must be balanced against exceptional measures taken in other parts of the United Kingdom, otherwise precedents are created which make it impossible to conduct Government fairly.
Having made that reservation, I would say that we await the Hall Report; that when it comes, there must be full consideration of its findings; that we intend to press ahead with the success already achieved by the Northern Ireland Government; that we intend to support the enthusiastic drive being made by my hon. Friends who represent Northern Ireland in this House; and that we intend not to sit back or be complacent, as the right hon. Gentleman said, but to go forward with success in grappling with this very serious problem.
§ 12.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Delargy (Thurrock)
So far, this debate has been very worthy. It might even turn out to be useful, though I doubt it. But I have found it extremely dull. That must be so because of its nature. One cannot be sparkling about dry-docks. I did not see the terms of the Motion—it was probably my fault—until about 9 o'clock last night—
§ Mr. Stratton Mills
No. It was put down after the weekly meeting of the Parliamentary Unionist Party on Wednesday evening.
§ Mr. Delargy
I said that I did not see it until last night, and that it was 1741 probably my fault. Therefore, I came here this morning unprepared, and I came here chiefly to listen, although I do not know how long that will go on. I do not intend to liven up the debate but to "dull it up". I want to refer to one or two things that have not yet been mentioned.
The most significant words in the Motion are—… the United Kingdom land frontier …If anybody on a quiz programme were asked, "Where is the United Kingdom land frontier", nobody would know. If we asked any child in Northern Ireland, "Where is the United Kingdom land frontier?" it would not know. But if we asked where the Irish Border was, everyone would know.
It is significant that these people who represent Northern Ireland here have an extreme reluctance to mention the words "Ireland" or "Irish". There is something Freudian about it. The answer is, of course, that they are not Irishmen. The hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) said that he was born in the Province—" the Province "he calls it; a very Irish expression. He said that he was educated there, that he lives there, and that he loves that part, but does anyone recognise the great resounding Celtic name of his; how extraordinarily Irish it is? It is like the names of his hon. Friends. That is part of the whole trouble; these people do not like—
§ Mr. Henry Clark (Antrim, North)
Just on the hon. Gentleman's reference to Celtic names, is it not the truth that a large number of his cousins who live in my constituency start the name with "de"? That does not strike me as being exactly Celtic.
§ Mr. Delargy
That proves my point entirely. Delargy is an old Irish name. In Celtic, it is written O'Duilearga. But when the hon. Gentleman's ancestors went over there—the planters—being unable to pronounce the names, they put on them the nearest anglicised form, or spelt them, some in the French way and some in the English way. That proves the hon. Gentleman's ignorance
To be serious for a moment, I, too, welcome the peace that has been, so to speak, declared on the Border. I 1742 have always deprecated the use of force. I have always condemned the I.R.A. and everything it has ever done—that, I think, is common knowledge. But when credit is being given for the restoration of quiet on the Border, I do not think that the Northern Ireland Government should be given any credit. I do not think that the United Kingdom Government should be given any credit. During those five years the Northern Ireland Government did not behave in any way differently from the way they have behaved during the last forty years. I do not say at the moment whether they behaved badly or well; I say they did not behave differently.
The one reason why the I.R.A. called off its campaign was simply that it had lost the support of the people from whom it had hoped to get support. The people whom the I.R.A. thought would support it in the North and South repudiated is practically unanimously. That was true in the elections, when the Sinn Fein candidates were overwhelmingly defeated in the Republic and in the Six Counties. That is why that campaign was called off. I am glad that the I.R.A. did call off the campaign, and I am glad that the Irish people, North and South, repudiated it.
I am also very glad to know that, for the first time for a very long time, there are no political prisoners in Northern Ireland, and I am sure that that gives great joy to everyone. There are, alas, still two political prisoners—I.R.A. prisoners—in English gaols; Donal Murphy and Joseph Doyle. These men were arrested after a raid at Arborfield Barracks, in which no one was injured and no property was damaged and after which all the stolen arms were recovered.
After a similar raid in Omagh in Northern Ireland, in which, unfortunately, five British soldiers were wounded, the men convicted got ten years' imprisonment. They have all now been released. Meanwhile, Murphy and Doyle got life sentences. They are now in the seventh year of their imprisonment. Surely, now that the I.R.A. has called off its campaign, the Home Secretary, who has the authority to review their sentences, should do so. The right hon. Gentleman has the reputation of being a humane person who tempers his 1743 justice with mercy. These two misguided young men have certainly had justice and I hope that they will now be shown a little mercy. Such an act of clemency would be a great act of good will and would do much more good than all the harm these men did.
I intend to say very little about the economic situation in Northern Ireland because so much has been said about it. I must remind hon. Members, however, that the men who conducted these atrocities did so for certain reasons. They are not criminals in the sense of the meaning we normally give to the word "criminal". They would not indulge in criminal activities for the sake of doing so, and I must remind hon. Members of this or else the debate will be meaningless.
These people believe that the six northern counties of Ireland belong to the whole of Ireland. They believe that the Border—or what has been called the "United Kingdom land frontier"—should be abolished and that the Six Counties should be reunited with the rest. They believe that this Border is wrong and unnatural traditionally, historically and geographically. That is the first reason why they undertook their campaign.
§ Mr. Delargy
Most certainly I do. The hon. and gallant Member has known that for years. I do not know why he suddenly puts that question to me.
§ Captain Orr
I was anxious to get it on the record for the purposes of Northern Ireland's Labour Party records.
§ Mr. Delargy
I do not mind speaking the truth and I have been trying to explain why the people have indulged in these practices. So many people have been exasperated by the disgraceful way in which the northern minority has been treated. I am anxious to get it on the record that there is a minority in Ireland, for nothing has been said about them in the debate today. One of the reasons this House is in existence is that we speak up for minorities. The moment we cease to do so we might as well pack up and go home.
1744 As I say, this minority has been disgracefully treated—politically, economically, educationally, civically, socially and in every other way. It would be wrong if I allowed this opportunity to pass without saying so. I see the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) in his place. He should know a lot about discrimination. His local authority behaves as badly as any. Is it right that a population which has a 67 per cent. or 68 per cent. majority should have a permanent minority on the local authority?
Is it right that there should be no senior official on the corporation belonging to the majority in the city; where, for example, in the town clerk's, the city accountant's, the rate collector's the solicitor's and the welfare departments, and elsewhere, there is not one official who belongs to that group which forms the great majority in the city? Is it right that out of sixty-nine administrative officers only eight come from that section of the population which forms the majority? Should it be so that the only place in which the majority has any representation worth speaking of is among the Labourites who, even then, do not comprise one-third of the people in this majority group?
One could say almost the same of every local authority in Northern Ireland. I could go through a whole list, education, health and everything else, and I am not saying this merely to promote bitterness. If I wanted to be bitter—and this applies to you or anyone else shaking his head—I could, for there is plenty about which to be bitter.
§ Mr. Speaker
I can assure the hon. Member that I was not shaking my head. I am a little concerned about the relevance of the hon. Member's remarks to the Motion, which governs what we may discuss.
§ Mr. Delargy
I regret if I phrased my words badly, but I was addressing myself to the first part of the Motion which… welcomes the success of the measures which have led to the more satisfactory conditions now existing on the United Kingdom land frontier …and was pointing out the facts of this position in relation to the trouble on the Border. I was giving some of the 1745 reasons why people feel great indignation at the disgraceful fashion in which minorities are being treated.
Regarding economics, it seems that everyone has been to Northern Ireland recently. The Home Secretary said that he had been there, as did my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown). I was there in August and September of last year. I was the guest of an hon. Member of this House, the hon. Gentleman who so ably represents the northern part of the County Down, and I am afraid that my presence under his hospitable roof did not do him a great deal of good electorally. Apparently my stay was the result of the hon. Gentleman receiving a number of letters, some of which were published in newspapers, signed by people with such peculiar names as "Disgusted" and "Pro Bono Publico." Perhaps it was a good thing that in the last election the hon. Gentleman had a majority of over 50,000.
§ Mr. Delargy
No, not after Orpington—but I promise him and the Ulster Unionist Party that I will not spend a holiday in his house again until after the next election.
However, I, too, was able to speak with one of the Ministers and he told me how the Government of Northern Ireland were willing to rent or even build factories for industrialists. They would, he told me, make grants of up to 33 per cent. for machinery and help with the training of apprentices. I was told that those plans had been undertaken to secure 8,000 jobs this year and it all sounded very helpful.
But, immediately after my discussion with that Minister, I saw members of the Labour Party, who did not dispute the Minister's figures. They were not impressed or even terribly interested in them, because they said that 10,000 people were at that moment being laid off—engineers, shipbuilders, and so on—and that that number more than offset the new jobs that would be coming along. In Northern Ireland this year 27,000 children will be leaving school and there will be less than 20,000 jobs waiting for them.
1746 So long as the Stormont Government continue with their present policy—they have a phrase for it; something about giving "the maximum assistance with the minimum of interference"—they will get nowhere. Anyway, that phrase seems like something from the middle of the last century and is completely out of date. As long as they go on with their present policies they will not solve the problems, which will not be solved unless there is more State interference. I do not see how the economic problems can be solved until the national difficulties are tackled.
It has been said that there is 8 per cent. unemployment in Northern Ireland and I agree that that is about the overall figure. But is it known that in two of the big Border towns the unemployment rate is at least double that figure? In Deny and Newry the unemployment rate is running at about 17 per cent. and 15 per cent. respectively. This is most significant, for it might be said that if the major unemployment areas were left out there would be no unemployment at all. The major unemployment is in these areas. Is there any wonder, therefore, why some of us consider that politics is mixed up in it somewhere?
I hope that this debate will do some good, but I do not think it will. We have had many debates in this House about Northern Ireland, though very few in the last few years. We had many in the old days between 1945 and 1950, but they did no good, and I do not think that this debate will do any good either.
§ 12.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Henry Clark (Antrim, North)
It is always a great pleasure to hear the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy) speaking about Northern Ireland. It continues the careful researches which the Ulster Unionist Party research unit carries out to find out just what are the hon. Member's politics on Ireland. The hon. Member apparently goes to North Down and stays with an Ulster Unionist. We are not quite certain about the hon. Member's relationship with the Nationalists in Ireland, but it is always interesting to try to discover. It is also remarkable that those who do not live in Northern Ireland shout much the loudest about her woes.
1747 I want to reply to one or two points that the hon. Member made. He talked a great deal about discrimination. It is remarkable that the minority in Northern Ireland to which he referred is steadily increasing and has every appearance of being a healthy community. On the other hand, the minority in Southern Ireland, to which, presumably, the hon. Member refers favourably by inference, has steadily decreased. In my opinion, the North of Ireland is completely guiltless in this matter of discrimination. In fact, those concerned have fallen over backwards to help—
§ Mr. Clark
Voluntary Agency Schools, with a 60 per cent. grant. I believe that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) has prepared certain material on these lines and will go into the matter further. I would, however, tell the hon. Gentleman that I have a friend who is part of the minority about which he is so reticent, and he recently came to live in England, and he said to me "I wish we could get back to the school grants that we had in Northern Ireland."
§ Mr. Delargy
Will the hon. Gentleman tell me how the grants given in Northern Ireland are different from the grants given to voluntary aided schools here?
§ Mr. Clark
I must get on.
First, I should like to thank my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for his remarks about Northern Ireland. He is a very great friend of Northern Ireland, and the people of Northern Ireland left 1748 him in no doubt about their feelings when he visited us last week. We are sometimes a little reticent in Northern Ireland, but I assure my right hon. Friend that after the very great speech which he made to the Ulster Unionists, in Belfast, there was a great deal more talk than usual, and there was also a good deal more praise for what my right hon. Friend said than I have heard after many speeches of that sort.
There may be criticism that the Ulster Unionists are a sychophantic, spineless lot who always return the same people to power. If the people who make such criticisms would like to come and look at Northern Ireland, not just for a weekend, I do not think they will find that the Ulster Unionists who have returned the Ulster Government to power by vast majorities time after time are a spineless lot. They have had enough spine to resist the blanishments of the Labour Party for a considerable number of years.
We heard a number of old "chestnuts" from the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown). We have heard about the Irish T.U.C. for a long time. That is about as old a "chestnut" as one could get. The right hon. Member for Belper knows exactly what the answer is.
§ Mr. Delargy
I know that it is alleged that the Northern Ireland Government will not recognise the Irish T.U.C. because it has its headquarters in Dublin, but they have no difficulty in recognising the masonic order, which also has its headquarters in Dublin.
§ Mr. Clark
The masonic order is not an official body recognised on many occasions by the Government.
We had the old "chestnut" of the dry dock. If that is the best suggestion 1749 that the Labour Party can put up, it has not done much thinking about Northern Ireland, and it is about time it did. We always welcome good ideas from either side, but today we have heard the same old ideas and no new ones for solving the problem.
There has not been a balanced speech about Northern Ireland today except from my hon. Friends. I am just as proud of being an Irishman as the hon. Member for Thurrock is, and I would say that balanced speeches about Ireland have been rather too few in this House. To make a balanced speech one has to talk about the good as well as the bad, and one has to emphasise the good. The woes of Ireland have been with this House perhaps for rather too long and again today we will hear about the woes of Ireland.
We also hear a good deal about the woes of Scotland. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills), I have been sitting on the Scottish Standing Committee for the last seven weeks, and I have realised that the woes of other people can become exceedingly tedious. Consequently, I do not want to go into the woes. There is a special point that I want to raise at the end, but for the moment I should like to talk about the success story which is modern Ulster.
It is exceedingly easy for hon. Members opposite to look at Northern Ireland and say how little has been done. But they forget one simple fact, that forty years ago, when Northern Ireland came into existence, it was a generally accepted principle that the outlying and more picturesque areas of the United Kingdom would have a standard of living a great deal lower than London and the Home Counties. When the Northern Ireland Government came into existence they completely denied that principle and they have continued to do so. Their work has been such that now that principle can be completely denied and we can look forward to the day when Northern Ireland will have just as high a standard of living and be just as prosperous as anywhere else in the United Kingdom.
It must be remembered that the Unionist Government which have been in power for forty years—we are not ashamed of that; we have returned 1750 them at every election without a shadow of a doubt—started with a considerable number of disadvantages. They had an entirely new Constitution. It was of a federal form, and it took a great deal of working out. It is obvious that hon. Gentlemen opposite do not fully understand it—though I know that some of the Scottish and English Members would like Scotland to have a similar Constitution—and that there is no full appreciation of its considerable difficulties. However, the Unionist Government have coped with those difficulties. They have coped with a very narrowly based economy. They have also coped—this is a point to which I shall return later—with a pattern of the economy which, for historical reasons, is exceedingly difficult. I shall expand this later in my speech.
Over the forty years tremendous progress has been made. Progress was made before the war, and considerable progress has been made since the war. During the last five years the progress has been accelerated, and during the past year more new factories and more new jobs have been created than ever before. The introduction of new industries to Ulster is not a dying process, but a process which is getting stronger and stronger.
The vital statistics which countries publish can be published about Northern Ireland with a great deal of pride. One-third of the population now live in post-war houses. After sitting on the Scottish Standing Committee, I realise that that situation is considerably better than in some parts of the United Kingdom. Almost half the children are in new schools. One can say that a child in Northern Ireland has a better chance of going to a secondary or grammar school and getting a university place than a child in almost any other county in the United Kingdom.
We have a hospital service which is probably the pride of the British Isles. Certainly, anyone who goes over and sees our magnificent new hospital at Altnagelvin and the conversions made of old hospitals all over Northern Ireland must come away wishing that he had something like that at home. The medical school of Queen's University, Belfast, is probably one of the best in the world.
1751 We have roads which are probably only ten years behind the traffic compared with the roads in this country, which are forty years behind the traffic. To put it into more precise terms, a motorist in Northern Ireland can reckon to average 40 m.p.h. anywhere he goes, but if he can average 30 m.p.h. in some areas in this country he is very lucky. We have not done too badly on roads.
I want to give some figures which, I think, are interesting. One, which is of particular importance, concerns exports from Northern Ireland, which have always been high and have been rising very fast indeed. It is rather difficult to give exact figures, because so many of our exports go through Great Britain, but exports to Great Britain amounted to £42 million in 1938, £200 million in 1952, and to £312 million in 1960. Our exports of manufactured goods, particularly, have increased very fast, and have gone up by about £10 million every year for the last four years.
Northern Ireland specialises in and knows a great deal about exporting. There is some slack in the economy, however, and there is a great deal to be said for building up exports and in that way building up Northern Ireland. The development which the Unionist Government have carried out has not been just haphazard, but has been very carefully planned indeed. In the process of creating new factories, particularly over the last ten years, the complete infrastructure of a really large industrial community has now been built up. We always complain about our difficulty in getting raw materials, but the raw materials of the new textile industries are supplied in Northern Ireland probably better than in any other country in the world. We have Terylene, nylon and Acrilon factories, and these factories are probably the largest in the United Kingdom which are producing these materials.
The linen trade must inevitably contract a little, as linen loses its place as one of the three great textiles and is now becoming one of the ten great textiles among the 10 or 20 new textiles which now exist. Already, the textile skill of the people of Northern Ireland is being developed in the new raw materials being manufactured there, and 1752 new textile factories are being set up in Newry, Ballyclare and a number of other places where hon. Members of the Labour Party hardly ever go.
The right hon. Member for Belper made a rather nice point about a textile factory being turned into a car park, but if he knows of a good use for factories of the old form he should tell us what it is. The fact is that very often such a factory is of very little use for modern production. If we can turn one of them into a car park, by using the very considerable native ingenuity in which we specialise in Northern Ireland in our own special way, it is much better to do so.
The Northern Ireland Government's efforts in this direction have been carried out with full co-operation from here, and my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North has gone into details of the special assistance which we have had—of the exemption from the payroll tax, the remoteness grant and a number of other ways in which we have been helped. Undoubtedly, and we are not complaining, except in so far as it is one of the facts of life, we have been hindered by the policy of the Government at Westminster. There is no getting out of it, and there is not much that we can do about it, but there have been times during the last few years when the Government at Westminster, fearing inflation, have put on deflationary measures, and these measures have on quite a number of occasions hit Northern Ireland.
We could have done quite well with a little more inflation, but we do not complain, remembering that we are part of the United Kingdom and that we go up or down with it, but there are difficulties, and there have been times when the policy of the whole country has been contrary to the interests of Northern Ireland, but this is quite inevitable. For instance, in the recent Farm Price Review, we have a cut of £15 million, which, I think, will affect the pockets of farmers in Northern Ireland more than other United Kingdom farmers.
There will always be times when the policy of the United Kingdom Government will be contrary to the best interests of Northern Ireland. No one can deny this; it is one of the facts of life. 1753 That is the reason why we felt fully justified in asking for exceptional measures in the past to boost Northern Ireland's economy, and that is why the Government here at Westminster have on more than one occasion used special measures to help the Northern Ireland economy.
I want now to deal with the problem of which one hears but seldom from the other side of the House, though I must admit that the hon. Member for Thurrock mentioned it. That is the problem of employment, not in Belfast, not in the shipyards, but in the country areas. This is a particularly serious problem.
Northern Ireland grew up on textile factories, which came from the original cottage weavers. My great grandfather—and this is only a little beyond living memory—used to ride round the brown linen markets of Kilrea and Garvagh and buy the linen from the weavers. It was manufactured throughout the country and was then taken into factories to be bleached. As the process was mechanised, small factories grew up everywhere. They were minute factories, in some cases employing 20 or 30 men. Probably no village in the whole of Northern Ireland was more than 10 miles from a linen factory of some sort. People who came to Northern Ireland remarked with interest that right in the depths of the country they would suddenly see a factory chimney. That is the pattern on which Northern Ireland grew up. The building up of the industry all over the countryside enabled the small farmer to exist at a surprisingly high standard of living over a long period, because there were always one or two members of his family who were able to find employment in the textile factories. This pattern we have still got, except that modem progress and developments have meant that the small textile factories all over Northern Ireland have closed down.
There is, therefore, no real outlet for the spare members of the farming families. That is, in many ways, the nub of a large part of our unemployment problem. To this has been added the fact that the brothers and the unmarried sisters, the old men and the young people who lived on the farm, who took their few shillings at harvest time, are no longer content in the keep they get from the head of the family.
1754 With the rising standard of living which Northern Ireland enjoys under the Unionist Party, they are no longer content, and the unmarried sister who kept house is now looking for a first-class job. A number of people in this position travel long distances and get jobs in a factory. The tragic thing is that after finding work in one of these factories, it usually means that they must travel 20 or 30 miles by bus to get to them. Often people in my constituency earn good wages—say, £9 or £10 per week—but by the time they deduct their lunch money and bus fares there is hardly £5 left to take home. These are problems which we face, but about which we do not hear very much from the other side of the House.
Finding a solution for this outdated pattern is exceedingly difficult. In Ballymoney, which is a centre of an area of this sort in my constituency, we have managed to get a small amount of industry. We have a camera factory. If we could attract more Ministers and Members from this House to come over, they would see our camera factory in Ballymoney and an even greater degree of skill than at Short and Harland's. The cameras which are produced can compete with anything that the Germans, the Swiss and the Japanese can produce. This factory employs 120 people. It is a unique little industry.
There is a bag-making industry which is ancillary to agriculture, but the textile mills which used to surround the town of Ballymoney have all closed down and the area has unemployment approximating 14 per cent. In many cases, it is more a matter of under-employment, because many of those who are unemployed are those to whom I have referred, such as the unmarried sister or the younger brothers on a small farm. They can, of course, continue working on the farm and get their keep, but that is not the kind of life that we want to give them.
Recently, a sound solution to the problem of one area of that nature was put forward. I have advocated it both in this House and to the Ministries concerned. For a long time, it has been nice, simple economics to say that we should base our industries in Northern Ireland on our raw materials, on the produce of the farm. To a considerable 1755 extent, we have developed the processing of bacon and the creameries and, more recently, we have gone a bit further with the slaughter and processing of meat. Obviously, the processing of agricultural produce is a sound policy and has paid off well. One type of agricultural produce which we in Northern Ireland cannot process because we have no factory, is sugar beet.
In Northern Ireland, we consume about £5 million worth of sugar a year. The sugar is either imported from the Commonwealth or produced here in the United Kingdom. At present, some of the sugar beet is even imported from Poland and we are told that it has come round the corner from Cuba.
In the kind of area of which I am thinking—the area around Ballymoney, for example—a sugar beet factory would provide at least 400 jobs. It would create many more jobs on the farms, because sugar beet is a crop with which there is a large labour input. A particularly important point is that the price to the farmer would be stable and would not depend upon freights, because the sugar beet would be transported only 40 miles or so to the factory and it would be consumed in Northern Ireland.
The alternative crop—say, potatoes, of which we planted huge acreages a few years ago—is so affected by freight rates that people are getting tired of it. A price of, say, £18 a ton for potatoes in Liverpool means a price of only about £11 or £12 a ton in Northern Ireland. When the price at Liverpool goes down to £13 or £14, the price in Northern Ireland goes down well below £10 and ceases to be economic. If we could grow sugar beet, we would have a crop that was insulated from fluctuations in freight rates and the farmer would know his price before he planted it.
What is wanted is a factory. I have already asked the Government at Westminster to authorise the British Sugar Corporation, which is 51 per cent. Government-owned, to open a factory in Northern Ireland. The Sugar Act, 1956, should be amended to apply to Northern Ireland so that we can have, not only 400 jobs in the country areas for our men, but also a crop which the 1756 farmers can grow, on which they can make a profit and which is insulated from fluctuations in freights.
There are a number of arguments to support the proposal for a sugar industry in Northern Ireland. Undoubtedly, it would be a "natural". It is a wee bit galling for the Ulster housewife to realise that she is paying £2 million a year in levy to the British Sugar Board and that this money goes to subsidise the growth of sugar in the Commonwealth. There is no stronger advocate of the Commonwealth than myself, but I am not sure that there is 14 per cent. unemployment in the areas which benefit from the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. It is galling to the housewife in Northern Ireland to subsidise the farm workers of Mauritius and the West Indies when she knows that almost on her own doorstep farm workers are unemployed and looking for work.
The other day, in answer to a Question, I was given details of the sugar beet acreages for the whole of the United Kingdom. Virtually every county except, I believe, Middlesex grows sugar beet. There is a small footnote to the table stating "no sugar beet is grown in the Northern Ireland counties". Why are we left out? Why cannot we come into this crop, which every farmer would regard as his sheet anchor? The answer is that Britain has such heavy commitments in the Commonwealth that she has never allowed the British Sugar Corporation to open up in Northern Ireland.
We have gone on asking for this for about ten years. During that time, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food have said "No. We are very sorry, our commitments overseas are too heavy. We cannot allow expansion in sugar beet production." But the figures show that beet sugar production in the United Kingdom increased from 550,000 tons in 1950 to 779,000 tons in 1960. Production of sugar beet in the United Kingdom has doubled over the last ten years, but every year the Ministry tells us that sugar beat production cannot be allowed to expand even to the extent of the 40,000 tons—a merely marginal figure—that we want in Northern Ireland.
I know the difficulties of the Minister of Agriculture in allocating sugar and dealing with the world sugar agreements. 1757 Nevertheless, I ask him to consider again and again whether he cannot allow Northern Ireland to grow this 40,000 tons. One sugar factory in Northern Ireland would undoubtedly make a great difference to the special problem of rural unemployment. We have been racking our brains in County Antrim, but we have not found another solution. Will not my right hon. Friend look at the matter again and see whether something cannot be done?
I have made this speech at rather greater length than I intended. I have made the point that although Northern Ireland has been a great success, we have a considerable number of special difficulties and we need special measures. We have set our standards by the standards of the richest parts of the United Kingdom and we are beginning to measure up to them. We have not yet succeeded, but the end is in sight.
The trouble is that the standards in this country, with which we compare ourselves, are going up steadily and we have to go up faster if we are to catch up. Like two brothers who are growing up together, one of them two or three years younger than the other, when their ages are five and eight the elder brother may appear to be a great deal older. As, however, our standards go up together, the difference which exists between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom, although it remains at the same level, is of less relative importance.
As the standard of living increases we look at people in England with envy as we realise that we can never, perhaps, reach the same material standard on the indices that exist here in London, because London tends to produce magnificent indices—with, incidentally, very little fresh air.
We in Northern Ireland have things which compensate us—for example, clear roads, fresh air and friendly people. We have space in which to do things and to enjoy oneself. We have probably one of the finest countries in the world. So that if our material standards are never quite as high as in the richest parts of the United Kingdom, our real standard of living will probably be a great deal higher. Thank goodness, more and more people realise this and it becomes easier and easier to attract people to 1758 open businesses in Northern Ireland and to bring over the experts. When the experts have been three years in Northern Ireland, they seldom go back.
We have been a success. It is getting better and better. The job is getting easier, but we still need help with the special problems, particularly of the kind which I have described, in the rural areas, where unemployment is running at levels which are a great deal higher than we ever hear from the Labour benches.
§ 1.10 p.m.
§ Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)
Before I explain the reason for my intrusion in the debate, I should like to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) not only on his success in this particular Ballot, but on his regular success in the Ballot, which enables him to bring the subject of Northern Ireland to the attention of the House.
I am sure that his good luck is deserved, although I share the doubts which have already been expressed about whether our discussions of Northern Ireland affairs should be subject to exactly this sort of lottery. We know that the lottery is fairly conducted, but this does seem a haphazard way of debating Northern Ireland.
As a Member for an East Kent constituency, I am almost as far removed from Northern Ireland as it is possible to be, not that that is any advantage, and so this would appear to be an impertinent intrusion. I shall not plead by way of excuse a short visit which I made to Northern Ireland earlier this year, even shorter than that made by the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), although less well publicised. I think that I can plead in mitigation some past association with the Department principally concerned with the affairs of Northern Ireland. It is also a rather false impression that the affairs of Northern Ireland are left entirely in the hands of Members who represent it, suggesting that no one else takes an interest in them. That is a misguided point of view.
Most important of all, there are aspects of Northern Ireland problems, although they are insufficiently recognised, which have a distinct bearing on 1759 some of ours in this country. Naturally enough, in a debate of this kind we tend to centre around one point—the further contribution which the United Kingdom can make to assist the Government of Northern Ireland to do the many things which it wishes to do and has been doing.
I venture to turn the argument upside down—after all, this is an Irish debate. I should like to consider particularly one aspect of a contribution which Northern Ireland can make to us in this country. I do not at all accept the view that in terms of employment, the allocation of industry and long-range physical planning in this country are such that we in the United Kingdom are in an entirely happy position and that it is simply a matter of how far we share all the advantages which we enjoy with Northern Ireland.
I will illustrate what I mean by contrasting certain problems in the area which I represent in south-east England with those which we know to exist in Northern Ireland and which were so well described by my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Belfast, North. In my hon. Friend's constituency there is an unrelenting struggle to attract new industries and new jobs and to make new jobs, a struggle which has not been without a fair measure of success. In mine there is likely to be an increasing struggle to accommodate, transport, organise and plan an immense weight of industrial and commercial activity which is seeking to concentrate in the south-east of England. There is a state of unbalance which is a matter of concern not merely to Northern Ireland and which, in the long term, may prove to be of greater concern to us.
In the long term, taking into account our prospective relations with Europe, Northern Ireland has certain grounds for cautious optimism. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary mentioned them. For example, there are clear signs that parts of Europe do not find the prospects in Northern Ireland altogether unattractive. It cannot have escaped their notice that, notwithstanding the total of 35,000 now unemployed in Northern Ireland, currently a rate of 8.4 per cent. and four times greater than our own figure, industrial production 1760 has risen since the war by about 45 per cent. compared with 36 per cent. in the United Kingdom itself.
Northern Ireland has been well described as a country of idle hands, but rising production, and I have no doubt that that is noted in the Continent of Europe. The degree of skill in certain places is singular, a quality which cannot have passed without notice among certain European countries. It is not surprising that they should now be showing a modest interest which, we hope, will increase. I understand, for example, that attention has been secured in Germany whose industrialists have responded modestly, but not unpromisingly, to certain overtures. As labour supplies become scarcer among what is now known as the Six, there is a reasonable chance—I do not exaggerate it—that more Continental firms will see what Northern Ireland has to offer them.
I now want to turn to the other side of the coin. During the ten years 1951–60, unemployment in the southeast region of England has risen by nearly 1 million. It has been going up, and still is going up, at the rate of about 100,000 a year. I contrast that with the figure mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North when he said that in the last year Northern Ireland had managed to increase the number of jobs by 6,000, which was a record—6,000 in that region and nearly 100,000 in the south-east region of this country.
Moreover, nearly 90 per cent. of the increased labour in the south-east region was male, with its obvious implications of housing and other demands to follow. Manufacturing industries accounted for nearly half of that demand. During the last five years in London alone, where we have been resisting this trend, 26 million sq. ft. of industrial premises have been built. In the south-east area, where, if there has not been resistance to the trend, at least there has been an attempt to restrain it, 72 million sq. ft. of industrial premises have been built against a national total of 231 million sq. ft. We have not heard it yet, but I should be interested to hear the corresponding figure for Northern Ireland.
In the south-east conurbation we now have a concentration of about 17 million people, 8 million of them in employment. 1761 I notice that 10,000 Ulstermen emigrate to here each year. I wonder how many of those 10,000 are among the 17 million which we now have in the south-east region. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is to organise an investigation into Irish immigration into this country and it would be useful if it could throw a little more light on the numbers from Northern Ireland coming to each region of this country and to which centres of activity they are drawn.
The point I am seeking to make is that in one sense the contrast between the position in Northern Ireland and the position in south-east England is part of exactly the same problem. The alarming and quickening trend for population and industry to slide with increasing momentum from the North and North-West to the South and South-East is a trend which has been going on for some time. The heart appears to draw increasingly more and more blood, and as it does so the extremities, the outer limbs, as Northern Ireland has been described more than once this morning, tend to get cold.
Hon. Members who represent Wales and Scotland and the north of England know all about these problems and speak of them frequently. We are all aware of the trend and we in the South-East are aware of the consequences at the receiving end. I hasten to say that some are wholly beneficial and I would not attempt to pretend otherwise
It is, however, undeniable that difficulties will arise, and I am now thinking of ten years ahead when, if the figures continue to run as now, we shall have about 2 million more added to the total. What we are witnessing in this part of the United Kingdom is only a portion of a gigantic movement part of which is outside our shores. A circle which embraces Rotterdam and the Ruhr and now south-east England now constitutes a basin into which large numbers are coming to form the greatest concentration of human activity anywhere in the world. We can already see a dramatic pattern of the most extraordinary concentration of human activity—and that is before we enter the Common Market. What happens after we enter the Common Market is beyond surmise.
I would be out of order if I continued to speculate on this subject, but 1762 I will add one short comment—that this problem will not be solved by any Channel tunnel, for a Channel tunnel will make the connection between all these centres one acute bottleneck. I am sure that Ministers, who have been represented in great strength on the Front Bench this morning, are not unaware of this problem and its relationship with the problems of Northern Ireland. The Local Employment Act was partly designed to meet it and I have no doubt that, in part, it has. It has not been without effect to Northern Ireland, which I think is acknowledged, but my impression is that the Act has affected principally those areas of middle unemployment and not those of heavy unemployment.
The Government, if they are aware of this alarmingly increasing trend to unbalance, do not show signs of weighing very heavily its longer term implications. This is where Northern Ireland comes in. My view is that this is not by any means heading towards greater efficiency, greater productivity, and certainly not towards better social conditions. In terms of transport alone, which may constitute between 16 and 84 per cent of the price of an article, it is tending to raise immeasurable problems, the biggest of which is to be found in London itself.
That is the background against which not only Members who represent Northern Ireland, but those who represent other constituencies, might view the problem of Northern Ireland from an entirely new angle. There is here, sooner or later, a major strategic decision to be made, and when I say strategic I am thinking not in terms of defence, nor the kind of dispersal which we have in the past thought necessary in relation to defence. I am not bolstering this argument with suggestions about the prospects of a third war. The fact is that dispersal has become a peace-time problem, and this is partly so because we are faced with an increasing transport problem.
That is what town and country planning is supposed to be about. I believe that this problem will be increasingly difficult, and not merely physical but economic as well. In Northern Ireland, it is said that it costs £1,000 capital to put a man into a new job. I wonder 1763 what the ultimate capital cost is of putting a man in a job in south-east England if we take into account schools, roads, the use of public transport, and certainly the railways which will have to follow.
In parts of the country we are reaching the point where a major expansion of the railways will have to be considered, not the policy which Dr. Beeching has in mind at all. We shall require a large measure of capital requipment to carry the load of population which wishes to move in and out of the capital to and from the south-east of England. It is fair to relate the capital total which I have in mind—and I have not brought in the £500 million for the Channel tunnel—to the modest capital requirements which have been mentioned in relation to Northern Ireland.
The policy of dispersal in which Northern Ireland can be seen to play a very useful part, as some of Europe is beginning to see it with increasing clarity, is not an act of charity. It is not giving £1,000 a job away. It may in the long run be saving a great deal more than that in terms of efficiency and in relation to human welfare and happiness. I know all about the advantages of Northern Ireland in terms of fresh air, and I could, but I shall not, make an interesting contrast between that and the Metropolitan area.
I do not know how the Government view this tremendous movement towards the South away from the North and North-West, whether it is insoluble, whether it is open to remedy, or whether they would remedy it if they could. If it is to be redressed—I think that that is the right word—then capital spent in inducing industry to go to Northern Ireland is not to be reckoned only in terms of what we can afford—reckoned against the total of £30 million a year, the contribution which the United Kingdom makes to Northern Ireland—but in terms of what I think, sooner or later, we will have to spend to prevent London and the South-East from strangling themselves. Scottish and Northern English Members may say that charity should begin at home, and that some of this policy might apply to them.
My hon. Friend said that exceptional measures—and he was referring to Ulster 1764 —must be balanced against exceptional measures elsewhere. That is fair, but Ulster is only one element of what I have in mind. I think that there are many who are coming to realise that in the future organisation and location of industry and commerce we are facing not only a change of scale, but a change of basic organisation that has brought us to thinking in terms of the six or seven countries of Europe in one unit. It would not be a bad preliminary to think in terms of the British Isles as one unit in which Ulster is not an awkward appendage, which has to debate its problems in the House every year, but a positive opportunity to remedy the difficulties with which we are confronted, and one which others in Europe may put to better use before us if we do not take action.
I do not want to weaken the case which is being made for sympathetic support and treatment for Northern Ireland by rash optimism to support my case. I suggest, however, that it is to our advantage as well as to the advantage to Northern Ireland to widen our thinking a little on this and think in terms not only of Northern Ireland's immediate necessities, but also, in this respect, our own long-term needs.
§ 1.27 p.m.
§ Mr. George Forrest (Mid-Ulster)
I support my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills), and congratulate him on the way he presented his case.
We all know that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and should always be treated as such. The unemployment figures in Northern Ireland are not only high but they remain at that height more steadily and for a longer period than anywhere else in the United Kingdom. The explanation of the figure does not lie in the character of the people. It is to be found in Ireland's geographical location and history. The absence of coal and iron deposits is greatly responsible.
The chief industries of Northern Ireland are agriculture, linen manufacture, and shipbuilding. At the moment agriculture is over-mechanised, people are moving away from the linen industries, and there are far too many shipyards chasing too few ships. For too long this 1765 high rate of unemployment has been accepted as inevitable. The indifference to the problem has, I hope, gone.
The Government here and the Government of Northern Ireland at Stormont are tackling the problem. The Council under Lord Chandos made a determined effort to attract manufacturing concerns to open factories in Northern Ireland and elsewhere. Its efforts were well supported by the Northern Ireland Government and have proved fruitful. In recent years some new factories have opened in Northern Ireland, including two important concerns from the United States, one at Coleraine and one at Londonderry. The success of these new factories is noteworthy. The people are easily adaptable, and make efficient workers in any type of industry.
Conditions in Northern Ireland are congenial. The standard of education is high. Modern schools, grammar schools, technical schools, colleges, and the university can be relied on to increase the supply of highly skilled and trained personnel. The social services in Northern Ireland provide the necessary care and protection for the people. Every rural and city council has a flourishing housing programme. Workers in Northern Ireland find it much easier to obtain accommodation than workers in most other parts of the United Kingdom.
Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. It is not alien soil. I claim that capital invested there would be capital well spent. I appreciate what has been done and is being done to advertise Northern Ireland, but I claim that much more could be done. Industry is expanding. It is always seeking new space and fresh supplies of labour. It offers both space and labour. It is therefore surely wrong, from a national point of view, to go on wasting its resources of skilled labour. Properly utilised, the manpower of Northern Ireland could make a great contribution to our national expansion drive.
I should like to see more active steps taken to foster Northern Ireland's agricultural and industrial development. The essence of this development is power. One handicap under which we suffer is the cost of transport. We have to import English coal to our factories and farms. The time has surely arrived when 1766 renewed consideration ought to be given to the possibility of constructing an atomic power station. The shores of Lough Neagh would provide a natural site. It is central, and there are ample supplies of water. By day such a station could be fully employed supplying power to factories and farms, and at night it could be used to pump water from the Lough to the hills outside Belfast to meet the needs of that thickly populated area. An adequate supply of cheap power in Northern Ireland ought to be given priority.
Transport also needs attention. A century ago the country was covered with a network of railways, but in this day of the motor car and the motor lorry we must have better roads. My hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Mr. H. Clark) talked of the good roads in Northern Ireland. I disagree with him. I submit that the construction of a proper road system in Northern Ireland should be a national effort, and should not be carried out in a piecemeal way as it is at present, with rural and city councils doing a wee piece here and a wee piece there.
Like power, economic transport should be given a high priority. We cannot have an expanding industry without providing every facility. Expansion will not come through wishful thinking. We must prepare for it. The drastic cuts in farm produce grants came as a sad knock to Northern Ireland farmers. They will reduce the profits of the big farmers and turn the slender profits of the small farmers into definite losses. Northern Ireland is a country of small farmers. The constituency which I have the privilege of representing consists, to the extent of 98 per cent., of small farmers. There is one gleam of light to encourage them—the increase to £1¼ million of the remoteness grant. But surely more could be done. We must not forget the contribution made by these farmers to the national larder. Their problems require understanding, sympathy and help.
Without the proper utilisation of Northern Ireland's resources of manpower, the expansion of its industries will not be achieved by a wave of the Government's wand. In time of war and national crisis Northern Ireland did not fail to take her full share of the effort, and bear her full share of the sacrifices 1767 and the wounds of the Mother Country. Surely it is only right and proper that the central Government should use their resources now to help Northern Ireland to expand her industries and to solve her unemployment problem.
§ 1.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
I hope that hon. Members opposite who represent Northern Ireland constituencies will not regard this as a Sassenach intervention. This is not like a Scottish debate; neither are Belfast people so parochial as the Scots. They look to Westminster for sustenance and help. In the past I have been invited to Northern Ireland, as a trade unionist, with special reference to the Amalgamated Engineering Union, to see for myself the conditions that exist there.
If I have ever stood for one thing in public life it is a belief in full employment. I always look upon a spot of unemployment anywhere as a threat to full employment everywhere. I can never contemplate unemployment in Belfast without thinking of it in London or Yorkshire—because full employment, like peace, is indivisible, as Litvinov said.
About twenty or thirty years ago one part of this country used to be played off against another. I once agreed to go to Northern Ireland to address a series of meetings. I flew over from London Airport on a bitterly cold morning, and when I arrived there, and they discovered that the secretary of the trade union group of the Parliamentary Labour Party was coming over, that curious form of humour which is associated with Irishmen led them to call a general strike in the city. When I reached Belfast the whole city had stopped work. I met the world's Press there. I never felt quite so inflated as I did that day. On that bitterly cold morning, when I went into Northern Ireland, I could almost imagine that I was twenty years back, in the 1930s, because of the unemployment that existed there.
I well remember that when I went to the first meeting, on a bombed site, almost all the people on strike in Belfast turned up. There must have been 15,000 people. It is a rather frightening prospect to address 15,000 people on a bombed site, and it frightened me. But 1768 it frightened my chairman a great deal more. I presume that he was a shop steward of the A.E.U. Anyway, he forgot himself to such an extent that the sort of images that come from the subconscious of Irishmen must have affected him, because he finished introducing me by asking the audience to give a big hand for "Our brother across the water, Charles Stewart Parnell". He got the credit for a sense of humour almost equalling genius, and he so won over that audience that it raised a gust of laughter that almost blew me off the platform.
I can remember that enormous audience, many of whom must have been members of my union, which is very strong in Northern Ireland. I hope that what I say will not be regarded as offensive, but when I looked at all those people who were members of the A.E.U. I wondered why they voted for hon. Members opposite. They were the people who, traditionally, in this country, would have returned A.E.U. members to Parliament. After discussing their economic troubles with them for some time, I made the mental reservation that they appeared to fear the Pope more than unemployment. I hope that that remark will not be regarded as offensive. Such a situation is as irrational there, among trade unionists in the North, as it is completely rational among trade unionists in the South.
I do not want to enter into the partition argument, but if one looks coldly at Ireland, setting aside all questions of history—if one looks at the port of Londonderry—one can see the way in which the whole economic set-up has been completely butchered and perverted by political considerations. One wonders how the country can be viable.
Looking at it historically, however, there is no doubt that the division of the Six Counties—partition—was in the interests not only of Belfast, but of Britain, especially in time of war. H it is the price, then we should be prepared to pay in peace as in war. I have no doubt about that.
I agree with the terms of the Motion especially that there ought to beexceptional measures to achieve these ends.I do not think we should look at the Six Counties merely as a bastion in time of war. It is not possible to keep up 1769 the morale of a people if we completely desert them in time of peace. I agree with the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Mr. Forrest), who referred to the need for atomic energy in Northern Ireland, but it was not an original thought. When I was in Ireland I said that some symbol should be erected there, and the symbol which I would erect to the resolution of the continuing interest of this country in Northern Ireland would be an atomic pile. I am not as well-versed about the sites as the hon. Gentleman but I wrote a letter to the then Prime Minister.
I ask hon. Members to remember that there is a terrific fund of good will towards Northern Ireland, particularly among trade unionists in this country. We think that they are muddle-headed politically and we consider that the political interests of the people in the shipyards and aircraft establishments would be better served by sending representatives to this Parliament who were rather more independently-minded than are those who are here at present.
The present hon. Members who represent Northern Ireland constituencies are never as truculent as I should expect representatives of Northern Ireland to be. We speak of the "fighting Irish", but I cannot imagine that any hon. Member in this House who represented a constituency in Durham or Yorkshire, and who was faced with the troubles with which hon. Members from Northern Ireland have to contend, would "take it" in the same meek way day after day. Even this Motion is soft and soapy. It is not an attacking Motion at all.
Now is the opportunity for hon. Members who represent Northern Ireland constituencies, because now there are no safe Tory seats in England. If we take a line almost from the Wash to Bristol, every constituency south of that line is another Orpington. So I say to hon. Members from Northern Ireland that now is their chance. They have, as it were, the Bank of England or rather the Bank of Ireland seats behind them and it is probably considered that the twelve seats in Northern Ireland are those which could be relied on to provide a majority for the Conservative Party, if it has one after the next General Election. I urge them not to be "foozled" by the hon. Member who now represents Orpington. They need not worry about him. The hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) is 1770 a member of the Liberal Party and the Liberals hope to hold the balance in this House. But they will not be doing that after the next General Election. Hon. Members who represent seats in Northern Ireland have a better chance of holding the balance here. So I trust that some rather more truculent speeches will be made by them from the benches opposite than we have heard today.
If the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr), who sits opposite smiling at me, had devoted half the authority and done half the work and displayed half the enthusiasm for the affairs of Northern Ireland as he did for independent television, a lot of the troubles of Northern Ireland would have disappeared. The hon. and gallant Member knows that he can work for a pressure group. He is an intelligent man. I am giving him all the bouquets possible, but I hope that he will not quote them out of context. I hope that he will quote them in the context of an independent television and not of an independent Ulster.
The hon. and learned Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Knox Cunningham) has a job as P.P.S. to the Prime Minister. He has the ear of the Prime Minister twelve hours a day. I understand that the Prime Minister is to do a twelve-hour whistle-stop tour of Stockton. Could not the hon. and learned Member persuade his right hon. Friend to do the same in Northern Ireland? The Prime Minister is going to Stockton because one of the agreeable things about the right hon. Gentleman is that he always tinges political justice with memory and one of the things outstanding in the Prime Minister's mind is what happened at Stockton. The right hon. Gentleman remembers the unemployment in Stockton during the inter-war years, and it does him great credit that he should. The Prime Minister is haunted by Stockton, and he will be haunted still more after the by-election.
Let us now reflect upon another hon. Member who represents a Northern Ireland constituency and who occupies a post in the Royal Household. It is not possible to fight for Northern Ireland from Buckingham Palace and I should have thought that the last job that any Ulster M.P. would accept was one which had anything to do with the sycophancy 1771 surrounding the Court. But all these hon. Members are sycophants; that is the trouble about them. They should be representing Northern Ireland in an independent way and they do not do their job at all.
It has been said that we need a plan—and, of course, we do—for the development of Northern Ireland. Hon. Members from Northern Ireland should inform the Government flatly of their price for future support and ensure that the Irishmen count in politics for a great many years. I speak today for the good of Ulster, having seen something of what goes on there, and in the hope that in the not too distant future the electors in Northern Ireland will see that their economic interests are safeguarded by returning to this House members of my own union who will be seeking their suffrage at the next General Election and who will be able to put some sort of teeth into an agitation for Northern Ireland. I hope that the new representatives of Northern Ireland will be looking forward to the future rather than coming to this Parliament as supplicants and cashing in on past wrongs.
Some of the troubles in Eire are to be found in Northern Ireland as well. I speak today from a sense of the greatest good will, sympathy with and interest in Northern Ireland, and with the greatest degree of compassion for the country; and in the fervent hope that at some time the electors of Northern Ireland will send people to this House who are more worthy to represent them.
§ 1.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Chataway (Lewisham, North)
I can claim few associations with Northern Ireland and some of my encounters with Northern Ireland have been rather galling. In the first mile race in which I ever ran I was defeated by a contemporary runner from Northern Ireland, Victor Milligan. Despite the fact that he defeated me on many subsequent occasions, I have forgiven the country and have been there and enjoyed myself a number of times.
I should like to start by refuting the attack made by the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) on my colleagues. I have been in this House for only two and a half years but I would 1772 say to the hon. Gentleman without any hesitation whatever that were I asked to choose between the tactics adopted by hon. Members opposite who represent Scottish constituencies and the tactics of my hon. Friends who represent constituencies in Northern Ireland, I should have not the slightest doubt about which are the most effective. My hon. Friends raise their problems in a manner which is calculated to catch the attention and sympathy of the House, whereas hon. Members opposite who represent Scottish constituencies have the facility of emptying the Chamber at an enormous speed.
Two or three years ago when I was in Ghana I discussed with a Ghanaian civil servant the question of detention without trial. While making a number of critical remarks to him, I was told something which surprised me a good deal. It was that there were more people detained outside the ordinary processes of justice in Northern Ireland than there were in Ghana. To be frank, I did not know then whether that was the case, because I had not the available figures. When I arrived home I made a number of inquiries and on subsequent visits to Northern Ireland I tried to discover the facts. I found that a comparison was in many ways unfair. Everyone, or nearly everyone, in the House would accept that in certain circumstances it is necessary for a Government to dispense with the normal forms of justice in order to guarantee the freedom of the majority. That certainly is accepted in the European Convention on Human Rights. It is a practice which, reluctantly, Governments of both parties have followed in our Colonies.
§ Mr. Delargy
I am following the hon. Gentleman with interest. May I put two questions to him? First, is he defending the actions of the Government of Ghana? Secondly, is his defence of the Northern Ireland Government simply that they are slightly more oppressive than the Government of Ghana?
§ Mr. Chataway
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to develop the point. I have started with my experience in Ghana and a remark made to me which caused me to make inquiries into the situation in Northern Ireland. For the record, I do not defend what has 1773 happened in Ghana. I think that the detentions have been carried far beyond the point at which it could be reasonably said that the Government were safeguarding the liberty of the majority. I do not see that as an excuse at all.
I believe, however, that it has been reasonable to proceed in the past in Northern Ireland by means of special regulations. A debate like this should not pass without someone praising the Government of Northern Ireland fox releasing every internee. At one time, there were 192 internees in Northern Ireland. By April last year, the last of those internees had been released. I think that that is something on which the Northern Ireland Government should be congratulated.
I hope that the cease-fire on the Border means that it will not be necessary for the Northern Ireland Government to take that sort of action again. I hope that it will be possible for them to proceed without using the Special Powers Acts. I also hope that in future the Northern Ireland Government will carefully consider the possibility of dealing with insurrection and with possible violence within the ordinary processes of the law. An advisory committee was set up to which each internee had the right of appeal. It contained a Q.C. and was made up of people who did not play an active part in politics. I understand that the committee released any internee who was prepared to say that he was not a member of the I.R.A. It seems to me that, in a situation in which potentially dangerous people admit their association with the I.R.A., the ordinary processes of law could apply. Should, unfortunately, another security situation arise, I hope that the Northern Ireland Government would give very careful consideration to the possibility of dealing effectively with such people within the normal processes of law.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) made clear in his admirable speech, the I.R.A. has described the present cease-fire as "a period of consolidation, expansion and preparation for the final victorious phase of the struggle". We hope that this is mere bravado and that this may at last be a real cease-fire which will lead to an easing of tension on both sides of the Border. Clearly, Northern Ireland's economic problems would be the more 1774 easy of solution if there were more contacts and a freer flow of trade over the Irish Border. That will take some time, but there are clearly great economic incentives to the normalisation of relations between the two countries.
During the course of the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill, I urged most strongly on my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that there should be some form of immigration control at the Irish Border because I believed that the Bill discriminated against Commonwealth subjects, particularly against West Indians, without such a control. I maintain that view.
On a recent visit to Northern Ireland, I felt that there were strong arguments from the point of view of the Northern Irish people themselves for establishing some control of this sort in view of the possible entry of Great Britain and Eire into the Common Market. At the moment, Northern Ireland has means of safeguarding its employment. It is able to ensure that the majority of new jobs go to Northern Irish citizens. It seems to me that this is a proper aim. If both the United Kingdom and Eire enter the Common Market, there is the possibility of a much freer flow of people across the Border. There is also the possibility that the present systems of safeguarding employment will not be feasible.
I believe that Northern Ireland would be in a stronger position if at the time of entry into the Common Market there were some direct control over the movement of people across the Border. Admittedly, in time it would be whittled away, and as the period of the Treaty advanced it would be lifted. In the initial stages, however, it is necessary that Northern Ireland should have some control over immigration, and I hope that Her Majesty's Government will, in the course of the negotiations, give thought to this matter and to the continued effectiveness of Northern Ireland's arrangements for safeguarding her employment.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary referred very briefly to the possibility of our entry into the Common Market and to the effects that this might have on Northern Ireland. There is some anxiety among farmers in Northern Ireland on this score. Some point to 1775 the high proportion, 12 per cent., of the population which is employed in agriculture in Northern Ireland. They should, however, realise that this is not a particularly high proportion compared with a number of other European countries. They might take encouragement from the experience of Southern Italy during the time that the Common Market has been in being. In spite of the enormously high proportion of people in Southern Italy engaged in agriculture, the agricultural community has benefited to a very great extent. I believe that if we were to enter the Common Market Northern Ireland would be likely to benefit very substantially from the Social Fund in which there is at present a balance of about £10 million which is available for retraining and resettling workers. Northern Ireland is exactly the sort of area within the United Kingdom which would be likely to benefit most from that provision.
It would also be likely to gain considerable benefit from the European Development Fund. My hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) spoke of the need for dispersal and the alarming concentration of wealth, people and industry in the south-east of England and in the whole area bounded at its other extremes by Rotterdam and the Rhur. It seems to me that this is a European-wide problem and that it will be more capable of solution on a European basis. It is with this aim that the European Development Fund has been set up, and it has spent about £100 million. If we enter the Common Market I think that it will be extremely important, with the interests of Northern Ireland particularly in mind, to press for the expansion of that development fund and to use our full endeavours to spread industry towards the extremities of Europe, if I may use that expression.
I do not wish to go over the record of the Northern Ireland Government during the post-war period. I have read recently a good deal about the efforts which the Northern Ireland Government have made to attract new industry and the very substantial successes which they have had during the past year. We know that they are up against very great difficulties. We know that they have a certain number of industries which are in 1776 an inevitable process of decline. The fact that they have succeeded in holding their own during the past year, in countering the unemployment caused by the decline of shipbuilding, by attracting new industries and thus creating over 6,500 new jobs, is worthy of considerable praise.
I support the Motion. I believe that there may be a case for more exceptional measures for Northern Ireland. I was particularly impressed by the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Mr. H. Clark) on the question of subsidising sugar; here, it seems, is an instance in which special arrangements might well be made for Northern Ireland. I wonder whether the social security benefits which are paid in Northern Ireland need necessarily be the same as those in this country. It seems to me that in some instances there would be a strong case for a different system in Northern Ireland, where the cost of living is substantially lower and where wages are not always as high. They could well be given a greater measure of freedom in determining some of these things.
§ Mr. H. Clark
I did not suggest subsidising the sugar industry. I pointed out that it was a very sound economic proposition without a subsidy.
§ Mr. Chataway
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I am sorry if I misunderstood him. I gather that the point is that under existing arrangements the housewife in Northern Ireland is called upon to pay what amounts to a subsidy on sugar to producers in many other areas of the Commonwealth when the people may not be as badly off as the people of Northern Ireland.
My main purpose in speaking is to indicate briefly that my hon. Friends from Northern Ireland have the support of a number of us in the House. Their compatriots would be utterly wrong if they thought that Members from Northern Ireland were not supported by a large number of us here; in fact, they are. Many of us outside Northern Ireland recognise the right of the majority to choose association with the United Kingdom if they wish. I know that Members from Northern Ireland can count upon the support of many of us in advancing that proposition and in 1777 urging upon the Government, as they do, the need for yet greater efforts to reduce unemployment and to develop the industry of Northern Ireland.
§ 2.6 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
The hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Chataway) is my own Member of Parliament. One does not often have the chance of following one's Member of Parliament in a debate. I do not think that he knows very much about Northern Ireland; if he did, he would not have made that speech. He said that the last time he went there it was to run in a race, and that he lost. I can well believe that. Evidently Northern Ireland is not his lucky territory.
He praised the Members from Northern Ireland for the activity which they have shown over the last few years. I have been here for fifteen years, and I must say that I have not seen much activity among the Northern Ireland Members. This is one of the reasons why I, personally, did all I could as a humble back bench Member to try to focus attention on Northern Ireland at the right time.
Why have we today's debate? Simply because the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) was drawn first out of the Ballot. If neither he nor another Member from Northern Ireland had been drawn first out of the Ballot, we should not have discussed Northern Ireland today. I gather that we should have discussed the second Motion on the Order Paper, which concerns Wales and Welsh roads.
I resent the attitude that we can discuss matters concerning Northern Ireland only on a Private Member's Motion, and in a moment I shall give some practical suggestions on how this should be dealt with. I do not think that the Home Secretary's speech gave any satisfaction to hon. Members from Northern Ireland, for he said nothing. He told us that the Hall Committee has not yet reported. He is not quite sure whether he will publish its Report and whether he will let us see what it says. It is strange that the Minister in charge can look at such a Report and, if there is; anything unfavourable in it, can see that we know nothing about it. If the Report is published we shall all be able to read it. Now that his lord 1778 and master is no longer here, will the Under-Secretary of State, in his reply, tell us whether hon. Members will have a chance to read this Report?
I speak as a good friend of Northern Ireland, and I certainly do not intend to start a religious argument. One could do that at any time, but it achieves nothing. If anyone expects me to make a rip-roaring speech about Protestants and Catholics, he will be disappointed. I am concerned generally about the economic problems of this part of Great Britain which I think are not properly treated in the House.
The hon. Member for Lewisham, North spoke of the activity of the Northern Ireland Members. They may put down one or two Questions, but we did not even have a debate on shipping and shipbuilding in Northern Ireland—one of the main industries. We had the farcical situation in which there was a debate last year—an indictment of the Government, if ever there was one—in which we discussed the building of a Cunard liner. In that debate, much to the annoyance of my Scottish friends, I pleaded that if this liner were built it should be built in Northern Ireland because they are in such a desperate position there. There were loud cheers from the couple of Northern Ireland Members who happened to be present.
At the end of the day the liner was not built. A private firm which was to be given the job changed its mind, and after weeks and weeks of time both in Committee and in the House, the Bill was abortive. What a way to run a country! What a way to run a party! The Bill was to produce a liner, but private enterprise changed its mind, we are not to have the liner and Northern Ireland will not have the chance to build it.
It is against this sort of background that hon. Members opposite ought to discuss the whole question of the Belfast shipyards. We have heard a reference to the dry dock. The Home Secretary has thrown across the Floor the remark that there are some local difficulties about it and that he believes that Stormont is not happy about it, but we have discussed this problem for years. The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Mr. H. Clark) said that it was an old chestnut. If he believes that it is an old 1779 chestnut he should discuss it with his hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster), who has spent eight or nine years talking about it.
We have not yet got an answer. We are now told that there are some local difficulties. I seem to remember hearing that expression before. This time we are talking about a dry dock which seems to me as a layman—I do not know the technical arguments—to be an absolute must. This is one of the finest shipyards in the world. It has some of the finest skill in the world. It has just built two wonderful ships, but they cannot ever go back to Belfast for repair. How stupid can people get? Does it need a great economist to argue that there must be something radically wrong with a country which cannot receive back into its own shipyards ships it has already built?
§ Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not want to mislead the House. He should know that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made it clear today that the United Kingdom Government would support a dry dock. It has been indicated on many occasions that, as soon as the company and the harbour people put forward a proposal, the Government are prepared to support it. Therefore, the Government cannot be charged with any fault in this respect.
§ Mr. Mellish
With great respect, that is a real Irish argument. I, too, heard the Home Secretary's speech. I challenged him on this point. I asked him if it meant that, if the local difficulties were overcome, we should get the money from Her Majesty's Government. The Home Secretary would not answer that question. He is much too astute. He would not give a straight answer "Yes" or "No" today. He got away with that. He has left himself with all the power in the world to say that, even if the local difficulties are overcome, we shall get nothing. We can be sure that the money will not be put up.
The hon. Member for Lewisham, North told the House how proud he is of the tactics of Northern Ireland Members and how upset he is at the tactics of Members of Parliament from Scotland. I will say this in the absence of 1780 my Scottish hon. Friends. At least the Scots have got results. If my Scottish and Welsh hon. Friends had half the economic problems which persist in Northern Ireland, you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, would have an unbearable time in the Chair. The proceedings would have to be suspended. There would be uproar. Mr. Speaker would be troubled almost every day. Time would certainly have to be allotted to debate economic problems.
What are the economic problems? The Unionist Party has been in power now for forty years. It has all the power in the world, but not only in Ireland. So far as I can judge, it has had it here for many years. After all this time they start complaining and suggesting that there should be acceleration of Northern Ireland's economic development. This is after forty years of Northern Ireland being controlled by the Unionist Party, when the Unionists in this House have always had the authority. I do not know if they always will have.
It comes ill out of the mouths of hon. Members opposite to bitterly complain at any of us for our interest in these matters. The hon. Member for Belfast, North chided us for now having taken an interest in these matters. I give him due notice that this is only the beginning. Much more will be heard about Northern Ireland from the Labour benches. We shall hear more and more about it. I very much hope that at the next General Election we shall have some Northern Ireland Labour Party members on our side of the House, and I hope that we shall then be in power. The case, if it is argued on economics, demands a change of Government not only in this country but certainly in Northern Ireland.
I want now to consider how these affairs could be discussed in this House. No one can possibly argue that Irish affairs can be discussed only after one Northern Ireland Member has come first in the Ballot. That is how it happened last year. We have not debated Northern Ireland since May, 1961. We discussed it then because an hon. Member—it happened to be the same hon. Member—had the luck of the Ballot.
Have things changed materially? Is there a need for this debate? There certainly is. Unemployment at 8½ per cent 1781 has existed now for so many years in Northern Ireland that it is now accepted as a way of life. The hon. Member for Lewisham, North overlooked one fact, obviously because he had not done much studying. The hon. Gentleman talked about watching those coming into Northern Ireland in the future if we ever join the Common Market. The hon. Gentleman may be interested to know that Northern Ireland has maintained an 8 per cent. unemployment figure in spite of the fact that during the last tan years 100,000 Irishmen have left Northern Ireland. What would the position be if these people had never left Northern Ireland? What would the unemployment figure be now? In spite of the fact that 100,000 Northern Irish have left their country to come to this country or to go to some other country, Northern Ireland has still maintained 8 per cent. unemployment.
§ Mr. Chataway
Is the hon. Gentleman saying that Northern Ireland should not take the steps which it is taking at the moment to erasure that jobs go to Northern Ireland people but should allow people from Southern Ireland to take these jobs? I do not see the relevance of the hon. Gentleman's argument.
§ Mr. Mellish
I thought that the hon. Gentleman had a little more intelligence than that. I understand why Northern Ireland does that. In Northern Ireland's present plight I would do anything—I mean anything—to protect any of those who work there. I am trying to state clearly—I hope clearly enough even for the hon. Gentleman—what the economic position there is. In spite of having lost 100,000 of their population in ten years, they have still maintained 8 per cent. unemployment. It is frightening to think what a disaster there would have been if these people had not left.
That is why I want to turn my mind to how best we can debate these matters in the future. It has been said that a Minister should be appointed to be specially responsible for Northern Ireland. I do not know why Northern Ireland Members are not enthusiastic about this. I am trying to give one of them a job. I mentioned this subject in the last debate. Of course, they would all have to put their names in a hat and 1782 one would have to be drawn out. That is the way they do everything in the House for Ireland.
There should be somebody on the Front Bench whose sole responsibility is affairs in Northern Ireland, so that any of us could ask on specified days Questions about Northern Ireland. At the moment the Home Secretary is the man. He is the lord and master. How farcical can things become, when the Home Secretary has to deal with Northern Ireland? Apart from the great office of State which he holds here, he is also expected to deal with African affairs, and Northern Ireland is something else he must take in his stride.
§ Mr. Mellish
The Home Secretary is also concerned with the Common Market. It is an insult to Northern Ireland that the Home Secretary is asked to deal with all these matters. A Minister should be appointed to deal solely with Northern Ireland affairs. We should have at least three debates a year. The form these debates should take could be arranged. We should certainly have a debate on shipping affairs and the aircraft industry in Northern Ireland. The hon. Member for Belfast, South (Sir D. Campbell) would welcome that, but what is he doing to get it? The hon. Member for Lewisham, North believes that we should go behind the stairs and do it quietly. We on this side of the House do not know anything about what goes on behind the stairs. We can judge people only by what they say and do openly. We can judge only on results. The situation in Northern Ireland has not improved since last year's debate. In fact it has worsened in many respects.
I want to say something about the I.R.A. raids. I have put it on record for my party and for many of those in other spheres who share my personal beliefs that these I.R.A. raids have been a disaster and a disgrace to any good Irishman. Those responsible could never hope to achieve what they set out to achieve. If ever there was a lesson that violence does not pay, it has been this. Many of those concerned are no doubt well-intentioned people. At the end of the day by the methods they have adopted they have done enormous harm to many of us who are real, good and 1783 genuine friends of Ireland, especially of Northern Ireland.
One of the things which bother us in dealing with Northern Ireland matters is electoral reform. I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary will be able to say something about this. For over forty years the boundaries in Northern Ireland have remained exactly the same. There has been an Electoral Law Bill in 1962, but not one major reform is promoted in the Bill. Boundaries must be changed. We have had this in our own country. I am not arguing this on any question of religion or anything of that kind, but purely from the sense of common decency. The position in Northern Ireland is quite disgraceful in the 'sixties.
I am advised that there are seventy-three different local authorities in this tiny part of the United Kingdom. Some of their powers and functions, especially those of the smaller authorities, overlap so much that they cannot even get any revenue. They cannot even employ officers to do the job because the boundaries are so obsolete.
What are the United Kingdom Government, in conjunction with Stormont, doing with a view to some electoral reforms and some boundary changes being made? I suggest that a Boundary Commission should be set up. It should be an impartial Commission, as we have had in this country. I am one of those people who, as a Member of Parliament, has been affected by a Boundary Commission decision in the past and may suffer again, but I was certain that no political jiggery-pokery was going on.
§ Captain Orr
Is the hon. Gentleman talking about Parliamentary boundaries or purely local government boundaries?
§ Mr. Mellish
I am in the main talking of the local government county borough, and urban council boundaries. These boundaries have become obsolete, and cause a great deal of friction and, I believe, many difficulties for the Government at Stormont. The time has come when they should be dealt with. The British Government will have to give a lead. Can the Under-Secretary make any comment on that?
Much has been said on the economic problem. This debate has been going on 1784 since eleven o'clock and I do not want to take up the time of the House by restating what has been said. There is 8 per cent. unemployment and 100,000 have left Northern Ireland since 1951. I am asked to say by the trade union movement of Northern Ireland that the time has come to establish what it regards as a necessary instrument to deal with the economic problems in Northern Ireland, a development council which would be all-powerful.
The hon. Member for Belfast, North queried this; he asked what sort of council would it be and what would be its functions. We believe that a development corporation should be responsible only to the Stormont Parliament and that there should be on that body expert members of industry and representatives of the trade unions. It should make frequent reports and prepare plans. I could give the House details of some of the things that the council should look at. It is for us in the House of Commons to find out what the British Government are doing to finance many of these plans.
We can do nothing unless there is a corporation which is determined to tackle the immediate economic problems and put forward solutions which we can consider. This should not be done in secret, like the Hall Committee. The first thing we want a development corporation to do is to carry out research with the object of formulating long-term plans, to be carried out by a separate body, and to report not only to Stormont but also to this Parliament. On that we bring in the arguments that we have had in this House before on cooperation between the trade union movement and Stormont. I hope that the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr), if he catches Mr. Speaker's eye, will be able to deal with the point about the Irish T.U.C.
It is disastrous that the trade union movement in Northern Ireland does not have the co-operation which it deserves to have mainly because its headquarters are in Dublin. If we want an example of outdated prejudice, it is that. The trade union movement in Northern Ireland is not represented on the Productivity Council or on any of the essential bodies, and it is not treated with the respect which it deserves because Stormont says that the head office 1785 of this body is in Dublin. How long can we go on with this argument? Those in the Northern Ireland trade union movement are first-class Northern Ireland citizens. They are respected and admired for their integrity. Why do the Stormont Government refuse to negotiate with them? Can this be justified? While there is that attitude of mind, any ideas that I might have about a development corporation would not be worth the paper they were written on. No development corporation without trade union co-operation could ever function. We want the development corporation and the trade union movement to work alongside each other.
One of the greatest assets of Northern Ireland is its highly-skilled labour force. I have been out there many times, and the labour force I have seen there is amongst the best in the world. It is true, as the hon. Member for Belfast, North said, that 60 per cent. of those unemployed are unskilled. What proposals have been made in this House before and what has been done since about the apprenticeship scheme? How can there be apprenticeships in Northern Ireland which are worth while unless there is co-operation with the trade union movement? When we compare the apprenticeship scheme in Northern Ireland with that in Great Britain, this disparity is appalling. In Great Britain, 30 per cent. of the new entrants in industry are there under apprenticeship schemes. In Northern Ireland the figure is always almost infinitesimal—about one-sixth. What are we to do about that? How is a start to be made to provide training classes in Northern Ireland for youngsters ready to be received into new industries?
We shall never attract genuine new industries into Northern Ireland without skilled labour. Much of the labour in the industries in Northern Ireland is industrious and hard-working and much of it is skilled, but there are not enough genuine youngsters coming in. The first thing we want is an apprenticeship scheme for the young people.
On the subject of new industries coming into that area, it is a tragedy that over the years many new firms in Northern Ireland have been associated in Great Britain with industries that are declining. We want a new development 1786 corporation which will concentrate on attracting new industries. That duty should be in its hands. It should have the powers of co-ordination. We want it to have the power to distribute the grants now available in such a way that the industries attracted would provide more jobs than are being provided in the industries that are attracted there at present. I should be glad to hear from the Under-Secretary what number of new plans the Government contemplate in the coming year, and what sort of forward planning this Government and Stormont have done for this year and the year after. What number of jobs may be available?
I do not think that we should have to rely on Ballots in order to be able to talk about Northern Ireland. I think that the Northern Irish people themselves may one day come to realise how very badly represented they are in this House. I make the plea to many of my good friends who come from that part of the world to remember this: the old arguments about religion are not enough to determine how a person votes today. There is only one test for voting and that is on the economic arguments. If the people will vote on those issues the Members of Parliament who come here from Northern Ireland or who are in Stormont will be genuinely representative of the people. I believe that the religious argument will be raised again and again in order to cloud the economic issues that are raised by both sides. I urge on all those who are concerned with Northern Ireland to recognise that some day we must get an economic plan, agreed not only in Stormont but here as well, that would give the people of Northern Ireland a decent way of life.
§ 2.28 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke)
Today, we are discussing a country which is under a federal system of Government. Northern Ireland is the only place in the United Kingdom where we have the problems of a federal system of Government, and that makes its problems different from those of Scotland and of Wales where all power is in this Parliament.
It seems to me the comparisons of political and other methods of agitation or otherwise are quite beside the 1787 board, because when have a federal system we are constantly in the difficulty of having insufficient power and divided power. I know that the lawyer is traditionally supposed to like federal systems because they provide him with much work, but I must say that in the relatively short time that I have had anything to do with the federal system, and this one in particular, it has struck me as being in many ways a very difficult thing to operate.
For example, the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) appealed to the Government to do something about local government boundaries in Northern Ireland, and said that they had not been changed for forty years. That is not quite right—there have been three changes since 1923, when they were first drawn—but even were that not the case, it must be appreciated that the fixing of electoral districts is not a matter for the United Kingdom Government, but that Stormont has full and exclusive responsibilities. It would not, therefore, be proper for me to comment on that sort of thing. That is one of the consequences of the federal system.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Chataway) suggested that there should be a greater distinction between the social services of Northern Ireland and those of this country. In fact, there are distinctions. The National Insurance scheme of Northern Ireland is a separate scheme, for which the Northern Ireland Government are responsible, and although there are reciprocal arrangements the two schemes are separate responsibilities. I may say that while unemployment in Northern Ireland runs at its present rate the British Fund makes an annual payment, at present of something over £5 million, to the Northern Ireland Fund.
It is quite right that that should be so, but it is, perhaps, another example of the fact that the tactics and support of my hon. Friends from Northern Ireland in this, as in many other things, has paid off well financially. It is quite wrong for hon. Members opposite to taunt my hon. Friends for doing nothing for Northern Ireland because, certainly on the financial side, there are many instances where their support and their pressure—their gentlemanly pressure—has brought home the goods.
1788 That being the distinction of responsibility, it is not easy for me now to speak as freely as some hon. Members have in this debate because that, in some ways, usurps the function of Stormont. I know that some hon. Members have been using this debate as an opportunity almost to fight the Northern Ireland election on the Floor of this House, but I cannot do that because of the federal system under which we are operating.
The economic division is more a sharing of responsibility than a dichotomy. It was suggested earlier today that there is, somehow, a lack of liaison or contact between Ministers in Belfast and Ministers here. I have not found that at all. If anything, the number of visits that take place, to and fro, at all levels of Government from Ministers down through the official levels, often seem so great that it might have attracted the attention of Professor Parkinson. Nevertheless, those visits are part of the process of close consultation and co-operation that goes on all the time. Of the visits in more recent months, I mention only those to Northern Ireland of my right hon. Friends the Home Secretary and the Lord Privy Seal, and Lord Brooke-borough's visits to Chequers and London.
I know from my own experience that during the annual Farm Price Review the assistance of officials from the Northern Ireland Ministry of Agriculture has been invaluable. I make no apology for mentioning all this; it is something that has been built up gradually over the past forty years until it is now an integral part of what has become the closely-woven fabric of the relationship between the two Governments.
On the economic side, it would be quite wrong to suppose that because the Hall Committee is still considering its Report things are the same as when it was appointed. The task of broadening and modernising Northern Ireland's whole economy, which has been in hand since the war, continues, and in the last two years it has been more successful than ever. This slow and unspectacular progress is the essential precondition of a healthy, balanced economy for Northern Ireland, and for the reduction of its unemployment to nearer the British level. It is true that setbacks in ship 1789 building and contractions of employment in textiles and agriculture, which is a worldwide phenomenon, and the growth of the working population, which is also a worldwide phenomenon, have obscured the gains elsewhere, but it would be wholly false reasoning to conclude that a continued high rate of unemployment is evidence of lack of effort.
Publicity for what has been achieved is a necessary corrective of the false picture that might otherwise be spread abroad of Northern Ireland as a backward and miserable area, receiving no special help. I am delighted that on both sides the tone of the debate has been optimistic and buoyant in regard to Northern Ireland and its potentialities. We have not only had the moving and poetic description of my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Mr. H. Clark) about the clear roads, the fresh air and the friendly people, but we have also heard tributes to the excellent quality of the labour, which both sides have recognised as the greatest single factor in any industrial enterprise.
When I was there last summer I was particularly struck with a successful experiment in apprenticeship. One of the great firms had, in conjunction with the unions, produced a system of training apprentices by which young men were fully qualified in the skilled work of printers after no more than eighteen months' apprenticeship; a most remarkable achievement when one considers some of the difficulties and arguments we find on this side of the water.
From the point of view of the age of the workers, that was the youngest print shop I have ever seen in my life, and those young men were producing the most complicated scientific works and mathematical formulae. They were printing in several foreign languages, including Cyrillic, and were producing technical journals of a very high quality to be sent all over the world. That shows what the people there are capable of if they are given the chance.
The financial relationship between the two Governments has been described by Lord Brookeborough as extremely favourable to Northern Ireland. It ensures that the Northern Ireland Government are able to maintain the same standard of social services and the same 1790 level of Government expenditure generally, as the United Kingdom Government undertake in the same fields in Great Britain.
I have already instanced the special inducements to new industries and the grants to help existing industry to modernise itself and increase its competitiveness, but the figures given by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary about the attraction of industry are worth repeating. In 1960, there were 16 new developments and 13 expansions of Northern Ireland firms promising, eventually, 4,500 new jobs; and, in 1961, 13 and 17, promising 6,400 and 2,200 respectively—followed again, by the recent news of another 1,200 jobs at the firm of Birmingham Sound Reproducers Ltd., in Londonderry.
There is, of course, the special assistance given to Northern Ireland agriculture in the form of the remoteness grant, which we have been glad to increase for the next five years over the level at which it was running in the previous five years. There is also the useful work being done by the Northern Ireland Development Council, under Lord Chandos, in publicising the attractions of Northern Ireland as a location for new industry. The result of all this effort has been to create since the war, apart from those in prospect I have mentioned, 42,000 new jobs. If it were not for the fact that the older industries, as is inevitable throughout the world, were contracting, the story would be one of success and great adventure.
Of course, shipbuilding, textiles—as I know from my constituency—and agriculture are contracting industries for employment. Throughout the world, agriculture, to its credit, is a contracting employer because it is becoming increasingly mechanised. What six men did yesterday three do today. It is, therefore, inevitable that there will be fewer jobs on the land. That is a measure of the success of agricultural policy.
The new-found strength of Northern Ireland will be extremely important in the years to come. We were most interested in the observations of my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North, who is particularly concerned with the Common Market. He gave us his view of the fate and possibilities of Northern 1791 Ireland should we join the Common Market. If the negotiations now proceeding at Brussels can be brought to a successful conclusion, this country will become part of a large and vital economic area forming a single market of well over 200 million people, and this will be an immense stimulus and challenge to Northern Ireland's firms in general.
The United Kingdom Government will continue to keep in the closest touch with the Government of Northern Ireland as these negotiations proceed, and the visit of the Lord Privy Seal to Belfast, which I mentioned, was concerned with these matters. He was able to acquaint himself personally with the problems facing the Northern Ireland Government and there have been further consultations at official level since then and those will continue.
We should remember that Northern Ireland will look with special interest at the development of some of the policies of the Community in the future, for example, transport. I must make it clear that the constitutional relationships between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as a part of the United Kingdom, will in no way be affected by our adherence, if we do adhere, to the Treaty of Rome.
I will say a word, not a fruitful one I fear, to my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North about a sugar beet factory. The trouble, as he no doubt knows, is that there is too much sugar or, at least, that there is more sugar than can be sold at a remunerative price in the world today. All the sugar we need is, in fact, produced either by ourselves or under Commonwealth arrangements which have many years still to run and under which we have binding obligations.
We cannot, therefore—much as we would like to—think that it would be the right use of investment for Northern Ireland to invest in a sugar beet factory that would cost at least £3 million. We believe that, in view of this glut of sugar and the prospect of its continuation, if there is £3 million to be invested it could be better invested than for producing more sugar.
§ Mr. Fletcher-Cooke
Better in almost anything than producing something of which there is already too much.
Looked at objectively, without thinking of the market position, and considering it merely from the cropping point of view—and realising that the potato has been, historically, the curse of Ireland—it is impossible to say that sugar beet should be planted instead.
I have tried to give a balanced picture of the present state of Northern Ireland; neither entirely good nor wholly bad, but much more good than bad. The Motion, which the Government accept, reflects this ambivalent situation, the need for necessary measures to improve the economic situation, and that there are some respects in which Northern Ireland is strong in itself and a source of strength to the whole of the United Kingdom.
It is my hope that the debate will serve to confirm the appreciation of the House, and draw once more to the attention of people outside, Northern Ireland's special qualities of character and the important part that they have to play in the life of the country. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) was right when, in a splendid speech, he asked us to lift our eyes to rather wider horizons than we normally do when discussing sections of the United Kingdom.
My hon. Friend urged us that, in seeing Ulster, we should not see it merely as being on the receiving end of some sort of charity, but that it has an immense contribution to make, not only to the United Kingdom but also to Europe, because, with the demographic changes of population that are going on in these islands and the reorientation of work, leisure, business and play—as takes place in an affluent society—the problems of dispersal get more and more and the opportunities for dispersal get less. It is only in such pleasant places as Ulster that the opportunities for dispersal remain.
§ 2.43 p.m.
§ Mr. John Woollam (Liverpool, West Derby)
It is usually considered, in a debate such as this, that a non-Ulster hon. Member should, in some way, justify his intervening. Like other hon. Members, I have paid numerous visits 1793 to Northern Ireland. There are also close historical links between the City of Belfast, which my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) represents, and the City of Liverpool, which I represent. Apart from that, there is a sentimental attachment which I like to consider—that one of my predecessors in this House, the late Earl of Birkenhead—known as "Galloper Smith" to my Ulster colleagues—has a cherished place in Ulster's history.
Apart from those matters, there is a Parliamentary reason why non-Ulster hon. Members should speak. After all, we are considering an area of high unemployment which has severe economic problems. In other parts of the United Kingdom, there are problems similar to those of Ulster, such as in the developing areas. It is proper and good that hon. Members who represent a development area, as I do, with their own considerable unemployment problems—such as Merseyside—should be seen to speak up for those parts which have similarly acute economic problems.
I have sensed in many of our debates over the last few years that in vieing with each other, as we understandably do in matters such as the Cunard liner or steel strip mills, we at times get near not to be vieing with each other, but to be decrying each other. For that reason, I welcome the opportunity to take part in today's debate.
The urgency and severity of the shipbuilding problem is in a different category altogether in Belfast than it is in the rest of the country. I say that although in my own constituency, in which we have Cammel Lairds, we are extremely worried about the present position. Belfast and Ulster are much more dependent for their economy on shipbuilding than is any other area in the country. Further, Belfast's shipbuilding is more dependent on passenger liner building than is any other shipbuilding area.
We know the state of the order book for passenger liners. It just does not exist throughout the country as a whole. What has become very worrying in the last six months has been the progressive writing down of the possible replacement of our capacity liners. More and more of our companies take liners out 1794 of service before they would otherwise have done so. All the figures indicate that a replacement demand for passenger liners will not emerge.
The position about the passenger liner shipbuilding industry in Belfast is even more serious. There are, perhaps, ten shipbuilding yards in the country which can build passenger liners. Even on the most optimistic demands, there is not an order book which would keep one of those yards fully employed throughout the year. The time may come, either through a decision by the industry or through sheer force of economic circumstances, when there will have to be concentration or rationalisation in the passenger liner shipbuilding capacity of the United Kingdom. If and when that day comes, the position of Belfast will be most anxiously awaited, because if the Belfast passenger liner shipbuilding capacity is that part of the industrial capacity which is squeezed out the social and economic consequences will be awful in Belfast and Ulster.
I would like to emphasise a small point which often escapes observers of the Ulster scene. I refer to the ripples which spread out across the Ulster economy every time the ship-repairing and shipbuilding industry expands and contracts. When the industry expands it sucks in skilled labour from many trades, and when it contracts it pushes them out again. This has a multiplying effect which is more severe in Northern Ireland than in any other shipbuilding area in the United Kingdom.
I cannot recollect any hon. Member today mentioning the National Economic Development Council in connection with Ulster's problem. I should have thought that all that I have been saying adds up to a case for Ulster's problems to be considered by that Council at an early meeting. The fact that Ulster has such a large surplus of Britain's scarcest asset—labour—is a second reason why the Council should put Ulster on its agenda at a very early date.
I am fortified by some words by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Financial Times reported that at a meeting of the National Production Advisory Council on 2nd February the Chancellor suggested, in reply to Sir Harry Douglas, that the economy might be better assisted 1795 by directing investment to certain regions rather than to certain industries, and that that was the sort of question that the National Economic Development Council was likely to consider. Those words are most significant to me. I am surprised that they were so ill-reported, but if they mean anything at all they add up to a case for the National Economic Development Council considering the state of the Ulster economy at an early date. I do not see how we can have a policy for growth and, at the same time, ignore Ulster's anomalous position.
We have the Government at Stormont doing a great deal to attract industry to Ulster. We have Lord Chandos's Council, which has been most successful. Much progress has been made in attracting industry to Ulster despite the rising population and the deckling staple industries. I have no criticism to offer, and I do not see how anyone could criticise those achievements.
None the less, as I see it, there is no sense of obligation or enthusiasm in this country about Ulster's problems, particularly the economic problems. It may be said that that is equally true of Scotland, South Wales, Barrow, Merseyside, or Tyneside, and I may be asked how many people seem to care if those problems are not in their own area. That is a fair comment. However, there are particular reasons why Ulster might call on the enthusiasm and sense of obligation of interests in this country, particularly London.
What I have in mind is the old association between Ulster and the City of London. This is very easily forgotten these days, but for about 250 years the City of London and the livery companies canned the major economic responsibility for Northern Ireland. Londonderry was built by the City of London for practical purposes, and so was Caleraine. Draperstown was built by the livery company of the drapers. The first new towns in the seventeenth century were built by London in Ulster. The first plan for overspill population in London was a seventeenth century one for building in Ulster.
The first big reafforestation scheme in Ulster came from the City of London. It is only in the last 100 years—I think 1796 that it is due to the introduction of the Land Settlement Act—that the remarkable and traditional association between the City of London and Ulster has withered away. Few people remember it now, although it was once the main economic activity of people in London, and their main pride was what they did in Ulster.
It may be said that this is sentiment. I may be asked how one can make a plea to the City of London and the livery companies, with their remarkable representation in business, industry and commerce, to take up again the cause of Ulster's well-being and to remember their history and try to make a contribution. But in practical terms is there anything that they can do? That is the sort of question that I normally like to hear and I should like to try to answer it. Otherwise, I do not think that one should contribute to these debates.
I was interested, therefore, in the references in some of the speeches to the less often spoken about unemployment problem in Ulster, and that is the unemployment problem in the country areas. Apart from the historical causes which were put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Mr. H. Clark), one of the causes is the fact that Ulster's small and medium-sized companies simply fail to grow. One of the problems is to find some way in which these companies, scattered over the counties and in the small villages, can begin to expand and create an extra margin of employment in their locality. Therein lies the solution to Ulster's unemployment problem. We shall not solve it solely in Belfast. We must have the smaller companies beginning to extend and taking on another 50 men here and 40 men there so that over the territory as a whole these increases begin to accumulate. By that means we shall have a solution not only to the unemployment problem, but to what would otherwise be the problem of the drift of the country workers to the big towns, the same sort of thing as has taken place in Eire and has led to the serious depopulation of the Far West.
It seems to me that the reason why the small companies throughout Ulster are failing to grow is a financial one. They lack capital and access to capital. There 1797 is a lack, of appropriate financial institutions which will channel capital to the companies. Ulster generates just as much in the way of savings as any other part of the United Kingdom, and there is nothing wrong with it in that respect, but I guess that most of the savings coming from Ulster are channelled through the London Stock Exchange and very rarely find their way back to Ulster companies and entrepreneurs.
If my analysis is correct, this is surely one way in which the present-day skill of the City of London, the livery companies and their members could make a contribution. I think that they ought to feel some obligation upon them to go to Ulster's aid and to make available the financial institutions to provide the channelling means which, at the moment, do not exist for the small companies in Ulster.
I should like to end with a humorous story which points a moral. As this is a Northern Ireland debate, it is just as well that the story comes from Dublin. The incident took place 100 years ago, and the story is about a Protestant archbishop of Dublin who was walking to the docks with a famous Dublin wit, Father Healey, who was anxious to catch the steamer to Holyhead. The archbishop reassured him the whole time that they were in good time and that he would catch the steamer. When they got to the docks, they saw the Holyhead steamer sailing out of the harbour, whereupon the archbishop said, "Dear me, I had great faith in my watch," and Father Healey replied," It would have been better if you had had good works in it."
§ 3.0 p.m.
§ Mr. John E. Maginnis (Armagh)
The time at my disposal more or less curtails what I have to say in dealing with Northern Ireland's largest industry, namely, agriculture. Before going on, however, to give a few facts and figures to the House, in which I am sure everyone will be interested, I should like to refer to the cease-fire which has now taken place on the Northern Ireland Border.
Hon. Members have already referred to it in previous speeches, but for me, personally, this is a wonderful relief, because I can truthfully say that I live 1798 so far to the south of Northern Ireland that no man in Northern Ireland lives south of me. I live on the Border. Therefore, it was a great satisfaction to me when I learned a short time ago that the I.R.A. had ceased its terrorist campaign against Northern Ireland. I should like to pay my tribute to the brave men of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Ulster Special Constabulary, who have borne the brunt of that campaign so courageously and for so long. I had some experience of it myself, having been a member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and I know only too well the great dangers in which these men placed themselves in defending our country.
I should like to deal with the major industry of Northern Ireland—agriculture. In spite of all that has been said here today about the development of other industries, agriculture remains the largest single industry in Northern Ireland. It may interest hon. Members to know that it employs approximately 128,000 people, and that is no mean achievement. Since the passing of the 1947 Act by the Labour Government then in power, and also the passing of the 1957 Act, which gave long-term guarantees to agriculture, the prosperity of Northern Ireland farmers has undoubtedly increased considerably. At present, we have on our farms over 1 million head of cattle, sheep and pigs, and approximately 9,000 head of poultry. Northern Ireland farms were rightly referred to by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary as being very highly mechanised. The latest figures at my disposal, those for 1961, show that we have in operation 32,000 tractors, 1,000 combine harvesters, 500 forest harvesters and 800 grain driers.
People who may be critical of our situation might ask "Why do you need all this mechanisation in such a small area?" In reply, I make the point, which is very important, that Northern Ireland farmers have approximately one month less in which to gather their crops every year. They live in the northern part of the country, and do not get the favourable weather which farmers in the south of England experience. Therefore, it behoves every man to have his farm mechanically equipped to gather his harvest. Otherwise, if he waits for 1799 his neighbour to give him a hand, he may lose his crop. In another sense, the high degree of mechanisation of Northern Ireland farming makes a big contribution to industries here in England, because we are the best buyers of agricultural implements of any part of the United Kingdom, and, therefore, we are contributing to the employment situation of many firms in England.
During the past few years, huge sums have been invested by the farmers and by the Government under the Farm Improvement Scheme and Small Farmers Scheme. The sensible question now on everyone's lips, especially with the advent of the Common Market, is whether this money will be wasted if the small fanners of Northern Ireland are unable to withstand the economic pressures which are likely to be encountered if Britain joins the European Economic Community. I am greatly indebted to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for momentarily drawing back the curtains on this problem. He said that it was a question which had to be thrashed out, not only for Northern Ireland, but for all countries making up the E.E.C., because the small fanner problem applies not only in Northern Ireland, but elsewhere. I welcome my right hon. Friend's assurance that every consideration will be given to the problems of the small famer.
I wish, further, to remind the Government that the prosperity of agriculture in Northern Ireland is vital. Any worsening of the situation would be a serious matter for the workers on the farms, especially in view of the unemployment which already exists.
The right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) referred to the Ministers at Stormont as being archaic. I assure him that the Ministry of Agriculture is not archaic, but is go-ahead. Reference has been made also to the fact that we have a great deal of unskilled labour in Northern Ireland and that more training schemes are needed. I am happy to inform the House that in this respect the Ministry of Agriculture is far ahead of any other Ministry in the whole of the United Kingdom, for the simple reason that it is going ahead with the training of young people.
1800 We have what is, no doubt, one of the best systems of agricultural education in the United Kingdom. A new agricultural college is being opened in my constituency, almost on the outskirts of the City of Armagh. Every year, throughout the whole countryside, the Ministry of Agriculture runs classes where farmers' sons, after their day's work, can attend and be instructed and kept up-to-date in modern farming methods. I believe that the action of the Ministry of Agriculture, so ably supported by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food here at Westminster, will reap its reward in the near future. We are looking forward to having young farmers who are well-equipped for the future and who can take their place in any community and compete with any other country.
We have one great asset in Northern Ireland, and that is rain. Grass will not grow unless there is plenty of moisture. It has been suggested that sometimes we allow the grass to grow under our feet too long. Nevertheless, I assure the House that the agricultural industry in Northern Ireland is not allowing the grass to grow under its feet. We are taking every advantage of the various schemes and I am deeply indebted to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, as well as to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture. Fisheries and Food, for allowing us to have an additional £250,000 by way of remoteness grant this year. That is something for which every Northern Ireland farmer is deeply indebted to the Government.
I should like also to remind the Government that the people of Northern Ireland, especially the small farmers, look to the Government here as the captain of their ship and refer to themselves as the crew. I can very well finish by quoting a verse from Kipling's poem "Together", which will sum up what I have been trying to say:When Crew and Captain understand each other to the core,It takes a gale and more than a gale to put their ship ashore;For the one will do what the other commands, although they are chilled to the bone.And both together can live through weather that neither could face alone.
§ 3.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)
It gives me particular pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Armagh (Mr. Maginnis) who speaks with such great knowledge of the agricultural problems facing Northern Ireland. I was especially amused by his last quotation. I only wish that I could cap it, but I had better not try.
I strongly support the Motion so ably moved by my modest hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills). My hon. Friend has often spoken of the need for publicity for Short Bros, and Harland and for Harland & Wolff, but he should not hide his light under a bushel, for he knows a great deal about the value of publicity himself.
As has been said by several hon. Members, we have had an extremely difficult year in Northern Ireland. The speech of the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) was an interesting contribution. He began by saying that the Ulster Unionists and the Conservative Government had done very little to help Ulster in the past ten years, but he ended by saying that the problems facing Ulster were intractable.
They arise particularly from world factors, from the world depression in stopping and shipbuilding, the change in agriculture, mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Armagh, which has meant that there are far fewer people employed on the land than ten years ago, while the processes of mechanisation and displacement of workers have continued.
In my own constituency we have been badly hit by unemployment in the past twelve months. The shipbuilding yards of Harland & Wolff have lost more than 10,000 men and others have been laid off in subsidiary and ancillary firms which provide some of the materials used in the shipbuilding yards. Unfortunately, that trend has not yet finished. Notices of redundancy have been sent to another 1,500 men and it is remarkable that in the past twelve months the unemployment figures for Northern Ireland as a whole should have remained fairly constant. They were just over 8 per cent. a year ago, falling to 7 per cent. and then gradually rising to 8 per cent. again.
Of all the men who have been laid off in the shipyards, 2,000 are now 1802 registered as unemployed shipbuilding workers. Others have been absorbed into the building industry and in the new industries about which we have heard today and which the Government of Northern Ireland have been setting up so strenuously. It is remarkable that after the introduction to Ulster of so many new firms since the end of the war up to 1960–61, in the past year the Northern Ireland Government have been able to increase the number attracted to Ulster in one year. There is no doubt that without this work of the Government of Northern Ireland, supported by the Imperial Government of Westminster, the position in Northern Ireland would have been very much worse.
One hon. Member referred to the number who leave Ulster, but he did not complete the figures, because many go back. One of the difficulties in Northern Ireland is that we do not have complete statistics of the migration of workers to and from Northern Ireland, although we hope that with the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill better statistics will be gathered of the movement of workers to and from Northern Ireland.
Among the other forms of expansion going on in Northern Ireland, the education programme is increasing. Next year £2 million will be added to the education budget, the Government providing £20 million and local authorities £6 million, an imposing total of £26 million on education in one year for a small province of only 1½ million people. No matter where one goes in Northern Ireland, one sees fine new schools and technical colleges being built. My hon. and learned Friend the Joint Under-Secretary referred to a printing firm which had an apprenticeship scheme as good as any to be found elsewhere in the United Kingdom.
Reference has been made to Messrs. Short Bros, and Harland Ltd. This firm is also spending a great deal of time and money on training apprentices who are then employed either with the firm or with other firms in Northern Ireland. Some have even returned to the company to be employed as teachers. It is fundamental work of this nature which will do more to solve Northern Ireland's problems than the many suggestions which come from the party opposite 1803 about the difference between a development council and a development corporation.
As I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) I wondered whether he would put forward any fresh suggestions. I was disappointed. He merely referred to the development corporations and did not mention the excellent work done by the Ministry of Commerce, which has been so successful in bringing new firms to Northern Ireland in the past ten or twelve years.
This is not the time for complacency in our approach to the problems of the shipbuilding industry. Messrs. Harland and Wolff, which has the biggest single yard in the country, has been faced in the past eighteen months with a severe run-down in its employment and work force. It was extremely grateful, as were the workers in Belfast, to receive the order for the new assault carrier, and in this context I would urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to reconsider the requirements of the Royal Navy.
Much has been written recently about the case for a new generation of aircraft carriers. I urge the Government to pay particular attention to this and to come to a speedy decision about the replacement of our existing aircraft carriers, and then to put out to tender the new ones which I think are generally agreed are necessary, as was shown to be true during the defence debate earlier this year. Work like this could bring great relief to the shipyards of the United Kingdom, and it is particularly necessary for the shipyards in Belfast.
Messrs. Harland and Wolff has done a great deal of work in connection with modernisation and re-equipment. I have seen some of this work, and I am convinced that we have nothing to fear from competitive tendering. This firm will retain its position as the leading shipbuilding yard in the United Kingdom, and one of the leading yards in the world, and because of its modernisation and new work schemes it will be able to compete with any other yard on fair terms.
That leads me to say a word to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Trans- 1804 port. I should like him to pay particular attention to the kind of assistance being given to foreign shipyards, to which reference was made during a recent debate. Shipyards in France and even in Japan receive Government subsidies. I agree that the policy of subsidies for shipbuilding is to be deprecated, but I should like my right hon. Friend to consider whether, because of the principle for which he stands, that of no subsidy at all, British shipyards should be allowed to fall into disuse. If my right hon. Friend cannot persuade countries in Europe and the Far East to give up the type of subsidy which we know they give their shipyards and shipowners, he should at least be prepared to match those terms and continue to work to persuade other countries to abandon this practice.
I should also like my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport to pursue more energetically the measures he is taking with respect to the United States, which practises flag discrimination so very much to the disadvantage of free trade in shipping throughout the world and which reflects on all British shipowners and through them on British shipbuilders.
I join with my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North in his remarks about Short and Harlands. That firm, which is also in my constituency, has instituted a very enterprising apprenticeship scheme. It is engaged in the production of the Belfast air freighter—an aircraft which, like others being developed even in Russia, is powered by turbo-prop engines, which are the least expensive and most efficient for this kind of work. It has a fuselage very much bigger than that of any jet aircraft, and although its top speed is a little lower than that of a jet, it does not matter, in terms of a journey of four or five hours, if half an hour more is taken, so long as the goods—by which I mean every form of military equipment, from tanks to men and their arms—are delivered to the spot where they are needed.
I ask my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air to consider whether the present order for ten Belfasts is sufficient. I hope that they will give consideration to the number 1805 which will finally be required by the British forces if they are to remain completely mobile, and if we are ever to be able to get our forces from one part of the Commonwealth to another in order to meet contingencies and emergencies. The kind of brush fire that breaks out in Africa could break out in the Far East, Malaya, or other parts of the world, and the ability to move men and material quickly requires more than ten Belfast air freighters.
It must also be borne in mind that further marks of this aircraft can be adapted as tactical aircraft, carrying more men, for the shorter journeys. That is the way in which the policy set out in the White Paper on Defence can be implemented. It is Government policy to reduce to the minimum the number of aircraft employed, and if one aircraft, such as the Belfast, can be used in two different forms, for both tactical and strategic needs, not only will the needs of Belfast and the employment which comes from the production of this aircraft be safeguarded, but the defence needs of the United Kingdom will be met. I therefore ask my right hon. Friend, as a matter of great urgency, to consider placing more orders not only for the strategic but for the tactical version of the Belfast.
In addition, money might be spent with great advantage in further development of the multi-jet vertical take-off aircraft. This is a project of which I am extremely proud, because Northern Ireland has led the world in the production of a vertical take-off aircraft. The SC1 was the first one to make the transition from rising to forward flight and back down again, and this aircraft could be of great use in keeping Britain in the forefront of this development.
Many other miscellaneous small engineering works are situated in my constituency, producing equipment from fans to electric motors. I must cut short my remarks, because I know that some of my hon. Friends still wish to take part in the debate. I therefore conclude by saying that, in looking forward to the future, I hope that the Government will give attention to the suggestions made during this debate and at other times. These suggestions would enable the unemployment figure in Northern Ireland to be reduced to the national average.
1806 The Government should be prepared to continue giving special incentives to Northern Ireland as they did last year, when they accepted an Amendment which my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mrs. McLaughlin) my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Mr. Forrest) and I pressed upon the Chancellor, to exclude Northern Ireland from the payroll tax. We were most grateful when my right hon. and learned Friend acceded to our pressure.
I hope that while there is such a discrepancy between the unemployment figures in Northern Ireland and those in the United Kingdom my night hon. and learned Friend will continue to see whether he can take any measures to help to insulate Northern Ireland from the credit squeeze and other measures which are designed to meet the needs of more prosperous parts of the United Kingdom, where full employment exists. Until we have solved the unemployment problem in Northern Ireland we require exceptional measures to be applied to it. It is because I feel about this matter so sincerely that I have pleasure in supporting the Motion moved by my hon. Friend.
§ 3.25 p.m.
§ Captain L. P. S. Orr (Down, South)
During the last twelve years I have listened to a number of debates on Northern Ireland and this is one of the most interesting I have heard. The hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) made great play with the fact that we should not be having this debate but for the good luck of my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) who was successful in the Ballot. That is a fair debating point, but the hon. Gentleman made a great deal of it. About one-third of his speech was devoted to it. In the whole of the twelve years to which I referred I cannot remember the Opposition selecting the subject of Northern Ireland to be debated on a Supply Day, not even on half-a-day. At any time it was open to the Opposition to do so. I have not the least doubt that had my hon. Friend not been successful in the Ballot, the Government would have found time for such a debate.
§ Mr. Mellish
Surely it is an impertinence on the part of the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) to say that because the 1807 Opposition have not given a Supply Day to this subject the Government can abrogate their responsibilities? That is a poor defence against my argument.
§ Captain Orr
That is not what I said. I said that I have no doubt that the Government would have found time. It comes pretty poonly from hon. Members opposite, who profess an interest in Northern Ireland and her affairs, and who go, from time to time, to Northern Ireland when there is an election in the offing, to say that it is just because of our luck in the Ballot that we are able to talk about Northern Ireland today. However, I will leave that point for what it is worth.
The hon. Member for Bermondsey said that he had no intention of raising any question of religious discrimination and I am glad that that was in view. It is, I think, the view of almost everyone that we want, if possible, to forget all questions of religious discrimination, because we have more important and interesting things to think about. But before I come to more important things, I wish to say a word about the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy), from whom we have heard the real voice of the "Stone Age", who talked about religious discrimination indefinitely.
§ Captain Orr
Whether it was religious or political, let us examine what the hon. Member said. I wonder whether he had the courtesy to give notice to my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) that he intended to mention Londonderry.
§ Captain Orr
That accounts for the extraordinary inaccuracies. There is no question of religious discrimination—
§ Captain Orr
—regarding anybody in Ulster. If one goes for a job in Govern- 1808 ment or in local government, no one asks whether one is a Protestant or a Roman Catholic, a Unionist or a Nationalist, or a member of the Labour Party. They are interested only in picking the best man for the job.
The hon. Member for Thurrock mentioned the town clerk in Londonderry. In fact, all the members—his coreligionists—of the Nationalist Party on the Council voted for that town clerk because they thought him the best man.
§ Mr. Delargy
The hon. and gallant Member has not even been listening to me. I did not mention the town clerk. I mentioned the town clerk's department, among about ten other departments in which nobody with a majority in the borough is represented.
§ Captain Orr
I should have thought that the town clerk was in his department, but that is by the way. I do not want to spend a lot of time on the subject, because we do not think it sufficiently important. The employment position in Londonderry is this. Out of 750 employed in the local government, 300, we believe, are members of the hon. Gentleman's religion or are members of the Nationalist Party or Labour Party. In the allocation of houses—
§ Captain Orr
I know the hon. Gentleman did not. If the hon. Gentleman is making a case against religious discrimination, he dare not mention housing. The hon. Gentleman's people and party get two to one of the houses allocated in Londonderry.
§ Mr. Delargy
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has accused me of being inaccurate and of living in the Stone Age. Will he explain this peculiar phenomenon and tell me whether this is up to date? How it is that one-third of the electorate in Derry City always manages to "collar" 60 per cent. of the seats?
§ Captain Orr
There is in my constituency the town of Newry in which 1809 the Nationalist Party has a majority on the council. The Unionists pay 50 per cent. of the rates, yet there is only one Protestant or Unionist employee in the council, and he got in on a split vote.
§ Mr. Delargy
The hon. and gallant Gentleman asked me a question about Newry. I will give him the short answer as to why there is a Nationalist majority there—because 80 per cent. of the electors are Nationalists. Will he now answer my question? After all, he brought this matter up, saying that I was inaccurate in what I said about Derry City.
§ Captain Orr
I did not bring the subject up. I said that, if we were going into a sort of Dutch auction as to which local authority treated its minority better or worse, that is really an out-of-date controversy. Time has moved on since those days.
I now come to the speech of the hon. Member for Bermondsey. The hon. Gentleman at least shows some glimmer of being in touch with events. However, there was not very much in his speech. There was not anything awfully constructive in what he said. [Interruption.] I am now dealing with the hon. Member for Bermondsey. It is very difficult to be constructive about the hon. Member for Thurrock.
As I say, the hon. Member for Bermondsey did not make many constructive points. Like his right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), he spent most of his time attacking the Northern Ireland Government. He talked about their being archaic and out-of-date men and about their having absolute power. They have not absolute power. They have not power to direct industry or labour, or anything like that. One of the difficulties is that they have not absolute power. Neither has any Government which believes in human liberty. Governments must cope with affairs as best they can consistently with liberty.
The hon. Gentleman attacked the Northern Ireland Government on one specific point which does not really need answering. He said that their relationship with the trade unions was very bad and that they refused to recognise the Irish T.U.C. He gave as the reason for 1810 this the fact that the T.U.C. had its headquarters in Dublin, as though an address in Dublin was a bar, and suggested that that was childish. We are more sensible people than that. There is a very real difficulty here, and, perhaps, the hon. Gentleman, with his hon. Friends who are trade unionists, will be able to help us with this difficulty. We should be glad of their assistance.
Of the trade unions in Northern Ireland—there are about 100 of them—80 are registered in the United Kingdom, 14 or 16 are registered in Northern Ireland and only four are registered in the Irish Republic. In other words, 95 per cent. of the trade unionists belong to unions registered in the United Kingdom. The remaining 5 per cent. belong to unions registered in the Irish Republic. In many important industries, for instance in shipbuilding, engineering, transport and tobacco, wages are negotiated nationally on a United Kingdom basis. In others, such as electricity, gas, building, and the Civil Service, they normally follow the United Kingdom pattern.
In spite of all this, a difficulty arose in 1959 when the Northern Ireland trade unions joined the Irish T.U.C. It would not matter if it were only a question of address, but in fact it means that the control of the members of British-based unions in Northern Ireland rests with a Trades Union Congress which is dominated, by virtue of its very constitution, by Southern Irish trade unions. For example, the constitution provides that no fewer than ten out of nineteen on the executive council must be members of Irish trade unions. We therefore cannot accept that this Trades Union Congress in Northern Ireland speaks for the trade unionists of Northern Ireland. Hon. Members cannot honestly expect the Northern Ireland Government to recognise a body which is not only based but controlled in a foreign country.
§ Mr. Mellish
The hon. and gallant Member talks about the Irish Trades Union Congress as if it were some foreign and alien body. In fact, it has the support, good will and affection of the British Trades Union Congress, which is situated in London. I could mention one or two bodies abroad with certain political connotations from which 1811 we have had to disaffiliate, but it is not as if this were such a body. This is a reputable trade union machine.
The sort of argument which the hon. and gallant Member has advanced worries people like myself. What right have any Government to say that they will not negotiate because members of trade unions belong to an organisation which has voluntarily decided to link in this way—always providing that there are no serious political objections? The hon. Member used the word "foreign". But what right has any Parliament or Government or Minister—the Minister of Labour in this country, for that matter—to tell the T.U.C. how to do its job? I do not think that the hon. and gallant Member's party in Stormont has any right to tell the Irish T.U.C. how to do its job. I hope that he will confirm that the Northern Ireland section consists of genuine, fine Irishmen.
§ Captain Orr
I have nothing whatever against the Northern Ireland Members and the Northern Ireland trade unions. We are always anxious to negotiate with them. In fact, very good relationships exist between the Northern Ireland Government, from the Prime Minister downwards, and individual unions. Ministers continually negotiate with individual unions. We object, and I think we are entitled to object, to negotiating with a T.U.C. dominated by people outside our country, by people who are foreign. If the Northern Ireland trade unions will set up a committee in Northern Ireland we will recognise it and negotiate with it. If the hon. Member could help us in this, we should be glad to receive his help, because we have every reason to wish to see improved relations if they can be brought about.
§ Mr. Mellish
Surely the whole function of the trade union movement is to be international and not to be so parochial. Is not that one of its main functions? If the hon. and gallant Gentleman could give one simple case in which the Irish T.U.C. deliberately pursued an anti-Northern Ireland policy I could understand his argument, but he merely says that because it is based in what he calls a foreign land—and I must say that for an Irishman in 1960 1812 to say that is a bit odd—he cannot negotiate with it.
§ Captain Orr
It may be odd but it happens to be true. It is a foreign country. The hon. Member talks about "anti-Northern Ireland." The vast majority of the Irish T.U.C. who would have dominance in this T.U.C. live in the Irish Republic and believe Northern Ireland should not exist. They are in that sense anti-Northern Ireland. How can a Government be expected to recognise representatives of a T.U.C. the majority of whom do not recognise the Government? There is a substantial difficulty here. If the hon. Member for Bermondsey would take it seriously he could be very helpful.
§ Mr. Mellish
The British trade union movement which is based in London does not like the Tory Government. It is, therefore, anti-Government. It has demonstrated this fact again and again. It votes against the Tory Government whenever it can and urges its members to do so whenever they can. However, the Tory Government here do not say to the British T.U.C., "We know that you do not like us. Therefore, we shall not negotiate with you." The Tory Government accept the T.U.C. as part of British life and negotiate with it.
§ Captain Orr
That point is not worthy of the hon. Gentleman, because at least the T.U.C. here recognises the Government and recognises Parliamentary democracy. The British T.U.C. does not say that British institutions should be done away with.
§ Mr. Delargy
The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that if the Irish T.U.C. set up a special committee for trade unionists in Northern Ireland the Northern Ireland Government would have no difficulty in negotiating with it. Does not such a committee exist? Is there not a Trades Council in Belfast which caters solely for Northern Ireland trade unionists? I think that there is such a committee, but I am not certain. If there is, why do not the Government negotiate with it?
§ Captain Orr
The Government will negotiate with any body which is, let us say, a Northern Ireland committee of the British Trades Union Congress. I cannot 1813 speak for the Northern Ireland Government, but I am certain that if such a body were brought into being the Northern Ireland Government would negotiate with it. I hope that hon. Members opposite will use their influence to see if we can do something like that.
The right hon. Member for Belper described the Ulster Government as archaic and out of date. Presumably the hon. Member for Barmondsey agrees with his right hon. Friend. That is not the view of the chairman of a company which today opened a new factory in my constituency. My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mrs. McLaughlin), whom we are sorry could not be present today, attended the opening. I had the opportunity of a telephone conversation with her a short while ago. She told me that this factory was opened in the presence of the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. It starts by employing 200 and will shortly employ 600. The chairman of the company said something to this effect, that nowhere else in the world had his company come across a Government so keen to promote employment and so helpful to anyone looking for facilities as it had in Northern Ireland. It was because of the ability, the efficiency and the progressive outlook of the Government that the factory was there at all.
How does this square with the picture of an archaic and out-of-date Government? I again congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North on his hick in the Ballot. I compliment him upon the success of the debate.
§ 3.43 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel R. G. Grosvenor (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)
This has been, on the whole, a very good debate. Practically every aspect of life and industry in Northern Ireland has been covered. Some things have been praised. Some things have been criticised. Praise has been given where praise is due. Criticism, in some cases, has been constructive. In other cases, I regret to say, it has been valueless. Advice has been offered to the Unionist Members on this side of the House by hon. Members opposite. I hear this advice as an echo of the same advice which has been given to us before, but which, in our wisdom, we have not accepted.
1814 There are only two figures which I want to give to the House, which during the last few hours has been blinded by figures. The first is rather a fundamental figure which nobody has remarked upon. This is strange, because most of the debate has been concerned with unemployment. This figure is the birth rate. The latest comparable figures I have are for 1960. Whereas the north of Ireland had a birth rate in that year of 22½ per 1,000, the figure for England and Wales was 17.1 per 1,000 and Scotland came second with 19.4 per 1,000. This is one of our fundamental troubles. I have no complaint against it, because it shows that our health and hospital services must be extremely good and our population extremely virile, which is what one would want in any country. From this stems some of the difficulties we are encountering.
It may interest the House, following my logistics on the birth rate, if I give a few interesting figures about the housing situation. We are far ahead of any part of the United Kingdom. We have seven main hospitals built or building and far more are planned. From 1948 to 1960–61, £18 million were spent on these buildings. From 1960–61 onwards, when four more are planned, another £35 million are to be spent on hospitals. The capital investment in this enterprise as at 1960–61 was 29s. per head of the population in Northern Ireland, compared with 12s. per head of the population of Great Britain. This is one of the items which one can safely put on the plus side.
As a result of this debate, I hope that my hon. Friends, and hon. Members opposite—who, naturally, are there to criticise—will not give the impression to the public at large that we are a distressed area. We have our problems, and we who live there know them only too well. They are on our doorsteps every weekend when we go back there. Nevertheless, there are strong, vital new industries coming into our country, and there are strong existing industries. There is an old and great agricultural industry. We have much to be thankful for, and much of which we can be extremely proud. We are not looking to the past, as some of our critics have said, but 1815 very much to the future, because we are as keen on our own country—if not keener than—as is anyone in the rest of the United Kingdom.
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I have listened to the whole of this debate, and I have participated in debates about Northern Ireland before. I recollect seeing in The Schoolmaster the following:A debater in the Oxford Union once suggested that a typically obscure Third Programme announcement might be, 'The Irish Question in the Fifth Century B.C., the fourth in a series of ten lectures'".Anyone who has listened to Irish debates must admit that that is a very fair piece of satire on the way in which this problem crops up.
This Motion asks us to congratulate the Government on what they have done about the boundary, but they do not dare to use the boundary. If there is one thing that has been certain in recent debates in which Ireland has cropped up, it is that the Home Secretary himself declined to rely on that Border as a place where persons entering the United Kingdom could be checked.
As a representative of a great shipbuilding and ship-repairing port in the United Kingdom, I want to express my sympathy with the people engaged in those two industries in Northern Ireland. I sympathise with them, too, over the lack of response they have had today from the two Government spokesmen. Last week, with my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough), I took a deputation from the Tyneside to see the President of the Board of Trade about exactly the same problem. We got exactly the same answer; every constructive suggestion we put up was turned down, just as the dry dock is turned down, and anything else to do with shipbuilding. The Government appear to have written off shipbuilding and ship-repairing as major industries.
I wonder whether the Government speakers would have dared to refer in public, except in relation to Northern Ireland, as they have done today, to those most important industries, which are so depressed that, with all the advantages the Government claim for the introduction of new industries, the fall in 1816 employment in the shipbuilding and ship-repairing industries has wiped out all the gains, so that the unemployment figure in Northern Ireland remains now at exactly the same percentage as it was before the new industries were introduced.
Let us remember that shipbuilders and ship-repairers, whether they be in Northern Ireland, on the Clyde, or on the Tyneside, are extremely proud of their skill, and of the position which they have won in the world for this country as exponents of the industrial arts to which they have committed their lives. The Government speakers today gave not a single ray of hope to anyone in the Northern Ireland shipbuilding and ship-repairing industries that anything could be done to enable them to carry on, for the benefit of this country and the world, the great crafts to which those working in them have been apprenticed, and by which they have made splendid contributions to transport, both national and international.
There will be no "come-back" from the Ulster Unionist Members—not a bit of it. They just ignore the fact that they have been turned down absolutely and completely by the two Ministers—
§ Mr. McMaster
The right hon. Gentleman is ignoring completely the assault carrier, the order for which has just been placed in Belfast.
§ Mr. Ede
One ship—one ship in this area, and the hon. Gentleman thinks that it wipes out the Government's complete ignoring in this debate of the fundamental problems of this industry. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that if he represented an English constituency and made such a retort he would be well advised to look for a new constituency at the next General Election.
Those hon. Members just sit there. I have known times when they have provided the majority for the Government. When I was leading the House with a majority of six we had to keep "tabs" on them to see whether or not they were going to turn up. It was extremely important that we knew. We were always happy to see them, but we knew which way they would vote.
1817 Just think of the sensation they could create, not merely in the House but in the Tory Whips' office, if, one day, after they had received the same treatment as they received today, they uanimously went into the Lobby against the Government. That would be such a demonstration as could ensure their getting some respect from the Government, who now regard them as mere Lobby fodder, always available. No matter who may desert them, the Government will always be sure that those hon. Members will be available in full force. There is no need for a three-line Whip to get them here. The mere news that the Government might be in danger is sufficient to ensure their presence and the Government Chief Whip need have no doubt when he sees them coming in that, badly though the Government may have treated them, they will still be giving their votes to the Government.
After the treatment they have had today, to be willing to do no more than produce this Motion is quite amazing. Since the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) has had such luck in the Ballot—I think that a Select Committee should be appointed to discover how he does it—is he satisfied that his Motion really represents the feelings of the skilled men who are proud of their skill, but who are unable to exercise it? Is the Motion the best that he and his hon. Friends can do for these people?
§ Mr. McMaster
I have listened with great interest to what the right hon. Gentleman has said, but I would like to hear him make one constructive suggestion for the solving of our unemployment problems. Will he give us just one?
§ Question put and agreed to.1818
That this House welcomes the success of the measures which have led to the more satisfactory conditions now existing on the United Kingdom land frontier; reaffirms the need to acelerate Northern Ireland's economic development so as to bring employment up to a level existing in other parts of the United Kingdom; and believes that Her Majesty's Government, together with the Government of Northern Ireland, would be fully justified in adopting further exceptional measures to achieve these ends.