Motion made, and Question proposed,
That this House takes note of the Report of the Joint Working Party on the Economy of Northern Ireland presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Command Paper No. 1835).—[Mr. Brooke.]
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Lee (Newton)
I beg to move, at the end of the Question to add:but regrets the failure of Her Majesty's Government to carry through an effective policy for the expansion of industry and the alleviation of unemployment in Northern Ireland".It is a somewhat surprising departure that the Home Secretary should have moved that we take note of the Report in such a formal way. After all the "ballyhoo" we had when the Hall Joint Working Party on the Economy of Northern Ireland was set up, following the long period of deliberation and gestation after which both Governments agreed to set up the Committee, the right hon. Gentleman would have been eager to tell the House of the important decisions of that Committee so that the House, rather than hear me move an Amendment, should know, first, the degree of the resultant triumph achieved by both Governments. But we must wait for the words of wisdom and the degree of the triumph until later in the debate.
The terms of reference of the Working Party were:To examine and report on the economic situation of Northern Ireland, the factors causing the persistent problem of high unemployment, and what measures can be taken to bring about a lasting improvement.Those of us who have taken a great interest in the problems of Northern Ireland know how necessary it is that a Committee such as this should be able to fulfil its terms of reference.
We know that for many years unemployment in Northern Ireland has been running at far and away a heavier rate than in other parts of the United Kingdom. Over the last ten years or so it has fluctuated between a little over 10 per cent. and 6.1 per cent., with a mean of about 7.5 per cent. This very high rate is one which some of us feel has not received attention either from the Government of Northern Ireland or, particularly for our purpose, from the 1458 Government of this country who have responsibilities of a most important character for the well-being of our fellow-citizens there.
I have read the debate in the Northern Ireland Parliament on the Working Party's Report and the criticisms in the Press of the content of that Report. Probably on all sides it would be agreed that the Report is a thoroughly disappointing document. With the addition of an appeal for more migration and less wages, it seems to me roughly the mixture as before.
If I may follow the restrained language of the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, speaking at Stormont on 30th October, he said:I cannot refrain from expressing some disappointment that in the final analysis the Report has not suggested any new approach capable within the near future of bringing about a substantial change in the present situation.I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, but it is, of course, a comment very different from that which Stormont heard from the same right hon. Gentleman on 25th October last year, when he said:… the Hall Committee is not just another committee. We got that committee by the sweat of our brows. We had to fight for it. The members of that committee have the best brains we have here. Hon. Members opposite may say they are not great, but my opinion is that they are great—the highest in the Civil Service … if those brains cannot solve the problem I do not know the remedy.This sounds like famous last words for the hopes of many thousands of people in Northern Ireland.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the present position. We must remind ourselves that the present position comes after forty years of undisputed power held by the party represented by the Prime Minister. I have read conscientiously the three-day debate at Stormont at the end of October and at the beginning of this month. Irrespective of where they sit in the House, hon. Members, and especially those from Northern Ireland, will agree that widespread dismay and anxiety was expressed by practically every hon. Member who took part in that debate.
For my part, there was also a welcome change in that from some unexpected 1459 quarters there was some degree of support for the suggestions which the Northern Ireland Labour Party has been making for a considerable time. We do not claim to be more than five or six years ahead of the Tories at any time and it is beneficial to our ego to know that at last we have managed to persuade some of the hon. Members in Northern Ireland. They had not seen fit to accept suggestions made by our friends over there, but now, in the light of the dismal failure of the Working Party, they are prepared to look again at these suggestions.
On 4th May, 1961, the Working Party, composed of senior officials both of the United Kingdom Government and of that of Northern Ireland, was set up. It reported to the two Governments on 8th June this year. We then had to wait a further four months before we knew the contents of the Report and before the debate at Stormont took place. Despite the fact that the problems of Northern Ireland were intense eighteen months ago, we now know that the period which has elapsed has been a sheer waste of time and that the problem is practically as acute as ever.
Reading the Report, except where it does not throw up the sponge altogether, I find that it merely suggests the continuation of past policies, which are policies with which those of us who take an interest in development districts and the distribution of industry policy are quite familiar. The thing that distresses me is that, in the Report itself, the Working Party forecast, as we all expected, no real improvement, even in the present very difficult position, for quite a number of years to come. I should have thought that that is a most dismal prospect, especially for those who are unemployed in Northern Ireland.
I have been critical of the Working Party, but, in being critical, I am not necessarily blaming its members. What I certainly am doing is to blame those who set it up to perform a task which, of its very nature, was completely beyond the scope of such a Committee. I have said that it was composed of civil servants who serve this Government and the Northern Ireland Government. As I understand, civil servants are employed to administer the policies of the Govern- 1460 ments they serve. They are certainly not there to teach Governments how to govern. It could be argued, however, that both these Governments badly need somebody who can teach them that, but that is not the job of civil servants. Indeed, to expect civil servants to teach Governments how to govern would be a complete abdication of the power which the electorate have conferred upon any Government.
A further point is this. Had this Working Party produced a whole series of recommendations for measures as yet untried, it would certainly have been a most crushing indictment by the Working Party itself of the two Governments, whose efforts over many years have failed so dismally to eliminate the serious unemployment in Northern Ireland. Further, it is the case that any Civil Service based on the British pattern is restricted in the approach which it can possibly make to any large-scale economic and political problems by the general policies of the existing Governments for whose benefit they are engaged.
I have said that in Northern Ireland we have had forty years of this kind of Government. Over here, we have had it for eleven consecutive years. I should have thought that that was quite enough, in all conscience, to stifle any radical tendencies in the breasts of the most adventurous souls within the higher reaches of our Civil Service. Certainly, if there are any vestiges of adventure still left in their breasts, they know perfectly well that, because of the composition of both Governments any such radical remedies would be turned down, and that it would be a waste of time to put them in their reports, anyway.
We can see one illustration of that in the Working Party's recommendations. In paragraph 90 of the Report, it is stated that the Working Party does not find any case for any general expansion of a programme of public works. This is an astounding statement to make. We have seen for many years such public works as the Roosevelt New Deal, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and so on, in which Governments, irrespective of their politics, accept that when we are in a depression the one sector of the economy which they can control is the public sector, and expenditure on public works is a well-known remedy which 1461 has been successful on very many occasions. I do not understand why, in the conditions of Northern Ireland as it is now, the Working Party sees no point in recommending any general expansion of a programme of public works.
A further important fact which should have been obvious to members of this Government and the Northern Ireland Government, is that in setting up a Working Party consisting of civil servants of the two Governments, they were setting up a Committee which consisted of incompatible interests. In other words, had there been, as there were, any suggestions made by the civil servants of Northern Ireland which were bound, by their very nature, to result in a great increase in the amount of finance which this Government would have to find, quite obviously, the civil servants of this Government would have been bound to oppose it, irrespective of what they felt about the merits.
The only people who can agree to such an expansion or to an increase in the financial expenditure of the Treasury here are the Members of the Government themselves. How could it possibly be the case that there could be unity of interest between the two sides of such a Working Party, when the civil servants of both Governments know perfectly well that any schemes of a comprehensive nature would probably be well beyond the scope, in the sense of increased finance, to which the Ministers concerned would agree?
I assert that our Amendment makes clear that our criticism is directed in the main at this Government. In passing, I may say that it has to reflect, and it does reflect, on the lack of effort which we believe is obvious from the Government of Northern Ireland. Our criticisms are directed at the two Governments which have failed, and not at those behind whom these Governments are seeking to hide. We have more sympathy than anything else for civil servants placed in that position.
I know that some of the usual measures for dealing with development areas have for long been taken in Northern Ireland, and that this Government have contributed, and are still contributing, a great deal of money. We have seen in Northern Ireland itself the production of advance factories, and we 1462 know that the Government have tried to induce industrialists to open businesses over there, but it is the fact that over the last ten years the unemployment rate has varied between 10 per cent. and 6 per cent., with an average of 7½ per cent., of the insured population, as against 1½ per cent. until recently over here.
It is quite obvious that insufficient has been done by both Governments to meet the particular problems of Northern Ireland, and the result of that is the heavy unemployment which I have mentioned. A further result has been the extremely heavy migration from Northern Ireland. One could bring together the net results of the last ten years by pointing out that, at the end of them, the number of jobs actually available is less than it was at the beginning, in 1951. One would be hard put to find a greater indictment than that.
The question which the House must ask itself is whether we are now prepared to accept as quite inevitable, as an act of God, as it were, the continuation in a part of the United Kingdom of a rate of unemployment which is scandously excessive when judged either on humanitarian grounds or on the loss to the United Kingdom of the production of wealth which chronic unemployment presupposes. If the answer we give to that question is that we are not prepared to see this massive unemployment persist, we must then ask ourselves whether we are prepared to accept new policies either in supplementation of or in substitution for policies which have partially or wholly failed to eliminate it. This will be the acid test from now on of how far either this Government or the one in Northern Ireland are prepared to go.
To put the problem in statistical form, the actual increase in population between 1951 and 1961 was 54,600. The natural increase during that period was 146,300. In other words, the estimated net emigration from Northern Ireland was 91,800, and, be it noted, this came from a population of less than 1½ million. If we take the figures of employed, we see that, as a result of the policies pursued during the past ten years, while there were in civil employment at June, 1951, 547,000, at December, 1961, there were 534,000, a decrease of 13,000 jobs during that period. 1463 Implicit in the whole conception of development district policy is that one looks at the effect upon the economy of the country of the measures one is taking within the development districts. Adopting that criterion, what was the value of imports over exports for the last two years for which figures are available? In 1959, there was a deficit of £37.4 million. In 1960, it was £35.6 million. These are disastrous facts. I am at a loss to understand how any two Governments can display—I do not want to use the word "cynicism"—such a lack of real urgency in the efforts which they are prepared to make.
In paragraph 67 of the Report, under the heading "Objects of Policy", the Working Party says:The economic difficulties of Northern Ireland are like those of the development districts of Great Britain, though more acute, and the policy for dealing with them must, we assume, be on similar lines also.I ask the House to consider that statement carefully. I suggest that it is part of the basic fallacy which is causing the disappointing results to which I have referred.
There is no similarity whatever between the problems of development districts in Britain and the problem of distribution of industry in Northern Ireland. Over here, we give an area development district status according to certain criteria. It is an area less well placed for industry, its industries are dying, and there is need to infuse more purchasing power into the economy. We single out such an area and say that it shall have development district status. One of the ways in which such a district receives assistance is that it is surrounded by other areas which have not the economic problems which merit development district status. That is the position over here, and it is upon that that we base our development district policy.
How can that be compared with Northern Ireland? Northern Ireland is one great development area. The situation is entirely different. To suggest, as the Working Party does in paragraph 67, that the policies pursued over here are the natural ones to be considered for Northern Ireland shows an utterly false reading of the problem.
1464 Let us consider a little further what happens in Britain. We have over here a feature which is causing all of us from the North the greatest concern, namely, the drift from the North to the South. My hon. Friends from Scotland and the north of England never lose an opportunity to complain of the conditions which force that drift to the South.
§ Mr. Lee
My hon. Friend is quite right we do not get satisfaction. However, it is the fact that, despite the high level of unemployment in Scotland and the north of England, that level is minimised to the extent that the drift to the South continues. High as the figures are, that is so. With some experience of working distribution of industry policy, I suggest that the rate of unemployment which we see in Scotland and the north of England has been reduced to even its present level quite as much by the drift to the South as by any of the measures taken under the Local Employment Act.
An unemployed man in Northern Ireland has no London and the South-East to drift to. He has no huge industrial conurbation in the Midlands to which he can go. A man out of work in Northern Ireland is out of work in a huge development district. There is no way in which any surrounding district can help to bring economic health back to the hard-hit areas of Northern Ireland as is sometimes possible in Britain.
I can understand people in Northern Ireland gaining the impression sometimes that successful steps are taken over here which are not taken in their country. This is just not true. If I am right about that, how absurd is the idea that any body of people sitting down seriously to consider the terms of reference of the Working Party could believe that all that is necessary is to apply to Northern Ireland the remedies which are applied in Great Britain. It is demonstrable nonsense to assert that they could possibly have any real effect. Otherwise, will somebody tell me why the measures which have been applied to minimise unemployment in Northern Ireland for so 1465 many years following the pattern of what has been done in certain areas in Britain have failed?
I tell the Government here and the one at Stormont that, if they intend to confine their thinking now merely to the measures we have seen in the past, they will find that there is nothing more certain than that they will continue the story of dismal failure we have now before us.
One of Northern Ireland's problems is that the main industries are contracting at one and the same time. Shipbuilding, textiles, agriculture and aircraft construction are all contracting. I, therefore feel some sympathy for those who have to deal with this great problem. There are very few compensating factors such as we have here in Northern Ireland. The compensating element over here is that other industries are expanding while the older ones are contracting. There is no feature such as this in Northern Ireland. I know of no industry in Northern Ireland employing a large number of people which is expanding as others are contracting. This is entirely different from the situation in this country.
Those who have to deal with these problems in Northern Ireland have to keep on running at an ever-increasing pace to prevent themselves from going backwards. I do not wish to keep on criticising the people who produced this Report, but if the Northern Ireland Prime Minister's statement that I quoted was anything like the fact some of the obvious truths to which I have referred should have appealed to them in the minute examination of the economic problems of Northern Ireland which they had the opportunity to make.
I realise that a fair number of jobs have been created in Northern Ireland over the last ten years. But it is not sufficient for any hon. Member to say that as a result of the efforts made there a certain number of new jobs have been provided. We must try to find out how many of the new jobs as well as the old ones have folded up. I am told that about a quarter of the jobs created in the 1950s were in industries which were already declining over here and that a considerable percentage of those new jobs have folded up.
This is a situation which can only have been brought about by a complete 1466 lack of planning. [Laughter.] The Home Secretary need not laugh. Perhaps he has not heard it said that he is a planner as weld these days. Perhaps the news has not yet reached the Home Office. Unless we produce the type of jobs which have a future and which will play a part in solving our overall economic problems, we might just as well put the unemployed to work on digging holes in order to fill them up again. By this higgledy-piggledy way of creating any sort of job, we are merely replacing big, declining industries on which our economy was based by a conglomeration of human activities completely irrelevant to our economic position. That is what has been happening in Northern Ireland.
In this country we do not discriminate between the sort of employers we encourage to go to our development districts. How much more necessary is it in an economy like Northern Ireland's that people should not merely be satisfied to get a temporary job in some part of Northern Ireland, but that that job should bear a relationship to the future activities of the industry concerned, to the economic problems of Northern Ireland and to the hope that it will be in itself a breeder which will bring more jobs in its wake. The employment of skilled labour results in the employment of unskilled labour.
Hon. Members may say that it is easy for me to preach. I know that we are caught in something of a vicious circle. Once an area has heavy unemployment, it is not unnatural for it to jump at the chance of getting any industry which is willing to go to the area rather than discriminate in favour of industries whose development will aid our economy. But an doing that we deprive ourselves of the power to plan—I did not hear a snigger that time from the Home Secretary—and predetermine the type of industrial base which will best assist us in obtaining and maintaining full employment and economic solvency. I commend to the Government the thought that if we are to obtain the maximum benefit from the expenditure being incurred on this great problem in Northern Ireland, that kind of thinking must play a far greater part in future than it has done in the past.
I know that Northern Ireland has some disadvantages which do not exist over 1467 here. Transport costs are quite a problem. As far as I can see, there is not a great deal of industrial development based on Northern Ireland's own indigenous raw material. This is a serious criticism of both the Government here and the Northern Ireland Government. Friends of mine in the Northern Ireland Labour Party have suggested that the Government should have based a great deal more of the new industry on the ancillary industries of agriculture—on the dead meat and processing industries, and so on. As far as my investigations show, there has been precious little of that obvious development taking place over there.
We have to try to minimise the natural disadvantages of transport costs, and so on, as best we can. Therefore, if we have no plans to develop the industries whose use of raw material imports in their products is most sparing, we shall not have a viable economy, no matter how much work we put into it.
I should not describe it as a blinding flash of the obvious, but it is suggested in the Report that there should be an investigation into the uses of air freight. I hope that such an investigation is instituted. I have to do a little of this kind of work in another capacity. Air freight costs are fairly high. There is not the slightest doubt that the percentage of global products transported by air will increase spectacularly. Delivery dates are a very important part of the challenge for markets. They are as important as the question of cost in many ways. I hope that one of the results of this inquiry will be special rates for air transport.
If I am right in arguing for the industry which employs in the manufacture of its end-product more and more skilled labour and less and less raw material, which, I think, is the answer to Northern Ireland's problem, then air freight is the right sort of transport. In other words, one can transport value at a far higher percentage than one can if one is transporting very bulky products.
I said, to the dismay of the Home Secretary, that I see no sign in Northern Ireland that there has been any attempt to plan new development on a properly co-ordinated basis and with due consideration of the expansion possibilities 1468 I have discussed. Therefore, far from the Prime Minister being right in saying that if the Hall Committee does not find an answer then there is not one, I think that in some of the lines of argument I have been using lies some sort of hope of finding a solution to this problem. If I am wrong I should like the Home Secretary, when he replies, to prove that I am wrong.
Do not let him simply sneer at the word "planning", or make out an electioneering sneer about planners and then become a planner overnight, as the Prime Minister has done, but really, if they are going to face the issue of being planners, they had better tell some of their colleagues at Stormont that the time has come when they also had better accept the basis of a planned economy. The Northern Ireland Labour Party has for long been demanding the setting up of a development corporation and of an economic planning council sponsored by the Government.
Here we come to the issue which I mentioned earlier. Are they, in fact, prepared to go outside the dogma which obsesses both this Government and the Northern Ireland Government in order to find a solution of the problem, or do they prefer the problem to accepting the defeat of their own policy? Because unless this Government and their counterpart over there are prepared to accept the basis of a planned economy I charge them that they are not interested in the sense that they should be in the terrible problem of unemployment in Northern Ireland.
Therefore, I put it to them that they should again examine the suggestion of a development corporation which could channel investment in the right directions, which could examine research and that kind of thing which is so essential if we are to set up new industries rather than the dismal and silly projects without any relationship to one another which one has seen grow up in some parts of Northern Ireland. The main issue on this is a political challenge, and if it is not taken up I assert that the people of Northern Ireland can know quite clearly that the Government, rather than accept the challenge that their own policies are not good enough, prefer unemployment instead.
I do not want to go in detail into the Report, but if we take paragraph 190 1469 we see that it is discussing here the points I have just been making about the development council and the economic planning council. This is the language used:We do not think it either constitutionally appropriate or practically necessary to set up an autonomous body of either kind.What in heaven's name does that language mean?We do not think it either constitutionally appropriate or practically necessary …This is a body whose terms of reference asked it to look at the problem of Northern Ireland and suggest remedies. I see nothing which is "constitutionally inappropriate" in the setting up of a development council. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman will tell us what is the constitutionally inappropriate part of such a procedure. Certainly, it is common practice in many other countries of the world. Why should it be thought, for the one which needs it more than any other, that it suddenly becomes "constitutionally inappropriate"? Maybe it was the source from which the suggestion came that is inappropriate so far as the Northern Ireland Government are concerned.
These are the things which must be swept away if this problem is really to be tackled successfully. I think that, as I have said to the right hon. Gentleman, we should now extend even some of the vehicles of planning machinery which we are setting up in this country. When he sneered just now about planners, he forgot that his right hon. Friend has set up "Neddy" in order to do the planning work for Britain. Whether it can achieve it or not is a moot paint, perhaps, but, nevertheless, it is, at any rate paying lip service to the idea of planning.
§ Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)
I know that my hon. Friend would not desire to be unfair to the Hall Committee, so may I draw his attention to paragraph 191, in which the Committee says:The scope of economic planning in the first sense is therefore very limited, since the powers of the Government of Northern Ireland are themselves limited.Therefore, what arises is the action or non-action of this Government, and not of the Northern Ireland Government.
§ Mr. Lee
I agree with my hon. Friend, but he will remember that the Amendment which we are moving is directed at this Government, it being far more the responsibility of this Government than it is of the Government of Northern Ireland. I agree about the limitations over there; but I do not like the way in which the Northern Ireland Government seem to accept limitations upon themselves. I should like to see a struggle now and again to get away from the limitations.
I am putting it to the right hon. Gentleman, if "Neddy" is considered by this Government to be the answer to the less severe problems of Britain, why is it not appropriate to Northern Ireland? Why not? May I suggest that a member of "Neddy" should be appointed—or two members—from Northern Ireland, so that they can sit in on the discussions and the planning, the estimates of the need for increased productivity, and so on? This, I would have thought, is a constructive suggestion which the Government ought now to consider.
There is another issue which, I think, is of very considerable importance, and it detracts from the hopes of Northern Ireland being able to get much in the way of new industries from this country. If we look at industry as a whole now we see that the units are growing bigger and bigger. We may regret it, but we are in the period, which I have described in another context, of either public or private monopoly. That is, in the great industries; but even in the industries which used to be small we find that, in order to save overheads, and because of the nature of the new industrial processes, each of the units is growing bigger and bigger.
This does not lend itself to that which is hoped for over there—keeping a series of small factories. We find that industrialists who want to modernise their plants inevitably have to make themselves into bigger units than was previously the case. It is also the case that we get processes which depend upon their nearness to one another, and when there is a tremor in the economy of any factory it causes the closing down of factories in a development district, and these things are now working against development in Northern 1471 Ireland in a way which has to be taken seriously into consideration.
We know that in the Report there is discussion of the need for the training of personnel and the unemployed. I do not think that this Government have ever done anything like enough, nor do I think that the Government in Northern Ireland have. Nevertheless, the kind of industry I have been discussing—I do not want to repeat myself: the end product containing a great degree of skilled labour, and so on—is, of course, dependent upon a large supply of pretty highly skilled personnel. As I read it, of the young people entering industry or wishing to enter industry in Northern Ireland fewer than one-sixth have any chance of obtaining an apprenticeship to a skilled trade. Therefore, even if we were successful in getting the sort of industries which I have suggested we should find ourselves extremely short of the very type of labour upon which they depend for their prosperity.
When one looks at the industrial development—call it automation or whatever else one likes—in any of the great manufacturing nations, it means that the ratio of skilled to unskilled labour must now rapidly increase. This is an inevitable result of the modernisation process. If the tendency that I see in Northern Ireland, with less than one-sixth of the school leavers getting apprenticeships, continues, it is obvious that there will be an even bigger problem of unemployed unskilled people and an equally large demand for nonexistent technologists and highly skilled craftsmen which will prevent our having the industrial development which could be the salvation of Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Stratton Mills (Belfast, North)
I apologise for interrupting the hon. Gentleman. He has been speaking for 50 minutes. Many of us want to take part in the debate. I do not wish to be unconstructive, but I hope that he will take the point.
§ Mr. Lee
I have for many years listened to debates and never yet heard a single constructive suggestion from hon. Gentlemen opposite. But they will troop through the Lobby when it is time to do so. If hon. Members on this side of the House take slightly longer than 1472 hon. Members opposite, so much higher are our hopes for a constructive suggestion being made. Therefore, I do not apologise in the least for reviewing the Working Party's Report in the absence of a review from the Home Secretary, who ought to have opened the debate.
The Hall Committee deplores the low level of productivity in Northern Ireland. Here is scope for investigation. Why should productivity levels be so low there? I can say from same experience that if one is working in an atmosphere in which there is massive unemployment, one does not listen to the economists who tell one that inefficiency will bring more unemployment. One hangs on to the job one has. Therefore, as long as the unemployment situation obtains in Northern Ireland, productivity will be below what it could be.
We are now in National Productivity Year—I have attended two or three functions in connection with it, and I have no doubt that other hon. Gentlemen have done so, too—but apparently in Northern Ireland they can afford not to have a productivity council; and in Northern Ireland of all places! Why have they no such council? It is because they still do not recognise the trade unions.
I want to help Northern Ireland in every way I can, financially and otherwise, but I would insist to the Northern Ireland Government that as one of the prerequisites to our spending millions of pounds trying to improve production there, they must use every instrument at their command to that end, and they cannot possibly achieve what they seek while they deliberately refuse to recognise the northern committees of the Irish trade unions. It is a fantastic situation. I do not know an employer in Britain who would dream of refusing to recognise the trade unions as important instruments in increasing his productivity. Yet in one part of the United Kingdom where productivity is criticised and unemployment is high, the Government insist upon treating trade unionists as though they were untouchables. As a prerequisite to the granting of more assistance, Her Majesty's Government should insist that this anomaly should be ended.
1473 I want to ask a detailed question before I finish. I am extremely worried about the future of Short Bros. Other hon. Members opposite are, too. We have discussed the firm and the future of the Belfast Freighter, and we now know that there is not to be a further order when the present 10 aircraft have been produced. The Report says that even the conditions visualised in 1965 depend upon a certain level of employment for the Short factory. Should we now expect that the level will be lower than would otherwise have been the case as a result of the decision not to order any more Belfast Freighters? We know that there are some sub-contracts on the VC10 which the firm is to have. Will these substitute in any way for the loss of any future orders for the Belfast Freighter? What is the future of the SC1? Here we had a lead in vertical take-off over any other nation, and I believe that lead has been largely dissipated. Short's was first in the field with this. I have seen its developments even beyond the SC1, and I should like to know whether the firm can hope for any further orders for that kind of thing.
I have said that the Hall Report is a dismal failure. It is a great disappointment to us all. Perhaps the Home Secretary can tell us where we go from here. Is it now being said that because this Working Party has failed to find any solutions, there are no solutions to be found? As I put it earlier, is unemployment in Northern Ireland an act of God, or do Her Majesty's Government now accept the need for an overall plan with a development corporation which can co-ordinate our efforts and ensure that the money which we spend shall be wisely spent on the kind of industrial development I have tried to outline?
I move our Amendment because the major criticism is directed at Her Majesty's Government. They have been lacking in imagination and have not devoted enough effort to solving the problems of Northern Ireland, largely because of the attitude "out of sight, out of mind". We criticise the Government for that. I ask the House to accept the Amendment because if any hon. Members opposite, especially those from Northern Ireland, believe that they can get away with the Amendment which they have tabled, or by merely taking 1474 note of a dismal Report like this one, they are letting down the people who sent them here.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Stratton Mills (Belfast, North)
If I take as long as 55 minutes to make my remarks, I hope hon. Gentlemen will start throwing their Order Papers at me. We have, however, listened with interest to the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Lee), and I shall come to his speech in a minute.
I begin by welcoming on behalf of my hon. Friends from Northern Ireland constituencies the decision to have the debate on the Hall Report in Government time. During the last eighteen months I have been fortunate enough in the Ballot on two occasions to secure a private Members' day for discussion of Northern Ireland, and I have become rather apprehensive that my success may attract suspicion and that if I win the Ballot once again the Deputy-Leader of the Opposition might suggest that a Radcliffe type Committee should be appointed to investigate my methods. I am, therefore, very glad that this debate is in Government time.
My hon. Friends and I who represent Northern Ireland constituencies pay tribute to the former Home Secretary who is now the First Secretary of State. He was responsible for Northern Ireland from 1957 to 1962, which was for us a very difficult period because of I.R.A. terrorism and economic uncertainty. My right hon. Friend was always ready to see and help us, and we greatly appreciated his help. We recognise his tremendous assistance to Northern Ireland and we consider him to have been a very true friend.
We also take the opportunity of welcoming the new Home Secretary to his post. We know of his tremendous experience in Wales and we hope that he will have the same degree of success in Northern Ireland. We were glad he was able to visit us in Northern Ireland so quickly after his appointment, and we hope that during his stewardship we shall see a substantial step forward economically in Northern Ireland. Perhaps a new pair of eyes looking at our problems may be of value.
It had been my intention at this stage also to welcome the presence of Liberal 1475 Members, because as recently as October the Chairman of the Liberal Party went to Northern Ireland and lectured us on what his party would do for Ulster. I expected him, therefore, to follow this up by getting all seven Liberal Members present at this debate. Unfortunately, they are not here. They are probably drafting a Press release explaining their failure in today's by-elections!
We welcome any constructive and sincere interest in the problems of Northern Ireland, from any quarter—and we make no qualification. We thank right hon. and hon. Members opposite for their attention and interest—for instance, Lord Robens and the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, East (Mr. Bottomley). Although we have disagreed with them on many occasions, they have always taken an interest which we have welcomed. What a tremendous contrast between their attitude and the speech of the hon. Member for Newton tonight. It was a heartless, mechanical, political speech and I hope it will be recognised as such.
§ Mr. Stratton Mills
The hon. Member made what was essentially a political speech not particularly suited to this occasion. If it was aimed at the electorate of Northern Ireland, it was an insult to their intelligence. He has been taking an interest in Northern Ireland for some time and I am disappointed that he still does not seem to have a real grasp of the problems we face or to understand the progress that has been made. I wondered what was new and constructive in his speech compared with what was proposed in speeches from the Labour Front Bench six or seven years ago, but I found that it was a rehash, a proper dog's breakfast.
§ Mr. Stratton Mills
Spare us that, please. There was very little positive in the speech. The hon. Gentleman said, for example, that only ideal types of industry should go to Northern Ireland, such as those closely connected with agriculture. These are certainly ideal industries for us, but they are not the only industries. Are we to turn away 1476 others which come to us because they are not 100 per cent. ideal? We have had considerable success in getting all kinds of industry.
§ Mr. Loughlin
I am glad that the hon. Member is dealing with this point. As I see it, the desire in Northern Ireland is to attract industries with a high labour ratio rather than those with a high machine ratio. Will he tell us precisely what his ideas are?
§ Mr. Stratton Mills
I should have thought that that factor was clearly brought out in the Hall Report. The policy of the Government over the years has been to get industries with the maximum labour content rather than industries with a tremendous proportion of capital to labour. The hon. Member for Newton brought out all the old chestnuts about the development corporation with a wonderful use of the English language. But even the Northern Ireland Labour Party is beginning to realise that that one is a dead duck. He made a number of other points—vague promises, vague suggestions—and I could not help recalling the words of William Hazlett:Some people make promises for the pleasure of breaking them.The hon. Gentleman knows that the Labour Party will be in opposition for many years and will have little opportunity of implementing any of the proposals he made today. The Amendment will not be supported by hon. Members form Northern Ireland. We consider it essentially a political Amendment and will contemptuously vote against it.
I come now to the Hall Report. I want to impress upon my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary the atmosphere of apprehension and uncertainty in Northern Ireland today. Much will be done to get Northern Ireland moving again if he can blow away the clouds of pessimism covering Ulster and create an atmosphere of confidence. Once confidence is created, much of value can be done.
I thought that the hon. Member for Newton was a little hard on the Hall Committee. Perhaps it was unimaginative in its approach, but it would be wrong if he were to classify the Committee as doctrinaire. As he will, of 1477 course, know, Sir Robert Hall is politically to the Left. I put it no stronger. I have recently been reading his book The Economic System in a Socialist State. I commend it to the hon. Member. But the Committee did not approach any of the proposals from a doctrinaire angle. Its terms of reference were wide. It was to consider… what measures can be taken to bring about a lasting improvement.I would remind the hon. Member of the Motion passed unanimously by this House on 30th March last, saying that Her Majesty's Government and the Government of Northern Irelandwould be justified, if necessary, in taking exceptional measuresin solving our economic problems.
Have the Hall Report and the measures taken since by the Government come up to that standard? Lord Brookeborough used at Stormont recently the word "disappointing". I feel that that is what is in the hearts of most of us when looking at this Report. There are many useful ideas and valuable suggestions, with much useful analysis, but, above all, it lacks a "glamour girl". Perhaps that is one of the reasons why the public reaction to the Report has not been enthusiastic.
Is there any easy solution to regional unemployment such as we have in Northern Ireland? Many of us have seen a conjuror waving a magic wand. A conjuror might wave his wand over a copy of Erskine May, say "Abracadabra" and produce a bunny rabbit. There is no "Abracadabra" solution to our problems. Is there gold at the end of the rainbow for Northern Ireland? Or is one still driven back time and again to the realisation that there is no simple solution and that we are deluding ourselves if we think there is? Hon. Members may have read the Report of the Toothill Committee on the Scottish economy, a much broader Committee than the Hail Committee, in which it was said:If there is a panacea for Scotland's economic problems we have not found it. It would indeed be remarkable if a single remedy were available for troubles so diverse in their origins.I also refer the House to the words of Mr. David Bleakley, the Deputy Leader of the Northern Ireland Labour Party, 1478 who, speaking at Stormont on 1st November, said:If the Hall Committee within the confines of the task it was set, had been able to suggest that, in fact, something could be done from the other side of the water I am convinced that it would have suggested it.This also supports the argument that there is no easy, simple solution. One must inevitably accept that this is the moment of truth, but it is not the moment to despair.
My most serious disagreement with the Hall Report is in its implicit acceptance of the continuation of unemployment at a level of about 7 per cent. The belief which the Report seems to move towards is that the ship, somehow or other, may float off the sandbank with rising economic activity in Britain and general prosperity in the Common Market. I hope that this evening the Home Secretary will be able to strike a more positive note and reject this negative attitude which I feel has done much to harm the Report.
There is a special matter in the Hall Report about which I should like my right hon. Friend to say a word. That is the suggested inquiry into air freight. I was glad to hear from an Answer given to a Question last week that the Air Licensing Board is to carry out this inquiry. I hope my right hon. Friend will give details of the method of working and will not allow B.E.A. entirely to monopolise the inquiry and place its dead hand upon it. Can it be made much wider? I hope the Home Secretary will be able to arrange the participation of the firm of Short Brothers & Harland in the inquiry.
In the debate on the Address on Monday, 5th November, the Leader of the House, when winding up, had quite a lot to say in answer to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr). In drawing to the end of his remarks, my right hon. Friend said:In my view, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South, asked the key question, namely: is this enough? Is this the last word? Let me say quite flatly, no, it is not. We recognise that none of these additional measures will, of itself, solve the problem, and we shall not be satisfied until, in the closest consultation with all the Ministries concerned and particularly with the Northern Ireland Government, we have found a much better and, we hope, lasting solution 1479 to this intractable problem."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th November, 1962; Vol. 666, c. 731.]I take those words as encouragement. Perhaps in those words my right hon. Friend has given some hostages to fortune. I hope that the Home Secretary will be able to say more about what was in the mind of the Leader of the House and what further measures can be taken.
I now come to the Amendment in my name and the names of four hon. Friends, which seeks to add to the Government Motion:and urges Her Majesty's Government, in co-operation with the Government of Northern Ireland, to set up a permanent Joint Committee of Ministers whose first task would be to formulate and implement proposals for a five year development plan aimed at making a substantial reduction in unemployment by the end of that period.I assume, Mr. Speaker, that this Amendment is not being called, but I should like to refer to it in passing.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I am not sure that these things work together. No doubt the hon. Member may say something but not necessarily refer to the Amendment covering grounds which would have been covered had it been selected, which it is not.
§ Mr. Stratton Mills
I simply pass it by, saying that it is a private and unofficial Amendment in the names not of all Northern Ireland Members but of some of us who feel that there is a certain gap in Ministerial responsibility concerning Northern Ireland. The point which had been in our minds, and which I think is very relevant to the debate, is the question of who is responsible for reducing unemployment in Northern Ireland. One cannot help feeling that over the years the presence of a separate Parliament at Stormont has led to a feeling at Westminster that the problem can be shuffled off to Stormont. I think there is certain evidence in that direction. Passing the buck is one of the oldest games in politics. I believe Harry Truman, when President of the United States of America, had on his desk a little plaque saying, "The buck stops here". Such are my thoughts about this Amendment.
I ask the Home Secretary to cast his eyes over and to consider reviewing the 1480 overall system of Ministerial and Government responsibility between the two Governments. The situation in which the Home Secretary is directly responsible for Northern Ireland as a senior member of the Cabinet is in my view a good idea. I should not wish it to be interfered with, but I wonder whether there is not now a case for having a Minister of State solely responsible for Northern Ireland under the Home Secretary.
Such a Minister, I suggest, might sit in the House of Lords so that he would be able to get around much more both in England and in Northern Ireland. There is a respectable precedent for this in Wales. Such a Minister would be essentially a person with a Northern Ireland background. On many occasions he might regularly attend Northern Ireland Cabinet meetings by invitation. I think the system which operated before 1921, in which the Chief Secretary for Ireland had a foot on either side of the Irish Sea, is one to which in some measure we should attempt to return.
§ Mr. Stratton Mills
My right hon. Friend might also look at the idea suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South of a permanent joint committee of Ministers from Stormont and Westminster who would meet regularly. They could meet sometimes in Belfast and sometimes in London. I do not define too closely the Ministers on this side who would be members, but there are certain obvious ones who would be involved. The essential principal is that there would be joint responsibility for reducing unemployment. At the moment there is a vacuum to a certain extent. Responsibility would rest fairly and squarely with that committee. The first task of the committee should be to formulating a five-year development plan for Northern Ireland aimed at making a substantial reduction in employment in that period. If an extra 3.000 jobs a year could be provided by the direct initiative of that Committee over a five-year period, 15,000 jobs would be provided and unemployment would be brought down to about 3½ per cent. as an interim measure.
1481 My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mrs. McLaughlin) will expand in greater detail the idea of the development plan.
§ Mr. Loughlin
The hon. Member must not say things like that. The prerogative of selecting speakers in this House rests in the Chair.
§ Mr. Stratton Mills
Let me phrase it another way. If my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West succeeds in catching your eye, Mr. Speaker, she will, I hope, enlarge upon the idea of the five-year development plan. I hope that I have satisfied the procedural niceties in the mind of the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin).
The essential idea of the joint committee of Ministers would be to put the ultimate responsibility of reducing unemployment upon the committee, its main object being not to accept the present situation but to make a positive contribution to solving Northern Ireland's economic problems.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank McLeavy (Bradford, East)
I should like, first, to associate myself with the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) and with the views of the hon. Member for Belfast, North, (Mr. Stratton Mills) concerning the disappointment which arises from the report of the Joint Working Party. It may well be that to appoint a committee of civil servants to examine a report upon such a serious industrial situation was unwise. I should like to have seen the appointment of a committee of industrial experts who by experience and training were capable of giving both a short-term and a long-term assessment of the problem.
The problem is one of ever-increasing unemployment of both skilled and unskilled workers, particularly in shipbuilding and the aircraft industry. The Report draws attention to the fall-off of employment in agriculture, shipbuilding, aircraft and textiles when employment 1482 in these industries in Britain is declining. The greater percentage of unemployment in Northern Ireland may be due to a number factors which are not common to Britain.
The suggestion in the Report that the encouragement of migration should be regarded as one of a composite mixture of measures to alleviate unemployment is one which, I trust, nobody, on either side of the House, will accept. The workers of Northern Ireland, like those of the remainder of Britain, do not look kindly upon being uprooted from their homes, their friends and their country. They feel that work could be found if a real effort were made. The responsibility rests clearly upon the Government, and it is a responsibility which they have evaded far too long.
The longer the delay in arresting the growth of unemployment, the more difficult will the problem become. Unemployment increases other problems. The fall in purchasing power creates depression in a wide sector of industry. The Government are allowing unemployment to grow, not only in Northern Ireland but throughout Britain. Unless immediate steps are taken to reverse the trend, industrial decline will result and it will become beyond our control.
The prosperity of Northern Ireland is bound up with that of Britain. The two cannot be separated. We are making a drive for greater productivity. We cannot allow men with skill and training to waste away in unemployment. The success of our economy depends upon the full use of our man power. The battle for success during the coming years will be won in the workshops of the nation. I urge the Government to act without undue delay.
I believe that on both sides of the House there is a sincere feeling that the unemployment problem in Northern Ireland and elsewhere should be tackled severely by the Government. There is nothing in any action which the Government have taken, either in Northern Ireland or elsewhere in the British Isles, which convinces me that they realise the seriousness of the problem. The older hon. Members of the House can cast their minds back to the periods of great unemployment. We hope and pray that for the sake of the future prosperity of 1483 the nation, for the sake of the happiness and well-being of our young people, that will never recur.
If we are to prevent the continued growth of unemployment and its development into a greater unemployment problem, we can do so only by planning the economy of the nation. I know that arguments have been flung from one side of the Chamber to the other about the term "planning". No business, whether it is a great State enterprise or a private concern, could possibly have been successful without a measure of wide and extensive planning. The Government must realise that unless we plan the nation's economy, we shall not prevent periods of unemployment and, possibly, greater disaster for the nation.
We talk nowadays about our entry into the Common Market. We are told that there will be greater opportunities for competition. We have been told that British industry must roll up its sleeves to face competition from the Common Market countries. We shall not be successful in this competition if we allow the men who have the skill and capacity to produce what Britain needs to rot away on the unemployment heap.
We must consider this as a most urgent matter for the nation. The economy should be planned in such a way, in co-operation with all sectors, that we ensure the continued prosperity of the nation and wipe out the unemployment spots in Northern Ireland and in every pant of the British Isles. Let us plan so that prosperity may be brought to every individual in the country. It is our duty to do so and by so doing we shall achieve something which will enable our country to be even greater in the future. We have set an example to the world by our industries and our social services. Even our Parliamentary system has proved an example of haw to deal with the common needs of society and to extend the fellowship of man. We have had our differences politically, but, even so, we have worked together for the development of our local government and national government systems.
The same spirit of co-operation and sacrifice must today permeate the Government and industry in order that we may ensure that this problem of unem- 1484 ployment is nothing more than a passing phase in the industrial life of the country. Let us face our future with determination and ensure that our country shall be greater than ever before.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Mrs. Patricia McLaughlin (Belfast, West)
The opportunity we have had of discussing this very important Report is one which all who have a real and genuine interest in and a long-term determination to promote the welfare of Northern Ireland will welcome very much. The Report has been useful in bringing the facts regarding Northern Ireland, the hard facts of Northern Ireland's economic problems, before the notice of the public both here and in Ulster. Nevertheless, it is true to say that our feeling is one of disappointment because no answer is offered to the problems facing Ulster.
This Report is a very realistic survey of those problems, but it is not a practical study of the means of solving them. Thus we are very disappointed and we shall have to find some other solution rather than relying solely on the Report. I suppose that this was bound to be the sort of Report which would result from a work study undertaken by civil servants. The majority of the suggestions are accepted by a minority of the working party but were not accepted in general, and I believe that we have an opportunity to re-examine these matters to see whether they were rejected for political reasons rather than practical reasons.
The main snag about the Working Party is that its Report has merely restated the known problems. It presents them clearly. The Working Party has taken a great deal of time—far too long in my opinion—in doing so. Great hopes were raised. We felt that it would provide answers to the problems which we had found impossible to solve ourselves. Unfortunately those hopes have been dashed by the content of the Report. It rejects practically all of the positive suggestions which were advanced and fails to suggest any real answers to the problems of underemployment. The Report has largely defined the limits of economic planning in Northern Ireland and is very much the "mixture as before".
1485 The hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) referred to the word "planning" as if it were an answer to all problems. He talked about the need for ideal industries in Northern Ireland. I believe that those who have made a long-term study of the problems of Northern Ireland, including the members of this Working Party, are not quite so utterly stupid as would appear from the remarks of the hon. Gentleman. Planning, as such, is not a word sacred to any one type of philosophy nor to any particular political party. Nor, indeed, to any one report or group of persons. Nor is there anything new in the idea of finding the right industries for Northern Ireland or for many other areas. That idea is not the prerogative of one school of thought.
Over the years Northern Ireland has sought to attract the right kind of industry; to replace the traditional industries, which declined because of a change in the pattern of industry, and to find jobs for those who had worked in the traditional industries by attracting new industries which would provide employment without creating problems in material terms. A number of industrialists have investigated the possibility of coming to Northern Ireland and whether it was practicable to set up a factory there. They sometimes have decided that the cost of transferring materials would be too great. The idea of a more or less unlimited amount of good quality labour attracted them. But against that they had to balance transport costs. So I would remind the House that when we are talking about planning, and when we discuss Northern Ireland from the point of view of the provision of ideal industries, there must still be found an ideal solution to the problem presented by the presence of the Irish Sea and the difficulties of transport.
This was not a matter to be discussed especially by the Working Party. There is the House Committee which is studying it. But we must remember this problem if we want to be useful and helpful in our discussions regarding Northern Ireland; I have no doubt that everyone wishes to be that, and in their efforts to solve the problem of underemployment in Northern Ireland, they will refuse to accept this Report as the final answer, as I do.
1486 As I said, the Report largely defines the economic planning limitations in Northern Ireland and prescribes a mixture which is very much as before. I am sure that most of us will not accept it as the final answer. As the House will know, one of the main proposals was that there should be a 10s. subsidy for mortgages in new industries, but this was not accepted by the majority of the Working Party because, I believe, it was felt that a subsidy would not last long under the Treaty of Rome.
I believe that this Report has been drawn up with the possibility of our entry into the Common Market in mind, and as the long-term method of solving our problem, or at least of putting it fairly into perspective. I can understand that a 10s. subsidy may not be a real inducement to industry, but the extension of a forthcoming subsidy would at least help and certainly be an improvement for the industries concerned. The continuance of the 75 per cent. derating mentioned in the Report is obviously useful, but derating has its dangers and shortcomings as have all long-term continuous subsidies.
The most negative result of the Report is that apparently Sir Robert Hall and his colleagues expected us to accept a definite level of unemployment of up to 7 per cent. This we cannot and will not accept. We shall endeavour strenuously to reduce it by every means in our power, and we shall expect the full support of this House in that matter. I believe that we can effect a reduction. Many people are appalled at the thought that any party of responsible people should appear to accept this negative attitude. It means a man of 45 years or over—this is constantly happening—who is unskilled and who losses his job, has virtually no opportunity of regaining permanent employment. This is the situation which we are facing and which we have to overcome.
There is the permanent pressure created by the increasing population of young people growing up and leaving school who are looking for jobs. If there is any temporary recession and they lose their jobs they have little opportunity to get permanent employment again. This is a very difficult problem. I wish to make clear that I believe that the young people must have 1487 a chance. We must give them the best start in life that we can without danger of the older people who have an equal right, and need, to have their own jobs secured.
There has been much negative discussion this afternoon. There has been much talk about what has not been done. I say enough of negative talk and enough of stressing the problem. The Hall Report stressed it thoroughly. We must now turn to the work which must be done to solve the problem in the light of what is said in the Report. Paragraphs 64 and 65 of the Report contain a very clear statement of the situation. Paragraph 65 says this:There are strong political and social arguments in favour of aid to Northern Ireland. It is not for us to elaborate the political arguments.This statement leave it open to us in the House to elaborate these arguments and find a satisfactory conclusion.The social argument is that Northern Ireland has had, ever since the beginning of her existence as a separate political entity, a much higher rate of unemployment (and a lower income per head) than the rest of the United Kingdom. The political and social arguments are combined in the argument that the prime necessity is to put more men and women in the region to work or to keep them in work, and that Ulstermen should not be compelled to leave the region to find work.I have quoted paragraph 65 first, but paragraph 64 is also very relevant. It deals with unemployment benefit and National Assistance grants. It says that the extra resources which are needed to put people to work should be outweighed by the value of the product of that work. This is an important aspect which I hope to develop later.
The suggestion contained in the Amendment standing in the names of my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) and other of my hon. Friends, which has not been called, has some merit. We must remember that in the past there has always been very close co-operation between the Government here and the Government at Stormont. There has never been any suggestion of a lack of co-operation at Ministerial level. However, the idea of a continuing and continuous committee is a modern one and is suitable to modern times. When Ministers come from Northern Ireland to discuss things 1488 with Ministers here, it leads to renewed hope at home, perhaps to a raising of hopes that something new is in the wind. At times of local crisis it leads people to think that something urgent is being done. The rights and duties of each Government and the rights and duties of the public would be better served by a continuing committee which, if it had a small quorum, would be able to continue to discuss and consider matters affecting Northern Ireland in conjunction with the rest of the United Kingdom as and when they arose without any special meetings being convened. We must continue to suggest this until it is agreed to.
I know that the Government here and the Government at Stormont think that their lines of communication are very clear. This is not understood by the public. A great measure of confidence would be instilled in the people of Northern Ireland if a continuing committee could be set up and be seen to work regularly and steadily and not only when matters of urgent necessity arose.
One of the ideas brought forward by the Hall Committee might be implemented. I believe that there is considerable merit in the suggestion that there should be an economic advisory council. It is necessary for Governments to obtain the advice of people in industry, people at the working end of things. The Hall Report adjures the economic adviser to the Government of Northern Ireland to keep in close contact with both Governments and with what is going on in the economy of Northern Ireland. Although there is only a rather vague mention of an economic advisory council, the Hall Committee has brought it forward in a way which we cannot ignore.
If such an advisory economic committee were to be set up, with persons in industry on both sides of the water with knowledge of local problems in Northern Ireland and with knowledge of the general trends in the United Kingdom who could advise and keep in touch with the permanent joint committee of Ministers of both Governments, we should be in a much better position to anticipate industrial trends, to anticipate needs for development, and to find an opportunity to offer Northern Ireland's well worth while possibilities to industrialists when they are likely to need to expand.
1489 This could also be used in the other sense, to find out how far Northern Ireland can expand at a certain time, at a certain rate, and with certain skilled labour. The development of these two co-ordinating bodies would do much to solve our problems. The word "planning", which does not belong to any party or to any particular philosophy, can be used in this context without it being a dirty word either from our side of the House or from the opposite side of the House. I hope that the word "planning" will be considered only in a relevant sense.
We must remember that the United Kingdom needs to increase her overall production by at least 4 per cent. This will not be easily achieved. We shall have to struggle for it. In our tight economy we shall have to work very hard for it. If the present standard of living in the whole of the United Kingdom is to be maintained and developed, we must have this increased production. A Government inquiry will be examining the dangers and difficulties involved in certain parts of the United Kingdom losing their labour potential because it is all congregating in the Midlands and the Southern regions of England. What we are trying to get at is how to alternate this and get the work to go out rather than the people to gather in.
In Northern Ireland we have the space. We have the people. We have the intelligence. We have the will, which is perhaps most important of all. We can offer great help in this need to increase overall production. I must make it clear that we cannot do this in every single industry, because there are some industries where the proportion of the cost of transport and raw materials to labour makes it uneconomic. However, in many industries we can help. We must make it much better understood and known how determined we are to offer ourselves.
It must be remembered in this context that the rate of increase in production in Northern Ireland has been higher than the average in the rest of Great Britain over the past few years. Despite all our difficulties and problems, we have managed to achieve that. Our rate of production has increased more quickly than it has in the rest of the United Kingdom. This proves that we are determined and that our people are 1490 determined and would be worthy employees of those who come to use the amenities of Northern Ireland for their industrial production. We must think again of what the committee of Ministers might be able to do.
§ Mr. John McCann (Rochdale)
The hon. Lady has been dealing at length with a problem in which other parts of the country which have skilled labour but no work are interested. Perhaps the hon. Lady will develop the point. If industry will not go to Northern Ireland, what would she do to take it there?
§ Mrs. McLaughlin
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. If he will wait a little longer he will find that I shall come to that point in due course.
I was about to say something more about the Committee of Ministers and how we think that the advice it could receive from the economic advisory council and from outside Government sources on both sides of industry would be helpful. There is no definite conclusion in the Hall Report, but paragraph 225 contains these words:The provision of general economic advice to the Government of Northern Ireland is important … The establishment of an economic advisory body of persons drawn from outside the Government service should be considered.When it is being considered we want to know what more it can do than what I have already mentioned.
The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. McCann) asked what we would do if industry will not come to Northern Ireland of its own accord. I ask him in turn what anybody can do or what any political party or Government can do if an industry is not in a state of healthy expansion. If industry is expanding, it must find the place and the means to expand. When industry is expanding it is entirely dependent on the type of industry whether it can go further afield or whether it cannot afford the transport costs.
We are slightly handicapped today because we have not yet received the Report from the House Committee which is studying the transport problems and particularly those affecting Northern Ireland across the Channel Transport. If we had known the results we would 1491 have been in an easier position today to discuss how best we might help to encourage industries to come to Northern Ireland. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will look again at this himself. We have had great success in attracting industry; in fact we have had enormous success. Do not let anyone say that we have not, because today we have such a wide variety in such a small area that I do not believe that any other part of the United Kingdom can match it.
We enjoy—that is the right word—the benefits of industries coming from America, Canada and Great Britain, all of which appear to be equally happy and all of which appear to be making a reasonably satisfactory profit and return out of their ventures in Northern Ireland. We have one or two snags, but, as with everything else, one hears about the ones that go wrong and does not hear about the hundreds that are successful. If anyone wants to know about the success of industry in Northern Ireland, I recommend him to look at the Chamber of Commerce Reports and also the Northern Ireland Government Reports to see how many jobs have been provided, how many new industries are there and how many industries are waiting what may be the advent of this country into the Common Market which will, without doubt, give us an impetus in Northern Ireland by increasing the number of industries which will settle there in order to be ready to meet the tremendous developing market in Europe.
We know that at the present time our own problem in Northern Ireland cannot be allowed a set back and cannot wait or be bypassed. We cannot afford that, and we do not accept that the Hall Committee's Report is the final answer to all this. So we have an urgent need. Taking into account that overall Britain has an expanding economy and that we must help in this and push on, then we must look to see how in the next few months or years we can attract further industries.
It is suggested in the Hall Report that we should not have any larger capital investment grant, and no larger once-for-all grants to new industries and so on. It was suggested that we should not have a greatly increased programme 1492 in public works. In fact the only thing that it suggested that we should develop was housing, and I am sure that every hon. Member will agree with me that housing is the most human of all problems. Following the Report this will be tackled in Northern Ireland just as fast and adequately as it can be. I believe that this Report and the people who have studied to produce it have dealt with this problem from a very narrow angle; in fact they were wearing blinkers, and this narrowed down their ideas to such an extent that it has not been finally successful.
We have this potential and the determination to meet our problems, and there are certain things that we must do. The idea of increasing public works is something about which the Chamber of Commerce Report comments as—not being likely to bring about development of additional exports.I believe that I should not be turned down simply because it is not agreed to in the Report of the Committee. I also quote from the Chamber of Commerce Editorial on the Hall Committee—The recommendations of the Toothill Report having been turned down—this was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North earlier—it clearly believes"—this is in fact the Government—that enough has been done to meet the social needs of areas suffering from economic difficulties and that there should be no further interference with economic forces which are tending to concentrate a particular population in a prosperous belt stretching from London to the Midlands.At the same time, we know from this comment that the Chamber of Commerce is dealing with it from a revenue-producing angle. It believes that much more should be done in terms of public works and suggests that this should be looked at again in the context of business life and in the light of how much is paid out in unemployment benefit to people who have no work to do and who would gladly do the work if it were there.
So we want to know why this is turned down. Admittedly we have the problem of skilled men, and I must quote this in passing because it is relevant and is used 1493 in the argument in the Hall Committee's Report:When the big pay-off in the Belfast shipyards took place it was a matter of great concern to us all. It was interesting to note that it was the semi-skilled and unskilled men who could not get employment generally in other places.I am only quoting one particular skilled trade which I know personally. I do not know of any joiners paid off in the shipyards in a considerable number who have not been absorbed by the increasing amount of work done in the building industry, and so we know that if we can expand public works in different directions we may be able to take up many more of the unskilled and semi-skilled men who today have lost their jobs and have no hope of regaining them unless we increase again the traditional industries, which seems unlikely at the moment, or find them some alternative method of employment.
The need for public works is very obvious. I know that it will not produce profits and the same development in the economy that new industries will do, but at the same time in Northern Ireland it could create a climate of opinion and of thought and an attitude of bringing people out of this feeling of, "I have lost my job, I have no future." It seems absolutely crazy that in this day and age we should pay about £3,600,000 in the year 1961–62, which with the increased number of population coming on to the unemployment lists and the increased benefits rates, will be increased by £1 million in the current year. It seems crazy that we should allow people to be in misery today doing nothing when we can, through public works, do a great deal to take up the slack of unemployment and give these men a job and at the same time develop a situation whereby there are more attractions to industries which is the long continuing answer to the problem—industries which will bring with them all the benefits of full employment, good work and products well-turned out produced in a healthy community.
On top of this the housing drive already mentioned has been accepted by the Government on the recommendation of the Hall Committee as an essential part of the economy—
§ Mr. Loughlin
I am glad that the hon. Lady raised this point. I think that the 1494 position of public works is very important to Northern Ireland. Would she not also agree that one of the effects of public works development or expansion is a snowballing effect, as was found in the United States of America in the Roosevelt New Deal period?
§ Mrs. McLaughlin
I have not got to the stage of dealing with this in terms of Northern Ireland, but I do not think that it can have quite that effect. We need in Northern Ireland considerably more road development. We could do with more tourists development, and I know that the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Currie) will be developing this if he catches Mr. Speaker's eye. But, in terms of amenities and resources it is impossible at the moment in a small community like ours to produce many extra amenities purely on what could be drawn from the rates, because it would put too much cost on local authorities. This can be looked at in terms of employment as well as in terms of amenity developments. We need more roads because railways are being closed and we are having fewer lines than before. We need to develop the rural areas considerably more. If we could do a lot of this development and could look at it as an overall picture, I believe that much could be done, but the Northern Ireland Government have very limited powers in this matter. If we had our Ministerial Joint Committee and if it was possible to do some long-term planning, I believe that this need not be held up, discussion could go on, and it could be taken up fairly quickly. This would not be an enormous problem and it would take up many of the hundreds of people who are standing about our streets and countryside. Here again we have to consider how much this will help to attract industries to this part of the United Kingdom.
It is always interesting to note that people go where others have been, and even industry is comparatively sheep-like in that respect. Industry wants a satisfactory outlet, and a place where it can get labour, where costs are reasonably satisfactory, and which is free from the usual type of difficulties of strikes, hold-ups, bottlenecks in transport, and so on. That means that we have everything to offer in this way, and very little to hold us back, but we always appear 1495 to be asking and begging people to come to us whereas, with a programme of public works and the creation of this tremendous drive we could create a climate which would attract more people than have come already—
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
I have the greatest sympathy with the Northern Ireland problems that the hon. Lady is presenting to the House, but would not the solution appear to lie in the appointment of one of the Northern Ireland Members as President of the Board of Trade for Northern Ireland in order to look after Northern Ireland's problems exclusively?
§ Mrs. McLaughlin
The hon. and learned Member is quite entitled to that view, but I believe that having, as we have today, a very much wider range of Ministers, and having the whole Government interested, we do better than if we had only one Minister with a narrower responsibility.
In 1951 our unemployment rate was 6.1 per cent. Today, with a very much larger working population, we have many more in employment than ever before. In October, for instance, we had 2,284 fewer unemployed than in September, and this year we have 4,299 fewer on our unemployment register than at the same period last year. This we have achieved despite all the "dismal johnnies" and difficulties—
§ Mr. John McCann
But what is the percentage? We know that in 1952 it went up to 10 per cent., and it has varied between 6 per cent. and 10 per cent. since. The last level was 7½ per cent.
§ Mrs. McLaughlin
If the hon. Member is really interested, the present figure is 6.4 per cent., but I do not think that percentage points are relevant in tackling this problem. To get the figure reduced to the national level is our object, not arguing points of percentage. Ten years ago, the figure was 6.1 per cent., with a very much smaller number both of those on the unemployment register and of those coming on the register from the upsurge of young people in an increasing population. We have increased the number of jobs and decreased the amount of unemployment. We need more jobs, but what we have done has 1496 been accomplished m the face of all the difficulties of the shipbuilding and aircraft industries.
This public works programme would considerably help to reduce the unemployment figure, but it will not reduce the profitable economy that we must aim for, and achieve. Much could be done to help towards this economy. We could have package deals with Wales in respect of transport and touring holidays, selling this idea in the United States and elsewhere before people ever leave their homes. We can also do more in regard to air freight. At present a party of two and a small car can travel to and from the south of England to the Continent for about £21. If we could do something like that, it would do much for our economy. We hope that the House Committee can help us to find a way to solve the problems presented by the Irish Sea.
There is a great deal of merit in regional co-operation. As we all know only too well, there are many other areas in the United Kingdom that need to solve their unemployment problem, too. Our problem is to get more jobs available, and to provide a climate for industry and development rather than to move people to jobs in what is already an overcrowded area, which not only does not solve the problem as a whole, but creates more problems.
Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom which has this unusual and specialist problem, which the Irish Sea presents, of being separated in a sense entirely different from Scotland, Wales and all the other areas needing special attention, so we have to harp on it more often than people might wish, because it is so important. In spite of the co-ordinated programme in the United Kingdom, in which we should like to join, we still need individual and specialist treatment.
I ask the Government how, if we cannot solve the problems of Northern Ireland, will we cope with the enormous problem of entry into the Common Market and taking into it with us numbers of people who are not yet employed but who may—we hope will—be employed when the new development takes place. We must tackle this problem before entering the Common Market, so that we do not carry with us unemployed persons who want work but 1497 have a fully-equipped economy to tackle this tremendous challenge, which should be so worth while.
Training schemes for the young will help us. Day-release schemes, and training schemes such as those undertaken already by the aircraft industry, are very important, but we then come up against a big difficulty. I represent an entirely industrial constituency, and I know and recognise that the trade union situation is difficult. Nevertheless, men say to me, "I am skilled, I have done my apprenticeship to a certain trade, but as I cannot get a union card I cannot get a job as a skilled man". The trade union has to protect the men it already has, and refuses other men their cards.
The unions, therefore, are naturally cagey about the number of apprenticeships offered, and we must tackle that situation without there being any sense of one side of industry against another. That is a major problem, and one that really worries us. If we are to have more training schemes, we must be certain that the chaps who are trained will get the opportunity of having their training recognised.
I can see the union point of view—that if they recognise too many men there will be too many of their members looking for the jobs, but if we are to increase our skilled labour from the young we must accept that as something to be solved—
§ Mr. Richard Marsh (Greenwich)
Could the hon. Lady give some indication of what trade she is now talking about, because this is something I have never heard of?
§ Mrs. McLaughlin
I quote such people as electricians, and others that I know of in my constituency. I do not say this in any sense of complaint, but state it as something that must be dealt with. We know that this is one of the major matters which will prevent us developing training schemes, and we must have sensible agreement on this. Our industrial output is increasing rapidly, and if it is to continue increasing rapidly we must train more young people by making apprenticeships more widely available to them.
Industrialists say that they are hamstrung because they are only allowed to take so many apprentices. That is a 1498 matter for negotiation, and something which might be solved more rapidly by the work of this advisory economic council and this co-ordinating committee of Ministers than in any other way. Those people would be able to get all the necessary information from all sides in industry and, in particular, from the trade unions.
I have already quoted our present unemployment rate of 6.4 per cent, and I shall not go into the details again. What we have done has been achieved against a background of great difficulty, and only the combined determination of Government and people has enabled us to keep the figure as low.
Self-help is important. The Hall Committee has virtually thrown the whole problem back again. It has said that Northern Ireland must pull itself up by its bootstraps, and continue to have the aids to industry that are already available. It is true that the Committee puts forward one or two minor suggestions, but we must remember that, with a net annual increase of working population of about 6,000, we cannot pull ourselves up by our bootstraps alone. That is not possible. We need more industry and, in particular, more exporting industry because we cannot afford to absorb in our area the output of all the new industry we require. Despite all the aids which have been mentioned before which equal about 9 per cent. of the gross expenditure on all supply services and on which the Working Party did not recommend any increase, we will still have a big battle to fight if we are to do something worthwhile.
We hope that the House Committee will show us where we can do something to help. But we need more co-ordination between United Kingdom policy generally and that for Northern Ireland so that we can get on more easily with the job. We need more industry on our doorstep. There is no time to waste, and all the things that have been suggested, such as more processed foods and the using of more local products to produce goods of a high quality, are all extremely interesting and important, but sporadic efforts just will not do.
Thus we need the Economic Advisory Council and the Joint Ministerial Committee, and we need them quickly. The 1499 five-year plan as suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North is designed merely to draw attention to the fact that one cannot do something helpful and say "That is all." One must do more and, when that is done, do still more in an effort to reach a final aim. To this aim I believe that all the local authorities in Northern Ireland should be prepared to produce their plans and needs for the next five years so that they can be discussed in Northern Ireland and in London. After such discussions, it can be seen how much is feasible, how much can be done. In all this we must always remember that there are too many unemployed doing nothing in Northern Ireland and that this is not only bad for the people concerned but it is costing the country a tremendous amount of money.
We need more investment in Northern Ireland. At present we have a few large public companies and a very large number of limited companies whose capital has not increased since the war in the way necessary to produce adequate financing to meet increased costs and other forms of development. This is all stated in the Report of the Joint Working Party, so I need not detail the points but mention paragraph 191 as being of great importance in considering development.
Please today do not let us fall into the morass of misery and declare that nothing can be done. Never let it be said that the civil servants could produce a report that we were prepared to accept as final and to let the matter rest there. We should be able to deal with these problems, for while they produced a report according to their terms of reference, those terms meant that they had blinkers on while they were going into these important matters affecting Northern Ireland's future.
Let us say that we are not satisfied with the present position but agree that much has been done within certain limits. Let us continue to stress the fact that we are determined that Northern Ireland's economy shall be extended and the rate of unemployment reduced until in the next few years, Northern Ireland will have a level of unemployment similar to that of the United Kingdom and then we shall try to pass that level and, eventually, beat it.
§ 7.54 p.m.
§ Dr. Jeremy Bray (Middlesbrough, West)
It is a great pleasure to follow the hon. Lady the Member for Belfast, West (Mrs. McLaughlin). I found her speech moving and sensible, but I cannot for the life of me think why she is going to vote with hon. Members opposite. Surely she and her hon. Friends realise that as long as they go on voting for the present Government everything they say will be completely meaningless and useless. I can only hope that one day the hon. Lady will be a Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade so that she will be able to discover why so many of her suggestions, admirable though they are, never come from the Government.
I welcome the debate because it reveals the complete failure of the Government to tackle the regional problem in this country. There has been a tendency in the past for areas of high unemployment to regard each other as competitors for the limited largesse of the Government, each concession to one area being regarded as a setback for all the others. I detect nothing of this attitude among my hon. Friends in the Labour Opposition in the Northern Ireland Parliament. They are the representatives of the areas of the most persistent unemployment in the United Kingdom and they represent the spearhead of the attack on the Government for their failure to tackle these regional problems.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) said that Northern Ireland was unique in that its problems could not be tackled by treating the area as a development district, while in the remainder of the United Kingdom the development districts provided a satisfactory method. This is certainly not true in the North-East or in Scotland. Here large areas—areas equal to Northern Ireland—are all scheduled as development districts and are all suffering from the same problems as Northern Ireland.
The Report we are debating came from a working party of officials who had themselves been dealing with policy towards Northern Ireland. It is not surprising, therefore, that they found that the tenor of their conclusions was that the Government had been working on the right lines. What is surprising is the 1501 confusion apparent in their argument. The hon. Member for Belfast, West described it as a realistic analysis and survey. I do not agree with her. In paragraph 15 it is said that net output per operative in 1949 in Northern Ireland was 73 per cent. of that in the rest of the United Kingdom as a whole, and 68 per cent. in 1957.
In the next paragraph this is identified with lower productivity. It implies a certain clodhoppishness on the part of the Irish worker which I find as offensive as it is unjustified. However, this seems to be the attitude of the Government towards all workers in areas of high unemployment; an assumption which seems to lie at the root of their policy towards these areas—an assumption by which they think that they are dealing in terms of charity and not economics. The workers are "zealous"—yes, "disciplined"—yes, but less productive and, by implication, stupid. This seems to be the view of the Government towards workers in all areas of high unemployment. This would matter less if it were not for the sort of impression the Government make on many industrialists who would consider going to Northern Ireland.
There is no evidence whatever for this point of view towards the Irish worker. Indeed, the very authorities quoted by the Report specifically rebut this view. After 25 pages of analysis, Isles and Cuthbert observed:… comparative values of net output per worker are not a measure of relative productivity.They pointed out that the distribution of workers between industries, the capital employed in the different industries and the different buying and selling arrangements and prices all tended to reduce net output per worker in Northern Ireland.
Dennison made the same point. Isles and Cuthbert gave several estimates of output per worker, but the Report gives the lowest figure and draws a moral implication from it. I hope that the Minister will dissociate himself from this view of the workers of Northern Ireland, which is so much at variance with the experience of industrialists who know there is parity between the workers of Northern Ireland and those of the rest of England in this respect.
1502 Paragraph 28 of the Report attempts to estimate how suitable the unemployed are for the kind of work that is or might be available. The hon. Member for Belfast, West mentioned that the Report said that the 26,000 unemployed under the age of 45 together with the 1,500 unemployed craftsmen over the age of 45 gave an indication of those who might be suitable for training for new industries.
But what is to happen to the 12,000 over 45? Surely it is borne out by experience of persistent unemployment in other areas that it is the old, the blind, the halt and the lame who lose their jobs and stay unemployed. They are pushed out of the bottom of the labour market and are made more unemployable. Also when new industries are introduced it is not these people who are employed by the new firms. On the contrary, the new industries suck the more able out of other employment leaving room in the economy as a whole for the less able.
The Report itself, in paragraph 26, remarks that… there is a tendency for men who have left to take up employment in Great Britain to return if jobs become available in Northern Ireland.Why, then, lower the sights for jobs for Northern Ireland? The inconsistency into which the writers of this Report have been led by their pseudo-moral judgments, reflecting the outlook of this Government, shows again in their discussion of possible measures of aid. They say that… a subsidy for increases in employment would tend to attract less desirable types of firm which would invest little but would plan to operate for only so long as they received the labour subsidy.Perhaps so, but earlier, in paragraph 69, the Report says that:… new industries should preferably be labour-intensive rather than capital-intensive.Then there is this final sell-out:It would be unrealistic to expect that Northern Ireland can in the foreseeable future reduce unemployment to as low a level as that in Great Britain.What good can come of such defeatism? The Government should not have sheltered behind the appointment of such a committee. Ministerial responsibility has been brushed aside and the Report bears the imprint of officials of the Treasury, the Home Office, the Board 1503 of Trade, the Ministeries of Labour, Agriculture, Transport and Power. I find this Report a shocking indictment of the state into which the Government have allowed the public service to sink. When the party on this side of the House forms a Government we shall expect higher standards of competence, and I am sure that the public service will provide them.
In Northern Ireland we do not face a temporary failure of Government policy which will be put right when expansion resumes. The hon. Lady suggested that when expansion gets going again we can have a direction of industry policy which will send industry to Northern Ireland. Present policy has no more than kept pace with the rising demand for jobs, and the Report holds out no prospect of a decrease in the proportion of the unemployed. The situation has been like this through boom and recession for many years, and the continuation of present measures will just not be enough.
Let us first set the objective. Surely it is full employment and a level of prosperity equal to anything in Britain. Why not? Will the Home Secretary say what his objectives are in Northern Ireland? Dare the Government go to the polls anywhere in Britain and aim at less? Then let us ask what measures are needed to achieve the ends we seek. Everyone is unanimous in saying that new industries must develop in Northern Ireland. In spite of the slighting remarks made about what my hon. Friend the Member for Newton said about getting the right industries there, it is certainly necessary that the right industries should be developed.
Arbitrary action, whether by direction of industry or stepping up financial inducements to an even higher level, may well be ineffective if they are undertaken in ignorance. I am full of admiration for such works as the report by Cuthbert and Isles, but they are plainly struggling within a totally inadequate framework of national and regional statistics. It is, for example, absurd not to be able to follow the variation of capital per worker in different industries and different regions. But, more important, is the framework and the outlook within which information is presented.
1504 Industry and Government need to be able to answer such questions as, Is it or is it not economic to move a production line for television sets from London to Belfast? Economic statistics are not there for us to philosophise about national aggregates which we can do nothing about. They are there to improve decision making, which is almost always a decision about a project in real terms affecting many aggregates.
I beg the Government to consider whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer may not be right, after all, when he says that the Treasury thinks too much in terms of financial totals and should sometimes consider the real resources available. It is true that until the Chancellor has licked the Government's statistical machine into shape we are all fumbling in the dark, but if we cannot prove ourselves right, the Government cannot prove us wrong.
The need for regional planning machinery has been mentioned. In the debate in the Northern Ireland Parliament the suggestion was made of planning machinery linked in a national framework with the N.E.D.C. Surely this is right, but has the Government's attitude been as forthcoming as it might have been? Has their attitude to the Toothill Report, for example, been forthcoming? Do the Northern Ireland Government, in saying that no such machine is necessary and that the local Government is in touch with the needs of the area, engender confidence in the ability of the Government to carry out the measures of planning that are needed? On the evidence of this Report they could not.
But regional and national planning machines on their own are not enough. Major decisions are taken on an industrial and not a regional basis. No real contact is now made between the Board of Trade, which is aware of the social problem, and industries, who are aware of the technical industrial problem, when it comes to a question of discussing industrial development certificates and the location of industry. There is no rapport beween the Board of Trade and industrialists.
The Government are right up to a point. There is a danger of destroying industry and enterprise by ill-informed 1505 meddling with its location. But the conclusion is to get informed, and not to leave industry alone to choke in ignorance of its future. We need industry commissions, relatively small bodies of men expert in the affairs of that industry, men who are authoritative and respected in the industry, who would be responsible for all questions of investment and location and taxation and the manifold fields in which the Government now act in ignorance. These could all be dealt with by these commissions.
The industry commissions would provide strong and effective links between the regional councils and industry. In location of industry problems firms would find themselves dealing with commissions which knew their problems and their background rather better than the firms themselves. We should have these dual organisations of regional councils and industrial commissions providing a framework within which it would be possible to tackle the problems of Northern Ireland.
Let us look to the Northern Ireland situation for an example of what is happening now. We have the pathetic case of Shorts, and I am sorry that the Minister of Aviation is not here. There was a picture of him sitting in the cockpit of the Belfast aircraft, giving the thumbs-up sign. Is this the way to plan an aircraft industry? Hon. Members should ask the people in Shorts whether they have been offered any framework by the Ministry of Aviation within which they can forecast the need for air transport in the future, the need for different sizes of package and different lengths of haul. They are left entirely on their own to argue their case in ignorance of the Government's outlook. Is this an effective basis for industrial expansion? It has cost Belfast very dear.
Organisational machinery, in itself, is certainly not enough, and the dual organisation would need tools, as the Government now need tools. The question of regulators was raised in the Report, and rejected. This question of the employment subsidy, or, putting it a different way, the regional variation of employers' National Insurance contributions, should be considered closely. The Government got its pay-roll tax wrong, but can they not look at some of 1506 the good ideas in it? It is not a short-term regulator, but why not impose differential increases in employers' contributions to discourage employers increasing employment in the South, by comparison with the North and Northern Ireland?
Again, why not have Purchase Tax regulators which are specific to the productions of particular areas? The Chancellor of the Exchequer was arguing this case for the motor car industry when he said that a mammoth reduction of Purchase Tax would help employment in Merseyside and Scotland, but he omitted to point out that of the 150,000 extra jobs which the Purchase Tax reduction might produce only 20,000 jobs could possibly be created on Merseyside and in Scotland, and that the other 130,000 would be created in London, Birmingham, Coventry and Oxford, where the total of the unemployment today in all those cities is only 50,000. Therefore, there would be only 50,000 people available to fill 130,000 jobs.
The Chancellor accepts the principle of specific area and industry Purchase Tax regulators, but will not use them effectively. Regulators—general, broad, countrywide or even area-wide—are not specific and effective enough. We need specific projects. This is always dismissed from the other side of the House with the glib remark that direction of industry implies direction of labour. Direction of whose labour? Presumably of the management, because they would be the people who would have to go to Northern Ireland to start up a new factory. I could name a dozen managers who have been barn, bred and educated in Northern Ireland, but who have been unable to get jobs there and who are longing to get back. Certainly, there are difficulties in a crude direction of industry policy—difficulties in the selection of industries and so on.
But the Government have a tool which they have not used and which has not yet been suggested. The most precious thing which they can give to an industrialist is knowledge of the future, which is worth a great deal mare than even a very large subsidy. Why not offer Government guarantees of sales? Let them consider the tremendous surge of 1507 spending which will came with the introduction of colour television. Let them announce, first, that Government factories to make colour television sets are to be located, say, in Northern Ireland, and that the sets are to be sold at much lower rates of Purchase Tax than any commercially manufactured sets. Then, let them offer the industry the right to go to Northern Ireland and operate in the Factories there themselves. Industry would go smartly enough, and I do not think that even the Government would say that this was being particularly tougher than they were in the case of the amalgamations in the aircraft industry. This is the way the Government determine the shape of economic development, whether in the authorisation of colour television or in the placing of aircraft orders.
Why do we not do it? The hon. Lady the Member for Belfast, West mentioned public works, and I am sure that she is right. These are needed urgently, but the people in Northern Ireland must remember that terrible wall round the reservoir in Silent Valley in the Mountains of Mourne, built by the unemployed in the twenties and thirties—a useless monument to the mismanagement of those years. Let us make sure that the public works that are undertaken are to create genuine expansion. But we cannot be sure of that, unless we have this much more fluent framework to regulate the relations between Government and industry.
This idea of a Standing Committee of Ministers is not good enough. Why do Ministers appoint Committees of civil servants? It is because they have not the time or experience to deal with problems at the level of technical expertise which is required. It needs an enormous development of the planning machinery which the Government have now begun to set up. When the "Neddy" Report comes out at the end of the year it will become obvious that the Government will not have the means by which to implement that Report. I hope that the first step they will take is to set up the machinery needed to tackle the vast human problem in regional development such as that in Northern Ireland.
§ Mrs. McLaughlin
With regard to what the hon. Gentleman has said con- 1508 cerning the wall round the Silent Valley, will he say whether he refers to the wall built at the time of the potato famine? If so, it is not relevant in the context of this discussion. Or is he referring to some wall which we do not know about? Any wall built round the Silent Valley was very necessary for containing water for the City of Belfast and other places, and was not built for any useless purpose. Further, and this is relevant to his comments earlier on, will he say why it is that during the period when his party was in power they did not succeed in reducing unemployment in Northern Ireland, which we all know is such a problem? Why was it not achieved then?
§ Mrs. McLaughlin
But there was planning of the economy under the Government of the hon. Gentleman's party.
§ Dr. Bray
With great respect, the whole outlook of industry is the essential factor in this. When I was discussing this framework of organisation with a distinguished economist, on whom the Government themselves have relied very heavily for advice, he commented that there just was not the level of expertise in industry available to co-operate with such an attempt, that there were not people in industry who could take a wide view of their problems. When I asked why he said, "Because they do not join in discussions at Government level." I share the view that these may be the kind of people the Government bring to these problems, but this is not the outlook of modern industry who feel it is a necessity to plan and co-operate in the solution of social problems.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Henry Clark (Antrim, North)
While it is rather difficult to comment on the speech of the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West (Dr. Bray), it 1509 appeared that he had taken this opportunity of a Northern Ireland debate to give us a lecture on orthodox Socialist thinking. He obviously has some knowledge of Northern Ireland, but some of his remarks were not complimentary to Northern Ireland feeling. At any rate, he has taken the trouble to read the Report.
I should like to make one comment on one of the hon. Member's points, though there are a number on which I should like to argue with him on another occasion. I should like to ask him whether he thinks that if we suddenly and completely arbitrarily announced substantial reductions of Purchase Tax on colour television sets manufactured in Northern Ireland, we should not provide just those gimcrack sorts of industries which the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) was criticising? Does the hon. Gentleman honestly think that, if there were a special tax provision for colour television sets produced in Northern Ireland, this would be of any lasting value? How long would such colour television sets continue to be produced in Northern Ireland at a particularly high level?
§ Dr. Bray
The hon. Gentleman has a peculiar ignorance of the rate at which industry changes today. No industry is static for more than seven years, least of all the industries which have had capital grants from the Northern Ireland Government and which are alleged to have plants which will operate indefinitely. This is just not true. Therefore, one has continually to tackle these problems. Certainly, the manufacture of colour television sets would take care of the problem for only a limited period. This is true of capital investment in Terylene, the Chemstrand plant, and so on.
§ Mr. Clark
I take the hon. Gentleman's paint when he says that industry changes. I could not agree more. There is definitely considerable reason for having capital-intensive industries which, broadly speaking, will not be closed down when times change half so readily as the labour-intensive industries which it has been suggested we ought to have.
I compliment the hon. Gentleman because, as I have said, he has read the Report. At times, as I listened to the 1510 other speeches from the benches opposite, I thought of that good old Northern Ireland phrase which is heard when someone says something particularly obvious and rather lacking in erudition—"Ah, what are ye talking about?". Quite frankly, when I heard the suggestion that we ought to look for labour-intensive industries, or that we ought to look to things which did not have much weight so that they could be transported cheaply, I thought of that Northern Ireland phrase. These things have been thought of before. The contribution of the hon. Member for Newton, who opened the debate for the Opposition, amounted to just about nil, apart from its length in taking up the time of the House. However, I must got on and he reasonably brief because there are others who wish to speak.
Everyone has spoken about the disappointment which the Report has produced. It is not exactly a Report to cheer anyone up, but I feel that the disappointment comes partly from mistakes on both sides. All of us were concerned about the delays in publishing the Report. We wanted a good Report. The newspapers kept egging people on to think that the Report would help us and would produce answers. We all began to expect a Report which would solve some of our problems overnight. We were rather stupid about it. We should have known that a group of civil servants would not produce a revolutionary document. We should have known very well that there are no universal panaceas.
There were mistakes on the other side, also. A working party of civil servants is competent to judge somethings, but not competent to judge others. There is no doubt that the members of the Hall Working Party, when given this very large task, were rather tempted to look about them and comment on nearly everything in sight. I think that their remarks about hotel facilities and air travel facilities to Northern Ireland look as though they were based solely on a three-day visit which the members made. They certainly have very little relevance and carry no weight at all. Just what the competence of the members of the Working Party was to comment in the way, I do not know. They argued purely from negative premises. Their remarks 1511 about agriculture are so obvious that they are hardly true. Their remarks on several other subjects on which they are not particularly competent to judge hardly merit reading.
However, because those remarks are made often in short paragraphs, which are easily read, people tend to read them first and comment on them. Of course, the Working Party's incredible remark about emigration was certain to cause a stir in the newspapers. Many people never read the Reports themselves, but only newspaper accounts of them. How could the Working Party really think that a social survey was necessary to decide why Northern Ireland men do not want to emigrate? But if one puts those things aside and forgets one's hopes—very false hopes they were, before the Report came out—one realises that the Report is, on the whole, very much what one could have hoped for. There may the fallacies in the argument. Economists can usually pick a fallacy in almost any argument by another economist. But, on the whole, we have a fairly closely reasoned argument set out in what is, in my opinion, an extremely well documented Report. The way some of the figures are collected, examined and set out is of considerable assistance to people who have never bothered to study Northern Ireland before.
§ Mr. Clark
I am sorry that the Report was so long in being published, but I certainly do not say that the job which has been done was useless. I do not say of this Working Party's efforts, as can be said so often of the work of commissions and committees, that all other progress in Northern Ireland stopped while it was sitting. In fact, considerable progress has been made during the last two years in tackling unemployment in Northern Ireland.
The Report is well documented. It is a Civil Service appraisal of Government methods of helping the economy. What the Opposition do not like, of course, is that this appraisal of ways and 1512 means endorses, on the whole, the policy of the Northern Ireland Government. Although it may be said that some of the civil servants came from Northern Ireland, they did not all do so. Sir Robert Hall himself has not a Right-wing or Ulster Unionist background.
Furthermore—here I disagree with several of my colleagues—I think that the note is not entirely pessimistic. From a reading of the recommendations, and particularly the argument about the 10s. per week wage subsidy, it is quite obvious that the majority opinion of the Working Party was that a measure of this sort, which might very well distort the economy for a very long period, was not justified because the trouble it might cause in later days would not be justified by the need before us today. It is clear to me that the economic problems of Northern Ireland are not quite as had and everlasting as they are sometimes made out to be. I am content that, if we continue working along current Lines with a little more imagination, we shall solve our problems.
We have here, I suggest, a valuable Report and a not entirely depressing one. However, it does not take us very far. Its recommendations are Civil Service recommendations which can be implemented quite quickly. I suggest that the Report can act as a valuable beginning rather than as an end. We must consider where we can go from here. This is the reason why I put my name to the Amendment which has not been called. I believe that we must think of much closer and more continuous consultation between Westminster and Stormont. I should like there to be regular meetings alternately in Belfast and in London at which the principal Ministers concerned are always present, but at which Ministers representing every Department on both sides of the Irish Sea are represented from time to time.
One of the troubles has been that meetings between Stormont and Westminster have too often taken place in an atmosphere of crisis, when emergency action was called for. Far too often, at these meetings only crisis and emergency were discussed. Very seldom has there been opportunity to discuss the probably less urgent but not necessarily less important matters which could go a long way towards solving the problems of Northern 1513 Ireland. I should like to see regular meetings, with the smallest possible headlines in the newspapers, at which the maximum amount of work can be done.
Another point to which I hope my right hon. Friend will reply is this. I should like the, attention of the National Economic Development Council to be directed to Northern Ireland's problems. Since we make up only one-fortieth of the United Kingdom, it is probably too much to suggest that there should be two Northern Ireland representatives on the Council, but I feel that we can suggest that there should be one Northern Ireland expert on the staff in order to make sure that our problems are considered regularly.
An announcement in The Times, a few days ago, said that the Government are making a general survey of industrial trends. May I have an assurance from my right hon. Friend that this survey will take in the affairs of Northern Ireland? That is the type of continuous investigation and study which we want.
One of the most popular recommendations of the Working Party was that more money and support should be given to the tourist industry. I have my own pet theory on the Working Party's economics in that it seemed to be under the impression that it is productive and of great economic value to take in tourists from abroad, but that it is of little or no value to give holidays to our own people. It has been commonly supposed by various economists that to do one's own washing is very much less productive than doing someone else's. The tourist facilities of Northern Ireland can do extremely valuable work in providing Northern Ireland's people with holidays in their own country instead of their dashing off to the Continent or to Southern Ireland for their holidays.
The tourist industry has a fairly considerable potential. The new grants being made by the Northern Ireland Government for hotel building and improvements are extremely welcome. The Working Party was rather quick in saying that it did not recommend increased public works. A number of productive and economically justifiable public works could add considerably to the tourist industry. I think of heated outdoor swimming pools in some resorts which could lengthen the bathing season 1514 into June and September. There was a plan quite recently for a footpath round the North Antrim coast which could equal, and probably more than equal, the Pennine Way in this country. The relatively small sums of money spent on this sort of thing could do a great deal to add to Northern Ireland's tourist amenities and which should be looked into.
There is a great need for new houses, and when houses are built near tourist resorts the possibility of designing and building a house which has a particular potential for letting rooms in the summer, possibly with an individual front door and individual bathrooms, might be considered. This is a small idea, but it is the sort of thing which helps. It was not the job of the Working Party to produce ideas like this, but they can go a considerable way towards solving our problems.
It is not always money which causes difficulty. I got rather tired going into bookshops and asking when the Ordnance Survey would produce a 1-inch map of my constituency and the rest of Northern Ireland. This job has not been completed. We have been waiting for such a map for twenty years. I need not persuade anyone that a good 1-inch survey map is possibly the best enticement to a particular type of tourist.
There is one very big snag for our tourist industry. The attraction for the English and Continental tourist is not Northern Ireland, but Ireland as a whole. It is the whole of Ireland which particularly attracts a tourist from this country if he wants to make a motor tour. But there is one very big snag. If an Englishman goes to Dublin and hires a car, he cannot take that car into the United Kingdom—into Northern Ireland. There is a Customs regulation which prohibits a citizen of the United Kingdom taking a foreign-registered hire car back into the United Kingdom. It also prevents any United Kingdom citizen from driving a Dublin-registered car in Northern Ireland.
This is a fairly standard regulation all over the world. It just happens to hit Northern Ireland rather hard. Last year, about 1,000 cars were available for hire to tourists in Southern Ireland. Possibly there were more this year. Those cars 1515 are regularly on hire to tourists throughout the summer. A very considerable number of them are hired to Englishmen. About 600 to 700 families of English people are hiring cars every week right throughout the summer in Dublin and not one of those families can come to Northern Ireland.
I took this question up with the Treasury. We went into it very carefully indeed. I remember very well discussing it with a very senior and rather aged Customs official. When I made this point he threw up his hands in horror and said, "Oh, sir, but that would mean a change in the regulations". I said, "Yes, I think that we want to change the regulations." That put the thing utterly and completely out of court. Over his dead body would the Customs regulations be changed.
There is a small point which could be worked out between Westminster and Stormont to settle this question, and we might very well have 200 extra carloads of tourists coming into Northern Ireland every week. That is the kind of change we want, and again, it is the kind of cooperation which we need.
Moving on very briefly to the other major industry in my constituency, which is agriculture, I would say that the Hall Report does not deal very fully or eruditely with agriculture. One thing is quite apparent, and that is that whether this country enters the Common Market, as I hope we do, or whether it does not, there will be a very big change in British agriculture over the next five years, and I feel very strongly that this change is going to hit Northern Ireland rather worse than most. The Hall Report produces rather interesting figures. This is the first time that I have seen them. They show that, on the whole, we rely more on agricultural subsidies than other parts of the United Kingdom. This is not because we in Northern Ireland have the worst farmers. The reasons are fairly obvious. One is because our agricultural products are caught by freight rates, and inevitably the subsidy percentage becomes a larger percentage of the whole.
We also, for historical and geographical reasons, have to concentrate rather more on those products which have had the bigger subsidies and we have not been able to go in for those products, such as vegetables, which one can 1516 sell direct to markets without subsidy, because we are so far from many of the markets. We are delighted that the Minister of Agriculture has recently made provision for an experiment in sugar beet growing which we hope may lead to a full-scale sugar beet industry which is unsubsidised and extremely profitable.
However, the next five years of transition, in or out of the Common Market, will be difficult, because we rely on subsidies, and also because our units of farming in Northern Ireland are particularly small. The small farmer has had to specialise to a very considerable degree to get an income. He has in fact, in many cases over-capitalised his farm completely beyond the levels which good commercial practice would justify. In the years ahead there will be a change of front and a quite considerable amount of the capital which the small farmer has invested will be dissipated.
It may be that milking parlours are no longer used for milking; there may be high-grade cattle bought at considerable price and another type of beast is wanted; it may be that expensive machinery has been bought for one sort of crop and another is wanted. But there will be changes in the emphases in agriculture and there will also be new capital needed by new forms of agriculture. Will the Minister of Agriculture, when he is looking at these problems, please think very carefully of the small Ulster farmer whom these changes will hit hard?
There is another problem I want to come to, and that is one which the Hall Committee mentions on page 85 in Appendix XII of its Report. That is the question of our own regional problems in Northern Ireland. Quite frankly, this again is a place where the Committee's Report, though excellent in parts, has not, I think, done itself justice. In my constituency I could take hon. Members to places where the level of unemployment is 2 per cent. or 2½ per cent. The people there have probably never been more prosperous in their lives. I can also take hon. Members to large parts of the country where the unemployment level is 14 per cent. to 15 per cent. It is those regional problems which are some of the most difficult which we have to solve in Northern Ireland.
1517 Some of our unemployed are in such inaccessible places that it is almost impossible to provide them with jobs. The ideal of a small, 20-man factory in every village is a lively thought, but quite impracticable. We must think seriously, of taking jobs to these people, putting jobs in places where the people can get to them. At present, a very considerable number of people in Northern Ireland get to their jobs only after very long bus journeys. Many girls in my constituency earn £8 a week in a factory, but take home barely £5 after paying their bus fares—anything up to£2—as well as for their stamps and lunches. I reckon that these people, wheher they are employed or not, are getting a very raw deal. Perhaps we may try to get factories to the more outlying areas.
We were delighted to hear of the two very large firms which have announced their movement to Northern Ireland—the Michelin Tyre Co., Ltd. and Carreras Ltd., cigarette manufacturers. Both are going to the Belfast area although considerable inducements were offered to them to go to areas deeper in the country. If we cannot take the work to the people, we must give the people the opportunity of moving nearer where work exists. It is very much more difficult today to get a decent house in an area like Belfast where there are reasonable employment prospects, and relatively easy to get one in areas where there are no employment prospects.
The Government of Northern Ireland—it is largely their responsibility—must look at this matter carefully in future. I believe that there may well be room for co-operation between Westminster and Stormont. There are town planners and various other experts who could he of value to the Northern Ireland Government if loaned to them.
I end again on the note that we must have continuous co-operative planning between the two Governments. If we do, I am sure that it will prove the correctness of my belief that if 93 per cent. of the people of Northern Ireland can obtain good jobs there is no reason why the other 7 per cent. should not, too.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)
I should be very hesitant in claiming to be an expert on Northern Ireland. Indeed, I am very reluctant to say that I am of Irish extraction, which is perhaps one of the qualifications that I can claim for participating in the debate, because I remember telling an Irishman that I was of Irish extraction and he replied, "What does that mean—that you had a tooth out in Dublin?"
I have listened to hon. Members opposite discussing unemployment in Northern Ireland. I am disappointed at the efforts of representatives of Northern Ireland to stimulate this Government—the responsibility lies with them; I shall refer in a moment to the Hall Report on this issue—into doing something about the tragic position in Northern Ireland.
The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Mr. H. Clark) complained about the contribution made to the debate by my hon. Friend the Member for Newton (Mr. Lee). The hon. Member then proceeded to make a speech the content of which, as far as the problem with which we are dealing is concerned, was of no consequence whatever. It was a combination of clichés of every possible type. He talked about "blowing the clouds of pessimism away", "pots of gold", "ships on sandbanks", and "hostages to fortune". The whole of his speech was constructed around a number of clichés and he did not make a single contribution to the debate.
Then we heard the hon. Lady the Member for Belfast, West (Mrs. McLaughlin). Although I did not agree wholly with her contribution—I felt that she was on a tightrope in attempting to face the inefficiency of this Government while, at the same time, wanting to be loyal to a party—she made some suggestions. She laid emphasis upon the difficulties of Northern Ireland, particularly in relation to the Irish Sea and the problem that results from companies moving to Northern Ireland and facing additional transport costs to get their goods into the rest of the United Kingdom. But that is not a difficulty that cannot be overcome.
This is a situation in which 31,000 people—6.4 per cent. of the employable population—are unemployed out of a 1519 total population of 1¼ million. I am one of those who has experienced unemployment. I am sorry if I bore the House on this subject, but to me unemployment cannot be measured in statistics. There are not only the material disadvantages of being without a job. The psychological disadvantages are perhaps even worse.
A man wants to be able to command the respect of his wife and family and within a short time, with all the love in the world, that respect is eroded by virtue of his not being able to support them. Do not let us imagine that we are simply talking about lines that can be drawn better. We are talking about a human problem which, with all its variations, does not seem to get much better.
It is no good the hon. Lady saying that there has been a decrease of about 2,000 in ten years. The simple fact is that from 1950 to the present time unemployment has varied between 6 per cent. and 10 per cent. We really ought to get down to the issue. Of course, the Irish Sea is a problem, but we have to overcome it because we are dealing with human beings and not statistics.
I have read the Hall Report, although I did not go through every single paragraph and consider every dot and comma. Unlike most hon. Members, I find that I have to try to grasp a report as quickly as possible, as otherwise life is not worth while. I am in complete agreement with the hon. Lady the Member for Belfast, West that this Report offers no solution to the problem of Northern Ireland. If the hon. Members for Northern Ireland constituencies want to solve this problem they have to face the fact that the only solution so long as we have this Government in power is to put maximum pressure on their Front Bench.
Look at the history of Northern Ireland. Why are hon. Members opposite not putting maximum pressure on their Front Bench? All the hon. Members from that area are Tories. If this Government have no responsibility to them and they are charged with the responsibility of looking after their constituents, which the Government are not prepared to do, who is to assist them in that responsibility? The Government will not do it unless the hon. Members 1520 will take courage in their own hands and treat the Government in the way they ought to be treated. It is no good trying to hide this fact.
§ Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)
Will my hon. Friend explain how he thinks hon. Members from Ulster can apply this pressure when, no matter what Government there is here, they will still be returned to this House with a majority of 20,000 or 30,000?
§ Mr. Loughlin
I know it is a foregone conclusion that they will be returned to this House. I do not know how they will apply the pressure. That is up to them, but I can tell them how they could apply pressure. That would be by going into the Lobby against the Tory Party this evening and saying, "We are not tolerating any longer the altitude of this Tory Government to Northern Ireland."
§ Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)
Does not my hon. Friend think that with majorities of 20,000 and 30,000 they could afford to be rebels against the Government?
§ Mr. Loughlin
I hope that my hon. Friends do not mind my intervening by making a speech.
I want to draw the attention of hon. Members from Northern Ireland to a particular section of the Report. This is the nub of the problem. It says, in paragraph 191:The scope of economic planning in the first sense is therefore very limited, since the powers of the Government of Northern Ireland are themselves limited. It has no power over tariffs; its powers of taxation are very limited; there is no central bank and no possibility of pursuing a separate monetary policy.Hon. Members, talking about the Report, have been saying that they should attract tourists to Northern Ireland. The hon. Member for Antrim, North told the House that the greatest attraction from a tourist point of view would be the introduction of a 1-inch Ordnance map. I can imagine him publishing advertisements in newspapers in 1521 the United States of America saying, "come to Northern Ireland. We have some 1-inch Ordnance maps."
§ Mr. Loughlin
Why did they not attack the Government over Short Brothers and Harland? The classic example of how the Government could assist the Northern Ireland people is in the aircraft industry. The Government own 69½ per cent. of the shares in Short's, who have designed, developed and built some wonderful aircraft.
I direct the attention of the Joint Under-Secretary of State, now sitting on the Front Bench, to an aircraft concerning which there has been discussion in recent months—the Belfast. According to all the experts, this is an extremely good transport aircraft. It could be adapted for the use of the British Forces, which, I understand, are in dire need of transport aircraft. We are still playing about, however, with the inadequate Beverley.
I do not claim to be an expert and I hope that when the Government reply to the debate I may be corrected, but the Belfast transport aircraft is so constructed that its doors are wide enough to trans-ship all types of military equipment. They are wide enough to allow of parachute drops of all types of article. The Belfast has a seating capacity of 249, is extremely cheap in operation and is a well-designed aircraft. The Government have placed an order for ten of them.
§ Mr. Loughlin
Yes, eventually; they have put in the order. To cover the cost of design and development, however, it will be necessary to sell 30 of these aircraft.
According to the Minister of Defence, we are spending £300 million on the aircraft industry.
§ Mr. Loughlin
That is what I meant. If anybody should know, it is the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft), who is now Minister of Defence. He is particularly keen on the spending of Government money.
1522 If the Government are keen to solve the problem of unemployment in Northern Ireland, why do they not concentrate some of the assistance in the aircraft industry by advancing the orders for more Belfast aircraft? This would do two things. It would help in part the unemployment problem in Northern Ireland, but it would also give the country a transport aircraft of first-class design and cheaper in operation than almost any other transport aircraft which could be secured.
§ Mr. Loughlin
I do not want to go too fully into this, because, possibly, some of my hon. Friends will have suggestions to make.
There is no sense of urgency of any kind in tackling the problem. The hon. Lady the Member for Belfast, West referred to the difficulties that a skilled worker faces in getting a trade union card. One of the ways to solve a problem of this kind would be by both sides of industry coming together to increase productivity in the existing industries. This would place them in a much better competitive position.
England, Scotland and Wales have had experience of increasing productivity. I know that some hon. Members opposite regard me as being revolutionary. For a number of years I was a trade union official and participated in every form of co-operation in industry with a view to improving the efficiency of the industries with which I was associated. I found that with any kind of workers, provided that they had confidence that, through their representatives, they would be consulted at every stage, it was possible to introduce any new method or process in order to increase productivity. If the trade unions are given their rightful place in industry that will happen.
Sooner or later, whether we are dealing with the British or the Northern Ireland industry, or industry anywhere else, there will have to be a recognition that the ordinary industrial worker makes as great a contribution to the success and prosperity of an organisation as anyone else employed there. The idea that we can segregate manual workers from those 1523 termed "the staff" or the "executive" is archaic, and the sooner we get rid of it the better it will be for industry.
In Northern Ireland there has been almost a universal acceptance of the need for co-operation in industry. But the Government refuse to recognise the organised body of trade union work-people. We cannot achieve a sense of co-operation in industry. I wonder how long the present Government would be able to ignore the British T.U.C. or how long they would be able to say to Frank Cousins—if hon. Members do not like my quoting Frank Cousins I will refer to the former general secretary of my own union, the Union of Shop Distributives and Allied Workers—Alan Birch. I would quote the present general secretary, except that he is a new man who may not be so well known. But do hon. Members think that the Government could ignore Alan Birch?
§ Mr. Loughlin
They would like to, as my hon. Friend says, but they would not succeed in doing so.
It is impossible to ignore the British T.U.C. In Northern Ireland there is a trade union committee which is part of the Irish Trade Unions Congress, but 95 per cent. of the membership are members of the British trade union movement. The Government of Northern Ireland refuse to recognise or to consult them.
Though this is the attitude of the Government in Northern Ireland, I place a large share of the responsibility on this Government, whose job it is to see that industry goes to Northern Ireland. The day-to-day operations in Northern Ireland are the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Government. If we want to look at the problem of unemployment in Northern Ireland, first we must tackle the Government Front Bench in this House and then deal with the affairs in Northern Ireland. A prerequisite for the real expansion of existing industries is a recognition of the trade union movement which has a part to play and an invaluable contribution to make.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newton referred to a development corporation. There is in Northern Ireland 1524 the Development Council, to which reference is made in this Report. The Council has simply been a glorified advertising agency with no teeth and no power to act. It simply advertises in one way or another, or sends an ambassador and attaches him to a given country to attract industry. I am not saying that new industries have not been attracted, but what is fundamental is that there has not been a sufficient attraction of industries of the kind which should be attracted to Northern Ireland to solve its problems.
It is not just industries which Northern Ireland wants to attract. It must attract the industries which will solve its unemployment problems. There is a great need for a development corporation in Ireland with powers to do what is necessary. Although I would not care to disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Newton, with a development corporation one must be a little careful about complete powers. If a development corporation as an advisory body to the Government is set up, it can advise on all aspects of policy. Whilst its job would chiefly be to attract new industry, it would have to have something to say about grants to be given and the type of industry which should receive them.
I do not criticise small industries, but, in the context of the Northern Ireland unemployment situation, to spend £1 million in seven years on grants for laundries and quarries does not seem to me to be the right way to spend the money necessary to produce industry.
§ Mr. Loughlin
Small industries are better than none. I have quarries in my constituency. I should be the last to suggest that they should go somewhere else. Indeed, they would have difficulty in going anywhere else. The same is true of laundries. But are laundries and quarries the type of industry to solve this problem? Would it not be better to try to utilise the money to attract high labour ratio industries? This is what Ireland must do if it is to solve the problem.
The development corporation would not only advise and distribute the grants, but it would be essential for it to develop on the research side. This would be one of 1525 its primary functions. One of the problems is that private capital in Ireland is not spending sufficient money on development. It was a development corporation that developed the Hovercraft. If a development corporation devoted itself to research, it could make a great contribution to solving Ireland's problems.
I do not want to spend too long, because other hon. Members want to speak, but it would be unseemly for me if I did not make reference to one of the recommendations in the Hall Report. The Committee said that too much public works development was out but that Ireland could do something in housing. The Report is not too clear as to the extent of what it could do, but we should recognise what could be done about housing if there was the will. The Northern Ireland housing situation is bad. Belfast alone has 7,000 applicants on the waiting list, according to my information. About 43 per cent. of its housing stock is composed of pre-1880 houses, almost double the figure for England and Wales.
Further, many building workers there are unemployed. This is to me a fantastic situation. When we examine the statistics, we find that there are carpenters, bricklayers, handymen, masons, slaters and plasterers all unemployed. We have to devise a method of bringing together the materials and the workpeople to resolve the housing problem in Northern Ireland in a manner which will perform two purposes. One is to solve the housing problem from a habitation point of view, and the other is to create employment. In housing and in public works, one of the values of those two methods of expansion is that it has a snowballing effect which will make a greater impact on the employment situation than appears on the surface. The Roosevelt New Deal clearly demonstrated that.
I say to the people of Northern Ireland that if they have to rely on the Hall Committee's Report and on the British Government and, regretfully, though I have to say it, if they have to rely on the tactics of those Members who represent Northern Ireland in this House, I am sorry for them, because they will languish for many years to come.
§ 9.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)
The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) referred to 1526 the tactics of the Conservative Members of Parliament. I see nothing in the tactics of Members opposite. It was about half an hour ago that the hon. Gentleman said that he would make a short speech because a number of Northern Ireland Members wished to speak. I am very sorry that others of my hon. Friends from Northern Ireland have been kept out of the debate by the long-windedness of the hon. Gentleman, whose remarks were more notable for their verbosity than for their good sense.
The counties of Northern Ireland have been very exhaustively inquired into in this Report. Some hon. Members have been honest enough, including the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West, to admit that they have read only bits and pieces of it——
§ Mr. Loughlin
The hon. Member must not misquote me. I read the Report, but I did so in the same way as all hon. Members read reports—I read it in a speedy and not a detailed way.
§ Mr. McMaster
I can agree that there is inefficiency in reading in a speedy fashion. The Hall Committee was set up with very short terms of reference. They were:To examine and report on the economic situation of Northern Ireland, the factors causing the persistent problem of high unemployment, and what measures can be taken to bring about a lasting improvement.The Committee dealt most adequately with the first two of these three requirements, but I must inform the House, and particularly my right hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench, that the conclusions it reached on the last point have caused a great deal of concern in Northern Ireland, and especially in my constituency. It dealt adequately with this great problem of persistent and heavy unemployment. It dealt at some length with the reasons why there was such persistent unemployment with the rundown of the linen industry.
In my constituency I have one of the largest linen mills, if not the largest, in Northern Ireland, and a well-equipped one, the York Street Linen Company, which has had to close down within the last two or three years. We have heard a lot about shipbuilding tonight and that the engineering and metal industries are also suffering from some contraction, 1527 that agriculture is badly affected and, according to the Report, likely to be even more badly affected in the next four, five or even ten years. A rundown of about 15,000 people is forecast in agriculture. At the same time, there is an increase of 4,000 or 5,000 in the working population each year.
These are problems which the Northern Ireland Government, in the first instance, are called upon to face, and that Government have taken steps—which, unfortunately, I cannot go into because of the lateness of the hour—which are commented on very favourably in the Hall Report. There are certain matters which come particularly within the realm of the Imperial Parliament and Her Majesty's Government here, and I am very pleased to see present the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport—and the Minister of Aviation was with us earlier—because I want to refer to the problems facing two of the largest and seriously affected industries in Northern Ireland.
The shipbuilding yard of Messrs. Harland and Wolff is in my constituency. It is the single biggest shipbuilding yard in the British Isles—indeed, it is the largest single shipbuilding yard in the world. Since the end of the war, until fairly recently, it employed up to 23,000 men every year. The firm benefited from the crises in Korea and Suez, but it had been working full out ever since the beginning of the war in order to build, first, the naval vessels needed for our defence, and, later, to replace the shipping losses we suffered during the war. In 1961 it was suddenly hit by the world recession in shipping, and 10,000 men were laid off during last year.
There are certain ways in which the Imperial Government could help this industry—not just Harland and Wolff alone, because I am not advocating that help should be extended only to one yard but to all the shipbuilding yards in Britain. In our foreign affairs, we should adopt a more positive and dynamic policy towards such countries as the United States, France, Italy, Japan, and even some of our own Commonwealth countries, which have adopted shipping and 1528 shipbuilding policies that are very much to our disadvantage.
Continental countries subsidise their shipbuilding quite openly, France and Italy being the worst offenders. The United States practises flag discrimination, insisting that cargoes coming to America should be carried in much more expensive American ships, which are financed by the Americans and which fly flags of convenience, all to the disadvantage of British shipping. I emphasise shipping here, because on a prosperous British shipping industry our shipbuilding depends.
I would ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary to take very much to heart the advice that has been given to him by the Chamber of Shipping, and I was encouraged by a speech he made in Belfast very recently when he said that the Government were considering retaliating against countries which adopted and habitually practised such unfair methods as those I have mentioned. This theme was also repeated by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury in a speech made at a Chamber of Commerce dinner. All the support that this House can give should be given in order to achieve a firmer policy by Her Majesty's Government in matters relating to shipping and shipbuilding, because of the very great importance of these basic industries, not only to Northern Ireland, where they play a fundamental part in our economy, but to the country as a whole. We are a maritime nation. We live by trade and that trade must be carried in our ships, so that we cannot easily accept policies adopted and operated by foreign countries which are damaging to us.
I should like to develop this at greater length but time does not permit, and I want to say something about Messrs. Short Brothers and Harland. A number of hon. Members have mentioned this industry in East Belfast and I appeal to the Government to consider the points which have been made by hon. Members on both sides of the House. There is no doubt that when faced with an emergency—such as that in India in recent weeks—it is necessary, for the defence of our interests in the West and the free world, that we should be in a position to give military aid to the free 1529 countries of the world when they are attacked.
For this reason we need to transport a variety of articles to the danger spots. It is surprising how many things one does not think about when planning ahead. One must carry all types of equipment, things as unlikely as bulldozers for levelling airfields, rocketry and helicopters. The Belfast air freighter, about which a good deal has been said in the House, was designed specifically to meet this requirement, for it can carry four helicopters and even a tank.
However, only ten of these aircraft have been ordered and I urge the Home Secretary to convey to the Minister of Aviation—and I regret that he has had to leave the Chamber—this point of view, to ask him to reconsider our tactical and strategic needs in the light of the emergency which occurred in recent weeks and to see whether ten Belfasts are sufficient to meet these needs. The Minister of Aviation should consider this matter from the point of view of our meeting what is known as the OR351—the operational requirement for the Beverleys and Hastings—and seeing whether a derivative of the Belfast would be suitable for meeting our defence needs and, at the same time, helping to solve the unemployment problem in Belfast.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
Would the hon. Member also bear in mind economic aid in the light of the promise made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as reported in the OFFICIAL REPORT last Monday, in col. 636? Aid of this kind for the under-developed countries could be supplied through the under-utilised resources of this country.
§ Mr. McMaster
I turn to a subject which was omitted from the Hall Report. No mention is made of the valuable work being done in apprenticeship training. This is a fundamental matter in Belfast, for it is a high-class and skilled form of training which forms the nucleus of our ability to attract new industries to Northern Ireland.
In The Times and in some other newspapers today is an advertisement about the Seacat. All the technical skill of the engineers in Belfast is now being adopted by many countries in this defensive weapon. Another important 1530 Belfast project is the Skyvan, which several overseas countries have found interesting and in which several airlines are interested. This requires additional finance to assist its development. It is a small aircraft meant to operate rather like a commercial van.
I have pointed these developments out—and the Skyvan, which can carry a wide variety of machinery and equipment, needs more money for its development—n an effort to get my right hon. Friend to convey to the Minister of Aviation the necessity for him to have second thoughts on these matters.
The vertical take-off plane, SC1, was pioneered in Belfast. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation, in answer to a question on Monday, said that the Government were still considering the application of this multi-jet Vertical take-off aircraft far transport purposes. Part of this work could also very well be done by our engineers in Belfast.
But I must leave that point because I want to deal with the main topic cat our discussion, and I cannot rest with the solution of the problem which is set out in paragraph 32 of the Hall Report where it is said—and I paraphrase—that the Committee sees no hope in the next five years of any improvement in our unemployment position. It is surely the function of Government to provide for the prosperity of the people, to provide, first, for full employment and then to improve conditions. The Hall Committee dealt with the rising standard of living in Belfast and Northern Ireland as a whole and pointed out that it still lags behind that of the rest of the United Kingdom.
The question has been posed many times today: what is the solution to the problem? How do we attract new industry to Northern Ireland? I do not accept the Socialist solution of directing industry, any more than I accept directing labour from Northern Ireland to England. In the final analysis, when one attempts to direct unwilling industry to any area it will not settle happily and be run efficiently and prosperously there.
The schemes adopted by the Northern Ireland Government offering capital grants to industry to attract firms and 1531 new industry to go there of their own free will, because they believe that in Northern Ireland they will find the work-people they want, the productivity they require and the Government assistance they need, is the best way of meeting our problem.
§ Dr. Bray rose—
§ Mr. McMaster
I am sorry. It is too late now, if the hon. Member will forgive me.
Two methods were discussed in the Hall Committee Report. There was the suggestion put forward by the Northern Ireland Government that there should be a subsidy for each employed person. This was rejected by the Committee for a number of reasons, including the economic reason—and after all the Committee was led by an economist—that this would encourage or might help to keep alive a failing industry which would not be for the long-term benefit of Northern Ireland.
However, another matter was considered—though I regret only very briefly—in paragraph 122 and the following four or five paragraphs of the Report. This was the suggestion that a tax holiday should be offered to firms coming to Northern Ireland. I should like to ask the Home Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to reconsider this proposal most seriously. It is not a new suggestion. It was used in Great Britain before the war. It was used in France and Italy and even by our neighbour Eire and in Malta successfully to attract new industries.
A tax inducement such as this favours efficient firms. It does not help to keep inefficient firms alive. It does not necessarily cost the Treasury anything, because the suggestion is that this tax holiday should be offered as an alternative to the capital grants which are at present offered by the Northern Ireland Government, and firms would be free to choose. The Hall Committee pointed out in paragraph 125:The Board of Inland Revenue has pointed out that there would be difficulties of administration and serious risks of abuse.This is a typical Civil Service answer. Is it a good enough and sufficient answer to turn down these proposals?
1532 A much greater degree of flexibility is necessary, and flexibility could certainly be worked out. It is not beyond the ingenuity of our tax officials, for whom I have a certain degree of admiration, to work out a scheme whereby such an inducement as a tax holiday for a limited period of seven to twelve years could be offered to new industry, and particularly to labour-intensive industry, to set up in Northern Ireland.
Unless this is done, we in Northern Ireland shall face great difficulty in competing with industries in the Republic of Ireland. New industry has been attracted there and has benefited from it, and our new industries in Northern Ireland must compete with industries already enjoying this tax advantage. This is a consideration not mentioned or considered at all, apparently, by the Hall Committee.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mrs. McLaughlin) said, we are also, perhaps, about to enter the Common Market, but whether we do so or not, I believe, as she does, that we must solve our unemployment problem straightaway as a matter of urgency. If Britain joins the Common Market, there might be considerable obstacles to extending such a scheme as I have suggested, which would undoubtedly help Northern Ireland.
I conclude by saying that I believe that the solutions to our problems in Northern Ireland are just within our grasp. If the Government would only be prepared to take the plunge, and if the Treasury will make this sacrifice to administrative convenience, I think that Northern Ireland could share fully in the rising productivity and full employment which is enjoyed in other parts of the United Kingdom.
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Henry Brooke)
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) for the optimistic tone of his speech, because I am quite certain that the one condition in which we cannot solve the unemployment problem is in an atmosphere of gloom and disaster.
I should like to tell the hon. Member for Newton (Mr. Lee) and the House that the reason why I did not speak first but 1533 moved the Motion formally, leaving the Floor free to him to move his Amendment, was because I knew that we should have a debate of only three or four hours and I thought that hon. Members on both sides of the House would prefer me to use my time to take up the points raised from both sides during the debate rather than to make a set speech at the outset. Indeed, if I had spoken as long as the hon. Member, no one from the back benches would have had a chance to rise before half-past seven.
I should like to join in the tribute paid by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) to the work which my predecessor did for Northern Ireland. I know that the First Secretary had a deep concern for his Northern Ireland responsibilities. I think it is important, despite all the interchanges and pleasantries across the Floor of the House, for all of us to keep in mind the whole time the fact that we are dealing with an essentially human problem. The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) said that he knew what it was to be unemployed. Let us all think of these matters in these terms. There are people—our own fellow-citizens—who are at the present time unemployed in Northern Ireland and elsewhere, and unemployment is more severe in Northern Ireland than it is elsewhere. It is quite right that we should have our differences and challenges, but we are talking about human beings all the time.
The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West alleged that my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North had made no constructive suggestions in his speech. That simply was not true, because I took a note of what he said. He was the first hon. Member in the debate to suggest a joint permanent committee of members of both Governments—and I shall return to that point later—and who made the original suggestion of a Minister of State who could keep special contact with Northern Ireland. The parallel with Wales is not complete, because Wales is administered as part of—or rather along with—England, though with much devolution to Cardiff, whereas Northern Ireland is under a separate Government. I am absolutely certain that my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North, was right to urge that we should all help to blow away the clouds of pessimism 1534 and create an atmosphere of confidence, because, unless that atmosphere of confidence is created, there is no hope for these people who are at present unemployed.
The hon. Member for Newton described Northern Ireland in terms of disaster which would deter any forward looking industrialist from coming and opening a factory there. That is the one fatal and unforgivable thing to do. The hon. Member for Bradford, East (Mr. McLeavy) spoke of ever-increasing unemployment in Northern Ireland. It simply is not true. In fact, unemployment in Northern Ireland is now lower than it was a year ago. But it is much too high.
§ Mr. McLeavy
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to misrepresent me. When I spoke of ever-increasing unemployment—if he reads HANSARD tomorrow he will find that this is right—I was referring to the general situation both in Northern Ireland and the British Isles generally.
§ Mr. Brooke
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will accept my statement that unemployment in Northern Ireland is lower now than it was twelve months ago.
The truth about Northern Ireland is that, owing to the gradual decline of employment in the older staple industries, the really striking success which has been attained in attracting new industry to Northern Ireland has been off-set and has not marked up an equivalent net gain of employment.
It is, of course, fantastic to speak, as some hon. Members opposite have done, of lack of effort by one Government or another. The general standard of living in Northern Ireland at present is probably higher than it has ever been in history. There is this unemployment, and we must reduce it. But to imagine that if one goes to Belfast one will find nobody able to afford a car or able to afford a washing machine or refrigerator is to be utterly remote from reality, as, I am sure, my hon. Friends will confirm. The black spot is the 7 per cent. unemployment.
The value of the Hall Report is that it concentrates attention on essentials. It shows beyond doubt that there are no simple remedies or expedients by which 1535 one can cure unemployment if only one would decide to do so. It shows that the secret of doing it cannot be found to lie in new-fangled though unsound ideas. The essence of the Hall Report is that the secret lies in showing to the world for all to see the attractions of Northern Ireland as a site for industry and persuading business men to locate or develop their factories there.
I could not understand why one hon. Member attacked the Northern Ireland Development Council as a sort of grandiose advertising agency. Surely, that is exactly what we want. Anybody who has valuable goods to sell spends money and effort in advertising them. Otherwise, how will anyone know about them? Are we to be ashamed of the economic opportunities which Northern Ireland possesses? Above all, what all of us, regardless of party, ought to do is to let the world know that in Northern Ireland there is a very experienced population, hard working and anxious for work, living in a country with great potentialities and great beauty, a population ever determined to go on and get ahead.
§ Mr. Loughlin
I should not like to convey the impression that I was condemning the Council. What I said was that its activities have been restricted to being a glorified advertising agency, but I went on to say that what we wanted was another organisation with some teeth.
§ Mr. Brooke
Lord Chandos, who has put a great deal of work into the Northern Ireland Development Council, has told me that there is excellent liaison between his organisation, the Ministry of Commerce in Northern Ireland and the Board of Trade in London. There are jobs for all to do here.
I was saying that we must advertise all that is good in and all the potentiality of Northern Ireland. That is what the British Government have successfully done in South Wales where the unemployment clouds which hung so heavily four years ago, as I well remember, have now largely been lifted. I am convinced that this is the one policy not only to remedy unemployment in Northern Ireland but to set Northern Ireland firmly on the road to modernity and long-term prosperity.
§ Mr. Brooke
I do not think it is for me, in this debate, to correct anything that is said in the Report. I am certainly prepared to say that any business man who wishes to develop in Northern Ireland will find that men and women are anxious to work and to give of their best. Many of them need only the opportunity and training—I stress that—to be highly productive.
I am sure that it was right for the two Governments to join together in setting up this Joint Working Party. May I express my deep regret that Sir Herbert Brittain, the first Chairman of it, died before the inquiry was completed. He was a personal friend of mine. He was an admirable appointment as the original Chairman, and it was a tragedy for us all that he was not allowed to complete the inquiry.
Although there has been criticism of the final form of the Report, I think that we would all wish to express our appreciation to those who did the work of compiling it, to Sir Robert Hall, his colleagues and secretariat. Whether or not we agree with its conclusions and inferences, we all, with respect to the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West (Dr. Bray), feel that a great deal of useful information, if not all the information that we would wish, is set out in the Report.
I do not think there has been much challenge in the debate of the assessment of the existing position in Northern Ireland contained in the Report. As it indicates, Northern Ireland has a live and vigorous economy. It is far from stagnant. Northern Ireland is in a phase of economic transition, but the liveliness and anxiety to break out and create a new modern-based industrial economy is unquestionably there. It is important to note that the financial aids to industrial expansion have provided about 50,000 new jobs since the war, and many thousands of other new jobs are in the pipeline.
We have to speed up the expansion so that it more than offsets the inevitable decline in some of the old staple industries which we have seen in a number of 1537 parts of Great Britain—for example, in the cotton industry and in the coal industry in certain parts. We cannot escape from these unavoidable economic developments. I am convinced that this can be done in Northern Ireland, and, as long as I hold my present position, I pledge myself to do everything in my power, working with the United Kingdom Government, to assist the Northern Ireland Government in solving these problems.
I wish to refer to several items arising from the Hall Report. The oil fuel subsidy recommended in the Report is entirely new. It is accepted by both Governments, and plans are in train to bring it into existence. I think that it will be a valuable supplement to the coal subsidy.
Then there is this question of the carriage of freight by air to and from Northern Ireland. I was asked if I could say anything further about that. The position is that the Air Transport Licensing Board has agreed to be responsible for the promotion of a study of these possibilities, and the Board itself is now considering the scope of the inquiry and the method of work. I am quite certain that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation, who heard the references earlier in the debate to this subject, would confirm that these matters will be determined quickly between himself and the Northern Ireland Minister of Commerce, and that study will go forward.
I think it was my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mrs. McLaughlin) who asked about the House Committee on sea transport. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport has now received that Report and he proposes to publish it, and the further consideration which was promised by the two Governments of the effects of costs of sea transport in Northern Ireland industry is now in hand.
The Hall Report confirmed the value of existing financial inducements. To my hon. Friend for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster), I should like to say that if he discussed the idea of a tax holiday with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer he would find that there are very grave difficulties in the way of it. It would be much easier to provide a tax holiday in a small and self-contained country. But it might be 1538 a matter of some Great Britain firm opening a subsidiary in Northern Ireland. It would be extremely difficult to allocate the profits successfully as between the one establishment and the other. I can even imagine that some firms might find so attractive the idea of a tax holiday that there would be a surreptitious shift of profits. These things, I must say to my hon. Friend, are not as easy when we come to see how they could be put into practice.
But, in accordance with the Flail Report, industrial derating is to be maintained in Northern Ireland; substantial financial assistance is to be continued to co-operative publicity by the linen industry; and there is to be an increase in the housing programme. May I say, as a former United Kingdom Minister of Housing, that when I have been in Northern Ireland I have been impressed by the possibilities of speeding up the housing programme? I think it will very much depend on whether the resources of the industry, including skilled labour resources, can be suitably made available to carry out the scheme, but I am quite sure it does offer a very important chance both of improving the economy and of improving the basis of Northern Ireland life. [Interruption.] Let us try to make sure that in this expansion of the housing programme to which the Northern Ireland Government have committed themselves any skilled labour there is in the building industry is brought into use. It has been agreed in accordance with the recommendation of the Hall Report that the temporary additional subsidy of £11 per house, the subsidy which was previously financed from the special Customs surcharge, should continue now as a charge on ordinary Revenue.
I was asked about the employment subsidy. That we are not disposed to go forward with; not for the reason which my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West, in her, if I may say so, excellent speech, suggested, that it was because of possible Common Market implications: it was rather because in areas of declining industry we think that the maximum effort should be directed to measures which are designed to attract new growth industries. The United Kingdom Government believe that an employment subsidy of the kind which had been proposed if it were applied 1539 indiscriminately to all productive industries, might in the long term have the opposite effect to that intended by impeding the flow of labour into those industries which are growing and which it is essential to encourage.
Moreover, such a subsidy might very well be extremely expensive in relation to the results which it might achieve, and, as my hon. Friend also mentioned, once started it would be difficult to put any limit to it. We examined carefully the possibility of confining the subsidy to industries with high possibilities of growth, but it was quite impossible to draw any discriminating line there. We also examined the possibility of a subsidy related to increases in employment, and exclusively to that, but we were driven to the conclusion that there is no form of employment subsidy which would not be open to such difficulties and objections that it would be impracticable, and which in relation to the difficulties and obstacles would make a substantial enough and lasting enough improvement to the unemployment problem.
§ Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North) rose——
§ Mr. Brooke
I am afraid that I cannot give way to the right hon. Gentleman because so many hon. Members have asked me questions to which I wish to reply.
My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East asked me about Harland and Wolff. All shipbuilders everywhere are facing difficulties at the moment because of a world surplus of shipbuilding capacity. Competition for what orders there are is getting keen. Harland and Wolff has what in present circumstances is a fair amount of orders in hand. It has an assault ship for the Navy, tankers for BP, a tanker for carrying liquid methane, a cargo liner and three tramps. I do not think it is doing too badly by comparison with the other large yards in the United Kingdom.
The changes in capital allowances announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other day should certainly be a help to shipbuilders like Harland and Wolff which are showing their confidence in the future 1540 of the industry by putting capital in modernisation and re-equipment.
My hon. Friend also referred to Short Bros. and Harland. I should like to join him in expressing praise of its apprentice training scheme. I saw it myself when I was there, and was greatly impressed by it.
§ Mr. Brooke
I was just about to deal with the aircraft. The position is that the two Governments have together agreed that the necessary steps should be taken to provide the finance which is needed to enable Shorts to complete the current order for ten Belfast aircraft. It seems that a sum in the region of £10 million may be involved; so this is very material assistance to employment in Northern Ireland.
Following the recent decision to place a further order for VC.10 military transport aircraft, negotiations are taking place for a substantial share of that work to be sub-contracted to Short's. Short's is one of the companies Which have submitted designs for an aircraft to replace the Hastings and the Beverley in the Royal Air Force. It is not possible for a decision on this requirement to be taken yet, but the Government fully appreciate the importance of an early decision to both Short's and the rest of the aircraft industry.
The House will be aware that negotiations are in progress with the French over a proposed joint project for building a supersonic airliner. Neither I nor anyone else can say at the moment whether these negotiations will be brought to a successful conclusion, but if they are that project will provide a goad deal of work for the aircraft industry as a whole. I cannot say what, if any, of that work will go to Short's, but Short's, like the whole of the industry, is suffering from a lack of overall work, and the mere fact that if these negotiations come to fruition it will add a great block of work to the load on the industry is, I would judge, bound to help all firms throughout the industry.
I have no time to dwell on agricultural development, although I appreciate what my hon. Friend the Member for 1541 Antrim, North (Mr. H. Clark) said about it, and I assure him that not only my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture but I myself will bear in mind always the small farmers of Ulster. I was immensely impressed by what I saw of the reconstruction of a small farm when I was last in Northern Ireland. One could see how opportunities were being taken, and it will be extremely interesting to see the result of the sugar beet experiment mentioned by my hon. Friend.
The main issue must be industrial development. Northern Ireland is given by the Board of Trade treatment equal to that which is accorded to the most needy development districts in Great Britain. Special arrangements have been made for the Ministry of Commerce in Northern Ireland to be notified by the Board of Trade of any firms interested in expanding. The House may care to know that thirty-two additional names have been notified by the Board of Trade to the Ministry of Commerce since the beginning of the financial year.
A number of firms are undoubtedly waiting to see what will come of the Common Market negotiations. I was rather surprised that the hon. Member for Newton, if I recollect rightly, did not mention the Common Market. My own view, which is shared by many others, is that if an early decision should be reached for us to enter that would be one of the best possible pieces of news for Northern Ireland because of the American firms which are waiting to see whether it will be possible for them, by setting up in Northern Ireland to get the benefit of being in—may I say?—an English-speaking country while at the same time having the whole market of Europe at hand.
I have been asked about various forms of advisory council. It is really for the Northern Ireland Government to judge whether an economic advisory council would assist or be a fifth wheel to the coach. But when hon. Members opposite talk about an economic planning council, either they mean direction of industry or they mean nothing at all,
§ and we must acept that. Do they mean that firms should be told that they are to go to Northern Ireland and set up there, profit or loss, success or failure? If not, economic planning means nothing in this context.
§ Mr. Brooke
I said, in this context. That was why I was smiling at one point in the hon. Member's speech. No amount of Government planning will in itself turn an unsuccessful, unprofitable factory into a successful and profitable one of the type we have to attract to Northern Ireland.
With respect to my hon. Friends, I do not believe that we need a joint permanent committee of Ministers of the two Governments. I am inclined to believe rather in informal and flexible arrangements. Equally I agree with them that we should not meet only when there is something contentious or critical to discuss. I want to ensure that there is complete collaboration, and I want to bring in other Ministers of the United Kingdom Government, as I am sure the Minister of Commerce would bring in members of his Government, if that would be fruitful, on any particular occasion.
I know that the Minister of Labour sets great store by any help he can give to the Minister of Labour in Northern Ireland on training and retraining developments. I think that is perhaps the most important issue of all, other than the decision about the Common Market. If we can give any help to the Northern Ireland Government in improving and perfecting their training and retraining facilities we shall be extremely glad to do so. Meanwhile, we have the excellent news that Carreras is bringing a big factory to employ 1,500 people and Michelin is bringing a factory to employ 2,000 people. The Hall Report is not the final word. These two facts alone suffice to show it.
§ Question put, That those words be there added:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 134, Noes 198.1545
|Division No. 7.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Albu, Austen||Blackburn, F.||Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Blyton, William||Bowles, Frank|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Boyden, James|
|Baird, John||Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics, S. w.)||Braddock, Mrs. E. M.|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Hunter, A. E.||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Parker, John|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Parkin, B. T.|
|Cliffe, Michael||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Collick, Percy||Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Jeger, George||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Dalyell, Tarn||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Probert, Arthur|
|Darling, George||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Reynolds, G, W.|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Delargy, Hugh||Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Dodds, Norman||Kenyon, Clifford|
|Donnelly, Desmond||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Ross, William|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||Lawson, George||Royle, Charles (Salford, West)|
|Edelman, Maurice||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Short, Edward|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Evans, Albert||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Slater, Mrs. Harrlet (Stoke, N.)|
|Fletcher, Eric||Lipton, Marcus||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Loughlin, Charles||Small, William|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Lubbock, Eric||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Calpern, Sir Myer||MacColl, James||Steele, Thomas|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||MacDermot, Niall||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Greenwood, Anthony||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Stonehouse, John|
|Grey, Charles||McLeavy, Frank||Stones, William|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Swingier, Stephen|
|Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||Marsh, Richard||Taverne, D.|
|Grimond, Rt. Hon. J.||Mason, Roy||Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)|
|Gunter, Ray||Mendelson, J. J.||Thornton, Ernest|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Milan, Bruce||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Harper, Joseph||Milne, Edward||Wade, Donald|
|Hayman, F. H.||Mitchison, G. R.||Warbey, William|
|Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Rwly Regis)||Monslow, Walter||Weitzman, David|
|Herbison, Miss Margaret||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Hewitson Capt. M.||Moody, A. S.||Willey, Frederick|
|Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Mulley, Frederick||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Holman, Percy||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Holt, Arthur||Oswald, Thomas||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Hooson, H. E.||Owen, Will||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Houghton, Douglas||Padley, W. E.||Zillacus, K.|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Paget, R. T.|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. McCann and Mr. Whitlock.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Harris, Reader (Heston)|
|Aitken, W. T.||Corfield, F. V.||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Costain, A. P.||Harrison Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)|
|Allason, James||Craddock, Sir Beresford||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Crowder, F. P.||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Balniel, Lord||Cunningham, Knox||Harvie Anderson, Miss|
|Barber, Anthony||Curran, Charles||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel|
|Barter, John||Currie, G. B. H||Hendry, Forbes|
|Batsford, Brian||Dance, James||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||d' Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Holland, Philip|
|Bell, Ronald||Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F.||Hopkins, Alan|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Hornby, R. P.|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Doughty, Charles||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.|
|Bidgood, John C.||Drayson, G. B.||Hughes-Young, Michael|
|Biffen, John||du Cann, Edward||Hulbert, Sir Norman|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Duncan, Sir James||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Elliot Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Elliott, R. W. (Nwcastle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Errington, Sir Eric||James, David|
|Bossom, Clive||Farey-Jones, F. W.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Farr, John||Jennings, J. C.|
|Box, Donald||Fisher, Nigel||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Brewis, John||Forrest, George||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (Stafford & Stone)||Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Freeth, Denzil||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Buck, Antony||Gammans, Lady||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|Campbell, Sir David (Belfast, S.)||Gibson-Watt, David||Leburn, Gilmour|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Goodhart, Philip||Lindsay, Sir Martin|
|Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Goodhew, Victor||Linstead, Sir Hugh|
|Gary, Sir Robert||Cough, Frederick||Litchfield, Capt. John|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Green, Alan||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)|
|Chataway, Christopher||Gresham Cooke, R,||Longbottom, Charles|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Gurden, Harold||Longden, Gilbert|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Loveys, Walter H.|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Cooper, A. E.||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||McAdden, Sir Stephen|
|McArthur, Ian||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Stanley, Hon. Richard|
|McLaren, Martin||Peel, John||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|McLaughlin, Mrs, Patricia||Percival, Ian||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Pilkington, Sir Richard||Tapsell, Peter|
|Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Bute&N. Ayrs)||Pitt, Dame Edith||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Pott, Percivall||Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)|
|McMaster, Stanley R.||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Teeling, Sir William|
|Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Macpherson, Rt. Hn. Niall (Dumfries)||Pym, Francis||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Maddan, Martin||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Maitland, Sir John||Ramsden, James||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Marshall, Douglas||Rawlinson, Sir Peter||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Marten, Neil||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Mawby, Ray||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Renton, Rt. Hon. David||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr, S. L. C.||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas||Webster, David|
|Mills, Stratton||Rippon, Rt. Hon. Geoffrey||Whitelaw, William|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Sir R. (B'pool, S.)||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Morgan, William||Roots, William||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Wise, A. R.|
|Neave, Airey||Russell, Ronald||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Noble, Rt. Hon. Michael||St. Clair, M.||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard||Scott-Hopkins, James||Worsley, Marcus|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Sharples, Richard||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Orr-Ewing, C. Ian||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Osborn, John (Hallam)||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd Chiswlck)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Page, Graham (Crosby)||Smyth, Rt. Hon. Brig. Sir John||Mr. Chichester-Clark|
|Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)||Speir, Rupert||and Mr. Finlay.|
|Main Question put and agreed to.|
|That this House takes note of the Report of the Joint Working Party on the Economy of Northern Ireland presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Command Paper No. 1835).|