§ 4.6 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Frank Soskice)
The Government thought that it would be for the convenience of the House if I opened this debate on Northern Ireland and dealt generally with certain topics which are of interest, in particular, to Northern Ireland Members. As the economic situation in Northern Ireland would, I anticipate, loom large in the debate, it was thought that it would be for the assistance of the House if my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State, Department of Economic Affairs, replied to it. Hon. Members will thus know, when they make their contributions, the general views of the Government on particular topics under discussion, and they will be able to speak in the knowledge that my hon. Friend will be prepared to deal with the economic aspects of he present situation in Northern Ireland.
Before dealing with the various topics, I should like to make some reference to the meeting which took place on 14th January, 1965, at Stormont and on 9th February, at Dublin, between Captain O'Neill, the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, and Mr. Lemass, the Taoisach of the Irish Republic. I think that it is true that no such meeting has taken place between the leaders of the two countries since as far back as 1925. I feel that the whole House would wish to welcome this development—a significant stage in the improvement of relations between the two countries—and to offer congratulations to the two Prime Ministers.
Looking at the economic situation for a moment, hon. Members will be aware that unemployment in Northern Ireland remained at the obstinately high level of 6.6 per cent. in 1964. It is to be noted, nevertheless, that this is the lowest percentage rate since 1956. Hon. Members will have studied with care the implications of Professor Thomas Wilson's survey and the recent announcement by the Northern Ireland Government in a White Paper that the Government had accepted the main recommendations in the survey. The consideration of this Report and White Paper will be the first task to be tackled by the Northern Ireland Economic Council.
46 I should like to express pleasure that it has proved possible to overcome the initial obstacle to the setting up of the Economic Council in the relations between the Northern Ireland Government and the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. Trade Unions are repreesented on the Economic Council, as also are representatives of industry, agriculture, tourism, and so on. The House will perhaps know that arrangements have already been made to ensure a close relationship with the machinery for regional planning councils in Great Britain.
If I may turn to particular topics, I wish that I were in a position to give the House al this stage more information about the situation with regard to Short Bros. and Harland Limited. My hon. Friend will develop it in somewhat more detail when he makes his speech, if he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, at the conclusion of the debate, but I should like to say something about it at the outset.
Obviously, the effect of the cancellation of subcontracting work on the HS681 is a matter of great concern to Her Majesty's Government. Hon. Members will be well aware than on 2nd February last my right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State said in the House that the Government had decided to appoint consultants to carry out a comprehensive review of the company's potential and to advise on making the best use of the labour force and the other assets of the company.
The consultants' review will be primarily concerned with the scope for redeploying Short's resources. Indeed, the Wilson Report had already recommended that the two Governments should set up an inquiry into the scope for diversification at the firm and the Northern Ireland Government's White Paper on the Wilson Report stated in paragraph 56 thatthe prospects of further diversification are being explored".The present position is that Mr. Catherwood, the Chief Industrial Adviser to the Department of Economic Affairs, has been asked to take charge of this comprehensive review and, as the House probably knows, he visited Belfast on 47 19th February to have a general discussion of the situation with the company. The consultants have not yet been appointed, but I hope that the House will accept that this comprehensive investigation of the company's potential represents the most constructive set up that can be taken in the best long-term interests of the firm and emphasises the importance that the Government attach to the place of Shorts in the economy of Northern Ireland.
The position of the company has to be considered against the background of the statement by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation in the House on 9th February. My right hon. Friend then said that the best future for the firm might have to be largely outside the aircraft industry. Since these two statements to which I have referred, the Ministry of Aviation has been urgently considering what aircraft work might be provided for the firm to tide it over the period between the rundown of its present work, which will begin at about the end of 1965, and the time when other work might be available as a result of the comprehensive review. Unfortunately, there is no Royal Air Force requirement for additional Belfast aircraft.
As my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation said on 9th February—and I quote his words:A firm depending largely on sub-contract work in the industry, yet absolutely vital to the employment picture of a particular area, is not really in a happy position."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th February, 1965; Vol. 706, c. 237.]What I can assure the House is that the Government will do all they can to sustain employment at Shorts, but in the present state of the aircraft industry as a whole it would be unrealistic to expect the firm to support itself indefinitely by aircraft work alone.
I should like to turn to another individual topic, and that is the question of the project for a new Belfast dry dock. On 14th July, 1964, if I may recapitulate recent history, my predecessor announced that the Belfast Harbour Commissioners had, in the last week of June, 1964, obtained the report of the engineering consultants whom, in consultation with the Northern Ireland Government, they had engaged to prepare a detailed survey and estimate for the dry dock. The report showed that, 48 in view of the geological and other considerations, it should be possible to construct at Belfast within the level of available finance a dock of 150 ft. by 1,000 ft., which is, of course, an extremely large dock. Such a dock would be capable of taking vessels of approximately 150,000 d.w.t.
The report also showed that the difference in cost between a dock of this size and a smaller dock capable of being extended is much less than had previously been supposed and that the cost of future extension works to increase the capacity of a smaller dock would outweigh the initial difference in capital costs.
My predecessor went on to say that, in view of that report, Her Majesty's Government saw no reason why the Belfast Harbour Commissioners should not be authorised to invite tenders for the construction of a dock of this very large size. He stressed that a final decision to begin the construction work of a dock of this size could not be undertaken until tenders were received, at which stage questions of size in relation to cost and other financial aspects would naturally need to be looked at afresh.
It is perhaps appropriate to add that the provision of the dry dock has now assumed a special significance, in view of the expansion undertaken by Harland and Wolff in the repair and conversion side of their work to create additional employment to counter the falling employment on new construction by which shipyards in general are at present affected.
To bring the account up to date, the position is that the Belfast Harbour Commissioners have now asked firms who wish to tender to provide certain further information. Tenders have not yet been called for and it is unlikely that they will be received much before May of this year. I am sorry that I cannot add at present to the information which I have given with regard to the present situation of the dry dock project. As my predecessor said, when the tenders have been received questions of size in relation to cost and other financial aspects will have to be examined before any final decision can be taken.
§ Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)
Will the information include tenders for a slightly larger dry dock? I believe that it has been suggested that one to take vessels of 160,000 tons would be more suitable.
§ Sir F. Soskice
I know that the suggestion has been made. I cannot add to what I have said about that at the moment. My hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State to the Department of Economic Affairs has heard the question and will see whether he can go further than I have done. Beyond saying that I know that the suggestion is current, I do not think that it would be right to add anything. I have particularly to bear in mind that any-think I say will be studied, and I should be most anxious not to give a misleading impression as to the present situation.
Another topic on which I cannot give very much information, but on which I know that hon. Members representing Northern Ireland constituencies are particularly interested, is the proposed new large aircraft carrier, and the possibility that the contract for this vessel may go to Harlard and Wolff. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Defence told the House on a previous occasion, he will be making a full statement about the carrier when the Government review of defence policy has been completed.
Meanwhile, present plans are based on ordering this ship in 1966, in which case tenders would be invited from shipbuilders in the early part of that year. As my hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy told the House last week, tenders to build a large warship are invited from all shipbuilders who have the necessary facilities and experience and who want to be considered.
The hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) has from time to time expressed anxiety that the Joint Anti-Submarine School at Londonderry might be closed down and I should like to say a word about that. He was informed by the previous Government, when he put Questions on this topic from time to time, and he has been told by the present Government that the anti-submarine training arrangements in general were under review, but that no proposal 50 affecting the Joint Anti-Submarine School had been made. As recently as 28th January the hon. Gentleman was informed by my Department that I should be consulted if any such proposal was made. I think that I should bring that information up to date.
I understand that the review of the anti-submarine training arrangements being conducted by my hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy has disclosed that there would be some professional and technical advantages in moving the Joint Anti-Submarine School from Londonderry, but I should emphasise that these considerations are not the only ones. The social and economic effects of such a move upon Londonderry and Northern Ireland as a whole will have to be taken into account as well. I assure the House that they will be most carefully weighed before any decision is taken as to the future of the school. The result is that it must necessarily be some little time before any final conclusion can be reached. That is as far as I can go on that topic at the moment.
I think that those are the broad matters on which hon. Members who represent Northern Ireland constituencies are particularly anxious to know what is the present position.
I turn now to a topic relating to agriculture. I refer to the 1960 potato deficiency payment. For some considerable time this has been a matter of controversy on which strong views are held. As hon. Members who sit for Northern Ireland constituencies know, my right hon. Friends the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretary of State for Scotland, and I, have been considering the question of the disposal of Northern Ireland's share of the 1960 potato crop deficiency payment. The matter has a long history, and though we have been anxious to resolve the difficulties as soon as possible, we have not been able to formulate our proposals until now.
I am very glad to tell the House that my colleagues and I have now agreed on new proposals for the disposal of the money and the Minister of Agriculture, Northern Ireland, is being authorised to reopen discussions with the Ulster Farmers' Union with a view to obtaining its agreement to what we have in mind. I do not think that it would 51 be right to describe the proposals in detail at the moment, but I can say that my colleagues and I are intent on solving the long-standing problem on a realistic basis.
I am sure that hon. Members from Northern Ireland will join me in hoping that the end of this protracted dispute is at last in sight. I do not want to prejudice discussions by saying too much about our proposals, but I can say that they allow for the distribution to the growers of a substantial part of the money. I hope that will bring satisfaction to those hon. Members who are particularly interested in this aspect of the matter.
§ Mr. Henry Clark (Antrim, North)
I am sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is aware that the Ulster Farmers' Union is by no manner of means opposed to the policy of support payments for which it had been intended that this money should be used. The union has made its opposition almost entirely as a point of principle. Hon. Members on this side of the House will be very anxious that any money left over after distribution to the growers should be used for a policy of support payments in future.
§ Sir F. Soskice
There will be a portion of the money left over. I have certainly done my best to follow the controversy and will have in mind what the hon. Member has said. I should not like to commit myself further, but I hope that the broad point of principle is resolved and the controversy can be laid to rest.
§ Sir Knox Cunningham (Antrim, South)
I do not wish to press the Minister too closely, but he said that a proportion of the money will be left over. May I ask whether the majority of the money will be paid to the growers?
§ Sir F. Soskice
The phrase to which I should prefer to limit myself is this, that the distribution to the growers will be of a substantial part of the money. I hope that will be thought to be an adequate response to the question put to me.
This is a day on which hon. Members who sit for Northern Ireland constituencies will wish particularly to intervene 52 and to put points of view which occur to them as causing concern. The Government thought the best way to initiate the debate would be by a comparatively short statement from me on particular outstanding matters, and this I have made.
As I have said, my hon. Friend will try to deal in more detail with matters upon which hon. Members particularly fasten when, if he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, he winds up the debate. I have tried to open the debate by way of a general statement. I hope that hon. Members will think that of some assistance to them in putting points of view which they would wish to express in relation to matters in which they are particularly interested.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ Mr. R. Chichester-Clark (Londonderry)
We are very glad that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary should have seen fit himself to open this debate. He has often listened to us in private, very courteously, and we are glad that he should take the opportunity to speak in the House on Northern Ireland matters.
We are glad to see the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department is present, the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. George Thomas). He has a direct responsibility for Northern Ireland affairs. I recall that, long ago, another hon. Gentleman of Welsh descent who interested himself in Irish affairs also bore the name of Thomas. I do not know whether it was his disposition, like that of the Joint Under Secretary, which caused him to be known as "Silken Thomas." Be that as it may, the hon. Gentleman in question, for his participation in Irish affairs, lost his head. We look to the Joint Under-Secretary of State to keep his.
This debate should not be regarded as a regional matter of limited application. For the problems of such areas as Northern Ireland and even more perhaps the opportunities available there are central to the whole question of national economic development. I hope that the First Secretary of State particularly, who has overriding responsibilities, realises that, because he has, after all, referred to Northern Ireland as a hitherto neglected area; implying that he did not intend to allow it to be neglected in future.
53 I hope that this knowledge is percolating down through Departments. It has been said ad nauseam—and it is true—that one of the major problems facing Britain is to make more effective use of our human resources. There has been much talk of concentrating manpower where it would be most effectively utilised. That is important, but there is, of course, a corollary to that which N.E.D.C. has constantly pointed out—if we are to step up our rate of national growth we cannot afford to waste unexploited reservoirs of manpower in areas like Northern Ireland.
What we are talking about this evening is not only the needs of Northern Ireland, but the needs of the whole nation. In Northern Ireland, the people are in no suppliant mood, and over the last two years, the great leap forward which the community has made has been noticeable. Plans have been laid to transform the whole social and economic scene. The place is far from being a depressed area. Indeed, it is humming with activity. I should be out of order if I were to discuss this and it is tantalising that I cannot do so. The Mathew Report, the Benson Report, and the Lockwood Report have been made, and action is going forward on them. In so far as any community can lift itself up by its own bootstraps, Northern Ireland is doing that.
It is true, as the Home Secretary mentioned, that unemployment of 6.9 per cent, is high, wasteful, and sometimes tragic. There has been great success in the diversification of industry policy, but, impressive though that has been, it has been masked to some extent by the uncertain prospects for some of the established industries.
May I just for a moment talk about shipbuilding? Here we are aware that the Northern Ireland Government have agreed that the inquiry into the British shipbuilding industry should be extended to Ulster. The Belfast yard has been streamlined and modernised, prefabrication techniques have been introduced, the harbour force has been consolidated and, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, the dry dock construction project is out to tender, or at least almost out to tender. All these are hopeful signs, but we all know that the entire British shipbuilding industry is facing intense and even dangerous foreign competition.
54 It is just as important to Belfast as to anywhere else that the Government should seek, as far as possible, to ensure that, in every respect, they accord to British shipbuilding financial and other support on at least as generous a scale as that which foreign Governments give to their shipbuilding industry. We hear nowadays of rationalisation and concentration. As far as Northern Ireland is concerned, what we are quite certain of is that it is essential that Belfast should remain a major shipbuilding yard, as it has done for 100 years.
I should like to say a word about the aircraft industry. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman observed, there was and is grave concern about the cancellation of the HS681. This is a very serious matter for us. We regard the Government as being under a moral obligation to seek, by every possible means, to maintain the level of the labour force of Shorts up to 1970. That is the policy as adumbrated by successive Ministers of Aviation. We also believe—I think that this is common ground—that the levels of which I have been speaking can only be attained by bringing more aircraft work there. It seems to me that the Ministry of Aviation has, in recent weeks, seemed to think that the future of Shorts might lie largely, though not completely, outside aircraft work.
I think that we ought to reserve judgment on that until we have heard something more about what Mr. Catherwood and his consultants have to say on the subject of diversification. I think, however, that it is fair to make one or two points about that, because it must not be assumed that diversification in Shorts is a blindingly brilliant discovery of this Government. Indeed, Shorts themselves have been diversifying hard for years. They have made analogue computers, sweepers, and, I think, even milk churns. That is diversification, although the bulk of the labour force must inevitably be employed, for the moment, on aircraft and missiles.
Whatever may happen in future, if it goes the way the Government think it should go, I hope that they will consider as a possible industry in years to come the manufacture of control automation equipment, which, I am told, would give very considerable employment in that part of the world. There has been 55 talk, rather loose talk perhaps, that they might manufacture machine tools, but I think that anyone who has been to Shorts —many hon. Members have—will realise that this would require radical changes in the situation there and would require a great deal more than mere capital, welcome as that would be.
In considering Shorts, I think that the most important thing to say is that it is essential to preserve the nucleus of high technical competence which is of such value to the economic development of Northern Ireland as a whole. It would be ironic if this Government, who rode into power as crusaders in technology, should, as an act of policy, extinguish the brightest technological light in Ulster.
I come now to the Wilson Report. The Report is not, as the House might think, the first account of the 100 days, nor even Shakespeare's "Chronicles of Wasted Time," but a most valuable document which is a blue-print for planning up to 1970, produced by Professor Thomas Wilson, who holds the Chair of Economics at Glasgow. Northern Ireland has accepted it almost in its entirety, and that is good, but for the acceptance to be effective, the Northern Ireland Government will need the backing of Her Majesty's Government here in Britain. Because of the financial relationships between the two Governments, the Northern Ireland Government will have to come over and will discuss with the major spending Departments—the Treasury and, I suppose, the Department of Economic Affairs—what is to be done.
I make this plea, through the Home Secretary, to the rest of the Government: do not clamp down on innovation and imagination; do not force every proposal or every project into the existing United Kingdom mould. Northern Ireland has special problems which require special treatment. I think that it is well known in this House—I concede it at once—that we have had special treatment in the past. I do not think that there is any need any longer, if if there ever was, to be furtive or mealy-mouthed about this. I think that it is accepted that under-developed areas of the country need different treatment from congested areas. Perhaps I could say that there should be a sensible 56 diversification as between development areas. After all, it is well known that Scotland has twice the national rate of unemployment and that Northern Ireland has sometimes twice the Scottish rate.
The Government should judge Northern Ireland's problems on their merits, without looking over their shoulders all the time to see what demands are greater elsewhere. That seems to me to be very important. As an example, the labour training and retraining proposals in the Wilson Report might be considered. They are flexible, imaginative and, above all, expensive, but I hope that the Government will help the Northern Ireland Government in every way to take bold steps forward in that direction. For the cash social services, it is true that Northern Ireland goes step-by-step with the United Kingdom, but if Northern Ireland is ever to play the part which she can play, it may be that her policies must, in certain respects, be in advance of those of Great Britain.
The United Kingdom itself must look again, perhaps, at its own regional policies and decide whether they have sharp enough teeth to redress the geographical imbalance of the economy. Is the location of industry policy really strong enough as it stands? Fiscal policy may still be used as an instrument of regional policy. In one particular respect I should like to summarise a passage from the Wilson Report. This is a point which I should like the Government to consider, if they are not already doing so. The Wilson Report says that the seemingly generous grants towards the capital expenses of industry in Northern Ireland and elsewhere, are greatly reduced in effective value because the value of the grants is deducted from sums allowed against tax in the form of investment, initial and ordinary depreciation allowances. Is the margin of advantage enough? On the face of it, it seems a good deal less than was generally supposed.
We are told that a high priority is given to the effective use of manpower, and obviously it is desirable that the demand should be spread and that we should discourage manpower hoarding. I commend a suggestion in the Wilson Report that a selective payroll tax should 57 be used in congested areas only. I note from a reply by the Chancellor of the Exchequer the other day that he emerged from his pre-Budget coyness enough to say that he would look at the suggestion. I certainly hope that it will be looked at.
May I say a word about agriculture? The right hon. Gentleman knows the problem in Northern Ireland; he knows that there are still thousands of farmers who are earning less than £500 a year, and that cannot be a satisfactory situation. I will not dwell long on it, because I know that some of my hon. Friends have thoughts on the question of the amalgamation of holdings, on increasing the remoteness grant when it is renewed and even on the possibility of using the increase to encourage the amalgamation of holdings. I was glad to hear what the right hon. Gentleman said about the 1960 deficiency payment. We shall study carefully what he said, but it seems welcome that the end of this long and intractable problem is in sight.
What else can the Government do to facilitate expansion? What they can do for Northern Ireland is to make certain that they keep a close eye on the cost and standard of supplies and services, particularly as far as the nationalised industries are concerned. It is vital to us that Northern Ireland does not pay one penny more than is necessary, for example, for coal. They could also ensure that sea and air services, whether freight or passenger, are as cheap and efficient as possible. In this connection, it was with great regret that we heard last week that the one competitor on our air services had been rather summarily knocked on the heads This is extremely unfortunate.
The Government can also do something for which Ulster Members have pressed hard in the past: they can see whether there are what I called in a Question adjuncts of Government Departments, or, at any rate, some parts of Government Departments, development centres, research facilities and that kind of thing, which could be moved to Northern Ireland and could work there for the nation, giving valuable employment. The National Engineering Laboratory at East Kilbride has been of great benefit to the Scottish economy, and we should like to know when we shall get 58 something like it. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will tell us something about that this afternoon.
There is one point which I should like to make about the North-West area of Ulster. It is very important to us that this area, with towns such as Londonderry, Limavady and Strabane, should not he allowed to lag behind the rest of the Province in opportunities of employment for their citizens. Here, the United Kingdom Government can help by realising, as the right hon. Gentleman did realise, the importance of such installations as the Joint Anti-Submarine Training School at Londonderry, the base there and the R.A.F. station there. There are other industries, which could give a good deal of employment in that part of the world, which are dependent upon Government contracts. I hope that all that will be borne in mind. I must warn the Home Secretary that he will hear a lot about the Londonderry naval base in the House until a satisfactory statement has been made about its future.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the visit of Mr. Lemass to Captain O'Neill and the North-South talks, as they have come to be called. We certainly wish to commend the courage and initiative of Captain O'Neill in having thought of that talk and the courage of Mr. Lemass in accepting the invitation to go to Stormont. I think that they were absolutely right. Mr. Lemass has since said that not too great a significance should be read into them, and it is important to note that it is quite certain that they in no way affect the constitutional position of Northern Ireland.
I have spoken largely about the employment position there, and a target has been set by the Wilson Report. We have accepted the challenge of creating 30,000 jobs in manufacturing industry by 1970. That sounds a lot, but there need be no scoffing; it can undoubtedly be done. There is a new spirit of optimism sweeping through most parts of Northern Ireland.
If it is done, then it will be a real contribution to national growth and it will bring relief and security to Ulster homes where that has sometimes been lacking in the past. If the Governments on both sides of the sea are ready to work together, they will find a response in Ulster, and with 59 that anything is possible. Shaw once wrote:Some see things as they are and wonder why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?That, in pursuit of employment, is the spirit of the Ulster people.
§ 4.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Simon Mahon (Bootle)
I am grateful for the opportunity, once more, of taking part in a debate on Northern Ireland because, unlike the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark), I believe that changes of great significance to those of us who know Irish history are taking place.
I want to place on record the appreciation of Irish people in this country and those of us who are of Irish descent, of the first, fourth or fifth generations, of the fact that the two Prime Ministers of Northern Ireland and Eire have been able to meet. This is a great departure from the sterile position of bygone days, and I applaud their courage and their statesmanship in doing so. While it must not be over-emphasised, I am quite sure that it would be a great mistake to read too little into the meeting of those two leaders of the Irish Nation.
President Kennedy quoted Shaw on his last visit to Ireland, and he also said that there "are no permanent barriers". I am one of those who believe that there are no permanent barriers in this world—of colour, creed, or anything else; and I live and hope for the day when there will be no permanent barriers of any kind between the Irish people.
§ Mr. Henry Clark
When the hon. Member makes that statement does he envisage the Union Jack going up in Dublin or the Tricolour going up in Belfast? It would be useful to find out.
§ Mr. Mahon
I will leave that interjection to the adjudication of the Irish people. I suggest that all of us should say to those two leaders who have taken this initial step that we hope that the prosperity of Ireland, the peace of Ireland and the understanding and tolerance of the Irish people has been enhanced by their endeavours.
I hope that the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Mr. Henry Clark) will be sorry that he intervened, because my next step is to appeal to those people in 60 any part of Ireland who believe in an extreme approach. I feel that they must try to achieve whatever their just and proper endeavours are by the right means and by peaceful and dignified means, and that they can only retard the progress of Ireland by indulgence in these extremities which are sometimes in the worst possible taste and which are against the best interests of Ireland.
There is already in the world—and every day in the House we hear about it—too much hatred. A little more expression of love would go a long way and the world is looking for just that. Hatred can only bring bitterness and from bitterness grows fear. It is out of fear that we get the sort of extremities I have in mind. I hope that people, not only in Northern Ireland, but in Eire, America, Australia, England and throughout the world, will show others—particularly those who hold silly prejudices—that their ends can be better served if we all behave ourselves in a proper and right manner.
I say that as one who, like many hon. Members, served his country with his brothers; who served his country and no other. I hope that there will be more love in the world so that the bitterness and fears that now exist in many parts of it can be removed. I hope that the desire to achieve greater harmony and love throughout the world will be expressed in more speeches today because bitterness of any kind can be got over by the expression of love.
Everyone must agree that an unemployment rate of 6.7 per cent. to 7 per cent. is much too high and must bring with it a great deal of unhappiness for the people of Northern Ireland. I took some comfort from the statement of my right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State of 2nd February, when he said, referring to Short Brothers and Harland:We recognise that the abandonment of the HS681 will present that firm, which is largely publicly owned, with a particularly difficult problem …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd February, 1965; Vol. 705, c. 10161After pointing out that Shorts occupied a special place in the economy of Northern Ireland and that it was important that the fullest use should be made of the company's resources, the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) pointed out that Shorts and its equipment was suitable only for aircraft construction. I understand the hon. Member's concern for 61 his constituents and their desire to maintain their employment. I therefore urge the Government to do all they can to maintain full employment in Northern Ireland and to achieve greater diversification, not only at Shorts but elsewhere.
I realise, coming from Liverpool, the gratitude which people have for the new dry dock there. With my knowledge of shipping and shipping matters, I suggest that it might be wise for the Government to consider the establishment of a bigger dock. One with larger dimensions would be extremely useful because we are living at a time when larger and larger ships are being built. Indeed, I hope that Belfast and Liverpool, with their long shipping association, will be able to prosper together in this respect.
It is with some regret that I turn to a subject about which I do not like speaking. Although it is regrettable that I must mention it, it is essential that I should do so. Certain things can be forgotten and it might be convenient for the House to forget some of them sometimes because some matters often seem out of tune, out of colour and out of tradition with the atmosphere of the House today. It may seem out of tune with these things that I must talk about discrimination in Northern Ireland.
It is deplorable that any hon. Member in the House of Commons should even have to suggest that any sort of discrimination of the type I will mention should be going on, particularly since we fought for democracy and for the dignity of the individual. If it is right what people are saying—what the Campaign for Social Justice, the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland and others are saying—it must be equally deplorable for hon. Members who represent these areas to hear these things because I have never known those hon. Members, when in the House, to show the slightest degree of discrimination. Indeed, I have always found them most generous.
I must mention, however, that somebody in Northern Ireland has said that they have "two faces". I am mentioning this because I feel that it should be said. The hon. Members concerned have always seemed to me to be pleasant in the House. Nevertheless, a member of the Labour Party in Northern Ireland has said that they speak with "two voices".
§ Captain Orr
On a point of order. The hon. Member seems to be going beyond the bounds of an Adjournment debate. As I understand, a debate on the Adjournment is confined to matters which are within the responsibility of Ministers. We would, on a general Motion concerning Northern Ireland, be perfectly happy to debate these matters with the hon. Member and in the tone in which we appreciate he is seeking to raise them. However, on this occasion I am wondering just how far such a discussion would be in order.
§ Mr. Paul B. Rose (Manchester, Blackley)
Further to that point of order. A similar point of order was raised in a recent Adjournment debate when the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) was speaking. It was then ruled that it was in order to raise the matter.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Dr. Horace King)
The question of what is in order in this Adjournment debate is a difficult one. The debate on the Adjournment is very wide but, having said that, it must relate only to matters for which a Minister can be responsible. I thought that the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon) was trying to argue that the Minister could take some action in the matter about which he was speaking.
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
Further to that point of order. Even if the Minister concerned were not at the moment responsible, would it not be in order for the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon) to argue that the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, should be amended to make that Minister responsible?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Matters requiring legislation ought not to be referred to in an Adjournment debate, except incidentally. I hope that hon. Members will allow the hon. Member for Bootle to make his own speech.
§ Mr. Mahon
The hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) 63 anticipated my remarks. I was about to make exactly the point which he made. He is always generous and I know that he was endeavouring to be helpful to me. Our Ministers have grave difficulty in applying themselves to these problems and invariably I get the answer that it is a Stormont responsibility. I concur with that view, but I have had information sent to me about the position in Northern Ireland and since we have some responsibility for Northern Ireland here or else we would not be debating the matter now—
§ Captain Orr
On a point of order. I regret to have to interrupt the hon. Member again, but he has just said that he is talking about matters which are within the responsibility of the Government and Parliament of Stormont. I should have thought that if one looked at Erskine May one would see that a debate on the Adjournment rules out matters within the authority of any statutory body—any body set up by this House—and the Parliament of Northern Ireland is such a body. It may be difficult if the hon. Member for Bootle develops his argument into matters within the competence of that Parliament because, in view of the narrowness of the debate, we cannot have a proper discussion of those matters.
§ Mr. Hugh Delargy (Thurrock)
Further to that point of order. Perhaps we can clear this matter up once and for all. It is clearly written in the 1920 Act that certain reserve powers lie here with the Home Secretary. One of them is to decide matters of religious discrimination. I am certain that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary will agree with that. I submit, therefore, that my hon. Friend the Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon) is in order in what he is saying.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I regret that the House has not allowed the hon. Member for Bootle to continue his speech, so that we may see whether he is going out of order. I understood that when he was interrupted he was saying that he thought that while it might be a matter for Stormont, he was going to argue that it might not be. I suggest that hon. Members should allow the hon. Member to continue.
§ Mr. Mahon
That is precisely what I am trying to do, Mr. Deputy-Speaker— find out where the responsibility lies.
64 I have communicated with the Home Office and with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, and what I am putting now is the condition in which certain people in Northern Ireland who are subject to our constitution find themselves because they are not of a particular religious persuasion. I shall not go further with this matter, because I do not like the subject. It is intolerable that any man should have to mention it in these days, but we shall never get anywhere in these islands unless we can score out these acts of discrimination. We know that they are going on.
I love Northern Ireland as much as any one else does. I do not like discrimination. I learned during the war not to see religion or colour—it is much more important to look at a man, and see pain. A good deal of pain has been caused to decent British people, but I will now leave the subject, and not test your patience one moment longer than it should be, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.
Turning to something a little more pleasant, I was very impressed by some of the statements made by the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. He has said that, since Pope John, things have improved tremendously, and that he hopes for better relationships between the Church and his country. It was very generous of him to say that in, I think, a television programme.
I say very sincerely that I am not full of criticism of Northern Ireland, and that there is one thing I like and applaud about it. Captain O'Neill has said that when he talked with Senator Robert Kennedy, in Washington, he had great difficulty in conveying to the Senator the fact that Catholic schools in Northern Ireland are given 65 per cent. grants. That is true. I do not agree with Captain O'Neill that this should be the limit—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman is now discussing something which is the responsibility of the Stormont.
§ Mr. Mahon
Then I shall not go much further than that, though I am grateful to have had the opportunity to record it.
On the subject of discrimination against Catholics in Northern Ireland, this new 65 Prime Minister of Northern Ireland has said:… in many cases discrimination is not taking place: in other cases it may be. In many cases it is taking place from both sides.I agree with that statement and, like Captain O'Neil, I hope that there will be an improvement there very shortly.
Some weeks ago I listened to an Irish air being played at the funeral of the greatest statesman I believe the world has ever seen, and I thought that, to some degree, we sometimes exaggerate our differences. The song was written by the great Irish lyricist, Thomas Moore, for the daughter of John Philpott Curran, the great Irish advocate. The lady was Sarah Curran, and is known throughout Irish history. She was the sweetheart of Robert Emmett. The words have almost a Churchillian ring:Believe me, if all those endearing young charms,Which I gaze on so fondly todayWere to change by tomorrow and fleet in my armsLike fairy gifts fading away—That air was played continually whilst the body of the great statesman was put on board the vessel that was to take him further on his journey to his final resting place. It dawned on me that our ties and cultures are almost the same. Emmett said that no one should write his epitaph until his nation took its place amongst the nations of the world. I think that the Irish nation has taken its place amongst the nations of the world, and I applaud all the efforts being made by the people of Northern Ireland and of Eire to make things better, and to make these people more prosperous.
§ 5.8 p.m.
The Marquess of Hamilton (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)
I should like to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) in his remarks about agriculture, because this is still the biggest basic and most important industry in Northern Ireland. It directly employs 68,000 people, or 12 per cent. of the employed population, and has current exports running at £65 million a year. It is still the foundation of a rural economy, and agriculture on a sound economic basis is essential for the prosperity of Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland farmers are, however, subjected to a far greater degree 66 of price differentiation than that borne by other producers in the United Kingdom. Again, they are at a distinct disadvantage, since they have to market the majority of their production on this side of the Irish Channel. There is a far greater disparity in prices between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom than is covered by the present remoteness grant of £1¼ million per annum; in 1963 the total loss of farm income from selling at Northern Ireland prices amounted to over £5 million.
In the farming year 1963–64, the selling price of every commodity except for oats and barley was less in Northern Ireland than it was in Great Britain as a whole. For instance, paragraph 869, on page 207 of the Verdon Smith Report, states that the average return on a 10 cwt. bullock in Ulster is £9 5s. less than that on a similar animal in Great Britain. Of that sum, £2 might be ascribed to seasonal differences, but it still leaves £7 5s. to be accounted for by remoteness. The cost of importing essential feeding stuffs is also high. On average, barley costs between £3 and £3 10s. a ton more than it does in England and Wales. These disparities are rightly causing widespread concern amongst the farming community in Northern Ireland, for it is a fact that the farmer there is not receiving his share of increased prosperity to which he is entitled.
The figures I have just quoted provide not only a conclusive argument, but show an immediate necessity for a substantial increase in the remoteness grant, which, in present conditions, is totally inadequate. To encourage agriculture to expand and prosper in remote areas, the incentive of additional grants for agriculture are just as important as those available for other industries.
Again, there is a clear need for a more even spread of the economy throughout the United Kingdom. For too long we have had congestion, labour shortage and high activity confined to limited areas, while there has been a lack of of interest and of positive action in the outlying, more remote parts of the United Kingdom. If we are to overcome our economic difficulties, strengthen the balance of payments and create full employment throughout the United Kingdom, attention must be focused on these remote areas with their wasted resources, which 67 must be fully developed, since these areas contain considerable potential growth.
What is now needed is a clear indication from the Government of their intention to restrict industrial development certificates in the Midlands and in the South-East. Strict limitation of these certificates is essential to achieve industrial growth in the more remote parts of the United Kingdom. For, although Ulster is searching both North America and Western Germany in its intensive drive to attact new industries, our future successes, as in the past, will undoubtedly come from this country. Through our new industries the modernisation of our industrial structure is being carried out.
However, it has left Ulster highly vulnerable to the slightest change in the economy, as recent events have proved. Almost all our new factories are branch factories set up during the period of expansion. Immediately there is a downward trend in the economy resulting in contraction, we in Northern Ireland are the first to suffer. It is for this reason that our unemployment problem remains balanced on a knife's edge. We therefore view with considerable anxiety the growing signs of a possible slackening in expansion by the coming autumn or early 1966.
We in Northern Ireland are determined to create the right physical environment for industry in Ulster, for the problems of further industrial expansion are just as much physical as financial. Total exports in 1963 amounted to £385 million, an increase of £25 million on the previous year. This is a remarkable achievement for a country with a population of less than 1½ million. However, Northern Ireland's industry is deeply worried by the present cross-Channel freight rates. What is clearly needed is a fresh inquiry as recommended by the Wilson Report, in spite of the White Paper's rejection, because, as a recent leader in The Times stated,regional economy can only flourish when light is turned on to every corner.The effect of any increase of freight rates is two-fold, or could be described as double-edged. It applies just as much to the importing of raw materials as it 68 does to the exporting of a processed product. If we are to continue to attract new industries and to encourage our industrialists to expand further, freight rates must become more equitable.
I also hope that the Government will assist, wherever possible, in the development of air freight, for if it can become competitive with alternative freight services I am confident that in time the competitive disadvantages of our geographical position will cease to exist, since, apart from speed and saving of time, air freight saves capital sums being locked up in stock and it eases the distribution problem of Ulster products.
Although the welcomed cross-border talks may lead to freer trade between the countries, the House must remember that our main markets will continue to lie in this country. However, the current cross-border talks could benefit the development of tourism, which, in turn, could prove to be one of our biggest growth industries, which would be of particular benefit to my constituency.
§ Mr. Lubbock
Up till 18th January, when the first meeting between the two Prime Ministers took place, nobody in Ulster, except the Ulster Liberal Association, was advocating talks between the two Prime Ministers. Is this not a new conversion?
The Marquess of Hamilton
The hon. Gentleman may be interested to know that I attended several meetings between North and South on the subject of tourism. I can assure him that these consultations have been going on for a long time.
The Marquess of Hamilton
Before concluding, I must remind the Government of the deep concern, in spite of today's announcement, over the import surcharge on essential raw material for the man-made fibre industry. In my constituency there is Glass Fabrics, a subsidiary of Messrs. Turner and Newall Ltd. It is a rapidly expanding member of the man-made fibre group. Marbles of a special grade of glass imported from the United States are the company's basic raw materials. It is impossible to change to a United Kingdom source of supply. If the import surcharge continues for any 69 length of time, it might cause cessation of production. For this to happen to an expanding company operating in an area of high unemployment would be nothing less than tragic.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Delargy (Thurrock)
For a debate on Northern Ireland this is a good turn-out. I have never before seen so many Ministers present. At one moment there were eight of them. It is very encouraging to see them.
§ Mr. Delargy
I certainly was. I am on record in HANSARD as having made a speech in that debate. In fact, the hon. and gallant Gentleman complimented me on my speech when he spoke towards the end of the last debate. His memory, like his politics, is very faulty.
§ Mr. Delargy
I was very glad to hear that Northern Ireland affairs are now in the hands of my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, who was referred to, not inappropriately, as "Silken Thomas". I am all the more pleased about this because I recollect very vividly a Private Member's Motion which my hon. Friend moved on this subject 14 years ago. My hon. Friend might refresh his memory and read the extraordinarily good speech he made on that occasion. I hope that he has not departed from the principles and the policy that he expounded then.
I was very glad also to see the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) speaking from the Opposition Front Bench—for the first time, to my knowledge. It was most pleasant to see the hon. Gentleman there, and we hope to see him there for many years to come. The hon. Gentleman said that this was not a regional debate, but a debate about the needs of the whole nation. I agree entirely on that. Where we differ is as to what nation it is we are discussing. A foreigner, hearing an hon. Member from Northern Ireland say when discussing the needs of Northern Ireland that they were the needs of the whole nation, would certainly be pardoned for believing that it was about the 70 Irish nation that we are speaking. In fact, the hon. Member for Londonderry was not referring to the Irish nation at all, but to the English nation.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
The Labour Party must get rid of the idea that all foreigners are so ill-informed as that.
§ Mr. Delargy
I do not think that foreigners are ill-informed. A foreigner would be very logical in drawing that conclusion. In fact, the Labour Party is more broadminded about foreigners than is the Conservative Party, which believes that all civilisation stops at Dover. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary gave the unemployment figures for Northern Ireland as 6.6 per cent., and I believe that somebody else gave a figure of 6.9 per cent.
§ Mr. Delargy
Yes, 1964, and he took pleasure, as we all do, at the fact that these are the lowest figures since 1956. Nevertheless, the figures are still appalling. It is hard lines on those 6.6 per cent. or 6.9 per cent. who are unemployed. When one remembers the large amount of emigration from Northern Ireland into this country, one must conclude that but for that emigration the unemployment figures would have been much higher.
§ Mr. Henry Clark
Surely the hon. Gentleman is the classic pessimist who looks at a glass and says it is half-empty when most decent men would say that it half-full. If he looks at the figures more carefully he will find that, apart from some emigration from Northern Ireland, there was immigration from this country to Northern Ireland, and the employment figures for 1964 are higher than ever before in the history of Ireland, North or South.
§ Mr. Delargy
I was not looking at the figures. I was referring to figures which had been quoted from the two Front Benches and which so far have not been challenged. The previous Government were very often under fire for failing to provide employment in Northern Ireland. We hope and, indeed, expect that the present Government will improve on the sorry record of the last Government, but I must tell them that if they do not do so, they too will come under fire as the Tory Government did.
71 I do not want to be controversial this afternoon. I want to refer, as others have, to the great pleasure which has been given to so many people by the visits of the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Captain Terence O'Neill, and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland, Mr. Sean Lemass. The news of these visits will be welcomed by everybody, or nearly everybody. In fact, one wonders why such visits did not take place long ago. Still, one must resist the temptation to look back. Looking backwards in anger or regret has been the cause of abundant mischief in Ireland. We should look not backwards but forwards. These visits have given great pleasure to people who have at heart the welfare of the Irish people, North and South. The hon. Member for Londonderry was a little guarded when he mentioned it and warned us that we must not see too much significance in it. I thought that he was being pessimistic.
There are so many endeavours in which the two Governments could collaborate. One has already been mentioned, tourism, which is of great importance to all Ireland. Then there are transport and the mutual balance of industry in which the two Governments could collaborate very closely to the great benefit of their peoples. Perhaps the tariff barriers could be lowered until ultimately they became invisible.
One hears of this collaboration and unity being extended into all sorts of fields. I received this morning a letter from a professor in Dublin asking me to support a united front in the City of Derry. Those words "united front" have an almost sinister ring for me, but I went on to read the letter and I discovered that the united front to which he referred was a united front of Catholics and Protestants. Said I to myself, "If the Catholics and Protestants of Derry unite on anything, it must be something good." I continued to read the letter and found something very good indeed. They were protesting that the new university of Northern Ireland is to be sited in Coleraine. I find this decision quite absurd. The university should be sited in Derry.
§ Sir Knox Cunningham
Mr. Deputy-Speaker, is this not one of the matters which are purely within the province of 72 the Government and Parliament of Northern Ireland? Is it in order to refer to this matter in this debate?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
No, it is not in order. I was listening and waiting for the hon. Gentleman to come to order.
§ Mr. Delargy
Am I not correct in believing that a certain amount of finance will be provided by this House for the university? That being the case, is not a Member of the House in order in referring to it?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I think that any money will be going indirectly. The universities of Northern Ireland are in the hands of the Northern Ireland Government.
§ Mr. Delargy
I am sorry that I am out of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I am also sorry that the hon. Gentleman did not join this united front for such a worthy cause. As I say, I hope that the ecumenical spirit is spreading, even in Ireland, and one hopes that other people will follow the example of the Prime Ministers. It may be that the leaders of the different religious denominations will follow the lead of their Prime Ministers. The prospect dazzles. But if ecumenism spreads through Ireland, perhaps we may see a miracle—the Irish miracle. Most people in Ireland believe in miracles already, so the impossible is always possible there.
It has been said in authoritative quarters in London that the division of Ireland does not serve any British interests. Perhaps soon we shall hear somebody in Stormont say that the division of Ireland does not serve any Irish interest either. In the meantime, while Ireland is divided we must all welcome this new approach which has been symbolised more than anything else in the visits of the two Prime Ministers.
§ 5.26 p.m.
§ Mr. James A. Kilfedder (Belfast, West)
The hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy) seemed to suggest from the unemployment figures for Northern Ireland that Northern Ireland was stagnating. This is not the case. I have never ceased to be amazed at the tremendous change which has swept across the face of Northern Ireland and which has taken place in the people of Northern Ireland over the years.
73 Forty years ago when Northern Ireland was first created, a large section of the people were very poor. The three major industries were agriculture, shipbuilding and linen, and each of these was very sensitive to economic fluctuations, which meant that many people were constantly out of work. In the 1930s the proportion of unemployed was at times as great as one quarter. Hon. Members will know from that figure what human suffering there must have been during those years. We have a picture of the aged poor with only the workhouse to go to, the poor sick who had only an inadequate medical service, the father of a family receiving very little from the dole for his wife and children, and in addition there was little opportunity in the educational facilities for children to break out of their environment.
But that is a picture of long ago. In fact, since the war there have been great changes in Northern Ireland which would surprise anyone who had been absent from Ireland during the war. A quarter of the population is living in houses which have been built since the war, and millions of pounds have been spent on education, including the provision of technical schools. In addition, we have had a diversification of industry and the creation of about 50,000 new jobs. A network of roads has been planned and built, opening up the whole country. I could go on, but I realise that unemployment is the scourge of Northern Ireland and that the figure is still unsatisfactory. The Home Secretary mentioned that the average for 1964 was 6.6 per cent.
§ Mr. John E. Maginnis (Armagh)
I have been listening to my hon. Friend with interest. Would he not agree that the real reason for the number of people unemployed is the high mechanisation of our farms in Northern Ireland?
§ Mr. Kilfedder
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. In fact, I was going to mention that. These figures have been created not only because of the contraction of the three major industries, and thousands of people leaving the farms, but also because we in Northern Ireland have the highest birthrate in the United Kingdom.
Professor Wilson estimates in his Report on Economic Development in Northern Ireland that over the next six 74 years there will be an increase of about 30 per cent. in the working population over the 1964 figures. These figures are tremendous. The challenge is there and we now have the Northern Ireland Economic Development Council to tackle it, but we are dependent on what happens in Westminster, because whatever the Government here do will have an effect on the plans in the Stormont. If the Government here introduce any more deflationary measures, they will put a brake on the development and prosperity of Northern Ireland.
Those who are employed at Short Bros. and Harland of Belfast are greatly concerned about their future. This was a great firm which attracted considerable contracting work for the HS.681 but that was cancelled and it was also announced that there would be no further orders for the Belfast freighter. Finally, consultants arrived to examine the redeployment of the firm's resources. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) will deal in detail with the firm if he is called to take part in the debate. It would be a tragedy if this great firm were phased out of the aircraft industry as contemplated by the present Government. It employs 7,500 of whom 5,500 are directly connected with the aircraft industry.
This is a matter of great concern to Northern Ireland because aircraft work has a high labour content. There is also no difficulty about freight charges because the products can be flown direct from the airfields. What is to happen to the well-balanced team there and to their skills? We in Northern Ireland need all the technical skills we can obtain and Short Bros, and Harland has provided a stimulus to Ulster's industrial life through its research work. The firm has not only a large and valuable training scheme but it has created a chair of aeronautical engineering at Queen's University, Belfast, and it absorbs a number of graduates from that university.
Against that background the firm was carefully designed and planned for long production runs of large aircraft. It has one of the largest bays in Europe, able to accommodate about six huge Belfast freighters. It would be ridiculous to turn this monster factory to the production of such things as machine-tools. The 75 firm is not content merely with working in Belfast but it also collaborates on the Continent in the design and production of the Fokker F28 with the Dutch Aircraft Company. A German aircraft company is also taking part in the project. Shorts has also an agreement with French and Belgian companies and will be responsible for 10 per cent. of the Bruget STOL aircraft.
Reference has been made in the debate to shipyards. I hope that when it comes to placing orders for the proposed aircraft carrier the Minister of Defence will remember the great experience and facilities available in Belfast shipyards. Since the Government came to power no Admiralty order has been placed with Harland and Wolff despite the fact that many orders have been placed in Scotland and in north-east England. Professor Wilson in his Report says that Ulster's great manpower is its most valuable asset if it is trained in industrial techniques. If we are to train these people, restrictive practices must go and Ulster must create a system of industrial training and apprenticeship which would be a magnet to industrialists looking for new sites. Here the Government can help us. I know that several hon. Members wish to take part in this important debate and I will leave them, including my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast. East, to speak in particular about Short Bros. and Harland.
I am proud of the achievements which have been brought about by the Government of Northern Ireland in creating the prosperity that already exists there. I am too young to have known the depression years between the wars but it was possible as a child for me to sense them. Anyone who has touched on the fringes of the sorrow brought about by unemployment will fight hard to get rid of the high percentage of unemployment in Northern Ireland today. We will undoubtedly help the Government here to help Stormont and the Northern Ireland Economic Development Council to get rid of this scourge which has haunted Northern Ireland for so long.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Crawshaw (Liverpool, Toxteth)
I am sure that all hon. Members are delighted to know that the unemployment situation in Northern Ireland 76 shows a downward trend but, as many hon. Members have said, there is no cause for complacency when one remembers that the unemployment percentage is still 6.9. In Liverpool the percentage is not as high as that, but I know only too well what that could mean in personal hardship and misery. I only hope that the alteration in the structure of the aircraft industry will not bring any more hardship to Northern Ireland. It has been mentioned that the shipyards there will probably tender for the new aircraft carrier. I know that there will be keen competition from Merseyside where people are hoping that the order may be placed there.
The contribution which I shall make to the debate is not necessarily related to the economy of Northern Ireland. In the debate which took place on 14th July last year, the right hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. H. Brooke), who summed up for the Government, said:Much of the debate has been taken up, not very helpfully, by allegations of religious discrimination in Northern Ireland. Frankly, I think that there are more urgent matters to discuss than these allegations."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th July, 1964; Vol. 698; c. 1151.]I have never been to Northern Ireland, though I hope to make a trip there later this year if I am still allowed in.
I can think of no more important matter to debate than discrimination, whatever form it takes. I represent a Merseyside constituency which has had its problems of discrimination in the past, which I am glad to say today are almost non-existent, to the greater happiness to the people of Merseyside, and I therefore know that I tread on dangerous ground, but that is no reason why I should not dare to tread upon it.
I come to this debate with no preconceived ideas on the problem, never having been there and not being a Catholic but a member of the Church of England, but I understand that the suggested discrimination is against Catholics. I hope that anything I say will be taken as coming from someone who really wants to know what the situation is.
Other hon. Members have probably received literature on this subject, as I have, but I have not confined my reading to literature sent to me through the post. I have read several books on the subject by people of different persuasions. My view is that there is discrimination, and 77 it seems to stem from both sides. That is the regrettable conclusion I have arrived at, but as I see it, the discrimination seems to hit harder against Catholics in Northern Ireland.
§ Captain Orr
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that there is an allegation of discrimination on the part of the Northern Ireland Government, or what?
§ Mr. Crawshaw
I think that this point has been made in previous debates in the House. Last year, the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) dealt with the matter at great length and made many suggestions as to where the discrimination lay. One matter he raised was the allocation of houses in a certain town. In that debate, the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) said that, if any point were brought to his notice, he would be pleased to give an answer to it. That was one point specifically brought to his notice. I hope that, if the hon. and gallant Gentleman is able to make a contribution today, he will give an answer to the suggestion of discrimination which the hon. Member for Orpington made in July last year.
§ Captain Orr
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. This raises again precisely the question which I raised earlier in the debate. The hon. Gentleman is inviting me to give an answer to a question concerning, as he alleges, religious discrimination by a local authority in the allocation of houses in Northern Ireland. I take it that I should be wholly out of order if I sought to do so.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I hope that the House will bear with me a moment. This is a difficult point of order which has been raised several times in this debate and in the previous debate. I find that, on 14th July last, the Home Secretary, replying to the debate, said:But the constitutional facts are that Section 5 of the Government of Ireland Act provides that, in the exercise of its power to make laws the Parliament of Northern Ireland shall not make a law of a discriminatory kind on account of religion, and the executive power of the Northern Ireland Government is similarly limited under Section 8(6).If that is so, this matter could be raised in the House.
§ Captain Orr
With respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, the Home Secretary, on that occasion, went on to say: 78But it has been held by successive Governments in the United Kingdom, regardless of party, that the reserve powers in the Government of Ireland Act do not enable the United Kingdom Government to intervene in matters which, under Section 4, are the sole responsibility of the Northern Ireland Parliament and Government.—[OFFiciAL REPORT, 14th July, 1964; Vol. 698, c. 1151.]If, therefore, the United Kingdom Government does not have any authority or standing in the matter, it becomes very difficult to debate these questions.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
That is why I said that this was a very difficult point. When reference was made to the reserve powers earlier in the debate, I took occasion to look through the reserve powers, and none of them deals with the problem now raised.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Would you be good enough to give a specific answer to the question which the hon. and gallant Gentleman asked, namely, would he be in order in responding to the suggestion just made by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw)?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
If the hon. Gentleman who has the Floor is in order in raising the point, the hon. and gallant Gentleman would be in order in replying to it. That is the simple answer.
§ Mr. G. B. H. Currie (Down, North)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. As I understood the hon. Gentleman's speech, he was not making any allegation against the Nor-them Ireland Parliament or Government. He was making an allegation in terms which I understood to be directed against a local authority in Northern Ireland. In these circumstances, I respectfully suggest that the matter would be out of order.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
In both sets of circumstances—Stormont or local government—unless the hon. Gentleman can link the matter with some Ministerial responsibility, it would be out of order. I was hoping that he might go on to do SO.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. This is a very short debate. It has to finish at seven o'clock. Many hon. Members wish to speak. I hope that we shall not have too many points of order.
§ Mr. Rose
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. May I refer you to Section 75 of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, which provides:Notwithstanding the establishment of the Parliament of Northern Ireland … or anything contained in this Act, the supreme authority of the Parliament of the United Kingdom shall remain unaffected and undiminished over all persons, matters and things in Northern Ireland and every part thereof.May I remind you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that Questions have been put down to the Home Office concerning the extension to Northern Ireland of proposed legislation on discrimination? Legislation with regard to discrimination was a matter raised in the Queen's Speech, and Questions concerning Northern Ireland in this connection have been answered. Therefore, I respectfully suggest that this would be within the purview of the debate.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
That commits us no further than what I said in my earlier reply to a point of order.
§ Mr. Crawshaw
I do not propose to go into more detail on these points. They have been raised in the House before, and I am sure that hon. Members opposite know of the matters which we have in mind. I ask them to take them quite seriously as questions being asked rather than as statements of existing facts. Do these things exist? That is what I want to know. The situation is disturbing to people who do not know the mechanics of central and local Government in Northern Ireland. To be quite frank, I did not know, for instance, that in local government elections there is a property vote, something which went out of this country many years ago. I can only say that, while there is a property vote, there must be a tendency towards discrimination, and I feel that it would be better for everyone if—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. We are now going into the details of local government in Northern Ireland, which is a matter for Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Crawshaw
I shall not pursue that point, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but the 80 main points I wish to raise are connected with elections and local government in Northern Ireland. Without going into which parties are which, it strikes me as rather remarkable that, as a result of the reorganisation of boundaries, 31,000 electors can elect only eight representatives, while, in the same place, 18,000 electors, just over half that number, can elect 12 representatives.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. This is very interesting, and I am not questioning the truth or otherwise of what the hon. Gentleman is saying, but he must show what the House of Commons can do about it and what some responsible Minister can do about it.
§ Mr. Crawshaw
Discrimination was a matter raised in the Queen's Speech, and I am mentioning these figures in that connection. I am not going into the rights or wrongs of the issue, but it strikes anyone who comes to the problem afresh, as I have, that it is remarkable that these things can exist—if they do exist, and I have reason to believe that they do.
§ Mr. Stratton Mills (Belfast, North)
The hon. Member is being very unfair. He has made several allegations about Northern Ireland which, as he knows, are out of order. He knows that it must be out of order for us to deal with them. That is most unfair.
§ Mr. Crawshaw
It puts me in an intolerable position if I am to be criticised if I give details and yet, on the other hand, when I want to deal with the subject on a broad front, I am criticised because I do not give the details. Hon. Members opposite must make up their minds whether they wish me to name these places. I have tried to do it as fairly as possible and I have not said whether they are nationalist, Tory, Catholic or anything else. I am not concerned with whether they are Catholics or Tories or anyone else. In my view, discrimination in itself is wrong. We are doing less than justice to the House if we are prepared to sit down without looking into such a problem.
§ Mr. Lubbock
On the last occasion that we debated Northern Ireland I gave some figures about the local election boundaries in Derry. I understand that this is out of order, but the figures have never been refuted.
§ Mr. Crawshaw
The point which I was making is that there was an undertaking that, facts and figures having been given, they would be answered. I was hoping that the hon. Member would answer them.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
The hon. Member is posing many questions. Presumably he wants answers and presumably he is looking for information. But it has been ruled fairly clearly that he cannot be given that information and those answers. In those circumstances, would it not be helpful if he passed to a constructive discussion about Northern Ireland?
§ Mr. Crawshaw
I can well appreciate that certain hon. Members opposite do not like certain facts to be disclosed. But that is no reason why I should not seek the information.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. If the hon. Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw) does not give way, the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Mr. Henry Clark) must keep his seat. May I observe once again that this debate must close at 7 p.m. and that many hon. Members are seeking to speak in it.
§ Mr. Crawshaw
Perhaps I should conclude by asking the Under-Secretary of State in his reply to elucidate one or two points of this nature. They are confused issues. I understand that under the Act of 1920 we are empowered to look into matters in respect of the administration of Northern Ireland. Is there any substance whatever in the suggestions which I have made? I have no more reason to believe that they are true than to believe that they are not true, apart from the fact that I have read them. But I am sure that hon. Members opposite will dispute them if necessary. Perhaps the Under-Secretary of State would answer this question: is it time to look into the administration of the Act of 1920 to see whether it is being operated fairly and whether it is necessary to make Amendments to it and to suggest alterations?
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ Captain L. P. S. Orr (Down, South)
I do not want to take too long, because there is still a chance that some of my hon. Friends may be called to speak in the debate. The House should contrast some of the speeches which we have heard from the other side of the House. The speech of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw) was different in tone and in apparent objective from that of the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy), who sits in front of him, and that of the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon).
§ Mr. Delargy
Is it not a splendid thing to have a variety of speeches instead of the same old dreary speeches which we hear from the other side of the House?
§ Captain Orr
I am all for diversification, and if I may say so, the hon. Member for Thurrock is more diverse than most people. We are always delighted to see him here. It has been beautiful to watch the way in which he has mellowed with age. His contribution today was helpful. I am sorry if he objects to my congratulating him, but I must congratulate him again upon the tone of his speech.
The hon. Member for Bootle, who I understand is returning to the Chamber shortly, also spoke in a fair and reasonable tone. Both of them welcomed the meetings between the two Prime Ministers—and rightly so. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) was right, however, when he said that we must be a little careful not to read too much into those meetings. Anything is good which gets people together, talking with good will. Nothing but good can flow from this. I am certain that there will be a great many matters across the frontiers which can be properly and reasonably discussed to the advantage of all.
But it would be dishonest if anyone were to suggest that, for example, the position of Northern Ireland as an integral part of the United Kingdom was likely to be in any way weakened. We are absolutely determined in Northern Ireland that whatever else may happen, this is one thing which will not happen. The constitution of Northern Ireland remains inviolate, and we are determined to see that it is so.
83 If hon. Members cast their minds back some 10 or 15 years—the hon. Member for Thurrock will bear me out—they will remember that this kind of debate upon Northern Ireland was then almost impossible. We were continually being ruled out of order by the Chair if we sought even to debate Northern Ireland affairs. It was not until one or two hon. Members were successful with Private Members' Motions that we were able to have a debate on Northern Ireland matters at all. It was normally held by the Chair in those days that anything to do with Northern Ireland, even its economic affairs, unless it related to Government contracts, was out of order in the House. I remember many times Mr. Speaker Clifton Brown ruling that these matters were out of order. It is a great advance that we have reached the position where not only can we debate these matters but it has become a recognised practice that the Government will once every Session find time to debate Northern Ireland affairs. This is a great advance.
My purpose in rising to points of order earlier was simply that while we welcome that the House can debate our economic affairs—because the work and energy of the Ulster Government and Parliament are strictly circumscribed by economic decisions here—we should not go to the other extreme and encroach on the just prerogatives of the Ulster Parliament. While the pendulum has been swinging the right way, there is a danger that it may swing too far, and we may begin to encroach in the House on the just prerogatives of a fairly and democratically elected Parliament, to which we have entrusted the task of looking after certain things which we have delegated to them. This House of Commons has given the Parliament of Northern Ireland a great many powers, and we ought to be careful that we do not now encroach on its prerogatives. This was the sole purpose of the points of order I raised.
If the hon. Member for Bootle, who sought to bring into this debate the question of religious discrimination—which you, Mr. Speaker, quite rightly ruled out of order—takes these allegations to any responsible authority in Northern Ireland, he will get a fair and just answer. If he is in difficulty, let him come to me and 84 I will help him. I give him an assurance that he will be able to get access to the person responsible. The responsibility lies in Northern Ireland. It does not lie with Ministers of any party in this House.
§ Mr. Simon Mahon
I am grateful to the hon. and gallant Gentleman and happy to hear what he has said. At the earliest opportunity I hope to visit Northern Ireland to meet the gentleman concerned.
§ Captain Orr
I am glad to hear that. If the hon. Gentleman is in any difficulty in gaining access to the gentleman in question, I will facilitate it. I will now turn to the prime subject of the debate.
We have been dealing with Northern Ireland's economic problems. The Home Secretary made an interesting opening survey but, if I may say so, with respect, it was a little limited. He did not have very much to offer us except hope about the 1960 potato subsidy. That is welcome. We have been pressing for it for a long time. It has taken a long time for the Ministry of Agriculture to make up its mind and it is very satisfactory that, at last, it appears to be coming down on the right side.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. George Thomas)
Another Government are in office now.
§ Captain Orr
That extraordinary interjection takes my breath away. But perhaps we had better get on. I do not want to take up too much time.
My hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry and others who have spoken from this side of the House have covered almost all the ground and I do not want to go over it again. However, I want to underline two points. First, as my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry said, we have now got the Wilson Report. If most of the parts that the Ulster Government have accepted are carried into effect, it will transform Northern Ireland in the next few years. We shall be very well satisfied with this debate if the United Kingdom Government can assure us that nothing in the carrying out of the Wilson Report, as set out in the Northern Ireland Government's White Paper, will be inhibited for want of Treasury support.
85 Secondly, my hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (The Marquess of Hamilton) dwelt, quite rightly, on the subject of agriculture, which is Northern Ireland's mast important industry. But it is important not only to Ulster but to the United Kingdom as well. I wonder whether hon. Members understand just how important it is. For example, 36 per cent. of the nation's pigs come from Northern Ireland; 11 per cent. of the nation's fat cattle; 10 per cent. of potatoes; 8 per cent. of the eggs and 5 per cent. milk.
Northern Ireland farming is incredibly efficient—I think that we have the most efficient farming industry in the United Kingdom. Our output per acre is higher than in any other part of the United Kingdom. But the extraordinary thing is that, in the midst of this comparatively rosy picture, there are some 13,000 full-time small farmers whose income is less than £10 a week, and this represents a very serious social problem. About half of the 13,000 are on farms of less than 20 acres and consequently here we have one of the most dangerous potential social problems facing us in Ulster.
It is all very well to say that economic forces will gradually bring about amalgamations of farms—will force them to come together—but we cannot in this case leave it to blind economic forces because, under our system of land tenure, our small farmers are owner-occupiers; they farm land that was farmed by their fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers and there is every incentive, deep within them, to stay on the land. Consequently, to allow the blind forces of economics to drive these people off the land is almost wicked to contemplate.
Something has to be done to ease the transition to greater co-operation between our farmers. I know that the Government at present have something in mind about co-operation and I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary of State will tell us a little more about their plans in this respect. The problem is not confined to Northern Ireland although it is peculiarly important there. It applies to every other part of the United Kingdom. However, Northern Ireland is undoubtedly peculiarly vulnerable in this respect. I hope that at least the hon. Gentleman will tell us that he has the problem very much in mind and is determined that it shall be solved.
86 My hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone suggested that something might be done through the "remoteness grant". This is a special grant in Northern Ireland to offset the high cost of freight across the Irish Sea. He put forward a very cogent argument for increasing the remoteness grant and I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary of State will go to the Treasury and tell it in no uncertain terms that this matter is becoming urgent.
Professor Wilson suggests the setting up of an agricultural trust in order to finance certain industries ancillary to agriculture. We want to see many more of these sited in country areas to use the produce from the farms and this might very well be financed through the remoteness grant. Again I ask that no Treasury barrier should be put up when something as imaginative as that is being mooted in order to help our small farmers.
Hon. Members from Northern Ireland have approached this debate in a nonparty political way. We have been satisfied that it should be a debate on the Adjournment. We have been quite prepared to put our points of view to the Government as capably and clearly as possible. We recognise that the Government still have a great deal to do and we recognise that they have made a great many promises to Northern Ireland. We are in a state of very considerable anxiety about the future of our aircraft and shipbuilding industries and farming community. We are still prepared to suspend judgment but not for too long. I remind the Government that later this Session we shall have another half-day's debate on Northern Ireland and that then our approach might be very different from today's unless they behave themselves in the meantime and carry out the promises they have made.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Paul B. Rose (Manchester, Blackley)
In a debate on Northern Ireland, it is incumbent upon me, perhaps, to explain why I should intervene. I will say to the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) that of course the debate can proceed in a nonpartisan way, because hon. Members opposite have a monopoly of the Northern Ireland seats while the Opposition in Northern Ireland is not represented here. That is one good reason for my entering 87 the debate, but there is another and more local reason.
On 23rd November, 1867, three Irish Fenians, named Allen, Larkin and O'Brien were publicly hanged in Salford Gaol, Manchester, and buried in Mostyn Cemetery. In 1898, a memorial was erected to their honour. One of the people who spoke on their behalf at the time was a Member of the House, John Bright, a Manchester man whose statue now stands in our city. It is with this precedent in mind that I rise to speak on this issue, an issue geographically far from my constituency, but close to the hearts of many of my constituents.
§ Mr. Henry Clark
May we take it from the hon. Gentleman's remarks that he is representing the official Opposition in Northern Ireland?
§ Mr. Rose
I do not think that any such thing can be taken from my remarks. I am merely trying to point out that there are many people on this side of the Irish Sea who are interested in the problems of Ireland.
Many immigrants from Ireland settled in Manchester and many of them chose an area in my constituency, Mostyn. Although their Irish origins are very much lost in the past, the electoral register will make it plain that this is still a live issue in the constituency, an issue which can take up a whole evening in an election campaign, as it did in mine. This is only one of my reasons for intervening in a debate about a part of the United Kingdom over which a cloak of silence has so often been drawn by all political parties.
As a Socialist, I am utterly opposed to any kind of discrimination against any group of human beings on grounds of race, religion or nationality.
§ Captain Orr
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but he seems to be harking back to the same subject. May I extend to him my offer which I made to the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon)? This may save the hon. Gentleman a considerable amount of time.
§ Captain Orr
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will pass it to me. I will see that it goes to the right quarter.
§ Mr. Rose
I do not propose to give way any more.
The evidence which I receive week by week points to a manifestation of discrimination in both jobs and housing. During the recent General Election, in Belfast, West a leaflet was put out by an extremist organisation. It contained the following words:Do you want Roman Catholics in your street?We should not mince words about this matter. This is something which should be known the length and breadth of the land. These words are the shades of similar slogans which appeared on the walls of Smethwick. I do not for a moment blame the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Kilfedder), and I would not for a moment suggest that he was in any way responsible. I have a great admiration for the hon. Gentleman and I am sure that he is far too civilised to associate himself with that grotesque and medieval sentiment.
However, there appears to be a great deal of evidence about the practice of discrimination in the Six Counties, and on this side of the Irish Sea a conspiracy of silence seems to hide this evidence from the public. The evidence is impressive and substantial and certainly constitutes at least a prima facie case which must be answered. I intended to quote several examples, but that appears to be out of order because we are not allowed to discuss matters coming within the ambit of Stormont. This is the rub, because when the matter was raised at Stormont by a Nationalist member only recently—
§ Captain Orr
On a point of order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member again, but surely this attempt by hon. 89 Members opposite is now becoming an abuse. They are not dealing constructively with the matter before us, but are trying time after time to introduce matters which are clearly out of order.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr), who is usually very courteous, would have been more courteous if he had allowed the hon. Gentleman to finish his sentence before he questioned whether it was in order.
§ Mr. Rose
The difficulty is that when this matter is raised at Stormont, as it was on 16th February by a Nationalist member, Mr. Austen Currie, it is said that it is not a matter for Stormont. One wonders how to get to the root of this evil and to elicit the information required if it is not a matter for this House, nor for the Parliament of Northern Ireland.
There are grave allegations, allegations with which I had intended to deal, but with which I shall not deal now, partly because of the time and partly because of the point of order. In addition to the allegations about housing and jobs, there is also an allegation about the siting of the new university and the siting of the new town in the County of Armagh and the cutting of railway links, all for political motives and all with political undertones.
§ Sir Knox Cunningham
On a point of order. Your predecessor in the Chair, Mr. Speaker, has already ruled that to refer to the new university at Derry and to other matters which are solely within the responsibility of the Parliament of Northern Ireland is out of order.
§ Mr. Lubbock
Your predecessor, Mr. Speaker, ruled about the siting of the new university, but did not say anything about the new town in Armagh.
§ Mr. Speaker
I have not yet got the point of what this is about. What is quite clear is that we cannot in this House in this debate refer to matters which are not the responsibility of the Minister here. In effect we are debarred by Statute from 90 doing so and it is necessary to insist upon the rule.
§ Mr. Delargy
Apart from Short Bros. and Harland and Wolff, what can we mention in this House in a debate about Northern Ireland?
§ Mr. Rose
With all these points of order, one wonders what hon. Members opposite have to hide. If there is no truth in these allegations and no foundation for them, there should be no objection to the proposals which I am about to make and which do come within the ambit of the responsibility of my right hon. and learned Friend.
I have had a Question about the extension of discrimination in Northern Ireland. I have deliberately refrained from going into details, but this is a matter which needs to be discussed and I hope that, before they interject with superfluous points of order, hon. Members opposite will understand exactly under what heading this subject is being raised. I have three sugggestions to make about discrimination.
First, if we are, quite properly, to ban discrimination against people with different coloured skins who come to our shores—and I hope that this legislation will not be long delayed—why should we not also include religious discrimination and extend such legislation to a part of the United Kingdom where there are allegations of discrimination against some of our own citizens? If there is nothing to fear, if this discrimination does not exist, I am sure that hon. Members opposite will join me in supporting that legislation.
There is also a need, when we have our projected ombudsman, to extend his powers over events in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman is in some difficulty. He will be aware of the rule which excludes the discussion of legislation on a Question for the Adjournment of the House. I have not quite followed what the hon. Gentleman is doing, but it sounds like a suggestion for legislation, in which case it would seem that he has gone far enough.
§ Mr. Rose
May I turn from the question of legislation? There might be an alternative method of dealing with this problem. Perhaps a Royal Commission might be set up to deal with the broader issues involved—not only the question of discrimination, but all of the economic problems which face Northern Ireland and the problem of links with the South. I join hon. Members who have spoken in welcoming the better relations which are developing between the Republic in the South and Northern Ireland.
Let it not be said that this House does not have power over these matters. Several hon. Members have suggested in points of order that this House does not have power. I ask them to look at Section 6 of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, and then to refer to Section 75, which I read out previously in pursuing a point of order. I ask them, on the basis of that, to understand that this House has ultimate authority over Northern Ireland. If it did not have that ultimate authority, presumably the 12 hon. Members opposite who represent Northern Ireland would not be sitting here. When that happens, it may have interesting political consequences for this country.
There can be no first-class or second-class citizens in the United Kingdom, and I appeal to hon. Members on both sides to realise that this principle is indivisible. The races, religions and nationalities which go to make up our population have something to add to the value of our common culture. It is because I want to unite rather than to divide that this matter must be discussed. It is a very unpleasant issue and one does not like to raise it. However, we do not solve problems by being ostriches and refusing to look problems in the face.
I give this warning to hon. Members who would stifle this discussion. There are many hon. Members, not only on this side, but I believe on the second bench below the Gangway opposite, who will be taking up this issue and who are most concerned with it. In particular, I pay tribute to the work of the hon. Member for Orpington and the contribution which he made in a previous debate on the Adjournment.
To abolish the memory of the past dissensions and to substitute the common 92 name of "Irishmen" in place of the denominations of Protestant, Catholic and dissenter was the object of a great Irish democrat, Theobald Wolfe Tone. It is because Northern Ireland is a microcosm of this problem, be it in Cyprus, Mississippi, the Middle East or Smethwick, that I believe that it is important to us all. I hope that in uncovering this issue we will help to eradicate just one injustice.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Thorneycroft (Monmouth)
I wish to summarise some of the arguments which have been advanced from this side of the House, partly because I have been allotted the task of shadowing the Home Secretary and partly because—and I hope that it is not wildly out of order to refer to the fact—I am quarter Ulsterman and, therefore, have some right to speak in this debate.
The problems which confront Northern Ireland are illustrative of a great many other problems which confront the rest of the United Kingdom. They are central to one of the big problems in Northern Ireland. The balancing act between the Department of Economic Affairs and the Treasury is something which we are watching all the time with entranced fascination, and somewhere out of that a decision is taken about how far we can expand the economy and how far sterling and the balance of payments must override that. But, meanwhile, there are other parts of the country which have special problems of their own and which are affected by national decisions. Some of them are less developed.
I represent, and the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department represents, such an area—or it used to be such an area. In South Wales we have broken through the problem to a large degree. We now plead with no one. We stand broadly on our own feet. Industries are proud to go to that area. Almost all of us who study these problems, wherever they arise, would like to reproduce in other parts of the United Kingdom something of the success achieved in South Wales. But there are areas, like Lanarkshire and the North-East Coast, where this degree of success has not been achieved. Particularly is the problem unsolved in Northern Ireland. Sometimes the unemployment rate in Scotland is quoted as being double 93 that of the rest of the United Kingdom. The Northern Ireland rate has often been above the Scottish rate.
I am particularly glad that the Joint Under-Secretary of State, Department of Economic Affairs, is to reply to the debate. I do not know whether he originated the term "two nations", but I think that he was active towards the end of the last Parliament in drawing attention to the fact that there was great expansion in the rich acres of southeast England and nothing like as much in other parts of the United Kingdom. He will shortly have the opportunity at the Dispatch Box of announcing the implementation of some of the proposals which he then put forward and of producing solutions to some of the problems which he then posed. I am sure that the whole House wishes him well in that.
We should not underestimate what has been achieved—the factories which have been built, the new jobs which have been found, the grants which have been provided, the skills which have been applied, the dry dock at Belfast, the refurbishing of the shipyards at Harland and Wolff, the incentives which have been offered, and so on. Credit must be given, and I think in order can he given, to the Government of Northern Ireland, to the United Kingdom Ministers who have made their contribution and to all the men on the shop floor or on the boards of directors in a vast range of industries, from agriculture to aircraft, who have contributed to solving the problem.
However, the problem remains a very considerable one. Despite all the effort, the increase in the number of jobs provided barely keeps pace with the decline in other forms of activity. The increase in agricultural production, which is greatly to the credit of the men who work in that industry in Northern Ireland, is not necessarily matched by an increase in manpower in that industry; indeed, rather the contrary is the case. It is often and inevitably matched by a reduction in manpower. This merely accentuates the need, which hon. Members on both sides recognise, for alternative forms of employment.
Agriculture is, and will remain, the basic industry of Northern Ireland. It is certainly an important part of the Home Secretary's responsibility—no one else 94 can do it—to ensure that the agricultural policies of the United Kingdom are attuned to the needs of Northern Ireland. As we approach the period of the year when discussions take place on prices, subsidies and support costs, we very much hope that the Home Secretary and the Joint Under-Secretary will make their voices heard and will ensure that the special needs of Northern Ireland are accentuated in the discussions between Ministers which properly take place at that time.
Obviously, we must look beyond agriculture. We must look to the technological base of Northern Ireland. We all view with the gravest anxiety the situation which has flowed from the decisions on the aircraft industry. Whatever the nature of those decisions, I think that all of us would wish to pay tribute to the design teams which contrived the Belfast, the Seacat and the Skyvan, to the men working on the VCIO and to the men who would have worked on the HS681.
I shall not debate the aircraft industry here—that would be inappropriate—but I say firmly that when the operational requirement was de-graded, whether that be right or wrong, I deplored the ugly rush to buy an American aircraft, and an outdated one at that. I feel that if the Home Secretary had made his voice more firmly heard at that moment, at least there would have been a better hearing for the men at Short's and a chance to say that a British aircraft, either at Short's or even at Hawker's and partly fabricated at Short's, could have been put forward as a solution. I wonder whether it is, even now, too late for pressure of that kind and representations of that character to be made.
As to the alternative employment that has been mentioned, these new words about the future of Short's lying outside the aircraft industry ring somewhat strangely in our ears when one remembers what the hon. Gentleman's boss, the First Secretary, said on television in Northern Ireland. Asked what they could do, "You can build aeroplanes", he said. He kept on repeating it. Of course, they can build aeroplanes in Northern Ireland. The question is whether they are to be permitted to build them. If not, I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary will tell 95 us in rather more detail what is in his mind on this matter.
The Government are a Government of planners. I do not say that in any derogatory sense, but I am sure that, after all that was said about planning, the aircraft orders were not simply scrapped like that. Decisions were not taken to say that Short's would no longer have a real future in the aircraft industry without the most careful and cogent thought having been given to what the alternative really was. I am confident that in those discussions the Home Secretary and the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Economic Affairs were brought in. We do not need final answers now, but we need a corner of the veil to be lifted in fairness to the men of Northern Ireland. We would like information about the type of work which they really have in mind.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) said in opening the debate from this side, diversification is not a blindingly novel solution for the problems of Short's. Everything from analogue computers to carpet sweepers has been tried. I do not say that there are not other possibilities, but, at least, a hint or indication of what they are should be given by the Government spokesman in winding up the debate.
I see in the Press that some other plans may be redrawn. I read with anxiety a statement emanating from the Ministry of Defence, my former Ministry, about Londonderry. I hope that the Home Secretary will be careful about this. There is a tendency for all the Services—and I speak with knowledge of this—to site their headquarters within two hours' journey of Marble Arch. The right hon. and learned Gentleman should not be taken in by all the talk about technical reasons and the rest which have been handed out by the Ministry of Defence.
When I was at the Ministry of Defence, I was bringing powerful arguments to bear to arrange that many of the headquarters should be removed altogether from southeast England, where they are crowded together in a narrow corner of the country, and that opportunity should be taken of siting them in Scotland, in the north of England and in Northern Ireland. [An 96 HON. MEMBER: "Why did not the right hon. Gentleman do it?"] Far from removing an anti-submarine base—[Interruption.]
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. William Ross)
I was merely saying—
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
I am sorry, I cannot give way. I was concerned with this in the Ministry of Defence. The fact is that a great many headquarters could be moved.
There is probably a good military case for reciting quite a number of headquarters which are at present sited in south-east England. This should particularly appeal to anyone who is associated with the articles about "two nations". This is exactly the type of solution for which he should be searching. If the Home Secretary needs any assistance in this matter, I will be very happy to help him to brush aside some of the pseudo-technical military arguments for building everything within theatreland, or somewhere like that. We must see whether we cannot co-operate together to ensure that some work at least is resited in that way.
The accusation could be made of the Government that there appears so far to have been a certain absence of planning by them in the location and future of industries in Northern Ireland. We are fortunate in having the Joint Under-Secretary to reply to the debate. There is a great range of activities, from industry to military affairs, to Government Departments and to research stations. Some such solutions have been applied in parts of Scotland. There is a whole range of Government activity in this case available to the Government, who have prided themselves on their willingness to bring dynamic planning to the service of the State.
This is an opportunity. For our part, if the Joint Under-Secretary is in a position to indicate, again in broad terms, that it is his policy to move part, perhaps, of the Home Office, perhaps of his own Department or of the Departments of any of his colleagues, and that they should be established in Northern Ireland and centred there, as others have been in Scotland and in other parts of the United Kingdom, we would certainly be—
§ Mr. John Robertson (Paisley)
On a point of order. I have been listening very carefully to the debate. Several of my hon. Friends have been ruled out of order, Mr. Speaker, for trying to introduce questions which, strictly, come under the aegis of the Government at Stormont. Location of industry is not a responsibility of my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary. I suggest that the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft) is out of order.
§ Mr. Thorneycroft
Certainly, a suggestion that the Joint Under-Secretary should offer up a Government Department or a section of it or a research station to Northern Ireland must be something at least within the ambit of Her Majesty's Government and properly within their control. Equally, there are opportunities on the military side.
There are certainly vacancies that can be opened up by the Government on the industrial side. If Short's are to be moved, to some extent at least, outside the manufacture of aircraft, one or two ideas must have occurred to the Department of Economic Affairs about something which could be put in its place. If we can have just a few of those ideas in the final speech of this debate, all sides of the House will be under a sense of obligation to the Joint Under-Secretary.
The central features of the plan must be on the basis of the Wilson Report. That has nothing to do with the Prime Minister. We all wish that he was an Ulsterman, when we would feel much better. This is a much better and finer creature. The Report has been presented to the Government of Northern Ireland and is necessarily their responsibility, but to see it carried through successfully can only be done by the full backing of Her Majesty's Government. Its theme is flexibility of labour and the development of growth points within the economy. One growth point has been sadly nipped in the past few weeks and we want to know what other growth points the Joint Under-Secretary has in mind and what steps he will take to develop them.
98 Northern Ireland presents both a challenge and an opportunity. The very existence of this labour supply is not essentially a liability, it is an asset; an opportunity for use; an opportunity to provide something which is scarce—a supply of labour, may I say a supply of labour which is increasingly skilful. The Home Secretary has here a great opportunity to show initiative. I hope and trust that between him and the Ministry of his hon. Friend the necessary resources of skill and technical and economic advice will be available.
We must all expect, particularly in view of what the Government have said in the past and the many articles—we admire him for those articles—which the right hon. Gentleman wrote on this very subject during the years preceding the General Election, to have something really robust, forthcoming and hopeful to the people of Northern Ireland.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Economic Affairs (Mr. William Rodgers)
This has been a most helpful and constructive debate, made all the more enjoyable by the very vigorous closing speech from the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft). It is flattering to be invited to make, in the course of 18 minutes, the sort of speech indicated by the right hon. Gentleman—which would take a full half hour. It is flattering also to know that the right hon. Gentleman has been reading so hard in recent times much of the literature from what is now the Government.
I was struck by the right hon. Gentleman's very firm statement that he believes in planning and his enthusiasm for moving the Services out of London and the South-East. It is in great contrast to his own policies, and that of the former Government, during the period they were in office. It certainly made the debate more entertaining to have his dynamic advocacy in place of the longstanding inaction which has characterised the right hon. Gentleman over a period of years, but I do not think that he added greatly to our knowledge, or revealed any new aspects of the problem with which we are trying to deal.
We may accept that there is equal concern among hon. Members on both sides of the House with the problems of Northern Ireland. We may assume that 99 we are agreed on the ends, and what we are concerned with now are the means by which they may be achieved. I think that I can state our object very simply. We want to see that Northern Ireland shares fully in the prosperity and economic growth of the United Kingdom, both contributing to it and also benefiting from it.
I think that this view is held by the Northern Ireland Government, and expressed in the White Paper which is associated with the Wilson Report. In paragraph 8 of the White Paper the Northern Ireland Government very clearly enunciates the rôle that Northern Ireland will play in the future in the economic development of the United Kingdom as a whole, and we would not wish to dissent from the view which is there expressed.
The plain fact is—and the right hon. Member for Monmouth chose to overlook this completely—that in the period with which we are dealing unemployment in Northern Ireland has proved hitherto an intractable problem. I entirely agree with what has been said by hon. Members on this side of the House that the present level of unemployment must be regarded as unacceptably high. Our job is not simply, in terms of the problem with which we know we are dealing, to prevent it from rising further, but, over a period, to see that it falls to a level which is more acceptable. It certainly is not acceptable so long as the figure is greatly above the United Kingdom average. I would also say that the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman that in the relatively short time this Government has been in office we must have been able to get more industry to Northern Ireland, is a very surprising and startling one.
I wish to say a word or two about the remarks made by the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark). He said—this bears on what I have just mentioned about unemployment—that we cannot afford to waste unexploited resources of manpower. This is the other side of the unemployment problem. On the one hand, we do not like to see the hardship associated with unemployment wherever it is. On the other, we acknowledge the fact that if we are to achieve economic growth, the under-employed resources of those parts of the kingdom with high 100 unemployment must be brought in to play a full part in the development of our economy.
The hon. Member said that we should look closely at development district policy and that perhaps we were not spending enough, and that present policies were not sufficiently sophisticated. I agree that we should bear these two very important factors in mind when we look at our regional policies in the United Kingdom as a whole. The hon. Gentleman may well be right about both of them.
The noble Lord the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (The Marquess of Hamilton) referred to the I.D.C. policy. The Government are anxious to resist the development in London and the South-East of England of Industries which are foot-loose and might be sent to other parts of the United Kingdom—to Northern Ireland to Scotland, to the North-East, or possibly to parts of Cornwall—all areas of the United Kingdom at present suffering from high unemployment.
I should add that the Government's Control of Offices and Industrial Development Bill is a step in the direction of broadening location of industry policy and bringing in types of employment previously excluded, and one which, in the long-run, will have consequences of considerable importance for the country as a whole. We accept the fact that the future and the fortunes of Northern Ireland are bound up with those of the rest of the United Kingdom—there is no question about that. This view was expressed by the Northern Ireland Prime Minister in the debate at Stormont last week.
There have been references to the Wilson Report and I should like to turn to that for a moment. This most important Report is on similar lines to the Reports on the North-East and Central Scotland which, whatever their shortcomings—and they were many—represented a step in the direction of the development of proper regional policies.
§ Mr. Stratton Mills
Before the hon. Gentleman goes into the Wilson Report in detail, will he confirm one thing? He will recall that in the debate in March, 1962, the House and the then Government accepted a Motion calling for 101 special measures for Northern Ireland beyond those for the development districts in Britain. Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that that is still the policy of the Government?
§ Mr. Rodgers
Our concern now is to see that the proposals in the White Paper of the Northern Ireland Government, based on the Wilson Report, are implemented. The Wilson Report goes a good deal further than any Report of that time in suggesting the sort of policy which might be pursued in Northern Ireland which would meet the problem referred to by the hon. Member. I am sure that taking the Wilson Report as our text is the best means of trying to deal with the problem now.
In the Wilson Report there is reference to a target of 30,000 new jobs in manufacturing industry. We hope very much that it will be possible to achieve that by 1970. We know also there will be additional jobs, roughly 35,000, which are anticipated in the Wilson Report, partly as a result of an increase in manufacturing capacity of the size I mentioned. I understand—I regret I was not in the Chamber at the time—that the hon. and gallant Gentleman—Captain O'Neill—asked what the United Kingdom Government's attitude was to the Wilson Report and particularly to the financial implications.
Our Ministers have been in close touch with all these developments in Northern Ireland, as I explained, and we take the view that the financial implications of the Wilson Report are manageable. In relation to population, the public service investment involved in the Wilson Report is on about the same scale as what was accepted by the previous Government for public service investment in Scotland and the North-East, which again will help to meet the wishes of hon. Members opposite in this respect.
I would have liked, if I had had time, to go into the broad discussion of regional policies to which the right hon. Member for Monmouth invited me. This, however, is not the appropriate moment. I would only say that in setting up new machinery for regional planning in England, Scotland and Wales, we are in the closest possible touch with the Government of Northern Ireland, so that the plans will knit together and will all contribute to our national economic plan. 102 We shall keep the Northern Ireland Government regularly informed on matters which are considered in Whitehall and which bear on our new regional machinery.
As the House will know, we anticipate regular meetings of the chairmen of the new regional economic planning boards. An official of the Northern Ireland Government will keep in touch by attending these, and we anticipate that an official of the Department of Economic Affairs will also make many visits to Stormont to maintain liaison. There is certainly nothing between us on the need for this.
I should like to turn for a moment to the problem of Short's, because it clearly has featured considerably in the debate and is in our minds at present. I would share in the tribute paid by the right hon. Member for Monmouth to the design teams at Shorts', but I want to make it quite clear that the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Members on the other side have no monopoly of concern in the problem which has now arisen. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary repeated, in opening the debate, the assurance given by the First Secretary of State and by the Minister of Aviation in the debates on the aircraft industry. The important thing now is to decide what we can do to maintain the level of employment at Short's and to give it as secure and economic a future as possible. Short's is a very important factor for the economy of Belfast and Belfast is a very considerable factor in the total economy of Northern Ireland.
As my right hon. and learned Friend said, the Chief Industrial Adviser to the Department of Economic Affairs visited Belfast last Friday and has now returned from that visit. I should say that he is himself an Ulsterman and was a member of the Northern Ireland Development Council, so he is fully aware not only of the problems of Short's, but of the problems of Northern Ireland as a whole.
The hon. Member for Londonderry said that he reserved his judgment on diversification. I think, however, that we ought now to accept the fact that a firm of this size employing 7,500 men, should ensure that it has a sure economic base. That means a base which does not simply depend on any one industry which, due to a variety of reasons, can find its employment potential changing.
§ Mr. McMaster
I should like to increase morale at home, which is low in Short's, by asking the hon. Gentleman if he could mention one specific aircraft project which will fill the gap over the next two or three years, a gap which will be very serious.
§ Mr. Rodgers
This is a serious gap, as the hon. Member says, and it is very much in our minds. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aviation is also going to Belfast tomorrow. I think that the House, which has followed very closely the work which he has been doing to encourage the export trade of the aircraft industry, will appreciate that this is an important step, and is a measure of the personal attention which he is giving to this problem of the period of two years in which we must find employment and, if possible, markets for the present products of Short's.
I do not think that I can say—it would be quite wrong to attempt to do so—exactly what form diversification would take. In suggesting that, the right hon. Gentleman is asking us to make a decision hastily which could, for that reason, possibly be the wrong one. We have said that we intend to appoint consultants. Discussions have taken place between the Chief Industrial Adviser and Short's on this matter and we believe that when these are concluded the consultants will go very carefully into the problem of diversification to find a solution which is satisfactory. I think that it should be said that it is probably on the marketing side that the most difficult job exists.
We believe that it will be possible to redeploy the manpower and make use of the skills, and I entirely share the feeling that Short's have over a period contributed greatly to technical education in Northern Ireland. We want to retain these reserves of skill. We believe that this can be done and that, if proper attention is given to diversification, Short's could be put permanently on a surer basis than they at present enjoy. It is true that some years ago they successfully diversified into missiles. The Sea Cat has had a considerable success. I think it is the case that a further diversification such as an advance into the field of numerically controlled machine tools would not be difficult in the light of their experience in diversifying into missiles.
104 We want, then, to make sure that whatever plans are prepared they redeploy the existing labour force and make proper use of available skills, and are technically feasible, and import saving, and that there is an existing market for the new products which Short's will produce. The Chief Industrial Adviser to the Department of Economic Affairs had very useful discussions both with management and with the trade unions. We believe that the outcome will be a satisfactory one and will relieve the very grave and proper doubts and anxieties of the work force of Short's There is no occasion for their morale to be depressed by the consequences of technological and other changes with which we are dealing.
In conclusion, I must say that, of course, good will alone is not enough to deal with the problems of Northern Ireland, but good will is at least a starting point. I want to make it quite clear that, on the part of the Government, there is immense good will towards Northern Ireland and a real anxiety to help them solve this very difficult—
§ Mr. Delargy
Does my hon. Friend intend to say nothing about points which have been put from this side of the House?
§ Mr. Rodgers
I wish that I had more time to deal wholly with all the points raised from both sides of the House. As my right hon. and learned Friend made clear at the beginning of this debate, the reason why I am intervening is to deal with economic aspects of the problems of Northern Ireland. I entirely appreciate that feelings of hon. Members on both sides, but I have had to follow a practical course in the time available.
During the coming years, we shall see further changes in the economy of Northern Ireland. Nobody in this House, I am sure, would wish to resist technological change. This is essential to economic advance. As I have said, the economic advance of the United Kingdom as a whole will be an advance in which Northern Ireland shares, but we must deal with the very real human problems and make sure that when change comes individuals do not suffer as a consequence. Good will and practical 105 help, which Northern Ireland has from the present Government could do a very great deal.
§ Sir Knox Cunningham
Could the Under-secretary of state say something about agriculture, before he sits down?
§ Mr. Delargy
On a point of order. The hon. and gallant Member for Down, south (captain Orr) has already spoken in the debate.
§ It being Seven o'clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of The CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS, under Standing Order No. 7 (Time for taking Private Business), further Proceeding stood postponed.