HC Deb 13 November 1967 vol 754 cc22-4
30. Sir Knox Cunningham

asked the Minister of Labour, what was the percentage increased in unemployed in Northern Ireland between July, 1961, and October, 1962, and between July, 1966, and October, 1967, respectively.

Mr. Fernyhough

Total numbers registered as unemployed in Northern Ireland decreased by 8.2 per cent. between July, 1961, and October, 1962, and increased by 27.9 per cent. between July, 1966, and October, 1967. Corresponding changes for those registered as wholly unemployed were a decrease of 5.9 per cent. and an increase of 26.8 per cent., respectively

Sir Knox Cunningham

Do not those staggering figures show that the action taken by Her Majesty's Government is hitting the Ulster economy very hard? We hear of action being taken for the regions in Britain, but what steps are to be taken to help the Northern Ireland Government to stop massive unemployment this winter?

Mr. Fernyhough

The hon. and learned Gentleman had an Answer from this Box last week telling him that Northern Ireland will receive £11 million in regional employment premiums.

Mr. R. Carr

When will the Northern Ireland countryside have some more jobs? Does not a rate of increase more than three times as great as it was in 1961–62 show as utter sham and mockery the Government's claim to be defending the development areas?

Mr. Fernyhough

It is true, that, because of the state the country was left in, we had to take immediate measures. If we had not taken additional steps in regard to the development areas, the situation would have been far worse.

Mr. Rankin

Could my hon. Friend tell us offhand of any area in Great Britain which has been as well treated as the Belfast area by this Government?

Mr. Fernyhough

It is true that there have been few Governments who have been more generous to a territory which is bitterly opposed to everything they stand for.

Mr. McMaster

Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that, during the 13 years of Tory Government, unemployment was falling steadily in Northern Ireland, and since the Labour Government came into office it has risen?

Mr. Fernyhough

If it was falling steadily, it could have fallen only by hundreds a week, because the difference between unemployment when hon. Gentlemen opposite were in power and what it is now is not as big as the difference in other regions in this country.

Mr. Orme

Would not my hon. Friend agree that it is not successive Labour or Tory Governments in Britain which have been the problem but it is 50 years of unbroken Unionist rule in Northern Ireland which needs changing, and is it not a fact that, since 1964, this Government have given more assistance to Northern Ireland than any previous Government?

Mr. Fernyhough

I would not disagree with what my hon. Friend says.

Mr. Stratton Mills

Can the hon. Gentleman reconcile these staggering figures with the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer last week saying that the Government's policies regarding unemployment were aimed at protecting the regions?

Mr. Fernyhough

They are. I hope that hon. Members opposite will not demand in the House that the Government do more, which means more Government expenditure, and then go outside and say that we should cut Government expenditure.

Sir Knox Cunningham

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the replies, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter again as soon as possible.