HC Deb 06 July 1972 vol 840 cc724-6
3. Mr. Bidwell

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what further plans he has for dealing with the rate of unemployment in Northern Ireland.

The Minister of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Paul Channon)

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given on 8th June, 1972, to a Question by the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme).—[Vol. 838, c. 125.]

Mr. Bidwell

I am aware of that. Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that there is an appallingly high rate of unemployment in the Province? It is currently 7.6 per cent., which means that it is higher than in Britain as a whole, at 3.5 per cent., and at an even higher rate than in Scotland. Will he pay attention to the very important matter of the re-employment of former internees, since this would have a great bearing on the prospects of future harmonious development in the Province?

Mr. Channon

I note what the hon. Gentleman said. I agree that the unemployment situation which we have inherited is desperate. My right hon. Friend has stated that a review is taking place and he hopes to make an announcement about further measures in due course.

Mr. Kilfedder

Will my hon. Friend consider using some of the funds made available for urban and rural renewal projects to enable local authorities to make greater efforts to clear away the rubbish piling up in parts of Northern Ireland, particularly on the sea coast?

Mr. Channon

I note what my hon. Friend said.

16. Mr. Orme

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps he is taking to reduce male unemployment in Strabane from its level of 377.

Mr. Channon

Under the Northern Ireland Development Programme Strabane is being developed as a key centre, which means that maximum Government assistance is available for projects providing work for men. Next month another Government-built advance factory of 1,600 sq. metres is due to be completed in the town; others will be provided as required. The Northern Ireland Local Enterprises Development Unit, which is promoting small-scale local industry in the area, has already made contact with seven enterprises with potential for development.

Mr. Orme

Is the Minister aware that that is most welcome news? I visited Strabane as long ago as 1967 and saw the distressingly heavy male unemployment in that town, as in other west-of-the-Bann areas, and I could see some of the economic difficulties that were creating political difficulties in the North. Can the hon. Gentleman say what type of male employment is being provided? It is the male employment situation that is most desperate.

Mr. Channon

Covernment-sponsored industry has been provided. So as not to waste the time of the House, I will give the hon. Gentleman details later if he would like to see me. We shall do what we can to help in Strabane, but it is very difficult. My noble Friend the Minister of State is in Strabane at this minute, and I am sure he has these points in mind.

Mr. Bidwell

Now that the lame duck theory has flown out of the window, is it the Secretary of State's intention to consider the possibility of nationalised industries providing greater employment opportunties in the Province, and will the Government look at the particular idiocy in the current Gas Bill of deliberately excluding the Gas Corporation from manufacturing for export? Surely there is great scope for more activity of that kind?

Mr. Channon

In the exceptional circumstances in Northern Ireland, I must ask the hon. Gentleman to await the review that my right hon. Friend has already announced he is undertaking.