HC Deb 08 June 1972 vol 838 cc685-7
11. Mr. McNamara

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans he has for the development of cross-border economic co-operation with the Government of Eire.

15. Mr. Simon Mahon

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans he has for economic co-operation with the Government of Eire.

Mr. David Howell

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) on 4th May.—[Vol. 836, c. 180–1.]

Mr. McNamara

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his reply and I am aware of the answer which he gave to my hon. Friend. May I draw his attention to the positive need west of the Bann to make up for the backlog of jobs and also for the jobs which are disappearing because of technological changes as well as because of the deplorable terrorist activity? There is here a wonderful opportunity for co-operation between the Republic and the North on the development of jobs west of the Bann and in the Gael Tacht in the common economic interest.

Mr. Howell

These opportunities are realised by all concerned with regional economic development. As the hon. Gentleman knows, there has long been very active co-operation in such sectors as electricity, tourism, transport and agriculture, and this last category covers important developments like the Foyle Fisheries Company and so on. All these ideas are valid and I take the point which the hon. Gentleman has made.

Mr. Molyneaux

Would my hon. Friend agree that for a start there could be much closer co-operation in matters of defence and security, which would do much to protect the existing economy of Northern Ireland?

Mr. Howell

If my hon. Friend is referring to the North-South question, I think there are possibilities. But perhaps that is not what he is referring to. I am not quite sure.

Mr. McManus

The hon. Gentleman mentioned tourism. May I draw his attention to a case in point? At the moment, people south of the border are making strenuous efforts to link the Erne and Shannon waterways by re-opening a disused waterway. It will cost a considerable sum of money but it would be a tremendous tourist attraction and amenity to County Fermanagh and the surrounding districts. Will the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that he will give all the help he can to the people south of the border who are attempting to do this?

Mr. Howell

I will bear in mind what the hon. Gentleman has said.

Mr. Mahon

It should be pointed out more obviously and more generally just how much Ireland as a whole, both Northern Ireland and the Republic, depends on the economy of this country. Is it not important to say that it is only in that way that we shall make progress towards peace and prosperity and not by the pursuit of arms by those who believe in a policy of violence overwhelmingly rejected by the majority of the people of Northern Ireland?

Mr. Howell

The hon. Gentleman has made a very valid point and it is true that Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the Republic all have a close and intimate economic interest.

Mr. Biffen

In the context of these two Questions, is it my hon. Friend's view that the Safeguarding of Employment Act should continue well into the future?

Mr. Howell

This is a matter which is raised in the context of future membership of the EEC and in that context it will have to be looked at.

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