HC Deb 08 February 1973 vol 850 cc629-30
10. Mr. McMaster

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will make a report about the progress in obtaining new employment in Northern Ireland; and whether he has any further proposals to make.

Mr. David Howell

The Government have introduced a wide range of measures, notably those announced on 27th July 1972, which have all been aimed at maintaining as high a level of employment and economic activity as possible in Northern Ireland. These measures have undoubtedly contributed to the recent relative improvement in the level of unemployment, which was 6,000 lower in January than a year earlier. The effect of the measures is being kept closely under review.

Mr. McMaster

I welcome that reply, but is my hon. Friend aware of the damage that has been done to employment prospects in Northern Ireland by the terrorist campaign, particularly the prolonged IRA campaign of indiscriminate bombing—[HON. MEMBERS: "What about the strike yesterday?"]—which has both directly and indirectly damaged our employment prospects? Will my hon. Friend look again at the steps he took six months ago to see whether any further steps can be devised to attract new employment to Northern Ireland?

Mr. Howell

As my hon. Friend says, threats to the employment situation in Northern Ireland come from a number of directions—certainly yesterday's events will not help. I am confident that by maintaining the existing measures—I am always ready to keep them under review—and by harnessing the tremendous energy and the readiness of the people of Northern Ireland to keep Ulster in business we shall continue to maintain a good record.

Mr. Simon Mahon

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that some would not agree with the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster)? The troubles of Northern Ireland did not start in 1969. The discriminatory practices in industry against Catholics getting jobs on the same basis as anybody else were part and parcel of the reasons for the trouble.

Mr. Howell

The hon. Gentleman is addressing his remarks to my hon. Friend, but I note what he says. My own view is that we are moving away from the time when charges and countercharges will do much good for Northern Ireland.