HC Deb 24 July 1975 vol 896 cc755-7
4. Sir Nigel Fisher

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how much money was made available from public funds in 1974 to finance community relations projects in Northern Ireland; and by what percentage such grants have been cut for the forthcoming year.

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Roland Moyle)

In 1974–75 the sum paid in grants towards intercommunal projects was £33,000. In addition there was expenditure of £977,000 on research, publications and support to community groups and similar projects, including the social need programme administered by the former Northern Ireland Department of Community Relations.

Provision has been made in the 1975–76 Estimates for services to increase these amounts to £35,000 for inter-communal projects and £1,265,000 for the other items. Together these figures represent an increase of 29 per cent. over the 1974–75 expenditure.

Sir Nigel Fisher

In fact, as the hon. Gentleman knows, many valuable projects are being cut. I appreciate the need for Government economies at the present time, but does not the hon. Gentleman agree that among the things not to cut in Northern Ireland are grants, for example, for play schemes, play buses and holiday centres which bring Catholic and Protestant children together, get them off the streets and give them somewhere to play, which is especially important in the school holiday period?

Mr. Moyle

We are aware of the problems. Some of the matters referred to by the hon. Gentleman come on other budgets than the one to which I have referred. But we intend to continue to support inter-communal groups and community associations as we have in the past. However, all public expenditure will be the subject to a process of reconsideration.

Mr. McCusker

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that good long-term community relations cannot be purchased and that they will improve only when law and order are restored in Northern Ireland? If the party of the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) were to support the RUC, that would go a long way to bringing about that situation.

Mr. Moyle

The question of law and order is one which engages the attention of my right hon. Friend continually, as the hon. Gentleman must be aware from earlier exchanges. Certainly good community relations cannot be bought, but sometimes we have to use expenditure to encourage them.

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