HC Deb 29 April 1976 vol 910 cc537-8
4. Mr. Beith

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he has any plans to alter the number and structure of Government Departments in Northern Ireland.

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. J. D. Concannon)

Since the return to direct rule, the Department of Community Relations has been merged with the Department of Education; the Office of Law Reform with the Department of Finance: and the Department of Housing Local Government and Planning with the Department of the Environment. My right hon. Friend has no plans for any further changes, but he keeps the matter under constant review.

Mr. Beith

Is the Minister of State satisfied that the organisation of Government Departments no longer retains the makeshift, temporary character suggested by the fact that they were set up when there was a locally-based Executive in Norhern Ireland and Ministers did not have to answer to this House for four or five Departments each? Does he agree that it is important that the people of Northern Ireland should realise that this House governs Northern Ireland by a system of direct rule, not of a temporary character but established on long-term principles?

Mr. Concannon

The functions of Departments and the allocations of responsibilities are always determined by the need to ensure that political and administrative requirements are met at any given time in the most appropriate manner.

Mr. Powell

I congratulate the Minister of State on his promotion and wish him well with his extended responsibilities. Has he any reforms of the administrative structure in mind which might avoid my having to trouble him three or four times a week on the subject of paving, lighting and such matters in my constituency, since I am the only democratically elected representative of the people on these subjects?

Mr. Concannon

Not at the moment. I think that the right hon. Gentleman will still have to bother me about such matters.

Mr. Fitt

Does my hon. Friend detect a feeling in Northern Ireland, especially since the departure to another office of my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme), that the Northern Ireland Office is not as important as it should be, that in some way it has become lower in the priorities in the restructuring now taking place? Will the person in charge of creating employment in Northern Ireland play as much attention to it as was paid to it by my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West?

Mr. Concannon

My right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme), after a hard stint of hard labour, has been gone for only a few weeks. I thank my hon. Friend for congratulating me, but it was a funny way of doing so.

Mr. Kilfedder

As regards the work carried out by the former Department of Community Relations, does the hon. Gentleman realise that there is a fear that money is being given to organisations which are para-military in nature and which are working in various communities? Will he institute an inquiry as to where the money is going?

Mr. Concannon

There is no need for such an inquiry. Community relations come within the Department of Education and are in its capable hands.

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