HC Deb 27 May 1976 vol 912 cc619-20
11. Mr. Flannery

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will provide an itemised breakdown of the cost to the Government of all allocations of finance, including expenditure on defence, to Northern Ireland for the years 1973–74, 1974–75 and 1975–76, respectively.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

Details of Government expenditure in Northern Ireland are contained in public expenditure White Papers, to which I would refer my hon. Friend.

Mr. Flannery

I have searched through the public expenditure White Paper and the Defence Estimates, and I have been to the Library, but I have been unable to find the overall cost to this country of what is happening in Northern Ireland. Does my right hon. Friend accept that that is totally unsatisfactory, because the people on both sides of the water need to know what that cost is? Does he agree that the sum is bound to have tremendous political significance? Is it not bound to have an effect on people in Britain, who expect the two sides in Northern Ireland to come closer together in democratic efforts to make peace in view of this vast outflow of money to Northern Ireland.

Mr. Rees

I have a photostat copy from the White Paper Cmnd. 6393, pages 112 and 113, and all the information I have comes from that. About £1,500 million is spent in Northern Ireland every year, and of that 60 per cent. is raised in taxation in the Province. The rest, to use the parlance of the document, is a subvention from the United Kingdom Government. Any comparable part of the rest of the United Kingdom would throw up similar figures. I am able to produce those figures only because the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has his own accounts, because he operates a form of devolved administration. Those people who talk about independence should look at the figures very carefully, because their aims would damn Northen Ireland to a very much lower standard of living. Those people in Northern Ireland who say that they do not accept the will of the Queen in Parliament, although they call themselves Loyalists, would do well to look at the figures. It is right that we should treat Northern Ireland like the rest of the United Kingdom. It is a part of the United Kingdom, and that is the best way to proceed.