HC Deb 27 May 1976 vol 912 cc616-7
7. Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many persons are currently unemployed in the Province; and what was the figure at the same time in 1975.

The Minister of State, Northern Ire-land Office (Mr. Moyle)

51,466 in May 1976 and 37,278 in May 1975.

Mr. McNair-Wilson

The Minister will be conscious of the dismay and disappointment that we all feel at those staggeringly high figures. When will the Government's study of a new economic strategy for the Province be completed? How many new jobs will be created by the Northern Ireland Development Agency?

Mr. Moyle

The study should be available before the Summer Recess. The Northern Ireland Development Agency scheme and other similar schemes will probably provide employment for about 1,700 people in amenity and environmental projects and work of a community nature.

Mr. Ashton

Is my hon. Friend aware that members of my trade union who are working at the Harland and Wolff shipyard are very grateful for the aid which the Government has sent to them, and they are watching carefully the events in the House today? They are very concerned about the possible planning blight on the British shipbuilding industry which could arise out of today's decision in the House.

Mr. Moyle

I am glad to learn from my hon. Friend that employees in Harland and Wolff are grateful for the assistance that we are giving. On a wider point, as a result of being in charge of the Department of Commerce for six weeks I have begun to feel that if there were no Government assistance to the Northern Ireland economy, Northern Ireland probably would not have an economy.

Mr. McCusker

As a Minister in a Labour Government, is not the hon. Member ashamed of these figures, which are the worst unemployment levels since Northern Ireland was established? What does he intend to do to reduce them?

Mr. Moyle

I am not pleased at having to announce the figures, and in that respect the hon. Gentleman is right The Government are studying the situation with a view to producing plans during the course of the summer, and of course all the assistance that is available to the creation of employment in the rest of the United Kingdom has been made available to Northern Ireland. The result of that is that about 3,500 jobs have been saved by the counter-redundancy training scheme and the temporary employment subsidy. The recruitment subsidy for school leavers has assured about 1,250 school leavers of jobs. Under the Government's most recent measures, £8 million is available to Northern Ireland, and this will be used over the next three years to provide over 1,000 new jobs and to train 1,500 people, mostly young people from school.