HC Deb 10 February 1977 vol 925 cc1637-9
6. Mr. Hardy

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what was the total amount of investment in the commerce and industry of Northern Ireland in 1976 from public funds and from private sources.

Mr. Concannon

In 1976, total investment in manufacturing industry in Northern Ireland from public and private sources was in the region of £171 million. A particularly encouraging feature was the continuing high level of investment by firms in modernisation and re-equipment which over the past two years has averaged £90 million, an increase in real terms of some 40 per cent. over the 1974 level. Further encouragement can be taken from the confidence shown during the past year by firms which have indicated their intentions to undertake new projects and expansions in the immediate future involving additional investment of over £67 million, of which nearly £21 million will be carried out by major foreign-based companies.

In addition, substantial investments were made in the service and commercial sectors, but details are not readily available.

Mr. Hardy

I thank my hon. Friend for that very satisfactory answer. May I invite him to inform the House how many new jobs have resulted or will result from that very gratifying investment?

Mr. Concannon

I wish that I could give my hon. Friend a more gratifying answer about new jobs as a result of this new investment. Unfortunately, however, in these days investment is to a great extent in infrastructure and job stabilisation. Although the value of the investment is well above the levels of 1972, 1973 and 1974, but slightly below that of 1975, job expectation from the investment of £67 million is about 2,250 jobs. Much of the investment is in job stabilisation.

Mr. Bradford

How much of the £171 million was invested by American or European complexes, and how does the figure from private sources compare with the amount invested by Her Majesty's Government?

Mr. Concannon

I think I said that £21 million has been invested by foreign companies. I cannot break that figure down into individual companies. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman would wish me to do that.

Mr. Thorne

Is my hon. Friend prepared to accept the implied suggestion from the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Bradford) that we need to extend public investment—in other words, State enterprise—to help with the unemployment problem?

Mr. Concannon

To be quite honest with my hon. Friend, I do not think we do too badly in that respect in Northern Ireland. I find myself in charge of a salt mine, shirt manufacturing and just about anything else he cares to mention.

Mr. Farr

What funds came from EEC sources in the year in question for industrial training grants and purposes of that nature?

Mr. Concannon

I cannot say offhand to the nearest million, but Northern Ireland on a population basis, or on any other basis, has had far more than its share in this respect. Grants such as this are available and should be available for areas with high unemployment such as Northern Ireland.

Mr. Kilfedder

The IRA, or the Provisional IRA, has declared that it intends to take Belfast and other parts of Northern Ireland apart brick by brick. Will the hon. Gentleman initiate a campaign—a counter-blitz—forthwith to rebuild industry, shops, factories and houses in Northern Irelands as an act of faith?

Mr. Concannon

We have been doing that for some considerable time, not as an act of faith but as an act of Government policy. This gives the complete lie to any talk of economic or any other sort of withdrawal.