HC Deb 11 May 1978 vol 949 cc1392-3
9. Mr. Bradford

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the job opportunities created in West Belfast and other areas of high unemployment in Northern Ireland since the beginning of direct rule.

Mr. Concannon

Since 1st April 1972 which is the nearest convenient date to the beginning of direct rule for which job promotion statistics are available, a total of about 33,000 jobs have been promoted in the Province through the joint efforts of the Department of Commerce, the Local Enterprise Development Unit, the Northern Ireland Finance Corporation and the Northern Ireland Development Agency. Of this total, approximately 9,500 jobs have been promoted in the four areas of Northern Ireland where local unemployment rates have been, and indeed still remain, the highest—namely, Strabane, Londonderry, Newry and West Belfast.

The unemployment rate in Northern Ireland as a whole, as at 13th April 1978, was 11.8 per cent.

Mr. Bradford

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the Rev. Padrig Murphy's bitter criticism of the Labour Party's performance in respect of job provision in West Belfast is as un founded as was his criticism of the former Northern Ireland Parliament? Will the Minister also accept that, if Padrig Murphy is really interested in providing jobs for West Belfast, he will help to stifle the IRA by refusing to give murderers the comfort and succour of the Church?

Mr. Concannon

In the Department of Commerce, I am interested in jobs for the whole of Northern Ireland. The Question relates only to West Belfast. I have told representatives from West Belfast that the best way they can help themselves would be to clear their image in the rest of the world.

Mr. Fitt

Does my right hon. Friend accept that it is grossly impudent for the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Bradford) to raise this matter in such a sectarian and biased way and to use the Question to make an attack on a prominent member of the Catholic Church in West Belfast? Is he aware that in my constituency of West Belfast there is an electorate of 67,000 and that 10,000 people are unemployed? Whatever jobs may have been created, they have proved not to be adequate. Will my right hon. Friend give an indication to the House that he will devote more attention, in co-operation with the trade union movement and the public representatives of West Belfast, to try to do away with the despair that exists there?

Mr. Concannon

West Belfast receives the highest rates of incentives, which are very generous in Northern Ireland. I cannot split the figures as my hon. Friend does, because I can take only the figure for the travel-to-work area of Belfast. That figure is 9 per cent., but I know that unemployment in West Belfast is higher than that.

The best way for West Belfast people to help—because I cannot direct industries to go there—is in relation to their image throughout the world. When industrialists decide on an area in Northern Ireland, I can assure my hon. Friend that West Belfast is not top of the list.