HC Deb 01 February 1979 vol 961 cc1662-3
10. Mr. Gow

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will list the criteria that he applies when the Government decide to give financial assistance to industry in the Province; and whether he is satisfied that the criteria always result in a proper allocation of public funds.

Mr. Concannon

When considering applications for selective financial assistance under the Industries Development (Northern Ireland) Acts 1966 and 1971 regard is normally paid to a project's potential viability and the extent to which it would result in the creation or maintenance of employment or the strengthening of industry in the Province. These criteria are similar to those applying in Great Britain and are designed to ensure a proper allocation of public funds. I am satisfied that they are being correctly applied.

Mr. Gow

To what extent is the return on capital on the investment put up by the Government one of the criteria? To what extent will there he a reasonable return on capital from the De Lorean investment?

Mr. Concannon

In both those instances there is a good deal of financial and commercial information that is best kept confidential. On one side we have the Northern Ireland Development Agency, which has to act commercially, whereas I, in the Department of Commerce, have a little more latitude.

Mr. Kilfedder

So that proper guidelines are drawn up to protect public money, will the Minister set up a public inquiry to reveal the truth and to expose the corruption that existed in connection with the contract entered into with Mr. Hoppe, the former managing director of the Belfast shipyard? The Government of the day here and the then Stormont Government were guilty of aiding and abetting tax evasion on a massive scale in relation to this man's considerable salary and compensation.

Mr. Concannon

The Hoppe case hardly arises on this question. I have answered previous questions from the hon. Gentleman on the matter. I have pointed out that this contract between Harland and Wolff and a Swiss company was in 1971, before Harland and Wolff was nationalised. His question has nothing to do with the administration of the Harland and Wolff shipyard at this time, but concerns other people in 1971.

Mr. Litterick

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Treasury has estimated that British Exchequer net expenditure in Northern Ireland now exceeds £1,000 million a year? The House knows in considerable detail the pattern of civil expenditure in Northern Ireland, but it knows nothing of the amount of military expenditure. Will he undertake to give the House the necessary information which will enable hon. Members to ascertain how much money is being spent on military operations—

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is a separate question. This deals with industry.

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

When public money is provided for industry, is that industry exhorted to buy British? If so, why is the De Lorean company being allowed to employ French consultants in its factory construction programme?

Mr. Concannon

There has been some bickering about De Lorean. I thought that my press statement this week would have backed up what I have been saying about the company. Spin-offs have already taken place in Northern Ireland. Two of the contracts have gone to local firms. I should have thought that that was a matter for rejoicing and an answer to the sceptics.