HC Deb 08 March 1979 vol 963 cc1469-70
5. Mr. Madden

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what has been the total public investment in Northern Ireland since February 1974.

Mr. Concannon

Over the five financial years from 1974–75 to 1978–79 about £1,850 million will have been used for capital investment purposes on services for which my right hon. Friend is responsible. Total public expenditure on those services over the same period was approximately £7,900 million.

Mr. Madden

Does the Minister agree that every man, woman and child in Northern Ireland has benefited from public expenditure? Because of that, will he also agree that it is hypocritical for a Northern Ireland public representative to oppose public expenditure or indeed to offer comfort and allegiance to the Conservative Party, which is pledged massively to reduce public expenditure throughout the United Kingdom?

Mr. Concannon

Northern Ireland has benefited from the regional policy of the United Kingdom as a whole, and if we have a regional policy, it deserves to. I have often twitted Conservative Members for voting one way the previous night and asking me for money the next day, but they say that they are voting politically and not economically.

Mr. Craig

Will the Minister confirm that the Government believe that it is necessary to put a limit on public expenditure, and the issue is the priorities within that limit?

Mr. Concannon

Priorities in public expenditure are always important. But Northern Ireland has a generous share of public expenditure.

Mr. Litterick

Is the present net annual cost to the British taxpayer of sustaining Northern Ireland as part of this policy approximately £1,500 million? Is not a political party that claims to represent Northern Ireland but which for ideological reasons presumes to criticise our attitude to public expenditure, playing a peculiar double game, which we hope will back-fire on it.

Mr. Concannon

My job is to look after the affairs of Northern Ireland and the people of the Province. If we are to have a regional policy, we should be aware that in Northern Ireland we have one of our poorer areas. We should take pride in our efforts here. I wish that that would have greater recognition.