HC Deb 24 May 1979 vol 967 cc1218-20
17. Mr. Abse

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what has been the total cost of military operations in Northern Ireland from 1969 to 1979 inclusive; what has been the total cost of United Kingdom economic subventions to or on behalf of Northern Ireland from 1969 to 1978; what is the estimated cost of such subventions for 1978–79; and what steps are being taken to reduce this public expenditure.

Mr. Rossi

As a large part of the answer is in tabular form I shall, with permission, circulate it in the Official Report.

Mr. Abse

I appreciate the Minister's diffidence in announcing to the House the enormous amount of military expenditure that has reached record figures this year and will amount to well over the estimated £800 million next year. Does he believe that the people of Wales, England and Scotland will indefinitely permit these economic subventions when the political solution is in the hands of the dominant majority in Ulster, which is refusing to have genuine power sharing? Is it not clear that in response to international opinion and opinion here it is high time to bring our troops home and cease these economic subventions?

Mr. Rossi

I believe the House will agree that bringing the troops out is no solution to the problems in Northern Ireland. The position on general expenditure in Northern Ireland is no different in principle from that for other disadvantaged regions of the United Kingdom. Public expenditure in all regions is determined by need.

Mr. Stallard

May I congratulate the hon. Gentleman and his right hon. and hon. Friends on their appointments? Is he aware that there is a different school of thought, which believes that as long as the Government accept responsibility for the administration of the Six Counties, they must also try to alleviate the appalling levels of unemployment and deprivation in parts of the Six Counties? That should be an immediate task.

Mr. Rossi

I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman. Alleviating unemployment and social deprivation are fundamental to a solution in Northern Ireland, and they will receive our attention.

Mr. Wilkinson

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the terrorists are obtaining new weapons and devices and are all the time operating in a more sophisticated manner? To protect the people of Ulster, is it not imperative to maintain an appropriate military presence?

Mr. Rossi


Mr. Mason

Will the Government assure us that there will be continued aid to Harland and Wolff, and Shorts, a continuation of the financial inducement package endorsed by the previous Government and a continuation of the meat industry employment scheme, currently affecting 3,000 jobs?

Mr. Rossi

All those matters are under urgent consideration.

Following is the table: The cost of military operations in Northern Ireland is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. However, I show below the estimated additional costs of keeping the Army in Northern Ireland and the total subvention to the Northern Ireland Consolidated Fund.
£ million
Subvention to Northern Ireland Consolidated Fund Additional costs of the army in Northern Ireland
1969–70 74 1.5
1970–71 88 6.5
1971–72 126 14.0
1972–73 181 29.0
1973–74 314 33.0
1974–75 393 45.0
1975–76 571 60.0
1976–77 625 65.0
1977–78 700* 68.8
1978–79 859† 81.5†
* Excludes a once-for-all payment of £250 million to cover redemption of the Northern Ireland Electricity Service borrowings.
† Estimated.

All public expenditure programmes are currently under review in line with the Governments election manifesto.