HC Deb 10 March 1983 vol 38 cc945-6
13. Mr. Dubs

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he has any proposals for closer econimic co-operation between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Mr. Adam Butler

There is already a considerable degree of economic co-operation between the Governments of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland and there have been a number of bilateral ministerial meetings within the framework of the Anglo-Irish intergovernmental council on economic issues of common concern. Within these arrangements there is day-to-day co-operation between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland on a wide range of economic matters, and I am confident that this will continue.

Mr. Dubs

Can the Minister give some specific examples of how this co-operation is working and of what he sees as the longer-term basis for further and closer cooperation with the Republic?

Mr. Butler

I can give the hon. Gentleman two examples. One is that under the umbrella of the Anglo-Irish intergovernmental council there have been a dozen ministerial meetings since the council was set up in January 1982. A good example of the present co-operation is the possible purchase of Kinsale gas from the South.

Mr. Soley

As the Government now accept that there is a need for growing interdependence across the border, is there not a strong case for setting up an all-Ireland economic development council, which would assist both parts of Ireland?

Mr. Butler

The Government have not changed their policies. We have always seen that there are benefits from social, economic and cultural co-operation between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that I do not subscribe to his view that there should be a full economic council as such. On the other hand, we hope, for instance, that the Anglo-Irish encounter organisation will be set up under the umbrella of the intergovernmental council, which will be a useful forum for discussion on these matters.

Mr. McCusker

Does the Minister agree that the most effective co-operation at the moment would be if the two Governments were to unite in sealing the border, which would stop the drain on the Department of Finance in Dublin caused by the Customs abuse across the border, and might also help to reduce the movement of terrorists at the same time?

Mr. Butler

The hon. Member knows that he is suggesting something that is impracticable. As to security matters, the co-operation between the Garda and the security forces in the North is working well.