HC Deb 04 December 1986 vol 106 cc1109-34
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)

Before I call the Minister to move the draft Appropriation (No. 3) (Northern Ireland) Order, I remind the House that the order deals with specific Supplementary Estimates, primarily in respect of three topics: the aircraft and shipbuilding industries, industrial development and energy efficiency. Debates should be confined to the subjects set out in the Supplementary Estimates.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (South Down)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I submit that, as the effect of the order is to maintain the Northern Ireland Consolidated Fund, and as the existence of that fund has been one of the topics of each successive debate upon the order, that also is within the scope of the order because, without it, that fund would not be sustainable.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

We are dealing with Supplementary Estimates and they do not call into question the system itself.

Mr. Powell

With respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the necessity for the order is due to the existence of a separate Consolidated Fund for Northern Ireland, and that applies equally to an order which relates to Supplementary Estimates as well as to an order which refers to the main Estimates.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I am told that the right hon. Gentleman is mistaken, but we shall see how the debate goes, and I shall decide what is in order and what is out of order.

Mr. Peter Archer (Warley, West)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I do not always find myself rising in support of the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell). I fully understand your ruling, with which we shall all comply, but, as I understand it, such rulings are largely to ensure that, when the time of the House is constrained, hon. Members do not spend time on matters which fall outside the orbit of the debate. I suspect that this evening time will not be under quite such a constraint and it may be that you will feel able to be a little more liberal in your interpretation.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

As I said, I shall give careful consideration to what the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) said, and if, as we move on, I feel that I have to intevene, I shall do so.

5.14 pm
The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Nicholas Scott)

I beg to move, That the draft Appropriation (No. 3) (Northern Ireland) Order 1986, which was laid before this House on 13th November, be approved. The order is being made under paragraph 1 of schedule 1 to the Northern Ireland Act 1974.

This is the first time I have had the pleasure of opening a Northern Ireland Appropriation debate. On this occasion the debate will be limited as the House is being asked to approve extra funds for only one Vote and my opening remarks will be concentrated on that provision.

The extra funds are being sought for Class II, Vote 3. This covers expenditure by the Department of Economic Development on local enterprise, aircraft and shipbuilding, energy efficiency, mineral exploration, other support services, capital grants, and the new Technology Board for Northern Ireland.

On 10 June last, the House approved the 1986–87 main Estimates which included £77.3 million for this Vote. Today I came to the House to seek a further £50.5 million, taking the total proposed expenditure on this Vote to £127.8 million for the year. The Estimates booklet, which gives full details of the additional expenditure, is available from the Vote Office.

Some £3 million of the increase is for the Local Enterprise Development Unit—Northern Ireland's small business agency. Since its creation in 1971, LEDU has promoted 27,000 jobs in a highly cost-effective manner. I pay warm tribute to the success it continues to achieve. Especially encouraging is the consistently high level of job promotions achieved in recent years. For example, in 1984–85 4,200 jobs were promoted and renewed and in 1985–86 the figure was 4,300. In recognition of the vital part that the Government believe the small firms sector will play in revitalising Northern Ireland's economy, the Government have recently approved an increased of 30 per cent. in LEDU's staffing.

There is an increase of £2 million in support of Short Brothers plc. The Government are naturally disappointed at the recently announced downturn in the company's financial performance in 1985–86, but I hope that the commitment and ability of both the management and the work force will ensure an early return to profitability.

Also in section B hon. Members will note the increase in the provision for Belfast shipbuilders Harland and Wolff from £37 million to £68 million. Part of that increase is to meet the cost of the 800 redundancies announced by the company on 25 November. While any redundancies are to be regretted, Harland and Wolff, like other yards throughout the world, has had to face the severe decline in the availability of new orders. The Government are doing what they can to help those made redundant by earmarking part of the increased provision to fund the setting up of Harland and Wolff Enterprises. This will operate in a similar way to British Shipbuilders Enterprises and will provide redundant workers with practical advice and assistance towards retraining and re-employment.

Hon. Members will see from the Estimates booklet that there are some increases and some reductions in expenditure on energy efficiency and other support services. One of the increases is a figure of £100,000 for the Government's Monergy campaign. Thousands of energy consumers have received domestic, industrial and school information packs and responded to competitions aimed at raising the level of awareness of the real savings that can be achieved through good energy practice.

Already Northern Ireland industry and commerce are achieving savings of almost £4 million per year. Taken alongside the considerable savings which are undoubtedly being made by the domestic consumer, that can only amount to good news for the Northern Ireland economy. A good start has been made, but we must build on the level of awareness which now exists. In the next stage of the campaign we shall be concentrating on turning awareness into action by helping consumers make the right choices for the best energy money savings, comfort and profit. The additional provision that I have mentioned is required to achieve that aim.

Section D of the Vote provides an extra £12 million in this financial year for capital investment grants for industrial development. As some hon. Members will be aware, there was a big increase in the volume of capital grant claims in early 1985. Rather than impose a moratorium on claims, the Government decided to provide extra resources last year on the basis that there would be a corresponding reduction in the total bill in this financial year. However, pressure on the scheme has continued into 1986–87, and although a number of cost-effective changes introduced in March 1985 are now beginning to have their effect, the original estimate for this financial year is likely to be insufficient by £12 million.

The Supplementary Estimate contains a token provision of £1,000 for the purpose of drawing hon. Members' attention to the setting up of the Technology Board for Northern Ireland. This is an important step in the industrial development of the Province. The board's responsibilities include advising the Government on the application of science and technology to economic needs in Northern Ireland, and particularly on the contribution technology can make to the growth and development of the manufacturing and service sectors of industry. The board will assist and advise the Government on those issues which involve more than one Northern Ireland Department; it will advise on areas of policy where there is interaction between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and bring together and represent a distinct Northern Ireland view on technological issues at national level.

That concludes my opening remarks. I will listen with interest to the debate and respond to as many of the points raised as possible. I commend the order to the House.

5.20 pm
Mr. Peter Archer (Warley, West)

One of the most interesting aspects of life in this House is its unpredictability. We were expecting to begin this debate at 7 o'clock, and I, at least, was awaiting the arrival of material about which I was hoping to question the Minister. If I find myself speaking from the heart rather than from documentation, it is not because there is no documentation; it is more to do with the way in which the Government's managers manage the business of the House.

I am aware, of course, that we are confined to the matters in the order. In the course of the Appropriation debate on 17 November 1984 the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) referred to these debates as "triennial entertainment". On whether they qualify as entertainment I would not venture an opinion, but as to their value in improving daily life among the people in Northern Ireland, I confess to having an element of doubt. The right hon. Member for South Down was referring to the existence of a separate Consolidated Fund for Northern Ireland, and I, for one, would be happy to discuss that.

It is regrettable that the discussions which began two years ago about the details of the way in which Northern Ireland is governed have run into ground which has been transformed into a quagmire by events which bear little relation to the merits of the financial system, or indeed to direct rule itself. My anxiety is more pragmatic. Time and again, we who take part in these debates raise questions, and the Minister, whoever it may be, duly replies, or, more usually, says that he would have replied to questions if time had permitted. I assume that that will not happen tonight.

Occasionally, one or two of the issues that are raised are followed up elsewhere, or reported in the media, depending on the hour the debate occurred, but nothing changes and things continue on the same course, or they go from bad to worse, and the people of Northern Ireland must go on living with that state of affairs.

We all pay tribute to the Local Enterprise Development Unit, and nothing that I say is intended to cast doubt on its effectiveness or dedication. But five loaves do not always feed a multitude. Unemployment in Northern Ireland is currently running at 19.3 per cent. of the population. That figure represents the whole of the population, and it is a Government figure based on the way in which they currently calculate these things. It is calculated in accordance with, I believe, the eighteenth change in the way in which the Government deal with these figures. It represents those who are claiming benefits, but not, by any means, all those who are desperate for work. The Government's figure for male unemployment is 22.7 per cent. That figure alone means that 130,000 people, excluding school leavers, are seeking work and are being told that they are not wanted. To that figure must be added 3,248 school leavers.

Those are statistics, but they tell a story about human life. They tell the story of youngsters who have been waiting for the experience, known to thousands of their forerunners, of taking home their first wage packet, but who are now brushed aside without any hope. They tell the story of men in their fifties who are told that they are on the scrap heap and that their working lives are probably over. They tell of single women and housewives who, for a few modest luxuries, depend on part-time jobs which have given them the chance of earning some money and a channel into companionship and a structured life. They reflect the story of factories such as Gallaghers of Belfast, Molins in Derry, British Van Heusen in Ballywater and National Supply in Maydown, all of which have formed part of the people's way of life. It is a story of 800 more job losses at Harland and Wolff and of jobs endangered at Shorts.

If we could offer a measure of hope, this debate would be worth while, but we know from the Government's assessment of the next four years at least, and from their submission to the EEC regional fund—we may not have been intended to know—that they accept that they have failed to generate new employment in the manufacturing sector. And the Government have stated: Recent analyses have suggested that, in terms of unemployment alone, the prospect is that a high rate of unemployment is likely to be the norm for some time. That is the assessment for Northern Ireland. That situation has not arisen because there is no need for human labour, nor that the work is being done by technology. We know of the housing needs of Northern Ireland—I am not ignoring for one moment the achievements of the Housing Executive in recent years—and that the level of unfit houses is still unacceptable. The House will be aware that there is massive unemployment in the construction industry, not because houses are being built by robots, but because they are not being built at all.

School cleaners are troubled by the likelihood that they will lose their jobs if the cleaning is put out to private contract. I have spoken to ladies who are worried about the pensions for which they have worked. They had hoped that, whatever their current earnings, their pensions would cushion them against the impact of poverty in their later years, but now they do not know. They are trying to keep the schools clean, but they are afraid that they will not be paid for the same number of hours. If they try to provide the same standard, they might work for hours for which they will not be paid. All this is happening not because the schools are being cleaned by labour-saving devices, but because they are not being cleaned at all. It is the same story for dinner ladies, hospital ancillary staff and many more people. Do the Government believe that there is some curious mechanism which translates privatisation into jobs?

When the Minister replies to the debate, will he turn his attention to section C and tell us about the development and use of lignite, which he mentioned earlier? We are aware that any Government must look at all the options for future energy supplies and I do not pretend that all the arguments are one way. No energy resource arrives without a price tag. The use of lignite will cause serious environmental problems and I assume we all agree that we must not embark upon using it without proper advice and proper consideration of those matters.

We might have thought that this could best be achieved by development under the auspices of the electricity board. Is the interest of local residents more likely to be safeguarded if the only consideration is one of profitability? Is wild life more likely to be protected, and jobs more likely to be generated, if these matters are decided by the accountants? These issues may be better pursued in other debates. I hope that the Government will consider the advantages of using the Northern Ireland Committee, where such matters could be explored in greater detail and perhaps debates more readily attended by hon. Members who have a direct concern with them.

Finally, I wonder whether we might ask the Minister to ask the Government business managers whether we are always condemned to discuss these questions in the closing hours of a Thursday evening when, understandably, many hon. Members are dispersing for the weekend.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Richard Needham)

The closing hours?

Mr. Archer

These are unpopular hours by any standards, and on a Thursday evening, when it was not beyond prediction that the House would not be crowded. I am only saying that the people of Northern Ireland may misunderstand the situation. I should not like them to think that hon. Members do not care about people in Northern Ireland. It arises more as a reflection of the priority afforded by the Government's business managers.

Of course, we shall not oppose the Government's motion. I venture to doubt whether this is the best way of maintaining the principle of redress of grievances before Supply or of examining the way in which the Government manage the economy. If we make do with the tools in our hands, it is only because we can do nothing else.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I want to be as tolerant as possible. Because there are hon. Members who were not here when I made my original statement, it might help the House if I say that comments should be related to the purpose for which these Supplementary Estimates are required, and not to the general financial system for Northern Ireland. Right hon. and hon. Members will realise that the same rule applies to Supplementary Estimates on Estimates days relating to the United Kingdom as a whole. There is no special departure for tonight's debate.

5.31 pm
Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)

I should like to follow up a point made by the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer). There are many occasions when the House has legitimate cause for complaint about the timing of debates on Northern Ireland, but I do not think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was justified in his complaint against the business managers for the timing of today's debate. As I understand it, mercifully, the debate of this draft order can continue until 10 o'clock, and we are, of course, embarking on the debate at an early hour. I agree with the thrust of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's argument, however, when he implied that, in general, the House discusses Northern Ireland matters much later in the day than is the case today. I also agree that the whole basis on which we discuss proposed legislation for Northern Ireland is most unsatisfactory. It is wrong that we should legislate for one part of the United Kingdom by unamendable Order in Council, whereas for England, Scotland and Wales we legislate by the conventional Bill proceedings.

We are anxious, of course, to follow the ruling that you have given twice during this debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wish to draw the attention of the House to the explanatory note at the end of the draft order. It reminds us that we are asked to authorise the issue out of the Consolidated Fund of Northern Ireland of a further sum for the current financial year. My hon. Friend the Minister of State reminded the House that, in addition to the £50.5 million in schedule 1, the House has already approved expenditure of £70 million.

My hon. Friend has come to the House only two thirds of the way through this financial year to say that that sum which the House has approved already—£70 million—is not enough and to ask us to allocate a further sum of £50.5 million. My hon. Friend the Minister did not dwell sufficiently on the reasons why we are invited in December, only two thirds of the way through this financial year, to agree to such a large additional sum. We are invited to approve this expenditure by the Department of Economic Development.

I have before me the text of an article in The Times written just three months ago by the distinguished chairman of the Northern Ireland Economic Council, Sir Charles Carter. It is legitimate for the House to examine some of the reasons why my hon. Friend the Minister seeks approval for further expenditure on such a substantial scale. I believe that Sir Charles was entirely right when he gave his analysis from a position of peculiar—indeed, unique—authority of what has been happening in the Province. He said: Unhappily, the government's initiative in the Anglo-Irish agreement, whatever its political or foreign policy virtues, has made things much worse for the economy. The agreement has stimulated new unrest". He continued: by introducing the novel concept of giving another country a right to be consulted on affairs internal to a part of the United Kingdom, it has created political uncertainty. I stress the words The agreement has stimulated new unrest and has made things much worse for the economy. It is partly because the agreement has made things much worse for the economy that my hon. Friend the Minister of State has come before the House. The whole economy of Northern Ireland and the prospects for employment, to which the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West referred, depend to a significant extent on the confidence which those who are potential investors—whether from within or from without the United Kingdom—have in the political stability of the Province.

There is not a single hon. Member who believes that there is greater stability than before the Anglo-Irish agreement. The House will remember that the purpose of the Anglo-lrish agreement—a purpose which I shared—was to bring peace, stability and reconciliation. Instead of peace, there has been strife. Instead of stability, there has been turmoil. Instead of reconciliation, there has been increased sectarian suspicion.

It is against that background that the House is asked to approve the sum of £50.5 million. One of the adverse consequences of the Anglo-Irish agreement is that there is no prospect, in my judgment, of a diminution in the evil of unemployment—unemployment in the Province is higher than in any other part of the United Kingdom—and no prospect of substantial increased investment from the private sector in the Province, unless we can achieve greater peace and stability. It is a direct consequence of the Anglo-Irish agreement that my hon. Friend the Minister is asking so early in the financial year for this additional Vote. I believe that he did not deal in sufficient detail with the causes that brought him to the House.

There will be other occasions when the House will want to devote its attention to how better Northern Ireland may be governed and how better that peace, stability and reconciliation which we seek may be achieved. But this evening I am afraid that it is a sign—I disagree on this point with the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West—of the tragic lack of interest of the House in Northern Ireland that so few hon. Members are in the Chamber at what is, after all, a very early hour.

I hope that when my hon. Friend the Minister replies he will explain how he believes that in future there will be less of a burden upon the Exchequer, because I fear that the economic and employment prospects for the Province will remain bleak as long as the Anglo-Irish agreement is in force.

5.40 pm
Mr. J. Enoch Powell (South Down)

In moving the order, the Minister of State referred to the fact that it is the first such order which it has fallen to him to lay before the House. There has been a certain repetitiveness in the debates we have had on these triannual orders over preceding years. If I refer to that matter I hope that I shall receive the same tolerance as you extended, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) and the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) for it is a matter upon which new enlightenment has been cast in a relatively new environment which scarcely existed only a year ago.

In each of those debates we have found ourselves asking—it is a question we have to ask if we are to say "Aye" or "No" when the motion is eventually put—why we have to have this order. Be it an order embodying a Supplementary Estimate or not, it is an order, as the hon. Member for Eastbourne pointed out, which authorises a transaction on the Consolidated Fund of a part of the United Kingdom that is constantly kept completely separate from the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom as a whole and from the procedures which attach to the management of that fund.

There is no lack of desire expressed in the House that we should find a way of avoiding that and thus avoiding the demand upon the time of the House which an order such as this one imposes. There has been no lack of those suggestions that the differentiation between the administration of Northern Ireland and that of the rest of the kingdom is unnecessary and undesirable. We know that the Patronage Secretary would be very glad to find a way of dispensing with this piece of ritual; and we know too, because he has said so on a number of occasions, that the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West also believes that we should have been devoting our minds to that question.

Yet, after all these orders and all these years, we find ourselves confronting the same negative and sterile repetition of the same procedure as one order follows another. At first that seemed difficult to understand. Some of us addressed reasoned arguments to the Minister on the Front Bench or sent reasoned arguments to the Patronage Secretary through his representatives, who are invariably on the Front Bench; some of us sought, so far as there were fellow hon. Members in the House, to convince them that it was quite unnecessary for them to be thus engaged.

The reason for the brick wall has not, however, been a secret: the reason for the brick wall in the face of all our pleas has been on the record for some years. As it happens, it was placed on the record on 29 June 1982 in the course of deliberations upon the Northern Ireland Bill at that time when reference was made to the fact that, in the view of the advisers of the Government, we could not break certain undertakings we have given to the Irish Government over the constitutional future of Northern Ireland."—[Official Report, 29 June 1982; Vol. 26, c. 770.] It was a statement which, if true, was perfectly adequate to explain the determination and the deftness with which one Minister and one Administration after another continued to maintain upon the statute book and operate, at whatever inconvenience, the relics and symbolism of separate self-governing institutions in Northern Ireland.

At the time, my right hon. Friend the Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) placed the evidence at the disposal of the Prime Minister and invited her to investigate the truth of the matter. That created a severe difficulty for the Prime Minister who, in my belief, had known the facts two or three years before. If she were to admit the existence of such "undertakings", questions would necessarily arise as to the nature of those undertakings and the reasons why the Government had entered into them. Those questions in turn would lead into the forbidden territory of national security.

She was in a quandary, and she resolved that quandary in a way that is now not unfamiliar to us. At the request of the then Secretary of State—that, too, does not surprise—she entrusted the investigation of the truth of the matter to—I know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that it is not normal for hon. Members addressing you to indulge in a guessing game and I have no intention of doing so. Nevertheless, if such a question had been put to you as, "Guess who—one guess is allowed—was entrusted with the investigation?", I am sure that you would have arrived at the right answer and said, without hesitation, "Sir Robert Armstrong." Indeed, it was Sir Robert Armstrong.

Upon the basis of the investigation—if that is the correct description—that he carried out, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland assured the House in a written answer on the day before the House rose for the summer recess not that the subject matter of the assertion was untrue, but that the evidence for it was insecure.

Sir John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest)

Is it not the case that the old penalty of transportation to Australia has been revived in the case of Sir Robert Armstrong?

Mr. Powell

I was hoping to work into my few remaining remarks, of course not in entirely uncomplimentary fashion, some allusion to the antipodean gladiatorial performances of the Cabinet Secretary. This is a matter that still requires to be probed and who better to probe it in the correct context than the Cabinet Secretary? One day he will be back from his travels. Perhaps then the Prime Minister will invite him to renew his effort to establish the truth of the matter which was submitted to him for investigation those four years ago, which still maintains its clammy grip upon everything that concerns Northern Ireland, and of which the memory has been renewed sharply and acridly in the minds of many of us by the Anglo-Irish agreement, to which the hon. Member for Eastbourne referred.

I believe that neither this House nor the British people, who have in recent weeks had quite an education in the sort of things that happen behind their backs, ought to be content to leave this matter where it lies. I have done my best. I did my best when in August and September 1982 I made a number of speeches outside the House and therefore without the protection of any privilege. The hon. Member for Eastbourne will confirm, and I put on record, that on that occasion I invited Sir Robert Armstrong to bring the matter to the courts if any wrong had been done by my assertions either to him or to any other person.

We need to know the truth about the nature of that compulsion which continuously constrains the Government of the United Kingdom to behave towards Northern Ireland in a manner quite incompatible with their alleged objectives, in a manner quite incompatible with the welfare of the people of that Province and with the duties that the Government and the House owe to it.

We have before us tonight only the hem of the garment of that constraint: the constraint to carry out "undertakings" given to a foreign Government and a foreign power, which dominates our governance of the Province of Northern Ireland. The time is ripe. The enlightenment and the inquisitiveness of the people are aroused now for an examination of this matter to get to the root of it, to get at the truth. What were the "undertakings"? What are the commitments that had been made all along by the Government of the United Kingdom which, among other consequences, have landed us in maintaining an obsolete form of financial administration of Northern Ireland, necessitating this debate upon the order this evening?

5.50 pm
Sir John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest)

I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to the Minister of State and to the House for having arrived a few moments late for this debate. I was at a meeting with the chairman of the Northern Ireland tourist board. He told me that his industry, among others, has not done so well during the last year. But I must not speak about tourism. I am mindful of the admonition that you gave the House and that you repeated for the benefit of late arrivals. I shall concentrate my remarks upon class II and upon the words For expenditure by the Department of Economic Development on local enterprise". I understand that the words "local enterprise" do not apply only to the Local Enterprise Development Unit, that admirable organisation, because when I turn to the subheadings I find the words Other local enterprise initiatives. To meet the increasing response from several organisations to measures to stimulate local enterprise. I am not quite clear what those words mean. I should be grateful if the Minister of State could explain them to me and if he could tell me what are the separate organisations that are there mentioned.

Is there any connection at all between the Department of Economic Development's expenditure on local enterprise and the intended disbursement from the international fund for Ireland? Approximately three quarters of the resources of that fund, we are told, are to be spent in Northern Ireland. If so, is the principle of additionality to be applied? When shall we have the opportunity to discuss the international fund for Ireland and its relevance to local enterprise?

A statement was made in another place on 5 November by my noble Friend Baroness Hooper, but surely it is in the House of Commons that we should apply our minds to financial matters. This agreement was signed in Washington. To many of us, this agreement is deeply objectionable as part of the price of the Anglo-Irish agreement. It may amuse Ministers on the Treasury Bench that we are incensed by this agreement, but a number of my hon. Friends and I regret that Her Majesty's Government should have stooped to its acceptance.

5.53 pm
Mr. John Hume (Foyle)

I had not intended to begin my speech by referring to the Anglo-Irish agreement, because I should welcome a full-scale debate on the subject. However, I was appalled by the remarks of the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow). I have said to him before that he presents a very good Unionist case in this House, but he never addresses his mind to the problem that we are trying to solve—the deep division within a community in which there is more than one point of view. It is easy to argue for the maintenance of a Unionist tradition, except that those who live in Northern Ireland know that it has never made a positive contribution to peace and stability. Instead, it is one of the factors that has led us into the situation in which we find ourselves today.

To suggest, as the hon. Member for Eastbourne suggested, that the economic situation is worse because of the Anglo-Irish agreement is a travesty of the truth. The hon. Gentleman talks softly in this House in defence and in support of people who, outside this House, have engaged in a deliberate campaign of blackmail against the decision of this Government and of this House—a campaign that has resulted, among other things, in the throwing of petrol bombs into the homes of policemen and into the homes of innocent Catholics in an attempt to force this Government and House to back down. That is the nature of the campaign. It has been organised to frighten people off.

Has the hon. Gentleman ever considered the consequences for the economy and for peace and stability if this House were to listen to him and to his friends outside the House and to surrender to such blackmail? Does he not believe that the net result wold be to give massive encouragement to those who say that the democratic process is a waste of time, particularly when people are forced to back down because of the sort of blackmail that he is softly defending in this House?

Mr. Gow

I think that the hon. Gentleman will have heard me speak in this House and outside, but, in case he has not, I repeat what I have said both within and without this place. I condemn at all times and in all circumstances, for today, for tomorrow and for ever, all unlawful and all unconstitutional action in the Province. It follows from that that I condemn even more strongly all violent action—notably, of course, the action against the police to which the hon. Gentleman referred. I hope, therefore, that he will withdraw any implication that I have ever at any time done other than advocate only lawful and constitutional opposition to the Anglo-Irish agreement.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I said that I wanted to be tolerant, and I shall allow the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) to reply to the comments of the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow). However, I hope that the hon. Member will relate his remarks to the order that is before the House.

Mr. Hume

Yes, of course, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

I am aware of the public position on violence and violent acts that the hon. Member for Eastbourne adopts. However, the net effect of the case that he is making is to invite the House and the Government to back down in the face of blackmail and violence. If the Government were foolish enough to listen to him, it would lead to the complete undermining of the democratic process and to the encouragement of those who believe that those kind of methods make Governments change their minds.

I agree that unemployment in Northern Ireland is extremely serious. It has been serious for a very long time, as those of us who live there know. When 44 per cent. of the population is under the age of 25, we are screaming out for action to be taken. In particular, I draw attention to the plight of the rural areas in Northern Ireland. They do not receive very much attention.

Has the Minister of State considered the recently virtually unanimous proposal of the European Parliament, which received a positive response from the European Commission, that there should be an integrated rural programme for Northern Ireland to tackle the problems in the rural areas in a co-ordinated and integrated fashion—not just farming problems but those relating to roads, housing, job creation, tourism, afforestration, and so on? It should also consider new ways of using land, with a view to increasing the number of jobs. I hope that when they have considered that proposal the Government will respond positively to it.

On that same area of job creation, we welcome the setting up of the Co-operative Development Agency as one of the instruments of self-help in Northern Ireland. Last week the Government rightly announced that they were providing £2 million to try to offset the 800 job losses in Harland and Wolff and to help those people find employment with new job creation ideas of their own. When one compares that with the mere £50,0000 that has been given to the Co-operative Development Agency, it is hard to take seriously the Government's intentions on co-operative development as being an instrument of self-help and job creation. I ask the Government to examine that issue seriously.

On Tuesday evening I had the privilege of hearing the Secretary of State make a speech in my constituency. It received a remarkably warm reception, because he concentrated on encouraging self-help and promised that the Government would strongly support and encourage it. One area is co-operative development, and that is one of the ways in which other European countries have made a substantial contribution to resolving unemployment problems, especially among young people.

I suggest that a mere £50,000 for the Co-operative Development Agency is not a statement of serious intent.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

I make the emollient observation that the hon. Gentleman has played a part in that sphere in Derry.

Mr. Hume

I like to think that I played a major part in starting co-operatives in my constituency and throughout Ireland. I was involved in the most successful co-operative in the history of Ireland—I am very modest about that—the Credit Union Movement. That organisation has helped thousands of people. One out of four people in Ireland are involved in it. I have such faith in self-help because it is one of the few ways in which people in that part of the world can get to grips with the serious economic problems that face them.

I suggest to the Minister, when talking about LEDU and IDB and the instruments of job creation, that not enough attention is paid to marketing as an instrument for creating new jobs in Northern Ireland. Heavy finance goes into attracting inward investment, but we must rely more and more on our own small and medium sized enterprises. Helping them to grow would be one way forward. One way of doing that would be to devote more attention and resources to developing marketing on behalf of small and medium sized enterprises.

I should like to mention several other issues related to job creation, such as housing, but I understand there will be an opportunity to debate those matters on another occasion.

6.2 pm

Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh)

I apologise for not being present at the beginning of the debate.

I wish to intercede on this Appropriation order on two smallish but fundamental matters. Not long ago I asked my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State what had happened to the money that the American Government were forcing upon this Parliament whether it wanted it or not. Will there be an opportunity to debate that? I understood from his reply that the matter was on ice and that there would be an opportunity to debate it. I wondered whether that international sum of money was being slipped in without the House debating it. In consequence, I should like a clear answer whether Parliament will have the opportunity to debate whether it wants American blood money. I strongly support the Anglo-Irish agreement. Perhaps I should not say American blood money, but American vote-buying money. I wonder whether Admiral Poindexter was the adviser to the American Government at that time. But leaving that aside, I want to know whether the Government have yet made a decision on behalf of the country to accept that money, and whether Parliament will have an opportunity of debating how it will be treated and handled. Will it be in excess or in place of all the other moneys which go to Northern Ireland?

On the thick piece of paper of this order the word "shipbuilding" appears. We are all aware of the dialogue that has taken place over shipyards in the north-east of England, which have been desperately competing against Harland and Wolff. We were told that decisions both now and in the future would be taken on a purely economic basis. The order contains the possibility of additional moneys being made available to Northern Ireland. Will that be taken into consideration by the Government when deciding on the economic fairness of bids for ships by Swan Hunter and Harland and Wolff? In my naivety I did not think, when the Government accepted the American money, that it would be used to the possible detriment of my constituents and others in the north-east of England. We already suffer severely enough. I know that Northern Ireland also suffers from unemployment, but it will not help if the people of Northern Ireland benefit from the American money to the detriment of my constituents.

I wish it to be made absolutely clear that, first, none of that money has been used or appropriated and that we shall have the opportunity of debating it; and, secondly, if and when that comes about and if shipbuilding is one of the subjects, whether decisions in that respect will take account of unemployment in the north-east of England and the fact that jobs are needed just as much there as in Northern Ireland.

6.6 pm

Mr. Stephen Ross (Isle of Wight)

The hon. Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) made a relevant point. The Government now face the problem of how to deal with the shipbuilding industry in the private and public sectors, and in respect of Harland and Wolff in the months and years ahead. Problems in shipbuilding do not exist just in the north-east. In Southampton, Vosper Thornycroft, a modern yard, is desperate for orders.

The hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) made an unbelievable speech. He blamed much of the present unemployment and many of the economic problems of Northern Ireland on the Anglo-Irish agreement. The biggest sum of money in the order is £31 million, to be spent on Harland and Wolff. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is aware of the decline in shipbuilding worldwide. However, at present, the Japanese shipyards are losing enormous amounts of money. One shipyard alone is losing 19 billion yen. In 1945, when I was in Japan, the yen was worth 4p, but now it is worth very much more. I do not know what that sum of money amounts to when translated into sterling, but it is a large sum of money. There is no question that some countries are busy subsidising their yards to a much greater extent than we are. That is why orders are still going to Malta and other places. There is no way in which we can compete when countries are prepared to pour so much money into the kitty to keep their yards afloat. It is a difficult position. I do not know the answer, but it has nothing to do with the Anglo-Irish agreement and it is absolutely daft to say that it has.

Sir John Biggs-Davison


Mr. Ross

I was referring to the hon. Member for Eastbourne, but I shall give way.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

Does the hon. Gentleman dissent from the views expressed by the chairman of the Northern Ireland Economic Council on this matter?

Mr. Ross

I was about to mention the chairman of the Northern Ireland Economic Council, because I have read some of his reports. I shall, if the hon. Gentleman will allow me, make some comments later. As I understand it, however, the chairman of the Northern Ireland Economic Council gave evidence to the New Ireland Forum, and was very much in favour of the forum report. The article that he wrote seemed to be contrary to what he has been quoted as saying by the hon. Member for Eastbourne.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

I appeared before the New Ireland Forum on the same day as Sir Charles Carter. He lent no comfort to any such idea. I refer the hon, Gentleman to his article in The Times.

Mr. Ross

The hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) tells me that Sir Charles Carter was in favour of joint authority. I do, however, congratulate the hon. Gentleman on giving evidence before the Forum. That was a brave and noble step, and I welcome the fact that he took it. I also promise to read the article in The Times.

I welcome the additional moneys being made available to the LEDU. That organisation deserves enormous praise. I wish to goodness that we had something like it in the Isle of Wight. We have many problems, and the unemployment rate is likely to reach 18 per cent. later this month. I believe that the LEDU has done a great job. I also congratulate it on the form of its annual report, which is at least encouraging.

I do not visit Northern Ireland often, because the Government do not finance me to that extent. Therefore, I speak with some trepidation, as I do not have any great knowledge of this subject. Moreover, I very much regret that there are not more Northern Ireland Members present, as they could speak with much more knowledge than me. I happen to sell its products, so I asked to go to Tyrone Glass in Dungannon and to Belleek, a world famous pottery factory in Fermanagh. Both of those companies have gone through difficult times. However, it was a pleasure to go to Tyrone Glass and to see a lot of young people turning out a high quality product. The same is true of Belleek. That company sells throughout the world, particularly in the United States and, I should add, in the Isle of Wight. If anyone visits the Isle of Wight and wants to buy some of its products, I should be pleased to accommodate them. That company has gone through difficult times, but it has risen from the ashes, largely due to the help of a Manchester businessman who settled in Dublin. That is at least one example that goes across the border.

Those things have happened because the LEDU and the Northern Ireland Development Board have played a part. In 1980, they assisted 600 companies, and in 1986 they assisted 1,500 companies. A substantial number of them were new businesses. Thus, not all is gloom. They see the future area of concern as involving helping existing businessess to improve productivity more through the supply of expertise than injections of capital sums. They say that they want a little more money, but that they do not require all that much. That is at least something on the positive side.

I turn now to aircraft and shipbuilding. I have enormous respect for Sir Phillip Foreman and John Parker. I am told that once again things are not all gloomy, because Short Brothers is taking on staff. It has a very useful order from Fokker, which I believe has an order for about 100 aircraft. Short Brothers is doing the wings, and quite a lot of sub-contract work for Boeing. It also has the Tucano. I feel somewhat divided about that. I happen to have a big constituency interest in the matter, and I had hoped that the PC9 would prove to be the winner in that competition. However, I accept that the Tucano is now with Short Brothers. The other day Sir Phillip Foreman assured hon. Members, during a meeting in the other place, that it was a successful aircraft and that the RAF would be well pleased with its new trainer.

It is tragic that Harland and Wolff, probably the most modern and up-to-date shipyard in western Europe, has had to lay off 800 men. That is where most of the money is sought. Nevertheless, we are right to continue to show confidence in Harland and Wolff, because its expertise is very great, and one can hope only that there will be an upturn in the shipbuilding industry, in the not too distant future. At least that yard has some work, which is more than others can say. It is tragic that in Northern Ireland the cigarette industry the synthetic fibre industry and shipbuilding, which have been the main sources of employment for years, should all be on the decline.

I shall not sign an early-day motion saying that we should ban cigarette smoking in certain premises in Northern Ireland. Although I am an anti-smoker, I cannot put another nail in the coffin of the poor old cigarette industry, and so jeopardise jobs in Gallaher and elsewhere.

I welcome the extra money for energy efficiency, particularly given the high energy costs in Northern Ireland. Although electricity costs have fallen slightly recently, due to the fall in the price of oil, costs are still substantially higher than in the rest of the United Kingdom.

I also welcome the new technology board. It is a step in the right direction.

I hope that the Minister takes notice of the reports of the Northern Ireland Economic Council which land on our desks with fair regularity. In the report for October 1986, the report points out that in the past 10 years unemployment has doubled, the proportion of long-term unemployed in the 20 to 24-year-old age group has regrettably doubled, and employment in manufacturing and construction have declined in each case by one third. Moreover, the gap between the average gross domestic product per head of population in Northern Ireland and Great Britain has been enlarged, and the opportunities for argument about the distribution of fresh growth are few. As we also know, emigration from both north and south is extremely high.

The council asked the Government to consider its recommendations. I shall mention three or four of them. It wants greater involvement by the LEDU in the attraction from overseas of small companies. I agree with the hon. Member for Foyle that the only hope for Northern Ireland, or for places such as the Isle of Wight, lies in smaller businesses getting off the ground through co-operatives and so on. The hon. Member for Foyle has been much more successful than me. I tried to get a co-operative off the ground in the Isle of Wight, but failed abysmally. Nevertheless, I believe that the only hope for the country as a whole lies in smaller firms getting started. They need to be helped in the first two or three years. High interest rates of, say, 15 per cent. are crippling to small industries. However, that is the growth area. If the LEDU can become involved in attracting companies from overseas, all well and good.

The council also wants the development of a common strategic framework with the industrial development institutions and the setting of job targets for the three-year public expenditure programme. Moreover, it wants some mechanism to be introduced for carrying over into the following year unused expenditure on industrial development. That is always a problem for local and central Government, but such a mechanism would seem to be common sense. Perhaps the Minister will comment on those recommendations.

I very much regret that the situation in Northern Ireland is still declining. I believe that Northern Ireland's best hope for the future lies not just in the creation of small industries but in co-operation with the rest of the United Kingdom and across borders. It makes all the sense in the world to me if both north and south can work closely together for the good of their own future.

6.16 pm
Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh)

I apologise to the Minister for not being in the Chamber for his opening remarks. I was somewhat taken by surprise when I saw that this debate on Northern Ireland had started before 6 pm. If I had been a little later, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I would have avoided your strictures over the limits of this debate.

However, I shall concentrate first on the international fund, which the hon. Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) called the American fund. He said that it could be slipped in without any reference to the House. But I assure the Minister that if he feels like slipping it into my constituency, in either small or large doses, I should be very pleased—whether or not there is any reference to the House.

Much has been said about Sir Charles Carter and the reports of the Northern Ireland Economic Council. It is difficult to debate the matter without referring to this year's report. The hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) rightly referred to those reports. However, I suggest that we should look at self-help in Northern Ireland in terms of promoting self-employment. Unless we can produce more self-employed people, we shall not be able to cope with our massive problems. Other than in small areas and in small ways, that can be done only by stimulating the construction industry. Last year alone, another 2,500 jobs in that industry were lost. According to the council's report, more than half the 1984 labour force will have been shed before the end of the decade.

I believe that self-help schemes should be geared towards stimulating the construction industry. In the last analysis, the north of Ireland relies on two natural resources: grass and agricultural products, which I am not allowed to discuss now, and its able and willing work force, which has been geared towards the construction industry for some time.

I welcome the additional moneys that will go to the Local Enterprise Development Unit, Harland and Wolff and the Industrial Development Board. The House will know that there are more people unemployed who worked in the manufacturing sector than there are those who are employed in it, and Northern Ireland is the only region in the European Economic Community where that position prevails. When we consider that stark and startling statistic and while trying to promote manufacturing industries, we must consider also how we can create new options. We shall never have the conditions of yesteryear. In future we shall not be able to provide the type of employment that once was available, and that means that we must look for other options.

I suggest that one lies in the notion of self-help, which could be extended to self-employment that is geared towards the construction industry, which is so important in the Northern Ireland economy, and agricultural equipment. It should not be forgotten that the largest industry in Northern Ireland is agriculture and that much of the machinery and many of the tools that the farmers use have been imported. The self-help programme could be geared in both directions.

Gas conversion schemes are being implemented in many towns in Northern Ireland. The schemes have been forced upon Northern Ireland because of the absence of natural gas, and I represent an area which is suffering greatly from this problem. I ask the Minister with responsibilities for economic development to reconsider his attitude towards grants for the conversion schemes. I believe that the grant on offer is £238 for what is termed the cheapest safe alternative. It is remarkable that this alternative is not used by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive because it deems it not to be safe. It knows that one person was killed quite recently as a result of an explosion in Portadown following the implementation of the cheapest safe alternative. I have made approaches at ministerial level because it is clearly a serious matter.

The subsidy that is provided for conversion schemes must be reconsidered. The one in question is not safe and if we continue with it it will be extremely expensive in the last analysis. For example, last week in Newry a mortar attack was planned. If the mortars had exploded, there would have been many more explosions than those in the main centre of explosions. The cheapest alternative within the gas conversion scheme may be cheap now but I suggest that it will be an expensive experiment in the long run.

I wish to make one final plea. Perhaps you will rule me out of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I shall not object to that because I have almost completed my contribution to the debate.

One of the consequences of the conversion schemes is that the people of Northern Ireland are being forced to have heating systems in their homes that they do not want and cannot afford. The stage has been reached when they cannot have an open fire over Christmas. Indeed, they will not be able to have an open fire for 365 days of the year, because some great mind has decided that room heaters are the answer.

I ask the Minister to reconsider this approach. There is unemployment and poverty in the north of Ireland, yet those who are in receipt of benefit are being asked to pay up to £10 a week to heat their homes. They cannot afford that sort of expenditure and it is nonsense that they are being forced into that position. It would be much more sensible to spend a little more money to allow people to heat their homes with open fires.

It should be realised that there is a 30 per cent. differential between the price of electricity here and the price in Northern Ireland, but the Minister with responsibilities for health and social welfare has refused to take that fact into account when calculating benefits. I ask the Minister of State to take that differential on board and ensure through the actions of the Department of Economic Development and those of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive that the people of Northern Ireland are able to heat their homes and provide themselves with basic necessities.

6.26 pm
Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough)

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate so early in the evening. The pace at which we have proceeded could be enough to give me an asthma attack. I am glad to see that the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security, the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie), is in her place. If I do become ill, I am sure that she will be glad to help me out.

Within the framework of the debate that you have set for us, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall comment briefly on what has been said. I shall begin with the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow). We have always welcomed the hon. Gentleman's contributions to our debates on the Anglo-Irish agreement and to the debates that touch upon the island of Ireland as a whole. We have welcomed his many contributions since he resigned from his position in the Government.

The Anglo-lrish agreement is never far from our thoughts, not even when we discuss Estimates and Appropriations for Northern Ireland. The Government may well regret that there were not more consultations prior to the signing of what, after all, was a modest agreement. I urge the hon. Gentleman to turn his positive attention and thoughts to watt will happen following 15 November 1985, rather than drawing attention to the vices, as he sees them, of the agreement. It is the Opposition's submission that the agreement is here to stay. A future Labour Government will not tear it up. Therefore, we and the people of Northern Ireland must come to terms with the agreement, as we must all come to terms with the measure that is before us.

The right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) graces our debates with his cleverly thought out and logical contributions and with the way in which he advances his arguments. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) referred in last year's debate to the comments of the right hon. Gentleman being a form of triennial entertainment. The right hon. Gentleman said also that we go through a sort of pantomime at this time of year. That phrase was a nice one, but it should be said that he treats these matters with the utmost seriousness. The right hon. Member for South Down said that he had done his best, and I am sure that his constituents in Northern Ireland will agree with that. He has done his best from his vantage point, in the interests of his people, in putting forward his views.

The hon. Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) referred to the international fund. We welcome the fund, a remark which turns me to the contribution of the hon. Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt), who I am glad to see in his place. It should be said that he was present for the Appropriation debate last year. We were not necessarily happy with the concept of foreign money, or United States money, but we have come to terms with that. Most of us can come to terms with $50 million. It is a pleasant sum to have for the island of Ireland. The question to be asked is, "Where is the European Economic Community money?"

Can we not have a positive approach to the border? Can we not set up an industrial zone or development zone along the border to cover that area of devastation over the past few years? Is it not sensible to suggest that the international fund direct its operations to those areas? Although we accept the decision of the United States Congress with regard to this money, we are concerned that it is to be directed to profitable but private enterprises. Although we understand the doctrine behind that decision, we consider that a more common use of the money, through local authorities and through Government-inspired schemes, may be more appropriate. We accept the fact that this is a first tranche at $50 million. A further $100 million is to come. If we welcome the first $50 million, most assuredly we shall welcome the rest. Therefore, we wish well the international fund and the board.

The hon. Member for Eastbourne also referred to the lateness of the hour at which we discuss these matters. Tonight, we are a little ahead of ourselves. We endorse his view that the way in which we conduct the business of the House as it relates to Northern Ireland is nothing short of farcical I do not blame the Minister of State, or his colleague the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, but, of course, it is a travesty that we should discuss important matters dealing with Northern Ireland, which has a population of 1.5 million people, in this way. A future Labour Government will examine these matters with the utmost care. We do not see any progress or improvement in the nature of the business as it comes before the House.

We are always glad to make promises well ahead of a general election. We accepted the Government's decision that Stormont should be abolished. There was a withdrawal of democratic function from the Stormont Assembly and there was no longer a democratic mechanism to study Orders in Council. We welcomed the scrutinising role of the Northern Irish Assembly in relation to Orders in Council. Now that it is no longer performing that scrutiny, Orders in Council may be affirmed or negatived, but cannot be altered, even if they contain the most glaring administrative errors. We shall examine very carefully the setting up of a Standing Committee on which the Government of the day have a majority. There could be proper debates on orders, and valid points could be made by Members of Parliament. Those valid points could be incorporated into the text of any legislation dealing with Northern Ireland. There is already a Committee that considers Northern Ireland affairs, but it does not exist in the form that we envisage.

We also envisage the creation of a Select Committee for Northern Ireland, with power to review not only the Anglo-Irish agreement, which will be of interest to the hon. Members for Eastbourne and for Epping Forest, but various aspects of the Northern Ireland Committee. Such a Committee might have the powers of the customary Commons Select Committee. It may examine the order that we have before us. We might consider how to incorporate this order and the various elements of it into the workings of a Select Committee. That Select Committee might also be able to cross-examine witnesses, ranging from the Secretary of State down, and call for documents.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Harold Walker)

Order. The hon. Gentleman's remarks are going wide of the issue before the House. He should come back to it.

Mr. Bell

It is rather like Sunday cricket. The rules for wides are somewhat different from those for cricket during the week. I shall bring the debate within the purview, as you have so rightly said, Mr. Deputy Speaker, of the order.

Although we are debating the order, debates on Northern Ireland issues could be held at regular intervals on the Floor of the House, and in waking hours, rather than late at night. That point was made by the hon. Member for Eastbourne, and by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warley, West. We shall look for foresight and diplomatic skill on the part of the Unionist leadership. It might lead them to understand that, as Ernest Marples once said to me. "A time of crisis is a time of opportunity". We look forward to the day when the Unionists feel that the time of crisis has passed and the time of opportunity is at hand.

The hon. Member for Langbaurgh mentioned shipbuilding carried out by Harland and Wolff. He and I have constituents who have suffered from the closure of Smith's Dock. We understand the nature of the local economy and the impact of this type of decision. The hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) mentioned Japanese shipping. We do not absolve the Government of their responsibility of creating the conditions in the shipbuilding industry that have led to redundancies. After all, a Conservative Government hived off Navy shipbuilding from civil shipbuilding. A Conservative Government also allowed British shipowners to build most of their merchant vessels abroad. Therefore, the Government cannot abdicate their responsibility for those matters.

On the subject of Harland and Wolff, which is within the purview of the order, I note the absence of the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson). I dislike criticising those who are absent, but it is fair, apparently, for the hon. Gentleman to strut his moment on the stage of the Republic of Ireland, but not to grace our proceedings with his presence when we deal with the future of Harland and Wolff and the loss of 800 jobs in his constituency.

We associate ourselves with the remarks made by the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume). He said that the co-operative agency received £50,000. That amount is not sufficient. We shall press the Government for a more liberal financial approach to the problems that face the co-operative agency.

On Tuesday, I was glad to sit on the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments which dealt with Enterprise Ulster. Enterprise Ulster was renewed. We are grateful to the present Minister of State and his colleagues on the Front Bench who are responsible for Northern Ireland affairs. The note that we received clearly stated that the former Minister of State looked upon Enterprise Ulster with a view to putting it to sleep. More than 1,800 jobs were at stake as a consequence of the review. I am glad that the Government did not take that view. The powers of Enterprise Ulster were extended and 1,800 jobs have been saved. I welcome the efforts of the Minister of State and his team in ensuring that those jobs were saved.

In the context of the order, we see a clear understanding on the part of the Government about the nature of the mixed economy. The frontiers of the mixed economy in Northern Ireland are not so far to the right as they are in the rest of the United Kingdom. We welcome the importance that the Government give to the shipbuilding and aircraft industries, as is reflected in the order.

I notice that, so far, the Government's drive for privatisation has not included Shorts. If Sid has been seen anywhere at all of late, it has not been in Northern Ireland. Each year, for the past few years—certainly since 1981—we have been told that Shorts will soon be privatised. A specialist firm was appointed which advised the Government on the prospects of selling Shorts Brothers to the private sector. The former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the present Home Secretary, at one time hoped that there would be a share flotation similar to that of British Telecom. Tonight, the Minister referred to the sudden fall in Shorts' profitability. The 1985–86 results, which were published recently, show such a massive drop that the Belfast Telegraph described them as a massive reversal of the trend towards full profitability". The losses amounted to £35 million. We take no comfort from those figures. Short Brothers should not be privatised. We welcome the clear delineation of the mixed economy frontier of it as applies to Shorts. We wish the firm well in the development of its business in aircraft, air structures and guided missiles.

The Secretary of State, in a recent written answer, told us how the Government have authorised an external funding limit of £36 million to cover the period 1 April 1986 to 31 March 1987. He also stated the Government's concern at the downturn in Shorts' financial performance in 1985–86. Tonight the Minister of State wished Shorts an early return to profitability.

The Secretary of State also said in his written answer that the Government would be reviewing shortly the strategic plans for the business of Shorts. While the Minister of State could not be expected to give a reply tonight, I am sure that he would wish to take an early opportunity to inform the House of the results and consequences of that review.

We welcome the statement of Sir Philip Foreman that Shorts is committed to the affirmative action programme monitored by the Fair Employment Agency. I should say in parenthesis that we welcome the issuing of rules of conduct for firms falling within the purview of that agency.

Sir Philip Foreman is anxious to demonstrate that Shorts' employment policy is fair and on an equitable basis. However, I disagree with him when he states that the time that management spend on proving that point detracts from the company's overall sales effort. With the utmost respect to him, I should point out that, as W. Somerset Maugham once wrote in a book called "Catalina", the wise man takes the world as it is and not as it might be.

The wise man must take into account in the United States the Irish National Caucus, which recently sought to compel the United States air force to cancel options on 48 Shorts Sherpa aircraft. No hon. Member believes that the way to tackle the problem of discrimination in Northern Ireland is to reduce order books there and to induce further discrimination—the discrimination between those in work and those out of work. That is not the proper course of action to fight discrimination in Shorts.

The worst discrimination is where people are made unemployed by policies which may be made by the Government or exterior forces. That kind of discrimination is as bad as the religious discrimination that we see in Northern Ireland. Therefore, our message to Shorts is to seek an early return to profitability, to continue the expansion of its order book, to maintain a high profile in rooting out discrimination and to continue as one of its goals the attack on discrimination. We in the Labour party will certainly press and probe the company and the Government on that issue.

If I understood the Minister correctly, there is a provision in the order to cover the cost of the 800 job losses at Harland and Wolff. We understand the nature of the downturn in world shipping, to which the hon. Member for Isle of Wight referred. No one understands better than me and the hon. Member for Langbaurgh the consequences of redundancy for ordinary people who in their working lives have acquired skills and invested hours in their place of work, and who find themselves cast aside with an uncertain future for themselves and their children. We would be most distressed if we felt for a moment that those who lose their work at Harland and Wolff would be condemned to spend the rest of their working lives on street corners, on their hunkers as in the thirties. I am sure that the Minister would not wish that to happen. Therefore, we ask the Government to ensure as best they can the retraining of those who will lose their jobs to find work for them and to give the Northern Ireland community as a whole the feeling that there is something to be gained from their policies.

We in the Labour party cannot, and do not, associate ourselves with the Government's policies overall. We welcome the fact that more money is being spent in Northern Ireland. Certainly, more money goes into Northern Ireland than into the Principality of Wales and Scotland, or, as the hon. Member for Langbaurgh knows and understands, into Cleveland, which we both represent. We shall not bless the Government's monetarist policies or give the Government a sense of relief that they can look forward with equanimity to the next Appropriation order without hostility from the Opposition.

We accept that we in the Opposition have a greater role to play than usual because of the absence of Unionist Members, with the honourable exception of the right hon. Member for South Down. We take on ourselves the burden of responsibility for the people of Northern Ireland in relation to shipbuilding, the aircraft industry, industry in general, the environment and hospitals. We shall continue to press and probe the Government on all those issues with a view to eliciting information, easing the position of those who live there and giving those in Northern Ireland the sense that a future Labour Government would have the competence and confidence to govern Northern Ireland differently from the way in which it is at present governed.


Mr. Scott

With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like to reply. Normally my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the hon. Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers), would have replied to the debate as he is responsible for the Department of Economic Development. However, he is spending this week in the United States on a tour, meeting industrialists, representatives of the Administration and others, in search of investment and orders on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland.

Some of the points raised, especially those raised by the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon), were particularly for my hon. Friend's consideration and I shall ensure that on his return he has a note of them so that he can turn his attention to them. The hon. Gentleman will notice that for two of his points we have present the Northern Ireland Minister responsible for both the Department of the Environment and the Department of Health and Social Services. No doubt he will have heard what the hon. Gentleman said.

First, I shall deal with the question of why we are having the debate this evening. That matter was touched on by the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer), my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) and at some length by the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell), who announced his familiar conspiracy theory. Northern Ireland has had a separate Consolidated Fund for over 60 years. There is no secret or hidden reason why the Government persist with that arrangement. Our belief is that Northern Ireland's special needs and problems will be best met by a system of devolved government. I recognise that not every hon. Member accepts that, but it is the Government's view and Parliament as a whole has accepted and embodied it in the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 and the Northern Ireland Act 1982. In that light, the maintenance of a separate Consolidated Fund so that a future devolved Administration can have proper control over the resources they spend is a sensible way to proceed.

Several hon. Members spoke about our legislative arrangements. I shall ensure that the attention of our business managers is drawn to those matters. I have my own feelings about the time at which Northern Ireland business is considered in the House. It is open to hon. Members to make their representations through the usual channels about the handling of business and, perhaps, about the greater use of the Northern Ireland Committee. It is worth recalling that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister told the leaders of the two Unionist parties when she met them on 25 February that she was ready in particular to discuss the arrangements for handling Northern Ireland business in Parliament. That offer remains open and I urge them to take it up.

The right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West and other hon. Members alluded to the level of unemployment that we must endure in Northern Ireland. We cannot counter unemployment by Government action alone. We need efficient, competitive and innovative employers in Northern Ireland if we are to tackle the problem. I do not see the outlook for unemployment in Northern Ireland as being particularly encouraging at present. There are still industries under threat and they may have to endure further redundancies.

The visit of my hon. Friend the Minister to the United States this week is indicative of our effort to attract inward investment. I absolutely agree that, although we should ever be alert for opportunity to attract inward investment in Northern Ireland, our future thrust of policies should be very much in the area of encouraging small firms, including self-help operations, and depending on them to provide the jobs that Northern Ireland so desperately needs.

Through our policies, we shall aim to encourage more people to set up in business, to facilitate the growth of existing small businesses, and to stimulate economic activity in communities through local enterprise programmes. In addition, we will have to help with special schemes for the retraining of those who become unemployed. The enterprise allowance scheme, action for community employment scheme and others also have a role to play in providing employment for the people of the Province.

I share the concern expressed by the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West. However, he is less than fair in his questioning of the Government's commitment to tackle the economic problems facing Northern Ireland. Identifiable public expenditure in Northern Ireland on a per capita basis is some 40 per cent. higher than in the United Kingdom as a whole. It is 39 per cent. higher than in Wales and 21 per cent. higher than in Scotland. That is a level of expenditure that reflects the Government's attempts to meet the real needs of Northern Ireland, and the Government's commitment is commendable.

The right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West referred to lignite. I believe that the development of lignite could have major economic benefits. The right hon. Gentleman knows that we have set up opportunities for consultation and for assessing the benefits that could flow from lignite and the way that these could best be tackled. I can assure him absolutely that, as and when the reports are produced, there will be a public inquiry in East Tyrone into the environmental effects. Apart from the immediate effects of the construction of any minemouth power plant—environmental action could be taken about that—the effect on the surrounding environment is likely to be minimal. That matter must be discussed when a public inquiry is held.

My hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne raised the problems faced by Harland and Wolff. I must stress that these problems have nothing to do with the Anglo-Irish agreement. The bulk of the money is going to Harland and Wolff to reflect the problems encountered by shipbuilders in England, Scotland and throughout western Europe. Even Japan, which has led shipbuilding in the past few years, suffered capacity cuts throughout last year. It is less than fair of my hon. Friend to relate the requirement for Harland and Wolff to the Anglo-Irish agreement.

Mr. Gow

I think that my hon. Friend will agree when he reads the Official Report tomorrow that at no stage in my speech did I mention Harland and Wolff.

Mr. Scott

My hon. Friend claimed that the reason that I had to come to the House today was because of the Anglo-Irish agreement and the unrest. I am simply saying that my purpose in coming to the House today is to find money for Harland and Wolff and other commendable activities. That is not related to the Anglo-Irish agreement.

The other major service for which funds are being sought is in respect of standard capital grants. Some £12 million is directed there. That is good news because it reflects substantial investment by firms within Northern Ireland in recent times. Nor do I think that high levels of unemployment in Northern Ireland have anything to do with the effects of the Anglo-Irish agreement. Unemployment has consistently been higher in the Province than elsewhere in the United Kingdom. It is also misleading to suggest that industrial output in Northern Ireland has suffered since the agreement. Output has continued to grow over the past 12 months and manufacturing output has now recovered to its 1980 level.

Several hon. Members raised the question of the international fund for Ireland. My hon. Friend the Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Holt) specifically asked about opportunities to debate that fund. He may be aware that the order establishing the fund was laid before Parliament in the usual way. An Order in Council under the International Organisations Act 1968 went before a Standing Committee where there was an opportunity for debate and the order was debated in the other place.

I would like to consider the question of additionality.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

Was it not the case for immunities for those serving on the fund that was brought before the House?

Mr. Scott

There was more than one order connected with the establishment of the fund and one certainly had that effect.

I can give an absolute assurance that any disbursements from the international fund will be completely additional to public expenditure in the Province. The purpose to which the fund will be used is a matter for the board of the fund and that is an independent body. Let me make it absolutely clear that the Government have welcomed the establishment of the fund and the degree of international support attracted by the Anglo-Irish agreement.

Mr. Bell

The question of additionality arises in relation to the Common Market money that is still being negotiated. That issue has attracted the attention of the House. Can the Minister give any comment on the question of additionality in the event of money coming from the European Economic Community?

Mr. Scott

We will have to deal with that problem if and when the European Community decides to make any disbursements. It will depend on the terms upon which any such offer might be made.

No money has yet been allocated out of the international fund. If the board of the fund allocates money in respect of services that are undertaken by central Government, of course I would have to seek agreement of the House to such payments being appropriated in aid of the services in question. That would of course provide an opportunity for debate on such payments.

My hon. Friend the Member for Langbaurgh expressed concern about Harland and Wolff. The provision that is being sought is meant to cover redundancy costs, together with losses of working capital, and to establish Harland and Wolff Enterprises for retraining and re-employment of workers. None of the money is need for the auxiliary oiler replenishment, on which work has not yet commenced. I absolutely assure the House that the tender contained no subsidy whatsoever and that the conditions that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland announced to the House on 24 April will apply absolutely.

We have had a debate that has ranged somewhat wider than we might have expected on this order. In a sense, the order is peripheral to the main thrust of the economic future of Northen Ireland. We have already announced the global outturn or public expenditure for the coming financial year for Northern Ireland. There will be an increase of 6 per cent. over the existing financial year's provision. That means a 2 per cent. increase, in real terms, for Northern Ireland. That clearly demonstrates the Government's commitment to the Province and to tackling the problems that Northern Ireland faces. Tonight we need money, partly to help Harland and Wolff through a difficult time and partly to reinforce the efforts to provide jobs in Northern Ireland and also to respond to many extra jobs that have already been created. I commend the order to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the draft Appropriation (No. 3) (Northern Ireland) Order 1986, which was laid before this House on 13th November, be approved.