HC Deb 27 February 1986 vol 92 cc1059-60
11. Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many days were lost in Northern Ireland through industrial disputes in 1985; and how this compares with the figures for Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland.

Dr. Boyson

The Northern Ireland figure is 80 days per 1,000 employees, compared with 110 for Great Britain, excluding the miners' strike. In recent years, figures for the Republic of Ireland have been consistently higher than those for Northern Ireland, and we estimate that that will also be the case for 1985.

Mrs. Bottomley

Cannot that encouraging news about the Province be communicated to potential investors abroad, rather than the damaging headline-grabbing efforts planned for next Monday?

Dr. Boyson

I welcome my hon. Friend's comment. Indeed, last month I spoke about the Labour Relations Agency, which reports that all foreign employers in Northern Ireland are satisfied with labour relations and productivity. We shall ensure that that information is spread, as my hon. Friend asks, and we hope that nothing will be done on Monday to undermine that image.

Mr. Bell

Noting the Minister's response to industrial relations in Northern Ireland as foreign firms see them, will he confirm that a recent poll in the Belfast Telegraph showed that the overwhelming majority of people were against violence and the majority revealed their opposition to a strike? Will the Minister tell the House what the impact of Monday's strike is likely to be on job prospects in Northern Ireland?

Dr. Boyson

There is no doubt that if there is a widespread strike on Monday in Northern Ireland that will have serious industrial repercussions in two ways. First, it will affect investment coming into Northern Ireland which we desperately want. Secondly, buyers in other countries will be doubtful of the security of placing orders and whether the deliveries will be made on time. All workers and employers in Northern Ireland should bear that in mind when they make their decisions on Monday.

Mr. Robert Atkins

Is it not worrying that the threat of Monday's strike could well damage a successful company such as Shorts which has worldwide and United Kingdom commitments that are important to the future of the Province? Will my hon. Friend take this opportunity to urge the workers in that great company to continue on what is already a successful path and avoid industrial action on Monday?

Dr. Boyson

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's comments and I entirely endorse what he said. The best thing that industrial workers can do on Monday — indeed, the best thing that all workers can do on Monday — is to go to work. That will show that they are concerned about the security of their employment, show the rest of the world that work is continuing in that area and that the Province is reliable, both for investment and for purchasing from.

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