HC Deb 01 December 1987 vol 123 cc885-905 11.29 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Viggers)

I beg to move, That the draft Appropriation (No. 3) (Northern Ireland) Order 1987, which was laid before this House on 11th November, be approved. The order is being made under paragraph 1 of schedule 1 to the Northern Ireland Act 1974.

On this occasion, the House is being asked to approve extra funds for only one vote, which is vote No. 3 of the Department of Economic Development, for which I am responsible. This particular vote covers expenditure on local enterprise initiatives, assistance to the aircraft and shipbuilding industry, mineral exploration, energy efficiency measures, capital investment grants for industrial development and scientific and technological assistance. Only some of these programmes require extra funds.

On 7 July last, the House approved the 1987–88 Main Estimates which included some £92.5 million for these services. Today I seek a further £18.5 million, taking the total expenditure on this vote to some £111 million for the year. The Estimates booklet, which gives full details of the additional expenditure, is available from the Vote Office.

Of that increase, £1.5 million is for the Local Enterprise Development Unit, Northern Ireland's small business agency, known as LEDU. Since its inception in 1971 LEDU has promoted over 31,000 job opportunities in Northern Ireland, including 4,500 in the last financial year. The agency offers a comprehensive range of assistance to small firms in Northern Ireland to assist the expansion of existing businesses and to encourage those seeking to establish new businesses. The agency hopes to promote some 4,000 jobs in the current financial year.

One particular initiative that I wish to draw to hon. Members' attention this evening, well known to those who represent Northern Ireland constituencies, is LEDU's local enterprise programme. This imaginative scheme is targeted on local communities and aims to promote the growth of new indigenous small businesses. This is being done through a network of enterprise centres right across the Province. These centres provide on-the-spot specialist advice, readily available premises and the necessary backup support services. Already 18 such centres have been set up and 3,000 jobs created, and this number is expected to increase substantially in the next few years.

LEDU's corporate strategy covering the period up to 1989 seeks to build on its excellent track record. The success achieved against a difficult economic background underlines the potential that exists in the Province for developing a vigorous small firms sector and, through it, revitalising Northern Ireland's economy. LEDU has a key role to play in further strengthening this sector and the additional resources will enable the agency to meet this challenging role.

I should like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the many voluntary workers who give their time, through the local enterprise groups, to assist in providing jobs and in giving their skill and expertise. They do a grand job.

Harland and Wolff requires £18.1 million additional support for trading this year. Many hon. Members are aware of the severe and continuing crisis which, since the mid-1970s, has beset the merchant shipbuilding industry throughout the world. Harland and Wolffs facilities are best suited to the large ship market, but it is in this sector that the company faces its. most severe competition, particularly from the far east. As a consequence, it has been forced to turn to orders such as the BP single well oil production system, known as SWOPS, and other sophisticated ships. These ships require different skills, and the difficulties encountered have caused delays in the programme and losses on the contracts. The increased support is required to cover additional contract losses and to meet work-in-progress costs to cover instalments payable to Harland and Wolff but which have slipped into next year. None of this provision is to assist with the auxiliary oiler replenishment vessel contract. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown) challenges that, I shall be happy to justify it. The AOR contract is separately funded. I can assure him that none of the provision is to assist with the AOR contract.

Mr. Nicholas Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne, East)

I understand that the role of Touche Ross, the accountants, is to act as an independent check on the activities of Harland and Wolff and that it is retained by the Government, through the Northern Ireland Office, to do that. Is it not now the case that Touche Ross is also helping with the day-to-day running of Harland and Wolff? In other words, it is not just monitoring what is happening, but also acting as consultants and affecting what is happening there.

Mr. Viggers

The hon. Gentleman may be confusing the role of Touche Ross with that: of Deloittes, which has been advising the Government more closely and which has seconded one of its partners to assist with the management of Harland and Wolff. Touche Ross is not that directly concerned with the management of Harland and Wolff.

The additional requirement of £18.1 million for the company has been offset by a reduced requirement of some £1.2 million under the shipbuilding redundancy payments scheme, leaving a net figure of nearly £16.9 million. The redundancy payments scheme has now terminated, leaving only support payments to be made to workers made redundant prior to 31 December 1986.

In section C of the vote, covering energy matters, an extra £146,000 is required in this financial year for consultancy studies. Northern Ireland will need new electricity generating capacity in the mid-1990s to replace plant due for retirement and to meet anticipated growth in demand. There are a number of options for providing this capacity, and proposals have been received both from Northern Ireland Electricity and from the private sector. NIE has offered several alternatives, including completion of the Kilroot power station, either as a dual coal-and-oil-fired station, or simply as a coal-fired station. NIE has also offered the option of the construction of a new station fired by local lignite. In addition, the private sector has made proposals for a lignite station.

The Government need to evaluate these different options very carefully and to ensure that the decision which is taken is in the best interests of the province. It is a difficult decision, involving complex comparisons and some issues new to the electricity industry in the United Kingdom. We need to be sure that we have the most competent professional advice on these issues so that we have all the analysis and information necessary to assist us to come to the right decision. The additional £146,000 for consultancy studies will go towards the cost of this specialist advice.

The subject for debate this evening is a narrow vote. I hope that these preliminary remarks will enable hon. Members to set the vote in its context, and I will do my best to answer points raised in the debate.

11.36 pm
Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)

For the convenience of the House, I will deal with the question of Harland and Wolff, and my hon. Friend will seek to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, towards the end of the debate to talk about the other matters.

In some ways this debate is starting with a bit of a nonsense. We are being asked to approve appropriations for Harland and Wolff before the accounts to which they relate have been published. It lay within the power of the Government to arrange matters so that we could have had the accounts before us. We could then have had an informed debate, instead of hon. Members having to depend on last week's briefings of selected newspapers to which the accounts of Harland and Wolff were leaked. There was the alleged report of battles with the Ministry of Defence and GEC about contracts being fulfilled or not fulfilled, and then there were selective briefings by interested parties.

It is not fair to the House, it is certainly not fair to the company involved, and it is not fair to its work force and it is bad for morale and for the Government's public image when they cannot answer legitimate questions about their activities before a debate of this nature. It is also bad because the Department of Economic Development had it within its power to lay these accounts before we had this debate.

Mr. Viggers

I should like to make it clear that it is not within the power of DED to lay the accounts; it is the responsibility of the directors, under companies legislation, to lay the accounts. I personally regret that they have not been laid.

Mr. McNamara

They have to be laid in the House of Commons Library since they are the accounts of a nationalised industry. The Government could have put their own pressure on this nationalised industry to make sure that we had those accounts and could discuss the matter properly.

Mr. Viggers

Harland and Wolff is not a nationalised industry; it is a public limited company and comes under the companies legislation. It is for the directors to file the accounts, when they will immediately be laid in the Library.

Mr. McNamara

Let us put it this way. Last week it was leaked far and wide that the accounts would be published and laid. Last Friday they were extensively reported on by the broadcasting media. There were stories in quite a number of newspapers about the contents of the accounts. We were informed that the company had first to give the accounts to DED and that they would then be published. That was how the legal position was described to us when we made this inquiry about it today. If I have been unfair to the Government, I readily withdraw; but I do not believe that I have been unfair, because the Government own the company and the Government arrange the business in this House and the Government could have ensured that hon. Members had the information from the accounts without having to turn to the leaks elsewhere.

It is also unfair because of the importance of Harland and Wolff to manufacturing in the Six Counties. It accounts for 5.5 per cent, of the manufacturing sector, 60 local firms subcontract directly to it, and more than 100 other firms within the island contribute to the work.

It is also unfair to have this kind of debate when rumours are rife especially when we bear in mind the enormous amount of modern technology and product sophistication within the company. With its new computer-aided design and manufacture, it is perhaps one of the leading companies in shipbuilding in Europe. Therefore, we should have had an informed debate about the prospects of Harland and Wolff and the sensible shipbuilding policies within the company. However, all we can do is to ask questions about what is reported to be a loss approaching £58 million and the projected losses for next year to which the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State referred. Management, Mr. Parker said, is the key to success in the yard. We must therefore consider the management. Obviously the yard is to be congratulated on the building of a modern technologically based vessel for BP, the SWOPS. However, that vessel, which in many ways was to be the standard bearer for new design and initiatives, is now bedevilled by claims and counter-claims between Harland and its principal subcontractor, GEC. GEC had a £7 million subcontract to deliver switchgear. Harland alleges that GEC delayed, thus altering the procedures of the building of the vessel and that caused the loss. That is Harland and Wolffs side of the story.

Mr. Alan Davies of GEC is reported as saying in Lloyd's List that the company had asked for, but never received, important technical information to enable the power system to be designed. It had requested a 40-week contract extension to reflect extra design work caused by the lack of technical information. This was never agreed to. Over 50 amendments were made to the design while the switchgear was being manufactured. Drawings and information sent by courier to Belfast were lost, either on route or after arrival. We are not told what happened to the courier. Mr. Davies goes on to state: One switchgear set arrived in Belfast last January, but was not tested until June because of complications with the new series of tests. Who is right, Harland or GEC? Harland claims that the vessel is now nearly 100 per cent, erected, but the switch boards are only just arriving. That kind of argument, conducted through the newspapers without any access to the accounts or explanations from the Government, is not good for either work force.

The Argus is another first and a flag carrier for the company. It is an important first conversion from a merchant vessel to a warship for the MoD. It is now running about four months behind time with overruns of as much as £20 million. What is the true position about litigation over the Argus? What is the true position about the contract? According to Lloyd's List, Harland claims that the vessel arrived at the yard with 'the surprise addition' of blue asbestos, red lead paint, and needing extensive design and specialist work which had not been negotiated with the Ministry of Defence". What is the truth about that? Did the MoD conceal important information from Harland when the contract was drawn up? did the Harland team fail to see and appreciate the problem when it inspected the vessel? Harland alleges that it went ahead in good faith on the understanding that if it was granted the contractual extensions by the MoD it would bear no penalties. Is that the correct position? Will it be able to recoup the losses?

What is the position of Touche Ross and Co., the accountants? What was it doing when the delays and costs were incurred? Why was the DED watchdog doing nothing? Did it report to the DED? What was Mr. Sheerer's role? If Touche Ross did report to the DED, why was not something done early on before the loss was run up?

Why was it necessary to have a second firm of accountants, Deloitte, Haskins and Sells at the yard? What was its precise role at the yard? Who invited that firm— the company or DED? Has that firm produced a report and, if so, what did it say? Has it been acted upon?

Against all the clamour of rumour, counter-rumour and speculation it is possible to overlook the company's achievement in building three superb new vessels. We are faced with important management problems. However, the yard has cut its losses. In 1982–83 employment lost per man was three times the average for the nationalised shipbuilding industry; now it is only half that average. We should not fail to note that the company is working in a hostile climate. All our EEC compatriots subsidise directly their shipbuilding industries with home orders. The British Government do not. All Japanese yards of similar size to Harland and Wolff are losing money heavily. Indeed, they are losing more than Harland and Wolff. Even the Korean yards, whose building and labour costs are half those of Harland and Wolff, are losing a great deal of money.

One of the worst and saddest features to come out of the alleged accounts of Harland and Wolff is the fact that £25 million represents the loss of 1,500 jobs. Those jobs have been lost not just to Belfast but to all the Six Counties. The fact that that money is no longer going into the community on a weekly basis is also a loss. From 1979–87, while the Government have been in power, the number of people employed at the yard has dropped from 7,000 to fewer than 4,500.

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. McNamara

I would rather not. I gave way three times to the Minister and there are other hon. Members who wish to speak. We will lose time if I give way. I am not seeking to dodge a question —I rarely do — but I must get on.

When the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland announced the upturn for next year's estimates he said that the continuing difficulty regarding Harland and Wolff's trading position would mean A significant increase in public support for the yard. This very substantial commitment (the exact amount will be decided later) has naturally limited the extent to which I have been able to make resources available for the development of other services in the province." That is ominous not only in terms of help for other services in the Province, but also because it appears that Harland and Wolff is being made a scapegoat for the failures and disappointments in other industries. That is unfair to Harland and Wolff. The degree of uncertainty in that statement will be of great concern to the work force and the management. We should have the precise figures and projections before the House when we are debating such issues.

The future prosperity of the shipyard is important. We should be discussing a sensible shipbuilding policy. We should be discussing how the skills and new technologies in that yard can be used to the maximum benefit of the yard and the employees. However, because of the way in which business has been arranged and information has been leaked, we are discussing rumour and counter-rumour. That is regrettable, because Harland and Wolff is a fine yard and it deserves the confidence of the House.

11.48 pm
Mr. Roy Beggs (Antrim, East)

I welcome the aims of the Appropriation Order to release additional funding for expenditure in Northern Ireland.

I regret that, yet again, the method of dealing with Northern Ireland business is repeated despite previous and continued objection from right hon. and hon. Members. This time last year the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) expressed concern about dealing with this business late on a Thursday night and the business managers have responded by moving the business to Tuesday night. Perhaps the next move will be the introduction of new means of dealing with such matters.

The Northern Ireland economy and the unemployed have yet to benefit from the money that has been spent on bolstering the Anglo-Irish Agreement. I wonder whether it is right that representatives of a foreign Government with the right to sit on such public bodies as the Industrial Development Boards should have more authority and influence than those of us who have been elected to represent the interests of Northern Ireland?

I ask Ministers and the Secretary of State to recognise that the people whom we represent already spend twice as much of their income on fuel as do other average households in the United Kingdom. Already, electricity costs are running at the highest tariff in the United Kingdom. When can we expect a decision on future power generation in Northern Ireland, so that we can produce electricity much more cheaply than now, when we depend too heavily on oil? Will the Minister note that the proposed increases in electricity charges will place an unfair burden on our domestic consumers and threaten the viability of industry? Will he consider the injustice of increasing costs to Northern Ireland consumers by more than the rate of inflation?

Northern Ireland consumers are all already energy efficient—they cannot afford to be otherwise. Increased fuel charges put at risk our pensioners and all who depend on benefit and cannot afford the high cost of fuel bills for coal and electricity. Will the Minister assure the House that his Department is allocating adequate resources to Northern Ireland's industry, and helping to promote marketing skills in the search for overseas market outlets for manufactured goods and services that can be provided in Northern Ireland?

I welcome the announced additional expenditure for local enterprise development units. In my constituency, there is already close co-operation between the LEDU, EEC funding, local councils and voluntary groups in supporting new business starts. Such local self-help is already contributing to job creation, and I support further financial investment being made available to LEDUs for local self-help.

It seems fashionable to cast doubt on the wisdom of spending more money on the shipbuilding industry in Great Britain or Northern Ireland. When the company in question is Harland and Wolff, there too often appears to be panic from some quarters that should know better. Shipbuilding throughout the world has had a torrid time in the past few years, and it would be wise to consider the position of Harland and Wolff in that light. Every major Japanese yard lost money in 1986–87; so did the main Korean yards. Only one — Hyundai — made a small profit — a mere $200,000. While no one suggests that everything in the garden is rosy, it is right that the positive aspects of Harland and Wolff should be put on record this evening.

The firm employs about 5 per cent, of all who are employed in manufacturing industry in Northern Ireland. It is presently emerging from a period of transition during which the work force has contracted from more than 9,000 to about 4,000. During the past nine months, that rationalisation has resulted in the work force being cut by about 22 per cent. I emphasise that that cut has been achieved by negotiations between the work force and management, without the loss of a single day's production through industrial action. Is there any other area of employment in the United Kingdom where this could have happened, or any part of the public sector where such an employment cut has been put into effect?

Despite such good co-operation at all levels within the company, the Minister will have realised that it has been virtually impossible to undertake that degree of reorganisation without considerable production difficulty. Whatever the good will, the continuity of production could not possibly have been maintained as before at the moment when 800 men are becoming redundant. The job sacrifices in the yard and the benefits that will derive from the flexibility procedures that were introduced simultaneously are the basis for success in the future.

The flexibility procedures within the work force are continuing, and their benefits have yet to be appreciated. Again I ask the Minister where he would hope to find that degree of realism anywhere else in industry. Where else could a massive redundancy scheme be combined with a radical flexibility programme such as we have seen operating at Harland and Wolff?

As one worker said to me more than a year ago, "This flexibility will cost a lot of us our jobs, but to oppose it will cost us the yard." Not only on the shop floor has Harland and Wolff made giant strides forward. At a time when depressed world markets, redundancies and new work practices might have overwhelmed another firm, Harland and Wolff was moving from the low-tech end of the market towards high-tech shipbuilding with bulk carriers and tankers to ATS, AOR and SWOPS.

We have also seen a positive change in the financial sphere. In 1982–83, Harland and Wolff had losses per employee more than three times those of public sector nationalised yards in Great Britain. The figure has been reduced six times, to around half that of any nationalised yard in Great Britain. With redundancies in the work force, Harland and Wolff received cash support of about £63 million for 1987–88, whereas in Great Britain as whole with a work force of about 6,500, yards have received about £118 million.

Again, in terms of losses, the public sector nationalised yards in Great Britain have reported losses of about £150 million, compared with an expectation of about £60 million. No one takes these figures lightly, least of all the management of Harland and Wolff, but this is not the time for faint hearts. The Secretary of State in his public expenditure statement to the House last week, promised that the Government would support and indeed encourage scientific and technological development. He is right to look for development in those areas. Harland and Wolff are there already, and it is leaner, fitter and hungrier for success.

With the reduction in Japanese shipbuilding capacity, the problems faced by the Koreans and the disappearance of Scandinavian yards, there will be opportunities for the fittest, high-tech United Kingdom yards. Harland and Wolff is now the most modern yard in Europe.

Let me remind the Minister that, while the people of Northern Ireland realise the sacrifices that everyone is having to make to maintain our shipbuilding industry, they also realise that it is not merely a case of 4,000 jobs or 5 per cent, of our industrial base that is at stake; it is also a case of more than 600 local firms supplying goods and services to Harland and Wolff every year, or, to put it another way, almost 300 firms which invoice Harland and Wolff every month. It is not only Northern Ireland that benefits from the goods and services that enter the gates of Harland and Wolff. Jobs are provided in Scotland and England as a spin-off from that yard; many hon. Members will acknowledge that.

I and the people that I represent are content that there should be proper rewards for effort and that no job should be left half done. The efforts of the company's chairman, John Parker, and of the board, the management and the skilled work force deserve continuing support. Already nearly five years of effort have gone into establishing a 1990s shipbuilding industry at Harland and Wolff. It is right that the job should not be left half done.

12 midnight

Mr. James Kilfedder (North Down)

I wonder how many people in Northern Ireland realise that parliamentary business vitally affecting the lives of many people there has come before the House at midnight. The protest has been made before and deserves to be made again about the unfair way in which the business managers arrange for business affecting Ulster and its future to be taken late at night or in the early hours of the morning. The people of Northern Ireland are not getting a fair deal in that regard.

I agree with the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) that it is a matter of regret that this debate takes place before the accounts of Harland and Wolff have been published. Therefore, it is not possible to scrutinise the affairs of the shipyard in the way that they deserve to be scrutinised by hon. Members. As hon. Members have said, shipyards all over the world are losing money right, left and centre. The exceptions are, perhaps, yards in South Korea and one or two other shipyards where labour is cheap and Governments give massive support to the industry.

Losses are faced by the Belfast shipyard, and we cannot ignore the fact that we are in a time of doldrums for the shipbuilding industry. I go by reports that appear in the press and I read in The Independent—I think that it was yesterday's — reports about the shipyard. It was suggested that Harland and Wolff is facing losses of about £50 million to £63 million. However, that figure includes a substantial amount paid for redundancies. Certainly, drastic steps have been taken by the shipyard management to reduce the financial burden on the yard. During the first nine months of this year employment has been cut by 22 per cent., and about 1,300 employees were paid off between January and December. That is a staggering percentage of the work force. There are not many, if any, firms at the present time that have made such swingeing cuts in their work forces in order to survive and face competition.

Those redundancies mean a great deal in human terms, not only to those who lose their jobs but also to their wives and families. I know many of the people who have lost their jobs. They spent many years working in the shipyard, and it is heartrending to talk to them, because they face a bleak future with little prospect of employment. My fear is that the massive redundancies in the yard will make Harland and Wolff less viable when the time comes for it to benefit from increased orders for ships. I hope that my fears are not realised and that the Belfast yard under the wise guidance of its dynamic chairman, Dr. John Parker, will one day be restored to its former glory. Dr. Parker has behind him a skilled and dedicated work force which can deal with any order placed with the yard. It is impossible to be certain about projections, but the world shipping market is expected to improve in the 1990s, when many ships will need to be replaced and there will also be orders for new ones. The yard must be preserved, so that it can meet that demand in the coming decade.

In the meantime, as the hon. Member for Antrim, East (Mr. Beggs) pointed out, the yard is concentrating on designing and building very sophisticated ships. Perhaps that is the way ahead for it.

Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh)

It is right that the hon. Gentleman should draw attention, as did the hon. Member for Antrim, East (Mr. Beggs), to the position of Harland and Wolff in relation to the Northern Ireland economy. Does he accept that 124,800 people have never been employed, either inside or outside Harland and Wolff, and that some consideration must be given to the large number of people who are unemployed in other industries in the north of Ireland? While I support substantially what he has said about Harland and Wolff, we must not lose sight of the fact that 18.2 per cent, of the population are at present unemployed, and never likely to gain employment.

Mr. Kilfedder

I fully agree with the hon. Gentleman; I am glad that I gave way to him. I never forget the unemployed—some of whom have been out of work for years, and some of whom have never had a job. I am in politics to try to ensure that Northern Ireland has a future, and that we can develop industry which will provide employment.

Apart from that, however, if we have a good, viable, dynamic yard, not only will the people employed in that yard benefit, but all the other companies in Northern Ireland, as well as Great Britain—I mentioned them in an earlier debate — will be able to take people on to supply items needed by the yard. In every way that we help Harland and Wolff, we help those who, sadly, are at present out of work. We must all work together, regardless of our political tags, to ensure that there is work for those who are at present unemployed, and that there is a future for our Province.

Mr. Mallon

Throughout Northern Ireland.

Mr. Kilfedder

Throughout Northern Ireland. I am glad to have the hon. Member acting as a Greek chorus for me.

I shall not go into the details of the various ships that are currently being built as an example of the shipyard's present sophisticated approach — the three aviation training ships, the SWOPS vessel for BP and the design and building of the auxiliary oiler replenishment ship. However, I should like to refer to what was mentioned by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North, the reports of claims lodged by the yard against the Ministry of Defence and GEC. I read yesterday in The Independent that Harland and Wolff has filed claims against the Ministry of Defence for additional work on the aviation training ship Argus, and it is suggested that the claim is for about £30 million.

I shall not go into the points already made by the hon. Gentleman. However, I am interested as well. Perhaps the Minister could help us on that point, and also on the separate claim against GEC for late delivery of components for the oil production ship, which seems to be in the region of £2 million in extra charges.

We must compare the performance of the Belfast shipyard with that of the nationalised shipyards of Great Britain. In the debate on 9 July last it was stated that the Great Britain shipyards, which employ just over 6,000 workers, require £118 million in support to meet their losses. Harland and Wolff requires between £50 million and £63 million for a work force which on average throughout the current year v/as 4,500, so that the relative loss per year per man is about half that of the nationalised shipyards in Great Britain. That shows the lengths to which the shipyard has gone to be efficient.

But that is not the whole story. As I pointed out in that debate, many companies which depend on the shipyard there provide additional employment. That is why Harland and Wolff is essential to the future of Northern Ireland.

An additional £146,000 is required for consultancy studies into additional capacity of energy supplies. A brilliant team at Queen's University is doing excellent work in wave and water power. Such supplies are often ignored when we debate energy issues, but they could provide additional valuable energy for Northern Ireland. The team includes Professor Long, head of the department of civil engineering and research at the university; Dr. Trevor Whittaker, manager of the wave power group at Queen's and manager of low head hydro research; and Dr. Michael Gould, manager of the demonstration project at Benburb, County Tyrone.

This team is building the first British shore-based wave power development, on the Isle of Islay, which will provide power for a small village in about 18 months' time. This development is using a Wells turbo engine, named after Dr. Wells, the former head of civil engineering at Queen's, who invented the engine in 1976. A Bangor firm manufactures Wells turbine units for navigational buoys which are used throughout the world.

The Minister should bear in mind the work of this brilliant team. Turbine technology has been applied to harness energy in rivers and, as I say, it is hoped to provide enough power for a small village from the demonstration unit at Benburb, a development that is being funded by the EEC.

There are many river sites in Northern Ireland which could employ low head hydro technology and thus provide a reasonable amount of electricity. That would not only help to save electricity generated by oil but would cost less for firms which could utilise it. Many textile firms are sited beside rivers and they might benefit substantially. Such schemes—of river or wave technology—will not replace large power stations, but they could help the economy and the consumer.

It is often pointed out that the cost of electricity is far too high in Northern Ireland, where the people are denied the opportunity of piped gas, which is available in Great Britain, at a reasonable cost. Commercial costs are pushed up, which makes it difficult for business to compete with companies in Great Britain and elsewhere. Worse still, the private consumer of electricity faces heavy electricity bills. This bears heaviest on the elderly, who need constant heat during cold weather yet cannot afford it. Many of them cannot afford to use electricity all the time and so take to their beds during the day. I appeal to the Minister to bear in mind how he can help those who deserve better of our society.

12.15 am
Mr. Eddie McGrady (South Down)

Like other hon. Members, I welcome the additional funding for the Department of Economic Development and the broad spectrum to which it is being applied. I would argue for a much greater input of financial support to this area.

I agree with the Minister's commendation of the Local Enterprise Development Unit and the local enterprise programme. However, I temper that praise by saying that nothing is so perfect that it cannot be improved upon. The time that LEDU takes to process projects could be speeded up greatly. It could also engage in a little more risk taking than it has done hitherto. That would help the small enterprise industries in Northern Ireland to make a more meaningful contribution against the rising tide of unemployment.

I welcome the additional funding of Harland and Wolff, which will support jobs that would otherwise be at risk. In saying that, I must put it on record that I give that support notwithstanding the fact that the minority community in Northern Ireland will benefit not one iota from that funding. Indeed, it has not benefited from the funding of Harland and Wolff for the past 50 years because of the company's discriminatory job practices, which can be adequately proved with reference to its job records.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

How can the hon. Gentleman justify that statement when it is on record that jobs in Northern Ireland, Scotland and England depend on the company? Is he saying that no one of a different persuasion gets work because of Harland and Wolff?

Mr. McGrady

The answer to that is that the number of Catholics employed by Harland and Wolff is minuscule. I refer the hon. Gentleman to the Scarman report and to the Fair Employment Agency report. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer the question."] If the hon. Gentleman wishes, he can go to the Library and look up the facts. It is a known fact in Northern Ireland.

The hon. Member for North Down (Mr. Kilfedder) touched on the subject of energy. There is an abundance of energy in Northern Ireland. We complain, not about its scarcity, but about its cost, which is higher than can be borne by Northern Ireland industries. Like other hon. Members, I was amazed by the recent announcement that energy prices in Northern Ireland are to be increased by approximately 10 per cent, from next April. That is in the context of an unemployment record which is among the worst in Europe and, at 19 per cent., certainly the highest in the United Kingdom. Last September, out of a relatively small population, almost 130,000 were unemployed, notwithstanding the fact that an additional 20,000 were on Government schemes. While we laud the activities of the Industrial Development Board and the Local Enterprise Development Unit in creating jobs, we must bear in mind that 5,000 to 6,000 new job seekers come on to the labour market each year. I take as an example my own area of South Down which straddles the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) in the town of Newry. South Down has 30.6 unemployment and 36.3 per cent, male unemployment. That is not the worst. In some areas, male unemployment is 44.7 per cent. That means that, statistically, in a street in a town such as Strabane, every second man is unemployed, and he is long-term unemployed. Forty seven per cent, of the unemployed in Northern Ireland are long-term unemployed and dependent on social security. A report on the cost of living that was published this week shows our unemployment to be the highest in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Beggs

We on this Bench deplore the high level of unemployment in the areas to which the hon. Gentleman referred. Will he join with me in appealing to all those in the United States who have the power and influence to guide investment into Northern Ireland properly to direct their energy, rather than to obstruct and create division and problems where they do not exist and encourage investment in the very areas where the minority community will most benefit? We on this Bench will not obstruct but will encourage such investment.

Mr. McGrady

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I wholeheartedly agree with him. I have already done as much as I, with one voice, can do to direct the energies of the potential United States market to Northern Ireland in the promotion of new industrial enterprises.

I draw the Minister's attention to the growing increase in unemployment in sectors such as agriculture, construction and manufacturing in Northern Ireland. The biggest increase in unemployment—7.8 per cent. —has occurred in the construction industry. I regret the announcement that was made last week by the Minister with responsibility for the environment about a cut of £42 million in the housing budget. That cut will create between 2,500 and 3,000 further unemployed in the construction industry. It seems that the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing in respect of job maintenance and job creation.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but he is straying from the subject. He must direct his remarks to the three items: the shipbuilding industry, the Local Enterprise Development Unit, and consultancy studies on energy matters. I am sure that he will be able to direct his remarks so that they fall within one or other of those categories.

Mr. McGrady

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I stand corrected. I thought that I was on the right wavelength, showing how the money from the Department of Economic Development could be spent rather than in the way that is indicated in the order. The IDB and the Department of Economic Development are responsible for the maintenance and creation of jobs for which the appropriation is required. I ask the Minister to ensure that the IDB pursues a more realistic and vigorous campaign of job promotion.

It is no longer appropriate or desirable to sentimentalise about the fact that about 19 United States presidents came from Ulster. The investor is not interested in such tittle tattle. He is interested in whether there is a good, educated, and trained work force. He is also interested in the reality of terrorism and violence. He will either accept or reject it. Investors go into other sectors of terrorism for job promotion. If the matter is properly presented in its proper context, there will not be a disincentive to invest in Northern Ireland. If such investment takes place, less appropriation will be required in future.

12.23 am
Rev. William McCrea (Mid-Ulster)

Thank you for giving me the opportunity of speaking in the debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It certainly causes me great regret that business managers were unable to decide the business relating to Northern Ireland, and especially that which affects the economic development of Northern Ireland. The matter is not regarded as sufficiently important to merit a proper debate and airing at a more appropriate time than at nearly half past 12 in the morning. That highlights the fear of many people in our Province that Northern Ireland business is simply tagged on at the end of the business of the United Kingdom and does not receive a proper airing and debate. The subject of the debate is economic development and unemployment. Our province has one of the worst unemployment rates in the United Kingdom, yet we have the debate at this hour.

While I welcome the additional funds being made available, I do not welcome the discussion at this hour. Affairs of Northern Ireland can be discussed in the Anglo-Irish Conference at midday, yet the people participating in the conference were not representing the people of Northern Ireland, and do not have their confidence. We are supposed to represent the people. My constituency has high unemployment. That should not be treated lightly. Rising unemployment should cause concern to every hon. Member. My constituency does not rely on multinationals to employ the majority of people, but on more and more small firms, many of them family based, in which the LEDU will have a great input.

Mr. Barry Porter (Wirral, South)|

I have been listening to hon. Members talking about the rising tide of unemployment in Northern Ireland, and I seek information. Unemployment is being reduced in the rest of the United Kingdom fairly rapidly; is that not the case in the Province? If not, perhaps the figures could be given to me.

Rev. William McCrea

The hon. Member for Wirral, South (Mr. Porter) could get the figures from the Minister more readily than from anybody else. It is true that no improvement has been made in employment in Northern Ireland. In parts of my constituency unemployment is getting worse rather than better.

I resent some of the remarks made in this debate, because it seems to me that a game is being played concerning who has the job. Opposition Members mentioned whether the person getting the job was in the minority or the majority community. When will the House realise that, whether a person is from the minority or the majority, we want jobs for everybody? It is in the best interests of the whole community that all persons have jobs. This subject has been played around with in recent days in the press, and it would excite some hon. Members if members of the majority community were thrown out of employment to give the jobs to the minority. That is not correct, and does nothing for unemployment in Northern Ireland.

A large portion of my constituency is regarded in the Nationalist tradition. I appeal to the Minister for initiatives and schemes which will ensure that all my constituents, whether they be Nationalists or Unionists, will have stable and meaningful employment. I will fight for that and ask the House to support it. Recently, I forwarded a protest to the Minister about the reduction in the standard capital grant rate because I believed that it would have an adverse effect on jobs in the Province. The CBI expressed its concern about this matter and hon. Members from Northern Ireland were approached about it. It is proper that that objection on behalf of the community was clearly expressed.

Will the Minister instruct the Local Enterprise Development Unit to be more helpful with regard to the processing of applications? There seems to be a lack of speed in this regard, which discourages those who are trying their best to get off the unemployment list and into employment. I would welcome an improvement in this matter, as would other Northern Ireland Members. I hope that the Minister will make representations to ensure that those seeking help will be able to obtain it more speedily.

Will the Minister say what the present position is with regard to the lignite exploration in my constituency on the lough shore and what consultations there have been with the local residents who are affected by it?

Does the Minister agree that Northern Irish industry is facing not only an uphill battle against the security position and terrorism but against the high electricity and energy costs? It is deplorable, with such a high unemployment rate, that employers are discouraged from coming from the Province by these high tariffs. As my hon. Friend the Member for North Down (Mr. Kilfedder) said, the cost of energy is detrimental to the elderly and sick in our community. More earnest consideration should be given to this matter.

I know that other hon. Members want to take part in the debate, so I shall end now, having raised certain matters and I trust the Minister will be able to help in his reply.

12.32 pm
Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)

The hon. Members for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea), for North Down (Mr. Kilfedder) and for Antrim, East (Mr. Beggs) all raised a point that many hon. Members would echo—the way to deal with Northern Ireland business is not through Orders in Council or by these late night debates. The more appropriate method would be the Standing Committee that is allowed for under Standing Order No. 99.I hope that the Minister will take seriously the suggestions that have been made to him and his ministerial colleagues that there are more civilised ways of dealing with Northern Ireland affairs. The general sentiments of those hon. Members who have spoken should be registering with the Minister. It is not popular in Northern Ireland to have business dealt with at the fag end of the sitting day. The issue should be taken more seriously than it has been hitherto.

As to the order, I shall make some brief comments and ask the Minister some questions. With regard to what he said about the LEDU, will he give the House an assurance that, having read the comments of former Assemblyman Gordon Mawhinney about the protection rackets that have been operating in Northern Ireland, everything possible will be done to ensure that funds are not abused and misused in the way that they have been and that people operating in paramilitary organisations will not have a chance to suction any of these funds into their own pockets?

My second point concerns that possibility of the new lignite power station. The Minister talked about the private sector perhaps being involved. I know from meetings with the Northern Ireland Electricity Service there is some concern that this may be a paving measure to the privatisation of the NIES. Will the Minister refer in his reply to the future of the Northern Ireland Electricity Service and tell us whether it will stay in public hands? Can he also say when the report is likely to be published on whether the lignite power station will be given the go-ahead?

On the announcements the Minister made about Harland and Wolff, I should like to echo some of the comments of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara). I was fortunate enough to meet some representatives of the work force of Harland and Wolff about 10 days ago, with Dr. John Alderdice. I have tabled some questions, but I should like to put one or two of them to the Minister now.

Can he tell the House his projection of the number of employees in Harland and Wolff over the next five years, and whether the projection for the intake of apprentices over the next five years will be related to trade or whether other factors will be taken into account?

Mr. Barry Porter (Wirral, South)

The hon. Gentleman is asking the Minister to give a projection of the number of employees in Harland and Wolff over the next five years. Would the hon. Gentleman give his projection of the number of employees at Cammell Laird over the next 10 years? That would make as much sense.

Mr. Alton

It is precisely for that reason that I ask the question. I want to know what projections the Government have for the shipbuilding industry throughout Great Britain and Northern Ireland over the next five years. I put it seriously to the Minister that, if they do not know the answers to these questions, one thing they could usefully do would be to encourage the Select Committee on Trade and Industry to carry out an investigation into the future of ship-building and to examine carefully the implications for Harland and Wolff. For all the reasons outlined already by hon. Members and for the economy of Northern Ireland it is crucial that the jobs of the remaining 4,000 employees in Harland and Wolff are maintained and that everything possible is done to expand the industry because of the reliance of many other industries in Northern Ireland on Harland and Wolff—[Interruption.]—and on the mainland too.

Can the House be given an assurance that Harland and Wolff will maintain a design facility capable of catering for future orders without relying on sub-contractors? Considering the general contraction in the area of the yard, and given that Harland and Wolff is renting shipyard space to other companies, will there be room for expansion if there is an upturn in shipbuilding in the 1990s? What is Harland and Wolff receiving in rent from other establishments located in the shipyard complex? Do Her Majesty's Government believe that there is a future for marine engine building in Belfast?

Will the Minister say whether Her Majesty's Government consider that the 28 per cent, ceiling in European countries provided for under the sixth directive of the intervention fund will prevent Harland and Wolff from building larger vessels, because it is clearly being breached in many other European Community countries? I wonder if the Minister has considered that question.

I should like to thank the Minister for the efforts that his Department is making to try to ensure that there is an upturn in the economy of Northern Ireland. I believe, as he does, that it is crucial that the political climate changes so that terrorism and the outrages committed in Northern Ireland will end, allowing the economy to prosper.

12.38 am
Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury)

I challenge one point made by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara). I declare an interest, in that my recent employers have been for some time involved with management consultants and with Harland and Wolff, assisting the company to improve its productivity. The hon. Gentleman rightly said that it is a good yard with a good spirit and pointed to the considerable improvements in productivity and profitability over the last few years.

After all the lessons of the last few years, it is absurd for him to suggest that those improvements could have been made without some shedding of labour. The over-manning in all United Kingdom shipyards, including Harland and Wolff, was massive compared with almost all our northern European counterparts and even worse compared with the far eastern yards to which he alluded several times.

While we are on the subject of the far east, Japan has an extremely successful manufacturing industry and low unemployment precisely because a lower proportion of its work force is employed in manufacturing. It has slim manufacturing outfits as the basis of its economy and a much lower proportion of its work force in manufacturing than Britain.

I am glad to hear from the contributions of several hon. Members that the Conservative party is not alone in recognising that in order to go forwards and achieve a modern economy, there must be slimming down in the older industries.

12.40 am
Mr. A. Cecil Walker (Belfast, North)

May I lend my voice to that of my colleagues about the order that is being imposed upon us and on the population of Northern Ireland without our consent? The whole basis on which we legislate for Northern Ireland is iniquitous and hypocritical. No other part of the United Kingdom would accept a system of Government where there is only limited room for debate and where such dictatorial decisions are taken without the consent of the Northern Ireland Members of Parliament, decisions which are bulldozed through the House without any opportunity for amendment.

The situation now appears to be much more worse in the eyes of the people of Northern Ireland, who see the hand of the contemptible partners of the Anglo-Irish Agreement in decisions affecting the Province, an agreement which has caused great unrest and has contributed in many ways to the rundown of our economy due to the fact that the political instability caused by the Government's deal has caused potential investors to withdraw their interest in setting up shop in the Province. I know of at least four instances where considerable investment has been lost.

That scenario gives me the scope to say that I cannot under any circumstances give credence to this debate this evening. I give notice that I shall always continue to oppose the system of government until such time as we are treated as equal citizens in this part of the United Kingdom with the same rights and privileges as are enjoyed by my fellor citizens on the mainland.

It is ironic that I feel equal with my parliamentary colleagues when I am in the House, yet when I return to my constituency I assume another mantle and am treated as a member of some obscure coconut colony. The most lowly down-and-out lying in a London underground station in a cardboard box is more equal than I am in the eyes of the Government.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I have allowed the hon. Gentleman a long preamble, but he must now come to the order before the House.

Mr. Walker

I apologise for taking up the time of the House by digressing in that manner, but it is important to set the record straight for the people of Northern Ireland. I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for giving me that opportunity.

We are here to pass comment on this Appropriation order and, although I have voiced my objection to the system of its imposition, I must pay tribute to the Government and their Ministers for their commitment to the Province.

In vote 3, LEDU is a unit which has done sterling work in the Province and I would certainly not decry its achievements. But its terms of reference should be enlarged to encompass local and service industries, which with just a little bit of extra help, could help to reduce the scandalous dole queues.

Too much emphasis is being put upon export potential in assessing the need for assistance. It should be recognised that the geographical location of Northern Ireland is a disadvantage to exports. In the competitive climate now existing throughout the mainland and in Europe it is most difficult for Northern Ireland companies, despite all their dedication, to compete effectively.

There are innumerable small companies which are supporting the local economy in many ways, but which, to create greater efficiency, require more financial assistance. Such assistance would result in products being manufactured more competitively and so help our economy, with better quality and lower prices. I have been trying to help many dedicated Northern Ireland companies by making representations to LEDU, but until such time as the criteria are relaxed there does not appear to be any great desire to increase the eagerness of such companies to improve the economy and to give some of our unemployed a sense of purpose once again.

I note that in the vote we are discussing expenditure by the DED on local enterprise, which sector will also include the action for community employment schemes, set up to involve those out of work for 12 months or more. I am pleased that the Government have indicated that it is their intention to plough another £10 million into this worthwhile activity, but would caution that this should only be where such activity is properly administered and supervised. I am very concerned about some of the schemes that were initiated in parts of Belfast, where there was a heavy paramilitary involvement, and money and effort were channelled into the wrong quarters. There were other schemes which were a complete fiasco, where principals were using their workers to upgrade their homes and those of their families and friends. There were other instances where the ACE scheme was a front for other confidence tricks. There was an incident where vast sums of money were conned from overseas and trust funds on the assumption that action for community employment was healing divisions within the community. The perpetrators of this deceit were having four or five continental holidays a year on the proceeds.

I know that Government are aware of some of the tricks that have been used in this connection and are tightening up the provision of funds to these projects, but the DED must be vigilant: there are too many cowboys in the Province today, looking for easy money without effort.

I also urge the Government to investigate means whereby self-help schemes could be introduced, particularly in the construction industry and especially with regard to renovations and repairs. The present grant scheme as administered by the Housing Executive is slow and ponderous, and is not giving value for money. The organisation is too autocratic and is unable to protect the applicants from the parasites who prey on them. We need small bodies of experienced architects and surveyors set up under Government in each of the Housing Executive districts to advise applicants how to proceed in the acquisition of such resources to getting the job done expeditiously and properly, within a list of approved contractors.

I support the Government in this use of funds for the benefit of the Province.

12.48 pm
Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh)

I would like to thank the Front Bench for allowing me a few minutes in which to make two simple points, but points which I think go to the heart of the problem in the north of Ireland. If we look very clearly at the subject matter of this debate, without the preambles that we have had to listen to in regard to extraneous matters, what we are doing is discussing what is in geographical terms about one-tenth of the north of Ireland, as this debate has shown. One tends to forget that Northern Ireland is primarily an agricultural country, that its major industry is agriculture. Listening to this debate this evening one would imagine that everything began with, centred on and ended with, one industry, and one sector of that industry.

Times out of number I have tried to point out in the House to the Secretary of State for Social Services or to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food that we are paying 33 per cent, more for our electricity, somewhere in the region of 12 per cent, more for our food, more for our transport, more for our books, more right down the line, yet these higher costs are not reflected in higher social security benefits or agricultural grants. We must have an integrated approach towards real parity in terms of the basis on which the decisions are made. Rather than talk about the hour at which we debate these matters, we should look for an integrated approach to the problems of the north of Ireland in terms of social services, agriculture and industrial investment. We must consider an overall integrated approach. If we do not do that, we shall lag behind in everything.

Secondly, I want to make a plea for the agricultural sector of the community in the north of Ireland. Before you remind me Mr. Deputy Speaker of the terms of the debate, I suggest that unless we include the LEDU, the IDB and all the job creation agencies within an integrated rural plan, we shall simply try to create employment in an urban context and we shall forget about the vast majority of the people living in the north of Ireland.

That type of integrated rural development already exists on paper. It was produced for the European Parliament and the report was accepted by the European Commission. It has been favoured by the European Parliament, but it has not yet been adopted by the Government. Unless we can tie LEDU, the IDB, tourism and all the job creation exercises into an integrated plan for rural Northern Ireland, we shall not be able to cope with the problems.

I remind the House that far more people are involved in agriculture than in Harland and Wolff. Far more people are involved in agriculture than any other single industry in the north of Ireland. When we consider that there has been a shortfall of £14 million this year in farm incomes, that gives an idea of the nature of the problem. Every year that this debate crops up, it crops up on one small section of the northern Irish economy. I call for an integrated approach and parity for all the sectors affecting Northern Ireland and towards the whole question of rural development.

12.52 am
Mr. Jim Marshall (Leicester, South)

I promise the Minister that I shall be brief. Most hon. Members tonight have paid tribute to Harland and Wolff and I join in those tributes. I visited the shipyard recently and was most impressed with the changes that have been made and the use of high technology in an attempt to make the shipyard competitive internally and internationally. Everyone working in the yard, both management and the work force, deserves great credit. The most we can do is wish them success for the future.

I am intrigued by the additional £;146,000 that the Government are allocating for the consultancy studies on energy matters. I am intrigued because in an oral reply on 23 July 1987 to the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) the Minister said: substantial progress has been made in a complex examination of options which, as my hon. Friend knows, include a proposal presented by the private sector as well as by Northern Ireland Electricity."—[Official Report, 23 July 1987; Vol. 120 c. 477.] That related to the provision of electricity in the Province. The Minister did not say a little progress or a bit of progress. He said that: "substantial progress has been made." In the short time left to the Minister, will he tell me how much more progress must be made in addition to the substantial progress that has already been made before he can answer the following questions? First, what is the Government's view on the completion of phase two of Kilroot? Secondly, what is the Government's view on the possible development of a lignite-fired station in view of the statement of the Secretary of State in November 1986 that a decision would be made earlier this year? Thirdly, what are the Government's views on an interconnector with Scotland and on the future ownership of Northern Ireland Electricity? In the few minutes that the Minister has in which to wind up, I should appreciate answers to some of these questions.

12.57 am
Mr. Viggers

I have about three minutes in which to answer a number of questions.

Substantial progress was made with electricity generation by the summer. It is a complex task. The interconnector has effectively been ruled out and we are faced with a choice between the private sector, public sector lignite generation and the completion of Kilroot 2. We hope to reach a decision on the matter soon.

Several hon. Members spoke of the manner in which the House debates Northern Ireland affairs. There are cogent practical reasons for debating the affairs of Northern Ireland in the way that we do. The Government believe that they are best discussed in the context of the general discussions on the arrangements for the future government of Northern Ireland.

The hon. Members for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) and for Antrim, East (Mr. Beggs) raised the issue of Harland and Wolff, as did many other hon. Members. Clearly, Harland and Wolff has not been immune from the continuing crisis in the worldwide shipbuilding market, and with some of the most competitive yards, Harland and Wolff has been forced to enhance productivity and to restructure to maintain a position in the market. Its future will depend on its winning further orders, which it must do in the context of the European Community sixth directive, to which the Government are committed.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North spoke about Harland and Wolffs difficulties in the market place. The Government's subsidies to the company have totalled £225 million in the past five years, and we have provided more than £58 million in the current Estimates to support the yard in the current year. This represents a substantial commitment to enable the company to trade successfully.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North also referred to the statement of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State about expenditure plans for 1988–89 and later years. The House will be aware that the order relates to the financial year 1987–88 only, but it is a fact of life that the substantial public subsidies to the yard pre-empt resources, although we make every effort to protect the other important public services and programmes in the Province.

Hon. Members asked about the role of Touche Ross and Deloitte, Haskins and Sells. Touche Ross has been retained by the Department of Economic Development to assist it in monitoring the company's operations, whereas Deloitte, Haskins and Sells was asked to undertake a specific assignment this summer to strengthen the financial management of the company.

Mr. McNamara

I am sorry to interrupt the Minister, but he seems to have contradicted what he said earlier. Is he saying that Touche Ross is involved in the day-to-day management of the company?

Mr. Viggers

No, not at all. Touche Ross is involved in monitoring the company's operations, particularly in relation to AOR. Deloitte, Haskins and Sells has been directly involved in the management of the company. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman mentioned Mr. Sheerer, who is a partner of Deloittes and has been seconded to Harland and Wolff and is directly involved in the financial management of the company.

It being one and a half hours after commencement of proceedings on the motion, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKERput the Question, pursuant to Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business).

Resolved, That the draft Appropriation (No. 3) (Northern Ireland) Order 1987, which was laid before this House on 11th November, be approved.