§ 9. Mr. McGrady
To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the report of the Northern Ireland Economic Council recently published and indicate what further action he intends to take to reduce the unemployment prospect facing Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Viggers
I welcome the constructive assessment contained in this report. Unemployment continues to be a problem, but, as shown by the figures published this morning, it is encouraging to note that for the past five 547 months the underlying trend of unemployment in Northern Ireland has been consistently downwards. The improvement shown in the monthly figures announced today was the biggest drop in the seasonally adjusted year-on-year numbers for 13 years.
§ Mr. McGrady
I thank the Minister for that reply. Is he aware that the Northern Ireland Economic Council recently forecast that in the coming years unemployment would increase in Northern Ireland? At 18.7 per cent. it is now the highest in the United Kingdom. Does he agree that those figures disguise the hidden unemployment, because of such special schemes as ACE and YTP, a prolific security industry and emigration? Does he further agree that recent Government action will exacerbate unemployment in Northern Ireland?
§ Mr. Viggers
It is of course true that many people are undergoing training on Government schemes. We are proud of that, not ashamed of it. Substantial new business investments are being made and more jobs are becoming available in areas of industry where Northern Ireland is a leader. This is good news and should promote more confidence that Northern Ireland is a good place in which to do business.