HC Deb 10 May 1990 vol 172 cc382-3
5. Mr. Jack

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how much economic assistance Northern Ireland has received (a) from Her Majesty's Government and (b) from the European Community since 1979.

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. John Cope)

Since 1978–79, the average amount by which Northern Ireland public expenditure has been financed by revenue raised in Great Britain has been approximately £1,400 million a year. Over the same period, Northern Ireland has received an annual average of some £66 million from the European Community's structural fund as well as further amounts which cannot be separately identified under, for example, the common agricultural policy.

Mr. Jack

I thank my right hon. Friend for those impressive figures on economic assistance from the British taxpayer and the European Community. To what purpose is that money put? Can my right hon. Friend reassure me that the quality of industrial investment as a result of that assistance is high? Will he take it from me that we are grateful for the support that his Department continues to give to Northern Ireland, in spite of security and political problems?

Mr. Cope

The figures that I gave are for the total public expenditure in Northern Ireland financed by Great Britain and the Community respectively. Clearly, the money is used for a wide range of purposes, including economic development, to which my hon. Friend referred and, to some degree, security and other such matters. Of course, we do our best to make sure that all economic investment is of the best quality. The House will be aware of the Government's recent proposals to improve the quality.

Mr. Grocott

Can the Minister confirm that Northern Ireland Ministers believe that it is extremely important that there should be Government intervention and support, and a regional policy? How does he cope in Cabinet battles with the ideological gulf between his view and that of the Prime Minister?

Mr. Cope

Of course, we think it important that there should be support of one kind or another. As I said, the money to which I referred is used across the board, not only for economic development. If the hon. Gentleman studies the new proposals of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and of the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Wiltshire, North (Mr. Needham), who looks after economic development, he will see that we are doing our best to target the money on precise job creation projects.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Can the Minister explain to the House why the Irish Republic receives from the European Community an average of £3 million per day and why there is such a differential between that and what is paid to Northern Ireland'? Will he also explain, on the question of additionality, how much money that comes from Europe for Northern Ireland goes directly to Northern Ireland? I ask that in view of the answers that have been given to me by Ministers on those questions.

Mr. Cope

The European Commission and European Community divide the money according to objective economic criteria. Commissioner Millan and his colleagues have made it clear that that is the basis on which the money is divided for the structural funds. The gross domestic product per head in Northern Ireland is more than 75 per cent. of the average in the European Community. It is higher than that in the Republic of Ireland and higher than that for any other objective single region. That is why we do not have the same amount per head as, for example, the Republic or other countries. We are entirely within the rules of additionality laid down by the European Community.

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