§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)
Perhaps it will be helpful if I make clear that the debate may cover all matters for which Northern Ireland Departments, as distinct from the Northern Ireland Office, is responsible. Police and security are the principal excluded subjects.
§ 7 pm
§ The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Dr. Brian Mawhinney)
I beg to move,That the draft Appropriation (Northern Ireland) Order 1991, which was laid before this House on 12th February, be approved.
The draft order has two purposes. The first is to authorise expenditure of £104.8 million in the 1990–91 spring supplementary estimates. This will bring the total estimates provision for Northern Ireland departmental services to £4,418 million for this financial year. The second purpose is to authorise the vote on account of £1,941 million for 1991–92, to enable the services of Northern Ireland Departments to continue until the 1991–92 main estimates for Northern Ireland are brought before the House later this year.
Details of the sums sought are given in the estimates booklet and the statement of sums required on account which as usual, are available in the Vote Office. As you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, reminded the House, the estimates for the Northern Ireland Office, for law and order services, are not covered by the Order before the House today.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)
Does the Minister agree that, if law and order are not covered, the application of this expenditure is somewhat curtailed and we do not reap the benefits that we should reap?
§ Dr. Mawhinney
The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point.
Before drawing attention to some of the main features of the estimates, I should like to set them in the context of Northern Ireland's recent economic performance. At national level, we are experiencing a temporary downturn in economic activity as we make the adjustment to a low-inflation, more highly competitive economy. The Northern Ireland economy can be expected to follow a similar path. We can see this in the increase in unemployment during the past three months. The January figure of 97,500, or 14 per cent. of the work force, is disappointingly high, but it is still 1,700 below the figure for the same time last year.
Another encouraging sign is that, in the year to September 1990, output in both the manufacturing and the production industries rose by 3 per cent. and the numbers in employment increased by 1,200. But we dare not be complacent. It is essential that we defeat inflation, in the interests of both the Northern Ireland economy and the United Kingdom as a whole. While interest rates are still higher than any of us would wish, I am encouraged by the recent sharp downturn in inflation and the prospect of further reductions in the coming months. Equally, it is important that local industry—employees as well as employers—recognise that prosperity and enduring employment depend on improving efficiency and competitiveness.
725 I now turn to the estimates. As is customary on these occasions, I do not propose to refer to every vote where supplementary provision is being sought. I shall concentrate instead on the main items.
I shall start with the Department of Agriculture vote 1, which provides for Northern Ireland expenditure on national agriculture and fisheries support measures. An extra £1.3 million is required for payments under the hill livestock compensatory allowances scheme, and £1 million for residual payments under former capital grant schemes. These increases are offset by reduced requirements under other capital grant schemes, particularly the farm and conservation grant scheme, where uptake and investment levels are lower than expected. The result is a token increase of £1,000 in the vote.
In Department of Agriculture vote 2, covering local support measures, additional provision of £1.5 million is required, principally for disease eradication measures and for special temporary aid to the pig and poultry sectors. These increases are offset by additional receipts, mainly from timber sales, and by delays in the commencement of major fishery harbour development works. Again, this results in a token increase of £1,000 in the vote.
Turning to the Department of Economic Development, token supplementaries are sought for votes 1 and 2. In vote 1, the main increase is an additional £11.5 million for factory building, as a result of increased demand from companies for custom-built industrial premises. This reflects the Industrial Development Board's continuing success in attracting internationally mobile projects to Northern Ireland.
The Government will continue their efforts to encourage internationally competitive companies engaged in manufacturing and tradeable services to come to the Province, so as to create the conditions for growth in durable employment. My ministerial colleagues and I take every opportunity to promote Northern Ireland as a successful investment base and to challenge its negative image abroad. I know from my recent visits to the United States how essential it is to bring the positive attractions of Northern Ireland to the attention of potential investors, and I intend to continue to put this message across in the months ahead.
§ Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)
I hope that, when my hon. Friend addresses American audiences, he emphasises that Northern Ireland is a United Kingdom responsibility and that the observations of many Americans have come very close to interference.
§ Dr. Mawhinney
I certainly make it clear that Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom.
In Department of Economic Development vote 2, additional funding of £6.2 million is sought for the local enterprise development unit. This will enable LEDU to meet current commitments for selective financial assistance and to continue the development of a network of local enterprise agencies. There are now a total of 27 such agencies operating in the Province, providing work space and business support to local entrepreneurs, who are currently providing some 2,000 jobs.
Also in this vote, an increase of £1.1 million is sought for the fair employment support scheme, owing to higher than expected uptake. This scheme offers private-sector 726 employers practical and financial help to implement best practice in relation to fair employment. Since the scheme was launched in March 1988, about 1,150 firms have taken advantage of it. That is very encouraging and shows that employers are facing up to their responsibilities in this important area.
Elsewhere in this vote, an additional £920,000 is sought for the Northern Ireland tourist board for additional marketing activities, such as an 'Ulster-Canada Year' promotion, to promote Northern Ireland as a holiday destination. An extra £550,000 is also sought for capital grants to district councils to improve tourist facilities, such as visitor centres and picnic sites. The past few years have seen a welcome upturn in Northern Ireland's tourism, and these extra funds will allow us to build on our success in attracting a record 1.1 million visitors to Northern Ireland in 1989.
As I said at Question Time some weeeks ago, it would benefit Northern Ireland and its tourist industry and would greatly benefit right hon. and hon. Members if they were to visit the Province. They would learn what a beautiful place it is, and would have their understanding put in a much more sympathetic and developed content than is apparent in the contributions of at least some of them.
The Department of the Environment vote 1, seeks additional provision of £1.7 million for the maintenance of roads and street lighting. This is offset by reductions in other subheads and increased receipts from vehicle testing, leaving a token of £1,000.
An additional £700,000 is sought for the Department's vote 2. The main increase is £6.6 million for the Housing Executive, bringing the executive's gross expenditure for the year to £467 million. This additional requirement is offset by almost £6 million in loans not taken up by housing associations—reflecting a more difficult housing market.
The Department of the Environment vote 3 is also a token, because extra receipts, including those from water charges, offset the additional £2.9 million required for capital expenditure to improve water services. All told, an additional £96 million will be spent by the water service over the next three years to improve the already high quality of drinking water supplies in Northern Ireland, in line with European Community requirements. This is part of a major capital programme of £500 million, over the next decade or so, that will also improve facilities for treating sewage effluent, thereby protecting coastal waters. Northern Ireland's bathing waters are already among the cleanest in the United Kingdom. In 1990, all but one of the 16 identified bathing waters met the mandatory EC standards.
Department of the Environment vote 6 seeks an extra £250,000 to provide an additional 24 full-time firemen to be employed by the fire authority for Northern Ireland, bringing the total to 849.
I move on to the Department of Education. A net increase of £13.6 million is sought in vote 1. The main addition is £20.6 million for grants to the education and library boards. That is needed to cover pay awards and price increases amounting to about £14 million, and increased expenditure on mandatory student awards and on the youth training programme. A further £2.8 million is for capital grants. These increases are partly offset by reduced requirements elsewhere, especially a decrease of £4.6 million in employers' contributions to the teachers' 727 superannuation scheme, following a review of the scheme by the Government Actuary. I assure the House that the change will not affect the level of, or entitlement to, teachers' pensions, as will be apparent from the corresponding provision in vote 3 of the Department of Education.
The House will be interested to learn that an additional £360,000 is included in the vote for expenditure on grant-maintained integrated schools. The 1989 education reform order provided for the setting up of that type of school where parents wanted them. I am pleased to say that 10 proposals for grant-maintained integrated status have so far been approved. Between them, the schools have about 2,300 pupils on their rolls. The extra resources sought will ensure that these schools receive the same level of financial support as other schools of comparable size. In addition to the 10 proposals already approved, two are currently under consideration and further proposals are expected. That is further evidence of the growing demand from parents that their children should be educated alongside children of other denominations in schools that value both traditions equally.
In the Department's vote 2, a net increase of £1.9 million is sought for a range of services. The main increase of £2.3 million is for increased grants to the two universities in Northern Ireland. The increase has been recommended by the Universities Funding Council to cover expenditure on equipment and a computer network. Provision is also made in the vote for an initiative to improve access by disabled people to the arts.
For the Department of Health and Social Services, an additional £20 million is sought in vote 1. This includes £14.6 million for health and social services boards. mainly to cover increased pay costs and service development. An additional £7.1 million is required for the family practitioner service to meet extra expenditure arising from the new general practitioner contracts and increased drug costs. The new GP contracts, which were introduced from 1 April 1990, are raising standards of care by making services more responsive to the needs of the consumer and by placing greater emphasis on illness prevention. Information to date shows that GPs are supporting the initiative, especially in areas such as immunisation, vaccination and health promotion.
An additional £5 million is required in DHSS vote 3, including £2.4 million for health and personal social services. Of that sum, £1.7 million is for the independent living fund, reflecting increased demand. The aim of the fund is to give severely disabled people the help that they need to enable them to live independently in the community.
In vote 4, which covers social security, an additional £50 million is sought. This covers revised estimates of the numbers receiving a range of benefits, but chiefly a technical payment of over £40 million into the Northern Ireland national insurance fund, and expenditure on industrial injuries benefits, which is now a charge on the Consolidated Fund.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Can the Minister say anything about money that is available for new hospitals under the health estimates?
§ Dr. Mawhinney
The hon. Gentleman will understand that we are dealing essentially with supplementary 728 estimates. The funding to which he refers will be covered by the main estimates, with which we are not dealing this evening.
Finally, I draw attention to vote 3 of the Department of Finance and Personnel, where an additional £700,000 is sought for the community relations programme. Improving relations between the different parts of the Northern Ireland community remains one of the Government's highest priorities. We have developed a range of programmes over the past three years to promote cross-country contact and appreciation of cultural diversity. These include programmes by district councils to develop community relations work at local level arid a cultural traditions programme that promotes appreciation of cultural diversity through the arts, the cultural institutions and the media, and through the Irish language.
§ Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann)
On that general point, and especially on the cultural traditions programme, does the Minister consider that it would be better for the programme to promote the traditions of both communities, unlike the conference organised next week, which will reflect the interests of one community only, judging by those who will participate in it?
§ Dr. Mawhinney
The hon. Gentleman will recall that when he advanced that argument to me recently I said that it was a fair one that would be reflected to those who have responsibility for organising the programmes of the conferences. That includes next week's conference and any others which may follow it. He will agree that there was a degree of cross-community contributions to the two earlier conferences.
§ Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East)
Is the Minister prepared to say that unless on future occasions conferences clearly reflect both traditions, the Department will reconsider its funding of such projects?
§ Dr. Mawhinney
The hon. Gentleman knows that the cultural traditions programme falls under the responsibility of the Council for Community Relations. As I said, a fair argument has been advanced by the hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) which I shall reflect to those who have responsibility for organising the conference. Knowing them as I do, I suspect that the argument will be accepted as a helpful contribution and that they will take careful note of it.
§ Mr. Trimble
I thank the Minister for giving way to me for a second time. I take his point that the previous two conferences reflected both strands. They did so mainly because people from both communities were represented, partly through myself and my associates. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in the restructuring of the cultural traditions group people representing our outlook were excluded from the committee charged with organising the conference? Will he take steps to ensure that those who administer the fund will try to restore their committees to bodies that operate on a representative basis?
§ Dr. Mawhinney
I am happy to pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman and his contribution in the earlier part of the development of the programme. I am happy to acknowledge that it was of real significance. As I said, he has advanced a fair argument. I shall reflect the concerns 729 that have been expressed by hon. Members on both sides of the House to those who are responsible for organising the conferences.
The Government's financial support for community relations work has been increased from about £500,000 in 1986–87 to £4 million in this financial year. That covers projects supported by the central community relations unit and the Department of Education. I expect that that expenditure in 1991–92 will be higher still. I am convinced that, over time, the programme will be seen to have contributed significantly to greater mutual understanding and to creating a climate where dialogue, rather than violence, is accepted as the means of resolving conflict. I am sure that that objective is supported by hon. Members on both sides of the House.
In these opening remarks I have sought to draw the attention of the House to the main provisions of the order. In replying to the debate, my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley), the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, will respond to the contributions made by hon. Members. I commend the order to the House.
§ Mr. Jim Marshall (Leicester, South)
I thank the Minister of State for taking us so meticulously through the order. I shall not follow the customary practice on such occasions by going through the order in a similarly detailed way. However, I shall raise some specific items and then move on to the general problem of the economy of the Province. Before doing so, I apologise to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to the Minister who is to wind up the debate and to the House as I have to leave at 9.45 pm. I have meetings in Leicester early tomorrow morning about a fire, which some people may have seen reported in the press over the weekend, so I shall be absent when the Minister winds up the debate.
My first specific point concerns Government expenditure priorities. A few weeks ago, the Secretary of State announced at the Central Community Relations Unit conference on equality of opportunity that a new main priority for public expenditure was to be designated, targeting social need. Although that is commendable, will the Minister press the Secretary of State to make a much clearer statement on that proposal and its implications in terms of resources and how it will interlink with other programmes and policies?
Will the Government also make an early statement on their intentions regarding the privatisation of Northern Ireland Electricity? I am sure that the Government accept that the matter has been going on for far too long and is leading to great uncertainty. Will the Government make an early announcement as to whether they intend, as rumour suggests, to split electricity supply and generation in the Province? The Labour party's views are well known —that the privatisation of such a small energy producer is ridiculous in the circumstances. If the Government decide to split generation and supply, the result will be even more ridiculous.
Will the Government make a statement on the resignation last week of the chairman of Northern Ireland Electricity? I presume that his resignation was not simply the result of personal pique. I am sure that the House 730 would be delighted if the Minister would say whether the chairman resigned because he disagreed with the thrust of the Government's proposals on privatisation.
What are the Government's proposals on the possible gas pipeline between Britain and Ireland——
§ Mr. Marshall
I wish that the hon. Gentleman would learn to listen and hear the end of the sentence. My use of the word "Ireland" in this context is clear.
Will the Minister comment on the possible gas pipeline between Britain and the island of Ireland and the possibility of a spur from that pipeline going to the Province? I realise that my question contains two hypothetical points. On a third hypothetical point, if a decision were taken to have such a spur to the north, could the gas supply be used for commercial purposes and not just for electricity generation at Kilroot?
§ Mr. William Ross (Londonderry, East)
Surely the hon. Gentleman realises that, in seeking to have a gas pipeline to Northern Ireland, members of the Ulster Unionist party are concerned about the whole of the United Kingdom. If a pipeline came from south-west Scotland, it would benefit many more people who vote for the Labour party in that part of the United Kingdom. Furthermore, it would be much safer to send gas from Northern Ireland to the Republic. It would be less of a target for the IRA if it went from north to south rather than came from south to north.
§ Mr. Marshall
I do not wish to follow the hon. Gentleman's argument. I would have far more sympathy with his views if he had been among those who condemned Northern Ireland Electricity for importing South African coal into the Province, thus denying employment to miners in the Scottish coalfields.
A further question concerns compulsory competitive tendering. We all realise that there are clear political differences on that issue and fears about it in Northern Ireland. What is the Government's latest position on compulsory competitive tendering in relation to the health and education boards and the district councils?
The campaigns that the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and the hon. Member for Antrim, East (Mr. Beggs) have been fighting on behalf of local hospitals have the Labour party's support.
The Minister said that there is now clear evidence that the Northern Ireland economy is in recession. Economic activity has continued to decline with little or no prospect of improvement in 1991. The signs have been emerging over several months—they have not appeared suddenly —and I am especially worried by the fact that, although there have been signs of a downturn in economic activity, only in recent weeks have we seen evidence of it in unemployment figures. In the coming months, unemployment could increase substantially. Despite the Minister's sanguine response, the problem will be overcome only by clear changes in the direction of Government economic policy, not just in the Province but in the United Kingdom as a whole.
§ Mr. Ross
The hon. Gentleman has obviously not seen this evening's Belfast Telegraph, in which attention is drawn to the fact that the recession will probably not bite quite so deeply in Northern Ireland as in the rest of the United Kingdom, because the industries that were brought in and could move out again as soon as the recession hit 731 them were lost 10 years ago, so it looks as though we shall suffer more lightly than the rest of the United Kingdom this time.
§ Mr. Marshall
If the hon. Gentleman listened more carefully to my comments instead of being obsessed with his own thoughts and his need to comment, he would appreciate that I said that there had been evidence for several months that economic activity in the Province was declining, and there is no evidence that that trend will be reversed in the next few months.
If the hon. Gentleman is correct—I accept his figures —and Northern Ireland will not be so adversely affected as the rest of the United Kingdom, that may be a source of comfort to some, but it will not comfort the thousands of people who will lose their jobs as a result of the economic downturn in the Province. Although the hon. Gentleman offers some consolation, in the medium to long term it does not offer any comfort to the people of Northern Ireland. As I said before his intervention, the long-term economic future of the Province can be assured only by dramatic changes in the direction of Government policy.
All hon. Members from the Province should be worried about the threat that the single market after 1992 is likely to pose to the Northern Ireland economy. "The Regional Economic Review" published in February 1991 by Cambridge Economic Consultants gives horrendous figures. It predicts a loss of up to 40,000 jobs in Northern Ireland in the first 10 years of the single market. The review states:For the Northern Region, the North-West and Northern Ireland in the absence of any strengthening in regional policy, substantial falls in employment are projected.As the House knows, the European Commission highlighted those manufacturing sectors in each member country that are likely to be vulnerable because of the single market. Unfortunately, some of them are major employers in the Province. They include clothing, carpets, glass, electrical machinery and aerospace products. The European Commission highlighted those sectors as being particularly vulnerable post-1922.
What has been the Government's response to the recession and what is their likely response to the difficulties that we may face in the Province post-1992? Last year, we had a debate about reform of the Industrial Development Board, which will be one of the Government's main vehicles to encourage inward investment and further investment in the Province. I criticised that reform to some extent, and I repeat my criticism. I described the reform as "too little, too late" and as "timid and half-hearted" because of the Government's resistance to market intervention even when the market failed.
I stand by that criticism. First, the proposals did not provide a comprehensive economic development strategy, which people in the Province—with the exception of the Government—generally agreed was necessary. Secondly, I welcomed the need to concentrate on investment other than capital—investment in training—but I said that it should not be an either/or situation. We must try to achieve a mix of different types of investment. Thirdly, I said that real jobs should remain a permanent feature of the measure of success of any policy. That certainly does not happen with the Government's policy.
I welcomed, and still welcome, parts of the training and employment strategy, but it needs strengthening in two ways. My first point applies not just to the Province but to the United Kingdom as a whole. There needs to be clearer 732 recognition by companies of their responsibilities to provide training. Secondly, it is essential to seek the view of people other than just employers on improving the quality of training for young entrants in the labour market, on training for the unemployed and on retraining those already in employment. On that point, I differ from the Government. The Labour party believes that this strategy applies to trade unions, which should be automatically included, and to others with expertise—for example, the Fair Employment Commission, the Equal Opportunities Commission and for those who work with the unemployed.
Although the Government wish to keep within the guidelines laid down by the European Commission, in practice they fail to keep within the spirit of the provision of European Community structural funds. I repeat a charge which I made before from the Dispatch Box: the Government still refuse to apply genuine additionality in the operation of structural funds in the Province.
It is instructive to compare expenditure in the Irish Republic and that in Northern Ireland. It is expected that, between 1989 and 1993, the republic will receive 3,672 million ecu, with only 793 million ecu going to Northern Ireland. Committee B of the British-Irish inter-parliamentary body stated:The average allocation of structural funds across objective 1 areas is 521 ecu per head. Northern Ireland will receive slightly below this average while Ireland will receive 1038 ecu per head … Per capita, citizens of Ireland receive about twice the amount received by citizens of Northern Ireland".
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
As I am sure the hon. Gentleman agrees, the percentage that given because Northern Ireland was an objective 1 area was increased by only about 8 per cent., just covering inflation, while the allocation was increased by more than 75 per cent. in the republic and by more than 100 per cent. in some parts of the objective 1 areas. We surely got a raw deal there. The Commissioner asked us why Northern Ireland Ministers did not submit proposals. That vital point must be ventilated in the House.
§ Mr. Marshall
I readily accept the hon. Gentleman's point, which reinforces my own.
The regional secretary of the Amalgamated Transport and General Workers Union in the Province, Mr. John Freeman, said:It is becoming increasingly difficult to attribute the Republic's success in attracting structural funds to its low GDP. The Inter-Parliamentary Committee report"—to which I referred—indicates that Portugal and Greece will only receive 687 and 672 ecus per head respectively. Yet these are undoubtedly the poorest countries within the Community. In the case of Northern Ireland, perhaps there is scope for looking at the quality of the projects put forward. Certainly, in the Republic, there is a much greater scale of consultation over projects … If Northern Ireland is to survive the intensely more competitive conditions post 1992, we reqnire more than moral exhortations from Government to compete better, we need a complete re-examination of our relationship with Brussels and better bids for a bigger proportion of the structural funds".The Opposition agree with those comments, but far more effort must be put into attracting increased levels of structural fund expenditure into the Province. What must be done to improve the long-term economic prospects in the Province?
733 The Minister for Public Transport, who wound up the previous debate said that the Government were prepared to accept the need for a co-ordinated and comprehensive strategy. I remind the Government that such an economic strategy is also required if there is to be any long-term economic development in the Province. First, such a strategy must include a proper level of investment in high quality training and retraining and it must ensure that resources are targeted efficiently, and not just in terms of the industrial development board's dubious definition of competitiveness. We must ensure that real employment opportunities are created in all geographical areas of the Province.
Secondly, the strategy must ensure that the Province receives its proper share of the European Community's structural funds and that those funds are genuinely additional to existing levels of public expenditure. Thirdly, as part of a coherent and comprehensive strategy, there is a need to combine the functions of the IDB and the Local Enterprise Development Unit to provide a single, one-stop development agency.
Fourthly, as I said earlier, there is a clear need to impose a legal obligation on all employers to provide training. Unless there is such a co-ordinated, coherent policy, Northern Ireland will continue to lose out and could be further devastated by events after 1992.
§ Mr. James Molyneaux (Lagan Valley)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You will have noted that the Minister took only 18 minutes to open the debate. I shall make my contribution by not speaking at all. I wonder if it would meet with your wishes if I were to suggest that all right hon. and hon. Members tried to limit their speeches to 16 minutes, so that everyone who wished to speak could be called.
§ Mr. Marshall
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If the Opposition so wished, they would have had the right to wind up the debate. On this occasion —as on previous occasions—we do not intend to do so.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The Chair will follow the conventions in these matters. I am equally grateful to the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux). He will recognise that the Chair has no authority on such occasions to limit speeches, but I hope that right hon. and hon. Members will heed the wise advice, for which I am sure that we are grateful.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)
I shall not make any promises about time, but I shall try to set a good example, as example is better than precept. It is all right for an hon. Member who is not going to speak to read us a homily on time, but we accept it in the spirit in which it was given. The debate can last until 11.30 pm, and I should think that we would want to take every moment of that precious time to debate the issues.
I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall) for raising issues which are of great importance to Northern Ireland's economy. We have serious problems, and we must face up to them. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman is now experiencing what we have 734 been experiencing in Northern Ireland. In spite of all the eulogies paid to it, the Common Market will not solve our economic ills or bring us prosperity and employment.
I remember what the former leader of the Conservative party said when campaigning for us to join the Common Market. He said that we should have no more unemployment, that we should enter a vast market which was just waiting for the ability, talent and skills of the British people to take it over. We never had unemployment to the extent that we now have until we joined the Common Market.
The report to which the hon. Member for Leicester, South referred makes solemn reading for us all. If we lose 40,000 more jobs in 1992 and in the following years, the situation will be grave. The Common Market struck a tremendous blow to Ulster's agriculture-based economy. Intensive farming was reduced by almost two thirds because we could not buy animal feed at a competitive price. Therefore, the intensive farming sector was hammered.
Shipbuilding and man-made fibres also come under the axe as a result of the Common Market's policy. There was a time when Northern Ireland produced 30 per cent. of all the man-made fibres in the United Kingdom, but' that industry has practically gone. We received a body blow when we joined the Common Market, and we shall continue to receive such blows.
It will be noted that the three Northern Irish Members of the European Parliament have campaigned strongly for our fair share of the structural funds, but we did not get our fair share. We were diddled out of everything, because the 8 per cent. only covers inflation, which takes us back to where we started. It is no use saying that the Community recognises us as an objective 1 area when it is of no benefit to us.
I am glad that the hon. Member for Leicester, South highlighted what the Republic has been receiving. I have been highlighting that for years and shall continue to do so. The time has come when Northern Ireland should at least get back what it puts in. It does not get back what it puts in per head of its citizens. That is an important point. I do not know why the Departments are not eager to have the co-operation of their Members of the European Parliament. I have been in Europe for 10 years, but I and my two colleagues have only once been brought to Stormont and consulted on one matter.
In those 10 years, the Departments have not been prepared to use the representatives from Northern Ireland. When we make our representations, we make them in a vacuum, because we have to find out what proposals are being suggested. I should have thought that the time had come when the Departments in Northern Ireland should make up their minds that they will get the money which is theirs by right.
I trust that there will be a Damascus road experience. We could call it a Brussels road experience, except that I do not like Brussels. The Minister needs to be converted. I welcome to the Dispatch Box his colleague, the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who represents agriculture. Northern Ireland's agricultural interests should never have been represented by a Member of the other place. Agriculture should be represented here, so that we can get at the Minister and the Minister can get at us; we can then have a fair exchange.
I do not go along with the spokesman of the Ulster Farmers Union, who said that it was all right for a 735 Member of the House of Lords to be responsible for agriculture. With all due respect to the upper House, I believe that the man who speaks for Northern Ireland's agricultural interests should be in this House, so that elected representatives can deal with these issues.
I am not raising matters tonight in order of priority; some of the most important matters will come later. I will take matters as they appear in the order. Agriculture is in a state of suspense, as I am sure the Minister recognises. We do not know what will happen. We had a visit from the Commissioner, but I do not know whether anybody was much wiser after he left Northern Ireland. One point that I do know—I will repeat what I have said before in the House—is that politics is being played with agriculture in Europe. When politics comes into it, we cannot expect a fair deal for the farming community—certainly not for the Ulster farming community.
We all hear about small farms. Small farmers in Northern Ireland said, "We are going to be all right." Small farms in Europe are not 50 acres, 60 acres or 70 acres. They are pocket farms, some of only five acres, which grow a few rubbishy tobacco weeds. They will be highly subsidised as a result of future changes. The money will go to them and not to people who make their sole living out of farming. We have a serious problem in Northern Ireland, because people are being forced to leave the land. When a nation's toilers on the soil are forced to leave, it is a bad omen. We must do something.
The Under-Secretary of State has come new to Northern Ireland, so he may not be conditioned by the general talk of the Northern Ireland Office, which, as we know, has a bad influence on Ministers. He has a fresh mind, and he will work with good staff in the Department of Agriculture. I had the privilege of being chairman of the agriculture committee, so I know the staff there.
I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will be a fighter for Northern Irish farming in Europe. We need a fighter. The Labour Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mr. Silkin, was a fighter for the farmers. They called him the thug of Europe. The Minister needs to be a thug to deal with some of the thugs in farming with whom we have to deal in Europe. I will add nothing to my comments, because I am keeping my eye on the clock. I know that the Minister belongs to a denomination to which I do not belong, and that it believes in short sermons. My congregation believes in a proper sermon. A sermonette makes Christianettes, but a sermon makes good Christians. I am not in the business of making Christianettes.
We expect the Minister to tell us something about progress on the difficult problem of fallen stock. It is not a problem that is isolated in Northern Ireland because it extends across the United Kingdom. I am sure that the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen), who is the sole Conservative Back Bencher here tonight, will also be interested in that problem.
I am sure that the Minister knows that we are approaching the time when the problem will reach its apex, so we need to hear something from the Minister. I am sure that my colleagues, on the Government Benches and on the Opposition Benches, are aware of the problem. I believe that I can speak even for those colleagues on the Opposition Benches who do not fly the same flag that I fly on 12 July. I trust that we shall have a positive response 736 from the Minister tonight. If he cannot tell us that he has the full answer, he can encourage us by convincing us that he is going in the right direction.
We are all worried about why the good chairman of the electricity board resigned. We all wonder what is happening. He has always been a friend of Northern Ireland. He is a man in whom I have the utmost confidence, and I shall be glad to hear the Minister's response on that problem. Can the Minister give me some idea tonight about what will happen on Rathlin island? The chairman was a good supporter of the Rathlin islanders. He met us and helped us, and I trust that his passing does not mean that the Government will write an obituary on the prospect of getting light and heat to the people of Rathlin island.
It is no use having back-up health and social services if we do not have the foundations—the hospitals that are needed. If the hon. Member for Antrim, East (Mr. Beggs) catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, he will have something to say about Moyle hospital. I want to record my support for the campaign which has been waged for that hospital in Larne, which has the support of all right-thinking people in the area. We thank the hon. Member for Leicester, South for putting his weight behind that campaign.
I want to raise a matter that affects my area and which also impinges on the area of the person who was forgotten —the hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross). I am sure that the hon. Member for Leicester, South did not mean to leave him out, even though he has crossed swords with him quite often.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
I thank the hon. Gentleman. I am sure that his apology has been received in the good spirit in which it has been given.
Other areas are having new hospitals. Indeed, some areas are having two new hospitals. The area that I represent has been bereft of all investment in new hospitals. What have we? A building in the area was to have a facelift. The hospital was built in 1861. It would take some cosmetics to give it a facelift. Would anyone bother to give a facelift to a woman of 25?
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
I am sure that the ladies of my own company would agree that if they started with the powder and paint after only 25 years, they would not do too well. Even a bachelor like my right hon. Friend the Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) agrees with that. I see that the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley is in full agreement with that. In 1841——
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
No 1841–1641 was when all the Protestants were murdered and put into the Bann. It must be on my hon. Friend's mind. I know a little about history.
The Minister should think of what the wise man, the noble Lord who was responsible in another place, but who lost his job, said about Coleraine hospital—that it was a "shambles". Yet it has been suggested that it should be given a facelift. Both Ballymoney hospital, which was opened in 1841, and the Coleraine hospital, which is part 737 of the same hospital area and was opened in 1861, were workhouses. They remain open as hospitals, with a lot of nissen huts around them. It is a disgrace. [Interruption.]
I see that the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Forsythe) is getting a little impatient. He will just have to wait. He is not in the Newtownabbey council now. He is in the House of Commons and he will have to wait and remember that we are fighting in a life and death struggle to get proper hospitalisation for our people. Moyle council is a strange conglomerate, made up of independents, people who call themselves independent nationalists and others. They have all come together to say that we need this hospital, along with Ballymoney and Coleraine council. They all say that the time has come.
If I went through the history of what has happened, I am sure that the House would be amazed. There has been nothing but report after report and expenditure after expenditure on this hospital area. What has happened? Nothing. The final report, which I have here, has proved conclusively that the only viable way forward is a new building on a new site.
I must warn the Minister, because it worried me when he told our lobby that the new board would have to make a decision on this matter. The present board will be meeting at the end of the month to make a decision, and I trust that the Minister will tell the new board to carry out that decision. We do not want the matter to be reconsidered, and I do not believe that statutorily it should be. I believe that the law says that the board should make the decision. I know that the Minister can say, quite rightly that he cannot make a decision until he has had the board's decision—if I were in his place, I would say that. I accept that, but when he has the board's decision we want him to move as quickly as possible.
I remind the Minister that the Public Accounts Committee said that there was too great a delay in building hospitals. If he goes by the Committee's guidelines, they will forward the work. I shall not read the guidelines, because I do not want my colleague the hon. Member for Antrim, South to worry any more. He might have a heart attack, and then he would need hospitalisation.
If the Minister does not have this report, I shall gladly give him a free copy with my compliments, so that he can move forward as quickly as possible.
I am not doing too badly: 16 minutes is just up and I am coming near to the end of my speech.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
No, it has not been over 20. The hon. Gentleman is misreading the clock. His glasses are not clean.
There was a serious flood in the Ballycastle area. At first, when the Minister came to visit us, he told us that we would get nothing. That Minister is no longer with us. I am grateful that the Commissioner, Mr. MacSharry—I must give honour where honour is due—showed the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume), Mr. Nicholson and my other two colleagues how we could get money. The Government took that route, and Ballycastle got the money.
I am not being churlish, but I noticed that the statement did not pay any tribute to what the MEP did. That went down the river. However, the Government paid tribute to 738 themselves for getting the money. I do not care about compliments. I am happy as long as I get the money for people in the Ballycastle area.
I am glad that we got that money for those farmers, but all the other people who suffered got nothing—not a penny. The Government have written to tell me that they do not think that they will give any money. I have here a list of people who have lost. One man has lost £3,658.74; another has lost £3,891; another has lost £3,900; and a lady has lost £4,973. I could go right down this list. I have sent it to the Secretary of State, who has all the facts before him.
Those people have been told that they will not get one penny to pay for damage to their houses. Some of them were insured and the insurance companies are paying out, although they could have said that the flood was an act of God and that they would not pay. However, there will be a serious gap.
What has the Department of Health and Social Services done? The Department has already offered people on supplementary benefit a £500 loan, but it has told them that they will have to pay it back. These decent people have said that they are not in a position to pay anything, so they have not asked for a loan.
I went to one of the homes affected—I shall not mention any names—and asked whether anyone from the Northern Ireland Office had been to visit them. They answered, "Yes." I said, "What did they ask?" They told me that the Office had asked them to send a full list of all their losses. I asked whether the Office had made any promises about paying and was told, "No, not in so many words."
Will the Minister seek some payment for these people —especially those on supplementary benefit, who are unable to raise money to refurbish their houses—to carry them over and to bridge the gulf?
§ Rev. William McCrea
Will my hon. Friend refresh the Minister's memory? In recent times, there were floods in Omagh and Strabane, when people faced similar problems. Perhaps the Minister would give due consideration to repayments to those people too.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Yes, I urge the Minister to do so. I know that his colleagues will tell him that we are seriously worried about these matters.
I do not want to delay the House or to prevent other colleagues from speaking, although I doubt whether they will take up all the time that they have at their disposal. Nevertheless, we shall give them the opportunity to do so.
We have heard a little about culture tonight. We have also heard something about money. I should like to think that, when money is given, it would be for wholesome, clean and edifying culture. I am alarmed at what has happened recently in Newtownabbey, when a film was shown which is a blashemous and scurrilous attack upon the purity and sinfulness of the son of God.
To depict Him in a sexual fantasy as he dies for our redemption on the cross is repugnant to all right-thinking people in our Province.
I am aghast that the Arts Council should stoop so low as to sponsor this film festival and put advertisements in the local paper seeking to involve people who were not involved. It was said that Calor Gas was one of its sponsors of this film and it had to place an advertisement saying that it had not sponsored the film at all. It was said 739 that the mayor of Newtonabbey council was to be the special guest. Anybody who knows Councillor Fraser Agnew knows that of all people he would not be at such a festival. Of course the council did not sponsor the film. Those people were used as a cloak to make it appear that everything was respectable. We tried to get in touch with the vice-chancellor of the university, but he was away and nobody was in charge.
Government money to promote community relations should be spent on wholesome things that edify the mind and do not cause moral and religious insults to large sectons of the community. I hope that I carry the Minister with me on that. When such things are done, we should know about them and know all the facts. There should be no cover-up, lying or cheating about the matter, as was done in this instance.
I hope that the Minister will look carefully at what is happening to disabled people in Housing Executive property. The disabled should have the facilities they need. I have some cases with the Housing Executive in which a firm promise was made that, because of disablement, a downstairs toilet and downstairs bedroom accommoda-tion would be provided. The people were then told by the executive that it was short of money and that such facilities could not now he provided. The matter is now on the long finger. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I note that some other Northern Ireland Members agree with me.
Such a matter is trying and serious. It is a big enough disaster to have a handicapped child in the home. Nobody knows the pressures on a parent or on a family, and I speak from pastoral experience. People are promised that proper accommodation will bring about an easement and their hopes are built up, only to be shattered. The Minister should have a look at that with the Housing Executive. In its care of the disabled and in its help for those families with disablement in their midst, the executive should be an example to all housing authorities.
§ Mr. Clifford Forsythe (Antrim, South)
The hon. Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall) spoke about Northern Ireland Electricity. The Minister suggested that it will be privatised by Order in Council rather than by a Bill. Such a change in energy supply is fundamental. It affects everyone in the Province, from the newly born to the most senior citizen. To suggest that it should be taken through the House by Order in Council, a procedure with which no Northern Ireland Member agrees and which means that we cannot have full debate or table amendments to alter the proposal in any way, is almost beyond belief.
Many things about electricity privatisation need to be debated. We need to decide whether to split generation and distribution. It is not good enough simply to suggest a change from a public monopoly to a private monopoly. I am shocked by the Minister's suggestion of an Order in Council.
It is serious that the chairman of Northern Ireland Electricity should have stepped down at this stage. One wonders about the reason for his decision. Will the Minister reconsider this matter, which is of fundamental importance to the people of Northern Ireland? The principle has never been debated and the matter should be encompassed in a Bill.
740 I wish to deal with a problem regarding British Airways. The tourist industry has become smaller and there are fewer flights. The recent difficulties of Air Europe have left people overseas unable to get home. British Airways has served Northern Ireland well. It has operated from there for many years, while other companies have come and gone. We have great sympathy for that airline. However, we are disappointed that British Airways is to cut jobs in Northern Ireland. We had hoped that cuts would take place at the centre rather than on the periphery and that costs would be cut at Heathrow or elsewhere on the mainland.
We have spoken to British Airways officials in Northern Ireland and have been reassured that there will be no change in the security operation there. Security will be as tight and as good as it has always been at Aldergrove international airport, which is in my constituency. Security at Aldergrove is second to none and is an example to airports in other parts of the world.
§ Mr. Peter Robinson
Although I agree with the thrust and tenor of the hon. Gentleman's speech, before he heaps too much praise on British Airways, does he agree that many of us who have been coming to the House for many years know that British Airways was doing next to nothing for travellers coming to London until British Midland came on the scene and made British Airways pull up its socks?
§ Mr. Forsythe
I understand the hon. Gentleman's argument, but I was making the point that as there has been press comment on the subject, it would be most unfortunate if the travelling public came to believe that there will be a fall in security standards among any of the operators whose aircraft leave from Belfast for other parts of the world. We should be reassured by British Airway's pledge that its security will be as good as it has ever been. I will not comment on the hon. Gentleman's other remark, but I support the concept of competition in the travel industry.
I recently asked in a parliamentary question how many estates in my constituency that had been completed for at least 12 months had roads or footpaths that remain unadopted. The Minister replied that four Northern Ireland Housing Executive developments fell into that category, as well as about 40 private developments.
Every building contractor must lodge a bond when he starts to develop an estate, and the Department of the Environment has the power to use that money to complete unadopted roads or footpaths at the developer's expense. I recently contacted the relevant Department about a small stretch of footpath on an estate in Ballyclare that has remained unadopted for 12 years, and was told that it would be dealt with, not this year, but in the next financial year—despite the fact that the DoE holds a bond for that work.
§ Mr. Roy Beggs (Antrim, East)
Does my hon. Friend agree that it is a disgrace that people who move into an estate that continues to be developed for three years are expected to pay the full amount of the rates levied on their homes, when they can gain access to them only be wearing heavy, waterproof winter boots? Their carpeting and homes are continually made filthy as their children run in and out, because the roads and footpaths outside have not been made up, and do not have even a rough, basic foundation of tarmac. The Government and Northern 741 Ireland Ministers should take action to ensure that new home owners are not subjected to that nuisance for such a long period.
§ Mr. Forsythe
I cannot but agree with my hon. Friend. On certain estates, builders do not complete two or three houses for various reasons, and the plots concerned are turned into dumps, to which people will travel for miles to dispose of their rubbish. Because a developer has not completed an estate, and cannot be made to do so, those who already occupy properties on it find that the value of their homes is falling—even though the rating valuation office does not agree. I hope that the Minister will examine that aspect, too.
In another parliamentary question, I asked how many planning enforcements there have been in my constituency over the past few years. The Minister replied that there were two in 1987, four in 1988, and five in 1989. In 10 cases giving rise to problems of which I am aware, the Department is not enforcing planning conditions in five of them—and in the other five, there are difficulties because the Department is trying to do so. By a strange coincidence, most of the cases that the Department is trying to enforce involve individuals, whereas those that it seems incapable of enforcing involve large firms that are capable of taking on the Department, which is farcical. I understand that new proposals are contained in a planning order that will come before the House, but there is little point in introducing legislation if the Department will not enforce it.
It has been suggested that there will be administrative changes to the Royal Mail service in Northern Ireland, and that it will not be operated as independently as it is now. One can understand the Royal Mail wanting to make improvements, but I hope that those concerned will remember that Northern Ireland is unique in many ways and that it faces special difficulties that are not experienced in the rest of the United Kingdom. In those circumstances, it is essential that Northern Ireland retains local control of its postal services, while trying to effect general economies of the sort that the Royal Mail wants to see made.
As other hon. Members wish to speak, I shall end there.
§ Mr. Eddie McGrady (South Down)
It is appropriate that the first part of the order deals with agriculture, because agriculture forms Northern Ireland's economic and social backbone. Agriculture sustains not just wealth and job creation, but the fabric of our community. I was interested to hear the opening remarks of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), when he spoke of the crisis confronting Northern Ireland's farming community vis-a-vis the fortunes of other participants in the European Community's grant aid programme.
There is currently an income crisis in Northern Ireland's agricultural industry, brought about by a substantial increase in production costs at a time when net profits have been substantially reduced. That situation has been aided and abetted by the peripheral situation in which the industry finds itself in respect of its markets and imports.
The problems are so acute as to justify a departure from the Government's general strategy at Brussels. If Northern Ireland is to sustain the fabric of not only its agricultural 742 industry but rural society, it is important that it should now be treated as a very special region. At a time when there is so much talk about rural regeneration it should be realised that a rural community cannot be regenerated if its livelihood is destroyed.
Much has been said about the produce of the land; let me say something about the produce of the sea. The fishing industry is especially important to my constituency and I am particularly interested in the harbour development in Ardglass and the hoped-for development in Kilkeel. I was surprised and disappointed to hear the Minister say that there had been a delay in the harbour works owing to a lack of uptake of the available resources. As he knows, Ardglass harbour has experienced no major capital improvement for many years. His predecessor approved expenditure of £1.4 million last year, but a continuing study has identified a larger figure—approximately £2 million. I should like the Government to provide that money as soon as possible.
§ Dr. Mawhinney
As the hon. Gentleman probably knows, it was necessary to re-examine the design of the sea wall. That is what caused the delay. He will be pleased to learn that the development is now at tender stage.
§ Mr. McGrady
That is welcome news, which will give heart to the fishermen of Ardglass. They were very nervous about the prospect of facing another winter in such bad conditions. Kilkeel has similar difficulties, and a programme is needed to safeguard the increased number of vessels that are berthing there.
The Department of Health and Social Security should look particularly at the problems faced by fishermen out of season, or in bad weather, when they cannot generate the income that is needed to sustain themselves and their families, and often cannot obtain sufficient benefit to top up that insufficient income. I know that the Department was considering their difficulties not so long ago, and I hope that its considerations will bear fruit soon.
I want to deal next with votes 1 and 2, in respect of the Department of Economic Development. I was encouraged to hear from the Minister that—against the tide, as it were —there have been many success stories in relation to industrial development; unfortunately, my constituency cannot boast a share in that alleged prosperity. As the records show, in three years the invitees of the Industrial Development Board made only 10 visits to the entire districts of Down, Banbridge—with the permission of the hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble)—and Mourne. That does not constitute a fair or adequate attempt to distribute the wealth represented by inward investment to areas that have suffered such deprivations.
A terrible plight now afflicts the yarn spinners of South Down, especially those employed by Castlewellan Yarns and Killyleagh Yarns, which are experiencing a very difficult period. One of those firms proposes a virtual closedown in June 1991. Only a short time ago, the IDB proferred some £6 million for the complete rebuilding of a factory in Castlewellan, and the equipping of that factory with the most up-to-date machinery. The employees were told then, and have been told recently, that the order books were full; if that is true, why the rundowns and closures? The position merits investigation at the highest level.
Vote 2—and possibly vote 3; my copy of the document jumps from vote 2 to vote 4, and I assume that all the other 743 copies do the same—deals with tourism, potentially the second biggest industry in Northern Ireland and the provider of hope for the future. The indicative plan published recently by the Northern Ireland tourist board is imaginative, but requires urgent, indeed instant, implementation, backed up by a positive attitude—and funds—from the Department of Economic Development.
I have always been surprised by the failure of the board to draw on the enormous potential of the Mourne and St. Patrick's country area, which has such emotive associations not only for the North American continent —to which we look for tourist development—but for Europe, many of whose cities have direct ties with the area because of the founding fathers who did their missionary work there. That connection should be pursued: European tourism is every bit as good as, and perhaps more reliable than North American tourism. The tourist board should produce a comprehensive plan, akin to the plan that has existed for years for Fermanagh lakes and the north Antrim coast, to tap that hitherto untapped source.
We cannot, however, achieve anything in that regard without a positive attitude to the provision of low-cost accommodation. The Minister must reconsider the attitude of the planning departments in relation to areas of outstanding natural beauty, sites of special scientific interest and so forth. If he examines the topography of South Down, or consults a map, he will find that there is nowhere else where accommodation can be built; while the position is sensitive, that accommodation should and must be made available.
Rural planning—or, rather, rural regeneration—seems to be the flavour of the year. The interdepartmental committee, now headed by the Department of Agriculture, has a report ready, while the Housing Executive has a report prepared on the regeneration of housing in the countryside. All that will come to naught, however, if the planning departments have not the drive, energy and foresight to adopt a creative attitude. In our debate last year, I asked the Minister to examine the project for Seaconnell, which is in the North of the South Down area, and epitomises what can and should be done to regenerate the countryside.
I shall touch briefly on vote 1, on housing. From the report of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and the statistics contained in it, it appeared that the new build programme is inadequate, irrespective of arguments to the contrary. New houses are being built where they are not needed, rather than where they are needed. Recent legislation on homelessness has created a further demand for resources by the Housing Executive which has not been met; certainly the Housing Executive has not been able to respond sympathetically to those who come to its offices complaining that they have no homes. Most are sent away without advice or sustenance.
I welcome the Housing Executive's fine new study on rural housing. It is only at the consultative stage. I hope that the Minister will encourage the Housing Executive quickly to come to terms with its report and prepare policy programmes for implementation.
I congratulate the hon. Members for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and for Antrim, East (Mr. Beggs) on their campaigns in respect of the Larne and Coleraine hospitals. I attended a meeting at Downpatrick in 1966 that was chaired by the then health Minister, Bill Morgan. He promised a new hospital for Downpatrick. Perhaps, 30 years later, that will come to fruition. We are not asking 744 for a multi-million pound hospital. I ask the Minister to ensure that the Department does not say that that is a board responsibility, while the board says that it is the Department's responsibility.
The standard of health in Northern Ireland is a ministerial and departmental responsibility. The boards do not have the money; they can obtain it only from the Department. I ask it to provide us with the £10 million to £14 million for the new hospital. It is only a small amount. The programme is already two thirds accomplished, with the completion of the geriatric unit and the maternity hospital. It would be a pity to spoil the ship for a ha'porth of tar; £14 million is just that, if one considers the size of the Department of Health and Social Services budget.
We are faced with the threatened closure of many small rural schools in South Down. Unnecessary pressure is being exerted on schools such as Ballyclougan, a primary school in Saintfield. Both in the state and maintained sectors closures are threatened. I understand that the Southern Board has made comprehensive plans to close many rural schools in the Mourne mountains area of South Down. There is no point in a rural regeneration programme, under which all the Departments attempt to tackle rural degradation, unless the focal points of communities are retained—the school, the church, the village shop and the pub. Unless rural schools are retained, families will move away from the countryside and the efforts of all the other Departments will never bring them back.
It is inexplicable that the Department has no museums policy, other than that for the national museum. The argument is that because there is no museums policy, no budget is required. I ask the Minister to adopt a comprehensive policy for museums.
The Under-Secretary of State is now responsible for social security. It is difficult for families in need to satisfy the Department that they qualify for family credit. They have difficulty with the forms and with answering the many departmental questionnaires. I ask the Minister to draw on his professional experience as an accountant and himself to inquire how people in his Department can ask so many silly questions. How can he expect the people, in his Department who do not know the difference between capital and income, between expenditure and receipts to deal with these issues? They should try to get down to basics and provide aid for those who so obviously need it, by the very reason that they have applied for it.
§ Mr. James Kilfedder (North Down)
I intend to make only a few points arising out of the appropriation order so that other hon. Members can participate in the debate.
Much has been said about hospitals in other parts of Northern Ireland. I intend to refer to the hospitals in North Down. I repeat the demand that I have made many times before for a new hospital for the whole area of North Down, which includes not only the Bangor area but also Newtownards and the Ards peninsula. I am, however, a realist. It may be some time before that hospital is built. We may have to wait for the restoration of a devolved Parliament in Stormont before that decision is made. Pending the building of that hospital, plenty of money will need to be spent on the existing hospitals in Newtownards and Bangor.
745 The people of Bangor want their hospital to remain a general hospital. Some beds in Bangor hospital were closed recently by the Eastern health board. Those closures were described by the board as temporary, but I believe that it is part of a process that has been going for a considerable time. Bed closures result in a reduction in the number of doctors and nurses in a hospital. The board seems intent on running down Bangor hospital so that it is no longer viable as a general hospital but becomes merely a geriatric hospital. The people of Bangor, through me, protest at that possibility. My demand is that Bangor hospital should be brought up to standard as a modern general hospital which can provide medical services for nearly 100,000 people. The hospital serves a wide area and the number of people in that area who have reached retirement age continues to grow.
The North Down Volunteer Bureau is a limited company and a registered charity which provides volunteering opportunities for unemployed people and a range of community care services in the area. It is one of a number of groups which receive funds from the training and employment agency through the community volunteering scheme. It has recently been informed that the scheme's budget for 1991–92 for the whole of Northern Ireland has been reduced from £854,000 to £600,000. That considerable reduction in financial help will have an adverse effect on the scheme, which provides such a useful service to the entire community in Northern Ireland.
The community volunteering scheme provides volunteering opportunities for unemployed men and women between the ages of 18 and 64. It enrols suitable candidates to work for the good of the community. It restores self-confidence and a sense of achievement to unemployed people who are accepted by the scheme. It provides valuable training and supervision. It enables young people to decide whether they wish to pursue a career in social work. Above all, the scheme fosters community spirit and strengthens communities.
The trained volunteers make home and hospital visits and provide transport and other practical help, wherever possible, for senior citizens and for chronically ill and mentally and physically handicapped persons. In addition, they are involved in working with children and providing support for one-parent families. It is a worthwhile charitable organisation. The decision to reduce the funding available to it means, in the case of the North Down Volunteer Bureau, a reduction from £57,000 to £24,000 in the coming financial year. That hefty reduction in funding will have major repercussions on the community care work of that charitable organisation. I urge the Minister to review that decision, so that its valuable work can continue.
I can vouch for the needs of the elderly, who are trying to survive on a pension which does not adequately cover food, clothing and heating costs. They deserve to be able to live out their retirement years in dignity and comfort. The Government do not appreciate that senior citizens in Northern Ireland experience difficulty because the cost of living in the Province is far higher than in the rest of the United Kingdom. Electricity costs are much higher, and some pensioners' homes are heated only by electricity. During the extremely cold period, I visited pensioners who were burning only one bar of an electric fire because they 746 could not afford to burn two. Inadequate heating of their homes, and of their bedrooms in particular, is not good for their health. I urge the Government to consider their plight.
I urge the Government to ensure also that all pensioners are provided with concessionary television licences. The present anomalies are a denial of natural justice and are ridiculous in their application. All pensioners living alone or with other pensioners should be eligible for a concessionary television licence.
I tabled a parliamentary question urging the Government to establish an independent environmental protection agency in Northern Ireland, as recommended by the Select Committee on the Environment in its excellent report on Northern Ireland. Such an agency is urgently needed in the Province, where there have been many instances of environmental damage. It is vital to contend with the all too powerful influence of developers and speculators, who are interested only in fat profits and have no sympathy for the environment.
I have advocated many times a change in the law to enable an objector to a planning application to pursue an appeal to the planning appeals Commission. The law favours the developer or speculator, who can take his application to apeal if it is refused. Many times, local residents have satisfied the planning department that an application would be detrimental to their area, but subsequently it has been allowed on appeal by the planning appeals Commission.
§ Mr. Kilfedder
The hon. Gentleman will have the opportunity to speak shortly. I am trying to allow other hon. Members the chance to speak.
Confidence in the planning process must be restored. That will be achieved only by ensuring that the Department of the Environment is seen as capable of defending the public interest and safeguarding the environment. The Department may have to employ more people in its planning office. The planning office in Downpatrick has more work than its officials can contend with.
Bregenz house continues to be built on Bangor sea front without full planning permission. That is offensive to those who respect the laws and expect others to respect them. Why has no stop notice been issued? Will one be issued shortly? The Minister responsible for the planning section of the Department of the Environment arranged for one of his officials to discuss the matter with me, and I met him on Friday afternoon with representatives of other aspects of life in Bangor. I urge the Minister, who is seized of the planning application for Bregenz house—it is no longer a matter for Downpatrick planning office, but for the Minister—to meet some of the people of Bangor, who are anxious that the structure should be removed. That was set out clearly in a petition that I presented to the House on behalf of more than 5,500 people. Thousands more people would have signed it but for the fact that it had to be rushed in before planning permission was granted.
I congratulate members of the Dundonald Green Belt Association for their energetic work in safeguarding the environment. They deserve the congratulations and commendation of the people of Dundonald and elsewhere. They made representations to the Minister, who met some of them in January. Sadly, however, they have seen the 747 radical alteration of the Dundonald area, where green hills, fields trees and hedges are being replaced by more and more houses densely packed into a number of developments.
I join the Dundonald Green Belt Association in recommending to the Government the suspension of the proposed 1993 Belfast urban area plan land release, and a review of the necessity of releasing the full acreage. Some of the land earmarked for housing under the urban plan should be returned to the green belt area. Something must be done to preserve the rural aspect of Dundonald. It is imperative that a local area plan be produced for Dundonald, which is a distinct entity.
The Minister stated that a local plan was never envisaged by the Department of the Environment,as it is considered that the village and its environment are adequately covered in the Belfast urban area plan 2001.But that is not true. No attempt has been made to plan for the expanding population of the area or for new and larger schools and proper recreation facilities. Plans must be prepared urgently. I am thinking in particular of the people of Ballybeen, who lack the facilities which would make that large housing estate more agreeable and acceptable to its inhabitants. More must be done for the young people of the area, who need such facilities.
Tullycarnet housing estate is another large housing estate which lacks soul. The Government must spend money on it to bring it up to standard and to ensure that its people have proper facilities and that its young people have recreational facilities which will keep them usefully employed and out of the hands of the police. I urge the Government carefully to consider Tullycarnet and Ballybeen to see what can be done.
§ Mr. Roy Beggs (Antrim, East)
I welcome the extra provision in vote I to the Department of the Environment for the road casualty reduction unit.
Since 1980, there have been 328 accidents on the Larne-Belfast road. One hundred and thirty-five people have been seriously injured and 20 people have lost their lives. Eighteen of those 20 deaths have occurred since 1985. A nephew of mine was one of those killed, and I have known many of the others personally, so I know the sorrow and loss of such a tragedy to the families involved.
The Larne-Belfast road serves the port of Larne, which is now the second busiest port in the United Kingdom and the busiest port in Northern Ireland. Between 8,000 and 14,000 vehicles use the road every day, yet 15 km remains single carriageway and only 5.5 km is dual carriageway. The Department of the Environment may argue that the dual carriageway is where the flow of traffic is heaviest, which may be true, but 14,000 vehicles must come from somewhere to reach the small piece of dual carriageway. Most get there after 15 km of inadequate single carriageway.
The road has not undergone any substantial reconstruction since the 1960s, when the number of passenger cars using the port was fewer than 100,000 a year. Now, the number of passenger cars travelling to and from the port stands at 350,000 a year. More than 800 cars and vans use the road to the port every day, as do an enormous number of articulated lorries, coaches and buses —about a further 350,000 a year. In the summer months, the level of passenger vehicles using the road to the harbour increases further. Car or van-accompanied travel 748 continues to increase. It is predicted that the number of articulated vehicles will increase. More than 95 per cent. of Northern Ireland tourist car and passenger traffic travels by Larne, and therefore must use the Larne-Belfast road, which has been so neglected.
Larne harbour is an extremely modern ferry terminal, with shops, buffet lounges, commercial driver lounges, foreign currency exchanges, car hire facilities and a tourist information desk. We have everything that the visitor could want, except good roads to and from the port.
Larne Harbour Ltd. has ample land for further development. We all welcome the recent announcement that about 70 acres at Redlands will be further developed for warehousing, distribution, commercial and service facilities, and possibly a hotel development. A large area of land is leased to Larne Harbour at the harbour. One has no disagreement with that whatever—it is accepted—but before that land is transferred outright by the Industrial Development Board to Larne Harbour, the IDB should seek from Lame Harbour the equivalent in land to the value of that valuable site at the Redlands estate.
Although the company may plan to encourage further development of that site, the restrictions which it may impose on developers will be less attractive than the conditions that the IDB may offer developers. It is important that we see that development, and even more important that we see continued progress and develop-ment of the Larne-Belfast road.
We must bear in mind the growing numbers of visitors to the area. Last year, the port handled 1.6 million passengers, most of whom used the Larne-Belfast road. But the lack of development and of improvement of the road has definitely contributed to many serious accidents and to some of the deaths. Recently, a young woman—an only child and a constituent of mine—was killed on the road when flooding from nearby fields on the single carriageway resulted in her crashing into oncoming traffic. That might not have happened had the road been dual carriageway.
Many of the accidents on the road involve articulated lorries. It makes no difference whether drivers on the road are local, and know it, or are strangers. The road is not safe, and it will not be safe or able to cope with the increasing volume of traffic until there is major reconstruction and upgrading.
I hope that the Minister can tell the House tonight that never again will the road service of the DOE and policemen from Ballyclare have to sandbag the roadway to prevent water from flooding on to it off the fields. I hope that the report paid for by Larne borough council and by local industry recommending upgrading of the road will be taken seriously.
We heard earlier about the imbalance of funding as between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. Because of the additional money available to the republic, it has planned all sorts of grandiose road schemes for routes from Dublin towards Northern Ireland and to the republic's ports. We in Northern Ireland, however, cannot obtain the financial support from the Northern Ireland Office, the Government or from Europe to ensure that the Larne-Belfast road is fit to cope with the growing volume of traffic on it. I hope that the Minister will have some good news to give us.
Under DHSS vote 1, table 3, I am sure that the Minister will have noted the considerable increase in funding that will be needed to complete Antrim hospital. Last year it 749 seemed that about £30 million would be needed; now it appears that £50 million will be needed. In Larne, we have an acute hospital that meets our needs. It is well staffed. Regional specialties are available for those who need them in Belfast, but 95 per cent. of patients receive the services they require in our local hospital. Proposals to transfer acute services from Moyle hospital have been rejected by elected representatives, by GPs and by the vast majority of people served by that hospital. The proposed scheme for the future of Moyle hospital is not accepted by the people it serves.
We feel that the consultation to date has been a total charade. The wishes of the local people have been ignored at the expense of the opinions of unelected persons serving on the boards, mainly ministerial nominees or perhaps consultants who have a special interest in the new Antrim hospital, because they perceive that it will offer them greater career opportunities. Those people are supporting and promoting Antrim hospital at the expense of Moyle hospital in Larne.
If a proper study was carried out and services between the northern and eastern boards were rationalised, savings in public expenditure would accrue and there could be a genuine reconsideration of the proposals for the future of Moyle hospital. I appeal to the Minister to support the retention of acute services at Moyle hospital until a full, impartial options appraisal is instituted by the Northern Health and Social Services Board and the Northern Ireland Office. We have made strenuous efforts to produce a convincing report, but we are not satisfied that it has been given proper consideration.
The hon. Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall) and others have expressed concern about future employment opportunities in Northern Ireland. If one adds to the threat of a decline in job prospects the high birth rate in Northern Ireland, one sees that the situation can only get worse. The hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) referred to the difficulties experienced by a yarn-spinning company in his constituency. Such problems occur because there is no proper integrated plan that involves the spinning, weaving, finishing and manufacturing of textiles in Northern Ireland—if there was, it might help.
There are many other issues that I want to address—for example, the quibble that has arisen about Department of Economic Development, vote 5. What advice has the Minister had from his consultants on the privatisation of Northern Ireland's electricity board? When are we going to know whether there will be any advantage from a privatised, profit-motivated electricity monopoly over the present, public-owned monopoly of electricity generation? Can the Minister tell us whether his consultants have advised him on the future of gas generation in Northern Ireland?
We have waited a long time to hear news of the interconnector. We are still waiting for an announcement on phase 2 at Kilroot. Not only are domestic consumers in Northern Ireland purchasing the most expensive electricity in the United Kingdom, but our industry is being decimated by the high costs that it must pay. It is vital that some action is taken. Sadly, many sites that would be suitable for hydro-electric generation, although perhaps only small amounts of it, have not been exploited. I hope 750 that the Minister will encourage those who can do so to obtain a fair price for hydro-generated electricity and recoup the high capital cost of installing hydro-generators.
In the funds voted for education in vote 1, there is no provision for nursery education. It is deplorable that we have such a low level of provision of nursery schools in Northern Ireland as a whole. A gesture was made many years ago, but nothing has happened since then. However, if primary schools were permitted to use empty classrooms, the problem could be met to some extent.
Will the Minister bring us up to date on the position on subsidence from the salt mines in the Carrickfergus area, which is dealt with in vote 5? When is it likely that the roads that have had to be partially closed or whose use has been restricted because of subsidence will open again?
Although I could say more, I am conscious that many other hon. Members hope to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, so I shall end there.
§ Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)
The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) twitted me about the problem of fallen stock. It is not a subject that is frequently raised in Wolverhampton, although as a farmer I understand a little about it. There are other problems frequently on the minds of people in Wolverhampton who, for 25 years, received a prolonged university course in the advantages of parliamentary sovereignty and the importance of retaining the integrity of the United Kingdom. People in Wolverhampton know that Northern Ireland is a constitutional slum and that poor Northern Ireland still retains the debris of previous mistakes.
On page 11 of the order, we see that £123,000 is being paid every year towards the maintenance of the Northern Ireland Assembly. It is not possible for the English colonial masters and their loyal subordinates in the Northern Ireland Office to recognise that they have made a mistake, and so it is that each decade brings a new initiative from the Northern Ireland Office and those who temporarily happen to be in nominal control of it, aimed at bringing the benefits of legislative devolution to Northern Ireland.
At the beginning of the 1970s, Stormont was abolished. There was an attempt at rolling devolution by Lord Prior, as he has now become, which gave rise to the Assembly on which we still spend £123,000 a year. Now we have the third initiative for the 1990s—the so-called Brooke initiative. All of them failed or will fail. All attempt that which is impossible. Now, as the corpse of the Brooke initiative occasionally kicks in its death throes, the various parties to the death walk around it, each hoping to be able to blame another for the death. Sadly, the poor thing was always likely to die, and it is difficult to see who can be justly blamed for its death—other than perhaps its father, the present Secretary of State, who has been so unwise as to give his name to it.
As one listens to this debate, it becomes more and more obvious that the brave attempt of the Northern Ireland Office—admittedly, much stimulated by American influence—to bring legislative devolution to Northern Ireland has failed. Is it not now clear that it would be in the interests of Northern Ireland to move towards a system in 751 which the Province received some of the benefits of Westminster government that the rest of the United Kingdom enjoys?
I remember an occasion which would not have occurred but for the expenditure on the Northern Ireland Assembly. The right to silence in Northern Ireland was being reduced, and in some circumstances obliterated, by Order in Council. Some people say that the constitutional nationalists approve of the Order in Council procedure. I do not understand that. I remember the anger that I and my kinsman the late Ian Gow felt on the night to which I refer. That procedure was a gross affront to the civil liberties of the people of Northern Ireland, particularly those who might be accused of so-called nationalist crimes —security crimes. The rights of those people were being taken away.
§ Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh)
Can the hon. Gentleman explain why someone might be accused because he was a nationalist?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)
Order. I must remind the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) that we are not dealing with Northern Ireland Office matters. It seems to me that the hon. Gentleman's remarks relate to the Northern Ireland Office, as distinct from Northern Ireland Departments.
§ Mr. Budgen
With great respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Government persist in the Order in Council procedure because it is believed that we are about to have a new attempt at devolved government in Northern Ireland. The procedure is justified as being a temporary strategem. It has been demonstrated beyond peradventure that legislative devolution has failed. I therefore contend that it is unfair to Northern Ireland to persist in this highly defective system of altering people's rights by order in council.
With reference to the point made by the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon), I perhaps expressed myself badly. No doubt, from time to time, charges relating to security crimes are based on bad evidence. People who are charged are entitled to proper safeguards. The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh ought to have had an opportunity to argue against the special provisions by which the right to silence of people in Northern Ireland was reduced, but he was denied that right by the Order in Council procedure. That is a scandal and a disgrace.
In a debate such as this, many hon. Members speak about matters which in England would be the concern of local authorities—museums, housing and planning problems, and so on. In England, all such matters are dealt with in the first instance at local government level. It is surely a scandal that this so-called interim arrangement, which has gone on since the abolition of the Northern Ireland Parliament at the beginning of the 1970s, should be persisted in.
It is said that we now have the good fortune to have highly political leadership in the Conservative party. I hope that, rather than looking for future allies in the centre of the political spectrum, and rather than flirting with the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) and his two outriders from London, the Government will accept our suggestions for measures to improve the government of Northern Ireland, which will be recognised justifiably as improvements and may attract the support of our old friends and allies in the Ulster Unionist party 752 along with others, perhaps, in other parties within the Unionist family. That is the course towards which honour, intellect and interest should drive the Conservative party in the next few months.
§ Mr. Ken Maginnis (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)
We are debating supplementary estimates, but we must consider public expenditure as a whole in Northern Ireland. The hon. Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall) struck a chord with me when he talked about the way in which Northern Ireland is administered and the lack of consultation that ensues.
I am pleased that the hon. Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley), the Under-Secretary of State, is in his place on the Government Front Bench. He has done reasonably well so far with consultation. He has still, of course, to produce results on many of the issues on which he has consulted. I acknowledge, however, that he was not long in his comparatively new responsibilities for health in Northern Ireland before we had new twin theatres at the South Tyrone hospital in Dungannon. There are many in South and East Tyrone, right through into the Mid-Ulster area, who appreciate the speed with which the Minister brought that project to fruition. There had been many delays before the hon. Gentleman's appointment.
The Minister has many other difficult issues to resolve. I had hoped to see nurses' regrading dealt with in the supplementary estimates. The Minister knows that I have communicated with him on the matter and that I am not satisfied with his interpretation of it. The Government said when the regrading process was undertaken that they would underwrite the cost. They underwrote the cost of phase 1, but they have not provided the money for the subsequent three appeal phases.
We have heard about the ball being bounced back and forth between the Department and the boards, but the boards are extensions of the Department. Board officers had knowledge of and responsibility for the regrading. There is therefore direct responsibility in the Department to underwrite the decisions that were made. Unfortunately, it has failed to do so. In the area that comes within the southern board, there is a shortfall of about £700,000. In the western board area, it is about £300,000. I do not have the figures for the other two boards, but I imagine that they are sizeable.
The Minister must decide whether there is to be a reduction in services to the consumer so that the proper commitment to the nursing profession is met within existing resources. Alternatively, he must recognise the Department's responsibility, as devolved through to the boards, to fund fully the initial payments for upgrading and the subsequent financial requirements following the appeals.
The way in which the boards, which will operate until the end of this month, are replaced by boards that will be even more tightly aligned with the Department—their members will not include elected members of local government—worries many of us. We regard it as a diminution of the democratic process. The Minister has an opportunity to do something about it, but he must act urgently and tell us when the health and social services councils will be set up. They should already be in place, as should the boards. I have been speaking to chief executives 753 and officers of the various boards. They do not yet know who their new member will be, just a fortnight before they are meant to be in operation. There has been no handover.
Only in the past day or two have district councils been asked to consider nominating members from the district councils to the health and social services councils. Instead of a cohesive, continuous process, the system by which our health services are administered is broken off, there is a gap, and then it is picked up again. It should not happen in that way.
Other problems concern the cost of medicines and drugs, which is increasing more rapidly than inflation. Although the boards are funded according to the level of inflation, the funding is inadequate to meet the cost that they must bear for drugs and medicines, which is rising by somewhere between 14 and 16 per cent.
The boards must deal with other factors, not least uncertainty about the price of fuel oils for heating hospitals, which will require careful consideration by the Department if the boards' budgets are not to break down half or two thirds of the way through the financial year.
I concur with much of what the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) said about the environment. It appears to many of us that there is—dare I say it—chaos in various divisions within the Department of the Environment. The elected representatives, especially those who sit on district councils, are frustrated when, month after month, planners who come to our meetings heed not a word of the advice from those of us who are familiar with our areas and the problems.
I have tried not to be parochial so far, but my constituency has an aging population. What happens to a husband and wife who have worked all their lives on a small farm and reared a family, whose members have perhaps decided not to continue farming? Often, if they want to sell their property, they cannot persuade the planners that they are entitled to a rood on which to build a retirement bungalow. They are encouraged to leave their farms and to move to an adjacent town or further afield. It is wrong that people should be taken out of the community in their old age. I hope that the Minister responsible will soften his hard attitude towards planning. There are also difficulties when a member of a family wishes to continue farming and to build himself a modern home on the farm and allow his parents to continue to live in the existing homestead.
There is little understanding of the difficulties of a rural community. There may not be great wealth there, but, in our uncertain society, there is an opportunity to live a calm, peaceful and satisfying life. Having grown up in the country, having gone to a county primary school as a child and having taught as a principal in a small country school for many years, I regret the demise of our rural communities. The breakdown in communities, the closure of schools and churches and the disappearance of those small communities contribute to the unrest in Northern Ireland. If people are taken out of the country and put into a town where they have little in common with those already living there, their way of life, breaks down. All to often, over the past 20 years, children from those homes have become unstable and involved in anti-social activities. Something should be done.
754 I should like to deal with another matter, involving the Department of Health and Social Services and the Department of Agriculture, which must fall within the Under-Secretary's responsibilities—disposal of hazardous waste. We have talked to the hon. Gentleman about the disposal of fallen and diseased animals and I hope that he can tell us that some progress has been made. His Department has been working hard although, sadly, it is too late. Unfortunately, the Department of the Environment gave the impression at an early stage that there were innumerable sites where fallen animals could be disposed of. That information was inaccurate, and it took district councils some time to convince the Department how serious the problem was.
However, the issue is wider than that. The problem of the disposal of hazardous waste concerns all of industry and includes the disposal of clinical waste from hospitals. Far too many hospitals are—to coin a phrase—flying on a wing and a prayer with regard to their incineration capabilities. If we tighten the requirement to provide safe incineration of clinical waste—as I hope we shall—the facilities of many hospitals will be found wanting. I believe that the Departments have been far too slow to provoke full public debate on the issue. Unless we have that public debate, there will be a lot of fearmongering. I do not want to denigrate Greenpeace as I agree with much of what it does, but there are times when it is wholly irresponsible and there is already far too much scaremongering.
The NIMBY syndrome—"not in my backyard"— pervades the community when we talk about the incineration of toxic and hazardous waste. It is incumbent on the Department of Economic Development, on the Department of Health and Social Services and on other Departments to provoke constructive debate, so that we shall not face yet another crisis in five or 10 years. I look forward to funding for proper research and for the dissemination of information about that problem.
There are other issues with which I wished to deal, but I shall refer briefly to just one that especially disturbs me —the use of angel dust in cattle feed. The Departments must provide resourcs to deal with that. I am sad that the European Community dictated that hormones should not be permitted as growth promoters in cattle. The Americans, who are much more fastidious than the Europeans, still use hormones. The outcome of the ban on hormones in the European Community has been an escalation in the use of angel dust. I hope that the Minister will deal with that issue.
§ Rev. William McCrea (Mid-Ulster)
By now, it is no doubt clear to the Minister that many problems press on the minds of hon. Members from Northern Ireland. The Minister is responsible for agriculture in the Province, so I am sure that he will realise that I come from a large agricultural constituency. I am sure that he will agree that the agricultural community has faced many challenges in recent years, especially with the advent of the quota system in milk and other products.
Many farmers in Northern Ireland still feel aggrieved that quotas have ensured the decline of the family farm. In Northern Ireland, the family farm was the backbone of our Ulster society, but many small farms are no longer financially viable. Can the Minister give any hope to the hard-pressed farming community? Will the farmer with 755 fewer than 40 cows receive any relaxation in the quota system to enable the farm unit to become viable? Neither I nor any other hon. Member in Northern Ireland can stand idly by and watch the decay in and the destruction of our vital farming in Northern Ireland, robbing the community of the lifeline of former prosperity.
I could understand the decay if the farming community wished to stand still and thus to stagnate, but that is not the case. The farming community is willing to play an active part in the future prosperity of the Province, as it has done in the past. What hope can the Minister offer the farming community that negotiations in Europe will secure a firm future for farming in Northern Ireland? A real dilemma surrounds agriculture, and some assurance and encouragement must be forthcoming from the Government.
My hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and other hon. Members have mentioned the problem of fallen and diseased animals. Can the Minister tell us what steps have been decided on by the Department? Week after week since the problem began, I have been inundated with calls from worried farmers, many of whom are at their wits' end, as I have mentioned to the Minister personally. Positive news from the Minister today would be most warmly welcomed.
This may be an appropriate time to ask the Minister if he will make representations to the Minister with responsibility for the environment to take steps to permit farmers' sons and daughters to stay in the countryside. Surely it is time for more sympathetic planning decisions on dwelling in the countryside. Great frustration and anger are felt by many who have lived in the countryside and who have contributed all their lives to the well-being of the countryside, only to find themselves and their families parcelled up by some civil servant and hounded out of the countryside and into the towns.
Before moving on to deal with some of the other Departments, I wish to make my voice heard on the problem of angel dust. We must have proper fines and proper action must be taken by the courts to ensure that those involved in such despicable practices do not gain financially compared with the rest of the farming community who desire to play their part properly. We must bear in mind the health and welfare of the people of the nation.
With regard to the Department of the Environment, can the Minister tell the House what progress is being made on the Omagh bypass? Phase 1 has been completed, but it is essential for phases 2 and 3 to get under way urgently.
The next matter directly affects the constituency of the hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross). I, too, represent a constituency which includes part of the Magherafelt district council area. The hon. Member for Londonderry, East will be concerned about the Magherafelt bypass. I recently received a letter from the Minister about the bypass and it was not helpful. The letter explained that the Government did not intend to construct such a bypass at present, but that any relevant survey in the Magherafelt town area would surely show an urgent need for such a bypass.
Can the Minister inform the House about the date of completion of the Castledawson bypass? Its construction has a follow-on effect in my constituency for vehicles on their way to the M2 from Moneymore and Cookstown and 756 thus on industrial development. Is the construction of the Castledawson bypass on course and what is the expected completion date?
Is the Minister aware of the frustration experienced by Strabane district council because its efforts for economic development have—I quote from the clerk of the council —been "thwarted by poor state of the roads from Strabane to Omagh."
Surely an area of deprivation like Mid-Ulster deserves a better slice of the cake to ensure that local industrialists are able to compete in the wider challenge of the European market post-1992?
Staying with the Department of the Environment, will the Minister give the completion date of the Cookstown bypass? Bearing in mind the serious nature of affairs in Cookstown, due to security checkpoints there, every assistance must be given to alleviate a problem which is doubtless hindering the industrial development of the area. Cookstown has the second highest unemployment rate in the United Kingdom. Therefore, it is imperative that the Cookstown bypass is put on course.
Phase 1 from the Moneymore road to the Old Coagh road has commenced and has been carried out under a minor works programme, costing less than £200,000. The eastern distributor A29, which is so vital to the industrial development of the Cookstown area, would cost about £1.5 million. Bearing in mind the fact that industrial sites are on the opposite side of the town, the eastern distributor is a must. Will the Minister ensure that we have good news about that for the people of the Cookstown area?
Staying with the vote for the Department of the Environment, will the Minister announce plans to permit local councillors to have a greater say in planning decisions? Does he understand the anger and frustration when so many Government officials only sparsely fulfil their obligations to consult district councils and, having done so, pay little attention to the representations made by local councillors about issues which are vital for their constituents? Does not the Department realise that elected representatives, who live in the community, have a genuine desire to protect it? It is not merely officials who have a desire to protect the community.
The present position as regards the famous quotation, "location, siting and design" is totally unacceptable. It is used by officials in the Department to cover a multitude of sins. If a civil servant is, for some reason, unwilling to grant approval, the cloak of "location, siting and design" is usually the fancy term used in the refusal.
Is the Minister aware of the concern expressed by many councillors at a recent conference in Omagh, County Tyrone, about planning the countryside? What is the official reaction of the Department to the representations made at that conference?
Staying with the Department of the Environment, and the Minister of State who opened the debate, I must tell the House that he has twice given wrong information about community relations at the Dispatch Box. He said that it was a unanimous decision of Magherafelt district council that a community relations officer would be employed. I listened on one of those occasions when he was speaking about Belfast city council and deriding it for not appointing a community relations officer.
The Minister derided in the House the Unionist councillors in Belfast for not appointing that officer. After that, I read an interesting article, which said that Conservatives on North Down council did not take up the 757 Minister's offer either and voted against such an appointment. Perhaps the Minister will confirm that. It would surely be wrong for a Minister to deride Ulster Unionists and Democratic Unionist councillors for not taking up his offer if members of his own party did not do so.
The Minister gave wrong information. I and my colleagues on Magherafelt council did not vote for this position to be filled. It is disgraceful that I should be expected to vote along with Sinn Fein for a so-called community relations officer. The following week, those same councillors would not condemn the IRA bombing of the local labour exchange and the local UDR centre, which finally killed a man of 86 years of age. It is utter hypocrisy to suggest that we should vote in favour of a community relations officer who is seconded by Sinn Fein when that organisation has never taken a stand against the bombings and the killings in our community. I am glad to be able to put the record right because on two occasions the House was told that Magherafelt council, of which I am a member, voted unanimously in support of such an officer.
I shall now turn to economic development. As I have said, I have the honour to represent a constituency with a large agricultural community. However, it is a sad fact that there is a lack of industrial investment in Mid-Ulster. Few industrialists have been encouraged to come to my Constituency. I listened with interest to the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady), and I understand how he feels.
One of our problems in encouraging people to base industry in my constituency is the great lack of roads. We urgently need a proper roads network to encourage investment to this area of high unemployment. I have constantly brought to the attention of the House places such as Castlederg, a small town that has suffered more from terrorist activity than any other town of its size in the Province. What measures are in the Government's programme to bring real hope to those in Castlederg who have braved terrorism of the most vile nature?
Recent job losses in Sion Mills are causing great anxiety and exceptional and additional Government measures are necessary if the area is to be made prosperous. I listened with interest to the information that Northern Ireland would not suffer as much as the rest of the United Kingdom in terns of job losses and industrial depression. That will give no comfort to my constituency, although it may do to those who know little of unemployment. Those who live in an area that has suffered grievously from unemployment for I do not know how long feel that it has been left to decay, while many others have received substantial financial support.
Recently, the Government undertook an in-depth study of Castlederg, which was much appreciated. However, steps must be taken urgently to stop the decay. Now that the investigation has been completed, will the Minister say——
§ It being Ten o'clock, Mr. SPEAKER interrupted the proceedings.