HC Deb 13 June 1996 vol 279 cc413-4
6. Mr. Nigel Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on progress in constructing the information super-highway in Northern Ireland. [30927]

Sir John Wheeler

Significant progress has been made in developing an information super-highway in Northern Ireland. In early 1994, a major project was initiated by the business development service on behalf of Northern Ireland departments, their agencies and the wider public sector. In February 1996, the information society initiative was launched by my noble Friend Baroness Denton.

Mr. Jones

What plans does the Minister have to ensure that every citizen of Northern Ireland has access to the information super-highway? What help is he giving schools to ensure that they can plug in to the information super-highway? What steps is he taking to ensure that terrorists do not abuse the information super-highway for their own purposes?

Sir John Wheeler

The business development service, in conjunction with consultants, is carrying out a telecommunications strategy study to ensure that the very best communications infrastructure is available to Government Departments well into the 21st century. In Northern Ireland, Cable Tel is in the process of establishing a broad-band infrastructure, which it is hoped will meet the hon. Gentleman's needs. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State is considering the implications for the education sector. The use of these facilities by terrorists is a matter that has to be pursued on a case-by-case basis. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman understands the difficulty of constraint.

Mr. David Shaw

Will my right hon. Friend tell me how Sinn Fein-IRA is able to have a world wide web address? The cause of nationalism has been promoted using the world wide web. Can we ensure that the cause of peace is given an equal opportunity to be promoted on the world wide web? Will the Government ensure that the British Government's point of view, and that of the Unionists, are also put out on the world wide web?

Sir John Wheeler

I assure my hon. Friend that the Northern Ireland Office is making use of the facility to get across information across about the achievements of Northern Ireland. Political parties will have to judge their use of the facilities. I appreciate the points made by my hon. Friend.