§ 7.53 p.m.
§ Lord MELCHETT rose to move, That the draft Financial Provisions (Northern Ireland) Order 1978, laid before the House on 26th June, be approved. The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is one of a series of orders 531 introduced approximately every two years to deal with miscellaneous financial matters. The last order in the series was the Financial Provisions (Northern Ireland) Order 1976. The main purpose of this order is to increase some of the limits imposed by Northern Ireland legislation on certain financial transactions. The order does not deal with the appropriation of funds for public services.
§ The order increases the limits placed on expenditure on roads, on advances made to the Housing Executive, and on the aggregate amount of loans and grants that can be made for harbour works. The order also proposes an amendment, in Article 4, that will bring the provisions governing the Northern Ireland Civil Contingencies Fund more into line with the United Kingdom Contingencies Fund. The order makes various other useful changes, which I should be very happy to explain in greater detail if any noble Lord would like to me do so. I beg to move.
§ Moved, The the draft Financial Provision (Northern Ireland) Order 1978, laid before the House on 26th June, be approved.—(Lord Melchett.)
§ Lord O'NEILL of the MAINE
My Lords, I just want to make a brief comment. I was a little alarmed when I saw Article No. 12, the "Abolition of the Ulster Land Fund." I should like some noble Lords to appreciate that in so far as Northern Ireland is concerned, we actually made use of our Land Fund. Noble Lords may recall that it was set up by Mr. Dalton after the war, £50 million being allocated for Britain and £1 million for Northern Ireland. We made good use of that fund. We subsidised the National Trust in saving beautiful places and I had the greatest pleasure in giving £500,000 to the Belfast Museum for the creation of the National Ulster Museum. However, as the noble Lord may know, in Britain the Land Fund just sat there. In fact, I remember the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, telling us during the Mentmore debate that the Land Fund was a bit of a non-existent fiction.
However, on pursuing my researches into Item No. 13, which is headed "Grants and loans to the National Trust", I take it that the National Trust and other suitable bodies will not suffer due to the 532 technical abolition of what was described by some other other noble Lord as "a bookkeeping transaction"; namely, the British Land Fund. There are many things of which Northern Ireland cannot be proud, but this is one of the things of which we can be proud. I am sure that the noble Lord appreciates the importance of having funds available somewhere or other in order to assist noble and worthy organisations, such as the National Trust.
§ Lord MELCHETT
My Lords, I can certainly give the noble Lord that assurance. It is a technical change and the Government retain the power to make grants to approved bodies, such as the National Trust, the Ulster Museum, the Ulster Folk Park Museum and so on.