§ 7.2 p.m.
§ Lord Trefgarne rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 21st February be approved.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Mansfield, I beg to move that the draft Appropriation (Northern Ireland) Order 1984, which was laid before your Lordships' House on 21st February, be approved. This order is being made under paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 to the Northern Ireland Act 1974. The purpose of the draft order is to appropriate the 1983–84 Spring Supplementary Estimates and the 1984–85 Vote on Account of Northern Ireland departments.
§ Part I of the schedule covers the issue of some £43 million out of the Consolidated Fund of Northern Ireland in respect of the Spring Supplementary Estimates of Northern Ireland departments and appropriates this sum for the purposes shown in the schedule. This sum is in addition to some £2,729 million which was approved by your Lordships' House during 1983 for the 1983–84 financial year and brings the total Estimate provision for 1983–84 to just over £2,772 million.540
§ Part II of the schedule gives details of the issues for which the Vote on Account of £1,226 million for 1984–85 is required. This provision is necessary to enable those services to continue until the 1984–85 Main Estimates are debated and approved later in the year. I should point out that the sums required on account are based on a standard calculation of 45 per cent. of the total provision for the current 1983–84 financial year, except where it is known that the pattern of expenditure will differ significantly in the incoming year. However, the final Estimates for 1984–85 will be framed within the total provision set out in the Government's White Paper on Public Expenditure which was published last month. Detailed information about all the provisions sought in this draft order can be found in the Spring Supplementary Estimates volume and the booklet Statement of Sums Required on Account, copies of which have been placed in the Printed Paper Office.
§ Before I say a few words (as has been customary) about economic prospects for Northern Ireland in the coming year, I am sure your Lordships will be pleased to hear that my noble friend Lord Mansfield is progressing satisfactorily and hopes to be out of hospital very shortly.
§ There are clear and indisputable signs of continuing economic recovery in the United Kingdom, and we have made great strides in reducing inflation, with prices in the United Kingdom in 1983 on average only 4½ per cent. higher than a year before. It is our aim to create conditions which will enable Northern Ireland to share in the effects of this recovery which we believe will be seen as local firms meet increased demand and the flow of internationally mobile investment projects increases.
§ Of course, Northern Ireland, because of its unique combination of circumstances, has suffered a more severe impact from recession than other areas, particularly in the field of employment. The Province has been hard hit in maintaining levels of employment, and hardest hit have been manufacturing and construction. It has to be said, nevertheless, that while, as in the rest of the United Kingdom, the trend in unemployment as a whole is still upward. there are signs that the rate of increase is moderating. But we must be realistic. The way ahead is not going to be easy, but there are now encouraging signs that the recovery is broadly based, with most sectors now displaying stability or even some improvement. All the signs from our own. and indeed the CBI's, industrial surveys are that firms are regaining confidence, and it is as a result of this that we hope to see a continuing improvement in the employment situation. The Government will continue to promote a climate favourable for the nurture of this revival in Northern Ireland. Not least in their attempts to provide the right atmosphere are the plans for public expenditure in the Province which were contained in the recent White Paper, Cmnd. 9143. As in previous years, the provision for the industry, energy, trade and employment programmes has continued to be accorded a high priority in the allocation of resources.
§ The Industrial Development Board and Local Enterprise Development Unit will be afforded every encouragement in their drive to create jobs. The new incentives package is giving a boost to this drive and 541 reflects the Government's determination to attract and stimulate new investment. Your Lordships will, I am sure, have been delighted to hear of the recent major orders won by Northern Ireland's two largest manufacturing firms, Harland and Wolff and Short Brothers. My own department has awarded another contract to the Belfast shipyard to replace the Royal Fleet Auxiliary aviation training ship "Engadine", which is now too small for our needs. The contract is worth some £30 million to Harland's and will provide work for 1,000 men for about two years. The Belfast shipyard has recently completed work for the Ministry of Defence on the Falklands floating port and the refit of the "Rangatira". I can say that Harland's excellent performance on these two contracts helped influence our decision in awarding this further work to the company, which was won in the face of stiff competition and is a mark of its increased competitiveness.
§ The Short Brothers order is from the United States Air Force. The initial contract is for 18 Sherpa aircraft to service United States Air Force bases in Western Europe and for the provision of logistical support. It is worth some £115 million and will generate around 550 addition jobs. The United States Air Force has an option for a further 48 aircraft, which would take the full value of the contract to £460 million. The Sherpa, a freighter version of the successful SD.330 commuter aircraft, was chosen on the basis of its technical and commercial merits. Its selection will hopefully lead to increased sales opportunities from other defence organisations and perhaps from third world countries. These orders are good news for both companies, which over the past few years have faced difficult times, and they are a very welcome boost to the Province's economy.
§ I should like now to highlight another aspect of the Government's drive to improve conditions in Northern Ireland. Your Lordships will note that provision is being taken in the Supplementary Estimates for receipts from the European Community under the Urban Renewal Regulation. This measure enables 100 million European currency units—approximately £60 million—to be paid from European Community budgets for the years 1983 to 1985 for urban renewal in Belfast.
§ The Urban Renewal Regulation is a material indication that the European Community shares the Government's extreme concern to alleviate Belfast's long-standing social and economic problems. The order before us makes provision for the receipt of the bulk of the first tranche of aid relating to the Community's 1983 budget—this tranche amounts in full to some £18.7 million approved by the European Commission on the 23rd December 1983. The money has been earned on 69 publicly funded infrastructure projects in the Greater Belfast area, and has enabled the Government to increase their planned expenditure on urban renewal including housing. I should point out that Estimates conventions mean that the actual sums received cannot always be shown on the face of the Estimates. However the explanatory prefaces to the relevant Votes show in full the actual receipts which fall in the following classes—1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 9.542
§ Your Lordships will be relieved that I am not going to deal with each of the estimates in turn but supplementary provision has been necessary on most classes of Northern Ireland Estimates. The main items requiring supplementation include functioning of the labour market and miscellaneous support services of the Department of Economic Development, essential maintenance on the public roads network and housing services. In addition, further provision is required to meet the higher cost of teachers' salaries and other educational requirements; and on the health front, provision is sought to meet increased costs of and demand for family practitioner services—particularly pharmaceutical services.
§ These are only some of the items contained in the order. Your Lordships will wish to raise those topics in which you have a particular interest and I hope that you have found these opening remarks helpful in understanding the main features of this draft order. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 21st February he approved.—(Lord Trefgarne.)
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ Lord Underhill
My Lords, in thanking the noble Lord for introducing this order, I think all noble Lords will be pleased to have the good news which he has given of his noble friend Lord Mansfield, and I am certain all noble Lords will wish to send the noble Earl our best wishes and our deepest sympathy.
After the last appropriation debate, the noble Earl sent me a very detailed letter, for which I am very grateful, in which he dealt with quite a number of points which I raised during that debate. I must again say that it is rather unfortunate that the Northern Ireland debate—particularly an appropriation—has to take place during the dinner break. I recognise that it must be fitted in somewhere: but I am certain it will be noticed that Northern Ireland always seems to be dealt with when we have the minimum of attendance. I know that the report can be read in Hansard, but there is nothing like noble Lords hearing a debate on this issue.
As the last appropriation debate was only on 13th December, I will raise only a limited number of points. On that occasion I referred to the question of unemployment. Then it was 120,000 or 21½per cent. I understand the figures for 9th February have risen by a further 2,500, so that we have 22 per cent. of the work force unemployed. Taking it in human terms, this means one in five are out of work—and this excludes 19,000 people who are on temporary employment and training schemes. The figure is worse than the highest figure in the rest of the United Kingdom. I understand that it is the highest ever February figure, and only once before has a monthly figure been higher.
On that previous occasion, I referred to the shocking unemployment level in Strabane. When one recognises that the male unemployment in that area is 55 per cent and in three other areas male unemployment is over 40 per cent, one can understand the feeling of hopelessness that there must be arising among many of the people in those areas. It is tragic that nearly half have been out of work for a year or more; 27 per cent. for over two years; and no 543 fewer than 17 per cent—that is a little over 20,000 of the men and women of Northern Ireland—have been without work for three years. These are the economic and social factors which we have to confront.
In the previous debate I quoted from the last published annual report of the Northern Ireland Economic Council. While the noble Earl, in his reply, dealt with a number of points, there were no comments on this: public sector employment, including the nationalised industries in Northern Ireland, accounts for some 45 per cent. of the working population. Without that public employment and public expenditure, the position would be disastrous in Northern Ireland. The economic council passed a comment that public expenditure is an important determinant of the level of economic activity in the Province.
Turning to the supplementary appropriations, in Class II, Vote 3 for miscellaneous support services I see that under heading C8 there is provision of almost £10,500,000 for repayment of European Regional Development Fund assistance—and I quote the words in the notes to the supplementary document:paid in respect of two major industrial investments which subsequently failed".The supplementary booklet does not give details, but I understand that this relates to De Lorean and Courtaulds at Campsie. All the noble Lords will know about De Lorean, but will the Minister give some further details about Courtaulds and say whether any public money was also involved? Also under this Vote, can the noble Lord say what is the latest position of the Lear Fan with regard to the certification of airworthiness of the type 2100 aircraft, and the possibility of orders for that aircraft?
Vote 3 also refers to aircraft and shipbuilding. As the noble lord has said, everyone will apprecite what the orders obtained by Shorts and by Harland and Wolff mean to Northern Ireland. The contract of £30,000,000 for Harland and Wolff is an illustration of the importance of public expenditure. I must ask this question: if public expenditure for the conversion of a roll-on—roll-off ferry into an aircraft training vessel is acceptable—and we are all delighted with it—what is wrong with public expenditure on items such as on Britain's infrastructure, as has been advocated for the whole of the United Kingdom? There has been some talk of taking Shorts out of the public sector—presumably because its future looks bright. I hope that the Minister will be able to make an emphatic denial and that Shorts will be left where it is.
Turning to Vote 5, under this same class, I see that there is a token supplementary estimate of a £1,000 for training and employment services. Under heading A2, there is reference to Enterprise Ulster. In answer to a question that I put on the last Appropriation debate, the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, stated that the terms of Enterprise Ulster had been extended until 31st March 1986. Can I ask what is the intention after that? That is only two years ahead and 1,200 jobs are involved under the Enterprise Ulster scheme.
I should like to raise a few points under the same Vote, relating to the various aspects of training. It is very encouraging to see the increased grant for apprentice training: 3,400 young persons will have apprentice training compared with the 2,500 544 originally provided for. Also there is the small increase for community employment, the demand being greater than was anticiatpted. Again, there is £250,000 for the faster intake under the young workers' scheme. That is more than had been anticipated.
But there must be concern that these grants are offset by decreases under three heads: the uptake on youth community projects is only 500 places against the 800 provided for, so there is a decrease of £1 million in the appropriation. There is a nearly £2,500,000 decrease under the youth training programme for lower than anticipated uptake of places for trainees placed with employers: and finally, under the sub-head D6, there is a slower than anticipated uptake of places under the youth training programme, a saving of nearly £500,000. The references that I have made are from the supplementary booklet. Therefore they are facts and not just figures that I have invented from the air.
Under Class V, Vote 1, I was at first encouraged by the increase of over £10 million in the grant to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, but the notes state that that is mainly accounted for by some £8.7 million for higher loan charges. Can the Minister explain this, because it looks like taking from one pocket and putting into another?
Under Class VIII, in Vote 4, there is a token provision of £1,000 in respect of education and library boards. On 14th December I asked a supplementary question about the dilemma facing Belfast area board, which has either to leave all 21 local libraries in being with much reduced services, or cut the number by half, which would be mainly among those in the central areas. The noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, kindly wrote to me on 24th February, and if I may, I shall quote from his letter:The allocation of resources is a matter for the Board, which will make decisions in the light of its assessment of local priorities; however, you may like to note that, when earlier proposals for restrictions in service were put forward in March 1983, they were rejected in favour of a reduction in the library book fund.There seems to be a dilemma facing the Belfast Library Board. Would it not be tragic if library provision in the deprived central areas has to be taken away, leaving particular problems for the aged and school children? Is this not a case for increased financial provision?
Under Class IX, Vote 2, there is increased provision of over £12 million for medical practitioner and other services. This, too, appears encouraging, but under subhead A3 it seems that most of the increase of £8½ million is in respect of drugs. Can the Minister say whether this is due to increased prescriptions for drugs or to higher costs charged by the pharmaceutical firms?
Finally, we shall be able to debate the appropriations for 1984–85 at a later date, but perhaps I may put two questions to the Minister. I believe that the first will relate to Class II. I noticed in the Irish Times of 15th February a report about a major study of Irish borders by the EEC's Economic and Social Committee. It referred to proposals for an industrial development zone to be promoted by a new cross-border agency, backed jointly by the IDA in the Republic and the Northern Ireland Industrial Development Board, with financial support from the 545 EEC. It was suggested that the industrial development zone would be the area comprising Londonderry, Strabane, and Letterkenny.
There were also other proposals in the report, as well as reference to a matter raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, who, I note, is unfortunately not here this evening. In a debate on European road haulage quotas, the noble Viscount raised a question about delays at the border which were causing considerable hold-up of lorries, time and time again. The report in the Irish Times to which I have referred said that the commission's committee is recommending a streamlining of customs clearance facilities on that main road to remove what the report called,a major bottleneck to EEC trade".Can the noble Lord say whether the Government have considered the report and what is their viewpoint on the various proposals?
I come to my last question. Under Class XI of the appropriation for 1984-85 there is, naturally, provision for expenditure relating to the Northern Ireland Assembly. I wonder whether the noble Lord can say what is the present position regarding the assembly and what are the hopes for its future. With those points, I conclude my remarks.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Lord Hampton
My Lords, I. too, should like to thank the noble Lord for standing in and introducing the order, and from these Benches we should like to send our best wishes to the noble Earl the Minister for a speedy recovery. Just for the record, perhaps I may say that the noble Earl's request for advance notice of questions, dated 28th February, reached me only this afternoon, too late for any action on my part.
I had been going to ask about the position in relation to Lagan College. However, I was delighted to hear last week from the Minister in charge of educational matters that it had been approved that the college should be recognised as a grant-aided, maintained secondary school, with effect from 1st April next. I have heard the college described as "a joyfully successful endeavour", and this success in bridging in education the gap between the two communities is splendid. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, must feel justified pride.
I should now like to turn to Class II, item 3, in both parts of the schedule, where we read:For expenditure by the Department of Economic Development on the Local Enterprise Development Unit, aircraft and shipbuilding industries, support services and capital grants".We must all congratulate Harland and Wolff and Short Brothers on their recent new orders. Can the noble Lord give us rather more detail of how the £8 million and the £46,600,000 are to be spent? The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, touched on this point. I, too, should like a statement that Shorts will not be privatised.
This is an opportunity for a more general approach to this whole subject and it is difficult to be original, but it is better to be consistent and not seek extravagant and unrealistic new initiatives. I do not believe that at this stage the Government can alter course in any dramatic way, though, as the noble Lord, Lord 546 Underhill, has said, the economic situation is clearly extremely grave. It must be up to the people of the province themselves to determine what happens, and they cannot escape that ultimate responsibility. I shall be very interested to listen again to our friends from over the water.
It cannot be said too often that there must be compromise between the two communities and some concession by each to the other. The spirit of good-will seems all too often to be lacking behind a sorry spectacle of hatred and fear.
It will be a matter of great importance whether the New Ireland Forum, speaking from a nationalist viewpoint, is prepared to start the dialogue in this mood; and then to see whether there is any meaningful response. Otherwise, it will only serve to emphasise once more the harsh divisions that separate the two sides. In Ireland the real division is not across the border, but in the hearts of men.
I favour the European Parliament taking an interest in the affairs of Ulster. Europe has handed over some £400 million in the last 10 years and is entitled to ask what has been done with it; and the interest and support of such people as Mr. Nils Haagerup takes some of the sting out of the utterly false argument that we are holding on to Northern Ireland as some kind of last colonial outpost. At the end of last year his report stated categorically that he believed that a united Irish state cannot he brought about in the forseeable future. I believe that that is the truth, and false optimism otherwise—supposing one believes it to be desirable—does little but maintain the excuse for the terrorist to terrorise and the gunman to gun down.
Stability is, I believe, the first essential in the North. Paradoxically. I believe that the path to unity at a later date might be smoothed if for now the Republic were to remove from its constitution its claim to control of the Six Counties in the North. At a time when here is so much unemployment, the burning down of a successful factory is nothing less than viciously stupid and evil.
Church leaders in Northern Ireland are often criticised for being open only to one point of view. Perhaps I may just remind your Lordships of the fine words of Bishop Cahal Daly on his installation to the see of Down and Connor. He said:Each community must come to accept the other, not as we want them to be, not on condition that they accept our self-definition; but as they define and identify themselves. Mutual recognition in each community of the complete legitimacy and legality, the equal dignity and rights of the other community with its own self-defined identity, its own sense of loyalty, its own aspirations, as long as these are peacefully held and peacefully prompted is a Christian task to which we are all called at this time. To work for this is a true work of reconciliation, a beginning of forgiveness, a hope for a new future".In human terms, I believe that there is no answer to the problems that bedevil Ireland. It needs a miracle, but I believe that miracles sometimes happen. I would have made some reference to the Hennessy report on the Maze breakout, but that is to be debated on Thursday, when my noble friend Lord Donaldson will speak for the Alliance. I was encouraged to receive only a little time ago the latest annual report of the Advisory Commission on Human Rights in the Province. The British, I believe, are not afraid to face fair criticism. That is something that our less 547 sympathetic critics are apt conveniently to forget. The Prime Minister of the Republic, Mr. Garret Fitzgerald, writing in The Times of 23rd December after the Harrods bombing, spoke of it as beinga moment of solidarity across the Irish Sea".He went on:It is the duty of political leadership now to ensure that enduring good comes out of these tragedies.We must all pray that that may be so.
§ 7.31 p.m.
My Lords, I, too, should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, for having presented this draft appropriation order, and, like the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, apologise for the fact that I was unable to reply to the letter inviting points that I might raise in the debate this evening. I, too, only received the letter on Saturday. I was delighted to hear what the noble Lord had to say about the improved health of the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield. We in the Agriculture Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly sent him a message of good wishes. Now, on behalf of that committee and on behalf of the Northern Ireland Assembly, I should like to say how delighted we are to hear that he is improving, and we hope it will not be long before we see him back in his place. I can give him an assurance that the next time that he is addressing the Agriculture Committee he will receive an even easier ride than he normally does.
The noble Lord referred to the two most gratifying orders that have been won by Harland and Wolff and by Short Brothers. As is known, Her Majesty's Government have ploughed a considerable amount of public funds into these two major manufacturing industries over the last years. In my view, it is becoming apparent that that was not money well spent: it was money well invested. I sincerely hope that this is just the start of the dividend and the capital appreciation to be seen from that investment.
I also sincerely hope for two other things: first, that even more defence contracts will be steered in the direction of Belfast; and, secondly, that the performance of both the shipyard and the aircraft factory, with their labour relations record second to none, will attract further outside investment. If I may dare to say it again, I would hope that having an empty, purpose-built car manufacturing and assembly factory, the ex-De Lorean factory, available at Dunmurry, Belfast, means that Her Majesty's Government will persuade, or try to persuade, Nissan to go there for its new enterprise. I know that there may be difficulties about the area that it requires. But this is a purpose-built factory, almost brand new. I hope that it may be possible to do something in that direction.
The noble Lord, Lord Hampton, referred to Lagan College and the news received a week before last which was some of the most thrilling that has been heard in Northern Ireland. Again, this will be a good example of investment of public funds; I have no doubt at all about that. I thank the Minister responsible for education, and his department. This decision vindicates the voluntary subscription and voluntary effort that was put into Lagan College to get it off the ground in the first place and to develop it to the stage at which it has now reached. Particular tributes should 548 be paid to the teaching staff and the parents. Both groups know perfectly well that had the college not been awarded grant-aided status it would almost certainly have had to close at the end of the current financial year.
The teaching staff could well have said, "Our jobs hang in the balance; we had better apply for other positions while there is still time". But, no, they did not bail out: they kept going. Their enthusiasm in teaching is infectious. This is clearly reflected in the pupils. The parents might have said, "This college is not likely to last beyond July; we had better find other places for our children". But, no; instead of doing that they did their utmost to try and improve and maintain the standard of excellence of the college at minimum cost by turning up in their own time to help with school meals and to do other voluntary work. It is in no small measure as a result of this effort that the college has progressed to the extent that it has.
In Class III of Part II. Votes Nos. 1 and 2 refer to the gas and electricity service. Some months ago, in the Northern Ireland Assembly, I made a suggestion following the announcement that Kinsale gas was going to be brought to Northern Ireland. If I put that suggestion again, I do not think that I shall he repeating myself in your Lordships' House. One of the difficulties about sitting in two places is that it is hard to remember what you have said where, and where you have said what. My suggestion was that if the major undertaking of digging a trench all the way from Dublin to Belfast, and perhaps even further, to accommodate the gas pipeline, is going to he funded, would this not be the opportunity to use that trench for other services as well? I have particularly in mind electricity.
Your Lordships may recall that we had an electricity interconnector that was blown up several times in the early 1970s, and that has been inoperative since, I think, about 1975. It is regrettable that there has not been the determination to restore the interconnector. However, it was overground and considered to be too much at risk. Would this not be the opportunity to put the main cable linking the supply sources north and south of the border underground? We have been told that it will not be easy to blow up the gas pipeline. Equally, presumably, it would not be easy to blow up the electricity cable if it was underground.
Furthermore, I would suggest that, when the trench is dug, fairly large diameter, heavy gauge pipe might be put in that could convey other services such as telephone lines, cable for cable televisions and perhaps water and anything else that need to be conveyed. It might also relieve the Irish landscape of some ghastly pylons, as well as providing for greater security.
Again in Part II, Vote 1 of Class XI relates to the Northern Ireland Assembly. In the absence of the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, I am perhaps the only Member of your Lordships' House who can report first-hand on the Assembly. The work of the Assembly continues usefully, and sometimes even constructively. Scrutiny is carried out and useful suggestions are made. Some of those suggestions are accepted by Her Majesty's Government. We have one or two very interesting suggestions coming up in the near future. I consider that the Vote to maintain the Assembly is again money well invested.
549 However, what suprises me, and what in my view is not constructive, is that there are Members who have withdrawn from the Assembly and who still take their salaries. What I find particularly reprehensible is that there are two vice-chairmen of statutory committees who have accepted their salaries for doing a job for which they are specifically paid but which they have not done since 22nd November. Some of those Members in another place actually voted against this appropriation order, which seems, in my humble view, hardly logical.
But we in the Alliance Party are grateful for Her Majesty's Government's continued support of the Assembly. We shall continue to do all in our power to persuade the Official Unionists and the SDLP to return, and we shall continue to exercise our every endeavour to make it a constructive body which can move towards devolution.
There is another matter for which I could not find a directly relevant Vote. If I am not in order in raising this matter. I am sure that noble Lords will not be slow to draw it to my attention, as they have so helpfully done on occasions in the past. It would be most helpful if we could have a completely independent complaints procedure for all the security forces. This has been suggested in respect of the police. I would humbly put it to your Lordships that there would be an independent complaints procedure which would cover not just the police but also the army, the UDR and the prison service. I suggest this for two reasons. Indeed, my party put forward a suggestion in 1971 and a submission in 1974 on this topic.
The reasons are that not only would it be a greater protection for the public but also—and perhaps even more important—it would be a protection for the members of the security forces themselves. Whenever there is an incident which is the subject of dispute and which may involve a fatality, and there is an internal investigation carried out, those who feel themselves aggrieved are quick to allege that investigators wearing the same uniform as the investigated will do a bit of a cover up. A completely independent body right from the start—not just an appeal body but a body that would be responsible for investigating any complaint against the security forces from the time the complaint is made—would help to stabilise the situation considerably.
I thank Her Majesty's Government for the presentation of this order and for their continued support of Northern Ireland, which is certainly appreciated by my party even if the appreciation of some other parties might, at times, seem slightly qualified.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ Lord Hylton
My Lords, I start tonight from two basic principles that concern Government expenditure in Northern Ireland. First, there is no way by which politically-motivated violence can be overcome solely by security or police measures. Her Majesty's Government recognise this, but unfortunately not all the local political parties do so. One can only hope that they will study the history of the 1930s, the 1950s and the period since 1970. They may then see that violence 550 can be contained for a time, but that it only breaks out again later.
The second principle is that security, and social and economic life and political progress stand or fall together. A setback in one sector is a setback for all. Here I should like to mention two hopeful signs. Last year the "Two Traditions Group" made itself publicly known. This group asserts that two traditions have long existed in Northern Ireland. They are, on the one hand, the unionist tradition and, on the other hand, the nationalist tradition. Each has social, cultural, political and religious manifestations. In so far as it is law-abiding and non-violent, each tradition is equally legitimate. Each is worthy of respect and only through mutual respect will a peaceful future be achieved.
A second hopeful sign was the address given by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Connor and Down—which, incidentally, includes Belfast—on New Year's Day 1984. That was a more recent speech than that quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Hampton. In it the Bishop called for a complete change of heart on the part not only of the two local traditions, but also of the British people and the United Kingdom Government. I suggest that such a change of heart is a necessary starting point for unlocking the present deadlock. Periodically we hear calls for new initiatives, such as took place in the past at Sunningdale, or in the Convention, or in the Assembly, or in the Forum now sitting in Dublin. These initiatives have tended to fail either because too few people agreed, or because the leaders agreed and then were unable to carry their followers with them. That, I suggest, is why the change of heart needs to he general and why Britain and Ireland should both change their ways and wholeheartedly seek for local consensus.
The new initiative that is called for is therefore one of forgiveness. Forgiveness can be understood at at least two levels. At the secular level there is willingness to forgive and to start afresh, a spirit of tolerance and a desire to invent processes and structures that lead to agreement and life in common. At the religious level there is full-blown Christian forgiveness leading to repentance and to the love of former enemies. Both sorts are clearly necessary.
Forgiveness gives us the strength to take responsibility for the past even through we were not personally involved in historic crimes. It removes the lingering guilt and the ancestoral fears that leave people trapped in their own history. Forgiveness enables us to recognise the painful truth about ourselves. As an ex-terrorist friend of mine wrote some six years ago:I was a hypocrite. In injuring human beings, I did not cure injustices, I created new ones.".Britain, and England in particular, has to face its own past behaviour in Ireland—both North and South. As the architect of the Northern Irish state, it has to ask itself, what was wrong and what can be put right? No longer can we say that the Act of 1919 and the treaty of 1922 provided a solution to the "Irish question". We should try to see ourselves as one of the parties to the imbroglio—and not as some kind of impartial referee of a little local conflict. We should try to distinguish between economic and other interests, which may, perhaps, he negotiable, and, on the other hand, cultural and religious values about which there 551 can be few bargains, if any. We English and Scots should give a lead in shedding our illusions. Then, perhaps, the unionists and the nationalists and the Southern Irish will begin to shed theirs.
Government and public expenditure are much concerned with institutions. It seems clear that in Northern Ireland the institutions inherited from the past have not served us very well. Some indeed have already been abolished. Our task is to create new ones. In doing so we should not overlook, but on the contrary should continue to build up, the considerable existing inter-communal co-operation in Northern Ireland so well described in Dr. John Oliver's PEP pamphlet of 1978 entitled, "Ulster Today and Tomorrow". We should take account of the achievements of the many centres for reconciliation, of which perhaps the best known are Corrymeela, Glencree and Rostrevor.
Aided by these stepping stones, I hope that we shall come to see that what are needed are institutions that take account of the two very distinct traditions, two identities and two kinds of national affiliation. To this understanding one may perhaps add that in circumstances such as those prevailing neither tradition can hope to attain 100 per cent. of its desired objectives.
It is common knowledge that at present the British Government guarantee the constitutional integrity of Northern Ireland. This guarantee is single or unilateral. Tonight I should like to suggest that a double or bilateral guarantee might be more satisfying to all concerned. Let me illustrate the point. The Lebanese state might be very much more secure if its integrity were to be guaranteed by both Syria and Israel. The Falkland islanders might be better off if their civil and human rights were guaranteed by both Britain and Argentina. Similarly, the people of Gibraltar might benefit from joint guarantees on the part of Britain and Spain. The essence of such guarantees is not to enhance the power of the guarantors, but to uphold the dignity and wellbeing of those guarantees.
I am therefore suggesting that both Britain and Ireland should guarantee the civil and human rights of the people of Northern Ireland. These guaranteed rights must clearly include the two distinct cultural and religious identities which have sprung from the two traditions. The proposed double guarantee could well be buttressed by a Bill of Rights, for which many in Northern Ireland have long been calling, or by the entrenchment of the European Convention on Human Rights in the land of the law. It would be of great value if, in such a double guarantee as I have outlined, the Republic of Ireland could convince Northern Protestants that they would never be obliged to accept laws and practices which are against their convictions and consciences. Similarly, the nationalist community in Northern Ireland would be very greatly reassured if it understood that Britain would never allow that community to be treated as second-class citizens.
In 1990 there occurs the three hundredth anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne, a famous battle which settled the future of the whole of Ireland for many generations thereafter. In the past this anniversary has been celebrated in a one-sided and triumphal manner. I suggest therefore that we should use the coming six 552 years to make sure that the tercentenary is commemorated in unison by members of both traditions which are by now thoroughly native in Ireland. Let us use this time to provide Northern Ireland with institutions appropriate to its unique character. If this debate helps to further that process, it will have been most worthwhile.
I think that we should say to the people of Northern Ireland, and say it in company with men of goodwill in the Republic, on the Continent and in the United States. "Do not be afraid; from now on give to the world an example of how two completely disparate cultures can live together creatively". Meanwhile, I appeal to Her Majesty's Government to apply the full force of their minds to the constitutional question. Both in the past and still in the present, this is a matter for which people have shown they are willing to give their lives. It is a terribly divisive question, as can be seen from the conduct of each election that is called in Northern Ireland. I believe that it urgently needs to be settled, and I suggest that the longer we shy away from this question, the longer evil may be able to continue.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Lord Fitt
My Lords, I only wish that I had as much faith in human nature as the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, has just indicated to the House. However, living in Northern Ireland, as I have done for many years, I am afraid that I cannot be optimistic about its future. I am quite certain that in 1990 we shall probably be speaking in much the same vein as we are speaking today.
The appropriation order in respect of Northern Ireland has always been used as an occasion for a full-dress debate on both the economic and the constitutional problems of Northern Ireland by its elected representatives in another place. As one who was in another place for many years and who is still finding it a little difficult to adjust to this atmosphere, I tend to attend a little in the other place. When the debate on this appropriation order took place there I listened to some of it and I read the rest of it. I must say that anyone listening to it or reading it will not have been inspired with confidence about the future of Northern Ireland.
The vast majority of elected representatives in another place—15 out of the 17—are all Unionists of one hue or another, and throughout the course of the debate on this appropriation order they were demanding that, through the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the British Government should do something to give them victory—that the British Government should use all their energies, financial and otherwise, to support and to uphold the Unionist cause. In my estimation that is not a realistic demand to make, because no British Government, of whatever hue, will take that particular stance. Northern Ireland has many economic problems, but although the economy was a matter for discussion in that debate it was very clear that it was the constitutional position which was receiving priority in the minds of those elected representatives.
We had demands for changing and changing again the name of "Derry" to "Londonderry". In this House one might think that that is a rather petty and simple issue which should not even be discussed, but in 553 Northern Ireland it is of major importance. Only last week, once again, I despaired when I saw the unveiling of yet another classic week in Northern Ireland. At the beginning of last week we had the majority of the Northern Ireland Catholic population hanging their heads in shame at the brutal, callous murder of the prison officer. Bill McConnell. I am quite certain that the Northern Ireland Catholic population wanted to divorce themselves from anything connected with the IRA.
Then at the weekend we had the demonstrations in Derry by the other side of the religious and political divide, and we saw the scenes on our televisions and the threats that were being hurled at the minority community. That Catholic population, which had been so alienated from the IRA at the beginning of the week, were right back in that camp because they felt that the IRA were the only people who could defend them if and when an attack was made on them by the Loyalist population. Here we have the classic to-ing and fro-ing by both sets of extremists who need each other to keep themselves in existence.
The noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, has quite rightly said that he hopes the Northern Ireland Assembly will continue to exist. I honestly believe that that is the only hope—if there is, indeed, any hope—for Northern Ireland as a political entity. I believe that this must grow from the political structures which have been created around that Assembly. I do not believe that you can begin to find any solution to the Northern Ireland problem in Dublin. Washington. Strasbourg or Brussels. The only hope for any resolving of the Northern Ireland problem has to take place in Northern Ireland, and particularly in Belfast.
The sentiments to which we have listened this evening from the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, are reasonable in this House. They are ultra-reasonable and sensible, but when they are listened to, or read by the majority Protestant community in Northern Ireland they will be, as we say in Northern Ireland, like a red rag to a bull, because it will appear that he was advocating joint sovereignty in Northern Ireland. I do not believe that there is any section of unionism of any description, be it of the Paisleyite kind, the official Unionist kind. or the Alliance Party kind, that will for a single second tolerate the idea of two flags in Northern Ireland. While the speech we have listened to from the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, is eminently reasonable in this House, faced with the realities of the divisions and passions which exist in Northern Ireland it is just not a runner.
Having said that, I shall be expected to say what is a runner. What is the possibility of any political structure being created that will be accepted by the whole community? I do not want to be unduly pessimistic, but, being honest with myself, I think I have to be. I do not want to give false hopes of a false dawn. There will be some people who will say, "You shouldn't say that, because you may precipitate it". But, with the exception of Belgium, in any country in the world where there have been religious, cultural and ethnic divisions one side has always achieved victory.
We do not hear much talk now about Cyprus. Cyprus is not very much on the front pages of the world. The United Nations and everybody else tried to make the Turkish and Greek communities live 554 together in that island. It did not work. There was not any success. The reasons why we do not read about Cyprus every morning on our front pages is because the Turkish army went in and drew a dividing line. They effectively partitioned the island of Cyprus. On the one side of the line you have the Turkish Cypriot community, and on the other side the Greek Cypriot community.
An attempt was made at that solution in 1920 in Ireland when Ireland was partitioned, but whereas in Cyprus there are only 1 or 2 per cent., if indeed that many, Turks in the Greek Cypriot sector or Greeks in the Turkish Cypriot sector, Northern Ireland was different. We were left in Northern Ireland with a 35 per cent. Catholic and ethnic minority and a 65 per cent. unionist majority. Anyone with two eyes to see must have understood that it was inevitable that at some time in the future a clash between those two cultures was going to come. That clash has come now. That clash is with us every day, 24 hours a day.
The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, in the course of his remarks this evening made an appeal to the population of Northern Ireland not to be afraid. I wish that they would hear that appeal, but again the reality is that everybody in Northern Ireland is afraid. The Protestant majority population are frightened that their national identity is going to be taken away from them. The Catholic minority population feel that they have been a minority for too long in their own island, and that now is the time when they should assert their position so that they can become part of the majority in a unified Ireland.
Here you have the clash of the cultures. I cannot see any early resolving of this particular problem. It is going to be a long, hard slog in the Northern Ireland situation. I believe that the British Government have to be commended for the resolution they have shown in staying in Northern Ireland, and trying to prevent what would undoubtedly be a bloody civil war if there was any attempt at a premature withdrawal of the British army or its forces from Northern Ireland. A succession of Governments here, both Labour and Conservative, are to be congratulated on the resolution they have shown.
This order could be used for a full-blown constitutional debate. I had not intended even to speak at the length I have, but there are a few other remarks which I think relate to the appropriation order itself. First, there are 123,000 admitted unemployed in Northern Ireland. In fact that figure can be inflated because there are many people who are unemployed but who do not qualify for social security benefits, and therefore do not sign the register. It is my estimation that there are at least 150,000 people unemployed in Northern Ireland. That is an appalling figure by any standards. Again in this rarefied atmosphere it is hard to take in and to understand just what that figure means in poverty and social deprivation.
In another place a spokesman for the Opposition said that 56,000 of that 123,000 admitted figure had been unemployed for over a year. This evening we heard from my noble friend on the Front Bench that 2,000 or 3,000 have in fact been unemployed for more than three years. When I was a Member of another place I put down a set of Questions, which were answered, and they are to be found in Hansard. That 555 figure of 56.000 people unemployed for more than a year does not tell the whole story. The reality is that a big percentage of that 56,000 have been unemployed for one, two, three, five, 10, 15, 20, 25 or 30 years. These were answers I received when the Questions were put down.
There are people who have been unemployed all their lives. They left school in Strabane, Newry, and other parts of Northern Ireland and have never had a job. Now they are 25 or 30 years of age and trying to rear a family. One must think of just what type of mentality the unemployed in Northern Ireland have. Again I cannot see any resolving of that problem within the foreseeable future. Northern Ireland is a special case.
Again to give honour where it is due, I think that every elected representative who has the interests of Northern Ireland at heart will congratulate this Government on sending a defence order to Harland and Wolff, and for helping in whatever way they could in Short Brothers getting the American order. That was a gleam of light at the end of a long tunnel when we heard those announcements. In fact your Lordships will be aware that when I heard that announcement I had down for debate next Thursday an Unstarred Question on the Maze Prison. Rather than muddy the waters, rather than say something which could cause ill-feeling in Northern Ireland, I withdrew that Question. The announcement was made about Short Brothers and about Harland and Wolff and I came in here and withdrew the Question because I did not want to say anything that could cause ill-feeling in Northern Ireland. But I was not to know that on the day that I withdrew that Question the IRA were planning the murder of Bill McConnell, a Deputy Prison Governor in Northern Ireland, so we are to have a debate on that issue on Thursday of this week.
Again, reference has been made to the fact that the Bairnswear children's clothing factory in Armagh was bombed by the IRA. I think we should all understand that the IRA and those who support it, indeed many of the people who vote for Sinn Fein candidates, are not concerned about economic deprivation or poverty in Northern Ireland. Their whole being is gauged towards changing the constitutional position and they do not care how many people sign the unemployed register.
When I was a member of another place, I had quite a lot to say on housing, because at that time I lived in Belfast. I had a constituency surgery and every day when I was in Belfast people came to me and told me about their housing problems. It is now four months since I have been to Northern Ireland. It is the longest time I have ever been out of Northern Ireland since I was a very young man over 35 years ago. When you are removed and see the statistics and figures relating to the housing problem in Northern Ireland it does not create the same urgency within you, because there is a vast difference between reading statistics and figures about waiting lists and sitting in an advice centre and listening to homeless people telling you in their own language in every graphic detail about the problem as it affects them. I cannot speak now with any great authority except to say that the figure of 123,000 on the waiting list is a figure which should cause everyone concern.
556 There are only two issues which brought me to my feet here tonight: both are concerned with education. In West Belfast—and the other little school straddles North and West Belfast—it is a question of the cuts in education. My successor as the Member of Parliament for West Belfast does not attend the other place. I do not think he makes representations in this connection. Therefore the people of West Belfast are not represented. They write to me and 'phone me. I feel it is incumbent upon me to try to voice their concerns, even though that be in this place and not in another place. I hope the Minister will listen to what I have to say on their behalf because they do not have an elected representative from West Belfast, the minority representative in the Assembly at Stormont or in this House. I know that it is a convention not to criticise people in another place and it is not my intention to do so. All I would say is that the voice of the minority in Northern Ireland, a significant minority, is rarely heard in another place. I believe that the minority representative in that place should avail himself of the opportunity to speak on behalf of the minority in Northern Ireland.
I speak now of a little nursery school on the Shankhill Road which is not a nationalist or a Catholic area. The little nursery school has 75 children with two teachers. Because of the cuts taking place across the board in Northern Ireland it has been decided that this school shall be closed and removed to another building. All the parents in that area and all the teachers are very concerned that this should happen. For the sake of whatever economies may be made I do not think it is right that such disruption should he caused. I believe that the Minister in charge of education in Northern Ireland has said that changes would not be brought about if they were not involved in the educational sense. The reasons that the board has given in Northern Ireland for closing this school are totally financial. It says that the heating and the costs of the school would amount to £13,000 and that is the reason it is being closed down and transferred to another place. I believe it is causing great concern and I ask the noble Minister to make representations to his colleague in another place to see whether this can be prevented.
But much more important—I am not gainsaying the fact that that is not an important issue—is the problem of St. Louise's comprehensive college in the Falls Road. This college was brought about at the instigation of the Department of Education in Northern Ireland. Instead of having two schools there was one, as I say, created at the instigation of the Department of Education. Throughout all the years of its existence under the inspired and dedicated leadership of Sister Genevieve it has filled a void in Northern Ireland, not only the academic sense but on all the other issues where the dedicated teachers in this school have given of their services voluntarily outside their academic teaching hours without any consideration about wages. They have given a good service to the community in that West Belfast area under the inspired leadership of Sister Genevieve.
Now, because of the cuts, the Department of Education has said that there will he a reduction of eight of the teaching staff in that school. This reduction will create an awful problem in the whole surrounding 557 area where there is such massive poverty and social deprivation. The teachers in that school do not go home at four o'clock or half-past three when they have finished teaching their pupils. They have rendered a service to the whole community. One has only to know about Northern Ireland to know of such areas as Ballymurphy and Turf Lodge and all the other deprived areas and to know just how necessary it was to have such a number of dedicated people.
I appeal to the Minister to make representations to his colleagues in another place to have another look to see whether it would not be possible to keep those eight teachers employed. It is not only a question of keeping eight teachers in employment, but we shall be ensuring that whatever hope there is of overcoming the problems in Northern Ireland will not be weakened by the sacking of those eight teachers in that school in West Belfast.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Lord Blease
My Lords, I wish to be associated with the sentiments expressed by the Minister and other noble Lords about the illness of the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield. I join in inviting the Minister kindly to convey to his noble friend the feelings of this House and our best wishes for his speedy recovery to full health.
I will not be tempted to go down the road that has been presented to me by the noble Lords, Lord Hylton and Lord Fitt. The two traditions are very interesting—one which I support with some accommodation to be met, but this is not the time. It may be of some assurance to the Minister that although I have a sheaf of pages here and my eye on the clock, I know that the Whips are pushing him around to get on with the business.
I rise to support my noble friend Lord Underhill on the issues that he raised concerning this appropriation order. Particularly I wish to support the noble Lord's criticism of the procedural arrangements in this House for dealing with the important business arising from these Northern Ireland appropriation measures. I came from Northern Ireland this morning and the eyes in Northern Ireland are on these debates. I would be failing the people of Northern Ireland if I did not attempt to raise the real issues facing them about jobs, employment and housing, as have already been mentioned.
The noble Lord, Lord Fitt, mentioned that some 12 days ago, on 1st March, this order was debated in another place for six and a half hours. During that time some 20 Members took part and the order was approved following a division. Apart from the convention, which I fully recognise, it is not my intention to quote from the speech of the right honourable Mr. Enoch Powell, but I suggest that Mr. Powell's speech is worthy and deserving of close study by all interested in the measures afforded by both Houses here at Westminster to deal with Northern Ireland business.
Mr. Powell seriously questioned and challenged the efficiency of the parliamentary procedures and machinery effectively to perform the necessary scrutiny of these appropriation orders and the financial policy implications. These orders are vital to 558 the people of Northern Ireland and there should be an opportunity to deal with them in some concerted and orderly manner. I think it is a charade to go on dealing with them piecemeal in the manner in which they are presented.
In this connection, the Northern Ireland Assembly and, particularly, the report of the Northern Ireland Assembly on Public Expenditure Priorities, which was published last year, in July 1983, have proven beyond doubt the contribution by its officials, Members and staff to the task of identifying the priorities for public expenditure and the choices and decisions required which affect the people of Northern Ireland. The noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, has already mentioned this, but I feel I should like to stress that certainly here is an elected Assembly, here the persons elected are near to the people. Their report contributed much to the government of the Province, as to what ought to be done in connection with the affairs of Northern Ireland. I pay tribute to that Assembly and to what it is attempting to do.
I draw attention—and many noble Lords will be aware of it—to the excellent work in promoting mutual understanding and partnership between Parliament and industry that has been achieved by the Industry and Parliament Trust here at Westminster. I am convinced that Northern Ireland Assembly Members and Northern Ireland industry could benefit greatly from a similar type of arrangement instituted in the Province. I had a brief word with the noble Lord, Lord Irving of Dartford, who is chairman of the Industry and Parliament Trust. I understand he would be prepared to give help and advice if such a scheme were proposed for Northern Ireland. I have had an opportunity to talk to the Minister, who, in a deputy position, is to respond this evening. I would not expect a reply tonight, but may I ask him whether he will draw this matter to the attention of his Northern Ireland Government colleagues (perhaps under the C.5 heading) and ask whether something of this nature could be instituted in Northern Ireland? I believe that it would benefit industry greatly.
We have had the good news—and the Minister mentioned it—about the orders for Harland and Wolff and Short Brothers. These were won by hard competition in many respects, by good delivery dates and by consultation between the management and the men. I think it is important, as far as the future of Northern Ireland is concerned, to examine why these orders came to Harland and Wolff and Short Brothers. Certainly there may be aspects of subsidy and Government aid involved, but they were certainly selling a product which was needed; and they were selling it in the face of competition.
I am sure that Members of this House will understand that amidst the tragic happenings of vile murders and blatant destruction that we continually face in Northern Ireland the announcement about job prospects in Northern Ireland comes like a ray of sunshine through the dark and heavy storm clouds. Although the clouds of high unemployment still darken many areas of Northern Ireland, I am pleased to say that rays of hope and encouragement shine wider even than simply for Harland and Wolff and Short Brothers.
559 I do not want to detain the House for very long, but I think it would be wrong if I did not mention the fact that there are a number of areas in which there are present those rays of sunshine, in the sense of job hopefulness. There is a new fish processing plant at Portavoga which hopes to provide 90 jobs, and I think that Lord Dunleath knows something about that. There is a £3 million development at Fermanagh for the Erne hospital, which should provide much needed employment and facilities. In Larne, the Northern Ireland Paper Mills are to complete a £4 million joint capital investment programme which will secure the present employment and create 15 new jobs. There is a new shipping and freight service between Belfast and Heysham which should provide 16 new jobs. There is a quarter of a million pound investment in new instrument landing equipment at Aldersgrove airport, which should be completed within the next 12 months and which will take Northern Ireland into the forefront of international airports.
At Saracens, the Lurgan textile firm, there are plans for a £3 million modernisation or plant development which will secure the jobs of 400 workers there and, it is hoped, promote job prospects in the area. There are some 10,000 Northern Ireland farmers who will benefit from special grants jointly funded by the Government and by the EEC for the less-favoured areas. In East Belfast, a spinning mill which ceased production last year has been purchased by the Belfast Development Agency for conversion into workshops and small industrial units. The Belfast Development Agency is a partnership of city councillors, business representatives and trade unions. It is hoped that these small efforts at job creation will help throughout the Province. And there are areas where I think the Bills which are flowing through the other place (and which will eventually come here) about corporate development and projects of this nature should help.
May I make a plea to the Minister coming under the heading of Class VIII, item 3? It is a plea for the Northern Ireland Educational Guidance Service for Adults. In Northern Ireland, this service is run independently. It does a tremendous job and has been supported by Labour administrations and by the present Government. There is an urgent need for the appointment of a deputy organiser. For an additional expenditure of £15,000 I think the return would be tremendous so far as the Province is concerned.
I have a lot more that I could say, but in the interests of decorum in this House as far as debates on Northern Ireland are concerned, I do not want to labour the various points: I should like to hold the sympathy of this House so far as Northern Ireland is concerned.
I think that the Minister in his remarks said that the problems are not going to go away. I should like to finish on that note by saying that the economic problems facing the people of Northern Ireland are frightening but there is no reason to regard them as irreversible. Improvements will not come about simply by waiting for "something to turn up". The real scope for action lies in the Province with whatever external assistance one can get from the United Kingdom Government or through persuading European agencies to take part in initiatives themselves. Many of these initiatives must be by local 560 people in the Province. I could deal with some of them—with competitiveness, cost effectiveness, reliability; but,, principally, I know that with Harland and Wolff and Short Brothers it came from active co-operation and a meaningful dialogue between the management, the trade unions and the employees. I think that it is from there that the results will come. There is an absence of stability in Northern Ireland on many fronts. Unless there is stability, it is inevitable that those companies with productive and employment producing projects will not be attracted to Northern Ireland.
I will close by saying that we hope that the Northern Ireland Office and the Assembly will take the action required to give the necessary leadership; and that that leadership may help to activate the necessary actions that are required at this stage to promote hope for the future industrial and social issues in Northern Ireland.
§ 8.29 p.m.
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, this debate has ranged widely over many of the key issues which are vital to Nothern Ireland, and your Lordships have raised a number of points of specific concern. As noble Lords will appreciate, I come new to most to the topics covered in this debate and I should like to record my thanks to those noble Lords who have been able to give me advance notice of some of the points that they were proposing to raise this evening. Time is marching on, and we are now much later than had been anticipated, or at least later than I had anticipated. I hope, therefore, that your Lordships will forgive me if I do not deal in detail with the large number of points that have been raised. I promise faithfully to browse through the pages of Hansard and to make sure that all the points raised are covered in replies which will be sent to the noble Lords concerned as soon as possible. The replies will be sent either by me or by one of the Ministers in the Northern Ireland Department.
I think I ought to deal with the point which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, and what he called "joint sovereignty". The Government have repeatedly made it clear—
§ Lord Hylton
My Lords, if the noble Lord would be kind enough to give way, I did not mention "dual sovereignty" or "double sovereignty". I spoke very carefully of a joint or dual guarantee, and I think there is a difference.
§ Lord Trefgarne
My Lords, if I misheard the noble Lord, I apologise. I believe he is right in correcting me on that. He did indeed refer to what he called "the double guarantee", and I misinterpreted that. It is another indication, I am afraid, of my inexperience in Northern Ireland matters. The Government have repeatedly made it clear that there can be no question of altering Northern Ireland's constitutional status as an integral part of the United Kingdom without the freely-given consent of the majority of its people. We are committed to the principle of self-determination, enshrined in Section 1 of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973. To proceed on any other basis would be wrong in principle and disastrous in practice, in the Government's view. It is beyond doubt that a clear majority of the people in Northern Ireland favour the retention of the union.
561 I do not think it would he appropriate for me now to dwell on all the detailed points that have been raised. As I have said, I will ensure that noble Lords receive written answers as soon as may be.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.