§ Mr. Sackville
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether, pursuant to his answer of 13 June, Official Report, column 1012, he is now in a position to make a further statement about safeguards against discrimination in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Hurd
Data published today by the Department of Finance and Personnel illustrate a number of marked differences between the characteristics of Protestant and Roman Catholic communities in Northern Ireland, in such areas as educational background, employment and occupation and housing.
While such deeply rooted differences exist it will not be easy to secure early dramatic changes. Nevertheless, I believe it to be in the long term interests of the whole community that the Government should explore immediately the possibility of further action to promote equality of opportunity and protect against discrimination. I have already welcomed the wide-ranging review of antidiscrimination law which will be undertaken over the next 18 months by the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights. The importance of this work is underlined by the data published today. I have now also asked officials to prepare urgently proposals for discussion later this year to make our approach to full equality of opportunity in employment more comprehensive, consistent and effective.