(No. 2) Bill-- (By Order) Order for Third Reading read.
To be read a Third time on Thursday 27 April.
Orders for Second Reading read.
To be read a Second time on Thursday 27 April.
(By Order) Read a Second time, and committed.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Viggers) : The team undertaking a review of tourism policin Northern Ireland is due to make its report to me by the end of April. I will consider this report, and consult as necessary, before making an announcement on future strategy.
Mr. Colvin : I note that reply, but will my hon. Friend assure the House that the review has taken into account the submission from the Federation of the Retail Licensed Trade, Northern Ireland, especially with regard to accommodation grants? Does he agree that it would be better to give grants to, say, 100 pubs, each of which would provide three rooms, than to give a grant to one 300-room hotel? The grants should be spread around more evenly. Will my hon. Friend acknowledge that that is especially important this year because all the indications are that forward bookings for holidays abroad are falling off and there is every chance that people will want to take holidays at home?
Mr. Viggers : My hon. Friend is on to a good point. The Government have shown that they recognise the significance of the licensed trade in public houses by changing the situation that existed until last year, whereby public houses in Northern Ireland could not offer overnight accommodation, in legislation that was taken through the House by the Under -Secretary of State my hon. Friend the Member for Wiltshire, North (Mr. Needham). Pubs in Northern Ireland have now been brought into line with those in the United Kingdom and public houses can now take in guests, provided of course, that the accommodation meets the registration requirements of the Northern Ireland tourist board. I cannot anticipate the conclusion of the review, but I shall bear my hon. Friend's points in mind.
Mr. Kilfedder : In my view, despite terrorism Northern Ireland is the finest place in the entire world, with kindly, friendly and generous people. Does the Minister agree that money invested in tourism, with financial support from the Government, will help to counter the bad image presented by the media? If more foreigners come to Ulster they will see that it is a delightful place and that what I have said is true.
Mr. Viggers : The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. Despite the magnificent recreational and sporting facilities in Northern Ireland, there has not been the number of tourists that we would like and who would enjoy a visit to Northern Ireland. A high proportion of visitors to Northern Ireland are visiting family and friends or are on business. We want to ensure that the assistance that is provided by the Government is properly focused on holiday visitors.
Mr. William Ross : Given the tremendous interest that has been aroused by the recent expenditure on Giant's Causeway, is it not clear that investment in tourism is of great benefit to the community in Northern Ireland? Will the Minister and the Government therefore move away from the idea of promoting Belfast and Londonderry as the principle centre of tourism and look closely at the north coast, where the town of Portrush has many natural resources and great natural beauty and is the traditional and premium tourist resort of Northern Ireland? Will the Government consider giving more than five lines to Portrush in the tourist board's brochures? Surely the whole north coast is worth far more than that and should be actively promoted because that is where people will go to find the peace and beauty of the countryside?
Mr. Viggers : It would not be fair if the hon. Gentleman were to submit that the Northern Ireland tourist board does not work very hard to promote the whole of Northern Ireland as a tourist location. I shall certainly bear in mind the points made by the 80 people who have made written representations and the 40 people who have given verbal evidence to the small team conducting the review. I shall also take note of the hon. Gentleman's point.
Mr. Jim Marshall : Does the Minister accept that the whole coastline of the island of Ireland is a tourist delight? Does he agree that it would be far better if the tourist authorities in both the north and the south were to co-operate and thus eliminate overlap and wasteful expenditure? Does he welcome the call by the president of the Hoteliers and Caterers Association for a tourist council for all the island of Ireland?
Mr. Viggers : The two tourist boards do co-operate. They share some literature and they are studying ways in which they can co-operate further. I shall certainly take note of the hon. Gentleman's point.
2. Mr. Alton : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many sentences of Northern Ireland prisoners have been reviewed over the past 12 months ; and what is his policy towards indeterminate sentences.
The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Ian Stewart) : The cases of 170 prisoners serving life sentences and detention at the Secretary of State's pleasure have been reviewed in the past year. Our policy toward indeterminate sentences is to release a prisoner subject to such a sentence when a period commensurate with the gravity of the crime has been served, and when the risk of re-offending in a violent way is considered remote.
Mr. Alton : While I thank the Minister for that reply and for his reply to my recent letter, and I am grateful to him for the developments, especially at Maghaberry prison, will he tell the House what weight is placed on a prisoner's decision to move from a segregated wing into an integrated situation such as in Maghaberry? Will he also tell the House how many reviews he expects to carry out next year?
The moving of prisoners to integrated conditions, such as in Maghaberry is certainly taken into account as a positive step, but that must be considered against all the other circumstances of each particular case.
Rev. Ian Paisley : Will the Minister tell the House why ex-members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary who are serving prison sentences, have served very long stretches without being favourably considered for review, while members of paramilitary forces--including the IRA--who have been imprisoned for similar acts of terrorism or murder, have been released before serving as long as those RUC prisoners? Is the Minister aware that certain evidence has now come to the surface concerning the imprisonment of certain UDR men in the Craigavon area? Is the Minister prepared to look at the evidence and consider whether those men should have another trial?
Mr. Stewart : The hon. Gentleman has raised two entirely separate points. If further evidence is forthcoming, existing sentences are reconsidered under certain circumstances. In such cases, however, the evidence must be genuinely new.
I assure the hon. Gentleman that, regardless of background, religion or occupation, everyone who is reviewed by the life sentence review board has his case considered according to the consistent principles which I gave in my answer to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton).
Ms. Short : The Minister must be aware that the system of review for indeterminate sentences causes great unease in both communities in Northern Ireland. Are not people required to give undertakings about their political views before they can be released? Is that not completely subjective and does that not mean that some people, who are currently in prison, will stay there for the rest of their lives unless we change the system?
Mr. Stewart : I do not know how the hon. Lady gets that idea. It is important that one of the criteria for release should be that the risk of re-offending, especially in a violent way, is considered to be low, but not on the basis on which the hon. Lady has put it. A whole range of factors is taken into account under that heading.
Mr. Stanbrook : Is it not the case that the present rate of recidivism after committing terrorist offences is already very high? Would not the best way of deterring terrorism be to institute a sentence of imprisonment for the duration of the emergency?
Mr. Stewart : If I heard my hon. Friend correctly, he is not right about those released from indeterminate sentences. The rate of reoffending after determinate sentences is high and that is one reason why we introduced new measures regarding reactivation of remitted sentences under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989.
Column 445paramilitary organisations? Is it possible for suitable arrangements to be made for them to work out their sentences in Great Britain?
Mr. Stewart : The hon. Gentleman's suggestion would fundamentally cut across the normal arrangements for pre-release schemes. If there are individual cases where persons may be under a particular threat that matter can be considered.
Mr. Viggers : The attraction of overseas companies to Northern Ireland, and their development, is given a high priority by the Industrial Development Board since it recognises that such investment brings new products and technologies as well as fresh management skills.
I am very pleased to say that 1988-89 was a record year for IDB, which promoted seven overseas projects with a job content of 1,856.
Mr. Smith : Is that not good news for the Northern Ireland economy and employment in the Province? Is it not clear that inward investment is making a major contribution to economic recovery? Therefore, will the IDB redouble its efforts, given the fierce competition from other parts of the United Kingdom and from the rest of the Community?
Mr. Viggers : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks. Northern Ireland has been successful in attracting inward investment. It is worth noting that, of the projects that have come to Northern Ireland, two have been from Great Britain, one from France, one from South Korea, one from the United States, one from Germany and one from the Republic of Ireland. I look forward to entertaining some visiting Japanese business men this evening.
Mr. Maginnis : Can the Minister assure us that decisions on inward investment do not reflect only short-term benefits? I refer the Minister to the recent disturbing debates in the Irish Dail concerning one prospective inward investor whose attempts to monopolise the beef industry would be to the long-term disadvantage of the producers and could tie Northern Ireland to general allegations of swindles relating to the Irish beef industry and EEC payments.
Mr. Viggers : I noted the remarks to which the hon. Gentleman referred. The purpose of the IDB, when promoting inward investment, is to ensure that the jobs that are promoted are long term and viable.
Mr. Thurnham : My hon. Friend has been successful in attracting inward investment from the French motor industry. If he meets the Italians will he ask them to join the French in being more co-operative by allowing the free entry of cars made in the United Kingdom, whatever brand?
Mr. Viggers : I suspect that my hon. Friend's comments may lie in an area slightly outside my terms of responsibility. I assure my hon. Friend that we are assiduous in courting all prospective inward investments.
Column 446I am delighted to say that, last year, investment in home industry in Northern Ireland totalled £280 million, supported by IDB assistance of £90 million.
11. Sir Michael McNair-Wilson To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the meeting of the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, held on 5 April.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Tom King) : The meeting on 5 April discussed cross-border security co-operation, particularly in the light of the murders of Chief Superintendent Breen and Superintendent Buchanan ; the review of the working of the Intergovernmental Conference under article 11 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement ; the progress through Parliament of the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Bill and took note of further work on policy aspects of extradition and extra-territorial legislation.
Mr. Flannery : What view, if any, of the progress of the Anglo-Irish Agreement has emerged from that meeting? When the official view comes out, can we be assured that a statement will be made in this House?
Mr. King : I think that some of the points under discussion are already showing their merits. We are seeking to co-operate as closely as we can with the Irish Government on, for example, extradition, to ensure that we are complying with their requirements. My hon. Friend will have seen the successful extradition only last week, which illustrates that the procedure is working.
With regard to extra-territorial jurisdiction--in other words someone charged being tried in Dublin--my hon. Friend will be aware that, only last week, somebody was tried under that legislation on evidence provided by us and that that person was convicted.
Mr. Molyneaux : The Secretary of State has quoted from the second paragraph of the joint communique . Did he press for a return to the earlier arrangement for RUC officers crossing the frontier, which existed before the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed and which permitted them to carry their personal protection and weapons when they crossed the frontier? Is there not a hideous danger in the present rigid, formal arrangement under which they must be met by escorts and arrangements must be made beforehand? Is there not a real risk of security leakage?
Mr. King : I had some difficulty in understanding the right hon. Gentleman's question. If he was trying to suggest that some change has been made in the arrangements because of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, that
Column 447is entirely untrue. Those are matters for the Chief Constable and the Commissioner. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that there has been no official change laid down in the arrangements under the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
Mr. Gow : Since the Anglo-Irish Agreement in its present form has allienated the majority without reconciling the minority and since it is my right hon. Friend's purpose to govern the Province with as broad an assent from the people as possible, does he think that he will succeed in producing a fresh agreement which commands a much greater measure of support in the Province than the present one?
Mr. King : There will be no improvements in the directions desired by my hon. Friend and others unless people are prepared to state their views. I have made it absolutely clear that we shall carry on the basic principles of maintaining the right of the majority to determine their own future within Northern Ireland. That is a cornerstone for which this House has always stood and involves the principle of consent and the principle of the position and security of the majority. We shall also maintain our determination to stand together in the fight against terrorism. We shall maintain our principle that there is a recognisable and perfectly respectable interest by the Irish Government in the situation in Northern Ireland as it affects the nationalist community. On those planks, if anyone wants to advance ideas, but ignores those realities, he will not make progress. Those are the cornerstones of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. After the three years of its operation, I am absolutely persuaded that any alternative formulation which people might like to address is bound to include those principles or it will have no hope of making progress.
Rev. Ian Paisley : Does the right hon. Gentleman think that when he has these Anglo-Irish conferences he should come to the House and tell hon. Members what is going on so that the representatives from Northern Ireland in this democratic forum can discuss what is going on at those meetings? As he very well knows, many of the proposals which come to this House through Orders in Council are born at those Anglo-Irish conferences and then come to this House, but we are never told where they come from or who is responsible for them. Will the right hon. Gentleman also check whether his facts are correct because the last time that I was over the border-- escorted--the guns were taken from my escort, while on other occasions the escorts were allowed to go over the border with their guns?
Mr. King : On the latter point, I denied the attempt of the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) to associate that with the Anglo-Irish Agreement. I am aware of no evidence for that. In response to the first point raised by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), we have monthly meetings of the Anglo-Irish Conference and I am not sure whether it would be appropriate to report to the House every time the conference meets. I have made it absolutely clear that I am very willing to talk to all hon. Members representing Northern Ireland constituencies after each conference to discuss the matters under discussion. If the hon. Gentleman is asking whether I will meet him and put him in the picture to discuss issues, if he puts forward his views
Column 448to me in advance of the conference, I give him an unequivocal assurance that I am ready to do that at any time.
Mr. Mallon : Can the Secretary of State inform the House whether the recent Provisional IRA attacks on the north-south rail link were discussed at the last meeting of the Anglo-Irish Conference? Can he confirm that both Governments are determined to keep that line open at all costs? Will he give the House an assurance that under no circumstances will the Provisional IRA's aim of destroying that vital social and economic link between the two parts of the island be allowed to succeed?
Mr. King : I can confirm that this matter was discussed at the last meeting, and that there is complete identity of view between the two Governments on the importance of maintaining the rail link. I think that we all recognise the very real hardship that disruption of the link is causing, not only to Ministers or other such people, but to ordinary people who wish to go backwards and forwards. People use that line to visit families, and for various other purposes. It is they who are being very severely disadvantaged. We recognise also that real problems may well be caused by additional heavy road transport, and that people may be inconvenienced significantly. For all those reasons, we stand together in our determination to maintain the rail link.
Mr. Bill Walker : In the discussions, will my right hon. Friend draw attention to the reality of the situation in the United Kingdom? Any discussions affecting the structures or method of operation of Government or local government in Ulster are bound to have an impact in Scotland. That must always be taken into account, otherwise we could have a break-up of the United Kingdom, coming from Scotland.
Mr. King : I think that I shall stick to Northern Ireland, which occupies my time fully. Of course, the point that my hon. Friend makes is right, and one is conscious of the implications. Throughout my time as Secretary of State I have stood strongly in support of the cohesion of the United Kingdom, and should be very concerned about any risk to the Union.
Mr. McNamara : Is the Secretary of State aware that in his reply to the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) he has the general support of Opposition Members? I refer to the principles that he was enunciating about the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Is he aware that we welcome the fact that the Intergovernmental Conference is not now concentrating solely and specifically on security measures but is stretching its range of interests into social and economic matters? In that context, has the right hon. Gentleman discussed with the Republic of Ireland the effects of the Single European Act upon the economies of both parts of the island--in particular, with regard to the border areas?
Is the right hon. Gentleman certain that Northern Ireland will be able to get the maximum benefit from the expansion of the European Community structural funds? Has he discussed with the Republic the question of joint proposals for integrated development on both sides of the border?
Column 449respect of industry, my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers), the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, had a conference with the Irish Minister for Industry and Commerce, in Louvain, Belgium. They discussed the potential, within the European Community, for co-operative development. Points about tourism have already been raised. Manifestly, this is an area in which considerable benefits are to be derived from co-operation. I am particularly interested in the impact of 1992 on the island of Ireland. It might do some interesting things to what is euphemistically called "the import-export business" along the border. If that happens, it can be only for the good as well.
Mr. Ross : When the Minister quotes that figure, surely he is quoting the non-domestic rate. Is it not a fact that the increase in the domestic rate is 14 per cent., whereas the council rate increase is an average of 2.38 per cent? Of that 2.38 per cent., some 30 per cent. represents the cost of the local government elections this year. Since the regional rate covers other local government functions also, and since right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the Government Front Bench support the Government in their rate-capping policy in Great Britain, why do they not rate-cap the expenditure of their own Departments? If they are incapable of controlling the runaway inflation that these figures reveal--and this has been the circumstances for many years--will they please resign and make room for competent people to get the expenditure of Departments under control?
Mr. Stewart : If the hon. Gentleman tables a question asking for the percentage increase in the regional rate, I shall give him that figure. If he wants the answer to a different question, he should table that question. [Interruption.]
Mr. Stewart : I am sorry if I am enunciating a revolutionary doctrine, but that is what I have always believed I have to do. Let me give the hon. Gentleman a mathematical answer. Out of that 12.6 per cent., 2.3 per cent. results from a change in the Treasury formula--a reduction from 82.46 per cent. to 82 per cent. in the amount of Exchequer support as a result of the improvement in economic circumstances in the Province ; 4.3 per cent. arises from a one-off credit balance in the account last year, and the remaining 6 per cent., which is the real increase related to expenditure, reflects substantial increases in expenditure on education, road maintenance and other programmes, which I do not recall the hon. Gentleman complaining about when we announced them at the end of last year.
Mr. Peter Robinson : Will the Minister accept that the differential between the regional rate and the district rate is even greater than the figures suggest, because much of the expenditure usually undertaken by the regional rate has been passed on to local government? The general grant
Column 450factor and community service budgets have been slashed and no money is being given for recreation, and the district councils are having to meet those additional burdens. Does the Minister accept that if he looks at the figures he will see that the differential is all the more remarkable in the cases of the DUP-controlled councils of Castlereagh and Ballymena? Castlereagh has reduced its rate for the second year in a row, this time by 2p, and has the lowest rate in the Province. Will the Minister accept that my question has nothing to do with the local government elections next month?
Mr. Clifford Forsythe : Why has a £1 million notional loan charge been added to the cost of collecting the rates and why is there no consultation with the district councils before the regional rate is struck?
Mr. Stewart : The hon. Gentleman asks me about a specific figure. I shall look up the answer and let him have it. The whole point is that the district councils should be responsible for the district rate and, for the time being, the Government are responsible for the regional rate. Expenditure on local government services in Northern Ireland equivalent to those provided in Great Britain has to be provided through the sum of the district and regional rates. Therefore, the regional rate meets the expenditure, and consulting district authorities about that would not change that picture.
6. Mr. Allen : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will examine the potential for the phasing out of denominational based schools in Northern Ireland and the impact of such a measure on the attitudes towards each other of Catholic and Protestant children.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Dr. Brian Mawhinney) : As part of the proposed education reforms inNorthern Ireland the Government are taking steps to facilitate the creation of integrated schools should parents so choose. But there is no question of the Government imposing integrated education or of denying the rights of those parents who wish to have a
denominationally based education for their children.
Mr. Allen : Does the Minister agree that one way to achieve a long- term solution to some of the problems in Northern Ireland is through the hearts of its children and young people, by doing away with much of the religious-based education system there, and will he consider putting additional resources into a more secular system of education? Will the opting-out proposals in the Education Reform Act aggravate rather than assist such a solution?
Mr. Mawhinney : I understand the hon. Gentleman's point, but those who choose a denominationally based education, which in Northern Ireland is predominantly a Catholic education, amount to almost half the pupils and schools in the Province, where parents have the right to choose, just as they do in the rest of the United Kingdom.
Column 451The Government also believe, as is reflected in our education reform proposals, that parents should have the right to choose integrated education.
In terms of the new curriculum, as the hon. Gentleman may know, we are also introducing courses in education for mutual understanding and cultural heritage. We have introduced a cross-contact scheme to enable schools from different parts of the community to work together and learn more about each other. In all those ways we are seeking to meet some of the concerns which the hon. Gentleman legitimately expresses.
Mr. Mallon : Will the Minister accept that in my constituency, one very good school, St. Patrick's high school, Keady, has more than 20 mobile classrooms? May we have an assurance that that school will be considered for capital expenditure and expansion quickly, so that the children who are being educated in those mobile classrooms may be integrated into the rest of the school?
Dr. Mawhinney : I assure the hon. Gentleman that all schools that have proposals developed to an extent where it is possible for work to proceed are seriously considered each year in terms of the capital programme. He has welcomed the fact that in the last three years we have had a capital programme in Northern Ireland of about £75 million. There are demands on the budget which exceed our ability to meet them but we give careful consideration to all schools and their needs in determining our priorities for capital expenditure.
Dr. Mawhinney : I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, and he will know that some years ago there was a review of teacher training in Northern Ireland which resulted in the status quo being maintained. He will also be interested to know that I have been having discussions with the two teacher training colleges to encourage them at least to combine more effectively in the training of teachers for education for mutual understanding, and I hope that we may be able to build on that initiative.
Dr. Mawhinney : There are 466 primary schools and 118 secondary schools under Catholic management, all of which receive grants from my Department. There are seven Free Presbyterian schools in Northern Ireland, and when the hon. Member asked me a similar question some time ago, I said that I was not aware that any of those schools had sought funding from my Department. I made it clear to him subsequently that if he wished to come and talk to me about possible funding for those schools, I would be happy to see him. That remains the position.
Mr. Maginnis : I agree with the Minister that any phasing out of denominational schools would be seen as an attack on the wishes of, mainly, the Roman Catholic community who wish to have children educated within the ethos of the Catholic Church. But has not the Minister made a fundamental error in the way in which he has sought to bring about integrated education in Northern Ireland by selecting from both the state and the
Column 452maintained sector a select, privileged and exclusive few who are now being financed at an overgenerous rate to integrate them? Would it not have been better to point out that state schools are there to provide for all children in Northern Ireland, and have encouraged proper evolution in terms of integrated education?
Dr. Mawhinney : In law, all Northern Ireland schools--not just state schools--are open to any pupil wishing to attend them. However, until the education reform proposals were implemented, parents who wished to send their children to state schools and those who wanted to send their children to Catholic schools received all the Government money that was available. Parents who wanted the choice to send their children to schools where they could be integrated in the same classroom as children of a different religion received none of the taxpayers' money. The Government firmly believe that parents have as much right to make a choice in respect of integrated schools as they do in respect of state or Catholic schools.
Mr. Tom King : It is not possible to define exactly how many killings were specifically sectarian. However, since 1969, some 2,750 people have been killed as a result of the security situation in Nothern Ireland, including 1,900 civilians.
Mr. Brown : While terrorism, including state terrorism, must be condemned, surely it is time that a Bill of Rights was introduced in Northern Ireland. Otherwise I fear that shootings and bombings will continue. Does the Secretary of State have a view on that? Does he agree that there should be a Bill of Rights? Will he introduce a process of consultation with local communities in Northern Ireland, whether they are Catholic or Protestant? Will he do something politically to solve the tragedy of the North?
Mr. King : Clearly, the figures I gave are an appalling catalogue of human tragedy over the past 20 years. It is against that background that we have sought to address the situation by adopting a determined and positive security policy and by addressing other problems and difficulties--not least those in the social area--that might help achieve the equality of opportunity and the fairness that are relevant to those problems.
Mr. Ian Bruce : Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the successes of terrorism in Northern Ireland was to destroy the confidence we have in local and regional government there? Does he agree that one way of stopping sectarian killings would be to ensure a secure form of government in the Province? Has my right hon. Friend received any positive suggestions from Unionist politicians in particular about how matters should proceed, so that those politicians may assume full responsibility for governing the Province?
Mr. King : At this stage we have received very little response. I have made it clear that we wish to know the views of elected representatives within Northern Ireland on the way in which its affairs can best be handled in
Column 453future. However, while there is an abundance of opinions in Northern Ireland about what the people there are against, it is extremely difficult to find out what they are in favour of.