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House of Commons

Thursday 18 May 1989

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. Speaker-- in the Chair ]


Associated British Ports

(No. 2) Bill-- (By Order) Order for Third Reading read.

To be read the Third time on Tuesday 23 May at Seven o'clock.

British Railways (Penalty Fares) Bill


London Regional Transport (Penalty Fares) Bill

[Lords] Orders for consideration read.

To be considered on Thursday 25 May.

Hythe, Kent, Marina Bill

(By Order)

London Underground Victoria Bill

(By Order)

Wentworth Estate Bill

(By Order)

British Film Institute Southbank Bill

(By Order)

Redbridge London Borough Council Bill

(By Order) Orders for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time on Thursday 25 May.

Oral Answers to Questions


MacBride Principles

Mr. Livingstone : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what recent actions have been undertaken by his Department to challenge the endorsement of the MacBride principles in the United States of America.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Viggers) : The Government's approach to achieving fair employment, set out in the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Bill, is clearly much more appropriate than the MacBride principles, which do nothing to create equality or new job opportunties.

We have therefore taken every opportunity to explain our position in the United States. We are convinced that those who study the subject and wish to assist in the creation of job opportunities and equality of opportunity will recognise the Government's determination and the comprehensive nature of our legislation.

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Mr. Livingstone : Is the Minister aware that, following the Government's consistent refusal to give the House the full cost of the campaign against the MacBride principles, the American press now estimates that the Government are spending £15 million per year to defeat MacBride, which works out at £10 per head for every man, woman and child in Northern Ireland and if invested in job creation could create 1,500 new jobs per year? Is it not now counterproductive to carry on with the campaign?

Mr. Viggers : The hon. Gentleman's question would be amusing if the subject were not so serious. It is most irresponsible of him to ask such a question when in answer to a written question from him on 22 July 1988 I said :

"Since June 1985 to date the overall cost of assistance to individuals to give evidence has been £86,856."--[ Official Report, 22 July 1988 ; Vol. 137, c. 859. ]

Mr. Kilfedder : Is not the truth of the matter that the MacBride principles campaign, which is organised in the United States by people who are in cahoots with the IRA, has effectively denied many jobs in Northern Ireland to Catholics as well as to Protestants? Is the Minister aware that caring people in Northern Ireland, regardless of their political and religious views, thank him for countering this vicious campaign and for doing his best to get jobs for people in Northern Ireland, particularly in the black spots?

Mr. Viggers : The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The way ahead is not to browbeat and hassle companies which provide much-needed employment in Northern Ireland, but to promote further investment in jobs within the much tougher law on fair employment that we are now introducing.

Ms. Short : Does not the Minister understand that the MacBride principles are based on the Sullivan principles, which were devised in the United States to try to get American companies to use their influence to extend equal opportunities in South Africa? The alliance of people in the United States who back the MacBride principles includes the trades unions, the black community and the Irish community. It is a lie to suggest that it is some kind of Noraid fund. [Interruption.] It is a simple lie. The object is to put pressure on the British Government to do something about discrimination in Northern Ireland. My view is that the Government acted, however inadequately, largely because of that pressure.

Mr. Viggers : The hon. Lady is quite right when she says that the McBride principles were shaped in America with a view to pressurising American companies. In my experience, though, American companies which employ people in Northern Ireland are very good employers and are fully aware of their responsibilities. If the hon. Lady wants to assist the promotion of jobs and fair employment in Northern Ireland, I recommend that she study very carefully the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Bill which has now emerged from Committee and will shortly be having its Report stage. I assure her that it will go a long way towards promoting fair employment and assisting in the creation of jobs in Northern Ireland.

Mr. McNamara : I am sure that no one in the House would want disinvestment in Northern Ireland nor any curtailment of proper flows of investment. Nevertheless, I am sure that the Minister will agree that investors have a legitimate concern as to the eventual circumstances in which their money is used. Therefore, if an agreed Bill

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passes through the House does the Minister agree that its enforcement will be vital and that investors will still have a legitimate interest in examining the performances of the firms in which they have placed their money? Does he believe that the Bill provides adequate means for monitoring that?

Mr. Viggers : The hon. Gentleman's contribution to the Bill in Committee has been extremely helpful. I believe that the Bill which has emerged from Committee will be welcomed by good employers as promoting good personnel practice.


2. Mr. Bowis : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will give the figures for the total amounts of weapons, ammunition and explosives recovered in the last 12 months in Northern Ireland.

7. Mr. Nicholas Bennett : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will make a statement on the current security situation.

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Ian Stewart) : Since 20 April, the Provisional IRA has murdered three people in Northern Ireland and the UVF has claimed responsibility for one other murder. The victims were a taxi driver, a hospital officer in the prison service, a regular solider and a building worker.

The determined and courageous work of the security forces has resulted in 103 people so far this year being charged with serious offences, including 13 with murder and 22 with attempted murder. During 1988 a total of 552 weapons, 105,052 rounds of ammunition and 10,424 lbs of explosives were recovered in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Bowis : Having had a cache of weapons and ammunition found in my constituency, may I express my admiration for the skill and courage of all those involved in locating and capturing such murderous items? Whenever possible, will my hon. Friend draw the facts, statistics and pictures to the attention of people in America and other parts of the world so that they can see how their money is being used to kill and maim men, women and children in Northern Ireland and throughout the United Kingdom?

Mr. Stewart : I entirely endorse what my hon. Friend has said. The House, as well as many people in Northern Ireland and in other parts of the United Kingdom, will be grateful to the security forces who have been so successful in finding substantial hoards of weapons and explosives, but there is much more still to find and any information that anyone can provide to assist the security forces will go a long way to help in the campaign against terrorism. Conversely, anyone who thinks that funds might be used by paramilitaries to acquire explosives, ammunition or weapons should realise the terrible harvest of murder and destruction that they reap.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett : Is my hon. Friend aware of the revulsion felt by decent people in Britain and Northern Ireland at the statements made by apologists for the IRA such as Mr. Gerry Adams who talk about "mistakes" being made when innocent people or members of the security forces are killed? Does he agree that the best way for the people of Northern Ireland to show their revulsion

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for such acts and for the apologists in Sinn Fein is to ensure that decent, moderate candidates are elected to represent them in the European Parliament?

Mr. Stewart : I agree with my hon. Friend. I am sure that the great majority of people in Northern Ireland are sickened by the apologies put forward by the IRA and its sympathisers. The murder and wounding of civilians is part and parcel of the IRA campaign. In those circumstances, it is no use members of the IRA offering apologies because they do not give a damn whether civilians are killed--they are worried only about the bad publicity for their politics.

Mr. McCusker : As the Secretary of State has been responsible for security in Northern Ireland for almost four years now, what real comfort or reassurance can we draw from the figures behind the smokescreen that the Minister has just put up?

Mr. Stewart : During my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State's distinguished tenure of office, among other things there has been a great improvement in the number of finds of weaponry and explosives in Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland. In my experience, which is much shorter than that of my right hon. Friend, the efforts of the security forces in the Province have been absolutely outstanding. But for their remarkable efforts and dedication, a great deal more misery would have been caused by the terrorists.

Mr. Jim Marshall : We are all delighted when arms caches belonging to paramilitaries on whichever side are found, but is the Minister of State aware that the last annual report of the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary referred worryingly to increasing amounts of ammunition, particularly rocket-propelled grenades and Kalashnikovs, falling into the hands of Loyalist paramilitaries? In that context, can the Minister give a categorical assurance that the December 1987 arms shipment to Northern Ireland, whatever its source, was not organised, subsidised or facilitated by South African sources?

Mr. Stewart : I cannot comment in detail on arms shipments that have been delivered for paramilitaries, but the RUC is right to recognises that it is dangerous for such shipments to fall into the hands of people on either side who might use them.

Sir Michael McNair-Wilson : Is my hon. Friend satisfied that compensation to those whose houses and businesses have been blasted by IRA violence is being paid as promptly as we should expect in view of the fact that those people are trying to keep their businesses together even though the premises have been destroyed?

Mr. Stewart : I accept my hon. Friend's point. We do what we can to ensure that these claims are dealt with properly and without undue delay. Unfortunately, one of the significant and common causes for delay is the difficulty of assembling all the information necessary to assess the claims properly. I appreciate the importance of the matter that my hon. Friend has raised.

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Education Groups

3. Mr. McLeish : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what recent meetings he has held with education groups.

9. Mr. McFall : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he has received representations recently from education groups.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Dr. Brian Mawhinney) : During the past three months I have met representatives from a wide range of education groups on such matters as education reform, school development proposals and the public library service.

Mr. McLeish : Is the Minister aware of the overwhelming opposition to the proposals contained in the document "Education Reform in Northern Ireland : The Way Forward"? Will he tell the House whether the proposals are any more or less unpopular than the Government's plan for National Health Service reforms in the Province?

Dr. Mawhinney : I have to tell the hon. Gentleman that his information is very poor. Contrary to what he says, there is broad acceptance of the need to improve standards in schools in Northern Ireland and a wide welcome is being given to greater parental choice and involvement in the education of children.

Mr. McFall : Has the Minister recently met groups campaigning for integrated education? If so, does he believe that the establishment of non- denominational teacher training colleges would greatly assist such aims? If he believes that, why is there no mention of it in the White Paper on education reform in Northern Ireland?

Dr. Mawhinney : I have met those involved in integrated education. This week I officially opened the latest integrated school, in Newcastle. The "Way Forward" document was not about teacher training, as the hon. Gentleman may well know--that matter was dealt with in an earlier report. The situation in Northern Ireland is generally believed not to have changed since that report was issued, but we are seeking to find ways in which teachers may be trained together more effectively, especially in terms of education for mutual understanding.

Mr. Pawsey : Further to that last answer, may I ask what encouragement is being given to the development of more integrated education in the Province? Does my hon. Friend agree that such schools would do much to bridge the sectarian divide?

Dr. Mawhinney : When the draft Order in Council is available, for public consultation--next month, I hope--it will include legislation to permit parents democratically to choose to opt their schools out of existing structures and into an integrated structure. It will also enable us to make money available to help those who want to start new integrated schools, and will lay on the Department of Education a statutory responsibility to foster and encourage the development of integrated education. All of that will be subject to the choice of parents for their own children.

Mr. Ashdown : I warmly congratulate the Minister and the Government on their work with integrated schools, but

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one issue remains unresolved--that of day one start-up funding, which is to be resolved in forthcoming legislation. Is the Minister aware that two more integrated schools, one in Ballymena and the other in Enniskillen, are being held up because of the lack of resolution on that issue? Will he consider allowing those schools to go ahead with day one start-up funding in advance of legislation, which will be coming in due course anyway?

Dr. Mawhinney : My understanding is that I do not have the ability to meet the right hon. Gentleman's request. We need the legislation so that what he refers to as day one start-up funding can take place. We have recognised the importance of that. That is why we hope, subject to the will of both Houses, to change the legislation so that the change will be possible. It is up to people in Ballymena and Enniskillen to judge as others have done, whether they want to start the process ahead of the legislation. That is a matter for them, not for me. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his personal words.

Ms. Mowlam : The Minister has told the House that there is a wide welcome for the education reform proposals. Does he agree with a senior official from his Department, Mr. Billy Burnison, who recently stated that the reform proposals will not meet the needs of all pupils in Northern Ireland?

Dr. Mawhinney : The hon. Lady should read the letter which Mr. Burnison subsequently sent to the Belfast Telegraph, which gave a more accurate account of what he said than that which was originally recorded.

Anglo-Irish Agreement

4. Mr. Harry Barnes : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he expects to announce the completion of the review of the operation of the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

5. Mr. Corbett : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he expects to make a statement on the outcome of the review of the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Tom King) : I expect to announce the completion of the review of the working of the Intergovernmental Conference under the Anglo-Irish Agreement and to make a statement, following the next meeting of the conference, which will take place shortly.

Mr. Barnes : We have just had local government elections in Northern Ireland and local authorities have very limited powers there. What is happening about moves towards democratic and devolved government throughout the Province, which were aims of the Anglo-Irish Agreement? Will practical steps be taken towards that, inside or outside the agreement?

Mr. King : We have made absolutely clear our interest in trying to encourage elected people in the Province to take greater responsibility for their own affairs. We are seeing whether there is an opportunity for some dialogue to commence. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney), is engaged in discussions with a wide cross-section of different interests and bodies to discover where opportunities for progress exist in that respect.

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Mr. Corbett : Does the Secretary of State accept that one of the problems about the agreement is that it operates in so-called secrecy? Subject to normal security requirements, will he take steps to open up the process so that interested parties can play some part in the process? Can he tell the House today of his firm proposals to activate the parliamentary tier of the agreement, for which there is wide cross-party support in the House?

Mr. King : The parliamentary tier is not a matter for me--it is a matter for the House. I know that my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council is involved in that. It is hoped that it can go forward, and I would welcome that. The hon. Gentleman's comments about the agreement being operated in secrecy were not fair. I have made clear my readiness to brief all political parties in Northern Ireland regularly on proceedings in the conferences. One political party avails itself of that opportunity, but the others do not. After every meeting a communique is placed in the Library of the House. I am also very willing to respond to any questions or other queries which may arise about the proceedings. Certain matters concerning security are confidential, but otherwise I endorse what the hon. Gentleman has said.

Sir William Clark : Following the reference to local government elections in Northern Ireland, does my right hon. Friend agree that congratulations are due to Mr. Kennedy, the successful candidate in the North Down local election, who stood as a Conservative?

Mr. King : As the jury is still out and counting, as it were, I do not think that anyone should risk commenting at this stage on the local government elections. I shall not comment until I see the results.

Mr. Latham : Does my right hon. Friend agree that although good relations with the Republic are clearly essential there is nothing in the performance of the Anglo-Irish Agreement so far to suggest that any dramatic new initiatives are called for at this time?

Mr. King : I hope to put before the House a record of the work of the conference over the past three years. The House will then be able to see the steady progress that has been made in developing co-operation where that is useful and beneficial. The House has just heard my right hon. Friend the Minister of State recounting the Garda Siochana's substantial arms finds. Quite apart from the other issues to which we attach importance, that is one obvious area where co-operation has been extremely helpful.

Mr. Flannery : Does the Secretary of State agree with the Irish Government that the dates of the Anglo-Irish Inter-Governmental Conference should be fixed and published in advance, preferably with the agenda, so that ordinary people and organisations from both parts of Ireland, especially the North, have an opportunity to make an input?

Mr. King : I agree with that and I want to see how, within any security considerations, we can move towards that. As the hon. Gentleman knows, recent communique s have contained information about the next meeting's agenda, or items that would be covered within it. I would be pleased to see people play a bigger part and make some input if they wish to do so.

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Mr. Bill Walker : When my right hon. Friend is considering the form and structure of democratic institutions in Northern Ireland, will he make sure that he has read the speech made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland to the Scottish Conservative party in which he said clearly that devolution and the creation of assemblies in any territories within the United Kingdom would be bad for the Union if it was done unilaterally and bad for this unitary Parliament? Will my right hon. Friend bear that in mind in view of the impact that his proposals may have in Scotland?

Mr. King : I shall take note of the points made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. I also have a note of one or two rather unusual suggestions in a speech that my hon. Friend made with which I cannot readily agree.

Mr. McNamara : Is the Secretary of State aware that the Opposition welcome his statement that he hopes to see an opening and widening of the operation of the Anglo-Irish Agreement so that more people can be aware of what is taking place and make an important input into its proceedings, if only through the correspondence columns of the Belfast Telegraph, because in that way we could have a real sense of what is being achieved there?

In discussing the further measures to be taken to strengthen the Anglo- Irish Agreement, will steps be taken by both Governments to use the machinery to look at the effects of the Single European Act on both parts of Ireland and the consequent social, industrial and economic problems for them by that Act?

Mr. King : The hon. Gentleman knows that we have already been giving that matter some considerable attention. We are actively involved in ensuring that everybody in Northern Ireland is aware of the implications of 1992. We have had conferences and discussions with Irish representatives and Ministers so that, where there is scope for co-operation, opportunities can be taken.

Pupil-Teacher Ratios

6. Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what is the current pupil-teacher ratio in all schools ; what it was five, 10 and 20 years ago ; and if he will make a statement.

Dr. Mawhinney : The 1988 pupil-teacher ratio is 18.4 to one, which is the lowest on record. The comparable figures for five, 10 and 20 years ago are 18.7, 19.5 and 24.3, respectively.

Mr. Greenway : Is it not clear that there has been remarkable progress under the present Government in the provision of teachers for Northern Ireland? How are the additional teachers being deployed? Are they being deployed to split pupils into smaller groups for teaching, or to widen the curriculum, or both?

Dr. Mawhinney : My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that they are being deployed in both areas. We shall have to give further thought to that deployment as education reform proposals are implemented in the Province.

Mr. William Ross : Is it the Government's intention that integrated schools will enjoy the same pupil-teacher ratio

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as the present system of education or a better one? How will it be possible for parents of pupils in Church-owned schools to opt out into the integrated sector?

Mr. Mawhinney : We have not drawn any distinctions, in terms of PTRs, between integrated schools and other types. As to Church-owned schools, the proposals will apply to all schools, which will be subject to the democratic votes of parents.

Women (Pressure Groups)

10. Ms. Armstrong : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he has met with representatives from pressure groups working on behalf of women.

Mr. Viggers : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State met representatives of the women's information group last year. I had an opportunity recently to discuss employment issues affecting women at a meeting with representatives of the Equal Opportunities Commission for Northern Ireland.

Ms. Armstrong : Is the Minister aware that the working women of Northern Ireland have a crying need for the provision of better child care? Northern Ireland fares worse than the United Kingdom in terms of nursery provision and education. What will the Minister do to ensure that the situation in Northern Ireland at least replicates that in the rest of the United Kingdom--even though it makes the poorest provision for such facilities in the whole of Europe?

Mr. Viggers : I sit as a member of the ministerial group on women's issues, which considers such matters. We will of course deal with any specific questions about nursery education or creche facilities that the hon. Lady asks. I assure her that the Civil Service as an employer seeks to set its own standards in equal opportunities, but I take note of the hon. Lady's points.

Mr. Barry Field : Does my hon. Friend agree that there could be no better representation of the interests of the women of Northern Ireland than the photograph in The Times today of Mrs. Breige Morgan holding her three-year-old daughter, who was maimed by a bomb in a telegraph pole that was detonated by the IRA, and who cannot have the shrapnel removed from the calf of her leg in case it does permanent damage? Will my hon. Friend join right hon. and hon. Members on this side of the House in condemning such revolting acts of terrorism?

Mr. Viggers : The act of terrorism to which my hon. Friend refers, will, I am sure, disgust the entire House. That photograph will be seen around the world, and will illustrate the impact of terrorism in Northern Ireland.

Government Policy

11. Mr. Gow : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what is the policy of Her Majesty's Government in order to bring to the Province peace, stability and reconciliation.

Mr. Tom King : We are giving particular emphasis to strengthening the economy, improving the prospects for jobs, encouraging better community relations, and giving additional help to areas of particular need. At the same

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time we maintain the most determined efforts to defeat terrorism, and to encourage a more constructive approach to political development.

Mr. Gow : Is it not true that the Anglo-Irish Agreement has alienated the majority without reconciling the minority? Will my right hon. Friend follow a policy whereby the Province is governed as closely as may be to the way in which the rest of the United Kingdom is governed?

Mr. King : I hope and know that my hon. Friend will have listened to my original answer, and I trust that he found it entirely acceptable as the policy that we seek to pursue. That is the foundation on which we strive to address the governance of Northern Ireland.

Mr. William Ross : Does the Secretary of State agree that one of the principles of governing Northern Ireland in exactly the same way as the rest of the United Kingdom should be to adopt exactly the same electoral process in the Province as that which is enjoyed by the electorate in the rest of the United Kingdom? Will the right hon. Gentleman also bear in mind that the methods used for identification at polling stations are inadequate, as was proved to be true yesterday, when people apparently turned up with forged medical cards? Would not the solution be a single proper identity card for the entire population?

Mr. King : There are strong arguments in favour of the hon. Gentleman's latter suggestion, provided that one can ensure that it operates in a way that is not itself open to abuse. One of the problems of personation in Northern Ireland is the determined efforts made by people to falsify their identity, even when required to produce proof of it. The authorities take as effective steps as they can against forgery and other activities.

I was surprised by the hon. Gentleman's first point. I cannot believe that anyone seriously argues that it is desirable to return to the old electoral system in Northern Ireland.

Short Brothers

12. Mr. Colvin : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on privatisation of Short Brothers and the implications for defence sales.

Mr. Viggers : Proposals for the acquisition of Short Brothers plc have now been received from Bombardier and GEC-Fokker and they are being carefully assessed. There will be no change in the relationship between the Ministry of Defence as customer and Shorts as contractor consequent upon the sale of the Government's shareholding.

Mr. Colvin : Although Short Brothers is still overmanned, will my hon. Friend congratulate the company on its recent improvement in productivity? Bearing in mind the importance of the Paris air show next month as a shop window for the aerospace industry, can my hon. Friend assure the House that Short Brothers will be able to exhibit at that show knowing who are its new owners?

Mr. Viggers : The Government are seeking urgently to finalise the arrangements for the move of Shorts to the private sector as a single unit, which is our preferred

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option, but it is not possible at this point to put a specific timetable on that programme. I agree completely with my hon. Friend that the long-term future of Shorts will lie with those who work there. High productivity and competitiveness will be crucial.

Mr. Jim Marshall : Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for calling me twice. May I impress upon the Minister the need to make an urgent decision on the privatisation of Shorts? The Minister will be aware that only some two weeks ago the company-- [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker : Order.

Mr. Cryer : I did not know that they made umbrella material into jackets.

Mr. Jim Marshall : I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) was in the umbrella business. The Minister will be aware that a couple of weeks ago Shorts made a decision to make 700 people redundant. It seems to the outsider that a decision has already been taken within the company that it would prefer privatisation with Bombardier. Bombardier said some weeks ago that if no decision was announced publicly within two weeks it would assume that a decision had been made. Can the Minister give an absolute guarantee that a statement will be made within the next two weeks so that we can have a full discussion on the privatisation of Shorts, and Shorts can go to the air show in Paris knowing who its new owners will be?

Mr. Viggers : What I can say is that no decision has been made. I give the hon. Gentleman an assurance that we are pursuing the matter with all possible urgency.

13. Mr. Ashdown : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what was discussed at the recent meeting with Bombardier's in Canada ; and if he will make a statement.

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