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Column 353winds. It pollutes the entire coastline of County Down. It certainly creates great resentment among those who live in Bangor, Ballyholme and Orlock who see signs of sewage and other debris along the coastline. We need a commitment from the Government that they will build a sewage works, no matter how costly it may be, so that raw sewage is no longer thrown into the sea.
Finally, to refer to a matter in Holywood--not Hollywood in California but Holywood, County Down in my constituency. That is the development at Kinnegar, an estate on the coast at Holywood. I appeal to the Minister and to the House for support on behalf of the families who live at Kinnegar. They oppose, as I do, the use of the old gas works site for light industrial or office development. They have waged their campaign of opposition for well over a year and I have been closely identified with it from the start. I wrote to the Department of the Environment on a number of occasions urging that the site should be preserved and retained as a recreational area for the people and children of Kinnegar.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, you have not had the good fortune to visit Holywood. It is a lovely, ancient place. I see the Government Whip, the hon. Member for Stevenage (Mr. Wood), nodding in assent. I have the impression that he has travelled further afield than Kinnegar and may have visited County Armagh recently. If he comes to Holywood, he will find it and the rest of my constituency of North Down a pleasant place with a lovely environment and marvellous people, most of whom--perhaps I should not say most, but a sufficient number--vote for me. Pray God that in the next general election, despite the intervention of a Conservative candidate, those people will still vote for me, knowing the years of service that I have given my constituency of North Down. That was the start of my election campaign.
Holywood lacks all the recreational facilities that are to be found in other large towns and cities in Northern Ireland and that is unfair. Holywood has been passed by and that is why the old Kinnegar gas works site should be preserved. But sadly, despite all the objections by residents and all the protests that I have made, the site was sold and planning permission has been granted.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Richard Needham) : Perhaps I can help the hon. Gentleman by saying that the Conservative mayor of North Down came to see me yesterday about that very issue, drawing attention to the letter that he received from the hon. Gentleman. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I will look most carefully at his point about Kinnegar.
Mr. Kilfedder : I am puzzled by what the Minister said because I have not written to the Conservative candidate. I have certainly written to one of the Environment Ministers--I cannot recall which, so I shall opt for the hon. Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley), who wears glasses and has a kindly face. I have written to Ministers about Kinnegar, and if I wrote to the Minister with the kindly face I hope that I shall get a kindly response.
Despite all their protests and complaints, the people of Kinnegar have been totally frustrated. Their opposition has been ignored and bureaucracy seeks to treat them with impunity. I warn the Department of the Environment that
Column 354those worthy people have not given up and on their behalf I appeal to both Ministers to reward their endeavours and restore faith in the democratic process by intervening in this issue.
I pointed out in the past that the ordinary citizen is at a grave disadvantage in attempting to oppose a planning application. If an application for planning permission is refused, the person making the application has the right of appeal to the planning appeals commission and can employ a high-powered barrister or Queen's counsel to push his case. Once a planning application is granted, an objector has no such right. It does not matter how many objectors there are, because they have no such right. I have urged the Government to amend the law and to provide objectors with a right of appeal. The case of Kinnegar confirms the need for such a right if justice is to be done.
Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East) : The hon. Gentleman will be aware, from his previous life as Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, of a proposal made by the environment committee which was accepted by the Department. It changed the planning regulations to the extent that the Department was willing, provided that two thirds of a council opposed a planning application, to hold an article 22 inquiry. The difficulty has often been that the Department has held on to applications until the two months within which an article 22 inquiry must be called have elapsed. A change in the legislation extending that period would help councils to ensure equality between objectors and applicants.
Mr. Kilfedder : I agree with the hon. Gentleman. That shows the worth of the Northern Ireland Assembly and of the various statutory committees, including the environment committee, of which the hon. Gentleman was the distinguished chairman. It is right to praise those who deserve it, because there are a number in this House who deserve no praise.
The developers at Kinnegar have obtained permission to build seven office units of approximately 5,000 square feet per unit with car parking for 125 cars. They estimate that 300 people will be employed in the proposed units. It is perfectly clear that such a development will substantially increase traffic and service and delivery vehicles. There is a real and grave problem : the entrance to the Kinnegar estate is a small road, and even without that development it is often blocked by security forces' vehicles or ordnance vehicles from the Army barracks at the end of the Kinnegar estate. In addition to the military vehicles, which block traffic, sewage tankers travel daily through the estate.
A local public house--I know that the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea) does not approve of public houses--has obtained planning permission for an extension, which will generate more business, people and cars. I pity the people who will live in that area, with all that development and traffic and danger to their children. The area is already congested. Surely it is planning madness to allow that office or light industrial development to proceed. What about the rights of the ordinary people who live in the area, in particular the young people, for whom a recreational area would be of inestimable benefit?
Column 3558.44 pm
Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann) : I understand that it is customary for me to begin by paying tribute to the previous Member for Upper Bann, which I do gladly. Mr. Harold McCusker can be aptly summed up as a man of the people. He worked extremely hard for the people of Upper Bann and cared deeply for their welfare. I know from canvassing in the recent by-election that he was held in high regard and with deep affection by the people of Upper Bann. Harold,
characteristically, was a fighter. He fought for those people and he fought in personal terms. His illness would not have been so prolonged if he had not fought so strongly against it. As many hon. Members know, Harold's surname literally means "a son of Ulster", and he was a son of Ulster. He was conscious of the soil from which he sprang and the traditions of the area and its people.
The Upper Bann area is proud of its Unionist heritage, and many elements within the area express that heritage. I had some pleasure in reading a recent publication by the Public Record Office, edited by David Miller. Hon. Members will be familiar with his earlier work, which was extremely enlightening, on Unionism and loyalism. That publication included a copy of the account by Colonel Blacker of the formation of the Orange Order, of which I am proud to be a member. We find within it not only the Armagh area --sometimes the Armagh people, it being the County of the Diamond, forget that other counties contributed--but particularly in the west Down area. I am thinking particularly of the Bleary boys who contributed to that and to the successful defeat of the 1938 rebellion shortly afterwards. The Unionist heritage of the north Armagh area is in some ways epitomised by the statute of Colonel Saunderson, which stands in the centre of Armagh. I shall refer again to Colonel Saunderson in a way that is particularly apposite to other matters.
Upper Bann is significant not only for its Orange heritage but for the way in which its character was formed largely through the plantation processes of the 17th and early 18th centuries. The major towns in the area are plantation towns. We see that from the contribution of the Brownlows to the creation of Lurgan and of the Warings to Waringstown and other towns in the area.
That plantation had a significant heritage in other repects, because directly from it sprang the Ulster custom, which after the Ulster land war of the 1770s provided a basis from which the industrial revolution was able to occur. The industrial revolution in Ulster, which was centred on the Lagan valley, was an indigenous growth. Ministers may be interested in this, because it owed nothing to Government contribution or significant landlord patronage. It was indigenous and arose out of the customary rights that the tenants had won for themselves. We find the traces of one of the first major industrial developments in the area--the textile industry-- through the middle Bann valley, running from Gilford down to the town of Banbridge, which lies in the centre of the constituency.
During the recent by-election in Upper Bann, attention focused on the intervention of what are called national parties. I want to reflect on that for a moment. I mentioned Colonel Saunderson, whose statue stands in the centre of Portadown. The inscription refers to him as the leader of Ulster's Unionists in the House for more than 20 years. As
Column 356hon. Members will know, he first sat in the House as a Liberal, representing the constituency of County Cavan, and in the 1880s was returned for North Armagh, including Portadown, as a Conservative. Of course, he is noted as the leader of the Ulster Unionists. The term "national parties" which has been bandied about in recent times is misleading. It was misleading for some people who call themselves Conservatives to intervene in that election and call themselves the national parties. They claimed that their arrival was something new. Of course it was not new. Nor are they right to refer to themselves as solely national parties as distinct from provincial parties. We in the Ulster Unionist party are the British national party in Ulster. We were formed historically by an alliance between Ulster Liberals and Ulster Conservatives, with Ulster Labour representatives too, to combat Irish nationalists. We are the national British parties in Ulster. In that context, one must put a large question mark against the aims and motives of a group calling itself Conservative which contested the election with, it seemed to us, the object of dividing and diminishing the Unionist voice and, by so doing, diminishing the voice of the British people of Ulster. Since my arrival in the House, several hon. Members have expressed to me their regret at the decision of the Conservative party to contest the Upper Bann election. I did not regret it during the election. While canvassing, I repeatedly told the electors that the election was an opportunity for them to vote against the policies of the Government. The results show that the electorate of Upper Bann seized that opportunity with both hands. Hon. Members will not need to be reminded that the candidate representing the policies of the Government scored a total of 2.9 per cent.--less than 3 per cent.--of the valid votes cast in the election. That is a clear rejection of the policies of the present Administration. That demonstrates--indeed, it confirms, because we had demonstrated it on many previous occasions-- that the policies pursued by the Northern Ireland Office have no mandate from the people of Ulster. That is significant. People cannot say that a majority elsewhere in the United Kingdom in favour of the Government's policies legitimises those policies. A clear distinction can be drawn between Northern Ireland and, say, Scotland. In Scotland, where again the Government have no mandate for their policies, they can say that their policies are applied on a Great Britain basis and that they have a majority in Great Britain. However, the policies pursued in Northern Ireland are applied, not on a United Kingdom basis but specifically to Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is treated differently from the rest of the United Kingdom and its constitutional status in the kingdom is diminished. A mandate for the Government's policies can be obtained only from the people of Ulster. Clearly that mandate does not exist. In the light of that, the only honourable course for the Government is to reconsider their policies and accept the offers made by my colleagues to extricate them from the position in which they have put themselves. They should adopt policies that reinforce the position of the kingdom of Ulster within the kingdom.
At least the Conservative party came to seek a mandate in Upper Bann, even though that mandate was refused. I listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall). I find his detailed interest in matters relating to Northern Ireland interesting. I agreed with several of the points that he made. Surely he
Column 357must find it a little strange to take such a detailed interest in Northern Ireland matters and discuss them at length in the House when he belongs to a party that not only does not contest elections in Northern Ireland but refuses people in Northern Ireland the right or opportunity to join it. A member of a party which deliberately boycotts the people of Northern Ireland must surely find it inconsistent to take such a detailed interest in Northern Ireland. Tonight we are discussing the Appropriation (No. 2) (Northern Ireland) Order 1990. The measure is dealt with in the form of an Order in Council. Order in Council procedures are less than satisfactory. Indeed, that is an understatement. The hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) referred a few moments ago to defects in the planning legislation on article 22 inquiries. As hon. Members will know, a planning and building regulations order has been tabled and is shortly to be debated. If that was legislation dealt with in the normal way, the hon. Member for Belfast, East could table an amendment to provide a remedy for the defects to which he referred. Of course, he cannot do so. That is not right. The procedures should not operate in the way that they do. Significant changes are needed. I support the comments made by the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Forsythe) on the Payments for Debt (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act (Northern Ireland) 1971. Order in Council procedure is objectionable partly because it is described as temporary. It is a temporary procedure stemming currently from the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1974 and originally from the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act 1972. One wonders what the meaning of the word "temporary" is in that context.
That is even more appropriate in the context of the point raised by the hon. Member for Antrim, South. He dealt with a temporary measure introduced in 1971, which is still operating. Not only is the measure objectionable because it was a temporary measure which lasted 19 years, but the provisions made for deduction of benefits under the Act were made as the result of administrative action.
I should have thought that hon. Members who are interested in the rights of persons subject to the law of the United Kingdom would want people's property rights determined in the courts or through some form of judicial procedure, rather than civil service actions. Civil servants may decide to withhold benefits in order to pay debts owed to other persons. That is particularly strange when, through the Enforcement of Judgments Office and its provisions for attachment of earnings and other assets, procedures have to be followed and some independent judgment is placed between the debtor and the creditor by the operations of the enforcement officers.
Surely, at least on those grounds, something should be done. Even if it is still felt necessary to make deductions from people entitled to claim benefit, surely something should be done to enable people to make representations before a third party. It would be appropriate to provide something analogous to the procedure for enforcement judgments.
My first point about the order concerns planning policy in the Craigavon district. That area is unique in Northern Ireland as the only area that does not have in force a development plan or area plan. The original, non- statutory plan, which is now some 20 years old, is not
Column 358relevant, because the position has changed drastically in the past 20 years, with the failure of the new city project contained within it. In that area, we are operating with the detritus of the new city project.
While canvassing during the election campaign, I was struck by the desolation of the estates in the central Craigavon or Brownlow area. I hope that some thought has been given to planning policies that could help to regenerate that area. I was also struck by the way in which many areas of the town of Lurgan have been badly blighted because of road proposals which, I am told, have since been abandoned. Again, I hope that some serious planning policies will be evolved to regenerate those areas.
I was also struck by one of the consequences of the 1960s housing policies which I hope will not be repeated. I refer to the not very well built medium and high-rise flat developments. Nearly all the developments that I saw were semi-derelict and unoccupied. They were eyesores and worse-- especially in the Portadown district, where properties that were originally constructed by the local Housing Executive have been bought by the tenants under the right-to-buy procedures, which the Government encouraged.
The owners have found that, to some extent, their properties have been devalued by the derelict medium-rise flat developments just across the road. I hope that some urgent action will be taken on that. I was told by the occupiers--the purchasers--that they had been told by the executive that they would have to wait two or three years simply for a decision on the flat developments, let alone for any action to be taken.
My second point about the appropriation order relates to the community relations cultural traditions programmes. As the Minister said, the programmes are being expanded considerably. That is a good thing, and I very much welcome the existence of those programmes. However, I should like an assurance that they will be genuinely representative and even-handed. I must confess to being uncertain about the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council. Technically, it is not a Government body, although in the first instance all its members have been appointed by the Government. It has been given a budget of £300,000. We must ask, how was the body formed? How representative of the community are the people who serve on it and how balanced is that representation? It seems that that representation does not rise above the level of tokenism as far as the majority tradition in Ulster is concerned. Many of the people who serve on it cannot be regarded as truly representative.
Finally, I refer to an item of expenditure relating to the Northern Ireland Assembly. I note that there is a provision for £274,000 to be spent-- over £200,000 of which will be spent on maintaining a cadre to provide the basis for an Assembly, should one be called in the future. I welcome that expenditure because there is a great need for representative institutions in Ulster. Hon. Members will know that there is a virtual absence of representative institutions and that what are called "local authorities" are not really what are normally understood by that term. They rarely get above the level of English parish councils. There is a huge gap between them and this House. We need representative institutions.
Although I welcome that expenditure on the Northern Ireland Assembly, I do not want my comments to be taken as implying my approval of the proposals in the Prior Act--the Northern Ireland Act 1982. I am not sure that those
Column 359proposals ever were workable. If we ever have an Assembly--or devolution on any significant scale in the future--I hope that it will be much more substantial than that of the Northern Ireland Assembly, if it is to be regarded as worthwhile devolution as distinct from what is essentially local government restructuring, which is another matter.
Devolution is said to be the Government's policy. I find it curious that a Government with that policy have not made any proposals that would advance that policy. That is to be contrasted with the experience or the actions of the Ulster Unionist party because it is now almost two and a half years since the Ulster Unionist party made detailed proposals for developments in Northern Ireland to the previous Secretary of State, to which there has not yet been any response. The Government do not make any proposals of their own. Their attitude is passive. If we were to have discussions on the proposals, I suspect that the Government would not advance any proposals of their own, but would simply adopt the role of picking holes in the proposals of ourselves and others.
I wonder why that should be the case. I suspect that, despite its protestations to the contrary, the Northern Ireland Office actually prefers the present position. I suspect that it does not really want devolution, but prefers to sustain the present direct rule. Under that system, it is effectively insulated from any form of democratic control. Ministers can speak for themselves, but civil servants in the Northern Ireland Office give the impression that they are not really interested in devolution, and that they enjoy the freedom from accountability that direct rule gives them. That is another reason for ending direct rule at the earliest opportunity.
Mr. Jerry Hayes (Harlow) : Let me take this opportunity to welcome the hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) to the House. I welcome him not only as a Conservative and Unionist, but as a Roman Catholic. I had the opportunity of joining him for lunch today, and found him a charming and clubbable individual--in the nicest sense of the word--and I wish him every success in his political career.
The hon. Gentleman bears a grave and onerous burden : he follows Harold McCusker, who was held in great affection by his constituents and in the House. Harold McCusker spoke for his people with courage, honesty and decency, from his heart. The courage that he showed when fighting illness was the same courage as he showed in fighting the men of terror and violence. I remember hearing him say on many occasions in the House that he had carried more coffins of friends and relatives than any other hon. Member. That is something I know that the new hon. Member for Upper Bann will never and should never forget.
The hon. Gentleman raised a minor note of controversy. There is a convention that a new Member should not have too much of a go at his parliamentary opponents in a maiden speech. From my mere seven years' experience in the House, I can say that although he was heard in silence-- as is the convention--he may not be next time. It is not always wise to attack one's parliamentary opponents, especially on both sides of the House --that is asking for trouble.
Column 360I remind the hon. Gentleman that this is a Parliament of the United Kingdom. If he really wants--I trust that he does- -to represent the views of the people of Upper Bann, he will not come here only to debate matters relating to Upper Bann and Northern Ireland, but will participate in and legislate on United Kingdom matters. If anything can bring the Province to a degree of normality within the United Kingdom, it is the prospect of the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues doing just that.
I know that this is not a debate about the Anglo-Irish Agreement, and I shall not be sidetracked on to that, but one can only be encouraged by the constructive and helpful comments on television this morning by the leaders of the Democratic Unionist party and the Ulster Unionist party. I know that there have been many false dawns and graveyards of expectation, but for the first time for ages there appeared to be a united voice, and a flexibility on the part of Government and the major Ulster parties. That is to be welcomed, and the House will wish them luck.
The major recruiting ground of the IRA must be unemployment, and I pay tribute to Ministers in their crusade against it. The seasonally adjusted figure for unemployment in the Province in March 1990 was 98,400 : that represented a decrease of 10,600 compared with March 1989, and a decrease of 26,900 compared with the peak of 125,300 in October 1986. In March 1990 seasonally adjusted unemployment stood at its lowest level for more than seven years, since September 1982. That is a major step forward.
There is also good news for the young unemployed because, since March 1989, unemployment among 18 to 24-year-olds has decreased by 5, 053. The number of persons unemployed for more than one year, the long-term unemployed, has decreased by 7,447. The number of employees increased by 8,390 between December 1987 and December 1989. That is a key figure. Credit must be given to my hon. Friend the Minister for the work that he has done on this front.
The investment now coming into the Province is another key factor. Earlier my right hon. Friend the Minister of State mentioned some recent IDB successes which reflect the continuing progress of inward investment. About 5,000 new jobs have been promoted by the IDB during 1989-90 and 40 per cent. of those jobs are connected with new investment from outside Northern Ireland. The total investment associated with various new projects amounts to a record £440 million and the IDB contribution towards that investment works out at 21 per cent.
There have been some spectacular examples of inward investment. On 18 December 1989 the O'Connell Development company of Massachusetts announced its major participation in a £65 million investment in Londonderry. Current and programmed commercial investment in Belfast city by the private sector totals £450 million on top of the £120 million spent in the past five years. A significant proportion of that investment comes from Great Britain, including £75 million for the Castle Court retail, office, car park development. That is a tribute to what Ministers, the Department and the Government are doing.
There are many ways in which one can defeat terrorism and, apart from any political solution, one of the best is an economic solution. That means providing jobs, investment and a good standard of living in the Province. That is why I am happy to support the Government estimates tonight.
Column 3619.12 pm
Mr. Eddie McGrady (South Down) : I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute tonight. My first pleasurable task is to join in the welcome to the new hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble). I compliment him on the content and eloquence of his speech. Although we shall, undoubtedly, have considerable political differences, none the less I am sure that there are many matters upon which we shall be able to work together for the mutual benefit of our constituents, especially as we represent contiguous constituencies.
It is appropriate, if the House will forgive the pun, that the first vote in the appropriation order is to the Department of Agriculture for which the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State is responsible. I was intrigued tonight by the announcement of a new account involving the princely sum of £1,000 for rural development. That is a mind-boggling concept, but no doubt it will be explained when the Parliamentary Under-Secretary replies.
The Minister is well aware that rural development is a particular passion of mine as I represent a rural community. I hope that the Minister can give us some information regarding progress made by his committee on rural development, which was formed in January this year, and the consultations that it has undertaken in order to promote a programme for rural rejuvenation. The committee has had contact with various district councils. I also refer him to the new committee of the Housing Executive with special responsibility for rural housing. Will he ask his committee to join forces with CRISP, the body set up by the International Fund for Ireland, which is seeking advancement in rural development and would be prepared to put money into it? Because of all the bodies involved, I fear that the whole project may be bogged down in administration and consultation and that, once again, although lip service is paid to the concept, nothing will happen in practice. I hope that the Minister will devote his energies to ensuring that we have a practical rural improvement and regeneration programme.
It will not surprise the Minister if I refer next to fisheries because I have made many representations to him and have asked him to use his good offices to expedite the capital improvement of Ardglass harbour, which is the only one of the three fishing ports in Northern Ireland--Kilkeel and Ardglass in my constituency and Portavogie in Strangford--without meaningful capital development of its harbour. The Minister has had the project from the Northern Ireland Fishery Harbour Authority since early in the year and I am disappointed that work did not commence on it, as anticipated, in April. My constituents would be receptive to an announcement in his reply to the debate tonight that work is to start. From the look on the Minister's face, I do not think that that is likely. I urge him to make the announcement soon because unless work is started on the project now it will have to be postponed for yet another year. The fishermen of Ardglass suffered enough last winter without their boats being endangered for another winter.
I wish to refer to part of my constituency which from prehistoric times has been known as the granary of Ulster, the east Down cereal-growing area. Cereal producers in south Down are paying the co-responsibility levy although they are net importers. They have to import, with high transport costs, but at the same time they have to
Column 362contribute for over-producing. It is a paradox which should be eradicated as soon as possible so that they may have a better income from a precarious occupation.
I was interested in the complimentary remarks of the hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Hayes) about economic development and job promotion. I pay tribute to the Department of Economic Development, to the Industrial Development Board and to the Local Enterprise Development Unit for the activity in which they are engaged, but I suggest that the cake which is being baked is not being distributed to all. I was horrified to note from answers to parliamentary questions that in the three years 1986-87, 1987-88 and 1988-89 the Industrial Development Board had brought inward investment companies to my constituency on only seven occasions. That is an indictment--there should be equal opportunities for all the people of Northern Ireland. Over the same period, 316 jobs were created by the various agencies. That is 100 per year, which is less than 1 per cent. of the unemployment figures for South Down.
I know that it is difficult to direct inward investment to certain areas, especially as it is scarce because of our other problems. None the less, it would be flying in the face of the statistics not to be worried that a proper direction is not being taken. Will the Minister ensure that the prospect of inward investment opportunity is given to my constituents, just as to other districts in the Six Counties? The Minister will know that I was particularly enthusiastic when the Department engaged in a programme of fibre optic link developments, now known as the Star programme. I had great hopes at that time that the introduction of fibre optic links would give rural districts such as South Down and other rural areas of Northern Ireland the opportunity of providing what are known as back office operations in rural communities that are sensibly situated, designed and built. I urge the Minister that the Department, and particularly the Industrial Development Board, should place more emphasis on achieving inward investment of that nature, which is just as economically rewarding as the more industrially and
production-orientated inward investment companies.
It appears that there is a great danger of becoming bogged down in administration. The Star task force was inaugurated, comprising representives of the Department of Economic Development, the Industrial Development Board, the Local Enterprise Development Unit, the technology board for Northern Ireland, Queen's university and the university of Ulster. If the Minister can get all those organisations to agree to an immediate course of action, he is a better man than I. The time has come for action to be taken abroad, particularly in Europe and the United States, for the transfer of back office operations into the local areas served by fibre optic links. The other great industrial job creation potential of an area such as my constituency, and indeed Northern Ireland as a whole, is that of tourism. I must again register my criticism at the lack of a serious cohesive drive to present other regions of Northern Ireland in a comprehensive way. My constituency is unique--it has natural and man-made facilities, environmental assets, historic content, ruins and traditions. Those could all be easily packaged to be promoted as another method of attracting tourists from abroad.
I urge the Minister to consider the issue of encouragement and, if necessary, aid for the provision of
Column 363bed accommodation, particularly in districts such as my constituency of South Down. The obvious and easy method is that of farmhouse accommodation development, which has the dual purpose of job and wealth creation, while at the same time creating income for the rural community. It is tragic when one compares Donegal and Down, at opposite extremes of the north of Ireland. Every crossroads in Donegal has bed-and- breakfast or tourist-approved bed accommodation, but in my area there are virtually none, and the only accommodation is highly priced. That market is no longer available for tourism generally. A small family seeking holiday accommodation want attractive, local, cheap farmhouse accommodation.
Other hon. Members have referred to the energy, electricity and gas industries. There is a great danger that in the north of Ireland we might have priced ourselves out of industrial competition in terms of energy charges. It was correctly pointed out that coal has gone up by £10 a tonne. Even more important in terms of industrial development is the enormous increase in the standing charge for electricity. I do not know whether it is a fattening-up process, but it certainly costs the industrialists a considerable amount--22 per cent. last year, 8 per cent. this year, a total of 30 per cent. in two years. Inward investing industrialists would certainly look at that closely. The concept of rural planning is badly applied in many areas, both in principle and in practice. The principles of planning are not adhered to in any regular manner which would be intelligible to the layman. An important aspect in rural development and in the preservation of the integrity of rural communities is the fact that planning permissions in rural locations are almost always granted for second homes to wealthy people coming in from the cities. As a result, the available sites cannot be used by the indigenous population--by the sons and daughters of local farmers and villagers. The planning department must engage in a policy of setting aside certain areas either for the provision of public housing or for low-cost housing for local people, so that the sons and daughters of farmers and villagers have the chance to build houses there and live in their own environment.
In the context of rural preservation I am appalled at the news just published that 13 primary schools in the maintained sector in my constituency are up for closure, and it seems that in Closkelt, Ballyward, Leitrim, Gransha, and Edenvale, 13 state primary schools are also up for the chop. If that happens, entire rural communities will be wiped out in a couple of years in one fell swoop. If that is paralleled in the maintained sector, it augurs badly for any attempt to stabilise the rural communities of Northern Ireland. It is not a question of money--it is a question of will. The fundamental provision of primary school education in the community is the factor that makes a community gell. The schools are not just teaching institutions but centres to which communities look. They are used as social and recreational bases and are pivotal to village and community life. I ask the Minister to ensure that the fullest possible consultation takes place with local people--not just with education boards or with the Catholic maintained schools committee, but with the people who will be deprived of institutions which have existed for more than 150 years. If the 20 or 30 closures in my constituency go ahead,
Column 364Northern Ireland Departments will be able to forget about rural population maintenance because the centres on which the communities are founded will have disappeared.
Rev. William McCrea (Mid-Ulster) : I am thankful, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I have caught your eye in this important debate. However, the competition to speak is not as great as that which usually faces Northern Ireland Members. At most, 13 Members of a House of 650 have been present during this debate on the expenditure of public funds of £2,496,546,900, and that is a disgrace. It is easy for Members who call themselves the national party, as they did in the election a short while ago, to tell people how interested they are in Northern Ireland. There are three Conservative Members and one Opposition Member in the House. That certainly says something. Perhaps there is not so much competition to speak because we are not on peak-time television. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall) was included in the 13 hon. Members that I mentioned.
Mr. Beggs : Does the hon. Member agree that it is reasonable for Northern Ireland Members to expect those hon. Members who try to squeeze us out at Northern Ireland Question Time to be here? Where are they? Perhaps they will take note of the debate and desist from the temptation to ask questions that are handed to them by party Whips. That is done to fill space and prevent Northern Ireland Members who have serious matters to address on behalf of their constituents from being called to ask questions.
Rev. William McCrea : I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, East (Mr. Beggs). I am certain that the Northern Ireland Office and Northern Ireland Ministers have something to do with many of the planted questions. If one looks carefully at the Official Report of the last Northern Ireland Question Time and at some of the prepared questions and prepared answers, one sees that in one case the answer given was not to the question that was asked but to the one that followed it. The detailed answer would certainly lead Northern Ireland Members to think that, in the run-up to a by-election, some hon. Members wanted to pretend that they had a special interest in internal matters in Northern Ireland. They asked about issues such as licences and breathalysers. They asked about little matters that many hon. Members on this side of the water would not have known about had they not been handed details of them.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Bottomley) : Before we are diverted too far from the orde it is worth making two or three small points. The hon. Gentleman thinks that an interest in breathalysers is in some way connected with the Upper Bann by- election. That is an insult to the electorate of Upper Bann. If the hon. Gentleman had been watching me for the last four years, he would have realised that questions about such matters have not started recently.
If the hon. Gentleman would like a planted question, he should have a talk with me, because many interesting bits of information could be placed on the record. It is occasionally useful to have an hon. Member put down a question and it would be useful if we could have a deal about that. Before the Upper Bann by-election campaign, at one Northern Ireland Question Time only half the
Column 365Northern Ireland Members put down questions. Perhaps we could remind each other of the right time to put down questions, because that could lead to a better spread.
Rev. William McCrea : I thought that the Minister's intervention would turn into his winding-up speech, and that he had changed his timing. I do not think that the questions about breathalysers had a personal significance for Upper Bann. However, Conservative Members had to ask questions about something and they asked about matters that were relevant to Northern Ireland.
I would be delighted to find a genuine interest in the affairs of Northern Ireland. Interesting questions have been asked on other occasions, but it is strange that tonight the Chamber is almost empty. The Government have a majority of over 100 but only four Conservative Members are present. That shows that something is wrong and I hope that that will be noted by the electorate. The Minister and the Whip have to be here to carry on the business, and that means that only two Conservative Members are willing to be here. That is strange when one bears in mind that we are talking about £2,496 million of public money. Therefore, I have to put a question mark over the sincerity of those hon. Members. I am sure that the Minister will agree that it is rational for me, or any other hon. Member representing Northern Ireland, to question this, bearing in mind the recent heightened interest in the affairs of Northern Ireland shown by Conservative Members.
I am delighted to have the opportunity to address the House on a matter of considerable importance, because financial aid to Northern Ireland is vital for us. Vote 1 for the Department of Agriculture deals with marketing and processing and vote 2 with scientific and veterinary services. While I welcome the aid given to farming, which is the largest industry in my constituency, I must express the alarm and dismay felt by farmers in Northern Ireland about the effect of the BSE scare on Ulster meat exports. What is known as mad cow disease has already resulted in the cancellation of an order for meat from the Province to, for example, a German market chain because of the inability to obtain BSE-free certificates.
Farmers in my constituency and in the Province as a whole find this strange. They believe that they are being victimised because of the high incidence of BSE in Great Britain. They find it strange, as should the House, that the disease has a special relationship with constitutional boundaries. The meat plants in the south of Ireland can call their product BSE-free, yet the Department of Agriculture in the north of Ireland cannot do the same for meat there. Is this just a United Kingdom disease, is it something that attacks British cattle, or does it stop at Auchnacloy and immediately start at Castlederg? This is a serious matter, and I am sure that the Minister will remember that it is most serious, because farmers in the Province will go to the wall. The veterinary section of the Department should intervene and get Northern Ireland special status within the United Kingdom. If this needs to be argued in Brussels, I trust that Ministers will promise the House that this will be done. It is a known fact that, on the mainland tonight, butchers are advertising "BSE-free meat from Ireland". Where is it coming from? The Minister should know that one of the realities of life is that there is a great deal of smuggling across the border.
Column 366Northern Ireland farmers will have to go to the south, where they are happy to take the meat and sell it to the mainland with this stamp on it. That cannot be right or permissible.
Northern Ireland is suffering for something for which it is not responsible. As the Secretary of State said yesterday at the agriculture show, there is little incidence of BSE in the island of Ireland as a whole. However, from the way that the media have put it, one would think that, although there was no incidence in the south of Ireland and some in Northern Ireland, as the latter is part of the United Kingdom, there must be rigid control on the cattle in Northern Ireland.
It is all very well for the Minister to tell us that the Department of Agriculture spends money on marketing and processing, but there can hardly be marketing and processing because of the situation of the Northern Ireland farmer. It is a serious matter and one that has nothing to do with boundaries. Northern Ireland farmers produce the best standard of British beef and I believe that that beef should be exported throughout the world. We in Northern Ireland are proud of our farming as a whole.
How is the Department of Agriculture succeeding in encouraging set-aside on arable land for alternative farming and non-agricultural purposes? Does the Minister believe that the present grants are attractive enough to encourage such diversification?
Does the Minister agree that the Government's policy is that the private sector should be the major vehicle for economic regeneration in the Province? How does he view the present state of manufacturing and other parts of the business fraternity within the private sector, following the dramatic fall in employment in manufacturing over the past decade? The private sector is dominated now by service industries.
Has the Minister studied the report of April 1990 from the Northern Ireland Economic Council? Is he deeply concerned that the Northern Ireland private sector is small when compared with that in the rest of the United Kingdom and that manufacturing firms within the Northern Ireland private sector are themselves small? The report states :
"The private sector will have to be able to adjust to rapidly changing technological and market conditions with greater success than has been evident in the past."
Can the House be assured that the Government will act constructively in a supporting role as the private sector seeks to prepare itself for the challenge of 1992? To ensure that that happens, the Government must consider additional incentives. Does the Minister feel that all the necessary financial resources are available to him and to the Department to rejuvenate Northern Ireland's industrial base?
I represent an area of high unemployment. Part of my constituency has the second highest unemployment rate in the United Kingdom. I am sure that the Minister will understand that my constituents are concerned about the economy and its relevance to their lives in future. As I come from an area which is in the west of the Province, I am sure that the House will understand my concern about the jobs that have been created recently and their siting.
I ask the Government to give careful consideration to areas in the west of the Province such as Mid-Ulster, which has suffered so much from industrial neglect. Surely the Government can promise my constituents that fresh efforts will be made to encourage industrial development
Column 367in Cookstown, which has the second highest unemployment figure in the entire United Kingdom. Will similar efforts be made to ensure that industrial development comes to Omagh, Fintona, Dromore and last, but by no means least, Castlederg, which has suffered great deprivation? Special incentives are needed.
I fear that there will not be a fair share of the jobs that are being created for the areas to which I have referred. I ask the Minister to take account of the jobs that have been created recently and exactly where they have been created. They have not been of great assistance to my constituency. I welcome all jobs but the Minister will understand me when I say that I must beseech the Department to consider providing special aid to the constituency of Mid-Ulster.
Mr. Peter Bottomley : I think that what I am about to say will fit into the debate more appropriately at this stage than in my reply. The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea) recognises that a partnership with Ministers can assist in getting investors, especially those from overseas, to consider developments in areas with which they are not necessarily familiar. Not everyone overseas will have heard of Cookstown, although it matters greatly to the hon. Gentleman and to me.
We are talking about a partnership, but if Ministers say, "Have you thought about Cookstown?", and the first thing that happens is that, when people get to Cookstown, they buy the local paper and discover that Cookstown council is not talking to Ministers, it will be difficult. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman could quietly talk to some of the people that he is associated with to try to overcome some of the apparent prejudice. It is not for me to ask people to come to see me, but a united front can be of some advantage to promote the area, as people in many other areas have realised.
Rev. William McCrea : I doubt whether the first thing that the major industrialists of the world do is buy the Mid Ulster Mail. I would like to think that they did but I must in all honesty say that I think that the Minister is pushing it too far and trying to score points for himself.
Certainly there are people in the Cookstown area who belong to other political parties which seem to have an open door to and the ready ear of the Minister, but that has certainly not helped Cookstown much. Therefore, let us not play a little game in which the Minister and the Northern Ireland Office seek to score points with Cookstown council. In the past, Omagh district council has had discussions with the Minister. I am talking about the deputation from Omagh. Why did that not bring prosperity and thousands of new jobs to the district? The Minister is pushing the wrong point. He must understand that there are differences of opinion and that people in Northern Ireland have been incensed by the way that the Government have dealt with their constitutional rights.
The Minister could demonstrate his openness and fairness by saying that the Government will no longer force upon the people of Northern Ireland something which is totally against their will but that, for a change, they will listen to the will of the ballot box. The lesson of the election in Upper Bann will have to be learnt.
The hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) made an excellent speech this evening and I congratulate him on his address to the House. I trust that he enjoys his tenure
Column 368of office as the Member of Parliament as much as his predecessor, the late Mr. McCusker, who I believe enjoyed representing the good people of Upper Bann.
I ask the Minister to go beyond the political arena and to appreciate the need for industrial devlopment in Mid-Ulster. The unemployed are members of the Province-wide majority community and of the minority community. I want the Minister to take the issue away from the political arena. We must get away from a headcount of whether people are nationalist or Unionist. I want to see an industrial base in Cookstown, Omagh, Fintona, Dromore, Castlederg and all the other little towns. The Minister could proudly take credit for that, if he so desired at a future date, and say he played a part--not the whole--in ensuring the prosperity of people in my constituency.
As regards outside investment, there will have to be special incentives for industrialists to come to the west of the Province, or the number of jobs will continue to stagnate. The Minister has to bear in mind that industry will stay near the ports. The hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) is correct to say that the spread of jobs--I welcome all jobs--shows that some areas have not been touched or there has only been a smattering of jobs throughout a large part of the Province.
I have the privilege and the honour to represent the west of the Province. I trust that the Minister will accept that I am genuinely asking the Government to intervene on behalf of industry and future industry in my consitutency. Has research been carried out into industrial development in the areas to which I have referred by the Industrial Development Board or the Local Enterprise Development Unit? If the Minister has up-to-date information, I should appreciate it if he could send it to me. I hope that it will be good news for my constituency.
As for the Department of Economic Development, I am disappointed that the attempts to encourage tourism have not been co-ordinated. According to the explanatory note to vote 2, grants towards the provision, extension and improvement of hotels, guest or boarding houses and self-catering establishments have been reduced from £1,229,000 to £829,000. I ask the Minister to give the reason for that considerable reduction in grant aid.
Mr. Beggs : We all appreciate the recent investment in hotel development in Northern Ireland, but the fact remains that those whom we should like to visit Northern Ireland in greater numbers will be unable to afford to stay in such high-standard accommodation. Ought not the Government to consider providing assistance so that those who can afford to pay only modest rates will be able to find accommodation? The strength of the tourist industry in Northern Ireland was built upon coach tours. Northern Ireland is losing out on that trade. We shall be unable to get back unless we provide accommodation for those people.
Rev. William McCrea : I agree wholeheartedly. We must build up that trade again, but we shall be unable to do so with a budget of the size that we are dealing with in this debate. It has been greatly reduced.
According to vote 3, part of that money is provided for the loan of special aids to registered disabled people who require them in order to obtain or retain employment. According to the special provision for assistance to disabled people who are in employment or seeking