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House of Commons

Thursday 27 February 1992

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. Speaker-- in the Chair ]


Mersey Docks and Harbour Bill

[Lords] (By Order) Order for Third Reading read.

To be read the Third time on Thursday 5 March.

Alliance and Leicester (Girobank) Bill

(By Order)

British Railways (No.

4) Bill-- (By Order)

Crossrail Bill

(By Order)

East Coast Main Line Safety Bill

(By Order)

King's Cross Railways (No.

2) Bill-- (By Order)

London Docklands Railway (Lewisham, etc.) (No.

2 ) Bill-- (By Order)

London Underground (Green Park) Bill

(By Order)

London Underground (Jubilee) Bill

(By Order) Orders for Second Reading read.

To be read the Second time on Thursday 5 March.

Aberdeen Harbour Order Confirmation Bill

Read the Third time, and passed.

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Oral Answers to Questions


Banbridge Hospital

1. Mr. Trimble : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what guidance the management executive of the Department of Health and Social Services has recently given to the Southern health and social services board concerning the future of Banbridge hospital.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Jeremy Hanley) : None, Sir. The hon. Gentleman might be referring to the fact that on receipt of the Southern board's investment appraisal for the refurbishment of Banbridge hospital it became clear that there were a number of deficiencies in the document, as certain issues had not been properly addressed. The board has simply been asked to provide that information before I can make a decision.

Mr. Trimble : The Minister knows of the concern about the future of Banbridge hospital and knows that, for many years, the Southern board promised its refurbishment. That project was finally put into the proposals for this financial year, only to be clobbered by the moratorium on capital expenditure. As the Minister said, his Department wrote to the board in January to tell it that it should reconsider "the issue of Banbridge". It also supplied to the board a momorandum which has not been made available to other people. Is not the implication obvious? The hon. Gentleman is asking the board either to run down or to close the hospital. Is not that a consequence of the need to provide up to £15 million to cure the concrete cancer problem at Craigavon? What other hospitals will be affected? Why cannot that exceptional expense be met with exceptional funding?

Mr. Hanley : I am doing no such thing. The hon. Gentleman will know that any project in excess of £1 million must come to me for a decision. An investment appraisal comes with the project. The investment appraisal published by the Southern board was deficient in many respects. The board has a commitment to Banbridge hospital and to continuing health care and social services in its area. I merely want the information upon which I can decide whether refurbishment can go ahead. Therefore, there is no lack of commitment by the board or by me.


2. Sir Patrick Duffy : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the security situation in Northern Ireland.

4. Mr. Hunter : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a further statement on the security situation in Northern Ireland.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Brooke) : My last statement to the House followed the deaths of nine people on 4 and 5 February. Since then

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there have been five deaths as a result of the security situation, including four men shot by the security forces near Coalisland on 16 February.

The Government and security forces will continue to meet their responsibility to bring terrorism to an end within the rule of law by pursuing a firm and resolute security policy and by working for progress in the political, economic and social fields.

Sir Patrick Duffy : Does the Secretary of State accept that the security forces must not only act within the law but always be clearly seen to act within it if they are to deprive the terrorist group of the environment in which it thrives? Will he therefore ensure that after any incident involving the use of lethal force there is a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation so that the facts are plain to see?

Mr. Brooke : I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his statement and endorsement of the policy under which the security arrangements are conducted within the Province and for his reference to the rule of law. I assure him that after each such incident the Royal Ulster Constabulary investigates the circumstances.

Mr. Hunter : Will my right hon. Friend give serious consideration to the introduction of short-term selective internment? At a time of heightened terrorist activity, would not that undermine the operational effectiveness of the terrorists and play havoc with their planned acts of violence?

Mr. Brooke : My hon. Friend is right to point out that the powers of executive detention are on the statute book and are available for use. We do not comment further on them, beyond the fact that they are available for use.

Mr. Maginnis : Was not the Secretary of State a little disappointed at the reaction of some Church leaders to the successful contact by the security forces at Coalisland? Is not it important that the Northern Ireland Office should ensure that full information is available to the public on the extent of the deadly arsenal that the terrorists had with them on that occasion, which included AK47 assault rifles and Dsh heavy machine-guns?

Will the Secretary of State ensure that the public are aware that 12 dedicated terrorists were involved in that attack and, although no one glories in anyone's death, make it clear again that only four were shot? Does not that show that the security forces acted with remarkable restraint and that there is no dedicated shoot-to-kill policy?

Mr. Brooke : I support the hon. Gentleman's observations on the need for the circumstances of such cases to be made known. I do not think that there were any doubts in Northern Ireland about the circumstances of that case. The four men who were killed were sent on a murder mission. It is easy to assess their potential for action and their intent from their fire power, to which the hon. Gentleman referred.

Mr. Peter Robinson : Does the Secretary of State recall a speech that he made several months ago in which he encouraged the business community to take on racketeers? Does he recall that he said that if the business community took the first step he and the police would give it whatever support and back-up it needed? Is he aware that one business man did as he suggested and, as a result of his

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coming forward, three people were convicted of racketeering? However, that business man was forced to close his business, change his name and go into hiding with his wife and two children, and he has received no financial support from the Northern Ireland Office. Despite the sympathy expressed by the judge in court, there is no way in which that business man can legally make a claim against the Northern Ireland Office. Will the Secretary of State ensure that his Department backs up his promises to the business community and ensure that such disincentives to the business community coming forward are not allowed to continue?

Mr. Brooke : I know that the hon. Gentleman supports our drive to deprive the paramilitaries on both sides of the sources of finance that sustain their campaigns. I recall the speech to which the hon. Gentleman referred and I know that he has referred before to a case similar to that which he described today. I confess that I thought that that case had arisen a little before that speech. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to write to me about the details of the case to which he referred I shall be happy to respond.

Mr. Mallon : When a Government have a serious problem that has lasted 22 years, cost billions of pounds in security and military provisions and caused immeasurable suffering to some people, it is reasonable to assume that they have a long-term policy for creating lasting peace and ending the waste. As we come to the end of this Parliament, will the Secretary of State take this opportunity to give us some insight into the Government's long-term policy which has been formulated during the past 13 years? I am not referring to ad hoc arrangements or short-term palliatives. Will the Secretary of State give an unambiguous statement of the Government's long-term policy for creating peace in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Brooke : As the hon. Gentleman implied by his question, the Government's central purpose must be to bring terrorism to an end. Terrorism will come to an end when the terrorist no longer believes that he has any chance of securing his objective by the means that he is using. That calls for a robust security policy to enable the people of Northern Ireland to live normal lives conducted within the rule of law. But it also implies, as my answer to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Sir P. Duffy) stated, Government policy in political, economic and social matters that deprives the terrorist of the support which he might otherwise have enjoyed.

Political Talks

3. Mr. Canavan : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will make a statement about his recent efforts to have talks with representatives of political parties in Northern Ireland.

10. Mr. John Greenway : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a further statement on the efforts he is making to reconvene all-party talks on the future government of Northern Ireland.

Mr. Brooke : The Prime Minister, the Minister of State and I met the leaders of the four main constitutional parties in Northern Ireland on 11 February. As a result of that meeting, the leaders agreed to meet together to discuss

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the obstacles in the way of further political dialogue in the hope that new talks might be able to begin at an early date. I shall meet them again shortly.

Mr. Canavan : Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that if the killing is to be stopped and a just and peaceful solution is to be found, all politicians, whatever their views, have a responsibility to speak to each other? Does he further agree that, sooner or later, the talks will have to develop into meaningful discussions about constitutional change on an all-Ireland basis because the status quo is untenable and is a recipe for continuing conflict?

Mr. Brooke : I endorse what the hon. Gentleman says about the responsibility that politicians of all constitutional parties have, and a willingness so to talk has been very much present in recent years. As for his comments about all-Ireland talks, the talks on which we have been engaged, and to which we hope to return, contain more than one strand. The second strand involves the Government of the Republic and it has been a pleasure to all concerned that everybody involved in those talks has supported and sustained them.

Mr. Greenway : I take this opportunity to pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for all the work that he has done in the past two and a half years to improve the future and administration of Northern Ireland. Does he agree that the future economic prosperity of the area depends primarily on the defeat of terrorism and that terrorism will not be defeated until all political parties in the Province renounce violence--not just those represented in the House today but Sinn Fein?

Mr. Brooke : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments about the policies that we have been pursuing and economic prosperity in the Province, where we have seen advances in recent years. Our immediate agenda must be the talks on which we embarked last year. Everybody concerned has expressed an interest in returning to them.

Mr. Molyneaux : Does the Secretary of State agree that the progress made thus far is more likely to be maintained through calm deliberation than high wire circus acts? Will he convey to the Prime Minister what I know to be the view of the three party leaders who represent Northern Ireland in the House--that we are endeavouring diligently to meet the wishes that he expressed at the Downing street meeting on 11 February?

Mr. Brooke : I endorse what the right hon. Gentleman said about the progress that has been made so far. All of us, during the time that we have been directly engaged in these matters, have found it easier to make progress when the media have not been looking over our shoulders and breathing on the backs of our necks. I mean no disrespect to the media, but some matters are carried forward more easily with the calm deliberation that the right hon. Gentleman described.

Mr. Kilfedder : I draw the attention of the Secretary of State to a damaging allegation made last week by the chairman of the Northern Ireland Conservative party and its prospective parliamentary candidate for North Down that the Secretary of State, by initiating talks between unionists and nationalists, provided the greatest possible encouragement for the murderous IRA campaign. Will the right hon. Gentleman bluntly refute the despicable

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accusation that those taking part in the talks are responsible for the deaths of innocent people at the hands of the IRA?

Mr. Brooke : The hon. Gentleman knows well his opponent, the Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate. I enjoy my conversations with that gentleman as much as I do those that I have with right hon. and hon. Members.

Mr. Rees : As to strand 2--the north-south strand--of the talks to which the Secretary of State referred, the new Taoiseach announced that articles 2 and 3 would be on the table, and we all understand that. He said also that the Government of Ireland Act 1920 would be on the table. I studied it carefully this monring, better to understand what is involved. What has the Taoiseach said about that aspect that we can consider?

Mr. Brooke : Under the terms of my statement to the House of 26 March 1991, which set in motion the talks that we held, it is open to any party to raise any issues--including constitutional issues--that it considers relevant. However, the outcome of the talks will depend on securing agreement, and all concerned accept the principle that any change to Northern Ireland's status as part of the United Kingdom would come about only with the consent of a majority of the people who live there.

Rev. Ian Paisley : Is the Secretary of State confirming by that last statement that the union can be negotiated only by the House, the people of Northern Ireland and Her Majesty's Government--and that that matter is no concern of Mr. Reynolds or of the foreign state to the south of Northern Ireland? Is the right hon. Gentleman confirming that today? My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) and I understood that the basis of the talks was to try to secure a replacement for the Anglo-Irish Agreement and to make arrangements to safeguard the administration of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom.

Mr. Brooke : At last night's meeting, the Taoiseach confirmed his Government's continuing commitment to the Anglo-Irish Agreement, article 1 of which contains a clear statement of Northern Ireland's constitutional status.

Mr. McNamara : Is the Secretary of State aware that the Opposition welcome the statements made by the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach at last night's meeting, on the future progress of talks between the two Governments, and that Northern Ireland will be high on their agenda--as it will on the agenda of the Labour Government? We are pleased that Northern Ireland party leaders agreed to meet to discuss the possibilities of progress. Does the Secretary of State accept that the Opposition hope very much that, after years of violence and despair, a political settlement will emerge, and that we will do everything in our power to achieve such an outcome, based on the three strands agreement?

Mr. Brooke : The hon. Gentleman and I have had similar exchanges before across the Dispatch Box, when he has advanced that bizarre and extraordinary hypothesis. I agree that the hon. Gentleman has supported the talks as they are conducted at present. If the hon. Gentleman's

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extraordinary and bizarre hypothesis were to come to pass, I would--as I have said before--be supportive of his efforts.

Small Firms

5. Mr. Bellingham : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what recent representations he has received from the Northern Ireland business community in connection with small firms.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Richard Needham) : Since the beginning of the year, I have continued both to meet and to correspond with a wide cross-section of the Northern Ireland business community. Among the issues that we have addressed have been a number of particular concern to small firms.

Mr. Bellingham : Further to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway), I pay tribute to the Minister's work in supporting industry and business in the Province. Does he agree that one of the best ways of breaking down violence and lessening the sectarian divide is to encourage enterprise and initiative? Am I right in saying that Northern Ireland has weathered the recession better than any other part of the United Kingdom? If so, is not that due partly to the Government's support for small firms?

Mr. Needham : I thank my hon. Friend for his kind comments. The fact that Northern Ireland has weathered the recession better than any other region in the United Kingdom is due, to an extent, to the Government's policies ; but it is due not least to the

resourcefulness, intelligence and dedication of business people in Northern Ireland.

I was interested to learn this week that, whereas National Westminster bank --the parent of Ulster bank--had to make provision for £1.9 billion of bad debts, the figure for Northern Ireland was £6 million and that half the bank's profits came from Ulster bank. That shows beyond peradventure the current strength of the Northern Ireland economy. I am sure that, once the recession is over, it will continue to expand, and expand fast.

Mr. A. Cecil Walker : Is the Minister aware that the Department of the Environment has undertaken a surreptitious exercise in an attempt to destroy the private sector taxi service in Belfast? If so, can he tell us how much money has been allocated to that exercise?

Mr. Needham : I know of no surreptitious exercise being carried out by my Department in regard to private taxi firms in Belfast. The hon. Gentleman and I have engaged in lengthy discussions about the problems faced by Belfast taxi drivers and I fully appreciate their fears and concerns. I shall continue to discuss, with the hon. Gentleman and with the taxi drivers, whatever measures need to be taken to ensure their safety and continue their employment.

Mr. McGrady : In 1990-91, only 44 jobs were created in Northern Ireland. Will the Minister reconsider the wisdom of the policy change introduced a couple of years ago by the Local Enterprise Development Unit to endorse and support market research and development, rather than providing direct grant aid for job creation? That contradicted the philosophy, which proved correct, that

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small jobs--one or two-person start-ups-- were the way in which to tackle, at least in part, the problem caused by the lack of inward investment.

Will the Minister address himself to LEDU's policy, and consider the reintroduction of direct aid for people starting up in business? I know that LEDU does a good job through its local enterprise development programmes, but will the hon. Gentleman consider returning to the previous policy?

Mr. Needham : I really do not know where the hon. Gentleman found the "44" figure. Perhaps he is referring to some figures that were leaked a couple of weeks ago from the Industrial Development Board for Northern Ireland--a reference to 44 inward investment jobs. That figure turned out to be wrong : at least another 350 jobs have already been announced, involving no financial assistance. I hope that, within the next few weeks, several hundred more jobs will be announced by the board.

That has nothing to do with LEDU. The key to the success of a small business lies in the skills and professionalism of its management, technicians and staff. LEDU is trying to ensure that small businesses have the marketing experience, the exporting know-how and the managerial capacity that they need in order to get going. The Government are not about to hand out dollops of money so that inexperienced people can buy complicated equipment that they then do not know how to use.

Rev. William McCrea : I am sure that the Minister realises that small business is the backbone of industry in my constituency of Mid- Ulster. Will he tell the House and my constituents what further incentives he can provide to ensure that small businesses are created and the economic blight is removed from my constituency?

Mr. Needham : The hon. Gentleman pays rightful tribute to small business, describing it as the economic backbone of his constituency. I assure him that the Government's support for LEDU, and the money with which they provide it, continue year on year to match the needs of small business. I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that that will continue. I hope to be able to discuss it further with him in the not-too-distant future.


6. Mr. Flannery : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what representations he has received calling for the introduction of internment without trial ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Brooke : The Government have received a number of representations calling for the reintroduction of executive detention. They have also received representations from those opposed to such a step.

The power to introduce executive detention remains on the statute book and is capable of being exercised by the Government. I shall not comment further, except to say that the consequences of such a step would need to be very carefully weighed.

Mr. Flannery : Does the Secretary of State agree that the re- imposition of internment without trial would deepen and intensify an already terribly difficult situation? Does he recall that last time this occurred there was an immediate leap forward in terms of killing? We would face that again. Those who are asking for that--many voices,

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including important voices, in Northern Ireland are asking for it--would create a situation for everybody in Northern Ireland that would be far worse than it is now and, God knows, it is bad enough at present.

Mr. Brooke : The fact that the Government retained executive detention on the statute book by a free act last year is an indication that the Government believe it to be important that the instrument should be available. The hon. Gentleman referred to the last time it occurred. There are occasions--perhaps the only occasions when I feel a mild sense of despair in dealing with the affairs of Northern Ireland--when I fear that others assume that all events in Irish history will always repeat themselves exactly. That is not the case--and it is because it is not the case that we are making progress in the way that we are.

Sir John Farr : Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that he will discard no weapon at all in the fight against

terrorism--including internment, if necessary? Should it unfortunately prove necessary, will my right hon. Friend make arrangements for it possibly to be introduced without notice and simultaneously after consultation with the Government of the Republic of Ireland?

Mr. Brooke : By definition, the weapon has not been discarded, as it will remain on the statute book, with the renewal of the order, in terms of the life of the statute. Clearly and patently, if it were to be introduced, it would be introduced without notice. There have been commentators who have said that if it were introduced, it would be much more effective if it were introduced throughout the island.

Mr. McNamara : Has the Secretary of State discussed the matter with the Government of the Republic of Ireland? Does he accept that internment would be the height of folly and would have no support at all from the Labour party? Will he also point out to those advocating such a foolish policy that they are merely diverting attention from the villainous crimes of the terrorists and, perhaps more importantly, from the enormous successes of the security forces and thus undermining confidence in the rule of law? The right hon. Gentleman has pointed out in the House that nearly 50 per cent. of people convicted of terrorist offences had no previous intelligence tracings in terms of involvement with terrorist organisations. Does he agree that always the best thing to do is to arrest, produce evidence, convict and put terrorists behind bars?

Mr. Brooke : The only matters that I discuss with Irish Ministers in intergovernmental conferences under the Anglo-Irish Agreement are those which can be discussed under the rules of the agreement. It would be a mistake, however, to think that we do not cover extensively all the ground and territory that is available within those limits. As to the rest of the hon. Gentleman's question, I said at the beginning that I thought the less said the better.

Castle Court

7. Mr. Harry Barnes : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assistance was given by his Department to traders whose businesses were disrupted by the Castle Court development in Belfast.

Mr. Needham : Following representations from local traders about the disruption to their businesses, rates on

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properties in the surrounding streets were reduced by up to one third. Belfast city council reduced rents in Smithfield market by a similar proportion.

Mr. Barnes : Glowing remarks were made earlier about small businesses in Northern Ireland. I know that the Minister has met Mr. Thomas Lennon, whose business was seriously disrupted during the Castle Court development, as were the businesses of other small business men in the area. A rates reduction for a certain period is inadequate to compensate for the great disruption that was caused to people seeking to make a living in that area--people who do not have the wherewithal or the ability to use the court system against the Minister. Why does he not face up to his responsibility and see that adequate compensation is given to the people who suffered so badly during that development?

Mr. Needham : Mr. Lennon's rates were reduced by a third. The best news that Mr. Lennon can have is that the Castle Court complex now employs some 2,500 people. It has brought into that area of Belfast a vast number of new businesses and has revitalised that area of the town. The traders who trade around it can do nothing but benefit from the new multi-storey car park with 1,600 spaces. The best thing that could happen for Mr. Lennon and his friends would be if the military wing of Sinn Fein stopped trying to blow up Belfast.

Mr. John D. Taylor : Despite the major differences between the Conservative party and the Ulster Unionist party following the imposition by the Conservative party of the Anglo-Irish Agreement and partial Dublin rule through Stormont, will the Minister accept on a personal level that there is widespread respect throughout Northern Ireland for the contribution that he has made to the rejuvenation of Royal avenue in our capital city of Belfast? Does he recognise that it is one of the commercial miracles of Northern Ireland and is now envied by many areas in the United Kingdom? Should he not be with us in six weeks, will he leave a message for his successor to ensure the continuation of that economic miracle into York street and York road in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Walker)?

Mr. Needham : I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his kind words. It will not stop at Belfast. It is spreading to Derry, Newry, Armagh, Carrickfergus and Ballymoney, and throughout the length and breadth of Northern Ireland. The people, the councillors and the business community of Northern Ireland are coming together to create their own economic future and to undermine the men of violence on either side. They know that their success will lead to the defeat of the paramilitaries. The people of Northern Ireland continue to need to be congratulated on their determination and resilience.

Hospital Waiting Lists

8. Mr. Stevens : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what initiatives are being taken to reduce hospital waiting lists in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Hanley : From 1 April this year, the vast majority of patients will be guaranteed admission to hospital within two years of being placed on a hospital waiting list. Special task forces have been at work in each board to deal with

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the longest waiting lists and I have set aside an extra £1 million this year and in each of the next two years to support their work.

Mr. Stevens : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply, which I am sure will be welcome to the people of Northern Ireland. I hope that there will be the same success in cutting waiting lists in Northern Ireland as we have seen in other parts of the United Kingdom. I know that my hon. Friend is aware that the waiting list for treatment of coronary disease has been a matter of concern in Northern Ireland. What action has he taken to deal with that specific waiting list?

Mr. Hanley : My hon. Friend is right. Unfortunately, Northern Ireland suffers from one of the worst rates of coronary heart disease. Following completion of the £1.5 million extension to the cardiac care recovery unit at the Royal Victoria hospital at the end of last year, a fourth cardiac surgeon has now been appointed there. The new surgeon, a locum, will take up his post on 1 May this year for an initial period of one year. That will lead to an increase in the number of operations at the Royal. In addition, the Eastern and Western boards have already begun to buy in cardiac operations from Great Britain this year and the Northern and Southern boards are expected to do likewise shortly. I hope that the waiting list for cardiac surgery will reduce greatly over the next year.

Mr. Beggs : Does the Minister accept that patients, irrespective of age group, should not have to undergo prolonged suffering, being fobbed off with medication from time to time when cardiac surgery is necessary? Will he urgently encourage all boards to purchase coronary artery bypass surgery and other cardiac surgery from Great Britain?

Mr. Hanley : The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right and I agree with every word he says. Cardiac surgery has the longest waiting list in Northern Ireland, but every effort is being made to reduce it, including the purchase of operations in Britain. I believe that great progress will be made.

Sir Michael McNair-Wilson : In considering hospital waiting lists, is my hon. Friend satisfied that all those who would benefit from renal replacement therapy are getting it and has he anything to announce about a possible new satellite dialysis unit for the Province?

Mr. Hanley : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. I am afraid that he is right : not everybody is benefiting from kidney replacement, because there is a shortage of kidney donors. We could probably carry out about 70 more operations a year if there were more donors. I therefore launched the donor card again last week. I hope that every hon. Member, and everyone in Northern Ireland, will carry a donor card ; it is vital that people do so.

Hospital Trusts

11. Rev. Martin Smyth : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment has been made of the adverse effect on maintaining and upgrading hospitals of the amount being spent in preparing hospital trusts.

Mr. Hanley : It has always been made clear that the Government's reforms are not to be introduced at the

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expense of patient and client care. Additional funds have been made available for the purpose and, accordingly, the reforms--including the establishment of trusts--cause no adverse effects on the hospital maintenance programme.

Rev. Martin Smyth : The Minister's comments may be helpful in the House, but they will not allay the concern that has been expressed throughout Northern Ireland--for example, in Upper Bann--about the amount of money that is needed to deal with the problem of concrete cancer at Craigavon hospital. Will he acknowledge that even those who are trying to implement hospital trusts are concerned that the dead hand of bureaucracy, which has increased, is hindering their work?

Mr. Hanley : The hon. Gentleman makes a serious point about concrete cancer and money will have to be found to deal with that in due course. I assure him that the money spent on the health reforms will lead to greater efficiencies and savings--its purpose is to improve patient care and to increase the number of patients treated--and it is extra to the maintenance programme. I am pleased to say that, as from yesterday, 11 new hospital and social service organisation units applied for hospital trust status in Northern Ireland. They recognise the advantages that will flow from trust status.

Mr. John Marshall : Will my hon. Friend confirm that NHS trust hospitals are treating many more patients than a year ago? Is it not perverse, therefore, that some people are suggesting that those hospital trusts should be wound up?

Mr. Hanley : I thoroughly agree that hospital trusts are proving their worth, but the national health service in Northern Ireland is succeeding with trusts even before they have been established. The establishment of trusts will improve matters. The total number of in- patients in Northern Ireland, including day cases, increased by 9 per cent. last year. The total number of operations increased by 15 per cent. and the total number of new out-patients by 6 per cent. With or without trusts, Northern Ireland is succeeding in health care. Trusts will make that even better.

Roads Maintenance

12. Mr. Clifford Forsythe : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans he has to increase the funds allocated to roads maintenance in the next financial year.

Mr. Needham : It is planned to increase funding for the operation and maintenance of roads, and associated bridges, in the 1992-93 financial year by £3.2 million to £65.3 million.

Mr. Forsythe : Does the Northern Ireland Office keep a record of unadopted roads not covered by bonds? What progress has been made in bringing those roads up to condition?

Mr. Needham : I think that the hon. Gentleman's colleague, the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) came to see me about one of the cases to which he refers. All I can say is that the giving up of bonds on unadopted roads is not a matter with which I deal daily,

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but I shall certainly consider the cases that the hon. Gentleman brings to my attention and see what can be done.

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