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Column 1095Needless to say, that allegation is totally false and without foundation. Is it in order for hon. Members to make such allegations and, when given the oportunity to substantiate them, to fail to do so, and to fail to withdraw them when they are clearly denied ? During the following debate, when the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh returns to the Chamber, would you give him the opportunity to do the honourable thing ?
Mr. Molyneaux rose --
Mr. Molyneaux : Yes. I think that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will appreciate that I have a responsibility to protect the reputation of my team of 10 in the talks. That would also apply to the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) with his team ; and one other party, which is not present in or elected to this Chamber, would have the same difficulty. To avoid prolonging the discussions, perhaps the most effective way to deal with the matter would be for the Secretary of State or the Minister to say that this matter will be referred to special branch to investigate and report to the Secretary of State before the next plenary session of the four teams of 10.
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Hon. Members will be aware that all sorts of comments are made from a sedentary position, none of which has any status in the House. I think that that answers the hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble), who raised the first point of order. The Secretary of State and Ministers have heard the comments made by the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) on the second point, and it will be for them to decide how they wish to respond.
Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was judged by the House for something that I was accused of saying when seated. I find it amazing that some new rule has suddenly been
Column 1096introduced about such interventions. I was sitting in the Gallery, I never even stood up, and I was thrown out of the House. Hansard reported that I had said something that was in order, yet I was thrown out for saying something while sitting, and I was not in the House. My hon. Friends, sitting on this side of the House, plainly heard what the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) said. Several Hon. Members rose --
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Hon. Members are stretching the point. I have made my ruling and have made it clear. I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber will accept that. Perhaps we can now move on.
Mr. John D. Taylor rose --
Mr. Taylor : Yes, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I fully accept your ruling about a statement made from a sedentary position, but that was not the point of order raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux), who was referring to an allegation made by the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) when he was on his feet. That point of order had nothing to do with the personal allegation that my hon. Friend the Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) "should be blushing." It was a specific allegation.
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Had the right hon. Gentleman listened attentively to the whole of my response, he would have heard me say that the Secretary of State and Ministers on the Front Bench would have heard the right hon. Member who raised the separate point of order. I hope that hon. Members will confirm that. Certainly Hansard will do so. Perhaps without further ado we can move to the next order.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris) : It might be helpful to the House if I make it clear that debate on the order may cover all matters for which Northern Ireland Departments, as distinct from the Northern Ireland Office, are responsible, with the exception of police and security matters.
That the draft Appropriation (No. 2) (Northern Ireland) Order 1992, which was laid before this House on 2nd June, be approved. The draft order, which covers the main estimates for Northern Ireland Departments, authorises expenditure of £2,874 million for the current financial year. Taken together with the sums voted on account in March, this brings the total estimates provision for Northern Ireland Departments to £5,014 million, an increase of 9 per cent. on 1991-92 provisional outturn.
The sums sought for individual services are set out in the estimates booklet which is, as usual, available from the Vote Office. The House will be aware that the estimates for the Northern Ireland Office, for law and order services, are not covered by the order before us today.
As is the custom on these occasions, I shall highlight the main items in the estimates, starting with the Department of Agriculture. The net provision sought in the two agricultural votes amounts to some £152 million, an increase of £8 million over 1991-92. Vote 1 covers expenditure of £33 million by the Department on various market support schemes which operate throughout the United Kingdom. This includes £12 million for capital and other grants to improve farm structures, to stimulate investment on farms and for conservation--£19 million is to support farming in the less favoured areas, by means of headage payments on hill cattle and sheep.
Vote 2 seeks provision of £119 million for local measures to support agriculture, fisheries and forestry. Of that, £53 million is for agricultural, scientific and veterinary services. That covers a wide range of professional and technical services to the industry and reflects the importance of maintaining the highest possible quality of Northern Ireland agricultural products. The sum of £27 million is for arterial drainage, fisheries and forestry--including expenditure on watercourse management, angling development and the management of state forests.
The Department of Economic Development's vote 1 seeks provision of £168 million, which will enable the Industrial Development Board for Northern Ireland to carry out its role of strengthening the industrial base there and to meet its existing commitments, primarily in the area of selective assistance to industry. The introduction and development of internationally competitive companies, providing the basis for growth in durable employment, is the main aim around which all IDB's activities are centred. Existing companies are being encouraged and assisted to improve their competitiveness in terms of productivity, design, quality and marketing.
In vote 2, £44 million is sought for the Local Enterprise Development Unit--LEDU--Northern Ireland's small business agency. The agency is placing greater emphasis on
Column 1098increasing the number, and improving the competitiveness, of small companies. Recent initiatives include the business start programme, which is aimed at assisting people to set up in business. The number of projects assisted under the scheme will be trebled to some 1,200 this year. Existing businesses will be supported through the business advance programme, which aims to assist some 2,000 local companies to stimulate growth.
Also in vote 2, £9 million is sought for the Industrial Research and Technology Unit, which was launched in March with the aim of improving the competitive edge of Northern Ireland products in an increasingly demanding marketplace. Continuous, well-directed research and innovation are crucial to long-term economic health. The unit will give a greater impetus and sharper focus to Government's activities in that important area of activity.
Finally, in vote 2, £11 million is sought to enable the Northern Ireland tourist board to assist the further development of the tourist industry. Last year, for the third successive year, a record number of visitors--1.18 million--came to Northern Ireland. An 18 per cent. increase in the number of holiday visitors confirms that Northern Ireland is again being considered as a serious contender in the world's holiday markets. The additional funds proposed--nearly £4 million more than last year--will enable the board to build on that success and, in co-operation with all involved in the industry, to realise the potential of the tourism sector to generate additional economic benefits and to create jobs throughout Northern Ireland. The Department of Economic Development's vote 3 seeks £189 million for the Training and Employment Agency. A sum of £46 million is for the youth training programme to support 12,700 training places. Some£51 million is for the action for community employment programme, to provide 9,600 places for long-term unemployed adults in projects of community benefit. More than £18 million is for the job training programme, which offers training and work experience to unemployed adults. That is £2.3 million more than in 1991-92 and will allow the programme to expand from 3,600 places in March 1992 to 5,400 by March 1993. The sum of £13 million is for the company development programme, which will assist some 225 Northern Ireland companies to improve their competitiveness in external markets.
Since April 1991, more than 34,000 people have been placed in employment after completing programmes provided by the agency. About 35,000 people are currently engaged on various programmes. It is particularly encouraging that 90 per cent. of apprentices on training centre courses enter permanent employment on completion of their training.
A token provision of £1,000 has been taken in vote 4 to cover expenses to be incurred in the privatisation of the Northern Ireland electricity supply industry. A supplementary estimate, covering the actual expenses and proceeds from the sale, will be presented later in the year.
With regard to the Department of the Environment, £169 million is sought in vote 1 for roads, transport and ports. Some £142 million is for the roads programme, to finance the operation and maintenance of Northern Ireland's roads and bridges and for new construction and improvement works.
The Department's vote 2 covers the important area of housing, where £187 million is sought to provide assistance to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and to the
Column 1099voluntary housing movement. When net borrowing by the Housing Executive, rents and capital receipts are taken into account, the total resources available for housing will be about £531 million in 1992-93.
The Department's vote 3 provides for water and sewerage services, with gross expenditure in 1992-93 estimated at £152 million. Of that, £98 million is required, mainly, for normal operation and maintenance and £54 million is for expenditure on capital works, including schemes to improve further the quality of drinking water in line with the standards laid down in European Community directives.
Mr. John D. Taylor (Strangford) : The Minister has said that money has been allocated for the privatisation of the Northern Ireland electricity industry. We are now discussing the water industry. Today, a report in the press said that the Government have decided to proceed immediately with the privatisation of the water and sewerage systems in Northern Ireland. Will the Minister tell us exactly what is happening about the future control of water in the Province?
Mr. Mates : I am aware of the report to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. The Northern Ireland citizens charter makes clear the Government's intention to privatise the Department of the Environment's water and sewerage functions as soon as practicable. In line with that commitment, the Government are reviewing the timetable for, and the best approach to, the privatisation. It is hoped that we will be able to make an announcement soon.
Also included in vote 4 is £38 million for urban regeneration measures, which will be targeted at areas of social, economic and environmental need. As in previous years, that will generate much higher overall investment through the successful partnerships that have been established with the private sector.
The estimates for the Department of Education seek a total of £1, 213 million, an increase of 6 per cent. over last year. Vote 1 includes £743 million for recurrent expenditure by education and library boards, an increase of £54 million over 1991-92. It includes £389 million for school teachers' salaries, which should enable the pupil- teacher ratio to be maintained at present levels. Also included is £237 million for expenditure on schools and on further education services. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley), made an announcement about that this morning, when he launched a report on the future structure of further education. The sum of £117 million is for libraries, youth, transport and administration. Vote 1 also seeks £50 million for boards' capital projects, including provision for new laboratories and technology workshops to enable further progress to be made on education reforms. The sum of £6 million is sought for integrated schools and £123 million for voluntary schools. Vote 2, seeks £266 million including £89 million for universities which will enable them to maintain parity of provision with comparable universities in the rest of the United Kingdom. The sum of £126 million is for student support, including grants and student loans. The vote also covers expenditure on a range of youth, sport, community and cultural activities, including £3 million for community relations.
Column 1100The next set of votes relate to the Department of Health and Social Services. In votes 1 and 3, total net provision of £1,243 million is sought to maintain and improve the standard of the Province's health and personal social services. This is an increase of £74 million over estimated outturn for 1991-92. Spending on the family health services will be £252 million, while £887 million is for health and social services boards' current expenditure. The sum of £46 million is sought for capital development to maintain a substantial programme of works, including a further £14 million for Antrim hospital. In vote 3, £385 million is sought for the Department's administration and other costs. That includes £245 million for miscellaneous social security benefits, including housing benefit. Vote 4 seeks £1,022 million for a range of benefits administered by the Social Security Agency. That is an increase of more than 13 per cent. on last year and includes £187 million for disability benefits, £567 million for income support and £268 million for family and other benefits.
In the Department of Finance and Personnel, vote 3, more than £4 million is sought for the community relations programme. Support for community relations projects, co-ordinated by the central community relations unit and the Department of Education, has increased from about £250,000 in 1986-87 to £7 million in 1992-93. A new feature of the programme in 1992-93 is the provision of suitable venues to encourage greater cross-community contact.
I draw hon. Members' attention to the fact that all the programmes that we are discussing today have one important thing in common. To each of them applies the principles of the citizens charter. The Northern Ireland charter, which was published in February, describes how we plan to raise the standard of public services. That is supported by individual charters for the main customer-oriented services. Those explain in detail what precisely a citizen can expect of the service, what his or her rights are, and what the citizen can do if the service falls below standard.
Our programme in Northern Ireland has been launched with the advantage of a public service whose professionalism and commitment are second to none. I am therefore confident that we shall achieve the charter aim of good service, based on respect for the customer and his or her views.
Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North) : It is all very well for the Minister to make that sort of statement and to be applauded for it, but many people in Northern Ireland feel sore about the fact that money is being diverted to the north-south road while other roads that are needed to get us to the ferry and roads around the airport are being insufficiently funded. People are asking why that money should be diverted to the north- south communication, particularly as across the water in Scotland, our neighbour, there is great need for the railway line to be re-opened and for money to be spent on roads there to link with Northern Ireland roads.
Column 1101figure at some length in at least one speech to be made in this debate. Roads are the responsibility of the Minister of State who will reply to the debate.
In my opening remarks I have drawn attention to the main provisions of the order. In reply to the debate, the Minister of State will respond to points raised by hon. Members. I commend the order to the House.
Mr. Roger Stott (Wigan) : I will limit my remarks, to enable hon. Members from the Province to take part in the debate. At the outset I wish, on behalf of my party, to say how pleased we are to see my hon. Friend--I call him "my hon. Friend"--the Member for Belfast, West (Dr. Hendron) in his place. I am sure that during his tenure of office all the people of his constituency will be assiduously represented here. I understand that he hopes to speak in the debate.
I read an article in The Observer by the Minister of State about his hopes and aspirations for the rejuvenation of the economy of Northern Ireland. I shall concentrate my remarks on economic development and the economic future of Northern Ireland.
Ministers have a long tradition of spreading optimism about the economy of Northern Ireland, none more so than a former Northern Ireland Under- Secretary, the present Minister for Trade, who will be a hard act for the Minister of State to follow. We do not criticise Ministers for spreading optimism. That is part of their job. We are always delighted when Ministers and officials succeed in preserving or obtaining jobs for Northern Ireland, but we cannot allow Ministers to get away with facile optimism.
The Northern Ireland Economic Council published two useful reports in the last three months, one on the European Community structure and the other on economic assessment in Northern Ireland, documents which I hope the Minister has had time to read. Let us hope that Ministers at the Northern Ireland Office reject the scorched earth policy of their colleagues at the Treasury and ensure that the council continues to provide a focus for economic analysis and value to the Government, employees and trade unions. The National Economic Development Council which operated in the rest of the United Kingdom provided such useful information, and I regret its demise. The Northern Ireland Economic Council's spring economic assessment makes gloomy reading, I regret to say. Indeed, the council admits that it has not produced such a depressing document since the early 1980s. Contrary to the trend in recent years in Northern Ireland, which was relatively insulated from the United Kingdom recession, the council concludes that the United Kingdom's recession exerts "a depressing grip on local economic conditions in Northern Ireland."
The recession is in many ways worse than the first Thatcherite wrecking job which devastated manufacturing industry. This second wave of destruction spares no sector of the economy and, what is worse, the council is convinced that, when the long-awaited recovery materialises in the rest of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland will lag behind in benefiting from the end of the recession.
In those circumstances, we have a right to expect action, not propaganda, from the Government. Can we expect to see more of the "agit" and less of the "prop" from the Minister? What measures is he taking now to
Column 1102ensure that when the recession ends, Northern Ireland will benefit as much and as rapidly as other regions of the United Kingdom? The Government's self-satisfaction contrasts unfavourably with the vigorous efforts of the CBI in Northern Ireland and of the Confederation of Irish Industry to promote and provide cross-border trade and prepare the island of Ireland, including Northern Ireland, for the single market.
Lest the Minister is in doubt about the seriousness of the crisis which it is his task to resolve, the unemployment figures published this afternoon-- 14.4 per cent. of the work force unemployed, according to the seasonally adjusted total--are a disgrace anywhere in the United Kingdom, but they are particularly disgraceful in Northern Ireland. In addition, it was announced this afternoon that there will be 400 redundancies at Shorts. That should dispel any complacency that exists in the Department.
In recent weeks, the future of the European Community has received much attention, but we are in danger of neglecting the changes to which we are already committed under the Single European Act and the implementation of the single market. The Northern Ireland Economic Council has provided a salutary reminder that we still have a long way to go to prepare Northern Ireland for the single market, let alone the degree of European unity which Maastricht promised. Many people in Northern Ireland, not least its elected representatives, will be keen to find out why the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary forgot that they were responsible for Northern Ireland when they agreed to exclude the Province from the cohesion fund agreed at Maastricht. Perhaps the Minister will comment on that.
The NEC points out that, on current trends, Northern Ireland will remain behind the EC average until well into the 21st century. The report concludes that present policies have been inadequate, particularly in relation to the structural funds. Not only has Northern Ireland not gained as much financially as it should have gained from the funds, but there is growing doubt about the effectiveness of the way in which the money is spent.
Receipts from the European social fund have fallen since 1987-88 and little has been done to create the high-tech growth industries which will be the prime beneficiaries of the single market. There is yet to be an integrated approach to rural development to counter balance the expected decline in support for agriculture. The council points to the lack of proper evaluation of programmes to see if they are working and the lack of co- ordination and integration in the various operational programmes.
In addition, it criticises the inadequate, rushed and anti-democratic way in which bids for structural fund support were prepared. What, if anything, do the Government intend to do about that? Can we expect the usual inaction, or can we at least be assured that any elected Provincewide authority that may emerge from the current talks will be associated with the next tranche of structural fund allocations?
Mr. John Hume (Foyle) : To put the facts on the table, will the Minister explain why, when the structural funds were increased, Northern Ireland, as an objective 1 region, received an increase of only 9 per cent., whereas the Republic of Ireland received 17 per cent., Portugal 114 per cent. and Greece 171 per cent.? Will the Minister explain
Column 1103why our objective 1 region did so badly and why the Government failed so miserably? Instead of silently staring at me, will the Minister explain why that happened?
Mr. Scott : My hon. Friend makes his own point and I have no doubt that the Minister will have heard what he said. I am glad that he made that point because I have referred in detail to my worries about the way in which the structural fund in Northern Ireland has been handled. I have asked why the Northern Ireland economy could not benefit again from the cohesion fund. That is for the Government to answer. Regrettably, we are not on the Government Benches ; therefore, it is up to Ministers to answer the questions.
I wish to discuss two other matters. The first can only be described as the rifling of the economic, social and public expenditure programme for the security budget. Such practices are unacceptable and dangerous. The Government should make it clear that the necessary security costs will be met from contingency reserves if necessary, without impinging on other programmes ; otherwise, it is tantamount to telling the terrorists that they can win the economic war and make the stakes too high for the British Government. The defence of society against terrorism is beyond price, so any further rifling of other budgets to substantiate and sustain the defence and security budgets is unacceptable.
Secondly, there is much concern about the performance of the industrial development agencies in the Province--the IDB and LEDU--in terms of job creation. The Secretary of State alluded to that earlier. In the public sector, if back office jobs are excluded, only 158 jobs were promoted by the IDB. It is not that we have anything against back office jobs or the public sector, but one does not have to be a Thatcherite to be worried about the excessive dependence on the public sector for employment in Northern Ireland. How does the Minister intend to secure further inward investment in the light of those difficulties?
As someone who, for the past three years, has been banging on the Dispatch box about the vacillation of the British Government and the Republic's Government about the upgrading of the Belfast-Dublin railway line, may I say how pleased I am to hear from the Secretary of State that work on improving that line will commence later this year? Not only is that line symbolic for the island of Ireland, linking Belfast to Dublin, but it makes economic and transportation sense. It also makes sense because of the single market, which is now exercising everyone's attention. It is right that the island of Ireland's economy should begin, to some extent, to integrate financial services, transport infrastructure and power supply. If the island of Ireland, given its peripheral nature in relation to the rest of Europe, is to be at the races in the single market, those things must happen.
I am pleased that gas interconnectors are being provided between Scotland and the island of Ireland. I am pleased also that the Republic is considering an interconnector between Dublin and mainland United Kingdom. Furthermore, I am encouraged to see that the new team at Stormont is keen to resurrect the electricity interconnector between the Republic and Northern
Column 1104Ireland. One should not allow terrorism to stand in the way of economic progress and the unification of the European grid. Although I have been critical of some of the Government's actions, there have been substantial improvements in economic activity in the Province, largely brought about by Northern Ireland Members through self- help. They have gone out and looked for inward investment in their constituencies, and I pay them credit for doing so.
Dr. Joe Hendron (Belfast, West) : Although two months have passed, I presume that it is still in order to wish you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, well in your new post and a happy four or five years. The tradition of the House is that new Members pay tribute to their predecessors. My predecessor, the President of Sinn Fein, did not take his seat in this House. Hence west Belfast had no parliamentary representation for nine years. It is fair to say that, because of adverse media coverage, my constituency has been grossly misrepresented to the world at large. A young Belfast student recently gave vivid expression to what I hope will be our shared vision for the future when he wrote :
"in morning sunlight over Belfast, a fragile ray of hope grows bright".
I have been privileged to serve the people of west
Belfast--Catholic and Protestant, nationalist and Unionist--as a family doctor for more than 25 years. They are magnificent people and I salute them for their indomitable spirit, resilience in adversity, kindness, courtesy and great sense of humour. When I was elected on 10 April, it was clear to me that, although the vast majority of my votes came from nationalist west Belfast, I nevertheless received a significant number of votes from Unionist-Protestant parts of the constituency. I therefore consider myself deeply honoured that my mandate crossed the sectarian and political divide.
Catholic families on the Falls road have similar problems to Protestant families on the Shankill road in terms of unemployment, inadequate housing, social deprivation and paramilitary intimidation. There is a different political emphasis between the people of the Falls and the Shankill, but I want them all to know that at Westminster I shall act with integrity at all times and represent all of them to the best of my ability with regard to their social, economic and community interests.
The constituency of Belfast, West has one of the most spectacular urban settings in these islands, situated at the edge of the Antrim plateau and dominated by the Divis and Black mountains, which are visible from every part of Belfast. Tradition has it that St. Patrick himself established a Christian church in Belfast in 454 AD, at Sean Chill, which means "the old church" and is anglicised today as "Shankill".
Centuries later, on 14 October 1791, in Crown Entry, off High street--which exists to this day in the constituency--the first Society of United Irishmen was founded by, among others, Wolfe Tone, Henry Joy McCraken and Thomas Russell, with the aim of bringing together all the people of Ireland in a spirit of brotherhood, harmony and toleration of diversity. The late 18th century was Belfast's golden age, with a growing prosperity and a social, cultural and intellectual awakening stimulated by the American and French
Column 1105revolutions. I pay tribute to the spirit and idealism of those first united Irishmen, and to their noble and non- violent aims that sought to unite all the people in a brotherhood of affection. Belfast was among the first cities to be influenced by the industrial revolution. There is a 17th-century reference to a corn mill operating at Millfield, a thoroughfare that links the Falls and Shankill road. In the late 19th century a travel writer described Belfast's location as
"an ugly picture in a beautiful frame".
He was referring to the appalling and crowded, two-up, two-down rows of housing in long terraces, with poor sewage and waste disposal facilities that were erected by the mill owners to house the thousands of families who flocked into west Belfast in the aftermath of the great famine of the 1840s. Unhealthy working conditions and overcrowded housing combined with limited medical facilities produced rampant disease and low life expectancy.
The constituency was, I believe, first created for the 1886 general election at the time of the first Home Rule Bill. The first Member of Parliament for West Belfast was Thomas Sexton, a member of the Irish parliamentary party and a close associate of Charles Stewart Parnell. I am honoured to continue the tradition of those who have represented my constituency in the House.
Every hon. Member has a constituency that is unique, but Belfast is peculiarly unique. I do not believe that there is any territory in these islands where people have suffered as much. More people per thousand of the population have died through violence in west Belfast than anywhere else in western Europe ; the figure is just over 500. There have been, and continue to be, more people imprisoned in west Belfast per thousand of the population than anywhere else in the islands.
Using the Government's own indicators of social deprivation--the Jarman indices--west Belfast is at the top of the poverty league. The great majority of people living in my constituency and far beyond in Northern Ireland want peace. In particular, they want the paramilitaries off their backs. The Provisional IRA has mounted a continual campaign of violence, murder, intimidation and extortion. Its members have murdered hundreds of people, both civilians and members of the security forces.
The Provos are not defenders of the nationalist people ; they do not have a mandate for murder. The vast majority of Irish people--north and south-- oppose them. The Sinn Fein leadership tells our people to get up off their knees, while its paramilitary wing blows the knees off our people. I am referring to the knee-cappings of young people involved in alleged anti- social behaviour. The main loyalist paramilitary organisation--the Ulster Defence Association, better known as the UDA/UFF--has also been responsible for hundreds of murders, mostly innocent Catholics. Their most recent victim was the mother of two young children, Mrs. Philomena Hanna, who was gunned down in her workplace on the Springfield road. Yet the Northern Ireland Office has continually refused to proscribe the UDA.
I demand that the Secretary of State and the Minister of State act immediately to proscribe that organisation. It is inexcusable not to take such action. In the aftermath of the Brian Nelson case, it is important that the faceless men in charge of military and covert operations be made
Column 1106accountable to both the judicial system and public representatives for their actions, as at no time can any life be sacrificed in the interest of security. Other paramilitary organisations that slaughter our people include the Irish People's Liberation Organisation, the Irish National Liberation Army and the Ulster Volunteer Force. I appreciate that normal policing is impossible because of the IRA campaign of violence. However, the vast majority of the people in west Belfast support impartial policing ; they will support the police, provided the police support the people on the ground. Young people who are continually harassed on our streets or who are treated with indignity in interrogation centres might have difficulty in giving such support. Interrogation centres would not be necessary if paramilitary organisations stopped their campaigns of violence. Yet it is morally wrong and counter- productive to ill-treat young people in centres such as Castlereagh. There is ample medical evidence that such ill-treatment has taken place. I have given such evidence. Soldiers who harass young people become recruiting sergeants for the IRA and other paramilitary organisations because they further alienate those same young people.
To the families of all those who have died in Northern Ireland--whether soldiers, policemen or civilians--I extend my sincere sympathy.
Among the greatest trials with which the people of west Belfast have to contend is the scourge of massive unemployment. Notified unemployment in the constituency as a whole is nearly 40 per cent. but in some districts such as Ballymurphy, Turf Lodge and Lower Falls, it has been reported as being more than 70 per cent. It is not unusual to meet families where the males have been unable to obtain gainful employment for two or more generations. Unemployment has always been endemic on the nationalist Falls road, but in recent years the Shankill road has also suffered badly as large companies such as Mackies have gone into decline. In estates such as Glencairn, unemployment is reported to be as high as 60 per cent.
Previous Governments have been guilty of gross neglect. However, in recent years the Make Belfast Work campaign has been having some positive effects. Government agencies such as IDB and LEDU are anxious to help. I accept that there has been an improvement recently, and the position is better than it was three or four years ago. I would like to pay tribute to the former Minister with responsibility for economic development, now the Minister for Trade, who was so genuinely concerned about deprivation in inner city districts particularly in my constituency.
Paramilitary violence has made it difficult to attract inward investment, but a number of companies are anxious to locate in west Belfast. In campaigning to bring employment to my constituency, and so ensuring a decent future for the families and young people of west Belfast, I will spare no effort to speak to any industrialist, lobby any Minister, or make any reasonable representations on behalf of all my constituents.
New and imaginative policies need to be devised--for example, a fiscal initiative that could lead to the adjustment in the rate of corporation tax for inward investment in order to make west Belfast fully competitive with the Irish Republic's 10 per cent. manufacturing tax, and greater attention to training for real jobs. The
Column 1107development of the Springvale initiative is extremely important, and I am pleased to know that there will be first class training facilities for 300 young people.
I pay tribute to the dedication and commitment of the schools and to the generations of teachers, parents and pupils who despite an almost intolerable background of deprivation and for two decades of violence have turned out thousands of highly motivated, well educated and public-spirited pupils. At the same time, far too many young people, through no fault of their own, do not benefit from the education system. That problem must be dealt with as a matter of urgency.
The study of the Irish language and other cultural pursuits are much to the fore in my constituency. The promotion of the Irish language has always been close to the hearts of the people of west Belfast. Cumann Chluain Ard in Hawthorn street has been at the centre of the Irish language revival for more than 50 years, and, at Shaws road, we can also boast the only significant Irish-speaking community in Ireland. Many voluntary bodies, including Glor-nGael, have fostered a vibrant cultural life for Irish speakers in the city. Recently there has been growing interest in the Irish language in Unionist areas. As we have a shared cultural heritage that is a welcome development. The first Irish language secondary school in Northern Ireland, Meanscoil Feirste, which opened on the Falls road last September, has so far received no Government aid. The Northern Ireland Office accepts the necessity for nursery and primary education in Irish ; it is only logical that it should support this school too.
Given the history of violent conflict and social deprivation in west Belfast in the past 20 years it was inevitable that hundreds of our young people would get involved directly or peripherally with paramilitary organisations. It is important that great sensitivity and, when possible, clemency, be shown to republican and loyalist prisoners, especially if their release would not endanger the public. Just as Private Thain, whose crime was committed in west Belfast, was transferred to an English prison before his early release, so Irish prisoners in England should be allowed to serve their sentences in their own country.
It is grossly unfair that prisoners' families should be made to suffer and that they should have to make long and arduous journeys to prisons in Britain over periods of many years. There are many female prisoners from my constituency in Maghaberry prison. They have had to endure the degrading practice of strip-searching, which both they and their families greatly resent. I ask the Secretary of State to intervene immediately to stop that.
I want to refer to a prisoner who is now dead. His name was Guiseppe Conlon. He was a patient of mine who came from the Lower Falls nationalist area of west Belfast. When Mr. Conlon's son Gerard--later to become known as one of the Guildford four--was arrested after the Guildford massacre, his father came to see me in my surgery in Divis street. I still have some of his medical records. Like any father, he was deeply concerned about his son, so later that evening he crossed on the ferry to England to be near Gerard. Guiseppe Conlon was a sick man with chronic lung disease--he would have been out of breath if he had
Column 1108walked even 100 yards. On top of that he had never been to England, yet he was arrested, charged with making bombs, sentenced and eventually allowed to die in Wormwood Scrubs prison on 23 January 1980.
It did not take a forensic expert or even an intelligent judge to know that Guiseppe Conlon was completely innocent, yet to this day his widow, Mrs. Sarah Conlon--she is a great lady--has never received an apology from the Government or from any relevant authority. She too had to make the long weary trek backwards and forwards to various prisons in England, entirely at her own expense.
There are those in this House who will say that violence in Northern Ireland has been fuelled by hope--the hope that violence will achieve political objectives. That is not my view. Quite the contrary. Violence is fuelled not by hope but rather by despair, and any Member of this House who is prepared to walk the streets of my constituency with me would immediately understand and recognise that despair. If belief in society is diminished, it becomes easier to listen to voices which seek not to accommodate diversity but to eliminate it--hence the despair of young people who are daily humiliated, harassed, insulted and abused by British soldiers in their own streets. Some of these young people are involved in joyriding--joyriding which, night after night, has provoked unprecedented anger and anxiety among the residents of west Belfast. I deviate from my prepared script at this point to say that I have read quite a bit about joyriding in various parts of England ; but it all started in west Belfast. Joyriding is a misnomer. These young people kill themselves and others. Two young joyriders in Belfast were not so much shot dead by British soldiers as riddled with bullets by them. No joyrider has ever been a member of a paramilitary organisation. I have been saying that for years, and I cannot understand to this day why those two young people were shot dead. I have heard nothing more about the soldiers involved, but they were certainly not brought to court. There is an urgent need for a co-ordinated strategy to deal with this terrible problem. It is the climate of despair which encourages violence because those who feel that despair are easy prey for those who exploit the failure of society to deal with these problems who exploit the anger and who exploit their frustration so as to suck more and more people into the descending spiral of poverty, despair, violence, destruction and economic disintegration.
My task as the Member for West Belfast must be to try to break the vicious circle : to bring hope to the streets of my city ; to bring jobs for its unemployed ; to bring investment for its decaying infrastructure ; to bring a fair and just policy of law enforcement ; and, by doing these things, to bring peace to my city.
I need the help of the Government in undertaking this work--indeed, I need the help of every Member of this House who is prepared to help. My constituents have a right to the concern of the Government and of this House. They have a right to a better future than the one which stares them in the face every day when they waken. They have a right to peace, to security, to freedom, to justice and to their fair share of prosperity.
In the words of John Hewitt, the great Belfast poet, in his poem "The Bloody Brae":
"and from that mercy, kindness seized a chance, to weave together the broken halves of this land, to throw his shuttle across the separate threads and make us a glittering web, for God's delight with joy in the placing of colours, side by side."