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Rev. William McCrea : Those who read Hansard will see very clearly that an earlier statement has been redrafted. I stand by what I have said : Cookstown, in my constituency, has the second highest unemployment level in the UK, but we do not accept that that is any reason or excuse for anyone to join a terrorist organisation. Interestingly, many of those who have been apprehended were financially well off ; unemployment was not the cause. I remember a famous case outside Omagh. People throughout the United Kingdom saw pictures of the funeral procession, which began at one of the most massive and beautiful houses in the countryside. Clearly, that did not involve one of the depressed people who had been cited : it is obvious that the two factors should not be linked.
Many of those who have been stirring the pot and keeping it going are both well heeled and well educated. Let us not insult the good people of the Province, who, although they have endured the hardship of unemployment--I shall say more about that--totally reject the bomb and the gun. They do not believe that such action contributes to the well-being of any society.
The hon. Member for Londonderry, East mentioned the bombs in Coleraine and Magherafelt. Can any hon. Member say what good blasting the economic heart of Magherafelt did the unemployed ? How many jobs did it give those on the unemployment list ? In fact, it put many employed more people on that list. There is no excuse for the vile terrorism that our Province has endured.
I hear hon. Members tell the House of neglect in their constituencies. I am sorry that the hon. Members for Foyle (Mr. Hume), for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) and for
Column 57Belfast, West (Dr. Hendron) are not present ; much of that talk has come from them. They have told us of the Government's failure to invest and provide grants.
Foyle is next door to my constituency. It is interesting to note that members of the SDLP--the party of those three hon. Members--go around my constituency telling my constituents that the way in which to secure grants is to instate an SDLP Member of Parliament ; there has been so much investment in Foyle and Newry that that seems to be the only way in which to get it.
Let me say, with great respect, that the SDLP cannot have it both ways. On the one hand, its members say that their people are neglected in terms of grants ; on the other, they say, "We are the party that can get you the grants." On the one hand, they say, "It is our constituencies that are enduring massive unemployment" ; on the other, in the likes of Mid-Ulster, they say, "Ah, but if you had an SDLP Member of Parliament, you would secure thousands of jobs." Those claims show the party's utter hypocrisy : the truth is that jobs are not provided in Mid-Ulster--or, indeed, throughout the Province--largely because of a lack of Government investment.
Rev. Martin Smyth : Was not part of the legacy of unemployment in Mid-Ulster the contribution of one of the hon. Gentleman's predecessors, who was lauded in the House and claimed to speak for the working class ? She only wanted employment for the fire brigade ; she said, "Burn the factories."
Mr. Beggs : It is important to clarify the position, to avoid any misplaced sense of appreciation in regard to that former hon. Member. The House should be reminded, even today, that that same person declared a recently murdered terrorist to have been the greatest republican of them all. She was referring to one Dominic McGlinchey--or "Mad Dog McGlinchey". That was a former Member of Parliament's opinion of a murdering rascal who is alleged to have killed more than 30 policemen and members of our British Army. How foolish can hon. Members continue to be ?
Rev. William McCrea : A certain person--a former Member of Parliament--clearly stated that Dominic McGlinchey was the finest son that Ireland had ever produced. He was murdering scum ; that is all he was. He has gone out and found, in one second of eternity, that he has reaped the harvest he sowed. I leave him to the Almighty. Let me now deal with lesser beings : Ministers, who have a responsibility to which we will hold them tonight. I am sure that they would like me to talk about divine persons, and forget some of the issues that are relevant to my constituents, but I assure them that I am not so foolish.
My constituents are angry because certain constituencies claim a large slice of the financial cake, much to the
Column 58detriment, deprivation and suffering of others. They are also aggrieved by the fact that, if an area can claim the existence of continued terrorist unrest, the Government will pour in grants to try to buy the people off ; but they will not give an adequate portion of the cake to law-abiding communities that live together in peace and harmony.
My constituents in Omagh, in Cookstown and throughout Mid-Ulster abide by the law, and--despite vast deprivation--do not stoop to civil unrest. They feel that they have been penalised as a result of their civil behaviour, and they resent the way in which the financial cake has been divided. Many in the Province have cited as a glaring example the choice of a road from Newry to Dublin--to Dublin, as usual--and the rejection of the necessary road from Belfast to Larne. That was a clear and deliberate political decision, which the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland find repugnant.
May it happen soon! I am glad that there is another Northern Ireland debate this week, when Ministers will be brought to heel ; they will have to answer for their decisions in Committee, and respond to Northern Ireland Members of Parliament. I am sure that certain Ministers will find that an unrestful experience
Rev. William McCrea : With respect, I think that some of them will find it very much the opposite. They will not be very happy to have to answer for some of the sins of the past--sins committed in all Departments, but especially in the Northern Ireland Office.
Mr. Beggs : Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the public expenditure on road development between Belfast and the Irish Republic was unjustified and unfair, as the Larne-Belfast road already carries twice as much traffic as the Belfast-Dublin route ? There has been political interference and injustice, which must be put right in future.
Rev. William McCrea : I agree with the hon. Member's clear statement of fact. The problem was that the Larne road did not lead to Dublin, so Ministers were not concerned. A Minister here cannot make an announcement without a Dublin Minister making it before he reaches the Dispatch Box. Ministers here cannot even acknowledge that fact and rebuke someone from a foreign country for interfering in the internal affairs of Northern Ireland.
Rev. Ian Paisley : Is there not a more serious aspect to the Larne proposal ? There will be competition for traffic moving to the channel tunnel. As Larne is the second largest port in the United Kingdom, the Government have made a grave move by trying to cut the advantages to Northern Ireland of the use of the Larne port. There is much alarm about what is happening in the Warren Point area of the South Down constituency. I was in that area the other day, and I received representations. Without a proper road into Larne, the Holyhead route will be exploited by the Irish Republic, which has received EC grants for new culverts for its roads. No such grants have been applied for by the Northern Ireland Office.
Rev. William McCrea : I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. I shall be interested to hear the Minister's reply, because he has heard that charge clearly made. These matters require a response. The Minister who opened the debate, the right hon. Member for Westminster, North (Sir
Column 59J. Wheeler), avoided answering anything, but the Minister who must reply, the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram), cannot avoid the questions that are posed. Plenty of time is available for him to give very detailed responses, and I am sure that the scribes to his left will get those ready answers for him.
Rev. Martin Smyth : Does the hon. Gentleman agree that such responses must be given on the Floor of the House and not in writing or lodged in the Library, because many people outside the House would like a full answer ?
Rev. William McCrea : We must have a detailed answer. I hope that the Minister will treat this matter with the same seriousness as hon. Members do. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have expressed grave concern. They feel that, for mere political reasons, an injustice has been done to the people of and to the industrial future of Northern Ireland.
Ministers speak of the challenge of Europe, but they ensure that we cannot meet it. Decisions are made to help a neighbouring foreign country instead of assisting the industrial base of a part of the United Kingdom.
How many jobs have been created in the past five years in the 17 constituencies ? It is vital that we can see the spread of the cake. It is time that we were aware of how much industrial development finance has been poured into constituencies because it is about time we laid some of the charges to rest. Such matters will be dealt with only by a free exchange of detailed answers to hon. Members' questions.
What civil servants' jobs will be reallocated from the central offices in Belfast to my constituency, bearing in mind that Omagh has an excellent office block, the former Tyrone and Fermanagh hospital, which is ready for occupation ? Or do the Government intend simply to move those jobs to Londonderry ? I believe that some were supposed to go to Downpatrick, which would assist and please the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady), who is here, but certainly none have come in the direction of Mid-Ulster.
Instead of sending and attracting jobs to Mid-Ulster, I was astounded to hear that the works services department is actively considering options for change in respect of the Coleraine and Omagh office regarding architectural services to PANI, to court service office accommodation branch, to the Department of Agriculture, to vehicle inspection centres and to forestry services.
I am told that service management are considering organisational changes-- what are commonly called saving proposals--with the consequences of possibly closing the Omagh and Coleraine offices and instead building up the central office in Belfast. Some employees will face a round trip of 160 miles a day. That is unbelievable, as it runs contrary to what is commonly known as the Government policy of centralisation.
Mr. Barry Porter (Wirral, South) : I have been sitting here for the past hour listening to this. I sit for a north-western seat, and we get a debate on our region about once every Preston guild. Are not these speeches self-evidently an argument for a Select Committee, where all such matters can be dealt with, but are they not an even stronger argument for some sort of local government for the Province--devolution, integration or some other magic
Column 60formula--so that we in this Chamber do not have to listen to arguments about a local bypass, pigs, electricity prices or whatever ?
We in the north-west would welcome the opportunity of a debate on the Floor of the House. It is rightly and properly a local and provincial matter that can be dealt with there.
Rev. William McCrea : I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman is doing his best, but the charge must be made of Ministers, who tell us that we cannot have democracy in Northern Ireland, except through some deal with Dublin. They hold the people of Northern Ireland to ransom.
That is what is so despicable and vile about this bunch. They are turning their back on democracy and are saying, "You can have a forum to deal with these matters." We would be delighted to have a forum in Northern Ireland, but the price of it is not that we should go to Dublin or be taken over by the Irish Republic. We want a forum on British democracy, on British democratic lines, and hon. Members will have to confirm that the Ulster Democratic Unionist party gave a valuable contribution
Rev. Ian Paisley : Does my hon. Friend agree that it was the House that chose to discuss these matters, not the Northern Ireland electorate or the representatives of Northern Ireland ? One day a year, we try to travel from Dan to Beersheba, discussing our grievances as public representatives, but we are being told, "Don't bring this stuff here ; take it upstairs to some Committee"
Rev. William McCrea : I am happy to move on. Whether or not one believes it, such matters are relevant to my constituents, who elected me to this Chamber to raise these matters, and I shall raise them, whether they relate to pigs, goats or anything else. Still on the Department of Economic Development vote, what steps are being taken to acquire adequate land for industrial development in Cookstown ? I recently met representatives of the industrial development board and the divisional planning officer to discuss the availability of land. I was told that approximately 5 hectares of industrial land at Derryloran is currently underdeveloped and thus available for industrial development.
Most of the remaining land zoned for industrial purposes by the East Tyrone plan is unattractive for that purpose at this time because of poor access. In light of these difficulties, and in an effort to secure sufficient land to attract inward investment, the division of planning officers is currently in consultation with the IDB to identify
Column 61a possible short-term solution to the problem which will provide sufficient industrial land for Cookstown until the East Tyrone area plan materialises.
I am not looking for a short-term plan. My constituents have a right to have proper land set aside for proper development to attract inward investors to what is, after all, the centre of the Province. Some of the land does not have proper access, but it is vital that access is available, which can happen only if we have the bypass that has long been promised. The Secretary of State visited Cookstown a few weeks ago and was concerned. He met all the relevant bodies, so will he now take action and authorise the Cookstown bypass, to open up the industrial site ? It is of great importance to my constituents, and I ask the Minister to give me a date for the commencement of the bypass.
What progress has been made in acquiring land in Omagh for industrial development ? A former Minister acknowledged the urgent needs of Castlederg and accepted that it suffered great hardship because of terrorist activity. Reports were commissioned, and I wonder whether the Minister can tell us what action is to be taken to regenerate the area.
I deal now with matters relating to the Department of the Environment. I had a meeting with representatives of the chamber of commerce in the Omagh area. They have many concerns and one of the major ones is the lack of a road network. Omagh is a major market town with a population of 22,000. It is on the main A5, which has been recognised as a "trans-European highway". I love that term--it is a pity that it does not mean anything. We have fancy names and get carried away but, unfortunately, there is no money to do anything about the "trans-European highway".
People's lives are put at risk. As the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) knows, there is a link from Omagh to Ballygawley and from Ballygawley to the M1. That entire section of road needs to be dealt with urgently, and money needs to be made available. I appeal to the Minister to inform the House and to inform me, as the Member of Parliament for that area, what action the Government are taking.
On my way here today, I was asked by some workers at the airport what relevance the High Court judgment on part-time workers has to Northern Ireland, and whether we should be brought into line with the rest of the United Kingdom. Perhaps the Minister will deal with that matter, as it is causing great concern in the Province.
The Department of Education vote is also important in Cookstown. The high school there urgently needs two extra science labs. The Secretary of State's wife visited the school recently and saw the excellent work being done. However, visits are one thing : action and money to do something about the problem are another.
As for the vote on the Department of Health and Social Services, we recently had two good debates in Committee. One was on the proposal for a draft Children (Northern Ireland) Order, and we are still awaiting responses. Perhaps the Minister will have something to say, as he also spoke for the Government in Committee.
One issue that goes to the heart of my constituency is the decision by the Western board to remove maternity services from Tyrone county hospital. I raise the matter again because, in Committee, I was promised that, as the Minister was new to the job and wanted to know about our problems, she would be happy to meet us. Immediately following the sitting, I made a request to the Minister, but
Column 62it was turned down. I ask the Minister here to discuss the issue with the Minister concerned--Baroness Denton--because it is a matter of life and death for children and babies in my constituency. It is disgraceful that my constituents are being treated differently from those in the rest of the Province in respect of maternity services. All the health boards received a copy of a discussion paper on the future provision of maternity services. Considering maternity services into the next century, the Western board decided, with the agreement of the Government, that the Tyrone county hospital's maternity unit would be closed. Other boards were supposed to do likewise, but only Tyrone county will have to ensure such a closure because other boards have stepped aside, and some have not even considered the provision of maternity services.
My constituents are being treated differently from those in other parts of Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. That is not British justice. Surely the Minister will have to say that the Government must examine the provision of maternity services in the Province as a whole and not remove the little Omagh hospital, whose maternity services have been tried and proven to be excellent but are now to be taken away from my constituents. It is disgusting that the Government are treating a part of Northern Ireland differently from the rest.
When another board was examining the issue, and there was a hue and cry, the issue was sidestepped or put on ice, and decisions were put back. The Western board is the only board that has gone ahead. Surely the details of maternity provision should be the same in Mid-Ulster as they are in the other 16 constituencies.
It is right that the Government should answer that point. I demand a withdrawal of the decision in the Western board and Tyrone county hospital. Northern Ireland should be treated properly, as a unit, and not in piecemeal fashion, with one community being divided from another.
Mr. John D. Taylor : The hon. Gentleman will be aware that County Tyrone Gaelic football team is one of the best Gaelic Athletic Association teams in the island of Ireland. Is he aware that, if the policy that he has criticised this evening is pursued to its finality, the County Tyrone GAA team will disappear ? One of the requirements for playing for that team is to have been born in the county of Tyrone. If there are no more maternity services in County Tyrone, in time there will be no one who is qualified to play for that well-known Gaelic team.
Rev. William McCrea : I bow to the right hon. Gentleman's information. I am sure that he is fully aware that no one is less qualified than I to talk about the GAA. I believe that the GAA discriminates against my constituents who are in the security forces. Until it removes that discrimination, I shall treat it as it should be treated--that is, I shall cast it aside as the GAA has cast aside those who are protecting it.
However, I bow to the right hon. Gentleman's submission. I do not know whether he is speaking in an official capacity. One thing I do know is that I have absolutely no knowledge of the GAA. I do not want to go down that road.
I tell the House very seriously that my constituents have been denied rights to maternity services equal to those in the rest of the Province, and I assure the House that that is causing grave concern. I implore the Minister to honour his
Column 63pledge to me that he would make representations to Baroness Denton, the Minister with responsibility for health. I ask the Minister to encourage his noble Friend to receive a delegation and to allow us the right to put our concerns.
I do not know how anyone can say that it is British democracy or justice to remove maternity services and to treat my constituents differently from people in the rest of the Kingdom, when they are not given the right to make representations to the relevant Minister. I ask the Minister to further his representations to his noble Friend on that point.
The elderly in my constituency are also a grave concern ; I mention here the Derg Valley hospital. There is grave concern that the hospital is to be closed. I do not decry the value of private nursing homes, but I believe that state-run homes for the elderly and geriatric units have a vital part to play. I appeal to the Minister to consider that provision.
I am also concerned about the Buddybear trust, which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Wigan. I believe that the Government should give proper financial support to that trust.
On behalf of my constituents, I give my support to the right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor), who represents the area that takes in Belvoir Park hospital. The hospital stands out in its assistance in the treatment of cancer patients from the whole of the Province. I have been inundated with petitions and representations from my constituents asking me to give the hospital my whole-hearted support.
I assure the House that I did not need such representations, because I give the hospital my whole-hearted support. As a pastor, I know how people suffer from cancer, and I know the value of the environment of Belvoir Park hospital. To suggest that such an environment could be provided in a hospital such as the City hospital does not take into account the great needs of those who suffer from that disease.
I support the Shaftsbury Square hospital in its treatment of people addicted to alcohol and to drugs. I ask the Minister to ensure that the Department and the board give continued backing to the excellent work done in the hospital. Sadly, many of my constituents have had to rely on treatment there to bring them back to health.
Mr. Roy Beggs (Antrim, East) : On 14 December 1993, the Secretary of State announced details of new public expenditure for Northern Ireland for 1994-95 and the Government's three public expenditure priority areas. There is continuing concern that £931 million has to be allocated for the provision of law and order services in Northern Ireland in the next financial year, with the aim of defeating terrorism.
Citizens of the Province, taxpayers throughout the United Kingdom and members of the security forces have all paid a high price in cash terms for the foolishness of past appeasement policies. Many have lost their lives and many will never fully recover from the injuries caused to them by terrorism. If more public expenditure were properly used in a concerted campaign to end terrorism, most people would accept restricted expenditure in other sectors. A large part of the money devoted to law and order
Column 64could then be reallocated more constructively to badly needed social and economic regeneration programmes in future. We are not satisfied that enough is being done to defeat the terrorist campaign and to protect lives and property in Northern Ireland.
I welcome the emphasis on strengthening the economy and the additional allocation of £5 million for industrial research and technology. However, although I note the provision of £23 million extra for factory building, I should like the Minister to tell us what he expects the likely uptake to be in 1994-95. Perhaps he will tell the House whether the major inward investment project that was blocked last year by the Governments of the Irish Republic and of Spain has yet been approved by the European Commission and whether it is likely to proceed in Northern Ireland.
One cannot take issue with the priority being given by the Government to targeting social need, to seeking to reduce deprivation and to ensuring greater equity throughout the community. However, some envy has been caused in Glenarm in my constituency. Glenarm urgently requires regeneration and proper recognition of the social deprivation and high unemployment there, which equate with those of neighbouring Carnlough, which is approximately two miles north on the Antrim coast. Glenarm would then receive additional funding. I should like to see more resources made available to Glenarm and I hope that the future public expenditure plans will be directed to encouraging speedy regeneration and employment creation on that part of the north Antrim coast.
Part of the moneys allocated for economic development is directed towards the development of tourism. May we have a review of the restrictions on hotel development in my constituency ? The extent of areas of special control and areas of outstanding natural beauty are preventing job creation and additional provision for tourism. For example, a major project attracting inward investment for a hotel and chalet complex in Ballycarry, County Antrim, could not proceed and will not be able to proceed unless there is some relaxation and greater flexibility in the stringent planning regulations. How can we help ourselves if we are hamstrung by regulations ? Some common sense must be introduced before too long.
The Secretary of State and Ministers will be well aware that the new Antrim hospital will open this month and that patients will be transferred there from Moyle, Larne and Waveney Ballymena hospitals. A few weeks ago, it took me almost an hour and a half to make my way from Larne to the airport. There was a sudden and heavy snowfall, but the journey took so long because there was not a single passing point on the road. Once we left the dual carriageway, it was single track all the way.
It is a matter of great concern that higher priority has not been given to the upgrading of the A8 from Larne to Belfast. Additional traffic is generated as people decide whether to use the Antrim or Belfast hospitals and we need to see improvement between Gingles corner on the Larne side and Corr's corner on the Belfast side. At the very least, there should be development between Gingles corner and Ballynure, where the road goes to Antrim. It is a matter of being properly concerned for the safety of all road users.
As was predicted, I defy an ambulance to travel from Larne to Antrim hospital in 16 minutes on the A8. At the risk of convicting myself, I seized an opportunity to travel faster than normal along that route and I thought that I made good time when it took me 26 minutes. For an ambulance to do it much faster would put at risk other road
Column 65users and the patients who are being conveyed. There will be more ambulances and increased private traffic as patients are conveyed to the new hospital or people go to visit them. It is important that, since the road serves the whole of Northern Ireland and parts of the Irish Republic, it be upgraded without further delay.
As has been said, it is bitterly resented that so much public expenditure has been directed towards Belfast and Dublin road and rail development. It is more bitterly resented that neither Northern Ireland Ministers nor United Kingdom Ministers responsible for representing Northern Ireland interests in Europe have successfully backed up the representations made by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) as a Member of the European Parliament, his colleague Jim Nicholson, Alex Smith, the Member of the European Parliament for Scotland, South and myself for recognition of the fact that the Stranraer, Cairnryan, Belfast and Larne corridor is the second busiest ferry route in the United Kingdom.
Not a single map which emanates from the European Commission recognises that corridor as a Euro-route and it is about time that proper representation was made on our behalf in Europe, especially by United Kingdom Ministers. It is not too much to expect that Northern Ireland is recognised in that way on the map because it has, after all, the shortest sea crossing between the island of Ireland and Great Britain.
The second priority road to which I shall draw the attention of the House is the Belfast to Carrickfergus road. It is the second most congested road in my constituency. At peak periods in the morning and in the evening, there are traffic tailbacks of almost a mile towards Carrickfergus and Whiteabbey village. That is because there has been postponement of investment time and again and nothing of any significance has been done to that road. The problem is increasing because of the popularity of the Carrickfergus borough area and because there is so much residential development there.
Information given to members of Carrickfergus borough council suggests that the delays in undertaking that investment scheme are having a negative impact on further development in the borough. Examples can be quoted of companies that were interested in becoming established in Carrickfergus going elsewhere because of their dissatisfaction with the road network.
A scheme in the five-year programme shows that work to widen the road from the end of the dual carriageway to Silverstream should commence in 1997-98. I ask that due consideration is given to the priority of upgrading that road and, in advance of that time, that the congestion on the Carrickfergus to Belfast road be relieved. At worst, I hope that the Minister will give an assurance that that scheme is not likely to be postponed by any cut.
When will the moratorium on capital expenditure for schools be lifted ? The Minister will be aware that there is tremendous pressure on capital expenditure in schools arising from the need to rationalise existing school provision. Will he try to ensure that appropriate funding is released to provide permanent accommodation where rationalisation or amalgamation of schools is to take place ? It is essential that work at the receiving school should be completed before school closure and pupil transfer.
I am especially anxious that, when Rathcoole high school closes later this year, Newtonabbey community school should be capable of accommodating the additional pupils likely to enrol there, and that that new secondary
Column 66school should get off to a good start and be as attractive to parents and pupils as existing post-primary schools in the area. Will the Minister assist the education and library boards by giving special support for capital projects arising from the rationalisation of school provision ?
I hope that the Minister will be able to give his support and encouragement for teachers in Northern Ireland who willingly accompany school trips to the continent. Throughout my teaching career and as a member of an education and library board, I have encouraged those who organise school trips to European countries. I invite the Minister, both directly and through the appropriate authorities in the Foreign Office, to protest most strongly at the interference of rebellious French fishermen on 4 February this year. A party of 32 pupils and four teachers left Larne in my constituency at 8 o'clock in the morning. They arrived at Dover at five past 10 in the evening and were told that all sailings had been cancelled because the authorities on the French mainland had no control whatever over the protesting French fishermen. Surely we are entitled to freedom of passage within the European Community. I hope that the Minister will register our protest so that that kind of thing does not happen again. I trust that the experience will not dissuade the same party from returning on another occasion. The moneys voted to the Department of Agriculture provide for assistance to marketing and processing and for scientific and veterinary services. I invite the Minister to tell us whether greater use could be made of computerised records of cattle in Northern Ireland, on which we hold the details, from birth to slaughter or death, of every animal on a Northern Ireland farm. Those records have enabled the Department to control very efficiently the disease status of Northern Ireland cattle.
We should proclaim to the world the fact that we have that capability. We should make use of our computer records to demonstrate the disease-free status of our beef for export. We are probably unique within the European Community in having such information. We should not, then, be suffering disadvantage as a result of the minor and occasional outbreak of brucellosis, tuberculosis or even BSE, because we can identify every affected herd. I trust that that matter will be looked into.
A small number of beef producers threaten the livelihood of the great majority of small Northern Ireland farmers by unlawfully using growth- promoting substances. I ask that greater efforts should be made both to identify those people and to secure punitive action through the prosecution of those offenders.
Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North) : May I comment on the last point raised by the hon. Member for Antrim, East (Mr. Beggs) ? In the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee, we heard from the Commission the amazing statement that it has no real checks on the use of hormones in beef coming into this country from the United States or third-world countries. When we pushed, the Commission told us that it had one inspector for the whole of the United States--and he has recently retired--and 12 inspectors to look after the whole of the beef-producing world which can put beef into our markets. Punitive measures are taken against our own farmers, and rightly so--the agriculture interests and authorities,
Column 67decent farmers and the unions have all agreed that that should be so--but if there is access through the ports for meat from other countries that has been produced in that way, what use are all the regulations applied to farming communities in the United Kingdom and the rest of the European Union ?
Mr. Beggs : I thank the hon. Gentleman for his remarks on that issue. I hope that the Minister has taken stock and will ensure that there is fair competition for the Northern Ireland industry and more opportunities for Northern Ireland beef exporters to export throughout the world as a result of the excellent health standards of our livestock.
Northern Ireland Ministers who are present today should remember that Northern Ireland differs from most parts of the United Kingdom in that it has an agriculture-based economy. If agriculture does well, the Province does well. If agriculture does not do well, the Province will not do well. Our eyes should therefore be on agriculture.
I am not often encouraged by what Northern Ireland Ministers do, but I am greatly encouraged by the attitude of the new agriculture Minister, Baroness Denton, who informed me, at a meeting that I had with her last Monday with various agriculture interests, that she had approached the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and secured the assurance that when Northern Ireland agriculture interests are to be discussed at the Council of Europe, she will be able to be there herself to put the Northern Ireland case. That is something for which we have argued for a long time.
It is not enough for officials to attend, because officials can talk only to officials. The responsible Northern Ireland Minister needs to be present to talk to other Ministers ; to be party to the trade-offs that take place at those meetings ; and to put the case for Northern Ireland. I therefore welcome the initiative of Baroness Denton and the immediate action that she has taken in expressing her intention of being at the conference table when the Council of Ministers deals with matters relevant to Northern Ireland agriculture. I am sure that that will be welcomed by all Northern Ireland's representatives.
Northern Ireland's agriculture faces a very grim time. The European Commission has just proposed that milk quotas throughout the Union be reduced by 1 per cent. this year and by a further 1 per cent. next year. That is not intended to benefit the United Kingdom's milk industry ; it has to do with problems in the Mediterranean countries of Spain, Italy and Greece and with the over-assignment of quota to the east German lander.
The Commission is about to hurt our industry in an attempt to rectify problems in countries that have not kept the laws of the common agriculture policy. I trust that the Minister of State who replies to the debate will be able to tell us that he has taken this matter on board and that there will be a strong effort to resist what the Commissioners have in mind. We need a solution to a problem created by other countries' breaches of European law.
There are many worries in the pig industry, which has already been mentioned, especially by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea). We are in