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Rev. Martin Smyth: Does my hon. Friend accept that there is a degree of frustration about what happens? Although the parent Act was passed by the House and deals with all of us, whether we are in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, when I have written to the Secretary of State for Social Security, sending a copy to the Northern Ireland Minister responsible, instead of the matter being dealt with in terms of legal reforms in the House, my letter has been sent back with the message that my question has been transferred to Northern Ireland. Surely the main Act was an Act of the House, affecting us all, and questions should be dealt with here.

Mr. Forsythe: I agree. Unfortunately, as I have found in many Standing Committees on which I have served, Northern Ireland is often not included in Bills. It is always explained to me in minute detail why that is, and that an order will be made at a later stage, but it would be much better if such matters were dealt with in the House by Ministers here. That is no reflection on the Ministers now in situ.

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I cannot understand why a fixed amount is not set for each child, or why the Inland Revenue cannot be used to deal with self-employed absent parents. Some of my colleagues on the Select Committee on Social Security were of that opinion, although some are now slipping away from it. Changes must be made to the CSA so that it carries out its proper function. I congratulate the staff of the CSA on their work. They are carrying out our instructions, and my complaints are not about them, but about the legislation--I wish to make that clear.

On social security, I am aware that many applicants for disability living allowance are unhappy. I know that family doctors were in a difficult position when signing forms and making applications for DLA, and the new system was brought in to counter that. However, so many people have complained about the system that there must be some grain of truth in the allegations. There have been complaints about the attitude of those carrying out the medical examinations of not only new applicants but recalls. People have been crying after their examination, and many who have visited me are unhappy. That does not apply to everyone, of course--there are hundreds of cases of which I know nothing. However, if we have a number of complaints, they must be looked at.

The most surprising thing that I have discovered is that there have been complaints about the tribunals for those who have been turned down for DLA. People have complained to me about the attitude and conduct of some members of the tribunal, so much so that I have arranged to meet the president of the tribunals at a future date. It alarms me that people making appeals feel that they cannot put their case forward properly because of the attitude of those on the other side of the desk. This is not a matter for which the new Government have responsibility, but I wish to alert the Minister and the Under-Secretary to it. In addition, I have received many complaints about the jobseeker's allowance--which I need not go into--for various reasons.

The Under-Secretary may remember that I have previously raised the matter of charges at hospital car parks. I know why those charges were introduced: people were parking their car at certain hospitals, getting on the bus and coming back to pick up their car at night. But now the private finance initiative has been introduced at the Royal Victoria hospital, I understand that not only visitors but staff must pay for the car park. Does the Minister consider that to be a pay cut? Nurses are receiving the same salary, but now have to pay for car parking.

I wish to refer to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and the annual complaint that is made about bad neighbours. I am sure that all hon. Members could tell me about bad neighbours, as we all have problems in our constituencies. What bothers me is that there seems to be no legislation on the matter. There have been suggestions and attempts to introduce legislation to deal with people who are not conducting themselves properly, and some whose behaviour is worse than that. In certain areas, drugs are dispensed in houses owned by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, and we are unable to do anything about that.

I am not criticising the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, but it is unfortunate that its officers simply give such bad neighbours a transfer. That is not the solution, as it only brings in other people who cause the same trouble and who will be transferred again later. Unfortunately,

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people who were told that it was a good thing to buy their home, and received a reduction in price, are still suffering bad neighbour problems from Northern Ireland Housing Executive tenants, and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive seems unable to do anything about it. I wish to raise that matter with the new team on the Government Front Bench.

I wish to refer to a Northern Ireland Housing Executive case involving two women. One owned her own home, and the other was a tenant of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. The woman who owned her home lived in an upstairs apartment, while the other woman lived downstairs. There was a problem with the flue and, as a result, the woman upstairs had her living room destroyed by smoke. The story was that the people who previously lived in the downstairs flat knew not to use the flue, but the new tenant used it. I received a complaint that the Northern Ireland Housing Executive's insurance company--rather than the Northern Ireland Housing Executive itself--decided on the damages to be paid. One can argue the case either way, but we know that insurance companies tend to try to cut their losses. If such a situation happens again, what will be the position of the person who is not to blame? I hope that the Under-Secretary will reply on that point--I will even take a letter from him.

5.18 pm

Mr. William Thompson (West Tyrone): I rise for the first time to deliver a speech in the House of Commons. This is a special occasion for me, as I am the first elected Member for the new constituency of West Tyrone or, as some on the mainland like to call it, Tyrone, West. Recently, I thought that any possibility of my being elected to this House--despite my involvement in politics for 30 years--was remote. However, when the boundary commission created an additional seat in Northern Ireland--and that seat took in the area in which I live--that possibility became real.

Evidently West Tyrone was expected to be a nationalist seat, as the electorate are predominantly nationalist. There are two nationalists to every Protestant or Unionist. Due to the division between Sinn Fein and the Social Democratic and Labour party, the full Unionist support in the constituency, and the addition of a number of Roman Catholic votes, I was elected with a majority of 1,161. Hon. Members will not be surprised to learn that I fully support the first-past-the-post voting system.

I was delighted to be elected, but at the countthree constituencies were counted together and a Mr. McGuinness--a prominent member of Sinn Fein--was elected for Mid-Ulster and got all the publicity. It was as if Sinn Fein had won the election--I was hardly mentioned. Is it not strange that we live in an age when our party, which won the election, hardly gets mentioned and a party that wins two seats gets all the publicity? That shows how much is gained by supporting terrorists and how much the media are determined to report their every word and action. That is a sad day for democracy in the United Kingdom.

I am proud to represent all the people of West Tyrone, irrespective of their religion or political affiliation. Having lived in the area all my life, I believe that the vast majority of them are decent, honest and hard working and I have a great affection for them.

The new constituency is made up of the district council areas of Omagh and Strabane. Sixty per cent. of the area was incorporated in the previous constituency of

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Mid-Ulster, then represented by the Rev. William McCrea, while the rest--the Strabane area--was in the Foyle constituency and was represented by the leader of the SDLP, the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume). I pay tribute to Rev. McCrea for his commitment and dedication to the constituency for the 13 years he represented the area and I wish him well in his future years. I also pay tribute to the hon. Member for Foyle, who made every effort when he represented the northern part of my constituency to bring employment to the area--with considerable success. It will be difficult for me to emulate that success.

West Tyrone is largely a rural constituency of gentle rolling hills, glens, forests, loughs and rivers revered by fishermen. Omagh is the largest town in the constituency and the county town of Tyrone. Strabane is the next largest town. Farming is the predominant industry and has been badly affected by the beef crisis. A number of large to medium-sized industries exist in the area, giving substantial employment, but unemployment is still excessively high, with the May average figure showing 15 per cent. male unemployment and 5.7 per cent. female employment, as against the United Kingdom average of 7.7 per cent. and 3.1 per cent. respectively. The lower female figure is due to the fact that much of the main industry in the constituency is in the manufacture of textiles, which obviously gives higher female employment. More than one quarter of the unemployed have been out of work for more than five years, which is very worrying.

Inward investment is obviously needed in the constituency. It is, therefore, a high priority and I shall certainly do all I can, with the various employment and inward investment agencies, to bring more employment to the area.

The north-west of Northern Ireland has benefited greatly from the development of computer-based industries, particularly Seagate, which has just announced a big expansion programme. It is hoped that that expansion will have a knock-on effect in my constituency. Given the skills that are available, more inward investment of that sort would be very welcome indeed.

Tourism is another important industry in my constituency. Two of the major attractions are the Ulster-American folk park and the Ulster history park. The former traces the history of the mainly Protestant Scots-Irish emigration to America in the 18th century and the emigrants' unique contribution to the war of independence and the American constitution, boasting ancestral connections with at least 13 Presidents. The park also traces the later emigration of the Irish as a result of the Irish famine, with the settlements in New York, Boston and other American cities. The park contains unique collections of buildings, artefacts and archival materials of the period and has a fine library, which constitutes the only emigration museum of its kind in Ireland. It contains many records detailing the passenger lists of many of the ships that sailed for America and it is an invaluable source of information for students and historians alike.

Under the proposed Museums (Northern Ireland) Order 1997, which will be coming up for debate in the House soon, the folk park is to be transferred from the existing trustees to a new board of trustees of the national

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museums of Northern Ireland--yet another quango--where it will be merged with the Ulster museum and the Ulster folk and transport museum in the Greater Belfast area. Those two museums are in the east of the Province and it is to be hoped that the Ulster folk park will not be disadvantaged by its geographical location in the rural area of Tyrone, but will continue to receive adequate funds to expand and develop. We consider that that is important because we know that there are always pressures in Belfast and outside to get the most money. Sometimes, we in the west are regarded as far distant from the main city. We hope that we will get our fair share of the finances for our park to continue.

The Ulster history park traces the history of Ulster from the time of the first people to arrive through to the 17th century AD. Examples are to be seen of the simple huts, covered with animal skins or possibly tree bark, used by our early ancestors, the introduction of pottery, farming and events leading to the settled way of life. Examples of the different working tools and utensils through the ages are shown, with various tombs used to bury the dead and, no doubt, the various implements that the Irish have used to fight among themselves for the past many hundreds of years. The two parks complement each other, therefore, and attract a considerable number of visitors, and they contribute significantly to the local economy.

My constituency has had its fair share of terrorism in the past 20 years. Many good men, men of the British Army, the Ulster Defence Regiment, the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the police reserve have lost their lives through the bomb and the bullet. My area has suffered severely. The principal of the local school was murdered--blown up by an IRA bomb. A schoolmaster in the adjoining village was brutally murdered on his way home from school, and there were many others who chose to join the security forces and serve the community out of their loyalty.

Those people were especially vulnerable because of their part-time jobs. They made the supreme sacrifice, and I salute their memory. That makes us more determined never to give in to terrorism and to ensure that terrorism will not succeed in Northern Ireland. As an elected representative, I have attended the funerals and shared the grief of the loved ones, but I felt powerless to do anything about it.

We, the loyal citizens of Ulster, looked to successive British Governments to deal with terrorism and defeat it; we heard wonderful words, telling us that they would never give in to terrorism, but those words were not met with action. To buy off the terrorists, the Anglo-Irish Agreement, to which we still say no, was imposed on us, giving a foreign power considerable influence in the affairs of our part of the United Kingdom; we resent that.

Again, the Downing street declaration was produced, and the framework document, with its plan to incorporate us gradually into an Irish republic, still hangs over our heads. All those concessions to terrorists have not placated but encouraged them: they believe that the British Government want to leave Northern Ireland and that keeping up the pressure will eventually persuade them to do so. I, along with many loyal people in Ulster, have felt let down and betrayed by successive British Governments.

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Sinn Fein even wants to restrict our freedom to display our identity and culture by stopping our parades and church services. How can peace come to Ulster, as we all want? It can come only when the results of the ballot box are acknowledged, terrorism from whatever source is utterly defeated and democracy is again restored to our Province.

We are dealing in particular this afternoon with the finances of Northern Ireland. I was for a short time the Chairman of the Finance Committee of the Assembly of 1982-84. I seek a clarification that the security budget is now separate from the main budget for Northern Ireland. The security budget used to be part of the Northern Ireland Office expenditure.


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