Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 175 - 179)




  175.  A very warm welcome to you, and thank you very much indeed for coming. We have the advantage, in advance, of knowing who you are, and the sign which is in front of you is also legible to us. We seek, if possible, to have a logic to the order of the questions which we ask you, and, therefore, in terms of who is asking them, they may come from different quarters of the horseshoe. We recognise both that we may have supplementary questions, which we fail to ask during the course of the session, which we may want to send you in writing afterwards, and that you may want to gloss answers you have given, particularly when you have the advantage of reading the text of what you have said, so that if you want to follow up subsequently by letting us have any further information or any further comments shading, please do not hesitate to do so. I do not know whether you want to make any introductory remarks before we embark on questions. We do have the advantage of the regular publication, which you have sent us, on the subject of TSN, which obviously has virtue in this instance. I should say that, not remotely under our control, a debate is going on—on terrorism and its effects—on the floor of the House at this moment, which has necessarily affected the number of people who are here and may affect people's presence in the room, as we get into questions; but that is a coincidence over which we have no control. Feel no obligation to say anything, but if you would like to please do?
  (Mrs Trewsdale)  No, we are quite happy to continue, Chairman.

Chairman:  Alright; well, because Mr Robinson is one of those who will be leaving us, for reasons which I think all of us understand, I am going to suggest that he opens the batting.

Mr Robinson

  176.  Thank you very much, Mr Chairman. Good afternoon. I think, perhaps, as a scene-setter, it might be useful if you were to indicate which, if any, of the functions of the Northern Ireland Economic Council you see as being relevant to the issue of fair employment; and maybe, to give you time to think about an answer while one is speaking, the other can think about what is the past record of the Economic Council in terms of reports on fair employment issues, or having made statements in relation to fair employment issues?
  (Mrs Trewsdale)  Mr Chairman, the Northern Ireland Economic Council is an independent body, which, as you know, was set up in 1977 by the Secretary of State to advise the Secretary of State on the development of economic policy in Northern Ireland. We have 15 members, five independent, five from the trade union side, and five from the CBI and Chamber of Commerce side. When you say specifically which of our work is directly relevant to fair employment, I find that a difficult question to answer directly, because, as far as we are concerned, we are interested in the development of economic policy, and we feel that it should promote growth, but we also think that there should be economic development through growth and not just simply growth. And so we obviously accept the principles of fair employment in Northern Ireland and we do, indeed, obviously support them, but we do not specifically look directly at fair employment, as such, and we have not actually published a paper on fair employment specifically either.

  177.  I think I am right in saying that you do see that there is a relationship between the quality of opportunity, on the one hand, and economic growth, on the other; and, if there is that relationship, might one have expected that the Economic Council might have considered these kinds of issues as being more important?
  (Mrs Trewsdale)  Indeed, yes. Obviously, the link between equal opportunity and economic growth is there, in the sense that one uses resources more efficiently, from the straight economics point of view, and, therefore, obviously, is more cost-effective, as far as the economy is concerned. And the idea of every individual fulfilling their abilities to the full, naturally, will improve the economy of any area, and fair employment goes along with that.

  178.  I did not get an answer to the specific question I asked earlier; am I to assume that the answer is none, in relation to what reports, if any, have been issued by the Economic Council in relation to this issue?
  (Mrs Trewsdale)  We have not issued a specific report on fair employment in Northern Ireland, no.

  179.  Has it been considered but not reported on?
  (Mrs Trewsdale)  It is considered, within the relevant reports, for example, the New TSN report that you have already received. If you want to ask me why have we not done it; the answer there simply is that the resources that we have to do research is just four researchers plus the Director, Paul here, beside me, and that the area of research into fair employment in Northern Ireland is what one might describe as a well-mined area, or seam, in that, for example, SACHR itself was given the job of researching into fair employment in Northern Ireland and a substantial budget in order to do that. The academics have, again, looked in detail into the research into fair employment in Northern Ireland, and we have a limited budget and a limited number of researchers to do it, and, therefore, we chose specifically not to look at it; it does not mean to say we have ignored it, of course, do not get the impression that we have ignored it.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries

© Parliamentary copyright 1999
Prepared 30 July 1999