Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 200 - 219)



  200.  Can I turn to a slightly different subject now. I am conscious that, I think, all of us, even despite things that might be happening in the Chamber at the moment, would like to see the peace process continue and be successful, but it does occur to me that there might be an affect, or a price for peace, as well, in terms of employment, and I just wondered what you thought the effect of peace might be, in terms of the differences in employment between the communities in Northern Ireland? And I say that in the sense that it occurs to me that if the peace process is successful then there are clearly some areas, the security-related industries being the obvious one, where there will be a scaling-down of employment, and I just wondered what you thought the consequences of peace might be, in terms of employment differences and employment opportunities between the communities?
  (Dr Gorecki)  I guess you can think of the effects in three ways. First of all, you get those sorts of industries which are liable to benefit from peace and political stability, so that would be tourism, where some work we did suggested maybe a 10,000 to 14,000 increase in jobs over a five-year period; there undoubtedly would be an increase in inward investment, and, by doing comparisons with Scotland and the Republic of Ireland, maybe an extra 1,400 jobs a year would come in. And you would also have a different sort of investment coming in, a higher quality investment, in the sense, you could argue, with political violence, it is very unlikely that firms are going to come to Northern Ireland and invest substantially in R&D facilities, invest in extensive training, in developing sub-supplier networks, simply because if the violence gets out of hand then they would have to leave, and those sorts of costs cannot be recovered, that investment is just down the drain. So that you are more liable to get firms that come in that do put roots down in the local economy, and, as a result, generate a lot more employment, a much higher multiplier effect than just the number of people that they employ in their factory. Now, in terms of what the breakdown would be by religion, I am not in a position to make any sort of judgement about that because we are not quite sure what industries there would be or any sort of inward investment, but, clearly, there would be substantial gains for all, in terms of getting access to jobs; sorry, I am not quite sure one can break that down. But, certainly, when you come to look at the jobs which are liable to be lost, clearly, those are going to be predominantly in the security forces, where, if you look at the RUC, it is overwhelmingly Protestant, as is evidenced in some of the testimony in briefs you have already had. And there, clearly, if you look at the size of the RUC in, say, 1994/5 and you look at police forces in Great Britain, with sorts of population between 1 million and 2 million, then you can get substantial reductions. If you take Hampshire, for example, the force would go down to something like 3,000; if you take Merseyside, it may go down to about 5,000 or 6,000, I cannot give you the exact number. So, depending on which particular force you choose, you are going to get substantial reductions, no matter what; and, clearly, most of that is going to occur amongst Protestants, and if you want to increase the Catholic proportion, then you may have even more than that. So clearly there is going to be a major issue there, which the Patten Commission is going to deal with, and presumably will report in the next few months; so, clearly, there will be major job losses there which will be concentrated in one community. In terms of the wider economic implications, that will depend on the sorts of packages that those people receive and the degree to which they retain spending power in the economy, and hence manage to keep service sector people employed. It will also depend on the degree to which that, say, £400/£500/£600 million of public expenditure remains within Northern Ireland; clearly, if it remains within Northern Ireland, that means that substantially larger employment will be created than otherwise would be. So it is not clear quite what the effect will be, it depends on the public expenditure implications as well. And I guess the third aspect, which I have already alluded to earlier, is that, potentially, if you have peace and political stability, you have an environment, hopefully, in which you can have a more integrated labour market, in which it will be less segmented, so you may be able to, for example, build factories on neutral sites, to benefit those from disadvantaged areas, so you can get clusters of factories getting together, so people have more choice in terms of jobs, so if there is a decline in this employer they are not going to get a job there, rather than being concentrated in one area where there is only one employer, and the employers will have a greater variety of labour from which they can draw upon. But what the breakdown will be I do not know, except insofar as, hopefully, all these developments will lead to more employment and lower unemployment, and, do not forget, Northern Ireland's unemployment rate has already declined substantially, so it is no longer the worst in the UK, Merseyside and the North East now have higher unemployment rates, where, say, twenty years ago, Northern Ireland's unemployment rate was close to twice the national average. So I think, hopefully, the employment distribution may not be that important, what may be important is that unemployment would be driven down very low and most people who wanted a job would be able to have a job.

Mr Grogan

  201.  To what extent do you think all this has got something to do with differences between Catholic and Protestant schools, in the representation of Catholics, and what differences in performance, and so on, might affect employment opportunities, and is there anything the Government could do? Is it related to schooling at all?
  (Mrs Trewsdale)  You are talking about the segregation of the schooling system, are you, or are you talking about the 11-plus?

  202.  I am inviting you to comment, on the 11-plus, or the difference in performance between different schools, and so on: is it a factor, do you think?
  (Mrs Trewsdale)  I think the underachievement in education, regardless of religion, is a very important aspect, and one obviously that we have looked at in great detail. Paul, do you want to follow up on that one.
  (Dr Gorecki)  We could send you some supplementary evidence. But, I think, in the work that was done for us on educational underachievement, the first paper is a sort of scene-setting paper, and I think the result of that was that the educational outcomes, in terms of grades at 16 and 18, were very similar between the Catholic system and the Protestant system, and, insofar as there was an imbalance in grammar school provision in the Catholic system, the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights addressed that, I think, about four or five years ago, and that is now being rectified. Furthermore, the funding formula now is completely transparent, and so two schools in exactly the same situation are now treated equally because of the introduction of formula funding under the Education Reform (Northern Ireland) Order of 1989. And, of course, the National Curriculum is now taught everywhere, so, in that sense, in terms of output at 16 and 18, there may be differences in the subjects which are taught, the subjects people take, there may be different preferences there, I do not know, in the sense, traditionally, science has been taught less in the Catholic schools than in the Protestant system; but, apart from that, I think the output at age 16 and 18 is very similar. But, if I am wrong on that, we could certainly send you a supplementary note on it.

  203.  Thank you. So, moving on from schools, you seem to be saying it is probably not much to do with the performance of different schools; does higher education come into it, the provision of places in higher education? I note that you said, in answer to one of the earlier questions, that there has been a change in recent years, in terms of the sorts of people who go into higher education in Northern Ireland, is that right? I seemed to hear you say that—no?
  (Mrs Trewsdale)  No, what we said, I think, was that Northern Ireland has the highest proportion of its school-leavers going on to university education, it is 40 per cent, which is, I think, highest of any region in the United Kingdom; and, again, that we have a higher proportion of students who are from disadvantaged backgrounds within that 40 per cent who go on to university. The two universities in Northern Ireland have always been intergrated, there has never been any segregation at all in terms of religion at either of the universities; there has been, traditionally, many moons ago, obviously, that certain professions would have tended to go with certain religions, but, thankfully, that has now changed, and indeed is changing. I think that the two universities—you are talking specifically about higher education, so I am talking at university level—that they are indeed already promoting equality of opportunity, as far as the students are concerned. I think, if you go to the Dearing Report and the Annex on Northern Ireland, you will find that one of the problems in Northern Ireland higher education is that we are some 4,000 places short, in terms of the number of students, and, traditionally, apart from obviously some going to Oxbridge, which has always happened, and other universities, we exported most of those extras into Scotland. Dundee has been referred to many times as the third Northern Ireland university, and, of course, with our students, as I have already said, coming from already disadvantaged backgrounds, that the £1,000 fee for the students, and indeed the running down of the grants in favour of the loans, and the idea that non-Scottish students attending Scottish universities have to pay £4,000, not £3,000, as they would if they were going in Northern Ireland or in England or Wales, is actually causing a problem. Now, if I could just sort of wear my other——

  204.  Is that impressionistic, or is there statistical evidence?
  (Mrs Trewsdale)  No, I was going to say, if I could just now put on my other hat, which is as a university lecturer, at the Queen's University of Belfast, and I could say to you that, as far as the students that we have from disadvantaged homes are concerned, the argument is, well, the £1,000 will be paid and you have the loans rather than the grants; problem solved. But that is not how it is perceived by the families; it is perceived that debt is involved, and there is a tradition one comes across in Northern Ireland, and, I would say, from both communities but in particular in the faculty that I actually work in, the majority, the vast majority, of the students actually do come from a Roman Catholic background, there is this fear of debt, and the idea that one does not take out students' loans even. Middle-class families understand things about low interest rates and payments back and disadvantaged families do not; loans equals debt equals do not touch. So they work, and they work, for jobs, paying money, and, as a result of that, of course, their studies do tend to suffer, it is a vicious circle.

  205.  But has there been a fall in applications then?
  (Mrs Trewsdale)  There has not been a fall in applications yet to the Northern Ireland universities, but I do understand, again, that there has certainly been a fall in the applications from Northern Ireland to Scotland, to Scottish universities, because of the four-year business. But I think we are still waiting for data to be produced there.

Mr McWalter

  206.  Can we just develop a little bit on the subject about the equality duty on public authorities, that you mentioned earlier, in talking to my colleague, Mr McCabe. It is a bit rich, is it not, if the public sector starts laying down all these criteria about fair employment, and then, at the same time, in the Police Service, there is a huge imbalance between one community over another? And, try as it might, if the Police Service or the Northern Ireland Office, or whatever, say, "Well, there are difficulties and there are special circumstances", is it not open to more or less any employer to say, "Well, yes, you've got your difficulties and special circumstances and we've got ours", and, hence, in a sense, it is going to be equally difficult, in a different way, for us to make real inroads into eroding the differential in employment as well? So to what extent do you think the public sector has such a poor record in this matter that it has not really got much opportunity to police fair employment in other areas?
  (Mrs Trewsdale)  Sorry, through the Chair, when you refer to the public sector,——

  207.  It is better in some areas than others, Health and Library Boards, whatever?
  (Mrs Trewsdale)  For example, I think you will find that the Northern Ireland Civil Service has improved its percentage——

  208.  Yes; it is not quite there yet?
  (Mrs Trewsdale)  No, no, I am not suggesting it was quite there, but it has improved a great deal since 1977 and the founding of the Fair Employment Agency, as was. I think it is rather unfortunate that you picked the police as an example, insofar as, I think, of all the public sector—

  209.  Actually, a debated part, I should say; it could be, rather?
  (Mrs Trewsdale)  It could be regarded as a very, very special case, in that it is not just—the implication seems to be that the RUC kept Roman Catholics out, that seems to be the implication that is coming through. I am not suggesting whether that is right or wrong, but what I think you will find is that the threat of violence from the Roman Catholic side on any Roman Catholic policeman was such that it would have been—I am talking now during the Troubles—a very, very brave Roman Catholic, living in a Roman Catholic area, who actually joined the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

  210.  We have chicken and egg here, do we not; the fact is that very few people brought up in a Republican area are going to join a body which calls itself Royal and Ulster. There was a two-way process, and certainly one of the things that fair employment was about was changing organisations, and how those organisations could be reconfigured so as to address some of the perceptions of those businesses, or those enterprises, or those councils, or whatever, so as to make it more likely that they would be equally amenable to both communities and equally accessible to both communities. So it is a two-way problem, and, insofar as some public authorities did not make, for whatever reason, those changes, and as a result had a huge imbalance between one community and another, the public sector has, at least in some of its elements, a very bad record, in fact, the worst record, on these issues. So is it not of concern to you, in the Northern Ireland Economic Council?
  (Mrs Trewsdale)  As far as the Royal Ulster Constabulary is concerned, I think a former Northern Ireland Minister, in other words, Mr Patten, is actually sorting that out, supposedly, he has his own Commission and is dealing with that and dealing with precisely what you have outlined there, the idea of it being reorganised.

  211.  Are you making an input to that, in any way, of your concern about fair employment?
  (Mrs Trewsdale)  We have not actually been asked, have we, Paul?
  (Dr Gorecki)  We have not made an input, no.

  212.  Might you do it anyway, or is this not something that you are particularly concerned about?
  (Mrs Trewsdale)  Our remit is actually economic development in Northern Ireland, in its broadest sense, it is not specifically into the policing of Northern Ireland. We have our paper on the idea of peace and economic development in Northern Ireland, which, again, we can certainly send you, because we held a very successful conference on that. But, as far as getting down to the precise details like that, no, that is not our remit and we do not see ourselves in that position.

  213.  So it was not worth dealing with, really; too hard, or something?
  (Mrs Trewsdale)  No, that is a little unkind, I think. It is not that it is too hard, the fact is that we have a work schedule to organise and the priorities to organise, and we have tended to look at broader issues, for example, back, if you like, again, to the long-term unemployment issue, which we happen to think is a broad and important issue. We have looked at the new TSN and its impact in Northern Ireland. We do not necessarily go down into the minutia; it is resources. It is not a case of thinking they are too troublesome, not at all.
  (Dr Gorecki)  What we looked at was the economic implications of peace and political stability and what the implications of that would be on the size of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and what the knock-on effects would be, possibly, on the economy, through the effects on public expenditure; that was the focus of the work. And in our work we noted the points you have made, that of the under-representation of Catholics and also the under-representation of women, if you compare Northern Ireland with other parts of the United Kingdom, and those are the things that stand out quite strikingly. But, as for commenting on the way in which the RUC can increase its representation of Catholics, whether it should fly the Union Flag over police stations, whether it should be called the Northern Ireland Police Service, or whether police stations will be like fortresses, or more friendly towards the local community, I think the Council thought that those sorts of things were really outside of its remit, which is to provide economic advice to the Secretary of State on the development of the Northern Ireland economy.

  214.  Would you agree with me that, in a sense, if you do not tackle those issues then if somebody comes to you, and say they have got 70 per cent of their workforce is Catholic and 30 per cent is Protestant, and you know there are some kinds of ways in which they are deliberately configuring things to make it less attractive for Protestants to get jobs there, equally qualified Protestants will not get jobs there, because there is a network operating to stop them, you are in a very weak position if you then say, "Well, if you reorganise things a bit and you were a bit less offensive about how you portrayed yourself and you did not have Gaelic on your letterhead as well as English", all various ways you can send out signals, you are on very weak grounds, because, in a sense, there is such an outstanding example of that within the public sector itself? If one of the things you might be doing is promoting equality of opportunity, some of these examples can act as quite a strong prophylactic against achieving the kind of developments that you have been looking for, and it might have been helpful if the more flagrant examples, one or two of them, you might have tackled?
  (Mrs Trewsdale)  We, the Economic Council tackled?

  215.  Yes.
  (Mrs Trewsdale)  The legislation has been there since 1977 and was revised, and the idea of the flags and emblems that you are obviously referring to, that is what it is known as in the legislation, has been there some time; there are legal procedures there that people can go through, and there have been some classic legal cases, Shorts, for example, and various others.

  216.  Who have done well.
  (Mrs Trewsdale)  Yes. I do not really sort of follow your argument as to why the Economic Council and the way it is constituted should be responsible and the conscience-keeper of the public authorities who are transgressing. The law is there; if people feel that there are problems, then there is redress through the law at the moment. Now the RUC, of course, as I say, I think the Chris Patten idea will, hopefully, sort that out.

  217.  I am clearly not going to get any further with this line of questioning.
  (Mrs Trewsdale)  I am sorry, because we really do not have any direct input or opinions, in that sense.

  218.  I would just like to place on the record, for our Clerk, that I do think that the issue of firms, concerns, councils, or whoever, sending out signals to indicate a marginal preference, or an established preference, for one community or the other, is, it seems to me, something which, from the NIEC's own arguments about equality of opportunity and giving everybody a chance to participate equally in the workforce, is of economic consequence as well as of social consequence. Can I move on to——
  (Mrs Trewsdale)  No-one would disagree with that; one is not saying it is a good idea for them to do that, but what I am saying is, we are not there to police it, the law is there and exists already.

  219.  If I may ask, about your response to new TSN (Targeting Social Need), you say, in your Occasional Paper 11, that, and I quote from the first page: "A strong theme of TSN has been on the spatial aspect. Extra resources are targeted towards those located in areas designated as disadvantaged." Then you say: "However, there are grounds for arguing that it might be better—at least in labour market terms—to provide good access for people in TSN areas to locations where there are numerous work sites closely linked, rather than to encourage firms to go to TSN areas." And then you talk about "clustering many firms in a single location". Now this seems to me, potentially, an argument for saying that perhaps a company that is thinking of relocating to a disadvantaged area might decide not to do so, and that, secondly, it is an argument for, as it were, clustering firms. Does this recommendation come from research?
  (Mrs Trewsdale)  First and foremost, I think what we are arguing, about the idea that you can have, if you designate a geographical area as being disadvantaged, using a geographical boundary, you do not necessarily target the——

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