Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 220 - 239)



  220.  So if you call it an Enterprise Zone, for instance, that is a bad idea, is it?
  (Mrs Trewsdale)  They have been disasters as well, have they not, also this side as well. That if you are talking about actually dealing with people, then perhaps it would be better to look at measures of disadvantage for people, rather than areas, because within areas you can have people who are indeed disadvantaged, and the majority may be disadvantaged, one is not suggesting they are not, but also you can have people who are not disadvantaged. And, therefore, by having a geographical area, it means that you are not necessarily targeting scarce resources successfully. Now, in terms of the idea of having firms placed not necessarily within what you might call geographical disadvantaged areas but in an area, or placed physically somewhere whereby it can draw people from, disadvantaged people from maybe two or three adjacent areas, therefore, and also the idea of clustering and the firms' development, yes, that has been researched and has been shown, and a classic example, or perhaps the original one, of course, would be Silicon Valley, that is an extreme example, but there are many of them.

  221.  I was wondering whether there was any UK research, if there is, perhaps as a separate matter, Chair, I would quite like us to have access to those papers?
  (Mrs Trewsdale)  Yes, we can . . .
  (Dr Gorecki)  Belfast, originally, was over to shipbuilding and engineering, and there would have been a cluster on the Harbour estate and areas around there, there would have been a cluster which was very successful in the late 19th century and early 20th century, when Belfast was a booming town. There was a piece the other day about somewhere in England, I forget exactly where it was, where there were locksmiths, who had been there for generations, who were grouped together, and who had passed on certain technology and certain ways of doing things amongst a group of, I do not know, 30 or 40 firms, which interacted. If you look at the Potteries. Lots of places locate, firms locate together, doing slightly different things but all within a broad industry.

  222.  So that is what you mean by a clustering?
  (Dr Gorecki)  Yes. You can take parts of Italy, where there are clothing manufacturers which have come together and been very successful.

  223.  So all the restaurants in Covent Garden, or whatever, that is what you mean?
  (Dr Gorecki)  Yes, that would be it, yes, or theatres.

  224.  I was unaware that that was what this word "clustering" meant. In fact, from a fair employment perspective, my next question was going to be that what you could do is organise clusters. Suppose I am a rabidly pro-Republican employer and my neighbour is a rabidly pro-Unionist employer, well, if I am left exposed like that I will be seen for the partisan person that I am, but if I am minded to pick up the phone and form a cluster with my equally rabid neighbour we can appear as if we jointly have a remarkably fair employment system. So my next question was going to be, is not clustering, at least potentially, liable to abuse, in that the statistics of clusters may actually conceal significant amounts of malpractice, in terms of the fair employment legislation?
  (Mrs Trewsdale)  Under the fair employment legislation, as I understand it, and I am not a lawyer, each firm has to submit its own individual returns to the FEC, including its own Section 31, every three years. So I fail to see how your argument would work in terms of the individual firm's return. I also like to think that the Act, indeed, as it exists at the moment, is certainly strong enough that if you are as rabid as you claim, that you would have been through quite a few tribunals by now and somebody might have noticed, and you might actually have learned a lesson. Again, you see, the idea would be that you are suggesting that the actual data that are collected should be on a geographical basis, in the sense that, because you happen to be physically next door to somebody who is employing 100 per cent Protestants and you are employing 100 per cent Roman Catholics, or indeed vice versa, somehow the two together means that it is 50 per cent. I do not think, actually, the way that the monitoring returns are returned and the way the data are collected, it would quite work like that. So I do not think you could get away with it, to be perfectly honest.

  225.  It depends what the form of association was, as we know, but we can perhaps leave that to one side.
  (Mrs Trewsdale)  If you were going to form an association like that, it might be an advancement, in terms of Northern Ireland fair employment.

  226.  I suppose that is true. You are not worried then by the idea that, effectively, your paper suggests that there could be a disadvantaged area, and your recommendations, effectively, have the effect of suggesting that someone who is thinking of relocating to such a disadvantaged area decides not to do so, that would be a perverse way of reading your paper, would it?
  (Mrs Trewsdale)  I think it would, yes.

  227.  So this business about "Extra resources are targeted towards those located in areas designated as disadvantaged. However, there are grounds for arguing that it might be better" to blah, blah, blah. That I read as suggesting that you were thinking that there were good reasons for not targeting disadvantaged areas; it seems to me that you should be arguing that there are good reasons for targeting disadvantaged areas?
  (Mrs Trewsdale)  It depends how you define disadvantaged areas; that is the point we are making. If you are going to define disadvantaged areas geographically, then I think we do have severe reservations. But if you are targeting social need, which, of course, is what the paper was a response to, then we assume that, by targeting social need, you are actually talking about people rather than geographical areas, and, therefore, our arguments are based on targeting people for social need, not simply areas whereby—the classic case of one measure is free school meals. We can send you a copy, if you like, of the whole paper, document, for you to read, but you will find that, if you actually start targeting schools by the definition of free school meals, quite a few of the schools that would come under being in social need, under that definition, are not in geographical areas that would be classified as being disadvantaged, because, obviously, the children travel across boundaries. So it is just, hopefully, a simple argument about geography versus people, that is all.

Mr Beggs

  228.  Is there more, in your view, that the Industrial Development Board could, and should, do in its work to further reduce the unemployment differential?
  (Mrs Trewsdale)  Do you mean encouraging inward investment?

  229.  Yes, and dealing with applications for new investment?
  (Mrs Trewsdale)  Are you suggesting that perhaps they should put some sort of idea, in terms of, if you get a grant then you have got—I think they already have quite clear regulations, do they not, that anybody applying for and being awarded a grant has to, obviously, agree to abide by the fair employment principles, and, naturally, of course, once they are actually in place, by the existing legislation. Are we in a position to answer that question, Paul?
  (Dr Gorecki)  To some degree, the Industrial Development Board already does, if not explicitly, implicity, try to address the differential, in the sense that there are higher grant levels for firms that locate in TSN areas, areas which have social disadvantage, and since social disadvantage is more prevalent amongst the Catholic than it is amongst the Protestant community, by that measure, it means that there is already a built-in mechanism within the grant system such that there is more of an incentive to locate in those areas, and, to the extent that that occurs, then that may contribute to reducing the unemployment differential. And, I guess, the other aspect is the degree to which the IDB is successful in attracting large numbers of inward investors, and, as well as revitalising existing firms within Northern Ireland, that creates more employment, and that also should lead to a reduction in the unemployment differential. So if its work in employment generation is successful, then that should help alleviate the level of unemployment, and thus, other things equal, help alleviate the difference in unemployment rates between the two communities.

  230.  Have you any data to suggest that the additional funding that may be available is sufficient attraction to encourage investment in these areas, or do those who wish to invest have other criteria to which they give a higher priority?
  (Dr Gorecki)  Certainly, if you look at the grant levels for those firms which locate in TSN areas and have been assisted by the IDB, they are higher, maybe ten percentage points, on average, so you can calculate roughly how much that is, in terms of extra grant. And I guess the question then you have to ask yourself is, is it better to put money there, or is it better to put it in education, to give these people a better chance of moving out, is it better not to put money there and to go back to the discussion we were having with Mr McWalter, that you put it in industrial parks, or something, which are located where you can attract even more investment, and have those firms come in and locate in those areas. So those are the sorts of questions one would have to try to look at, in deciding which is the best way to allocate that money to resolve that problem.

  231.  You mentioned, in your submission on the White Paper, that you have been doing work on underachievement in schools. Can you tell us a bit more about this. I think you maybe indicated you would be sending us some more information; is there anything further you can tell us, at this stage?
  (Dr Gorecki)  We have commissioned a series of research papers which we could certainly send you, we could send you the two research papers we have already released, plus the Council's comment on the Government's educational strategy, back about three years ago. And one of the things that we did there was to point out that, although Northern Ireland looked, at the upper end, reasonably good, compared with the rest of the UK, at the lower end, as I have said before, at the bottom end, there was considerable evidence of educational underachievement. And if you compared the UK with other advanced industrial countries in Europe, you noticed, although the top 10 per cent of people, in terms of educational performance, at the age of 16 and the age of 18, was as good as anywhere else in the world, when you looked at the bottom end you had real problems. So, if you want to improve the competitiveness of the Northern Ireland economy, you want to attract good-paying jobs, then, clearly, you have to try to raise the level of educational achievement amongst those at the low end and some of the work amongst those who, most people, often, as you know, come from disadvantaged communities. And so, clearly, peace and political stability should have a major, albeit indirect, affect on that, because that should lead to increased jobs, as we have already discussed, then, hopefully, that should lead to raising people's expectations about, that if they work hard there is a reasonable chance they will get a good job at the end of it. So one hopes that that, with the declining unemployment rate, which I have already mentioned, should lead to these positive knock-on effects. But we could send you those volumes which talk about, in some of the schools, the adverse effects of violence and the difficult conditions under which teaching and the educational process goes on, and some of the difficulties, because some of the work that was done when you actually went in and looked at some of the primary and secondary schools where there were these difficulties, and one hopes that, with a situation which represents more normal conditions of law and order, some of those problems will not be there, and that will make it that much easier to be able to educate people.

  232.  Has the National Curriculum helped to ensure that school-leavers, irrespective of religious background, are able to compete on a more equal basis for job opportunities now?
  (Dr Gorecki)  I do not know the answer to that question, but I do know that some of the work that was done which tried to look at why some educational systems outperformed others, and one of the characteristics was that some of those educational systems had a standard curriculum, and so, to the extent to which that is, indeed, the case, then, hopefully, that will, if that is the case, then it presumably should enhance the ability of people to find jobs and to create a more competitive economy.

  233.  Has any overall research been carried out into the lack of qualifications of those currently unemployed?
  (Dr Gorecki)  Yes. If you look at the profile of the long-term unemployed, you will find that there is a very strong relationship between length of unemployment and educational qualifications, a very strong relationship; the obverse is that the more educated you are, in terms of educational qualifications, and the probability of being unemployed is lower, and that applies to both communities.

  234.  Has any examination been done of the subject choices for study and examination within the two communities?
  (Dr Gorecki)  I am not sure about that, but I think there has been a general preference within the Catholic system to do less on science, I think there has traditionally been that; but maybe, with the National Curriculum, some of those differences, presumably, will be less than they otherwise would be, because science, for example, you have to take science now up to the age of 16. So I would have thought the differences, insofar as there may have been ones historically, will have narrowed, both because of the National Curriculum and to the degree to which it was due to differences in funding levels, with the Common Funding Formula, and the increase in grammar schools in the Catholic system, in order to redress what was perceived to be an historic imbalance, should mean that the differences should narrow considerably.


  235.  It will have been apparent, right at the beginning, that one or two of our number had to leave us, as I, indeed, forewarned you that they would, and, as a consequence, I did not, in fact, ask you questions at the beginning, and I fear I therefore have a number of questions to ask you now, some of which flow out of answers you have given to some of my colleagues. The first thing I want to clarify, these occasional papers you write, which are extremely helpful, does "occasional" mean occasional, or is there a degree of regularity? I notice that No.8 was in June of 1997 and No.11 was December 1998, which would suggest you do them about once every six months; would that be right?
  (Mrs Trewsdale)  There is no regularity in the sense of we must do one. It is simply that they come up, in the sense of usually in response to a request to the Council to comment on, for example, the new TSN, we were asked for our comments, so we produced our comments, and then the Council itself decides as to whether it thinks it is worth actually publishing it. All our responses on that are available to the public, they are not necessarily all published in glossy covers, but they are available.

  236.  And you are asked by Government or by any number of people; normally Government?
  (Mrs Trewsdale)  It comes down through the system, from the various Northern Ireland departments, and so on.

  237.  Let me ask an ignorant question, in order to bring myself up to date. I have obviously read Occasional Paper 11. I was, of course, around when TSN was introduced, in 1991, and I am, obviously, slightly dredging my memory, but my recollection of the policy considerations which caused us to bring it in did include, as a specific example, although the economic returns from road-building in the Belfast area would quite clearly be higher than those in the rest of the Province, on economic grounds, nevertheless, there might well be arguments under TSN for concentrating road-building expenditure, not wholly but significantly, on, let us say, the road network in relation to Strabane, in the west of the Province, because of the implications that that would have for economic development in that area. I sense, from the Introduction to the paper, and I have only got the Executive Summary, that there may have been a drift away from that kind of consideration in the period leading up to 1997 when the Government, again, as I read it, returned to that kind of consideration. Have I understood that rightly, or misunderstood it?
  (Dr Gorecki)  I think, in 1997, the policy was given a much sharper focus. I think prior to that the policy consisted largely of a speech that you gave, and it is quoted extensively. And what, I think, happened was that there was very little attempt to try to take that and provide a sense of what, if a public servant was implementing the policy, it would mean. To give you an example, if you are doing a cost/benefit analysis, you have a Green Book, which the Treasury publishes, and it tells you what to do, what discount rate to use, if you are going to build a new road, all those sorts of things, but, for TSN, very little attempt was made to provide a similar way of incorporating it in public decision-making. So it was not clear, was the idea to reduce social need, was the idea to target those most in social need, if the money was to be redistributed towards those in social need then, presumably, it had to come from somewhere else out of the Northern Ireland block, where would it come from, was public expenditure always going to be the right solution; in the case of education, would abolishing the 11-plus, for example, be a better solution. So there were lots of issues there that really were not fleshed out, and that made the policy difficult to implement, and led, I think, to people who supported the policy having sets of expectations of what was liable to happen which were different from those who were implementing the policy; and, if you look at the report that was done for the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights, by E McLaughlin and P Quirk, and I forget the other person, I think it comes out quite strongly there. So it was a matter of taking your fine words and fleshing them out so that they could be implemented by people, I think.

  238.  I think mine was an ignorant question, but yours is an illuminating answer. Thank you very much indeed. You referred to differential immigration, and I am aware, certainly, at least ten years ago, of what the differential immigration figures were in higher education, in other words, what proportion of Protestants going into higher education chose to have their higher education outside the Province, and likewise for Catholics, and, of course, the overall figure. Is there any good data on the return of those who have been educated outside the Province?
  (Dr Gorecki)  We could write to you. I think some work has been done by Professor Osborne, which I think tracks a certain cohort of people, I could try to find out about it and send you a note on it.

  239.  It does seem to be germane to your own remark about differential emigration.
  (Mrs Trewsdale)  Emigration has always been a problem though, as you know, in the sense of measuring it, and at one stage they got down to actually surveying people on the Stranraer Ferry, and counting them as visitors, when, in fact, they were returning people, students returning from holidays and things. It is very difficult, because, obviously, . . .

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