Examination of Witnesses (Questions 240
WEDNESDAY 27 JANUARY 1999
TREWSDALE and DR
240. All I wanted to know was whether there
was any research which had been done which was academically respectable?
(Dr Gorecki) The general way in which migration
statistics are recorded is medical health records, when you move
and you switch your doctor, but I do not think it has been used
241. My question is not a qualitative one,
I just want to know whether there has been any research. My next
question, because, again, I must be personal, I was Parliamentary
Under-Secretary at the Department of Education and Science here
when the issue of student loans was first being looked at, and
the policy was not, in fact, carried out while I was Parliamentary
Secretary. I was obviously given information about working-class
attitudes to debt, and we obviously had detailed data on higher
education by social class, and percentages. I have no difficulty
in understanding the conventional wisdom about working-class attitude
to debt, or disadvantaged attitude to debt, to which you were
making reference in Northern Ireland, but, again, has there been
any hard research, and I am now talking over the last 15 years,
as against conventional wisdom?
(Mrs Trewsdale) Again, not to my knowledge.
242. If there is, it is presumably in Dearing?
(Mrs Trewsdale) In Dearing, yes, and the previous
Chairman of the Economic Council, Sir George Quigley, was, in
fact, part of the Dearingbut we can certainly check for
243. Again, the answer can come back in
(Mrs Trewsdale) Yes, we will check.
244. You mentioned that there was a deficit
of about 4,000 places in Northern Ireland, in higher education,
which was then sustained largely by people going to Scottish universities,
and you quoted on the effect of recent events. What are the comparative
figures between students from the Republic of Ireland taking up
places in Northern Ireland institutions of higher education, and
the comparable return, return is the wrong word, the comparable
figure for Northern Ireland students going to places of higher
education in the Republic?
(Mrs Trewsdale) Again, I do not know of any direct
data available at the moment. We can look that up for you. I can
give you an apocryphal story on that one, in that I understand,
having listened to some of my colleagues, particularly in the
Faculty of Science, that they are saying that the actual applications
from students from the Republic of Ireland are down, this is for,
of course, the next academic year where the applications are actually
down, but that is purely apocryphal.
245. I am just interested, if there is any
data, and I would be quite surprised if there was not, because
of the fee implications in both directions, it would be quite
interesting to know whether there are figures for the last five
years, because it has a separate impact on your deficit figure
of 4,000 places?
(Mrs Trewsdale) Yes. We can certainly check. I
would imagine both the universities would carry data on, certainly,
people coming from . . .
(Dr Gorecki) Yes. You would have expected, actually,
people in the Republic of Ireland probably to decrease because
of the exchange rate between
246. There will be, obviously, a number
of different reasons. You mentioned, in your covering letter,
and now I am off the higher education subject, that the Council
has not itself conducted research on the operation of the Fair
Employment Act, and that has come out in a number of the other
answers you have given. How far do you reckon that we can rest
on the research which has been done, both by CCRU and SACHR; do
you reckon that that research is actually enough for us to be
able to have confidence and trust in the ground being solid under
(Mrs Trewsdale) Certainly, it is fairly extensive
research, is it not?
247. It is.
(Mrs Trewsdale) And they had a specific brief,
the researchers under SACHR had a specific brief. You may wish
to widen your reading a little further and perhaps, indeed, look
at some of the academic papers that have been written, which have
not necessarily been commissioned.
248. If you can address our minds to those,
if you can address our eyes to those, then that would be helpful
(Mrs Trewsdale) You would just like a brief bibliography?
249. A bibliography, that would be grand;
that is very kind.
(Mrs Trewsdale) This would be what is classified
as independent research, as opposed to, as I say, being commissioned,
as indeed the SACHR or the CCRU.
250. Yes; it has the virtue of providing
us with a different perspective.
(Mrs Trewsdale) Yes.
Chairman: In order
not to save my voice but to save your listening to it, Mr Hesford,
I think you have one last question you would like to ask.
251. Yes. Can I apologise for nipping out
before. I know you have been waiting for me to return to the topic
I was asking you about, so here I am. Is there any evidence about
the extent to which fair employment legislation has retarded economic
growth, acting as a sort of disincentive to inward investment,
by firms or other institutions, to Northern Ireland?
(Mrs Trewsdale) Do you mean evidence as in somebody
has actually said "We are not coming into Northern Ireland
because of the fair employment legislation"?
252. Yes; or within indigenous firms, "We're
not expanding because we don't like the circumstances", because
of fair employment legislation?
(Dr Gorecki) I do not think there is any research
being done which investigates that issue at all.
253. If you are able, what would your gut
feel be to those (a) and (b)
(Mrs Trewsdale) I do not think we actually have
a gut to feel, in this sense, because I think the response possibly
that you got from the CBI, the CBI Northern Ireland, would have
a much better idea, in the sense that they are in contact with
employers and with firms. I am sorry, I really do not think we
can answer that one, in that we have not
254. The CBI, from memory, Chair, on this
aspect, or sort of analogous aspect, spoke in quite positive terms
about fair employment?
(Mrs Trewsdale) That is what I mean. Again, if
I remember rightly, Mrs Stewart could not be precise, she could
not give you numbers.
255. You have seen Mrs Stewart's evidence?
(Mrs Trewsdale) Yes; and so that is why I am suggesting
to you that I think that is definitely the best that you can hope
for. I am sorry, but we are not employers, in that sense.
256. Mr Hesford has just referred to Mrs
Stewart's evidence, and you have already indicated you have seen
Sir Robert Cooper's evidence to us, which was obviously very comprehensive.
I did raise with him the question of contract compliance and whether
it had a role in tackling the unemployment differential between
the communities, and do you have a view on that subject?
(Mrs Trewsdale) We have a sort of, I think, limited
view, but, again, it would be based on economic theory rather
than necessarily on an opinion of the Council, in that it can
prove to be very restrictive, in the sense of imposing additional
criteria on employers, and why only do it within the public sector,
why, necessarily, apply it there; in terms of straight economic
theory, one would argue, why pick on that, why pick on fair employment,
in terms of contract compliance, why not pick on something else
and perhaps, potentially, prosecute under some other, in a specific
term, bankruptcy, and one of the directors is bankrupt. Contract
compliance, although it may seem to be logical and fair in a social
sense, perhaps in straight economics does not make economic sense,
I think that would be the simplest way. We could sit and go into
pros and cons and pros and cons, but I think that is the basic
premise that we would be coming from. Would that be right, Paul?
(Dr Gorecki) There are penalties and remedies,
under the existing fair employment legislation, so the implication
is that those are insufficient or inadequate and they have to
be supplemented in some way by contract compliance. And, as the
Chairman has already suggested, the incidence of that will vary,
depending upon the degree to which the firm, is involved with
the public sector; and, presumably, when the court is making an
award against the firm they will not be aware, or maybe they will
be aware, of the degree to which contract compliance kicks in.
So it is a difficult issue; it also makes it more difficult, it
may result, particularly if it is an industry with a small number
of producers and one or two of them are unable to bid on a contract,
you may end up in the situation in which you only have one or
two people to bid on the contract, and so public expenditure may
go up because you have to pay a higher price for the particular
good or service. I think there are a whole series of practical
issues about implementing it, how long will it last, which make
it, I think, a very problematic way of trying to secure greater
compliance with the law; if you do not have compliance with the
law, I would have thought the best way to do it is to have the
appropriate penalties or remedies at the point at which the firm
is found guilty of an offence against the law.
257. You may think you have been asked this
question ad nauseam already, but, in view of the fact that
you think the Government may be being oversanguine about proposed
policies reducing the differential, are there additional measures
that you think actually ought to have been taken?
(Mrs Trewsdale) The differential; you mean the
(Mrs Trewsdale) Additional measures. If we are
going to actually get into the nitty-gritty, we have a slight
problem with when you actually measure the differential, in the
sense of how you measure it.
259. I am glad I asked the question.
(Mrs Trewsdale) You are talking about ratios and
per cent, and we would start to argue that you can look at it
in two different ways, which is the ratios or the percentage point
difference, and one can show that by reducing unemployment, long-term,
or, indeed, short-term, but, if you take long-term unemployment,
if the probability of a Roman Catholic and a Protestant getting
a job is equal, say, 0.5, you can actually reduce the percentage
point difference while still maintaining the ratio as 2 to 1,
but the actual number of people unemployed has fallen and fallen
more in the case of the Roman Catholic community than the Protestant
community. I have got a diagram here that I can give you. I do
not want to bore you with the statistics. But, when looking at
ratios, you have to be very careful, I think you also have to
look at absolutes as well, and