Examination of Witnesses (Questions 560
WEDNESDAY 19 MAY 1999
MP, RT HON
MP, MR GEORGE
560. Thank you. Turning to the American perspective
on fair employment in Northern Ireland, I know that you and your
colleagues have done quite a lot of work on this when you have
been in the United States. How do you envisage American involvement
making a continuing contribution to fair employment issues in
(Marjorie Mowlam) I would first like
to acknowledge the interest that American businesses and government
have shown in trying to help on this issue and I think it is crucial
that we acknowledge that. Can I also add that sometimes the proposals
may not necessarily be the most helpful in achieving results.
I am not a supporter of MacBride and I do not know if you were
"earwigged" about it when you were there; I think it
would be counter-productive. I do not think it would help inward
investment. The second principle which says companies have to
give protection to people on their way to and from work is not
a company commitment but a government civil commitment and I think
it would inhibit inward investment. I have my doubts about that.
I do not want to be seen as critical in any way of their commitment
because it is strong and we welcome it and it has made an enormous
difference. I think the short answer to your question is inward
investment because numerous Americans have put their money where
their mouths are and have invested in Northern Ireland, e.g. DuPont,
Nortel, Liberty Mutual, smaller companies who have I forgotten?
(Mr Ingram) A lot!
(Marjorie Mowlam) It is probably dodgy to mention
some and not others, but it is extensive. The other side of the
fair employment equality legislation is a job to go to and, as
I tried to say in the introduction, this is a crucial part of
making peace work and so we went on the Eleven City Tour and what
made a big difference on that tour was it was led at different
times by Unionists and a member of the SDLP. It started with David
Trimble and Seamus Mallon, and then as we went round the United
States others replaced them. That gave the clearest message possible
to the American business community that things were changing.
We thank America for what it has done in the past and, as we say,
invest, invest, invest!
561. Would it be fair to say in respect of the
MacBride campaign that whilst there are aspects of MacBride that
are probably now incorporated into fair employment legislation,
there are other aspects of MacBride which we could not legislate
for simply because at a practical leveland you have mentioned
one exampleit would not be feasible and, in fact, it is
not an employer responsibility in any case?
(Marjorie Mowlam) That was the point
I was making. I think I would go stronger than you have. Our fair
employment legislation now is stronger than MacBride. We have
some of the strongest fair employment legislation across Europe.
I think we should celebrate that. We still have a way to go. We
have still got to get it implemented. We have got to make very
sure that it is monitored and works, but we have come a long way.
As I say, MacBride has its difficulties, but we should never under-estimate
the reason why it was done, i.e. people wanted to make a difference.
There was a proposal from a Congressman Walsh on having 3,000
or 4,000 people from north and south of the border given a passport
and trained up in America. That again, knowing Mr Walsh, was done
with the most positive thoughts in his mind. We were not so keen
and we were not alone in that as Government, many of the parties
agreed with us. What it would do is take 3,000 or 4,000 of our
brightest and best away for two years and we want them there working
in Northern Ireland.
(Mr Ingram) 30,000 or 40,000.
562. Would it be fair to say, Secretary of State,
that the Government's approach to the American interest in fair
employment broadly reflects the approach adopted by the churches
when they issued what I think they called "the call",
which was putting the focus on to inward investment, but recognising
that that inward investment was going into an environment where
there was already strong fair employment legislation and provision
to ensure that fair employment was there?
(Marjorie Mowlam) I could not answer
that question, Mr Donaldson, without looking at the full detail
of what the churches said and I would prefer to go on record stating
the parallel importance of legislation alongside inward investment.
They are two sides of the same coin for me and I think both are
(Mr O'Doherty) Chairman, can I confirm a figure of
4,000 per annum.
(Mr Ingram) That was a global figure.
(Marjorie Mowlam) They are both right!
563. In terms of the Government's objectives
in influencing American companies to invest in Northern Ireland,
that is a situation where, as I understand it, the Foreign Office,
for example, are in the process of drawing up codes of ethical
behaviour to guide British companies abroad. Where does that fit
in in terms of our approach to attracting American companies to
invest in Northern Ireland?
(Marjorie Mowlam) I do not know the details
of the code of ethical behaviour. I cannot believe that what we
do in the United States is against any code of ethical behaviour,
because what we are doing is, as you and other Members of Parliament
from Northern Ireland know, working with growing district councils
and twinning with cities elsewhere in America who are doing everything
they can with a verve and spirit that I wish was repeated elsewhere
in the United Kingdom. They are going all out to get investment
in different district councils, MPs leading delegations. That
is the way to do it. Go and talk face to face and get the investment
and I hope it continues and I am sure they will do it in a very
(Mr Ingram) In terms of inward investment coming into
Northern Ireland, we are attracting quality companies and that
is what we are seeking to do, i.e. attract companies that would
have a long-term commitment, that are financially sound, that
have proper status, because that is clearly what we would want.
We would not want to have another Delorean experience, not to
put too fine a point on it. That kind of examination of the type
of companies that are coming in is done and those who have done
the job of Economic Minister have got to go through great wads
of justification before any amount of public money is put in front
of those companies by way of incentives. Whether that is an ethical
standard or not is perhaps debatable because it is looking at
a whole lot of different characteristics, but if there were any
questions at all about the nature of a company then that would
be highlighted hopefully before any judgment was made and public
money put in front of them.
(Marjorie Mowlam) I do not understand. Is the code
of ethical behaviour from the Foreign Office for how business
by departments should be achieved or the nature of the companies
that you are attracting?
564. As I understand it, it is a code of ethical
behaviour to guide British companies abroad.
(Mr Ingram) It is a way in which they
operate within foreign markets and so there is a standard in terms
of the way in which we approach how we fly the flag internationally,
that is basically the best way of describing that. I thought your
question was relating to what do we do when we are looking at
companies coming into Northern Ireland and I think I have set
out the range of factors we would look at and refer again to the
Delorean experience. We have got to ensure that these are quality
companies with a genuine intention to locate and create employment
565. I think where I was coming from was that
you might find that some in Irish America, for example, might
look at that and say, "Well, hold on a minute, why is it
wrong for us to draw up the MacBride Principles as a code of ethical
principles for the way that America should operate in a place
like Northern Ireland and you object to that and yet the UK Government
is drawing up a code of ethical behaviour for how British companies
should operate in the United States?" I am simply making
the point that you might find that that is something that is raised.
(Mr Ingram) We would ask those who are
making comments about what happens in Northern Ireland in terms
of the fair employment legislation to do what you are doing, and
that is to study it and if there are ways in which it can be improved
upon, as we have done recently with the Order and which I gave
evidence on in December, and the Assembly will be in a position
to improve upon anything that is currently in place, clearly they
would take into consideration whether any change was a deterrent
or an attraction and those are the types of judgments which have
to be balanced in all of this. In terms of the MacBride Principles,
the Secretary of State has answered that, we will go much further
and it has not been seen to be a deterrent. In fact, it can actually
be an encouragement to tell people they are coming into an investment
area which is trying to tackle some of the fundamental problems
that have been there for a long time in order to try and bring
harmony into the working environment rather than encouraging disharmony,
and that is one of the things we do sell, that our legislation
is about making a better environment for companies to invest in
and it is not a deterrent.
(Marjorie Mowlam) If you want a comparison, trying
to put a contradiction between us saying that MacBride and the
code of ethical behaviour is not helpful, we would need to study
to see if there was a contradiction, but I think that it is best
to leave it at that. The other way that we are working with America,
in answer to your first question, Mr Donaldson, is there are people
trying to set up co-operative type banks, which they have identified
as a parallel help and I think it is a very constructive idea,
alongside the big inward investments so that very small businesses
that want an extra florist or an extra chair in the barber's can
get that because they are the ones in terms of venture capital
that have a great deal of trouble getting money. So they are looking
at setting up a co-operative institution where the very small
can go for that help. That is a very, very positive and constructive
step coming from the United States. Many women from Northern Ireland
businesses and women from American business have met together
and they are trying to establish joint venture companies that
are similar in nature. So there are a whole host of different
bits going on in America, all of which will produce positive results.
566. In terms of contradictions, I think you
will understand that when we talked to many of the American politicians
last week, we found a sharp contradiction between their desire
to have all kinds of fair employment provisions and affirmative
action programmes in Northern Ireland, but their marked reluctance
to pursue similar projects and programmes in their own districts
and cities. We will not worry too much about the contradictions.
Finally, Mr Ingram suggested in his earlier evidence to the Committee
that the MacBride Principles may have been in conflict with the
EU regulations. Would you like to expand on what that means and
in what way you feel the MacBride Principles may be in conflict
with European law?
(Mr Ingram) I think it goes back to an
earlier answer in terms of contract compliance. If we are trying
to define the law and ascertain where certain initiatives that
could be taken could be in conflict, we are better setting out
in legal terms where the various parts of the law may be in breach
and again that is something we could come back to you on. So if
we can give you a better definition of that in terms of the legislation
then we will do so.
Mr Donaldson: I think it would be very helpful
if we could have a memorandum
identifying those aspects of the MacBride Principles which you
feel may contravene European law and which law that applies to.
567. Secretary of State, I owe it to Mr Grogan
to say that his apparent reluctance to participate actively in
the discussion is not because of any sense of apprehension about
the witnesses but because he has lost his voice.
(Mr Ingram) We have been sitting in fear
waiting for the questions still to come from him!
568. In the spirit of this Committee I would
like to thank and congratulate him for having participated silently
throughout the session.
(Mr Ingram) He has nodded with every
answer we have given!
Mr McWalter: He was told to glare!
Chairman: We have some concluding questions
about National Security Certificates which the Minister of State
also alluded to when he was here on 9th December, but Mr Salter
wants to ask a question first.
569. This is more a comment than a question.
When we went to Massachusetts we met State Representative Byron
Rushing, who was one of the most active MacBride campaigners in
the early 1980s, and he said to us that he felt that MacBride
and the MacBride campaign and the MacBride Principles predated
the 1989 Act and in quite a frank admission he said he would be
quite relaxed to see the MacBride Principles removed from the
Massachusetts State legislation when the Executive was up and
running. I thought that was significant coming from a former MacBride
campaigner and something that we possibly could not celebrate
but certainly could be pleased about. My final point was just
to ask if you could, in addition to the memoranda you have kindly
promised to send us, also look at the definition of "functions"
for the purposes of section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.
Do you agree that the public procurement functions of public authorities
in Northern Ireland are included within the meaning of the word
functions? In other words, have we not got under the 1998 Northern
Ireland Act a requirement for some limited form of contract compliance?
I do not know the answer to that and it would be unfair to suggest
anybody could answer that off the top of their head, but I would
be grateful if that point could be clarified.
(Marjorie Mowlam) With pleasure, we will
certainly clarify that point. Can I say in response to your first
question, I think this is an example of how the commitment in
America to finding a peaceful settlement has been directed at
some of the underlying causes and when they feel progress is made
they are not shy of moving on and giving support in other ways
and I think that should be acknowledged.
570. Secretary of State, I said I was going
to follow up on the Minister of State's evidence on 9th December
about national security certificates. I am not quite sure how
this applies, but I think I should probably declare a parallel
interest in the subject of a constituency nature because of Ms
Samar Alami and the Israeli bombing episode. Ms Alami is one of
my constituents and the national security certificates arise in
her case as well. When he gave evidence on national security certificates,
the Minister of State mentioned continuing discussions with the
Northern Ireland Bar Council, and I think it would be helpful
to know where those discussions have reached?
(Marjorie Mowlam) I have no evidence
to suggest that they have reached any specific conclusions yet,
but they are continuing because they were not happy, as you are
well aware, with the tribunal based on the Immigration Service
tribunal that we were suggesting.
571. And are likely to continue for some time?
(Marjorie Mowlam) I would like to get
it settled as quickly as possible. Nothing specific has come out,
but we will continue to push and, as the interest is obviously
wider than just the cases that we are dealing with, we will do
what we can as quickly as possible and let you know how we get
572. If it is a continuing issue, is it your
understanding from the discussions that the Bar Council still
regards the provisions of the legislation which envisage the appointment
of counsel on behalf of a person, but not responsible to that
person, as being contrary to Bar ethics?
(Marjorie Mowlam) That is the central
573. And that is a continuing issue?
(Marjorie Mowlam) Yes.
574. Is there a similar question concerning
the acceptability to the Bar Council of England and Wales regarding
the equivalent procedure in the immigration context?
(Marjorie Mowlam) I do not know.
(Mr Ingram) Of course, we would not answer for another
575. I fully understand that. But in the context
of the discussions which you are having with the Bar Council of
Northern Ireland, I cannot help feeling that similar considerations
which may be occurring elsewhere are not ungermane.
(Mr Ingram) It arose out of an immigration
issue, and clearly we have to work in concert across Government
Departments because we deal with the same concepts of national
security and rights of the individual, but they are separate jurisdictions
and the compatibility between the principles has to be enshrined
in the legislation. I do not know if that specifically answers
your question, but clearly the Government, in layman's terms,
have to have joined-up thinking in this.
576. I think it would be helpful for us to know
if, in fact, there are continuing conversations with the Bar Council
in England and Wales, even though I totally appreciate that it
does not fall under your departmental responsibility.
(Mr Ingram) Obviously it would be helpful
as you go to prepare your final report if we could give you the
position at that time because of the discussions that are going
on and they may be settled at that point or they may not. We will
give you the position at the time of publication.
577. Including what is happening in other parts
of the field.
(Mr Ingram) That is fine.
578. Secretary of State, my final question is
not remotely intended to be a trick question, but it seems sensible
that we actually clarify this point while we still have you in
front of us rather than doing it in writing afterwards. I think
you said about Dr Stringer's group to which Mr Gibson also referred.
As I understand it, it consisted of the existing statutory equality
commissions but did not include groups representing age, sexual
orientation or dependency. I think you said in your evidence that
sexual orientation was included and it is just a case of whether
you want to clarify that one way or the other?
(Marjorie Mowlam) I am being told I do.
I understood, when I originally saw the papers, that it was the
four bodies and they would listen to the views of those that did
not have a Commission and so what I was trying to imply, perhaps
cack-handedly, for which I apologise, was that it was made up
of the four Commissions, but the other disabilities that did not
have representation by a Commission, i.e. age, sexual orientation,
whatever the third was,
(Mr Gibson) Having a dependant.
(Marjorie Mowlam)evidence was provided and
their views were taken into account so that they were not put
at a disadvantage for not having a Commission, and therefore their
voices not heard at the working party.
579. Thank you very much indeed for that. We
obviously have the benefit of the press release that was put out
in connection with Dr Stringer's work. Secretary of State, I am
conscious that we have kept you a long time and you and the Minister
of State and your colleagues have been extremely patient. This
is not, I hasten to say, a case of Professor Parkinson's law of
work expanding to fill the time available. We were always going
to ask the questions which we have had the opportunity of asking.
You have been very good to allow us to ask them. I speak on behalf
of the whole Committee in thanking you most warmly both for appearing
and for the comprehensiveness of your answers.
(Marjorie Mowlam) Thank you very much
for having us. We look forward to implementing what we have talked
2 Q. 10. p. 12. Back
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