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Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I make it clear that we are not asking for favours in this case. We are asking that the rules of the WTO are abided by. That is our primary consideration. I believe that an enlightened foreign policy would have led in the same direction.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, usually when the question of bananas is raised in this House it is seen as a development issue and the responsibility of the DfID. It is extremely unfortunate that it has become a DTI issue because of the nature of the trade sanctions that are involved. I live in the Borders. I realise exactly how devastating the loss of so many jobs will be. I hope that every opportunity will be taken to avoid a trade war. However, if a trade war developed, could sanctions be imposed against the Chiquita company because of the large amount of money that it has given to the campaign efforts of American politicians? If a trade war were to develop, would the Minister consider targeting individual companies?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I am sure noble Lords will appreciate that this is an EU matter. We shall obviously consult immediately with our EU allies in order to resolve this issue as quickly as possible. Therefore I do not think that at this point it is right to start talking about targeting particular companies.

Lord Hacking: My Lords, will my noble friend and his colleagues--I am glad that my noble friend Lady Symons is present too--express forcefully the stern disapproval of this House of the action of the United States? Although the House is not very full at the moment, I am sure that if the Statement had been made earlier during today's proceedings many others would have expressed the same stern disapproval.

Those of us who have observed for some time the trade difficulties that arise from time to time between trading nations--between ourselves and the United States and ourselves, as part of the European Union, and the United States--note with dismay how easily the United States seeks to fall back upon sanctions. One can think of a number of other examples--the difficulties about meat and other commodities--where the United States has threatened sanctions and, as in this case, threatened sanctions wide of the subject of the dispute. Every time the United States of America pursues such conduct, it causes us strongly to disapprove of it. I hope therefore that these views can be expressed as forcefully as possible to the United States Government through the American ambassador in London.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I am very happy that throughout the whole dispute the House of

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Lords has been consistent in its disapproval of the action taken by the United States on this issue. I can assure the House that my noble friend the Minister at the Foreign Office will once again make very clear our views and the views of your Lordships' House to the American ambassador when she sees him tomorrow.

Appropriation (Northern Ireland) Order 1999

8.50 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Dubs) rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 15th February be approved.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move that the draft Appropriation (Northern Ireland) Order 1999 laid before the House on the 15th February be approved. The draft order before us today authorises expenditure of £146 million for Northern Ireland departments for the current financial year. This is in addition to the £6,780 million voted by the House last July. The order also authorises the vote on account of £3,120 million for 1999-2000 to enable the services of Northern Ireland departments to continue until the 1999-2000 Main Estimates are brought before the Assembly later this year. Given the restructuring of Northern Ireland departments, with the associated allocation of functions to new/restructured departments it has been necessary to remove department names from Part II of the schedule to the draft order covering the vote on account. The 1999-2000 main Estimates detailing the total estimates provision will also set out the amount voted on account by individual vote under the new departmental structures.

This order covers services which will be devolved to the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly. With pending devolution it will soon fall to local representatives to make decisions on the allocation of resources between the various Northern Ireland departments. I am sure that your Lordships share my hopes for a smooth transition of power to the Assembly and look forward to the vote on account for 1999-2000 being spent on the services under the new/restructured Northern Ireland departments. The order does not cover the estimates for the Northern Ireland Office, which will remain the direct responsibility of the Secretary of State. As a Whitehall department, the Estimates for the Northern Ireland Office are dealt with separately.

The aftermath of the Omagh bomb has placed significant pressures on budgets and indeed we have had to make additions this year of some £6 million in total largely to cover criminal damage. It also includes some £2.7 million for the health programme covering such areas as hospital and community care, rehabilitation and social and psychological care including voluntary sector support costs.

I know that your Lordships continue to take a close interest in the prospects for economic development in Northern Ireland and I wish to say a few words about the local economic situation before turning to the

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contents of the estimates. The latest available official statistics show that the Northern Ireland economy remains in good health in almost every area. The main economic indicators have, once again, shown very positive results for the Province.

The output of manufacturing and production industries continues to rise at a rate well above that achieved nationally. Over the past four years Northern Ireland's manufacturing sector has increased its output by almost 17 per cent., more than six times the rate of growth achieved nationally. There has also been a significant improvement in the Province's gross domestic product relative to the United Kingdom, with GDP per head in Northern Ireland increasing from 76.9 per cent. of the UK average in 1990 to 80.4 per cent. by 1997.

Record employment levels have also been achieved. At September 1998 the number of employee jobs in Northern Ireland stood at 600,670; the highest September figure on record. This is coupled with the International Labour Organisation's unemployment rate of 6.8 per cent. for the period October to December 1998, the lowest level since comparable records began in 1984. It is lower than Merseyside where the unemployment rate is 11.4 per cent., the north-east at 9.2 per cent., London at 7.5 per cent., Scotland at 7.3 per cent. and Wales at 7 per cent. It is also worthy of note that the Northern Ireland unemployment rate is three percentage points lower than the European Union average of 9.8 per cent. currently. In addition, falls in the numbers of both long term and youth unemployment are particularly encouraging. The latest information available from the Industrial Development Board shows that 1998 has been a good year for investment in the Province. Since April 1998, 15 IDB-supported projects involving planned investment totalling £35.9 million have been announced by locally-owned companies, promoting 759 new jobs while safeguarding 171 existing jobs. Over the same period, 26 IDB-backed inward investment projects have been announced involving a total investment of £81.1 million, promoting 1,884 new jobs and safeguarding a further 143 existing jobs.

Allied to this are the survey results from the local business community. Despite a number of recent business surveys reporting falling optimism among Northern Ireland business leaders, particularly within the manufacturing sector, the main economic indicators point to continued growth in demand and output during 1999.

All of this clearly demonstrates the impressive achievements of the Northern Ireland economy which, coupled with political stability, provides Northern Ireland with an opportunity for a brighter economic future.

With your Lordships' permission, I now turn to the main items in the Estimates, starting with the Department of Agriculture. In Vote 1, which provides for Northern Ireland expenditure on national agriculture support measures, an additional £36.5 million is required. This includes £17.7 million to cover an increase in advance funding from 60 per cent. to

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80 per cent. under the suckler cow and beef special premium schemes, £9.3 million in respect of further agrimonetary compensation for the beef sector; and £8.5 million is for increased rates paid under the hill livestock compensatory allowances scheme.

In Vote 2, covering local agriculture support measures, a net increase of £12.4 million is sought. This includes £7.7 million in respect of controlling outbreaks of animal diseases, including tuberculosis, brucellosis, salmonella, Newcastle disease and BSE, and £1.5 million for the Redmeat Marketing Strategy to help recover export markets for Northern Ireland beef.

I now turn to the Department of Economic Development, where token increases of £1,000 are sought in Votes 1 and 2. In Vote 1, £2.7 million is required by the Industrial Development Board to meet the costs of the very successful North American Roadshow, which took advantage of the favourable climate generated by the Belfast agreement to promote Northern Ireland as a profitable investment location. Some £6.3 million is also sought to meet pressures on industrial development grants resulting from increased claims from IDB client companies. These increases are offset by reduced requirements and increased receipts elsewhere within the Vote.

In Vote 2, a token increase of £1,000 is also sought. Within the Vote there are a series of self-adjusting changes resulting in offsetting savings covering any increased requirements. The major element within this Vote is an additional £0.5 million for the Northern Ireland Tourist Board to meet increased promotional and marketing activities.

In Vote 3, a net increase of £6.1 million is sought by the Training and Employment Agency; £5.6 million is sought for the Jobskills Programme, training centres and community projects to meet increased demand for payment of training allowances. A further £5 million is for the welfare to work initiative to provide a range of employment and training measures within the New Deal, mainly for the long-term unemployed. These increases are offset by savings elsewhere within the Vote.

Turning to the Department of the Environment, a net increase of some £4.8 million is sought in Vote 1. The main increases are £5.1 million for roads maintenance while an additional £2 million is needed to support the running costs of Northern Ireland Railways. The Chancellor's Fund provided £0.5 million for roads and £1 million for work to St. Angelo airport in County Fermanagh. These increases are partially offset by reallocations from other areas and increased receipts.

In Vote 2, covering housing, a token increase of £1,000 is sought. The Chancellor's Fund provided some £2.8 million for improvements to certain housing estates, and there is a need for a further £4.9 million to support the work of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. There has also been a drop of £1.8 million in the anticipated level of receipts. These pressures are offset by reallocations of £6 million from planned expenditure on renovation grants and £3.7 million in

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housing association spending. The gross amount available to support housing in Northern Ireland this financial year is approximately £609 million.

In Vote 3, covering water and sewerage services, a net increase of £2.3 million is sought. Some £6.3 million is required for increased operational costs, with a further £2.2 million to meet additional running costs. This is offset by additional receipts of £2 million, together with a reallocation of some £4.4 million from planned levels of capital expenditure.

In Vote 4, which covers environmental and other services, a small increase of £0.5 million is sought. Additional expenditure of some £3.5 million is needed for accommodation and supplies costs arising from the proposed political settlement, and £6.6 million reflects the carry forward of running costs and capital underspends from previous years. These increases are largely offset by additional receipts and a reduction of £4 million in matching funding relating to the EU Peace and Reconciliation Programme.

In Vote 5, which covers fire services, an additional £3.8 million is sought of which £2 million is for the development of a new fire training centre and £0.7 million is needed for superannuation costs of fire service personnel. A further £0.9 million reflects the carry forward of capital underspend from 1997-98.

I now turn to the Department of Education, where a net increase of £46.3 million is sought in Vote 1. The main element of this is £38.5 million for student loans due to a reduction in expected receipts from the second tranche of the national sale of the student loans book debt, owing to a change in the amount of the sale. The remaining increases include £0.3 million for costs arising as a result of the Omagh bomb, £1.3 million for energy efficiency measures mainly in schools, £0.9 million for the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment, some £2 million capital and recurrent provision carried forward under the end year flexibility scheme and £2.5 million for the Odyssey Millennium Project.

Turning to the Department of Health and Social Services, a net increase of £38.2 million is sought in Vote 1 for expenditure on hospital, community health and personal social services, health and social services trusts, family health services and certain other services. This includes £29.3 million carried forward from 1997-98 under the end year flexibility scheme and £9.2 million towards winter and other pressures offset by reductions elsewhere within the vote.

Moving on to Vote 4, a net increase of £12.5 million is required. This includes £16.9 million to fund running costs, capital and other administration pressures in the department and takes into account an additional £1.6 million in respect of administering the welfare to work initiatives. The increases are offset by an increase in receipts of £4.4 million, mainly from the National Insurance Fund in respect of the recovery of administration costs.

Turning to the Department of Finance and Personnel, a net increase of £7.8 million is sought in Vote 1. This includes £1.5 million to provide support for new

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institutions flowing from the Belfast Agreement and £1.7 million reflecting the carry forward of running costs underspend from 1997-98.

Finally, an increase of some £1.4 million is sought to cover additional costs arising within the new Northern Ireland Assembly.

I hope that this short summary of the main components of the estimates is helpful. I commend the order to your Lordships.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 15th February be approved.--(Lord Dubs.)

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