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Lord Lyell: My Lords, perhaps I may detain the House and indeed my noble friend for just one minute. I must thank her for everything that she presented in the order. I have had a request not to ask any questions, although I may speak for as long as I wish. Certainly, I shall not detain your Lordships for one digit on the clock let alone double digits. I certainly have no questions to ask.

I beg my noble friend to give as much support as she can give in Vote 1 under the Department of Agriculture to market support or marketing and processing. I hope that my noble friend will bang the drum on all sides of the Community for the Northern Ireland food industry in ANUGA, the world-famous fair in Cologne this autumn. Above all, I hope that she can use her remarkable talents to promote the production and marketing of Northern Ireland's food industry.

My noble friend in Vote 2 mentioned the sum of around £25 million and she said that there was a very high take-up of grants. I am delighted that the industry is still observing the wise words that it used to me: "Act fast while grants last". You never know—they might stop tomorrow. However, it seems that the industry is making full use of the funds available. I hope that my noble friend will be able to reassure us on that score over the years.

With regard to the Department for Education and Vote 2, I am glad to see—indeed, my noble friend took time out to mention it—the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium. Clearly, there is a major programme there.

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I appreciated all that went on there and enjoyed visiting it, which I did three, four or even five times. I learnt something new every time that I went there. I know that it is a unique and worthwhile site in Northern Ireland.

Finally, I conclude by adding my good wishes to those of the noble Lords who have spoken for integrated education and cross-community education where possible. I appreciate that there are priorities for funding. But I should like to add my support to the good wishes of the two noble Lords who spoke before me.

I thank my noble friend for presenting the order tonight and for all the nice things that she was able to say about Northern Ireland.

10.30 p.m.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield: My Lords, I thank those noble Lords who have contributed to the debate. How fortunate Northern Ireland is to have such friendship in this House. We much appreciate the support that the Province is given.

Despite the brevity of the debate a number of points were raised. I am grateful to noble Lords who gave me notice of many of those points. I shall try to answer all of them but if I miss any I shall read Hansard carefully and write to your Lordships.

I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies—I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Holme, that it is nice to see the noble Lord back dealing with Northern Ireland matters—for his acknowledgement of the Government's achievements in leading forward the peace initiative. Much of that tribute should go to the people of Northern Ireland, who themselves have earned, worked for and now have a peace which they so rightly deserve.

I was described as presenting an optimistic plan. I am optimistic. I daily visit companies and I daily see the innovation and creativity of companies in Northern Ireland. I think that we can look forward to a bright future and it is the future that the ceasefires have allowed us to build on. We can be rightly proud of what is happening there but not unaware—I promise your Lordships that I am not unaware—of the issue of unemployment in the Province. It is a long-term unemployment issue. I am delighted to report that we are piloting programmes in Strabane, Fermanagh and West Belfast for the long-term unemployed and we are doing so with funds resulting from the peace dividend. The sooner we can roll out that programme to the whole Province, the better. It will allow the long-term unemployed to have three years' experience of work and then, it is hoped, they will be able to go to the top of the ladder for recruitment in future.

The noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, referred to the closure of hospital beds. Northern Ireland has, as I know personally, a very good health service. A rationalisation of the services in the Belfast centre is under way. That is necessary. But business plans are coming forward for Downpatrick, for a new hospital in Coleraine and for the Royal Victoria Hospital. There is investment in the health service in Northern Ireland.

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I was delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Holme, raised the issue of how the Province is moving from a dependency culture to actually being a wealth creating economy. It is key that we change the tilt from the public sector to the private sector. We have to face outwards. The Department of Economic Development has been working consistently for several years on an industrial strategy which we are now reviewing. We are consulting with the players and we shall return with a revamped strategy which will show that our aim is to make the companies of Northern Ireland competitive. No company ever went to the top of the league by building on grants.

Companies have to be competitive in global marketplaces. It is a very good time for inward investment. The number of calls that we have received at IDB in recent months since the ceasefires is greater than the number we received for the whole of the previous year. There is interest and people who did not have us on their list before now do so. I pay special tribute to the role of the Koreans in inward investment. We have major investment already and other companies have followed Daewoo into the Province. There is much to do. We must not waste or duplicate the resources that we have. But I can assure the noble Lord that we have not only an active strategy but an active Minister.

My noble friend Lord Lyell raised the issue of agriculture which is so important to the economy of Northern Ireland. I promise him that I shall go to ANUGA with the companies from Northern Ireland. I shall also be attending the international food exhibition which is being held very shortly. Our food processing companies are second to none. I am delighted that their exhibition at SIAL means that we are now not sending coals to Newcastle, but sending bread to France. That is a great success.

I am glad that my noble friend mentioned Armagh. A great deal of work is taking place there on the economic development plan, which deserves to succeed. The cross-Border initiatives give it particular point.

I shall try to answer the questions quickly. The noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, raised the question of expenditure on residual privatisation costs in the electricity industry. The residual expenditure in 1995-96 for the privatisation of the electricity supply industry will be mainly for the redemption of bill vouchers which customers can set against their electricity bills. That will be relatively minor and is likely to continue into 1996-97. As in the case of all other costs associated with privatisation, they will be met from the proceeds of sale.

The noble Lord raised the very important question of the fishing industry, which has seen a great many problems. There is no way in which we can put more fish back into the Irish Sea. We have to conserve stocks which are already there. Decommissioning is important. I shall let the noble Lord have the number of fishing vessel owners who applied for decommissioning grants. In 1993-94, 28 Northern Ireland applicants under the decommissioning scheme were successful and a further 15 qualified in 1994-95. Substantial funds will be made available in this area in the 1995-96 scheme which is yet to be finalised. My understanding is that no equivalent scheme currently operates in the Republic of Ireland.

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The noble Lord was looking for a level playing field. There is rightly concern among fishermen about quotas between the Republic of Ireland and ourselves in Northern Ireland under the Hague preference scheme. That is something which my honourable friend the Minister is looking at very closely. We are trying to see whether there can be solutions.

I was pleased to learn that people recognise that the rural development programmes are working well. That has been a neglected area in the past. Inner city deprivation has taken the high ground for so many years. There is a great deal to do. I am delighted that it is a bottom-up programme and that the people themselves are looking at how we can build on it. The strategy of our own Department of Agriculture was well received. I am happy to confirm that expenditure on this programme will not be reduced in 1995-96.

Not surprisingly, the noble Lord raised the important matter of integrated education, a subject in which this House takes a continuing interest. We recognise the importance of integrated education. I am pleased to say that there are now 23 integrated schools in operation with a total enrolment of over 4,700 pupils. Four new integrated schools will be established in September. We expect to see pupil numbers increase to 6,300 in 1997.

Expenditure in 1994-95 on integrated education will be about £13 million. That is an increase of £2.2 million over the previous year. Since the funding of integrated education was introduced in 1990-91, we have spent £43.5 million which is clear evidence of how important we believe it is.

Noble Lords have expressed concern about community relations and education for mutual understanding. I can promise Government support and commitment in both areas. Healing the divisions in Northern Ireland has been, and remains, at the centre of our policy. The end of violence can be only the beginning of peace. Far from reducing the need for community relations work, the ceasefires present new opportunities for such work and have given a new urgency and impetus to those who are working to promote reconciliation and understanding.

In 1994-95, the Government are spending almost £7.3 million on community relations. That includes estimated expenditure of over £2.5 million on measures to foster the mutual understanding and respect among children and young people which is so important. I am relieved to discover that that does not come under the heading of "Miscellaneous Services" but under "Youth, Sport and Community Services". That expenditure is set to rise to over £3 million in 1995-96. That money is worked extremely hard and is used to assist activities which seek to increase the level of cross-community contact and to encourage much greater understanding and respect between different cultures and traditions. There is also the cultural traditions programme which receives £1.5 million of the community relations programme budget. It involves work on the cultures of particular communities with the overall aim of promoting appreciation of, and respect for, the diverse traditions which make up the cultural heritage of Northern Ireland. I believe that that too is very important work.

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The noble Lord, Lord Holme, raised the important question of the size of the peace dividend and the implications for government spending in Northern Ireland. We hope that the peace will be consolidated. The ceasefires have allowed the security forces to respond to a diminished threat and that, in turn, has enabled the Secretary of State to reallocate savings totalling £15 million in the current financial year, largely due to a reduction in RUC overtime. Further savings amounting to £180 million over the next three years will come mainly from criminal damage and emergency provisions compensation and, again, from the reduction in RUC overtime. That has been allocated to important economic and social programmes in Northern Ireland. Those savings are in areas which in recent years have placed increasing demands on the Northern Ireland block.

We have benefited both from the saving of £180 million and from the absence of new demands related to violence. It is much too early to estimate the extent of further savings on law and order expenditure. Everything will depend on developments on the ground. In that respect, the Government have made it clear that they will not lower their guard prematurely - nor will they do so on political grounds, but will be advised by their security professionals.

The resources already released from the law and order budget would have to be restored if terrorist violence were to be renewed. If that were to happen, it would unfortunately be necessary to impose cuts in the economic and social programmes in order to reinstate that provision in the law and order programme. I am sure that noble Lords will agree that that would be most unfortunate. We must all pray that it does not happen.

The noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, referred to the fact that the Coopers & Lybrand study feared that there would be a reduction in funds. I believe that that message is uttered often in Northern Ireland in an effort to ensure that it does not happen. The Treasury has not clawed back money from this year's allocation, and I remind noble Lords that in his speech in Belfast in October the Prime Minister gave an undertaking that the Government would take full account of Northern Ireland's special needs in setting future levels of public spending for the Province. As the Minister in the Province, I can assure the House that we have enormous support.

A further issue which has been raised and which is of enormous interest in the Province is the question of the Springvale campus. As I suspect the noble Lord knows, we have commissioned a full economic appraisal of the project and have asked the Northern Ireland Higher Education Council to consider the educational aspects. Both reports are expected in March this year and in a reasonably short time we should be able to look at a decision on the Springvale project. It is an exciting concept and one which will require a considerable amount of help from our friends throughout the world. However, I am delighted to report that Northern Ireland does have friends throughout the world and we are very grateful for their support. Given that friendship, we still have the task of managing the funds which the

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Government contribute to the Province of Northern Ireland. I believe we do it well, and I commend this order to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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