Unemployment and Family Allowances (Northern Ireland Agreement) Bill

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th November 1946.

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Considered in Committee, and reported, without Amendment.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

12.34 P.m.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Sir Walter Smiles Lieut-Colonel Sir Walter Smiles , Down

I would like to thank the House for the speedy passage which has been given to this Bill on Second Reading and in Committee. We in Northern Ireland welcome the Bill, which was a freely negotiated agreement first made in 1925, and continued afterwards in 1935. Although this Bill has hardly caused a ripple on the political waters in Westminster, it excites an extremely lively interest in Northern Ireland. I have no intention of enlarging upon some of the remarks that were made on the Second Reading, here and on financial relations in Northern Ireland. We heard here a suggestion that this Bill subsidised Ulster, and at the same time Mr. Diamond, an Ulster Republican Member at Stormont, made the suggestion that we in Northern Ireland were contributing far too much to the Imperial Exchequer and were actually being fleeced by Great Britain. I regard both those statements as extremely mischievous and deliberately calculated to create bad feeling between the two countries. At a time like this, we should be thinking of peace and goodwill, and not engendering bad feeling.

When we look at the Bill, we can see that all the financial implications have been most carefully weighed both by the Ministry of Finance in Northern Ireland and by the Commissioners to the Treasury here. The balance really depends upon the amount of unemployment insurance and unemployment assistance and the increase in the population of Northern Ireland. We have many industries in Northern Ireland, and the amount of money that will be involved depends upon employment in these industries. Agriculture is prosperous at the moment and England still requires potatoes and turkeys from Northern Ireland. Linen is one of the greatest means of getting dollars from the United States of America. So long as America continues to clamour for Irish linen there will be little unemployment in that industry. With regard to shipbuilding, we know there is a shortage of ships as there are not even enough to send our glut of herrings from here to Germany. I am not a crystal gazer even when I look at the Members opposite and I cannot say what amount of money will be required for unemployment assistance and family allowances, but whichever way the financial balance is tipped, whether in favour of Great Britain or Northern Ireland, "What is given to a friend is not lost." After all, you do not call in a chartered accountant on the occasion of your daughter's wedding, your son's coming of age, or even the christening of a grandchild or the burying of a grandfather. It is a family matter, and it will be very bad for Great Britain and Northern Ireland if the relations between the two countries are solely a matter of filthy lucre. We do not ask very much in Northern Ireland. 'Other parts of the Empire seem to want to secede from this country. All we want is the honour of fighting by the side of this country in its wars and working by its side to recover from the wars, with an equal standard of living on both sides of the Channel under one King and one flag, the Union Jack. I thank the Government for having brought this Bill so far, and I hope it will be given the Third Reading.

12.38 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Hall Mr William Hall , Colne Valley

Perhaps I might say, briefly, that the Government deprecate any suggestion from any quarter that Northern Ireland is either a poor relation subsidised by this country or, on the other hand, is paying far more than she should do towards the upkeep of the national exchequer. Neither of those things is correct. Actually, Northern Ireland is a part of this country. It is not her fault that, since 1922, she has had to have an Exchequer of her own. The Government do not share the view that Northern Ireland is a poor relation. An agreement between the two countries, in one form or another, has been subsisting since 1926, with the willing consent of all parties in this House and I am sure this new agreement, and the one that will have to follow it of a more comprehensive nature when the full security code is put into operation, will also receive the fullest assent of all parties when the time comes.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.