Government Contracts, Northern Ireland

Oral Answers to Questions — Ministry of Supply – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 4th April 1955.

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Photo of Mr Albert Roberts Mr Albert Roberts , Normanton 12:00 am, 4th April 1955

asked the Minister of Supply if he will place additional contracts in Northern Ireland to mitigate the distress caused by unemployment.

Photo of Sir Edward Boyle Sir Edward Boyle , Birmingham Handsworth

As my right hon. and learned Friend said in reply to the hon. Member on 15th November, last, we fully realise the importance of Government contracts to Northern Ireland, which is treated as a Development Area for the purpose of placing such contracts. We do all we can to place orders there.

Photo of Mr Albert Roberts Mr Albert Roberts , Normanton

Is the Minister aware that the unemployment figures for last month have gone up by 500 and that in almost every town in Northern Ireland unemployment runs into four figures?

Photo of Sir Edward Boyle Sir Edward Boyle , Birmingham Handsworth

The staff of my right hon. Friend is already fully aware of the desirability of placing as many orders as possible in development areas, and my right hon. Friend is fully aware of the facts to which the hon. Gentleman has drawn attention. It is fair to point out, however, that the Britannia contract placed with Short Brothers and Harland at Belfast will provide a rising curve of employment exceeding 500 by June of this year and reaching 1,800 by June of next year.

Photo of Mr Alan McKibbin Mr Alan McKibbin , Belfast East

Is my right hon. Friend aware that ever since the Comet disaster I have been in touch with his Department, and whilst we appreciate very much the orders for the Britannias, that does not mean that we could not do with more?

Photo of Sir Edward Boyle Sir Edward Boyle , Birmingham Handsworth

We are indeed aware of the interest which the hon. Gentleman takes in his constituents.

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan , Cardiff South East

Surely the hon. Gentleman does not claim that the Britannias were given as an order because this is a Development Area? Can he tell us specifically what Development Area contracts have been given to Northern Ireland quite distinct from the Britannias, which have nothing to do with this?

Photo of Sir Edward Boyle Sir Edward Boyle , Birmingham Handsworth

I gave the figures about the Britannias because I thought they might be of interest to the House, but if the hon. Gentleman wants to put down a Question about particular contracts, perhaps he will do so?

Photo of Mr James Callaghan Mr James Callaghan , Cardiff South East

With great respect, the Parliamentary Secretary himself said that this was treated as a Development Area for the purpose of contracts. All I am asking is whether he can tell us what contracts have been placed in Northern Ireland recently for Development Area purposes?

Photo of Sir Edward Boyle Sir Edward Boyle , Birmingham Handsworth

No, but I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the value of contracts placed in Northern Ireland in the year up to 28th February, 1955, was £8 million.