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Northern Ireland

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th April 1970.

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Photo of Mr Rafton Pounder Mr Rafton Pounder , Belfast South 12:00 am, 7th April 1970

I take the hon. Gentleman's point slightly differently and use percentages which may work out at the same figure, which is 20 per cent.

Wage levels are about 20 per cent. lower in Ulster than on this side of the water, but so is the cost of living, broadly speaking, bearing in mind the very high number of low-rent tenancies. It is generally accepted that, while wage levels are lower by 20 per cent., so is the cost of living—and I cite as authority for this statement information given to me by the last Minister of Pensions and National Insurance in this House.

The reaction a moment or two ago when I made the point about the developing economy and the participation in it of all citizens showed a less than unanimous approval, but those who are so ready to jump on the bandwaggon of criticism should study the facts more closely before jumping to their erroneous conclusions.

In the final analysis, it is the people of Northern Ireland themselves who must determine their own destiny. Any solution which is forced upon them will be vigorously resisted. This is one of the facts of life in Northern Ireland and, indeed, in Ireland as a whole. But, having said that, I do not think that this invalidates the right, to which I feel the Northern Ireland Government are entitled, to have more than the somewhat half-hearted support which has on occasions emanated from this House.

The Northern Ireland Government's legislative programme has had the approval of the Government at Westminster. Surely it is not unreasonable to express the feeling—as I do, because I feel it so deeply—that the Northern Ireland Government are entitled to very much fuller backing from the House than they have perhaps received even in the recent past.

I am not seeking either now, or, I hope, at any stage of the debate, to inflame passions, but some of the unwarranted references made at Question Time recently in this House to the Unionist Party in Northern Ireland and, therefore, to the Northern Ireland Government, have been very unhelpful. Party politics is fine in its proper context, but the present situation in Northern Ireland is not the time for some of the comments which have been made across the Floor of the House.