Orders of the Day — Northern Ireland (Finance)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6th February 1973.

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12.12 a.m.

Photo of Mr Peter Mills Mr Peter Mills , Torrington

I beg to move, That the Financial Provisions (Northern Ireland) Order 1973, a draft of which was laid before this House on 24th January, be approved. The order is a routine measure to deal with sundry matters of a financial nature. Its main provisions, in articles 3 to 6, are concerned with extending cumulative limits which the Northern Ireland Parliament has placed on certain financial transactions. Article 3 would increase the limits on issues from the Northern Ireland Consolidated Fund for certain categories of Government capital expenditure.

An increase in these limits does not imply final approval for expenditure up to these limits. That is important, and so I emphasise it. Departments will still be required to submit annual estimates which detail expenditure on these items for approval by Parliament.

Article 4 seeks to increase the amount which may be outstanding from the Northern Ireland Government Loan Fund; article 5 would increase the borrowing powers of the Electricity Board for Northern Ireland, and article 6 would permit the issue of a further £500,000 to the Ulster Land Fund, which is mainly used to finance grants for the acquisition of historic buildings and for capital expenditure on museums.

The order also contains provision in article 7, for powers which would enable the Ministry of Commerce to alter by regulations the fees for registration of companies in Northern Ireland. In article 8 it provides for technical amendments in the law governing the issue of Northern Ireland Treasury Bills; these amendments should ensure that the Bills may, for reasons of speed and administrative convenience, be prepared and issued, on behalf of the Ministry of Finance, by say, a bank or an agent.

This is a simple, routine measure.

12.15 a.m.

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

The measure may appear to be simple, but enormous sums of money are involved. The order is the sixth Northern Ireland financial measure to be considered since direct rule. There have been three appropriation orders, a Loans (Increase of Limit) Order and a Financial Provisions Bill. Before the House rises for the Easter recess we shall be considering a seventh measure, the Appropriation (No. 1) Order 1973. Where does the Financial Provisions (Northern Ireland) Order fit in to the sequence? Why is it not another appropriation order, and why do we get advance notice of it?

We shall shortly have the equivalent of the Budget for Northern Ireland, and there will be plenty of scope on that occasion for a general discussion, but I want to put one or two questions to the Minister.

Article 3 and Schedules 1 and 2 contain provisions for increases in statutory limits on issues for certain categories of expenditure. Will the Minister let me have, by letter, a breakdown of the three figures given in Schedule 1? The limit of £25 million for the development services is increased to £32 million. The limit of £23 million on the Exchequer and Financial Provisions Act is increased to £30 million and the limit on the Industries Development Act is increased from £250 million to £325 million. What are these extra amounts for, and why, so near the end of the financial year, are the Government asking for them? An extra £75 million is being provided under the Industries Development Act, and we should be told what it is for.

Article 4 increases the limit on outstanding sums from the Government Loans Fund. I presume that that is the Northern Ireland equivalent of the National Loans Fund. Again, I should like to know whether the method of disbursement, the interest rates and the procedures followed are the same as for the rest of the United Kingdom. An extra £50 million is asked for. For what purpose do the Government want this extra money.

Article 5 is concerned with the Northern Ireland Electricity Board, which is to take over the Northern Ireland electricity service. Bearing in mind that in July last year we passed an order setting up the new organisation, how is it going? Can we have a progress report?

Article 6 is said to be necessary to accommodate anticipated capital expenditure on the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. What development is the money to be spent on?

My general question is important, although I shall put it briefly. When he was in Northern Ireland towards the end of last year the Prime Minister gave a figure which was said to be the extent to which Northern Ireland was subsidised by the rest of the United Kingdom. We have had various figures bandied about. including one of £200 million. Let us take the Government's own figure of £200 million as the amount of money that we provide for Northern Ireland. I want to illustrate from the figures I have culled over the last year.

In the session 1971–72 the figure—I shall not break it down because the Under-Secretary of State will recognise it—was £130 million from this part of the United Kingdom to Northern Ireland for social services and so on, plus £65 million from the National Loans Fund. I think that that total of £195 million is the notional figure of £200 million talked about.

Photo of Mr James Molyneaux Mr James Molyneaux , South Antrim

Would not the hon. Gentleman agree—he seems to imply it—that this figure is largely mythical? The fact that Northern Ireland has for 50 years been part of the United Kingdom means that no one can disentangle this sum from the United Kingdom's finances. It is largely guesswork.

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

That may well be, but the figure given by the Government for 1971–72 was £130 million plus £65 million, which is almost £200 million. For 1972–73, the figure is £200 million plus £100 million. So, in the course of a year, it went up from £200 million to £300 million, and on top of that £300 million there is £120 million in the form of assistance via the Northern Ireland Finance Corporation—£250 million, plus £35 million as extra capital for Harland and Wolff, additional capital recommended by Professor Cairncross at £18½ million, and extra money for employment at £30 million. The latest figure is £200 plus £100 million plus another £120 million in the way I have noted, and then there is another £15 million which the Government announced in December, again for employment, parks and so on to provide 1,000 jobs.

There may well be an under-estimate. Professor Norman Gibson in December published a paper in which he argued—and gave evidence for it—that there was an under-estimate in this respect. So that we can keep tabs on it, I ask whether the money we are dealing with tonight is additional to the £300 million plus £120 million to be added to the figure everyone is talking about. I do not put this to argue whether the figure is large or small, but it is important that we should know what we are doing.

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree that Northern Ireland, being part and parcel of the United Kingdom, and being in the difficulty in which it finds itself, is entitled to receive help. About £1,000 million is to be given to the miners of this country. Would not the hon. Gentleman take it very bad from the Northern Ireland Members if we said it was a terrible thing that the miners were to get that sum? Surely, each part of the United Kingdom is entitled to enjoy the benefits of being part of the whole? As a representative from Northern Ireland, I appreciate the point, and I have pointed out to the people of Northern Ireland that its artery is the link with this country, and that in my opinion our country would be an economic wilderness if we were not part and parcel of the United Kingdom.

Photo of Mr Merlyn Rees Mr Merlyn Rees , Leeds South

I was simply trying to clarify the situation. The hon. Gentleman has properly made his point. I have many miners in my constituency, and I come from a long line of coal miners. We do not say that we want to declare UDI and that we do not want the money that the Government are giving. Some people in Northern Ireland, unlike the hon. Gentleman, argue that the figure is meaningless. Therefore, on the political level perhaps having the figure known might reinforce the argument that many others put forward.

I am simply seeking to find out what these large sums are all about. We are dealing with large sums for development. The bombing in Northern Ireland—the sort of thing that will be going on today—with large numbers of people going on strike, will only reinforce the view of many people in this country who are saying that we are wasting our time by talking about industrial development and so on. I can only hope that the majority of those who thought to be involved in the strike today will follow the advice of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, which asked trade unionists not to be involved.

If we can use constructively the large sums of money we are talking about, we shall all have played a part in working towards a peaceful solution in Northern Ireland.

12.28 p.m.

Photo of Mr Rafton Pounder Mr Rafton Pounder , Belfast South

I share the desire of the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) to obtain an idea of the total indebtedness—if that is the right word—of Northern Ireland to the United Kingdom Exchequer as a whole. It is an exercise I have been engaged in for some years.

No two sets of figures bear the remotest resemblance to their predecessors. I do not say this unkindly, but the hon. Gentleman trotted out yet another set of figures. The tragedy is that we do not know the answer, but we must find out. I do not say this because I have any time for the notion of UDI, which is political and economic madness.

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary did not minimise the importance of the order, but gave the impression that he thought it was fairly straightforward. I always think that, until I start to look at some of the orders. The point was amply borne out on the last order to come before us by my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley). The hour is late, and it is inevitable that in a heavy and crowded parliamentary timetable we should have to take important matters at a later hour than we would wish. Bearing in mind the state of the Under-Secretary of State's throat and my throat, which is in a comparable condition, I assure my hon. Friend that I shall not prolong the debate a moment longer than necessary.

The hon. Member for Leeds, South asked about the £7 million in respect of grants for development services and the £7 million on capital expenditure on public services, and perhaps the same remarks will do for both of us. Before coming to the main part of the order—namely, the £75 million for industrial development expenditure—I have two questions about the £10 million capital arrangements for the Electricity Board of Northern Ireland in Article 5. First, how far has the provision of extra generating capacity at Coolkeeragh and Ballylumford progressed? Secondly, what progress is being made with the underground scheme at South Down and the joint North /South scheme in County Fermanagh?

I turn to Article 6 which deals with the Ulster Land Fund. My hon. Friend in introducing the order referred to the acquisition of land for the purpose of preserving or improving natural beauty or amenities in any area. Of course, another purpose for the Land Fund is to pay death duties on estates received by the Exchequer. I assume that the additional money is not related to the death aspect of the Ulster Land Fund. That being so, presumably the money is earmarked for specific projects. Will my hon. Friend give some idea of what those projects may be?

I am at a total loss when I turn to Article 7. I am ashamed professionally to admit that. As an accountant I should have a greater knowledge of the Companies Acts of Northern Ireland. What is the present position concerning company fees, their nature and their levels? Why are such extensive powers of variation now to be introduced? It is possible that it is intended to harmonise the levels that exist and have existed for some time in the rest of the United Kingdom.

It is one of the nightmares of accountancy students studying company law in Northern Ireland to have to operate in some matters under the Westminster Companies Acts and for other things, such as bankruptcy, under the Northern Ireland Companies Acts. When I was a student there was about two decades between the passage of the two relevant Acts. Is it the intention of the Government in the near future to introduce new scales of fees of company registrations and/or to remove certain types of existing fees which may perhaps be somewhat anomalous?

I shall make a minor digression to mention a matter of importance in the context of economic and industrial development in Northern Ireland. For many years the North has had to compete in attracting industries from outside with the incentives offered by the Irish Republic. Many people in the North favoured the idea of tax holidays as part of industrial incentives. In the South they adopted that practice. What is the position now that we are both members of the EEC? Tax holidays are not permitted as a form of incentive under the rules and regulations of the Community.

Will the bulk or, at any rate, a substantial proportion of the £75 million envisaged in the increase of loan facilities, and so on, go to the Northern Ireland Finance Corporation? This project has not been in existence for very long, and I shall be interested to know how much is intended for capital grants to industry and how much will be channelled through the corporation.

Perhaps this is an opportune moment for the Minister to give us some report of the development of the Northern Ireland Finance Corporation since its creation. It will be recalled that it was established with a fund of about £50 million to tackle the cumulative effect of civil unrest on the Northern Ireland economy, and particularly to provide finance for those firms which had short-term liquidity problems but whose long-term prospects were fairly reasonable.

There have been changes, and further changes are envisaged. The provision of £75 million may lead to changes in some of the ground rules under which the corporation operates. Initially there was no assistance for the retail trade. Then, rightly in my view, the scope of the corporation was broadened to include retailers. How much financial support has been given? In what areas has the assistance been given, and what have been the criteria by which help has been offered or provided? There have been some rather unattractive instances of money being withheld in emergency cases, and one feels that this must run counter to the spirit of the corporation.

I illustrate the point with one specific case. A gentleman owned two jewellery shops. One was totally destroyed and one was partially destroyed in an explosion on the same day—1st April 1972. To date, he has not received any compensation because, he has been told, one shop was not totally destroyed, and it could be repaired, and it is up to him to get on with it and put in the claim.

This is ridiculous. If he has one shop that is totally destroyed and another that is badly damaged, he does not have the liquid assets to enable him to engage in any form of repair programme or project, and consequently he is in serious trouble. He will get no compensation for loss of profits, and yet we were told in June 1972 by my hon. Friend the Minister of State that sums up to 70 per cent. could be paid by way of interim settlement. Something appears to have gone wrong with the machinery, and some thoroughly unreasonable delays have occurred.

Do its terms of reference permit the corporation to provide bridging finance where it is impossible or almost impossible to obtain money on the open market? Can someone who has had to employ new and sophisticated security measures to protect his shop or has paid increased premiums on his premises receive assistance from the corporation?

Another problem that has arisen in the granting of compensation to those who have suffered damage is that of delays in the granting of the chief constable's certificate. No claim can be entertained for bomb damage unless it is accompanied by what is called the chief constable's certificate to the effect that the damage was caused by an explosion. This should be a mere formality but, unfortunately, times without number that has not been the case, and I understand that there are about 8,000 certificates outstanding. It seems rather a large number.

I hope that a great deal of the £75 million will go to the NIFC, which has been doing an extremely good job hitherto. It is certainly worth all the assistance which I hope that the order, when passed, will provide for it. I support the order.

12.40 a.m.

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

This is a very important draft order. As has been rightly said by the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees), we are handling very large sums of money and dealing with matters that deserve the closest attention of hon. Members.

I notice that under the increases in sums to be issued out of the Consolidated Fund there are three particular matters for which the money is required. The first relates to the Development Services Act (Northern Ireland) 1948. That Act is to enable financial assistance to be given and other measures to be taken to provide for certain services, for bringing derelict land into use, and for the development of derelict areas generally; and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid. In examining the order one will find that there is an increase of money for development services. In what areas of Northern Ireland will this money be spent? What derelict land is to be brought into use? What amenities is it proposed should be put into this land?

This is relevant to the situation in my constituency, where in many of the villages there is a considerable amount of derelict land, with tumbledown dwellings thereon. Will the Minister state why this large amount of money and the increase is necessary for the development services and other expenses under the Act?

From my knowledge of Northern Ireland, it seems that because of the troubles there this derelict land is not being used at all. In my constituency I cannot see where an effort has been made by the Government to deal with those parts of the countryside which are crying out to he dealt with. Where is this money being spent? Where, as a Member of Parliament, can I go and see improvements to the countryside? I should be very happy if the Minister would tell me, for I fail to see why this vast increase is necessary.

The second matter to which I refer relates to the Exchequer and Financial Provisions (Northern Ireland) Act which provides for the public service of the Government of Northern Ireland for the erection and improvement, alteration, enlargement furnishing or equipment of buildings used or to be used for the purpose of the Government of Northern Ireland.

We are asked to agree to an increase in the sum for that purpose. I call the Minister's attention to the deplorable state of some of the police stations in Northern Ireland. Is the Minister aware, for instance, that in Larne in my constituency, the police station is totally inadequate for the housing of the police? I had an interview with the Chief Superintendent of the North Antrim area, at which a deputation of 16 people could get into the room only by standing, as there was no room for seating. Such areas are areas where there has been trouble. Much business has to be done by the officers in charge of the stations and there are not even facilities for carrying out an interview with a deputation in these areas.

The Minister may be aware that the police station has been bombed; that a repair job has been done which is totally inadequate, and that consequently the police are living in deplorable circumstances. I invite the Minister—when he gets the time; he has been telling us that he is trying to get time to see the museums—to come to Larne and see the police station. I know him to be a fair-minded man, and I am sure that he will agree that the police are living in deplorable conditions in Larne at the present time.

I should mention that the police station in Lisburn, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) is also in a deplorable condition. It is a wonder that police officers are prepared to work in such conditions. These men are taking their lives in their hands, and yet they have to work in these police stations without any facilities or comforts. I know that police stations cannot be built in a day, but I should like to know whether the money that is being voted tonight is going towards this purpose. If it is I shall be happy to support this very important cause, which is the cause of the future of the law officers of the Crown in Northern Ireland.

I also ask the Minister about the facilities in some of the places where the people of Northern Ireland have to transact their business. On many occasions I have to appear at tribunals on behalf of my constituents. Some of the anterooms in which members of the public have to meet and sit for an hour or 1½ hours, waiting to be called, are also in a deplorable condition. I have been in waiting rooms which contain only two chairs but in which perhaps 15 people have to wait to appear before the tribunal. I ask the Minister to keep these flatters in mind. Perhaps he can cause a start to be made in improving facilities in these public buildings.

The same situation is to be found in many courtrooms. Some of the places in which courts have been held in Northern Ireland are in a deplorable condition. Buildings have been utilised in which there is no heating, no proper place to interview people, and no proper rooms for witnesses or even jurors. I ask the Minister to keep that point in mind and to give us some information about the programme of the Government in this direction.

Photo of Mr James Kilfedder Mr James Kilfedder , North Down

My hon. Friend is referring to the courts. I think that I am in order in asking him about the work of the magistrates and the pay that they receive. Does not he agree that it should be increased? Perhaps he will agree that the death of Mr. Staunton was a terrible tragedy. He died as a result of a terrorist attack.

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

I certainly agree with my hon. Friend when he draws attention to the fact that some of the magistrates in Northern Ireland have been doing their duty in such a way that there have been attacks on their lives.

Recently Mr. Staunton—a Roman Catholic magistrate—was gunned down by IRA terrorists when taking his children to school. After being very severely injured he lay for a considerable time, unable to move. He has now passed on. Such magistrates deserve the best possible conditions in which to do their work. I am talking about magistrates who do their duty. There are others of whom I would say that I would not care whether they had any facilities at all. Yesterday, in the city of Belfast, a man was brought to one court charged with having 15 sticks of gelignite, four detonators, a quantity of blue sump, a fuse, 150 feet of cordex and a bottle of sulphuric acid—and the magistrate let him out on bail! The type of magistrate who lets people like that out on bail is not one for whom I want to plead for a better chair or toilet facilities. That magistrate was a Mr. Charles Stewart, a former Nationalist Member of the Stormont Parliament.

In case you feel like calling me to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I will come to the Industrial Development Act; which is included in the draft order. That Act is concerned with industrial development. The vast majority of people in Northern Ireland accept that they depend upon their mother country, as it were, for many of the privileges that they rightly enjoy as members of the United Kingdom. I am happy to express the gratitude of the people of Northern Ireland for those services initiated by the Government to develop industry in Northern Ireland. We rejoice that the Harland and Woolff shipyard has obtained this great order, which will keep many of our men employed for some years. I gladly pay tribute to the Government on their efforts to bring employment to Northern Ireland.

I want to make this House a sounding board to the people of Northern Ireland. Those who this day would call on the people of Northern Ireland to down tools and to cease their employment are certainly not helping the cause of Northern Ireland either in this House or in this part of the United Kingdom. The strike is about the detention of two men. Even if those two men were absolutely innocent, exhorting people in Ulster's time of crisis to leave their places of employment, which we are voting sums of money to improve and to further, is no way to lodge a protest against the Government. I utterly deplore the action of those leaders in Northern Ireland who are calling on people to jeopardise the whole economy of Ulster and to bring its industrial development to a standstill. I deplore and condemn it unequivocally.

We are being asked to vote money to keep industry going and to develop it, and to give the people of Northern Ireland the right to work—the basic right of every individual in society. Yet, while this is being done in this House, we find one section of the community calling for strikes and another section of the community engaged in blowing up these industrial establishments. This is very sad. It needs to be, and ought to be, condemned vigorously by every representative who has been elected in Northern Ireland.

I want to voice that opinion in this House. To those workers I say, "We are giving you more money so that your jobs may be safeguarded. We are providing better places in which to work, and better security. If you have a legitimate protest, make it in a legitimate manner".

The only people who will be hurt in the strike will be the people of Northern Ireland. It is they who will go without light, heat, and other facilities; it is their children who will go without schooling. The Government here will sit in light and heat. They will not feel the effects of the strike at all.

I ask the people of Northern Ireland to be sensible at this time. Let us not allow anyone to lead us up a blind alley; let us not allow anyone to hinder the industrial development of Northern Ireland at this time.

No doubt the Minister will confirm that the new board is not yet in operation. Many of us are interested in the supply of electricity to our constituencies, but we are worried about the high prices charged to connect people's homes to the electricity supply. Within the last 10 days, while I was in my constituency, I had drawn to my attention the case of three houses in one road which wanted electricity but where approximately £330 was demanded from each householder before it could be connected. Electricity should be an amenity provided in the public service, and that is an extravagant charge to make for connection.

There is a considerable delay between a person's application for electricity and its installation. A farmer in Garryduff, outside Ballymoney, has had to wait a year for it to be connected to his house, although it is already installed only 100 yards away. The electricity board told me that there is great difficulty with way-leaves being negotiated. I trust that with the spending of this money in Northern Ireland electrification will be speeded up. I am glad to support the spending of money to take light into the dark places, especially to many of those people who deserve to get the light. [Laughter.] The Minister should certainly do his best to "Send the light", and I recommend that evangelical duty to him.

I should be interested to know the precise amount of money which flows from Northern Ireland to Great Britain by way of taxation. It is not a one-way traffic. What benefits does Britain receive from Northern Ireland? That might sound strange theology to the hon. Member for Leeds, South, but I should like to have an exposition on it.

I do not know what is wrong in the House, but everybody seems to be affected with throat trouble, and I seem now to be smitten, like the Minister. I shall therefore conclude my remarks.

1.0 a.m.

Photo of Mr James Kilfedder Mr James Kilfedder , North Down

I wish to detain the House for but a few minutes. I am conscious of the late hour but I wish to draw attention to certain matters in my constituency. I have raised them before, but with little success. I now address my remarks to the new member of the Ulster team at Stormont Castle, in the hope they will reeive better attention than they did in the past.

The first question relates to new industries. North Down is regarded as an affluent area. My hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) would call it that. He speaks with great emotion about the facilities which are lacking in his constituency. But although North Down may be regarded as rich with many large farms, as having some large factories and many rich individuals living there, nonetheless we desperately need new industry. Will the Minister tell us what money will be diverted to North Down? It is a relatively peaceful area, and because of that the Government seems to feel that there is no need to put money there, since they have to spend money where people are complaining, where there is terrorism, and so on. But there is just as much need for money to be spent in North Down to create new industries, because the population is increasing. At the last election, my electorate was 121,000. I hate to think of the number now. A great many new houses have been built in Newtownards, Bangor and other parts of North Down. I ask the Government to bring new industries to my constituency.

My second point concerns roads. I do not know what they are like in North Antrim, but in North Down, which is a tourist area, they are not of a standard which should be acceptable to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary if he were driving round my constituency, either in the Ards Peninsula, across to Hillsborough, or from Hillsborough down to Saintfield. It is a peaceful area, but the people there need money for essential purposes.

There is a need to help schools and youth clubs, and to provide recreational facilities. I have in the centre of my consituency the Glastry secondary school. It is in the centre of an area which lacks many facilities, and the Government should be ready to spend money on providing a swimming pool, proper playing facilities and a youth club, otherwise young boys and girls can easily get into trouble by going off to towns for entertainment. This must be avoided. The Government have as great a duty to spend money in North Down, especially on Glastry secondary school, as they have in Londonderry or the Falls area of Belfast.

I end by joining my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North in condemning the strike which has just started. I condemned it yesterday afternoon. It is a strike apparently without any real motive. People are striking against measures taken by the Government to maintain law and order. It is damaging to Northern Ireland, and I hope that not many people will respond to the strike call.

1.3 a.m.

Photo of Mr Peter Mills Mr Peter Mills , Torrington

This has been a wide-ranging debate, but a very important one. I must emphasise what I have said already. This is a routine and technical order. It is one of a long series of similar measures, the last one being in 1971. I understand that the commission has examined it, and passed it. It raises the statutory limits, but it does not approve them. That is the important point.

I do not wish to be rude, but many hon. Members have raised matters which are not for this order. They are interesting and important details which will come out in our forthcoming debate on the Estimates, which I understand is to come later. Although hon. Members are right to raise these points because they are important to their constituencies and to Northern Ireland, many of them are for that future debate. This order simply raises the statutory limits.

The hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) asked for a breakdown of these figures. This, again, is a matter for a further debate, but I can assure him that there will be grants for development, unemployment relief, civic improvement, public cleansing, amenity schemes and capital expenditure on public services, agricultural colleges and civil servants' accommodation, police and other buildings. Industrial development is very important, to deal with the unemployment problem in Northern Ireland. This is concerned with factory building grants and loans. We can go into this in more detail later. The national loan sanction, raised from £400 million to £450 million, is a major source of borrowing by local authorities and other public bodies. It is very important that they should not be starved of the ability to borrow more. This is the reason for raising the limits. The hon. Member and others have spoken of the need to raise the figure for Northern Ireland. I do not think I ought to go into that tonight. It is extremely difficult to come to a firm figure, but figures mentioned tonight are not in addition to what has already been set.

Mention has been made of the problem of electricity supply. There is to be an interim period between now and when the new electricity service comes into operation. Until then there is to be ability to make further loans. The Ulster Land Funds deals with capital sums for the Ulster Museum, the Ulster Folk Museum and the National Trust. This should answer many of the questions which hon. Members have asked.

My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Pounder) asked two questions which, although I hardly dare say so, I think could hardly be in order in this debate. They referred to specific generating sets in his constituency. They are very important to his constituency and I am certain that in the debate on the Estimates those important points could be raised again. If lie wishes to have a fairly quick reply and would like to see me after the debate, I shall see whether we can get some answers for him.

The Ulster Land Fund cannot be earmarked for specific projects. It is in the nature of a precaution against future needs of the museums, for which I am sure hon. Members will press, and those needs will be dealt with. The section about companies' fees is to harmonise and bring them into line. There has not been an increase in them for some time. We have the problem of the freeze at the moment and they cannot be increased yet, but if my hon. Friend looks at the draft order he will see that Parliament has to say yes or no to this. I regret to have to tell him that £75 million is not allocated to the Northern Ireland Finance Corporation and the corporation will not be helped by that amount. He also referred to damage caused in Northern Ireland by the situation there and extension of compensation. These points will be noted by my hon. Friend concerned with these matters. They are important, because I have had brought to my attention by various people the prob- lems of this compensation and the delays involved.

The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) raised many important points, particularly about derelict land amenity schemes. I can assure him that the Government take this very seriously. If I may pull his leg a little for a moment, he has not been in touch with me as he sometimes is about the special problems in his constituency. Other hon. Members have been to me and I have been able to help a little in matters concerning drainage, flooding and so on. We mean to help in this way not only Northern Ireland generally but the unemployment situation there. This is helping Northern Ireland both in the future and at the present.

The hon. Member for Antrim, North mentioned the problem of police stations. In my fairly extensive travels around Northern Ireland it has seemed to me that police stations are not liked very much by some people. This is one of the reasons why they are in their present state. There are so many other urgent problems to be dealt with, particularly the new factories and the employment position, but we must not neglect these police stations or let them deteriorate further. I am sure that my noble Friend in another place will take careful note of what has been said, particularly about Larne station, which seems to be in a deplorable state.

The hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) dwelt on several important matters relating to money and how it is to be spent. These were points for a future debate on the Estimates. This order sets the limits and there is much to be decided before it actually comes into effect. I commend it to the House. If there are any points on this or the two previous orders with which I have not dealt I will write to hon. Members.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,That the Financial Provisions (Northern Ireland) Order 1973, a draft of which was laid before this House on 24th January, be approved.