Orders of the Day — Shipbuilding (Northern Ireland)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:56 am on 26th July 1982.

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Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party 12:56 am, 26th July 1982

It will always be a matter of argument. We see the isolation of Harland and Wolff. The right hon. Gentleman's example, in which we were all concerned, caused us great heart-searching about British Shipbuilders' efforts to keep orders coming to Harland and Wolff. Had we been included, we should surely have got part of the cake, and we could have fought for part of the cake.

The position of the shipyard and its workers should be put clearly. The Belfast yard works is up against great difficulties, as the right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) knows. Transport and energy costs tell against its competitiveness, compared with other shipyards in the United Kingdom.

Surely, there should now be a response to the long called-for meeting between the political parties in Northern Ireland, the trade union representatives, and the Secretary of State and the Minister of State. Why has there been this long delay? My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson), in whose constituency the shipyard is situated, wrote to the Secretary of State asking why the meeting had not taken place. He tells me that he has received no reply. As the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) said, all the political parties and the trade unions were anxious to have a meeting.

There is great gloom at present in Northern Ireland. The Lear Fan operation has a question mark over it. Now, tonight, we have the sad news about the shipyard. What will it be tomorrow? Surely, it is now time to have an urgent meeting so that the matter can be spelt out. Is it not to be regretted that the Secretary of State did not take the matter on board sooner? I hope that the meeting will take place soon, so that we may know the facts. I trust, therefore, that the Minister will tell us what he has in mind for the proposed meeting.