Oral Answers to Questions — Northern Ireland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 22nd June 1989.
To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will list all those countries and organisations which have contributed to the International Fund for Ireland, showing the amount each has contributed to date.
The United States has contributed $120 million over the period 1986 to 1988 and has committed itself to a contribution of £10 million during 1989. Canada has agreed to provide up to 10 million Canadian dollars over a period of 10 years and New Zealand has contributed a one-off payment of 300,000 New Zealand dollars. The European Community is contributing 15 million ecu this year with the prospect of similar amounts during 1990 and 1991.
The right hon. Gentleman appears to have achieved a fair degree of success in that novel way of treating public expenditure priorities in Northern Ireland. Why has he not rattled the begging bowl in Australia, Japan or Korea? Even South Africa might be a reasonable place to try that. In view of the money from charitable sources that we have sent to Ethiopia, why does he not go to Addis Ababa and rattle a begging bowl there? If a begging bowl approach is to be part of the future of Northern Ireland, will the right hon. Gentleman talk to his colleagues about introducing begging as a topic in the education syllabus for Northern Ireland?
The hon. Gentleman seems to suggest that there is something undesirable about contributions to the international fund being made available to support the interests of his constituents and those of other Members in Northern Ireland. I find that a difficult proposition to accept. It seems to me that the international fund is an important expression of international support for the British and Irish Governments in what they are trying to do to counter the adverse effects of terrorism in Northern Ireland and in the adjacent areas of the Republic.
As a counterpart to the contributions to the international fund to which my right hon. Friend is referring, may I ask how successful he has been in getting the United States Government to prevent contributions from going to Noraid and similar terrorist support outlets?
The answer is that we have made considerable progress. The United States Government, both the present and previous Administrations, have been helpful in that respect.
The Minister mentioned a European contribution of 15 million United States dollars. Will be give an assurance that where the European Community contribution is used to assist the shipbuilding industry, such purchases of goods and services aided by those funds will be confined to firms in the United Kingdom?
I remind the hon. Gentleman that the contribution from the European Community was 15 million ecu, not 15 million dollars. As for the destination of the funds, the board of the fund is independent and I do not think that it would be proper for the board to earmark specific contributions for specific purposes. But its priorities are to stimulate private enterprise in Northern Ireland and to promote economic and social development more generally, rather than being aimed specifically at individual industries in the way in which the hon. Gentleman mentioned.
It seems clear to me from what the Minister has said that, like me, he is puzzled by the attitude of the representatives of some parties towards this international fund, even though some of their members, both in the official Unionist party and in the DUP, have benefited enormously from it. Will the Minister assure me that the British Government will make every attempt to ensure that the money goes to the deprived areas where it is most needed, rather than to people who use it to feather their own nests?
I assure the hon. Gentleman that it is an important part of the policy of the international fund that priority should be given to areas of greatest need, and I strongly support that.
Will my right hon. Friend remind the House that the international fund comes almost entirely from the United States and that it was called the international fund only to try to stave off criticism that once again America was endeavouring to interfere in our affairs at the time of the Anglo-Irish Agreement?
That is a rather odd perception of the way in which the fund was established and contributions to it were provided. The United States is a very large economy and the contribution which it makes is most welcome. What my hon. Friend says suggests that contributions from Canada, New Zealand and the European Community are to be disregarded or treated as unwelcome. I welcome them, and if other contributions to the fund were available from other sources overseas, I am sure that we would all welcome those, too.