Republic of Ireland

Oral Answers to Questions — Northern Ireland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st February 1990.

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Photo of Mr John Evans Mr John Evans , St Helens North 12:00 am, 1st February 1990

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he intends to announce any further initiatives to promote economic co-operation with the Government of the Republic of Ireland specifically in the border areas.

Photo of Sir John Cope Sir John Cope , Northavon

The Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference initiated last year a systematic programme of assessment of all the main sectors, to determine where the process of social and economic co-operation can most fruitfully be expanded. The first result of that work is a joint Northern Ireland-Republic of Ireland paper outlining possible programme measures that both Governments would wish to see supported under the European Community's transfrontier initiative. The paper is in the final stages of agreement and will, I hope, shortly be submitted to the Commission.

Photo of Mr John Evans Mr John Evans , St Helens North

As areas on both sides of the border are suffering serious economic deprivation, which is leading to depopulation, do the Government have any plans post-1992 to discuss further with both the Irish Government and the European Commission proposals for improving prosperity in those areas?

Photo of Sir John Cope Sir John Cope , Northavon

Yes. The paper is about improving prosperity in the border areas that the hon. Gentleman mentions and covers many economic activities. It deals also with making use of wider co-operation in helping all parts of the island of Ireland.

Mr. John D. Taylor:

Is the Minister aware of the damage being done to the economies of border towns by the refusal of the Government of the south of Ireland to allow their citizens to visit those towns for shopping expeditions? When did he last raise that issue with the Government of the south of Ireland? Will the Northern Ireland Office be represented at the forthcoming case in the European Court at Luxembourg?

Photo of Sir John Cope Sir John Cope , Northavon

We raised it at our last meeting with Irish Ministers. But more importantly, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, it is coming before the European Court. The United Kingdom Government will be represented at those hearings.

Photo of Eddie McGrady Eddie McGrady , South Down

I refer the Minister to the reply I received from the Secretary of State on 14 December at column 1156 in Hansard where he gave a not unfavourable reply to the request to set up a cross-border economic committee to look into the consequences of the Single European Act with particular reference to the harmonisation of VAT, fiscal rates and a common currency. What progress has been made since that date?

Photo of Sir John Cope Sir John Cope , Northavon

We did not quite agree with the agenda, but, apart from that, most of the matters mentioned by the hon. Gentleman are being discussed through the European Community.