At 13 December 1990—the latest date for which figures are available—there were 95,570 unemployed claimants in the Province, representing 13·7 per cent. of the work force.
Does the Minister accept that the scandalously high rate of unemployment is a reflection of the failure of the enterprise culture and the imposition of scandalously high interest rates, which, as the Minister knows, are deliberately designed to produce unemployment? Does he recognise that low unemployment is an important component in resolving the conflict in Northern Ireland? What policies does he intend to introduce to bring about a reduction in unemployment?
I thoroughly agree that a reduction in unemployment is important for bringing greater peace to the community of Northern Ireland. However, the figure of 95,570 which I just announced should be seen in comparison with the peak headline total of 135,000 as recently as September 1986.
The Government are committed to continuing the fight against unemployment and have recently published their new economic development strategy for Northern Ireland called "Competing in the 1990s—The Key to Growth". The overall aim is to remove the obstacles that prevent industry growing and to improve the competitiveness of the Northern Ireland economy which will lead to stable long-term jobs.
On behalf of my colleagues I welcome the Minister to the Dispatch Box. Does he think that the upturn in unemployment has been caused most by the high inflation rate, high interest rates, the wrong time and level of entry into the ERM or Sinn Fein's economic campaign against Northern Ireland, through its armed wing, in blowing people out of work at the same time as screaming for more jobs?
The level of unemployment has been disappointing over the last two months, but I should add that the rise has not been as serious in Northern Ireland as in Great Britain where it has been faster. Whatever the reasons, we will be trying to reduce unemployment and to increase employment for the sake of all people in Northern Ireland.