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Volume 957: debated on Thursday 9 November 1978

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asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will bring forward proposals to bring life back into the city of Belfast.

I am very much aware of the problems which Belfast faces as a result of severe unemployment and acute social deprivation, together with the many physical scars of the recent civil unrest. In addition, Belfast, like most other British cities, has inherited a legacy of roads, houses and infrastructure designed to meet needs quite different from those of today.

The Government have already demonstrated their determination to improve the appearance of the city and to rejuvenate its social and commercial life. Tenders have been invited from consultants for a new shopping complex for the city centre, and a range of other current and potential initiatives is now being pursued. Special efforts are being made in the most deprived areas under the Belfast areas of need programme.

I have also set up a working party to consider what is required to make the centre of Belfast a lively centre of social entertainment for citizens and visitors.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that reply, but can he at this stage give an indication of what amount of money the Government have allocated for the revitalisation of the city of Belfast? Has he any idea of how the money will be used, and of any projects and priorities?

At this stage we have allocated over £17 million to help with the social, economic and physical problems of the city. I am pleased to say that the new Lord Mayor of Belfast is very closely involved in this drive and is personally involved in the development.

Since this Government and their predecessors, and the planners, have torn apart areas of Belfast more so, perhaps, than the provisional IRA, and dispersed closely-knit communities in the Shankill, Ballymacarrett and other areas, may we have an assurance that action will be taken by the Government to rebuild the houses, schools and factories in those areas for the same number of people who previously lived there? The people of Northern Ireland will not be satisfied with the original answer given by the right hon. Gentleman.

The hon. Gentleman is harking back to what happened in the past. He must admit that the 10 years of troubles have certainly left their scars on the city of Belfast. There are now plans to build 5,000 new homes in the redevelopment areas that we have designated in Belfast.