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Departmental Achievements

Volume 78: debated on Monday 29 April 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will list his Department's principal achievements since 1979.

The suppression of terrorism and public disorder in Northern Ireland remains one of the Government's principal objectives. We have made substantial progress in recent years in deterring violence and bringing criminals to justice. The overall level of violence in 1984 was less than in any year since 1970. In pursuit of this policy, the Government have provided for significant increases in the strength and resources of the Royal Ulster constablulary, the size of the regular force and its full time reserve increasing from approximately 7,300 in 1970 to 10,600 today.The Northern Ireland Assembly established by the Northern Ireland Act 1982 and elected in October of that year has enabled the people of Northern Ireland through their elected representatives carefully to monitor the work of Northern Ireland Departments. It continues to provide a framework for the constitutional parties to divide arrangements for return of devolved powers which would command widespread acceptance throughout the community. The Government have also taken steps to minimise the scope for electoral malpractise, especially personation, in elections.The Government continue to pursue a dialogue with the Republic of Ireland within the framework set out in the communique issued after the meeting in November between the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach.The aim of the Government's economic strategy has been to encourage output and employment in a realistic and cost effective way. Invesment incentives remain among the best in Western Europe; since its inception in 1982 the Industrial Development Board has promoted 11,748 new jobs, and since 1979 the local enterprise development unit has trebled its support to small firms, promoting a record 4,000 jobs in 1984.Although the economic climate remains difficult, restructuring continues and welcome developments include new contracts for Shorts and Harland and Wolff. A freeport has been established at Aldegrove airport, and enterprise zones have been created in Belfast and Londonderry as part of the continuing regeneration of those cities; special measures have been agreed by the European Community for urban renewal in Belfast. Significat improvements have been made in the housing stock, with 43,500 new houses started since 1979, nearly 200,000 grants paid for improvements and repairs, and 26,000 Housing Executives homes sold to tenants. A youth training programme was introduced a year ahead of the rest of the United Kindgom and is now providing training for some 11,000 young people.