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Equal Opportunities

Volume 301: debated on Wednesday 26 November 1997

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If she will make a statement on her Department's policies for creating equality of opportunity in Northern Ireland. [16238]

The Government are whole-heartedly committed to equality of opportunity in all sections of the community in Northern Ireland. We are actively considering a number of measures on fair employment, sex discrimination, race relations and disability discrimination that will benefit all who live there. In addition, the Government are giving full consideration to the comprehensive report, produced by the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights, on employment equality and related matters. We intend to publish a response early in the new year.

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Given the importance of ensuring equality of opportunity in Northern Ireland, particularly in employment, in which the Catholic population is at a severe disadvantage, will he tell the House what further steps he intends to take to increase employment opportunities for all in the Province?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. Good progress is being made in considering the SACHR recommendations. Many of the new Government's proposals on tackling unemployment, particularly long-term unemployment under the new deal initiative, echo the SACHR proposals. The new deal will help members of both communities. My hon. Friend referred to the fact that Catholics are disproportionately represented among the long-term unemployed, so they should benefit in particular.