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Sunningdale - Northern Ireland Executive: Steps to a Better Tomorrow: Statement of Economic and Social Aims, January 1974
Text: Northern Ireland Executive... Page Compiled: Brendan Lynn
Northern Ireland Executive: Steps to a Better Tomorrow:
Statement of Economic and Social Aims, January 1974
1. The formation of a multi-Party Executive requires, inter alia, prior agreement on a social and economic programme to be implemented whilst in office.
We are agreed that the basic objectives of such a programme should be to achieve rising standards of living, sustained full employment and the greatest possible measure of equality of opportunity and social and economic justice.
We are also agreed that the first step towards achieving these is for the Executive to establish a comprehensive social and economic plan for Northern Ireland, backed by a central planning unit, which, in the light of detailed analysis of the full range of economic and social problems facing the community, will establish clear-cut and realistic economic and social goals.
The plan will also determine the detailed policies and public expenditure programmes needed to achieve these agreed objectives over the years to come. It will include clear-cut targets in the fields of income per head and employment levels, which will be designed to achieve at least parity in real terms with Great Britain, and the consequent investment programmes for infrastructure, social investment including housing, education and training, and State and private industry.
We appreciate that the preparation and execution of such programmes will involve the full measure of freedom of decision which Westminster agreed to devolve to the new Executive. We also realise that the achievement of our basic objectives may require us to discuss with Westminster the necessity for some further Executive responsibility over taxation in Northern Ireland.
2. The following sections elaborate the statements contained in the preceding paragraph and describe in general terms a number of the measures which, we are agreed, seem likely to appear in any comprehensive Social and Economic Programme for Northern Ireland.
GENERAL ECONOMIC POLICY
3. In order to achieve our basic economic objectives it will be necessary to examine various problems that underlie overall unemployment figures in order to produce a more effective reduction of unemployment.
Our clear priority is to provide full employment for the people of Northern Ireland. Enterprise Ulster in the short-term must be given a new and strengthened role having regard to the employment position in particular areas.
It will also be important to seek methods of increasing Northern Ireland participation and influence in EEC. In particular we are determined to obtain the maximum use of EEC monies for local regional development.
GENERAL REGIONAL PHYSICAL STRATEGY
4. We agree that it will be important to develop the policy of Growth and Key Centres, both for industrial promotion and for economy in services. Secondly, in our physical planning policy, the tradition and character of each locality must be respected and its true potential developed.
5. Our aim will be to obtain the maximum employment opportunities throughout Northern Ireland. Existing machinery will be maintained and extended and new machinery developed to facilitate Government involvement in promising industrial enterprises and ventures, which offer the prospect of new and expanding employment opportunities.
We will also aim to ensure that Northern Ireland remains a most attractive base for new and existing industries by virtue of wide, generous and flexible industrial incentives, comprehensive industrial training and good industrial relations. The range of incentives offered will be reviewed to ensure that they are as competitive and selective as possible.
The present momentum of the Local Enterprise Development Unit will be maintained and reinforced.
6. A review of energy needs and resources will be undertaken with special reference to mineral development both on and off-shore.
7. In order to tackle the housing problem effectively and eradicate the serious lack of basic facilities and services in many areas we need:
a. a housing target of 20,000 houses per year once the productivity of the construction industry has been increased;
b. speedier re-development and a bigger housing conversion and improvement programme;
c. measures to render the construction industry more streamlined and efficient and train more skilled operatives;
d. to examine measures with a view to control of urban land speculation and prices;
e. to develop water and sewerage services to meet identified needs;
f. to encourage development of voluntary housing agencies such as Housing Associations and co-operatives;
g. to encourage greater tenant involvement in planning, management and maintenance of housing estates;
h. to continue wherever necessary the present policy of public acquisition of houses in the private rented sector;
i. measures to encourage home ownership in every way possible;
j. measures to ensure that the private sector can make its full contribution to the housing programme;
k. to promote the growth of integrated housing; and
l. to pay greater attention than in the past to the environmental quality of housing estates, public and private.
These proposals will involve a radical re-examination of the whole system of housing finance in Northern Ireland.
8. It should be made clear at the outset that every aspect of the Northern Ireland problem involves community relations. All members of the Executive will be actively concerned to improve community relations.
A reappraisal of the existing institutional arrangements in this field will be a priority task.
9. Agriculture is of paramount importance to Northern Ireland. Whilst recognising the role of the EEC in the formulation of agricultural policy, we agree that the Executive must strive to take all necessary steps to increase the prosperity of Northern Irelandís agriculture.
In particular, we believe we must make full use of grass, our major natural asset. The intensive livestock industry must also be assisted to surmount the major problems which it is facing from the rising costs of imported feeding stuffs. The Executive will also take steps to improve the viability of small farms, including those in horticulture.
If agriculture in Northern Ireland is to contribute to the achievement of our overall social and economic objectives, it will be necessary to devise programmes to encourage co-operative farming, food processing and timber-based industries. A thorough investigation of our fishing potential will be set in hand and steps will also be taken to encourage fish processing and boat building.
10. There is need for a detailed re-examination of the entire transport system including the administration of harbours and a detailed review of the role of the Northern Ireland Transport Holding Company. As part of the policy of more balanced development there should be development of port and airport facilities in the North West.
Using the latest techniques, we shall also wish to study the interplay of public and private transport and to assess the social and economic value as well as the financial costs of roads, buses, railways and car parking.
We are also agreed upon the need to open discussions with Westminster on our powers in relation to shipping and air services - both freight and passenger - which are crucial to the future development of the economy of Northern Ireland.
CONSERVATION AND THE ENVIRONMENT
11. There is a need for encouragement and re-inforcement of the new arrangements in Northern Ireland relating to conservation in order to marshal all the necessary resources and to harmonise management policies and legislation.
12 We are agreed on the need to explore the possibilities of providing facilities in advance of need in order to pioneer markets for the future.
13 The ideal of equal educational opportunity for all and the primacy of parental rights are the principles on which our educational system should be based. In the present context the following changes will be required:
a. the introduction of a policy of universal nursery education;
b. the radical re-examination of the present selection procedures for secondary education and the consequent re-organisation of secondary education;
c. recognition of educational priority areas based on social need;
d. the creation of machinery in the field of higher education so that our considerable resources can be co-ordinated in the best interests of the community as a whole; and
e. a detailed investigation of the role of education in the promotion of community harmony and the development of pilot experiments, after consultation with interested parties, in integrated education.
CULTURE AND COMMUNICATIONS
14 We understand the need for sensitivity and care in these fields but believe that every effort should be made to promote further understanding of the variety of our culture and traditions.
PRICES AND INCOMES
15 This is largely the responsibility of Westminster but the Northern Ireland Executive should co-ordinate Government agencies here and create adequate price policing methods as well as giving positive encouragement to the development of voluntary consumer associations.
16. Studies and research leading to legislation to develop the concept of greater worker participation in the management of industry should be set in train.
ELIMINATION OF POVERTY
17. Research into the extent of poverty, the extent of disability, the extent of unmet need for community welfare services in Northern Ireland and the evaluation of services received will be a priority task for the Executive, with a view to reforming such parts of the system of social services as are necessary adequately to fulfil the objective of eradicating poverty.
Without prejudice to the principle of parity with Great Britain, consideration should be given to the creation of Northern Ireland as a pilot area for reforms in the field of family allowances, supplementary benefits, and the rationalisation of means-tested benefits with a view to using the resources of the social services to make the most effective possible attack on poverty.
Among our first priorities will be the elimination of poverty and the rehabilitation of all those - especially the young - adversely affected by the recent violence.