§ The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Tom King)
I beg to move,That the draft Northern Ireland Act 1974 (Interim Period Extension) Order 1987, which was laid before this House on 30th April, in the last Session of Parliament, be approved.I welcome this opportunity, early in the new Parliament, to discuss the affairs of Northern Ireland, and I hope that it will be possible for a considerable number of hon. Members from Northern Ireland to take part in the debate.
At the start it would be right to recognise the fact that one former Member of the House who was a most regular attender will not be taking part. I refer, of course, to the former right hon. Member for South Down. While the House knows—it is no secret—that I had disagreements with him, no one can be ignorant of the fact that we have lost a formidable parliamentarian. He was a man of deep commitment to the House, a respected constituency Member and a person who, whatever his views, was always noted outside the House for his personal courtesy. When I rose at the Dispatch Box I used to be conscious of his eagle eye as he waited for a slip—a legislative inaccuracy or perhaps a sentence ending with a preposition; Ministers were always conscious that they were under the closest scrutiny when he was present.
Against that background and without entering into electoral results, I welcome the new hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) on an entirely personal basis. I understand that he may be seeking to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, and I am sure that the House will be interested in his contribution.
On a personal basis, may I say that I am pleased to have the opportunity to move the order. It is no great secret that I expressed to the Prime Minister my willingness to resume my responsibilities, if she asked me to do so, after the election. I did so because I wanted to play some part in the Province at this time, with the need for continuity and for a determined effort after the sad period of non-dialogue that has just taken place. I was anxious to see whether we could have a more productive period.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
Will the Secretary of State deal with the point raised by the Unionist side during Prime Minister's Question Time, which he may or may not have heard, which was that since there has been no reduction in the amount of terrorism, the Anglo-Irish agreement has been a failure? Is it not a fact of life, and was it not understood from the beginning when the agreement came into force, that violence and terrorism from the IRA or from the other side—but mainly from the IRA—will not end until the terrorists stop their activities? Is it not foolishness and mischief-making to believe that the position has got worse as a result of the agreement?
§ Mr. King
I shall be saying something about security in the Province, but I certainly accept the hon. Gentleman's statement that there was no question that simply by signing an agreement and closer co-operation a magic wand would be provided whereby terrorists would pack up their tents and walk away. Everyone who knows Northern Ireland knows that that is the position.
The debate and the order for the extension of the period of direct rule follow almost immediately the conclusion of 199 the debate on the Loyal Address. It might be for the convenience of the House, and especially hon. Members from the Province who were unable to participate in that debate, if I reminded the House of the background to the debate. The Queen's Speech said:In Northern Ireland, my Government will seek an agreed basis on which greater responsibility can be devolved to representatives of the people. They will work unremittingly for the defeat of terrorism. They will build upon the constructive relations established with the Republic of Ireland in security and other matters.I shall comment, first, on security and the economic position in the Province and then I shall say a word about the political position, as I see it.
We said in the Queen's Speech that we would work unremittingly for the defeat of terrorism, and I give the clearest assurance to the House that that is our absolute determination. If we are to realise the full potential of the Province and of the entire island of Ireland in terms of jobs and the quality of life of all the people in the island, terrorism must be defeated, because that, above all, damages the employment prospects of young people and the economic prospects of everyone in the island of Ireland. There is no question that that approach has the overwhelming support of people not just in the Province but throughout the island of Ireland.
I noticed that most offensive phrase used by a certain Sinn Fein member, who said:Who will object if with Armalite and ballot box we take power?It is significant to note what the achievement of that ballot-box approach is at its maximum, even if one accepts that every person who votes for Sinn Fein is endorsing violence. That is a wild assumption. Only 3 per cent. of the population of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland support Sinn Fein; 97 per cent. support parties which are totally opposed to violence. It is also interesting to note that in the election in Northern Ireland, support for Sinn Fein fell by just under 20 per cent.
It is against that background that I noted a recent editorial in the Irish News in Northern Ireland. It talked about the Nationalist position and about the obscenity of the IRA and its recent murders. The editorial said:These people do not kill for us. They do not kill for the Irish people and no mandate has been given to them in this island to do what they do.Against the recent background and the publication of the Sinn Fein document "For Freedom, Justice, Peace", I could not help noticing that four of the most recent recipients of its policy of freedom, justice and peace in Londonderry were a 61-year old woman, a 33-year old man, a five-year old girl, and a three-year old boy, who, in the ultimate obscenity of the Sinn Fein announcement and the IRA statement that appeared later, were casualties because apparently the security forces did not observe the procedures that the terrorists expected them to observe in clearing an area before a bomb went off.
The IRA does not just cause direct casualties; it deliberately inflames and incites sectarian tension. One can see it at present. Anybody who has the inkling of an understanding of Northern Ireland knows that this is the time of the year when it is easiest to incite tension and hatred. The effect of the IRA's action is often to arouse the vicious evil of Loyalist terrorist groups as well. It is despicable for the IRA to provoke the Loyalist extremist terrorist groups and for those groups all too readily to 200 respond. That is why the defeat of terrorism is our top priority. It must be defeated. It must be fought within the law.
We are determined to maintain a high and effective level of security force activity. If I reaffirm briefly the recognition of the whole House for the debt that we owe to the security forces for the work that they do to protect life and limb in the Province, it is because I know that I have the support of the whole House. While I pay respect to their achievements, we know that at present we face a particularly vicious and renewed campaign of terrorism.
If one looks at the cold and sad statistics of casualties—even if one recognises that they include the victims of the internal feud in the Irish National Liberation Army, the terrorists who were shot in the attack on Loughgall and the two terrorists who apparently killed themselves while conducting terrorist activities—the level of casualties obviously is far too high. We face a particularly vicious and callous campaign at present. As I made clear in a debate at the end of the last Parliament, this is being met by the security forces adopting certain measures in support of and in addition to the measures that we were taking before. I recognise the achievements of the security forces in difficult circumstances and I recognise also the steadfastness that the community is showing at present in the face of that campaign, determined as it is to incite greater fear and hatred. I think it right that the House should recognise that.
We shall continue our work unremittingly and, in that respect, I welcome the arrival of my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office. With his considerable experience in the Ministry of Defence and security, there will be no loss of momentum and an absolute determination to carry forward our work for the defeat of terrorism. We shall be determined to do everything that we can to deny the terrorists the resources on which they depend, whether they be money, recruits, weapons or explosives. We shall not hesitate to bring to that work the closest possible co-operation with every nation in the world that can help us in the battle to obstruct the supply lines and withhold resources from the terrorists. Most importantly in that respect, we shall work as closely as we can with the Government of the Republic of Ireland in our determination to eliminate the scourge of terrorism from Northern Ireland and the island of Ireland and bring the guilty men to justice.
The House knows the bald statistics of the economic situation and the serious problem that we face with unemployment. The current rate of unemployment is 18.4 per cent. against 10.8 per cent. for Great Britain. We know how much the search for jobs is hindered and handicapped by the evil of terrorism. We are aware of the deterrent that it can be to investors and the problems that it causes to the expansion of existing companies. If I gave the House a brief summary of the economic position, I would not conceal from it that we face serious problems in shipbuilding, as does the western world generally and, indeed, the entire world. The problems that are faced by Harland and Wolff and by British Shipbuilders are those that are faced throughout western Europe. These are real problems, and especially for Northern Ireland because of the importance of the shipyard to the Province.
The difficulty of agricultural surpluses is having a significant impact on the Province. Given the importance of agriculture to the entire Province, it is a matter of great concern. We are anxious to ensure that in the deliberations 201 on the common agricultural policy and on any measures that exist within the United Kingdom arrangements for agriculture we do whatever we can to help agriculture in the Province through this difficult time.
It would be a great mistake if the real achievement of so many firms and companies in Northern Ireland were not recognised. Having had chances to see industry and having worked in industry all my life before coming to this place, I was surprised, as a new Secretary of State, to find how many outstanding, highly profitable and successful companies are operating in the Province that are a match for anything elsewhere in the United Kingdom and Europe. I recognise the new investments that come into Dupont at Maydown, Fords at Dunmurry and to STC in Monkstown. I recognise also that at GEC at Larne we sought to help the company through a difficult ordering pattern. I hope that that assistance will see it through to a more successful future. In addition, many of the companies that operate in the linen, textile and clothing sector are doing exceptionally well and reporting good order books. The efforts of the Industrial Development Board and the Local Enterprise Development Unit are leading to an increase in the number of jobs that are available and the attraction of a substantial amount of new investment into the Province.
We are anxious to ensure that Government support in ways in which it can be most helpful is applied effectively, and I believe that in training, employment creation and investment support we have a fine and effective range of measures. I still believe that more local initiative is of enormous importance for Northern Ireland and I applaud the initiative of the Northern Ireland chambers of commerce and industry in their support for more local purchasing. It is entirely their own initiative and it is designed to ascertain how Northern Ireland can make its own greater contribution to its economy. The Under-Secretary of State with responsibilities for industry, my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers), has today held a press conference on the pathfinder initiative, which he has launched, which is directed very much to ascertaining how we can stimulate more and more local initiative to demonstrate how Northern Ireland can tackle even more effectively some of the problems of its economy.
I have seen enough now of Northern Ireland to understand that there is a great opportunity for a transformation of the economy if only we can see the scourge of terrorism removed and the achievement of greater confidence in the economy and greater political stability. There is no doubt that all these factors—I would not wish to enter into an argument about which has been the more damaging to investment and jobs in the Province—will play a significant part in the future of the Province. Terrorism has been major scourge but the absence of political progress has been a major handicap as well.
It is against that background that I turn to the direct issues that affect the form of government for the Province. The issues are set out clearly in the order, about which there is particular interest. The order is the result of the Northern Ireland Act 1974, and the House will recall that the Act was introduced to dissolve the Northern Ireland Assembly, to make temporary provision for the government of Northern Ireland and to provide for the election and holding of a constitutional convention. This 202 is the 13th time that an extension of the temporary provisions has been moved, and in so doing I am seeking to extend the period of direct rule. The 1974 Act provided for the election of a convention for the purpose of considering what provision for the government of Northern Ireland would be likely to command the most widespread acceptance throughout the community there. The problem that was identified in 1974 is precisely that which we face now for the 13th time around, and that is the challenge that is before us.
The Gracious Speech made it clear that the Governmentwill seek an agreed basis on which greater responsibility can be devolved to representatives of the people.I should like to set out my views on how we should proceed. We need to be realistic about the present position. It is obvious that we must start from where we are, and in doing so recognise, first, the strengths and weaknesses of the present position. I hope that I carry my predecessors with me in trying honestly and sincerely to provide fair and impartial government for the Province. British Ministers do their best, quite often in difficult circumstances. The system has many defects and I dislike it because it does not provide for an adequate input for local people in Northern Ireland to enable them to have a real say in their affairs.
§ Mr. James Molyneaux (Lagan Valley)
The Secretary of State should not be feeling too sensitive because he happens to be a member of the British Government who are governing Northern Ireland. The real complaint of the people of Northern Ireland is that the 16 Members of Northern Ireland constituencies who come to this place to represent Northern Ireland cannot play any effective part in legislating for Northern Ireland. That is not because a British Secretary of State happens to be in control of Northern Ireland. As we shall see later this evening, the methods are defective.
§ Mr. King
At this stage, I should not like to go further down that road, but I shall say a word about that aspect, and it may help the right hon. Gentleman. I am conscious that, in some ways, the Province has more distinct political traditions and structures than exist elsewhere in the United Kingdom, yet there is less democratic involvement of people in their own affairs. Of course I accept—this goes some way to recognising the point that the right hon. Gentleman made—that direct rule involves a legislative process which cannot easily give adequate time for consideration to Northern Ireland primary legislation.
I talked about a lack of involvement. There is also the problem of local government. Macrory advised that strategic services—for example, roads, town and country planning and water—would be better in single Province-wide authorities, but that was envisaged within the context of a Northern Ireland regional government. When he put that view forward, it certainly was not envisaged that it should be operated by central Government in the way it operates at present. The effect of the loss of the Assembly and the Executive was that Northern Ireland lost any chance to have a serious involvement in overseeing local services.
Those are far from ideal situations. Certainly, it is against that background that the House may understand that we are willing to consider changes in arrangements to determine whether it is possible to agree ways of improving the difficulties that we perceive.
§ Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)
In view of what my right hon. Friend has said, and since he wishes to have greater involvement of the people in Northern Ireland local government, it is difficult for some of his hon. Friends to understand why he has abandoned the policies that were set out in the 1979 manifesto. In that manifesto we said that, in the absence of devolved government, we would seek to set up a regional council of councils with widely devolved powers over local matters. Why has my right hon. Friend abandoned that policy?
§ Mr. King
I am in some difficulty on that point. I certainly did not abandon the policy; it was abandoned well before I arrived in my present position. With great respect to my hon. Friend, he was probably closer to some involvement in the matter at the time. I am not sure exactly what the reasons were for its abandonment. I do not wish to make any unhelpful comments on the matter. My hon. Friend knows the situation. That policy was abandoned—it was not in our later proposals—and an alternative approach was adopted by Mr. Jim Prior when he was Secretary of State.
§ Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Newbury)
I interrupt my right hon. Friend to pick up the point that he made about the lack of local representation of political parties in Northern Ireland in their own Province and in the way in which they are governed. If my right hon. Friend looks around the Chamber he will see representatives of nearly all political parties. Therefore, we have here a microcosm of what could be in Northern Ireland. He could set up a Northern Ireland Select Committee straight away and give Northern Ireland hon. Members a say in the way in which their Province is governed. Will he consider that?
§ Mr. King
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He raised one possible approach. I shall not endorse or accept any one approach. I strongly believe that we need to discuss a number of ideas that might be helpful, any one of which is preferable to non-dialogue and a refusal or inability to talk. A number of ideas—I shall not rehearse them in the House—involve problems and difficulties. I give my hon. Friend an absolute assurance that they must be looked at seriously and constructively. The point that my hon. Friend raised is only part of the issue. Of course, we must address how such a structure would operate in meeting concerns on a widely acceptable basis. That issue must be addressed.
§ Mr. John Hume (Foyle)
Would the Secretary of State agree that powers were removed from local government in Northern Ireland in the first place because they were seriously and substantially abused and that the behaviour of local authorities in the past 18 months does not give reason for any confidence to assume that they will behave any more responsibly in the future?
§ Mr. King
I can understand why the hon. Gentleman said that. It is absolutely clear that the House will not endorse any arrangements that are not seen to be fair. It is not a matter of trying to brainwash or persuade me. At the end of the day, any new arrangements will have to carry the support of the House. The House will not support anything that it believes does not establish fair and effective protection for the minority. Those are the tests that we shall have to pass. None of us is an entirely free agent. Those are the problems that will have to be addressed.
One other aspect of the present situation gives rise to concern. It arises through the Anglo-Irish Agreement and, 204 in particular, the Inter-Governmental Conference. The arrangement gives the minority community an increased confidence that their interests are carefully considered and given proper weight. At the same time, I have to accept that Unionists certainly consider themselves to be excluded from the process and that they consider that their interests are not given proper weight. In this connection, it is of course true that, under the terms of the agreement, we are due to have a review of the working of the conference next year. I am well aware of the feelings of many people in the Province about aspects of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Some reflect profound differences of view, but some reflect clear misunderstandings about aspects of the agreement, the conference and its work. Having said that, although I understand the concerns, it is obviously important for everybody who cares about the future of the Province to seek an end to the period of non-dialogue, which has damaged the image of the Province. Some Unionists and, indeed, others, have stated or implied that they have a vision of arrangements for the government and administration of Northern Ireland which would be more widely acceptable—acceptable to Unionists and nationalists alike—than these.
Of course, I understand why, in advance of the election, many people did not wish to advance their positions and perhaps waited to see what the outcome of the election would be. Now that the election is over, it is time to look forward to see whether there are any opportunities for more constructive discussions. It is in that spirit that I note the submission of an abridged version of the task force report to the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) and the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley). Obviously, I shall wish to study that report. I hope that it might contribute to a movement towards dialogue in which, in due course, the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland can discuss ideas with the Government. It is in everybody's interests that talking must resume soon. I do not say that only in respect of the Unionist position. One would also look for a constructive response from constitutional Nationalist parties.
I recognise the clear distinction that is drawn between the need for exploratory discussions to see whether it is possible for anything approaching talks to take place. There is a case for such discussions to start without prejudice or precondition. It would be sensible for them not to start with any great expectations or necessarily at any high level. They should determine whether, through initial discussions at whatever level, it is possible to move to more serious talks or negotiations. I want to make it quite clear on behalf of the Government that in that process we are ready to play whatever role that the parties would feel helpful. We are ready to listen to constructive ideas from any quarter and without preconditions. It is in the interests of all the people in the Province for the talking to start soon.
§ Mr. Molyneaux
On reflection, does the Secretary of State not feel that it might be wiser to use the first term that he used, which was "without prejudice", than to say "without preconditions" because there is a difference?
§ Mr. King
The right hon. Gentleman may accept whichever of the terms he finds suitable. We are ready to embark on an exploratory process on whatever basis seems most convenient to those concerned in terms of the level 205 at which discussions might take place. It is not a question of laying down anything in advance. At this stage we do not even know where we are and we need to explore the ground to see what might or might not be possible. Against that background I am trying to show the right hon. Gentleman that the Government are willing to respond if the will is there.
§ Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury)
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that if the Anglo-Irish agreement is to succeed we must all have confidence that the Republic of Ireland will honour the undertakings that it has given? Will my right hon. Friend confirm that as far as he is aware there is no basis for the suggestion in some Sunday newspapers that the Republic will not honour the extradition arrangements to which it has committed itself? If the Republic does not honour that commitment it would cause considerable concern to those hon. Members who support the Anglo-Irish Agreement and who are confident that the present Government of the Republic are as committed to the agreement as their predecessors.
§ Mr. King
I know of no basis for any suggestion that the commitment will not be implemented. I certainly confirm that we attach great importance to that. As I said, I am moving for the 13th time an interim period extension order. That might persuade many people that the problems of Northern Ireland are totally insoluble and that there is no prospect of any improvement. Sadly, one can think of many corners of the world where the problems seem totally insoluble.
Despite the problems and difficulties that are easily recognised in the Province, there is a growing recognition that things need not be as they are. About 97 per cent. of the people in the island of Ireland, including a substantial majority of the minority in Northern Ireland support the right of a Northern Ireland majority to determine its own future. The majority of Unionists support equality of treatment and opportunity for the minority community. The majority says it recognises the importance of good relations with the Republic of Ireland and recognises that, undoubtedly and in whatever form, there is an Irish dimension. Given those elements, Northern Ireland is not the insoluble problem that some people represent it to be.
There are good components in the situation and if we can build upon them they will provide the opportunity for real progress. That is what the overwhelming majority of people in Northern Ireland now want in a new approach. Clearly, there is a challenge to all hon. Members and to all people who care about the future of the Province to see that such a new approach is made. In that spirit I commend the order to the House. Of course it is not an end in itself because it is the most interim of orders, but it will provide the opportunity for real progress to be made.
§ Mr. Peter Archer (Warley, West)
I am happy to begin by endorsing a number of the propositions by the Secretary of State. First, we are pleased to see him back in his high office—if it had to be someone from the Conservative party. I can go no further than that. Secondly, I record our pleasure at seeing right hon. and hon. Gentlemen from the Unionist parties in their places. I hope that they will continue to participate in our debates. 206 We may not always agree, but I hope that they will accept that we genuinely want to see them participating in constitutional politics.
Thirdly, we look forward with pleasure to the maiden speech of the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady). I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept that it is no reflection on him when I say that I agree with the Secretary of State about his predecessor. However frequently we may have disagreed with him personally, he will be missed in the House. Fourthly, I agree with the Secretary of State that an island on which people can live in peace can concentrate on the interests that they share rather than those which divide them and are free to live their lives as they wish cannot be achieved by the politics of division and recrimination. Those things certainly cannot be achieved by way of corpses and broken families.
Before I endorse any more of the propositions by the Secretary of State, I should like to return to what he said about the subject that we are debating. That is whether the present arrangements for direct rule should continue for another 12 months, or at least until the House decides to change them. There can only be one answer to that: if Northern Ireland is to be governed, the present arrangements must continue until there is a measure of agreement about an alternative mode of government. That does not imply that we are happy with direct rule. I doubt whether any party in the House or any hon. Member would argue for direct rule as a first choice. Perhaps for some people the principal argument for direct rule is that it does not represent the first choice of anybody else. We have all frequently ventilated its shortcomings and I do not propose to delay the House with a further recital of them.
Northern Ireland is governed by a Government who electorally have nothing to fear from alienating people in Northern Ireland and nothing to gain by pleasing them. If every hon. Member except those who take the Conservative Whip were to vote in a Division, our arguments and votes would be submerged by the tramping of conforming southern English feet through the Government Lobby. That situation was not brought about by the electors of Northern Ireland and it is the negation of representative government. I do not blame the Government for that because they did not plan for it to happen. No one planned it, and no one welcomed it. It is not an example of colonialism in the corridors of Whitehall. I almost wish that it were, because it might make the Government cherish their powers and reflect on how to use them. It is quite the reverse.
The Government, and particularly, I suspect, Government business managers, clearly regard direct rule as an unwanted burden. It has all come about because of the tragic dialectic of Irish history which has almost the unfolding inevitability of a Shakespearean tragedy. Direct rule is there, and two consequences follow for those who have eyes to see.
§ Ms. Clare Short (Birmingham, Ladywood)
Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that Ireland's major tragedy is that it was partitioned? Is he saying that that was inevitable also, or does he agree that that is the root of the present tragedy?
§ Mr. Archer
I agree with my hon. Friend that that is the root of the present tragedy. We could perhaps engage in a philosophical argument about how many events in history were inevitable. I suspect that, given the people's 207 environment, background, education and folklore, there was a certain inevitability about what followed from that. However, perhaps this is a profitless discussion that my hon. Friend and I can take further privately.
Two consequences follow from direct rule. The first is that, while it continues, the Government should be alert to the need for sensitivity. If the people of Northern Ireland are to feel that their grievances are even discussed, let alone redressed, through constitutional democratic politics, it is important that someone should be in a position to make their case adequately and without pressure of time, and that those in a position to take decisions should listen to the argument and not simply respond wearily and predictably at the end of the debate in defence of policies that have already been agreed without consultation.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) that it all depends on the way in which direct rule is treated in this House. That means having a Government who respect the rights of those in opposition, and who treat Northern Ireland debates with a new measure of respect. There is no better example than the way in which the Government have dealt with today's business. Today the Government have invited the House to consider four items of Northern Ireland business. If that business related to Great Britain, or specifically to Scotland or Wales, each would have merited a full day's debate. That is in no way to complain about the respect that is accorded to other regions. Such would have been their due in any democratic process. But because the business relates to Northern Ireland, the Government devote one day's business to all four items.
§ Mr. Molyneaux
Just in case the right hon. and learned Gentleman should alarm the Patronage Secretary, I should point out, with great respect, that it does not mean quite what he suggested. Arrangements could be made to ensure that the total burden on the Government's time on the Floor of the House could be curtailed but there could still be effective scrutiny, and effective criticism could still be brought to bear on any legislation. However, the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows that that point can be considered on another occasion.
§ Mr. Archer
I have not yet ventured to suggest what it would mean in this case. The right hon. Gentleman and I have participated in a number of discussions about this. Again, it is a matter on which there is a wide measure of agreement between us.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)
Is it not a fact that it is not the length of the debate that is important, but the right of hon. Members from Northern Ireland constituencies to move amendments and to have the opportunity to vote on those amendments? Even if there had been three days of debate on these orders, they would be meaningless because we cannot do what any other hon. Member from any other part of the United Kingdom can do, which is to move amendments on the Floor of the House.
§ Mr. Archer
I was coming to that point. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will agree that, even if there were the right to move amendments, if there were no time in which to discuss them, the entire procedure would be frustrated. Clearly we need to seek both.
This debate is about the way in which Northern Ireland is governed. I am told that it is hoped to dispose of it in 208 something like three hours; if not, as I understand it, it will proceed until a late hour tonight. We shall then consider the Appropriation order, what in relation to Great Britain we would call a Supplementary Estimates debate, embodying the entire constitutional principle of the redress of grievances before Supply. But this is a Northern Ireland order and it will be accorded three hours debate, if the time is available. Then, hopefully, at 10 o'clock, or such later hour as it is reached, we shall embark on a debate about the future of the electricity industry tin Northern Ireland. It is difficult to imagine a more controversial subject. The Government will seek to justify their entire case for privatisation——
§ Mr. Archer
I am interested that the right hon. Gentleman suggests that they will not. Perhaps they will take the House for granted and they will not even try to make out their case. Perhaps it is a measure of how much there is to be said in favour of the idea that the Government do not envisage taking long over it. But consumers in Northern Ireland will certainly want to know the answers to some important questions. The whole trade union movement is waiting to hear whether the Government are committed to a more secure future for the electricity industry than they were for the gas industry.
As the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (M r. Molyneaux) said, this business could have been dealt with by way of a Bill, with a Second Reading debate, a Committee stage, a Report stage and a Third Reading debate. I am not suggesting that all of that was necessary. If it had related to Great Britain, there would certainly have been a full day's debate on Second Reading, but because it is about Northern Ireland it is introduced by way of an unamendable order and a debate that is limited to an hour and a half. The House will then proceed, in a further hour and a half, to discuss the future of jury trial in Northern Ireland.
I do not blame Ministers in the Northern Ireland Office because I do not believe that their opinion of the Government's business managers differs greatly from mine. The difference is that they cannot say so and I do not ask them to comment on it. But if the Government allow their business managers' tail to wag the Northern Ireland Office dog, that reflects the view that the Prime Minister and the Cabinet take of Northern Ireland business and of the people to whom it relates.
If we are to have direct rule for the foreseeable future, the least that we can do is to make it work as any democratic system of government should work, with proper consultation, adequate time for debate, and an effective debate, in the sense that the Government can be seen to listen to what is said. I was pleased when the Secretary of State said that the Government were prepared to embark on discussions. We have been asking them to do so for a long time. Any repentant sinner who returns to the fold will be welcomed. Now, as I understand it, there is no hon. Member of any party who would not be prepared to take part in such discussions. So may we try again? That is one of the consequences——
§ Sir Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that one of the mischiefs of our present procedure is the damage that it does to parliamentary debate in the sense that an unamendable order, in theory, proceeding from the master 209 legislation passed by the House, may in some cases in Northern Ireland be different in spirit and in detail from the general legislation? However, because there is no means of seeking to amend such orders, there can be passed, as there was in the previous Session, orders that conflict with the spirit of the master legislation from which those orders proceed. That is a mischief to this House as well as to Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Archer
I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman that there are two possibilities. There may be legislation in relation to Great Britain that has already passed through the House. Certainly none of us would subscribe either to the principle that it should be applicable automatically to Northern Ireland without debate, or that there should necessarily be differences between the two sides of the water, without debate. But tonight that position is reversed. Northern Ireland will be the pilot scheme and, in due course, the House will be faced with the situation in which somebody will say, "This is what was done in Northern Ireland and the House has already debated it." The House will have debated it in an hour and a half. I shall not labour the point because I am sure that the Secretary of State understands that there is a wide measure of agreement about it. This might be the moment and perhaps this is an idea whose time has come, even if it is only a modest idea.
That is one of the consequences that follows from a recognition of the present position. The second is that we should look for ways of seeking agreement on how to break away from direct rule and return the power to make decisions to Northern Ireland on a basis in which people of both traditions can have confidence. I am not speaking of finding an ultimate solution because the solution may itself be a process. But we must begin by finding ways in which the community can manage its affairs in peace, with neighbour living alongside neighbour—not because they will always think the same, but in spite of their differences.
That will entail two processes. First, if political discussion is to have any future in Northern Ireland, it has to begin with the pragmatic business of daily life between people who may disagree about matters of grand principle and the constitution. It is on the practical decisions divorced from sectarian issues that the Government might demonstrate their readiness to consult.
Let me give a modest example—the Belfast urban area plan. We have all seen the commendable recovery of Belfast city centre since the 1970s. I know that the Government have taken great pleasure in it, and it is a pleasure that we share. However, one does not have to travel too far from the city centre to find communities which feel that all the prosperity has passed them by. The conditions in which they live serve only to point the contrast. The Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland has published imaginative proposals for a Belfast area plan for the development of the whole area up to the year 2001. This is not the occasion to discuss their merits or failures, so I shall not. But there is clearly a great deal to discuss.
We might have expected the Department to encourage the fullest consultation among the people of Belfast and the various community groups. We might have expected it to make available all the information at its disposal so that discussion could be as fully informed as possible. 210 Instead there is to be no equivalent of what, in relation to structure plans in England and Wales, is called the report of survey. Whether that is because the Government did not discover the information before they made their plans or whether they regard the information as a closely guarded secret, I do not know. I understand that the people of Belfast are not to be given that information.
The time limit for lodging objections to the plan was six weeks. How it was to be hoped that people would read the proposals, convene meetings of organisations, conduct discussions and submit objections in that time is not clear, particularly as the Government announced the general election in the middle of the consultation period. I am seeking not to embark on a discussion of the plan but to point out that one essential factor of public confidence in either direct rule or in any attempt to move away from it is for the Government to demonstrate their willingness to consult the public individually or through political parties or community organisations into which people would channel their views.
If a way forward is to be found, a second necessity is an element of humility all round. That quality is not greatly in evidence among Ministers, nor among political leaders generally. When the meek inherit the earth, there may be a few changes around here. However, the unionists' task force, to which the Secretary of State referred, has just produced a report called "An End to Drift". It is about discussion between representatives of the unionist people and the Government with a view to subsequent, more formal negotiations. As the Secretary of State reminded us, they would be without prejudice, in the sense that no one by embarking on them would be held to have resiled from any view that he had previously expressed or to have committed himself to anything except a desire to find a way forward from the stalemate. The report proposes that no matter should be excluded from the negotiations, so an attempt by any side to dictate the conclusions before the talks begin would not be part of the arrangements.
If I understand those proposals, they would represent a significant change in the position of the Unionist leaders because they would no longer require the pre-condition that the process of the Anglo-Irish Agreement should be suspended. Presumably that is one of the objectives that they would hope to achieve, but they would not defer beginning the talks until it had already been achieved. If the Government are proposing an agenda based on that and the unionist leaders endorse the proposals, that would not he taken as a sign of weakness but hailed as a constructive gesture.
As a necessary first step, the report proposes a unionist convention which would presumably work out an agenda that commended itself to all those on the unionist side, as in 1985 the report of the new Ireland forum proposed an agenda agreed by all groups on constitutional measures. Then the bargaining on the two sides would begin. No one pretends that this will be an easy or speedy process, but it may lead to agreement on the first steps back from the present blind alley. If that can be achieved, there will be time enough for further agreement, step by step, along a more hopeful road.
I hope that the leaders of the Unionist parties will feel able to encourage the proposals, and I hope that the Government will display some flexibility. I know that the Secretary of State said that on certain matters Government flexibility might not be acceptable. It is a 211 difficult balance to maintain, but I hope that the Government will display some flexibility because that too would be indicative not of weakness but of strength. The Opposition will do their best to reap the blessings that fall to the peacemakers.
This all sounds modest, but in this situation modest progress would be a worthwhile achievement. We may find that we enjoy talking together and it may become habit-forming. It may be the beginning of a process that will lead to the day when the Government can come to the House to ask not for the renewal of direct rule but for the endorsement of a new and more hopeful phase in the affairs of Northern Ireland.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)
I pay tribute to one of our colleagues who has not returned to the House. His name has already been mentioned by the Secretary of State and the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer). Whether one agreed with Enoch Powell or not, without doubt he was a great parliamentarian. I am glad that he was able to scare the Secretary of State with his eagle eye. Unfortunately, I look only at the back of the Secretary of State's head rather than at his face. The departure of any great parliamentarian, whether or not one agrees with his principles, is a loss to the House and our debates. As the House is aware, I had many differences with the previous right hon. Member for South Down. Nevertheless, on one matter we were agreed—that Northern Ireland is an integral part of this United Kingdom.
Although he may not be a Member of the House of Commons, I trust that Mr. Powell will soon be a Member of this Parliament in another place. That should be his role in the future. I do not suppose that the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) will have any objection to that, as he will not he nominating people for that list.
It will not surprise any hon. Member to hear me say that I oppose direct rule. Even without the issues of the reign of terrorism in Northern Ireland and of the controversy surrounding the Anglo-Irish Agreement, I would still oppose direct rule. This has been discussed a little across the Floor of the House today, so I do not want to proceed with a long discussion on that matter.
Let me give an illustration. I understand that next Tuesday evening the House will be asked, at or after 10 o'clock, in an hour and a half to sweep away laws that have applied in Northern Ireland for many years governing the closure of public houses on the Lord's day, the Christian Sabbath. Such a debate about any part of the United Kingdom requires much longer.
The Home Secretary has told us that there will be a radical change in licensing laws in other parts of the United Kingdom. Such a change will be given proper debate in this House and there will be opportunities for hon. Members to move amendments and put their point of view. However, by a stroke of a pen, something that is extremely near and dear to a vast number of people in Northern Ireland is to be swept away—let me say swept away in an undemocratic manner—in this House next Tuesday night.
I do not wish to dwell on that matter today, but let me say this: when Scotland and Wales had a similar problem, there were all sorts of discussions about local options and about giving people the right to exercise a vote on the issue. However, Northern Ireland representatives will not 212 even have the opportunity in this House to move any such amendments. Instead, the law will be radically changed. It is not only Protestants who object to the Sunday opening of pubs. I represent people in Antrim, North, Roman Catholics, who have come to me and said, "We don-t want the pub open in our village on Sundays." I have also been visited by people who work in the liquor industry who say that they do not wish to work on Sunday. It is that sort of thing which causes a souring and poisoning against the way in which these matters are taken in this House.
I have no desire to give any credibility to the type of debate in which I am asked to speak when it is totally impossible for any representative of Northern Ireland to do his duty on this issue as he could do if he was an hon. Member from any other part of this United Kingdom. I trust that the Secretary of State will realise just how we feel about this particular matter.
I listened with great care to the Secretary of State. I do not agree with two of his points. I was extremely critical of his comments on the terrorist campaign. I do not believe that they will stand up to examination. Also, I am not so sure about the economy. With regard to the right hon. Gentleman's comments on "political circumstances", I promise him that I shall read that part of his speech with great care. I believe that, today, the Secretary of State at least approached this matter with the sensitivity with which it should be approached and I am prepared to read that part of his speech. I could accept his tone, but I must find out what he really said and then I will comment on that. I am sure that all my hon. Friends would agree with me.
I must put the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) right, because his explanation of the task force report is totally erroneous. I must put that report into clear perspective today. The report did not say that we should enter into negotiations without prior conditions. We said that we should have terms. I know that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will seek to jump up, but I have also read the report and passed it almost believing that I needed to study it in such a way that I would believe in its verbal inspiration. I appreciate what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said about a convention—it was to this convention that the words "without prejudice" were applied. The report stated:In addition we suggest that the Unionist Convention be invited to endorse the demand for an alternative to and replacement of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, and the commencement of 'without prejudice' discussions with Her Majesty's Government thereto.That needs to be made clear.
I know that the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West was seeking to be helpful, but may I say to him that the talks that we have in mind are talks without prejudice and without preconditions on one single issue—is it possible to find agreement with the Government so that there can be negotiations aboutan alternative to and replacement of the Anglo-Irish Agreement".If the agreement has not worked out—to put it in a slightly different way, if it does not deliver to either side of the community what it is supposed to deliver—surely we should be seeking to quote from the scripture in "a more excellent way". We should also seek to establish if there is the will. Let me say that in our joint Unionist manifesto—let no one in this House think that there has 213 been a sudden change of mind because that manifesto was written and published long before the task force report—we said:We are offering the consent of the Unionist community in exchange for a fair, equitable and reasonable alternative to a Pact that has left a trail of death and destruction and a legacy of division and instability.That is the offer that the unionists made in their manifesto. Let me underline that offer for the instruction of the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West so that he will know exactly what we are after. The manifesto also stated:We will urgently seek to ascertain whether the new government is prepared to create the circumstances and conditions necessary to encourage successful negotiations, including the suspension of the working of the Agreement and of the Maryfield Secretariat.Thus, talks "without prejudice" are simply to see whether we can possibly have such negotiations. I hope that I have spelt that out with absolute clarity because I do not want anyone to say, as the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West has said—I know that he said it without malice—that there has been a sudden, complete and total reversal of what we maintained in the past. We have always said that we did not want confrontation. We want consultation and we now hope that we can have such probing talks to achieve that end.
The manifesto also said:The path ahead will not be easy".No one need think that because we come round a table and talk we will suddenly see our way out of this difficulty. It will be an extremely difficult task. Whether we like it or not, a polarisation has taken place in our country such as we have never seen before. That polarisation has now overspilt on to the workshop floor where it has never occurred before——
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
I am quoting the trade unions and I am quoting what the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West has said over and over again when he has congratulated the work people of Northern Ireland when they have not allowed such things to overspill on to the workshop floor. If the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) has not heard those debates he should get down to Hansard and read exactly what was said. If the hon. Gentleman is saying that the entire controversy has always existed on the work shop floor, that there has been polarisation among the unions and that there has always been fighting on the workshop floor, I utterly refute that with the authority of the trade union movement. That movement has never said such a thing.
One cannot change the attitude of people by a secret meeting between paid officials of a union who are not present on the factory floor and who have never even consulted their own shop stewards. Let me get this into the open so that we will know what we are talking about. Gallaghers factory is in my constituency. It is a good factory and provides employment for Roman Catholics and Protestants, nationalists, republicans and loyalists. Unknown to the shop stewards of the factory, whom I have met, together with the managements, certain officials of the union signed an agreement saying that in the future no flags or bunting would he put up inside the factory. The 214 first time that the shop stewards heard about that was when they were given a document by the management, not by the unions.
Ever since the factory was built, on the anniversary of the Somme, Union flags were put up on certain machines on the factory floor. No political emblems were put up. As a result of the document the management moved in and said, "You can't have that." The management said—the Secretary of State should read the document—that it was illegal under new legislation to put up the Union flag. I do not accept that. I would like to see where that is written. At the end of the day the management, myself and the trade unions, not ordinary workers, had a meeting and came to a reasonable agreement about this matter. However, forces outside the factory, including the spokesman for the Social Democratic and Labour party, Mr. Sean Farran, said that the management had bowed to what I had said. The management did what was right in the circumstances with the shop stewards and the people who know what is happening in that factory.
If the House thinks that it will change traditions that have existed for years, it must realise that it cannot do it and will not do it. The flag will fly. The hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) knows that. We all know that. We are not foolish. We know what is in people's hearts and minds. I know of other factories that are republican and they have their flag flying and pictures of the hunger strikers around the wall.
§ Mr. Mallon
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way in this debate on the renewal of direct rule and on the enormous problems that face the north of Ireland. Is there some significance in the fact that almost the entire speech of the hon. Gentleman has concentrated on the drinking of pints on Sunday and the flying of flags in certain factories in the north of Ireland? Is it not indicative of the attitude towards those problems that he concentrates on what are peripheral symbols and items that are peripheral to the real problems that face the people in the north of Ireland? Will the hon. Gentleman address the real problems for a change?
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
We have heard a timely comment that the national flag is only a peripheral matter to the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh. He wants it to be on the periphery and then he wants to put it out altogether. The hon. Gentleman had better learn that spiritual values in regard to the keeping of Sunday go right to the quick of the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland, and when he is touching that subject he is touching something with which his republicanism will never interfere. I shall make my speech in my own way. All the organisations in Northern Ireland which do not have the religious views that I have say that there are far too many outlets for alcohol. I am sure that the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) may have a different view from that of his hon. Friends the Members for Foyle and Newry and Armagh. I do not want to keep the hon. Member for South Down from making his maiden speech. All I can say is that the House needs to recognise some realities. The things I am talking about are realities. They go right to the heart of the matter. I trust that on this day in the House we will get down to the real basics concerning Northern Ireland.
I was in the House when Stormont was abolished. There was a sense of euphoria. Everybody said, "It's all over." In fact, even the Prime Minister told us that there 215 would be peace at last. I said, "You do not know what you are talking about. You will have only bloodshed and violence."
People talk about 50 years of misrule. I was never a member of the Government in Northern Ireland so they cannot blame me for any misrule. I was never there and nor was the leader of the Ulster Unionist party. The right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) was there for a while. If we look at the record of those 50 years and then look at the record since we have had direct rule, we can see the tombstones we are erecting every second day in Northern Ireland. The House needs to ask itself whether it made the right decision on that day. All I can say is that we do not rule our Province. If there are no civil rights in Northern Ireland, there is a conference—[Interruption.] If there are things in Northern Ireland that the Ulster Members on the Opposition Benches do not like, the Secretary of State is the man to blame. One should not blame the unionists, because they have no power. What is more, I was amazed when the Secretary of State made a confession. He said that the people of Northern Ireland have less say. Then we had the Anglo-Irish Agreement which, in my opinion, gives us even less of a say.
In the mood it is in it would be wise for the House to try to see whether we can find a way to resolve the difficulties. I will pledge myself and any ability that I have to see that my part is done. I will do my part because I have a stake in Northern Ireland. I want to see my family grow up there. I want to see my grandchildren grow up there and I want it to be a place where there can be real peace, real stability and real reconciliation, not meaningless names and more death among our people. It will not be an easy road. I think that the Ulster Members on the Opposition Benches know that. It will take a lot of dedication and all the strength that we can bring to the task. It is a task worth taking on and if we make progress those coming after us will at least he able to thank us for doing our bit on an evil day.
§ 5.9 pm
§ Mr. John David Taylor (Strangford)
There is a feeling of deja vu in this debate because, as the Secretary of State so accurately pointed out, this is the 13th occasion on which a British Government have had to renew by order the system of government in Northern Ireland. That system was originally introduced by the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) who said that it was a temporary measure, one year or so, and then a system of government would be restored in Northern Ireland. Now, some 15 years later, we are still talking about the possibility of devolved government in Northern Ireland.
It was, of course, the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) who abandoned devolved government in Northern Ireland. During the debate in 1985, when we discussed the Anglo-Irish Agreement—which was not passed as a matter of law by this House, but simply as a motion of approval—he said that one of the great weaknesses of English politicians is that they do not understand Ulster politics. Those were the first wise words that he ever said about Northern Ireland. Certainly, his career over the years proved that he knew very little about Northern Ireland. In fact, it has been shown recently that his love for Northern Ireland is bettered only by his love for the Prime Minister. I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup is not in the House this 216 afternoon because he and those who have followed him to destroy devolution are now trying to restore devolved government in Northern Ireland. There seems to have been irony in the attitude of English politicians towards Northern Ireland during those sad years since 1972. They, and no one else, must accept responsibility for that period. They must accept the responsibility for the tragedy that has developed in the Roman Catholic and Protestant communities in Northern Ireland.
We recently had an election. That election produced a stalemate in Northern Ireland. The SDLP did not benefit from the Anglo-Irish Agreement, as English politicians promised it would. In fact, Sinn Fein defeated the SDLP in the one real contest between them in Belfast, West. Of course, there has been a change in South Down, the constituency to the south of mine. However, as we well know, that was caused by tactical voting. "Get the Brit out" was the message, and the voters were successful.
I am sorry that my former colleague, Mr. J. Enoch Powell, the former right hon. Member for South Down, is no longer a Member of the House. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have paid tribute to him and, as an Ulster Unionist, I want to add my support to those who have praised him. As a party, the Ulster Unionists will miss Mr. Powell. Ulster will miss him and this Parliament will miss his many contributions on a wide variety of subjects. I hope that, for many years ahead, he will still be able to pronounce in public on behalf of the whole of the United Kingdom.
The Anglo-Irish Agreement does not seem to have had any effect in the United Kingdom general election in Northern Ireland. In Northern Ireland, more than 400,000 unionists once again proved that they were rock solid against Dublin rule in that part of the United Kingdom. They expressed yet again their solid opposition to the existence of Eire civil servants in Maryfield, near Belfast. The only place where the agreement played a part was in Scotland. The Anglo-Irish Agreement assisted in the defeat of nine Tory candidates and almost defeated two Tory Cabinet Ministers—the right hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) and the right hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind).
§ Mr. Taylor
Indeed, they believe it. They say so, and the papers say so.
The Anglo-Irish Agreement has failed. We were told by the Prime Minister and the agreement's supporters that it would bring stability. In fact, it has increased instability in all aspects of life in Northern Ireland. We were told that it would bring about reconciliation in Northern Ireland. Instead, it has created bitterness that we have never experienced before in the Province. Even Cardinal O'Fiaich, at the end of last year speaking in Dublin, said that he had never known feelings in Northern Ireland to be worse.
We all know the sad statistics about security. When the former Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland replied to the debate on the Anglo-Irish Agreement, he said that we have seen a great period of decline in terrorism in Northern Ireland. He was right. In 1983, 1984 and 1985 we saw a continual fall in terrorist activity in Northern Ireland. However, since the agreement was signed in November 1985, there has been a steady increase in terrorism in all parts of Northern Ireland. Once again, that is attributable to the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
217 Of course, we were assured of other things by those who still try to support the Anglo-Irish Agreement. We were assured that the Dublin Government would bring about extradition. What has happened to that extradition, 20 months after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement? Even Dr. FitzGerald postponed extradition until December of this year. Our suspicions are beginning to be aroused that the new Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland will postpone the introduction of extradition indefinitely.
We were told that the Anglo-Irish Agreement would bring about support for the Royal Ulster Constabulary from the SDLP. Once again, we know that when the former Foreign Minister in the Republic of Ireland, Mr. Barry, encouraged members of the Catholic minority to join the RUC, he was criticised by the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon), speaking on behalf of his leader and the entire SDLP.
§ Mr. Taylor
Indeed, the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) has confirmed that.
That is the present position, and that is why we laughed when the Secretary of State said that we must start from the present position. So we must. The present position is that the Anglo-Irish Agreement has been disastrous for everyone in Northern Ireland.
I believe and hope that somewhere there must be a way ahead for the Province, and many people in Northern Ireland would agree with that. We have been through a nightmare, and we hope to replace that nightmare with dreams. We have had hatred, and we must replace that with love. Above all, we have had much despair, and we must raise the hopes of our people, but not falsely. There is a great danger that we might do that now in Northern Ireland. We might build up hopes which then melt away.
"Let us have talks" is the cry today in Northen Ireland from some who perhaps have not analysed the situation sufficiently closely. Talks with whom and talks about what? First, I want to consider with whom the talks should be. I notice that invitations have been sent to Her Majesty's Government for inter-party talks in Scotland. The Scottish Tory party immediately rejected the idea of any round-table talks with the Scottish nationalists and the Scottish Labour party. However, they take the reverse position in Northern Ireland. The inconsistencies of Government policy in Scotland and Northern Ireland are obvious. If we cannot have political talks among parties in Scotland, how would they be successful in Northern Ireland, where leaders of all political parties have regrettably had to pin themselves on so many political hooks in the past few years and from which it is difficult for them to climb down.
If there are to be talks, I am opposed to inter-party talks in Northern Ireland. Talks there will be, but, when that time comes, those talks must be with Her Majesty's Government. What will the talks be about? Many thoughts have been thrown around, some rashly, in recent weeks. One suggestion has been independence. The idea of independence in Northern Ireland is an idle threat. It has no basis whatsoever.
I represent a constituency in which many thousands of people work in Harland and Wolff and Short Brothers. The jobs of those people would be at risk if there were 218 independence. What about the old-age pensioners and the widows in my constituency? How would they survive if there were independence? If the British Army cannot defeat terrorism, how could we, without the support of the British Army, defeat terrorism in Northern Ireland? I believe that independence should not be suggested by anyone who honours the word unionist today.
It has been suggested also that there should be integration and that Northern Ireland should be incorporated into the United Kingdom in exactly the same way as Wales, Scotland and England and that the British Conservative and Socialist parties should become the main political parties in Northern Ireland. In reality, the minority Irish community in Northern Ireland would not support either pro-British party. The majority British community in Northern Ireland does not trust either of the political parties in Great Britain. It is not, therefore, practical politics to envisage integration taking off in Northern Ireland.
Devolution is another suggestion. For 13 years the Government have tried to rebuild, and failed, what they destroyed 15 years ago. Again, the Government's inconsistencies are evident. They say to Scotland, "No devolved government for Scotland." They say to Wales, "No devolution for Wales." But to Northern Ireland they say, "Let us try to rebuild institutions of devolved government in Northern Ireland." What conditions would the Government want to apply to devolved government in Northern Ireland, assuming the Anglo-Irish Agreement were out of the way? Eventually, the Anglo-Irish Agreement will have to go.
The Government talk about power sharing, imposed or otherwise. All the parties would either be in the Government or support the Government. There would be no Opposition. It would be like Tehran with the Ayatollah or like Moscow with the Kremlin—no Opposition; everyone in the Government. How could such a devolved system of government operate in a Western democracy in part of the United Kingdom?
Of course, there would be power sharing also in the Cabinet or the Executive. The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) could well be Prime Minister and the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh Minister for Home Affairs in charge of security. Only a few moments ago they were arguing about a flag. Can we expect such a Cabinet or Government to survive in Northern Ireland? That would not be realistic. The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup is correct in saying that if English politicians understood Northern Ireland, they would not contemplate one further year of that system. For 13 years the Government have failed with such a ridiculous formula, and they will continue to do so.
Is there a way ahead after the ideas of independence, integration and a power-sharing devolved Government are knocked down? Time is on our side within the unionist majority. We will destroy the Anglo-Irish Agreement. In fact, five of the Cabinet Ministers who introduced it have already disappeared from the Cabinet. We should now proceed with a stage-by-stage retreat from the Anglo-Irish Agreement. I do not believe that the agreement, failure as it is, will disappear overnight—it would be too much to expect the Government to be so realistic. We have to undermine the agreement stage by stage.
First, we have to give the people of Northern Ireland the same rights in their national Parliament as are enjoyed by the people of England, Scotland and Wales. That 219 means that we must abandon the idea of legislation by Orders in Council with no right of amendment by Northern Ireland Members of legislation affecting their part of the United Kingdom. It is an outrage that this is the only part of the European Economic Community where an elected Member of Parliament cannot table amendments to laws affecting his part of the country. There will soon be legislation on licensing laws in England and Wales and, as a Northern Ireland Member, I shall be able to table an amendment to it. But next week there will be licensing legislation for Northern Ireland and, as a Northern Ireland Member, I shall not be allowed to table amendments to it. Northern Ireland Members could participate in the defeat of Sunday trading in Great Britain, but they are not allowed to amend the law that introduces Sunday drinking in Northern Ireland which was imposed on us by people who are not answerable to the Northern Ireland electorate. That must be changed.
As a first step, we must be given the same rights in our national Parliament as are enjoyed by our fellow British citizens in England, Scotland and Wales—proper parliamentary procedures for Northern Ireland legislation with the right to table amendments. Secondly, the democratic and constitutional parties representing the nationalist and unionist points of view must become more involved in the administration of the state of Northern Ireland, not in the legislation for the state. That can be done through a committee system, whether at Stormont or elsewhere. There is a parallel in the European Parliament. Each main subject is controlled by a committee of Members of Parliament who are drawn from all the political parties in the European Parliament. The chairmanship of all those committees is shared by Members from all political parties. That would be a first step towards reintroducing devolution in Northern Ireland. Health, education and environment committees would be made up of members of all the elected constitutional parties in Northern Ireland and each committee would be chaired by the representatives of those parties. That would overcome the problem whereby health, education and other important local government matters are controlled by the nominees of an English politician who are not answerable at local level to the Northern Ireland people.
The third stage must be recognition of the fact that there is an Irish dimension. Northern Ireland has been in the United Kingdom for 187 years and is likely to remain so for many more, but it is located in the island of Ireland, albeit partitioned because the south of Ireland broke away in 1921. The people of the island share many things, beyond the weather. In 1962, when I was chairman of the Ulster Young Unionist Council, I led a delegation of Young Unionists to a meeting with the Fine Gael party in Dublin. Some said that it was crazy and that we would be expelled from the party when we returned to Belfast. In fact, when we returned, the Ulster Unionist party approved our visit. It was the members of the Fine Gael party who were expelled from the Fine Gael party in Dublin for meeting us, following the formula that we had agreed, which was simply to respect each other's position.
During the 22 years since then I have always felt that we must do more to improve co-operation between Northern Ireland and the Republic. There are factors which, more so now than even then, are important and common to us. We are now both within the EEC—the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland as part of the 220 United Kingdom—so there can be co-operation on matters involving EEC policies. There can be co-operation to increase trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic and to deal with tourism and the transport network. All those factors would benefit from joint discussions between Northern Ireland and the Republic. That is the practical Irish dimension.
A new institution could be created within the island of Ireland. Representatives from the Dublin Parliament and from the new administrative body in Stormont, or greater council for Ulster, would meet regularly to consider matters relevant to both parts of the island and to report to their respective institutions in Dublin and Belfast. That would bring about greater understanding in Ireland, and it would be far more important that politicians in southern and Northern Ireland got to know each other better than that each Parliament in Dublin and London proceeded to create a parliamentary tier to the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Council. Such a tier, comprising, as it would, only English and southern Irish politicians, and certainly not politicians representing the majority community in Northern Ireland, would do nothing to improve relations within the island of Ireland—which, after all, must be the objective of any new system of government and institutions that we create.
We must try to take the problem of Northern Ireland in stages. We must not build up false hopes. Above all, we must never again announce any grand new initiative by the Government.
§ Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)
The hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) will not misunderstand me if, when I congratulate him on his election to the House, I say that I wish he were not here. All who have spoken in the debate have paid tribute to his predecessor, and the hon. Gentleman, in the speech that he will shortly be making, will no doubt pay a tribute to that predecessor for his work as a constituency Member of Parliament, about which he is peculiarly well informed.
We in the House will certainly miss the former right hon. Member for South Down, who made a remarkable contribution to our affairs—not only in debates on Northern Ireland since October 1974, but on many other matters. If the hon. Gentleman is able to approximate to the parliamentary and forensic skills of his predecessor, he will indeed be a distinguished Member of the House.
Today's debate takes place against a sombre background of high hopes that were shared by every hon. Member, including those who believed as I did that the Anglo-Irish Agreement would prolong and not diminish Ulster's agony. Now we meet 20 months on, and those who hoped, even if they did not believe it, that peace, stability and reconciliation could come to Northern Ireland as a result of the agreement—even those who had higher hopes than I did—have had their hopes diminished.
I still feel that hon. Members, and those outside the House, do not understand how dramatic was the change in the Government's policy. That change can be illustrated most vividly by two remarks made in the House by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, one during her first premiership and the other during her second. On 29 July 1982 my right hon. Friend said:no commitment exists for Her Majesty's Government to consult the Irish Government on matters affecting Northern 221 Ireland. That has always been our position. We reiterate and emphasise it, so that everyone is clear about it."—[Official Report, 29 July 1982; Vol. 28, c. 1226.]Barely two years later, during her second premiership, my right hon. Friend said:The constitutional future of Northern Ireland is a matter for Northern Ireland and this Parliament, and for no one else."—[Official Report, 17 May 1984; Vol. 60, c. 503.]My right hon. Friend used those words deliberately. She used them because she knew that that assurance was required from the head of the Government to those in Northern Ireland who believed that there was no part for the Republic of Ireland in the constitutional future of the Province. Imagine the contrast when we read the words of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, which states:The United Kingdom Government accept that the Irish Government will put forward views and proposals on matters relating to Northern Ireland. Determined efforts shall be made to resolve any differences.My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State continues to assert that the Anglo-Irish Agreement has brought about no change in the status of Northern Ireland. In the Province, that view is not shared by a single member of the unionist community. I believe that the status of Northern Ireland has been changed because we have given a foreign power—the only power whose constitution lays claim to the territory of Northern Ireland—the right to put forward views and proposals about the government of the Province, and have laid upon my right hon. Friend an obligation, in the event of a difference of view between himself and the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic, to make determined efforts to resolve differences.
In a curious way, the arrival of the hon. Member for South Down has undermined part of the philosophy that lay behind the Anglo-Irish Agreement. In effect, the agreement gave the Irish Republic responsibility for protecting the interests of nationalists in Northern Ireland. That responsibility, placed by Her Majesty's Government upon the Government of a foreign power, has been undermined because of the hon. Gentleman's arrival. Three SDLP Members are now seated on the Opposition Benches, and another hon. Member, who, although he does not attend the House, could also be described properly as a nationalist, has been elected to this place. We have four nationalist Members, and we are now achieving an approximation between the representation of nationalist Members in the House and the nationalist population in the Province.
My right hon. Friends who sit on the Treasury Bench will be obliged to profess their continuing faith that the Anglo-Irish Agreement will bring peace, stability and reconciliation. Nevertheless, we know that in the past 20 months there has been added violence, added sectarian suspicion and added turmoil in Northern Ireland, and we know—alas—that during that time there has not been the improvement in the economy of Northern Ireland for which we had all hoped. A change of policy will be necessary in the future.
I am not saying to my right hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench that the Anglo-Irish Agreement should he torn up; we know that that is impossible. However, we can move away from the most objectionable features of that agreement. Let me put some proposals to my right hon. Friend.
222 The right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) and the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) both referred—rightly, in my view—to the illogicality and unjustifiability of the way in which we legislate for Northern Ireland. Legislation for Northern Ireland should no longer be virtually exclusively by Order in Council. Orders in Council of course apply to England, Scotland and Wales. Nevertheless, it is absurd—as the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) pointed out—that a Member of Parliament for a Northern Ireland constituency should be able to move amendments to proposed legislation for England but should be unable to do so in respect of proposed legislation for Northern Ireland. That injustice can be remedied and I hope that it will be.
Secondly, there is no reason whatever why the secretariat that serves the Intergovernmental Conference should be sited in Northern Ireland. There is no reason whatever why that secretariat should not be moved to London and I hope that it will be. There are several reasons for this, including security.
Thirdly, although when my right hon. Friend was kind enough to give way to me during his speech he referred to the fact that he was not responsible for the abandonment of the policy upon which he and I fought and won the 1979 general election, it is nevertheless open to those who serve in the Northern Ireland Office—and certainly open to my right hon. Friend—to revive a policy that had been worked out by his friend and mine, Airey Neave, as a result of four years of the closest study during which Airey Neave was shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. It is a mistake to believe that we are always wiser in 1987 than we were in 1979.
§ Mr. Molyneaux
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. He refreshes our memory by stating that those proposals were included in the 1979 Conservative party manifesto. I am sure he would also agree that the Conservative party won a considerable victory in that election. Therefore, that policy was endorsed by the majority of the British people.
§ Mr. Gow
The right hon. Gentleman reminds me of the poll tax—[HON. MEMBERS: "The community charge."] Quite right. I do not myself believe that all those who voted for the official Opposition are in favour of Britain giving up her nuclear weapons on her own. Therefore, I do not subscribe to the doctrine of the manifesto giving a particular authority. However, I do not wish to be diverted as other hon. Members wish to contribute.
I was making suggestions to my right hon. Friend and was proposing a change in the way in which we legislate for the Province. I was proposing a movement of the secretariat from the Province to London. My third proposal is that we should examine again the proposal in the 1979 manifesto to set up a regional council—I prefer a single regional council or a provincial council—that in Northern Ireland would be clothed with powers similar to those enjoyed by a county council in England or a regional council in Scotland.
223 Next, we should give modest additional powers to the 26 district councils in Northern Ireland. It is literally absurd that matters as essentially local as car parking cannot be dealt with other than by Her Majesty's Ministers, however distinguished they are. We should give further modest additional powers to the district councils in Northern Ireland to bring them more closely into line with the powers of district councils in England.
Within the changed system of government that I have described to bring the Province more closely into line with the way in which we govern England, Scotland and Wales, I am most emphatically not asserting that Northern Ireland is the same as England, Wales or Scotland, any more than those who happen to have been born as Yorkshiremen would assert that there is no difference between Yorkshire and Lancashire. I am a Scotsman by descent and very proud of it too. But the great difficulty into which the Government have got themselves is that we are seeking to govern one part of the United Kingdom differently from the rest of it, differently from the way in which it had been governed previously and without the consent of a majority of the people who are being governed differently. It is not possible to go on doing so.
In Northern Ireland it is essential that within the framework of government that I have described there should be no discrimination by nationalist against unionist or by unionist against nationalist. There should be no discrimination by Roman Catholic against Protestant or by Protestant against Roman Catholic. If we are to ensure no abuse of the modest additional powers that I would like to be given to the district councils or the powers that I would like to see conferred upon a regional or provincial council, added impetus and authority should be given to an ombudsman to prevent discrimination. That I would welcome.
Equal citizenship within a united kingdom is most emphatically not a prerequisite for peace, stability and reconciliation in Northern Ireland. It is simplistic to talk in terms of a solution, but it is the task of statesmen to follow the policy that offers the least danger and the greatest hope. The present policies will not be able to deliver the people of Northern Ireland from the agony through which they have passed. It is time for a fresh start to be made.
§ Mr. Eddie McGrady (South Down)
I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for this opportunity to make my maiden speech in a Northern Ireland debate. I also thank the Secretary of State and other hon. Members for the welcome that they have given me this afternoon.
The former right hon. Member for the South Down seat, Mr. Enoch Powell, said that the constituency that he represented was the most beautiful and that the people were the friendliest to be found. His words were magnanimous indeed, coming as they did immediately after a crushing personal result for the man who, if he were here still, would now be the Father of the House. While distancing myself from most of what my predecessor stood for, I take this opportunity to sympathise with him on a personal level and to pay tribute to him for his distingushed parliamentary career.
My own home town of Downpatrick in South Down holds the grave of St. Patrick, the missionary who brought the message of Christ to Ireland and the man who spread the gospel of peace among the Irish. It was from my 224 constituency that Christianity and learning spread thoughout the length and breadth of Ireland and, in the fullness of time, cast its civilising influence over large tracts of western Europe. In the age of darkness, the religious establishments in the County of Down did much to maintain the enlightenment, learning and beliefs that so characterised the Celtic Christian era.
Today, however, instead of that enlightenment and peace, we endure the distress of mistrust, fear, hatred and violence that exists between the two communities, both of which claim to adhere to the ideals of Patrick. Yet each still has a genuine longing for peace, founded on a just settlement that guarantees the rights of all and does not threaten the traditions, culture and identities of any.
To sit in this Chamber and to be a Member of the Parliament that has played so pivotal a role in the affairs of Irish history and the relationships between the Irish and British peoples is to feel a deep sense of the echoes of the past. Over the years, many parliamentarians have sought to solve the Irish problem. It was in this House that the great Irish leaders, O'Connell and Parnell, pleaded my country's cause. It was in this House, too, that leaders such as Gladstone and Asquith—all of their time—brought forward proposals to heal the divisions of Ireland. All of them failed, but in their failure they left a reminder to those who come after them that there is an unfinished agenda and a challenge that has yet to he tackled.
My constituency has recently witnessed some of the most callous atrocities in the catalogue of suffering and pain that Northern Ireland has experienced over the past two decades. Indeed, the experience of my constituency sums up the task facing all of us in seeking to bring stability and peace to Northern Ireland. Two communities live side by side. The overwhelming majority of people in each community simply want to live their lives and bring up their families in decency and integrity. However, the divisions remain, and those divisions are deep. Such divisions, and the alienation that flows from them, are not and cannot be healed by rhetoric, threats or security measures alone. It took a long, long time for that simple reality to be grasped. If the problems could have been solved in such a way, they would have been solved long before our time.
It is not possible to legislate away animosities that have existed for centuries, but it is possible to create a framework in which animosities and the sense of grievance no longer have fertile soil in which to grow. For that to happen, our people need to have a sense of belonging in their community, a perception that their own identity is honoured and a belief that they have a stake in the future of their country.
I submit that the Anglo-Irish Agreement provides a framework in which to achieve those objectives and that it has offered a real sense of hope to the people of Northern Ireland for the first time in many years. It is true that many unionist communities still reject the agreement and what it symbolises, but many have yet to learn the lesson that a community can only be built upon reconciliation and by providing all our people with the sense that their aspirations are legitimate and are recognised within the structures of their society. Is that too much to ask? Is it too much to ask the leaders of the unionist community to recognise that no one seeks to take away their rights or the rights of the people who they 225 represent? Is it too much to ask them to sit down with us, with open minds and hearts, and talk about the way forward for all of us?
Over the years, my party has sought to achieve a framework involving the two islands of Britain and Ireland as well as the two communities within Northern Ireland. We believe that that is the only way in which to achieve real stability and peace in our country. We believe in the coming together, one day, of all Irish people. We have a right to that aspiration and goal, just as the unionist community has a right to its aspirations and beliefs, its sense of security and identity. Those rights are not mutually exclusive. The Anglo-Irish Agreement seeks to provide a framework in which neither community loses anything, but both have their traditions and rights enhanced.
We in Northern Ireland stand at a unique moment in the saga of Irish history. We now have a framework to take us out of the prison of that history. The framework was constructed and endorsed by this very House in 1985. However, we must overcome the tendency to repeat our tragic past and all the suffering that has gone with it. The choice lies between clambering along the difficult road of hope and taking a free ride down into the depths of despair.
South Down is, indeed, a beautiful place, but beneath that beauty and the innate friendliness of its people there lies a disturbing degree of neglect and need. Thirteen years of direct rule have not led to any great solutions of our problems. Indeed the economic problems and social deprivation of South Down have been intensified and exacerbated during those years of direct rule. Worse still, people see no prospect of an improvement in their position in the immediate future, unless the Government take urgent and remedial action.
On this occasion, it is only possible to touch briefly on certain aspects of direct rule as it affects South Down and the other constituencies of Northern Ireland. First, I am concerned about the unequal distribution of resources, which has adversely affected my constituency. I refer to the lack of expenditure on adequate infrastructures and the lack of industrial development or the encouragement of new industries to be sited in the constituency, particularly in the areas of highest unemployment. Indeed, it would appear that a new Pale is being created around the shores of Belfast Lough, as a Pale was once created around Dublin city, from the 12th century to the 16th century.
I am greatly disappointed that stronger action has not been taken to enforce equality of opportunity in the employment that does exist or to ensure that discrimination is immediately and effectively penalised in every way. I regret to say that I refer to discrimination not only in private industry but in Government and semi-Government establishments. It is a matter within the power of the administration of Northern Ireland, and I hope that a new, fresh and vigorous look will be taken at the problem to initiate immediate changes.
In general, my constituency has not fared well under direct rule, whatever aspect one wishes to examine. Indeed, it appears to be greatly disadvantaged. In the first debate that I attended in this House, the Prime Minister commented on falling unemployment figures. However, in a throw-away phrase she excluded Northern Ireland as it remained outside the national trend. Not only are there no 226 jobs for thousands of people in my constituency; there is precious little hope for them either. They feel marginalised, forgotten and irrelevant. They have noted that the benefits of wealth creation have been denied them—that the bulk of spending in Northern Ireland has been centred on areas apart from theirs. Surely a task of economic policy must be to distribute resources where they are most needed and to provide outlets for people's talents. I hope that my work in this House will be strenuously devoted to making that a reality and to meeting the needs of my constituents.
The base industry in South Down is agriculture. It may surprise many hon. Members to learn that the entire constituency is designated as a less-favoured area under the EEC regulations; how disappointing it was to us, therefore—and particularly to small farmers—that agreement was not reached at Brussels last week. The changes have been too little, and the damning fact is that farm incomes in Northern Ireland—I say this with particular reference to South Down—are running at only 60 per cent. of the average for the past nine years. This dramatic collapse of incomes in our base industry is all the more keenly felt in the small farm areas that dominate South Down.
I have noticed how often one social disadvantage leads inexorably to the creation of another. I know that many hon. Members share my concern that those who have no jobs or who earn very low incomes should not be further isolated and deprived by cuts in the social welfare programme. They find themselves faced with a double-edged sword, which, on the one hand, denies them the means by which to support themselves and raise their families and, on the other, chops away the benefits that could help them enjoy even a basic quality of life. We must treat the causes and cushion the effects of unemployment with equal force.
Similarly, I am alarmed at what is happening to our health services. The mood for centralisation has become a runaway vehicle. We are faced with the threat of the closure of an acute hospital in the north of the constituency for reasons that have nothing whatever to do with the medical needs of the area. Our hospital is an integral and precious part of our lives, and to witness closure would be to contemplate medical murder for those patients whose future depends on immediate skilled help. We do not want the closure of a hospital but reinvestment of the resources that have already been taken away from it.
However, a more subtle danger that assails part of my constituency comes directly from this side of the water. It is the British Nuclear Fuels reprocessing plant at Sellafield. Today I voice the urgent concern of the people who live on the South Down coastland, which is directly opposite the Cumbrian site. I know that our concern is no less than that felt on this side of the Irish sea. In my constituency, we have a high incidence of leukaemia and cancer-related deaths, and we believe sincerely that the plant and the wastes that it discharges into the Irish sea have a significant bearing on the statistics. To put it bluntly, we suffer the ill-effects of the nuclear industry without having any of its so-called benefits, either in national wealth or in job provision.
I welcome last week's announcement by British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. to build a multi-million-pound treatment plant to remove some radioactive material from the waste being discharged into the Irish sea, but I believe that that announcement is a de facto admission that the current 227 levels of radioactive discharge into the Irish sea are harmful to the public. The partial clean-up has been brought about, not by the concern of the industry, but by a forceful and vigorous outcry against the sinister pollution which is being pumped daily into the Irish sea. It is my ambition to see that discharge totally stopped and, in the fullness of time, the Sellafield project, which was found so wanting in many aspects by an all-party Committee of the House, closed for ever.
On those issues, I sought a mandate from the people of South Down to represent them in Parliament and to fight for their concerns, and that is what I shall do. I appeal to all Members from the different parties who were elected in Northern Ireland to join together to try to bring peace and harmony to Northern Ireland, which will eventually lead to the better quality of life which we all so earnestly desire. We can do it jointly by trying to ease the worst effects of unemployment, poverty and deprivation. We can do it by coining together to create structures that would allow both communities to live in peace with each other and with a sense of mutual belonging. That is not an impossible goal. That is not an unrealistic aspiration.
We have all spent too long cursing the darkness, regretting the lost opportunities, and rejecting the possibility of future progress. Let us now work together for all the people of Northern Ireland so that we can build those bridges of healing and reconciliation. For too long, too many have slept in the wounds of others. We have a chance to work together in the interests of all our people. It is in that spirit that I intend to represent my constituents of South Down.
§ 6.3 pm
§ Sir John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest)
The hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) struck the right note when he quoted his predecessor's words in praise of the beauty and the people of his constituency. De Valera once said that Down is the county that every Irishman loves best after his own. It is a great thing for the hon. Gentleman to represent South Down, and I am happy to follow him because, had my grandfather been a Methuselah and lived to the age of 129, he would have been a constituent of the hon. Gentleman's. I still have relatives living on the land in the townland of Ballinaskeagh. Had my grandfather lived long enough, he might have voted for the hon. Gentleman. He was a Liberal—I do not know how the hon. Gentleman stands in relation to them—a home ruler and a minister of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland. I sometimes wonder what he would have thought of his Roman Catholic, Tory, Unionist grandson.
I frequently read about the new Member for South Down in the Down Recorder and lesser newspapers, and I know of his prominence in the affairs of Downpatrick and further afield. I expected him to give us the excellent maiden speech to which he treated us this afternoon. It was eloquent, eirenic and humane, and it showed a great concern for the problems and privations of his constituency. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will contribute to future debates in the House, not only about his constituency and Northern Ireland but about the affairs of the kingdom as a whole.
Nevertheless, the hon. Gentleman will have his work cut out to emulate the service given to the people of South Down by our former right hon. Friend Enoch Powell—given without regard to denomination or opinion. I 228 confess that I felt politically bereaved by his defeat, and I sense that the House as a whole regrets the loss of one of the great parliamentarians, one of the few orators and one of the few stylists of our time. Many people have observed the remorseless logic of Enoch Powell. Not quite so many have observed the poetry that informed his patriotism and his politics.
When my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State opened the debate he quoted the Gracious Speech on the subject of Northern Ireland. It has not been lost on me that there was no specific reference in that speech from the Throne to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. I know that the Social Democratic and Labour party likes the agreement. It is to its benefit, if not of its creation, but alas it has poisoned the polity of Northern Ireland. There has been much talk about the alienation of the minority in Northern Ireland from the institutions of the state. There has been propagandist exaggeration of that alienation. I do not think that it is as great as it is made out to be—outside hard republican elements—and there has certainly been no alienation from the institutions of the welfare state. But has it been worth while to replace the alienation of the minority with the alienation of the majority?
The Friends of the Union, in which my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) and I play some part, will be publishing as a pamphlet two articles on the Anglo-Irish Agreement which appeared in the journal of the Policy Studies Institute and in the Belfast Telegraph of 15 and 16 June. Those articles were written by a distinguished Northern Ireland civil servant, Dr. John Oliver, who thus sums up the fruits of the agreement:Continuing (and even bolder) Republican violence"—he might have added "sectarian violence"—a widening gulf between ordinary unionists and nationalists in Ulster; and a worsening economic outlook.As the right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) indicated, Cardinal O'Fiaich said no less.
The absence for a time of the Ulster Unionist parties from the House did not surprise me; I have shared their anguish. I welcome their return, but let not the House be deceived. They have not suddenly fallen in love with the Anglo-Irish Agreement. There is a change of tactics, not a change of heart, on that matter. However, there is now a chance for us all to do better for Northern Ireland—to put "An end to drift", to use the title of the task force document. I welcome the help that Ulster Members can now give in the search for, to quote that document,an alternative to and replacement of the Anglo-Irish Agreement".The Secretary of State referred to a review being possible next year.
I, like the right hon. Member for Strangford, want the closest co-operation between this country and the Republic. One of my charges against the agreement is that it has worsened relations between Irish people in the two parts of the island.
§ Mr. Gow
Does my hon. Friend recall the words of the present Prime Minister of the Irish Republic on 12 October last year when, speaking at Bodenstown, he said:In the 12 months that have passed since the agreement was signed, the position of Nationalists in the North has in fact seriously worsened.Does not the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic agree with my hon. Friend that the Anglo-Irish Agreement has made even worse the position of nationalists in Northern Ireland?
§ Sir John Biggs-Davison
I am grateful for that intervention. The agreement has worsened the position of nationalists. It has put nationalists in many places in great fear of their lives. I refer to the recrudescence of sectarian murders and violence.
§ Mr. Hume
Will the hon. Gentleman please face the facts? In the election that has just finished, when people went down to the ballot box freely to state their positions, the only party in Northern Ireland that increased both its representation and its vote was the party that fully and unequivocally supports the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
§ Sir John Biggs-Davison
There are many reasons why people vote for parties. There is always a discrepancy in Northern Ireland between the opinions of the people expressed in public opinion surveys and the way that they vote. There is always the tendency, when faced with an election, to vote tribally. This is something that I much regret and it is one important reason why I favour what is called the solution of integration.
§ Mr. Mallon
The hon. Gentleman referred to a speech at Bodenstown. Surely the people best able to gauge the opinions of nationalists in Northern Ireland are those who work among and represent nationalists in Northern Ireland. As to the Anglo-Irish Agreement, would he not accept that on three occasions during the past decade or more there have been serious attempts by the British Government to deal with the problem in Northern Ireland? First was the Sunningdale agreement. Outside of that agreement the Unionist parties tried to bring down what was the devolved Government agreed by a British Government and a British Parliament. Second, a conference was held in 1978 by the then Secretary of State, Sir Humphrey Atkins, outside of which the Official Unionist party was holding a picket and not taking part. The third attempt—the Anglo-Irish Agreement—again found the same Unionist parties outside of an agreement reached by a British Government and a British Parliament. Is it a case of everybody being out of step except our Johnny?
§ Sir John Biggs-Davison
I had better not give way any more lest I keep my hon. Friends and hon. Gentlemen out of the debate. The hon. Gentleman referred to Sunningdale. The main reason that Sunningdale failed was that Dublin and his own party claimed and got too much. That point is well made in the articles by Dr. John Oliver to which I referred.
My hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) asked me whether I had read the speech of the Taoiseach at Bodenstown. I have, and I have it constantly on file. I would like to pay tribute to the present Taoiseach because he, with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, brought into fruitful existence the Anglo-Irish Inter-Governmental Council. That Anglo-Irish Inter-Governmental Council was on the right lines because it was on the basis of reciprocity between the two sovereign powers. When we come to change the Anglo-Irish Agreement we must see that what takes place is on the basis of reciprocity, which is the only basis for fruitful cooperation. I favour the institution of a parliamentary body. However, I would insist that such a parliamentary body should be representative of the Parliaments of the two sovereign states—the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and representative of Oireachtas Eireann.
230 The Anglo-Irish Agreement has other defects but there is one more that I will mention. It is flawed by insistence on the continued pursuit of what I believe to be a will-of-the-wisp-devolved Government. The task force, in its document, declared the objective of devolved Government. One hears other opinions as well from unionists. Devolved government can only further differentiate and distance Northern Ireland from Great Britain. If we go in for devolved government, we shall only stimulate separatist demands in Scotland and Wales which are already beginning to revive.
The party of the hon. Member for South Down would take no part in Mr. Prior's Assembly and would not talk to unionists in that Assembly. However, in this Parliament, rather than in prefabricated checks and balances Assemblies—I am not speaking of regional or local authorities—this dialogue can and does take place between nationalists and unionists.
When replying to the hon. Member for Foyle, I referred to the discrepancy between the opinions of Northern Ireland people as expressed at elections and as expressed in opinion surveys. If one examines opinion surveys over a long period, they are consistent. The latest, by Coopers and Lybrand, in a sample of 1,100 Northern Ireland voters, found 35 per cent. in favour of integration, 24 per cent. in favour of power sharing, 9 per cent. in favour of a united Ireland, 9 per cent. in favour of an independent Ulster, and a measly 6 per cent. in favour of the status quo—the system which the House is asked to renew today.
I do not wish to repeat the trenchant arguments about the misconduct of Northern Ireland business here or the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) for a Select Committee. It is an unjust and undemocratic system which we are operating in respect of Northern Ireland. We have heard again the arguments on both sides about local government.
§ Sir John Biggs-Davison
No, I said that I would not give way again, because I have already given way so often. I do not want to keep other hon. Members out of the debate.
The SDLP does not want to make progress with local government lest it lessens the Government's enthusiasm for legislative devolution and power sharing. It wants Northern Ireland to stay different. There has been much criticism of the so-called unionist veto. Let there not be a nationalist veto in its place. Nationalism is entitled to be respected, but not to dictate. I will give way to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short).
§ Ms. Short
The hon. Gentleman has referred to one opinion poll and it is important that we remember also the opinion poll that was conducted in Britain and published in the Daily Express, which showed that 66 per cent. of the British people wished to withdraw from Northern Ireland. They were divided roughly equally between those who thought that Ireland could be reunited and those who thought that there should be an independent Northern Ireland. It is part of the political picture that people in Britain wish to dissociate themselves from what is being done in our name in Northern Ireland.
§ Sir John Biggs-Davison
I do not think that the issue was put to the people of Great Britain fairly and squarely. They were not asked, "Do you want to expel from the United Kingdom people who want to be loyal to the 231 United Kingdom and remain within it?" I do not think that the issue was put to them in those honest terms. If it were so put, I do not think that we would get anything but a decent answer from the decent people of this country. However, I was discussing the views of the people of Northern Ireland. I thank the hon. Member for Ladywood for placing on the record of the House the facts of the opinion poll that was conducted by the Daily Express. I wish now to bring my remarks to a conclusion, which I shall do in about half a minute.
The battle against terrorism has not nearly been won. Great progress can be made towards defeating it, however, once we convince the terrorists that they will not succeed. Every failed political initiative gives them the feeling that if they continue they can bomb, blast or bore the British out of Ireland. How do we convince them that they will not succeed? We shall do so by proclaiming that this part of the United Kingdom will henceforth be governed as truly a part of the United Kingdom. It is time for Ministers to reckon with the opinions revealed in the survey that I have cited and in many others, come down from the colonial fastness of Stormont and listen to the people of Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Ken Livingstone (Brent, East)
I shall start by praising my predecessor, Mr. Reg Freeson. There are some who may he surprised at that. Our differences were political and I do not think that anyone would suggest that he did not serve his constituency as well and as excellently as any other hon. Member. Therefore, I praise his record in this place, although I played some part in ending his presence here. Given how bad the post is currently, I cannot report that I have had a letter of congratulations from him yet. I shall notify the House when t do. I would not urge right hon. and hon. Members to hold their breath.
I want to thank all the officials of the House, including the police, for their assistance. I cannot recall anywhere that I have been where there is such a degree of helpfulness, general good humour and pleasantness. I am certain that other new Members think the same. I do not know why that should be. Perhaps close proximity to 649 fellow politicians induces this state of good humour, or perhaps there are those who have a private joke that they are not telling the rest of us.
I wish to start by making clear my position on violence. I condemn without equivocation all acts of violence, but I am not prepared to be uneven-handed. I do not believe that we should condemn the violence of the IRA and produce a less strident condemnation of the violence of other extra-legal organisations. Nor do I believe that we should be any the less outraged when those who operate on behalf of the British state and security forces go beyond the law or the conventions of decency, as has occasionally happened. Either we condemn all violence or we are not placed to condemn any of it.
Like many others, I do not believe that direct rule is a workable option for Ireland. I believe that nothing short of a united Ireland will bring about an end to the troubles that have assailed our involvement with that island over hundreds of years, with an especial viciousness over the past two decades. Throughout my parliamentary career I shall continue to press at every opportunity for a withdrawal of Britain from Ireland and the opening to a united Ireland in which the Irish people can decide how best to govern themselves.
232 There are many inevitable contradictions—I am sure that many right hon. and hon. Members will not share this view—in what I perceive as a colonial situation. As in the past, it is inevitable that problems will arise when one power occupies wholly or in part another nation with a separate culture and identity. With the best intentions in the world, the occupying power is led into abuse of its authority, and in so doing alienates key sections of the community.
I should imagine that much the most effective method of recruitment into the IRA has been the consistent abuse of power over decades by those who held the whip hand while Stormont existed through 50 years of misrule. The only thing that is remarkable is that it took 50 years before the present violence erupted. That suggests a degree of patience and tolerance on the part of the minority of Northern Ireland that I do not think many other peoples around the world would necessarily have been prepared to equal.
There have been many instances when the present Government's policies and their agents have been ideal recruiting agents for the IRA. The attitude of the Government towards the hunger strike did more to boost support for those pursuing a violent solution for Northern Ireland than anything that they could have done themselves.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Royal Ulster Constabulary had a shoot-to-kill policy. That has been successfully covered up, but it came close to exposure when Mr. John Stalker was set to investigate it. When it became clear that he was not prepared to be corrupt and that he would not do a whitewash job to let the RUC off the hook, the British establishment, through all its usual means, ensured that he was removed from his task. I wish that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland would pursue the inquiry with the same vigour that he condemns the terrorists and ensure that the results of it are brought to the Floor of the House as rapidly as possible as a matter of public debate. As long as the minority in Northern Ireland believes that there is one law and one tone of condemnation of violence for one section of the community but not the other, we shall not be able to achieve any real progress towards peace.
Representatives of the unionist parties have talked about double standards, and these cannot be denied. We have heard since the Gracious Speech that the British Government intend to continue with the policies that they have been pursuing in the north and possibly to sharpen them to end discrimination against the minority in employment. I welcome that, but if it is good enough for Northern Ireland, why do the British Government do everything possible to prevent Labour councils in Britain that wish to adopt similar policies from ending discrimination against minorities in Britain? We shall not be able to unite the people of Northern Ireland while we have a policy stance for them that is different from that for the rest of the United Kingdom. That makes a mockery of the idea that this is a united kingdom.
One of the greatest problems to arise during the present troubles has been the backlash against the Irish community in Britain, which my constituents in Brent have suffered. Far too many innocent people are subject to harassment by the use of the Prevention of Terrorism Act. It has been used in a way which was never intended. Still today not 1 per cent. of those detained and harassed by the security forces—I am talking about individual 233 Irish women and men making their way backwards and forwards between the two countries—is ever convicted of any form of crime. The Prevention of Terrorism Act is being used by agents of the British state to harass those who actively campaign for a united Ireland. Every time they do it a nail is driven further into the concept of our remaining with any hold in Ireland.
As many other nations have found—for example, the French in Algeria—it is inevitable that if we set out to hold a nation against its will, however good our intentions, abuses of power will occur. I wish to draw attention to that by referring to one specific instance.
During my election campaign in Brent, East, there was an unusual public meeting. An individual was invited to it who has never been a Socialist, who will never be prepared to vote Labour and who thinks that the Tory party is the natural governing party of Britain. He was invited to share a platform with myself and some of the relatives of those who have been subject to miscarriages of justice by the British courts over issues of bombing here in Britain. We invited Mr. Fred Holroyd. For those who do not know, Mr. Holroyd served in Northern Ireland with distinction. As I said, he is no Socialist. He comes from a military family. He went to a Yorkshire grammar school. His whole objective in life was to serve in the British Army. He believed in it totally. He enlisted as a private in the gunners, and three years later he was commissioned into the Royal Corps of Transport. He volunteered for the Special Military Intelligence unit in Northern Ireland when the present troubles began, and he was trained at the Joint Services School of Intelligence. Once his training was finished, he was stationed in Portadown, where, for two and a half years, he ran a series of intelligence operations. I quote him so that there can be no suspicion that he might be a secret member of the Militant Tendency or a secret republican. At the public meeting, his words were that he believed that the Army officers and men with whom he worked weregenuinely honest men trying to do the best job in the circumstances. They were in a no-win situation.When he was recruited as an M16 officer, he said of them that they were not disagreeable; their ethics were reasonable; they were seeking a political solution. His complaint, which eventually led to his removal from the Army and an attempt to discredit him, which has been largely successful, was made when the M16 operation was taken over by M15 in 1975—by many of the same people who are dealt with in Peter Wright's book, and many of the same people who are alleged to have been practising treason against the elected Labour Government of the time. He said that once the M15 took over the reasonable ethics of M16 were pushed aside by operatives in the intelligence world who supported the views of Mr. Kitson and the policies and tactics of subverting the subverters. I recommend Brigadier Kitson's words to those who are not aware of them. His attitude was to create a counter-terror group, to have agents provocateur, to infiltrate, and to run a dirty tricks campaign in an attempt to discredit the IRA.
Mr. Holroyd continued to believe that what he was doing was in the best interests of the British state until early in 1975, when Captain Robert Nairac, who, as many hon. Members will know, was later murdered by the IRA, went into his office, fresh from a cross-border operation 234 —something that of course is completely illegal—and showed him the colour photographs that had been taken by Captain Nairac's team. Captain Nairac had crossed the border with some volunteers from the UDF. He had assassinated John Francis Green, an active member of the IRA who was living south of the border. As an agent of the British Government operating across the border as an assassin he had brought back photographs as proof of that operation. When Captain Nairac showed the photographs, Mr. Holroyd started to object, not because he objected to an active member of the IRA being assassinated in a highly illegal cross-border raid but because he realised that once the British state started to perpetrate such methods there was no way that eventually Britain would not alienate vast sections of the community and eventually lose the struggle for the hearts and minds of the Irish people.
Holroyd then started to object to the use of such illegal methods by M15 officers. He was immediately shuffled to one side by the expedient method of being taken to a mental hospital and being declared basically unfit for duty. During the month that he spent in the British mental hospital, the three tests that were administered to him were completely successfully passed. Certainly, over a decade later, having met him, I can see no evidence whatsoever that he was in some sense mentally unbalanced. He was a spy who realised that the operations of the British Government were counter-productive. He started to object, and was pushed to one side for his pains.
I raise the link with Captain Robert Nairac because, as I said, Fred Holroyd had qualms about this but was not particularly shocked; these things happen in a war. The matter needs to be investigated. I cannot prove the claims but allegations are being made extensively here in Britain, in republican circles and on Irish radio and television. A particularly horrifying incident that many hon. Members will remember was the murder of three members of the Miami showband—completely innocent musicians with no political affiliations whatsoever. It took place in the midst of the ceasefire that had been negotiated by the then Labour Government and the IRA. The right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) pushed it through and sustained it, although there was considerable opposition from within the security services and within many political parties. The Labour Government did everything possible to make the ceasefire work, but it was not wholly accepted within the apparatus of M15—our operatives who allegedly were working on behalf of the British state in Northern Ireland.
What is particularly disturbing is that what looked at the time like a random act of maniacal violence and sectarian killing now begins to take on a much more sinister stance. It has begun to emerge that Captain Robert Nairac is quite likely to have been the person who organised the killing of the three Miami showband musicians. The evidence for that allegation is forensic and members of the UDF are prepared to say that they were aware of the dealings between members of the UDF gang who actually undertook the murder of the Miami showband musicians. The evidence is quite clear. The same gun that was used by Captain Nairac on his cross-border trip to assassinate John Francis Green was used in the Miami showband massacre.
Earlier this year, the radio and television service of southern Ireland, RTE, showed a documentary in which the makers—not myself; no one could accuse RTE of 235 being pro-IRA—that allege they have now had contacts with members of the UDF in that area who say that Captain Nairac passed the explosives and the guns to the UDF and set up the killing of the Miami showband musicians. If that is true, it needs to be investigated. The allegation was made on the broadcasting networks of southern Ireland. It is supported by men who served on behalf of Britain as spies in the area at the time. It needs to be investigated and disproved, or the people behind it rooted out. If one wanted to find a way of ending the ceasefire that had been negotiated between the Labour Government and the IRA, what better way to do so than to encourage random sectarian killings? I believe that that was happening.
It is likely that many of the officers mentioned in Peter Wright's book who were practising treason against the British Government at home were also practising treason against the British Government in Ireland. If the allegations are true, they were prepared to murder innocent Catholics to start a wave of sectarian killing which would bring to an end the truce that the Labour Government had negotiated with the IRA. No democratic society can allow that sort of allegation to go uninvestigated. It is made by people who served on our behalf as intelligence officers in the area.
We saw in last Sunday's edition of The Observer that another intelligence officer, Colin Wallace, who was closely linked with Fred Holroyd in a campaign to expose what was going on, has been dismissed as irrelevant by the British Government. We see now that The Observer, using forensic tests, has been able to demonstrate that the notes that he wrote were not written in the past couple of years by somebody who is embittered and is trying to cash in on what has started to come out. A clear analysis of the ink that was used in the notes shows that they were written in the early 1970s. Slowly, it all begins to pull together.
The interesting thing about the Peter Wright case is that in his defence in court he said that he was a loyal servant of Britain, and that he sought only to expose corruption and spies in Britain and an establishment that covered them up. One of the arguments by which he demonstrated his loyalty to Britain was when he said in his book that he did not deal with what he knew about operations in Ireland because that could still be damaging to the British Government.
One needs to take together the accusations of Wallace and Holroyd and link them clearly to what is being said by Peter Wright. There was not just treason by some M15 officers in Britain. Treason was also taking place in Ireland. Those employed by the British state are alleged to have been responsible for killing innocent civilians in order to end a ceasefire with which they disagreed because their political objectives were different from those of the Labour Government of the day. That is a most horrifying crime.
Wallace and Holroyd are making these quite specific allegations. They are now drafting a book that will expose much more, and we need to ask why the British Government take no action to stop them or to silence them. They pursue Peter Wright, but they are terrified that if they take Wallace and Holroyd to court they will expose in court things that will shake the Government to its foundations.
A stupid thing happened when the British Army decided to get Holroyd out and discredit him. The officer put in as his replacement, and who was unaware of what had been going on, arrived in the office and assembled all 236 of Holroyd's papers into a large container and dispatched them to his home. Before the British Government start rubbishing Holroyd too flamboyantly, they should be warned that he retains almost all the case papers that were in his control. They deal with his operations and his work and they are safely out of this country and beyond the reach of the Government.
We must have a full investigation. Before I could happily vote for this extension of direct rule, I want to see some evidence that the Government are prepared to ensure that these abuses are exposed. I want them to guarantee that similar abuses are not continuing. The whole series of events about which I have spoken must be investigated. Very soon we must have the full evidence about the shoot-to-kill policy of the RUC because I have no doubt that that is being covered up. It would have been most useful if John Stalker had been able to conclude his inquiry after the attempt to discredit him had been exposed and overturned by the local police authority.
We have to examine other allegations made on RTE that M15 officers were engaged in undermining the power sharing Executive set up by the Government of the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath). We have to look again at the allegations by Colin Wallace about the Kincora boys' home scandal. It has been suggested that young boys in a home effectively controlled by M15 were buggered so that Protestant politicians could be blackmailed and silenced by M15. 'That allegation cannot continue to drift around. It must be investigated and the truth exposed. The longer the British Government cover up and deny all this and refuse to investigate, the more the impression will be created that they know full well what has been going on and that far too many members of the Government are the beneficiaries of these acts of treason by M15 officers in Britain and abroad.
I do not believe for a minute that these things could have been going on without members of the Conservative party being kept informed in the generality if not in specific details. It looks increasingly likely that Mr. Airey Neave was in touch with some of these officers, and it is certainly the case that Airey Neave delivered a speech that had been——
§ Mr. Gow
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is with very great reluctance that I intervene during the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone), but will you please make it clear to him, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that references to Airey Neave of the kind that we have heard are deeply offensive?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)
Order. Hon. Members making their first speech in the House are usually heard without interruption. So far I have heard nothing in the speech of the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) that is out of order.
§ Mr. Livingstone
May I make it clear to the House that I am reporting allegations that hon. Members have read in newspapers and that are reported on radio and television both here and abroad. They are made by intelligence officers who served at the time in Ireland on behalf of the British Government. It may well be that the allegations are all a tissue of lies, but can we imagine any other Western Government who would allow such damaging allegations to circulate month after month and year after year and not move to lance the boil? They would either deal with the allegations or demonstrate that they 237 were untrue. The Prime Minister's day-by-day refusal to investigate what was happening in M15 at that time can only lead a large number of reasonable people both here and abroad to believe that there is some element of truth in the allegations now circulating.
If Conservative Members are shocked that allegations are made about Airey Neave, they should join me in demanding a full investigation so that Airey Neave's name can be cleared. Why just Airey Neave? The allegations that I have outlined to the House about Captain Robert Nairac should also be investigated, as should the allegations about the Kincora boys' home. They should be investigated by a Committee of the House so that we can know the truth. As long as the Prime Minister continues to resist this, and as long as it is quite obvious that she was the main beneficiary of the work of these traitorous officers in M15, many reasonable people cannot avoid the conclusion that she was kept informed to some degree via Airey Neave who had close links with the intelligence services. He made a speech for which false information was provided by Colin Wallace, and Colin Wallace now admits that.
There is something rotten at the heart of the British security services, and we will not have a safe democracy until it is exposed in its entirety and dealt with.
§ Rev. William McCrea (Mid-Ulster)
Tradition demands that one congratulates an hon. Member on his maiden speech. However, I cannot congratulate the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) because the tradition of the House is that maiden speeches should be non-controversial.
I listened to the maiden speech by the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) and pay tribute to his predecessor, Mr. Enoch Powell, for the speeches that he made in the House and the contribution that he made to British democracy and the traditions of the House.
It will come as no surprise to the hon. Member for South Down to hear that I do not agree with his assessment of many of the constitutional issues that he mentioned. I sympathise with him on many of the day-to-day problems that he as a Member of Parliament will face. He mentioned some of them in his speech, and, of course, hon. Members know about such problems. I trust that the contributions by hon. Members will add to instead of detracting from the debate.
The House is being asked to continue direct rule, but overshadowing the debate is the Anglo-Irish Agreement. It will come as no surprise to hon. Members to hear me say that that agreement is obnoxious, undemocratic and blood-soaked. As the Prime Minister said, it came into existence because she could not allow the murders to continue. That was an acknowledgement that it was the terrorist activity of the IRA that drove her to the table to negotiate with the Republic of Ireland.
This agreement has been forced on an unwilling people. It will come as no surprise to hon. Members that I return to the House with the solid support of the unionist population, many of whom are not Protestants, but Roman Catholics. They are British, want to remain British and are proud of their British heritage. They do not want any interference from a foreign state. If any interference is rejected by them, much less should this House and 238 Parliament give that foreign state powers over the internal affairs of a part of Her Majesty's domain in the United Kingdom.
It is a reflection on hon. Members representing the Social Democratic and Labour party that they admit that it takes the Government of the Republic of Ireland to express the fears of the nationalist population and that they themselves are totally inadequate and unable to express those fears or to get any reaction. Instead, they must rely on foreign Ministers and tootsie down to Dublin to get any action. That is an admission, and I understand the position and feelings on that of members of the SDLP.
§ Rev. William McCrea
No, I shall not give way, because, to the best of my knowledge, I have only a short time, and I wish to make a few salient points in the debate.
I am a representative of the people of Mid-Ulster, and unionism will not rest until the Anglo-Irish Agreement is obliterated. The agreement is not in the interests of the people or of the unionist population. There are some who do not like to hear that message. However, let us be absolutely clear that the vast majority of the people of Northern Ireland were not consulted before the agreement was brought into being, nor do they agree with the essence of that agreement. They are as opposed to that agreement today as they ever were, and they will continue their opposition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Every effort that they make will be to ensure the removal of and a replacement for the agreement. Their resolve is as determined this evening as it has ever been.
All the honeyed words that I have heard today cannot wipe away the fact that many hon. Members are not really interested in fair play for unionists. We shall see that in the legislation that will come before the House in a week's time. Many hon. Members are not interested in what the people of Ulster think about the opening of licensed premises on a Sunday. Those hon. Members do not care. They have no concern about what the ordinary Ulster man feels about that. They will listen to and pull out of the hat those who agree with them. However, they will close their ears to Ulster lest they hear something that they do not like. Some hon. Members have the one intention of ensnaring the unionists into their own destruction.
People in Ulster are aware of some of the plots and plans that have been made to destroy the position of the unionists and the integrity of unionism in Northern Ireland. I know that some hon. Members do not accept that the Anglo-Irish Agreement has lived up to any of the points or principles that were suggested for it. We should remember that it was Ministers who said that this agreement would be judged on its fruits.
What were the three conditions? They were peace, stability and reconciliation. If any hon. Member can tell the House that peace, stability and reconciliation have been enhanced in Northern Ireland by the Anglo-Irish Agreement, I assure them that they do so with the deliberate intent of misleading the House. There is not peace. I can prove that since the Anglo-Irish Agreement my constituents continue to die. However, I am supposed to tell them that, after so many of them have died, we may get peace. I can remember a member of the Government standing at the Dispatch Box and telling us, just a few months after the agreement came into existence, that we should not expect a change in the security situation 239 overnight. However, it is now 20 months later, many more people are in their coffins, and we are still not one step nearer to peace, stability or reconciliation in the Province nor have we gained anything on the job front. Members of the SDLP cannot tell me that their constituents are better off now in terms of employment now than they were at the beginning of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Jobs continue to go to the wall. Those hon. Members can have their liberal debates and meetings at the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, but the reality is that their constituents know exactly what is happening.
I appreciate that it is hard for many hon. Members to understand what is happening on the ground in Ulster, for the simple reason that even the Ministers fly in and out of Stormont without getting to the grass roots or down to the ground where the ordinary man in the street could tell them what was happening. Many right hon. and hon. Members do not take the time to find out what is happening in Northern Ireland and what the people in Ulster are suffering and enduring under this blood-soaked so-called heralded agreement that everybody is supposed to buy as the answer to all our ills.
I advise hon. Members that in fact in the recent election Sinn Fein increased its vote to 83,000, which is only 17,000 less than its highest vote at the height of the hunger strike. Such was the result of the 1987 election. Those are the facts whether hon. Members want to believe them, or whether they want to close their eyes and allow the Province to run on to the precipice of disaster and destruction. Those are the solid facts. [Interruption.] It may be a smiling matter for the Secretary of State, but I assure him that it is not a smiling matter to see coffins in one's constituency. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman would not know anything about that. He came to my constituency, and a coffin lay just 300 yd from the place that he visited. However, he turned in his limousine and went back to Belfast after visiting the Newtownstewart police station, without sympathising with the relatives or walking into the house wherein lay a coffin with the body of an honourable constituent of mine. That is one reason why this House is distant from the realities of what is happening in our Province at the moment.
We were told that the Anglo-Irish Agreement was a two-way street, but it is one-way traffic. The House should realise that Charles Haughey, the Prime Minister of the south of Ireland, has no intention of delivering extradition, because all that he wants to do is to extract concessions from the Ministers of Her Majesty's Government and to insult the good people of our Province.
§ Mr. John Butterfill (Bournemouth, West)
Does the hon. Gentleman recollect that on 30 June a joint communiqué was issued in which he said that he agreed absolutely to support all of the intentions of that joint communiqué and the objectives of the Anglo-Irish Agreement?
§ Rev. William McCrea
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his remarks. However, I should like to remind him of what the Prime Minister of the south of Ireland said. A newspaper headline said:Pub bomb trial threat to Haughey's extradition law.Mr. Haughey said, "Give us a look into the pub bombings. Let us have that case reopened and then I shall give you extradition."
I should like to thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention because it has been most helpful to the 240 debate. That is exactly what I said. Mr. Haughey is extracting concession after concession from Her Majesty's Government and holding over them the threat, "If you do not give us the concession of reopening the pub trial, we shall not allow you to have extradition." That is the most despicable and disgraceful stance of any Parliament that is supposed to be under democratic control.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Is it not a fact that 22 members of Fianna Fail have signed a resolution to the Dail saying that there will be no extradition unless there is a judicial inquiry into all of the cases of IRA people held in prison in this country and that the matter of the Guildford pub bombings must be reopened before they will even consider having such a matter discussed?
§ Rev. William McCrea
I agree with my hon. Friend. The House had better realise the background of the Prime Minister of the south of Ireland. He was one of the supporters and financiers of terrorism, destruction and murder of people in our Province. That is the person whom we as unionists are told to entrust with our future. We are told that it is safe in Charles Haughey's hands, because he is not paying for bombs or bullets any more—he is now the revered Prime Minister of the south of Ireland.
My hon. Friend has stated correctly the position of Fianna Fail. It has not changed and its members are as great republicans and enemies of unionism today as they were in the beginning. What Charles Haughey has said shows that political expediency allows him to play along with the Anglo-Irish Agreement until he extracts every possible concession, when he will ditch it if it proves better for him politically. Nobody understands that thinking better than SDLP Members, but it is politically expedient for them to say something else. When the time comes to change horses, the House had better realise that Charles Haughey will put egg on the faces of Ministers as long as it keeps it off his face.
Unionists have already made their concession. We have said that the Anglo-Irish Agreement need not he repudiated by the Government for negotiations to take place, but need only be suspended and the workings of Maryfield closed. That concession goes unequalled, unmatched and unanswered. Until the Government match it, there cannot be further unionist concessions, or we would be in danger of becoming the suckers. We would be sucked into a position that hitherto we have repudiated. If that happens, the people of the Province will choose who they want to speak for them.
We have recognised that the struggle is a battle of wills and determination. The Government have worked on the principle that in time unionists will come to terms with the agreement. Our every move must be governed by this factor and we must give them no hope of scoring on that point. The people of Ulster are totally and unreservedly opposed to the Anglo-Irish Agreement, and the unionists declared that under a month ago. It is despicable to suggest, now that the election is out of the way, that something should be done that is different from what we told the people of Ulster. That is the difference with Ulster politicians. Our people expect their politicians to tell them what they believe and to do exactly what they say. It seems to me that others believe that, once the election is over arid the people have been soft-soaped into voting for them again, they can do something different. That may be the 241 politics of some right hon. and hon. Members but it is not the principle on which Ulster unionists are basing their politics, especially with regard to the constitutional future of their country and the determination to be an equal part of the United Kingdom.
There are those who tell us that the answer to Ulster's problems is power sharing—bring the SDLP into the Executive. There is nothing further from reality. Some 42 per cent. of voters voted for this Government, which gives them the right to rule the country. Many of their policies are the opposite of what other parties think is good for the country, but the Government have won the day and, by getting the majority of Members, they have the right to form the Government. That is why we do not have a conglomeration of Conservative, Labour, Liberal and SDP—if it is still in existence—Members on the Front Bench. We have a Conservative Government because they believe that it is what British democracy is all about. No matter how diverse their policies are from those of other parties, they have the right to push through legislation on the economy, health and social services or on any other subject.
Some 42 per cent. of voters in Scotland voted for the Labour party, and the Labour party has now said that it has the right to speak for Scotland and that, if there were a devolved Parliament for Scotland, it would have the right to form the Administration. The Conservative party objects to devolution because it knows that the Labour party has majority support in Scotland. It plays little games with Scotland as well.
If 42 per cent. support gives the Conservative party the right to form an Administration in the United Kingdom and if 42 per cent. gives the Labour party the right to form an Administration in Scotland, then 70 per cent. in Ulster is enough for us to form an Administration there. If the Labour party believes in what it is saying and it is not all hot air, eyewash and hypocritical statements, it should be crying out for a proper, devolved government in Ulster where 70 per cent. have the right to rule. People had better realise that what is planned for Ulster is not real democracy, but democracy rigged in whatever way the majority of the House decides.
The House heard the hon. Member for South Down talk about peace, reconciliation and the rest of it, and I saw Members nodding approval. Who would not say that the great goal for Ulster is peace and for the United Kingdom stability or that what we want is reconciliation? However, does the House realise what the SDLP is doing? In Enniskillen council and Fermanagh council, reconciliation for the SDLP means voting for Sinn Fein to give one of its members the chairmanship of the council and to keep the unionists out of every key position.
The same thing happened in Omagh in my constituency. The SDLP voted with Sinn Fein to give its member chairmanship of the council and to keep the unionists out of every possible position. However, the plan backfired in Omagh. After getting the chairmanship, Sinn Fein made a sly move on the SDLP. The House and the United Kingdom should realise that that is the reality.
§ Mr. Mallon
Will the hon. Gentleman be consistent and confirm that, were it not for the courage of the SDLP in standing up to Sinn Fein in his constituency, he would not be here and this Palace would not have its clown prince?
§ Rev. William McCrea
I am here like any other Member. I did not ask the SDLP to stand in my constituency. If it wants to do so, that is up to its members. I am not begging that party or Sinn Fein to stand or not to stand. I represent the constituency of Mid-Ulster with a majority of 9,360, by the grace of God. I do not need lectures from the hon. Gentleman, who tootsied with the Sinn Feiners to ensure that he held his seat. Let us not go down that lane. I should be happy to look at the reputation of the hon. Gentleman and his stance on security, and tell the House what the results of his stand have been in Newry and Armagh and for UDR men. I do not want to go down that road, but if the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) wants that, I am happy to tread it any day to tear off the mask from that hon. Gentleman who tells us that he is for reconciliation. It suits the occasion and the House to hear about reconciliation, but I am talking about the solemn, hard realities that the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh does not want to hear.
With regard to the Dublin Government, I believe that it is true that the people of Ulster want to live in peace with their neighbours and that they want to have normal relationships with a foreign state. There is no great urge among unionists not to have peace and a normal relationship between the two countries. However, when it comes to the meddling and interference of foreign Ministers in the affairs of Northern Ireland, that is repugnant to unionists. In the same way, it would be repugnant to Scotland and to Wales. Indeed, it would be repugnant to England if Pakistan sought to stick its nose into England's affairs because there is a considerable number of persons from that country living in England. It is totally repugnant to us to have a foreign state meddling in our affairs. Every time that Britain has had its back to the wall the south of Ireland has knifed it. It is repugnant to us that persons from a foreign state should have a part in the internal affairs of our country.
Unionists' opposition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement goes on. We are totally opposed to the agreement and our protest against it goes on. If any hon. Member believes that we have come to this House to play nice parliamentary games, to be good boys, to sit in the corner nodding our heads at the right time and walking through the Lobby, they have another think coming. The House had better think again. We will make our opposition to the agreement heard in this House at every available opportunity. We will not stop until the day comes when this iniquitous and undemocratic agreement is buried in the Province. That agreement will not be resurrected, for it will be buried in a Sadducee's grave. Let no one be under any delusion where we stand concerning the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
Whether or not hon. Members like what I said, they had better remember this: in common with them, I stood for election and I have a mandate from the electorate for my stance. The many unionists who have come to this House from Ulster have a mandate to oppose the Anglo-Irish Agreement. No packaging, no lovely ribbons, no decoration and no tinsel put upon that agreement will ever convince the people of Ulster to sell their future and put their children in the hands of an enemy state. We are British, and we are proud of it. The people of Ulster will make the final decision whenever the day has settled and whenever we see exactly what the British Government mean.
243 In common with the leader of my party, my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), I shall read carefully what the Secretary of State has said. I shall certainly not read into it something that I want to read into it. I shall read it exactly as it is and weigh carefully actions with words, because there is an old saying that actions speak louder than words.
In the past we have had fancy, honeyed words. When they put the rope around someone's neck and are about to hang him, they still say that it is in his best interests that the rope be tightened and he is hung up to die. I have no intention of allowing the good people along the border constituency of Mid-Ulster to be hung up on any republican rope.
§ Mr. John Hume (Foyle)
We have a welcome opportunity to assess the current situation in Northern Ireland as we debate the renewal of what all would agree is a far from perfect system of government. However, whenever discussions on Northern Ireland take place in this House I am amazed at the number of speakers who avoid the central issue.
Few of today's speakers have addressed the problem that we are supposed to be discussing and trying to solve. For example, do we agree—does the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea) agree—that the problem we face is a deeply divided society, a division based on bigotry, prejudice and intolerance? From that central cancer of division flows all the problems that disfigure our little piece of earth. Do we agree that that is the problem that we are trying to solve? If so, there has been little reference to it. Do we further agree that if that is the problem—I suspect that most people studying our situation would agree that it is—the way to tackle it is for all those involved to commit themselves to break down the barriers that constitute that division?
The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) said that the task of working together in Northern Ireland would not be easy. However, hon. Members from Northern Ireland should be prepared to address themselves to the question "Are we prepared to sit down together with the task of breaking down the barriers that disfigure and divide us?" Do we accept that, although the confrontation and division in Northern Ireland is right at the centre of the problem, there are other dimensions to it? There is the British dimension to the problem, which emerges in every speech. It goes without saying that there is an Irish dimension. If the problem is the division in Northern Ireland, we must face up to the problem in all its dimensions in order to solve it.
Therefore, the framework for the solution should be based on the framework of the problem. The framework of solution is the British-Irish framework because that framework addresses all the dimensions. Certain people may not like that solution. It is evident from the speeches of unionist Members today that they certainly do not like that solution. They are applying their own yardstick, which they are entitled to apply, and it is based on a traditional approach.
Unionism in the north of Ireland has never been political in the real sense of the word. Unionism is an oligarchy that has maintained itself on the basis of sectarian solidarity, which has given it power and strength. Whenever this House has moved to create any sort of reasonableness in Northern Ireland, unionists have 244 responded, as they have responded over the past 18 months, with threats of dire consequences—the Orange card.
The one great service that this House and this Government, supported by the leaders of all the major parties, have done for the people of Ireland has been to stand firm against those threats. By doing so they have made the most important step forward this century to deal with the problems of Ireland. Past British Governments have backed down in the face of those threats and have created a vicious circle—a vicious circle that confirmed leadership in the unionist community in the hands of those who were uncomprising and who did not wish to come to terms or accommodate in any way those with whom they differed. It was a vicious circle because it gave encouragement to those in the nationalist community who argued that only violence worked and only violence made British Governments pay attention.
That vicious circle of threats of violence and violence has paralysed Ireland for much of this century and has prevented movement forward. However, that state of affairs has been cut through by this Government's refusal to back down in the face of such threats. A new, fluid, political situation has been created. In that new situation there are opportunities if we are prepared to seize them.
Unionist politicians who have spoken today once again did so in terms of the preservation of the oligarchy. I did not hear from one mouth any suggestion that we live in a divided society, or any suggestion as to how we should treat that central problem of division or accommodate differences. They are entitled to wish to continue to live apart, but they are not entitled to ask everybody else to pay for it.
The challenge that they face is whether they are prepared to decide that we are going to live together. We have heard from them about the people of Northern Ireland and we have heard them say "Ulster says no". Who are they talking about? They are talking about themselves, not about the people of Ulster. They are talking not about the people of Northern Ireland but about the unionist people. They have the concept of maintaining differences and maintaining their own position. Although, as I have said, they are entitled to do that, they are not entitled to ask everybody else to pay the price. It is only when the people of the community decide that they are going to live together with the people with whom they share a piece of earth and sit down to discuss the terms of living together that we will start moving towards peace. Those terms cannot involve the domination of any one section of the people of Ireland by another. Those terms must involve agreement. That is where the Anglo-Irish Agreement has a great strength.
Article 1 of the agreement forced the extremes of all sides to face the harsh realities. It is the article that received the most criticism from the extremes, yet it is the article that faces the reality of the situation in Ireland. It makes the nationalistic-republican tradition face the reality that the people of Ireland are divided. One cannot unite the people of Ireland without the agreement of the people of the north and the people of the south any more than one can unite Cyprus without the agreement of the Greek and Turkish Cypriots. One cannot possibly unite the people of Ireland without the agreement of the Protestants of the north. The hon. Member for Antrim, North has often said that their strongest guarantee is not written in legislation 245 but is in their own numbers and their own geography, and I agree wholeheartedly with that. That article in the Anglo-Irish Agreement is a recognition of fact.
The second declaration in the agreement also challenges those whose rhetoric about the unity and independence of Ireland we have listened to for so long. It states that if a majority of people in the north of Ireland agree to the unity of Ireland, the British Government will facilitate it and agree to it. Therefore, that is saying essentially that unity in Ireland is a matter for the people of Ireland. It is a matter for those who want it to persuade those who do not. That is a challenge that can never be met or fulfilled by a gun. Those who attempt to persuade their fellow Irishmen to unite at the point of a gun and those who walk into a field where there is a farmer who has nothing but a spade and shoot him in the head because he is a UDR man are making no contribution to the unity of the Irish people. Those who murder a young Protestant electrician in my home town, a young man who lived up to the ideals of republicanism, of uniting Catholics and Protestants and who lived, worked, played and socialised with Catholics but whose only crime was that he fixed a light bulb in a police station occasionally, make no contribution to unity. If that is a contribution to bringing together the Irish people, God save the Irish people.
The British Government, in an international agreement, have made it clear that if the people of Ireland can agree among themselves as to how they are to be governed they will agree to it. That is a challenge. It has never been faced up to by those of the republican and nationalist tradition. It is a challenge of breaking down the barriers that have existed for centuries between Catholics and Protestants in our corner of that island.
We hear much rhetoric about self-determination and about the indefeasible right to sovereignty. I agree with the right of the people of Ireland to sovereignty and self-determination, but it has to be pointed out that the people of Ireland are divided about how to exercise that self-determination and sovereignty. If we are ever to exercise it as a common people, we can do so only by breaking down the barriers. That is the challenge that the Anglo-Irish Agreement throws out to those in Ireland who want to see the barriers breaking down.
Are we prepared to face up to that challenge? I believe, and my party has said, that the peaceful road to healing the divide in our society can be reached only in stages. We do not see instant answers to deep-seated problems. The first stage will be equality of treatment for all people. The second stage—the one we should move towards now—is that of breaking down the barriers.
My challenge to everybody who talks or lectures about the problem is, how does one break down the barriers between the two sections of our people? I ask my unionist fellow citizens and countrymen, "Do you agree that our fundamential task is to break down those barriers of distrust, division and prejudice between us?" From that cancer comes all of the things that disfigure our people.
If we agree that that is our task, the next question is, how do we do it? My party and I believe that the only way in which we can build trust among ourselves is by working together to administer that place. Through working together we will build the trust that has been missing over the years and diminish the distrust and prejudice. We should let relationships evolve out of that, evolving into 246 new relationships within Ireland and between Ireland and Britain. If anybody has another way of breaking down the barriers, I would like to hear it. We would certainly be open to other suggestions.
In the past week a document has been produced in unionist circles. There has been much reaction to the document. We must be careful about the status of the document. I say that in order to defer to those who produced it. The document is not a statement of unionist policy; it is a set of recommendations from a working party within two parties to two party leaders. Until we hear the response of those party leaders to those recommendations we do not know what the reaction of unionism is. We did not get that reaction today from the hon. Member for Antrim, North. Perhaps we will get it when the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) makes his speech.
On reading that document, I would say that it represents an honest and genuine debate being started by the authors within the unionist family. I should like to see that debate continue. I do not believe that people such as myself or my colleagues have any great contribution to make at this stage by reacting to the proposals because it is an internal discussion. However, I believe that the debate is long overdue. As I have already said, I would like to see it moving in the direction of deciding how we live together and how we accommodate differences, not about how we maintain our own position.
There are many welcome suggestions in the document. There is one suggestion about a unionist convention which looks rather like something we did ourselves a few years ago—a forum. If they adopt that suggestion, I would like to see the unionist community analysing the situation openly for the first time moving away from the laager and starting to consider how we live together. If they do that, my party would be willing to give them our view of the situation as we see it. If the discussions that they are hinting at take place, we will certainly be more than willing to take part in them.
We are approaching yet more anniversaries in the north of Ireland. It seems that we in Ireland have so much respect for our past that it often paralyses our attitude to the future. There has been plenty of evidence for that. As we are approaching the 300th anniversaries, probably the most important anniversaries for unionism—the siege of Derry in 1689 and the battle of the Boyne in 1690—we should reflect on the fact that the quarrels that those dates represent were much wider than the narrow sectarian quarrel to which they have now been reduced. Those quarrels affected the whole of Europe and they related to very important issues.
The quarrels that affected Europe then have long since been buried, forgotten and settled. New quarrels have arisen within Europe and they have also long since have been buried and settled. Could we not make it an objective that by the time we reach the 300th anniversaries we will at last bury our quarrel and take advantage of the present fluid position to do so?
§ Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)
This debate has now lasted for about three and three quarter hours. It is appropriate and right that we should have the opportunity to debate the constitutional relationships 247 between Northern Ireland and the rest of the country at the beginning of this new Session. The order that we are asked to vote on is about that future.
Anyone coming fresh to this debate will realise that there is a mass of emotion through which anyone with responsibility in Government must find a way. The Secretary of State and his colleagues, including his new Minister of State, should have the best wishes of all hon. Members as they try to carry out a task which is probably the most difficult faced by any Government Department. I was forced to reflect that as they and the new team in the Northern Ireland Office set about the job of trying to reconcile the opinions, history and emotions that have been represented here today, they can try to bring about the kind of reconciliation described by the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) only with a conviction that people of good will primarily and unreservedly renounce violence as a contribution to that task. They will also know that they must work together to achieve a way forward.
The different traditions and communities must learn to live together if they are to share the same part of God's earth. We seek a leadership from the Ministers in the Northern Ireland Office and their officials and a leadership from those 17 hon. Members representing Northern Ireland in this Parliament in the attempt to bring the communities together.
The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea), who has just left the Chamber, set forth what was, on the face of it, a valid argument. He said that having had elected 13 out of 17 Northern Ireland Members, the unionist view should predominate. Of course, he left out the key underlying argument that the unionists' case is that they want to belong to the United Kingdom. If one argues a unionist case, one must accept a unionist solution that the Government of all the United Kingdom and the Parliament of all the United Kingdom—be we English, Welsh, Scots or Northern Irish representatives—have a right to make that decision.
We come to this debate about the continuation of this 13-year-old order in the light of the newer decision on the Anglo-Irish Agreement, endorsed by all the major parties as the best way forward. The Liberal party and the alliance have always said—and the Government have conceded—that this is probably not the ideal solution. However, it is the best way forward immediately available, because, as SDLP Members have said, the reality of Northern Ireland means that there is a British and an Irish dimension. That is inescapable. To pretend that the British and Irish Government and peoples do not have a shared interest is to escape history and reality.
Of course, the unionists received a majority of votes. None the less, they must accommodate those who did not vote for them. I pay tribute to the fact that the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) represents the fact that the SDLP made progress and won an additional seat. I congratulate him on that and welcome him to this place. The unionists must also accommodate the fact that we are all Members of the Parliament of the United Kingdom entrusted by history and law with the government of Northern Ireland. It is common ground that until by persuasion, agreement or negotiation there can be a change in the majority view of the people, clearly that responsibility must remain with this place.
The two maiden speeches today referred to previous House of Common personalities and then made different points. I want to join with the tributes made to Mr. J. 248 Enoch Powell. As Member of Parliament on the mainland representing Wolverhampton, South-West and then the Member for South Down, he clearly was one of the preeminent Members of the House of Commons since the war, whatever one's party or political view. That conclusion is inescapable. From my childhood, I remember Mr. Powell contributing to political debate with intellect, intelligence and often very clear analysis. We miss him in this House, but that does not mean that we wish to demean in any way the success of the present hon. Member for South Down who has replaced Mr. Powell.
Beneath this debate there are many signs of optimism. I acknowledge the way in which the Secretary of State, in a quiet and cautious speech at the beginning of the debate, showed that he was willing to start in the process of dialogue with those Unionist Members who have now resumed their places in this House. The right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) made it clear that in the short term we must accept that the order must be approved because there is no other next step other than to continue to support the present base and to build on it.
The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), who is formally back in this place, has clearly recognised—as have his unionist colleagues—that they must begin to have a dialogue. The recommendation in the report to the two Unionist party leaders clearly states that it is no longer acceptable within unionist opinion for the leadership not to have some dialogue, without preconditions or prejudice as to where that will lead. If we do not talk, we will not find solutions.
I do not believe that more terrorism has resulted from the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Yes, statistics may show that and it could be argued that terrorism has increased. However, it does not follow that there must be more terrorism because of a political initiative here. It does not follow that there must be more deaths, murders or attacks. That requires the intervening choice of people to be violent and to be terrorists. Much depends on the reactions of the leadership of the parties in Northern Ireland.
I join the right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) in hoping that we can press ahead with ways in which co-operation can reduce terrorism. I urge the Government of the Irish Republic to implement elements of the agreement that relate to extradition and ensure that we have the greatest commonality of law and practice to the advantage of the peace-loving citizens of both communities.
There was another optimistic sign in the debate. There was a wide consensus about the need to devolve more power and decision making. If we argue that we are withholding power from people in Northern Ireland, but we are not willing to do something for the time being to return power to the district councils and the Province, that is a fallacious argument. The hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow), with whom I do not always agree, and the right hon. Member for Strangford made points about handing more powers back to district and regional councils. There is every reason to try to enhance the powers of the elected representatives within Northern Ireland. Many people would expect a Liberal to argue for that devolution of power, and we would say that it should apply equally to Scotland and Wales. It can certainly apply to Northern Ireland. It does not break the fabric of the agreement made between the British and Irish Governments.
249 I apologise on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton), who has responsibility in the parliamentary Liberal party for Northern Ireland, for the fact that he cannot be here. He is having a minor operation on his mouth and the date of the operation was fixed a long time ago. On his behalf I make it clear that the Liberal party has supported the Anglo-Irish Agreement since it began. We have argued for rights for both traditions and supported devolution within the agreement to ensure that all constitutional parties have as much say as possible in the government of Northern Ireland.
We welcome the task force's report as a step in the right direction. I hope that Unionist party leaders will accept that report because, without their re-entry into the negotiations, it will be difficult to make progress. We welcome the fact that Unionist Members are again in the House of Commons to put their case and be heard. Parliament and the Government are able properly to take account of the unionists' fears, concerns and suspicions only if they put their case and are heard.
We welcome the task force's rejection of integration. The task force appears to think, although this is not heavily argued, that Northern Ireland might be able to go it alone. My colleagues and I do not accept that view. We do not think that it would be economically viable or politically acceptable. We often argue not just about Northern Ireland's constitution but about its social and economic life. The six counties should be able to be prosperous again.
There are signs of prosperity, but there should be more because the Province still has some of the highest pockets of unemployment in the United Kingdom. We need to ensure that ordinary people, whatever their denomination or belief, have the job, social and community security and dignity to which they are entitled, wherever they live.
Beneath some of the noise and controversy there are signs of hope. Some controversial remarks have been made. The maiden speech of the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) was controversial. But he comes here with a job to do—to ask the Government questions as a Member of Parliament. Governments are accountable to the House. The tradition that people make insipid and non-controversial maiden speeches has nearly ended. In fact, since I have been a Member, I have heard few such speeches. The hon. Member for Brent, East comes here with a particular interest in Irish affairs, so his contribution should be welcomed and his record as a democrat and contributor to government acknowledged. I acknowledge that contribution. Like the hon. Gentleman, I hope that our removed government in London, where both our constituencies lie, is returned soon.
I hope that we all come here as friends of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster said that we should not speak unless we have been to Northern Ireland and know its people and problems. I have been there and indeed holidayed there, so I have shown that I am willing to commit myself to Northern Ireland other than as a politician. It is important that we work together positively and constructively in good will and listen as much as we pronounce.
I am forced to come to one other conclusion which underlies much of what is said. It is not a party political 250 point. History has separated, in view and politics, people in Northern Ireland more than in many parts of the world. The legacy of death and killing in recent years is evidence of that. There is a limit to what men and women can do to achieve political or other success. It is the duty of those who believe that they have a God and who invoke God and claim the Christian heritage of St. Patrick and the rest—to which the hon. Member for South Down referred—to ensure that God is given a chance to intervene. The efforts of men and women are often to put asunder what God probably would think better joined. We can be enabled to do good things but many are only second best, and I hope that we never believe that any of us have all the solutions or answers. This debate is evidence not only of that, but of the fact that there may now be political improvements because of a willingness by all sides to contribute and, I hope, a greater willingness to listen to the other person as well.
§ Mr. James Molyneaux (Lagan Valley)
I do not suppose that the Standing Orders require one to congratulate those who do not respect convention, but I have no hesitation in offering my congratulations to the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) on the content of his speech. I am grateful to him for his tribute to his predecessor and my party colleague, Enoch Powell, to whom I shall convey his remarks and those of other right hon. and hon. Members.
We are indebted to the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) for his revealing intervention during the speech of the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) when he seemed to repudiate Mr. Haughey's opinions with the assertion that those who work among nationalists in Northern Ireland are best able to judge their views. That was an unanswerable argument against the joint authority. How can Dublin Ministers possibly know better than the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh and his two SDLP colleagues?
The hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) used an interesting phrase when he said that one way, and possibly the most effective way, to break down barriers was to learn to work together to administer the Province. That seemed to be fairly close to one of the options that the Secretary of State has in mind, although I do not seek to put words into his mouth. I think that he did not entirely dismiss that idea, which surfaced at various times during the debate. The hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) referred to it and the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) came close to dealing with it.
I do not seek to score points because I think that the hon. Member for Foyle was genuine in his approach. If he is referring to working together in Northern Ireland at an initially modest administrative level without the involvement of any foreign Government, I do not think that there would be any great difficulty. The hon. Gentleman and members of his party sit on the Bench before me, the SDLP playing their part and performing a full role as an Opposition party in this sovereign Parliament of the United Kingdom. I agree with the hon. Member for Foyle that there should not be any great difficulty in starting to think and talk about the possibility of a modest start in what the hon. Gentleman termed "administration at some level". But I emphasise "at some level", not within the oversight of the Anglo-Irish diktat.
251 The theme "An End to Drill" goes much wider than suggestions of some form of devolved government. The authors of the task force's report faithfully reported and reflected the opinions put to them by a wide range of parties, groups and individuals. In their defence, I must explain that the reference to independence as a possible option was made to record what had been put to them during consultations with groups. They would have been not quite accurate or truthful if they had omitted the reference to that option, because they were required to present a synopsis and consensus of what had been said to them during interviews over some eight weeks.
The need for an end to the drift is most urgent in terms of security. The Secretary of State conceded that point at the beginning of his address. I make no apology for returning again to this issue. For 17 years, the story has been one of drift without any coherent strategy. That is how it has looked to me, and to many citizens of Northern Ireland on both sides of the so-called divide. It is also the way that it looks to serving members and former members of the security forces—not just the indigenous forces in Northern Ireland. but the army personnel who come back to the larger island of Great Britain at the end of their tour, or perhaps when they retire. I hope that the drift that we have seen between periods of assassination and atrocity, and from one atrocity to the next, will end, and that we shall be able to dispose of such happenings once and for all.
At a public engagement last Saturday, I said:I have to say quite bluntly that whatever the outcome of probing political discussions, or the result of any possible negotiations, all such efforts will be in vain as long as the gunman stalks our land.I hope that the Secretary of State and his new Minister of State will redouble their efforts, and that they will assure the security forces at all levels that Ministers will support them in determined efforts to eradicate terrorism in all its forms, and from whatever source it may come.
The theme "An End to Drift" also applies to the constitutional and political sphere. The right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) inadvertently implied that the House of Commons had saddled itself with direct rule almost by an act of God. The truth is that the Almighty had some assistance from the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath); indeed, the right hon. Gentleman might put it the other way round. When he was Prime Minister, the right hon. Gentleman ought not to have acted as he did. He ought not to have removed a structure which he conceded was working efficiently without making any preparation and having no idea in his head about what he would put in its place.
By a process of trial and error lasting for some two years, the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup and the Government whom he led experimented with various temporary devices. In February 1974, it was left to the incoming Labour Government and the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) to sort out the mess.
Good citizens often make the mistake of assuming that when a member of the Government—especially a member of the Cabinet—speaks for the Government, he is speaking for a solidly united Government under the doctrine of collective responsibility. But when we read the memoirs and papers released after 30 years—in some cases nowadays we do not have to wait that long, because 252 we read some very interesting accounts of what life was like within a Cabinet—our illusions are somewhat rudely shattered. When we are told that a Government is set on an irreversible course, and that in no circumstances will there be any change or even slight modification of that course, we are entitled to feel just a little cynical.
In my brief contribution, however, I shall try to resist the temptation to be cynical, because, like the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), I want to be constructive. I believe, as he does, that we need an end to drift. In the past, we have supplied evidence of willingness to participate in forward political movement; indeed, we have been pioneers in that direction. Some time ago, we thought that it would be useful for those who might be interested to draw together all the various initiatives that we have brought forward inside the covers of one booklet entitled "Unionism—a Policy for all the People". If copies are not available in the Vote Office, they are available in my office.
That booklet provides a valuable record of the various submissions that we have put to the Government from time to time, some of them in advance of the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. For example, the point raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) regarding relations with the Irish Republic is dealt with on page 20 in the context of the paper that the hon. Member for Antrim, North and I handed to the Prime Minister at Downing street on 25 August 1985.
The hon. Member for Antrim, North and I, with our colleagues, have not changed our views and attitudes in the interval. We shall study carefully the suggestions put forward in outline by the Secretary of State, but that study will be on the clear understanding—which I think is now accepted by most hon. Members—that any formula or basis for a solution must be without prejudice, in the sense that that term would be used in legal circles. However, like other right hon. and hon. Members, I must caution against raising false hopes and expectations, and that word of caution is particularly necessary when directed towards the news industry.
For some strange reason, those in the commanding heights of the news industry seem to feel that it is quite all right to encourage their editorial and leader writers to exhort politicians and others in Northern Ireland to be reasonable and constructive and to keep their heads, and not to get carried away by emotion. At the same time, they seem to feel that there is nothing inconsistent in dispatching their journalists all round the United Kingdom to engage in what can only be called pot-stirring. That is simply not good enough. Knowing many of the people in that profession as I do, I think that they will take note of what so many of us have said, if they genuinely want to see progress made. But they must resist the temptation to speak to someone on one side of the political divide, and then immediately ring up someone else, give a distorted account of what was said and invite an instant comment.
§ Mr. Mallon
I shall not enter into any debate of the modus operandi of the journalistic profession. However, as a Member of the House, and a member of one of the parties directly involved in trying to achieve a resolution of the problems in the north of Ireland, I should be interested to know the right hon. Gentleman's reaction to the report of the task force—as interested as I should still be to know the reaction of the leader of the 253 Democratic Unionist party, the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley). I think that most people in the north of Ireland who are concerned about the future would share that interest.
§ Mr. Molyneaux
I can put the hon. Gentleman out of his misery in less than a minute. However, let me finish the point that I was making.
If there is to be any prospect of success in our endeavours—by which I mean feeling our way forward, this time cautiously; not engaging in any high-wire acts, but building solidly on constructive approaches and workable and realistic suggestions—there must be a degree of confidentiality. When public representatives are placed in positions of responsibility—and many of us are bearing a burden that we never requested—they must be guided by a degree of consideration and caution. They must also be granted a degree of authority to act on their own judgment, because presumably that is why we are all elected in the first place. We must always remember that if we are to carry with us our electorate and those to whom we are responsible, we must retain our integrity and never knowingly betray the trust reposed in us.
Let me now answer the question posed by the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh and the leader of his party, the hon. Member for Foyle. What I have just said relates to the judgment that the hon. Member for Antrim, North and I must exercise as we sympathetically evaluate the suggestions in the report "An End to Drift". We must then judge the timing, order and priority that we attach to the various suggestions contained in the report of our three colleagues to whom I have publicly paid tribute, and I repeat that tribute now.
§ 8 pm
§ Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough)
At the outset let me say that it is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux). Like the rest of us, he had to fight a general election, win it and return here. He is also returned here as leader of his party and therefore shows the dedication that he feels to his cause and the cause of the people whom he wishes to represent.
One of the things that I learnt when I first entered the House—I was reminded of it by the right hon. Gentleman—is not to be cynical. I remember Mr. Leo Abse, who is no longer with us, telling me that I was far too young to be cynical after only a year in the House of Commons. He was probably right to say that.
The right hon. Member for Lagan Valley also referred to assassination and atrocity. That was also referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) in his maiden speech and by the Secretary of State who has been here throughout the debate since 4 o'clock. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on that and appreciate his presence and attention. The right hon. Gentleman also referred to the violence in Northern Ireland, as did my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer).
It is appropriate at this time to say—as we have said before—that all of us in the House abhor violence and terrorism. We do not tolerate it, will have no truck with it and will not give it any support from whichever quarter it comes. That statement cannot be repeated too often in the House of Commons.
254 The right hon. Member for Lagan Valley said that independence was not an option. We have gone through a series of options since the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed. We have seen the response to that agreement from the unionist community. As time has passed and while opposition to the agreement remains firm—I accept that it is an opposition from people in Northern Ireland as well as from politicians—nevertheless there is movement in the sense that the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley and the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) are back in the House of Commons and taking part in our debates. The electricity and rhetoric are back in the air —[Interruption.]
The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea), who made a passionate speech earlier, shakes his head as if to disagree. We enjoyed his speech and listened to it with great care. I feel sorry for the Hansard reporter who had to write it down at great speed, but the rest of us enjoyed it and we welcome the hon. Gentleman back. It is good to see the rhetoric and electricity again flowing from one side of the House to the other on the important subject of Northern Ireland and its future. Therefore, I detect—perhaps the Secretary of State does as well—a slight movement in the air that will get us to talks with the Government without prejudice or pre-conditions so that little by little we can seek to accommodate those in Northern Ireland who feel disaffected following the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
It is not always a pleasure to refer to maiden speeches. It is not a common event. I remember making my maiden speech in 1983 when I was heartily congratulated and told that it was the greatest and best maiden speech that anyone had ever heard. Two days later I followed another hon. Member who was making his maiden speech, and dutifully told him that he had made the best, most lucid and most coherent speech that anyone had ever made and that I looked forward very much to listening to him in the future. We therefore fall into the habit of congratulating other hon. Members, and it is not necessarily a bad habit. Members of the House of Commons are not the easiest audience in the world. I describe it as "living theatre". One never knows from day to day or minute to minute how things will go or what questions one will be asked. It is an unnerving experience.
I therefore congratulate genuinely, sincerely and seriously the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady). In his maiden speech the hon. Gentleman combined a reference to his constituency and predecessor with a carefully thought out analysis of some of the problems in Northern Ireland. He said that if those problems could have been solved, they would have been solved some time ago, and that it was not for this generation to solve problems that had existed for many generations. The question of identity and belonging was also an important part of the hon. Gentleman's speech. He made some cogent points that we should all take on board and remember.
Many hon. Members have greatly regretted the defeat of the former right hon. Member, Mr. Enoch Powell. I remember that on one of the first occasions when I spoke from the Opposition Dispatch Box I had the imprudence to speak before Mr. Powell. When he followed me, he said, "I will give the hon. Member for Middlesbrough B-minus for that speech." I learnt from that experience that it was not prudent to speak before Mr. Powell, and that it was preferable to speak after him. I could then congratulate 255 him on his logic, the way that he put his arguments and the conclusions that he reached. However, Labour Members were never appreciative of Mr. Powell's statements in the late 1960s on the "rivers of blood". We never thought that that was a positive speech to be made by someone who was a member of the shadow Cabinet at the time.
I am reminded of some lines from "The Burial of Sir John Moore at Corunna" when I think of Mr. Enoch Powell:We carved not a line, and we raised not a stone—But we left him alone with his glory.Tonight we have spoken a great deal in his honour, and therefore Mr. Powell has not been entirely left alone with his glory. I appreciated the statements of the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) who gave the best homily to the former right hon. Gentleman, Mr. Enoch Powell.
I also wish to refer to the maiden speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East. He spoke with passion as well as with coherence in his first intervention. He was articulate in his comments. He did not respect the long gone convention that one makes a non-controversial maiden speech. The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) was quite right, because the days when an hon. Member made a non-controversial maiden speech are long gone.
My hon. Friend spoke for his constituents when he said that they suffered under the Prevention of Terrorism Act as it now stands. It was an interesting maiden speech—possibly a unique one—in which reference was made to a series of allegations that have been made many times before. On 10 March 1987, my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) made a series of points on the same subject in column 249 of Hansard. A refutation of those allegations was made at the time and later on 9 April 1987 by the former Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, who is no longer there.
This may be an appropriate moment to welcome the new Minister of State to his first Northern Irish debate. It is an exciting occasion. However long one may have been in the House, one learns that Northern Irish debates add to one's comprehension of parliamentary procedure. On this occasion I applaud the diligence and wisdom of Mr. Deputy Speaker in allowing the debate to wander somewhat wider than the scope of the order before us.
On 9 April 1987, the former Minister of State, the hon. Member for Chelsea (Mr. Scott), said:Not a shred of evidence has ever been advanced to suggest that the allegations of Holroyd and Wallace have any foundation whatsoever. I cannot see how they can have any effect on the Anglo-Irish Agreement."—[Official Report, 9 April 1987; Vol. 114, c. 4471.]Since then The Observer has had work carried out to test the authenticity of the documents that Mr. Colin Wallace has been circulating for some time. All the political parties, and even the Prime Minister, have received copies of those documents. Some of the documents, allegedly written in the early 1970s, have been analysed by a firm called Hehner and Cox Ltd, analytical and consulting chemists. After analysing them that company said:the balance of probability favours the authentic origin of the writings attributed to 1974 or earlier.I do not wish to follow the line of my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East, but I wish to take up a point made by the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey who said that the Government were 256 accountable to the House of Commons. It is incumbent upon a Government to listen to hon. Members who make specific allegations on the Floor of the House. I shall happily give the Secretary of State or the Minister of State the letter that I have received and invite them to look at it closely.
The hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) referred to equal citizenship. In one of our earlier debates the Secretary of State said that the nature of the governance of Northern Ireland does not affect the citizenship of a subject of Northern Ireland. The fact that there is a different form of governance does not mean that they are not equal citizens with the rest of us in the United Kingdom. The Secretary of State took up that point last year and I confirm it.
The Secretary of State referred again to our methods of conducting Northern Ireland business. We have raised this matter on many occasions. On 4 December 1986—my remarks will be found in column 577 of Hansard—I put forward a series of proposals for the governance of Northern Ireland and for a legislative framework. I suggested that we should abandon the system of Orders in Council. Later tonight we shall debate a very important Order in Council dealing with the electricity industry, which will have to be dealt with in 90 minutes. Earlier, there was talk of a Select Committee on Northern Ireland. There has been talk of a Standing Committee and, of course, there is already a Northern Ireland Committee. We keep talking about modifying our procedures for dealing with Northern Ireland business. I suggest that, as we now have a new Government, it is high time that we got on with it. I hope that if there are to be talks through the usual channels about reforming the way in which we conduct Northern Ireland business, those talks should take place very quickly.
The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey referred to devolution. As I said in response to the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley, we have considered the concepts of independence, equal citizenship, regional councils, referred to earlier, and devolution. However, the fact is that the people and parties of Northern Ireland must come together with a form of government that is satisfactory to them. We must return to a state of affairs in which they are in charge of their own affairs, in which the two communities respect each other's identity and in which they feel at home with a local or regional government that responds to their needs. That being so, we would certainly support the proposition of devolved government. The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster denounced the Opposition and said that we were never serious about devolution. If he refers to Hansard, he will find that on many occasions over the past two years we have said that devolution is a way forward for the people of Northern Ireland. Indeed, I have sometimes been criticised by members of my own party for saying that there should be a devolved government in Northern Ireland that respects both nationalist and unionist traditions and seeks a proper balance between the two.
The Opposition do not intend to divide the House on the order. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who has been in his present job for about three years, gave the impression that he had been here for 13 years and that he had been present every time that the House has discussed this order. To my knowledge, this is only his third time. We fully accept that there has to be direct rule for Northern Ireland. We cannot return to the system that 257 existed before 1972. Furthermore, as we shall see when we discuss the Appropriation order, in the main, direct rule is not necessarily such a burden to the people of Northern Ireland.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Dr. Brian Mawhinney)
I start by thanking the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) and his hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell) for welcoming us back to the Dispatch Box—a welcome to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in particular. I shall exercise caution in welcoming them back to the Opposition Dispatch Box; I know that certain dispositions will be taking place in the near future and I do not want to make their lives more difficult than they may be anyway.
I congratulate the new hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) and welcome him to the House. His maiden speech was characterised by the eloquence, insight and genuine concern for and empathy with his constituents, coupled with an obvious determination to represent them properly in this place. He spoke about a climate of hope, which requires a sense of belonging and a recognition of legitimate aspirations. He will have won many friends by his acceptance that that must be true for both communities in Northern Ireland. We look forward to hearing more of his contributions.
I should like to add my name to those who have asked the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) to convey their remarks to Enoch Powell about the sense of loss and deprivation that the House suffers as a result of his absence. As others have said, that in no way detracts from the significance of the new hon. Member's victory or from the contributions that he will make.
On the other maiden speech made this evening, I am in something of a difficulty, because I do not share the views expressed by the hon. Members for Middlesbrough or for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). This House runs on a combination of rules and conventions. When the conventions are broken, it makes life difficult for the House and it makes it difficult to respond to maiden speakers. I note that another convention has been broken this evening by the fact that the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) is not in his place for the wind up. He made a passing reference to Reg Freeson, his predecessor, who was a Minister in a former Labour Government and whom I got to know as a member of the——
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Surely, the hon. Gentleman should be very, very careful in making remarks about hon. Members being absent. The hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) has only just come into the Chamber. I was not present after my maiden speech, as I had been called out. Perhaps new hon. Members do not understand the ways of this House, and the Minister should not be too cruel to someone who is not present. Perhaps the Minister will accept those remarks from me, as he will understand that I have no connection whatever with the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone).
§ Mr. Mawhinney
I always listen carefully to the remarks of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley). However I must return to my serious point. The 258 conventions of this House are not an irrelevance; they are a convenience to promote the proper relationship that must exist in a democratic Parliament. The speech of the hon. Member for Brent, East caused offence—particularly, I suspect, to Conservative Members. Many will feel that he abused the privilege accorded to a maiden speaker and I must tell him, in his absence, that he will not be treated so kindly again, either by the House or by a Minister at this Dispatch Box. I shall try not to stray from the conventions of this House governing a response to a maiden speech.
I reject his outrageous allegations about my right hon. Friend the Prime Minster. I reject his conspiracy theories and remind him that the allegations made by Messrs Wallace and Holroyd over the years about the conduct of the security forces in Northern Ireland have been fully and carefully investigated since they left the Province in 1979. No evidence has been discovered to substantiate any of their allegations. I reject the hon. Gentleman's allegations about the security forces and his equivocation will be rejected by most hon. Members. I could not help but contrast the hon. Gentleman's maiden speech with that of the hon. Member for South Down—a constitutional nationalist of Northern Ireland, representing the people of Northern Ireland in strong opposition both to the Sinn Fein and PIRA.
The right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West encouraged us to consult the people of Northern Ireland more publicly. That is what we seek to do, because we understand that that is important in maintaining the credibility of direct rule. However, the main thrust of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's argument concerned the legislative procedures of the House. He was backed in his remarks by the right hon. Members for Lagan Valley and for Strangford (Mr. Taylor), the hon. Members for Antrim, North and for Middlesbrough and by my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow).
I remind the House of what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said in his speech:The House may understand that we are willing to consider changes in arrangements to determine whether it is possible to agree ways of improving the difficulties that we perceive.In saying that, he was reflecting the view of the Government as put forward earlier by the Prime Minister when she said:The Government are certainly willing to look at ways in which Northern Ireland business is handled in the House to see whether there are ways in which this could be improved, and we remain ready to consider any constructive suggestion.We are conscious of the difficulties with the current arrangements for dealing with Northern Ireland legislation, and it is clearly an issue that must be faced if direct rule is to continue. No doubt it will form part of the discussions that may develop.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes
The Minister will appreciate that the major point—I associate myself with it—is that the different arrangement sought is something which allows hon. Members from Northern Ireland and elsewhere to amend Government proposals. That is the key issue on which there must be some progress and which we expect the Minister and his colleagues to deliver.
§ Dr. Mawhinney
I understand that that is the point which the hon. Gentleman wishes to make, and I am sure that it is an issue that will be considered if such discussions develop.
As always, I listened to the hon. Member for Antrim, North. I welcomed his promise to study carefully the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and his acceptance of the tone in which my right hon. Friend made his speech. In turn, I welcome his response, which we will also read carefully, and noted the clear distinction which he drew between discussions and negotiation.
I also welcomed the constructive tone and comments of the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley. We will study them carefully. It was helpful of him to clarify the references to independence in the task force report. I assure him that we will and do wholeheartedly support the security forces as they carry out their legitimate duties on behalf of us all, and we try to ensure that they know of that wholehearted support.
My hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne raised a matter about which he feels deeply and which he has mentioned before: the constitutional difference which he perceives that the Anglo-Irish Agreement has made. I do not wish to tread over ground which has been trodden on before in our debates. But, recognising the strength and the genuineness of his feeling, I would like him to focus on that part of the agreement which makes it clear that decisions by Her Majesty's Government in Northern Ireland are made solely by Her Majesty's Ministers. It is important that he should add that to his consideration.
In no sense have Her Majesty's Government made the Irish Government responsible for the minority community in Northern Ireland, which I believe was the point my hon. Friend wanted us to take into account. The Government are wholly and rightly committed to maintaining the status of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom so long as the majority of its people wish, and I see no prospect of the majority of people changing their minds. There is no consent for change. But the communities live together side by side and their futures are inextricably linked. As has been made clear, there are no ingenious new arrangements which would allow separate futures for the two communities in Northern Ireland, so what progress is made must be acceptable to both.
I welcome the commitment of my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) to the importance of developing and maintaining good relations with the Irish Republic. I say that knowing better than some in the House of my hon. Friend's deep knowledge of the history and affairs of Ireland. When he said that, he was obviously speaking for many hon. Members on both sides of the House.
In a direct rule debate—this is the 13th—we must concentrate our minds on the political framework in Northern Ireland. On such an occasion, it is right to couple with our appreciation for the work of the security forces in the Province a word of appreciation for all the public servants in Northern Ireland, in the Northern Ireland Civil Service and in the Northern Ireland Office, who work hard and conscientiously to make direct rule as even-handed, effective and fair as possible under the guidance of Ministers. I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will echo my appreciation of them as well as of the others who serve us in the Province.
This has been a constructive and instructive debate which was greatly enhanced by the Ulster accents that we 260 heard. A strength of the House is that it enables genuine disagreement, passionately felt, to be expressed in a framework of rational debate. It would be foolish not to acknowledge the strength of feeling aroused by some of the subjects discussed today, and eloquently conveyed by the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea), but it would be equally foolish not to recognise that rational debate and discussion is needed if we are to make progress. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, a dialogue must start, involving all the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland. Such a dialogue would enable us to take forward the exchange of views that has been started in the debate.
The hon. Member for Foyle spoke about the need to break down the barriers of division and to start building a new future. I welcome his commitment. He said that if discussions took place, the SDLP would be more than willing to take part. The Government want talks about arrangements for the government and administration of Northern Ireland which are widely acceptable across the community. We believe that movement towards devolution might be the best way of achieving this. If a settlement were agreed among the parties, we would have to consider what it meant to the work of the intergovernmental conference. I cannot usefully say more about that at this stage.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley that difficult issues should not be rushed. But it is important to start talking about them. That is why I shall not delve too deeply into some of the issues raised in the debate or comment at length on some of the proposals that have been mentioned. We are prepared to talk to the parties without prejudice.
The hon. Member for Foyle pointed out the unarguable fact that division exists in Northern Ireland. But it may be helpful if we draw from this debate some broad areas of agreement among the Government and all the Northern Ireland constitutional parties. First, we all reject violence as a solution to the Province's problems. None of us believes that the gun and the bomb can solve the problems of Northern Ireland. We stand together in condemning terrorism and the use of violence. Right hon. and hon. Members who represent Northern Ireland constituencies and whose constituents are killed and maimed and have their property destroyed need no reminding of that. But it is equally important that right hon. and hon. Members from Great Britain know that, whatever disagreements there may be among the responsible political parties in Northern Ireland or with the Government, we all unite in our condemnation of violence and of those who support it.
Secondly, there is general agreement on the importance of gaining the consent of the people of Northern Ireland in determining the future status of the Province. The Government have made it clear that Northern Ireland will remain part of the United Kingdom for as long as its people wish. There is no room for doubt on that score or for uncertainty about the future. If a change of status was favoured—as I said, I see no sign of it—it is accepted by the constitutional parties, and was helpfully reaffirmed this evening by the hon. Member for Foyle, that it can be achieved only by consent.
Thirdly, we all agree in our different ways that direct rule is an unsatisfactory basis for the future government of Northern Ireland. We want to see a change. Some of us have argued that Northern Ireland should be completely 261 integrated with the rest of the United Kingdom. I do not believe that what is called integration would best serve the interests of the people of Northern Ireland, not least because it would close the door to a devolved form of government. I believe also that there is no evidence that integration could achieve widespread acceptance. For that reason alone, I cannot regard it as the way forward.
The right hon. Member for Strangford rejected the idea of independence as a future route for political progress in the Province. The Government agree. However, we believe that a form of devolved government could achieve widespread acceptance. It is welcome to note that there is general support for that proposition. Any devolved government would need to he one in which both communities could have confidence and in which both would feel able to participate. Again, few would disagree with that. I welcome support for that idea given by both the speakers from the Opposition Front Bench and also by the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey. We welcome him to the debate and hope that, when the mouth of his friend the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) is repaired, he will continue to attend and contribute to Northern Ireland debates.
The Government are willing to listen to any ideas which have a prospect of commanding wide support across the community in Northern Ireland. The report of the task force, much discussed this afternoon, must have improved the prospects of starting a dialogue, and we welcome it in that light. No one expects progress to be achieved overnight, but there may now be scope for discussions to start which could lead over time to agreement.
At the beginning of my speech I referred to the fact that we had listened to maiden speeches this evening. I was reminded earlier this week that it was in a similar debate on 2 July 1979 that I made my maiden speech. I believe that I have attended every direct rule debate subsequently, and I have spoken in a number of them from a different location in the Chamber. I spoke at that time about the tensions that existed in and between the communities in Northern Ireland, and I said, in an echo of what the hon. Member for Antrim, North said, that I did not wish the rhetoric of the Province to be the same in the lifetime of my children as it had been in my lifetime.
The important point, as my right hon. Friend said—and I make no apology for repeating it—is that there should be talks about the future. The difficulties that face us in Northern Ireland can only be resolved by consultation and discussion, and we must now find ways of talking to one another. We need a dialogue. The Government will be ready to play their role, as the parties that represent the people of Northern Ireland wish.
I hope that the debate has brought forward the day when dialogue can start. I believe that it has. Her Majesty's Government welcome that, and, I believe, so do the majority of people in Northern Ireland. I commend the order to the House.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 227, Noes 11.263
|Division No. 9]||[8.33 pm|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Beaumont-Dark, Anthony|
|Alexander, Richard||Beith, A. J.|
|Ashdown, Paddy||Bellingham, Henry|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)||Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Hind, Kenneth|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Holt, Richard|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Hordern, Sir Peter|
|Bowis, John||Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)|
|Brazier, Julian||Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Howells, Geraint|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)||Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)|
|Browne, John (Winchester)||Hughes, Simon (Southwark)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick||Hunt, David (Wirral W)|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)|
|Burt, Alistair||Hunter, Andrew|
|Butler, Chris||Irvine, Michael|
|Butterfill, John||Irving, Charles|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Jack, Michael|
|Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)||Janman, Timothy|
|Carlisle, John, (Luton N)||Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)|
|Chapman, Sydney||Jones, Robert B (Herts W)|
|Chope, Christopher||Jopling, Rt Hon Michael|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine|
|Colvin, Michael||Key, Robert|
|Conway, Derek||King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)|
|Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)||King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Cope, John||Kirkhope, Timothy|
|Cormack, Patrick||Knapman, Roger|
|Cran, James||Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)|
|Critchley, Julian||Knox, David|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Lang, Ian|
|Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Davis, David (Boothferry)||Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)|
|Day, Stephen||Lightbown, David|
|Devlin, Tim||Lilley, Peter|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)|
|Dover, Den||Lord, Michael|
|Dunn, Bob||Lyell, Sir Nicholas|
|Durant, Tony||McCrindle, Robert|
|Eggar, Tim||MacGregor, John|
|Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)||MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)|
|Evennett, David||Maclean, David|
|Fallon, Michael||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Farr, Sir John||McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)|
|Favell, Tony||Major, Rt Hon John|
|Fenner, Dame Peggy||Malins, Humfrey|
|Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)||Mans, Keith|
|Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey||Marland, Paul|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Martin, David (Portsmouth S)|
|Forth, Eric||Mawhinney, Dr Brian|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Norman||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Fox, Sir Marcus||Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick|
|Franks, Cecil||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Freeman, Roger||Miller, Hal|
|French, Douglas||Mills, Iain|
|Gale, Roger||Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Morris, M (N'hampton S)|
|Gill, Christopher||Morrison, Hon P (Chester)|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Moss, Malcolm|
|Gorst, John||Moynihan, Hon C.|
|Gow, Ian||Mudd, David|
|Gower, Sir Raymond||Neale, Gerrard|
|Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)||Needham, Richard|
|Greenway, John (Rydale)||Nelson, Anthony|
|Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')||Neubert, Michael|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Grist, Ian||Nicholson, David (Taunton)|
|Ground, Patrick||Oppenheim, Phillip|
|Grylls, Michael||Page, Richard|
|Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)||Paice, James|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Patten, Chris (Bath)|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Pawsey, James|
|Hanley, Jeremy||Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Harris, David||Porter, David (Waveney)|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Portillo, Michael|
|Hawkins, Christopher||Powell, William (Corby)|
|Hayes, Jerry||Price, Sir David|
|Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney||Raffan, Keith|
|Hayward, Robert||Raison, Rt Hon Timothy|
|Heathcoat-Amory, David||Redwood, John|
|Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Hill, James||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Riddick, Graham||Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)|
|Ridsdale, Sir Julian||Thorne, Neil|
|Roe, Mrs Marion||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Rowe, Andrew||Thurnham, Peter|
|Rumbold, Mrs Angela||Tracey, Richard|
|Ryder, Richard||Tredinnick, David|
|Sackville, Hon Tom||Trotter, Neville|
|Shaw, David (Dover)||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')||Viggers, Peter|
|Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)||Waddington, Rt Hon David|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)||Walden, George|
|Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)||Wallace, James|
|Skeet, Sir Trevor||Waller, Gary|
|Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)||Wardle, C. (Bexhill)|
|Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)||Watts, John|
|Soames, Hon Nicholas||Wells, Bowen|
|Speed, Keith||Whitney, Ray|
|Speller, Tony||Widdecombe, Miss Ann|
|Spicer, Jim (Dorset W)||Wilkinson, John|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)||Wilshire, David|
|Stanbrook, Ivor||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Stanley, Rt Hon John||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Steen, Anthony||Wood, Timothy|
|Stern, Michael||Yeo, Tim|
|Stevens, Lewis||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Stradling Thomas, Sir John|
|Summerson, Hugo||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Taylor, John M (Solihull)||Mr. Peter Lloyd and|
|Temple-Morris, Peter||Mr. Mark Lennox-Boyd.|
|Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)|
|Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)||Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)|
|Kilfedder, James||Taylor, Rt Hon J. D. (S'ford)|
|McCusker, Harold||Walker, A. Cecil (Belfast N)|
|Molyneaux, Rt Hon James||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Paisley, Rev Ian||Rev. William McCrea and|
|Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)||Mr. William Ross.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.