§ The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Tom King)
I beg to move,That the draft Northern Ireland Act 1974 (Inteim Period Extension) Order 1988, which was laid before this House on 7th June, be approved.
This is the fourteenth time that such an order has been moved to extend further the operation of the Northern Ireland Act 1974. It provides an opportunity to review the events and developments of the past year and to examine some aspects of particular concern in the coming year. I intend to speak first about the economic situation, secondly about security, and thirdly about political developments.
The House will know that the steady improvement in the British economy has been reflected by much greater buoyancy this year in Northern Ireland. We can take some encouragement from the significant fall in unemployment. There are about 10,000 fewer unemployed than there were when we met to debate the order last year, and employment, and within that manufacturing employment, have both increased. To all those who have been in contact with them, there is much greater buoyancy and activity in both the Irish Development Board and the Local Enterprise Development Unit than there was two or three years ago, because of the number of active inquiries being pursued.
Significantly, the IDB is dealing substantially less with rescue cases and maintaining jobs and more with the creation of additional new jobs. I think of the headlines of the past few months and of the announcements that there have been about further investment and expansion. I know some of the names by heart; Herdmans, Moy Park, Norbrook Laboratories, Ormeau, Glen Electric, Du Pont, STC and a number of others, which include two major carpet investments. They are all very encouraging in the development of the Northern Ireland economy.
We are conscious that while there has been that improvement, the level of unemployment remains unacceptably high throughout Northern Ireland and appallingly high in some parts of the Province. We still have a long way to go, and I recognise that, although I can point to a much happier prospect across the breadth of a wide range of industries in Northern Ireland—and the fact that it is much more diversified than it was is encouraging in itself—in some of the largest engineering companies—particularly in Belfast—unemployment remains a matter of continuing concern. The Northern Ireland Economic Council drew attention in its report to some of the problems.
At the same time, the skill and resilience of Northern Ireland industry and commerce has been encouraging, even against the background of difficulty in some major firms. The British economy is now into its eighth successive year of growth and we now see all the signs of economic improvement. In the south-east, there are shortages of skilled labour and of accommodation for workers and management, which make Northern Ireland an increasingly attractive location.
My own view is that Northern Ireland now has the best opportunity it may ever have had for attracting new investment into the Province. I believe that I speak regardless of party and of political attitudes to other 404 matters, and for every hon. Member representing a Northern Ireland constituency and for every Minister in the Northern Ireland Office, when I say that we have a total commitment to achieving whatever improvements we can in investment and employment in the Province.
§ Sir John Farr (Harborough)
Before leaving that very important subject, can my right hon. Friend say whether he will be able to respond favourably to the opportunity that has presented itself for building the largest passenger ship in the world in Belfast? If that opportunity can be seized, it will transform the whole of Ulster's economy.
§ Mr. King
That project is of the greatest interest and if it can be achieved for Northern Ireland on a satisfactory basis, it will be of considerable benefit not only to Harland and Wolff but also to a wide range of subcontractors throughout the Province and in the United Kingdom. However, I cannot today comment further on that matter. We are just starting to receive the detailed costings and are examining the figures. We shall make a further comment about the approach to the situation at Harland and Wolff and to that project shortly.
§ Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East)
The Secretary of State will know that there has been considerable speculation in the Province, not only in the media but generally, concerning the possible privatisation of Harland and Wolff. Can he say whether he or any of his Ministers has had talks recently with any shipowner or potential shipyard purchaser, and whether that is the direction of Government policy on Harland and Wolff? Can he also say whether he would make subject to the purchase of Harland and Wolff the giving of finance to Ravi Tikkoo for the Ultimate Dream?
§ Mr. King
I have referred rather obliquely to that important aspect, and I understand why the hon. Gentleman has pressed me to be a little clearer. I hope that we will be able to say something about our approach very shortly, possibly in the next couple of days. I can say now that we have made it clear, as it is Government policy, that we are seriously interested in any possibilities for privatisation. We believe philosophically that it is the right way to proceed, and we are also interested in it as a possible way forward for Harland and Wolff. The hon. Gentleman knows very well the considerations that would have to arise and the problems that would have to be tackled.
§ Sir Michael McNair-Wilson (Newbury)
Will my right hon. Friend also include Short Brothers in any statement that he makes about privatisation?
§ Mr. King
I shall not do so immediately, but Northern Ireland Questions are first in tomorrow's business, and the matter may arise then.
This better economic prospect—this chance to see at last a real future for many young people in the Province, who may have thought not long ago that they had little prospect of employment and a future—is there. The risk that is posed to it, however, is all too clear. We now face a possible threat from the recent terrorist outrages to any further investment that we might seek to achieve. This puts into the starkest relief the point that if terrorism continues—if those who pretend to be concerned about employment and a better future for young people continue their terrorist outrages—they will destroy the future that those 405 young people might be justified in expecting. That has always been of concern to us, but it is of particular concern now.
§ Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)
Before the Secretary of State leaves the subject of the economy in Northern Ireland, may I look forward to his White Paper on fair employment, to be published on Friday? Does he not accept that in the context of 18 per cent. unemployment in the Province, where unemployment is two and a half times higher among young Catholics than among young Protestants, the timetable that he has set is probably not ambitious enough? Will he tell the House how long he thinks it will be before that ratio changes?
§ Mr. King
In the interest of time, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will excuse me. We have a full day's debate on the subject on Friday, and today's debate has been appallingly truncated by all the statements.
Whatever policies there may be to seek to end discrimination and provide more opportunities and more fairness, those policies all depend on the creation of more jobs. That is at the heart of them, and it is why in my time as Secretary of State I have laid such emphasis and worked so hard on the economic aspect, trying to get more jobs into Northern Ireland. The skills, opportunities, talents and facilities are there; it only takes persuasion, in a sense, along with an understanding of the realities of life in the Province and, above all, a major reduction in terrorist activity.
I do not wish to dwell too much on the statistics for the deaths and apalling injuries that have occurred, awful as they are. But in all the years of violence in the Province, the past year has been marked by the peculiar awfulness of some of the atrocities that have occurred. It has also been marked by the clearest confirmation that the terrorists now have no inhibitions about the targets that they are prepared to attack, or the consequences of their attacks. Considering the events that in the past year have been considered perfectly acceptable occasions for the committing of atrocities—a Remembrance day parade, two funerals, a charity marathon and now a school bus run—that shows more clearly than anything that could be said that there is no longer any inhibition or restraint, but an acceptance of casualties wherever they may occur.
The blind hatred for one school bus driver that made terrorists willing to cause death and suffering to any of those children—Protestant and Catholic as they were—beggars description. I do not believe that we have yet heard one of those nauseating excuses such as the claim that someone else detonated the bomb at Enniskillen. The truth is that no excuse can justify what happened yesterday, or any other atrocity. If there was some malfunction of the detonation device—or whatever other nauseating excuse may be given for yesterday's incident—the fact remains that anyone who plants explosives on a school bus, unless he is mentally deficient, knows perfectly well that there is a risk that children may be killed or maimed.
From the events of the past year, we see beneath the balaclava the true and evil face of those who seek to take power in Ireland. They are striving to reach their objective over the bodies of their fellow citizens, wading through the blood of grievously injured children. Those events are the clearest possible reinforcement for the determination that we need to ensure that the men of violence shall not win.
406 Our prayers must now be for Gillian Latimer, who at this moment is fighting for her life in the royal Victoria hospital.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)
Does the right hon. Gentleman not think that the time has now come for him to take steps to keep from the council chambers of Northern Ireland the godfathers of the murderers? Does he not realise that Unionists find it very difficult to have to sit in a council chamber with those who will not even rise to their feet to express their sympathy, and who support and try to justify what happened in that school bus yesterday? Does not the right hon. Gentleman also think that the Unionist people are right in their contention that the SDLP should now cease talking to the representatives of Sinn Fein?
§ Mr. King
The hon. Gentleman knows that I have made absolutely clear my understanding of the deep feeling of Unionists about having to sit in council chambers with people who behave in the way that he has described, and who support and subscribe to the use of violence. The truth is that there is no clean or selective use of violence. The sadness of the awful injuries suffered by Gillian Latimer is that that is what will happen if people go out with guns and bombs and place them wherever their targets may be. In many cases. inevitably, those will he the consequences.
I am very sympathetic to the point made by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) about people who support the use of violence sitting on councils. In answer to the second part of his question, I am extremely concerned that Sinn Fein, which is so totally identified with the IRA, should not, in any talks which may be taking place, on which I have made my views absolutely clear, be allowed somehow to dictate the terms in Northern Ireland, and become the obstacle to sensible, constructive discussion between the democratic constitutional parties.
§ Sir John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest)
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, who has been very courteous to the House. Since the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) mentioned the attitude of the SDLP, perhaps one could say a word of commendation to the SDLP councillors in Fermanagh who voted with the Unionists to unseat the Sinn Fein chairman of the council because he had refused to condemn the Enniskillen atrocities.
§ Mr. King
We noted that. One of the encouraging developments in the last council elections—I am sorry to say that it was not universal, as there were one or two appointments about which I have considerable reservations—was that there was a willingness to recognise that another constitutional party that had a point of view was in the council chamber, and a recognition that senior posts such as the mayor or the chairman could be held by different parties. That development gave many people who care about Northern Ireland real encouragement.
§ Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh)
I thank the Secretary of State for giving way. So that we may have a total view of the situation in councils, will the Secretary of State confirm that in Newry and Mourne council Sinn Fein is in an unholy alliance with members of the DUP 407 and the Official Unionist party in opposition to the party which I represent, and that that unholy alliance has existed for the past four years?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)
Order. I am not sure how these matters relate to the motion before the House. We should direct our attention more closely to the motion.
§ Mr. King
I am sure that the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea) wishes to cite another council where there would be very strong reservations about the decision that was taken. I said that in certain councils I welcome the development of recognition by one party that there was another party in the council chamber.
§ Mr. King
With great respect, in fairness to the House I must make progress.
As the House knows we are facing a serious situation on the security front. Into the hands of evil men—and there are evil men on both extremes in Northern Ireland—have come additional sources of weapons, which, in certain respects, have a capability well in excess of that held by terrorists in previous years. We know that the terrorists are determined to intensify their campaign.
Perhaps against that background we recognise best the enormous debt we owe to the courage, skill and professionalism of the security forces. In the past year there have been some absolutely appalling and tragic incidents in Northern Ireland, but in many cases they could have been very much worse and a number of dangerous incidents have been prevented by the skill, intelligence, ability and courage of the security forces.
We have the skills to defeat the terrorists. Those skills must be deployed within Northern Ireland, but we need the fullest support and co-operation from the Republic. It is a matter of the greatest importance that those arms shipments that we believe are in the Republic of Ireland now, and that include certain additional elements that could cause great suffering, are recovered at the earliest opportunity. I reaffirm the words of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the Taoiseach yesterday and the commitment to the very closest co-operation in this field. I particularly welcome the new appointments and the reorganisation in the Garda, which I hope will be helpful in that respect.
As for our own security efforts, in which my right hon. Friend the Minister of State has been extremely active, we are seeking to apply across the whole range of opportunity every weapon that civilised democratic society can bring to bear against the evil of terrorism. It involves the security forces and their professionalism and arrangements for a new brigade covering the border area, the determination to retain the additional two Army battalions in the Province, and the excellent work and close co-operation between the RUC, the RUC reserve and the UDR.
We are determined to bring every weapon to bear on the industry that supports the terror campaign and to 408 improve the chances of conviction. The amendment to the Criminal Justic Bill to introduce the potential for genetic fingerprinting in Northern Ireland may be very helpful in getting proper convictions, given the difficulties of obtaining evidence. Undoubtedly, public emotions aroused by the recent atrocities can be best harnessed to the support of the security forces by the new freephone—with an easily identifiable number for the confidential telephone that has proved extremely effective in increasing the flow of information and help to the security forces.
We are seeking to restrict the funds available to terrorist organisations by tackling the resources gained from smuggling, racketeering, fraud and protection rackets. We are determined to tackle from every possible aspect ways in which we can bring extra pressure to bear gradually to tighten the net around the terrorists in the interests of a better future for all people in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
Does the House have an assurance from the Secretary of State that he himself knows on whose authority and under what authority that bug was placed in the hay yard where Michael Tighe met his death? Do we have an assurance that the Secretary of State approves of the way in which that was done?
§ Mr. King
The hon. Gentleman has tabled a question to me precisely on that matter tomorrow and I shall answer it then.
While I have talked about the vigorous pursuit of effective security, we are determined to fight terrorism under the law. In the past year we have been concerned to take every step we can to help increase throughout the communities of Northern Ireland confidence in the effective and fair operation of the law. It is worth noting that since we last met we have published and made publicly available the code of conduct for the RUC. We have also established the independent Police Complaints Commission. A complaints procedure in respect of the Army is now in place and we have taken a number of steps relating to the operation of the courts in the treatment of accused persons and their rights.
One step to which I pledged myself soon after taking on my present responsibilities, was an attempt to reduce the tremendous time it took for cases to appear for trial and the considerable delays affecting people who wanted to appeal against conviction. We have made considerable improvements, but we are anxious to ensure that any other steps which help are carried through so that people get fair treatment.
Another matter has attracted considerable attention. I undertook, in my statement of 17 February, to keep the House informed about matters arising from the Stalker-Sampson inquiry in respect of matters which fall within my responsibility. The House will be aware that the Police Authority for Northern Ireland has today issued a statement on its consideration of matters arising from observations made by Mr. Sampson in connection with the Chief Constable, the deputy chief constable and Assistant Chief Constable Forbes of the RUC. It has resolved that no disciplinary proceedings should be taken in respect of those three senior officers. I shall arrange for copies of the authority's statement to be placed in the Library.
409 As to the other ranks, the Chief Constable of the RUC announced last week that he has now received the report from Mr. Charles Kelly, and a decision on the nature of any charges and their preferment is likely to come shortly.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)
The right hon. Gentleman said, "charges and their preferment". Surely the burden of what the Attorney-General said is that they should be disciplinary offences and that there are no charges in the sense of criminal charges, which is how it might be misunderstood outside.
§ Mr. King
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. If there is any misunderstanding, I should make it clear that, if there are any charges, this is a matter for disciplinary charges. It is certainly not one for criminal charges. As the hon. Gentleman said, that was made clear by my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General in his statement.
§ Mr. King
I hope that every hon. Member will have an opportunity to speak, and my hon. Friend the Minister will deal in his winding-up speech with any matters that arise. I have given way a lot.
During the debate on the order one year ago, I talked about the lack of democratic involvement of the people of Northern Ireland in the government of the Province. I also talked about the need to discuss ideas which might be helpful to get a dialogue going. I looked not just to the Unionist parties, but also to the constitutional Nationalist parties for a constructive response. I noticed that, during the debate, the hon. Member for Antrim, North acknowledged that the task would not be easy, but he pledged himself to working for a Northern Irelandwhere there can be real peace, real stability and real reconciliation".—[Official Report, 7 July 1987; Vol. 119, c. 215]The right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) spoke offeeling our way forward … not engaging in any high-wire acts, but building solidly on constructive approaches and workable and realistic suggestions".—[Official Report, 7 July 1987; Vol. 119, c. 253.]The hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) said:the only way in which we can build trust among ourselves is by working together to administer the place. Through working together we will build the trust that has been missing over the years and diminish the distrust and prejudice."—[Official Report, 7 July 1987; Vol. 119, c. 245.]I was encouraged by the very positive tone of those speeches. They were the starting point for me in my efforts, during the past year, to see whether we can make some progress.
I have had a number of bilateral meetings with the political parties to discuss the future government of Northern Ireland. There have been many signs of a new 410 approach, which the House will welcome. I sense a much greater acceptance now among the political parties of Northern Ireland of the need for political dialogue and constructive thinking about the future.
I held several meetings with Unionist leaders. Earlier this year, the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley and the hon. Member for Antrim, North outlined their proposals for changes in how Northern Ireland is governed. The Unionist leaders were frank that they would show how far they would go only in proper negotiations with other political parties and that our dialogue was not such a negotiation. The ideas put to me were a starting point—an earnest of the intent of Unionist parties and confirmation of their interest in moving towards devolved government.
I very much welcome the fact that Unionists have something constructive to say and that they have shown that they have ideas which could be put on the table for discussion. In the light of my exploratory talks with Unionists, and in the same spirit, I sought from the SDLP leadership a statement of their attitudes towards the government of Northern Ireland. They told me that they support devolution and are willing to talk to other constitutional parties about political progress. I look to them in the spirit of last year's debate to find ways in which to carry forward their anxiety to work with Unionists.
I should add that the Alliance party of Northern Ireland and others not represented in the House have also told me that they strongly support movement towards devolution and are ready to contribute towards wider discussions.
I noticed from the speech that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North made in Belfast yesterday that, while he supports the unification of Ireland, he recognises that the Irish Government accept, through the Anglo-Irish Agreement, that the reform of Northern Ireland should take precedence over any political ambitions.
The House will be aware that there has recently been speculation that some other way forward than devolution may be found. I do not wish to restrict the scope of future discussion, but I shall explain why I still believe that movement towards devolution is the right course. In all my talks recently, I have made clear the continuing commitment of both Governments to the Anglo-Irish Agreement, which commitment was repeated yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach.
The agreement embodies certain fundamental principles which are vital to Northern Ireland's future. They include the affirmation by both Governments that the status of Northern Ireland can be changed only by consent, acceptance of the need for close security co-operation with the Irish Government in our common cause against terrorism, the need to increase confidence among the minority community in the administration of Northern Ireland affairs and support for progress towards devolution. Those are the principles to which both Governments are committed.
I have also made it clear in discussions with the political parties that I remain ready to listen to and to consider concerns about the agreement, which I know are widely felt. I have made it clear that any wider discussions between the parties should take place without preconditions—I stress that again—and that such discussions are quite separate from the workings of the agreement.
411 We and the Irish Government are due to review the workings of the Intergovernmental Conference later this year. A devolved settlement would have major implications for the agreement, as devolved matters would be removed from the ambit of the conference. The greater the devolution, the wider the impact.
The thrust of my discussions with the parties to date has been to seek movement to or towards devolution. It is clear from the history of the past 15 years that lasting agreement on devolution is difficult to achieve. It requires adjustments on the part of everyone. Those adjustments will not be easy to make or to make quickly. Nevertheless, I continue to believe that movement towards or to devolution would best serve the interests of all the people of Northern Ireland.
There are three fundamental reasons for my belief. With every year of direct rule that passes it becomes ever clearer that the elected representatives of the Province lack adequate opportunity to participate in and take responsibility for decisions about the future of Northern Ireland. A devolved legislative assembly would offer people from Northern Ireland control over local services across the Province and real authority over, for example, priorities for education, industrial development, personal social services and the environment. Those are all matters for which local elected representatives should take responsibility.
The second fundamental point is that my talks with the parties have confirmed that devolution is the form of government most likely to command widespread acceptance and support in the community. I do not underestimate the wide differences of perception nor the past difficulties in seeking to achieve devolution. The parties tell me they support the objective of devolution and I believe that they are more likely to agree on steps in that direction than any other.
One of the most important reasons for seeking movement towards devolution—the hon. Member for Foyle got to the heart of this in the quotation I gave earlier—is that two traditions have to live together in Northern Ireland. Sectarianism must be rooted out of the Province. It is no good political leaders criticising sectarianism on the streets when all too often the main political parties appear to be trapped within its confines and are not seen to be giving any leadership in working constructively together with the other tradition.
Movement towards devolution would demonstrate that leadership and would return to Northern Ireland a much greater measure of responsibility for its own affairs. I have noticed comments recently about Northern Ireland being treated as a colony and people have complained about its status as a colony. Yet those comments are made by people who have consistently refused to pursue the opportunities for much greater responsibility for the affairs of the Province.
I do not suggest that a devolved form of government will be established easily or overnight. It is probable that, initially, it may be easier to reach agreement on steps towards devolution which might provide for a greater local input to decision-making. I see the next positive step as being for the political parties to start talking about those things together with the Government. With the benefit of the bilateral exploratory discussions behind us I believe we 412 should now be looking for ways of quickening the pace and making further realistic and sustained progress. The next step is clearly inter-party dialogue about the future arrangements for Government in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. King
If my hon. Friend will forgive me, I will not give way.
I know very well that those suggestions can immediately give rise to every sort of problem and difficulty. The most amateur politician in Northern Ireland has no difficulty inventing or identifying an obstacle to any course of action. We ought to take as our text for today the remembrance that this is the 14th occasion on which the temporary provisions have been renewed. It is the 14th occasion on which we have failed to make progress because on every occasion somebody has managed to find an obstacle or a difficulty or present a reason why nobody is willing to talk.
I say to all hon. Members who will take part in this debate, we have had problems about maintaining a dialogue. We are now, I hope, going to see part of the dialogue take place. That is what the United Kingdom Parliament should make possible. We shall see now whether people wish to identify the obstacles or whether they wish to move forward and see whether there is some way in which we can make a constructive contribution.
I cannot compel agreement but I can certainly do all I can to point the way. I have had the honour of being Secretary of State for nearly three years and I hope that hon. Members will concede that I have sought to show my commitment to the Province and my admiration for the people who live there for their courage and resilience against what is often appalling provocation and trial. We owe it to the people of Northern Ireland, who are my great encouragement in my work, to see whether we can point the way forward. It is what the people want and I hope that this 14th renewal debate can be the occasion on which we respond to their cry. I hope that every right hon. and hon. Member who takes part in the debate will see ways in which, instead of identifying the obstacles, they can recognise where there may be bridges to cross so that we can embark on a more constructive phase.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)
For the 14th year in succession we are being asked to renew direct rule in Northern Ireland. On the previous such occasion the Secretary of State, newly reconfirmed in his position, said:I am moving for the 13th time an interim extension order."—[Official Report, 7 July 1987; Vol. 119, c. 205.]I interpreted that, I hope charitably, as a slip of the tongue. Perhaps, carrying his awesome responsibilities, he felt that he was moving the order for the 13th time. If the former was correct, it was the third such order. If the latter was correct, perhaps he should have thought that it was the 19th or 20th time. Perhaps that is the reason why the press have been unkindly suggesting that the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) is waiting in the wings to do for Northern Ireland what he did for Liverpool—one garden festival but the basic problems left unsolved. The thought of the right hon. Member for Henley as the McClark Kent of Stormont castle boggles the imagination. I hope that we will hear no more of it.
413 What worries me is that there may come a time when the House is asked to renew direct rule for the 19th or 20th time. I am sure that if those who took part in the debate on 15 July 1974, when the legislation that we are renewing went through all its stages in one day, had known that they would have been extending the extension 15 years later, they would have reacted differently. The Bill went through all its stages without a Division on a point of principle. On the one Division that did occur, the Ayes were a mere 11.
It was clear at the time that the Bill was generally welcomed by the Unionists, but there were serious misgivings by the Nationalists. My then hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West, now Lord Fitt, said:I cannot pretend to welcome the Bill, coming as it does in the wake of the downfall of the Executive, the power sharing Government and the Sunningdale Agreement which I believe had the support of many people in Northern Ireland who wanted to see justice and a fair Government."—[Official Report, 15 July 1974; Vol. 877, c. 66.]
The direct provision in the Bill was incidental to its central intent, which, as hon. Members will recall, was the establishment of the constitutional conventionfor the purpose of considering what provision for the government of Northern Ireland is likely to command the most widespread acceptance throughout the community there.
After 14 years of direct rule, and knowing the lack of success of the Convention, we can only conclude that, although the people of Northern Ireland are united in their dislike of direct rule, it is at present—regrettably—the only type of government which is tolerable for most in both traditions; it is a highest common factor form of government. If that is the case, so far as I am concerned it sticks in the throat. I dislike the concept of direct rule and I am sure that most people in Northern Ireland—Unionists and Nationalists alike—regard it as second best. It is patronising, undemocratic, unaccountable, remote and inefficient, and it has gone on for too long.
It was interesting that the Secretary of State referred to some powers which could return to Northern Ireland. One is no doubt education. We are imposing on Northern Ireland an education system designed for England and Wales when every voice of popular opinion in Northern Ireland—I stress, every voice—is against the bulk of those provisions and proposals. However, what is even more interesting is that it lies within the powers of the Members of Parliament of both communities in Northern Ireland to take those provisions from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State and to decide their own future in the Six Counties of Northern Ireland.
It often seems that for Northern Ireland, legislation which is intended to be permanent proves temporary, and legislation which is intended to be temporary, distressingly, becomes too persistent. The emergency provisions legislation has been with us since 1973. The temporary provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1972 have been with us since and the emergency provisions of the Payments for Debt Act 1971 have been with us since. We have been renewing interim period extension orders for 14 years.
Surely it is time that everybody involved made a determined effort to get rid of all the apparatus of extraordinary legislation relating to Northern Ireland. Opposition Members would be happy if we could begin with direct rule and transfer much of what we discuss here to representatives of the people of Northern Ireland, sitting in Belfast.
The Secretary of State referred to a number of security measures as items for possible future legislation. Subject always to examination, we will give our full support to anything that can stop the godfathers: the trafficking in drugs; extortion; and the falsifying of accounts. We will support such measures, always subject to the content of the legislation and the way in which it is to be implemented.
I hope that when the Minister replies he will respond to my next point. At the time of the Private Thain matter, the general impression was that the position of prisoners held at the Secretary of State's pleasure, and especially those convicted between the ages of 18 and 21, would be carefully examined. In a recent letter to me, the Secretary of State said that he was still considering what to do about that. It would be helpful to the House if we could have some announcement on that.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall) will talk about economic matters, I should like to refer to some other events of the past year which the Secretary of State glossed over to some extent. It was announced in 1987 that the Secretary of State was considering the reintroduction of an oath against violence as a condition of election to local government, a requirement specifically outlawed previously by the Conservative Government in 1973.
The Government have refused to repeal the Payments for Depts Act 1971 under which, in the first three quarters of 1987, they clawed back £1,023,053 of invalidity benefit from disabled people in Northern Ireland relating to an emergency dating back to internment and Stormont legislation. In 1987, the Government also announced their intention to end single payments for social fund payments. That step will have a disproportionate effect on Northern Ireland, where unemployment and poverty are greater than in any other part of Britain.
The Government displayed an extraordinary mixture of arrogance and insensitivity in their inept and craven response to the Stalker-Sampson report. Opposition Members demanded a judicial inquiry at the time. Civil liberties organisations, such as the National Council for Civil Liberties in London, and the Committee on the Administration of Justice in Belfast, also called for a judicial inquiry, joining our demand. Now Amnesty International, an organisation which produces reports that the Government respect when they apply to the Soviet Union, Uganda or Indonesia, has called for a judicial inquiry into the disputed killings in Northern Ireland—a call which the Secretary of State has rejected.
There is also today's surprising report from the police authority which the Secretary of State glossed over quickly. That is an extraordinary and amazing situation. By a majority of one, the police authority concludedthat it was not necessary to appoint an investigating officer to enquire further into Mr. Sampson's observations",and resolved that no disciplinary proceedings needed to be taken in any of the three cases.
It is extraordinary how that majority of one in that police authority should come to back three senior officers. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall and to hear how that majority was achieved and what happened. By no stretch of the imagination can that majority of one be 415 regarded as a unanimous decision and vote of confidence in the three senior police officers of the most controversial police force in the United Kingdom. Of course, it was democratic and it was a majority of one, but let us see what that majority of one decided that they would not inquire into.
The police authority stated:Mr. Sampson commented that the conduct of the three Chief Officers justified criticism and referred to short-comings in both operational and administrative matters. The criticisms revolved around operational planning, operational procedures, the conduct of an investigation into certain matters arising out of two of the shootings and an alleged lack of assistance to the Stalker/Sampson enquiry team. The officers concerned strongly denied that these criticisms were valid.
There was a majority of one in a police authority of 16. Was that majority of one achieved by the casting vote? How many people were present and voted on that occasion? A planted question was tabled today about what is to happen to the new police authority. It would be nice to know how many of that minority will be reappointed and, for that matter, how many of the majority.
The one thing that is certain is that that vote by the police authority will not do anything to restore confidence. If the three top officers are still not to be investigated—I should state immediately that the authority said that it was not culpability that was at issue, but a possible further investigation, presumably to find whether they were culpable, in view of what Mr. Sampson said and in view of their escape by one vote—that is scarcely something that will give confidence about the administration of security in Northern Ireland.
That issue raises questions about the other matters into which Chief Constable Kelly has been looking because if those three senior officers have got off without even an inquiry, by a majority decision, democracy is working for those three senior officers for whom there was a vote, but for other officers there is straight disciplinary procedure—although it would look most unfair if strong disciplinary charges were preferred lower down the line. If disciplinary charges are deserved—and we do not yet know what is in the report—they should be preferred, but if they are preferred against the juniors, their superiors should be investigated for culpability. If there are two standards in this matter, it cannot be a good omen for morale within the force or for the general organisation and support for the rule of law in Northern Ireland.
In a sense, all this was to be expected when the Government did not support the rule of law and, for reasons of national security, the Attorney-General, or the Director of Public Prosecutions following the advice of the Attorney-General, decided not to prefer criminal charges. That was straight Government interference, which is why we need to have a proper judicial inquiry. What happened just does not stand up.
The country will face widespread and sustained national and international criticism and the Government will no doubt persist with their transparent arguments against a judicial inquiry. We in the Opposition have not changed our minds, and perhaps the Government will reconsider and change their position, for it is certain that the killings in Armagh and the inquiries and procedures that followed will not go away; they will continue to haunt 416 the Government, to undermine confidence in the security forces and to demonstrate the Government's spurious claim to adhere to the rule of law.
The Government's insensitivity to Irish sensibilities has been called into question in other areas. Events in Gibraltar and what followed undid what progress had been made following the adoption of more sensitive policing methods for Republican funerals. Timidity in relation to reforms in the administration of justice resulted in a general perception among Nationalists that nothing had or would change.
There was a most extraordinary exchange between former members of the Fine Gael Government, who negotiated the Anglo-Irish Agreement, and the British Government, alleging bad faith, failure to live up to undertakings, and misrepresentation. The collapse of the supergrass system was seen as a defeat of Government policies, rather than as a concession to Nationalist and international feeling.
Only the Government tried to have it both ways. To the Unionist parties they said, "We cannot interfere with the judiciary," and to the Nationalist groups they said, "This is all part of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. It shows that it is working and supergrasses have gone." The Government have refused to budge on the Diplock courts and internment powers. The improvements made—and some have been made—are simply viewed with a degree of cynicism and indifference. Over the past year the Government cannot claim much to their credit on those matters.
We welcome the progress that has been made in conjunction with the Irish Government, and the steps taken by the security forces in finding arms and the proper apprehension of people involved in violence. We rejoice when people are brought to trial and convicted, and we are sad when the Government seem to embark on other courses of action which bring Britain's reputation and the rule of law into question.
In November 1985, when we discussed direct rule, my right hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) said of the people of the Unionist tradition in Northern Ireland:I recognise their fears, I know they feel beleaguered, and excluded from designing their own destiny, that they live in constant anxiety about a sell-out and that any failure by a British Government to explain their intentions heightens those feelings of fear. I know that they feel that deals have been done behind their back, and some will feel deep and genuine resentment at that … I plead with the majority of non-Nationalists not to be blinded by prejudice. I ask them to see that the sole beneficiaries of a breakdown would be the terrorists, that the objectives of the constitutional nationalists for the foreseeable future are limited to reconciliation and stability, and to see their acceptance of consent as the absolute precondition of any change. I ask them to see that the common cause of peace is a greater cause than the preservation of this miserable murderous status quo."—[Official Report, 26 November 1985; Vol. 87, c.753.]
It was in such conciliatory terms and with an impassioned plea to both sides to try to break out of their ideological prisons that my right hon. Friend called for support for the Anglo-Irish Agreement. He saw it as an opportunity for all parties in Northern Ireland to think again and as an agreement which offered something to all sides. It offered them then, as now, a real alternative to direct rule.
The problem with the Anglo-Irish Agreement in so far as it affects these issues is that it seems to have closed off 417 in people's minds the ability to see the opportunities for a devolved Administration which existed long before the agreement was invented. Since 1969 there have been a series of major initiatives. Sunningdale and the power-sharing executive collapsed in 1974, the convention of 1975 failed, the Atkins conference was abandoned in 1980 and Prior's rolling devolution scheme, out of Mawhinney, produced no power sharing.
§ Mr. McNamara
That may yet happen to the right hon. Gentleman.
All those constructions were attempts to find a basis for a devolved Administration in Northern Ireland. All necessitated reaching an agreement between Nationalists and Unionists, and with the British Government. But because the possibility of devolution was written into the Anglo-Irish Agreement, suddenly for those opposed to the agreement the concept of devolved government seemed tainted in a way that it had not been before, at least in principle, except perhaps in the Sunningdale agreement.
As an example, I wish to consider briefly what seemed to be the essence of what the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) said on this matter. If I am inaccurate in summing up what he seemed to say on "Panorama", I am sure that he will forgive me and explain his comments to me. I am considering the possibilities of devolution as an alternative to the direct rule provisions in the order.
The hon. Gentleman seemed to be saying that there were three preconditions for talks between himself and the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux), on the one hand, and the Taoiseach, Mr. Charles Haughey, on the other. First, he said, there would have to be an internal settlement in Northern Ireland so that the talks were between Dublin and representatives of both traditions in Northern Ireland. Secondly, there had to be a suspension of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, so in practice, an end to meetings of the Intergovernmental Conference and the closure of the secretariat. Thirdly, there had to be an end to talks between the Social Democratic and Labour party and Sinn Fein.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
The hon. Gentleman does not have that right, but I shall correct him in my reply. I made it clear that the internal settlement had to come first; that there could be no negotiations until the other prerequisities, for which we have a mandate in our election manifesto, are carried out; and that any talks between Dublin and Belfast would be on a plain of equality with the people responsible for the government of Northern Ireland dealing with matters of mutual interest with the Government in Dublin.
§ Mr. McNamara
I gave a fair summary of what the hon. Gentleman said, although perhaps not in the order that he would have wished. The problem is that, whatever the talks with Dublin, those representing the North would be speaking from a devolved government position. Although I want talks to take place between all parties on the island of Ireland, the correct people to talk to Dublin are Her Majesty's Government.
§ Ms. Clare Short (Birmingham, Ladywood)
Surely we would all welcome talks between Unionists, Nationalists, Dublin and Belfast and encourage any agreement that they can reach, rather than get in the way of it?
§ Mr. McNamara
I was not saying that. My speech in Belfast yesterday made it clear that I would welcome talks among all the constitutional parties, North and South, to work out their future government. That is the whole essence of Labour party policy and it is our position. My hon. Friend, at least on this occasion, has correctly stated our policy.
In summing up the position of the hon. Member for Antrim, North, my argument related to the talks that my hon. Friend the Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) and his party are having with the Provisional Sinn Fein. Their success will obviously depend on whether he can persuade Sinn Fein to end its support for the campaign of violence being conducted by the Provisional IRA and to recognise the significance for all in Ireland of article 1(c) of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, in which the two Governments declare:if in the future a majority of the people of Northern Ireland clearly wish for and formally consent to the establishment of a united Ireland, they will introduce and support in the respective Parliaments legislation to give effect to that wish.
In that sense, there is no way that our party, in supporting the agreement—and interpreting it generously for the Government—would stand in the way of the wishes of a majority in Northern Ireland if they wanted to work towards constitutional unification.
§ Mr. Peter Robinson
Would the hon. Gentleman clarify his party's position? If a majority in Northern Ireland decided upon some course of action other than entering into an all-Ireland republic, would his party stand in the way?
§ Mr. McNamara
The provisions of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, to which we adhere, and to which our Government and the Republic of Ireland Government were signatories, stated clearly, directly and specifically that Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom until such time as laid down in paragraph 1(c).
§ Mr. McNamara
I do not have a copy with me. If the hon. Gentleman is trying to tease out of me whether we would go along with the idea of an independent Northern Ireland, the answer simply is no. We do not think that that would in any way help the people of Northern Ireland, the people of Ireland or the people of this country. However, if the Democratic Unionist party is now in favour of an independent Six Counties, perhaps it should make that clear.
§ Mr. McNamara
If the hon. Gentleman was stating that as his party's position, we know where the Democratic Unionist party stands. If it is not, when he makes his speech he can say so. In his "Panorama" performance, when driven on that particular point, he said, "If needs be, that is it," or words to that effect.
419 My hon. Friend the Member for Foyle and his party are seeking to bring an end to violence in the island of Ireland and to influenc the Provisional Sinn Fein to achieve that with the IRA. If that aim is achieved, all hon. Members should applaud and welcome it, because it gets rid of one of the major difficulties to progress in Northern Ireland for the good of the people of Northern Ireland and, especially, for the Nationalists.
The Opposition hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Foyle will be successful in his discussions with the Provisional Sinn Fein because we believe that—[Interruption.] Does the Minister of State want to make a comment?
§ Mr. McNamara
The hon. Gentleman must speak for his party, but I shall make the Labour party's position absolutely clear. The Labour party will not share platforms or talk to people who advocate a policy of the Armalite on the ballot box. In my first speech on Northern Ireland matters, after my right hon. Friend had given me the honour of Front Bench responsibility, I made that point clearly. That is the Labour party's position; it is committed to seeking a united Ireland by consent.
If my hon. Friend the Member for Foyle and his colleagues who are living in and representing people in Northern Ireland, feel that they can bring those who are indulging in some of the most horrific forms of violence—some of which we witnessed yesterday—to stop and instead to pursue a constitutional and democratic way of seeking to achieve their aim, I do not think anybody should seek to prevent them from doing that. We have every confidence that our sister party in the Socialist International is taking the best road for all the people in the island of Ireland.
The second argument of the hon. Member for Antrim, North was that the Anglo-Irish Agreement should be suspended, which is the point from which I started a few moments ago. The important point is that he is looking at the agreement in the wrong way. The agreement carries at its heart the seeds of its own destruction in many of those clauses that are most objectionable to its Unionist opponents. The Opposition support the agreement and will continue to do so until there is something wider, better and in concrete terms that is acceptable to both communities. When that becomes available we will, quite properly, accept it, but until then we shall support the agreement.
This is only our third debate on the review of direct rule since the agreement was made. In all the previous 11 debates, Opposition Members wrestled with the problem of how to end direct rule and to arrive at an internal settlement for Northern Ireland. Surely, after all that time, we should not countenance the argument being moved 420 back, so that instead of being, "We must have an internal settlement before we can end direct rule," the argument becomes, "We must have a suspension of the Anglo-Irish Agreement before we can have an internal settlement before we can end direct rule." If we are not careful, such an argument could regress indefinitely or become circular—something, I fear, that might already have happened.
Unionist Members have argued repeatedly for increased security in the Province, and have condemned the Anglo-Irish Agreement as a failure because it has not ended the violence. There is some irony in their argument, for while violence has undoubtedly continued, and the latest horrific, frightening episode was in Linaskea yesterday—it is a strange policy to unite Ireland by blowing it apart and destroying its young people—the agreement has clearly led to improvements in security and security co-operation. In fact, security has been on the agenda at 15 of the 20 meetings of the Intergovernmental Conference, and in the majority of them it has been the major item for discussion.
I have no criticism of that; I welcome any discussion on security and also the increased evidence of co-operation on both sides of the border in the determination to defeat those engaged in violence for political ends. However, I would not minimise, to the extent that the Secretary of State might have done, the ability to do it on an all-Ireland basis. We would welcome the prospect of the reduction of the remit of the Intergovernmental Conference as a result of an agreement on a devolved administration in Northern Ireland.
Let me end with a brief mention of the review of the working of the Intergovernmental Conference. There is no reason to believe that those who are not party to the review—everyone, that is, other than the two Governments—will be able to have a direct and immediate input. Yet I would like to see both Governments using the November review to encourage the Unionists to come in out of the cold and to see whether they can find a way in which those parties can have an input and a say in matters which come before, and are discussed in, the Intergovernmental Conference, and in matters which come before the civil servants in Maryfield.
The approach of the third anniversary of the signing of the agreement could serve as a catalyst for the review by all parties of past attitudes to the agreement. Out of that may come the potential for political movement.
All hon. Members owe it to the people of Northern Ireland to find a way out of the impasse which continues. We need to remind ourselves that, quite apart from the security matters, dreadful and important though they are, and the constitutional matters that are also important, there are social and material matters unrelated to the national question which are of importance to the people of Northern Ireland—concern for jobs, education for their children, security, decent housing and an opportunity to live in peace. Those are the issues that we should be talking about which could properly be the subject about which representatives of the people of Northern Ireland could talk about in a devolved Assembly in Northern Ireland.
If we take the steps necessary to end direct rule, we shall also have moved some distance down the path to peace and reconciliation; to normality in Northern Ireland. We on the Opposition Benches are committed to working for that. We urge the Government and all hon. Members to bend every effort in that direction. If the 13th debate on an interim period extension order led eventually to talks 421 without prejudice with the Secretary of State, let us hope that the 14th will lead to an agreement without any prejudices.
§ Sir John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest)
That this is to be, as the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) has just reminded us, the 14th interim period extension order, illustrates the truth of the French saying that nothing endures like the provisional. Apart from the post-Sunningdale period of the power-sharing Executive, Northern Ireland has been subjected to quasi-colonial rule by mainland Ministers, and I share some of the criticisms made by the hon. Gentleman of the system of direct rule.
The hon. Gentleman also referred to the extension of abortive—I would say lethal—political initiatives. Three Assemblies have been convened and done away with. I say three by including the Constitutional Convention, which was the scene of turbulent events. I recall a friend of mine who was an Assemblyman and was asked by a friend of his what had gone on during the riot in the Constitutional Convention. He said that he was sorry but he could not help. He could not say anything about it because Mrs. Paisley was sitting on his head—Mrs. Paisley being a member of that Constitutional Convention as well as the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley).
A hard-pressed Province is now threatened by another Assembly—a legislative assembly, which means an assembly that will make laws separate from this sovereign Parliament. I am disturbed, dismayed and distressed by the insistence of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on devolved government as distinct from devolved administration—the phrase used in the Anglo-Irish Agreement. My right hon. Friend's predecessors have pursued the will-o'-the-wisp of a form of devolved government acceptable to both Unionists and Nationalists.
I wish that Her Majesty's Government would not persist in policies and aims that distance Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom. How many decades will have to pass before a Conservative and Unionist Government return to the general election commitment drawn up by Airey Neave? He had the workable alternative to direct rule. I am surprised to hear my right hon. Friend say that devolved government had the backing of both Nationalists and Unionists in the Province. Perhaps the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) can help the House on that matter if he catches your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker.
When it is argued that devolution, in the sense of devolved government, is what the people of Northern Ireland want, I would ask my right hon. Friend whether he has noticed and studied the high degree of support in both parts of the community revealed in public opinion surveys for what is loosely described as integration, by which we mean not governing Northern Ireland as if Belfast were the same as Finchley— not at all. By integration we mean a distinct system of administrative devolution from this Parliament appropriate to Northern Ireland. Can we not get out of the rut of failed policies and work to bring Northern Ireland into the mainstream of United Kingdom politics so that in time Right and Left can replace orange and green, as has happened over the years in the mainland cities of Irish settlement?
422 Were we to do that we would be serving notice on the terrorists that their separatist game was up. Then again, it would remove the fear that closer partnership between the United Kingdom and the Republic spelt the betrayal of Unionism—the fear of deals behind Unionist backs, to use the phrase of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North.
The hon. Gentleman and I both want something better than the Anglo-Irish Agreement. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was looking forward to the November review of the working of the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference. I am glad of the growing support for an idea which I think I was the first to put forward in the House months ago, for the replacement of what one might call Hillsborough Mark I by Hillsborough Mark II—the replacement of an unequal treaty by a fully reciprocal treaty.
I am one of those who would welcome the setting-up of a parliamentary body representing the Parliament of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. I have always hoped for a still closer link between two sovereign states already in unique relationship. A united Ireland is not on, except within united islands.
§ Mr. James Molyneaux (Lagan Valley)
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), who I appreciate has another engagement and must leave, quoted the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition as saying that the Unionist representatives of Northern Ireland would have a say in our own destiny.
I must respectfully qualify that, because if we go for devolution, as the Leader of the Opposition and the hon. Gentleman seemed to be suggesting, we would not have a say in controlling our destiny. I am not saying that we should be in absolute control of our destiny—none of my hon. Friends would say that—but the Anglo-Irish Agreement makes it clear that, in the event of any level of devolution being installed, only certain matters will be devolved. The phrase that appears in every other item of legislation affecting Northern Ireland—"transferred matters"—is not used.
There was meant to be a world of difference, because those certain matters would be decided upon by the Anglo-Irish Conference. It would not be decided en bloc that these transferred matters would be automatically devolved as from the date of implementation. The conference would decide that certain matters—and decide which ones—would be devolved to a structure at Stormont. What it gives, it can take away. That is why devolution under the auspices of the Anglo-Irish Agreement is unacceptable for us.
I want to be generous to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North because he did the House a real service. I shall return later to something that he said. Suffice it to say for the moment that I am sure that my hon. Friends on both sides of the House are grateful to him for the Opposition's assurance that there will be no political or military withdrawal from Northern Ireland. I am also grateful for the assurance—it was implicit and deliberately inserted in his speech, so I am certain that he meant it—that the people of Northern Ireland will never be thrust out of the United Kingdom against their wishes. Those are valuable reassurances.
423 Hon. Members who entered the House after the general election last year may be somewhat puzzled by the charade in which we are engaged. They have the opportunity to come here—not many of them have availed themselves of it, and I do not blame them—to take their seats in the circus for the first time in their lives. It is a circus to which they will be invited every year of their political careers unless—this is an important proviso—the House at long last decides that enough is enough.
Proof that this is a circus can be found in the Official Report of 2 July 1984, when the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, now Lord Prior, said:the Government hope in the coming months to have detailed discussions with the Northern Ireland parties. Our purpose will be to see whether agreement can be reached on arrangements for enabling locally elected representatives in Northern Ireland to exercise at least some of the functions which are currently discharged by Ministers answerable to this House."—[Official Report, 2 July 1984; Vol. 63, c. 107.]I do not think the present Secretary of State would disagree if I said that his words tonight roughly followed those lines. He did not depart from them to any great extent.
For 14 years, successive Secretaries of State have been persuaded, or perhaps programmed, to churn out this sort of phrase. They do not believe one word of it. True to form, the Northern Ireland Office is yet again asking the House to renew a temporary interim order for the 14th year. We owe it to the honour of the House to consider whether we can, with any justification, continue to append the adjective "temporary". It is wearing a bit thin after 14 years.
For the benefit of those who consider this ritual to be necessary, let me explain that it is nothing of the sort. Today's exercise is not the inevitable consequence of the removal of Stormont in 1972, when there would have been no difficulty in Parliament saying that it had removed devolved government and proposing then to govern Northern Ireland like Scotland, for example. But Whitehall opposed such a course, for a sinister reason. Northern Ireland had to be kept detachable. So this Heath Robinson tumbril was wheeled out and kept in readiness—it still is—to trundle Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom when the opportunity presents itself.
If anyone doubts me, he need only look at how the Order in Council procedure fits so neatly into the halfway house that we know as the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Northern Ireland has been kept separate from the rest of the Kingdom. It is simplicity itself to exercise joint London-Dublin control over the Province without the House of Commons even being aware of it. Decisions can be made in the joint conference, so let us have none of this nonsense about sounding out, expressing views and considering this, that and the other. We know perfectly well that decisions are reached in the joint conference which override submissions from the natives of Northern Ireland and from those of us who represent them.
Unlike the Prime Minister and other senior Ministers who make statements after ministerial meetings and summits, the Secretary of State—it is not his fault; he is caught in the tram lines—does not make a statement to the House after each meeting of the Anglo-Irish Conference. He dare not do so, because Parliament would then be alerted to what is being done behind its back. I am glad to see the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for 424 Northern Ireland, the hon. Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney), on the Front Bench. On 30 March this year he published his proposals for educational reform in Northern Ireland. As happened with the parallel proposals for England and Wales, his proposals have been opposed by the Churches in Ireland—they are all-Ireland Churches, so we can call them that.
Before the Churches could receive a response to their submissions they read in the newspapers and in the communiqué issued on 17 June that the Anglo-Irish Conference had discussed those proposals. The communiqué states truthfully and bluntly:The Conference discussed also the Consultative Paper outlining proposals for education reform in Northern Ireland. The Irish side drew attention to concerns which had been expressed in the nationalist community about certain aspects of the proposals.No doubt that intervention by the Dublin Government was welcomed by one of the Churches, but what about the other three? It is true that they can make representations and lobby hon. Members who represent Northern Ireland, but the Minister will not heed what is said in the House.
For that matter—this may not have occurred to hon. Members—the Minister is not even bound to heed the clear view of the House. But he is bound, through his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, to—I quote the agreement—make determined efforts to reach agreement on proposals put forward by Dublin".So he can make determined efforts and reach agreement with Dublin, and the House is utterly impotent. Take it or leave it, the Order in Council procedure will ultimately be seen through in 90 minutes flat by the payroll vote.
Many other examples from the communiqué of 17 June illustrate all too clearly how the democratic processes are being bypassed and rendered invalid. For example, appropriation orders and debates on them are rendered utterly pointless. The Anglo-Irish Conference has discussed, and presumably agreed, how British taxpayers' money will be spent in west Belfast. I am not opposed to that. I suppose that the taxpayer will learn in due course of the amount expended on his behalf in that operation. I do not know whether it is intended eventually to extend the scheme to the other 16 constituencies, or whether this is a specific privilege to be accorded to the one constituency in Northern Ireland whose Member of Parliament never takes the trouble to take his seat.
Another item of expenditure is mentioned in a mysterious reference to the economic and social problems of what is called the north-west of the island. That topic has never been mentioned in the House, as far as I can remember. So what need is there for appropriation order debates, including the one that is due to follow tonight?
The inherent defects of the 1974 Act as an instrument for government have been compounded by the imposition of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. What was objectionable in 1974 has now been made completely unacceptable, not just to Northern Ireland but surely to a Parliament which serves as a model for democratic structures everywhere. Northern Ireland Office Ministers are not required—nor, for that matter, are they permitted—to come to the House to explain the views put to them by their Dublin counterparts on any given clause or section of a Bill, let alone on an Order in Council.
When under pressure from a Dublin Government tomake determined efforts to reach agreement",425 the Order in Council process is a godsend for Northern Ireland Ministers. They need only gloss over the awkward points in a very brief opening speech in a 90-minute debate. In an even briefer winding-up speech, perhaps only 10 minutes, they can with no difficulty ignore searching questions. As I have said, at the end of one and a half hours the payroll vote will see the Government home and dry.
As long as that utterly pernicious system is sustained, it is idle and useless to follow the Secretary of State into discussions on wider issues. That is because the truly monstrous combination of the Order in Council system and the Anglo-Irish Agreement will continue to strangle all democratic development. Either of those monstrosities makes progress and good government impossible.
§ Ms. Short
I understand the right hon. Gentleman's frustration at the Order in Council procedure. Those of us who have worked in Standing Committees have the same experience. It does not matter how telling the point or how rational the argument, because the Government's vote can push anything through and there is no respect for the quality of the argument from the Opposition. I fear that if the right hon. Gentleman succeeds in getting legislative change other than by Order in Council, he will have exactly the same frustration as he has now.
§ Mr. Molyneaux
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her intervention because it gives me an opportunity to point to one or two occasions on which, because there was a certain co-ordination and cohesion on the Opposition Benches, we were able to make a dent in a Government with a majority of a 100. I mention, if I may dare, the Firearms (Amendment) Bill on which my party played no small part. We can make the Government listen and I am not as pessimistic as the hon. Lady seems to be about the possibility of our combining forces. The job of Opposition parties in any Parliament is to scrutinise, criticise and oppose the actions and decisions of the Government of the day, whatever their complexion. That is our role and I hope that in the days to come we will have a rather more effective combined Opposition.
§ Mr. Alton
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. Does he agree that Orders in Council are brought before the House in a peremptory and rapid way and that that leaves so little time for debate that people end up being frustrated? Does he agree that the process does not leave much scope for rational politics?
§ Mr. Molyneaux
I agree entirely. In certain cases, where the order is of some importance, the process allows for what is called a consultative period. Submissions are made by all sorts of bodies and normally Members of Parliament and parliamentary parties make submissions as well. Education is one such important matter. However, I suspect that in the end the Minister with responsibility for education makes up his mind with the benefit of the advice he obtains from Dublin. All of us on the Opposition side will do our best to introduce some flexibility into his thinking, but unless the Opposition parties stick together and speak with a united voice, I doubt whether we will have much influence over the Minister.
Needless to say, my hon. Friends and I have no intention of giving any credibility to this phoney annual circus act beyond registering our disapproval in the Division Lobby. I shall end on a rather more positive note. 426 The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North did us another service. I welcome his declaration as spokesman for the Opposition that he does not regard the Anglo-Irish Agreement as being written on tablets of stone. I understand that he said that in a speech published yesterday in Belfast.
§ Mr. Molyneaux
I understood from the hon. Member from Kingston upon Hull, North just before he left the Chamber that he had repeated it yesterday. That in itself is good news. However, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North went beyond that and, as I recollect, he said that he was quite prepared to consider an alternative agreement, a wider and more workable agreement. The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) will agree that he and I have been saying that privately and then publicly for 10 months. We have said that our two parties are prepared to be positive. We are prepared to assist, to make our contribution to the design of a much wider, more workable and more practical agreement. We are genuine in saying that we regard such an agreement as a prerequisite.
That must be the starting point for everying else that has been talked about in the three speeches that we have heard so far. I hope that we can now persuade the Government to fall into line with the Opposition, with the three parties in the Dail and to say that they, too, are prepared to be flexible and to consider a more workable agreement.
§ Sir Michael McNair-Wilson (Newbury)
I should like to start by expressing my horror at the bombing of the school bus in Lisnaskea. I hope that the young girl who was so seriously injured will be able to overcome her injuries and resume a normal life. I should like to add my words to those of the Secretary of State in expressing my admiration for the way in which the security forces handle this most difficult and intractable problem of terrorism in Northern Ireland. We owe them all a huge debt of gratitude.
As we know, the debate is taking place against the background of the possible attempt to recreate some form of regional administration which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State outlined in his speech. We have just heard the reaction of the Leader of the Ulster Unionist party. What the right hon. Gentleman has said is of the greatest importance and must be taken very seriously by the Government if they want any attempt to create a devolved administration to have any success.
As hon. Members have said, the debate is taking place after almost three years of the Anglo-Irish Agreement and 14 years of direct rule. During all that time the emergency has continued. Instinctively, I welcome attempts to create a more effective system of local government in Northern Ireland, for I think it is generally agreed that since Stormont was taken out of the structure of government in 1972, the Province has had less local government than any other part of the United Kingdom. As we know, that serious deficiency continues from year to year.
After so many failed attempts to create new institutions—sometimes, I suspect, because the House refused to show proper sensitivity to the attitude of Ulster politicians—I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is right to prepare the groundwork away from the gaze of the 427 media and the public. I hope that he will not restrict himself to those policies put forward by his predecessors, which have so far yielded results of no consequence to the future good government of the Province.
In the course of his speech, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State seemed to be putting forward two ideas. In one he talked about the dialogue on Northern Ireland politics that this debate represents—as it should, for this is the Parliament of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. What is more, we know that that dialogue takes place in an assembly where sectarian, ethnic and religious differences play no part and where the issues involving the other regions of the United Kingdom are similarly discussed.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State then went on to talk about a devolved legislature in the Province of Northern Ireland. I repeat that we have been down that road before. That is why Northern Ireland has no local regional administration, that is why this debate is taking place 14 years on and why we shall continue to have these debates annually if we pursue a will-o'-the-wisp that is beyond catching and which will always elude us.
Sectarianism still exists in Northern Ireland. There are still two traditions and no legislative assembly can succeed while the two traditions have such basically different objectives. On the other hand, a devolved administration committed to local government could handle the local affairs of the Province and implement legislation passed in this House in a way in which sectarian and traditional differences would play only a small part.
As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State developed his ideas, I wondered whether he was not just picking up what had gone before over the years in the initiatives for Northern Ireland, and whether the Anglo-Irish Agreement was not the unseen hand manipulating the thinking of the Northern Ireland Office. Of course it is true that Northern Ireland is markedly different from other regions of the United Kingdom, not just because it is separated by sea and has a border with another state but because it has a divided population with one half—the larger half, if I may use that expression—bending towards Westminster and the minority leaning towards Dublin.
To that extent, the Anglo-Irish Agreement may seem to mirror the two traditions. No doubt that is why an impartial observer might expect peace, stability and reconcilation to be its natural outcome. As we all know, that has not been the case. In reality, the image in the mirror looks different according to who is holding up the looking-glass.
To Whitehall, the recognition by Dublin that the Province of Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom has been seen as such an important gain that Her Majesty's Government felt the South could have a say in the affairs of the North. In Dublin, the agreement represented an opportunity:—the first that the Irish Government have had since the creation of the Province—to have a say in the affairs of the Province and, as the agreement states, to enable the Government of the Republic to put forward proposals for major legislation and on major policy issues where the interests of the minority community are significantly or especially affected 428if it should prove impossible to achieve and sustain devolution on a basis which secures widespread acceptance in Northern Ireland.
There are others who look into the glass. The Ulster Unionists, I suggest, see only English and Irish Ministers looking back at them and wonder why their own reflection is not there although they represent the overwhelming majority of people in Northern Ireland. Members of the SDLP are as happy to see the Taoiseach looking back at them as one of their own. As for Sinn Fein, if it looks at all, it would happily smash the mirror with an Armalite round or a bomb, because its political aims do not lie within the status quo and certainly do not include a British presence in Ulster. The mirror charms or repels each who looks into it according to his viewpoint but does little, if anything, to reconcile anyone to anyone else. It does not even reconcile Dublin to London.
We should not forget that the Prime Minister of the Republic, Mr. Charles Haughey, recently stated that his intention wasto correct the historic inability of the British to understand Irish feelings.With such a view, is it to be wondered that in recent months the Irish Government have taken a bolder and more interventionist approach in Northern Irish matters—as they did, for example, over the Stalker-Sampson inquiry and over the case of the Birmingham pub bombers? The Anglo-Irish Agreement gives them that say while devolved government is absent from the Province.
What now worries me is whether devolution, as spelt out in the agreement or as referred to by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State this afternoon, is to be what the British Government say it is to be or whether it must meet a formula made not only by the Government with the Northern Ireland political parties but by agreement with Dublin. Who is to decide whatwidespread acceptance in Northern Irelandmeans? That is the only condition on which the Anglo-Irish Agreement will not give the Dublin Government the right to put forward proposals for legislation and so on.
Surely, if there is enough common ground between the political parties in Northern Ireland—always excepting Sinn Fein—for the creation of a devolved administration it would not be right for Dublin to put a spanner in the works simply because it forgoes its right to put forward proposals for major legislation and on major policy issues.
I am convinced that an effective local administration in the Province, to which the community could bring its problems to have them discussed and solved, is far more likely to bring peace, stability and reconciliation than anything that representatives from London and Dublin could hope to achieve, particularly while Belfast seems to be the pig in the middle. No consultation machinery is built into the Anglo-Irish Agreement to enable local politicians to have a say about the vital policies affecting the place where they live and the people whom they represent. That cannot be right.
This is the Parliament of the United Kingdom. As we all know, Northern Ireland legislation is treated in the most arbitrary way possible. It is appalling to realise that the Northern Ireland Committee last met to discuss business on 26 June 1985, when it considered the draft gas order. In the past three years, a great deal of legislation affecting the Province has gone through the House but, as we all know, those orders were dispatched in the space of 90 minutes each.
429 I know of no reason why the Northern Ireland Committee should not be reconvened. It is in the Government's power to reconvene it. It would be a poor substitute for the legislative survey that a Second Reading debate provides, but it would at least allow Northern Ireland Members to consider legislation affecting their Province in more detail and with much greater care than can ever be done in those brief 90-minute debates on the orders.
I do not object to the debate on the extension of direct rule. If tonight we were debating an order that was to extend direct rule for another five years, I should not object, because I want to see this Parliament remain the sovereign Parliament of Northern Ireland, where its legislation is settled and where its great issues are debated. I also want to see, running alongside it, a local administration in the Province that gives Northern Ireland a local government structure on all fours with all the other regions of the United Kingdom. Without that, we are guilty of preventing democracy from playing its proper role in the governance of Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)
I agree with what the hon. Member for Newbury (Sir M. McNair-Wilson) said about the need to use again the Northern Ireland Committee, which is allowable under Standing Order No. 99. That would be sensible, and I hope that it would not be long before it would have the chance to sit in Northern Ireland as well, as the Scottish Grand Committee sits in Edinburgh. However, I disagree with what the hon. Gentleman said about a rather diminished form of devolution, perhaps in the form of a regional assembly, running alongside Parliament. I should like to see full-blooded devolution, not just in Northern Ireland but in Scotland, Wales and the English regions.
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), speaking on behalf of the official Opposition, spoke about the outcome of the inquiry into the Royal Ulster Constabulary. That outcome, passed by a majority of one, is the worst of all worlds. I strongly support his call for a judicial inquiry. The House should give serious and urgent consideration to the establishment of a Select Committee to oversee the security services and the policing arrangements in a tense situation such as that in Northern Ireland.
The House is faced with several options. The first is the Government's option for steadfastly pursuing the objectives in the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Then there is the option that, to some extent, is favoured by the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux), which is going back to pre-1985 direct rule and the mythology of a Northern Ireland that is as British as Finchley, to borrow a phrase used by the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison). The third option is that which I am sure the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) will put forward if she catches your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker. That presents the idea of removing British troops and creating a united Ireland. That is a fairy-tale solution, which would simply replace one aggrieved minority with another.
I support renewal of the British commitment to Northern Ireland, because to do anything less would be to condemn the Province to even greater instability and to civil war. The first of those options, the one that the 430 Government are presenting to the House, is the only realistic one. Any fundamental shift in our approach would be music to the ears of all the paramilitaries in Northern Ireland and any pretence at easy solutions, whether military or otherwise, is a lie. There are better and worse options and the development of the British-Irish Agreement, which is what I wish it were called, and the understanding that there now is between the British and Irish Governments, has created the best mechanism for achieving the reconciliation that I am sure is the objective of most hon. Members.
None of this should be shorthand for complacency. We must admit that the agreement has defects. It was born in a climate of secrecy and perceived treachery. Its biggest defect remains the exclusion of the Unionists, excluded initially by an over-secretive British Government and then self-excluded subsequently. For three years, the Unionists of Ulster have said no, but have largely failed until recently to offer constructive ways forward, with the exception of the task force report, with which the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) was associated.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Will the hon. Gentleman explain something to us, because we are in complete ignorance? I have read and re-read and parsed the Anglo-Irish Agreement, and that is something that many who have spoken in the House have not done, because they read into it things that do not occur in it. Where in the Anglo-Irish Agreement is there any provision fog any contribution from the Unionists?
§ Mr. Alton
What the hon. Gentleman says is valid in the context of this arena and this Parliament, where he makes his contribution. If, instead of boycotting the agreement, he and others were to become participants in it, there is no reason why he should not make his contribution, in the House, to the Intergovernmental Conference. That is the way in which the Government speak directly to the Irish Government. If he is saying that, alongside the Intergovernmental Conference, there should be a new mechanism which allows for the Unionist Members of Northern Ireland to be able to make their input into that agreement, I would support that view.
Therefore, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will come forward with a constructive proposal, setting out in detail how he sees that working in practice. I hope that Unionists will end their boycott of the agreement and exercise their imagination in responding to Mr. Haughey's invitation to open-ended discussions.
I regret the outright refusal of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) to take part in that process. However, I was pleased to hear the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley legitimately and reasonably ask to see the colour of the Taoiseach's money, so that we can see what he has in mind, rather than just accepting the invitations that he has issued from locations all over the world.
It is inevitable that, before the review of the Intergovernmental Conference and the agreement, there will be some manoeuvring, but if that degenerates into a game of hide and seek, the fragile prospect of historic direct talks will be dashed. There is a new mood in Ireland, and I was heartened when I was in Cork recently at the conference of our sister party in the Republic, the Progressive Democrats, to hear its leader, Mr. Desmond O'Malley, say: 431Mutual suspicion in Northern Ireland is so deep that no agreement could possibly manage at once to satisfy all sides. But there can be no taking away from its fundamental achievement of creating a dynamic climate for change.That is why Nationalist politicians who only grudgingly accept the agreement are being totally ungenerous. They fail to appreciate the catalyst it has been in breaking the logjam of generations. That is why it was so sad to see it devalued by the present Taoiseach on his recent American fund-raising trip.
Mr. O'Malley went on to make a point that it is important that Unionists should hear:The operation of the Agreement is due for review by the Dublin and London Governments by next November. That review is a glorious opportunity to extend the scope of the dialogue beyond the two Governments, and to involve also the constitutional representatives of both communities in the North.What the outcome of such talks would be is hard to forecast. But if it could lead to that elusive goal of Nationalist and Unionist agreeing on a form of Government in Northern Ireland, nobody should stand in its way … As political intransigence in the North begins to defrost, I want to say to the Unionist community: You are not without friends on this side of the border. I have already spoken of this party's commitment to a tolerant, pluralist Republic.There is a deep and growing appreciation throughout the Republic of the terrible suffering you have endured, not least in the border areas, where a virtual campaign of genocide has been waged against you by the IRA.
I know from my visit to Enniskillen last month that, in the aftermath of the atrocity there, the Unionists were extremely grateful to the Progressive Democrats who had visited the community and stood beside them in their grief and bewilderment at what had taken place there in the name of a political philosophy based on the gun. Instead of scoffing and being cynical about such remarks, let us examine the new mood inside the Republic and welcome such a constructive approach.
I have great admiration for the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume). He said that he had given endless time and energy to his talks with Sinn Fein over the past six months. I hope that he will put the same time and energy into discussions with the constitutional parties of the other side of the divide.
As long as Sinn Fein is wedded to unity by force it will sustain and not end the divisions in Ireland. Mr. Gerry Adams's admission in the aftermath of Enniskillen that military victory is impossible did not prevent the bombing in Lisburn. Public admissions of the futility of these atrocities have not stopped the cycle of violence. Talking to Sinn Fein while it condones the violence of the IRA is to lend it the clothes of constitutionality. It should stand for what it is, an organisation of brutal killers which uses sickening and bestial methods.
Amnesty International is an organisation for which I would have respect, but it falls into the same trap when it refers to Sinn Fein as an armed opposition group. That is a euphemism and an entirely inadequate description which is grossly offensive to the victims of every outrage committed in the name of Republicanism. If the IRA really wants the troops out and an end to the violence that has disfigured the affairs of Northern Ireland, it must forswear terrorism. Constitutional parties should have no part in dealing with it until it does that.
I have said that the agreement has defects. However, there are things that can be done during the next 12 months to help it develop. The prerequisite to that must be 432 full Unionist involvement. I should like to see moves towards the establishment of a joint security commission that will involve both the Irish and the British Governments.
It would be welcome to see the extradition fiascos put firmly behind us. Rules should be established so that we shall no longer have to go through an endless game of charades every time extraditions are attempted. Similarly, there should be joint British-Irish anti-terrorist legislation to demonstrate that the Prevention of Terrorism Act is not a piece of anti-Irish legislation, which is the view of some of those who live in the Irish diaspora in this country. Unlike the hon. Member for Epping Forest, I should like to see the establishment of a British-Irish parliamentary tier.
On Friday, we shall be considering one of the benefits of the Anglo-Irish Agreement when we turn our attention to the White Paper on fair employment. I welcome that initiative, which is a step in the right direction. It will be good news for some of those who feel, quite justifiably, mthat they have been discriminated against for many years purely because of their religion.
I have said that there were better and worse options available. If Britain walked away from Northern Ireland, we would condemn its people to civil war. It would be irresponsible to do that and a capitulation to violence. Unionism, however, must appreciate that the old catch-cries of not an inch and no surrender are no substitute for political endeavour. If movements that offer the illusory but seductive solution of withdrawal without tears are not to be given momentum, constitutional parties must break out of the straitjacket of tribalism.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has the most difficult job of all the members of the Cabinet. There are no prizes and only few chances of spectacular success. There are many wooden spoons and no shortage of heartbreak. The right hon. Gentleman is entitled to the full support and gratitude of the House for undertaking his task, and he will receive it from my right hon. and hon. Friends.
§ 8.5 pm
§ Rev. William McCrea (Mid-Ulster)
I rise once again to discuss an issue which has caused the people of Northern Ireland heartbreak and a continuation of sorrow. If we have direct rule in its present form, with what has gone forth for the past 14 years, my constituents who live along the border will have a continuation of sorrow, murder and destruction.
Some of those who have participated in the debate seem to live in a world that is separated from the realities of Northern Ireland. I cannot object that some of them are living in that world. They have not visited the Province frequently to see the situation for themselves. If and when they do come, they do so at the invitation of a party that has no representation in this place. They usually parrot out some of the speeches of that party, including one from the east Belfast area, which I thought that we were going to hear again today. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) is seeking to uplift Mr. Alderdice as much as he can, although Mr. Alderdice has no elected position on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland.
The people of Northern Ireland are dismayed and distressed by those who pontificate about the Province. They try to give the impression that the Members of this 433 place have all the answers and that the people of the Province are the numbskulls who need to be beaten into subjection. They suggest that at some stage the people of Northern Ireland will surrender their rights as individuals to speak as a democratic people, with a right to vote and for their votes to count in the same way as those in any other part of the United Kingdom.
I know that there are many in the Northern Ireland Office who have no desire to see the end of direct rule. Many of the civil servants in the Northern Ireland assembly objected when members of the Northern Ireland community dared to ask them a question. They objected when they dared to bring them to account. They did not want to answer for some of the decisions that they had taken.
It annoys the people of Northern Ireland that civil servants have more power than the elected representatives of the people. I can assure the House that the civil servants in the Northern Ireland Office will do all in their power to hold on to their authority rather than allow the elected representatives of the people of Northern Ireland to speak for the people of the Province.
I listened carefully to the Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara). We receive lectures on sectarianism. We are told that we are not to have a closed mind and that we are not to be biased. We are told by Opposition and Government Members that the Anglo-Irish Agreement is leading us in only one direction. If the people of Northern Ireland really want to go into a united Ireland, then both Governments will run through the legislative process to ensure that we get into an all-Ireland situation.
That is the only direction permitted. No other alternative is permitted under the Anglo-Irish Agreement. No other alternative will be listened to by those on the Government Benches. We are clearly told that there is no other alternative from the Opposition. That was made clear by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North. The hon. Gentleman made it clear that the majority view will be heeded when there is a rigged majority in one direction, and that must be towards Dublin.
It is about time that the Government told us how much they feel for the people of Northern Ireland, especially the hard-pressed people in the border areas. I have in mind a constituent of mine who lies buried tonight, Michael Darcy, and his mother, who is left broken-hearted. I feel for these people and others like them.
It is about time that the Government said, "We are for the Union." I have never heard that said since I became a Member of this place. I have not heard that said from the Government Dispatch Box or from those who sit on the Conservative Back Benches. The Secretary of State has said personally that he is for the Union, and I accept that. I am talking about the Government and those who speak on behalf of them. They have not said that they want the people and the Province to be a full part of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Tom King
I am a member of the Government, and I have made the point that the hon. Gentleman raises absolutely and abundantly clear. Does the hon. Gentleman actually want to go somewhere else? A sort of fear seems to pervade these interventions. Actually the Anglo-Irish Agreement says—it is an act of generosity and clear commitment by the Nationalists as well—that Northern Ireland, we accept, is part of the United 434 Kingdom and will remain so. [Interruption.] Do not argue. I say to hon. Members, do not argue because the reality is, as everybody knows, that there will be no change.
§ Mr. King
I am not interested in abuse. I am interested in the people of Northern Ireland and in them knowing the facts. The fact is the Anglo-Irish Agreement states that there will be no change in the status of Northern Ireland without the agreement of the majority.
I often think that I have more confidence than many others in the majority in Northern Ireland. I have made it abundantly clear that I do not believe that their views will ever change. However, I accept as part of the reality of a democratic life—and this is part of the Anglo-Irish Agreement—that if the majority of people in Northern Ireland wanted to change the situtation, no Government would refuse to accept a democratic view. Hon. Members sell themselves short if they keep seeking to pretend that they have no confidence in the majority in Northern Ireland wishing to maintain their present status within the United Kingdom.
§ Rev. William McCrea
I thank the Secretary of State for making another speech. I need no lectures from anyone to know exactly where the Unionists stand. Hon. Members would do better to read the agreement. It is most misleading to lecture my hon. Friends, because we have read the agreement from beginning to end, which many Conservative Members have not done—otherwise they would not have gone into the Division Lobby to support it.
As far as the Anglo-Irish Agreement is concerned, there is no change in the status of Northern Ireland. The question is, what is Northern Ireland's status in the eyes of both Governments? We found out exactly what it is in the Irish Republic's constitution. which claims jurisdiction over Northern Ireland. For the Irish Government, there is no change in Northern Ireland's status, because they believe it is still within their jurisdiction.
The Secretary of State may fool certain Members of his own party, as he has in the past, but he should not come to this Chamber and try to ram his views down the throats of the people's elected representatives. It is our future that is at stake. It is not a part of England, of Scotland or of Wales that is up for sale—it is Northern Ireland, as a part of the United Kingdom. We are British citizens, and we prove that by the way in which we seal our love for being a part of the United Kingdom with our blood. We shall take lessons from no one.
The Secretary of State can sit and mutter away but my constituents derive no comfort from the words that are said from the Dispatch Box time and time again, as to how sympathetic are the Government and how they feel and pray for the people of Northern Ireland. The Government could do more than pray. They could put feet on their prayers and give action to their prayers. They have the power to reach a solution and to stop the IRA from murdering the people of Northern Ireland.
Seated next to the Secretary of State is the Minister with responsibility for defence matters. Quite often in these debates, he sits with a smirk on his face, but he does not know how the people living along the border feel. Never once has he visited them. Never once has he walked into the home of a person who has suffered tragedy and whose 435 future is at stake. Those people ask their elected representatives, "Why isn't something done?" When we, as their elected representatives, make speeches, it is easy for others to say, "You shouldn't worry and shouldn't get heated," but it is we who have to walk into home after home.
I assure the House that if any hon. Members representing constituencies in England, Scotland or Wales had to walk behind coffin after coffin, and had to face widows and orphans, it would not be smirks that they would have on their faces but expressions altogether more serious. They would surely return to their Ministers and say, "Something must be done."
If the policy on security has not put an end to terrorism after 20 years, there is something wrong. It would not be dishonourable to change course and to introduce something more effective to stop the IRA's murdering gangs. It is totally misleading to suggest that the Irish Government recognise Northern Ireland as a part of the United Kingdom. They state that there will be no change in Northern Ireland's status without the will of the people, but the status they are talking about was established in the past week in the Dublin court. We shall learn with interest the evidence that was given in the Dublin court concerning the McGimpsey case, and the court's ruling on the status of Northern Ireland. Perhaps the Secretary of State will return to the Dispatch Box and explain away the evidence that was given on behalf of the Dublin authorities.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
As it seems impossible for me, as the leader of the Democratic Unionist party, to be called to speak in this debate, and as I have no intention of taking any further part in it, I wish to ask my hon. Friend if he agrees with me on this point. If, as the Secretary of State said, it is right to legislate for a majority and recognise their wishes if that majority is a Republican majority, is it not right that the Secretary of State should also put it on record that a Protestant majority wanting an arrangement other than the present one should also be legislated for?
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) told the House that the Protestant majority in Northern Ireland will never have a say. Should not the Secretary of State, knowing very well that both the Democratic Unionist party and the Ulster Popular Unionist party want Northern Ireland to remain within the United Kingdom, face up to that? However, we do not want Dublin to have a say over us, or a situation in which we are pushed down the street into a united Ireland. That we will not wear.
Whether or not the Minister with responsibility for education smiles, for he has already forsworn his Ulster heritage, does not matter. The Secretary of State cannot always take the majority with him. He says that he knows what the majority believe. He should resign his seat, and I will resign mine, and then we could both fight. He would lose his deposit, because he does not know what the majority want in Northern Ireland.
§ Rev. William McCrea
I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. I wrote down the Secretary of State's words as he was speaking: "I believe this is what the people want." That was a very interesting statement, and I would like to know how the Secretary of State has found out the will of the people. He has not found it out on the ground 436 —from the ordinary man and woman in the street who elect representatives to the House. I would be happy for the Secretary of State to come to Northern Ireland, seeing that he is so sure that he knows what the people want, and accept the invitation that has been extended to him.
One of his hon. Friends has decided to take an active interest in the Province and may try to stand in North Down. We were listening to lectures from her and perhaps the Secretary of State will come to Northern Ireland, and to North Antrim, and take up the challenge that has been made to him.
The will of the people is expressed at the ballot box. Despite all the rigging and attempts to change it, the fact remains that the Unionists have given their backing to their leaders. The right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) and my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) have the backing of the people and speak with the authentic voice of the people: let no Minister tell us that he knows better than the elected leaders of the people. It would have been appropriate for my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North, as leader of our party, to put forward his points of view in a Northern Ireland debate, but he has not been called.
§ Mr. Jim Marshall (Leicester, South)
The hon. Gentleman claims to have written down the words of the Secretary of State. It is perhaps unfortunate that he failed to write down those of my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), who made it clear that the official Labour view on Northern Ireland was and is that no majority in the North of Ireland will be forced out against their will—or thrust out, which I think was the word used by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley).
§ Rev. William McCrea
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his contribution. It is very kind of Her Majesty's Opposition to be willing not to kick us out and to let us stay for a little longer. [Interruption.] I have the Floor.
§ Rev. William McCrea
That is very kind of the hon. Gentleman. He will know more, because I shall deal with the SDLP in a moment.
It is the will of the people of Northern Ireland that will keep Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom——
§ Rev. William McCrea
I have a problem, Mr. Deputy Speaker. One the one hand I have heard an objection that my speech is going on too long and that others want to intervene. On the other hand, I would not like to stop a moderate from speaking.
§ Mr. Flannery
I made up my mind that I would not intervene, because I want to speak later, but my chances of doing so are becoming slimmer and slimmer as the hon. Gentleman's speech continues.
Let me refer the hon. Gentleman briefly to the contribution of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), to whom I always like to listen. I had the general impression that he really wants an independent Northern Ireland with him leading it. Will the hon. Gentleman make it clear whether the Unionists want an independent Northern Ireland or want to stay in the United Kingdom?
§ Rev. William McCrea
The people of Northern Ireland desire to be full members of the United Kingdom. We do not want to sit on the periphery of the United Kingdom, to be kicked out whenever someone decides on it; we want to be active members of the United Kingdom.
The Anglo-Irish Agreement is nothing better than joint sovereignty between London and Dublin. It does not give Northern Ireland full and equal membership of the United Kingdom. No other part of the United Kingdom suffers the interference of any foreign and on many occasions hostile Government. If this is what is known as equal membership of the United Kingdom, the Unionist majority in Northern Ireland are not willing to accept it.
I say without apology that if that is what is being forced on the people, the Unionists will not walk down the Dublin road. If a choice is to be made, the Unionists can make an alternative choice. If it is right for a majority to choose a united Ireland, a majority can choose some other administration to take over the running of the country. That is the will of the people. That is the route that the Unionists and those living on the border are willing to take if the Government will not give them equal rights as members of the United Kingdom.
I do not know whether it is a deliberate twist of thinking, but people are trying to suggest that Northern Ireland Unionists do not want to remain within the United Kingdom. That is not true. They want to remain, but to do so on the same grounds as everyone else. The Prime Minister herself said that we would be as British and as much a part of the United Kingdom as Finchley. To the best of my knowledge, Finchley has no agreement with any foreign Government to rule its citizens—although I am not sure about that: it may have happened before the House met today. Such circumstances can change very quickly. Liverpool, for example, contains many minorities with different backgrounds, and may desire the intervention of some foreign Government. To the best of my knowledge, however, it has no agreement or joint authority to run its affairs.
All that we are saying is that we seek equal rights as equal citizens in the United Kingdom. That is not too much to ask.
§ Mr. Alton
Surely the point is this. The hon. Gentleman protests his loyalty to this country and its institutions. If he is loyal to this Parliament, why is it so impossible for him to concur with its majority wishes? The Anglo-Irish Agreement was passed with perhaps the biggest vote in the lifetime of the last Parliament.
§ Rev. William McCrea
The thinking behind that amazes me. Not one Northern Ireland Member has ever given his allegiance to this Parliament in relation to a particular party or decision. Our allegiance is to Her Majesty The Queen.
§ Rev. William McCrea:
It is a mockery for the hon. Gentleman to talk about democracy. Democracy in the House is majority rule, and that is what is being denied in Northern Ireland. That is what is being thrown out each time. Let no one sit on his rear end and try to insult the people of Northern Ireland by telling us that this is democracy. It is not. It is an abuse of the democratic rights of the people of Northern Ireland to refuse to listen to their elected representatives.
438 I challenge the Government, if they feel that the people have changed their minds and want to go along with the Anglo-Irish Agreement, to put it to the test of the ballot box. The Secretary of State knows that the people will come out with a resounding no. The three principles of the agreement—the rest of the United Kingdom had better realise this—are peace, stability and reconciliation. It is interesting to note that in all the recent debates about the profit of the agreement, Ministers have now moved off those three principles. We never hear them say that the agreement is bringing peace, stability and reconciliation. The most recent statement that I heard from a Minister was that it had brought realism to the Unionist leaders, and the knowledge that they would have to do something other than simply say no: they would have to accept the agreement.
That shows how much Her Majesty's Ministers have learnt. Of course, it is difficult to learn such a lesson sitting behind barbed wire in Stormont; it is difficult to get the message from ordinary citizens in the community. But that can be resolved if the people change their minds. The House had better wake up to the fact that if this is put to the people through the test of the ballot box, the people will reject it. Instead of peace, it has led to turmoil; instead of stability, it has led to further instability; instead of reconciliation, as many Ministers—not in the Northern Ireland Office but in the Cabinet—have admitted, it has not succeeded. A senior member of the Cabinet admitted that in a recent interview.
Let not hon. Members live in cloud-cuckoo-land. Let them face reality. I am an ordinary Ulsterman. I am not a professional politician and I have no desire to be one. I am concerned simply about the future of my children in Ulster. Hon. Members sit down with representatives of the murderers of our children and our people in Ulster.
I listened carefully to a recent debate about Northern Ireland to which the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) made an interesting contribution. He stated:No member of my party has ever donned a balaclava or uniform, has ever manned a barricade or carried a coffin of a leader of the Ulster Volunteer Force."—[Official Report, 16 June 1988; Vol. 135, c. 580.]That is an insult to the integrity and the knowledge of the people of Ulster. It is common knowledge in Ulster that Gerry Adams is not only the leader of Sinn Fein. A recent programme on Northern Ireland showed that Gerry Adams was not only the leader of the political party, but he was an active terrorist in Northern Ireland. Gerry Adams was the leader of a group that organised a bombing in the city of Belfast. There are many more godfathers.
I can give a direct challenge. In the district that I come from, John Joe Davey—and I have to sit in the same council chamber as him—did the final run when Kenneth Johnson was murdered. The Sunday before the murder, John Joe Davey, the Sinn Fein councillor, chose the spot where the bicycle was left for the person who had done the murder to get away. He was followed on the Sunday before the murder. I have given that information to the police, including the timing, the place selected and the rest of it.
Let not the SDLP get off the hook. The representatives of the Sinn Fein with whom they speak are not just members of the Sinn Fein. Someone in the Northern Ireland Office told me that practically every Sinn Fein councillor came from the military wing of the IRA. The SDLP sit down with Gerry Adams. Let them not say that 439 they have never donned a balaclava or uniform or manned a barricade. They are sitting down with the men that carried the bombs and executed the murder of people in our Province.
Those hon. Members had better examine their consciences. It is not enough for them to say that they are sorry for the young girl who is fighting for her life. Pious words are past going into the ears of the people of Ulster. It is not enough for hon. Members to come to the House and condemn murder after murder. We have consigned the people of Northern Ireland to 20 years of murder. If it were on the mainland, more than 100,000 people would be dead. Does the Secretary of State believe that hon. Members would be saying nice little words and making nice little speeches to the Secretary of State? He knows that there would be a demand for action, and furthermore, he knows that action would be taken.
We in Ulster are sick of listening to people saying, "We condemn." We are asking for an aggressive policy against terrorists in our country to stop terrorism and bring us the peace that we need. No matter what form of government is adopted in Northern Ireland, and no matter what decision is taken, let no one think that the IRA will fold its arms and go to sleep. Whatever Administration takes over in Northern Ireland—the British Government have the authority and the ability to do that—they will have to defeat the IRA. They will have to take military measures to defeat the IRA, because for 20 years the IRA has carried on a campaign of murder and destruction in our Province. It has safe homes all over the place. Let us not forget that 100,000 people went to the ballot box and voted for Sinn Fein.
If anyone thinks that the SDLP has gained ground, all I can say is that in recent talks the SDLP has lifted Sinn Fein out of the gutter and tried to give it an air of respectability, with the idea that together they will stop the murders. But since those talks more murders than ever before have occurred. The IRA has slaughtered young soldiers; now it is attacking young children. It is all covered over by words of sympathy.
In this debate I heard the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon)—the hon. Gentleman should blush— tell the House very piously that the Unionists, the Democratic Unionists and the Official Unionists in Newry and Armagh joined to appoint an IRA man. He said there was an unholy alliance with Sinn Fein. That is totally untrue. The hon. Gentleman knows that it is untrue. The person who was elected is an independent councillor. The only reason why the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh is crying is because the SDLP candidate was beaten to the chair. It is only sour grapes that led him to mislead the House.
The hon. Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison), who unfortunately has left the Chamber, said that he was delighted that in the council chambers in Northern Ireland the SDLP had turned its back on Sinn Fein and removed its representatives. There is nothing further from the truth. The SDLP in Enniskillen council, after the murder of 11 innocent people, was shamed into dropping the Sinn Fein member that it had appointed in the first place as chairman of the council. But what did it do? If it was shamed in Enniskillen, it shifted the shame to Strabane. It swapped the area in which it gave Sinn Fein 440 control. In Strabane every SDLP councillor voted for the Sinn Fein chairman of Strabane council, another godfather of the terrorist group in Strabane. The SDLP put him in power.
In Magherafelt the SDLP joined with Sinn Fein to elect a Sinn Fein vice-chairman. Did it have to do that? Was it under attack? Did the Unionists oppose the SDLP chairman? Not at all. The Unionists decided that they would be smart for the SDLP and put them to the test as they had. five members of the council and were the big power-sharers in the community. The Government have always spoken about the kindness of the SDLP in reaching out olive branches and have said that everything was beautiful from the SDLP point of view. What happened when it came to the election of the chairperson in Magherafelt? A lady took the chair. That lady was proposed and seconded, and no Unionist opposed the SDLP election.
This is an important matter for the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume), as his party is under scrutiny. Perhaps it is best that he remains in the Chamber. In that council there was no opposition to Sinn Fein. Indeed, the SDLP did not need Sinn Fein to get the chair. There were five SDLP council members and three Sinn Fein representatives. But when it came to the election of the vice-chairman, every SDLP member voted for the Sinn Fein vice-chairman against the Unionists. Why? That is the new olive branch, that is the new moderate image that is being shown by the SDLP.
Ulster Unionists are not blind to what is going on in our country. Because of the smartness of Gerry Adams, the SDLP has been led like little puppets along the route. The SDLP is now doing the bidding of Sinn Fein because it has been outwitted and outflanked by Gerry Adams. The Sinn Fein is ready and prepared for the next local government election because it has been given its best bonus in years for success for the future. It is only right that we put the situation right.
We then listened to the Secretary of State today. I am interested in how the Minister will reply on behalf of the Government. The Secretary of State said today that the SDLP has put forward proposals in favour of devolution and that it is working for devolution, as are the Official and Democratic Unionists. That is interesting as, a matter of weeks ago, in a radio interview Danny Morrison, Sinn Fein's spokesman and one of those involved in the secretive talks with the SDLP, said for all the people of Northern Ireland and, believe it or not, even the Northern Ireland Office to hear, that, in all its talks, the SDLP had told Sinn Fein that it was not interested in devolution. Since that revelation, there has been not a word of denial from the SDLP. Nevertheless, the Secretary of State told the House today that the SDLP wants devolved government. We hear a different story from a party to the secret negotiations. They have to be secret, and we find that Sinn Fein releases just what information it wants to release about the talks.
I shall be happy to give way if an hon. Member who represents the SDLP wants to correct me. This is a vital matter, and the SDLP should come clean. Perhaps Danny Morrison is doing the dirt on the SDLP. If so, that should be made clear to everyone. If, however, he is speaking the truth, someone else is speaking with a forked tongue.
The SDLP must not leave its new-found friend. It dare not because it knows that Adams has the party where he wants it—he can say just what went on, which is not in the 441 SDLP's interests. It was reported in a Belfast newspaper that the SDLP has stated that its policy is not to stop violence but to curb it. That reminds me of a former Minister speaking of an acceptable level of violence. We need an answer to that too.
The Secretary of State said today that the SDLP wants to stop the violence. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North said today that he wished the SDLP well if it wanted to stop the murders and the violence. An SDLP spokesman said that the SDLP wanted only to curb the violence. In other words, the SDLP is telling my constituents that it does not accept the number of people who are at present murdered along the border, and that it wants to cut the number a wee bit. That is the truth, as the SDLP and other parties have used the violence committed by the IRA. There never would have been an Anglo-Irish Agreement if it were not for the murders. The Government were forced to negotiate with Dublin under the shadow of the gun.
There have been calls for inquiries. There are those among the Loyalist community who, under our present system of direct rule, are sickened with the biased calls for inquiries. I am sure we all remember the great hullabaloo about the McAnespie case along the Aughnacloy border. The SDLP ran to Dublin. It has no confidence in itself or in its ability to speak for the minority community, so it has to seek support. A young lad was castigated throughout the country. It was said that he had committed murder.
The Southern Government jumped into the act. Charlie would have to back up the terrorists. He demanded that the body be exhumed. There have been no calls for an inquiry since. There have been no calls for an inquiry into why the SDLP and others agitated to get the body lifted. Why? The answer was not to their liking. The soldier could not be charged with deliberate murder, which was the first charge laid against him. Nobody saw it happen, but everybody was there to make their condemnation.
The cardinal jumped into the act. Why not have everybody in the act? When people want to condemn the British Army, get everybody into the act. He flew home. He did not fly home on account of the murders in Protestant areas, but he flew home and made his speech, in which he said the killings of McAnespie was deliberate murder. When the body was lifted they found that it was not done that way, but a young British soldier had been castigated throughout the world. He has been put on an IRA list. His name has been pulled through the gutter. When threatened and frightened, any young lad can make a mistake. Even Opposition Members can make a mistake. Not so a young British soldier. It is good enough to condemn him before he has been tried properly.
As to the Stalker inquiry, in a newspaper this morning, the Northern Ireland Office is reported as saying:a judicial inquiry would not be helpful. But the possibility of bringing disciplinary procedures against officers con-cerned"-—listen for it—was being vigorously pursued.We are talking about using lads, who were sent out to do a job, as scapegoats. We are being told, "Let's castigate them, for who will be concerned about a young policeman?" Certainly not members of the SDLP.
§ Rev. William McCrea
The hon. Gentleman will have to contain himself a wee bit. The police authority said today 442 that no action will be taken against the Chief Constable and two other senior officers. We have heard that no action will be taken against them in court. What about the ordinary officer? He is expendable. Let us use him as the butt of it all. Let me make it clear in the House that there are persons who, if they are used as a scapegoat, will tell the full story.
§ Rev. William McCrea
The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh and his hon. Friends know the names of the Birmingham Six. Why do they not give their names? A member of Her Majesty's Opposition says that he knows the persons who murdered the people in Birmingham but he thinks too much of the Republicans to announce their names. I do not believe that it is right to use young, ordinary policemen as scapegoats. If heads are to roll it should be those of the political leaders higher up the line who gave the instructions in the first place, rather than the young lads who simply carried out their instructions.
§ Mr. Mallon
Apart from the obvious harm that the hon. Gentleman is doing to the British parliamentary system, he should be concerned about the damage he is doing to the truth. Twice today, once in the House, I said that it is scandalous that the Chief Constable and his two deputy assistant chief constables should be exonerated and that people lower down the line should have to carry the can— those are the words I used—for decisions they made. I will, with the same vigour although perhaps not with the same verbosity as the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea), defend the right of any single policeman. Today I asked the Police Federation to take an interest in this so that we would not find the men at the top going scot-free while ordinary constables suffer for them.
I will go even further. The:hon. Member for Mid-Ulster said that there are people in the police force who could tell all. Would he adjust that to say that they would tell the truth? If they would do that, they would have the support of everyone in the Nationalist community and everyone who values truth in our community. Let us put the right people in the dock. It should be the Chief Constable of the RUC who is responsible, the deputy chief constable who was responsible for the E4A unit and the other deputy chief constable who was in total charge of the special branch.
§ Rev. William McCrea
I have learned something today. I have learned that the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh has such a love for the British parliamentary system that he is worried about it. That will be news to the people in Newry and Armagh. Gerry Adams will be interested in that as well. It is the first time that I have ever known the hon. Gentleman be concerned about or interested in the British parliamentary system. He has been interested only in using it. I am taking this opportunity to make a few necessary remarks because misleading statements were made in the House earlier. We had better get the facts out in the open. An Ulsterman would rather be told the truth than be told some made-up story just to please him and then be kicked on the pants when he is out the door.
The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh has called for the resignation of the Chief Constable and two other senior officers of the RUC.
§ Rev. William McCrea
I am not surprised at that, because the hon. Gentleman has called for the resignation of the entire Ulster Defence Regiment. Three resignations from the top of the RUC will be nothing when one considers that he wants every UDR man to go.
I do not believe that the Chief Constable made the decision on his own. The decision went into the higher reaches of the political arena. Therefore, we should not use anyone as a scapegoat. The House is supposed to be responsible, and there are bound to be people in the House who must bear the responsibility for any action taken. I am convinced that there are Front-Bench members of Her Majesty's Government who know more about this incident than the ordinary wee man or ordinary wee officer who carried out the instructions.
The statement from the Northern Ireland Office said thatdisciplinary procedures against officers concerned"—that is, the smaller officer down the line—were being vigorously pursued.No doubt those officers will have stripes removed and there may be demotion and so on if the Government can get away with it. However, the people at the top will not suffer.
I speak on behalf of the Unionist population, especially along the border areas which are under constant attack by the IRA. The Loyalists do not believe that the RUC has a shoot-to-kill policy. The shoot-to-kill policy in the Province is the policy of the IRA. Every bullet fired by the IRA is shot to kill and every bomb it sets is a bomb to kill, including the killing of the young girls on the bus yesterday. We do not hear about inquiries for those. I have never heard the SDLP ask for an inquiry into how the IRA murdered so many young policemen in Newry. I never heard the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh request such an inquiry.
§ Rev. William McCrea
I will give way to the hon. Gentleman, do not worry.
I have never heard a call for an inquiry into the bombing at Enniskillen. The Roman Catholic Church authorities objected to the searching of the building on the day of the remembrance parade in Enniskillen. For the first time in seven years there was no search of the building, because of objections from the priests and 11 people were murdered. There has been no call for an inquiry as to how that atrocity was able to take place. There has been no inquiry into the incidents at Cappagh when the hunger strikers were buried. There were photographs in the newspaper of the priests clapping at the graveside as the IRA fired the shots. There was no inquiry and no intervention by the security forces to stop that fiasco from continuing.
The only time that the SDLP will call for an inquiry is when it is against the security forces which are trying their best to fight the murderous bunch of rascals in the IRA. The IRA has no qualms about shooting. It never asked Michael Darcy in my constituency to put his arms up. The IRA shot him in the back, as it usually does, while hiding behind a hedge. He is only a UDR man and his life is expendable. It is more important to stop IRA men who are carrying out dummy runs or the full run of their weaponry of disaster and destruction.
Let us have the full details and facts clearly stated in this House. Along the border people are calling upon the 444 Government to carry out a policy that will bring an end to the years of trouble and allow everyone in the Province to live in peace.
We have been talking about direct rule. Some months ago 11 people were murdered at Enniskillen. A few weeks ago six soldiers were killed. How did the Government handle that under direct rule? How have they got to the bottom of those murders in our Province? The answer is that the Secretary of State makes a statement. That stops a debate because after his statement a Northern Ireland Member—or any other Member of the House—is permitted to ask only one supplementary question. There is no chance of getting a debate on security even after 11 people have been killed. Even with six soldiers dead, we did not get a security debate. What we got was a short statement from the Dispatch Box which was a cover-up and one question each so that no hon. Member can get to the bottom of the things that trouble the community in our Province.
Direct rule is a fiasco. It is not the answer. The people of Northern Ireland should have the power back in their own hands to decide their own future and should not be run down the Dublin road by an Anglo-Irish so-called Agreement, which is soaked in the blood of the innocent. There have been more deaths in the first year of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, which was supposed to be about security and supposed to bring peace, than there were for possibly two years before it.
The IRA are on the offensive and the Government are making the security forces go on the defensive. It would be right and proper if the security forces were given backing and assistance. Other things that I have said when putting the record straight have been controversial, but I hope that the House will unite in giving its unreserved support to the security forces in their fight against the terrorists. They have a difficult, even impossible, job and deserve the support of all right-thinking people in the Province, whether they are the UDR, the RUC, the RUC Reserve, or the young lads of the British Army—our Army. They have done an excellent job and are trying their best under difficult circumstances. I suggest that, instead of some hon. Members sniping at them, it would be better if the House gave them its support.
I notice that the spokesman for Her Majesty's Opposition, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North has returned to his place. While he states that his policy and that of the Labour party is that they do not take platforms with the IRA or Sinn Fein, the hon. Gentleman would do well to tell some of his hon. Friends that that is the rule of the game for Her Majesty's Opposition. It is a fact that some of his hon. Friends, be they renegades on the periphery of the party and about to drop off it, or others, have campaigned with Sinn Fein representatives and have brought them to this House while that organisation was backing the murderers of people in Northern Ireland. It is not enough for the hon. Gentleman to state his policy. When is that policy to be adhered to throughout his party, because that would bring some encouragement to the people of Northern Ireland?
§ 9.2 pm
§ Mr. John Hume (Foyle)
Many people will have found the remarks of the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea) depressing. They will not have any difficulty in understanding why we have a serious problem 445 in Northern Ireland when they consider that the hon. Gentleman is also a clergyman who is supposed to be committed to the basic Christian message of loving his neighbour. When we hear such sentiments from that sort of source, no one should be in any doubt why we have a problem in Northern Ireland.
I should like to clear up one or two matters before continuing my speech. We do not need public inquiries into killings by paramilitary organisations because murder is murder. It is as clear-cut as that, so we do not need an inquiry to prove it.
Several hon. Members have referred to the fact that both myself and my party are engaged in direct talks with Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Provisional IRA—
§ Mr. Hume
It is the political wing of the Provisional IRA.
Ever since I was elected 20 years ago to represent the people of Northern Ireland, I have made it clear that I would talk to anyone if it would contribute to peace and stability. I have talked to everyone—Loyalists and paramilitary members—at their request and there has not been a whimper of complaint from those sources. The SDLP and the Alliance party alone have remained wholly committed to the democratic process and have never had any alliance of any description—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster spoke for exactly one hour. He bored me stiff for most of that period and disgusted me for the rest of it. I have no intention of letting him interrupt my brief speech. We have never had any alliance with any paramilitary organisation. We are wholly opposed to violence. [Interruption.] I shall not take lessons from the hon. Gentleman's party—[Interruption.]—which on numerous occasions has sat down with masked men and paramilitary organisations, not to tell them to stop their violence, but to co-operate with them to achieve political objectives. My party has never done that and has no intention of doing it. We are committed to bringing violence to an end.
Life would be much easier for my colleagues and me if we took the self-righteous stance of simply seeking to maintain our position, and did not in any way engage in the art of politics to persuade others what they should or should not do. We knew from the start that we would be criticised from that source, and if we do not succeed in our objective, it will undoubtedly intensify. If, however, we succeed, there will be silence and that, as well as ending violence, would be a great achievement.
In view of the tenor of the Secretary of State's opening remarks I hoped that this debate would concentrate on the problem that we are all trying to solve. It has been easy to state party positions.
§ Mr. Peter Robinson
The Secretary of State said that there was a desire to move to talks among all constitutional parties. The hon. Gentleman must know politics in Northern Ireland well enough to know that his present dialogue with representatives of Provisional Sinn Fein, whether he agrees with this or not, forms a barrier for Unionists in any dialogue with his party. Even if his party's aims in those talks were to convince Sinn Fein, and through it the IRA, that there was another way to make progress in Northern Ireland, the events of the past months must show that he cannot fulfil that task. There must come a moment when he has to tell us candidly that 446 they will not stop their violence, and it is far better to work with those who want to make progress through the constitutional and democratic process.
§ Mr. Hume
My party and I have been waiting for the past three years to talk to the hon. Gentleman and his party. If they wish to talk to us tomorrow, we shall talk to them. We shall tell them exactly what we have said to Sinn Fein so that they can make up their minds. We do not change our attitudes to problems according to whom we are talking to, because the problems remain the same.
I hoped that this debate would be about the problem that we are trying to solve. I have noted in the past that when the different parties have defined the problem they have all defined it differently, and they pass one another on the way to the solution.
It is easy for parties in Northern Ireland to whip up emotions based on sectarianism, hatred and bigotry. That is a symptom of what is wrong; that is the problem we are trying to address. Hon. Members have used phrases such as "an internal settlement". What does that mean? The only people who want an internal settlement in Northern Ireland are those who want an independent Northern Ireland. I understand that the Unionists want the problem to be settled in the context of the United Kingdom, but that would not be an internal settlement.
It is clear that there are different dimensions to the problem. There is a clash of relationships in the community in Northern Ireland, but that reflects another clash of relationships in the island of Ireland and another between the two islands. Those three relationships combine to make the problem that we must solve, and we must deal with all of them. We have only to listen to the two extremes in Northern Ireland—one says, "Brits out" and the other says. "No Dublin rule"—to understand that the other dimensions impinge upon the problem and must be dealt with if we are to solve it.
My party has given solid support to the Anglo-Irish Agreement because the framework of the problem, being the British-Irish framework, should also be the framework of a solution. However, it is only a framework. Movement can take place only if the different sections of our community are prepared to work together and break down the barriers between them. In the meantime, the two Governments are working together to deal with that problem.
Can anyone suggest a better and more peaceful way of dealing with the problem than the two sovereign Governments working together as closely as possible? That does not mean that they will always agree—if they did, there would be no need for them to sit down together—but they will do their best to agree on an approach that will bring the problem to an end. I cannot envisage any better way of dealing with the problem than that. If those who oppose that method of dealing with it can suggest a better way, we shall all listen.
By dealing with the problem in that way, the two Governments deal with the day-to-day problems on two levels. One level is what I call the symptoms and the other is the disease that gives rise to those symptoms. The symptoms of the Northern Ireland problem that spring from our division as a people and from the prejudices of centuries are all over the place—for example, discrimination from the past and policing. As we have repeatedly said, policing is not a problem of policemen. The absence of political consensus on how Northern Ireland should be 447 governed means that until that is solved, there will always be a policing problem. The administration of justice and all the other matters that we complain about are also symptoms of the underlying problem. Progress is being made on some fronts, but not on others.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) will deal with those matters in more detail if he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker. If all those symptoms and the disease—the underlying division between the people that has given rise to it—were satisfactorily cured tomorrow, they would recur in another form. The agreement has made major progress in dealing with that disease and the rigidity that has paralysed the North of Ireland for most of this century.
If we stand back from the problems, we see among the relationships the central one of the Unionist people to the remainder of the people of the island. For their own reasons, they have decided to live apart from the remainder of the island, and they have done so by holding all power in their hands. That position no longer exists; it was not an approach designed to produce peace and harmony. But every time a British Government moved to make the situation fairer, dire consequences were threatened by the leadership of the Unionist people and on each occasion the British Government backed down—the most recent being in 1974.
The consequence of that surrender of responsibility by British Governments was that the leadership of the Unionist people remained in uncompromising hands, in the hands of people who refused to address the fact that they were living in a divided society and had to come to terms with their neighbours and the people with whom they shared a piece of earth. In the Nationalist community it gave encouragement to those who say that the only thing that the British understand is force.
That vicious circle of threats of force from Unionism and actual force from the IRA has paralysed Ireland for most of this century. Now at last that vicious circle is being cut through because the Government have stood firm against those undemocratic threats, and the Secretary of State, who has been in the front line, has taken a great deal of personal abuse in standing up to those threats. But that has made the most significant advance in dealing with the problem since 1920 because the Unionist people are now facing up to the reality that in a divided society one must sort out one's relationships with the people with whom one differs and one cannot for ever seek to hold all the power in one's own hands and use blackmail whenever someone steps in to demand fair play.
That has been a painful experience for the Unionist people because of all that has gone before, but it has also been a healthy one for them and for the community as a whole because now we are all on an equal footing and that is the basis on which real dialogue should begin.
We are willing at any stage, with no preconditions, to enter into dialogue with the Unionists on any matter. We are willing to enter into dialogue about how we should run our community in Northern Ireland without any pre-conditions. We, from our experience, have recognised, and we have told the Secretary of State and have said so in public, that there have been five attempts—the fifth was announced today by the Secretary of State—to create 448 devolution in Northern Ireland. We have participated in most of them and we have learned why they have failed. They have all failed for precisely the same reason.
Stormont, which was majority rule, failed because the majority held all the power in their own hands. Why? Because they were afraid to give the minority anything because of their fear of their relationship with the rest of the island. Power sharing was brought down in 1974. Why? Because those of us who were sharing the administration of Northern Ireland with the Unionists were regarded as fifth columnists who were acting on behalf of the rest of the island.
That is still the basic fundamental suspicion of the Unionist people in sitting down to talk to us—the relationship between the Unionist people and the rest of the island. Until they sort out that relationship to their own satisfaction—I am not suggesting any conquest—as well as to the satisfaction of the rest of us, that lack of relationship will always be a destabilising factor. I ask them to sort that out to their own satisfaction by sitting down with the representatives of the rest of Ireland.
I am suggesting that the subject of conversation be how we live together on this island. It is a simple subject. In advance of that, it must be clear that we cannot live together unless we both agree. There can be no conquests, no victories. There has to be agreement. The people of Cyprus will never sort out their problems until the Turkish and Greek Cypriots agree that there can be no victories.
Until now, the Anglo-Irish Agreement has focused on the challenge that it has given to the Unionist people. But, in fairness, that agreement has also thrown down a serious challenge to the Nationalist people. That challenge is a simple one. It says, "We recognise that the Nationalist-Republican tradition in Northern Ireland wants to see Ireland united and the people of Ireland united." We must tell the Nationalists that the agreement really means that the Irish people who want unity must persuade those who do not, and that is the challenge.
This task can never be achieved by the gun or bomb. That must be learned by the Nationalist-Republican tradition in Ireland. Something else must be learned, too. The Government have stood firm against blackmail, and the IRA and its supporters must realise that the past 15 or 20 years have cost the people of Northern Ireland, including many who support the IRA, dearly. In what it calls a war, 3,000 people have lost their lives—the equivalent of 40,000 on this island. Twenty thousand have been maimed; three new prisons have been built and they are full of young people who have been sucked into the violence; 11 walls have been built in the city with the highest churchgoing population in Europe—Belfast—to separate one section of a Christian community from another and to protect the communities from each other. If that does not tell us that past attitudes have brought us to the present position, what else will?
After all this loss, is there anyone in these two islands, even in the membership of the IRA, who thinks for one minute that the British Government, led by the present Prime Minister, will surrender to blackmail? Everyone knows that that will not happen. So the question that IRA members must ask themselves and their followers is whether they will ask their people to pay this price for another decade. That challenge is thrown down and accompanied by the offer that if those people really want peace, stability and unity in Ireland, their task is to persuade those who do not—our Unionist and Protestant 449 fellow citizens. That task has never really been faced with great integrity or dedication by Nationalists or Republicans. It will not be achieved in a hurry or easily.
It is about time that we at least started talking together about how to live together. There is nothing to be lost by that. Let us remember that we are doing so in the context of this Government and Parliament and the Irish Government and Parliament, together with 10 other Governments and Parliaments in western Europe, having taken a decision which is much more far-reaching in its effect on the lives of the people in Ireland than the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Not a whimper has been heard from anyone in Northern Ireland about that. It will transform relationships within Ireland and rapidly break down barriers that have gone up since 1920.
The challenge to us and our fellow citizens—the Unionists—is to put our stamp on this change. We can do so only by sitting down together and accepting the invitation that has been issued to us.
§ Sir John Farr (Harborough)
I hope that the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) will forgive me if I do not follow him. I recognise the sincerity of his views about the island of Ireland, although most of the solutions that he recommended will probably not be received with sympathy by Conservative Members.
I wish to refer to some of what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said. My constituency and the whole House share his admiration for the courage of the security forces. I pay my own little tribute to the courage of the school bus driver who, despite the most severe incapacity after the dreadful bomb yesterday, almost managed to perform a miracle. We are all proud of him.
My right hon. Friend mentioned the opportunities for industry in Northern Ireland. Many efforts have been made over the years, but so many Secretaries of State have not been able to see round the corner. My right hon. Friend is lucky enough to be able to see round it—or, perhaps, to see over the hill—after many years of promises. We are delighted to know that industry is picking up and that job prospects are improving. That must have the approval of every hon. Member who is interested in Northern Ireland.
Over the years we have heard about the terrible problems that successive Secretaries of State have had to face. We can recall one Secretary of State after another having to make important speeches to the House and a sombre House receiving them with great gravity. The debate has properly been almost solely about security. Despite all the grave promises by good, bad and indifferent Secretaries of State in Conservative and Labour Governments, the security situation in Northern Ireland is at least as bad as ever. According to many experts it is probably worse today.
Before dealing with the possible cause of that, I should like to speak about the upsurge in industrial activity in Northern Ireland. We congratulate the Ministers who, over so many years, have put in such hard work. We know about the slog and the backroom work, and about the exhibitions that some of us have been lucky enough to visit to see all the wonderful plans for Belfast. Those plans are now coming to fruition.
I hope that the Secretary of State will seriously consider the possibility of Harland and Wolff building the largest 450 passenger vessel in the world. That hope crosses party lines. There is no division about it, because it means jobs. There will be jobs in the building of the vessel, but. as my right hon. Friend rightly said in his analysis, there will also he jobs in the whole of the infrastructure of Northern Ireland. Those jobs will make an immense difference to Northern Ireland. To build the vessel in Belfast may be bending the rules and may involve a large sum that should be invested. But building it in Belfast will be a message of hope for the whole of the Province. When I say that, I bear in mind the farcical events and the big loss that was incurred in De Lorean.
I return to the cause of the present unrest and the terrible violence. As the Secretary of State said, every act of violence in Northern Ireland seems to plumb new lows. We have to face that, but what is the cause of the violence? It would be easy for some of my hon. Friends to say, although I am not saying it, "We told you so." Two or three years ago, some of us said that the Anglo-Irish Agreement would not work and that the trouble would get worse. I recognise that my right hon. Friend and the whole of his Front-Bench team are not only sincere Ministers but extremely conscientious and hard working. It is not because of their addiction to the Anglo-Irish Agreement that Northern Ireland is in its present position.
Some of us who objected to the agreement three years ago are justified in asking my right hon. Friend or the Minister who will reply about the effectiveness of the extradition procedures under the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Some of us, mistakenly or not, were against the Anglo-Irish Agreement or had severe reservations about it. One of them was that we thought that the extradition procedure that was supposed to apply to terrorists south of the border could never be made to stick. Our big regret is that that reservation has so far proved to be well-founded.
It is very difficult to extradite a wanted man from the other side of the border to a court in the United Kingdom. Last week, despite the Government of the Republic wishing a terrorist to be sent to Northern Ireland, a justice exercised his discretion and decided that there was something wrong with the evidence and that extradition should not go ahead.
That simply is not good enough. I ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and Northern Ireland Office Ministers to pay a little more attention to extradition and to examine how the extradition of terrorists from the Irish Republic to Britain works. I know the background, because I am lucky enough to have many good friends at the Dublin bar and on the Dublin law circuit. Many of them, whom I have known for many years, work for a company that is highly esteemed and has done a lot of work over the years for the Dublin Government. Several members of the company have become judges on the Dublin circuit.
For the past five or six years, members of the legal profession have had to have their names removed from the telephone book. Their addresses are so confidential that it is impossible to obtain them. The reason is that in the past five or six years the companies with good old indigenous Irish names, whose barristers, attorneys and so on have served the Dublin Government through difficult times for many years—particularly in the past 10 or 20 years—and have done their will have been subject to the most dreadful intimidation. It is as bad as anything in the North of 451 Ireland. They have often had to have Gardai or special branch protection and in some cases they have had to leave the district where they have lived for 40 years.
We must realise that when the justice made his decision last week, he may have had to bear in mind what had happened to many of his colleagues in Dublin legal circles. When we apply for extradition, we must appreciate the problems that justices in Eire, and in Dublin in particular, face if they are honest and brave enough to send a murderer back to face just retribution in Great Britain.
§ Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
When I listened to the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea) engaging in his hour-long tirade, I wished that the British people could have heard him. If ever a person did a great disservice—even to his own cause—it was the hon. Gentleman by his tirade. [Interruption.]He makes everybody in the Chamber feel moderate. [Interruption.]He will not even shut up now and let me speak. That is his way, but I shall get on with what I want to say.
Direct rule was introduced precisely because of the attitude that had been manifested tonight. Some Unionists are not quite like that. There seems to be a forgetfulness about what they did. In all my years in the House I have never heard the Unionists admit that they ever did any wrong to the minority community. Never do they admit it. They are so self-righteous. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster frightens the IRA, but by God, he frightens me. His attitude is the attitude that resulted in direct rule.
One or two points have been made here on many occasions, but they should be repeated, because they must not be forgotten. The Unionist majority in the North came about only because a line was drawn by the then British Government, who gave way to blackmail and the threat of violence. That line satisfied the Ulster Unionist leaders at the time because it gave them an inbuilt majority. Those people were not like the ordinary people on this side of the water. There were two separate communities—one the oppressed and the others the oppressors. There is every sign that, but for direct rule, that oppression would still be going on.
On Friday, we shall be debating the White Paper on unemployment. I was looking at it only a short time ago, and it bluntly says that the oppression still goes on. The right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) spoke to me before he left and I told him that I am not religious, so I am not fighting for the Catholics or for any other religious group. I am fighting for justice and I would fight just as hard for a Protestant minority that was subjected to such oppression. There seems no desire to give justice. The right hon. Member for Lagan Valley said that we should set an example and that instead of there being only 14 candidates for the Northern Ireland ministerial posts, there should be 36.
Direct rule came about because of the appalling lack of democracy exercised over the minority by the majority. That had the inevitable result of violence. After pressure from the Unionist leaders, there was a civil rights march, which was attacked by a bunch of thugs. That thuggery against the minority is still latent. After 1969 and the attack on the civil rights march, it became obvious that the 452 North could no longer be ruled in the old, undemocratic way, and that it was not willing to be ruled in that way. Those of us who have always believed in a united Ireland know that, ultimately, that must come about. However, we are a long way away from that because of the implied threat of violence, the same threat that occurred in the 1920s. The minority community, which has chafed against the sectarian anti-democracy of the Unionist majority since it all began, reacted against the violence, but it is clear that nothing will change.
The IRA and the opposing paramilitary groups have been given a reason for their resistance. After 1969, when nothing happened to give the oppressed justice, it became clear that paramilitary groups would emerge and a new IRA came about. To this day, paramilitary groups abound, and we must be aware that paramilitary groups on the other side from the IRA carry out exactly the same degradations. We have made it clear that we are appalled by what the IRA has done recently. To accuse my hon. Friend the Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) of colluding with any form of violence is an insult, and a low and nasty abuse. We all know that the SDLP is doing its best, in the interests of justice, peace and fairness, and that its members would deplore, and have deplored on every possible occasion, violent acts such as those that occur all too often.
What are the conditions for devolved government, devolution or whatever it is called? There is no sign that devolved government would do anything to rectify the situation if it were introduced now. The Unionists have been split wide open under the hammer blows of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Most of them want to return to the old Stormont that created the mess that now confronts us. They want to do exactly what they have done in the past. Whenever we attempt to make them acknowledge that their actions in the past were wrong and created all the problems that we face, they refuse to say one word about the lack of justice for the minority community.
That minority community is ready for reconciliation, but not one word that could be construed as a sign of reconciliation has come from the Unionists tonight. It is clear that the Unionists wish to return to the old Stormont with the same old Stormont mentality. That cannot be done, and for as long as that is the position there must, sadly, be direct rule.
The Unionists think that any democratic practice that helps both communities means that we are heading towards a united Ireland. I believe that that will happen, and to seek to stop any democratic move now because it is thought to be leading towards a united Ireland shows a disgraceful blindness that worries us all. The Unionists are extremely angry whenever these issues are raised. They refuse to admit that something went wrong in the past. That is a clear sign that nothing would be changed if they were left to their own devices.
We are trying to persuade all the communities in Northern Ireland to enter into discussions. Unfortunately, there are divisions, and that fact became as clear as daylight when the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) the leader of the Democratic Unionist party, argued in the most sectarian manner for a statelet independent of the rest of the United Kingdom as a means of escaping the realities.
Where do we go from here? The obstacles are tremendous. One side in Northern Ireland would suggest that they cannot be overcome, but a failure to do so will 453 sustain the paramilitarists on both sides of the community. It is in the interests of us all that we should try to ensure that there are regular discussions. I often say to those who are involved in the troops-out movement that the troops will leave only when there is a political situation that admits that no one will be killed when they are withdrawn.
The arguments advanced by the Unionists strengthen the troops-out movement as well as the attitudes of the paramilitarists on both sides of the community. Every gesture of reconciliation is interpreted by the Unionists as a treacherous act. That is their reaction to the honest folk who are trying to engage in reconciliation. Do they believe that reconciliation and democratic procedures are steps to a united Ireland? It is not clear to me and many of my hon. Friends that we are anywhere near anything of that sort. To struggle against democratic practices on that basis involves the use of unacceptable excuses. If the Unionists believe that reconciliation and democratic procedures will lead inevitably to a united Ireland, we shall never have reconciliation.
At some stage, all the parties in Northern Ireland must enter into discussions. That must occur. A large measure of agreement will have to be arrived at before devolved government of any form can be considered. It is time that we proceeded with reconciliation, as that is the deadly enemy of the paramilitarists. Democracy is their deadly enemy. It is sad that there is little democracy flowing to us from the Unionists.
§ Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East)
In some respects the debate is a fraud. We are purportedly debating an interim period extension, but everyone knows that Northern Ireland is governed under an arrangement that was entered into without any legislation appearing before the House and without any accountability to the House. That was the result of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. There is not an absolute system of direct rule. The interim period extension that is proposed cannot be taken in isolation from the Anglo-Irish Agreement, which means that the decision for the House will be based very much on the agreement itself. That is currently the position of my colleagues.
I should like to respond to certain of the comments made by the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume)—though unfortunately in his absence. He sought to give an analysis, albeit a brief one, of the position as seen by the nationalist community. I follow him by giving an equally brief analysis of the Unionist perspective. Although it will be readily recognised that the two do not coincide, the fact that we can hear, or at least read, what the other section of the community sees as being the problem and its solution might in itself be a starting point.
I speak as someone who may be described as a child of the troubles. I entered politics at almost the very time when the first stone was thrown, when the first injury occurred, and when the streets were filled with people unhappy at the arrangements then pertaining.
I joined a party that was not the Government party and which has never been in government. Therefore, it is removed from much of the criticism that was voiced by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery)—criticism which, if he thought about it for a moment, has been levelled against the Government. They are still being accused of discrimination. The cries have not stopped 454 from those same sources because the Unionists are not in control in Northern Ireland. There are more calls for inquiries now than when there was a Unionist Government. However, it is not my task to defend past Unionist Governments. As I have said, my party was the official Opposition, so I can safely leave any such defence in the hands of others.
As someone who grew up in those years, I know that there are certain lessons of history that one cannot deny or escape. If one tries to do so, it is at one's peril. Whether or not Unionists like it—and the likelihood is that they will not—there are facts relating to the fall of the Stormont parliament that stand at this moment in time. The reasons why it fell are not to be found in the comments of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) concerning alleged discrimination. It fell because it did not have the consent of the whole community.
That consent was withheld for one reason or another by the minority. Many an institution has followed since then. There was the power-sharing executive, which fell because it did not have the consent of the majority. One initiative after another has been scuppered because one section of the community could not gain the consent and support of the other. We could go on until the present generation dies out and our descendants take over, and if we do not achieve a system of government that has the consent of both sections of the community, no doubt the hon. Member for Belfast, East in the year 2020 could make a speech almost identical to that which I am making now.
§ Mr. William Cash (Stafford)
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that when he speaks about "alleged discrimination", he is speaking about the heart of the matter? It is not a question of alleged discrimination but of real discrimination that has built up over a long period. It is precisely the policies being pursued by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, arid in particular that which we shall be debating on Friday regarding fair employment, that offer a degree of hope within the framework of the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
§ Mr. Robinson
I could follow the hon. Gentleman down that line. I could tell him that more than 50 per cent. of the houses in the public sector were inhabited by members of the Roman Catholic faith, and that therefore there was discrimination against the Protestant community. I could say that after three years of touting for business in the form of people claiming that they had been discriminated against, the fair employment agency could find only five cases—and they were not all members of the Roman Catholic community.
The purpose of my speech, however, is to deal not with discrimination but with our constitutional difficulties and the security problems that flow directly from them. The failures are caused not so much by discrimination as by a difference of identity. The hon. Member for Foyle said that the Unionists had chosen to live separately from the other people on the island, whatever their reason. A Unionist would say that the nationalists had chosen to live separately from the rest of the people in the British Isles. How we see the problem depends on our angle of vision. What cannot be escaped is that a problem of identity exists, as does the problem of creating a system of government in Northern Ireland with which the two sections of the community can identify, and to which they can give allegiance and support.
455 It is not particularly difficult to analyse the problem in simple terms. What is difficult is achieving that system of government. I must tell the House, and particularly the Government Front Bench, that no agreement between London and Dublin—however well-meaning either or both of those parties may be—can ever achieve agreement for the people of Northern Ireland.
In the past I have used the analogy of a dispute within a marriage. If a husband and wife are not getting on well, the in-laws can meet as often as they want and arrive at whatever conclusions they please, but unless the couple themselves sit down to work out their differences and the solutions to their problems, there will be no happy marriage thereafter. Similarly, London and Dublin will not solve our problems in Northern Ireland. The problem is in Northern Ireland, so the solution must be in Northern Ireland as well. That is why I urge, along with many others, that we find an alternative to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. For me the agreement does not provide a framework; it provides a straitjacket in which there is no possibility of achieving the flexibility that could bring agreement with other parties.
The Secretary of State should learn from the example of the Opposition Front Bench—and it is not often that I ask him to do that. The Opposition have a precise view about the future of Northern Ireland. They admit openly that they wish for a united Ireland; they recognise none the less that there must be stable government there. While they like the Anglo-Irish Agreement and would like everyone else to support it, they recognise that if agreement can be reached in a better way it is foolish to continue with an agreement that—in my terms at least—has failed. If the constitutional parties can come up with a better alternative, one that they are both happy to support, surely the Government must be prepared even at this stage to encourage it, or at least consider it constructively and positively.
That is what Unionists ask them to do. Until now we have had no clear and precise sign that the Government were willing to consider an alternative to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. If they were to say that, they would begin to transform the political situation in Northern Ireland. They would breathe into it some hope that an alternative could be achieved. Judging from the comments of people engaged in what are euphemistically known as the talks about talks, there is not an insurmountable problem in reaching an agreement or finding some formula whereby the various manifesto commitments of the Unionist party in relation to the non-implementation of the agreement during negotiations, can be agreed. If that is not a problem, surely we can move to agreement, or at least a meeting between the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland when the SDLP has concluded its dialogue with Sinn Fein.
I am not attacking the SDLP for the sake of it. I want to see a positive and constructive dialogue between the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Foyle is not present. I am even more sorry that he avoided answering my intervention. Whether he likes it or not, dialogue between the SDLP and the Sinn Fein presents a difficulty and a barrier for Unionists. Unionists cannot be part of a dialogue with the SDLP while the SDLP is talking to Sinn Fein.
456 In laymen's terms, the SDLP will be seen as the intermediary between the IRA and the Unionists. Unionists are not prepared to have a dialogue, or even to be associated with a dialogue with the IRA. Whether or not SDLP Members understand our difficulties, I ask them to realise that it is a barrier to dialogue between the Unionists and the SDLP, and as such it presents a barrier to progress towards an alternative to the Anglo-Irish Agreement, and towards the peace, stability and reconciliation that the people of Northern Ireland deserve, and that I trust all politicians in Northern Ireland want.
They must recognise, although they are slow to admit it openly, that whatever the Anglo-Irish Agreement might mean symbolically to the minority communities, it has not achieved what they hoped it would achieve. Tonight its short-term goal of whether it has obviated the need for megaphone diplomacy—I think that those were the Secretary of State's words—is to be tested. It has not done that. The same difficulties exist between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of the Irish Republic. Those difficulties still pertain to the present day.
The agreement's long-term objectives were peace, stability and reconciliation. Before the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed in November 1985, the graph of violence steadily and happily had been going down. From 1972 to 1985 the number of deaths occurring through terrorist violence had been decreasing every year. After the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, the graph started to go up.
As for peace, the statistics bear evidence that we are not on the road to peace through the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The lack of political stability affects economic stability and it is quite clear that there is no strength within the Anglo-Irish Agreement to create stability in our Province. I believe that divisions have been greater during our recent troubles.
I do not believe that the Anglo-Irish Agreement ever could have been presumed to bring reconciliation, when it was created as a result of bypassing the Unionist community. Reconciliation with the Unionists cannot come from leaving them aside and refusing to consult them. The whole process of reconciliation involves bringing people along, but that did not occur. The excuse was, "If we had talked to them, they would not have agreed." That does not seem to be the way to achieve agreement or reconciliation between the communities of Northern Ireland.
The Anglo-Irish Agreement is a failure in its long-term and short-term objectives. I believe that there is no advantage for the SDLP within the Anglo-Irish Agreement. It might like to see the discomfort of Unionists, but the agreement has not achieved anything which it could not have achieved by negotiating with Unionists if there was administration at Stormont or if it had negotiated with the Unionist leadership.
I must tell Nationalist politicians and their representatives in the House that the way forward in Northern Ireland is to have agreement with the Unionist community, and the best way in which to do that is to conclude the dialogue with Sinn Fein, which cannot succeed on the basis of promises, or hopes, of the violence being stopped. The IRA has no intention of stopping violence voluntarily. Its raison d'être is violence. Its position in society and its clout comes through violence. 457 Sadly, much of the SDLP's clout comes through the IRA's violence. Whereas one can make concessions to the SDLP, one cannot to the IRA.
I want progress in Northern Ireland. I want it through the dialogue that the Secretary of State has suggested. I want it on the basis of an alternative to the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the SDLP ending its contact with the IRA. The Unionist leaders' outline proposals have been put to the Secretary of State. They do not set the clock back. The hon. Member for Hillsborough is time locked, but Unionists are not.
We have put forward positive proposals, and not for the first time. We asked to talk to the SDLP when it refused to talk to us. We were prepared to take part in the Government initiative in the Northern Ireland Assembly, when the SDLP boycotted it. We put forward proposals in the Assembly but, unfortunately, those who co-operated with the Government and tried to make the system work were punished, whereas those who boycotted the system and abstained were rewarded, just as those who bombed and shot were rewarded with concessions under the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The Government should include Unionists in the process to get an alternative to the Anglo-Irish Agreement which achieves peace and stability in Northern Ireland.
I ask the SDLP to end its flirtation with the IRA. It should start constructive dialogue with constitutional parties. It has indicated that progress can be made only by the agreement of the constitutional parties. I ask it to take that step. I trust that the next hon. Member to speak will be the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon), and perhaps he will give us some clear idea that that is what will happen.
§ 10.2 pm
§ Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh)
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) for catching your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for me.
I was accused earlier of having a great respect for British parliamentary traditions. I plead guilty. I come from an area and from a family which know only too well that Parliament is a substitute for war. I know that unless we have parliamentary democracy, however deficient we may regard this forum, with which to deal with problems, we will have war-war rather than jaw-jaw.
I have enormous respect for the parliamentary traditions of the House and its practices. That might be the key to some of the nastiness that we saw earlier. There is one thing which Unionists who remain in the House and I have in common—I do not include my colleagues, who can speak for themselves. While retaining that admiration and respect for the traditions of the House, I want not British troops to withdraw from Ireland but Irish political troops to withdraw from the House.
Part of the Unionist problem, and part of the Nationalist problem, is that we are not part of it here. We are not part of the tradition or the machinery. That shines through every time we hear a Unionist speak in the House. He is crying out, "For heaven's sake, will somebody please like me? Will somebody please treat me as the equal that you tell me I am?" But the House does not do that because the hon. Members for Belfast, East and, for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea) and myself are all Paddies here.
§ Mr. Mallon
I shall come to the Attorney-General later.
We shall be used when it suits the majority opinion in the House, whether that be Conservative, as at present, or Labour, which not so long ago was destroying the North of Ireland. That point unites us. It is one that we must remember when we approach the debate, because it is fundamental.
The hon. Member for Belfast, East said that he believed that members of my party like to see the discomfort of Unionists over the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Nothing could be further from the truth. I ask the hon. Gentleman to accept that with all the sincerity I can muster. Through the years we have lived with too much discomfort ourselves—we still live with it in many ways—to get any enjoyment out of seeing any other Irish Member suffering discomfort as a result of what the British Parliament has decided. That could be a bonding factor between us. We should realise that and stop the nonsense—some of which we saw today—which demeans not just the Unionist argument but the whole political process in which we are taking part.
I sought this opportunity, as I did during last year's debate, to speak to my colleagues of the Unionist tradition, not to Ministers. I seek to speak to them because, irrespective of what happens constitutionally or what is decided by Governments in Westminster, Dublin or Strasbourg, one thing will not change. I will be living beside the same neighbours from the Unionist and Protestant traditions. We have lived there all our lives and we shall continue to do so. That is an immutable fact and there is nothing that the Government can do to change it. There is nothing that an Irish Government or any political force on earth—be it a constitutional or paramilitary force—can do to change that.
If that is a basic fact, there must be a basic conclusion. The sooner we work out a means of living together with respect for both our traditions—a respect which will be to our mutual advantage—the sooner we shall be able to present our strength to this Parliament, the Dublin Parliament and everybody else who believes that, because of our divisions as a people, we are not seriously able to cope with our problems. That is our challenge—not the people sitting on the Government Front Bench or in Dublin. That is the reality we have not yet harnessed.
I take this opportunity to ask the people of the Unionist tradition and their public representatives; as Paddies, let us show the Government that we have two feet on which to stand, heads on our shoulders with which to think and certain political skills.
We do not have to live with the condescension that we often see in political life. We can tell the Government that we are tired of being patted on the head and told, "Good chappies, this will do you until next year," or, "You will get an hour and a half to debate something which is crucially important," or, "You can have a system of justice which is deficient or a job creation scheme which is a nonsense."
We do not have to take such things and we should not do so. That would be the real nationalism which is common to those who call themselves Unionists and those who at present call themselves Nationalists. Our political challenge is to harness that nationalism. If we do so, we shall become the masters of our destiny. We would then not be condescended to by anybody. No one would make 459 decisions for us. We would be expressing for the first time the one thing in which I believe and which I hold dear in political life, which is that all people have a right to self-determination and that everybody has a right to determine their own future. As Irish people living in the north of Ireland, we have a right to do that. We should take that right and work on it in such a way that we can end the awful trauma that we have all lived through.
My hon. Friend the Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) referred to some of the symptoms of the disease. They should not be dismissed easily, because many of the symptoms that we have seen and that we see today have prevented political development and dialogue. I refer to the findings of the Northern Ireland Police Authority. I shall not do so scathingly, as other hon. Members have done, and will not refer to the majority of one, but ask the House to consider whether it is not an absolute tragedy that the Chief Constable and two deputy chief constables of the police service in the north of Ireland do not have the respect or confidence of their own Police Authority or of a large section of the community.
I am not asking them to resign, as has been suggested earlier. However, the political decision should be taken to ask them to go because it is shameless and demeaning that those men remain in their positions, given the findings of their own Police Authority, which is very much biased towards their position. The decent and honourable thing would have been for those three men to resign immediately. I ask the Secretary of State, who is ultimately responsible for security and policing in the north of Ireland, to have the courage to ask them to leave because they no longer have the credibility to exercise authority.
If we are to have proper policing—I want to see that—and a proper system of justice—I want to see that also—let us get rid of the charlatans and those who, more than any others, have debased the name of policing. Let us not allow constables X, Y and Z, as they will be named, to carry the can for decisions taken by senior police officers. That is the sympton which is holding back political progress.
I have 20 parliamentary questions which, despite the political traditions, I cannot table. There is no way in which I can table them because they ask when the inquest on an innocent man who was shot six years ago will be held. There is no parliamentary machinery whereby I can do that. The first questions I would ask are, "Is there to be an inquest six years after that death? If there is, will a jury be called for it? Could we please be told the names of the witnesses who will be called? Will John Stalker be called? Will Mr. Sampson be called? Who will be called from the Greater Manchester police service or the West Yorkshire police service? Will sergeant X, Constable Y and Constable Z, who said in court under oath that senior police officers had asked them to commit perjury, be asked to give evidence? Will the Chief Constable and the deputy chief constables be called to give evidence? What will happen to that one basic piece of, let us call it, justice?" There is no way that I can table those questions.
Will the Secretary of State say what he will do about a Chief Constable who since 15 February has refused to give evidence to the coroner of Armagh? How many times has the coroner asked for that evidence since that date? With the weight of his political authority, what will the right 460 hon. Gentleman say to the Chief Constable about that evidence? I suggest that he says, "Put that evidence on the coroner's desk tomorrow morning before you put your resignation on mine." I am angry about this, because it goes to the heart of all these relationships and all the political development that may be possible.
I have two further points to make, not harshly but forcefully. People of the Church of Ireland, the Catholic Church, the Presbyterian Church and others have been united by the education proposals. They have brought unity to the North of Ireland such as has not existed for years. They have surpassed anything that Barry McGuigan or Jack Charlton achieved. Those proposals have united the people of the north of Ireland. I do not want to make a meal of this, but for God's sake, the Government must listen: those people are not saying what they are saying because they do not like the education Minister or because of any prejudices. It is because the Minister is trampling on a fundamental part of their lives. He is importing an ethic into education which is frightening people of all denominations. He will not improve the education system by trampling on the dreams and fears of those people, and I ask him to think again.
Finally, will the Minister honour the commitments that he gave in this House to the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), myself and others about prison releases? We know their effect on the family, the street, the townland, the village and throughout the community. I am sorry to say that the Minister has not honoured those commitments given both publicly and privately across the table. He has let them slide and has not done what he should have done. He has not kept his commitment in relation to prisoners sentenced at the Secretary of State's pleasure and life prisoners.
§ Mr. Stanley
The hon. Gentleman was not present at the beginning of the debate when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made it clear that we would conclude our consideration of SOSPs and announce our conclusions shortly.
§ Mr. Mallon
I was here at the beginning and did not miss any of the debate. I heard what the Secretary of State said. The understanding—a substantial part of creating a thaw in the communities—has not been kept. With the greatest respect, I ask the Minister to proceed with it.
Throughout the debate we have heard about reconciliation, and I should like a definition of that word. I do not like it, because it does not mean anything any more. There is no problem in reconciling sections of the middle-class people in the North of Ireland, Protestants and Catholics. That is no problem on the Malone road. The Malone road and the Lower Malone road will be reconciled without any problems.
If the word "reconcile" means anything, it means reconciling those on the Falls road with those on the Shanklin road; those in South Armagh with those in Bangor; and those in the Creggan and Derry with those in Ballymena. If that is to be achieved, we have to talk even to those we would not wish to take tea with. If we avoid doing that, we are simply choosing the easy option—and none of us can afford to do that.
§ Mr. William Cash (Stafford)
The hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) asked whether there was a better alternative to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. I have to ask him, and other hon. Members who asked the same question, whether there is a better alternative and what else could be put in its place in the light of the background to the problems of the English in Ireland, the Scots in Irelard and the United Kingdom's relationship with Northern Ireland. All that could be put in place of the agreement is hopelessness, despair and violence—the sort of terrorism that we witnessed only yesterday.
Listening to the speeches tonight——
§ Mr. Cash
That is not so. I have been here for a substantial part of the proceedings. I have taken a considerable interest in Northern Ireland affairs since I came to the House. I will not be diverted by the hon. Lady.
Part of the difficulty lies in the point made by the hon. Member for Belfast, East about discrimination and consent. I have no intention of making a long speech, but it is important that when the hon. Gentleman speaks of the need for reconciliation he—indeed, all hon. Members—should bear in mind the reality of what has lain at the root of the problems of Northern Ireland, not merely for the past 10 or 15 years or for decades or generations, but for hundreds of years. It is the problem of discrimination.
It is not enough to talk broadly and generally about solving that problem. The route chosen by the Government will, for the first time in the history of the Irish problem, attempt seriously to tackle the questions that lie at the root of discrimination and prejudice. It is a nuts and bolts procedure. When listening to speeches about the agreement, I am sometimes left wondering whether hon. Members have actually read it. The machinery exists for a practical step-by-step approach towards changing the manner in which the people of Northern Ireland treat one another.
Last week the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) and I were asked to go to Dublin to speak about the Anglo-Irish Agreement. It was rather more of a discussion than a debate. It was curious that in addition to the hon. Gentleman and me there were representatives from both the Government and the Opposition in Ireland. It had been intended that the audience should be composed largely of moderates, but it was significantly packed by members of Sinn Fein and the IRA. It was interesting that IRA members listened to speakers on the platform who, within the acceptance of the agreement, were prepared to put forward constructive ideas aimed at helping the people of Northern Ireland.
Before I went into that debate, I went to the Dail, where I heard a speech by two members on the question of extradition. They did not know that I was there and they were criticising in strong and vehement terms the failure of the extradition arrangements that we witnessed when McVeigh went free the other day.
The point in a nutshell is that on both sides of the water there are people of good will. On both sides of the border between North and South, in Northern Ireland and in Eire, there are people of good will. If we adopt the step-by-step practical approach of the Anglo-Irish 462 Agreement, we shall solve those problems because there are people who are interested in achieving a reasonable settlement.
Therefore, I ask those who have criticised the agreement to bear in mind that centuries of prejudice arid bias are at last being tackled with a step-by-step approach, to give it the support that it needs and also to support the order tonight.
§ Ms. Clare Short (Birmingham, Ladywood)
As has been said, we approach the 14th year of direct rule and this is the 19th year since troops were sent onto the streets of Northern Ireland following the civil rights movement which brought down Stormont and the rotten settlement that it represented.
The civil rights movement was completely peaceful, asking for an end to discrimination, justice in the allocation of housing, the end of gerrymandering, and so on. There was a brutal and violent response within Northern Ireland to those decent demands, and the police and other forces failed to protect the minority community.
It was because of the failure of that settlement that British troops went in. At that time Britain said that we were ashamed of what we had done since partition. We had turned our back on Northern Ireland and left it to Stormont. We had allowed discrimination and all the injustice to fester. Conservative and Labour parties are equally responsible for that. However, we said that it would go on no longer. We would have direct rule and start to put matters right. We would end the discrimination and injustice and have justice within Northern Ireland.
Here we are nearly 20 years later and what is the picture? The Secretary of State has tried to put a bright light on the government of Northern Ireland and what: is going on there, but the truth is that the situation there is a disaster.
In those 19 years, 3,000 people have died, 20,000 have been maimed and injured, the discrimination in employment is serious and has got no better, the criminal justice system is not fair and cannot hold up its head in the world, unemployment in some areas of Northern Ireland is outrageous and there is recruiting of young people by paramilitary organisations on both sides of the sectarian divide. Britain has spent large sums on seeking a security solution in Northern Ireland, building prisons and recruiting security forces. Yet the economy collapses, nothing is any better and there is no hope of progress.
The Secretary of State, in a major part of his speech, advocated devolution within the terms of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. As he spoke, the leader of the Official Unionist party said, "No way. We will not go for devolution within the terms of the Anglo-Irish Agreement." I do not understand why the leader of the Democratic Unionist party was not called, to represent his party's position, but, as I understand it, that party will not accept devolution within the terms of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. So it is not on. It will not work, but that is what the Secretary of State advocates. It will not help, either. There is no chance of progress and there will be no solution in the method for which he argued.
It is the view of British generals and the British military that there is no military solution to the problem of Northern Ireland. They can never defeat, or be defeated 463 by, terrorism. It is the publicly stated view of the IRA that it can never succeed by the use of force, or be defeated by it. Senior representatives of the IRA have stated that publicly. The dreadful future that confronts us is that the present state of affairs could continue indefinitely—with its bloodshed, death, cruelty, inequality and discrimination. That is the most likely prospect.
An important voice has not yet been expressed in this matter because of a malfunction in the democratic system of this country—the voice of the British people. There is a mounting desire and demand in Britain for withdrawal from Northern Ireland. Everyone knows that: it is heard in meetings and pubs around the country, and opinion polls have measured its strength for 10 years now.
No major political party in Britain advocates withdrawal; it is seen as illegitimate in the mainstream political debate. Yet more than half the British people say, time and again, that they want to get out of Northern Ireland. That is a growing part of the truth.
To the Unionist parties who say that we cannot force them out of the United Kingdom, I say: you cannot force us to stay in Northern Ireland. You cannot force us to send our troops there and to keep using plastic bullets to blind people and kill children. The British people are becoming unwilling to stay. That is part of the unspoken political reality that everyone knows.
The reason why I abstained in the vote on the Anglo-Irish Agreement was that the root of the problem is that the partition of Ireland, and the Northern Irish statelet, have no democratic legitimacy. The northern state was created because Unionism threatened violence to get it. That is part of the problem. The border was gerrymandered and the artificial majority there was maintained—because there was always the fear that the Unionists would not remain a majority—through crude discrimination and gerrymandering. Leaving aside the injustice of partition, if the people born in Northern Ireland since then had been allowed to grow up in equal numbers, and if discrimination had not done the job of forcing a differing emigration rate, there would now be a Nationalist majority there. That is why the poison of discrimination and division is part of the border and of partition.
I do not accept the legitimacy of the Six Counties or of partition, or the legitimacy of the way in which the majority has been kept a majority. So I am not willing to give it the respect due to a democratically legitimate group.
On present estimates, according to work done for the New Irish Forum by independent academic experts, there is likely to be a Nationalist majority in Northern Ireland in 2016, which, in terms of the history of Ireland, is not far off. My view, which is representative of the bulk of British opinion but which cannot be expressed in the House without attracting allegations that the person voicing it is somehow a covert supporter of the IRA, is that we should honestly tell the people of Northern Ireland the truth. I think it was the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea), who spoke at enormous length and showed the less attractive face of the Democratic Unionists, who said that Unionist people respect the truth. But they know that Britain wants to withdraw from Northern Ireland. The British people say so; so does the 464 Labour party. Our policy is to seek the reunification of Ireland but not to leave unless a majority in the North accept that.
We say openly that we aspire to withdrawal. Conservatives would love to get out of Northern Ireland if they could do it without turning somersaults and leaving chaos behind. We want to get out. I say to the people of Northern Ireland, "You are not British, you are Irish and belong to the history of that country. There could be a much better country there for all of you if you worked together for a better future and better government."
We should say that we wish to withdraw and will back all initiatives that will bring the Irish people together. We should say that Britain will back anything that they agree on. We should use all our influence and resources and so on to seek to withdraw and to seek to encourage agreement between the Irish people about the future. We should come clean. There is no quick-fit simple solution. Britain cannot withdraw unless she leaves behind a stable settlement, because that would be worse than the current situation—if that is possible.
Democratic Unionist Members have hinted heavily that an independent Northern Ireland is seriously on their agenda, and if Britain will not give them everything, that is what they will go for. That was hinted at more than once in the debate. How irresponsible can those hon. Members be about their own people and the place in which they live? They should look at the present trouble in Northern Ireland and imagine how much worse it could be.
Everyone knows that as an independent country Northern Ireland would not be viable. Without the continuing subsidy, there would be terrible problems for the economy. Everyone also knows that the very forces that cause the violence and the bloodshed would be inflamed and enlarged by any suggestion of an independent Northern Ireland. There would be more violence and more exchanges of population and burnings out. How can responsible politicians who represent Northern Ireland constituencies possibly advocate a solution that will bring even more bloodshed, terror and death to their part of the world? It is deeply irresponsible and they should be ashamed of putting it forward.
It is interesting that in Ireland in the post Anglo-Irish Agreement context there are all sorts of strands that could point the way towards a new settlement. The talks between the SDLP and Sinn Fein are of enormous importance. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster spoke for an hour at enormous volume. Perhaps he would sit quietly and let me express my few thoughts. How can he say he deplores the deaths and not say that these talks are worth a try? If the talks succeed and the IRA is persuaded to stop using violence in Northern Ireland, would that not be better for his people and for the people who live near the border? Should we not all applaud and welcome that?
§ Rev. William McCrea
Would the hon. Lady address her mind to the fact that Sinn Fein has said that in these talks the SDLP has not asked the IRA to stop its murder campaign? The SDLP spokesman told a Belfast newspaper that all the SDLP wanted was a sort of curbing of the present violence.
§ Mr. Hume
As an example of the integrity of the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea), I can tell the House that on the very day of the statement that he complained about in the Belfast News Letter he met me in the corridors of the BBC. I told him that no such statement had been made. I immediately rang the Belfast News Letter and asked whether if any SDLP spokesman had made such a statement the paper would please name him. I told the News Letter it could take it from me as leader of the SDLP that there was no truth whatever in the statement and I asked them to print that.
§ Ms. Short
There are some positive strands. The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster does not seem to be able to take them up, but others will. The first is the talks between the SDLP and Sinn Fein, and I do not see how any hon. Member could fail to wish those talks well. They will improve life for everyone in Northern Ireland if they succeed. We must all hope that they succeed. I certainly do.
The second sign of hope lies in the very alienation of Unionism from British institutions. The Unionists demand the right to remain British, yet they despise and hate the House of Commons and the way in which the Anglo-Irish Agreement was voted through. They rail and shout and demand the right to remain British, but only on their own terms; they must have it their own way. They shout and bluster, but they do not respect British institutions and they do not respect the decisions of the House. As that becomes clearer to them, they feel more and more alienated and separated from Britain.
At the same time, British public opinion sees the Unionists more and more clearly exposed as intransigent unreasonable people with whom it is impossible to deal. A 466 poll printed on the front page of the Daily Express a year or so ago showed that about 60 per cent. of the British people polled wanted out of Northern Ireland. When asked who were the most evil men in Northern Ireland, 70 per cent. named the leader of the Democratic Unionist party, 50 per cent. named Gerry Adams——
§ Ms. Short
I am telling the hon. Gentleman what the poll said; perhaps he could listen for a moment. Those are the facts. That is how things are perceived in this country. The leader of the hon. Gentleman's own party is considered to be more evil and dangerous than the leader of Sinn Fein. I am not saying that that is true. I am merely saying that it is the perception—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster shouted for an hour. Please could we ask him to stay quiet just for a moment, Mr. Deputy Speaker, so that I can finish my speech?
Consider the positive strands—the alienation of Unionism and the possibility of an end to the use of violence by the IRA. In addition, the Unionists are so annoyed by the Anglo-Irish Agreement and about the British Government's speaking over their heads to Dublin that they increasingly talk about talking to Dublin themselves. It seem to me that the ingredients are there for an agreement between the Irish people about the future government of Ireland. We in Britain should say openly that we will back such an agreement every step of the way with all our influence and all our resources.
I have no doubt that Britain will withdraw from Northern Ireland. I have no doubt that that is what the British people want, and I know that the Unionists know it. The Unionists live in fear. They rail and shout and are negative. They threaten the use of violence if a change is made against their will. Instead, why do not we all openly admit our aspiration and work for a new settlement in Ireland that will bring a better future for all the people of Ireland? Let us spend the resources that are now being spent on security on building up the economy of Ireland, and giving jobs, hope and a decent future to all the people of Ireland—Catholic and Protestant, in the North and in the South.
§ Mr. Jim Marshall (Leicester, South)
Those of us who have sat through the whole debate will agree that it has been a wide-ranging debate. It has had its highs and its lows—[Interruption.]—and the bit in the middle. Parts of the debate have been depressing. What impressed me was the way in which my hon. Friend the Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) put his Nationalist position in a rational, dispassionate way. The hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) argued his position equally rationally and dispassionately. That suggests that, if they have the political will, representatives from both traditions can come together to discuss the issues rationally. If a flicker of hope arises from this debate, it arises from those two speeches.
I should like to pay my respects to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, whose sincerity in these matters always shines through. His obvious fervent desire for peace and reconciliation comes through, and I am sure that he works tirelessly—I was going to say ceaselessly, but I am sure that he has to sleep—to bring that about.
When I read the speech that he made during this debate last year, and listened to his speech today, I noticed that the Secretary of State has started to use this occasion—with due respect to the Ulster Unionists—as an occasion for a state of the Union message. He talks not just about direct rule but also about the economic and security situation and, if time permits, the social position. Therefore, we have an extremely wide-ranging debate.
My hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Nr. McNamara) dealt with the general security situation, so I shall concentrate on some of the other points made by the Secretary of State. He is obviously pleased that he is able to refer to the steady improvement of the economy of Northern Ireland as a consequence of the growth throughout the United Kingdom. No one would deny the validity of that. However, I am concerned about the underlying fragility of the Northern Ireland economy and the underlying trend that it has always been the last part of the United Kingdom to benefit from economic growth, and the first to suffer when the economic downturn arrives. I am worried that the improvement of the past couple of years could disappear quickly when the next economic downturn comes.
As the Secretary of State knows and accepts, the unemployment level in Northern Ireland is unacceptably high, hovering around twice the national average. I urge him to continue to assist and promote policies that encourage further Government initiatives to develop economic opportunities in the North of Ireland. If economic growth there is to continue, it will need the consent of all parts of the community—both the majority and the minority. In particular, I urge the Secretary of State to be ready to listen to any group or individual, working in the private sector, the public sector or the voluntary sector, that has ideas and is prepared to offer advice as to how community economic development could take place. I ask him to interpret the position taken by the then Secretary of State in 1985 far more restrictively than hitherto. If the community is to be involved, all parts of it must be involved.
The Secretary of State knows that we condemn, with feeling and vehemence equal to his, the terrorist killings. The maiming of that young girl is unforgivable. It sickens me to hear the IRA's feeble excuse, "We are sorry about 468 the girl, we meant to get the bus driver," as though one can discriminate between the death or the maiming of one individual and another. The House shares my abhorrence of that and other atrocities in Northern Ireland.
I apologise to the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison), for not being here for the beginning of his speech, but I think he rehearsed yet again the arguments of devolution as against integration, and, not unnaturally in view of his opinion, he came down in favour of integration. He will know, because he was here in 1986 and I was not, that the Secretary of State answered that point then, beyond shadow of doubt. I shall refer later to that speech. It sets out clearly the arguments against integration and those in favour of a devolved assembly in the North of Ireland.
The right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) referred to Labour party policy and the right of the people of Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom. We accept that Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom. There is no policy, or likely policy, of the Labour party that will force those people out of the United Kingdom against the wishes of the majority in the North of Ireland. I want that to be clear. I stated that that was the Opposition's position in reply to a taunt from the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea), and it gives me some pleasure to repeat the statement in response to the comments of the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley.
The hon. Member for Newbury (Sir M. McNair-Wilson) argued against a devolved legislature and in favour of a devolved assembly. I am not sure what that means. It probably means that he does not want a subordinate parliament and instead would like a regional council of some sort within the North of Ireland. If that follows the logic of the hon. Member for Epping Forest, which leads to integration, I am opposed to the view of the hon. Member for Newbury, as I am to that of his hon. Friend.
I was pleased to hear the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) welcome two features of the parliamentary Labour party's policy. The hon. Gentleman supports our call for a judicial review of Stalker, which is one that we intend to continue to pursue, with, we hope, increasing strength and increasing parliamentary support. It is not an issue that will disappear. It is one that continues to cast a shadow over the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Whenever and wherever the RUC acts within the law, it will have our support. If the RUC is to have the full confidence of all the members of the community, it must be seen to have rid itself of the ghosts of the past. Those ghosts can be eradicated only through a judicial inquiry.
I was pleased also to hear the hon. Member for Mossley Hill say that he sees the Anglo-Irish Agreement as part of the process of reconciliation. The hon. Gentleman knows that that is the Labour party's position.
It is with some sorrow, if not distress, that I recall the remarks of the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster. I have spent some happy hours—on occasions, days—with members of the Unionist tradition in the North of Ireland. It is a source of pleasure to me that the Unionists whom I have come across are in no way similar to the hon. Gentleman. I hope that even within the North of Ireland the hon. Gentleman is in a small minority. His arguments go beyond the bounds of logic. He wants Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom, and when the 469 Government and the Opposition state their positions the hon. Gentleman believes neither. If he cannot accept the facts as they are stated to him, it is difficult to begin to understand how any rational argument is ever likely to convince him of anything. I came to the conclusion at the end of his speech that his driving force was irrationality, not rationality. When he next speaks in this place, I hope that I am not the unfortunate person who has to reply on behalf of the Opposition.
I was pleased to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Foyle repeat his commitment to the cessation of violence, which is an objective we can all share. I shall repeat a point that I made about him and about the hon. Member for Belfast, East at the beginning of my speech. What impressed me about the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Foyle was his dispassionate analysis of the situation. He is a man who feels passionately about Ireland and its future, but who is able to speak about its problems in a dispassionate way. That should be a lesson to us all—but particularly to those right hon. and hon. Gentlemen whose passion at times overcomes their political powers.
The central question put again and again by my hon. Friend the Member for Foyle was, how are the two communities in the North to live together in harmony with the Republic? He emphasised that their problems can only be resolved by rational discussion. I hope that the constitutional parties will get together and begin that rational consultation—sitting around a table together with the Secretary of State, rather than at separate tables.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hillsborough stated the Labour party's view when he spoke of being appalled at sectarian violence from whatever quarter—be it against the majority or the minority community. We condemn acts of terrorism as just that, no matter from which quarter they may emanate.
I have already paid tribute to the hon. Member for Belfast, East. He mentioned that political institutions in the North had failed due to lack of consensus. In his view, Stormont failed because the minority community withheld its consent, and the power-sharing Executive did so because the majority community withheld its consent. I draw this conclusion from his remarks. If he and his party are prepared to work together with the minority community, they can build the consent about future political institutions that has been denied them in the past. Success in achieving that objective is within his grasp and that of his party, as well as within the grasp of the SDLP and the official Unionists.
My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) knows that I hold her in great respect and esteem. I accept her view that there can be no military solution to the problems of Northern Ireland. I accept also her point that withdrawal from Northern Ireland is a popularly held view. However, my own belief, which is also the official view of the parliamentary Labour party, is that withdrawal now would not help the processes of peace and reconciliation.
I echo the sense of shame arising from my hon Friend's reference to the events of August 1969. I remember them well. I was on a fellowship, working for a firm in Basle, when I switched on the television after returning home from work on that dreadful day. I saw the troops marching into Belfast, with bunting hanging out and flags waving. That gave me no pleasure whatsoever. It made me feel ashamed that the British Army was marching into any city, town or village, or any other part of the United Kingdom. 470 I share with my hon. Friend the desire to withdraw British troops from Northern Ireland, but that must be done at the right time, and with the consent of the people, who would suffer if British troops were withdrawn precipitously.
As my hon. Friend knows, our view is that such precipitous withdrawal could lead to further bloodshed and violence, and moreover—this would be the worst example of post-colonial oppression—could put the Republic under such severe financial and military pressure that it could do irreversible damage not just to the reputation of the United Kingdom and the people of the North of Ireland, but to the people and institutions of the Republic. For that if for no other reason, it should not be countenanced.
§ Ms. Short
When I talk about British withdrawal, I am not advocating withdrawal without a new political settlement. I am well aware that simply pulling the troops out would lead to more conflict and bloodshed. What is needed is a political settlement that reduces the cause of violence. Let me make it clear, for the record, that I know that the troops cannot be withdrawn without any other change being made, or the situation will become even worse than it is now.
§ Mr. Marshall
I am grateful for that clarification. If I misunderstood my hon. Friend's earlier comments, I apologise. I have much more sympathy with what she has just said, and, as she knows, it is much closer to the official Labour party's views than what I thought she said originally.
Every hon. Member regrets the need for the continuation of direct rule in Northern Ireland, but we must accept that until there is a measure of agreement on an alternative mode of government, direct rule must continue. We all recognise the unsatisfactory nature of it, which is highlighted first by the way in which the House deals with Northern Ireland business and secondly by the political vacuum that it creates at local level in the North of Ireland, and the arbitrary power that it puts into the hands of unelected officials there.
While I recognise those problems, my reaction is not to solve the first by making special arrangements for Northern Ireland business, or to solve the second by setting up a special Northern Ireland Committee. In my view, the existing difficulties should be used as a spur for the constitutional parties to recognise the way in which the political process is being abused, and to seek to remove that abuse by getting together to create a devolved assembly that could deal with the problems.
The House has an absolute right to determine the principles on which the future government of Northern Ireland should be based, in the light of the reality of what is happening. The reality is that two communities exist there side by side, and the overwhelming majority of people from both those communities simply want to live together in peace and bring up their families in decency. That natural desire, however, should not hide from us the fact that there are divisions between the two communities, and that those divisions run deep. They are the result of discrimination, and have themselves resulted in alienation.
The divisions and the alienation cannot be healed by rhetoric, threats or security measures alone. It is not possible to legislate away animosity between communities, particularly when it has existed for centuries, but it is 471 possible to create a framework in which animosity and a sense of grievance no longer have a fertile soil in which to grow. For that to happen, people need to have a sense of belonging in their community, a feeling that their identity is to be honoured and a belief that they have a stake in the future of their country.
Any arrangements for the government of Northern Ireland must take account of those facts and must be seen to be fair. The House of Commons will not support anything which does not establish fair and effective protection for the minority or which seeks to return to the hegemony of the past. People in Northern Ireland must recognise that the only solution on offer is devolution which involves both communities in the decision-making process.
In that context I should like to support the words of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on 19 June 1986. With your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker—and I see that I am likely to get that—I shall repeat his words:The Government do not support, and would not be prepared to suggest, integration as a policy for Northern Ireland. To sugest that there is no difference between Northern Ireland and other parts of the United Kingdom is to ignore completely the backgrond of different histories, traditions, community attitudes and political parties. These differences have evolved over centuries, and cannot simply be discussed"—I would have used the word "dismissed", but "discussed" will do—as minor variations that can be cast aside in a uniform Westminster package. There are fundamental objections."—[Official Report, 19 June 1986; Vol. 99, c. 1218]I and my party agree absolutely with that point of view.
Politicians in Northern Ireland must recognise the political will of that statement and make their dispositions accordingly. My view is that the constitutional parties have the opportunity to determine their own form of devolved Government in Northern Ireland.
Finally, in the interests of all people in Northern Ireland, I sincerely hope that they will grasp the opportunity which is presented to them. For the record, if there is a Division this evening, we shall support the order.
§ 11.7 pm
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Dr. Brian Mawhinney)
Having had the privilege of listening to the debate from its inception, I agree with the hon. Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall) that it has been wide-ranging. It has been an almost typical debate on Northern Ireland—full of emotion, thoughtful reflection on the political scene and restatement of political philosophies and policies.
If I do not do his political career any great damage by saying so, the House owes the hon. Member for Leicester, South thanks for his forthright affirmation on behalf of his party of support for the security forces, for helpfully pointing out that the dissatisfaction about direct rule should act as a spur for a better system and for making clear his party's commitment to what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said and which he repeated to the House this evening.
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) asked about the announcement on the Secretary of State's pleasure cases. He will have heard my right hon. Friend the Minister of State's answer. He 472 helpfully said that the issue of devolution predates the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. It has not emerged as a consequence of the agreement and it is not a concomitant of the agreement. It was an important part of policy before the agreement was signed.
The right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) returned to his assertion that decisions are made in the Anglo-Irish Conference. I know the right hon. Gentleman well enough to find it difficult to believe that he believes that. He has been told repeatedly that it is not true. I do him the courtesy of believing that his understanding is greater than for him to accept that as a factual statement. If he does accept it, I must tell him again that it is not the case. His advocacy of a concealed form of joint authority is even less credible at the end of the past year, during which, as others have said, there have been differences of perception—and sometimes action—even within the framework of the agreement, between the two Governments.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not persist in making such assertions, because they do neither him nor the truth any credit. He also said—it is equally untrue—that I am bound by Dublin Ministers because an issue was raised at the Anglo-Irish Conference. That is not the case and the right hon. Gentleman knows it. He also knows, because it has been affirmed frequently enough, that Ministers make the decisions in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Molyneaux
When the Under-Secretary of State checks Hansard, he will find that I said that he is bound, through the Secretary of State, to make determined efforts to reach agreement on any proposals put forward at the Anglo-Irish Conference.
§ Dr. Mawhinney
I hear what the right hon. Gentleman says. All that was reflected in the conference meeting was what had already been reflected to me by a representative group of the SDLP who came to see me about the education proposals. I am sorry, given what the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) said, that he could not be part of that group, for reasons I quite understand.
The SDLP, the Catholic Church and others have a legitimate point of view to make about the consultative document, just as the education and library boards and Protestant Church leaders do. All are being invited to discuss the representations that they made. The right hon. Member for Lagan Valley has prejudged the draft legislation. I regret that—all the more so as we have hardly concluded the first part of what will be an extended consultation procedure on the education proposals. I regret it all the more because there was no response from the right hon. Gentleman's party to the consultation proposals. I find that sad. It is sad that neither the right hon. Gentleman nor any of his colleagues on the same Bench, with the honourable exception of the hon. Member for Antrim, East (Mr. Beggs), who was at one time a distinguished chairman of an education and library board, thought to respond to those proposals. I accept that the right hon. Gentleman attaches importance to these proposals and to the system out of which they flow. I hope that during the rest of the consultation process we can look forward to his contribution.
§ Mr. Molyneaux
I was at pains to make it clear that, although the Secretary of State and therefore the Minister were bound by the agreement—[Interruption.]—I am 473 sorry that I am interrupting something on the other side of the Chamber—to make determined efforts to reach agreement on any proposals put forward, I said that they were not bound to make determined efforts to reach agreement with us. Those right hon. and hon. Members are not even bound by the House of Commons to reach agreement with the House of Commons on any proposals whatsoever. That is the essential point. I was drawing attention to the futility of any of us putting forward ideas to the Secretary of State or the hon. Gentleman.
§ Dr. Mawhinney
With great respect to the hon. Gentleman, the essential point is that Ministers will ultimately make decisions which they will present to Parliament for Parliament's approval or otherwise. The right hon. Gentleman has a major opportunity to contribute to that process and I hope that he will do so, even if only on behalf of those whom he has been elected to represent in this House.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Sir M. McNair-Wilson) for his comforting words about the attack on a bus yesterday, with which the hon. Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall) wished to be associated. I understand my hon. Friend's point about no consultation being built into the agreement. He will know and remember that on many occasions my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has made it clear that he would be happy to brief elected Members of the House on discussions arising out of the conference, were that to be their wish.
My hon. Friend also made a point, as did the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton), about the Northern Ireland Committee. Since 1985 and the gas order debate. there has been no specific request for a debate of that Committee. If there were such a request, especially if it came from Northern Ireland Members, the Government would consider it sympathetically. Although that is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to determine, I think that I accurately reflect the sympathetic view that he might take of such a request.
§ Mr. Alton
I am grateful to the Minister for giving way on that point because I am sure that he would not want the record to go uncorrected. In fact, both I and the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mrs. Barnes) went to see the Leader of the House about that matter and to request a meeting of the Northern Ireland Committee.
§ Dr. Mawhinney
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I should make it clear that what I said, I said in good faith. I was not aware of that meeting.
§ Sir Michael McNair-Wilson
May I press my hon. Friend on that point? Is he giving an invitation this evening to the Northern Ireland political parties to make such representations to him because he would like a Northern Ireland Committee to be in existence?
§ Dr. Mawhinney
The Committee exists and can be activated. I have made it clear that if requests were to be made for it to be activated to look at particular draft legislation, I believe that the Government would react sympathetically.
The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea) made a speech which has already been much commented on, and I do not want to add much more, save to try to encourage him to understand that consent is an absolutely essential part of the democratic process. As the 474 intervention by his hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) made clear, consent is already enshrined in the legislation which is part of the legislation of this kingdom. The hon. Gentleman tried to make a point about the status of Northern Ireland. I gently point out to him that he was making that point in the sovereign Parliament of the United Kingdom. There can be no debate about his status. He has the right to make that speech in this Chamber; he does not have the right to make it in the Dail.
§ Rev. William McCrea
I can assure the Minister that I do not want to make that statement in the Dail. The Republic of Ireland claims jurisdiction over Northern Ireland and has said so in the past week. That is the honest position of the South. In entering into the Anglo-Irish Agreement it has done nothing which would take away from its jurisdiction claim over Northern Ireland.
§ Dr. Mawhinney
I understand the hon. Gentleman's point, but that does not detract from my message which I should like him to take away with him tonight, that status is not in question, and the best evidence of that is that he made his speech in this Chamber.
The hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) talked about the clash of relationships, and I agree with the hon. Member for Leicester, South that the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) made thoughtful speeches. We were reminded of the need for dialogue between Governments, and that is enshrined in the terms of the agreement. But there must be a similar need for dialogue in Northern Ireland. If we are to develop that dialogue, it must be with an understanding of the history of our Province and the acceptace of the integrity of those who think or act differently from us, within the terms of constitutional politics. We need to develop an appreciation that difference does not have to lead to division. It can be the strength rather than the weakness of a society. In a sense, the hon. Member for Belfast, East picked that up in his thoughtful analysis.
I welcome the recognition of the importance of consent. The hon. Member for Belfast, East encapsulated entirely the fact that in a democratic society government is by consent and that government in a devolved form must command widespread support of both communities or it cannot succeed. That is a self-evident truth, but one which too many people still cannot come to terms with. The hon. Gentleman was right to stress that we must take account of identity.
Most hon. Members would not disagree with the hon. Gentleman that no formal agreement between Governments can solve the problems within Northern Ireland by and of itself. There must be agreement to have internal discussions. My right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State confirmed that the Government are committed to the agreement.
The Secretary of State also made it clear that he wished to invite political parties to be involved in discussions without any preconditions, and that is important. The hon. Gentleman said, "If only the Government would say such and such, it would open the door to dialogue." In other words he was saying, "I should like to put a precondition on the discussions which the Secretary of State is inviting my party, other Unionist parties and the SDLP to have with him." The Secretary of State said that he wished to have those discussions without preconditions.
475 "Without preconditions" applies to everybody, so I cannot, on behalf of the Government, say what the hon. Gentleman wants me to say. That is not because I will not, but because the offer from the Secretary of State was for discussions without preconditions.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends on both sides of the Chamber will talk to the Secretary of State not on the basis of preconditions, but with confidence in the strength of their arguments. That is the way in which progress can be made. I hope that they will feel that now is the time seriously to consider that proposal.
It has been claimed that the Unionist community was excluded from the development of the agreement. I hope that it will not now exclude itself from consultations with the Government that may be associated with a review of the working of the agreement.
§ Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)
My hon. Friend has stressed many times the important democratic principle of government by consent. Does he believe that it is possible to govern one part of this kingdom differently from the rest of the kingdom and differently from the way in which it has been governed previously, save with the consent of a majority of the people who are to be governed differently?
§ Dr. Mawhinney
My hon. Friend will know that the sovereign Parliament has decided that an acceptable agreement was entered into by this Government with the Government of the Republic. That does not translate into the sort of fundamental difference that I know my hon. Friend honourably believes lies at the back of that agreement.
My right hon. Friend referred to sectarianism and my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury supported him. We can make no progress ultimately in Northern Ireland unless the two communities learn to live together. Relations between them will be improved not just by the actions of politicians, but ultimately by the concerted actions of many individual members of the two communities. It is proper and correct that elected representatives should reflect the views of those who elect them. That is legitimate. However, it is not legitimate for that to spill over into a form of sectarianism or perceived sectarianism. I am encouraged by the increasing evidence in the community of Northern Ireland that there is a greater determination of people who wish to live together.
I must draw my remarks to a close—[Interruption.]
§ Dr. Mawhinney
I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's encouragement. He has not graced the debate with his presence for most of the time.
I wish to refer to an interview, on the "Today" programme this morning, with two of the girls who were on the bus yesterday. They were asked questions, and I wish to place before the House the answers of Madonna Murphy. She said:I think people on both sides will be very angry, and hopefully their anger will bring them closer together to get rid of the sick people who do things like this.Madonna Murphy also said that she thought that the people of Linaskea would 476do as much as they can to create better relations. That's all they can hope to do, and hope that people realise that this is getting us nowhere.I think that Madonna Murphy spoke for an increasing number of people in Northern Ireland when she said that the present arrangements were getting us nowhere.
I commend the order to the House, but I do so on an interim basis in the hope that we can build on the dialogue in the Chamber this evening. If we can talk here, the people of Northern Ireland will expect us to talk outside in the hope of doing better for the Madonna Murphys and all the other people in Northern Ireland.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 133, Noes 16.477
|Division No. 392]||[11.30 pm|
|Alexander, Richard||Hunt, David (Wirral W)|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Hunter, Andrew|
|Alton, David||Irvine, Michael|
|Amess, David||Jack, Michael|
|Arbuthnot, James||Jackson, Robert|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Janman, Tim|
|Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)||Jones, Robert B (Herts W)|
|Batiste, Spencer||King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Knapman, Roger|
|Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Knight, Greg (Derby North)|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Lamont, Rt Hon Norman|
|Blackburn, Dr John G.||Lang, Ian|
|Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)|
|Boswell, Tim||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)|
|Boyes, Roland||Lilley, Peter|
|Brazier, Julian||Maclean, David|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael|
|Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)||McNamara, Kevin|
|Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)||Mans, Keith|
|Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Mawhinney, Dr Brian|
|Burns, Simon||Maxton, John|
|Butler, Chris||Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick|
|Butterfill, John||Miller, Sir Hal|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Mills, Iain|
|Carrington, Matthew||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Carttiss, Michael||Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)|
|Chope, Christopher||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)||Moss, Malcolm|
|Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)||Mowlam, Marjorie|
|Cope, Rt Hon John||Moynihan, Hon Colin|
|Cran, James||Needham, Richard|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Neubert, Michael|
|Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)||Newton, Rt Hon Tony|
|Day, Stephen||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Nicholson, David (Taunton)|
|Durant, Tony||Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)|
|Fallon, Michael||Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley|
|Farr, Sir John||Paice, James|
|Favell, Tony||Porter, David (Waveney)|
|Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)||Portillo, Michael|
|Flannery, Martin||Quin, Ms Joyce|
|Forman, Nigel||Raffan, Keith|
|Foster, Derek||Raison, Rt Hon Timothy|
|Freeman, Roger||Redwood, John|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)|
|Gow, Ian||Roe, Mrs Marion|
|Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')||Rowe, Andrew|
|Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)||Ryder, Richard|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)||Shaw, David (Dover)|
|Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)||Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Ground, Patrick||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Hanley, Jeremy||Speller, Tony|
|Haynes, Frank||Stanley, Rt Hon John|
|Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)||Stern, Michael|
|Howarth, George (Knowsley N)||Stradling Thomas, Sir John|
|Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)||Sumberg, David|
|Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)||Taylor, Ian (Esher)|
|Taylor, Matthew (Truro)||Wheeler, John|
|Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Thorne, Neil||Wood, Timothy|
|Thurnham, Peter||Worthington, Tony|
|Vaz, Keith||Yeo, Tim|
|Waddington, Rt Hon David|
|Wallace, James||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)||Mr. Peter Lloyd and Mr. David Lightbown.|
|Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)||Molyneaux, Rt Hon James|
|Beggs, Roy||Paisley, Rev Ian|
|Canavan, Dennis||Patchett, Terry|
|Cousins, Jim||Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)|
|Cryer, Bob||Skinner, Dennis|
|Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)||Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)|
|Kilfedder, James||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Maginnis, Ken||Rev, William McCrea and|
|Meale, Alan||Mr. William Ross.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.