HC Deb 24 February 1972 vol 831 cc1488-90
Q2. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Prime Minister if he will pay an early official visit to Northern Ireland.

The Prime Minister

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to a Question from my hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) on 15th February.—[Vol. 831, c. 84.]

Mr. Hamilton

Does the Prime Minister recognise that everybody in this House and, I hope, outside it will view with horror the increasing escalation of the terror and murder of innocents which is now flowing across to this side of the Irish Sea? Will he assure the House that he will not hesitate to go to Northern Ireland if he thinks that this would make some contribution to the solution of the problem?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I certainly give the hon. Gentleman that assurance. Yesterday, right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House made clear their absolute abhorrence of the ghastly incident which occurred at Aldershot.

Mr. Thorpe

Does the Prime Minister accept that no one in this House would wish it to be thought that this or any other Government were reacting to violence and that we were making concessions to violence and that the abhorrence—

Mr. Skinner

The right hon. Gentleman did some shouting last week.

Mr. Thorpe

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will keep quiet for a moment—which has been expressed at the event which took place at Aldershot is shared in all quarters of the House?

Does the Prime Minister accept that the speech by Mr. Lynch in Dublin recently represented a considerable advance on that side of the Border? Does he realise the urgency of this Government taking political initiatives to bring about a settlement of a problem which cannot be solved by military means alone?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. We have never supposed for a moment that this problem could be solved by military means alone. We well recognise the point that the right hon. Gentleman has made: that in the important speech made at his party conference last week, the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic gave indications of the way his own policy is moving, which is very helpful.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

As one who can and does claim to have stood up for the reforms towards the rights of the minorities in Northern Ireland—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, indeed—may I ask my right hon. Friend not to be panicked into any kind of decision or solution which does not also take account of the legitimate and democratic rights of the majority there?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir; of course that will be the case. But the whole House recognises the difficulty of reconciling the different aspirations of the majority and the minority in Northern Ireland today.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

Does the Prime Minister realise that practically every group that comes over to the House from Northern Ireland talks about "the" initiative, and that unless one is forthcoming soon it would be much better for the Government to say that nothing will change?

The Prime Minister

I have told the House that we shall make a statement to the House at the earliest possible moment on these matters.