HC Deb 16 November 1972 vol 846 cc594-5
15. Mr. McNamara

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he intends to publish a White Paper of his proposals for constitutional arrangements in Northern Ireland.

Mr. van Straubenzee

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to a Question by the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) on 9th November.—[Vol. 845, c. 224.]

Mr. McNamara

Does the Minister of State not realise that the position is completely unsatisfactory? If the proposed Bill passes unamended people will be asked to take part in a poll without knowing what their future connection with the United Kingdom will be. Does he not think that before any decision is taken on the border poll Bill the people of Northern Ireland as a whole should know the Government's intentions for their country?

Mr. van Straubenzee

The hon. Member will recall that in the debate on Monday the Government listened to a considerable cross-section of views. On this point, perhaps not unusually, they were conflicting. Those views are being considered carefully, and when the House is invited to consider the Bill the matter can be considered further.

Mr. David James

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind the need for speed in the matter? I have found that the feeling on all sides is that there has been enough talk over the last seven months and that there would be great merit in the Government's making definite proposals at the earliest possible moment.

Mr. van Straubenzee

That is what I attempted to say on Monday night, as my hon. Friend will remember, consistent with carefully taking the views of a very wide cross-section of people—a process which is in part going on today.

Mr. Douglas

Will the Minister concede that we must have the White Paper before the end of the year?

Mr. van Straubenzee

These are matters best dealt with when next the House is invited to consider the Bill.

Mr. Winterton

When the White Paper is published, will the Minister of State give an assurance to the people of Northern Ireland that their Westminster representation will be increased, because if we compare representation in this country—and Northern Ireland is a part of this country—their representation is grossly undemocratic.

Mr. van Straubenzee

If I express a view either way upon that proposition, clearly I would be expressing a view upon a very central issue which must be dealt with by the White Paper. We must await the publication of that White Paper.