HC Deb 13 December 1973 vol 866 cc668-810

Order for Second Reading read.

4.27 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Francis Pym)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I understand that it is thought that it might be convenient to the House if we were to organise the debate on the Bill and the next three orders by taking them all in one debate, which would not in any way restrict the time available.

The orders are: That the Northern Ireland Constitution (Devolution) Order 1973, a draft of which was laid before this House on 6th December, be approved. That the Northern Ireland (Modification of Enactments—No. 1) Order 1973, a draft of which was laid before this House on 6th December, be approved. That the Ministries (Northern Ireland) Order 1973, a draft of which was laid before this House on 6th December, be approved. If that were agreed, my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee), one of the Ministers of State, could, in the course of the evening, make a second speech on the Bill, and at the end of the debate my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. David Howell), the other Minister of State, or I could conclude the complete debate.

Mr. Merlyn Rees (Leeds, South)

That would suit us on this side of the House. Not only is it sensible from a time point of view, but it will fit perfectly into the general debate which it is hoped we shall have.

Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)

On a point of order. As you are aware, Mr. Speaker, many hon. Members wish to take part in the general debate. It would be impossible for us to keep our speeches short if we were to deal at the same time with the three statutory instruments, one of which is very long. I should like your assurance, Mr. Speaker, that there will be adequate time to deal with the many detailed points which we shall raise on the statutory instruments once the general debate is over.

Mr. Speaker

I warn the House that unless the statutory instruments are discussed at the same time, the debate on the Bill will be very narrow and rather unsatisfactory. I think that it would be for the convenience of the House if we were to have a general debate. If the hon. Gentleman scrutinises the Order Paper he will see that provision is made for the point which he has raised. In other words, if the motion is passed, discussion on the Bill can continue to any hour. There will be ample time for discussion.

Mr. Pym

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I should like my first words to be words of gratitude to the right hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish). With some hon. Members, the "usual channels" is not the most popular means of communication and I have sometimes wondered what the result would be if it did not exist. But as long as I have been operating the usual channels from my end I have been very fortunate in having at the other end the right hon. Member for Bermondsey. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]

I never knew, until the right hon. Gentleman came into my room, whether he would be in one of his benign moods, in one of his "gentle request" moods or, at worst, in a state of ferocious outrage, which is something to experience. Having sat in the seats on both sides of the House normally occupied by the Whips, I can claim to be a fair assessor of House of Commons speeches, particularly of those made from the Front Bench. But it is very easy to make a Front Bench speech if one never has to make one, so I have no idea what will happen now.

It was only the Sunday before last that I was ejected from the "usual channels" and given responsibility in Northern Ireland. In the first week—just my luck—I was stung for an all-night sitting, and on a Saturday. However, that was at the conference, and mainly because of the conference and the inevitable pressures of the first few days in a new office I should be less than frank if I said that I had known which day it was—until today, when the ritual of business questions enabled me to rediscover my bearings.

The House has already heard from my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, in his statement on Monday this week, of the important developments in relation to Northern Ireland following the conference last weekend. I want to take this opportunity of adding my own tribute to those, particularly the representatives from Northern Ireland, who took part in that conference. The determination of the three political parties from Northern Ireland to find a means of accommodating their differences gives both hope and encouragement for the future.

There are those in Northern Ireland who have always been against this or any fundamental constitutional change, or at least thought they were against it. They are entitled to their view naturally, but in my few days there so far I have the clear impression that the vast majority want these new arrangements to work. It seems to me entirely legitimate that those who prefer some alternative arrangement should continue to hold that view, although I am bound to say none of them so far has come forward as far as I know with any constructive alternative that could even remotely be contemplated by the other parties concerned. Even so, it is, of course, possible to argue a case, but I believe there is no justification whatever for anyone trying to excite or incite people to strong-arm or even violent methods in pursuit of their aim. The progress of the past months has been achieved by proper parliamentary, constitutional and electoral processes, and this is the British way of doing things.

The conference at Sunningdale is obviously of much wider significance than its relevance to this Bill, but its successful outcome was one of the last two political pre-conditions for establishing finally the new constitutional arrangements in Northern Ireland, because the agreement of the Alliance, SDLP and UU Parties in Northern Ireland to form an Executive was dependent on the outcome of the conference, and, therefore, it was of particular importance in this respect. The only remaining pre-condition is a slight change to Section 8 of the Constitution Act, and the purpose of this Bill is to make that change.

Section 8 of the Constitution Act restricts the number of appointments to be made under that section to 12, not all of which have to be within the Executive. The course of the discussions between my predecessor and the parties thereafter revealed that there was a need for some greater degree of flexibility. There was no suggestion that the size of the Executive should be increased above the present maximum of 12. Indeed, the eventual conclusion was that it would be appropriate if the maximum number of seats on the Executive were reduced to 11. But it was felt that there was need for less rigidity in relation to appointments outside the Executive.

The agreement which has been reached with the Northern Ireland parties involves an administration totalling 15 in number—of which four members would be outside the Executive. The Government consider that these figures—an Executive of up to 11 and a total of appointments under Section 8 of up to 15—are not only in line with the agreement reached with the political parties in Northern Ireland but provide a sound basis upon which future appointments to the Northern Ireland Executive, and to the Northern Ireland administration generally, should be made.

This Bill provides for the necessary amendment to the Constitution Act. It is limited in scope, in effect altering subsections (1) and (3) of Section 8 of the Constitution Act. These substitutions are made by Clause 1(1) of the Bill. Clause 1(2) makes certain consequential amendments in Section 7 of the Constitution Act.

In Section 8 as originally enacted, it was provided that every person appointed to be head of a Department in Northern Ireland was automatically to be a member of the Northern Ireland Executive. The new provisions in Section 8 will, however, be more flexible. It is no longer provided that every head of Department shall automatically be a member of the Executive. It is instead provided, in the new subsection (3)(a), that a head of Department may be appointed to be a member of the Executive. That this new degree of flexibility is a welcome one is shown by the fact that the Northern Ireland parties have agreed that two of the heads of Department should not be members of the Executive.

It is also necessary to adjust Sections 7(3) and (4) of the Constitution Act. These sections were written in the light of Section 8 as originally enacted and are based on the assumption that every head of Department is a member of the Executive. Since the Bill introduces a new degree of flexibility on this point, it is necessary to carry forward this flexibility into Section 7.

Mr. McMaster

My right hon. Friend has referred to heads of Departments. In the draft Ministers (Northern Ireland) Order the Departments are referred to as Ministries.

Mr. Pym

I will come to that.

The Bill is, therefore, mainly a technical exercise. It does not seek to deal with any of the fundamental principles set out in the Constitution Act—indeed these principles are the very ones upon which the discussions and negotiations of the past few months have proceeded.

Perhaps at this point it would be appropriate for me to say a word about the orders that we are also debating at the same time.

The Northern Ireland Constitution (Devolution) Order provides for the date upon which the main provisions of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 come into operation. From that date the Northern Ireland Assembly will be able to pass legislation on the matters transferred to it—the devolution order specifies what these matters are to be—and from the same date the Northern Ireland Executive will assume executive responsibility in Northern Ireland for the very wide range of government functions assigned to it.

Before introducing the order, the Secretary of State is required to be satisfied that the Northern Ireland Assembly has made satisfactory provision by its standing orders for the provisions mentioned in Section 25 of the Constitution Act. As my predecessor told the House on 22nd November, he was satisfied that this minimum provision had been made. I should perhaps say that all that the Secretary of State is required to do under the Act is to be satisfied that the standing orders make suitable provision for consultative committees and other procedure matters referred to in Sections 25(2) to (5). There are, of course, other and more controversial matters in the standing orders, but the Secretary of State has no need for the purposes of Section 2 to take a view on these matters.

In addition, the Secretary of State is required to be satisfied that a Northern Ireland Executive can be formed which, having regard to the support it commands in the Assembly and to the electorate upon which that support is based, is likely to be widely accepted throughout the community. The House already knows that it is the Government's view that this requirement is also met. The point was discussed in the House during the debate of 22nd November. During the short time that I have been in Northern Ireland the impression I have received—obviously, it can be no more than an impression—confirms that.

The devolution order contains two provisions. The first provides that the date of devolution will be 13 days after the date upon which Her Majesty has made the order. Subject to the view of the House, it is intended to make the order on 19th December, and the date of the devolution will, therefore, be 1st January 1974.

The second provision sets out what are to be transferred matters on which the Assembly may legislate. It puts into the "transferred" category a maximum possible number of matters. Section 2(2) of the Constitution Act says that the devolution order may not declare any of the matters set out in Schedules 2 or 3 of the Act to be transferred matters. As the House will see, the order does in fact declare to be transferred matters all matters except those which are set out in Schedules 2 and 3.

The provisions of the order are short and simple but, in fact, the order marks the end of direct rule in Northern Ireland, and the coming into force of the new machinery of devolved government in Northern Ireland.

In the course of a debate last week, hon. Members from both sides of the House asked for further explanation of the financial arrangements between London and Northern Ireland. Naturally, I welcome public debate and discussion on these important matters, for they should be understood not only by parliamentarians but by the public. But I want to be as helpful to the House as possible without burdening it with a long and detailed explanation. The Government, therefore, accept that there is a need for a White Paper—as the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) suggested—describing the financial arrangements after devolution. Such a paper could, clearly, not be ready for today's debate, but it will be forthcoming. I cannot give a date, but I hope that what I have said will meet the hon. Gentleman's request.

This, of course, is only one aspect of the machinery of government in Northern Ireland after devolution. The major points about this machinery were discussed during the passage of the Northern Ireland Constitution Bill in the summer. The devolution order does not of itself make any such changes; it is the final step in the process which sets off the provisions in the Northern Ireland Constitution Act passed by Parliament.

I come now to the Northern Ireland (Modification of Enactments—No. 1) Order. The Constitution Act laid down those functions which after devolution will be excepted or reserved, but it was not possible within the compass of that Act to make the amendments to the law of Northern Ireland and of the United Kingdom required to give effect to this. It is, therefore, now necessary to amend existing United Kingdom and Northern Ireland law to take account of these decisions in the Constitution Act, and this is done by the Northern Ireland (Modification of Enactments—No. 1) Order. In particular, it provides for functions in the field of law and order, including judicial appointments, to be carried out in future by Her Majesty, the Lord Chancellor and the Secretary of State. It also provides for the United Kingdom finance departments to collect the duties and taxes which have become excepted. The order also makes various other changes required by the Constitution Act; for example, in matters to do with the electoral law.

Finally, I come to the order to which my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) referred. The Ministries (Northern Ireland) Order will create two new Ministries in Northern Ireland—the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Manpower Services—which, like the other Ministries, will become Departments on 1st January. These changes are required to bring the pattern of Northern Ireland Ministries into line with that agreed between the three Northern Ireland parties and announced to this House by my right hon. Friend on 22nd November.

If the House agrees to the Bill and the orders, the effect will be to bring the whole new structure into operation. It has been a long and difficult struggle to get this far. The creation of a new system in any organisation is usually complicated, but especially so in the constitutional field. It is even more complicated in Northern Ireland because of its history. But it has been achieved, and the laurels go not only to my predecessor and his ministerial team but also to the hon. Member for Leeds, South and his colleagues, including, of course, the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme), in the highly responsible approach they have consistently made to this issue; and last, but very far from least, to those politicians of Northern Ireland who have shown exceptional courage and wisdom in the way they have tackled their task. After all, it is even harder for them than for us. Let us remember the real dangers they face.

Having got the new system, we now have to make it work. For my part, I shall spare no effort, but it is a job to which every one of us can contribute. Some may try to wreck it. Before anyone embarks on that course, I hope he or she will ponder the possible consequences. The agony of the Province in recent years and the suffering of its people are too awful to permit any attitude now other than a determination to make the new arrangements work. Throughout these difficult years, it has always been said that a solution lay in a two-pronged approach: a vigorous onslaught against the terrorists, coupled with political advance. That political advance will shortly be a reality, and it must be the earnest hope, desire and, indeed, expectation that everyone will now give the new constitution the chance it truly deserves and stand up straight for Northern Ireland.

4.41 p.m.

Mr. Merlyn Rees (Leeds, South)

We welcome the Secretary of State to Irish affairs. He is joining a small but select group of hon. Members who discuss Irish matters into the long hours of the night. He is welcome to join that group. We hope, however, that we shall not see a lot of him in the House of Commons because his absence will be a sign that the arrangements worked out over the last months are working properly and that the affairs of Northern Ireland are being discussed where they should be—in the Assembly in Northern Ireland.

I take this opportunity to echo the right hon. Gentleman's words in that we, too, wish the package the greatest of success. Our main job with the Bill is a technical one. He has explained that it arises from Section 2(1)(b) of the Act. It arises from the discussions on power sharing the conclusion of which was reported to this House three weeks ago. Important historically as the discussions last weekend were, the power-sharing arrangements of three weeks ago will in the short run prove more significant.

There are a number of points that I should like to raise. The Bill provides, in effect, for a two-tier Executive as opposed to the single tier of former times. There is to be an arrangement of 11 and four members. In the old Stormont the arrangement was for 13 members of the Cabinet and four others, so there is now a smaller number in the new Executive than there was under the old arrangements in Stormont. In spite of his explanation, I should like to put to the Secretary of State a point for clarification. We are now six months on from the passage of the constitution Act and we are here altering the numbers in the Executive. I fear only that there might be insufficient flexibility in the number of 15, and I wonder whether in the longer run, after the next election for the Assembly—maybe in four years' time—changes might have to be made. I hope that is not the case but we must be concerned about flexibility.

There were 17 members in the old Stormont administration out of a total of 52 Members of the Parliament. That was a high proportion of jobs for MPs. It seemed rather like the Portuguese navy, where everyone is an admiral. The new number of 15 is a relatively small proportion of the larger Assembly, but I hope that we have not been too inflexible. I recall that we were informed in this House that there would be a salary for the members of the Executive. Under the arrangements will voting and non-voting members receive the same amount? May I take it that with all the Bills and orders that have passed through this House in the course of the year the question of salary has now been covered? Under our arrangements there is a different pay scale for Ministers with differing responsibilities.

In the devolution order the powers are transferred powers. How can one tell which are the transferred powers? It would be most valuable in these early days if a list of them could be published. That would be a more efficient method than hon. Members having to go through all the Bills and orders.

I referred a moment ago to what might happen in four years' time. Will the Minister tell me what would be the procedure for returning to Westminster the powers now being devolved to the Assembly—which is not something that I would look forward to? Would it simply be a matter of rescinding the order? What is not clear is whether the provision could be used to return all the powers to Westminster in one piece of legislation. As I understand it, this House will have the right to discuss the function of the Council of Ireland but we shall be unable to discuss its structure.

The Northern Ireland Assembly will have the right under the Act to agree or disagree to the transfer of certain powers to the Council of Ireland. In view of the nature of this order, what will be the position with regard to functions which will remain here at Westminster? If we are to be able to discuss functions which will go to the Council of Ireland, will the transfer of such powers be implemented by an order such as this or will more substantive legislation be necessary when and if the time comes? So much for the devolution order.

I have one or two questions regarding the Ministries (Northern Ireland) Order. I am confused about the terminology. I should like clarification. In the old Stormont there were Ministries; in the new Assembly there are to be Departments. However, in his speech on 22nd November the former Secretary of State referred to both Departments and to Offices in the new Administration. The order creates a new Ministry of Manpower Services, for example. Section 7(5) of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act specifies that when Part II of the Act comes into effect the Ministry of Manpower Services will become the Department of Manpower Services.

In his statement on the talks about the formation of an Executive the former Secretary of State referred to the Office of Manpower Services, which is the title of a hived-off section of the Department to which the right hon. Gentleman has now gone. It is important to establish the precise title of each of the 15 posts in the new Northern Ireland administration and to have an explanation of the legislative force of the term "Office". My confusion has something to do with the fact that one understands that after the activation of Part II of the Constitution Act, which will rename the Ministries as Departments, there is to be other separate delegated legislation to bring about further renaming of existing Northern Ireland Departments. Can we expect further legislation to deal with the other Departments not referred to in this order?

The third, and bigger, order that the Secretary of State referred to is highly technical. I am grateful to the Secretary of State for clearing up a number of points. Except for one or two matters there is no need for me to refer to it in detail. But I should like to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the order makes two changes. It gives the Northern Ireland Chief Executive powers which he may need at an early stage, but which he would not otherwise have. These changes are to the Documentary Evidence Act 1868 and the Ministries Act (Northern Ireland) 1944. I hope that at the end of the day we may have explained the precise powers to be given to the Chief Executive.

As to changes under the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1957, which will enable members of the Northern Ireland Executive to sit in the House of Commons at Westminster and to be Members of the Assembly, I noted that the Secretary of State referred to "electoral matters". That might have been an umbrella heading which covered this as well. As I understand it, if we did not pass the order before the new year it would not be possible for my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) to be a Member of the Assembly and a Member of this House.

That would be sad and bad because of the important part that my hon. Friend has played over the last two years. I can recall how he was received when he first came to this House—never unpleasantly in a personal sense, but there was an underground feeling that my hon. Friend represented very much what he did not represent. When one considers the view now taken of the important part he has played, it shows the great value of having leading figures of the Assembly in this House in the recent past because it has aided our understanding of the situation in Northern Ireland. My hon. Friend knows that he has our praise for his work in that direction. One should add that one might not feel the same way about other Members being enabled to be in two places at once.

Mr. James Molyneaux (Antrim, South)

One would not dispute the hon. Member's point about his hon. Friend, but would he agree that it would have been beneficial if all leaders of political parties in Northern Ireland had attended the Sunningdale conference as fully participating members?

Mr. Rees

Frankly, I do not. In one respect it depends why one wanted to be there. As I explained at Question Time, Her Majesty's loyal Opposition were not represented there—correctly so, because it is not the Opposition's job, however friendly we might be on this, to do the Government's job. People in opposition have to make up their minds; they have to play the rôle of being in opposition, and in order to be in the Government one has to win an election. Until those people in opposition in Northern Ireland have a majority of the votes they are in opposition as we are on this side of the House, however temporarily.

Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)

Did the Unionist Party, the SDLP or the Alliance Party get a majority in the country?

Mr. Rees

They have a majority in the Assembly in Northern Ireland, and the votes and numbers in the Assembly are the important thing that matters. If the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) will look, as I am sure he has done, at the appropriate part of Section (2)(b) of the Act he will notice that it refers to a majority of representation in the Assembly. That is what they have. This is one of the reasons why the previous Secretary of State was able to report the agreement which finally the present Secretary of State has been able to explain today.

I thank the Secretary of State for his remarks about finance. We think that it is most important to repeat the White Paper on financial affairs and the distribution of finance in Northern Ireland.

There are many other things one could say about the orders, although at the beginning, when Mr. Speaker was in the Chair, we said that the three orders all related to the Bill and the power-sharing arrangements set up in Northern Ireland.

I hope that it will be possible to have a wide-ranging debate, if only on the hook of the Act we are amending, certainly with regard to the powers to be under the control of the Northern Ireland Assembly, and that, as a result of the arrangements made this weekend, and to be formalised next year, there will be co-operation between North and South on the matters which will be under the control of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

I wish to mention the Council of Ireland, the Irish dimension. It was appropriate that the discussions should have been held last weekend at Sunning-dale but it is also important that we should have a chance to think more broadly of the Irish dimension. It was first mentioned in the Green Paper—what a break-through that was—and in the White Paper, and it is implicit in the Act. The new agreement last weekend was needed, if this is not the wrong phrase to use, to trigger off the devolution order.

On Sunday night I happened to be in a position to watch practically everybody who ever was anybody in the North commenting on Sunningdale. I was sitting in a BBC studio, it was all piped through and I could hear the comments before they went on the air. It would have made compulsive television viewing if the whole world could have seen it. The participants were not aware that this was happening.

I noticed the instant reaction by some people in the North and some in the South. The phrase used was "It is a sell-out"; used by the extreme loyalists in the North. The astonishing thing is that for utterly different reasons it was stigmatised as a sell-out by extreme Republicans in the South. It can be regarded as a sell-out by one or the other but not at the same time by two sets of people who disagree.

When I was in the South this week and met politicians of all parties, it struck me that one great advantage of the Sunning-dale talks was that they swept away some of the misunderstandings of the last 50 years. It was a great advantage for the politicians in the North and those in the South and representatives of the British Government to meet and talk. I should have thought that the bonus of that meeting was not just in the agreement that was reached. This was put to me by some politicians in the South.

The aspiration for unity is there and is understandable. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Antrim, North has, I presume temporarily, left the Chamber. I hope that we shall hear from him later on. It was absolutely right, as expressed in the White Paper, that those with aspirations for unity should be able to express them in all parts of the island of Ireland. Equally understandably, there is a need for those in the North who feel passionately about their link with the United Kingdom to be reassured on that. Those two points are not mutually exclusive, as was the case in the example I gave just now.

I am surprised that it has not been mentioned very much on this side of the water that paragraph 5 of the communiqué was divided into two parts alongside each other, not one beneath the other. It was explained to me, and reported as a result of the debates in the Dail yesterday, that it was meaningful that the Irish Government's acceptance of no change in status and the declaration on the United Kingdom link should be alongside one another.

There is one point on that which did not strike me when I first read the agreement at short notice. The last words of the right-hand paragraph are: If … the majority of the people of Northern Ireland should ever indicate a wish to become part of a united Ireland, the British Government would support that wish. This was regarded in the South as a significant change in the nomenclature which has applied over the years.

In any conference there has to be a great deal of give or there would be no point in it. I commend Irish politicians of all parties for the way in which they proceeded last week. The important thing is the acceptance of the status of Northern Ireland.

We do not need too detailed questions about the workings of the Council of Ireland, but I hope that, although its structure will need legislation in this House, we shall have a chance in the new year to look at the matter in greater depth. It is important that these issues should be raised, because much of the problem in Ireland is the murkiness which surrounds argument about the North and the South. The clearer we are on what is involved, the better it will be.

For example, we have to be clear about the unanimity rule and how it will work. When there is talk of appointing a Secretary-General, I wonder whether any part will be played in that by the British Government, or whether it will be left entirely—

Mr. Pym indicated dissent.

Mr. Rees

I notice the Secretary of State shaking his head. In that case, perhaps I could put it in the form of advice. I hope that the Secretary-General will not be thought of as having purely an administrative rôle, but that the job will go to someone with wide understanding of the problems of Ireland as a whole. When one considers the rôle of the Secretary of State over the last 18 months, one sees that the Secretary-General's will be an important job and that it will be important to appoint someone with wide knowledge of the situation.

In paragraph 8 the communiqué refers to studies to be carried out. I have had to be a learner on Ireland over the last two years, and those who come from the North will know how deep is the lack of knowledge on which most of us on this side of the water have to depend about Northern Ireland. A great deal of information is important. Perhaps some of these papers will, properly have to be controlled by Governments, perhaps with the status of Cabinet papers, but the more of these studies that are published, so that we can read and talk about them, the better it will be and the better-informed we shall be.

I paid a tribute to those in the North by derogating our knowledge on this side of the water. Can I put it the other way around: it might aid their discussions if these documents were published, so that half-truths are not fostered about them, leading everyone to run to their various camps crying that proper discussion is not taking place.

The Secretary of State mentioned functions, and I want to deal now with security, policing and detention. The House should be clear about what was meant by paragraph 14 of the communiqué: … as soon as the security problems were resolved and new institutions were seen to be working effectively, they "— the British Government— would wish to discuss the devolution of responsibility for normal policing to Northern Ireland.

I give way to no one in my desire to hand over to those in Northern Ireland as quickly as possible as much as possible of the running of their own country. But we went through a traumatic experience during the years of the last Government and this Government before we got security into the hands of Westminster. There were many reasons for this. I wonder what is involved in one respect only in paragraph 15. Does it relate only to the police? As long as there are substantial numbers of British troops in Northern Ireland, it is vital that their control should be vested in Westminster and nowhere else.

When I was in the Republic—in case there is any fear of a deep-laid plot, I should say that I was there under an arrangement made many months ago to take part in a university debate—I found that there was more talk about the communiqué among the general public there than there is on this side of the water.

With regard to the common law area which is being discussed and, in the context of the communiqué, some sort of court having responsibility for some agreements between the North and South, and for extradition, which exercises people's minds in the North and the South, there is some talk of resuscitating an Act of Parliament which has fallen into desuetude or perhaps obsolescence. The chat in the Republic is that it was an Act of 1861. When I made some tentative inquiries about the Act, I found in the small print a provision that transgressors could be transported to Van Diemen's Land. I hope that this Act is relevant to today's circumstances. Whatever else still exists in the world, Van Diemen's Land is no longer a penal colony for people from this country. I understand that that area has now become Tasmania.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor)

I do not think the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) need have any fears. The Act of 1861 was passed by this Parliament and has been invoked as the most convenient method of bringing to trial people in the North and in the South. It is already part of the statute law in the South.

Mr. Rees

This is the reason why I am searching for an explanation on this matter, for I believe that the House deserves an explanation.

May we have a little more explanation about the police authority. I see that the South is to have a police authority. The hon. Member for Antrim, North knows that not everything in the White Paper had the force of law. The White Paper said that the police authority in Northern Ireland was to include representatives from the Assembly and that there was to be representation from local government and local organisations similar to the provincial police authorities. Was the communiqué referring to this matter, and can we be told a little more about the status of the police authority in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Pym

On that point we have given a commitment to reconstitute the police authority. When reconstituted it will continue in the same form as now. That is the commitment we have given.

Mr. Rees

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has been in that office only 10 days and it strikes me that that was a perfect Irish answer! I note what the communiqué says about selective release. It would be foolish to question the Secretary of State further on that subject. However, I wish to express the hope that the political situation will develop in such a way that detention without trial can be swept off the statute book. We appreciate the problems in Northern Ireland involving people having to defend themselves from shootings, and, fortunately, this is a problem which we do not face in this country. Therefore, I hope that my hope will be realised and that selective releases will play their part.

We have come a long way in the last two years. The political map of Ireland has changed. It is important that we in this House, happy as we are about the general situation as a result of meetings and conferences, should not ignore the problem of law and order, for if the breakdown of law and order continues it can vitiate the political developments that have followed. The people of Northern Ireland in the last 50 years have had experience of running Stormont, but they have had no experience of running an Opposition. There was not an Opposition in the true sense of the word in Northern Ireland. If traditions matter—and they do matter, as I have learned from my relatively short time in the House—then the rôle of an Opposition is not at all like textbooks suggest. It is a far deeper matter and is more "in the bones" than can be revealed in the barren pages of a book. There is not this tradition in Northern Ireland as to the rôle of an Opposition.

I should like to say this to the hon. Member for Antrim, North. We believe that a place must be found in the running of Northern Ireland for those people, mainly in the Protestant working classes, who feel sold and bewildered about the party to which they have belonged for so long. It has been a party more in the sense of a laager in South Africa, in the sense of battening things down and protecting oneself from the enemy. It is important that the Protestants should be enabled to play their part in the government of Northern Ireland, and anything we have been able to do to assist in this respect in the last two years we have done, and we shall continue to do so. My hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) and I on various visits to the Republic—and I myself was there earlier in the week—expressed this view to all concerned.

The situation at present does not augur well for the future. Oppositions which behave in the way the Opposition seemingly are behaving in the Assembly at present do no good to the cause of the democracy in general; they do no good to the cause they espouse. We hope that those who feel strongly on these matters will be able to be brought into the government of Northern Ireland in the sense of being an Opposition. I repeat that we have come a long way, but we have not reached the end of the road. In trying to get to that point we support the Bill, and at a later stage we shall indicate our support for the orders.

5.18 p.m.

Captain L. P. S. Orr (Down, South)

It is becoming increasingly wearisome, as the long story of Northern Ireland goes on, to find oneself in the position of being a small minority in this House and always a Cassandra. This is not a rôle that I like or undertake with any relish. However, this is what I stand for and it is what I happen to believe.

I shall say a few words about the Bill itself since, after all, we are technically debating its Second Reading. One of the surprising things to most people in Ulster since direct rule has been the discovery that it is possible administratively to carry on the government of Northern Ireland with a Secretary of State and three Ministers. Most people were surprised, because this was a reflection of a certain degree of inefficiency in the running of the old Stormont system. It is a great tribute to the Ministers concerned that they were able to carry out that task from an administrative point of view, and I willingly pay them that tribute. Whatever differences we have had about policy, there is no doubt that the three Ministers under the Secretary of State have carried out their duties with great skill, hard work and devotion.

I therefore find it surprising that we should now be increasing the number of the Executive to no fewer than 15 members. The hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) said that this would be less than the number in the old Stormont, but the experience of the period of direct rule has shown that the administration could well be carried on under fewer Ministers. Thus, under this arrangement the taxpayer will have to support a much larger administrative edifice.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Does not my hon. and gallant Friend agree that when Stor-mont was in session there was no Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and there were no other Ministers responsible for the functions not now transferred, so that now there will be not only 15 Members but a whole set-up from this House?

Captain Orr

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's reinforcement.

The simple fact is that we are creating a very large Executive which in this Bill we are making even larger than it was made in the Constitution Act, and we are doing so to forward a deal made between the SDLP and Mr. Faulkner's Unionists. Let there be no misunderstanding what we are doing. It is not to provide good, efficient government that we are dealing with this Bill.

I come then to what is the main subject of today's debate. We have now reached another melancholy stage in the story. We are about to deal with the devolution order which brings into being Part II of the Constitution Act.

One of the remarkable outcomes of Sunningdale has not been clearly understood by anyone. Mr. Faulkner went to Sunningdale, together with others. They were not an Executive. They were no more than an Executive-designate. The hon. Member for Leeds, South seemed to suggest that those who were left out were left out because they were parties in opposition. But there were no parties in government at the time. There was an Executive-designate, and those were the people who went to Sunningdale.

The fundamental error of judgment which was made by Mr. Faulkner was to go to Sunningdale before an Executive had been formed. As it was, Mr. Faulkner found that he had to agree to whatever might be put forward and agreed at Sunningdale, otherwise his Executive could not come into being.

The reality of what happened at Sunningdale is that we in this House of Commons could not have proceeded to implement Part II of the Constitution Act unless there had been agreement with a foreign Power. That is the reality of what we are doing. Thus it was that a foreign Power which is not part of the United Kingdom had a determining say in what would be the constitution of a part of the United Kingdom. That is why the hon. Member for Leeds, South is correct when he says that the political map of Ireland is being altered. Whether we approve of it or not, let us be clear what we are doing.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

The hon. and gallant Gentleman can look at it in the context of a foreign Power. But it happens to be a foreign independent country. The hon. and gallant Gentleman comes from a Province where a sizable proportion of the population look across the border. It is that weakness in the Province which has given rise to the problems experienced in the past 50 years. He has only to look across the House to below the Gangway on this side to see hon. Members who originate in that quarter.

Captain Orr

I do not dispute that for a moment. I am simply stating the reality of the position. Northern Ireland has been part of the United Kingdom for as long as the United Kingdom has existed. It has always been part of the Unionist position that the internal affairs of Northern Ireland were matters for the United Kingdom—not necessarily for the people of Northern Ireland, but for the people of the United Kingdom as a whole. The reality of Sunningdale, however, is that we could not have enacted a constitution in this House and we could not have had this devolution order before us tonight without the consent of a foreign State.

Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)

But does not the hon. and gallant Gentleman agree that in the 1922 Agreement there were provisions for setting up such a council, although it never reached fruition? Did not the party which the hon. and gallant Gentleman used to support so staunchly prior to the election unanimously agree in its manifesto that such provisions should be brought forward? I can remember the hon. and gallant Gentleman pointing that out to me prior to the election.

Captain Orr

The hon. Gentleman misses the point completely. In the 1920 Act we were dealing with the United Kingdom. We were embarking upon two sets of devolution, one to the North and one to the South. This Parliament was sovereign. It enacted. It did not have to go to any foreign State. The Council of Ireland did not come into being because the devolution provisions for the South of Ireland never came to fruition. The Irish Free State was set up and, ultimately, the Irish Republic. Today the situation is different. By their own choice the people of the South of Ireland have become an independent sovereign State. But this House cannot legislate for a constitution for part of the United Kingdom without the consent of that foreign Power. That is the situation.

I turn my attention to what was done in Sunningdale and what had to be agreed. In fact, very little was actually agreed. A great many studies have to be made.

Much has been made of what is called the recognition by the Government of the Republic that the constitution of Northern Ireland shall not be altered without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland and that they will register it. There is nothing new in that. The Treaty of 1926, ratified by all three Parliaments, was deposited with the League of Nations as an instrument. There is nothing new. There is no undertaking in the Sunningdale agreement by the Irish Republic and Government that they will recommend a change in their constitution. They have said that, without a referendum, their constitution prevents them removing the obnoxious clauses. But they have not said that they will recommend such a change or promise that such a referendum will take place. There is nothing about recognition.

Then I look at the position of the police with regard to terrorism. There is nothing whatever about extradition. I agree that very difficult and important legal questions are involved. But there is no undertaking by the Republican Government that they will work towards an extradition treaty or find some method of extradition so that people who commit violent crimes, who murder, destroy, maim and wound and who go for refuge to the Republic will be returned to justice. There is nothing like that in the Sunningdale agreement.

A great edifice has been built with a council of 14 Ministers. It is an embryo Parliament of 60 members who will be paid allowances. There is a secretariat with a Secretary-General. The hon. Member for Leeds, South put his finger on what is involved. He said that he hoped that this man would be not simply an administrative Secretary-General, but someone of considerable stature. He was no doubt thinking of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and a position on those lines. In other words, he sees this council developing into something quite sizeable and important.

But it has become plain to people who were Unionists in Northern Ireland—

Mr. Orme

And still are.

Captain Orr

—and still are—that this House of Commons is tired of the Union and is determined to diminish it. Nothing could underline that more than the fact that in these constitutional arrangements the one thing that would make the Union safe and secure, or at least be an earnest of belief in the Union, is missing—namely, representation in this House. We have repeatedly asked that Northern Ireland should continue to be represented in this House because of the diminution in the devolution of powers, because in the orders all taxation and control over external defence and internal security are to remain in this House. That is emphasised by the fact that the Ministry of Home Affairs is to be abolished. Anyone who suggests that internal security in Northern Ireland will at some time be handed back to the new Assembly is talking through his hat, because the very Ministry concerned is being abolished.

Throughout, this House has steadily resisted the proposition that Northern Ireland shall be fairly represented in it. Despite the fact that the Secretary of State remains and that all the principal powers lie here, this House resists fair representation of Northern Ireland within it.

To what is the House now giving its approval? It is giving its approval to the erection of an edifice designed ultimately to bring about a united Ireland. It seems to me, and will seem to most Unionists, that this is what the House is feeling its way towards. There is no doubt that this is what it would like. The House is, in effect, saying "We are not going to bully or bomb you Ulster-men into an Irish Republic; we are not going to make the change without your consent. But we are going to make it more difficult for you to operate within the Union. We are going to build such an edifice around you that it will become more difficult for you to resist a united Ireland. We have insisted upon Republicans within your very organ of government and said that we would not devolve any powers unless you admitted Republicans into that very organ of government. We have further said that we would not even devolve powers without the consent of the State which we want you to join."

What is left to those who take the Unionist position? In time all the pressures will be there to create a united Ireland. In the words of a man greater than any in this House now, it is a sentence of death with a stay of execution. That is how Unionists see it. That is how I see it. This may be the last time that I put forward the traditional Unionist view in this House. I do so with passion and with feeling because I believe it is the beginning of the end of the Union and the beginning of a united Ireland.

Mrs. Bernadette McAliskey (Mid-Ulster)

I am listening to and following the hon. and gallant Gentleman's argument very carefully. Does he accept from people who share my politics that, while we accept that people who follow his persuasion are not being pushed through the open door, the door behind them is rapidly and firmly being closed? The British Government are not only doing that and denying the loyalist population the political tie of being British, but, through the Council of Ireland and the new Executive, they are firmly establishing such a position that, while politically we shall no longer be British subjects, neither shall we have the economic independence necessary to call ourselves an independent republic.

Captain Orr

The hon. Lady may be right. But if she believes in an all-Ireland republic she ought to welcome what has happened. On the other hand, with her brand of politics, one understands it is not bringing about the united Ireland that she would like to see.

I had really come to the end of what I wanted to say. I and my very few hon. Friends will oppose these measures. We are completely opposed to them because they are another step along the road that this House appears to be willing and that the Unionists of Ulster deeply deplore, resent and resist.

5.37 p.m.

Mr. A. E, P. Duffy (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

The hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) stressed two particular points. One related to the abstraction of sovereignty, which I should like to take up later in my presentation. The other was a return to the point that he made in the House on Monday evening when, in commenting on the Prime Minister's statement, he alleged that it amounted to a deception of the people of Northern Ireland.

Captain Orr

Or the Republic.

Mr. Duffy

Or the Republic, yes. I thought that the view of most hon. Members then present was that the Prime Minister dealt most convincingly with that allegation. I shall want to explore the theme of a united Ireland later in my remarks.

I want now to take up the central feature of last week's Sunningdale conference. I see the Sunningdale conference as a vital condition for today's amending measure. Therefore, I hope that the House will forgive me if I confine my remarks to this one matter.

I should like to enlarge on the praise that I offered the Prime Minister last Monday. Indeed, I should like to lavish much praise upon members of the Treasury Bench because I know how hard they have laboured for the outcome of the Sunningdale conference. I realise that I must be very careful—I hope that all hon. Members will be careful—to say nothing that might make more difficult the acceptance of the present proposals in any quarter in Northern Ireland.

On Monday I described the Sunningdale conference as historic and tremendous. The establishment of a Council of Ireland and setting the seal on the power-sharing arrangements with the North are undoubtedly potentially historic steps. Whether they will realise their potential, only time will reveal.

I have no doubt that those present at the Sunningdale conference were right to reach agreement, even at the price of leaving some questions unresolved. The most desirable possible outcome was a modest measure of harmonious agreement. It is a measure of the new spirit of compromise in Belfast that any kind of agreement was possible. It is an indication of the new outlook in Ireland, North and South, that agreement was, most notably, expressed on a Council of Ireland, and that it brought together two of its main architects, my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) and Mr. Faulkner.

Moreover, the British Government declare that should the people of Northern Ireland indicate a wish to become part of a united Ireland they would support that wish. As my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) has already observed, that represents a significant departure from previous declarations, which were to the effect that no British Government would stand in the way of such a development. Many people, North and South as well as here in Britain, would have preferred the British Government now to state that a united Ireland is in everyone's best interests. I can understand why the Westminster Government did not do so. But the more thoughtful Unionists must now know that this is the inarticulate premise from which all British Government policy-making on Ireland now proceeds.

To that extent, the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South is right. But it is the conditions that will attend that development that are more important than this acknowledgment and this agreement. The hon. and gallant Gentleman knows that. That is my complaint about his speech. The conditions have been spelled out repeatedly, and he must be aware of them. He should know that he may be doing not only the House and the Government that he supports but even his own constituents a disservice unless he spells out these conditions as well as making the other kind of allegations which he has made this afternoon and last Monday.

Captain Orr

Is the hon. Gentleman really suggesting that it is perfectly all right to tell people that their citizenship and nationality will be changed and to deprive them of their citizenship provided that the conditions are right?

Mr. Duffy

Anyone familiar with the history of Northern Ireland knows that perhaps the greatest burden, certainly over the last 200 years, has been that its people have been fed all too amply on that kind of word diet, that kind of alarmist language and that kind of extremist viewpoint. On the other hand, there has been a want of balanced presentations. That is what I am appealing to the hon. and gallant Gentleman to give now. He knows that I do not believe that I am wasting my time. In all sincerity I appeal to him and to the more thoughtful Unionists. I am directing my argument to the hon. and gallant Gentleman and to one or two of his colleagues. Most of them know that this is also the majority view in this country. After noting Monday's proceedings in the House, and in view of the support received by the Prime Minister from all sides of the House as well as the reminder from my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), even the less thoughtful Unionists can be in no doubt that the House of Commons will no longer tolerate any frustration of its will on Irish matters.

Such an Irish Council would in essence be bilateral, but it is plain that the British Government would have to be associated with it because of Whitehall's continuing responsibility for security and finance in the North. Also, with a view to improving policing throughout the island, the two Governments concerned will co-operate under the auspices of the Council of Ireland through their respective police authorities. No doubt time will show that satisfactory policing as well as the effective development of the economy of North and South and its management will be obtainable only through the new Council of Ireland, for both security and economy are indivisible.

Thus, the Sunningdale conference has created an all-Ireland institution. It will have modest beginnings. Its functioning is hedged in with all manner of safeguards for Unionists and for their position within the United Kingdom. The important thing is that it is an institution in which Irish men and women will, in a few weeks' time, be working together on matters of common interest. The Prime Minister was cautious when interviewed on television last Sunday evening about the council's future rôle. He confined himself to three matters—electricity generation, tourism and animal welfare. But those of us who have studied the communiqué have seen that the council will investigate through studies the best utilisation of scarce skills, expertise and resources. Secondly, in the best interests of the economy and of efficiency, it will try to avoid unnecessary duplication of effort. Thirdly, it will ensure complementary and not competitive effort where that is to the advantage of agriculture, commerce and industry. The council will go on to do many other things. It is unnecessary to list all of them. It will deal with conservation, development of natural resources and the environment. With that kind of remit, provided that the implementation is right and there is at least a minimum degree of good will, it must grow.

I raised this matter with the Prime Minister on Monday evening. I asked him whether he would assure the House that, other things being right, the Council of Ireland would have the capacity to grow and to evolve consistent with the freely-granted consent of the people, North and South.

Captain Orr

In matters of trade and subjects of common interest there has never been any division of opinion between us. It is in our interests to have discussions between Governments, North and South, from time to time. But there is no need for this vast bureaucratic edifice to be built in order to do that. This was taking place long ago. This edifice has been built for another purpose, for a political purpose—to bring about a united Ireland.

Mr. Duffy

The hon. and gallant Gentleman seems to have overlooked the fact that what he does not think is likely to happen now in Ireland, or what is not necessary, has now happened in relation to this country and the other members of the European Communities simply because of our membership of the Communities. The position now is quite different, not merely with regard to Northern Ireland but in our relationship with other nations. There is also the impending exploration of the Celtic Sea and the Continental Shelf around Ireland. I hope that there will be discoveries, North and South. I am sure that there will be discoveries in the South and that this will interest people in the North. I hope that it will ultimately beckon them. It is these positively helpful conditions that I recognise as making for a hopeful development. Therefore, I do not regard the council, as does the hon. and gallant Gentleman, as a sentence of death for any of the people of Northern Ireland.

The people will judge the council by results. That is more important than any of the hon. and gallant Gentleman's abstractions about sovereignty. It will have ample opportunities to prove itself by these results within the context of the EEC. As it evolves, this Parliament will be very glad increasingly to delegate the practical exercise of its sovereignty to an all-Ireland institution. The Council of Ireland's foundations have been well laid. It is now up to the ordinary people, of Ireland, North and South.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) is not in the Chamber at present. I wanted to address myself, in conclusion, to him. I wanted to remind him that it now remains for the people of Ireland, North and South, for the people who work—not the people who rant and divide neighbour from neighbour, but the ordinary people who are in the enormous majority in Northern Ireland as well as in the South—to explore the possibilities of this new instrument, to lend themselves to its development and thus to endow it with their moral authority. It will then acquire a strength that will be proof against all the works of the wreckers, the destroyers, the Paisleyites and the Craigites.

5.50 p.m.

Mr. Stratton Mills (Belfast, North)

There is one matter which I should like to mention at the beginning of my speech, on which I think I shall carry all my friends from the Northern Ireland constituencies, and that is in the context of the statement by the Prime Minister today and of the mini-Budget which is expected from the Chancellor on Monday.

It seems to me that the Executive will be judged, at least partly, by the results that it is able to produce in the social and economic fields, by the provision of more jobs and houses, and by dealing effectively with social problems. Therefore, if it is to start in a climate of cutback industrially and cut-back in public expenditure, I hope that the Secretary of State will fight very hard indeed in his corner in the Cabinet to ensure that Northern Ireland gets special treatment. If the Executive has to operate against the background of a very considerable cut-back in public programmes and a very considerable cut-back in the industrial climate, it will have an even more difficult job to establish itself.

I want to look briefly at the Sunning-dale package, and it is essential to look at it together' with the Stormont package. We must not deceive ourselves—those packages hang together and must be looked at together. I am not scared of the Irish dimension, provided that I am not being pushed or chivvied in a certain direction. Therefore, I will judge the Sunningdale talks by three essential criteria. First, will the agreement enable Ulstermen to choose whether or not they will stay in the United Kingdom, without being pressurised in any direction? Secondly, what will be its effect upon the security situation on the ground in Northern Ireland? Will it produce results, particularly in the border areas, and will it deal with the terrorist? Thirdly, will it promote a new relationship, a partnership of common interest, between North and South without political strings?

The answer is not a simple one. On balance, my view is that the answer is in the affirmative, but there are a number of points which must be looked at very carefully. So I believe that the Sunningdale agreement is something which should be supported and welcomed as part of the general settlement, but there are many points which are still not yet determined. The agreement leaves open the hopes of those who wish to see a united Ireland, and gives safeguards to those of us who believe in the Union. I have referred to a number of very important issues which are left open for further examination and further action. But I think that, in practice, the agreement will operate in this way. The Council of Ireland will develop only at the pace at which results are produced in the security area, and those will both nudge forward in parallel and will not outstrip one another.

Those who wish to see a strong Council of Ireland will not see it unless there are substantial and effective results in dealing with terrorism. Only if results are achieved will one see the political will to breathe life into the institutions which are to be set up. Mr. Cosgrave gave a very good description of the agreement, when he said that it is a working understanding at the centre, representing the united strength of the sensible elements in the whole of Ireland drawn from both communities and both traditions of allegiance. But this is a very tender plant which will need a lot of nurturing and attention from both sides. While I do not agree with much of the reasoning of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr), in one of his most eloquent speeches he made a point with which I certainly identify—"identify" is a popular word in the communiqué. I certainly wish that there was greater warmth in the United Kingdom relationship—and I emphasise the word "warmth". A vital part of that warmth was increased representation in this House, but that is a missing element.

I should like to comment briefly on some of the detailed contents of the Sunningdale package. As regards recognition, I would like to have seen a change in Articles 2 and 3 of the Irish Constitution. But I acknowledge what has been done by the Southern Government, and that the declaration is to be lodged internationally, and I accept that that is a major step forward. But I would say to the Dail committee which is considering a new constitution that if it wishes to build a worthwhile relationship with the people in the North of Ireland it must in its new constitution avoid the claims in Articles 2 and 3, which to many of us are obnoxious. We must also look for greater activity against terrorists resulting from the conference. Again, I acknowledge that there has been a very considerable improvement in the climate since the coalition Government, and there was an improvement towards the end of Mr. Lynch's Government. But there is still a devil of a long way to go before we are operating in anything like the way that two civilised countries should be operating against terrorism. One will look for fairly speedy results in dealing with terrorism on a North-South basis.

Another area at which I want to look is the whole question of extradition and common law enforcement areas in relation to North and South. Again, one acknowledges that there has been some movement in dealing with murders, and there is to be a commission to study the new arrangements. This is a step forward, but people will want to see quick results. They will ask how long the commission will take to achieve results, and whether there will be a real political will to get at the criminal. I give the signatories of the agreement the benefit of the doubt, and say that I believe that they want the commission to succeed, but we look for speedy action.

I now come to the form and nature of the Council of Ireland. I believe in the Union, but I do not believe that the council is a one-way ticket to a united Ireland. People will look at whether it does a useful job of work, and whether it is able to deal effectively with common social and economic problems. One of the interesting aspects which has emerged over the last year is the personal relationship between politicians of different traditions which has developed through the Sunningdale and Stormont talks, and people will look at whether it can help to build a new and better climate.

I have a question about Clause 8 concerning the Council of Ireland. As I understand it, prior to the meeting in January there is to be an examination of the areas of "common interest" as they are called. Presumably this is to be done at a Civil Service level—I assume, by a joint working party. I asked my right hon. Friend about this earlier, and I believe he misunderstood me. As I understand it, this is to be done before the Council of Ireland is set up, rather than as part of the Council of Ireland arrangements.

I say to people in Northern Ireland that on balance I welcome and support the Sunningdale agreement. I say to those who believe in the Union, as I do, that it is not a sell-out but an important and fundamental basis of a working understanding. The pace of its development will depend on the benefits which it brings for the people. We are coming to the end of a long series of political activities in this House in relation to Ulster. We have seen developing the problem of the political wreckers who are determined to destroy and are unable to build. Whether in the Assembly or elsewhere, they are endeavouring to destroy the new political institutions.

People in Northern Ireland have suffered a tremendous amount. I believe they are prepared to give the new Excutive their support—perhaps not overwhelmingly—to see what results it can produce in creating a new political climate. The public will have very little patience with politicians who behave like hooligans. A situation could develop in which some 27 or 28 Assembly men who represent the Loyalist coalition, as it is called, are not involved in the political institutions. That would be a tragedy. We must not permit a situation to develop in the new political institutions where they become a permanently embittered group led, frankly, by people whose interest in their own political advancement is, I suspect, somewhat greater than their interest in the welfare of those they are supposed to represent. It is vitally important that members of the Executive take every opportunity to prevent them becoming a permanently embittered group.

The House will know that I have broadly supported the new political programme and proposals which have been before the House. Will the new arrangements work out? Can they be made to stick? These are questions for the future. I am a little surprised and pleased that things have been able to get so far. I am convinced that there is very great determination between the three parties making up the Executive to breathe life into the new institutions and make them work because they know the penalty for the people of Northern Ireland if everything comes crashing down.

I do not doubt that the new Executive will have a very tough time over the next six to 12 months. If it can show that the institutions work and bring tangible benefits, and if the people will identify with them, there will be a bonus at the end of that period when people see the benefit of the scheme for reconciliation which has been advanced.

6.5 p.m.

Mr. David Austick (Ripon)

It is a privilege to be called upon to speak in the debate, and as a new Member I am conscious of the opportunity it gives me to join the select few referred to by the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) when he mentioned sitting into the small hours of many nights in an attempt to bring peace to Ulster. If I am able to play some small part in that process I shall be satisfied, particularly because when I look back to 1967 I see that, with the exception of a very small point, almost all the proposals my party put forward then as a prerequisite for a solution have come about.

The Bill must be welcomed not for what it achieves in itself but for the achievement which it represents. In particular, it symbolises the successful efforts of the former Secretary of State and the Northern Ireland Office, for which no praise is too high, the help of the hon. Member for Leeds, South, and the magnanimity and moderation of the main participants in the Executive-designate. The very fact that an amending Bill is before the House is testimony to the political compromise which has been achieved in the past three weeks. It is a compromise of historic importance which envisages for the first time since the Government of Ireland Act more than 50 years ago that more than one party will govern the Province of Ulster.

The Bill sets out only the machinery for the operation of that compromise. Unlike other Bills, it tells us nothing about that compromise or how it will work in practice or, indeed, whether it will work at all. The whole thing is completely dependent upon the attitudes and behaviour of the participants. Mr. Faulkner and his fellow administrators are still termed collectively the Executive-designate and will remain so until they actually sit down to work. There are a number of difficulties in the functioning of the Executive which I hope the Minister will clarify when he winds up or which will be clarified in the White Paper which was promised and which we welcome.

How does the Minister envisage the principle of collective responsibility among Executive Members working in practice? For example, if an SDLP Minister introduces a measure which is not approved by Members of the Executive, will he be required to resign? If such a measure is not approved by the Assembly, will the entire Executive be required to resign? If the unanimity rule is to operate among Executive Members for every measure that is introduced, it is surely a recipe for impotence. I can envisage difficulties in the event of the Executive being defeated and calling an election to resolve the doubt. But there should not be too many difficulties in calling an election at the end of an Executive's term of office now that general differences of opinion among potential Executive Members can be brought out and adjudicated on by the electorate through the single transferable vote system of proportional representation.

There is also a possible difficulty of votes of no confidence in the leaders of political parties represented in the Executive, or defections from within the ranks of their supporters in the Assembly. How does the Minister foresee the resolution of such problems? I refer particularly to the possibility of Mr. Brian Faulkner being unseated as Leader of the Ulster Unionists by the Unionist Council. In general, it appears that the distribution of portfolios has been done in a sensitive and fair manner. However, a Unionist as Minister of Finance might well cause problems when the budget is being distributed among Departments. A sensible compromise might be to ensure that the balance between the political parties in the appointment of junior Ministers is maintained, thus extending the concept of power sharing in the lower tiers of government.

There are a number of other factors which will determine the success or failure of the new initiative. We must consider the position of the Ulster Loyalists and other members of the Assembly who oppose the Executive. It would be wise to remember that the original power-sharing concept never envisaged that the Executive should have to operate against an Opposition, even an official Opposition. The original idea was that all elements in Northern Ireland politics represented in the Assembly should work together on the Executive, each sharing power and responsibility. Those who now refuse that opportunity and stand outside the Executive were among the most vociferous opponents of the abolition of Stormont, which they saw as removing sovereignty from the elected representatives of the Ulster people.

The new Assembly and Executive represent an attempt to return some, albeit not all, of the sovereignty to all the people of Ulster. It appears that some people are forsaking the reality of sharing in political power and influence for what seems to be the façade of resentment and demagoguery. They are sacrificing their first opportunity—and it may be their last—of effectively, directly representing their constituents for the sake of beating the old Orange drum of no surrender.

The events of the last 24 hours have shown the true nature of so-called loyalists as a negative, destructive force which is pledged not only to boycott the Executive but to prevent it from operating and to destroy the Northern Ireland Assembly. All that is being done under the guise of democracy.

Among other unresolved problems are the future of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the general policing of Ulster, the rent and rate strike, the future of internment and detention without trial and the problem of extradition. Ideally, the slate should be wiped clean before we start a new and revolutionary phase in Ulster history. We all know that that cannot be done. Now is surely the time for significant concessions to be made by both Ulster politicians and the Westminster Government. Both Mr. Faulkner and the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) have conceded much, and they must continue to concede. I hope that the Westminster Government will make their contribution.

I hope that the committee studying law enforcement in the Province and the Under-Secretary of State's Committee set up to assist the chief constable and the police authority will report urgently on the rôle of the RUC in the community.

I hope that some formula will be devised whereby those who have participated in the rent strike—I understand that some people owe up to £500—will not be pressurised for full payment forthwith.

The Liberal Party has been implacably opposed to internment since its re-introduction. It believes that the time may well be right for the abolition of internment for an experimental period.

Many problems may be helped to solution by the formation of the Council of Ireland, which the Liberal Party welcomes unreservedly and which it has proposed for many years. It is good to see that many Liberal policies are at last finding favour. The idea of a common law enforcement area and the supervision of police forces on both sides of the border by the Council should be pursued as far as possible. The basis of non-partisan links between the two Irish Governments, particularly in joint capital ventures such as the common power transmission scheme, will not only save valuable financial resources but will convince doubters on both sides that there is much to be achieved by economic and social co-operation, regardless of ultimate political aims.

The Liberal Party hopes fervently that the Executive will be successful and that the realignment of political opinion in Northern Ireland will be achieved. It may well be that the procedures for a referendum on the border will have to be made more flexible. Perhaps the referendum should be held every five years and not every 10 years as is now provided.

There is still one matter on which Liberals would like to see a fundamental change. We would welcome the fairer representation of the people of Ulster in this House. We believe that those Members should be elected on the basis of the single transferable vote, as are other representatives in Ulster.

I hope that the Bill will be speedily passed through the House. The Liberal Party welcomes it and will support those who will have the onerous task of implementing it. It seems significant, as was mentioned earlier by the Secretary of State, that if the Bill is passed the Executive-designate will become an Executive on 1st January. It is significant that that should happen at the start of the New Year.

6.16 p.m.

Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)

I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. Austick), who addressed the House graciously from the Liberal benches. This is a notable debate in more ways than one; the Liberal Party outnumbers Her Majesty's Government's official Opposition by three to one. The hon. Gentleman made a number of constructive suggestions and asked a number of questions, to which I hope we shall hear answers.

The hon. Gentleman said that perhaps detention could be ended for an experimental period. I am rather at a loss to follow him. We are talking about matters of life and death and we cannot afford to take chances.

I do not agree that we need to have a border plebiscite more frequently than the minimum period which has been provided. I should have thought that to have a plebiscite every five years on the position of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom would have a profoundly unsettling effect and would put back all the economic and social progress which the hon. Gentleman mentioned and to which we all attach importance.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State upon what he called his ejection from the usual channel. In so doing, I do not unsay anything which I have said in the past about that act of constitutional infanticide, the throttling by the Mother of Parliaments of a daughter Parliament. One of the results of that act, and part of the price which we have paid, has been the arrival upon the streets in Northern Ireland of so-called Protestant loyalist private armies. Some of their members vie with the IRA in murder, arson, torture and extortion. They studied the form. They saw that two sides could play at violence. They saw that violence achieved results.

Those of us who most deeply regretted the break-up of the Northern Ireland Parliament should be the first to give a welcome to the new constitution, with all its imperfections and contradictions. This is because it represents perhaps an admission that a wrong turning was taken, and it represents the beginning of a return to regional self-government for Northern Ireland. As my right hon. Friend knows better than anyone, in view of the position he occupied until recently, this Parliament has proved inadequate to the proper scrutiny of Northern Ireland expenditure and has been unequal to anything more than the most cursory examination of far-reaching Northern Ireland legislation which it has been powerless to amend.

Broadly speaking, the Northern Ireland Executive and the Northern Ireland Assembly will be what their members make of them. Let anyone who seeks not just to oppose, which is a con- stitutional function, but to disrupt, consider his reputation, however lightly he may take the peace of the Province. In some respects, the scope of the new Assembly will be larger than that of the old Parliament. Who would have thought a few weeks or months ago that Her Majesty's Government, in reaching an agreement with various parties to this question, would be able to express their willingness to … discuss the devolution of normal policing with the Northern Ireland Executive and the police. The formula concerning the RUC seems weird and wonderful—the formula worked out so painfully at Sunningdale. Yet there is historical precedent for almost everything in Irish affairs. On 30th March 1922, Michael Collins met James Craig in order to try to bring about peace between North and South. In return for the complete cessation of IRA hostilities in the Six Counties, it was agreed between Craig and Collins that Roman Catholics should be recruited to the special constabulary, more especially in nationalist areas, and the Northern Government of the day even agreed to their selection by an advisory committee nominated by the Provisional Government of the Irish Free State and presided over by the Bishop of Connor and Down, Dr. McRory.

I mention this not because I underrate the misgivings of Unionist colleagues that something terrible is intended by this weird and wonderful formula, but to point out that if their hard-line predecessors were willing to go along with a system of that kind, I think they can go along with this new formula.

It is indeed terribly important that no one should underrate at this hour the misgivings of loyalists—in the true sense—particularly on the Council of Ireland. I think that, whatever may be thought of his opinions, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) made a very remarkable and sincere speech which we would all do well to ponder. Of course it is true that a Council of Ireland has long been Unionist policy, but the Unionist party was always thinking, I believe, in terms of an intergovernmental body dealing with practical and technical matters of common concern.

I confess that I am a little worried by the grandiose style of the proposed Council of Ireland. After all, in this consultative assembly there will be a Republican predominance, and if the Assembly does come into existence that Republican predominance, if it is taken too far, could be ultimately resisted only by a veto, which would always tend to be interpreted outside as negative and reprehensible. Of course, we need the fullest inter-governmental co-operation between the two Irish Governments, and the Sunningdale statement referred to the inter-dependence of … the whole field of law and order". The Council of Ireland will be justified to the Unionist majority and to many other people only if it is part of an effort to bring about a concerted system of security against forces in Ireland which are implacably hostile to constitutional Government in Dublin just as much as they are to the Government of Northern Ireland.

The political settlement which is sought depends upon the crushing of terrorism. The Provisional IRA has been beaten out of Belfast to the border. That is why the border is such a perilous place today. Present in the Chamber are my hon. Friend the Member for Esher (Mr. Mather) and my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Dr. Glyn), who, only two days ago, were with me on the border. We found there that there was a concern lest the political settlement which is desired, the atmosphere of Sunningdale, if one can call it that—I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I am afraid I must sit down.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. McMaster,

Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East) rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. I fear that the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) is unwell. I suggest that we suspend the sitting for a short time.

Sitting suspended.

Sitting resumed.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

I beg your pardon, Mr. Speaker. Perhaps I may endeavour to continue my speech with your indulgence and that of the House. I felt slightly unwell.

The sooner the Chief Constable of the RUC and the Commissioner of the Civic Guard in the South are authorised by their respective Governments to get together and co-ordinate the activities of two forces between which there is a great degree of mutual admiration and respect—the better it will be not only for the peace of the whole of Ireland but for the success of what was done at Sunningdale.

My hon. Friends and I, paying our visit to the forces on the border, found that the co-operation which undoubtedly exists at the moment between the security forces on our side and the Gardaí in the Republic varies from place to place. It is much better on the border with County Donegal, for example, than it is on the border with County Monaghan. Some of the officers of the Armed Forces to whom we spoke said their local problems would virtually be solved if the present closing of unauthorised roads was complete. This is now going ahead. At Pettigoe, for example, it has been done with the full understanding of the public and the cooperation of the Garda.

They mentioned a second difficulty, the need to make speedy progress in the matter of extradition, or an efficacious equivalent of extradition. Reference has been made earlier to the declaration made by two sovereign Governments regarding the future of North-South relations. It is a notable fact that the Government of the Republic has concurred in the words of the British Government that the present status of Northern Ireland cannot be altered until a majority of its people desire a change in their status.

I hope my right hon. Friend understands the concern which some people must feel about the passage that followed that statement, namely that if in future the majority of the people of Northern Ireland should indicate a wish to become part of a united Ireland the British Government should support that wish. I need not go further into the misgivings on that score. I am sure my right hon. Friend understands them.

As has been pointed out by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr), the tripartite agreement which was solemnly deposited at the League of Nations was soon overtaken by a change of Government in Dublin. I hope that diplomacy will be successful in persuading the Government of the Republic to attempt an amendment of their constitution. I rather regret, in view of the religious views that I hold, the deletion from the Constitution of the Irish Republic of the true statement that Catholicism is the religion of the majority, and the retention of the untruth that Dublin has sovereignty over the whole island of Ireland, its islands and territorial seas. The separation of the Six Counties was as much an act of self-determination as the establishment of an independent Government in the South of Ireland.

If we are speaking of the unification of Ireland we must realise that it is quite as unrealistic to expect to plant a Tricolour on Stormont Castle as, in present circumstances, it would be to plant a Union Jack on Dublin Castle. In June 1937 Mr. de Valera said that the Northern Ireland problem stood in the way of what he called a "flat, downright proclamation of a republic." It is a pity that some of his successors were not so wise. That second statement from Sunningdale, following the reiterated commitment to maintain the status of Northern Ireland—the statement that the British Governmen might support the wish to become part of a united Ireland—is certainly not reassuring.

It follows on what was done in the new Constitution which this House has given to Northern Ireland, the abolition of oaths of allegiance, the Governorship and the Privy Council. The Assembly has shown a wise instinct in reviving some of the symbols of loyalty. The former Secretary of State, replying to our pleas not to abolish the Governorship, gave us to understand that there might well be Royal visits not long delayed to Northern Ireland and that Hillsborough might become something like Holyrood.

My speech and the numbers in the House tonight are not adequate for the importance of this occasion. The people of Northern Ireland are fellow citizens and fellow subjects who have suffered grievously in recent years. We are, of course, entitled to look to Northern Ireland politicians for constructive statesmanship. That has been manifested by many of them, at Darlington, Stormont and Sunningdale. But sometimes the impatience, condescension and indifference shown in this House seem to be not only inappropriate but indecent.

The people of Northern Ireland have no small claim upon the affections of this House. But for the existence of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom and the steadfastness of her people, offering us bases still strategically necessary, we would have lost the Battle of the Atlantic and gone down into slavery and shame.

Mr. Speaker

When the hon. Member temporarily resumed his seat I called the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster). I must keep to that.

6.35 p.m.

Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)

It gives me particular pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison). I am sure that the House will understand if he chooses to withdraw from the Chamber rather than listen to my humble contribution.

I say at once that I welcomed and admired the courage, understanding and sympathy behind my hon. Friend's speech and the great interest he has taken in Northern Ireland and its affairs. I congratulate him on the recent publication of his book on Northern Ireland. I am sure that all who are in the Chamber now and all others who take an interest in our affairs will read that book. I congratulate my hon. Friend upon his speech.

I welcome the constitutional changes which will come about as a result of this measure. Along with my hon. Friend, I regret that the communiqué following the Sunningdale conference did not state both sides of the proposition. I was sorry to see it contemplating a change but not going further to balance things for the sake of the Unionist majority in Northern Ireland and stating clearly that if that majority did not want change Northern Ireland would remain part of the United Kingdom and would be defended as such. This was not clearly stated in the communiqué and represents a shortcoming in that document.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State for Employment on the considerable efforts which he has put in over the past year and a half in reaching this settlement. I wish him well in his new appointment. I feel that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland was rather pushed in at the deep end at Sunningdale. He was given the job at a moment's notice and had to face perhaps one of the most difficult and monumental conferences which has taken place in recent years. I congratulate him and his colleagues who were at Sunningdale on achieving the settlement embodied in the communiqué.

I feel it presages a new period in the history of the United Kingdom and in the history of good relations between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. I share none of the fears of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr). I am confident that all sides in the community will make their opinions felt in the months to come and that it will be quite clear that those who oppose this constitutional settlement represent a small majority on both sides of the political divide and of the total population in Northern Ireland. People of all religions are now gathered together in the new Assembly with a new power-sharing Executive which can herald a new period of political co-operation in Northern Ireland.

I have a number of questions to ask my right hon. Friend arising out of the Bill and the orders. It might be convenient if the orders were dealt with separately, because one is very long and to go into the points on them now at length would waste time.

Is the number of Members of the new Executive, as set out in Clause 1, a wise step? Would it not be better, on grounds of flexibility, to lay down no specific number for the total of those who shall take part in the new Executive? It may in future be necessary to appoint Parliamentary Secretaries as more powers are transferred to Northern Ireland. A promise has already been given regarding the control of the police. Does the Bill provide sufficient flexibility for the appointment of such persons as Parliamentary Secretaries and for changing the functions as set out in the Constitution Act read in conjunction with the amending Bill?

What will Westminster's functions be in relation to the new Ministers? Under the previous Act the Secertary of State has power to create Ministers and to rearrange the functions of Departments. Will the new head of the Executive have the powers or does my right hoc. Friend intend to continue performing those powers? I hope this will be clarified in the winding-up speech.

I do not think that my right hon. Friend quite understood a point which I made in an earlier intervention regarding the Ministries. In the Bill, and in the Ministries order, the heads of Departments are referred to as Ministers.

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is the second time the hon. Gentleman has said that we shall be considering the orders later. We agreed earlier, with the consent of the House, to have a general debate covering both the Bill and the orders.

Rev. Ian Paisley

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Does that mean that this debate can go on after 10 o'clock?

Mr. Speaker

That will depend on whether the 10 o'clock suspension motion is passed. There is a motion that the Business of the House should continue until any hour. If that is passed, it will mean that the debate on this Bill can go on.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Does it mean that the orders still to be debated can be debated simply for the one-and-a-half hours normally given to them?

Mr. Speaker

I think that the idea was that we should have a general debate and that general points should be raised now. I would not seek to rule out a number of detailed points on the orders. As to how long the debate will last and as to whether motions for the closure will be accepted, we shall cross that river when we come to it. This is a general debate, and if the 10 o'clock suspension motion is passed the debate will not be limited.

Mr. McMaster

I thank you for your guidance, Mr. Speaker. I make the point because I have additional comments on the orders, particularly on the main order on modifications of enactments, which has 14 articles and several schedules and runs to 27 closely printed pages. It would be inappropriate to go through that in detail at this stage.

This is the only opportunity which the House has to consider what will become an Act of Parliament, and there will be no opportunity in Committee, or on Report, further to consider and amend the orders. I hope, therefore, that the House will give adequate time for consideration of the orders.

One of the orders refers to Ministries. Yet the Bill which we are now considering refers to the heads of Departments. My point is a simple one. Is my right hon. Friend prepared to accept that the heads of Departments are, in fact, Ministers? In the Council of Ireland there will be Ministers from the South of Ireland. Will they be matched by Ministers from the north of Ireland, or by heads of Departments? This may be a small point, but it may be felt in Northern Ireland that it would be an improvement in terminology to refer to heads of Departments in the new Assembly at Stormont as Ministers.

Another point of detail on which I seek clarification concerns the creation of new Ministries. Will this come under the Act or the amending Bill?

I turn now to the package. The main problem in Northern Ireland is security. Therefore, I hope that, now that the package has been accepted and the Assembly and Executive are to come into existence and the Council of Ireland is to be set up, my right hon. Friend will come down from the fence. There is a feeling in Northern Ireland that in the past 20 months the Secretary of State has occupied a position as more of an arbitrator between the two sides. It is also felt that the Prime Minister performed this function during the Sunningdale conference.

Now that the Assembly is being set up and the Executive will be formed, will my right hon. Friend accept that the natural consequence of these changes should be that the British Government should speak and act on behalf of Northern Ireland as though it was part of the United Kingdom? In negotiations with the South of Ireland, will the British Government treat the South of Ireland as a foreign country, which, by its own wish, it became many years ago and even opted out of the Commonwealth after the last war? Will the British Government negotiate on behalf of Northern Ireland, recognising it fully as an integral part of the United Kingdom?

With regard to law and order, what is the timetable relating to control of the police? I welcome the statement that the control of the police will be returned to Northern Ireland.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Can the hon. Gentleman tell me where in the Sunningdale agreement it is stated that responsibility for control of the police will be returned to Northern Ireland? Does it not say that Her Majesty's Government are prepared to discuss this matter?

Mr. McMaster

My hon. Friend endorses what I have said. The communiqué following the Sunningdale conference is not clear on the point. Perhaps my hon. Friend will deal with the point.

Mr. Carol Mather (Esher)

It was stated in the communiqué that responsibility for control of the police would be returned as soon as the security problems were resolved.

Mr. McMaster

I emphasised the doubt exists. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Minister of State will deal with that point.

I should like an assurance that the Royal Ulster Constabulary will not be reorganised. In a recent public statement, a Minister in the South of Ireland referred to an agreement for a radical reorganisation of the constabulary. I have been told in answers to questions in the last few weeks that no radical reorganisation is planned. In view of this statement and the doubts in Northern Ireland, will my hon. Friend deal with the matter and say something about recruitment for the constabulary, the progress which it has made, and the support which Her Majesty's Government intend to give the police while they remain under the control of the Secretary of State?

Will the provision in the 1861 Act about the trial of murderers be enforced retrospectively? I believe that there are 30 men in the South who are wanted for murder and other serious crimes in the North. What action is to be taken to bring them to justice? Will the action promised by the Southern Irish Government be retrospective? Will it be extended to include serious crimes other than murder?

To what extent will the new Executive set up under the Council of Ireland have power to act independently? To what extent will its actions have to be endorsed by the Parliaments in the South and North? What power of veto will the Assembly have over any executive function exercised by the new council of which it disapproves?

Turning to the guarantee of the status of Northern Ireland to which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South referred, I wish to dissociate myself from his disparaging remarks about the United Nations. We must distinguish between the United Nations and the old League of Nations. It is true that the 1928 agreement was lodged with the League of Nations, but that body was never very effective and was totally different from the United Nations. The valuable agreement incorporated in the communiqué recognising the status of Northern Ireland and lodged with the United Nations will have much greater effect. It will give far more assurance than arose from the settlement which followed the 1920 Act. In the light of enforcement of international law, the agreement is real and meaningful. It should, therefore, give much more reassurance to the people of Northern Ireland than they enjoyed previously.

Does my right hon. Friend intend to let the position rest there? The second clause of the constitution of the South lays claim to exercising dominion over the whole island of Ireland. That is inconsistent with the assurance about status. Will my right hon. Friend press the Government in the South to amend their Constitution? What discussions have taken place under this head? What assurances have been given? If none has been given, I urge my right hon. Friend to pursue this matter vigorously because it is of great concern to Northern Ireland. If the Government in the South were prepared to amend their Constitution, it would augur well for the new Assembly and for restoring law and order in the North, because it would renew the confidence of many of the majority—the Loyalists or Unionists—in Northern Ireland who are questioning the intentions of Her Majesty's Government in guaranteeing the continued existence and integrity of Ulster.

I am glad to see present hon. Friends who have recently visited Northern Ireland. My hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell has been there 40 or 50 times in the past three years, which is an incredible record for a Member of this House. My hon. Friends the Members for Windsor (Dr. Glyn) and Esher (Mr. Mather) have been to Northern Ireland in the last few days and have seen the position on the border. They know of the raids which take place across the border. There was a recent raid again on the police station at Beleek. What steps do the Government intend to take to improve security on the border? What improvement in security will result from the Sunningdale conference? What does my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State expect to be the effect of the discussions which he had with members of the former Government of Northern Ireland during the conference? What assurance has he had from them?

What measure of autonomy will the new Executive have? What will be its powers? Will it have control over the Council of Ireland and the acts of the council? Is it intended by Her Majesty's Government that the Executive's powers will be gradually increased and that when responsibility for security is handed back the Executive will be an autonomous body comparable with the Government which existed before Stormont was suspended in March last year? I envisage as a result of the Sunningdale conference and the recent acts of Her Majesty's Government moves being made to bring about better community relations in Northern Ireland. That is the first and foremost problem facing the Government, and they have grappled with it.

Secondly, I see arising from the agreement a better economic and social future in Northern Ireland. With the chronic shortage of oil, fuel and basic raw materials, I see no future for Ireland in the direction that certain minority loyalist groups would like to take. UDI spells disaster, massive unemployment in shipyards and aircraft factories and reductions in social services, pensions and family allowances. Many people would be forced to go abroad to find employment. The only sensible future for Northern Ireland lies in the direction laid down in the communiqué and the steps that the Government have taken.

Perhaps my hon. Friend will say what progress has been made with industrial development. We welcome the news of a few days ago that two factories are to extend their enterprises. It is relevant to the debate and to the future that development should continue. Will development still be in the hands of Westminster, or how far will it be devolved to Ministers in the new Assembly?

I wish my right hon. Friend well in his new appointment and every success to the new Executive which is to come into being on 1st January.

7.1 p.m.

Mrs. Bernadette McAliskey (Mid-Ulster)

I have often been accused, both inside and outside the House, of oversimplifying matters in order to put my point of view, but a gross over-simplification is being perpetrated in the House by the Government and the Opposition. The people of Northern Ireland are being told that they must accept the new Executive, the amendents to the Constitution Act, and the Council of Ireland, not because they are good, profitable or progressive but because of the negative results of not accepting them. Little argument has been put forward of how well the new machinery will work, how long it may last, or where exactly it will lead.

Anyone who has watched recent television news reports and interviews will have seen Mr. Brian Faulkner in the peculiar position of insisting that the Council of Ireland, while not a step towards a united Ireland, is not a bar on the door. The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) on several television channels tried to do Mr. Faulkner's job for him by saying that while the Council of Ireland was not barring the door to a united Ireland it was not a step towards a united Ireland. He was frightened of making Mr. Faulkner's job of selling the package more difficult.

The people of Northern Ireland are being told that they must accept this package—this new deal—otherwise there is the threat—such as we had in the 1920s—of a bloody and terrible war. The people are being led to believe that if the proposals are not accepted the consequence is the dire possibility, and indeed probability, of civil war in Northern Ireland. From those who believe in the proposals we have not heard any argument to counter the growing fear that the package itself gives rise to a greater possibility and probability of that civil war. While it is perfectly easy for the spokesman for the Opposition to say in the House that it can be a sell-out to the Loyalists or to the Republicans but it cannot be a sellout to both, that is two-dimensional logic which has no bearing on reality.

The fears of the Loyalists are not in direct opposition to the fears and demands of the Republicans. To take one example, the important question of extradition. The Loyalists are convinced that people who commit acts of terrorism—as they see it—against the State in Northern Ireland escape to the safe haven of their friends in the Republic. It is, therefore, most important to them to get changes in the extradition laws out of the Council of Ireland negotiations. They did not get that, so they lost. But did we win? Of course we did not win, for the simple reason that nobody—and by that I mean myself the people of the Republic and even the Government of Ireland—wants to see the extradition laws changed.

The people most affected by the extradition policy, that is to say, both wings of the IRA, are not greatly concerned about extradition. They may be grateful for the existing extradition laws, but can it be said that if the extradition laws were changed, and the 30 men of whom the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) spoke did not have the safe haven of the Republic they would not have committed the acts they did? I dispute that strongly. The death penalty was no deterrent to them. A change in the extradition laws might make escape to the so-called haven of the Curragh Camp more difficult, but it would not prevent those men from believing as they believe and doing what they do.

Therefore, whilst the Loyalist population lost because they did not get the extradition laws changed, it was no great win for the Republicans. To them it was an inessential irrelevance.

The same question arises on the acceptance of the Constitution of Northern Ireland. The Loyalists have been given a United Nations enshrinement of a doubt. They have been told that so long as they do not change their mind they are all right. All they have to do is to go through life wearing a pair of blinkers and never seeing what is round the corner. If they never change their mind, no one will change it for them. There is no safeguard that in five or ten years' time there will not be a change. All they are told is that from now till eternity the only protection they have against progress is to close their minds to it and keep on saying "No". That is hardly a recipe for persuading anyone to change his mind. No logic or art of persuasion has been used. No social or economic arguments have been advanced to persuade them to change their mind. They are just told to keep their mind closed. The Loyalists are not convinced. They do not want the Government to say, "So long as you do not change your mind you will never be in the Irish Republic."

What the Loyalists want the Government to say is what the Government cannot say. It is time the Government admitted that they cannot say, "You will never, ever, be part of a united Ireland". That is what the Loyalists want to hear. That will never happen. The British Government cannot say that because they know that it will happen. In the interests of the British economic community and of the industrial future of Britain and Ireland alike, whether or not the Protestants want it, into the Republic of Ireland they are going. May be not tomorrow, may be not next year, but sooner or later, like it or not, that is where they are going. Why not be honest about it? Why keep saying to people, "Keep your minds closed, close your eyes, and it will never happen", when one knows that as soon as they close their eyes it will be done behind their back.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Will the hon. Lady agree that it is also in the interests of the EEC that the Loyalists should be pushed into a united Ireland?

Mrs. McAliskey

It is certainly not against the interests of the EEC. This is why I intervened during the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr); and why if it were not so tragic it would be funny to remark that I was the Member for Sandy Row. I appreciate the spirit of what was meant by that, but the kind of society into which the provisional IRA cannot bomb and terrorise the Protestants but the British Government can economically, socially and politically coerce the Protestants is the kind of society that bodes well neither for them nor for us as ordinary working class people.

It is not the kind of society whereby the Irish people control their own future and destiny because we control our own economic and social future, but it is the kind of society where we sit like so many fools with a tricolour flying over 32 counties and English pound notes in every bank in the country. It is the kind of society in which the country is socially and economically controlled by Britain and, ultimately, from Brussels, and in which people are fooled into thinking that they are a sovereign and independent nation. Again, the two sides can be betrayed, because it is not as simple as saying, "If you please the hon. and gallant Gentleman you automatically displease me." I do not despite or hate the hon. and gallant Gentleman because he is a Protestant, an Orangeman or a Unionist. I do not despise anybody. I hate the system that has divided his people and mine. I hate the system that has kept all our people in economic and political subjection.

Loyalists got nothing out of Sunning-dale. They have got an enshrinement of doubt. They have got nothing on extradition. They have a Free Stater of one hue or another coming to sit on the police authority. They see this foreign body floating around the police authority. But is that reform? Am I being told that I ought to be pleased because some Gardaí "basher" comes up and joins the RUC "bashers" of the North? There is no difference, as far as I am concerned, between the way they run the RUC and the way they run the Gardaí. When I talk about reforming the RUC I mean reforming it from the bottom.

Where are the people who beat Sam Devenney senseless? Where are the people who mounted Browning submachine guns and went into the Catholic areas of Belfast? That is what I mean by reforming the police. I do not care whether it is Flanagan or anyone else at the top. I do not care about personalities or religion or the colour of the uniforms of the RUC. I care about the laws that they have to implement, the way they implement them, whether or not they are implemented fairly and whether the RUC as a body can be seen by all sections of the civilian population to be the referee and the custodian for protecting the rights of the individual and society as a whole. That will not be done by a few constitutional changes on the police authority and one or two Assembly men on the local bodies. The Loyalists are annoyed—

Mr. Orme

I am fascinated with the hon. Lady's new-found rôle of interpreting what the Loyalist community in the North think about this situation. She is trying to pour oil to ignite a fire. Would she not try to interpret what her own constituents want? She was elected to this House, unfortunately, not because she is a Socialist but because she is a Roman Catholic. What do her constituents want?

Mrs. McAliskey

Fifty per cent. of my constituents are Loyalists—[An HON. MEMBER: "Forty-five per cent."] Correction—45 per cent. I apologise. It was not my intention to mislead the House. But I do not care who elected me. I represent the people of my constituency. I have pointed out, on both issues, how we have got nothing.

With respect to Her Majesty's loyal Opposition, I consider that I am in a better position to interpret Loyalist opinion in Northern Ireland than they and to say what I believe Loyalist opinion in my constituency to be. It is notable that no Loyalist Members here tonight have interrupted to say that I am misinterpreting their ideas. If Mr. Faulkner and the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) can sit at the same table, can I not speak the same language as the Protestant working class?

What I am attempting to do is to show not that I agree with these things but that it is a fallacy to say that it is not possible for both the Catholic and Protestant sections of the community—they may be called extremists—to think they have been betrayed. I think I have shown that. What is considered important to the Loyalists has not been granted. I will go on to show that what is considered important by the Catholic working class—the extremist working class, if one likes, but the Republican section of the community—has not been granted either. It has nothing.

What have we got? The Social Democratic Labour Party was not represented at the Darlington conference because it felt that it could not take part in any discussions on a final settlement without there being a firm commitment to end internment. Just like the Council of Ireland. The constitution is not a firm commitment, nor is it a commitment to say "End internment—at some time when violence stops." A date has to be given is there to be a date given—that date must be very soon—when detention without trial will be stopped?

As for the Republican section of the community, it was told, when internment was introduced, by its elected representatives not to pay rent, not to pay rates and not to pay arrears. I myself was out-voted at a meeting where I suggested to the assembled people that they ought to save their arrears, that they should go around and appoint on each estate somebody responsible for collecting the rent money and paying it into a bank and that it should be used to fight legal cases over people who might face eviction, court orders or summonses, or that it might be used to support families of persons detained without trial and with no other means of support.

But I was out-voted by the new-found moderates who at that time said "Spend the money, eat the money, drink the money. There will be no payment of the arrears."

Where are we now? A total of £3½ million has been involuntarily paid back under the Emergency Payments (Debt) Act out of family allowances, supplementary benefits, unemployment benefits, out of teachers' salaries, caretakers' and nurses' salaries and the salary of anybody who works for a Government Department. That was all very well when the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland was responsible—[AN HON. MEMBER: "This is negative."] It is not negative when people are losing money. What will happen now? [Interruption.] It is all right for some hon. Members to mutter, but it is a fact of credibility.

The same individual who told us to pay no rent, no rates and no arrears is now in a position to see that it is carried out. He is the Minister-designate for Health and Social Services. Will he carry out the promise and put an end to this involuntary taking of money from people's health and social service payments? That is a fair question to ask—will he have the power?—and I ask it of the Secretary of State. Will that Minister be empowered or have it in his jurisdiction to grant an amnesty to the rent strikers as, in opposition, he demanded of the Government?

That is a fair question. It is not a personal attack on anyone but a straightforward demand of a man who made a promise and who is now in a position to fulfil it. Can there be a measure of good faith even that far—to obtain an amnesty for rent strikers?

With the greatest will in the world, I cannot see how the Minister-designate for Housing will reach his declared target of 20,000 houses a year unless someone starts talking realities. Every last one of the Housing Executive offices in my constituency is up to its eyes in debt that they inherited from the old councils—not debt that they created themselves. There is a housing shortage everywhere. There is land that can be bought, there are unemployed builders who could work, but there is no more credit in the banks for local executive areas which are already £1 million and more in debt. They would have to borrow again at the same interest.

Though the Minister for Housing—I challenge the Opposition to show that it is negative to ask these questions: they are constructive—

Mr. Merlyn Rees

The Opposition has not said whether they are negative or positive or anything in between.

Mrs. McAliskey

I thought that I detected mutterings from the Opposition Front Bench. My apologies to those hon. Gentlemen if I was mistaken.

Is it in the power of this Minister-designate to cancel the housing debt? Otherwise, it is talking in the air to talk of 20,000 houses when we cannot get another penny from the banks. Or is it thought possible to shore something up just to get it off the ground, so that then the purse-strings will be loosened and the money will flow and carry the thing for a year or two until it works? Will we get not just fly-by-night industry but fly-by-night injections of money to get the system working only for a year or two?

Or can we be shown some evidence of long-term progress, like cancellation of the outstanding debt, easier availability of land to the Housing Executive, the end of land speculation, even the temporary nationalisation of the building industry in Northern Ireland, to prevent the gross profit-making that is done out of the housing shortage by some building firms. Will the new Minister be able to do that?

We have heard that there is no difference on the social and economic programme devised by the three parties to the new Executive. Could we, now, next year or possibly in the next decade, hear the social and economic programme? We have heard that agreement was reached on the first day. Could we see it? We have had White Papers on the amount of money available—constant White Papers on this and that, committees here and there.

Could we please know what social and economic future has been planned for the people of Northern Ireland? It is a great deal more relevant to the man in the street to know what is in store for him in terms of his social and economic future than whether or not the United Nations will ever have to referee this situation. Can we have something like that?

And can we be told that internment will end? I sit in my home at night and switch on the late night news on BBC 1 to see that the internees are being released two at a time: "The Commission sat today, released two, reinterned two, adjourned two." It is getting like the First Division football results. Is this the planned release of internees before Christmas which was promised, or are they once again being used as political hostages—"If you are good, they might get out and if you are not good, they will not get out"? There are far too many "mights" and "may-be's". Far too many compromises are being made to achieve nothing.

I can see, and I do not see why I should be criticised for being able to see, what it is that angers and frustrates the working-class Protestant. I could see what angered and frustrated him right from the beginning, when certain hon. Gentlemen could not, but I would not say that those whom I represent are so narrow-minded or bigoted that the very fact that the Protestants are upset, annoyed and frustrated should be for them a reason for rejoicing. That is not the kind of people I represent. They take no joy in the anger and frustration of the Protestant working class. They do not think that, just because Faulkner has no support from the Protestants, support from the Catholics should be substituted. I know, as Mr. Faulkner has said, that a win is a win is a win. But a rogue is a rogue is a rogue.

So it is feasible that while the Protestant middle class, being less the victims of their own history, are prepared to share with the Catholic middle class in order to safeguard and protect the system from annihilation, and because the Catholic middle class always and ever had only one quarrel with the system—that they did not have a share in making it work—let no one be mistaken that the Catholic working class are happy. Their menfolk are still interned; they are still paying out arrears though people told them that it would never happen; there is still a housing shortage. Things have not changed for them.

Perhaps they feel that they are working towards a united Ireland and may be that makes their national pride feel a bit better. Maybe they think that some day it will be better because we are heading—as we are, like it or not—towards some kind of united Ireland. But for today and tomorrow and the day after life is very much the same on the Falls Road and the Shankill. There are too many people on the dole, too many on the housing list.

It is not enough to say, as I have heard certain hon. Members and the SDLP say, that some people should not be in Long Kesh, some people should not be interned. Let me make my position clear: nobody should be interned without trial; just nobody. Till internment is ended the Executive will have difficulty selling the deal. There will be no end to the resistance of the Catholic community till Long Kesh is closed and the lights put out for ever.

7.30 p.m.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor)

The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Mrs. McAliskey) does no service to her constituents or to Ulster by trying to brew up future troubles between the communities. If she were wise, she would advise her constituents to arrive at some sort of progress which would result in social and economic advance. She should also realise that Ulster does better economically by remaining in the United Kingdom than it does by joining with the South. I shall have something to say later about the hon. Lady's remarks on extradition.

Apart from the hon. Lady, every hon. Member of this House is united in one thing and one thing only: we all want to see peace in the Province of Ulster. Whatever expressions of view have been made on both sides of the House, we want to see some form of government in the Province which will do away with terrorism and with the sort of existence that Northern Ireland has suffered over the last six years.

Mrs. McAliskey

The hon. Member for Windsor (Dr. Glyn) does me a grave disservice when he says that I stand alone in the House in not wanting peace in Northern Ireland, for that was the implication of his remark. The whole tenor of my speech was that I felt this agreement and this wool-pulling exercise, far from leading to peace, would lead to violence and greater frustration. It is misleading to say that I less than anybody want peace in Northern Ireland. Of course I want peace. I live in the community and am rearing a family in it. The hon. Gentleman is not in that position.

Dr. Glyn

I was saying that Ulster is part of the United Kingdom, and we are all as much a part of the United Kingdom as is the hon. Lady. We should not keep looking back on the mistakes we may have made. We are here today because a small minority of terrorists have caused the abolition of Stormont. We should be looking forward to the future of Northern Ireland rather than constantly looking back.

Terrorism in Northern Ireland has resulted in the deaths of over 200 of our soldiers, in a great deal of damage to property and also in loss of civilian lives. It is against that background that we should look at how the present arrangements are working and what benefit they can bring to the Province.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on his appointment. I wish to thank him for the efficient arrangements that were made when a delegation of which I was part went to the Province to see for ourselves some of the difficulties with which the Ulster people were faced.

We are today discussing the final devolution of power as dealt with in Part II of the Act. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was correct to say that any possible settlement in the Province must consist of two elements: first, the eradication of terrorism; and, secondly, a political formula that is capable of working.

I turn my attention first to the Assembly. I believe that the Assembly tan be made to work if the people of Ireland realise that this is the last chance they will have of a Parliament which is elected and which must work. I was alarmed to read in the Press about the antics of the Members of the Assembly who did their best to make sure that the first session was suspended. They must realise that their Assembly is as much a parliament as it the House of Commons, and they should conduct their affairs in a similar manner. I hope that all the Members of the Assembly will forget their petty differences and join in an endeavour to make the Constitution work. I am sure that this is the only possibility open to them. After all, three parties are now working together, and if they continue to co-operate they can formulate a policy which can only be for the betterment of the Province.

I should like to say a few words about the Council of Ireland. The co-operation in that respect is largely of an economic nature. I do not attach tremendous importance to the registration of assurances about the North deposited with the United Nations. In practice, what it means is that no form of unification can take place without the whole-hearted consent of the people of Northern Ireland. But it is the wholehearted consent that matters rather than registration in the United Nations. We all know what happened to former registrations registered with the old League of Nations.

What has come out of the Sunningdale agreement is far more fundamental and important. For the first time there is an attempt between South and North to reach some sort of co-operation. I agree that this is a small step towards the final end we would like to see.

I should like at this point to refer to security. This problem involves two countries with a long border over which there has been a lack of co-operation between the two police forces. At times there has probably been less co-operation between the Garda and the RUC than possibly between the members of the international police. Interpol probably has closer relationships among its members in the apprehension of criminals than do the police forces in the North and the South of Ireland.

I should like to put forward the idea of co-operation at officer level between one police force and another, with each policeman determined to catch and then try anybody who uses force to attain his ends. We must realise how extremely difficult it is to check people travelling between South and North in terms of the number of vehicles that pass daily between the two countries. The only way to apprehend wrongdoers is by a close liaison between the two police forces. This can be done by getting information in sufficient time to enable people to be caught before they have the opportunity to commit an offence.

It has been found necessary to invoke an Act of 1861 which is far from perfect. But the people of Northern Ireland are looking for results. If it can be seen that as a result of the agreement more offenders are apprehended and action is taken by the South, people will begin to realise that there is some benefit in having a Council of Ireland. They would rather look to practicalities than to theories. They will not necessarily be looking to the Act of 1861 to see how it operates.

In the final analysis it would be easier for extradition to be implemented because there are so many legal problems involved. It may be difficult for the Southern Irish Government to pass the necessary legislation on extradition, but this does not prevent them co-operating at a lower level since such co-operation can be of great significance. I do not want to elaborate on the provisions of the 1861 Act, but the fact is that this involves members of the Armed Forces having to give evidence in courts of law, and this could give rise to considerable security difficulties and other problems. The judges in Eire might not look with favour on a situation in which members of our Armed Forces were required to give evidence in obtaining a conviction. I hope that as time passes the co-operation between the two forces will become so good that apprehension will be made much easier. It is up to the South to show its good intentions. The Southern Irish have signed the agreement, and it is up to them to help us as much as possible in the apprehension of criminals.

I wish to pay a special tribute to the members of the Armed Forces who have been in Northern Ireland in very difficult conditions and have maintained control over terrorism to such an extent as to enable the parties to reach agreement. I am convinced that without their help this state of comparative quiescence could not have been achieved.

I make one point on behalf of our troops. It is to ask whether we ought not to look into the period of service required and the leave entitlement of our forces. I found their morale to be very high. I was especially honoured to be able to go to my former regiment, which is stationed in the Province, C Squadron of the Royal Horse Guards Dragoons, Blues and Royals. They are serving a 16-week period, and their morale is very high. They have as full a task as any regiment is called upon to perform in war, and sometimes even fuller. In my view, we ought to look carefully at whether those serving in Northern Ireland should continue to be regarded as serving in the United Kingdom. If it is at all possible, some form of additional leave should be granted to them. I know there are considerable difficulties in this, but I ask the Government to look into the possibility.

We ought also to consider whether we cannot back up the RUC with some form of regular battalion. Obviously, we have to look carefully to ensure that in the future the Army and the police continue to co-operate. Every one of us wants to see the Army withdrawn as quickly as possible. However, that state of affairs cannot come about until co-operation between the police forces north and south of the border is so complete that it is no longer necessary to have soldiers in the Province.

I believe that the fears of many of the community that possibly this might be the first step towards a union between the North and South are unfounded. I am certain that the words printed in the Alliance newspaper are probably a better reflection. It says: There is no question of agreeing to anything which in any way undermines the constitutional position of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom. In my view, we cannot stress that too hard. I will concede to the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster that there are people who do not appreciate that the position has not changed, that they are still part of the United Kingdom and will remain so until a referendum has been conducted. If they can be made to appreciate that, many of the fears of extremists on both sides can be allayed.

It has been a very long chapter. But the co-operation between the political parties in Northern Ireland may in the future give rise to a complete realignment of politics in the Province. After all, we have two parties fundamentally different working together in the Government.

I suggest that we may see a change and reorientation of politics in elections to Westminster. I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr), who said that we ought to be looking at the representation of the Province in this House. As hon. Members are aware, there are very large constituencies, and possibly this could, and ought to, be looked at. In this part of the United Kingdom we have just had our boundary changes. In the case of Northern Ireland I do not think it unreasonable to suggest that the Boundary Commission might sit separately and consider the representation of Northern Ireland in this House.

I am sure that we all want to see the end of terrorism and make the new Assembly and the new Constitution work. Only by making the political machine work properly shall we see the end of terrorism. Northern Ireland has a future, and all of us want to see prosperity in the Province and the complete termination of terrorism, which has existed for far too long.

7.44 p.m.

Mr. A. W. Stallard (St. Pancras, North)

Until I heard some of the remarks of the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) and the hon. Member for Windsor (Dr. Glyn), it had not been my intention to participate in this debate. In any event, I promise that I shall detain the House for only a few minutes.

It is inevitable that the debate should be as dull as it has been so far. The reason is that there is little opposition of the kind that we are used to when discussing Northern Ireland affairs. That is understandable.

It must be said, however, that everything in the garden is not exactly lovely. There are problems, and in the course of my remarks I intend to refer to one of two of them. Before I do that, I believe that it should be on record that recent developments have taken us a long way along the road from the very modest demands of the early civil rights campaign. Those of us who have taken an interest in the Province do not want to forget the strides made along the road that we began to take in those days. I have in mind the demands for "one man, one vote" and so on.

Despite many disagreements and many difficulties, we have arrived at the point where Stormont has gone. In addition, the Orange Order is probably more split than it has ever been, and, what is more, split into more different factions than it has ever been, thank God. That can only be an advance.

Mr. John E. Maginnis (Armagh)

I should not like the hon. Gentleman unintentionally to mislead the House. The split is not in the Orange Order. It is in the Unionist Party. The two are different.

Mr. Stallard

I accept that correction from the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. Maginnis), who is an expert in that kind of distinction. Certainly there are those who, a few years ago, did not see much difference between the Orange Order and the Unionist Party, and I number myself among them. I welcome the fact that there are these differences inside that organisation. Any organisation without differences of this kind is not a healthy one.

I have argued long for political initiatives to try to replace violence. For that reason I welcome these present initiatives and the outcome of most of them. I thought, and still think, that it was a great pity that some members of the minority opinions did not participate in these political discussions and initiatives at an earlier stage. We might have had a different picture than that which we see at present.

I also welcome the return to elections. We strove for, and achieved, that state of affairs. However, I should like to see much freer elections. I am conscious that it would be almost impossible for some of my hon. Friends to canvass the Shankill and for some hon. Members opposite to canvass Falls Road. Until such time as we get free elections, we talk about elections with our tongues in our cheeks. There are problems to overcome. I have been observing some elections in Northern Ireland recently. Before we see free electioneering, campaigning and canvassing of the kind that takes place in my own constituency but does not occur in the constituencies of hon. Members opposite who sneer at my remarks, we shall not have free elections in the true sense. I should like to see a move towards freer elections of the kind that we know on this side of the water.

Finally, I welcome the Council of Ireland. It has drawbacks. There are snags. There will be difficulties. However, those of us who remember earlier days and the modest demands that were made then must give credit where it is due in saying how we welcome what has happened along the road.

Having said that, I do not believe that there will be any real progress towards permanent solutions until we end internment—full stop. We cannot play about with it. I have always objected to the policy of using detainees or internees of whichever community as political hostages. We have to say that internment will be ended, and a date for its end must be set.

There will never be permanent peace until there is a sign that one day the British commitment will be ended. That has to be said, and that will have to happen. I know that it will be difficult, but it has to be felt by both communities. That matter is on the agenda.

We should remove flashpoints and areas of possible tension between ourselves and the people of both communities in Northern Ireland. We should not erect new flashpoints; we should take them away. I fear that we are erecting quite a number of flashpoints because of the way that we treat prisoners. I have asked a number of questions in the House about prisoners of all denominations currently serving sentences either here or in Northern Ireland. By our treatment of them we are not helping to ease, but are perpetuating, a situation that should be quietened down.

In this context I should like to refer to what some people would call torture. Hon. Members may have seen a programme on television recently which illustrated the various forms of torture being used against prisoners in a number of countries in the Western world. I think that forcible feeding of the kind that I have been reading about lately is a torturous process in anybody's language.

In a parliamentary answer that I was given this week I was told that 25 prisoners have been forcibly fed in British gaols since January this year. This process is being used against prisoners who have gone on hunger strike because their demands or requests to be transferred to Northern Ireland have been refused. Such requests are not outrageous. I am not condoning the crimes committed by these prisoners, but we have already sentenced them to life imprisonment and terms of 20 years. I think that is quite enough. What more do we want? Why do we put them in almost constant solitary confinement and force-feed them by these inhuman methods?

We shall not remove any flashpoints while this treatment continues and the Maze, Long Kesh and Armagh remain in being. Unless we do something about these matters, flashpoints will not be erased, but erected.

The Government, who have been intransigent and proved wrong on so many things, ought to look at these matters before it is too late. They have a new broom in the person of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. I suggest that he begins to sweep clean and says that we will end internment and agree to transfers in both directions. I understand that it is all right to transfer prisoners from Northern Ireland to this country. I understand and appreciate the motives. I do not object to that. However, I believe that the transfer should be two ways. That would help to remove yet another flashpoint. If this new broom would begin by sweeping that slate clean we would probably remove some of the flashpoints that otherwise will become bigger and far outweigh the gains that have been made on the political initiative. I hope that the Secretary of State will take note of those points.

7.53 p.m.

Mr. James Molyneaux (Antrim, South)

I am glad that the hon. Member for St. Paneras, North (Mr. Stallard) accepted the correction by my hon. Friend the Member for Armagh (Mr. Maginnis) to the effect that the Orange Order is not split in different ways. I was reminded of the dry rejoinder by Mark Twain, who, when told that he had died, said that the announcement was somewhat premature. I should not like the hon. Gentleman's celebrations in believing that the Orange Order has disintegrated, as so many other bodies have done and as some on this side of the water are in the process of disintegrating, to be premature.

At this time of grave national emergency we are engaged upon a most extraordinary exercise. We are amending an Act, which we were told could not be altered, almost before the ink has dried. It might have been wiser to be less insistent on the inviolate nature of the Constitution Act. The impression always given was that the Act could not be altered in any circumstances. This was particularly so when changes were suggested by those who held grave doubts about its workability—those who have been labelled "unpledged" by some and "unbribed" by others.

The hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) said that, in his view, it was legitimate for people in Northern Ireland to have aspirations towards a United Ireland. Certainly those with such aspirations should have freedom to express their views. No one will quarrel with that proposition. Indeed, no one will blame the British Government for backing that view or regard it as a sellout if they give those people the right to express such views. But the British Government and Parliament are under no obligation to provide the machinery to fulfil those aspirations. That is what the Sunningdale conference has done, and that is why it is regarded as a sell-out and a betrayal by a much wider spectrum than the so-called extremists who are often alluded to in this House.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that he thought that the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland accept what is proposed, but that there were some who never wanted any constitutional change. That may be so, and I do not quarrel with it. But to them must be added the new band of professional middle-class objectors who have seen through the smokescreen and clearly identified the dangers and the defects despite all the painstaking attempts to conceal their real nature.

Nothing has so far been said in the debate to disprove the assertions that the so-called guarantee is entirely bogus. The formula in the communiqué is certainly no advance on what has already been said as distinct from what has been done in the past.

It is a feeble excuse to say that it is not politically possible to change the constitution of the Republic and that public opinion in the South would not stand for it. One it tempted to ask: will that same public opinion in the South honour and sustain even the vague verbal assurances given at Sunningdale?

I want to take up briefly a question to which no satisfactory answer has to far been given; namely, the non-participation by some of the leaders and representatives of parties in Northern Ireland in the Sunningdale conference. The White Paper gave the clear impression that the elected leaders of the people of Northern Ireland would be invited to attend. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister at a later stage proposed that Northern Ireland should be represented by the new Executive as a unit. But, in the event, Her Majesty's Government opted for something which was neither one thing nor the other.

The three negotiating teams of the three parties were invited. It really will not do for the Prime Minister to say that others were invited to participate but refused. They were invited to attend to state their views at the beginning, but it was made quite clear that they would be expected to leave immediately afterwards. They were placed on much the same kind of level as, for example, the catering staff, but at a lower level than the international Press, which at least was allowed to indulge in the vigil to the very end. Those representatives have not decided, as has been suggested, to become the Stormont Opposition. At least, to my knowledge they have not made such a decision. In any case, that had no relevance to the Council of Ireland conference.

It is all very well to lecture these Loyalists, who are now what might be called the statutory minority, on how they ought to behave. But the House must face this point squarely. If these people are expected to work constitutionally, the door to democratic, constitutional practices must not be closed on them.

I come to the remarkable expansion in the numbers of the administration to 15. It is true that the old Stormont had nearly as many members in its latter days, but it was not always so. For over 40 years it had only one Minister to each major Ministry. The increase in numbers began when it became necessary for Northern Ireland Prime Ministers, who had by then reached a fairly rapid turnover rate, to engage in delicate balancing operations and, for one reason or another, when they thought it expedient to reward some and to muzzle others. I always felt that the apparatus was somewhat top heavy. I regret that Her Majesty's Government have decided to create so many jobs for the boys.

Like my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr), I have on many occasions, sometimes in the middle of the night—a time when my judgment is at its soundest—paid tribute to the efficiency of the Northern Ireland ministerial team. Some of them have managed as many as three Departments, and all of that in addition to the strain of commuting between Belfast and London to perform not only ministerial duties in this House but their own parliamentary duties and responsibilities in looking after their constituents. I should have thought, therefore, that the characters who will now fill the stools at Stormont, resident, as they will be, on their home ground, might very well have got through with half the suggested number.

My constituents often ask me why it is that the Westminster Parliament refuses to stand up for the constitutional integrity of Northern Ireland and, in a positive way, support parliamentary democracy in Northern Ireland, to which they feel, as British citizens, that they are entitled. But when they go on to accuse the Westminster Parliament of being selfish and of selfishly deserting them, I point out that it is rather unfair to level such a charge against a Parliament which has, of its own free will and accord, surrendered its rights and powers in a similar fashion to another authority known as the EEC.

It is in no personal sense that I differ from my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) when I assess the volume of support for the new structures as being very much smaller than he has suggested. My experience has been that a great mass of Ulster people, including many who would regard themselves as being non-political, have no confidence whatever in what they regard as the products of a sordid conspiracy between men of few principles and of none.

8.2 p.m.

Mr. Frank McManus (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)

I am sure that the House will be delighted to know from the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) that God is in his Heaven, that the Orange Order is not split and that things are all well. I was tickled by one of the hon. Gentleman's suggestions. He said, with some justification, that the administration should not be as big as it is but perhaps half the size. I am wondering where he will get the half to make up the seven and a half. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will enlighten us on a future occasion about how he will get round that matter.

When the Secretary of State came to Northern Ireland first, he said in relation to the extremists that the policy would be to discredit, to isolate, and ultimately to defeat them. Her Majesy's loyal Opposition have obviously made a reasonable effort to isolate myself and my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Mrs. McAliskey). I trust that we have not been discredited. We are very far from defeated. But it is all part of the double standards of democracy which have emerged in the process of this debate particularly. For example, hon. Members on both sides of the House are told that they have a perfect democratic right to register their protest, to make their point and to air their point of view. But the minute that we start to do that we are labelled as extremist. The only way to escape being labelled as an extremist if one disagrees with the Government, it appears, is to shut up and say nothing. The moment one disagrees with this eminently reasonable solution which has been arrived at by reasonable men, once one takes issue with that, one is automatically an extremist.

I had no learned doctor teaching me about democracy, but it strikes me that that is not a proper attitude. If one says that a Member of the House has a right to put his point of view one ought to let him do that, and one ought to consider on its merits what he says rather than slapping a label of extremism on him, from whatever side of the House he may come.

We are also asked, "What is your alternative? What would you have? Would you have, instead of this, a return to anarchy, more anarchy or worse anarchy?" The simple answer to that, from where I and my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster stand—and, now, many hon. Members on the Government side of the House—is that we are not in the business of offering alternatives. We are those people on the outside. We have no power of any sort. It is not our job. Our function in the democratic system—I believe that this is what democracy is supposed to be about—is to examine what is presented and to say that we dislike it if we find in it things which we do not like. It is an insufficient reply from the Front Bench of either side of the House to say, "What would you offer in return?" That is far too simple to be sufficient.

Mr. Orme

As my hon. Friend has explained, rightly—I do not criticise his words—the logic of democracy is to examine, to dissent and to show one's opposition. That is one's entitlement. Carrying that democratic principle further, one has an obligation, surely, to those one represents to show what the alternatives are. While demolishing something, what does one put in its place?

Mr. McManus

My hon. Friend is a noted champion of democracy. Perhaps I may take him back to something in which he was involved recently, although I may be getting a little off the point. Recently my hon. Friend called for the removal of a judge, properly appointed, in this country. He did not say by what he would replace the judge. He said, "Get rid of the judge." I think that is fair reply to my hon. Friend.

However, I come to the communiqué from which the debate has sprung. First, the Sunningdale communiqué, so-called, is in effect, from one point of view, a rubber stamp. It may not be widely known in the House, but it has reached my ears on fair authority, that the business of this House for today was already prearranged, before Sunningdale took place. It therefore appears to me that the Prime Minister, or the Secretary of State at least, had a fair idea that out of Sunningdale there would come a communiqué. If that is so, I suggest that Sunningdale was merely a rubber stamping of an agreement which had already been arrived at.

A noted scholar, who is well informed on the business of conflict research, which is in the news now, recently pointed out that what happened at Sunningdale, in effect, was a reasonable example of the disorientation method. The method is to get them together, keep them together, entertain them well, deprive them of sleep; if one committee does not do the trick, break up that committee and reform it. Keep them together till they are confused and ready to agree to almost anything. I am not suggesting that my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) was terribly confused at the end of the day. I am merely recounting to the House that it is a possible interpretation that when one cuts people off from even the Press for a fairly prolonged time, at the end of the day they are more likely to agree to what is presented to them.

It has been presented as a package deal. That is the language of the Government. Therefore, it is very fair and reasonable, if it is a package deal, to ask "What is in it for us?" If that is the language in which it is to be presented, it is only reasonable to examine it for what is in it for us. The SDLP, the party which is led by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West, was negotiating, we are told, on behalf of the Catholic, or minority, community. Therefore, in effect, we are asking what the SDLP gets out of this package deal. The answer, I fear, is a grave disappointment to the people whom it claims to represent.

We were told that there were no winners and no losers; everybody taking part had a little to give and a little to get. The question therefore arises: what did the side with which I am concerned, the SDLP, give? The answer is that it gave the only thing it had to give. All it had in its power to give was its consent to co-operate with the British Government to run this new deal.

While it withheld its consent it was in a bargaining position, because the British Government made it clear on a number of occasions that unless there was a wide base—in other words, unless there was considerable Catholic participation in an executive—an executive could not and would not be formed, and on 30th March next year the British Government would have had to make an agonising reappraisal of their entire policy towards Northern Ireland. I thought that that was a very good position in which to be. The SDLP had it in its power to prevent the creation of an Executive if it stuck it out. If it went into negotiations, the end result of which ought to be a package deal, then if it dug in its heels it was likely to get a good deal.

That is the level at which the negotiations were cast. A bit of horse-trading went on at Sunningdale; everybody received a little and everybody gave a little. It appears to me that the party which my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West leads gave the only thing that it had to give, and we are bound to ask what it received in return. Loyalist Members opposite have said what their people received, or did not receive. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster also had thoughts on this subject. I would confine my remarks to what, in my opinion, the minority people whom I represent have gained.

We are to get a Council of Ireland. I do not think anybody, certainly no one on the minority side, objects to the Council of Ireland. It is a very nice idea. It is a very interesting notion that people from the North and South come together and begin to discuss their problems. What are the powers of this Council of Ireland? Or is it to be merely a talking shop? A number of steps led up to this conclusion. The steps by which the SDLP gave its consent ought to be recorded, because underneath the barrage of propaganda to sell this deal there is a danger that they will be lost sight of.

At the beginning it was said that there would be no talks till internment ended and the party was very firm, very committed, to that stance. The stance was changed when an election was announced, or shortly before it, and it then said, "We are going forward to be elected to sit at a conference table." It said, "Dear voters, it will be nothing but a conference table and nothing will be given till the contentious issues of internment and policing are satisfactorily resolved." Then an arrangement was arrived at, and it was said, "Set up the mechanics of the Executive but do not agree to anything till all is settled." Then came Sunningdale, and then came final agreement.

The first point that has been picked out of Sunningdale is the Council of Ireland. The Loyalists tell us that it gives offence to them. If the future Minister of Community Relations is to be believed, he said in Strabane the other night, "If Craig and Paisley are complaining a lot about it, then it must be good for us." That is good non-sectarian conversation from a future Minister of Community Relations. I am sure that he will do the job very well, if that is how he begins.

A strange thing happened the other day in my constituency. Hot on the heels of the announcement of the Council of Ireland the British Government, through the agency of the British Army, started to build a wall along the border. They put big dragons' teeth and spikes and all manner of obstructions along the border—not exactly on the border, and in some places a quarter of a mile inside it. The local people know that they are not effective security arrangements and the local men and the Army who are putting them up told the local people that it is a lot of nonsense but they had to do their job. It is obvious that these arrangements are merely to annoy the local community, and to satisfy somebody somewhere that there is an effective security operation. It jars a little on those who would have us interpret the Council of Ireland as a step towards a united Ireland.

What is the point of announcing a Council of Ireland one day and then redefining the border another day by starting to build a wall? There are a number of mini-Berlin walls standing now right along the border. Are we to look forward to the day when there will be one continuous wall in the North of Ireland?

The common law enforcement area is to be preceded by the re-enactment of the law of 1861, about which hon. and learned Gentlemen were speaking earlier—

Mr. Merlyn Rees

I am interested in the hon. Gentleman's point about the Council of Ireland. The sons of some people in my constituency are soldiers in Northern Ireland and I am concerned about people being killed, soldiers or anybody else. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that he is against this wall because it is ineffective, or because it is an attempt to stop people from crossing the border with bombs and guns? Is he in favour of those who shoot and kill? I wonder whether he can tell us that.

Mr. McManus

I do not see how that follows at all. The hon. Gentleman was not following what I said. What I said was that this wall was placed there more for nuisance value than anything else. That is how it appears to me from talking to the people, and hearing their reported conversations with soldiers. It does not follow from that that I am in favour of anybody killing a soldier, be he from the hon. Gentleman's constituency or from any other constituency.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

I wonder if I may put this question, because after 10 years in the House of Commons I expect people to stand up and be counted. I am a democratic Socialist and I am against people who shoot and kill, whatever their background. Whether or not that follows, does the hon. Gentleman support those who shoot and kill and bomb in Northern Ireland?

Mr. McManus

I will respond to the hon. Gentleman with another question. He has just said very forcefully that he is against people who shoot and kill, no matter what the reason. As he wants people to stand up and be counted, will he stand now at the Dispatch Box and, for instance, condemn the paratroopers who shot 13 people dead in Derry? I throw that question back at the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

I am quite prepared to answer that question, because it is very important. But I asked the first question, and if the hon. Gentleman will answer my question I will answer his.

Mr. McManus

I take the position that I do not like killing at all. If I liked killing I would be in either the British Army or some other army. But I am an elected politician and I am attempting to do my job in the ever-diminishing confines of constitutional democracy.

Mr. David James (Dorset, North)

Does the hon. Gentleman remember that the Army which he so despises was brought in at the request of the Catholic hierarchy to save Catholics' lives?

Mr. McManus

The hon. Member need not have wasted his breath. I have every reason to remember all these events, because I lived through them. How could I forget them? The Romans came to this country to bring a little civilisation here, and what they did to the people after they arrived is a subject for interminable argument.

I should like the Minister to answer at least one question. He is not in the habit of answering any questions that I put to him, but when this 1861 law has been reactivated, it will mean that if somebody from the North or from the South shoots a soldier in the North of Ireland and escapes into the South he will be arrested in the South and brought to court in the South and witnesses will be summoned. What I want the Minister to tell us is whether he anticipates the day when British soldiers will be arriving in Dublin courts to give evidence. If he does anticipate that, has he any thoughts at all on the likely repercussions that such a move will have in that part of Ireland?

Can the Minister tell me by what date it is expected that the Council of Ireland's powers will come into effect? We have been told that the Executive will have effect from 1st January. There is to be a formal conference at some time later in the month. Is it a fact that, as a result of that formal conference, the powers of the Council of Ireland will have effect from that moment, or are there to be commissions, committees and studies, so that at this time next year we will come back to this House and ask again when the Council of Ireland will have a little power?

The Council of Ireland is a non-contentious issue. It is a good idea if it gets enough power, but what about the really contentious issues which have been mentioned so often in this House? Is internment any less contentious today than it was?

The SDLP now says, with the Government and Mr. Faulkner, that if the violence stops internment will end. Everyone knew that from the beginning, but the logic of that statement is that it is right, while violence lasts, for internees to be interned. That is what the SDLP is now saying. That view is not going down well with the people in Northern Ireland, with the people who have brothers, sisters and relatives interned and in prison.

One of the other points of the SDLP election manifesto was an amnesty for political offences. I am prepared to wager that the word was never even mentioned at Sunningdale. So, internment is still with us in as vicious and escalating a form as ever it was. The British Government say, "Let there be a bit of good will. If we have good will all round, given a bit of time this thing can work." They are sticking their heads in the sand. They are not facing the facts.

We are approaching the universal season of good will. There are eight people in this country, two of them young girls, who are on hunger strike and are being forcibly fed. They live not a quarter of a mile away from the Minister-designate for Health and Social Services. How is he to sell his package to his immediate neighbours when these people will not even be returned to Northern Ireland? That is all they ask. They are not asking to be released but only to be sent home to a more friendly atmosphere. The courts of this country sentenced them to life imprisonment. Surely that is punishment enough, or do the Government want blood as well? All they want is to be returned to a better atmosphere. How is a relative of young Kelly to travel to the Isle of Wight once or twice a month? It is a long way from Belfast. How are the visitors to get there and back and who is to pay? The simple and humane answer is to send these people back to Northern Ireland where they want to be.

What deal did the SDLP get on the police? What commitment to reform was it promised? The answer is, nothing. There was a reaffirmation of the facts that the RUC will continue to be the police force of Northern Ireland. At Question Time today the Government were asked a significant and timely question—how many complaints have there been against the RUC? The Secretary of State said there had been something in excess of 2,600. Of that number three people have so far been found guilty. That is an extraordinary figure. Either the police are saints and the population are malicious, or else the complaints procedure is absolutely inadequate. The police force is no more acceptable now, even though the SDLP says it is, than it was six months ago when it said that the police force of this country and the RUC were not acceptable to the SDLP's constituents. Nothing has happened in the intervening six months to alter that, and nor is there any abatement of harassment by the Army.

These are the issues that count, not whether there should be 30, 60 or 100 members on the Council of Ireland. Most people do not give twopence about how many members there will be. They want to know when their people will be released from internment and when the police and the Army will get off their backs. They want to know when they will get equal chances in their communities.

I recall that four or five years ago a campaign was launched in Northern Ireland calling for one man one vote. That request was granted. Yet—lo and behold!—the British and Irish Governments meeting together in their democratic wisdom have devised a system which has obliterated the notion of one man one vote. There will be 30 members from the North and 30 from the South. There are 2 million voters in the South and 1 million in the North. One vote in the North is, therefore, equal to two votes in the South and out goes the con- cept of one man one vote. That arrangement offends by any standard of democracy. If there is to be democracy let it be consistent or let things be handled in some other way.

The SDLP has been placed in an odious position. It has been given the task by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland of selling the package to its people, but he has given it nothing with with to sell it. He could have if he had wanted to. He could have said, "You can tell your people the internees will be released, there will be substantial reform in the police, and the Army will lay off you." He told it none of these things. He told it, "Sell the package or the deal is off."

My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) has attempted during the debate to play one side off against the other. He has attempted to say that if it offends the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) it automatically must please us, or vice versa. He must think that we are either idiots or children.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

I was not attempting to play off one side against the other. I was putting a simple syllogism. If one side says it is bad and the other side says it is bad they both cannot be right, except in the sense that it was approached by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Mrs. McAliskey), but she changed the premises. But on the premises that I have based the argument it cannot be a sell-out to both sides. That is a fact of life.

Mr. McManus

What is a fact of life is that the people of the minority community by and large have realised that the Dublin Government care not for them or their problems or their future. The Loyalist community is learning to its cost that the British Government care not for it or its future.

Out of this situation there emerges hope. Perhaps it will lead to some sort of real power sharing rather than the enforced and artificial business that is being pushed down the throats of all sections of the population.

I return to a point I raised when I spoke in this House last. The White Paper said there ought to be widespread support in the community for the Executive. The election results show that the SDLP representatives of the Catholic community got less than 49 per cent. of the Catholic vote. The hon. Member for Antrim, North told us that the Loyalists represent two-thirds of the Unionists vote. If we add two-thirds of one side to 51 per cent. of the other there is obviously a majority against. That is the basis of my case. A fair and reasonable way out is to put it to the test. Let the new Executive go to the country with its plans and proposals and seek the endorsement of the electorate. If it gets it, I shall be the first to come to this House and say it is worthy of support.

8.28 p.m.

Mr. Carol Mather (Esher)

The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. McManus) said that it was a long way from Northern Ireland to the Isle of Wight. The people who are now on the Isle of Wight need not have come here in the first place. As for his inability to answer the specific question posed by the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees), I do not think that any comment is necessary about that.

I apologise for not being in the Chamber during the earlier stages of the debate. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) on the determined way in which he delivered his speech. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on his new appointment, and I welcome him here, in that capacity. He has qualities which I am sure will be well appreciated by the people of Northern Ireland.

In the past I have disagreed with some aspects of policy in Northern Ireland, notably the aspect of policy which brings us back today. However, that is water under the bridge. I welcome the proposals which are before us. Recently I visited Northern Ireland after a gap of six months. It was interesting to see how the situation had changed. It appears that the terrorists have been driven from their city strongholds back to the borders. That is a major objective.

A new political initiative has been taken which I believe will open up new and unexpected opportunities. Some sections of the majority population of Northern Ireland are still fearful and resentful. They do not know what the future will hold. It is possible that violence could be triggered off by unscrupulous people. As for those who tried to wreck the Assembly, I believe that they will gain no sympathy in this country for their cause.

A vicious campaign is going on against the RUC—namely, the murder or attacking of RUC constables, by the IRA. Further, we cannot rule out attempts at political assassination and possible civil industrial action. We are now balanced on a knife edge between opportunity and senseless chaos. There is an opportunity in the present situation which I should like to expand upon. I was always sceptical about power sharing and whether it could really work. Following my visit to Northern Ireland, and having had talks with many leaders of political parties in Northern Ireland, I believe that the political chemistry of Northern Ireland has undergone a change. We would be burying our heads in the sand if we did not recognise that. That is the sort of thing which we find when we do not live in a country but visit it from time to time. In that situation we notice the changes which take place.

That change seems to have come about after months of suffering and weeks of hard, hammering talks which culminated in the talks at Sunningdale. There seems to have grown up a new relationship between the opposing political parties. I feel sure that that will have its effect on the Executive and upon its work.

We have heard criticism about what the talks possibly gave away in respect of the Unionist cause. I believe, paradoxically, that a united Ireland is perhaps less near now than it was before the talks took place. I understand that on several issues the rival parties in Northern Ireland came together in unison during the talks to put their case against the case put forward by the South. I understand that that happened, for example, on unanimity, on the location of the All-Ireland Court, and on proportional representation.

It may well be that we shall hear, as a result of the Council of Ireland, less and less about a united Ireland. Another factor is the harmonising function of the Council. There will be closer alignment between the laws and institutions of the South and the laws and the institutions of Great Britain. That applies particularly to the formation of the new police authority. That may well have the effect of drawing Southern Ireland closer to the institutions of the United Kingdom.

I believe that there were advances for the Loyalist side on the question of the police authority in the agreement of the Republican Government to form a police authority and that the Executive should have power through the police authority as soon as the security problem is resolved. This goes much further than the position before the talks took place. Above all, it seems to me that, curiously enough, relationships have been formed between the parties which went to these talks which could lead to a harmonious Executive, and that power sharing may be transformed into the use of joint power for these parties to speak with one voice.

If these talks have been a success, we shall need early proof—the people of Northern Ireland will expect it—that the accord actually means something, and means something on the ground. We need an early demonstration that there is going to be security co-operation on the border and that efforts will be made to bring to justice the criminals on the run in the South.

I believe that at this juncture of our affairs in the United Kingdom it is vitally important that these new institutions work, particularly in the grave home and international situation which we now face—a situation which will be doubly compounded for Northern Ireland and for the South of Ireland if this strife and violence continue.

8.37 p.m.

Mr. James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)

One striking thing about all the debates on Northern Ireland has been the almost complete absence from the Chamber of almost all Members of the House of Commons. I say, as I have done before, that it is the biggest disgrace of this decade that there should not have been greater interest among hon. Members in dealing with a situation so vitally concerned with the hopes and aspirations of the people of Northern Ireland, and in which the lives and homes of the people are having their fate determined by what we do in this House.

It is even worse when we consider our responsibilties, as Members of the House, to those we charge with carrying out the policies of the Government, however mis- taken we may from time to time think those policies are. We should be fulfilling our duty and responsibility to be here in the House when we are discussing policies and decisions whereby we will be sending men to die in Northern Ireland serving in the British Army.

I hope, therefore, that the Press will report to the people of the country the failure in responsibility by hon. Members on both sides of this House—their failure to take an interest in what they expect others to give their lives for.

I have watched the build-up in this House on the constitutional changes in Northern Ireland. I hope that power sharing will work and that the Council of Ireland will work. I have paid tribute, and do so again, to the great courage of those in Northern Ireland who have put at risk their political future and perhaps their lives in trying to make a go of the new set-up. But I know in my heart that their efforts will be in vain.

I say that because I have only to listen to the debate to realise once again the deep bitterness which exists, the deep refusal by the Unionists to accept that Northern Ireland should ever be integrated into the Republic, and the undertones from the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. McManus) and the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Mrs. McAliskey).

I agree wholeheartedly with my hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, who ended his speech by saying that it would be right if the new Executive was to put its proposals on power sharing and everything else to the Northern Ireland people for their opinion. The new Executive will not dare to put those proposals forward on that basis because it knows that they would be overwhelmingly defeated. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) says that they would not. Let the Executive put it to the people of Northern Ireland if it has that faith. I declare that if the Constitution Act passed by this Parliament had been put to the test of opinion in Britain it would have been decisively rejected. Let us not go on making claims without being prepared to put them to the test of public opinion.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Is the hon. Member aware that there is a by-election in North Antrim but the Government will not even make it possible for the people of North Antrim to be represented in the Assembly?

Mr. Wellbeloved

I was aware of that. If the Government and those of my hon. Friends who support the Government in what I believe to be a tragically mistaken policy really believe in the policy and in democracy, let them ensure, before we go any further with this folly, that the people of Northern Ireland have another chance to record their opinion on the basis of what they now know. If there is still any doubt, let the people of this country have an opportunity, too.

8.43 p.m.

Mr. John E. Maginnis (Armagh)

The point made by the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) is valid. However, I estimate that it will be roughly four years before the occasion to which he refers will arise. It would be interesting to find out what the reaction of the people of Northern Ireland to the new set-up will be in four years' time. No one can accurately assess that now. The new Executive and all the other things which have been agreed will be judged on results. In the end the results produced will be adjudicated in a fair manner by the people of Northern Ireland. I leave it at that.

Let us look at the flimsy nature of the foundations of the new Executive. I looked back to the original setting up of the Northern and Southern Irish Governments under the 1920 Act. They were set up in such a way that they were not dependent on the then Council of Ireland because, as we know, it never worked. I discovered that there were 20 Ministers from the North and South on that Council who were to meet together to discuss arrangements whereby they could co-operate on matters of mutual concern. Today we find that the Council of Ireland has not only 14 Ministers but also 60 members, 30 from each side. In total it is almost as large as the Northern Ireland Assembly. I begin to wonder if this is the setting up of a United Nations organisation. A much smaller, more coherent body, would have been able to the job just as well.

I make my position clear. I am not against the Council of Ireland as such. No right thinking person would be. To make it a condition that the new Executive could not even be formed or given power until the council was agreed upon was a gross injustice to the people of all Ireland.

For the first time an institution in the United Kingdom could not be set up without the consent of a power outside the United Kingdom. The British Government have said repeatedly—we have all along accepted it in good faith—that the wishes of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland would be respected regarding the constitutional position. For the first time ever, in this new agreement, we have the other side of the coin, namely, that the Government in this country would not stand in the way of the majority of the people if they decided to form a united Ireland. It can be argued that it is the same on both sides, but it is not. The emphasis has changed.

I am convinced—and I am sure many other people are, despite their enthusiasm to get something to work in Northern Ireland—that for the first time we have had shown to us the desire of the main bodies of opinion in Parliament in this country to work together to form, at a future date, a united Ireland. A united Ireland will come some time, but only by consent. If we try to put pressure on either side to bring about a united Ireland we shall defeat our purpose. I am convinced that the power-sharing concept imposed in the new legislation should have been left to us so that power would be shared and worked out in whatever way might be wished. It would have been accepted much better then than having it imposed.

In the set-up of the new Executive the sharing out of power among the various parties will result in the SDLP getting far more posts than it is entitled to on an electoral basis. This worries me. The original Unionists agreed to the Council of Ireland, and to many other things, but they envisaged a council which took account of the various services common to both North and South—roads, railways, canals, rivers, electricity and so on.

If the new council, as envisaged in the Sunningdale agreement, is interpreted as being something more, one can understand the fears of the Loyalist population in Northern Ireland. I repeat what I said in a debate about three weeks ago. We cannot expect the new Constitution of Northern Ireland to work if we alienate a large majority of Loyalist opinion. This is the crux of the matter.

We have asked repeatedly—and the case has been made out repeatedly—for full representation of Northern Ireland in this House. I am sure—and I ask the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) whether he agrees with this—that the opposition to this artificial power-sharing concept in Northern Ireland would be greatly diminished if the British Government said to the people of Northern Ireland, "We are prepared to consider the question of your representation in the Mother of Parliaments in order to see how we can give you fair representation." If this happened people would not worry about the Executive in Northern Ireland because they would have full representation in this House. The Government must concede this sooner or later.

I should like my right hon. Friend to look again at the Kilbrandon Report which specifically states that Northern Ireland is under-represented in this House. When new assemblies were proposed for Scotland and Wales leaders of the Labour Party said, "Not on your life. We will not accept an assembly if there is any diminution of representation at Westminster". In those circumstances, how can the Government continue to disregard the wishes of the majority of the people in Northern Ireland?

Much has been said about extremists on both sides. I am not an extremist. I believe in sticking to my point of view. If people call that being extremist, fair enough. Every institution has its faults. No institution is worth its salt if it cannot stand criticism. I have criticised the concept of the new Northern Ireland Executive. I criticise it in a spirit of good will, but I shall not roam the streets of Northern Ireland shouting off my head to bring it down because, as I have said, a power-sharing concept may withstand plenty of pressure from without, but it will never withstand pressure from within.

We shall have to look again at the power-sharing concept, because we are destroying the very essence of democracy. How can any political party which par- ticipates in a power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland, with a chief whip, and so on, form a coalition and fight an election on different issues and, if it wins, return to power and do the same thing? That would be utter nonsense. I am convinced, however, that if people in Northern Ireland were given the right to form a democratically elected parliament or assembly they would ensure that the minority had proper representation in it. We should work for that, because I cannot see the Executive lasting for any time.

I wish to say a word of congratulation to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. He has served this House well. I know that his period as Chief Whip has not been easy. I wish him all success in Northern Ireland.

As I see on the Front Bench my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State who is in charge of agriculture in Northern Ireland I should like to ask him to look into a problem which has arisen recently in Northern Ireland. The Farm Improvement Scheme is due to come to an end on 31st December 1973. By that date receipts for work carried out under that scheme and one or two other schemes must be submitted. I plead with my hon. Friend to try to get an extension of at least four weeks to the end of January. Much work under the schemes has been started. In my area several schemes are half-way through. The contractors are not able to fulfil their obligations and have the work finished by 31st December. Chaos will result. For the sake of four weeks, it would be well worth while giving the hard-pressed farmers a stay of execution.

8.54 p.m.

Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)

We are making an historic decision in this Chamber. We in Northern Ireland hear a great deal about the enthusiasm of this House for what it is doing. A prominent member of the Executive-designate, Mr. Basil McIvor, has told the people of Northern Ireland that 600 Members of Parliament, waving their Order Papers enthusiastically, passed the Northern Ireland Constitution Act in a united effort to bring peace to our land. Those of us who have done our spell of duty in this House on matters relating to Northern Ireland know that that is a falsehood. Even for the Second Reading debate there was a sparse House, and the Opposition, by not opposing it, did not need to vote for it, so Opposition Members took a holiday. Let us be truthful. There is no great enthusiasm in the House, even tonight.

What amazes the people of Northern Ireland is that Ministers of Her Majesty's Government and hon. and right hon. Members of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, and even hon. Members on the Government benches, should claim to know what the people of Northern Ireland are thinking. They tell us almost to the thousand what will be the majority one way or the other. The hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) often taunts us by asking who speaks for whom. He never fought an election in Northern Ireland. He submitted himself to the electorate at the same time as I did, and we were elected on the same day. Eventually, the people of Northern Ireland were given an election—a strange one. It was not an election in which any party could say that if its members were returned to power it would do certain things. It was an election on the Northern Ireland Constitution Act, which provided that no party could ever be the Government. There was a veto, clearly spelt out by the former Secretary of State, that unless the Republican elements in the community joined the Executive there could be no Government.

I asked the Library to tell me the voting figures at that election. Last night on television the Minister of State told the people that he knew confidentially that this solution was widely accepted. The Northern Ireland election was not fought on who should be the Government, for no Government could come out of it. It was fought on the issue of the White Paper and the Northern Ireland Constitution Act.

The party of the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) fought the election on the issue of the conference table. We fought it on the basis that we rejected the proposals and thought that there should be re-negotiation. Now, the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) tells us that he knows that only a few hooligans think that this solution cannot work. He has never submitted himself to an electorate as a member of the Alliance Party. He came into the House as an official Unionist. A member of the Alliance Party submitted himself to the electorate in his constituency and scraped in without getting the quota. The hon. Member, therefore, has no right to tell us that he knows what the electorate thinks. His party got 66,541 first preference votes, yet he tells us that only a few people are against the proposal.

Mr. Faulkner's party, which stood on the pro-Unionist ticket, got 162,000 first preference votes. I remember when Mr. Faulkner submitted himself to the electorate. He was not altogether for the White Paper. He had strong reservations on the Council of Ireland and felt that there could never be a Council of Ireland until Articles 2 and 3 of the Eire Constitution were deleted. It was spelled out clearly. Yet Mr. Cosgrave could go on television last Sunday night and say that it was never mentioned at Sunningdale.

What about those who oppose the White Paper? The opponents cast 264,000 first preference votes; 149,483 votes were cast for the SDLP. The 264,000 votes represent a large section of the community.

We were given the first Bill and told that, when passed, it would be the law of the land and could not be changed. But we are changing it today. The plebiscite can also be changed. The only hope for the people of Northern Ireland to stay out of the Republic is to keep their majority. That is the only safeguard. All these little enshrinements at the United Nations mean nothing. The only thing that will keep Northern Ireland out of a united Ireland will be that majority of people refusing to support the move.

The clause about the plebiscite can be removed too. I am rather perplexed to know why this was written into the Act: … a Northern Ireland Executive can be formed which, having regard to the support it commands in the Assembly and to the electorate on which that support is based, is likely to be widely accepted throughout the community. Can anyone say that with 264,000 first preference votes cast against it it could be widely accepted? Nobody could say that. The kernel of the matter is that the Executive should put its policy to the country. It has an economic and social policy. If this country had a General Election, the Government would have to spell out their economic and social policies and the Opposition would be spelling out theirs. The electorate would decide between those policies. Nobody except those people on the Executive know what is the economic and social policy. We have no say in the policy that is to be pursued. It should be submitted to the people.

Let it be said that it is not the Government's intention to allow the people of Northern Ireland to make this decision. We shall be lectured about the democratic process and no doubt we shall be told "You must do this and that. If you do not, you will not get any sympathy." The people of Northern Ireland are not looking for sympathy. They have got far beyond looking to this House or anybody else for sympathy. The people of Northern Ireland ask only to be treated the way that this country treats the rest of the United Kingdom. Let the people give their decision on this matter because this House has learned—perhaps it was long in learning—that one cannot successfully run any Government if a large section of the population is absolutely and totally opposed to it. It cannot be done.

What the people also resent—I must say this tonight although it will be unsavoury and unpalatable to hon. Members—is the threat of economic sanctions. We are being told "If you express your opposition, if you campaign through the country to show that this is not widely accepted you will go into an economic wilderness." That was said by the Minister of State on television last night.

What is more, the Minister tried to tell us that the Grundig factory was going to Newry because the Executive had been formed. Grundig has been negotiating for another factory for almost two years, and the decision had nothing to do with the forming of the Executive. I welcome employment to Northern Ireland even if it goes to an area where the people would not agree with my policies; they are entitled to an opportunity to work. But let not the people of Northern Ireland be told that it has happened because of the Executive.

The one thing that the people of Northern Ireland want is peace, and no hon. Member on either side who is for the Bill has been able to show how it could possibly bring peace. The hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. Maginnis) spoke the truth when he talked of a savage attack by the IRA upon the police. Violence is escalating in Northern Ireland. This is contributing not to peace but to more and more turmoil.

We were also told that when the Assembly had been formed there would be a conference. The White Paper said: Following the elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Government will invite the Government of the Republic of Ireland and the leaders of the elected representatives of Northern Ireland to a conference. If the Government had said plainly "We have changed our minds; we do not now believe that we should invite the elected representatives of Northern Ireland opinion but only the Executive-designate and their parties to the conference", that would at least have been a clear-cut decision and we would have understood what they were about.

But when Mr. William Craig, Mr. West and I visited the Secretary of State, we were told that they were going as members of the Executive-designate, as a group, that it would be a group conference attended by the Southern Government, Her Majesty's Government and the parties of the Executive-designate. In our last debate in Stormont on the Assembly, the Chief Whip of the SDLP said that that was totally untrue, that the Secretary of State had told them that they were going as separate parties. That is on the record at Stormont.

Therefore, we felt, quite rightly, that, with 264,000 first preference voters in our favour, far more than any other group in the Assembly, and comprising a third of the Assembly's members, we should be invited to the conference because of the promise made and because of the way in which the other parties were invited.

The hon. Member for Leeds, South, who does not appreciate my presence in the House, judging from some of the things he said today—not that I mind a button—says, lounging at the Dispatch Box, "But the Opposition were not invited either." Of course they were not. No promise was given to the Opposition. It was not written into the White Paper that Her Majesty's loyal Opposition would be invited. But it was written into the White Paper that leaders of elected Northern Ireland opinion would be there.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

I was not referring to the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley). The hon. Member is not the only person present from Northern Ireland whom the cap does not fit in this instance. There is another aspect of the matter. I have never understood the hon. Member to approve of the White Paper.

Rev. Ian Paisley

That is so.

Mr. Rees

Then why does the hon. Gentleman call in aid one part of the White Paper?

Rev. Ian Paisley

For the simple reason that I did not write the White Paper. They did. If they want to give promises, then they should stand by them. I did not ask for that promise. If they do not want to stand by that promise, then let them tell the world that they have changed their minds. Let us not have all this talk about sending out invitations. If Her Majesty's loyal Opposition had been promised something in a White Paper on the lines that they would be attending a conference, they would have been fighting hard to be there. They would not let the Government off the hook. They were denying elected representatives the right to be there. That was the folly committed by the British Government.

Of course we are opposed to the White Paper. The hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) said that we should have taken part in the first talks and that something different might have happened had we attended those talks. But what did we fight an election for? It would have been dishonest for anybody to have said that they rejected the Executive and then to change their minds and surrender their principles.

The trouble about the talks on the Executive is that they were not only talks about the Executive but concerned policing, the Council of Ireland and other matters. When we asked the Secretary of State to meet us and talk on those matters, we were told "No, you cannot do so."

The hon. Member for Leeds, South has said that he would like to see a proper Opposition in the Assembly in a constitutional situation. But what contribution did he make to the 264,000 voters and their wishes? Did he say "It is in the White Paper that these people should have a say"? If he had said that it would have helped the situation. If some of the other minority leaders had said, "We are in the same position as these Loyalists", we would have stood for their rights to be there. But there was complete silence. The noble Alliance Party was conspicuous by its silence.

Mr. Faulkner did not want the Loyalists to be there, because they would keep an eye on him. He did not want an eye kept on what was going on. The Southern Irish Government could not have gone into the Sunningdale talks to sacrifice their own Constitution because the Southern Constitution says that the matter must be submitted to a plebiscite. Mr. Cosgrave has a majority of two. The Fianna Fail are breathing down his neck. Mr. Cosgrave could not go into those talks and say "We are giving up Articles 2 and 3." Mr. Faulkner told the country that he would get the situation changed, but that did not happen. We heard what Dr. Fitzgerald said when he arrived home. His words on returning from Sunningdale were "The Constitution is not negotiable".

The Loyalists received an amazing declaration which I have read with great care. The Southern Irish Government said this The Irish Government accepted and solemnly declared that there could be no change in the status of Northern Ireland "— there was no definition whatever of what the "status" would be— until a majority of the people of Northern Ireland desired a change in that status. It is wonderful that in this day and age Dublin agrees that the majority should rule. The Prime Minister said that it was extraordinary. Mr. Bradford said that it was revolutionary. Mr. Faulkner said that it was dramatic. I must pay tribute to the hon. Member for Belfast, West. He said modestly "We have got all we asked for."

Is not it strange that the British Government's declaration was different? The British Government solemnly declared that it was, and would remain, their policy to support the wishes of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland. Then they defined what they thought was the present status of Northern Ireland. They said that it was part of the United Kingdom. However, that was not written into the declaration of the Southern Government. They kept away from that because they had Articles 2 and 3 of their Constitution staring them in the face.

Article 2 says that the Government of the South controls the whole island of Ireland, all the islands off the shore and the territorial seas. Article 3 says that the laws passed by the Southern Government shall have the like area and extent of application.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

The hon. Gentleman is making an interesting case, and he has just told us what Article 2 of the Constitution is. Will he tell us what Article 3 is? I hasten to assure him that this is not a clever intervention. I should like the hon. Gentleman to remind the House.

Rev. Ian Paisley

I have already said what it is. Article 2 claims jurisdiction over the whole of Ireland, and Article 3 claims that the laws passed in their parliament should be the laws of the whole of Ireland.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

I have now read it. As I understand it, what it says is that the 32-county aspect does not come into being at present. It puts it off to the future.

Rev. Ian Paisley

It is clear to me that the hon. Gentleman has not really read it. The words to which we object are the words "without prejudice". It says that the laws passed by the parliament are without prejudice the law for the whole country. That is what is obnoxious to the people of Northern Ireland, and that is why we want Articles 2 and 3 removed. Unionists have always opposed both those articles because they stand or fall together. It is not right to say that it is just Article 2 to which we take objection.

I want to be fair to the Southern politicians. They could not remove those two articles. The Prime Minister of the Republic could not say at Sunningdale "We shall change the Constitution". He could promise to submit it to the electorate, but he would not have authority to change it. Everyone should know that.

There are two other matters which this House should remember. The first of them concerns extradition. We have heard a great of talk about murder. No one in this House honestly believes that members of the RUC or other witnesses from Northern Ireland would be safe going to a court in the Republic in order to give evidence against a person charged with an alleged IRA crime. This House changed the law of Northern Ireland so that witnesses did not even need to be called in the new courts in Northern Ireland. If it is felt unwise to call witnesses in our own courts, how can we say that they may be called in the Republic when IRA men are being tried? That was the argument put from the Government Front Bench in Committee. Even the Attorney-General told us that. We were told that witnesses are so intimidated in Northern Ireland that their statements can be taken and they need not appear in court.

We have been told that we need not worry—that IRA murderers will be tried in Southern Ireland. We are concerned not only with murderers, but with firearms offences and explosives. They are not even mentioned. We used to be able to extradite people who had committed murders which had no political overtones. Now we cannot even do that. This proposal applies to all murderers. That is in the Sunningdale agreement. One needs to read that important document very carefully. Every Member from Northern Ireland should study it closely. The machinery proposed in it will affect the lives of everybody in Northern Ireland if the Council of Ireland comes into effect. That is a serious matter.

The order that we are to pass later excludes Schedules 2 and 3. Schedule 3 deals with the establishment, organisation and control of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and any other police force, the police authority for Northern Ireland and traffic wardens. We should notice carefully that it includes the police authority. That is an exempted matter. The police authority is to be negotiated by the new Ulster Executive and the Council of Ireland, but that would be completely contrary to the order that we are to be asked to pass tonight. When will the Minister deliver another order to vary Schedule 3? That is an important matter.

We were told in the White Paper—it does not really matter as evidently it is to be torn up; it is only a scrap of paper now—that Members of the Assembly would have the right to serve on the police authority. That was clearly promised. That again was taken away at Sunningdale. Instead of the Assembly, only the Executive is to have a say, in consultation with the Council of Ireland and Ministers from the South. Apparently 264,000 voters in Northern Ireland are to have no say, yet Ministers from a hostile Republic are. We can now say in this House that the Republic has been hostile. How many warrants have the RUC tried to serve in Southern Ireland and how many have been refused? We know the reason. A High Court, judge has stated that murder is a political offence and that we cannot extradite murderers, or alleged murderers, to use the proper term, because no man is guilty until the offence is proved against him. Extradition was not dealt with at the Sunningdale talks.

This House must not bluff or allow itself to think that detention without trial in Northern Ireland is over. Detention without trial is only just beginning in Northern Ireland. Why should the authorities want to enlarge the cages, the prisons, if they are going to wind down internment? We do not go in and out of these prisons with our eyes closed. We see new compounds being built. The British Government have an obligation to provide proper prisons. It is a disgrace to have men behind wires. Putting men behind wires, into cages, has a psychological effect on them.

I was opposed to internment even when the Protestants were for it. I can say that because I have been consistent. But the Protestants will be going in, too. They are being lined up. For all I know, this speaker will be going in with the rest. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh.

The British Government have threatened the people of Northern Ireland with economic sanctions because their leaders refuse to bow to something that they do not like. Often if something is widely accepted, then it is the law. But this is not widely accepted. If I demonstrate to the House that it is not widely accepted, what will be done? Another little Bill will be brought in deleting that part. So it will go on and on.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Will the hon. Gentleman take comfort from the historic fact that in British colonial history tension invariably is the prelude to negotiations?

Rev. Ian Paisley

Yes. I should like to see the Northern Ireland Assembly turned into a constituent Assembly for a round-table discussion by all parties. I should like the British Government to come in, not to tell us what we should do but to help us in the decisions that we hope would be arrived at. That is not an easy proposition. But a coalition forced on people can never work; a coalition freely entered into can work.

The House will pass the Bill. Many things will be said about myself and my hon. Friends. I read in a newspaper today that Loyalists disrupted the Assembly. There was a total and absolute untruth in The Times today, because the Speaker adjourned the Northern Ireland Assembly and there was no uproar in the Assembly. Not only did he adjourn the Assembly but he brought in the police to prevent Members of the Assembly going about their lawful duties in the Assembly. We have all these things with which to contend.

Mr. Orme

The hon. Gentleman talks about being criticised for disrupting the Assembly. He has made many statements in that regard. I have a copy of an Irish Times report of a sermon that he made in his own church, in which he said that last Wednesday had been a small taste of what Loyalists could do in the House, and that if a few shouts could stop business for a day, what would happen when we brought in the big guns. To what was the hon. Gentleman referring then?

Rev. Ian Paisley

Will the hon. Gentleman read the rest of it, the comment after "big guns"?

Mr. Orme

The hon. Gentleman has asked me to read this interesting tract.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Just to read what comes immediately after the words "big guns".

Mr. Orme

The report says Dr. Paisley added quickly that he was not to be taken literallly. But that is the reporter; the substance is what I have quoted.

Rev. Ian Paisley

The hon. Gentleman thought that he was doing a great thing, but why did he not read the complete quotation? I said that it was not to be taken literally, and that is what is in the report. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well, as does every hon. Member, that he is not prepared to accept without question what is reported of him. He would be the very person who would object to that. He should have read the whole quotation.

If the British Government will not allow the representatives of 264,000 people to have their legitimate say and to have an opportunity to help in the decisions that shape the future of their country when they allow representatives of a foreign country to have such a say, the British Government are asking for trouble and will receive trouble. The people of Northern Ireland will say to their elected representatives "Your way is no good. Your talk of Parliament and procedure is no good. It has got you nowhere, and we shall go another way."

Mr. Orme

The hon. Gentleman really ought to answer the Question. Will he and his hon. Friends try to wreck the Assembly? I have heard statements on television to the effect that the newly elected Executive will not be allowed to go to the rostrum to put its point of view. Is the hon. Gentleman advocating that? He has a duty to answer that question. What does he mean by "big guns"? I understand that he does not mean guns in the physical sense, but what does the phrase mean? The hon. Gentleman has just made a long speech criticising the Executive and the White Paper, advancing constitutional arguments against them, and then talking about wrecking. What does he mean?

Rev. Ian Paisley

That was a very long intervention, but I shall bear with it gladly. It is a pity that the hon. Gentleman does not read the full quotation. However, I shall answer him.

The House will not accept what I say, but hon. Members will learn that the House cannot reject 264,000 voters and say that all is well. The members of the Loyalist groups in the Assembly have only one way open to them, and that is to use their power within the Assembly to obstruct the business of the Assembly.

I have seen obstruction in this House. I have also seen Members of this House filibustering. This House has a certain reputation, but if something happens in the Assembly—that is terrible ! I have seen scuffles in this House and have heard Members, including the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) using very strong words about Acts of Parliament, about the Industrial Relations Act and what they will do about it. I would not say that they were threats, but they were political engagements. If this Parliament says, "We will deal with the Loyalist leaders, we will get them removed from the House, we will pass Standing Orders so that they will not be able to do what they desire to do", that will be all right. The elected representatives will have been removed, but what will this Parliament have then? It will have an entire cutting off of that community from any legitimate communication in the political field. Is that what this House wants? Does it want the opposition to this Act outside a locked door? That is what we are heading for.

We are simply asking to be heard, in the same way as we asked to be heard at Sunningdale, but that door was closed on us. Then we were told by the Prime Minister on television that we were invited. I spoke to the Secretary of State, and he knows what he told me. He said, "Your interpretation of my letter is absolutely correct. You are not invited to be a participating member in this conference. You are invited only to appear as a deputation. Give your views and then leave." We did not want to be a deputation. We wanted to have our rightful say, but we were not given our say. This House will pass this Bill, the people will not be heard and their elected representatives will not be listened to.

Mr. Orme

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman again. He is very courteous to give way, but this is an important point. He said that they will not be heard. The hon. Gentleman will remember that in the previous debate in this House I said that he ought to speak to the politicians in the Republic and to the British Government, because he has a point of view and he should be listened to. I was talking then in the context of the Council of Ireland, which will be set up when the new Assembly is working, to which he will be able to go with his colleagues. The fact is that he is not a member of the Executive or of the Executive-designate, just as I am not a member of the Cabinet of this Government, but I can put my views in this House, as he does, and as he can in the Assembly. The hon. Gentleman wants to have his cake and eat it at the same time. He is in opposition, but he wants to be in the Executive. He does not want to go to Sunningdale, but he does want to go to Sunningdale. What exactly does he want to do?

Rev. Ian Paisley

The hon. Gentleman should try to be fair. There is no Government in Northern Ireland. There cannot be a Government in Northern Ireland till we have passed this Bill. There is no such body as an Executive; it is an Executive-designate. So the hon. Gentleman cannot say that there is an Opposition and a Government. The trouble with this House is that Members who are not Members for Northern Ireland try to tell Northern Ireland Members, who are trying to apply themselves to what is essential, what to do. They should not get up and say, "You want to be in the Government". I just want to be a back bencher, and I have always made that perfectly clear. I am not interested in being in the Executive. I was asked by the former Secretary of State, and so was Mr. Craig, whether we would serve on the Executive. We said, "No, we oppose it".

I do not think that, in negotiations for an executive, one is entitled to start the bargaining and the horse-trading about policing, detention, law reform and other matters about which we are concerned. We should have been entitled to go into those talks and hear what was in the Government's mind, but we were not to go. There is no Government in Northern Ire- land, and there is no Opposition. But, eventually, the Government of Northern Ireland will take their places on the benches which we at present occupy as the largest party in the Assembly, and the Opposition will go to the opposite side, under the Standing Orders which I helped to draw up.

At least the hon. Member for Salford, West might try to be fair. There is no Government in Northern Ireland, and there cannot be unless we pass the Bill. There is no such thing as an Executive. It is an Executive-designate. That is no Government at all. It cannot be suggested, therefore, that there is either a Government or an Opposition. The trouble with this House is that hon. Members who do not represent Northern Ireland try to overrule the Northern Ireland MPs who are seeking to apply themselves to the problems. The hon. Member says that I want to be in the Goverment and that I do not want to be in the Government. All I want is to be a back bencher. He might be interested to know that I have been at more meetings of the Assembly and have given more time to it than any hon. Member. I have served on the Standing Orders Committee of the Assembly, and I know what I am talking about. If people say they want to wreck the Assembly—

Mr. Orme

You said it yourself.

Rev. Ian Paisley

I did not say it, and the hon. Member cannot find a record of my saying it. I said I wanted to use the Assembly to bring down the Executive, and that has always been my point of view. Hon. Members can read the Irish Times as often as they like but I know what I said; I am not afraid of what I said and I will stand by it. I go further and I say to the House "Pass the Bill". It has passed many things. It has passed regulations about internment and detainment. It has done away with juries and has brought in one-judge trials. Still the war goes on, and until the people in Northern Ireland are allowed to have a real say in their own affairs there will not be peace. We might as well be plain about that. The House may say to the people of Northern Ireland that it will ignore them and that they will not be listened to. Very well, but the people of Northern Ireland will have to find a way to convince the Government that they will not accept that approach. One of my hon. Friends said he wished the House had been prepared to give more Members to Northern Ireland. However, the House would not even give us that.

I agree with the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. McManus) in one respect. He does not agree with me in many things but I, too, believe that the issue should be put to the people of the United Kingdom. They must be asked whether they want Ulster or not. If the answer is goodbye to us, that is what it would have to be, but it would not mean a united Ireland to the majority of the people in Northern Ireland.

9.38 p.m.

Mr. Gerard Fitt (Belfast, West)

It is not entirely by design that the debate has gone the way it has. We recognised that certain hon. Members would continue with their opposition to the constitutional proposals which have been coming forward since direct rule was imposed in March last year. Since that time Northern Ireland has experienced very severe agony and tragedy. It was in the light of what was happening then—the deaths that were taking place of the soldiers, the policemen, the UDA men, the old and the young, the girls and the boys—that politicians who had hitherto bitterly opposed in ideology and in practice what was put forward tried in a last desperate effort to bring some form of sanity back to Northern Ireland.

I recognise more than most that for three centuries Northern Ireland has been divided. For three centuries the minority and the majority have been standing in eyeball to eyeball confrontation, both of them claiming total victory and saying that they would accept nothing less. In those circumstances it was impossible for one section of that community to achieve total victory. In all the negotiations and treaties that have ever taken place in Anglo-Irish history nothing even approximating this situation has ever been taken into consideration. Negotiations were between Dublin and London. One section of the community claimed total and absolute domination over the other.

In view of that situation many politicians, including Mr. Faulkner, myself and the new political force, the Alliance Party, last year decided in all conscience to try, without guaranteeing success, to prove to the communities that they both had legitimate aspirations. No one could do it overnight and, without their consent, attempt to change their way of life. We were conscious that it would take a great deal of persuasion, but we knew that we must try. It had never been tried before.

After all the arguments and bitter fights which we had with the British Government under direct rule the stage was reached when the June election of last year was to take place. The election was fought on the Constitution Bill which, within a few days of the election, became enacted. The SDLP said that it would fight the election on the terms of the Constitution Bill. The pledged Unionists said exactly the same, as did the Alliance Party.

The hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) has given the election results. He has said that 162,000 people voted for Mr. Faulkner's brand of Unionism, that 65,000 people voted for the Alliance Party and that 184,000 people voted for the SDLP, making a total of 311,000. On the opposite side of the fence there were the Vanguard Unionists led by Mr. Craig, the unpledged Unionists led by Mr. West and Mr. Taylor, and the Democratic Unionist Party led by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley). They received a total vote of 264,000 as against the 311,000 of the parties which said that they were fighting under the Constitution Bill and would attempt, with many reservations, which were expressed then and are expressed now, to bring the Constitution Bill into being and would try to evolve a system of government which would act in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland, Catholics and Protestants.

Those parties said that they would pay due respect to the two legitimate aspirations which are contained within the Northern Irish community. It must be conceded that the majority in Northern Ireland wishes to maintain its link with the United Kingdom. However, there is a sizable minority which gives its allegiance to the eventual reunification of Ireland.

No one would in any circumstances, recognising the realities of the hostilities which have existed for three centuries, attempt to beat one or other of those aspirations into submission. It was with that in mind that the parties decided that they would try to engage in talks which would evolve a system of government which would allow those aspirations to continue. It was hoped that a system would be evolved which would ensure that no one would be bombed, bullied, killed or coerced into accepting a system of government which brought into question their nationality or their way of life.

On 5th October the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland brought the parties together. In fact, he did not bring them together or attempt to do so. He did not whip them into submission. He did not say, "You must come here and agree to our proposals." The parties went voluntarily. I believe that Mr. Faulkner and his brand of Unionists went voluntarily. The Alliance Party certainly went there of its own volition. It must not be forgotten that for the first time in three centuries of Irish history Catholic and Protestant representatives—those people believing in a united Ireland and those who wanted to retain a United Kingdom Ulster—voluntarily discussed where they disagreed and on what issues they could agree. They asked themselves, "What cogent steps can be taken that will bring to an end the terrible massacre of the innocents that has been taking place here since 1969?"

That was the one idea which motivated us all. We found that Brian Faulkner was not the detestable bigot I had often thought him to be. I hope that he thinks the same about me and my party colleagues. He has put himself on record as saying that, throughout these negotiations, he had heard more constructive talk in relation to the Northern Ireland community than he had heard in 25 years as a Minister in a Unionist Government. That, I hope, was an admission and a concession, and I felt exactly the same throughout the whole period of the talks.

It was then decided that, having accepted the fact that neither community could claim total victory over the other, we would engage in a power-sharing exercise, that people of both communities would be in a position to participate in the running of their own country. I accept the fact that I am an Ulsterman, and Belfast man and an Irishman as well. In the country I was born and reared in, I would like to think that I could contribute at least one small thing to try to ease the terrible strain and distress under which so many people have been forced to live. I have been in opposition to the Unionist Party for very many years and I would be the last to try to put a restriction on anyone such as the hon. Member for Antrim, North, to try to limit his freedom of speech.

Having arrived at a successful conclusion to the power sharing, it was decided that the Ministries would be shared with what had been known as the Opposion, the minority Catholic community. John Hume, my colleague, was accepted as Minister of Commerce, and another colleague, Austin Currie, as Minister of Housing and Local Government. I myself became Deputy Chief Executive, with Ivan Cooper, also of the SDLP, as Minister of Community Relations. Each of us was conscious that we were entering into a new era, trying something out which had never happened in Ireland before.

We accepted the fact that many people would treat us with great distrust, but I give as an example my colleague, Paddy Devlin, the Minister of Health and Social Services. He is one of my closest colleagues, and I say again what I have said here and in Northern Ireland, that he is a man of great humanity and compassion, a man who wants to show the Protestant majority of Northern Ireland that he is not a bigot and that he wants to help each and every one of that community who needs help just as he wants to help people within the Catholic community.

Having agreed on how the Ministries should be allocated, we took it upon ourselves to show our sincere good will to the Protestant community, which has many real fears and suspicions about me and my colleagues and about the political parties I have been associated with throughout the years. I accept that. I accept that many people in the majority community have a sincere distrust of me, but we believe that there is only one way to allay the fear and distrust, and that is to let them see that we in the Executive are acting in their interests. There are many people in the Catholic community who have a sincere distrust of Brian Faulkner because of the tragedy and disaster of internment, because we have had in Northern Ireland one single Unionist-ascendant Government for 50 years.

When one comes to the question of the democratic process, so often alluded to by the hon. Member for Antrim, North, one tries to put an interpretation on what is democratic and what is anti-democratic. What he says is anti-democratic. It means, "I do not like it so I will not accept it." That is what it means in his terminology and to his way of thinking.

If it does not suit him and the people he represents or is associated with at present then he does not like it. Less than 24 hours after the announcement that agreement had been reached on a power-sharing Executive a dastardly attempt was made on the life of my colleague Austin Currie, at Dungannon, when machine guns and other forms of firearms were used, either in an attempt to kill him or the policemen guarding his home.

That very night the Provisional IRA issued a statement saying "We will wreck it". The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), who I would have hoped would have remained in the House, at the time issued a statement saying "We will bust it". Here we have the two extremes reacting in exactly the same way to a last attempt to bring peace to Northern Ireland. The Provisional IRA wants to claim total victory over the Protestant community in Northern Ireland while the hon. Member for Antrim, North and his cohorts want to claim total victory over the Catholic minority there.

I was delighted to hear today that some who had opposed direct rule last year have changed their minds. Some who spoke vociferously against direct rule have been able to see what has been happening since then and today they support the Government. I was impressed by the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr). His sentiments conveyed to me that he was fearful that he might be submerged overnight into a united Ireland. Let me give him this assurance. If that were to be so I would object to it. One of the greatest things that came out of the Sunningdale talks was a recognition of the two aspirations in this document, which will in future years prove to be one of the most historic documents ever agreed to by Irishmen in the island of Ireland.

Let us not forget that the three Northern Ireland parties—the Alliance Party, the Unionist Party and the SDLP—were the most important factors in these talks. We also had the able assistance of the British Government, and no one can say that, by any standards, I am a supporter of a Tory Government. No one could ever charge me with that. We also had the assistance of the Government in the South. Here for the first time we had the Northern Irish community spokesmen, the Irish Government and the British Government.

The communiqué says that at present the majority in Northern Ireland wants to maintain its link with Britain. That is guaranteed. If at any time in the future, and the British Government have committed themselves to this, there is a majority in Northern Ireland in favour of becoming part of the Republic, the British Government will take no steps to impede this wish but will support it. Here we have the two aspirations totally catered for and respected. No one needs to lose any sleep, to rampage up and down the country instilling fear and dissidence into the minds of the people of Northern Ireland.

We have been able today to see the true face and sentiments of the hon. Member for Antrim, North. That man has tried to project in this House and through this House to the British public an image of moderation. That is not the case in Northern Ireland. One has only to be with him in the Assembly, as I was yesterday and the Wednesday before, to see the real Mr. Paisley or Dr. Paisley or whatever he likes to be called in Northern Ireland. My hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) a moment ago quoted from an article written in the Irish Times. It was an accurate quotation. The hon. Member for Antrim, North is going around every town, village and hamlet in Northern Ireland preaching a gospel of fear and hatred. He gave a sermon in his church which said that the gallows had been prepared for him but he would not be going to Heaven yet.

I voted against capital punishment in both Stormont and in this House. I did not think capital punishment existed. But that is the sort of rhetoric that the hon. Gentleman uses. As I have said, he stated that he was not going to Heaven yet. A moment ago the hon. Gentleman castigated the hon. Member for Belfast, North and asked him whether he had some infallible knowledge of what the people in Northern Ireland wanted. There is a rail strike at the moment with people not knowing how to get from Victoria to Southampton, but the hon. Gentleman has no doubt about where he is going and whom he is going to take with him.

We again had pandemonium at Stormont yesterday. Last Wednesday in Stormont we had the most horrific scenes which have ever taken place in any democratically-elected Parliament. The hon. Member for Belfast, North posed the question "What happens if we do not get the opportunity to express ourselves?" I repeat that I am on the hon. Gentleman's side. I do not wish to deny anyone, particularly an elected representative, the right to express his opinion. But last week, when a democratic vote was carried in the Assembly, members of the Loyalist coalition began to kick and brutally assault members of the official Unionist Party. The hon. Member for Antrim, North was standing at the Dispatch Box when this occurred and he did not bat an eyelid. He did not turn round to see what was happening or to discover the reason for the noise because the whole thing had been planned before the Assembly meeting.

Yet the hon. Member for Antrim, North has the audacity to come to this House and to talk about democracy. Later that evening, when the Press and television were very concerned about what had happened in the Assembly, the hon. Member appeared on one television channel saying that he did not know anything about it, that he happened to be at the Dispatch Box making a point of order and did not know that some members of the Loyalist coalition had attacked Unionist Members, while at the same time one of his colleagues, Mr. Kennedy Lindsay, appeared on another channel saying "The whole thing was organised because we organised it." A member of the Loyalist Opposi- tion kicked a former Cabinet Minister, Mr. Herbert Kirk.

When we went to the Assembly at Stormont yesterday afternoon, we were told that the hon. Member for Antrim, North had been to the Speaker and to the Clerk the previous day and said that he proposed to move a motion which would call the House back into session today to discuss the Sunningdale agreement. I should have thought that if it had been known that the Sunningdale agreement and three orders were to be discussed in this House today it was the duty of elected Members of this House to be here. The hon. Member for Antrim, North wanted the agreement to be debated in Northern Ireland instead, and it will be debated there tomorrow. He told the Clerk that if it was not debated he should expect trouble.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Fitt


Rev. Ian Paisley

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Fitt


Mr. Speaker


Rev. Ian Paisley

The hon. Gentleman is quoting what the Clerk said—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is not giving way. Mr. Fitt?

Rev. Ian Paisley

On a point of order—

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Ordered, That the Northern Ireland Constitution (Amendment) Bill may be proceeded with at this day's Sitting, though opposed, until any hour.—[Mr. Rossi.]

Question again proposed, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Rev. Ian Paisley

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for an hon. Member to report to the House what the Clerk of another Assembly said, when what the Clerk is alleged to have said has already been publicly denied.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

Further to that point of order. The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) has not been in the Chamber to hear the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), and there is probably a good reason for that. I appeal to my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West to set a good example to the new Assembly and allow the hon. Member for Antrim, North to speak. We might then find a different situation in the Assembly tomorrow.

Mr. Fitt

That is highly unlikely—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I must rule on the point of order raised by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley). It is a question of content and not a matter for the Chair. Mr. Fitt.

Mr. Fitt

I give way.

Rev. Ian Paisley

I have been out of the Chamber because HANSARD wanted my notes. It means no disrespect to the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Fitt). I always sit through the speeches, and I have been here longer today than has the hon. Gentleman. When an hon. Member is talking about another hon. Member it is right that he should give way instead of waving his hands.

Mr. Speaker

I think the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) has given way.

Rev. Ian Paisley

I have finished.

Mr. Fitt

It was recognised that when agreement had been reached on the formation of a power-sharing Executive, and if there were to be successful conclusions to the tripartite talks, every extremist in Ireland would be in total opposition to the agreement. I know exactly what I mean by "extremist". The people who plant bombs and shoot soldiers, police and civilians are extremists, but just as dangerous are those who deliberately incite fear and hatred. They are perhaps more responsible than those who pull the trigger or plant a bomb. Violent words cause people to become involved.

Again I quote, within the hearing of the hon. Member for Antrim, North, from his sermon. We must realise the drama, the silence and the atmosphere in which these words were uttered: If some Sunday I am not here in this pulpit—if I'm not here to climb these stairs, don't believe any frame-up that says the IRA killed me, or a Protestant extremist. It'll be a British agent's bullet.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that no less a person than the City Police Commissioner in Northern Ireland, Mr. Bradley, in my church last night told me that I would have an escort to take me to the airport today. In the presence of a witness, I said "What about British intelligence and their threat on my life?" He said, "Mr. Paisley, that is a very big question indeed." I ask the hon. Member for Belfast, West a question. Would the hon. Member approve of a young British soldier being brought from Germany to Northern Ireland and told to shoot a person in Northern Ireland, and after he had shot the person, being sent back to Germany? Is that what he approves of? I do not.

Mr. Fitt

I am delighted that the hon. Member has come back into the Chamber, because now we can hear just a little of what he has been saying up and down the length and breadth of Northern Ireland.

Rev. Ian Paisley

It is true.

Mr. Fitt

Is it any wonder that members of the Loyalist community now feel that they have to resort to arms to protect their interests?

I have already said that when the Executive was formed and when the tripartite talks took place they would meet with all sorts of opposition by men actually engaged in physical violence and those who were making speeches that incited them. I remember that on the day after the Executive was formed the Provisional IRA issued threats against members of the SDLP. I said then, and I say now, and I will say tomorrow and the next day, that I am not to be intimidated by threats, from wherever they may come. Steps have been taken now that have never been taken before, and, irrespective of whether I or any of my colleagues are there, that rule will be continued, people will try desperately to continue that rule and they will eventually achieve success.

My hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. McManus) was associated with the criticism that the SDLP was resorting to the RUC to protect it against these threats. I thought to myself "That type of criticism is not completely unexpected from that source." But I was amazed to be told by a reliable source that he himself had exactly the same type of protection. This shows the complete and utter dishonesty.

This afternoon I came into the House, and in passing through—I do not know whether I shall be breaking a confidence or abusing the privilege of the House—I saw the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Mrs. McAliskey), the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder), the hon. Member for Antrim, North and the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, and I thought to myself "It is a Government in exile." They were all sitting there, all plotting how to defeat the arrangements that had been made in Northern Ireland—

Rev. Ian Paisley

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for an hon. Member to say that in one of the rooms of this House when hon. Members were sitting and having a social cup of tea together they were plotting to bring down the Government? Now that he has given way, will the hon. Member now do what he refused on television to do and call upon the people who sent him here to support the Army and the police in their fight against terrorism? That question he refused to answer on television: will he answer it now?

Mr. Speaker

On the point of order about people plotting in committees to bring down Governments, that has been going on for a very long time.

Rev. Ian Paisley rose

Mr. Fitt

I thought it was rather strange, and it should be placed on the record that this is the type of contribution by this type of individual to try to bring peace to Northern Ireland. I cannot refrain—

Mrs. McAliskey

Will the hon. Member give way?

Mr. Fitt

No. The hon. Lady has a great propensity for coming into the House and making her speech and then interjecting in everyone else's speech. I have decided not to let her in—

Mrs. McAliskey

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. While it may be a long- standing practice for persons to have been known to plot to bring down Governments, is it in order for the hon. Member to imply in his speech that I was personally involved in some kind of extra-parliamentary or unparliamentary behaviour in this House and then not permit me the opportunity of clarifying the position?

Mr. Speaker

This is a very difficult area in which to involve the Chair because all sorts of motives are imputed. I think it is wrong to impute to another hon. Member a criminal motive. I am not sure that such a motive was imputed. If it it not a criminal motive, then I think that it is in order. But perhaps the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) might consider giving way to the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Mrs. McAliskey).

Mr. Fitt

May I say, Mr. Speaker—

Rev. Ian Paisley

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have always understood in this House that if hon. Members went into a certain place and happened to drink tea with Opposition Members, that was not a matter to be commented on in this House. I should like your ruling, Sir. Have we now to segregate ourselves when we go into the Tea Room and not drink tea with those to whom we are politically opposed?

Mrs. McAliskey

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I was concerned not with the question of whom I may or may not drink tea with—and, to my great shame, I have often drunk something stronger with the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt)—but I was concerned to raise a point of order on whether the hon. Member for Belfast, West was implying certain things in his latter remarks—namely, that persons were sitting together, not plotting to bring down Governments, but attempting to prevent the restoration of peace in Northern Ireland. The hon. Gentleman implied "This is what we get with this type of person while we are trying to bring peace to Northern Ireland." He implied that because we were opposing him we were plotting methods of furthering violence in Northern Ireland. Is that in order?

Rev. Ian Paisley

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. If hon. Members of this House want to say that other hon. Members of this House are plotting certain things while others are trying to bring peace to Northern Ireland, then this should not be done across the Floor of the House but should be stated publicly outside the House.

Mr. Speaker

I hope I shall be allowed to have my say. First, this matter involves a question of taste. There are certain places in the House where hon. Members meet one another, and it is a convention of the House that one does not refer to conversations which take place in those places. That is a convention; it is not a rule of order. I cannot control it; it is a convention of the House. I do not think the Chair can be involved unless there is an imputation of some criminal activity. If that were to happen I should certainly come in and make certain that that was not allowed. Such an allegation would have to be introduced in a motion. Those are our rules, and such suggestions cannot be thrown out on one side or the other as interventions in a debate. Now, Mr. Fitt, can we get on?

Mr. Fitt

You will be aware, Mr. Speaker, that I made no allegation of a criminal offence against anybody. I was saying that particular individuals had expressed their opposition to the constitutional proposals. The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster, not for the first time, made a completely destructive speech. She is against the negotiations that took place in Northern Ireland on the creation of an Executive; she is against what happened at Sunningdale during the tripartite discussions. The hon. Lady agrees with the hon. Member for Down, South when he expresses his great fear that the Loyalist community in Northern Ireland has been sold out by the British Government. Since that sentiment comes from the hon. Member for Down, South and the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster, this surely must implant a suspicion in the minds of people who are fearful about their whole future, and it could—I put it no higher than that—lead those people to have recourse to violence.

The hon. Lady goes on to say that she wants a united Ireland. But she does not like the type of united Ireland which may be emerging from the tripartite talks. She does not like the Gardai. She does not like the RUC. That comes as no surprise to us. The hon. Lady does not like anyone. We all recognise that. But again I ask her what does she want: what will she put in place of the present tragedy which exists in Northern Ireland? There is no coherent or sensible answer forthcoming.

Then the hon. Lady did not openly attack by name my colleague Paddy Devlin. But again all the aspersions were cast, and again we had the full condemnation of a man of integrity and compassion who hitherto has been unknown in a Northern Ireland Assembly, Cabinet or any type of Ministry. The hon. Lady talks of Mr. Devlin's credibility. If anyone's credibility has been called in question today, last week and ever since the day she was first elected to this House, it is that of the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster, and no doubt the electorate in Northern Ireland will soon have an opportunity to voice their opinions.

In the elections in June of this year, the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster had an opportunity to put forward her candidates. The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone had an opportunity to put forward his candidates. Neither of them did so. At least the hon. Member for Antrim, North put forward his candidates, as did Mr. Craig and Mr. West, and they won a significant number of seats—27 all told. At least they fought the election. Their total poll, according to the hon. Member for Antrim, North, was 264,000. Whether he speaks for all those 264,000 I am in some doubt, but at least he has something to say.

The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster and the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone did not fight those elections. They do no know who supports them. Last June the electorate of Northern Ireland were given an opportunity to vote for members of the SDLP. They returned them with the second largest elected party in Northern Ireland. It may be that the decisions that we have taken will be contradicted when another election takes place in Northern Ireland. No one can say—

Mrs. McAliskey

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Fitt

No. But at least we can say that we have the support of a significant section of the electorate.

The hon. Member for Antrim, North put a question to me, and I believe that I should answer it here rather than in the middle of a television duel. The SDLP has made it clear from its very inception that it is opposed to all forms of violence in Northern Ireland—the killing of soldiers, the killing of policemen, the killing of UDR men and the killing of men, women and children in the indiscriminate way that it has been carried on.

I am not selective in my condemnation of violence and killings. I deplore every killing which has taken place in Northern Ireland. The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone talks in a qualified, ambiguous way in answer to a question put to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South, out he does not have the guts to condemn all forms of killing. I have no hesitation in doing so.

The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone talked about a gesture from the British Government because it was getting so near Christmas and the season of goodwill. When I left here on Monday after the Sunningdale talks, a young Catholic in the British Army was shot dead in my constituency. I condemn whoever was responsible. A policeman was killed within 24 hours of that incident. I condemn whoever was responsible.

I do not want to see internment. I do not want to see anyone interned without trial in Northern Ireland. As for those who are in prison in Britain at the moment, I do not want to see their relatives put to great inconvenience and hardship because they have not the financial wherewithal to visit them. I support their removal to Northern Ireland because I know that their presence here causes great hardship and inconvenience to their relatives. However, there are an awful lot of people throughout Britain who will experience the same inconvenience when they visit the graves of their sons, husbands, fathers, mothers and daughters who have been killed in Northern Ireland in the past two or three years.

I am not selective in my condemnation. I have made it perfectly clear that every loss of life in Northern Ireland was an unnecessary spilling of blood. That is why I have decided to advance to the Executive. It means no personal gain to me.

The hon. Member for Antrim. North was reported in a local newspaper recently as condemning Brian Faulkner for going for a post on the Executive at £9,000 a year. The hon. Gentleman is in no position to criticise the salary received by any elected Member in Northern Ireland.

Again, many people throughout Britain heard the hon. Gentleman on television say that the Speaker of the Assembly was not at liberty to anticipate what may happen and, therefore, he had no right to adjourn the Assembly. He went on to say "If I said that I was going to punch Brian Falkner on the nose, the Speaker would not be empowered to do anything until I had actually done it."

Knowing Brian Falkner and the hon. Member for Antrim, North, I should not be prepared to take any big bets on who would win such a contest. I would not lay my money heavily on the hon. Member for Antrim, North. We have heard him before bullying and lambasting the Opposition, but when it came to the fray it was a lot of innocent supporters who were caught and thrown into gaol.

Rev. Ian Paisley

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it right for the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) to imply that I was responsible for having people put into prison and was not prepared to go to prison myself? Surely it is a criminal insinuation that I was responsible for getting those people into trouble and put into prison. I have been in prison twice. I would not ask any of my supporters to do anything that I was not prepared to do myself, as everybody knows. The hon. Gentleman has implied that I did something criminal that got people put into prison and that I then washed my hands of them. That is what he implied and I want a ruling on it.

Mr. Fitt rose

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Fitt, on that point of order.

Mr. Fitt

You will notice, Mr. Speaker, the truth, half-truth and play on words at which the hon. Member for Antrim, North is so good. It is because of his use of this type of language, the truth, half-truth and incitement—

Rev. Ian Paisley rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) raised a point of order on whether he had been accused of commiting a criminal offence. I called the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) on that point of order to see whether he had anything to add.

Mr. Fitt

I have never mentioned the words "criminal offence". Again, this is the interpretation that has been put upon what I said by the hon. Member for Antrim, North.

I should like to draw to the attention of the House the fact that when the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland was in Stormont Castle on one occasion the hon. Member for Antrim, North walked in and said "I am here to tell you not to remove the statue of Lord Carson". The former Secretary of State looked at him in amazement. It was the first that he had ever heard of this.

Rev. Ian Paisley

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Fitt

Then, Sir—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Mr. Paisley, on a point of order.

Rev. Ian Paisley

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Member for Belfast, West does not need to mention a criminal offence. I put it to you, Sir, that he suggested—he did not suggest; he affirmed—that I was responsible for actions that got people put into prison. That was his accusation. He now says that he did not mention a criminal offence. It must have been criminal if people get put into prison. I am asking for a ruling on that point now.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman has asked me to rule on what might appear to be the almost normal consequences of an Irish debate. I do not think that Speakers in this House have ever been very successful in deciding on these matters. I distinctly recollect reading various accounts of what has happened here during debates on Irish problems. I do not think that Westminster has been awfully good in this respect. However, I must rule as best I can.

I do not think that there was an allegation against the hon. Member for Antrim, North which I should describe as being beyond the rules of order. I will not pronounce on the content of any remarks that have been made. I have always maintained that position. I respectfully suggest that we get on with the debate on the Second Reading of the Bill and the various orders.

Mr. Fitt

What the hon. Gentleman was really trying to do was to sidetrack me from what I was telling the House. He said to the former Secretary of State, "I am telling you not to remove the statue "—

Rev. Ian Paisley

On a point of order. Mr. Speaker. That is a diabolical lie.

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is the rule of the House that hon. Members do not say a thing like that. It must be put differently, whether it is described as a terminological inexactitude, or whatever it may be. But what the hon. Gentleman has said is not a form of language which, according to the precedents, I am permitted to allow. Perhaps the hon. Member will put the matter differently, so that we may return to the debate.

Rev. Ian Paisley

The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) has been telling the House about an alleged conversation with the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, when the hon. Gentleman was not a party to that conversation. Even if I was with the Secretary of State, the hon. Gentleman would not know what I said. I must emphasise to the House that I shall not allow any hon. Member to speak of my private conversations and put a gloss on them when he could not possibly know what the conversation was. I withdraw my statement, but the hon. Gentleman is totally inaccurate. He could not know what took place between myself and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in a private conversation.

Mr. Speaker

I am obliged to the hon. Member for withdrawing what he said. Perhaps we can now look to the future a little more than the past.

Mr. Fitt

I thought it right to draw the attention of the House to this and other incidents.

I believe that the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland want to give these constitutional proposals a chance to work. It is because of the utterances of the hon. Member for Antrim, North and those who support him that the whole situation may be thrown into severe jeopardy. The future of Northern Ireland and its people is far more important than the political reputation of myself or any other politician, including the hon. Member for Antrim, North, in Northern Ireland.

This is a last desperate chance which must be taken. From the mail which I have received and the people who have come to see me since the original discussions in Northern Ireland and the tripartite talks I am absolutely convinced that many, many people want to give these proposals a chance. I can only support the Bill and the orders which will be brought before the House. In doing so, I am certain that I shall have the support of all hon. Members in the House and the people of Northern Ireland.

10.28 p.m.

Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)

This has been a typical Irish debate. You, Mr. Speaker, said that you wanted to rule on the utterances in the debate, but it has been an honest debate in the sense that we have discussed issues frankly and openly. No other issue in British politics recently has had more discussion and airing before the operation of the proposals involved. We are still 13 days away from the activation of the Executive. The activation of the Council of Ireland proposals will flow only after the Executive has been set up, with the various commissions which will look into the many aspects.

As many hon. Members have said today, there is much ground to be covered. Many of the questions which have been asked about the Council of Ireland, not least by the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr), the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Mrs. McAliskey) and the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. McManus), while criticising the whole issue, the Assembly, the Executive and the Council of Ireland proposals, nevertheless have kept returning to the central points of criticism or suggestion.

The hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster is very much in the same category as the hon. Member for Antrim, North. The hon. Lady wants in and she wants out at the same time. She has great ability and intelligence, but she cannot resist the temptation to take up points and examine them in detail, and, having examined them in detail, she keeps returning to the point that the whole idea is of no use.

Mrs. McAliskey rose

Mr. Orme

May I continue, because I have something else to say to the hon. Lady and her hon. Friends?

Mrs. McAliskey

The hon. Gentleman has raised this point in several debates, and I am a little concerned by his attitude that if one is opposed to something one is not allowed to accept reality. I know that I am opposed to the Bill. I also know that it will be passed by this House. It is not fair for the hon. Gentle- man to imply that I am guilty of some kind of irregularity. I am quite entitled to say that I think the whole scheme will not work, and then to take it in detail and say "If you are going to have it, then let us have some straightforward answers about how you will do it." I am entitled to do that.

Mr. Orme

Absolutely, and I have not criticised the hon. Lady's right to do that. All I am saying is that at the end of her criticism she does not say what she believes are the real alternatives. A strange alliance has grown up. I do not know what my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) said that brought this issue into the open—

Rev. Ian Paisley rose

Mr. Orme

No, I will not give way, because I have not developed the point.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Is the hon. Gentleman talking about what happened in the Tea Room? Can I not sit down with any hon. Member of this House and drink tea, without its being mentioned in this debate?

Mr. Orme

The hon. Gentleman should not anticipate what I was going to say.

Rev. Ian Paisley

The right hon. Gentleman did say it.

Mr. Orme

No. I was referring to the alliance between the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster across the Floor of this House, because they have literally been on the same side, propping and copping one another in this debate today.

Mr. McManus rose

Mr. Orme

No, I will not give way, because I want to develop my argument and prove my point. The hon. Lady and the hon. Member for Antrim, North found a lot of common ground in their criticism and opposition. I am not imputing any motives, but they found common ground in their opposition to the Executive, in their opposition to the Assembly and in their opposition to the Council of Ireland. It was most interesting to note that some of the points were similar. But the hon. Gentleman's answer was not the same as the hon. Lady's. The hon. Gentleman's answer was independent for the six counties of Northern Ireland, a return to one-party dominance, a return to the strategy to which the hon. Lady and her family have always been opposed—

Rev. Ian Paisley

The hon. Gentleman is misrepresenting what I said. I said that I agreed that this matter should be put to the whole United Kingdom, and that if the whole United Kingdom made that decision we should have to go on our own. I did not advocate what the hon. Gentleman said.

Mr. Orme

There seems to be a great deal of sensitivity in this debate tonight. I thought we were tougher than that in these Irish debates. But the hon. Gentleman is on record as saying what I said. First, he was a total integrationist, then he supported UDI, and I do not know what he supports at the moment.

Rev. Ian Paisley

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for a Member to stand up in this House and say that another hon. Member holds to something which he does not hold to? Everybody knows that I have opposed UDI right down the line. UDI is a unilateral declaration of independence. I have called for negotiation, over and over again.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Oscar Morton)

That is a debating point, not a point of order.

Mr. Orme

As the hon. Gentleman, at the time of the election, made an alliance with a group and party in favour of UDI—I am talking about Mr. Craig now—I should have said that there was some common cause there. But I shall leave the hon. Member to argue those points out with his own people.

I come back to the report in the Irish Times of the speech made by the hon. Member for Antrim, North. We can see from that speech that the hon. Member who speaks in Northern Ireland, in North Antrim, in his church, is a different Member from the one who speaks in the House of Commons.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Not true.

Mr. Orme

We have it clearly on record. I do not remember his saying in this House that he had been threatened by the British security forces. I do not remember his telling the House, or implying, what might have been the cause of Mr. Herron's death.

I put this to the Minister. The hon. Member has made accusations, which have not been denied, that British Intelligence might take action against certain people. I want the Minister to make an investigation. We are entitled to that, and to a report to verify, or otherwise, what the hon. Gentleman has been saying. I ask for that because it is rumours of that sort that are creating problems in the Northern Ireland situation. In fact, there is no basis for them.

Rev. Ian Paisley rose

Mr. Orme

Let me finish. I am trying to address myself to the Minister. The hon. Gentleman has said also that the cages at Long Kesh are being enlarged, and he has implied that there might be a large measure of further internment. We want to know whether that is true. The Government have been frank with the House on these matters in the past, and we feel that we are entitled to a reply.

The hon. Gentleman makes statements of that kind in Northern Ireland to people who, perhaps, take his word as gospel. They have even been made in a church. When he makes remarks of that kind, talking about being shot by British Security, questioning how Mr. Herron was killed, questioning what might happen in the future and speaking of his own personal position, it is important that the facts be known. Let us have the facts in the House. I wonder why the hon. Member has not raised these matters in the House.

Rev. Ian Paisley

It is the responsibility of the hon. Member to go to the person responsible. I put these facts to the former Secretary of State. I went to Stormont Castle and put them to the Secretary of State face to face.

Mr. Orme

It is interesting that this is the first we have heard of it. Obviously, it was a private conversation, and the hon. Gentleman is now reporting that private conversation to the House. What are these facts?

Rev. Ian Paisley

I put them to the Minister.

Mr. Orme

Why not put them to the House? Will the hon. Gentleman give the facts now? I readily give him the opportunity.

Rev. Ian Paisley

I have already tried putting down a Question about British Intelligence. Everyone knows that one cannot get Questions about British Intelligence on the Order Paper. The Minister has the facts, and he can answer on those facts.

Mr. Orme

I agree that there is probably great difficulty in putting Questions about British Intelligence, but what was there to stop the hon. Gentleman telling the House about these matters? He could have laid them before the House. We have asked for the facts. If he wants to give them to the House now, let him do so.

Rev. Ian Paisley

The Minister has the facts. When the Minister has the facts, it is up to him to communicate with the Member about them.

Mr. Orme


Rev. Ian Paisley

When an hon. Member has a matter of concern to his constituents, he goes to the Minister first. When the Minister replies, if his reply is not satisfactory the Member puts down a public Question. The hon. Gentleman is well aware of that.

Mr. Orme

The hon. Member for Antrim, North is not slow in putting forward his point of view and is extremely articulate. He can express himself very well in this House. I should have thought that a threatened assassination by British security forces was not a matter to be whispered into the ear of a Minister, particularly if the hon. Member was not satisfied with the answer. I think that this has exposed the hon. Member tonight, and he has a duty to explain himself and his actions.

Mr. Wellbeloved

On a point of order Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have just been informed by strangers in the Central Lobby that the Strangers' Gallery has been partially cleared. I am aware that it is important that some of the staff should get away by 11 o'clock, but I can see no reason why substantial numbers of the general public have been ushered out of the Gallery. Will you give instructions that the Gallery should be re-opened?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I shall look into the matter.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. There are strangers now in the Central Lobby who wish to return to listen to the end of this debate. Can you do something immediately for them to be re-admitted to this Parliament?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I wish only to reiterate to the hon. Member what I have said. I shall look into the matter.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Very well, I shall go and escort them up there myself.

Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May we be assured that you will indicate your decision within a short while, because it is part of the tradition of this House that all the public, not just a part of it, shall hear us.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I give that assurance. I shall look into the matter expeditiously.

Mr. Orme

I wish now to deal with some of the arguments raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster on the question of rent and rate strikes, the economic policies and the fact that they have not been presented to the Assembly. These are valid points which she is right to raise in this House. I hope that when the new Executive begins work on 1st January it will pay immediate attention to them. If the hon. Members for Antrim, North and Down, South directed their activities and opposition to demanding to see these policies and that they be debated in the Assembly instead of stopping the Assembly from working, the communities would see the value of the Assembly.

The whole question of confidence in the Executive will be based not on what is written in the Act, not on the position of two sentences in Section 5, but on what the Council of Ireland and the Executive do. They will be judged in Northern Ireland by results. Some of the policies which are to be hammered out will cause great difficulty. They will create political differences, and no doubt my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster and I will be on the same side in some of them. But I want to see these arguments starting in Northern Ireland. I want to see the Assembly and the Executive working, and I want to see the hon. Member for Antrim, North using his considerable talents in pulling these policies apart and putting forward alternatives on behalf of those he represents. He claims, and I do not doubt it, that he is a good constituency Member for all his constituents. He has a job to do in that Assembly. There is much work to be done in Northern Ireland in the coming months and years. The hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. He cannot pull it all down with one hand and build it up with the other.

Mr. McManus

Does the hon. Gentleman realise what he has said? In the midst of his marvellous outburst he said the most extraordinary thing. He said "I want to see the proposals". He now tells us, he and his hon. Friends having all day borne the brunt of the defence of the Bill, the Government never intervening, that he has not seen the package to which he has given carte blanche and unqualified support. It seems that he has not seen the proposals. What about his hon. Friend the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt)? Has he not given him a preview? The hon. Gentleman has said that he has seen nothing of the proposals which he is wholeheartedly and unconditionally supporting.

Mr. Orme

The hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that he has seen an outline of the proposals. An outline of some of the proposals was published in the Irish papers. I have seen an outline. What I want to see, and what he wants to see, is the Executive chairman putting the proposals to the Assembly and the proposals then being put to the Irish people. The Executive will come into being on 1st January. I presume that there will be a Queen's Speech type of presentation of the Executive's policy. It can then be examined in great detail. We can then have the argument.

The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster referred to the rent strike. She asked what the Minister will do. I believe that the people who are in key positions will carry out their important jobs. The hon. Lady criticises Mr. Devlin, by inference, for being in charge—

Mrs. McAliskey rose

Mr. Orme

Let me finish. I am referring to the hon. Lady and I will give way to her in a moment. She referred to Mr. Currie while talking about the rent and rate strike. She asked whether there will be an amnesty. It is right that the hon. Lady should pose such questions. But she wants an answer from the Executive and from the Assembly to which she is bitterly opposed.

Mrs. McAliskey

The hon. Gentleman cannot anticipate the activities of the Minister-designate of Health and Social Services. That is what he is doing. I did not criticise. I asked questions of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. I asked whether the Minister-designate would have certain powers. It was a straight-forward question—namely, how can the Minister refuse to implement an amnesty and retain credibility? The hon. Gentleman is anticipating that the Minister-designate for Health and Social Services will not grant an amnesty, that he will continue to carry out certain policies. He is assuming that I am criticising the Minister in advance. I was not criticising but asking a question.

Mr. Orme

I am posing the question. I should not have the temerity to tell the Executive what its policy should be. I am certain that the Secretary of State will not be in that position. The Executive would probably tell him, if there were a conflict of policies, that it was an elected body and that it would carry out its policies.

The Executive has already discussed many of the social and economic problems. The Council of Ireland has done so. We want to see real political intercourse take place. It will have to take place if the Northern Ireland Assembly is to get off the ground and if the Council of Ireland provisions are to work. We all recognise that there are great difficulties.

The hon. and gallant Member for Down, South made a most interesting and excellent speech. I did not necessarily agree with its contents. He put the arguments cogently. There was one error in what he said. That was a basic error. He is too pessimistic about the eventual outcome. There are people, Unionists like himself, who are endeavouring to make this work. There are also Unionists who are opposed to it. But what amazes me is the number of Unionists who have come out in favour of working the new set-up.

I know the hon. and gallant Gentleman's close association in the past with Mr. Faulkner and that he does not lightly break with him politically, but there is a chance that this Assembly can work, and I hope that his pessimism is wrong. I hope, too, that the hon. Member for Antrim, North will be able to turn his talents to help make it work.

Finally, I want to say to my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster that one of the most memorable speeches she has made in this House was when she talked about working-class Protestants and Roman Catholics in Belfast and the conditions they live in. She spoke of how their aspirations were really in line were it not for this 300-year-old religious barrier dividing them. I agreed with her.

Unfortunately, they do not follow her in the type of policies she is propounding to this House or to Northern Ireland. But I believe that we must get the people, particularly in Belfast, away from mythology on to the practicalities of the political situation and of what can be done in social and economic policy, in employment and housing, which may entail public ownership of certain sectors of land, more public investment and more industrial development.

I look forward with confidence to the work of my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) in the new Executive. It does not behove my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster to criticise Mr. Faulkner and my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West for coming together when we see her and the hon. Member for Antrim, North joining together on a specific point of total opposition to the new Assembly. It does not behove either of them to criticise in that manner.

Mrs. McAliskey

When one is talking about conspiracies and getting together, there seems to be, starting with the remarks made by the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), a deliberate attempt to put across the idea that the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and I are in some kind of alliance. I, from what is called in this House the extreme Left, oppose the Executive; the hon. Member for Antrim, North opposes it from the extreme Right. We find ourselves sharing the same ground. Neither of us came to any agreement or sacrificed any principles or reneged on any promise given to our electors. That is the difference between the hon. Member for Belfast, West and Mr. Faulkner on the one hand and the hon. Member for Antrim, North and me on the other.

Mr. Orme

I see that my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster is sensitive when I make this point because she resents the fact that I am able to draw that parallel. What she said about her independence of the hon. Member for Antrim, North, although they may come together on specific points, applies equally to Mr. Faulkner and my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Does the hon. Gentleman really think it fair that because I happened to be in the Tea Room today—[Interruption.] This is where it all arose from; let the House not be under any misapprehension; it has developed because the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster and I agreed on certain things. If the hon. Lady disagrees with the Executive, she is entitled to say so. Hon. Members of this House representing extreme opposites have gone into a lobby together for a specific matter, but that is not to say that they joined together to form a Government. But Mr. Faulkner and the hon. Member for Belfast, West have joined together to form a Government. That is quite different.

I am not a bit sensitive. The hon. Gentleman may say what he likes and as much as he likes, but the people of Mid-Ulster and the people of Antrim, North know their Members. If the hon. Gentleman wants to say something which he thinks may damage in some way our reputations among our constituents of Mid-Ulster and Antrim, North, he can try it. I have submitted myself to my electorate. If they do not want what I believe in, so be it. It will be their choice. But it is not right for the hon. Gentleman to say that there is an alliance between myself and the hon. Lady in the same way as there is an alliance between Mr. Faulkner and the hon. Member for Belfast, West. I do not think he should try to imply that. Of course he can say we agree, and so we do. I have agreed with the hon. Member in a Committee about a matter concerning juries. No one suggested that I had entered into some sort of conspiracy.

Mr. Orme

I am sorry to detain the House, because I know there are some hon. Members who feel that the debate has gone on long enough. I hope they realise the seriousness of this situation and of the argument. We are talking about the reality of Northern Ireland, not the philosophy. We are dealing with the lives of people. I am not talking about cups of tea. I was sitting in an unholy alliance elsewhere earlier today having cups of tea. I am talking about what happened here this afternoon and what was said by the hon. Member for Antrim, North, the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster and the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone. They should not be so sensitive.

It is not right to impugn the motives of my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West and Mr. Faulkner. If people remain in this House long enough they will see some strange alliances come and go. I accept what the hon. Lady has said. I have found myself with the most odd people on occasions. I am glad that the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) is in his place because I think that he thinks the same thing. We have found ourselves in the same Lobby in the past because we came together on an idea which we believed, from our standpoint, was politically important.

I have tried to draw together the threads of the debate—a dangerous thing to do in a debate on Irish affairs. It was important to try to do so and to say that we welcome the new Executive. We give the orders a fair wind and wait to see their outcome. We welcome the proposals for a Council of Ireland. My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) outlined many points which the Minister who is to reply will no doubt bear in mind. I have listened to the forcible arguments expressed against the proposals for the Executive and the Council of Ireland. What I have not heard is what we could put in their place which could bridge the two communities in Northern Ireland. Until we hear this the Opposition will continue to support these current policies.

10.59 p.m.

The Minister of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. William van Straubenzee)

The hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) reminded us in his closing remarks that we were talking about flesh and blood, the very lives of people in Northern Ireland. Nevertheless it must be right, when the House is considering the Bill and the associated orders—two at least of which are most complex—that it should expect me to examine these measures closely and to answer the points made with as much information as possible.

I was asked by the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) about the salary of what I call the new Members of the Executive—that is, those who appear for the first time in the Bill. It is proposed that all the Members of the new Northern Ireland administration should receive the same salary, except the Chief Executive, who is in a different category. The salary will be provided for by means of an Order in Council, under Section 9 of the Constitution Act, which is not subject to a parliamentary procedure. In other words, there will not be, in financial terms, first and second class citizens among heads of department and others appointed by my right hon. Friend.

The hon. Gentleman was doubtful whether there was sufficient flexibility in the Bill. There is greater flexibility in the formula in the Bill than there was in the Constitution Act. I should have thought that the House, in any circumstance like this, would want to have control over the maximum figure and would not be prepared to give carte blanche in respect of the numbers of the Executive. That is why there is an upper figure.

The hon. Gentleman asked me for a list of the transferred functions. I will gladly consider whether there is a convenient way of giving this. But what we are talking about is listing all the functions of government other than those which are expressly kept back in one or other of the two schedules. The hon. Gentleman, with his long experience in government, will know that this is a formidable task and, by its nature, is never likely to be complete. Although I will look at the matter again, that is a reservation which I must make.

The hon. Gentleman reasonably asked whether a transferred matter could be clawed back by this House. If we are talking about the powers being devolved, the answer is "Not by this House". It could be clawed back if the Assembly passed a resolution to that effect, praying that that should happen, and if a draft Order in Council to that effect were laid before Parliament and approved. But it is not open to this House to claw back the powers being devolved.

The hon. Member for Leeds, South and my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) and others raised a legitimate point which they detected with their eagle eye, namely, the reason for a certain change in terminology between the word "Office" and the word "Department" as they appeared in earlier statements and the present one. When we looked at the matter more closely, we felt that it was the intention of Parliament, that the Offices, as they were previously referred to, should have been subject to the scrutiny of a consultative committee of the Assembly in precisely the same way as the Departments should be.

In order to conform with the requirements of the Constitution Act, the proposed language is necessary. That is the reason for use of the word "Department" rather than "Office". That is a change. I realise that the matter is not easy to follow when we are dealing with a chain of interlocked documents. It is necessary first to create two new Ministries. They will have a very short life—almost of minutes. They will then change into Departments by the subsequent order. It is not easy to explain simply, and I understand why my hon. Friend does not at first find it easy to follow, but that is the sequence of events, and I hope that he will find it helpful.

I was asked by the hon. Member for Leeds, South whether further legislation would be required in respect of Departments. He had in mind that some of the existing Northern Ireland Departments will have to have the boundaries of their functions redelineated. These matters, including in one case a change of name, which are necessary to give full effect to the agreement between the parties will be done by a transfer of functions order. That is not subject to parliamentary pro- cedure. Subject to the business today, I expect that order to be made by my right hon. Friend before long and certainly before 1st January. I will write to the hon. Gentleman about the detailed points he raised on the Documentary Evidence Act and similar matters.

My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) asked about the studies envisaged in what has come to be known as the communiqué from Sunningdale. The studies of the functions of the Council of Ireland will initially be started at official level between North and South with United Kingdom participation.

I am asked for a little more explanation of the position of the police authority. The White Paper stated that the police authority would be reconstituted to include elected representatives, and the district councils would form the basis of local committees with advisory responsibilities. On my right hon. Friend's behalf I have written to all those responsible, and I believe that the local committees will be important in providing closer association between locally elected people, and others, and the police. The police very much welcome this arrangement.

I do not want to raise the temperature of the debate at this late hour, but in dealing with certain matters raised by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) I am entitled to place quietly and firmly on the record that subsequent to the agreement between the parties the hon. Gentleman—as he will readily concede—received three letters from the former Secretary of State inviting the hon. Gentleman to see him about his wish to attend Sunningdale. Those were unconditional and open invitations. I am not criticising the hon. Gentleman for refusing to accept the first two, but eventually he came to see my right hon. Friend shortly after his appointment, when I was present. There were placed before him and Mr. Craig those unconditional invitations to come and discuss the matter.

I was sent by my right hon. Friend to Northern Ireland at the time of the Sunningdale talks, and I know from personal knowledge that a special plane was kept on stand-by until the morning of the conference. I personally supervised these arrangements. With the minimum of inconvenience and personal trouble, the hon. Gentleman and Mr. Craig could have been transported to Sunningdale, and back, in order that they might make their representations if they wished. When these accusations are made it is right and proper that the matter should be clearly put on the record.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Would the Minister not agree that the two letters—I invite him to print them in the OFFICIAL REPORT—did not invite Mr. Craig or myself to open-ended talks, but invited us to give our opinion on one matter—the Council of Ireland—and not the other matters in paragraph 112 of the White Paper? Will he not concede to the House that the letter asking us to go to the Sunningdale talks was delivered to the House of Commons at three o'clock? We replied immediately, and the letter was delivered at six o'clock to the Castle. Therefore, there was no need for a plane to be standing by next day, because our firm refusal to attend had already been notified. I have a copy of the letter. The Minister said we were invited to open-ended talks, but we were not. We were invited to express an opinion on only one matter, the Council of Ireland.

Mr. van Straubenzee

I adhere to my view that the hon. Gentleman was invited by the previous Secretary of State for the fullest discussions on matters which were under discussion. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the last letter, from the present Secretary of State, he will find it was not limited in this way. I am making the point that we—I hope, correctly—leaned over backwards so that if the hon. Gentleman and Mr. Craig changed their minds at the last moment we had arrangements to transport them in appropriate comfort and appropriate speed to the discussions.

I am anxious to make that point clear so that there can be no misunderstanding. I shall be perfectly content, and will have no complaint, if the hon. Gentleman decides to publish the letters. My immediate recollection, although off the cuff, is that the hon. Gentleman quoted from one of the letters in the Assembly. There can be no possible criticisms of him making public the terms of the letters. They were open letters.

Rev. Ian Paisley

On a point of clarification, is it not a fact that when we got the letter which was open-ended I came down and talked to the present Secretary of State? When he stated that the invitation was open-ended, I responded.

Mr. van Straubenzee

I should like to make clear that the hon. Gentleman did come the third time. It is on record that the hon. Gentleman decided not to accept the invitation to Sunningdale. I wish to make clear the great trouble that the Government took to make quite certain that two voices which they thought ought to be heard could be heard. The decision was the hon. Gentleman's. He will take the responsibility for that decision, but I am entitled to place clearly on the record the fact about the invitations.

The hon. Member for Salford, West was slightly critical that there had not been an immediate investigation or inquiry into the allegation by the hon. Member for Antrim, North that he was liable to be assassinated by British Intelligence forces. With every respect to the hon. Gentleman, if Ministers were to investigate every allegation made by the hon. Member for Antrim, North it would be necessary to set up another new Ministry for the purpose under this order.

To the best of my recollection—I have been able to check this only hurriedly—it is perfectly true that in the fairly recent past the hon. Gentleman said it was his belief that he was likely to be assassinated by British Intelligence forces. But I will have this matter checked, and I shall talk to the previous Secretary of State. I hope that I do not do any disrespect to any hon. Member when I say that most hon. Members would find it not an easy assertion to accept, but I take it seriously. To the best of my knowledge, but I must check this carefully, the hon. Gentleman gave no chapter and verse for this allegation. But the life of anyone in Northern Ireland is important and the life of a Member of the Assembly is very important. If he has hard evidence or, indeed, a secret suspicion which he thinks should be followed up, my right hon. Friend has asked me to say that he would be very receptive to—indeed, would positively invite—the placing before him of that evidence. Of course, without any question, any allegation which should be investigated will be followed up.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

This is a very serious point. Probably all of us—hon. Members from Northern Ireland far worse than the rest of us—get threatening letters against ourselves and our families on which we have to make a judgment. That is one thing: it is part of the game. But what we have had in this case is an assertion—no more than that—that the life of an hon. Member elected to this House is in danger from British Army Intelligence sources, I understand, which are under the control of a Secretary of State. That is a most serious allegation to make against the British Army, and there must be some means of investigating it. One hears about the SAS and bodies of that kind elsewhere which are all part of the same pattern. This matter cannot be dismissed: it is a slight against the reputation of the British Army. When an allegation is made that a Secretary of State's Department is threatening the life of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), it must be investigated: it is too serious to pass over.

Mr. van Straubenzee rose

Rev. Ian Paisley

The Minister of State has tonight treated this allegation almost with contempt, talking about setting up a new Department to investigate all the allegations that he says I make. I challenge him to tell me how many allegations I have ever listed to the Secretary of State. I gave the Secretary of State the facts as I knew them. He spoke as if I were trotting out some piffling little thing that was not worth accepting. I have made a solemn and very serious statement—I know the seriousness of the statement—and I have also put other facts forward. The Minister of State says that he is not even cognisant of the facts, that he must check them carefully before he makes a statement against what I have said. Surely he should check his facts, and then he should have the opportunity to answer.

Mr. van Straubenzee

I have said what I believe to be the truth. Careful record is always taken of official conversations with any Minister. I remember reading the note in question; I must check back—I have not had the opportunity to do so yet except in general terms. So that there may be no misunderstanding, I am certain that the first move is that the hon. Member should be so good now—I mean forthwith, upon his return—to furnish again—if he would prefer the word "again"—

Rev. Ian Paisley

You have the facts.

Mr. van Straubenzee

So that there may be no possible peradventure about this, let it be done immediately. It might help if I tell the hon. Gentleman that the Minister of State beside me leaves tomorrow morning to be the Minister on duty over the weekend. He would be absolutely receptive to having this evidence at once so that there may be no delay.

I hope that hon. Members will feel that that undertaking is given in good faith, that it gets the matter started. I hope that we can now proceed, because there are other matters with which I should deal.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Is it not strange that, after this matter had been given to the Secretary of State, not to the Minister of State, the Minister of State should say that I should come back and give the same information again. If he has the note that he spoke about he has sufficient to start his investigations. The Minister of State need not think that he can put me on some sort of grill and heat a fire under me. I know what I said and I will stand by what I said. But he has already got it, and it should have been investigated long ago. It is late in the day now to ask me to tell the story again and then to accuse me of making so many accusations that a new Department would be needed to deal with them all. Is it not a fact that, although he talks about the great co-operation he has had he wrote to the party I lead and told it that he would never meet it again until it took off the Order Paper a motion that was before the Assembly? Is it not a fact that he now finds himself before the Committee of Privileges in the Assembly? Then he talks about co-operation.

Mr. van Straubenzee

I think the House will draw its own conclusion from the smokescreen to which we have listened. So that the matter may be absolutely clear, let me repeat what I said. My hon. Friend the Minister of State will be on duty tomorrow. When dealing with allegations of a criminal offence, it is the duty of the hon. Member for Antrim, North to co-operate with the forces of law and order—and this will be done if we have the co-operation of the hon. Gentleman. I make no comment on any other matters because they are sub judice and because it would be improper for me to make any comment on them.

If I may continue—and I am drawing my remarks to a close—I should like to answer two points in the moving speech made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr). Although I have no doubt he made his comments in good faith, I am afraid that unintentionally he misled the House in suggesting that one of the orders abolished the Ministry of Home Affairs, which it does, but that in future the functions controlled by that Ministry were to be handed back. I say to my hon. Friend, with respect, that this is not so.

I happen, under my right hon. Friend's direction, to be concerned with this Ministry. Much the greater part of it, though not all, will transfer to the Northern Ireland Office. It will involve the same personnel. We have the happiest working relationships. The staff who will carry out the functions reserved to the Secretary of State will undertake this work. We intend that the existing administrative arrangements—for example, the way in which people are appointed, carry out their duties and are paid and managed—should so far as possible be undisturbed. I say this because, assuming that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister so decides, it will be my continuing duty after 1st January to work with them. I want nobody to have any false impression about what is happening as a result of the distribution of functions.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South asked why we needed so many members on the Executive and made a kind of reference to existing Ministers. I will give him two reasons. The first is that I do not think it will be fair in future to expect Ministers to work and live at the sort of pressure that has obtained since direct rule. One of us looks after two Ministries, another looks after three Ministries and the others look after one Ministry apiece.

May I say in passing that much of the splendid economic growth in the period since direct rule owes much to the wisdom of my colleague the Minister of State. But with all our efforts we have not been able to do as much as we would like. On the health side, I am conscious that I have not visited as many hospitals as I would have liked to visit—though I have been to nearly all. I am conscious that I have not visited enough old people's homes. My designated successor will do this very much better. Furthermore, those who look after the Office of Manpower Planning will be able to get around to see all sorts of things, such as community relations. These are the reasons why men and women from Northern Ireland should be undertaking this task. We have done it willingly, and willingly we are working ourselves out of our jobs. But let no one suggest, however kindly the tributes from the House, that this is the sort of locally-based administration in these matters which Northern Ireland deserves.

As we pass, shortly, from direct rule, I pay this tribute. There is a body of men and women who seem to be the unsung heroes of direct rule. They are the members of the Northern Ireland Civil Service. Sometimes I wonder whether this House realises the traumatic experience that direct rule imposed upon them. Speaking for myself and for all my ministerial colleagues, I say that every one of us has had unstinting support and loyalty from them all. On personal terms, we shall part from them with real regrets and sadness.

I mentioned the deeply sincere speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South. I make two points in answer to him. I know that I carry him with me totally in my first. In relation to those who think like him in the Opposition in Northern Ireland—and I specify carefully "those who think like him"—I hope and believe that he and they will be firm in their belief and loud in their proclamation of their belief that their opposition should be of a strictly parliamentary nature. We know that my hon. and gallant Friend says that unreservedly. But his example in this on the other side of the water will be very powerful.

My second point is to remind my hon. and gallant Friend that, in a limited way, I too have roots deep in Unionism in Northern Ireland. It is more than 20 years since, as Young Conservative chairman, I went to my first set of meetings. Bill Craig was a Young Unionist. I have marched in certain cities. I have been to endless meetings. Over 20 years I have kept up my links. But, increasingly over the years, I came to feel that the one-party State there had within it the seeds of its own destruction.

I say to my hon. and gallant Friend, with the same sincerity though not with the same skill, that one of the most formative and interesting experiences of my life has been to sit behind the former Secretary of State with my hon. Friend the Minister of State at nearly every session of the inter-party talks and to see developing over the weeks the changes in men's attitudes as they came to appreciate one another's points of view. Here were men with a positive approach. Against the background of the horror

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read a Second time.

Bill committeed to a Committee of the whole House. [Mr. Weatherill.]

Bill immediately considered in Committee; reported, without amendment.

Motion made, and Question, That the Bill be now read the Third time, put fothwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 56 (Third Reading), and agreed to.

of Northern Ireland's life, they had a positive approach.

As a result, I believe that they have forged together what may well be, as Mr. Faulkner was the first publicly to recognise, a stronger form of government for Northern Ireland than ever existed before. Having something of this background, all that I ask of my hon. and gallant Friend is that he will appreciate in others the same belief and sincerity as we accord him.

No one knows what the future holds. But I know that in the structures of which we are seeing the completion in the Bill and the orders before us today lie real hope for a better, a prosperous and a peaceful Northern Ireland.

Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second Time:—

The House divided: Ayes 79, Noes 6.

Division No. 22.] AYES [11.30 p.m.
Atkins, Humphrey Hawkins, Paul Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby)
Austick, David Hicks, Robert Parkinson, Cecil
Benyon, W. Hornby, Richard Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis
Berry, Hn. Anthony Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)
Biggs-Davison, John Howell, David (Guildford) Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)
Boscawen, Hn. Robert Hunt, John Rees-Davies, W. R.
Bray, Ronald Hutchison, Michael Clark Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Chapman, Sydney Iremonger, T. L. Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) James, David Russell, Sir Ronald
Clegg, Walter Kerr, Russell Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Cohen, Stanley Kinsey, J. R. Shelton, William (Clapham)
Concannon, J. D. Langford-Holt, Sir John Speed, Keith
Cormack, Patrick Le Marchant, Spencer Stanbrook, Ivor
Drayson, G. B. Longden, Sir Gilbert Steel, David
Dykes, Hugh McMaster, Stanley Tebbit, Norman
Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir John Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Maurice (Farnham) Thomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff, W.)
Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) McNair-Wilson, Michael Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)
English, Michael McNamara, J. Kevin Tilney, Sir John
Eyre, Reginald Madel, David van Straubenzee, W. R.
Fitt, Gerard (Belfast, W.) Mather, Carol Vaughan, Dr. Gerard
Fowler, Norman Mills, Peter (Torrington) Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Fox, Marcus Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.) Weatherill, Bernard
Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C) Monro, Hector White, Roger (Gravesend)
Green, Alan Montgomery, Fergus
Gummer, J. Selwyn Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Gurden, Harold Normanton, Tom Mr. Michael Jobling and
Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Oakes, Gordon Mr. Hamish Gray.
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Orme, Stanley
McAllskey, Mrs. Bernadette Orr, Capt. L. P. S. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
McManus, Frank Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch Mr. John E. Maginnis and
Molyneaux, James Wellbeloved, James Rev. Ian Paisley.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.