HC Deb 03 July 1973 vol 859 cc261-335
Mr. Speaker

We are to discuss first Amendment No. 1, with which it will be convenient to discuss also the following Amendments:

No. 2, in page 1, line 15, at end insert: 'A poll shall not be held until after a resolution passed by a two thirds majority of the Northern Ireland Assembly requiring such a poll'. No. 26, in page 31, line 1, leave out Schedule 1.

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

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will it be possible to have a separate Division on Amendment No. 2 in the event of Amendment No. 1 being defeated? They raise slightly different points, and it was intimated in Committee that we might have separate Divisions in that case.

Mr. Speaker

Provided that they are debated together, I will agree to separate Divisions.

3.50 p.m.

Mr. Merlyn Rees (Leeds, South)

I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 13, leave out from 'Ireland' to end of line 15.

The House will recall, perhaps even without the benefit of the normal HANSARD, that we discussed an amendment on 14th June which I could not withdraw because, technically, it had not been moved, and which was exactly the same as that which I have just moved. The Secretary of State informed us that he required time to find out and test the reactions of parties and others in Northern Ireland to the sense of the amendment. He quite rightly made the point that we could return to the amendment at a later stage. The hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) withdrew his amendment and we did not persist with ours. We are, therefore. debating the same subject today.

As I made clear on 14th June, our amendment was concerned with the machinery of testing the consent of the community in Northern Ireland as to its status with regard to the United Kingdom and Her Majesty's dominions. We were concerned with the wider aspects of the clause, and for that reason perhaps I may be allowed to put the matter in perspective. The major part of this clause is concerned with status.

Perhaps I could remind the House of its wording. Clause 1, with which our amendment deals, says: It is hereby declared that Northern Ireland remains part of Her Majesty's dominions and of the United Kingdom, and it is hereby affirmed that in no event will Northern Ireland or any part of it cease to be part of Her Majesty's dominions and of the United Kingdom without the consent of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland voting in a poll held for the purposes of this section in accordance with Schedule 1 to this Act. This issue of status matters to us in the United Kingdom as much as it matters to the people of the Province of Northern Ireland. The status of the people of Northern Ireland is not something for them alone; it is a matter for us too.

I have made clear on many occasions that the view of the Labour Party on this question of status is that Northern Ireland just cannot be put into the South of Ireland without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland. It cannot be done, and it does not need part of a clause to say it. It is a fact of life. That is something which we believe implicitly.

In any event the South could not cope with 1 million reluctant Protestants in the community. The Prime Minister of the South talks about consent, as do the Opposition leaders of the political parties in the North such as the Social Democratic and Labour Party.

I have also pointed out the other side of the medal, which is paragraph 112 of the White Paper, which many people regard as the profound change that came about as a result of direct rule; namely, the all-Ireland dimension. The people of Northern Ireland have just voted and are engaged with their leaders in deciding how they will carry out the intentions of the Act of Parliament and the White Paper.

It is important that we make clear what it is that the Government put to the people of Ireland in the White Paper. Paragraph 112 said: True progress in these matters"— that is, with regard to North and South— can only be achieved by consent. Accordingly, following 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 opinion to participate with them in a conference to discuss how the three objectives set out in the Paper for Discussion may best be achieved, that is: (a) the acceptance of the present status of Northern Ireland, and of the possibility—which will have to be compatible with the principle of consent—of subsequent change in that status; It was this paragraph 112 that we regarded as the major change arising from the White Paper. It is paragraph 112 which matters. It is a pragmatic approach which says that the people of Northern Ireland are to work together in an All-Ireland Council on all sorts of matters, from tourism to security, I hope.

That will develop only if the consent of the majority of the people of the North can be obtained. This was the approach that mattered in the White Paper, and it is the approach that matters in Clause 1. This is the way that North and South will work together.

It was for this reason that I said to some of my hon. Friends who had doubts about the pledge concerning the link with the United Kingdom that they should leave that alone. I argued that the White Paper was a compact between the people of Northern Ireland and ourselves. I said that we hoped that it would not fail, that we had not gone through the last 15 months in a curious parliamentary style of supporting the Government more often than not because we believed in their approach or nothing. I pointed out that if this failed we would have to think again but we hoped it would not fail. If it did all of the constitutional Bill would be at risk.

This was the background to the plebiscite dealt with at the end of the clause, concerning the status of Northern Ireland. We on the Labour side are not against a plebiscite in principle but to hog-tie the future in 10 years plus to a particular method of ascertaining the consent of the people of the North would in our view be foolish. I reminded the House of the occasion at the time of direct rule when the Prime Minister, speaking from the Dispatch Box, said: This Government, and their predecessors, have given solemn and repeated assurances that the position of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom will not be changed without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland. We have decided that it would be appropriate to arrange for the views of the people of Northern Ireland to be made known on this question from time to time. We therefore propose in due course to invite Parliament to provide for a system of regular plebiscites in Northern Ireland about the Border, the first to be held as soon as practicable in the near future and others at intervals of a substantial period of years thereafter."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th March 1972; Vol. 833, c. 1862.] I pointed out that one of the things that the Prime Minister went on to say was that those plebiscites would be in addition to, and not in substitution for, the provisions in the Ireland Act 1949 which require the consent of the Northern Ireland Parliament to any change in the border. The Prime Minister said that the position was not prejudiced by the temporary prorogation of that Parliament.

What I argued then was not that the Prime Minister was misleading the House. On the contrary, on that occasion the Prime Minister was arguing and acting on the assumption that the Parliament of Northern Ireland was only temporarily prorogued. Only 15 months ago that was the case. It is not the case now. My argument is based on only one point: we do not know what the circumstances are going to be in 10 years' time. The Prime Minister 15 months ago made an assumption, a temporary prognostication, and he was wrong. The chances in Ireland, let alone in any other constitution-building, let alone in any other part of the world, are that anybody who attempts to prognosticate about circumstances in 10 years' time is more likely to be wrong than right.

4.0 p.m.

We are saying to the Government "Do not move so far ahead". By all means, speak to the people of Northern Ireland of consent but on the machinery aspect one should not commit one's self in this way. We are not against the plebiscite in principle but this runs counter to the genius for flexibility that we have in this country in constitution-building over the years. Just as the majority for union has not convinced the minority in the North as a result of the border poll—and it has not—so the future majority for union, if there were one, would certainly not convince the minority that a union was necessary.

In my view, it is not possible, and I choose my words carefully, that if in 1984, unless something had happened in connection with paragraph 112 of the White Paper, there were a majority of the people in that province who wanted unification, there would be a substantial minority who would not go into the South. To imagine that the status of the North could be changed, as we see things now, by a plebiscite is to mislead the people of the North. I want to say to the Protestants of the North as I have said it so often on this side of the House that the plain fact is that they cannot be moved into the South without their consent; and consent is not going to be measured by a simple arithmetical process. Consent is going to arise as a result of paragraph 112, if it works, all working together day by day, through drainage, tourism and heaven knows what; and there is a lot of convincing of the people of the North to be done, given the facts of history and given the facts of the last four years.

We on this side of the House believe that to talk in this way at this time about a plebiscite in association with Schedule 2 is a grave mistake. We say to the Government "Leave this bit out." I know that there are good friends of mine in Northern Ireland who want a plebiscite. Frankly, I believe they are wrong. There comes a time when we in Great Britain must be counted, and this is such a time. Nobody is being sold down the river at this point. Indeed, what we are giving is an assurance of assurances to the Protestants. What we are saying is that it cannot be done by plebiscite unless something changes. We are saying to them that when one starts to say a plebiscite is the way of doing it, one is making the assumption that it will happen. It is this kind of reassurance they want.

If the White Paper approach fails because leaders of parties in the Six Counties, as a result of the elections and anything that happened subsequently, are not prepared to work it—and again I choose my words carefully—so be it. We in this part of these islands have never managed to run Ireland very well, from the days of Henry II onwards, and it would not be the first time that we had failed. But the Government, with the support of the Opposition since March of last year, have genuinely made a new approach, a genuine approach. That is contrary to the normal partisan methods of British politics when even down to the drains of Northampton we in this House see fit to divide.

On this we have supported the Government. It is a matter for us ultimately if that happens and so it is with this plebiscite. It is not for us, in the face of history, to support even our friends with this possibility if we believe it to be wrong. It runs contrary to paragraph 112 of the White Paper. The North can never be pushed into the South, even by an adding up of votes, with a majority appearing, unless it were very substantial. I would advise my hon. Friends, on the basis of our approach over the last 15 months to the Government, that on this occasion we should vote against the Government. It adds up to a good deal more than machinery. The whole approach of the White Paper, particularly with regard to relations between the North and the South, is pragmatic, and this is the right approach. The plebiscite approach goes against that, and I advise my hon. Friends to vote against it.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. William Whitelaw)

The hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) has made his case again in much the same terms as he did on the Committee stage. On that occasion I said that having heard the arguments we were prepared to consider again whether this was the right approach.

In view of the somewhat difficult nature of achieving our papers at the present time perhaps I may read exactly what I said: In view of the views expressed I would suggest that I should be allowed to consider them and to test reaction in Northern Ireland to the idea that, while preserving the possibility of having this method in future, we should not write it into the Bill. Then I went on to say: But I must warn the Committee that if I find that we"— the Government— are pledged, if I find that people feel very strongly and that there is a very strong body of opinion that wishes to continue with the poll, I might then have to come back to the House during a later stage of the Bill to say that I believed it was right to hate this method. Accordingly, after the debate I consulted widely in Northern Ireland on two points: whether there were those who wished to have a plebiscite written into the Bill and equally—and I must say I regard this as of the highest importance—whether they regarded the Government as pledged to this provision.

I found on the first point, as the hon. Gentleman recognised when he said that some of his friends in Northern Ireland wanted the plebiscite, that there was a considerable body of opinion which believed that a provision for a plebiscite should be written into the Bill as it stands at the present time.

I also found a very strong body of opinion, expressed forcibly to me, that considered that the Government were pledged to this provision by my right hon. Friend's statement at the time of the institution of direct rule.

On the first point I must make the simple proposition to the hon. Gentleman again that, while I agree that one cannot prognosticate for 10 years ahead in Northern Ireland, and one would be a very stupid person if one tried to do so, I do at the same time maintain that this provision does not say that at the end of 10 years there has to be a poll. It does not make any such provision at all. It simply says there may be a poll if that is the wish of the people at that time, and if this House decides at that time, as a result of all relevant circumstances that a poll is desirable; that is all that is said.

Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, when he is referring to the "wish of the people at that time" he is referring to the people of Northern Ireland represented in the Assembly, if the Assembly is still in existence, or is referring to this Parliament as representing the people of the United Kingdom?

Mr. Whitelaw

Perhaps I may come a little later to that point, which the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) very properly puts, and which arises on the amendment of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr).

Mr. Merlyn Rees

The Secretary of State is properly referring to the further machinery in the schedule, but is not what is being said that there can be no change, whatever the timing, without a plebiscite, whenever it might be? That was the point I was making.

Mr. Whitelaw

If one has to decide—and it is something one would have to decide—one of the factors that is in the whole basis of status to which the hon. Gentleman refers is that the status of Northern Ireland cannot be changed without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland. There must be a way of determining their views. I maintain again that a poll is certainly a proper way of deciding what their views are.

I turn to the question of the pledge, which I regard as being of the highest importance. I have been accused many times during the past year of going back on some word of the Government. I do not accept many of the criticisms. Frequently I have been accused of going back on something and then when I have kept the Government's word everybody has forgotten that I have kept it, having previously accused me of going back on it. But that is how I have to live, and I do not mind.

Many people very much wanted the border poll in the first instance. Some of them now do not want a further plebiscite written into the Bill. There is nothing particularly inconsistent in that. It may be that in 10 years' time those same people will again want just that sort of poll, and, therefore, there is an element of sense in providing for it in the Bill.

Above everything else, I was accused of going back on the Government's word about a border poll. I did not. The House passed a measure, and we had a border poll. Now I find that people say that if the Government and the House do not write the provision into the Bill they will be going back on the word of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. I am not prepared to do that, because I believe that it is destructive of confidence at a time when confidence is very important. I made it clear to the House that if I found such a body of opinion should have to stick to the Bill as it stood.

I hope that hon. Members will feel that in agreeing to test reaction, after hearing the arguments in Committee, I have carried out my commitment to the House. I have previously made clear what would be our position if, having found that we were pledged and that people felt we were pledged, which was perhaps even more important, I had to say that I was standing firm. The hon. Member for Leeds, South said that the opportunity would exist for the House to vote against the provision. Even if he and his right hon. and hon. Friends decide to do so, that in no way changes the status as set out in the clause. I regard that as very important, and I know that he does.

I turn to the amendment of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South and the point made by the hon. Member for Antrim, North about whether the poll should be held only after a two-thirds majority had passed it in the Assembly. There are two objections to that amendment. First, it is clear in the Bill that we are preserving for this Parliament matters of elections. I believe that to be right. Secondly, if such a proposal were written into the Bill, I believe that a great deal of time in the Assembly could he devoted to protracted arguments on the border issue at a time when other and more profitable arguments could be pursued. As the time came up, the danger of such a provision would be that the Assembly would be permanently arguing about the border issue. That would be wrong, and it is what the House deliberately seeks to avoid. The Assembly would tend to do exactly what we seek to get away from.

It would equally be absurd to imagine—here I come to what the hon. Member for Antrim, North says—that in deciding whether there should be a poll under the Bill the House would not take the views of people in Northern Ireland, that it would not hear the views of the Executive and the Assembly and take a general indication of whether a poll was generally wanted.

4.15 p.m.

In common sense, if we can look forward to something 10 years ahead, with provision for a poll but no compulsion to have it, there would have to be convincing evidence before everyone set out to have one. It would be necessary to be clear that it was widely wanted before the House would be prepared to have it. I do not think that representatives of the various views in Northern Ireland would be particularly keen to have such a plebiscite unless there had been a demonstrable change of view in the 10-year period. Neither side would be likely to want it at that stage. Therefore, as one does not have to have a poll and the House would consider carefully before deciding that one was necessary, I believe that it is a sensible way of proceeding.

The Bill also makes it clear that no such poll could be held for 10 years. That gives a period when the position is clear and cannot be changed. If thereafter it is found that a poll is widely desired, it is possible to have one, but there is no compulsion.

I believe that the Bill as it stands is the right way to proceed. It removes uncertainty for the 10 years; it provides for a poll if one is then widely wanted and if the House decides to have one; but it does not mean that a poll must be held then. It preserves to the House the decision. I believe that that is right, because it would not be in the best interests of the Assembly to become involved in argument on the matter. At the same time, the views of all concerned would naturally have to be taken into account, and would be, before any such poll was ordered.

On that basis, I must ask the House to reject the hon. Gentleman's amendment. In saying that, I want to make it clear that there is nothing between us on the basis of the clause and status. Our difference is on the machinery and how the provision is carried out, how one discovers the consent. My argument is, first, that I have found many people in Northern Ireland who want the provision in its present form and, secondly. that they believe the Government are pledged to it. On those two grounds. I must stand by the Bill as it is, as I said in Committee.

Captain Orr

The House is in a very curious position, because we are proceeding with the final stages of a Bill setting out a constitution of which a major part is an Assembly, and yet not only has that Assembly already been provided by legislation but its members have been elected.

When considering the later stages of the Bill, it is important that we should put out of our minds the election which has taken place. If we are doing anything at all that is sensible, we are providing a constitution based upon certain principles which may be right or wrong, and we should argue it on that basis rather than on the basis of something that has happened. We must not only provide for the Assembly in the light of the election which has just taken place; we are providing for it in the light of any future elections to it which may take place, provided Part II of the Bill is ever brought into operation.

In Committee, as the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) said, I tabled an amendment which was very nearly the same as his, in which we argued the case against holding a poll. I remain convinced that writing a poll into the Bill as a permanent method of testing for the foreseeable future whether the consent of the people of Northern Ireland can be obtained to their ceasing to be part of the United Kingdom is nonsense.

In arguing against my Amendment No. 2, my right hon. Friend found himself—as I think even he will concede—in considerable difficulty. The reason is that the requirement for periodic plebiscites to be attached to the pledge in the Bill is fundamentally indefensible, for the reasons advanced by the hon. Member for Leeds, South when speaking for the Opposition on the subject of consent. How do we determine the consent of a people? How do we determine through a plebiscite whether the people of Northern Ireland shall cease to be part of the United Kingdom? Does a majority of one mean that they cease to be part of the United Kingdom?

The hon. Member for Leeds, South properly pointed to the fact that even if, as a result of a plebiscite, there were a small majority in favour of Northern Ireland's leaving the United Kingdom, and even if there were a small majority in favour of Northern Ireland's joining the Irish Republic, there would still be the problem of a substantial minority over whose dead bodies that would happen.

I pray in aid here a remarkable speech made yesterday by the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic. Although there are a number of things with which I and some of my hon. Friends naturally disagree—for instance, the implication that the Royal Ulster Constabulary is not an impartial police force, and things of that sort—none the less, it was a remarkable speech.

There are one or two things which it is important for the House to note. Speaking of a united Ireland, the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic said: To carry through such a settlement, even if it were possible, would be to double the problem at a stroke"— a happy phrase— since the majority in Northern Ireland would overnight become a disgruntled minority in a new Ireland. We have no wish to see the tragedy and division of Northern Ireland re-enacted on a magnified scale in the island as a whole. Those are wise and realistic words, and in considering the future of Northern Ireland and the clause the House ought to be aware of them.

The Prime Minister of the Irish Republic said another important thing that is relevant to the clause. It has been suggested by some people—the hon. Member for Leeds, South might not wish to be thought to have gone as far as this—that the settlement in the Bill is the last chance for Ulster and that if it does not succeed we shall have to think again. No one would disagree with that as a proposition, but the implication is that if the provisions of the constitution, so called, do not work there will have to be a rethink of the constitutional status of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Captain Orr

The applause of hon. Gentlemen opposite reinforces the belief that that view is held. I am glad to say that it is not a view held by the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic, because he said that it would be " a prescription for civil war." He went on to say: The prospect of such a civil war … would be equally abhorrent to and perhaps equally dangerous to Britain and, indeed, to Western Europe as a whole. Those again are wise and realistic words.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

These are important times, and there are all sorts of semantic arguments about what is meant by "withdrawal". I am sneaking for all my right hon. and hon. Friends when I say that anyone who argues that, in a fit of pique, we should pull out of Northern Ireland and sit back and watch our television sets at night and see the bloodshed that would be spilled by the two sides is adopting the wrong approach, and I ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman not to put that sort of argument into the mouths of my hon. Friends.

Captain Orr

I am very much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I should not wish to put words into his mouth. I know that he is a responsible person and would not wish that to come about, but there are implications in saying to the people of Ulster that if they cannot work this constitution, if they find that it is impossible to reach the kind of agreement that would permit the Executive to be set up and Part II of the Bill to come into operation, we shall have to rethink the matter.

Quite plainly the implication is, is it not, that we shall have to rethink the position of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom? In other words, the pledge that is embodied in the clause that is being debated is not worth tuppence. That is what people are saying.

Mr. Whitelaw

It is extremely important to interrupt my hon. and gallant Friend. I hope that none of the imputations which he is making can in any way be levelled against the Government. That kind of thing has never been said by me on behalf of the Government, or by any other member of the Government.

Captain Orr

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his intervention. I should not impute such thinking to him. I fully endorse what he said. I accept absolutely the pledge given by Her Majesty's Government that Northern Ireland shall not cease to be part of the United Kingdom without the consent of her people, and I am pleased that my right hon. Friend has once more put that on the record because it is of vital importance to confidence in Northern Ireland. All I am saying to hon. Gentlemen opposite is that some of the things they are saying carry that implication and it creates damage and harm.

Mr. James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)

The hon. and gallant Gentleman ought to be clear about this. If the British Government—any British Government; the present one or the future British Government—were to test the opinion of the British people on whether there should be a constitutional change in the relationship between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom, there would be an overwhelming response by the British people that there ought to be a change.

That does not mean, however, that the British people would support Northern Ireland's being forced into the Republic. But it does mean that they would demand that Northern Ireland should be declared independent of the United Kingdom and that a date should be set for the withdrawal of British troops. Let there be no mistake about it. If there were a test of opinion, that would be the answer.

Captain Orr

The hon. Gentleman has confirmed what I was saying. Every word that he says is meat, drink and ammunition to the practitioners of violence. Every word that he says encourages the Provisional IRA to go on battling. Every word that he says encourages the practitioners of violence on the other side to arouse fears and to say that they must arm themselves in case the hon. Gentleman ever becomes a member of the Government.

Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)

The hon. and gallant Gentleman should be careful. He used a term which seemed to take in all hon. Members on this side of the House. I, for my part, completely repudiate the assertion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Cray-ford (Mr. Wellbeloved).

4.30 p.m.

Captain Orr

Fair enough. I accept precisely what the hon. Member said. When I was referring to hon. Members opposite I meant to include only some hon. Members. There are many members of the Labour Party who behave in this matter like the hon. Member for Leeds, South—in a responsible manner. They believe that when their leaders underwrite the pledge that the status of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom shall not be changed without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland this is the case. I accept that they are sincere. But there is wild and dangerous talk from people like the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved). Such talk is dangerous to the position of our troops in Ulster, and it is highly dangerous in every way.

I maintain that the House of Commons cannot have it both ways. The House is saying to the people of Ulster that the pledge stands irrespective of the few wild voices. That pledge from this House is that the constitutional status of the Province will not be altered without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland. But the House cannot then say to the people of Northern Ireland that they must work an unworkable constitution or it will change its mind.

Mr. Rees

The timing of debate is sometimes fortuitous. This is a difficult week. All of us in this House have attempted to play some part in events. However, we must get clear the issue of walking out on bloodshed. I have attempted to put the matter in temperate words. However, there is another approach—the White Paper approach. I make an appeal to the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr), who carries weight in Northern Ireland, and to other of his hon. Friends. The Bill is not yet through Parliament, and to talk about it being unworkable is as irresponsible as the remarks of which the hon. and gallant Gentleman complains.

Captain Orr

I do not believe that it is irresponsible to talk about the Bill being unworkable. It is to be as realistic as was the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic when he was speaking about Irish union. We are trying to instil in this House some degree of reality over the Ulster situation about what is and what is not possible. I do not want to stray beyond Clause 1. I do not want to be drawn again into what might be called the "unworkability" argument. We discussed that at great length in Committee. I do not want to prejudice the work of the Assembly, and if my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State can make this constitution work I say more power to him.

If he can make it work, if it is possible to erect an Executive which will command a majority in the Assembly and which will carry out all the requirements of consent laid down in Clause 2, no one will be more delighted than I. I simply say that I do not believe it is possible.

Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West)

Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman answer one simple question to which we should all like to know the answer? He made various assumptions about Members on the Labour side of the House, but if there were only two possibilities—either to be ruled as this House wishes as part of the United Kingdom, or not to be part of the United Kingdom—will he say which he would prefer?

Captain Orr

I have no doubt whatever. That is an easy question to answer. We are part of the United Kingdom. We shall be ruled in accordance with the law passed by this House, not by vague wishes expressed in debate. I made it plain in Committee that the position of the Ulster people is that we will obey the law. We will provide people to be elected to the Assembly, but there is nothing in the law which the House is now proposing to pass which says that we must agree with this or that. All it says is that the Secretary of State will not devolve power unless we agree. It is not a part of the law that we must enter into coalitions. It may be the vague corporate will of this House, but it is not the law.

Mr. Rees

The hon. and gallant Gentleman has said many times that he is a good member of the United Kingdom. He disagrees with what the Government and the Opposition have suported. Will he as a member of the United Kingdom try to work the Bill?

Captain Orr

I shall try in so far as it is conceivably possible to obey the law. I will advise my friends to act within the framework of the law laid down by the United Kingdom. I have already advised people that they should not in any circumstances take any unconstitutional or unlawful action which would mean that the Assembly would not work.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Do these comments not come very strange from the lips of the Opposition spokesman when his party, with the support of the trade unions, is trying to kill an Act of this House—the Industrial Relations Act? They are quite entitled to do that. I am just as entitled to campaign against this Bill to see that it is changed.

Mr. Rees

If people are prepared to work against it, that is one thing. As yet, however, I have not seen Mr. Vic Feather talking about guns and bullets, which is an important distinction.

Rev. Ian Paisley

I have not been talking about guns and bullets either.

Captain Orr

May I intervene in the exchanges taking place in the middle of my speech? The point about the Industrial Relations Act was very properly made by a Labour Member during the Committee stage. Of course, a Bill passed by the Sovereign Parliament of the United Kingdom becomes the law, but if it proves to be unworkable no one can make it work. We can go back to the Parliament of the United Kingdom when it becomes plain that the law requires to be changed.

Mr. James Kilfedder (Down, North)

Will my hon. and gallant Friend agree that if this power is to reside in this House we should have proper representation in this House so that the people of Northern Ireland can exercise their democratic rights? If they are to respect this House they should have full representation here.

Captain Orr

I am delighted to have given way to my hon. Friend because it gives me an opportunity to convey the congratulations of the House to him on his tremendous ability to operate the STV system and to be returned with so large a majority in County Down. We are glad to see him a member of the Assembly.

The point that my hon. Friend makes is correct. We argued about it at great length in Committee and it would be out of order to argue again that Northern Ireland is under-represented in this House. We talk about obeying the law passed by this House, but it is a House in which Northern Ireland is underrepresented. It is incumbent upon everyone in Northern Ireland to operate within the framework of the law as passed by this House, however. I would not support anybody who operated outside the law, and I would not advise anybody to operate outside the law.

The law, however, cannot command agreement between people. It never can command that people will form coalitions, and it is no part of the law as will be passed by this House that those coalitions will or will not take place. If the coalitions are not formed and if it proves impossible to form an Executive, the House will have to think again. The only point which I am making is that the House will have to think again not about the constitutional status of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom—that has been pledged by both parties and has been reaffirmed by both parties today—but about how Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom shall be governed. That is what we are talking about.

I happen to believe—I am at one with the hon. Member for Leeds, South on this matter—that to write the requirement for a poll into the Bill is a mistake. That is not the only way in which consent can be determined. I prefer consent to be determined through representative authority. I preferred the pledge in its old form—namely, that the status would not be altered without the consent of the Parliament of Northern Ireland. The pledge was better in that form even though it was, as we argued, weak in itself.

If we must have the constitutional declaration in the Bill, as was ultimately decided in Committee, let us not determine how that consent shall be arrived at for all time. It is a pity to do so. My right hon. Friend told us in Committee that he would see whether there is a body of opinion which favoured the Bill. He is perfectly right. There is a body of opinion which favours the Bill. He said that he would determine whether he was pledged. I am not convinced that the words which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister used were a pledge. There was a pledge that there might be periodic plebiscites but there was no pledge that the consent of the people of Northern Ireland would be determined by a referendum written into a Bill and embodied in the constitution.

None the less, my right hon. Friend is an honourable man and always has been. He considers himself pledged, and I am prepared to accept that. But that does not alter our view about writing the poll into legislation. That is not necessarily a good thing. I hope, therefore, that when I advise my hon. Friends to vote against the Bill my right hon. Friend will not think that I am inviting him to alter his word in any way. I accept it as proper that he will oppose me.

If Amendment No. 1 is defeated Amendment No. 2 becomes important. I am entirely unconvinced by the argument used by my right hon. Friend that it would bring the border back into the Assembly. If anyone imagines that the border will ever be out of the Assembly, he is living in cloud-cuckoo-land. The border will always dominate the Assembly. The border will be discussed in the Assembly every 10 years.

My right hon. Friend has already conceded the fact that it would be unthinkable to hold a border poll without discussing it with the Northern Ireland Executive or with the people in Northern Ireland. In that case, how on earth could it be kept out of the Assembly? That seems a wholly unconvincing argument.

Should the amendment be rejected I shall advise my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote for Amendment No. 2. I hope that the necessity will not arise. By far the best position for the House to take up is that the status of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom is unalterable for the foreseeable future. A change of opinion in Ulster might change the position, but we should base all our legislation and thinking upon the fact that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and will remain so. Any other way is total disaster.

4.45 p.m.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell (Southampton, Itchen)

The hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) rightly said that if a law proves to be unworkable it is right to come back to this House and change the law. I think he was referring to the Bill which we are now discussing. He was saying that if the provisions of the Bill prove to be unworkable we can come back here in six months' time and amend or alter the Bill. What he does not seem to understand is that Clause I is no more legal than Clauses 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, or any of the other clauses.

Captain Orr

If the hon. Gentleman will be good enough to look at a speech which I made in Committee on this matter he will see that I do not particularly care for declaratory sections of Acts of Parliament. I do not regard them as law anyway.

Mr. Mitchell

I shall support Amendment No. 1 even though I think it is a pussyfooting amendment. I should have preferred an amendment to delete the whole of Clause The clause represents to the people of Northern Ireland something which cannot be represented to them and which has little meaning because the Bill, or any pledge given by the Secretary of State or by the Opposition Front Bench, cannot bind a future Parliament.

While I accept entirely that it is the people of Northern Ireland alone who can decide whether they wish to join with the South, it is the people of the United Kingdom—namely Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales—who have to make the decision whether Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom. That cannot in logic be left entirely to the people of Northern Ireland.

Parliament at a future date will have to decide whether Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom. I shall vote on that as will Government hon. Members or hon. Members from Northern Ireland. It may be that at this moment or within a few months the majority of hon. Members would accept the fact that Northern Ireland should remain part of the United Kingdom. But there could come a time—and I can assure the House that feeling in the country is getting stronger about this every day—when the House will decide that it no longer wants Northern Ireland to be part of the United Kingdom.

If that position were reached the House could then pass a Bill which would deprive Northern Ireland of its status as part of the United Kingdom and deprive it of the aid which we are now pouring into it. I am not saying that that is something which will be done immediately. I am not saying that that is something which may be done in the next few years. All I am saying is that it might be done.

It is absurd to have a clause which pretends to bind future Westminster parliaments but cannot do so. At any time any future Parliament can make a decision contrary to anything in the Bill and contrary to any pledge given by anybody. I should have preferred not to have had the clause in the Bill, but I shall vote as I wish to delete the poll. I think that goes a small way towards what I should wish. However, I should have preferred to see the whole clause disappear.

Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)

I signed Amendment No. 2, and I understand that it may be the subject of a separate Division but on the larger question of whether the possibility of a border poll should be in the Bill, I support my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and seek to sustain him against all his assailants today, whether they be Orange, Green or pink. After all, I am a modest pioneer in border poll legislation, and, although consistency is not the supreme political virtue, it does not do much harm sometimes to be consistent.

The hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) made a characteristically eloquent speech.

Sir Elwyn Jones (West Ham, South)

It was also of my hon. Friend's usual high excellence.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

I would not dissent from the description "high excellence" applied to the manner of the speech, but I do not altogether agree that it applies to the content. The hon. Gentleman said, correctly, that the people of Northern Ireland could not be forced into the Irish Republic. If there were an attempt to do that, there would undoubtedly be a civil war, the outcome of which no one in this House today would dare to foresee.

Nevertheless, the Province of Northern Ireland is a nervous community. It is full of suspicion, and my right hon. Friend, when he made his tour of inquiry into whether it was desired to retain the border poll in the text of the Bill, was no doubt subjected to various expressions of suspicion as to what might be intended. Therefore, he was right when he said that he desired to give confidence.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) mentioned the important arid, on the whole, constructive speech by the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic. I had the privilege of hearing that speech at the 1900 Club last night. We were very glad to hear from him that, whatever might be said amongst a small minority in this House, whatever might be said by a group of propagandists now conducting advertisements and distributing leaflets intended to shake the confidence of Her Majesty's forces in Northern Ireland by urging that they should be brought home, although they are in fact at home in Northern Ireland, since it is part of the United Kingdom—I hope that my right hon. Friend is in touch with the Law Officers about this in order that the traitorous propagandists can be dealt with under the law—he considers it to be in the best interest of the whole of Ireland that Her Majesty's forces should continue to do their duty as they are so splendidly doing at the present time.

Also—although my hon. and gallant Friend did not refer to this—I attach considerable importance to what the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic said about the undesirability of trying to chip bits off Northern Ireland. I thought that that statement was very important and one to which we should also direct our attention.

Of course, we have not yet quite got to the position where the Government in Dublin have felt able to recognise the fact that the sovereignty of the Republic, whatever it may say in its constitution, does not extend throughout the whole island of Ireland, its islands and territorial seas. They have not yet been able to get to the position of the tripartite agreement of 1925, when the Irish Free State recognised the border as it was then, and as it is now, and solemnly deposited that agreement with the League of Nations.

It is interesting that the Irish Parliament passed an amendment which some people in the North welcomed, but I feel that it passed the wrong amendment. It removed from the constitution the statement of fact that the Catholic religion is the religion of most Irishmen, which is patently true, but left in something that is patently untrue—that the sovereignty of the Dublin Government extends throughout Ireland. So I think we do still need assurances, additional safeguards, a reinforcement of the Northern Ireland position within the United Kingdom.

The hon. Member for Southampton, lichen (Mr. R. C. Mitchell) said, correctly, that, whatever we do, however we legislate, we cannot bind our successors. That was true, presumably, of the Labour Government when they enacted the 1949 Act which stipulated that there would be no change in the status of Northern Ireland without the consent of the Parliament of Northern Ireland. We know what is happening to the Parliament of Northern Ireland. This, however, does not mean that we should not do our best to give the people of Northern Ireland reassurance in the hope that responsibility will be shown in successive Governments and successive Parliaments.

The hon. Member for Leeds, South said that he was not against plebiscites in principle, but, of course, Clause 1 is really a matter of principle. As my right hon. Friend said, there is nothing mandatory about it. There has not got to be another border poll. It is not the only way to ascertain the wishes of the people, as the hon. Member for lichen said, but it is some comfort to some people in Northern Ireland to know that a border poll would be a necessary precondition for any attempt to transfer them from their present allegiance.

My right hon. Friend said that it would be a matter for this House whether or not a border poll should be held. This brings one to the position of the Assembly in the matter and to Amendment No. 2. My right hon. Friend does not like the amendment. Yet I think we should be thinking in terms, if the Bill means anything, of a progressive devolution of functions to the Assembly—in terms of making the Assembly a reality.

The hon. Member for Leeds, South spoke of the changed circumstances since my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave his pledge about a series of border polls. Of course the circumstances have changed. I am not in favour of a series of border polls. I would not particularly mind if there were never another border poll. In Committee I urged that 10 years was too short an interval and tabled an amendment that it should be 25 years, once in a generation being enough. On the main issue, I urge the House to leave this measure of insurance and reassurance in the Bill.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)

My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) indicated some anxiety as to whether I would support him in the Lobby this afternoon. I assure him that he need have none. I have not the slightest reluctance to vote against the Government on any part of their Irish policy.

From the very beginning I thought that the appointment of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland was a folly and that the Government's policy was a folly. But, unfortunately, it has had the consent of both parties and so, as the bombs have gone on going off and the victims of murder have gone on falling, the same policy is persisted in, dragging the two parties along with it. It is extraordinary that the only policies which will ever succeed in uniting and holding together the great parties are policies of folly. Once the two parties get committed to a folly, there is no parting them from it. This happened with the parity of sterling. The parties were committed to their folly and neither could confess to it. So we went on with the two parties acting together until we became a second-rate European industrial power.

5.0 p.m.

There has been this same consensus of the parties on Rhodesia. We have soldiered on with sanctions, imposing suffering on black Rhodesia and imposing handicaps on our own industry while everybody else ignored sanctions. But the two parties were united. So they are here, and on we go the bombs fall and the people die.

If the two parties agree on a successful policy, they part in no time, there is competition and jealousy at work. The dismal process of following on a folly goes on and on. That is where one begins to find the irreplaceable Minister. There is no problem in replacing a Minister whose policies are successful, but once a policy becomes thoroughly unsuccessful the ethos of "dear old Willy" becomes a camouflage for that failure. So this unhappy process has to go meandering along.

The Secretary of State has now had three elections which have given him the same sad sectarian answer that he should have known in the first place. There is no political answer here, and we have all known this. There is no more a political answer in Ulster between Protestant and Catholic than there is a political answer in Cyprus between Turk and Greek. Divisions of this sort are susceptible to order but are not susceptible to a political answer. Coalitions of people fundamentally opposed to each other on every issue do not work. That kind of government is the government of folly. Three times has the Secretary of State had the answer, and the bombs go on falling and the morale of the Army begins to disintegrate. I shall be dealing with that at length on Thursday and I will not go into it now.

There is a solution of order. The IRA could be crushed in six weeks if the Army's hands were freed. The Army has been prevented from crushing the IRA, and every man in the Army who is serving there knows it. We do not want these fancy solutions. We want a period of martial law in which the Army in Ireland can restore order and destroy the guerrillas and rebels. They can do it in a very short time. Then we want to consider a method of governing Ireland, and it will not be by a coalition of irreconcilables.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)

The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget)—as he often does—has given the House a profound observation not unlaced with paradox about the peculiar danger in which we are liable to find ourselves when both sides of the House almost unanimously concur in a mistaken policy. I have no regrets that both in March 1972 and in 1973 I—with a few others—expressed my fundamental doubts and difficulties about the course of action which was taken then and is being taken now.

Nevertheless, we have still to address our minds to what is going into Clause 1. We still have to decide whether it is wise and in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland that the reference to a plebiscite should remain in the Bill. I was disappointed to hear the outcome of the consultations and reflections of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. He has concluded—and it is no part of my business or purpose to try to alter his conclusions—that he personally is in honour bound to include in the Bill a reference to the plebiscitary method of securing consent.

Mr. Whitelaw

On a point of fact, my right hon. Friend said that I personally told him that I was pledged. I did not say that, but I believe that Her Majesty's Government are pledged. I said that I would look to my own words. I did not find myself so pledged personally, but I believe that Her Majesty's Government are so pledged and that the people believe that the Government are so pledged.

Mr. Powell

I am obliged to my right hon. Friend. I will correct what I said by saying that my right hon. Friend had personally come to the conclusion that there was an obligation by which he felt himself and his colleagues to be bound that there should be a reference included in the Bill to the plebiscitary ascertainment of consent. Whether or not any of us on either side of the House may find it difficult from the record to follow my right hon. Friend's reasoning and to share his conviction, that is a fact, and it is a fact from which none of us would expect or wish him to depart.

Nevertheless, the House is still faced with the duty of legislation; and the conclusion to which my right hon. Friend has come is all the more to be regretted because, from the fact that he undertook the investigation, it is clear that he was strongly impressed by the potential advantages of the amendment. So, irrespective of any commitment made or believed to have been made by the Government, the House must consider whether the Bill is better and more in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland with or without this provision.

In that respect I believe that the voice of the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) in this debate is the voice of wisdom. This is not an optional provision. A glance at Schedule 1 might lead to the mistaken conclusion that the schedule merely provided machinery which could or could not be used as desired at some future date; but the schedule is attracted by Clause 1, and it is right that the House should attend carefully to precisely what Clause 1 says, because there is still considerable misunderstanding about that, and we may be sure that the wording of the clause will be examined and re-examined with all possible attention in Northern Ireland as well as elsewhere in the coming months.

The clause does not say that Northern Ireland shall not cease to be part of Her Majesty's dominions without the consent of the majority and without a vote in a plebiscite. Nor does it say that it shall not cease without the consent of the majority, and, by the way, it might be convenient if a poll were held as part of the method of ascertaining consent. The clause says precisely—and this is the only guarantee the Bill gives to the majority in Northern Ireland—that Northern Ireland shall not cease to be part of Her Majesty's dominions without the consent of the majority as ascertained by a poll. Therefore, so far as the wording of the provision goes at present, if a plebiscite is held and there is a majority in that plebiscite for the separation of Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom, then, in terms of the wording of the clause and the pledge which we imagine we are embodying in the Bill, that is the end of the matter.

From the point of view of the majority in Northern Ireland, the addition of these words represents a great weakening of whatever safeguard such a section as this can provide. Not only does it weaken the safeguard by limiting it to a particular form of mathematical majority consent ascertained in one defined way only, but for the future it limits—or purports to limit—the opportunities of the House to exerise its ultimate responsibility in relation to the affairs of Northern Ireland.

In the last resort the interpreter of consent, the interpreter of majority, the interpreter of the future of Northern Ireland, the interpreter of pledges in regard to Northern Ireland, is this House, in its wisdom or unwisdom, at some future period of time. We merely cause misunderstanding, we merely give the appearance without the reality of security, and we limit the possibilities of flexibility in the future for ourselves and our successors by the form of words which at present is in this provision. Nothing is to be gained, nothing is rendered available which would otherwise be unavailable, by the inclusion of these words, but much could be lost by the unnatural concentration of the present wording on one subsidiary, and in no case decisive, test of the majority.

Therefore, I hope the House as a whole will follow not the course to which my right hon. Friend, regrettably, has concluded that he and his colleagues in Government are bound but the course which I believe he in his heart, if he did not think he was so bound——

Mr. Whitelaw

My right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) must not put that into my mouth. I would not accept that argument.

Mr. Powell

I do not wish to use this as a cogent consideration. Nevertheless, the House recalls that my right hon. Friend, having heard the previous debate, set out to see whether there was any impediment to doing what Amendment No. 1 would do. I am sure that my right hon. Friend would not have taken that course of action if he had believed that inherently the proposal embodied in the amendment was unwise. He is man enough to argue against an amendment on its merits without seeking to ascertain whether there is some impediment to its acceptance.

I believe that on both sides of the House there is a recognition that, since we are here making a constitution for Northern Ireland, we should use our best endeavours to see that the wording we use is as wise, as little open to misunderstanding, and as little restrictive as we can make it. That course of action would lead to the acceptance of this amendment.

5.15 p.m.

Mr. Wellbeloved

I shall be brief since the arguments on the amendment have been well rehearsed in previous debates.

I wish to take up one point raised by the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison), who seemed to suggest that nobody in Parliament or outside among the general public should question the continued presence of United Kingdom forces in Northern Ireland. He gave the impression that in some way such an attitude verged on the commission of sedition against the Queen and the constitution of this country. That suggestion is absolute rubbish, and the hon. Gentleman knows it. It is part of the democratic duty of this Parliament and the democratic right of the people of this country to call in question the policies of the Government of the day and to express alternative policies.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

I am glad the hon. Gentleman raised this matter, because there is a misunderstanding in his mind. I was not referring to the rights of this House to question or pronounce on the deployment of Her Majesty's forces. I was referring to an organised agitation outside this House which I have drawn to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General and which is conducting advertising and mounting a propaganda campaign directed against the morale of Her Majesty's forces. I am sure the hon. Gentleman would be at one with me in condemning that sort of activity.

Mr. Wellbeloved

I am quite certain that the British Army will continue to discharge its duty and obey the orders of whatever Government may be in power in this country. however mistaken the policies of that Government might be. I have no doubt about the loyalty of the Army. I do not believe that a few people who believe deeply and passionately that the Government are mistaken in their policy should be the object of the sort of comments made by the hon. Member for Chigwell.

I do not take seriously the charge made by the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) about the responsibility on the part of myself and those who take my view. Being a Member of this House carries with it privileges and pleasures, but it also involves the duty to speak out and to reflect the views held by hundreds, thousands and, indeed, possibly millions of one's fellow citizens throughout the country. Therefore, I make no apology whatever for the views I express in this House. I completely reject the allegation that I am in any way seeking to undermine the British forces in the field or suggesting that they are acting in an irresponsible manner. It is a matter of parliamentary debate that these views should be expressed, however unpopular they may be in some quarters of this House and in some parts of the United Kingdom as at present defined.

Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)

I am glad that the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) has explained his view. But has he not also a duty to those who may be the victims of violence in Northern Ireland? Since Members of Parliament have such a duty, should the hon. Gentleman not take great care to avoid saying anything which may perpetuate and even extenuate the struggle that is taking place in Northern Ireland at the moment?

Mr. Wellbeloved

If the hon. Gentleman believes that any hon. Member in this House would make a speech on a subject in which people's lives are involved without having carefully considered all the factors, and without having considered the situation in Northern Ireland, whether it be from a Protestant or a Catholic point of view, he will believe anything. But this must not make us flinch from our duty of giving voice to the feelings of very many people in Britain in advancing an alternative policy to that which is being pursued by the present Government, with the consent of the Opposition.

The speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) brought to bear on this subject a wealth of knowledge, understanding and, indeed, compassion for the suffering in Northern Ireland. He said that we must be concerned with consent, and I should like to say how much I agree with him. But whose consent are we to be concerned with in defining the future constitutional position of Northern Ireland? We should be concerned with the consent of the people of the United Kingdom as a whole and concerned with the consent of the people of Ireland as a whole.

We must bear in mind that Northern Ireland, in the context of the United Kingdom, is a minority. Northern Ireland, in the context of Ireland, is a minority. When we speak of consent we must mean the consent of the majority of our people, and, if it is in an Irish setting, the majority of the people of Ireland as a whole.

I repeat what I said in my intervention to the hon. Gentleman. If the Government were to dare to put their policy an the future of Northern Ireland to a plebiscite of the British people an overwhelming majority would say that this was a mistaken policy, and that the real policy would be to end that link. Let those hon. Members who say "no", join with me this far in saying to the Government that they should put it to the test of the British people. Let us not sit here in the mistaken belief that on this issue we represent the views of our constituents. Let us put it to the test. Those who say I am wrong should join me in demanding this course.

Mr. Lawson

Is my hon. Friend not merely saying that we ought to pull out of Northern Ireland?

Mr. Wellbeloved

No. I fully understand the deep and continuing concern of my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) in this matter. We have had many discussions on the subject. I am saying that there can be no settlement, no hope of a settlement, or of the ending of the agony in Northern Ireland which is created and designed by Britain. A solution of that agony and the final overcoming of all the difficulties can only come from within Northern Ireland, by an understanding by the people of Northern Ireland of the realities of the situation.

I say again: let the Government, when they talk of consent, and let my hon. and my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench, when they talk of consent, make it clear that they are not talking of the consent of the majority of our people, but of a minority in Irish terms and a minority in United Kingdom terms. I believe that the pledge, whether it is amended or unamended, is the stumbling block upon which the whole edifice of the constitutional Bill and the White Paper is going to crumble because it is a complete fraud on the minority. While that guarantee is there the minority are given hope without the slightest chance of fulfilment.

The elections to the Assembly have already shown that there is a built-in majority, though it be split and fragmented at present, but it is a built-in majority which will never voluntarily as far as we can foresee agree to the reunification of Ireland. Whatever is in the clause and the Bill it is a fraud upon the minority in Northern Ireland.

"The most serious aspect of the whole pledge is that it is the prop on which the majority will for ever lean while it is available to them. It is the blockage, because while it is there it will stop meaningful dialogue taking place between the two sections of Northern Ireland which might, in the end, lead to some better solution.

I join my hon. Friends in this. I entirely share their view that it is not possible for Northern Ireland to be forcibly united with the Republic. The hon. and gallant Member for Down, South put it in words so clear and simple when he said that that would be over the dead bodies of a very substantial number of citizens in Northern Irleand. Indeed, it would. Therefore, any dreams about forcible unification are no more than dreams, and no one, least of all myself, is advocating a policy based upon unification.

I advocate a policy of confronting the people of Northern Ireland as a whole with the realities. To do that it will be necessary to take away the prop of the pledge or guarantee that Northern Ireland shall remain part of the United Kingdom. In my view, the people of Northern Ireland must be confronted with the absolute necessity to reach a working agreement with those who share that troubled island with them. That may mean that as a first step, following the elections to the Assembly, we may have to consider a transfer of power to that Assembly or its successor; in other words, a transfer of power to an independent State. That is what I believe to be the reality of the situation.

I read the speech of the Prime Minister of the Republic, Mr. Cosgrave. He introduced the all-Ireland dimension. For the first time in the history of the Republic its Prime Minister has agreed to and supported the presence of British troops on the soil of any part of Ireland. I assume that is what he means by the "all-Ireland dimension". However, if Mr. Cosgrave wants to make a meaningful contribution to the settlement of the tragedy being enacted again in Northern Ireland, in my view he would do well to start with the constitution of his own country, removing that part which is based upon 32 counties and recognising the reality. He could also seal off the border and stop people from the South infiltrating into the North. I do not take kindly to the Prime Minister of Southern Ireland suddenly coming forward in this way without backing what he says with positive action in his own country.

I do not believe that this clause, amended or unamended, has the support of the people of this country. We, the British, in the course of our long and tragic history have tried in Northern Ireland every conceivable solution—partition, starvation, murder, plunder, burning; the lot. Now we are re-enacting the very tragedy upon which we have stumbled and upon which Ireland has stumbled in the past—this nonsense, this pledge, this guarantee. It cannot work in the long run. Only the Irish in Northern Ireland can solve their own destiny. I believe that they can best do that without the prop of the guarantee and with their own independent State.

5.30 p.m.

Mr. Stratton Mills (Belfast, North)

I suspect that the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) is in reality an English Nationalist. All that I say to him is that the policy which he puts forward is, in my view, a total recipe for disaster. We shall not solve anything in Northern Ireland by adopting a Pontius Pilate approach and totally washing our hands of it. I say to the hon. Gentleman, for whom I have a great personal regard, that people give very much greater significance to his words from the Opposition benches than perhaps they deserve in the context of the Labour Party. They create fears and they encourage the men of violence. Certainly they do nothing to help in the climate of the problems with which those who live in Northern Ireland have to deal.

I wish to return for a moment to our proceedings in Committee when we discussed this matter. On that occasion I found myself in a very lonely position. It is one to which I am accustomed. I saw the Labour Party, my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), I suspect all for rather different motives, attempting to pin down my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on this matter. I became anxious when there was just the hint of a wobble in the speech of the Secretary of State. It was very slight. My hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) and I found ourselves in a minority of two. But I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has not wobbled further and has decided to keep the clause as it is.

The hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) said that the people of Northern Ireland would not be forced out of the United Kingdom. I agree with him. But the people of Northern Ireland are frightened and apprehensive. They want to get the best safeguard they can. I accept the point of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West that this is by no means a complete safeguard. Nevertheless, it is the best safeguard that we can envisage.

We have to look at what is the best mechanism for determining the criteria in Clause 1. We can look at many different ideas. But, as I said when we debated this matter before, my view is that the voice of the people of Northern Ireland heard directly in a poll is the best mechanism. For that reason I think it should be maintained. It is a very important safeguard, and I welcome what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said about keeping it. I had some doubts, which I expressed on that earlier occasion, about whether a poll every 10 years was desirable. I doubt whether it is desirable. Therefore, the reference to the words "not earlier than ten years" is important, and it is to be hoped that the possibility of maintaining a very considerable degree of flexibility will be used wisely.

I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has stood firm and decided to retain the clause. I shall support him in the Division Lobby.

Mr. Lawson: I find myself in a rather uncomfortable position. I am not at all happy about the line being taken by my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench. I had hoped that we should be able to deal with these matters concerning Northern Ireland without any major divisions. In fact, I take it that this is not a major division. I hope that it is only a machinery division.

Principally, I am unhappy about the views just expressed by my hon. and very good Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved). However, I shall return to my hon. Friend in a moment.

Looking at the amendment and at the Bill as it is drafted, my immediate reaction is that I hold no brief for referenda. I was opposed to the approach of my own party to the possibility of a referendum being held on Britain's entry into the Common Market. From the point of view of principle, I might be said to be against this present proposal. But I look at it from the standpoint that it is already enunciated in the Bill. It has been said. It must be widely appreciated in Northern Ireland that it is a guarantee. It guarantees the guarantee, the guarantee being that without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland these changes will not be made. This is because of the great doubt which has grown up—this feeling of uncertainty, this feeling of betrayal and the rest of it. That is why the guarantee is guaranteed in this way by the undertaking that it will not be done without the consent of the people voiced in this way—not even if the Assembly of Northern Ireland decides that it shall be so. That is why I see it as a guarantee of a guarantee.

As I say, it is there. If it were to be taken away it could augment the doubt and fire up these feelings which are so clearly manifest in Northern Ireland. If it had not been there, I should have been quite happy. But it is there, and we cannot take it out without causing a great deal of unrest. For that reason I hope it remains in the Bill.

I now say a word or two to my hon. and very dear Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford. I agree with the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) that my hon. Friend is an English Nationalist. He is intensely English. It may be that he is expressing what has come to be known as the "gut" reaction of ordinary people in England. I accept that. It is an easily understood gut reaction. My hon. Friend expresses it, just as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) does. It is the same sort of thing. What it is saying to the people of Northern Ireland is "It is your business. We have done this for you. We have also done this to you. Get on with it now and settle it yourselves." I believe that that is the feeling. My hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford likes to dress it up in terms of the will of the people of the United Kingdom in deciding this. But if my hon. Friend is honest with himself I am sure he will agree that he thinks that he knows what the people would decide. What he thinks they would decide would be "Let us wash our hands of it and pull out, and let them settle it for themselves." That is what he thinks he knows.

Mr. Wellbeloved

I am sorry that I was not clear enough for my hon. Friend to understand me completely. I was saying that we have tried everything in Northern Ireland and have failed. We are now merely re-enacting one of our past failures. It is time for a new look, and the new look entails setting the date for the withdrawal of British troops and transferring power to an independent Northern Ireland.

Mr. Lawson

It cannot be done that way, although that may be very attractive. Whether or not we like it, we cannot wash our hands of this question. I ask hon. Members to think of the number of people in England, for example, of Irish extraction, although not necessarily of Roman Catholic persuasion. The Orange persuasion is very powerful in this country. One should look at the number of names, on both sides of the House, which appear to be an indication of the population mix and are clearly of Irish extraction. That applies throughout England. They are very reasonable people. But, on the basis of their roots and with the emotions that can be engendered, they can become very unreasonable in certain circumstances.

None of us can say that he is incapable of the most unreasonable and brutal behaviour in particular circumstances, although he would like to think so. If anyone said that, I should feel that he failed properly to understand human nature. England is not populated by the purely English. It may be that my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford has a large proportion of Irish blood in his veins. That may be true of many of us. What I have said may be true of England is certainly true of Scotland.

One feature about which we should he concerned but pleased is that over the years we in Scotland have come to regard the differences that are sometimes described as trifles as matters that we can live with. We can be excellent colleagues, working with others and paying no attention to differences. But the roots of division exist. If the matter of Northern Ireland were to catch flame, one could not say what would happen. The whole of Scotland and England is, in greater or less degree, intermingled with this problem. It could be the same in Wales, although I know less about Wales than about Scotland. We have a very prominent right hon. Member who speaks for a very important constituency in Wales, and more than one prominent hon. Member has a very Irish name. Others may have close connections in this matter.

We have not an Irish problem or a Northern Ireland problem in the sense that it is something of which we can wash our hands. This is shot through all of us. We are intermingled. We cannot disentangle ourselves and rid ourselves of the separation. If we are to achieve a society the people of which can live amicably together we must overcome this problem.

I see no sudden answer to the problem and no easy way out. I can only think of patience and tolerance, even in the face of behaviour that would almost break the spirit of anyone. If we give way to that, however, we are simply saying that we cannot solve the problem.

This problem has grown up over hundreds of years. To expect to answer it in a few months is to expect too much. But we are on the right road in our efforts to answer it. I can see no other way.

My hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford does not really mean what he says. He is carried away with his emotions at present, but in his saner moments he recognises that it is a dangerous line. I hope that he will take the opportunity to repudiate it.

Because the words are already in the Bill and because it could be injurious to withdraw the troops, the Opposition Chief Whip will excuse me when I say that, although I shall not vote with the Government, I cannot join my hon. Friends in the Lobby on this question.

Mr. McMaster

I have some sympathy with the sentiments expressed by the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson). His contribution to the debate and all the contributions during the past three or four weeks, when the subject has been before the House, illustrate how an understanding which was not present one or two years ago is now coming to hon. Members who have a more realistic approach to the problems of Northern Ireland and together are getting down to work and facing the root cause of the trouble there.

The Opposition's amendment is the amendment that attracts me most. I also support the wording of Amendment No. 2, which is not inconsistent with the Opposition's amendment. The point of these amendments is, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) said, that one must study very carefully the wording of the clause. As a lawyer I do not like to see too tightly defined the basis on which the constitution of this country is determined. We have always been proud of the fact that this country has an unwritten constitution. It is with no apology that I say "this country", because today we are legislating for something that concerns a part of the United Kingdom and the whole of the United Kingdom. Therefore, if this is done in statutory form it concerns part of the constitution of this country.

In such a serious clause, perhaps the fundamental clause of the Bill, is it right that we should go into the tiny details that we do? My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that 10 years is a minimum period. It need not necessarily be the 10 years set out in Schedule 1, to which the clause refers. However, to make any provision for periodic polls is unsettling in the circumstances of Nor-them Ireland. My right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State have stated many times in the House that the Government's aim is to get the border out of politics. I feel that this provision is counter-productive. Nothing is more designed to keep the border in politics than provision for regular periodic polls on the constitutional question. Therefore, basically I should prefer to see the provision omitted altogether—simply to say "No change in the constitution of Northern Ireland without the consent of the majority".

5.45 p.m.

As other hon. Members have said in the debate, particularly the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), we are faced with a situation where a neighbouring, independent country—namely, the Republic of Southern Ireland—has written into its constitution that its constitution applies to part of the United Kingdom. While this is the case, it is right that we should have Clause 1, that is up as far as the words "Northern Ireland" in line 13, written into the Bill, forming part of the constitution of the United Kingdom as it relates to Northern Ireland, in that way contradicting the statement in the constitution of Southern Ireland, which is, frankly, an impertinence to the people of Northern Ireland.

On that topic, I am not too happy about the meeting between the Prime Minister and the leader in Southern Ireland immediately following the poll. I admit the right of my right hon. Friend to meet the Taoiseach but I should have preferred the meeting to be held before the election or perhaps in a month or two, but not a few days after the Assembly election when it was obviously so much in the forefront of people's minds. If, as my right hon. Friend said, he felt that the border issue should be taken out of politics in Northern Ireland, why should he meet the leader of a foreign country immediately after an Assembly election?

It is no concern of the Taoiseach how Northern Ireland shall be governed. I refer to this meeting because it has already been mentioned by hon. Members opposite. Therefore, I feel that if the provision was left, ending with "Northern Ireland" in line 13, it would greatly strengthen the position in Northern Ireland.

Many people are concerned also about a matter referred to by the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) earlier in the debate—the movement of people across the border into Northern Ireland. It was the hon. Gentleman who referred to the meeting between the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach. He said that he wished Southern Ireland would do something to stop that movement over the border. Now that we are both mem- bers of the Common Market, I wonder how long it will be possible to stop that movement. It is a matter of concern in Northern Ireland, along with the fact that the birth rate of the Roman Catholic minority in Northern Ireland is known to be rising more rapidly than the birth rate of the Protestant majority.

One of the most unfortunate factors—many people try to run away from it—is that the Roman Catholic minority is generally equated with the Republicans in the present Ulster situation. I feel this is wrong. In my own constituency, many Roman Catholics support the present constitutional position in Northern Ireland, but there are others who feel that they speak for all their co-religionists and that all of them, to a man, are Republican. They support the party of the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt)—the SDLP—which had considerable successes in the Assembly elections, and which stands for the creation of a republic in Northern Ireland and purports to speak for all its Catholic population. This is a matter of concern and one which in time might lead to a demand for a poll in Northern Ireland because of the increase in the population. I believe this to be erroneous, but it would lead to a demand for a poll.

It is because this change in the balance of population would lead to such a demand that it is unsettling in Northern Ireland and could lead to a recurrence of the violence that we see at the moment. Therefore, to write into the Bill a provision which keeps people's attention on the balances of population in Northern Ireland is counter-productive, and I should like to see it dropped.

I would accept the wording of the amendment requiring a two-thirds majority in place of any reference to a periodic poll. I would even accept—there was an amendment to this effect in Committee—that the period should be 20 or 25 years, which would be less unsettling than 10 years. But on the whole I should prefer all reference to a poll omitted, because I am convinced that it will lead only to a perpetuation of the violence that we have suffered in the last 10 years.

Mr. Dick Douglas (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

It is tempting to follow not only the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) but some other hon. Members who have spoken, but I shall try to resist the temptation—with one or two exceptions.

The major exception will be my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees). He based the argument for his amendment primarily on a piece of machinery, and the second position that he took up was to relate that machinery to paragraph 112 of the White Paper, which broadly dealt with an Irish dimension. If the future of an Irish dimension depends on the elimination of this piece of machinery from the Bill, its future is shaky indeed.

The Secretary of State made great play with the speech that he made in Committee, when he said he would consult parties in Northern Ireland. This party, of which I am a proud member, and have been for more years than I care to remember, has an associated party in Northern Ireland. I want to know from our Front Bench what consultations took place between this party and the Northern Ireland Labour Party and what was the reply. I will give way to any of my right hon. or hon. Friends who wish to interrupt me.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

I made it abundantly clear that I have not consulted anyone other than Members of the British House of Commons.

Mr. Douglas

That is indeed unfortunate, because I understand that the Northern Ireland Labour Party has had some discussions and may have views on this issue.

Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)


Mr. Douglas

It is a matter of dispute. If my hon. Friends give me their word, I accept it unhesitatingly, but I have it on good authority that representations were made on this issue by the Northern Ireland Labour Party to this party.

I have in my hand a copy of a statement that I took down by telephone from the only member of the Northern Ireland Labour Party elected to the new Assembly—a good and honourable man who now, I think, bears the title of Leader of the Northern Ireland Labour Party. It is vital that this go into the record.

Mr. David Bleakley said: Any attempt to remove the referendum guarantee from the Northern Ireland Bill will be a betrayal of solemn pledges given to the people of Northern Ireland. Into the bargain, the timing of this betrayal could not be more unfortunate. It comes at the very moment when politicians in Northern Ireland are trying desperately to assure their people that Westminster can be trusted to keep its word. As an example of English insensitivity"— the words are Mr. Bleakley's, not mine— to Irish affairs, this move has rarely been equalled. The referendum has the support of the great majority of the Northern Irish people. Politicians in the luxurious calm of Westminster should think twice before disregarding such a basic fact of Ulster political life.

Mr. Rees

Let us be clear. It may be insensitivity, but I hope that in the course of my argument I made it clear that in no sense was the pledge about putting the North into the South to be altered. Indeed, I argued that the fact that a pledge was even needed weakened the force of the logic of the fact of life. My hon. Friend seems to have a view about insensitivity, but I fervently deny the other part of his argument.

Mr. Douglas

The argument on this issue is not mine. I am quoting the words of the Leader of the Northern Ireland Labour Party. Either these words have persuasive influence on this side of the House or they have not. It is indeed remiss of this party of mine, which was party to the delegation that went to Northern Ireland and knew that this amendment would be moved from this side—an amendment not only relating to machinery but on which we would seek to place a three-line Whip—not to consult our major responsible party in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Hugh Delargy (Thurrock)

My hon. Friend mentions that his friend, Mr. David Bleakley, accuses the British Labour Party of going back on its word by not insisting on the mention of a poll in the Bill. Would he ask his friend David Bleakley when the British Labour Party ever even mentioned referenda in Northern Ireland? It never did, in my knowledge.

Mr. Douglas

That is acceptable that is a very good point—

Mr. Delargy

But it is his whole case.

Mr. Douglas

One at a time. His case is not that the British Labour Party—[Interruption.] The case is that it was a pledge. I am not concerned with whether the Government made the pledge or not; I am concerned about the effect on Northern Ireland of an attempt to remove this from the Bill, because it is a symbol of a guarantee that should be re-emphasised.

I am not in favour of referenda, and I am on record in previous debates as having said so, but this party of mine happens to be in favour of referenda when it suits it——

Mr. Orme

This is an interesting argument. [Laughter.] Some hon. Members opposite seem to be enjoying it, but this is a serious point. Is my hon. Friend aware that when the Northern Ireland Labour Party met my hon. Friend and me and the Leader of the Opposition at the time of the first border poll they were opposed to that poll?

Mr. Douglas

I do not want to bandy words—[Interruption.] I am accused here. I have a document here dated 7th November 1972 from the Northern Ireland Labour Party, in which it asks not only for a border poll but for repeated referenda. I will pass it down to my hon. Friend if he wants to read it. But that is not the issue. The issue is whether we in this House at this time should seek to remove that guarantee of a guarantee.

6.0 p.m.

The logic of the argument of my hon. Friends is to remove the whole clause. No doubt some of my hon. Friends, such as the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. R. C. Mitchell) and the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved), would wish to do that. We are dealing with symbols in Northern Ireland. I visited Northern Ireland last week to watch the election, and what influenced me was the position of women there. There are only three women among the 78 members of the Assembly. The women, unfortunately, are much more articulate than the men in Northern Ireland. Yet the only time that they can articulate their preferences is during an election.

One lady going to the polling booth said to me, happily and cheerfully, "Do you think this is the last time I shall have to vote this year, having been engaged in three elections?" This is the only way, in our present electoral procedure, for women to state their preferences in Northern Ireland. In view of the shaky position in Northern Ireland I believe that this provision should remain in the Bill.

What do my hon. Friends hope to gain by taking it out? There is no fixed idea for a plebescite in 10 years' time, but there is a feeling at present that the word of Her Majesty's Government is at stake along with the question of the sensitivity of Westminster politicians.

On occasions my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford wears the mantle of an Alf Garnett with hair. He puts forward a simplistic argument which says, in effect, that we may decide some time in the future to allow Ulster to declare UDI. There are two tragedies that could befall us. One is to allow Ulster to declare UDI, and we would have little control over it, and the other is for us to precipitate a situation in which we would withdraw our troops by a pre-determined date.

I come from a small part of Scotland. Many deaths and injuries have been sustained in Northern Ireland by troops who come from that part of Scotland. I do not think that any of the families in my constituency find pleasure in having their sons and husbands in Northern Ireland. Those who have suffered these tragedies recognise that if we do not sustain our will we fail. What is at stake in Northern Ireland is not just the survival of a particular form of democracy.

The hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) and I have nothing in common. I deplore the fact that members of my class support his party, but recognise that on occasions we share a democratic form of procedures and agree to differ in a constitutional setting. This is what is at stake in Northern Ireland. If we withdraw our troops and our ability to combat urban guerrilla warfare we fail not only in Northern Ireland but we fail in the United Kingdom.

It is difficult to sustain our will power to succeed, and it is not given sustenance by speeches such as those made by my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford and others. The effect is seemingly to undermine our will power to succeed against this violence in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Would my hon. Friend like to put to the test the opinion in his constituency and mine by having a pilot poll on this question so that at least we would have some indication of whether he or I is speaking with the true voice of the majority of the British people?

Mr. Douglas

My hon. Friend presents this as if it were a panacea. The rôle of leaders in a democracy is to lead, not just in the short term, but to bear in mind the long-term implications of what might happen if what my hon. Friend desires were to come about. It is not where a person stands at one point of time but how he stands for the future that counts. That is where leadership in a democracy comes into play. If we succeed in Northern Ireland we give sustenance to democratic institutions all over the United Kingdom, perhaps all over the world.

I am sorry that I have taken up so much of the time of the House and also that, because of a lack of attention to this subject on my part over the past few weeks perhaps, I part company with my party tonight on this subject. I cannot support it in the Lobby——

Mr. J. D. Concannon (Mansfield)

We know.

Mr. Douglas

I have been very plain, I have been sincere and above-board, and I hope there will be no acrimony about that.

Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)

The hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Douglas) is engaged in two separate arguments with his hon. Friends, and I will not intervene, although I wholly endorse his concluding remarks which he addressed to his hon. Friend just below the Gangway.

Various interpretations have been put on the importance of this clause. The importance of Clause 1 is that fundamentally we are dealing with a minority within a minority. That is the most difficult situation for which it is possible to legislate.

In Northern Ireland the Catholics are in a minority and in Ireland as a whole the Protestants are in a minority. It is extraordinarily difficult to draft legislation which can bring a sufficient degree of confidence to both minorities. I would hesitate in the context of the future, and new events which have begun in Northern Ireland, to place too much importance on Clause 1 with or without the amendment. I fully accept the value placed upon the concluding part of the clause in Northern Ireland and the reaction that there would be if it were removed.

I accept what my right hon. Friend has said about ascertaining whether it was felt there that an undertaking had been given by the Government and what the reaction would be if the amendment were carried, but I have a reservation which has not so far been mentioned. The strong argument for the border poll conducted on 8th March was that it was the only way at the time that the will of the people of Northern Ireland could be expressed because, following the events of March a year earlier, they had no Parliament sitting at Stormont.

That argument must have convinced a number of people, because at about the same time the question was being put to some of us, outside the context of Northern Ireland "How is it that you decline to have a referendum on the subject of Britain entering Europe, yet countenance a referendum for the purpose of deciding the border issue in Northern Ireland?" The answer which has been advanced on more than one occasion in this House was that, whereas the people of Northern Ireland were without a Parliament through which to express their will, we had taken our action in respect of Europe through parliamentary democracy as we understand it here.

Mr. Powell

Is my right hon. Friend saying we did so?

Mr. Deedes

It is an argument I have heard advanced, and more than once—that a decision was taken through Parliament and that that was the way we reached decisions of this kind; but that it was denied to the people of Northern Ireland, because they had no Parliament. Within the last few days Northern Ireland has begun to put together an Assembly and over the course of the next few years, certainly before the next poll, it will become the representative body of the people of Northern Ireland. Therefore, any future poll we are discussing is not quite on all-fours with the poll which occurred on 8th March. I accept that decisions of this kind are best reached through parliamentary consent. I have always rejected the idea of a referendum in this country and have preferred the argument used in respect of Europe. But if that argument holds good and if the people of Northern Ireland are adamant that they should remain part of the United Kingdom, it seems to me that they might also take into account the value of sharing with us our interpretation of the way in which decisions are reached through parliamentary consent.

What, in effect, is being said is that a future poll would be required because consent could not be sought through any Assembly that Northern Ireland may have now or in 10 years' time. In other words, I do not think that what many desire is on all-fours with our concept of parliamentary democracy. I find it odd that people who insist they are part of the United Kingdom wish to remain part of the United Kingdom; and that, after all, is what the clause is all about.

Mr. John E. Maginnis (Armagh)

The right hon. Gentleman must agree that there is a difference between this Parliament and the one we had in Northern Ireland, which was set up. One is sovereign, the other is not.

Mr. Deedes

There may be differences in degree but at the same time, in 10 years—the period that we are talking about—if not less, we hope that the Assembly in Northern Ireland will be at least comparable to the kind of Parliament the hon. Gentleman has in mind. I will not pursue the argument, but it occurs to me that it is worth carrying in mind. The confidence of the majority is absolutely crucial to my right hon. Friend and I agree implicitly in the clause going without amendment. I support what my right hon. Friend wants.

Mr. Gerard Fitt (Belfast, West)

I had not intended to enter into the debate at this stage because, unfortunately, due to other commitments in Northern Ireland I have not taken part in any stage of the Constitution Bill. But having listened to remarks made on both sides of the House I feel constrained to say something in connection with the amendment that has been moved by my hon. Friends. Needless to say. I fully support them, because in Northern Ireland we have repeatedly had decisions taken by the majority political party in Northern Ireland. There were, first of all, the original terms of the settlement in 1920 and, secondly, the pledge given by the Attlee Labour Government. We are now trying to do the same thing.

In Northern Ireland such pledges have been taken as being tantamount to support for the Unionist Party there. We have had the border poll. I have listened to what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Douglas). He has quoted at length a statement from a newly elected member of the Northern Ireland assembly, Mr. David Bleakley, who now calls himself Leader of the Labour Party. It is very easy for him to call himself that, as he is the only elected Labour Party representative; he was elected on the nineteenth or twentieth count in an East Belfast constituency. Mr. Bleakley may claim to speak for the people of Northern Ireland, for the Labour movement in Northern Ireland, the trade union movement in Northern Ireland or the articulate women of Northern Ireland, but it seems to me that he was the only elected representative of his party. I do not believe this House should concern itself unduly with the sentiments of one representative in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

If one looks at the wording of this clause, with its reference to voting in a poll, one must ask whether any serious thought has been given to circumstances which could possibly arise were such a poll taken at any time in the future. What majority would be necessary to change the constitutional status of Northern Ireland? If, for example, a border poll were taken in 10 years' time on the question of sovereignty or the constitutionality of the Northern Ireland Government, and there was a vote of 600,849 for maintenance of the link with Britain and a vote of 600,917 for joining with Ireland—a difference of a matter of just 40 or 50 votes—what would then be the position? Would those who had lost in such a border poll willingly give way to a change in the constitutional position? What would the figures mean? Would those who had been beaten by 20, 30, 40 or 50 votes be prepared to abide by a decision of a majority of the people in Northern Ireland? To me the whole situation would remain absolutely farcical, because even on the results we have had on the elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly—and here I am expressing not my sentiments on the White Paper or the Constitution Bill, though I hope to take an opportunity to do so on Third Reading of the Bill—if one takes the total vote, we have heard from the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) that at the conclusion of the poll 34 per cent. of the electorate expressed their opposition to the terms of the Constitution Bill and the White Paper; and under democratic terms in this country that would be the losing side. Yet the hon. Member, in association with others in Northern Ireland, says that because 34 per cent, are opposed to the Bill and the White Paper they will seek to wreck it. That is an indication. If there are 34 per cent. against the Constitution Bill and the White Paper and the advocates of opposition to it are saying that, what would he the constitutional position if, at any time in the future, 40, 50, 60, or 400 or 500 people happened to be in a majority?

6.15 p.m.

The concluding words of this clause can only give offence to a certain number of people in Northern Ireland. The hon. Member for East Stirlingshire says if there is no attempt to delete these words they will give offence to the articulate women in Northern Ireland, and that he has met some. They certainly did not articulate their preference when they went to vote at the polling station. They did not take the opportunity they had last week to articulate a preference for the Northern Ireland Labour Party which is so good at sending propaganda to hon. Members of this House. But the inclusion of these words at the end of this clause is giving offence to a considerable section of the minority in Northern Ireland who have expressed their opinion as totally the reverse.

Mr. Lawson

Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that it is tragedy indeed that the Labour Party in Northern Ireland, which for so many years has sought to keep sectarianism out, should be reduced to such a low level at the present time as to have only one member in the Assembly?

Mr. Fitt

Perhaps I have more experience of the Labour Party in Northern Ireland than does my hon. Friend. For many years it was never regarded as a Labour and trade union party—as a party of the workers. Otherwise, it would have had many more elected representatives in the Northern Ireland Parliament. Because it accepted the 1949 Attlee pledge the Labour Party was regarded as a second line of defence for the Unionist Party. That is why it has never secured any support from the working class movement. Why have thousands and thousands of trade union supporters in Northern Ireland, many of them members of trade unions represented by my hon. Friends, voted at election after election for Unionist candidates? They never gave their support to the Labour Party. I agree that it is a tragedy that there was no non-sectarian Labour and trade union movement throughout the sad 50 years of Unionist domination of Northern Ireland.

Neither I nor my colleagues did anything to hinder the development of a legitimately non-sectarian Labour movement. Some people are now claiming to be representatives of the trade union movement with one breath and with their second breath are saying they are leaders of the Loyalist Association of Workers. They give more support to the Loyalist Association of Workers than they ever did to the Labour and trade union movement. That is why any sentiments now coming from the Labour Party in connection with the retention of the clause, with all that it involves, should not be listened to by anyone with any understanding of what is happening in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

Does my hon. Friend agree with what I have found over the past two years? Although the Protestant working class have voted Unionist over the years, I have always had from the trade union leaders in Northern Ireland—I am sure that the Secretary of State has as well—the greatest support in a non-sectarian way. But they have ended up being the leaders of a non-existent band when it came to putting crosses on a bit of paper. That does not prevent me from giving the highest praise to Mr. Vivian Simpson of the parliamentary party over there, to David Bleakley himself for his work in community relations, and to the trade union movement, which is part of the trade union movement in the United Kingdom as a whole. I hope that in having a go at Protestant workers who have voted Vanguard my hon. Friend will not include the leadership in his condemnation.

Mr. Fitt

I certainly agree that the official trade union movement in Northern Ireland has accepted throughout the years a very difficult rôle. It was not on the advice of its leaders that so many members joined the Loyalist Association of Workers and voted Vanguard Unionist or DUP Unionist. I acknowledge that the trade union movement has had a very difficult rôle, and many of its members are men of great honour and integrity.

I associate myself with my hon. Friend's tribute to Mr. Vivian Simpson, who unfortunately was defeated in the recent contest, not because of any activities of my party but because many people who should have been Labour supporters in the working class constituency of North Belfast voted for extreme Unionist candidates.

The House should think very seriously before passing the clause as it stands. What would the Government do if the situation I have envisaged arose? What majority would be necessary to change the constitutional position in Northern Ireland at any foreseeable time?

Mr. Whitelaw

That is a very fair point, and the hon. Gentleman has made his speech fairly. The simple point must be that the change could not be made without the consent of the majority of the people voting in the poll. But if consent was given by a very narrow majority it would clearly be a matter for the House, and no doubt for the Republic. That would be bound to be so. It would not automatically happen. It does not automatically happen. It cannot automatically happen. It would have to be a matter for this House to decide the constitutional change. The poll of itself would not do it.

Captain Orr

I think that my right hon. Friend made a slip of the tongue. He did not intend to imply that the Republic would have a say in the future as to whether Northern Ireland remained part of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Whitelaw

Certainly not. What I said was that if there was a majority for a change such as the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) suggests, and that meant that the Republic would then be required by the poll to accept the change, it would surely have to be consulted as to whether it wished to do so.

Mr. Fitt

In such a situation, where there was a very small majority for changing the constitutional position and bringing about the entry of the Six Counties into a united Ireland, the Government of the Republic would undoubtedly be involved. There would immediately be a clamour by the people in that part of Ireland that the figures justified their taking action, because the majority of people in Northern Ireland wanted to be united with the rest of the country.

The wording of the clause, stating that the people of Northern Ireland will be given the opportunity to consent by way of poll, is very dangerous. It could bring untold danger not only in the immediate future but at whatever time a poll is taken.

Mr. Maginnis

We have argued at great length about the amendment in Committee and again today. I have reached the conclusion that we are discussing two separate points. The first is about the pledge. I entirely agree, and I think that the majority of hon. Members agree, that it should be kept in the Bill. The second part of the argument is really about whether the pledge should be given the force of law in holding a border poll at a future date. In other words, it concerns the mechanics as set out in Schedule 1.

As the pledge has been given on several occasions, to do away with it entirely, as some hon. Members have suggested, would be a retrograde step. It would lead to great uncertainty in Northern Ireland. But I agree with the hon. Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison)—and I made the comment in Committee—that I should not be at all worried if we never again had a border poll. The precedent has been set. It was set in the situation in which we found ourselves without a representative Parliament in Northern Ireland, when the only way to find out the wishes of the people was through a separate border poll.

The hon. Member for Chigwell will agree that when we first decided to try to introduce a measure in the House to change the wording of the 1949 Act from "Parliament" to "people" we were following a very good democratic process. We were not, and we never shall be, a sovereign Parliament of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom. Therefore, we cannot take decisions on such matters. The only way is by consulting the people. I am very happy to leave it at that.

The Secretary of State always considers matters seriously. If he does so on this occasion, perhaps we can have a provision somewhere between his suggestion and the amendment. Instead of stopping at the words "Northern Ireland", perhaps we can go on to say "voting in a poll for the purposes of this section." That is all that is required.

I cannot agree with the period of not less than 10 years. I have already said that is much too short. Even 20 years is a short time. The proposed period will lead to uncertainty. Just as the American system of a four-year term of office always leads to uncertainty in business, commerce and so on, so a 10-year period for holding a border poll—although it is not necessary to hold it within 10 years—would always lead to uncertainty.

We must ask "What is a majority?" As the right hon. Gentleman said, the majority would have no effect in dealing with the matter, because in the end it would have to be dealt with by the House.

6.30 p.m.

I suggest that we go ahead and reiterate the pledge that Northern Ireland will remain part of the United Kingdom and of Her Majesty's Dominions and that that situation will not be changed without the consent of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland. The only way of obtaining that consent is by asking the people of Northern Ireland. Originally I was opposed to the idea behind the amendment, but, having given the matter a lot of consideration, I must now tell the House that I support it. I have had second thoughts, just as my right hon. Friend had second thoughts and consulted the powers that be in Northern Ireland.

The people in Northern Ireland today are in a jittery mood, and we in this Parliament should not do something that will keep that mood in operation for any length of time. We should be thinking about doing something for the future. We should be thinking whether the people of Northern Ireland will want to hold border polls in the future. If the opinion of the people of Northern Ireland is required on the question whether they want to leave the United Kingdom or join the Irish Republic, there may be a different way of obtaining that opinion from the one envisaged in the Bill.

I suggest that in the end it is better to leave the pledge as it stands. If, at any given time in the future, the opinion of the people of Northern Ireland has to be sought by this House, there will be a precedent for doing so. On many occasions this House acts according to precedent, and we should leave the matter there and not inflict any more uncertainty on the people of Northern Ireland. We should allow the pledge to stand and leave it to the good sense of the people of Northern Ireland to realise that if at any time in the future they require a border poll it will be granted by the House without question.

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

I listened with great interest to the arguments of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) today, just as I did on 14th June. I accept the right hon. Gentleman's general view that no Parliament can bind its successors, but that is precisely what we are doing today.

I have travelled to Northern Ireland on many occasions, the last time being only a few days ago, and it is my view that in the present emotion-charged and highly distrustful atmosphere there the House should hesitate before taking a step that would compound that distrust, because that is what I fear may be the consequence of passing the clause unamended.

Secondly, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman when he says that by trying to increase certainty this House may find itself in the position of having prolonged it. I ask the House to consider whether that has not been our experience over the last 70 years. The more the House has tried to allay the fears of the people of Northern Ireland, the more it has heightened those fears and prolonged uncertainty.

But even if we were to pursue this plebiscite, any future result which came from it would be sterile unless the groundwork had proceeded, unless we had broadened and deepened that consent, which is such an attractive feature of the White Paper, unless we had pursued the Irish dimension, and unless we had explored the possibility of a Council of Ireland. It may be that at that point the arguments that we have just heard—and in a way again I generally accept them—will come into play.

I was sorry to hear the contributions of my hon. Friends the Members for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Douglas), and I hope that they will not mind my putting it that way. I was sorry because, like them, I am a European and because, again like them, I went through great difficulties a couple of years ago. Some people think that the only Member on this side of the House who has faced any difficulty is the hon. and learned Member for Lincoln (Mr. Taverne), but some of us faced difficulties elsewhere. However, we were backed by parties that were more sensible and by colleagues who were a good deal more helpful.

One of the pressures that I resisted was for the holding of a referendum. Even though, over my head, a poll was held in my constituency by the local Press which produced a result of 84 per cent. against entry into the EEC, like my hon. Friends, I still said "No" to the referendum. The most compelling argument that I heard against the referendum was given by my hon. Friend the Member for East Stirlingshire. He will no doubt remember the occasion, and that is why I was sorry, a few moments ago, to witness his departure from the principle.

I understand the position of my hon. Friends. Basically, they would like to preserve their attachment, but they find that they have to depart from it. Heaven knows that the pressures on me could not have been greater than they were two years ago—as they were on one or two others—but I stood firm.

Mr. Lawson

The proposal on which we operate is not that we should vote for the Bill and therefore for a referen- dum, but that we should abstain and thereby preserve our purity.

Mr. Duffy

I shall not detain the House for very much longer.

The Secretary of State claimed that the poll would remove uncertainty. Hon. Members will have heard the exchanges a few minutes ago between the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt). They may have got the impression, as I did, that the position is now further confused. Can anyone imagine any circumstances in which such a poll could in the future produce any result that could make the change on anything but a narrow majority? If that were to happen, the House would decide the matter.

The right hon. Gentleman went on to claim that the poll would remove speculation about the border. I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Down. South (Captain Orr) that speculation about the border will not be so easily dispersed. It will always be a feature not only of the Assembly but of life in general in Northern Ireland, whilst the border exists.

I suggest that the clause is wholly out of character with the constitutional practice of the House. Moreover, it is out of tune with present developments and the emerging temper. I am reminded of the courageous speech made last night by the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic when he praised—as I did when I spoke in the debate on 14th June—the British genius for the pragmatic. Those were almost the words that I used.

Like me, the Prime Minister can see this being expressed by the following up and complementing of the will of the people of Northern Ireland to work out their own new structure, to develop a basic consensus and he asked whether we ought not to avoid raising abstract, logical or constitutional obstacles which is what the Secretary of State is doing. When the right hon. Gentleman asks us to accept the clause, he is asking us to set up abstract, logical or constitutional obstacles, and I am glad that on this occasion most of my hon. Friends are saying "No".

Rev. Ian Paisley

The people of Northern Ireland put a lot of faith in the pledge given to them by the Attlee Government in 1949. During the debate on the Temporary Provisions Bill I moved that that pledge should be put into the Bill, which it was, but I say to the House today, as it faces reality, that the people of Northern Ireland have learned that pledges given by this Parliament can be changed by another Parliament, or even by the Parliament which gave them. The only pledge that the people of Northern Ireland have about remaining outside the Irish Republic is the fact that they have a majority opinion which holds to that view. I do not deny that this has not been my view before, but it is my view now that all the pledges given by this House will not allay one fear in anybody's mind. There was a time when I felt that a series of border polls would be helpful to the minority in Northern Ireland, for it would give them an opportunity to express themselves in a matter in which they had national aspirations. I have learned from members of the Opposition that border polls are indeed repugnant, and that the one that was held was effectually boycotted by them. The first border poll should have been held immediately after the imposition of direct rule. It was held much later and it gave the answer of the loyalist people.

May I now deal with the amendment? As a party leader in Northern Ireland I was never consulted about my views on having a border poll, and I believe now that it would be far better not to write such a provision into the Bill. The Bill generally is irrelevant. The House has told the people of Northern. Ireland to speak, they have given their answer, and they have now elected representatives. Every one of those representatives will now speak, and I hope that the British Government will be willing to speak with them to some purpose.

The hon. Member for Erith and Cray-ford (Mr. Wellebeloved) said things that were unpalatable to hon. Members, but perhaps today he alone was facing some of the stern realities of the situation. This House had better face the realities. The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) put words into my mouth, and I regret that he is not present at the moment. On a television programme, while the results were coming in, I pointed out that 34 per cent. of the people of Northern Ireland said that they did not want the British Government's proposals. The hon. Member is on record in this House as saying that he looked upon the Assembly as an elected conference table. The hon. Member's party took some 23 per cent. of the poll. Those two figures add up to 57 per cent. Fifty-seven per cent. of the people therefore have said that we must talk again with the British Government. The British Government would do well to look upon those representatives as the sounding board of opinion in Northern Ireland. They would do well to enter into immediate negotiations with them. The people of Northern Ireland expect their representatives to negotiate for them. There must be a re-think. It is unfortunate that the Government find themselves hooked on the Bill. It would have been better to have had an elected conference table. That is what the people think and it is what I and other hon. Members have said. We went unheeded—voices in the wilderness. Now the House is facing reality.

It makes no difference whether pledges are written into the Bill. The people of Northern Ireland realise that no matter what the pledge may be it can be changed. It can be said that as long as the majority of the people in Northern Ireland want to remain outside the Irish Republic they will do so. I use these words deliberately and carefully. The majority, and the majority alone, can safeguard their position. What the people of Northern Ireland cannot understand—and I fail to understand it, too—is the British Government's saying to us that we must satisfy the majority by giving them a border poll, while saying that there are to be talks between the Westminster Government, the Government of the Republic and the leaders of the elected representatives of Northern Ireland to discuss how the three objectives in the paper for discussion may best be pursued.

The first objective is the acceptance of the present status of Northern Ireland and the possibility, which would have to be compatible with the principle of consent, of subsequent change in that status. But the Government are putting fear into the hearts of people by saying, on the one hand, that there will be no change until a border poll shows it is wanted and, on the other, that they are to hold talks to try to negotiate a change. To say those two things is blatant dishonesty and hypocrisy. I speak for the largest group in the Assembly when I say that the people are not prepared to discuss the possibility of change in the status of Northern Ireland and that they are not prepared to have any underhand negotiations with the Republic of Ireland.

6.45 p.m.

It should be said—my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) did not say it, although I tried to interrupt him; he must have turned his deaf ear to me—that the Prime Minister of the Republic should have no say in the shape or destiny of Northern Ireland. Nevertheless, it should be said in all fairness to Mr. Cosgrave that he said that if a negotiated settlement was arrived at that would bring stability to Ulster he would be prepared to back it. I believe that the most constructive thing he has ever said was that there would have to be a negotiated settlement. Over the years this House has interfered in the affairs of Ireland, both North and South, and politicians here have their graveyards in Ireland. I do not believe that any English politician can understand the politics of either Southern Ireland or Northern Ireland.

The people of Northern Ireland have elected an Assembly. Some people thought that the Alliance Party would emerge to a glorious victory and that we would see a wonderful Assembly. The people of Northern Ireland have spoken, and the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) said that the voice of Northern Ireland should be heard. I trust that this House will listen to it. I appeal to the Government to listen to the elected representatives. Have negotiations with them. Do not stand on ceremony. Let us get down to the hard task of hearing what they have to say, and when they say it let the British Government take note.

There is no need to write into the Bill a provision about the poll, because it is not relevant to the pledge. If that guarantee is to satisfy the people of Ulster—I do not believe that it will—it is better without the reference to the border poll. It is better that it stands on its own legs.

Mr. James Molyneaux (Antrim, South)

I sympathise with the hon. Mem- ber for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Douglas). I am sorry that he has left the Chamber. To a certain extent I agree with much of what he said, and I can also understand the feelings that he conveyed to the House of the Northern Ireland Labour Party. Not for the first time has that party found itself deserted by some Labour Members here. It will not be difficult for it to pinpoint some of those detractors when the HANSARD report of this debate is published. That applies particularly to the vicious speech by the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt).

The hon. Member seemed to suggest that the Northern Ireland Labour Party was two-faced in some of its attitudes. That is a dangerous suggestion for the hon. Member to make about anyone, because it is well known and recognised that he appears in London as a Socialist and at home in Belfast as a Republican.

In defence of the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees), he might be forgiven for feeling a little uncertainty as to whether he should have consulted the Northern Ireland Labour Party about his amendment. There was a great deal of uncertainty, and that uncertainty remained until the last stages of the count, before it was clear that the Northern Ireland Labour Party would have even one member elected. We should exonerate the hon. Member for Leeds, South of any negligence, as it was doubtful whether the Northern Ireland Labour Party would have any members.

The hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) stuck a realistic note but I ask him to consider that there is a compromise between the view that the Army should be taken out and the view that the Army must remain at all costs. I suggest that the middle view is to work towards the simpler solution, of a lessening of the political involvement in Northern Ireland, followed by a reduction in the military involvement.

In plain terms, and in the context of the clause that we are discussing, that must mean giving greater authority to the Assembly and taking heed of what my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) has said. It means, above all, listening to what the recently and freshly elected representatives of the people of Northern Ireland will say. Only by doing that shall we achieve any form of stability.

The very worst thing that can happen is for this Parliament to say, "You were elected, on rules set up and devised by us, to an Assembly that was constructed and designed by us. Now that you have been elected we shall ignore your views and decisions." I trust that this Parliament, with all its wisdom over hundreds of years, will not make that mistake.

I noticed that when my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) outlined some of the consequences of irresponsible statements about a review of political and military involvement, several Opposition hon. Members hastened to dissociate themselves from such views. They seemed to be at great pains to claim that such views were very much in the minority in the Opposition. I should like to believe them, and I accept their sincerity, but, with the best will in the world, I find it difficult to believe what they say.

I shall quote briefly what the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) said in a rather puzzling intervention at an early stage in Committee. It was puzzling, because there did not seem to be any reason for the right hon. Gentleman to make such an intervention. As I said at the time, it was an intervention that I thought would have been very well omitted. The right hon. Gentleman said: The sovereignty of Westminster means this Bill. It means bringing into Government in Northern Ireland in a real sense and in every way the minority. If there is any departure from that … it should be made known before the election that we shall reconsider our position. I should think that my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North will concede that that statement by the former Home Secretary, who had responsibility for handling Northern Ireland and who cannot plead ignorance, contributed in large measure to his success in his election campaign and the success of his group, in addition to his popularity and political appeal.

We have all appreciated the efforts that my right hon. Friend has made to obtain the views of representatives in Northern Ireland on the amendment. He has properly reported that he has found that there is a majority in favour of retaining provisions for holding plebicites in future. Consequently, he is recommending that the House should act according to that view. I merely ask that similar regard be paid to majority views on other issues, even if such views conflict with the views of hon. Members in this House.

Mr. Kilfedder

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) is not here. He made a brief appearance and made a typically distasteful and personal attack upon the members of the Northern Ireland Labour Party—particularly Mr. David Bleakley. Although I differ from Mr. Bleakley and the Labour Party of Northern Ireland, I find the remarks of the Leader of the SDLP the sort of remarks that should not have been said in this House when there was no member of the Northern Ireland Labour Party to reply to them.

Of course, the hon. Member for Belfast, West is bitter because the Northern Ireland Labour Party, including its chairman and other members, have revealed and labelled the SDLP as a sectarian party. It is clear from what the Northern Ireland Labour Party has said in the past that it confirms what the Unionist Party has been saying about the SDLP.

The SDLP may now present a new public image and a new face of seeking harmony in Northern Ireland, but it is not so long since it was urging people on to the streets to engage in a confrontation with the police and the soldiers. One member of the SDLP, as I repeated in this House, said, at a meeting at Coalisland, that the people should "bloody well take as much as they can in the way of family benefits and unemployment benefits from the British Government, and bloody well get twice as much if they can." Those remarks came from a member of the SDLP. That is the party that is led by the hon. Member for Belfast, West.

It is clear from the SDLP's manifesto that it is its wish that Northern Ireland should become part of a united Ireland. But it goes further than that. In its manifesto it calls for an amnesty for political prisoners, namely, those people who have been guilty of murdering innocent people. British citizens, and soldiers who are there to protect life and property. That is typical of the SDLP.

The provisions for a poll in Clause 1 are absolutely worthless. That is borne out by what some Opposition spokesmen have had to say, including the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. R. C. Mitchell), who rightly pointed out that in a few years the whole of Clause I could be deleted by another Act of this Parliament. That is right. Clause 1 amounts to an attempt to lull the Ulster majority into a false feeling of security. It is being used to sweeten the unpalatable and undemocratic provisions in other parts of the Bill. It may deceive some people but it will not deceive everybody. In due course the people of Northern Ireland will wake up to the fact that the Bill provides a system of government that would never have been imposed by this Parliament even in a colony of darkest Africa.

Ever since 1969, when the IRA began its obscene terror campaign, we have had repeated declarations supporting the law-abiding majority. More recently, when those pledges were betrayed, we have had robust declarations from Her Majesty's Government that Ulster will remain part of the United Kingdom until a poll decides otherwise. We had the 1949 declaration, which was contained in an Act of that year introduced by a Labour Government led by Mr. Attlee. That has been abandoned. It was stated in that declaration that there would be no change in the status of Northern Ireland without the consent of the Parliament of Northern Ireland.

The present Labour Party has gone back on that. This is a warning, if the people of Northern Ireland need a warning, that they cannot rely on any statement made by any right hon. or hon. Member on either Front Bench in this House.

7.0 p.m.

In March 1972, when the Prime Minister announced the suspension of the Stormont Parliament, he declared clearly that the prorogation was only temporary. Time has proved that his statement was worthless because, in due course, with the Republican campaign, Stormont was not revived but cast aside in order to appease the Republicans and the IRA. As a result of the IRA murders, mutilations and destruction, the Prime Minister changed his mind. It proves that terrorism does pay.

The great mistake that the Government and the Opposition leadership make is that they give way and try to appease terrorism, but the situation in Ulster has proved, as the pre-war appeasement of Hitler proved, that appeasement will not stop those who wish to cause destruction and chaos. When some Labour Members speak about a last chance for Northern Ireland, and when petitions are drawn up for the withdrawal of British troops, the IRA is encouraged to pursue its murderous campaign—indeed, to execute more British citizens and more British soldiers. Neither elections nor polls will stop the IRA from that campaign, because it behaves like any bully. It believes that if it goes on pushing someone around and lie gives way, it will be able to knock him over. But the people of Northern Ireland—the law-abiding majority—will take a stand and will not be pushed over. They have reached their sticking point and they cannot and will not give way any further.

The Clause contains provision for periodic plebiscites, and on each occasion when a poll is held the raw wound, created during the past years by the IRA campaign of terror and the bitter campaign waged by the SDLP, will be inflamed. Between each poll, the preparations for the next poll will create further bitterness.

We have in this House today a very Irish situation, because the Opposition are on a three-line Whip against having a poll in Northern Ireland. There are some exceptions among them—for example, the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) and the hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Douglas), for both of whom I have deep respect. The Government have also issued a three-line Whip to force a poll on Northern Ireland. It is not so long ago, however, that on the question of entry to the Common Market the two parties took contrary positions. The Prime Minister had said that entry would only be on the basis of the wholehearted consent of the British people, but the Government refused to allow the British people to decide the issue by means of a referendum. I am opposed to the Common Market, but I was also opposed to the idea of a referendum on the issue. It is my view that one cannot decide things by referenda or polls. Although I support Amendment No. 1, that does not mean that I support what many hon. Members opposite have said, although some of them have spoken with great common sense and sincerity.

The hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) said that "to hog-tie the future for 10 years-plus runs counter to our genius for flexibility". That could mean anything. It could mean that in time to come the House could take a different decision about the link between Northern Ireland and Britain. However, he added that there would always be a substantial minority in the North who would not wish to go into the South. Of course, the consent of the loyal people of Ulster cannot be measured by a simple arithmetical process.

We want friendly relations with the Republic. That has always been our wish. We have never expressed a contrary wish. But we do not intend to be absorbed by the Republic, and that ought to be understood in this House and, indeed, by the Prime Minister and other politicians in the Irish Republic.

I cannot accept what the hon. Gentleman had to say about a tripartite conference. I do not accept that a foreign country that has harboured, and still harbours, IRA murderers within its boundaries, and which claims ultimate sovereignty over Northern Ireland, should have any say in the affairs of Northern Ireland. For that reason, I am totally opposed to the idea of a Council of Ireland, which would be used as a halfway house to a united Ireland. In the Assembly elections I made it clear to the electors that I found the idea totally repugnant, and I received more votes than the other six Unionist candidates who accepted the idea of a Council of Ireland.

Although the Assembly elections were held so that the people of Northern Ireland could express their opinions, and the elected representatives will use in due course the Assembly as a consultative body, it was at this sensitive time that the Prime Minister began what would constitute a series of meetings with the Eire Prime Minister. During their talks, they undoubtedly discussed the question of a poll in Northern Ireland on Monday, the status of Northern Ireland and the powers which would be devolved on the Assembly and the Executive. That meeting was sheer folly on the part of the Prime Minister, because it seemed to be treating the Ulster electorate, which is part of the United Kingdom, with the utmost contempt, and to show that the notion of having a poll was totally worthless and what might, in the long run. amount to a confidence trick.

The Secretary of State today said that the provision for a poll does not mean that there must be a poll—only that one may be held. If that is to be so, surely, if need be, on a future occasion a Bill can be introduced into this House providing for a poll.

If there must be a poll, if Amendment No. 1 is defeated, I seek support for the proposition that a poll will be held only when it is requested by two-thirds of the members of the new Assembly. Anticipating that, the Secretary of State has said that the decision to hold a poll must be made by this House, and that it would be wrong to leave it to the Northern Ireland Assembly. Does democracy count for nothing in Northern Ireland? What is the point of holding elections to an Assembly if the representatives of the people cannot be entrusted with the decision whether to hold a poll? If that is the position, the representatives in the Assembly are being treated as second-class representatives, and that is something that should be repugnant to every Member of this House.

Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)

I wish only to comment on the despicable attack made by the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) on the Northern Ireland Labour Party. The Northern Ireland Labour Party, with the trade union movement in Northern Ireland, has sought over the years to create a non-sectarian party. It has tried to deal with the social ills of Northern Ireland and has exploited no religious prejudice or belief. If there has a been failure, it is the failure of the British Labour Party not to give the Northern Ireland Labour Party the support it needed.

If the hon. Member for Belfast, West imagines that he can insult the Northern Ireland Labour Party and its leading members in the way he has done today and then expect support from us, he has another think coming to him.

7.15 p.m.

Mr. Duffy

Speak for yourself.

Mr. Loughlin

I can speak within the Parliamentary Labour Party in the same way as anyone else.

I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) rebuked the hon. Member for Belfast, West. We on the Opposition benches should pay tribute to the valiant attempt of the Northern Ireland Labour Party to steer clear of religious prejudice and to fight on the social issues.

Mr. Orme

Despite what the Jonahs on both sides of the House have said, I believe that the new Assembly will work and that there will be power sharing. Despite what the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) said, I believe that the majority want the new Assembly to work. If that means bringing together members of the Unionist Party, the SDLP, the Northern Ireland Labour Party and the Alliance, so much the better for Northern Ireland. My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) has a part to play in this, as have the Unionists and the Northern Ireland Labour Party.

We have been unduly pessimistic this afternoon. I am cautiously optimistic, although I know that we have a long way to go and it will not be easy. The hon. Member for Antrim, North and the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) have a responsibility to see that the Bill is reflected in Northern Ireland and that the people they represent have a fair chance to make the constitution work.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Does the hon. Gentleman say that he reflects in the country the Industrial Relations Act?

Mr. Orme

I knew that the hon. Gentleman would refer to the Industrial Relations Act. I bitterly opposed it, and my union is still opposed to it, but that is on a different plane. When certain sections of the community defy an Act of Parliament they do not do so with bullets and guns. The situation here is not on all-fours with the situation in

Northern Ireland. I know that the hon. Gentleman is opposed to violence, and I accept that without qualification.

We could go on ad infinitum giving guarantee upon guarantee, but, as the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) and other Unionist Members said, at the end of the day all this underwriting and underlining means nothing when each Parliament is sovereign and any decision can be changed. It is by our attitude and actions that we are judged.

The Opposition have said time and again that it is impossible to force a majority into the Republic against their will. Some people who supported the border poll are now saying that the link with the United Kingdom is so tenuous that it might not last and they are, therefore, going for an independent Ulster. I am thinking here of Mr. William Craig. Those people have now moved away from their original attitude. But if a certain section want an independent Ulster, the minority have a veto against it. That is why we arrived at the solution of the Assembly.

If the Assembly appears to be working after several years and people want a border poll to underwrite the rights of the majority just when power sharing is working, the arguments will again be thrown back on sectarian lines and away from the working of the Assembly and the new constitution. A pledge has been given in the sense that the majority have a guarantee within the terms of the constitution. We cannot underwrite that further either by border polls or by any other means. We want to see the people on both sides of the divide working together with the new constitution within the terms of paragraph 112 of the White Paper, in the Irish dimension, but by agreement and not by threats or violence. In that context a plebiscite will only make the situation worse, and I ask the House to support the amendment.

Question put, That the amendment he made:—

The House divided: Ayes 258, Noes 264.

Division No. 182.] AYES [7.20 p.m.
Abse, Leo Allen, Scholefield Ashton, Joe
Albu, Austen Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Atkinson, Norman
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Ashley, Jack Bagier, Gordon A. T.
Barnes, Michael Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Hamming, William Moyle, Roland
Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton) Hardy, Peter Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Baxter, William Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Murray, Ronald King
Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith Oakes, Gordon
Bidwell, Sydney Hattersley, Roy Ogden, Eric
Bishop, E. S. Hatton, F. O'Halloran, Michael
Blenkinsop, Arthur Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis O'Malley, Brian
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Heffer, Eric S. Oram, Bert
Booth, Albert Hooson, Emlyn Orme, Stanley
Boothroyd, Miss B. (West Brom.) Horam, John Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Oswald, Thomas
Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland) Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)
Bradley, Tom Huckfield, Leslie Padley, Walter
Brown, Robert C. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne, W.) Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Paget, R. T.
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Hughes, Mark (Durham) Paisley, Rev. Ian
Brown, Ronald(Shoreditch & F'bury) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.) Palmer, Arthur
Buchan, Norman Hughes, Roy (Newport) Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Hunter, Adam Parker, John (Dagenham)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill) Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Janner, Greville Pavitt, Laurie
Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.) Jeger, Mrs. Lena Pendry, Tom
Cant, R. B. Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Perry, Ernest G.
Carmichael, Nell Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield) John, Brynmor Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.
Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) Johnson, Carol (Lewisham. S.) Prescott, John
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull. W.) Price, William (Rugby)
Clark, David (Colne Valley) Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.) Probert, Arthur
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.) Jones, Barry (Flint, E.) Radice, Giles
Cohen, Stanley Jones, Dan (Burnley) Reed, D. (Sedgefield)
Coleman, Donald Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)
Concannon, J. D. Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen) Rhodes, Geoffrey
Conlan, Bernard Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.) Richard, Ivor
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Judd, Frank Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.) Kaufman, Gerald Roderick, Caerwyn E. (Brc'n & R'dnor)
Crawshaw, Richard Kelley, Richard Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)
Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Kerr, Russell Rose, Paul B.
Cunningham, G. (Islington, S.W.) Kilfedder, James Ross, RI. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)
Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven) Kinnock, Neil Rowlands, Ted
Dalyell, Tam Lambie, David Sandelson, Neville
Darling, Rt. Hn. George Lamborn, Harry Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Davidson, Arthur Lamond, James Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Davies, Denzil (Llanelly) Latham, Arthur Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Leadbitter, Ted Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.) Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove) Leonard, Dick Silverman, Julius
Deakins, Eric Lestor, Miss Joan Skinner, Dennis
de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.) Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)
Delargy, Hugh Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Spearing, Nigel
Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Lipton, Marcus Spriggs, Leslie
Dempsey, James Lomas, Kenneth Stallard, A. W.
Doig, Peter Loughlin, Charles Stoddart, David (Swindon)
Dormand, J. D. Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John
Douglas-Mann Bruce Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Stott, Roger (Westhoughton)
Driberg, Tom Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Strang, Gavin
Duffy, A. E. P. McBride, Neil Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Dunn, James A. McCartney, Hugh Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Dunnett, Jack McElhone, Frank Swain, Thomas
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Machin, George Thomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff, W.)
Edwards, William (Merioneth) Mackenzie, Gregor Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Ellis, Tom Maclennan, Robert Torney, Tom
English, Michael McMaster, Stanley Tuck, Raphael
Evans, Fred McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Varley, Eric G.
Ewing, Harry McNamara, J. Kevin Wainwright, Edwin
Faulds, Andrew Maginnis, John E. Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)
Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E. Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, Ladywood) Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Wallace, George
Fitt, Gerard (Belfast, W.) Marks, Kenneth Watkins, David
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Marquand, David Weitzman, David
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Marsden, F. Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Foot, Michael Marshall, Dr. Edmund White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
Ford, Ben Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Whitehead, Phillip
Forrester, John Mayhew, Christopher Whitlock, William
Fraser, John (Norwood) Meacher, Michael Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Freeson, Reginald Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Galpern, Sir Myer Mikardo, Ian Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Garrett, W. E. Millan, Bruce Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Gilbert, Dr. John Miller, Dr. M. S. Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Ginsburg, David (Dewsbury) Milne, Edward Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Golding, John Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen) Woof, Robert
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C. Molloy, William
Gourley, Harry Molyneaux, James TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Grant, George (Morpeth) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Mr. Joseph Harper and
Grant, John D. (Islington, E.) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Mr. James Hamilton.
Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)
Adley, Robert Gardner, Edward Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Gibson-Watt, David Miscampbell, Norman
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Moate, Roger
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Glyn, Dr. Alan Money, Ernie
Astor, John Goodhart, Philip Monks, Mrs. Connie
Atkins, Humphrey Gorst, John Monro, Hector
Awdry, Daniel Gower, Raymond Montgomery, Fergus
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.) More, Jasper
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Gray, Hamish Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Green, Alan Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.
Batsford, Brian Griffiths, Eldon Bury St. Edmunds) Morrison, Charles
Bell, Ronald Grylls, Michael Mudd, David
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Gummer, J. Selwyn Murton, Oscar
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Gurden, Harold Nabarro, Sir Gerald
Benyon, W. Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley) Neave, Airey
Berry, Hn. Anthony Hall, John (Wycombe) Nicholls Sir Harmer
Biffen, John Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael
Biggs-Davison, John Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Nott, John
Blaker, Peter Hannam, John (Exeter) Onslow, Cranley
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally
Body, Richard Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)
Boscawen, Hn Robert Haselhurst, Alan Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby)
Bossom, Sir Clive Hastings, Stephen Parkinson, Cecil
Bowden, Andrew Havers, Sir Michael Percival, Ian
Braine, Sir Bernard Hawkins, Paul Peyton, Rt. Hn. John
Bray, Ronald Hay, John Pike, Miss Mervyn
Brinton, Sir Tatton Hayhoe, Barney Pink, R. Bonner
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Heseltine, Michael Price, David (Eastleigh)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Hicks, Robert Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Higgins, Terence L. Proudfoot. Wilfred
Bryan, Sir Paul Holland, Philip Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M) Holt, Miss Mary Quennell, Miss J. M.
Buck, Antony Hornby, Richard Raison, Timothy
Bullus, Sir Eric Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Burden, F. A. Howe, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Howell, David (Guildford) Redmond, Robert
Campbell, Rt. Hn. G. (Moray & Nairn) Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.) Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)
Carlisle, Mark Hunt, John Rees, Peter (Dover)
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Hutchison, Michael Clark Rees-Davies, W. R.
Cary, Sir Robert Iremonger, T. L. Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Channon, Paul Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Chapman, Sydney James, David Ridsdale, Julian
Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher Jenkin, Rt. Hn. P. (W'st'd & W'df'd) Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey
Chichester-Clark, R. Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)
Churchill, W. S. Jessel, Toby Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Clark, William (Surrey, E.) Johnson Smith. G. (E. Grinstead) Rost, Peter
Clegg, Walter Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Russell, Sir Ronald
Cockeram. Eric Jopling, Michael St. John-Stevas, Norman
Cooke, Robert Kaberry, Sir Donald Scott, Nicholas
Coombs, Derek Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Cooper, A. E. Kershaw. Anthony Shelton, William (Clapham)
Cordle, John King, Evelyn (Dorset. S.) Shersby, Michael
Corfield, Rt. Hn. Sir Frederick King, Tom (Bridgwater) Simeons, Charles
Cormack, Patrick Kinsey, J. R Sinclair, Sir George
Contain, A. P. Kitson, Timothy Skeet, T. H. H.
Critchley, Julian Knight, Mrs. Jill Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Crouch, David Knox, David Soref, Harold
Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford) Lamont, Norman Speed, Keith
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Lane, David Spence, John
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen.Jack Langford-Holt, Sir John Sproat, Iain
Dean, Paul Lewis. Kenneth (Rutland) Stainton, Keith
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'field) Stanbrook, Ivor
Drayson, G. B Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone) Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Longden, Sir Gilbert Stokes, John
Dykes, Hugh Luce, R. N. Stuttaford, Dr. Tom
Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir John McAdden, Sir Stephen Tapsell, Peter
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) MacArthur, Ian Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) McCrindle, R. A. Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.)
Emery, Peter McLaren, Martin Tebbit, Norman
Farr, John Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Maurice (Farnham) Temple, John M.
Fenner, Mrs. Peggy McNair-Wilson, Michael Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret
Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead) McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest) Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)
Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton) Madden, Martin Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Madel, David Tilney, John
Fookes, Miss Janet Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest Trafford, Dr. Anthony
Fortescue, Tim Marten, Neil Trew, Peter
Foster, Sir John Mather, Carol Tugendhat, Christopher
Fowler, Norman Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin
Fox, Marcus Mawby, Ray Vaughan, Dr. Gerard
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone) Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Vickers, Dame Joan
Galbraith, Hn. T. G. D. Meyer, Sir Anthony Waddington, David
Mills, Peter (Torrington)
Walder, David (Clitheroe) Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William Worsley, Marcus
Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester) Wiggin, Jerry Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Walters, Dennis Wilkinson, John Younger, Hn. George
Ward, Dame Irene Winterton, Nicholas
Weatherill, Bernard Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Wells, John (Maidstone) Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard Mr. John Stradling Thomas and
White, Roger (Gravesend) Woodnutt, Mark Mr. Kenneth Clarke

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment proposed: No. 2, in page 1, line 15, at end insert:

A poll shall not be held until after a resolution passed by a two thirds majority of

the Northern Ireland Assembly requiring such a poll'.—[Capt. Orr.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:

The House divided: Ayes: 9, Noes: 257.

Division No. 183.] AYES [7.31 p.m.
Biggs-Davison, John Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
McMaster, Stanley Soref, Harold TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Maginnis, John E. Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery) Mr. James Kilfedder and
Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Winterton, Nicholas Mr. James Molyneaux.
Paisley, Rev. Ian
Adley, Robert Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. Hornby, Richard
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Drayson, G. B. Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Howe, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Dykes, Hugh Howell, David (Guildford)
Archer, Jeffrey (Louth) Eden, Rt. Hn. Sir John Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)
Astor, John Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Hunt, John
Atkins, Humphrey Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Hutchison, Michael Clark
Awdry, Daniel Emery, Peter Iremonger, T. L.
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone) Eyre, Reginald Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Baker, W. H. K. (Banff) Farr, John James, David
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Fenner, Mrs. Peggy Jenkin, Rt. Hn. P. (W'st'd & W'df'd)
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead) Jennings, J. C. (Burton)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton) Jessel, Toby
Benyon, W. Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)
Berry, Hn. Anthony Fookes, Miss Janet Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)
Biffen, John Fortescue, Tim Jopling, Michael
Blaker, Peter Foster, Sir John Kaberry, Sir Donald
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Fowler, Norman Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine
Body, Richard Fox, Marcus Kershaw, Anthony
Boscawen. Hn. Robert Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone) King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)
Bossom, Sir Clive Galbraith, T. G. D. King, Tom (Bridgwater)
Bowden, Andrew Gardner, Edward Kinsey, J. R.
Braine, Sir Bernard Gibson-Watt, David Kitson, Timothy
Bray, Ronald Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Knight, Mrs. Jill
Brinton, Sir Tatton Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Knox, David
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Glyn, Dr. Alan Lamont, Norman
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Goodhart, Philip Lane, David
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Gorst, John Langford-Holt, Sir John
Bryan, Sir Paul Gower, Raymond Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M) Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.) Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'field)
Buck, Antony Gray, Hamish Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)
Burden, F. A. Green, Alan Longden, Sir Gilbert
Campbell, Rt. Hn. G. (Moray & Nairn) Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Luce, R. N.
Carlisle, Mark Grylls, Michael McAdden, Sir Stephen
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Gummer, J. Selwyn MacArthur, Ian
Cary, Sir Robert Gurden, Harold McCrindle, R. A.
Channon, Paul Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley) Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Maurice (Farnham)
Chapman, Sydney Hall, Sir John (Wycombe) McNair-Wilson, Michael
Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher Hall-Davis, A. G. F. McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)
Churchill, W. S. Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Madden, Martin
Clark, William (Surrey, E.) Hannam, John (Exeter) Madel, David
Clegg, Walter Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest
Cockeram, Eric Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Marten, Neil
Cooke, Robert Haselhurst, Alan Mather, Carol
Coombs, Derek Hastings, Stephen Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald
Cooper, A. E. Havers, Sir Michael Mawby, Ray
Cordle, John Hawkins, Paul Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Corfield, Rt. Hn. Sir Frederick Hay. John Meyer, Sir Anthony
Cormack, Patrick Hayhoe, Barney Mills, Peter (Torrington)
Costain, A. P. Heseltine, Michael Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)
Critchley, Julian Hicks, Robert Miscampbell, Norman
Crouch, David Higgins, Terence L. Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford) Holland, Philip Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen)
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. Jack Holt, Miss Mary Moate, Roger
Dean, Paul Hordern, Peter Money, Ernie
Monks, Mrs. Connie Rees, Peter (Dover) Temple, John M.
Monro, Hector Rees-Davies, W. R. Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret
Montgomery, Fergus Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
More, Jasper Ridley, Hn. Nicholas Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)
Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh) Ridsdale, Julian Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm. Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey Trafford, Dr. Anthony
Mudd, David Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.) Trew, Peter
Murton, Oscar Roberts, Wyn (Conway) Tugendhat, Christopher
Nabarro, Sir Gerald Russell, Sir Ronald Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin
Neave, Airey St. John-Stevas, Norman Vaughan, Dr. Gerard
Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael Scott, Nicholas Vickers, Dame Joan
Nott, John Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby) Waddington, David
O'Halloran, Michael Shelton, William (Clapham) Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Onslow, Cranley Shersby, Michael Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)
Oppenhelm, Mrs. Sally Simeons, Charles Walters, Dennis
Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.) Sinclair, Sir George Ward, Dame Irene
Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby) Skeet, T. H. H. Weatherill, Bernard
Parkinson, Cecil Skinner, Dennis Wells, John (Maidstone)
Percival, Ian Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington) White, Roger (Gravesend)
Peyton, Rt. Hn. John Speed, Keith Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Pike, Miss Mervyn Spence, John Wiggin, Jerry
Pink, R. Bonner Sproat, Iain Wilkinson, John
Price, David (Eastleigh) Stainton, Keith Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L. Stanbrook, Ivor Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Proudfoot, Wilfred Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper) Woodnutt, Mark
Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis Stokes, John Worsley, Marcus
Quennell, Miss J. M. Stuttaford, Dr. Tom Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Raison, Timothy Sutcliffe, John Younger, Hn. George
Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James Tapsell, Peter
Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter Taylor, Frank (Moss Side) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Redmond, Robert Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.) Mr. John Stradling Thomas and
Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.) Tebbit, Norman Mr. Kenneth Clarke.

Question accordingly negatived.

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