HC Deb 04 April 1974 vol 871 cc1419-20
2. Mr. Duffy

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he is satisfied with the establishment and progress of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Stanley Orme)

Yes, Sir. Since legislative powers were devolved to it on 1st January, the Assembly has made important progress.

Mr. Duffy

Will my hon. Friend confirm that one of the facts of life which he has discovered at Stormont is the harmonious way in which the three-sided Executive is working? It represents a majority in the Assembly and was sent there by the majority of the people of Northern Ireland, who voted for partnership rather than confrontation and for the realisation of the old dream of Protestants, Catholics, and dissenters working together. Will my hon. Friend and the Secretary of State give the highest priority to the continued existence of the Assembly?

Mr. Orme

I endorse what my hon. Friend has said. The Executive is working exceedingly well, and more will probably be said about that matter later today. We welcome the fact that the Assembly, which is responsible to the people of Northern Ireland, is settling down to the important parliamentary work facing it, and we wish it well.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that one-third of the members of the Assembly do not take part in the business of the Assembly as set forth by the Executive? Does he not also agree that the majority of people in Northern Ireland at the last election voted overwhelmingly against the Assembly? Does he not consider that it would be better for the stability of Northern Ireland if there were new Assembly elections, so that the people themselves could declare whom they wanted in the Assembly?

Mr. Orme

On the last point, my right hon. Friend has made it clear that there will be no elections until those provided for under the Northern Ireland Constitution Act, which will be in four years' time. Of course, those members who do not attend or who act in the manner in which they do must make their own decisions. They are responsible to the people whom they represent. I should have thought that they could have provided a worthwhile and positive Opposition in the Assembly, which is what is needed at present in Northern Ireland.

Mr. McNamara

Does my hon. Friend agree that the majority of the people concerned in the last General Election voted in favour of the policies outlined by the previous Government and the present Government and, therefore, in favour of the continuation of the Assembly?

Mr. Orme

If my hon. Friend is referring to the United Kingdom as a whole, that is a fact, but if we return to the issue of the Assembly, which was elected under the proportional representation system, the Executive represents a majority of the people in Northern Ireland.

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