HC Deb 15 May 1975 vol 892 cc631-3
3. Mr. Gow

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will make a statement about Government policy towards Northern Ireland following the election of the Northern Ireland Convention.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

Now that the Convention has been elected, it is, as provided for in the Northern Ireland Act 1974, for that Convention to consider what provision for the government of Northern Ireland is likely to command the most widespread acceptance throughout the community there". It will then be for Parliament to decide the future constitutional arrangements for Northern Ireland.

Mr. Gow

What time scale does the Secretary of State have in mind for the recommendations of the Convention? Will he take this opportunity of confirming that there is no question of prejudgment by Her Majesty's Government of whatever the Convention may recommend?

Mr. Rees

The time scale for the Convention is laid down in legislation. It is a six-month period, which can be extended. It would be idle and wrong to come to a decision on what the overall conclusions of the Convention might be, because there will be no majority report; it will be a report of the Convention. It would be wrong for us to predetermine that matter. What would be right is to stick by the words of the Act: what provision for the government Northern Ireland is likely to command most widespread acceptance throughout community there". The Government stick on those words. There must be a Government in Northern Ireland which all the people in Northern Ireland can respect and work for.

Mr. Flannery

Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that the terrorism and killing in Northern Ireland are a product of the political situation that has existed there for such a long time and that the solution to this terrible problem is not administrative but political? Does he further agree with me that the Convention elections have tended to consolidate existing positions in Northern Ireland and that, therefore, much of the terrorism taking place arises because this is recognised by the people of both sides in Northern Ireland?

Finally, does my right hon. Friend agree that, in the working out of a constitution, something that has within it an in-built Bill of Rights is vitally necessary for the people of Northern Ireland, so that the process of democracy, from the major community to the minor community, can go on, with all of us watching it, in extending the hand of friendship between the two communities?

Mr. Rees

Yes. What the elections show, and what elections usually show, are the facts of life and not the facts as we would like them to be. My job is to deal with what is, and not with what I would like the facts to be. Regarding terrorism, my hon. Friend is right. There is a very strong political aspect to terrorism. But all I can say is that some of the results of the terrorism show it to be a different sort of politics from the sort I understand. I should like to make clear to my hon. Friend—this will worry the House of Commons for a long time—that there is now something deeper than that. There is violence for the sake of violence. There are gangs and gangster groups. There are people controlling areas, and young kids controlling areas with guns. I say frankly to my hon. Friend that that will not disappear with the aid of any political charter at all, because it is now ingrained.

Back to