HC Deb 22 November 1979 vol 974 cc543-4
6. Mr. Wm. Ross

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether it is his policy that the political future of Northern Ireland is a matter for Her Majesty's Government, Parliament and the people of Northern Ireland.

Mr. Humphrey Atkins

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Ross

Can the Secretary of State explain the view of his noble Friend, expressed in another place this month, that there were aspirations held in Britain and further afield? If those words do not mean that the Government are allowing outside interests to colour their judgment and their policies, what exactly do they mean?

Mr. Atkins

What my noble Friend said was true. There is a lot of interest in the affairs of Northern Ireland and in the whole of the United Kingdom for that matter. [Interruption.] The hon. Member asked whether it was the Government's view that the political future of Northern Ireland was a matter for the Government, Parliament and the people of Northern Ireland. The answer to that is "Yes". It is not a matter for anybody else.

Mr. McNamara

I refer to the right hon. Gentleman's original answer on the Irish dimension. That was an important answer in view of statements that have been made recently. Can he confirm that at any conference that takes place with any party as a result of his initiative there will be every possibility to discuss the question of the Irish dimension, and that in any settlement put to this House and the people of Northern Ireland no limitations will be placed on co-operation between the two parts of the island of Ireland or on the aspirations of those who feel that there should be a united Ireland?

Mr. Atkins

The working paper that will form the basis for the conference is about transferring responsibility for their own affairs to the people of Northern Ireland. If an elected representative body can be set up in Northern Ireland, as we all hope it can, it will have the opportunity to work out the relationship that it has with the Republic of Ireland in respect of those matters for which it has transferred responsibility. There is plenty of opportunity for this kind of discussion and for moving forward in this direction. It is our business, in conjunction with the people of Northern Ireland, to work out how we can best provide for a return of democracy to the people of Northern Ireland.