HC Deb 12 March 1981 vol 1000 cc987-8
2. Mr. Soley

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether, in view of his difficulties in making progress in the recent discussions with political parties, he will make it his policy to decide the future of Northern Ireland in the interests of all the people of the United Kingdom and Ireland and not allow any part of the United Kingdom to veto such options.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Humphrey Atkins)

Section 1 of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 affirms 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". The Government stand wholeheartedly by that commitment. In discussing the future administration of the Province it would not be in anybody's interests to ignore the wishes of the people who live there.

Mr. Soley

I understand that it would be fatal to ignore the views of the people who live there, but is it not true that the failure to agree a satisfactory way forward at the recent talks was due largely to the lack of willingness of the leaders of the majority party to compromise? In view of that, is it not true to say that the veto prolongs the agony for most of the people of Northern Ireland?

Mr. Atkins

It is not my business to apportion blame, as the hon. Gentleman seeks to do, to any party in the discussions. The Government's position is clear. We seek a way forward, politically, but we are certain that any way forward that will last must have the support and agreement of all those who live in Northern Ireland.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

In view of a continuing absence of political agreement among the Conservative, Labour, Liberal and other parties, will the Government continue to govern the country in the interests of the United Kingdom as a whole and not allow any section to veto their intentions?

Mr. Atkins

Direct rule will continue in the present situation, but the Government hope that the parties that fought the election on the basis that they would seek some form of political progress, as did the right hon. Gentleman's party, will be able to come together with the other parties, not to find out precisely what should be done, but what framework or machinery would be acceptable to everybody.