§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)
I beg to move,That in the opinion of this House the efforts of the security forces in Northern Ireland, gratefully and appreciatively though these are recognised by this House, will not of themselves he sufficient to end terrorism and counter-terrorism and restore tranquillity to the Province until all concerned, both in the United Kingdom and abroad, are convinced that the constitutional status of Northern Ireland will not be the subject of plans, agreements, bargains or understandings entered into between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of any other state or states.
I was naturally delighted, and not a little surprised, when I learned about a fortnight ago that for the first time in 33 years I had been successful in a ballot and would have the opportunity to move a motion this morning. I could not then have imagined how horrifically relevant my motion would become in the days preceding the debate.
The mood of the House in addressing itself to its responsibilities to Northern Ireland is necessarily sombre and what I have to say will match that mood. I have no desire or wish to jangle with the Secretary of State. It is more important to note what is right and what is wrong than to note who was right and who was wrong. If in the course of what I have to say I have occasion, perhaps sometimes at a little length, to quote my words as well as those of others, I shall do so only because it is often useful in ascertaining where one has arrived to be able to verify what was thought and perceived at specific moments in time.
Many of us, when we heard the news on Monday night this week, were reminded of an equally, if not more, horrific event that occurred three and a quarter years before when, on Bank Holiday Monday 27 August 1979, Lord Mountbatten and relatives of his were murdered in the Irish Republic, and when in my constituency 18 soldiers of the Parachute Regiment were murdered by a detonation which was set off from the Irish Republic.
Many, however, who have been reminded of that congruence have not perhaps been aware of the causal connection that links those two events. The impact of the atrocity of Bank Holiday August 1979 was instantaneous and immense. The safety of all important personages, not excluding the Sovereign herself, was immediately felt to be in question, and we know now that within 24 hours among other measures set in train was an investigation into the security at Buckingham Palace.
The Government found themselves under almost irresistible pressure to do something that would enable them to answer the question "How will you ensure that that is not repeated, perhaps even more savagely?" The answer which was offered to them and which at that stage they accepted was that they had to get the co-operation of the Government of the Irish Republic and to do that they had to offer them the expectation of what in code is called political progress in Northern Ireland but which in clear means steps that are seen and understood to be intended to lead to what is called reunification of Ireland.
Work proceeded apace on measures to fit that specification. On 5 October a meeting of Ministers and officials took place in London at the end of which a communiqué was issued! It was not a communiqué that was more frank and full than most communiqués are, but by ill adventure—I am sure that it was nothing more—it so happened that the part of the communiqué that is relevant to my motion was never published by the press 1093 and came to knowledge only when the Prime Minister supplied the House with the text a few months ago. I wish to read the paragraph:The Ministers also discussed the prospects for political progress in Northern Ireland. They noted that the Secretary of State was engaged in continuing private talks with political leaders in Northern Ireland, and that in the light of these the British Government hoped before long to be in a position to put forward positive proposals for political development. The Irish Ministers emphasised the importance of an early initiative leading to acceptable political institutions which both sections of the community in Northern Ireland could support and sustain.That was carefully phrased, but the menace and the bargain that underlay it no longer escape understanding.
Perhaps I might describe in words that I used in November 1979 what happened. What happened was the initiative of the right hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Atkins):To the stupefaction of the House of Commons, the Secretary of State suddenly announced a constitutional conference at which the Government would seek agreement, if attainable, upon one of a range of options including full legislative and executive devolution, with the sole exception of security … It was soon rumoured that the Prime Minister personally had given the orders, as it was also rumoured that she personally had prompted the deferment of the publication of the Boundary Commission's draft proposals for Ulster's additional five or six seats in Parliament. The subsequent steps were pushed ahead at a breakneck speed so that the conference could begin its work early in December; and in a unique interview given to the New York Times the Prime Minister announced that, in default of agreement, her Government would 'impose' constitutional changes on Northern Ireland, though that was not easy to reconcile with the Government's professed neutrality as between the various 'options'.I apologise for quoting one paragraph more:One thing is certain. If Prime Minister Lynch had given instructions for all this, it could not have been more closely in accordance with his wishes. In recent weeks he has been heard saying on both sides of the Atlantic that he was not looking for Britain's immediate withdrawal from Ulster but wanted instead to see a fully developed Government here"—I was speaking in Ulster—as the first step to what the Irish Nationalist calls 'reunification' but with British troops responsible for security in the meantime. In this stance, which was hailed as 'moderate', he asked the American Government to withhold support from the IRA, was promised American money if agreement could be reached in Ulster, and incautiously let fall some words about helicopters on the Border which got him into hot water. The Daily Express had the flavour exactly, if unwittingly, right when a few days ago it concluded a leader favourable to Mr. Lynch with the sentence: 'Mrs. Thatcher can strengthen Mr. Lynch's hand at this time by reinforcing her proposed initiative on Northern Ireland'.
So it has naturally not escaped the attention of my hon. Friends and myself and many others involved with Northern Ireland that—it might seem to the ignorant, paradoxically—the Irish Republic and its parties and Governments wished to see devolution in Northern Ireland—a devolved government and administration—and that they expressly regarded that as a step towards the elimination of the border and the reunification of the island.
I confess that at the time the full bearings of that were not appreciated by all of us. I accounted for it, I thought adequately, by the observation that any constitution that differentiates Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom can itself be regarded as a loosening of that element in the composition of the United Kingdom. But 1094 that was an inadequate perspective, and in order to understand the course of events since then the perspective needs to be broadened.
Fortunately, we have at our disposal, and I commend the study of it to hon. Members who are interested, a remarkable book that has just been published by the Oxford Press by a Mr. John Bowman entitled "De Valera and the Ulster question 1917–1973". The book demonstrates with superfluity of evidence that from 1920 there has been a total consistency both in the purpose and in the strategy of the Irish Republic in taking steps towards its object of becoming de facto, as well as it is claimed by aspiration, the whole island of Ireland.
In order to appreciate the significance of that consistency and its persistence, it is necessary to study the evidence in full, but in order not to weary the House I shall take only two examples, one from the beginning and one from a much later stage of the relations after 1920 between Her Majesty's Government and the Irish Free State, as it then was. De Valera himself, although he did not take part in the conference, drew up before the treaty negotiations at the end of 1921 what was described as an Ulster plan so that in the early weeks of negotiation what the Government of the Irish Free State considered their generous offer to Ulster would form the basis of any settlement. The settlement was that Ulster would have far-reaching autonomy within a State externally associated with the United Kingdom.
The principle of internal autonomy and external attachment ran right through the plans and the dealings of the Irish Government with Her Majesty's Government. When in 1935 negotiations were resumed following the success of De Valera and his party in becoming the Government in the Republic, those terms were spelt out to the then Dominion Secretary through Her Majesty's ambassador in Dublin. The proposed settlement would be
- "(a) The establishment of an Irish Commonwealth, acknowledged by Great Britain to possess Sovereign authority,
- (b) The Commonwealth to be federal, so that the Northern Irish Parliament and the Free State respectively will continue to exercise their present powers in their own territories,
- (c) A Treaty of Association between the Irish Commonwealth and Great Britain designed to meet British interests and yield benefits to all Ireland".
I have taken those as two illustrations of a thread that has run through the relationships between Her Majesty's Government and the Governments of the Republic from the very beginnings of the Free State until the present time. They have constantly emerged whenever events placed any bargaining counter or leverage in the hands of the Irish Republic. In the 1930s, it was the question of commercial relations and the availability of the Irish harbours for the Royal Navy. In later years it has been of a different character. Always the strategic element—that element of British interest—has been in the background. It caused De Valera to christen what I have described with the significant termthe play of English interest".
De Valera, like other leaders of the Irish Republic, had never seriously believed that Northern Ireland could be taken by force from the United Kingdom. They have always relied upon what is called "the play of the English interest", that is to say, that circumstances would arise that would give them leverage upon Her Majesty's Government that could be used in order to initiate this 1095 system, this plan and this method by which they discerned, or thought that they discerned, that what they call partition could be concluded.
The events of 1979 represent a high point in that power and that leverage of the Irish Government. It appeared that security in a part of the United Kingdom—nay, the very personal safety of eminent personages and institutions in this country—was at the mercy of those who operated from the territory of the Irish Republic and that this could be made a basis to secure a foundation for their advance towards their objective of the embodiment of Northern Ireland in an all-Ireland State.
I have never thought that debates can be usefully conducted in this House unless hon. Members accept the genuineness and sincerity of others taking part. The Secretary of State has assured me and the House that the content of conversations that took place between his adviser and official Mr. Clive Abbott and Mr. Geoffrey Sloan were based upon far-reaching misunderstanding. All that I have to say is that in the passage I am about to quote from the report by Mr. Sloan of what he thought he heard Mr. Abbott say in November 1981—a significant period with which I shall be dealing—it would have been impossible, even by accident and misunderstanding, to have described more accurately the tactics of the Irish Government or the method which would appear to account for, and to match with, the actions that Her Majesty's Government were taking. It ran:In any final settlement for the island of Ireland the entire Irish situation will have to be re-written. There will also be a considerable degree of autonomy in any future federal Ireland although it will be a lopsided federation with one 26 county unit and one six county unit".We are not far from De Valera in 1920.
But a political settlement for the island will have to be fudged and there are a number of ways this can be done. (1) A new Federal Republic which would come into existence would join NATO; if partition is removed, then the Dublin Government have said that this will be no problem. (2) Alongside this the Commonwealth can be brought into practice".We hear there another echo from the 1920s and the 1930s.It is in effect a loose federation of English speaking states, and we can play up the Crown or play it down depending on who we are talking to. We can say to the Unionists: look, the Queen is the head of the Commonwealth, and let them fly their flags on certain occasions and keep them happy. Then we can say to the Republic that India is a Republic with a President yet a member of the Commonwealth".
If that was not true, se non é vero, é ben trovato. If it is not true, it was well invented.
I wish now to deal with the successive stages of relationship with Her Majesty's Government in the pursuance of the talks that culminated in October 1979. The pattern, which, a former permanent secretary in the Northern Ireland Office told me, was to be that of all that was to follow and was laid down in the conference of October 1979, included a meeting between the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic on 8 December 1980 in Dublin. The meeting took place not merely under the pressure of events of 1979 but under the pressure of a hunger strike which the Irish Republic had it in its power directly or indirectly to manipulate, to switch on or to switch off according to convenience, in its relations with Her Majesty's Government.
The two Prime Ministers agreed onthe need to bring forward policies and proposals to achieve peace, reconciliation and stability; and to improve relations between the peoples of the two countries.
The communiqué added: 1096They considered that the best prospect of attaining these objectives was further development of the unique relationshkp between the two countries. They accordingly decided to devote their next meeting in London to special consideration of the totality of relationships within these islands.Again, there are echoes from the years gone by.For this purpose they have commissioned joint studies, covering a range of issues including possible new institutional structures".
That is the first official appearance of a second element besides autonomy. Autonomy and federation are the two prongs of the fork. Those are the two essential elements of the policy. That meeting and the communiqué provoked a tremendous explosion in Northern Ireland. It was an explosion that so seriously rocked the confidence of the people in Northern Ireland in Her Majesty's Government that the Prime Minister paid a personal visit to the Province in an endeavour, that was partly successful, to reassure the people of the Province and to reaffirm in their minds the interest which Her Majesty's Government had both in their well-being and in the existence of the union.
However, the work went on. The next meeting, the next instalment foreshadowed, was to come about after the hunger strike was finally called off in the autumn of 1981. As the meeting between the Prime Minister and Dr. Fitzgerald approached, rumours began to circulate that one of the elements which would emerge from it would be an Anglo-Irish dimension with an institutional link between Northern Ireland, as such, and the Irish Republic. When those rumours circulated, I took it upon myself on 2 November 1981 to write a personal letter to the parliamentary private secretary to the Prime Minister, who has given me his permission to use it in this debate. I wrote:Haughey has purported to 'leak' a plan, as due to be tabled at the London meeting with Fitzgerald on Friday, for an Anglo-Irish set-up including provision for a council or assembly composed of elected MPs, TDs and MEPs from the Republic and from (or including) Ulster.I know I do not need to tell you that any impression of HMG having been prepared even to discuss something remotely resembling this would be dynamite. It would be seen as `Sunningdale with a vengeance,' and the evident implication of treating Ulster as a tertium quid or third contracting party would arouse violent Unionist antagonism.I need not remind you that the Irish Dail began in just this way in 1919, with the elected nationalist MPs sitting in Dublin. We shall see ourselves back not in 1973–74 but in 1912!.
The meeting took place. There emerged from it a communiqué in which occurred, among other provisions, the decision to establish an Anglo-Irish intergovernmental council and, in addition, an elected Assembly for Northern Ireland which would enable Northern Ireland, as such, to participate in a parliamentary tier of the intergovernmental council. The basis of that was:The Prime Minister and the Taoiseach agreed on the need for efforts to diminish the divisions between the two sections of the community in Northern Ireland and to reconcile the two major traditions"—
§ Mr. Powell
If the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) will permit me, the excellence lies, in the result, not in the hopes, not in the intentions, but in the methods which are adopted to achieve the intentions and the consequences which those methods have. I resume the quotation—that exist in the two parts of Ireland".I shall give one more quotation: 1097The Prime Minister and the Taoiseach agreed that both Governments were ready to join in promoting arrangements which might help to reduce tensions between and to reconcile the peoples of the two parts of Ireland".It was in pursuance of that conference and that decision that the steps were initiated which resulted in the eventual publication of a White Paper, which was debated in April, and the Bill which passed through this House under a guillotine and which resulted in the establishment of the institution which now exists in the Province.
Meanwhile, the consequences of that meeting and its conclusion were as had been foreseen. There was a tremendous outburst of violence, which included the murder of an hon. Member of this House, and for a time it did not seem quite clear that the Province of Northern Ireland would be governable by Her Majesty's Government, the alarm which I shall illustrate and explain in a moment had so suddenly and deeply penetrated all sections of the population in the Province.
The consequence of Her Majesty's Government being seen and understood in both parts of Ireland to be engaging in arrangements which were identified by the Irish Government as the means of choice for reunifying the island and abolishing the border has three separate effects on three distinct groups in the population of Northern Ireland. The effect is clearest and most obvious, of course, on the terrorists and those who operate the terrorists. I have chosen that term carefully, because anyone who supposes that the operations of the Provisional IRA and the INLA are the unco-ordinated random actions of yobbos and hooligans has not begun to understand either the realities or the dangers of the situation.
One of the elements of this triangle are those who operate terror, and of course they operate terror for its effect on Her Majesty's Government and this House. They are the targets to secure what De Valera called the operation of "the play of English interest", and we hear it sometimes in debates in this House. To the Provisional IRA, the INLA, and those who operate them, the signal is perfectly clear: "Boys, you can't lose. Boys, you are on the winning side because Her Majesty's Government, who presumably must understand what they are doing, have entered upon a course of action which is designed to lead to that aim which is your professed—and no doubt actual—motive".
In those circumstances, two things become necessary. First, it is necessary to keep up the pace by keeping England on the run, keeping anxiety, worry, fear and tension as high as possible throughout the United Kingdom. However, it is also the ambition of the terrorist, when a change is to take place, it is he and his, and not anyone else, who will be on top. So the stimulating effect upon terrorism is automatic and obvious.
What is not so well understood is the effect upon the community at large in Northern Ireland. Although we often use the plural and speak of "communities", there is a community in Northern Ireland, and the Roman Catholics and those who oppose the Union are overwhelmingly Ulstermen like the rest. They are the people of Ulster and Ulster is their home, although the vast majority of them regard Ulster as part of their larger home of Britain and are determined that it shall be so.
To that majority, which is much larger than any Unionist majority that is ever polled, the message of those 1098 events was perfectly clear: "You are being taken where you do not intend to go, and you are being taken step by step, by a process of doing one thing and saying the opposite. The Government who are declaring themselves totally committed to the maintenance of the Union as long as the majority here desires it nevertheless are working hand in glove"—I am not saying these words; these are the thoughts, the inevitable and natural thoughts, of the majority of people in Northern Ireland—"with the Irish Republic to embody our home in an all-Ireland State".
Fear, resentment and the question "Will the time come when we shall be left alone to fend for ourselves, when our defence will not be undertaken by the country to which we belong but when we shall have to see to it for ourselves?" are the thoughts that are inevitably stimulated by the events which we have lived through and by the actions in which the House has participated this year.
I come, last, to the third element. I am in some difficulty in identifying it because it is a much larger element than that small minority who are politically dedicated to detach Ulster from the United Kingdom. In that context I consider it permissible to use the words which I detest in most political contexts—Roman Catholic. As the third element, the Roman Catholics say to themselves "There is trouble ahead for us". They say to themselves that the only consequence of the course upon which Her Majesty's Government have embarked is not the peaceful development and embodiment of Northern Ireland into an all-Ireland State. Some might desire that, some might not, but they know that that will not happen. They know that it will lead to violence—the exacerbation of mutual fears and perhaps mutual hatreds. They know that they, as the minority, will be the greater sufferers from that.
All the three points of the triangle in Northern Ireland—terrorism and its managers, the majority and the minority—are forced apart and set by the ears by this process of events. It is for the purpose of verification, and that alone, that I remind the House that I foresaw that clearly before the guillotine imposed the pro-unification institution—if I may encapsulate my argument in a single phrase—upon Northern Ireland:The legislation is a standing encouragement … to those who believe that by violence they can anticipate or ensure that the foreseen fate of Northern Ireland is in their hands. It is a standing encouragement to those who are sufficiently lightheaded or unwise to believe that terror and the escalation of terror can be met with the escalation of terror … For 10 years or more I have been saying that it is uncertainty that takes lives in Northern Ireland—uncertainty about the purpose, intention and determination of the United Kingdom. The Bill will undermine that determination.—[Official Report, 22 June 1982; Vol. 26, c. 180.]I quote no more.
Those hon. Members who opposed that legislation are within the recent memory of the House, as are the grounds upon which we opposed it.
§ Mr. Powell
No; I am about to conclude.
I arrive at the conclusion which I sought to convey to the Government as long ago as November 1979. In the speech of 23 November 1979 from which I have already quoted, I presumed to end with an open letter to the Prime Minister. I concluded:What I have to say is that any deal or agreement with the government of the Irish Republic, whereby that government would somehow assist Britain in return for political concessions 1099 in Ulster, would be the road to disaster … there are two facts which it is vital to understand. One fact is this. Whatever his own inclinations, Mr. Lynch"—and this applies to his successors—cannot deliver. No government of the Republic can be seen to be effectually assisting the security forces in Ulster against the IRA and survive politically. That is the reality about the Republic. I make no complaint and no moral judgment. I only say: it is an unchanging fact of the situation. The second fact is that our Roman Catholic fellow-citizens in Ulster can only be safe when the permanence of the parliamentary Union is placed beyond all reasonable doubt, because only that can deprive the IRA of the power to terrorise and blackmail them".
The fundamental underlying truth against which all such statements, agreements and attempts as I have been unrolling before the House sooner or later shatter is the fact that in Northern Ireland there are 1 million people who will not be part of an all-Ireland State. One can deceive and bamboozle them, or some of them, much of the time. One can attempt, sometimes with success, even to bribe them. However, when the moment comes when the great mass of that million of our fellow citizens see where the road ahead is tending, they will not go, whatever the consequences or whatever the cost to themselves. The later that point arrives, the longer, more complicated and tortuous the route by which it is arrived at, the more lives will be sacrificed—I was going to say "for nothing"; it would be for less than nothing.
My request—our request—to the Government is "Let your deeds match your words". The Prime Minister, the Secretary of State, Her Majesty's Government have been unequivocal in their statements about the Union—that the permanence of the Union is a matter which is in the hands of the majority in Northern Ireland in the sense that their constitutional status will not be altered without the majority will concurring. The tragedy of the past three years is that the inhabitants of all parts of Ireland have seen all too well that the actions of Government have contradicted the words of Government.
The motion is a request in form for the House to reaffirm what the Prime Minister has said over and over again at the Dispatch Box. I have put nothing into the motion which is not to be matched by the Prime Minister's words. What I am really asking is not that the Government should reaffirm it—that they cannot fail to do—but that from now onwards they will do nothing which is bound to be interpreted, and is interpreted, as contradicting their words and casting doubt upon their intentions. Let them be of that resolution, and it will still fall to them to restore peace and tranquillity in Northern Ireland.
§ The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. James Prior)
It might be for the convenience of the House if I intervene at this stage in the debate that has been introduced today by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). This has been a bad week for Ulster and a bad week for all those, either in Ulster or outside it, who wish to contribute towards the peace of that Province, which the right hon. Gentleman, in an eloquent ending to his speech this morning, has sought to try to do.
The debate last evening, the press coverage of the past few days and the general comment since Mr. Livingstone's ill-conceived invitation, are bound to have done a great deal of harm to all who are seeking a peaceful solution. The agonies of Ballykelly have been sufficient, 1100 but now we have added to that all the general political concern and worry that has been expressed in the press this past week.
From the motion, I was not absolutely certain what the right hon. Member for Down, South would say, but I had a pretty good idea. His whole case is based on the view that there is some conspiracy between the British Government and that of the Republic to push the North into a united Ireland. That is the basis of all that he sought to say today. I shall seek to prove, I hope convincingly to the House, perhaps for the first—and I hope, for the last—time that that is a total misreading of the British Government's view.
The right hon. Gentleman sees a conspiracy, and as a result his argument is based on links that he then fails to prove. I shall cite several instances from his speech. At the beginning, he said that the Government of the Republic could and would play up or down a hunger strike according to their policy. I thought that everyone knew that the Government of the Republic could have no influence on a hunger strike in the Maze prison. The right hon. Gentleman then said by dropping the word "if" fromif there was an Assemblythat the Assembly resulted from the joint communiqué issued by Garret FitzGerald and the Prime Minister. That is not the case.
The right hon. Gentleman also assumes that an Assembly, or any form of devolution, necessarily has the same objective as De Valera, just because it may be similar to some part of a scheme proposed by him. The right hon. Gentleman's views can be no more that that, and are based on a conspiracy theory. He cannot move from those views to saying that they are facts.
The right hon. Gentleman used a quotation from Mr. Sloan in his speech. I shall try to illustrate that that is an extremely unreliable piece of evidence on which to draw. The first part of the motion deals with theefforts of the security forces in Northern Ireland".All hon. Members can accept that part of the motion. Indeed, I am sure that we all do accept it. We recognise and enormously appreciate the part that the security forces play and have played. We all appreciate the dangers that they face and what they do for the people of Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom as a whole. In the past few days we have had abundant evidence of those dangers.
The Government recognise the importance of the security effort and have, in the past few days, announced a considerable increase in the number of Royal Ulster Constabulary officers and reservists as well as civilians. Therefore, we are doing all we can, and we appreciate that the House recognises the part played by the forces. Grateful and appreciative though we are, we recognise that the security forces of themselves will not be sufficient:to end terrorism and counter terrorism and restore tranquillity to the Province".
I certainly accept that. I have sought to develop that theme during the past few months. All hon. Members recognise that terrorism is a more complex and deep-rooted phenomenon and cannot be readily ended just by the enforcement of the law, even though some may say that the law could be changed to make it more effective. Events will come right only when there are developments on all fronts—security, politics and the economy—which serve at one and the same time to prevent terrorism and to remove the circumstances that allow it to continue. There is nothing new, or perhaps very profound, in that. 1101 It is one of those truths to which I am glad to see that hon. Members, including—judging by the terms of the motion—the right hon. Member for Down, South, have given support.
Therefore, we must strive to create a situation in which the terrorist cannot survive, in which young people are not frustrated by the prospect of continuing unemployment in the years ahead and in which both sides of the community feel that they are fully recognised and can play their full part in the affairs of the Province and in support of the forces of law and order—when, in other words, on the one hand, the terrorist is brought to justice by the security forces, and when, on the other, the people recognise that he offers nothing towards a civilised future and is an evil serving only to injure and kill. That is what we have sought to achieve by a combination of taking every measure that we feel able to take on the security front, and, at the same time, doing what we can on the economic and political fronts. In doing so, we recognise that the whole community—both sides of it—has a part to play.
I shall turn later to some of the wider questions that the right hon. Member for Down, South raised in the second proposition in the motion. However, I shall deal first with its core, which is the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman has based his case for peace on that. The right hon. Gentleman knows the constitutional position, but this may be a good opportunity to set out the Government's views fully and clearly.
The constitutional position is that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and the Government have made it repeatedly clear that it will remain so, unless the majority in Northern Ireland wish that position to be changed. The principle of self-determination is enshrined in section 1 of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973, which itself replaced a similar long-standing provision in terms of a majority in the old Northern Ireland Parliament. This provides for the wishes of the Northern Ireland electorate to be tested from time to time through border polls. Indeed, they are tested in several other ways, such as by elections. It shows beyond any doubt that a majority of Northern Ireland people want Northern Ireland to remain within the United Kingdom.
Even if there were no legislation and even if there had never been that requirement in the old Northern Ireland Parliament, which had to have a majority for any change, and even if there were nothing in the constitution Act, I am absolutely convinced that that border could never be changed without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland. Although it is right that that should be written into the constitution, I have always regarded it as being—in the words of the right hon. Member for Down South, used in another context—almost a superfluity. I believe that it would be impossible to make any change in that constitution without the consent of the people.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell
Would the right hon. Gentleman be interested to know that the terms of the guarantee—the old one and the current one—were a concession made to the Government of the Irish Free State as one of their objectives in their negotiation with the British Government?
§ Mr. Prior
I also know that following the Sunningdale agreement—which does not win much favour with the right hon. Gentleman—for the first time the Government 1102 of the Republic stated clearly that they agreed and accepted that there could be a change in the constitution of Northern Ireland only with the consent of the people of Northern Ireland. That was a considerable step forward by the Government of the Republic at that time.
§ Sir Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
When does my right hon. Friend intend to hold the next border poll?
§ Mr. Prior
I cannot say. Although under the statute it would be possible to hold a border poll next year, for the reasons that I have given I do not believe that a border poll would tell us anything that we do not know already. A border poll is superfluous when it is absolutely clear what the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland are.
§ Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West)
If a poll were broken down by polling district, which the last poll was not, it might indeed tell us something that we do not know.
§ Mr. Prior
The recent elections told us something about the different emphasis between areas. That cannot in any way help the argument for a united Ireland. We know that the majority of the people of Northern Ireland wish to remain part of the United Kingdom. Whether that is the constitutional position, written into the legislation, or not, it is a fact of life that we should accept.
I do not wish to make too much of this point, but last night the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) said that he was a supporter of Labour Party policy because Labour Party policy was now for a united Ireland. He talked little about the other part of that policy which is that the consent of the people of Northern Ireland is required. There is a great danger that in emphasising Labour Party policy, which is for a united Ireland, the part about the consent of the people might tend to get left out. What is more, the right hon. Member said last night that since time immemorial British Governments have talked to terrorists and that in the end terrorism pays off because it results in a change in constitution. The right hon. Gentleman then drew on the experience in Cyprus and Rhodesia to try to prove his point. That is irrelevant because it can be argued that in Cyprus or in Rhodesia on or in some other ex-colonial or colonial territory a vast majority wanted a change in the constitution, and freedom. In Northern Ireland it is abundantly clear that there is no such desire by the people for that to happen. There is also the fact that the people of the south recognise that a united Ireland can come about only by consent and should certainly never come about through violence. There is a fundamental difference.
One has to recognise that a large minority want a united Ireland. There was no recognition of that in the speech by the right hon. Member for Down South this morning. That minority is entitled to its view and it must be taken into account. That minority view is very important and cannot be wished away by any formula about the constitution that one might have.
§ Mr. Reginald Freeson (Brent, East)
The right hon. Gentleman has talked, rightly, at great length about the principle of consent, whether it is a matter of pragmatic practice or of constitutional principle. All the concentration on that aspect should not ignore the fact that it is open to Governments of any political party to consider alternatives and to seek to persuade people that there are alternatives. If the Government continue along that line, 1103 notwithstanding the somewhat paranoic approach that has been expressed today, not for the first time, in the speech by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), they will get the support of all those who seek a peaceful political solution and do not just have an obsession with a constitutional point which, rightly, has been written into law.
§ Mr. Prior
That is a difficult argument to answer off the cuff. My view is that it is not the Government's duty to persuade people against their will to adopt a different course. In the context of Northern Ireland the Government's duty is to persuade people who hold fundamentally opposed views to find some manner by which they can live peacefully together, the one accepting the identity and traditions of the other. That is something that we can aim to do.
I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson) for what he said about violence. After last night the message that might go out from the Labour Party—and it is a wrong message—is that we had better start dealing with the terrorists because in the end we shall give way to them. That is the wrong message to be drawn from any debate in the House.
§ Mr. Gerard Fitt (Belfast, West)
The Secretary of State referred to persuasion and to the majority and minority communities in Northern Ireland. The creation of the border did not involve persuasion, because the British Government of the day imposed the border. No one in Northern Ireland, Protestant or Catholic, voted for the institution of the border.
Do the Government accept that the majority of people in county Fermanagh and county Tyrone want to be united with the rest of the island? Do the Government accept that they were included in a Northern Ireland State by the sheer force of the British Government? When determining whether there is a majority who will fight to stay in the United Kingdom, or fight to get out of the United Kingdom, one must remember that Fermanagh and Tyrone might fight one way and Down and Antrim fight another way. All the elements for conflict are there.
Does the Secretary of State accept that it is possible that a majority of people in Fermanagh and Tyrone do not owe their allegiance to the British connection and would, given an opportunity, vote themselves into an Irish republic? Will that opportunity be given to them?
§ Mr. Prior
The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) has argued on several occasions that the drawing of the border was entirely arbitrary. Therefore, one has had to give much thought to whether the argument that the majority of people in Northern Ireland wish to remain in the United Kingdom is fair. I answer the hon. Gentleman by saying that, as it is accepted by the people of the Republic that there can be no change except by consent and that any change must be by peaceful means, there is no excuse for violence. The hon. Gentleman has never suggested anything other than that.
Although it might appear now that the people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone would wish to join the South, I am not certain that, if it were put in that context, they would. However, the arguments are always so starkly put. There are many "nationalists" who are content to stay and who see many advantages in staying in the United Kingdom, but because they feel that they have suffered from being in a minority position for some years and that 1104 they have been the underdogs, they are so opposed to the Unionist point of view that they would opt for the alternative. We need a period of peace and consultation in which to try to make progress along the lines of a developed Assembly that would enable the views and rights of the minority community to be represented properly both in Government and in Parliament.
§ Mr. Winnick
Does the Secretary of State agree that the supreme irony of the Unionist view is that, by their objection to any form of power sharing and any real involvement of the minority community in the administration of Northern Ireland, they make the bulk of that community more sympathetic to ending the Union between Northern Ireland and Great Britain?
§ Mr. Prior
I recognise the fact that power sharing is a difficult, although not impossible, formula for Government. It has many inconsistencies. However, many forms of government that do not involve power sharing would give the minority in Northern Ireland an opportunity to play its part in the government of the Province. Many Unionists recognise the fact that we must work towards that objective.
The right hon. Member for Down, South always uses the words "this House", but he underestimates the tremendous urge and determination of the people in Northern Ireland that they should have a bigger say in their arrangements. Whatever we may say, they do not believe that this House operates either to their advantage or to their satisfaction. That has already been clearly illustrated by some of the debates in the Assembly.
The right hon. Gentleman's motion links his two propositions and states that if all concerned are convinced that there will be no agreement with other countries on the constitutional status of Northern Ireland, the restoration of tranquillity to the Province will be more readily achieved. But the terrorist already knows our firm statutory commitments to make no change in the status of Northern Ireland unless a majority of the people wish it. Despite that, the terrorist still tries by violence to bring about a British withdrawal. He does not care what the majority wishes.
It is unrealistic to believe that one formula or another will determine whether the terrorist commits murder. It is sometimes said that border polls, local elections and general elections stir up trouble and that violence would be diminished if they did not take place. However, the terrorist objective is much simpler: it is to kill as many members of the security forces as possible and not to worry too much about the innocent who are hurt in the process. In doing that, the terrorists wish to drive the Government of the United Kingdom to abandon their responsibilities and they attack the institutions of the Republic in the hope of creating a united Ireland in a form of their choosing. We should not forget that. The hard-core terrorist is persistent and determined in those objectives and no formulation in this House will deter him from such activities.
The most valuable assistance that the security forces can have is the active support of people in all sections of the community. They need, especially, support from people in areas where the terrorists try to operate. That is why the Government's concern to encourage the cooperation of those people is so important to the security effort. The right hon. Gentleman, in his motion and his speech, gave nothing like enough time and consequence to the views of the minority community. 1105 The right hon. Gentleman's motion contains certain matters to which we do not take exception, but it is flawed. That is why it is important to analyse more clearly the wider context in which he fitted it. Much is said about Anglo-Irish relations and I wish to put the subject into context. The Government have devoted many efforts to securing close and fruitful Anglo-Irish relations, and they will continue to do so. They have declared their belief that good relations can do nothing but benefit the people of both countries, wherever they live. Two years ago, the Government embarked upon an attempt consciously to make relations closer. In doing so, they had in mind not only the mutual interests of the two States but a belief, to which I shall return, that close Anglo-Irish relations between London and Dublin were an important element in reducing intercommunal tensions in Northern Ireland.
The Government greatly regret the deterioration in Anglo-Irish relations during the past few months, but we should remember that close relations should not be remarkable. The two islands, as the two States, are closely linked. We live in close proximity. There is much shared history and many similar traditions. There are also close connections between our economies and we are both members of the European Community. The United Kingdom's only land border is that between the Republic and Northern Ireland. There are close links between professional, business and sporting activities and institutions in the two countries, some of which go back a long time.
I recognise that Anglo-Irish relations give rise to fears as well as to hopes. I recognise why those fears exist. They are not allayed simply by the Government saying that they are unfounded. We frequently do that. There is no need for those who oppose Irish unity to believe that close relations between the two States are taking them along a road that they do not wish to follow. It is also an illusion to believe that good relations on their own can provide answers to the problems that we face in Northern Ireland. Those who embark on the conduct of those relations with such expectations are bound to find that their hopes are unrealised. Close relations are desirable for their own sake and ought to be unremarkable, simple because they should reflect, in the broadest possible way, the circumstances in which both our countries find themselves.
I am certain that Anglo-Irish relations must be conducted frankly and openly. That is where some of the troubles have arisen. That is one of the reasons why I welcome the fact that the Assembly in Northern Ireland provides a forum for democratic activity. It can watch what has been done in the knowledge that matters will not be settled behind its back. Involvement of the Assembly will enable those who are enthusiastic to participate, and those who are suspicious to monitor what takes place. Suspicion and baseless fears are banes of political life in Northern Ireland and they are ones upon which the right hon. Member for Down, South is constantly harping. I believe that the Assembly has a chance—I hope that it will grasp it—to do much to remove those fears.
§ Mr. K. Harvey Proctor (Basildon)
Why does my right hon. Friend think that the minority population, about whom he has spoken so much, does not share his enthusiasm for the Assembly that he has set up?
§ Mr. Prior
That is for it to answer but I shall try to answer the question as well. At the moment, it does not believe that it has been given enough safeguards to enable it to play a full part. I think that it is wrong. I think that such provision is written into the Act. That is abundantly clear, for why else would my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon (Mr. Proctor) and others have raised so much trouble when we discussed the measure? I should have thought that that was a real sign that safeguards for the minority exist. Nevertheless, it is more than I have been able to do so far to explain and persuade the minority to accept that the safeguards for them are sufficient.
It is easy at any time to claim that whatever the Government of the day are attempting to do—be it the Assembly or the Anglo-Irish intergovernmental council—that is the cause of the violence. The truth is that we need the co-operation of the people of Northern Ireland and their political leaders, not only in crushing terrorists but in creating constructive measures to reduce the inter-communal suspicions and hostility that give rise to violence. I say to all the people of Northern Ireland—I say it to myself—that we do all unite in our condemnation of violence. That is the easy part. What we must now do is to unite in our determination to make political progress in the North of Ireland so that we can help to remove the instability in which violence can thrive. That is a much more difficult task.
§ Mr. Prior
No, I shall not give way again. I have given way a great deal and am running behind time. It is not enough just to condemn violence. The right hon. Member for Down, South knows too much of Northern Ireland to believe that the state of affairs between two sovereign Governments does not have its influence on development in the Province. He will also recognise that, given the aspirations that are legitimately held by many people in Northern Ireland, the affairs of the North are bound to be influenced by, and perhaps to influence, political opinion in the Republic. Moreover, the state of relations between the United Kingdom and the Republic inevitably affects and is affected by relations between the two sides of the Northern Ireland community.
The development of Anglo-Irish relations and political development in Northern Ireland are not therefore in some way alternatives. They are essential elements of the Government's policy that is openly pursued. They give no cause for either suspicion or fear. The Government are under no illusion about the commitment of the Government of the Republic—any Government of the Republic—to the long-term objective of Irish unity. We all recognise that. Nevertheless, recently, successive Irish Governments have held to the position that no change could come about without the agreement of the people of Northern Ireland. It is also true that the recent level of co-operation and effort in the Republic towards combating terrorism has reached a new and most welcome level. It reflects a substantial development of attitudes in the South. Of course there are issues such as extradition where more could be done. In that connection, however, I note with interest the decision of the Irish Supreme Court on 6 December to order the extradition of an IRA man to Northern Ireland to face a murder charge.
I believe that the Government and people of the Republic recognise that our common cause against murder 1107 is much more important than our long-standing differences over Northern Ireland. I believe that there is a genuine wish to behave as good neighbours to the people of the United Kingdom, especially of Northern Ireland. The historical legacy will never make relations easy but there is a growing awareness that our common interests are of increasing importance.
I know that there are some people in Northern Ireland-not only in Northern Ireland—whose suspicions of and hostility to the Republic run so deep that they will allow the Government of the Republic no credit for good faith and regard any contacts with the Republic as liable to contaminate and lead to betrayal. Well, that is their view. But the Government will not be diverted or discouraged from sensible discussions with the Republic by such criticism and by efforts to misrepresent what takes place.
That leads me to the wider question to which I referred a moment ago. The right hon. Gentleman is critical of the Government's policy in Northern Ireland and of our conduct of relations with the Republic. He ascribes to them motives and objectives that the Government do not have. He has gone further. In a series of speeches, he has alleged that there is a treasonable conspiracy by successive British Governments and their officials to work towards a united Ireland.
He made those same accusations again today. He alleges that the conspiracy is conducted in collaboration with the Government and officials of the Republic and also, for good measure, the American State Department.
I see that the right hon. Gentleman is nodding his head in agreement. He has stated that I and my co-conspirators have used the IRA and international terrorism as our instrument and murder and assassination as our method. Those charges are of the utmost gravity. I shall quote exactly what the right hon. Gentleman said on 10 August 1982. His words have not had sufficient publicity, either in the House or in the country. Having referred to successive British Governments, the right hon. Gentleman said:What then was the object of those British Governments? A united Ireland. Who were their allies? The State Department, with its eyes upon Ireland as a strategic position, and the Irish Republic, with its eyes upon the proclaimed aspiration of that country. What was their instrument? The IRA and international terrorism. What were the methods? Outrage, murder and assassination. Who were the victims? The people of Ulster, the people of Britain and successive generations of British politicians.The basis for those allegations is no more than that I and my colleagues and predecessors pursue policies with which the right hon. Gentleman does not agree. To him, the folly of the policies which are being pursued and the merit of the policies which he advocates are so crystal clear that only fools or knaves can fail to acknowledge it. Later in the same speech, the right hon. Gentleman said that I am just the latest in a series of guilty Ministers—guilty by deliberate intention or guilty by wilful purblindness and stupidity".That is a doubt which the right hon. Gentleman tends to resolve by crediting me with both qualities. I have to accept that that is the view that he takes.
Towards the end of our debates on the Northern Ireland Bill this summer, the right hon. Gentleman suddenly produced a typed document which purported to record the views of a Northern Ireland Office civil servant in January 1981, which accorded most satisfactorily with the right hon. Gentleman's interpretation of public events and 1108 policies over the last decade. The right hon. Gentleman quoted from the document as if it were a verbatim record. It gradually emerged that it was nothing of the kind; that it was not authenticated by the civil servant concerned, who denies having made the crucial remarks attributed to him; and that the processes by which this document had been prepared were far from clear. The hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) sent the material discussed in the House to No. 10 with a note explaining that the authorengaged in research for a seminar, was so alarmed by what he was told by a civil servant that he came to me",and that the researcher was available to verify the information in his notes. The researcher was accordingly interviewed and I made a statement in the House on 28 July, which the right hon. Gentleman dismissed as a bland disclaimer, and his hon. Friend then produced another set of notes by the same researcher of a further interview with the same civil servant.
I can now add a little to the written answer that I gave on 28 July to my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney). When the researcher was interviewed he elaborated on how the material in his notes came to be presented to the right hon. Member for Down, South. He said that at the time of the interviews in January and November 1981, he was not politically aware and did not appreciate the full significance of what the civil servant had said; that he returned to his university, wrote Up his notes, and put them away; that the argument about the White Paper and the 1982 Bill had increased his political awareness; and that it was only in May of this year that, remembering the two interviews, he pulled out his notes of them, recognised their significance, and showed them to the hon. Member.
The researcher also stated that he had met the right hon. Gentleman only once, socially, when he was down seeing the hon. Member for Antrim, South. I now understand—no doubt the right hon. Gentleman will correct me if I am misinformed—that the researcher reported personally to the hon. Gentleman immediately after the first interview and to the right hon. Gentleman very shortly after the second. If that is so, the account given by the researcher to the senior official, whom the head of the Civil Service had arranged to see him so that he could verify the information in his notes, was itself materially untrue. I am bound to say that this not only underlines the unreliability of the researcher's account of his interview but raises doubts about his bona fides. And yet it is on these typescripts, and we have had it again this morning, that the right hon. Gentleman has constructed so much.
This information confirms the view that I, arid other hon. Members, not all of them sympathetic to the Government or their policies, expressed at the time—that the notes were inherently incredible. Whatever they may indicate about the minds of the right hon. Gentleman, his colleagues and their research assistants, I must entirely reject them as offering an accurate account of the thinking of the Government, the Northern Ireland Office, or the civil servant whose name has been attached to these concoctions.
§ Dr. Mawhinney
As the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) gave some credence to rumours, and as my right hon. Friend has mentioned that what purported to be in the documents was in accordance with the views 1109 of the right hon. Gentleman, can my right hon. Friend help us about another rumour that is floating around this place, which is that the researcher in question, Mr. Sloan, was for some time in the employ, albeit on perhaps a part-time basis, of either the Official Unionist Party or of some hon. Members who are members of the Official Unionist Party?
§ Mr. Prior
The answer is that I do not know. It is a charge that has been levelled and it may be that the hon. Member for Antrim, South would like to clear up the problem now. Perhaps he would like to tell us whether this man was employed in the manner and in the way in which my hon. Friend is suggesting. So much has been built up round this particular episode. The right hon. Member for Down, South quotes it and my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) quotes it. It is becoming part of the myth on which so many false accusations about Northern Ireland are made. I have been giving way pretty regularly to those who wish to intervene and I am prepared to give way to the hon. Member for Antrim, South.
§ Mr. James Molyneaux (Antrim, South)
It was noteworthy that when the investigation took place and when Mr. Sloan was interviewed by the civil servant who was appointed by the head of the Civil Service at the request of the Prime Minister, Mr. Sloan had with him the papers relating to his connection with my party. That was completely open and above board.
§ Mr. Molyneaux
The hon. Gentleman says "Ah". When Mr. Sloan offered to hand over the file and the correspondence, the interviewer was not in the least bit interested. That seemed curious. Mr. Sloan was not in the employment of my party. The previous year he wrote to say that he was engaged in preparing a thesis and that he had certain academic research to undertake. He asked whether we would be willing to attach him for the purpose of access. This is quite a common occurrence, as all hon. Members know. Nothing was concealed. The key point is that the interviewer refused to take any interest in the conclusive written documents which Mr. Sloan had with him on the occasion of the interview.
§ Mr. Prior
Whether the rumour is circulating in Northern Ireland or in this place, the fact is that the Official Unionist Party has a perfect opportunity now to clear it up and it has not yet done so. The naivety of all this is breathtaking. I shall quote another small extract from a letter that Mr. Sloan wrote to another official who had succeeded Mr. Abbott to ask him for clarification on a non-attributable basis. It reads:what are the differences between the devolutionist wing of the Official Unionist Party and the devolution forum?This follows an earlier letter of thanks to Mr. Abbott on 26 November 1981, in which he says: 1110I intend to write to Mr. McCusker to try and get an interview although I am somewhat doubtful about how forthcoming a Unionist MP will be.Really! This is the basis on which so much of the conspirational talk of the right hon. Member for Down, South and his hon. Friends is based, and I am expected as a member of the Government to go into the witness box in the House, as it were, to defend myself against that sort of tripe and the sort of case that the right hon. Gentleman has built up surrounding it. That does no good to the reputation of Northern Ireland. That does not help towards peace in what is already a difficult enough situation. It is time that the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends came clean about this episode.
§ Mr. Molyneaux
Will the Secretary of State answer two questions? Why did the interviewer of Mr. Sloan refuse to take any interest in the papers or written evidence that would have explained the situation? Will the Secretary of State accept those documents from me?
§ Mr. Prior
I have seen the documents. They were produced months after the interviews and after the hon. Gentleman said that he would send them. What he has not explained to me or to the House—it is clear that he has no intention of explaining it—is his relationship with Mr. Sloan. All this business about having met him only once and Mr. Sloan not knowing much about the Unionist Party, so he has to write to the hon. Member for Antrim, South to find out, and not expecting to get much change from a Unionist Member of Parliament, is nonsense. It is a red herring that has been deliberately drawn across the scene.
§ Mr. Molyneaux
The Secretary of State has completely misunderstood the situation. The documents that he says he has seen he has not seen. I offered them to him. I am making the offer now of the original, if he wants it, of the file that sets out fully the relationship right from the first contact. I want to clear up why, having offered my services and placed myself at the disposal of Sir Robert Armstrong in writing, my offer to give an explanation was ignored.
§ Mr. Prior
The hon. Gentleman still has not answered the question. One does not get out of answering a question by asking another. Let us see the documents, but my information is that the attitude of Mr. Sloan at the interview was not as described by the hon. Member for Antrim, South. Let the hon. Gentleman now come clean about his relationship with the person in question, Mr. Sloan.
§ Dr. Mawhinney
Will my right hon. Friend allow me to intervene once more as I inadvertently started this—[HON. MEMBERS: "Inadvertently?"] It was inadvertent because I did not expect the Official Unionists to acknowledge their relationship with Mr. Sloan although it was well known in the Corridors. Will my right hon. Friend accept those documents and see whether they show that Mr. Sloan was encouraged to ask certain questions by members of the Official Unionist Party with whom he had a relationship, in the hope of adducing an answer that could be produced in a form that would satisfy the desires of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell)?
§ Mr. Prior
Of course. I willingly accept that those documents should be sent. From what we have heard from the hon. Member for Antrim, South they are bound by their very nature to show that Mr. Sloan was not an 1111 innocent who knew nothing about Northern Ireland affairs, who was doing a part-time research job at Keele university and wanted to know a little more about Northern Ireland. In fact, he was deeply involved with the hon. Gentleman. The whole case has been built up on a totally fictitious basis.
The people of Northern Ireland face real enemies in the terrorists and real problems in violence, unemployment and political divisions. They need, deserve, and will continue to receive, the steadfast support of the Government and people of the United Kingdom in defeating those enemies and coping with the problems. The outrageous allegations of the right hon. Gentleman make that task more difficult. Unfounded accusations of betrayal create unnecessary alarm; they divide Government from people; and they contribute to a climate of hysteria, for which the terrorists are working and from which only they can benefit.
The House will be clear from what I have said that the Government cannot recommend endorsement of the right hon. Gentleman's motion. I have explained reservations about the terms in which it is expressed. But far more important is the context into which the right hon. Gentleman has sought to put it. The real purpose of his motion is to try to give some implied recognition to the right hon. Gentleman's conspiracy fantasies. His practice is to conjure up those fantasies and to present them to the House and to the country as matters of substance. If the Government completely deny, as they do, that there is any conspiracy, agreement or understanding of the character alleged by the right hon. Gentleman, by his motion he seeks to make the Government promise not to do it again. The Government's policy is clear, and is clearly and frankly expressed. Neither their policies nor their motives are in any way open to the interpretations placed upon them by the right hon. Gentleman. The Government will continue to pursue their policies sensitively and resolutely, and believe that they have the support of the whole House in doing so.
§ Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith, North)
I congratulate the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) on succeeding in the ballot after 33 years. I am sure that we shall not have to wait another 33 years before we hear his views on the matter again. I congratulate him on giving the House the opportunity to discuss, somewhat contradictorily, perhaps, in terms of the motion, the constitutional future of Northern Ireland.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to try to put himself in my position. For many years, since long before the present troubles broke out, I have taken the view that sooner or later the border between the North and the South of Ireland would go. I also take the view—I think that it is indisputable—that many other people in Northern Ireland, the Republic, Britain and elsewhere share that view. The Labour Party policy statement passed at the 1981 conference states:At the heart of this programme is a long and deeply-held belief in the Labour Party that Ireland should, by peaceful means, and on the basis of consent, be united and the recognition that this will be achieved with the introduction of socialist policies.
What are we to say? Are we to read the right hon. Gentleman's motion and then turn round and say that if we go on stating our beliefs, we are allowing terrorism to continue, so we had better stop? In this week more than 1112 almost any other week there could be few greater insults to the members of the security forces than if we allowed the terms of the debate to be dictated by terror. The day we allow that to happen will be the day that democracy ceases to matter. That is the context that we should remember at all times when we discuss Northern Ireland.
One can make a number of accusations against successive British Governments, some fair and some unfair. One accusation that cannot be made against them reasonably is that they have not tried over the years to make that border work. They have tried honourably and honestly. I include the present Secretary of State in that group. They have failed not for any want of trying or lack of determination. The failure is a recognition that the border has never worked properly. I say that because we sometimes assume in the House that the problem started in 1969. It did not. The violence has been with us, certainly since 1920. Many of us can remember the troubles before 1969.
As has been said on a number of occasions, the problem is that the border is not just a line on the map, but a line through the hearts and minds of men, women and children. It is a damning indictment of all of us, British and Irish, that we have failed to tackle the problem so that we could avoid the agony and suffering of so many people both here and in Northern Ireland. That is why I welcome the opportunity to reiterate the Labour Party's commitment to a united Ireland by consent. I accept some of the comments made by the Secretary of State that there is a danger that that will come to be seen outside as a united Ireland without consent. It is unfair to say that we have not discussed that matter. On a number of occasions my colleagues and I have raised it.
I shall say now why we believe consent to be so necessary. The first most obvious and self-evident reason is that most of us accept that government by consent is always best. The second and very simple reason is the mathematics of the problem. The island of Ireland has 5 million people, 1½ million of whom live in the North of Ireland. About half a million of those identify to a greater or lesser extent with the Republican cause. The other million identify to a greater or lesser extent with the Unionist cause.
In my view there is no way to get 1 million people to join another 4 million people without consent. The Secretary of State is right to say that. Anyone who has paid any attention to this knows that without consent it will not work. No one could expect a Government, in Dublin or anywhere else, to cope with a problem of that size in those circumstances.
I accept that it is impossible to achieve unanimous support for a united Ireland, but I believe it is possible to demonstrate to the majority of people in Northern Ireland that a united Ireland would be in their best interests and offers a realistic way forward. To achieve consent, we must demonstrate in our words and actions the direction in which we seek to lead so that there is little room for the secrecy and suspicion that tend to plague Conservative and Unionist parties alike.
I recognise that in all Government action there is some need for secrecy, but the secrecy and the attitudes in relation to Northern Ireland have made matters worse. It has been said that we should not talk about this problem, but that, in a way, is part of the problem. Interestingly enough, the latest SDP spokesman, the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Mitchell), whose absence I 1113 regret, said yesterday that I should not talk about this too often because that would make it more difficult to achieve. What could more understandably encourage the fears of Unionists than the attitude "Don't talk about it—just do it"? That is exactly what they and the Right wing of the Conservative Party fear. They fear the Secretary of State's actions because they believe that those actions will lead to a united Ireland. Many of them seem to feel that the Secretary of State is doing that deliberately. I do not take that view at all. I believe, however, that there is an underlying recognition by a number of people in Ireland and in Britain that the road on which we are moving will lead almost inevitably to a united Ireland at some stage. That is a rational position and one can understand that, but there is no place for secrecy about intentions. I do not believe that the Secretary of State or the Government have any secret intentions on this.
The guarantee given to the people of Northern Ireland must not be used by the Unionist leadership as a veto to prevent political progress. If ever there has been an act of betrayal in Northern Ireland, perhaps the greatest, especially in the years 1920 to 1969, has been by the Unionist leadership. If in 1920 the Unionists had made a major effort to take the minority community with them and to share political and economic power, Northern Ireland might just have worked as an entity. But they did not—and that was an act of betrayal not just of the minority community but of the Unionist people of Northern Ireland. Many of the latter, especially those who vote for the Democratic Unionist Party, would be Labour voters if the situation were based on class politics, if I may so describe it, as it is on this side of the water. That is one of the tragedies, but we can no longer accept that kind of veto on political progress.
Any British Government have the right to legislate for all the people and in doing so can demonstrate that progress towards a united Ireland is possible in a manner that is responsive to the needs of both communities in Northern Ireland. I acknowledge that to achieve unity it will require great political skill and determination. None of us imagines that it will be easy. Nevertheless, the agony of the present violence and, perhaps above all in the long term, the erosion of civil rights in Northern Ireland, in the Republic and here is far too dangerous for us to allow it to continue.
As I have said before, democracies do not usually vanish overnight. They tend to be whittled away one slice at a time, each Government action seeming reasonable in its own terms. One can make a case, for example, for the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act and for the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act. A case can be made for each piece of legislation in its own right as the events take place, but in general, society is now more tightly bound by legislation affecting human rights. Searches are carried out in this place and elsewhere in a way that never happened before. That erosion of civil rights leads to the dangerous possibility that when there is serious social or economic instability, often related to mass unemployment or high inflation, one suddenly finds that the civil rights that one took for granted no longer exist and the opportunities for totalitarian government become clear.
I make no apology for speaking openly about a united Ireland. It has sometimes been said that such talk plays 1114 into the hands of paramilitary groups. As I have said, I reject that theory. On the contrary, I believe that open political debate on all the future options undermines support for paramilitary groups. If one tells a group of people, be they Unionists or Republicans, that they will never achieve what they want through the normal political process, one is effectively telling them to forget the political process and to listen to the men of violence.
The Secretary of State referred to the nature of terrorists. A fascinating assumption is often made in Northern Ireland and elsewhere. With certain exceptions, it is also a very naive assumption. The terrorists present themselves as the protectors of the community that they seek to represent. In so doing, they pick on the institutions of government—the security forces are their first target—to try to show that they are the people who stand up and fight for their beliefs. I do not think that that ever really works and it is incredibly naive. I say without any hesitation that every time a bomb goes off or a killing takes place, the cause of a united Ireland is set back. The further those words, which I have used on many occasions, are spread abroad, the better it will be.
§ Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East)
On the subject of talking to people who might be involved in paramilitary activity, would the hon. Gentleman have been prepared to meet, or did he intend to meet, representatives of the IRA, who sometimes refer to themselves as representatives of Sinn Fein, if they had had the opportunity to come to London? Now that they have been denied that opportunity, does the hon. Gentleman intend to meet them in Belfast?
§ Mr. Soley
I have made my position clear on this and I am pleased to say it was given wide publicity. I said that I would at no time either meet or talk to people who are active in, or even members of, paramilitary groups. Not only that, but I would actually pass on information to the security forces in such a way as I would expect would obtain an arrest and a conviction. I make that quite clear.
The question that the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) must ask himself is one that all democrats must ask themselves. If the Provisional Sinn Fein ultimately decided to take its place in the Northern Ireland Assembly, what would the hon. Gentleman do? He and all democrats must face that question when representatives have been elected to an assembly.
I say this to the people in Northern Ireland and here. There are those who advocate silence on the subject of unity. I believe that we have kept silent for too long. I challenge anyone to say what good the silence on this issue has done for the people of Northern Ireland.
It has been said recently that there are analogies between Northern Ireland and other colonial situations. It is perhaps part of our own burden of history as a colonial power that we tend to draw analogies with other situations. I have the advantage of having neither heard nor read yesterday's debate, so I can speak with some freshness on this subject, on which I have a fairly clear view. The question whether Northern Ireland is a colony is entirely academic because the conclusion that one reaches makes no difference to the way in which one reacts to the problem. More importantly, perhaps, the conclusion that one reaches ultimately depends in any case on one's definition of a colony. There is certainly no similarity to Zimbabwe or India. The first difference is the length of the involvement of Britain with Ireland. Secondly, and more 1115 important, there is the ratio of the numbers. In Zimbabwe there are about 250,000 people of British or European stock and about 8 million Africans. There is no similarity in that respect.
In a curious way, a comparison can be made with Cyprus, but not in regard to the British connection with Cyprus. The analogy with Cyprus is to be found in the communal strife between Turks and Greeks and the struggle over 2,500 years for the ownership of that island. There are other similarities, perhaps, in regard to Palestine and Israel.
§ Mr. English
It was Clerides who first suggested to me the similarities between Cyprus and Northern Ireland, and his point was that in both cases the British had imposed communal education.
§ Mr. Soley
I was not aware of that and I accept what my hon. Friend says.
I believe that the insecurity felt by many Unionists is due in no small part to the reluctance of successive British Governments to incorporate them fully into the United Kingdom. The right hon. Member for Down, South understands that more fully than many people in this House. I share his understanding and view of that factor. The Conservative Party, which claims to be a party of the Union, has always treated Northern Ireland differently, and the right hon. Gentleman understands that with great clarity.
§ Mr. Soley
The right hon. Gentleman might disagree on the solutions to the problem but I do not think that I would dispute his concern that, having talked about the Union, people continue to treat Northern Ireland as in some way different.
Another danger of not talking about the problem is that we begin to regard it as purely an Irish problem. Initially, we say that it is all the fault of the Irish. Then, when we hear of particular acts of terror by the paramilitary people on the Unionist side or on the Republican side, we say that it is the problem of the Northern Irish people. We say that they cannot get themselves together and do not know how to run things. We say that the Irish do not know what they believe in but that they are prepared to fight for it. That is a terribly false statement to make about the people in the Republic or in Northern Ireland. They are just as capable as anyone else of governing themselves and running their own affairs.
On this side of the water, we say that the problem is "over there". Obviously, there is a problem in Northern Ireland, but the problem is also here. It is also a British problem.
§ Mr. Soley
It cannot be dismissed as an Irish problem. As a result, we must conclude that the solution lies not only in Northern Ireland but in London and Dublin. The tragedy for the people of Northern Ireland is that the only power they really have—whether it be the Unionists or the Republicans—is the negative power to try to stop things happening and to try to stop progress. It is our job in this House to give a lead, and I think that London and Dublin must give that lead. I appreciate that at this point I shall lose any support that I might have anticipated from the Unionist parties.
§ Mr. Powell
Would the hon. Member, who has just referred to me very generously, allow me to put a question to him? I agree with him that nothing is ever lost by candid debate in this House and by exposing in this House the motives by which we are actuated. Surely the Labour Party, with all its parliamentary and democratic traditions, when it seeks to secure a stated end by obtaining consent for it, must do that in the same way as it would seek to do it in any other part of the United Kingdom or in any other context, by bringing it into the political arena, by standing or being represented in the Province, and by putting to the electorate the point of view which it believes the electorate ought to adopt.
§ Mr. Soley
I do not follow the right hon. Gentleman down that path. I think that the Labour Party was right originally to decide in 1920 not to organise in Northern Ireland because at that stage it took the view that the border was wrongly drawn. If we now say, after all these years, that we must change that decision and go back on it, we make incorrect assumptions about that period. I think it is the duty of this House to allow the elected representatives of Northern Ireland to take full part in all the discussions about the future of Northern Ireland in this House, in the Assembly and in any other democratic body that we establish, either in Northern Ireland or here. That is the key to the position.
§ Mr. Winnick
Much attention is usually given to the question whether the Labour Party should contest elections in Northern Ireland, but is it not interesting that the official Unionists are not involved in any way with the Conservative Party? As we see, they now sit on the Opposition Benches. The Conservative Party makes no attempt to put up candidates, and obviously has no intention of putting up candidates at the next general election in the Province.
§ Mr. Soley
My hon. Friend is correct. I was seeking to answer the right hon. Member for Down, South on his own terms. The Conservative Party is not exactly logical on the issue. My hon. Friend's comment is a fair one.
It would be a mistake at this stage to draw up a detailed plan of how to achieve unity, but some of the measures that a Labour Government might consider would include, I think, a commitment to a united Ireland by consent. That phrase is crucial and we stick with it. The committee set up by the Government and by the Taoiseach in 1980 would need to be expanded and developed, and to be made increasingly public where possible. That would avoid some of the paranoia that arises. I am not pretending for a moment that the Labour Party's saying that it believes in a united Ireland by consent would please Unionists. Obviously it would not. But we need to have the debate in the open, because in that way we undermine some of the fears, real and imagined, that are otherwise created.
There would need to be a very strong commitment by the British and Irish Governments to allow full joint citizenship rights. I spoke in this House yesterday on the desirability of the creation of an all-Ireland economic development council. Far too little attention is paid to the fact that the creation of the border has done a great deal to distort the economy of the Republic and of Northern Ireland. Great progress could be made if such a council were set up.
I should like to see a major effort made to harmonise the economic, political and social institutions in order to 1117 diminish the relevance of the border. That could be a useful step forward in its own right. I would prefer a harmonisation upwards where financial benefits such as social security are concerned. It is sometimes said that the Republic of Ireland is far behind the United Kingdom in that respect. That used to be the case but it is no longer so. The problem now is one of differences in the way that money is distributed to the various groups in society, rather than any difference in the amounts involved.
I think that we would have to consider a way of giving some sort of all-Ireland dimension to the Assembly. I have considerable respect and admiration for the way that the present Secretary of State has attempted to make the Assembly work for the benefit of people in Northern Ireland. That should be put on the record. It would be incredibly difficult for the minority community to take part unless there were some recognition of the all-Ireland dimension of the problem. That is the important part that is missing.
I suggest that at some stage we should consider establishing what has sometimes been called an Anglo-Irish council. With my rather late education in Scotland, perhaps I should say a British-Irish council, so that we include also the Scots and the Welsh. I do not believe that anyone could now define the exact structure that might be involved. Indeed, I believe that it would be a mistake to do so. The most likely outcome would be a federal system, because it would offer the greatest confidence and security to members of both communities.
It is essential that Unionists should be confident that their legitimate rights and traditions will be respected in a united Ireland. We recognise that there are two cultures, with great strengths and traditions, that should be respected.
Many people in Great Britain feel that the Unionists have been unreasonably intransigent. I believe that that stems from the inherently unstable and insecure position that they have occupied since 1920. I do not believe that the House has the right to accuse them of being unreasonable when we imposed the problem on them.
I recognise that I am asking people who support the Unionist cause in Northern Ireland not just to change their national identity but to join a nation committed to a different religion. As a Socialist, I recognise unfortunately that both nationalism, and to a considerable extent religion, are more powerful forces than a sense of common humanity and class identity. That is a fact of life that the opposition would be foolish to ignore and run away from. Any changes to the Republic's constitution or moves to a united Ireland must recognise and respond to that. Sometimes fears are exaggerated, but sometimes they are real. We must respond not just to real but to exaggerated fears. It is the fear that matters and not necessarily the reality of the fear.
I conclude by saying, as I said once before, that Great Britain began to move towards a united Ireland during the last century. It came close to doing so again in the early part of this century. I believe that we must continue the unfinished business of the 19th century and that the Labour movement is best suited to complete that business.
§ Mr. Tom Arnold (Hazel Grove)
I express my condolences to the families of those of my constituents 1118 who were murdered in the outrage earlier this week. It was a terrible tragedy and one which has reminded all of us of the issues at stake in Northern Ireland. Therefore, I agree with what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said earlier about the first part of the motion of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) by expressing my sense of pride when seeing what our soldiers and members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary have to contend with in Northern Ireland. Anyone who has been out on patrol with either the Army or the Royal Ulster Constabulary recognises in full measure their dedication and professionalism.
There is, in the terms of the motion, a suggestion by the right hon. Member for Down, South that security policy in Northern Ireland is marked by a deep ambiguity by the British Government in determining what their full policy should be towards Northern Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman has repeated today accusations that he has made against the Government on a number of occasions and against officials. I can only repeat what I have said in debates during the past 12 months, that during the time that I was privileged to serve in the Northern Ireland Office I never encountered officials, documents or papers purporting to suggest that the United Kingdom Government should seek to steer Northern Ireland into a united Ireland.
Many of the observations that we have heard again from the right hon. Member for Down, South this morning belong more in the realm of fancy than fact, either in terms of Government policy or administrative practice in the Northern Ireland Office. I know the official who has been mentioned and I am sorry that Mr. Clive Abott has been treated in the way that he has. The exchanges that took place earlier this morning have thrown some fresh and revealing light on the affair which was first brought to our attention in the debates during the summer.
I believe that those debates are relevant to the present position facing the Government in Northern Ireland and to the motion and its specific reference to the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. Perhaps I could remind the right hon. Member for Down, South of one or two sentences in the White Paper. In paragraph 16 the Government say:There is also a substantial minority within Northern Ireland who think of themselves as Irish, whether in terms of their identity, their social and cultural traditions, or their political aspirations. Many of them support political parties which would like to see a united Ireland in some form.Paragraph 17 reads:The Government recognises that the sense of two different identities is an important and continuing reality of social and political life in Northern Ireland. Proposals for the political progress necessary for the restoration of economic stability and the improvement of security must therefore take account of these differences.Later the Government say:No other part of the United Kingdom has been divided so deeply or for so long on fundamental principles.
Those observations were made by the Government and were argued consistently throughout the debates that we had on the Northern Ireland Bill 1982. That is the difference between people like myself, who support the Government's stand based on a certain experience in Northern Ireland, and the views of the right hon. Member for Down, South. I believe, as does the Secretary of State, that the vast majority of people who live in Northern Ireland see themselves as British and wish to remain British. As long as that is what they wish to do, so be it. I share their aspirations and in that sense I am a Unionist. 1119 However, we must take account of the fact that Northern Ireland is not like Kent, Leicestershire, or Lancashire, yet the right hon. Member for Down, South persists in arguing that it is. He has argued that way for a long time and no doubt will continue to do so. It is interesting to note that he says that we should have nothing to do with the devolved institution that has been set up. That is not the position of his party. His party did not take his advice and has shown an increasing reluctance to do so.
From my visits to Northern Ireland, I judge that the right hon. Member for Down, South is becoming more and more isolated. His views are at odds with an increasing number of his party and they are increasingly rejected by the majority community in Northern Ireland. I was delighted that the Official Unionist Party decided to participate in the elections, did well and is now trying to make some success of its representation in the Assembly. The right hon. Member for Down, South regrets that, but the House should note that his party is having discussions on a regular basis with the Secretary of State and his Ministers to see how the Assembly can be made to work.
The House having passed the Bill late last Session, the elections having taken place and with the Assembly established and beginning its work, we should concentrate our minds, attention and energy on making a success of it. In this life one plays the ball where it lies; it now lies with the Assembly. The best thing for Northern Ireland would be for the Members of the Assembly who are participating in its debates to think again about its future to see whether they can bring themselves to persuade the SDLP to join in its work. That is the way to make progress in developing political institutions that will embrace both sides of the community, which is what is needed to move towards greater political stability.
I believe that, if handled carefully and properly, the restoration of devolved institutions can lead to political stability. That is the fundamental divide between the right hon. Member for Down, South and myself. When I look again at the Act, I am impressed by the scope that it gives the political parties in deciding the speed and the manner in which they wish to progress. It is not always generally recognised that the Act does not impose any particular method of advance. It is clear from the individual clauses that Members of the Assembly have a great deal of discretion and latitude in what they can propose to the Secretary of State, and he is bound by the Act to proceed in a predetermined manner.
There is no statutory requirement for the establishment of a power-sharing Executive in the way in which the phrase came generally to be understood in the mid-1970s. The right hon. Gentleman and his friends persist in thinking that because the previous Conservative Government moved in a particular direction the present Government seek to re-establish by the same means the identical form of devolved Administration. That need not be so. The present legislation is much more flexible and allows a great deal of latitude to the Members of the Assembly.
I make a suggestion for further study. It would be possible for the Members of the Assembly to suggest to the Secretary of State an arrangement whereby Official Unionist Members are appointed as Ministers to this or that Department—Finance or Commerce perhaps—and SDLP Members are appointed as Ministers to Health and Social Services, for example. It would be possible for the Secretary of State to continue to act as a chairman, seeking 1120 to preside over those Ministers in a form that would enable a great measure of co-operation and participation on the part of both communities in government without the establishment of a power-sharing Executive of the kind that we saw in the early 1970s. I merely put forward the suggestion as the kind of arrangement that could be arrived at under the legislation were there sufficient good will and co-operation.
It is in the interests of Unionist Members of the Assembly to persuade SDLP Members to take their seats. That is the way in which the Official Unionist Members can attain greater authority and control over the daily political life and administration of Northern Ireland.
I was a litle puzzled by some of the remarks of the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley), the official Opposition spokesman, about Northern Ireland's position. Northern Ireland has never been administered as an integral part of the rest of the United Kingdom. That is what the argument for devolution is all about. Northern Ireland has enjoyed devolved institutions since 1920 and all the signs are that that is what the people of Northern Ireland want. That is why the Government were right to come forward with the proposals to set up a devolved Assembly and to seek to ensure that the Assembly can put forward proposals whereby it can enjoy a real measure of devolved power.
On the wider issue of relations between the United Kingdom and the Republic, the Secretary of State was right in what he said about relations between the two countries. We cannot escape from many hundreds of years of history. We cannot draw a ring fence around Northern Ireland in the way that the right hon. Gentleman frequently suggests. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was right to engage in the talks at Dublin castle when she went there with my right hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Atkins), the then Secretary of State, and my noble Friend Lord Carrington. Those talks were an honourable attempt to improve relations. I regret that there has been a deterioration in relations. I hope that an imprcvernent will be seen in coming months. It is essential that there should be continuing co-operation between the security forces on both sides of the frontier. How is that cooperation to be achieved if there are not regular contacts and co-operation between the two Governments?
Anyone who has followed the development of security policy in Northern Ireland over the past three years will know of the improvements at operational level. One has only to go into a police station in Londonderry or Newry to observe at first hand the co-operation now taking place on a daily basis. That is to be welcomed. It has led to many arrests and finds of ammunition and weapons. To that extent, security policy depends upon continuing good cooperation and close relations between the two Governments.
For the right hon. Member for Down, South to suggest that the aim of the British Government in talks with the Government of the Republic is to seek to drive Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom and into a united Ireland borders on the fantastic. It is not borne out by any of the documents that have been published. Nor do I believe that it will be borne out by any other documents that may be published in years to come. There is a unique relationship between the United Kingdom and the Republic. It needs to be developed in a mature and comprehensive manner. I do not see why there should be great objection if officials get together from time to time 1121 to discuss matters of common interest and mutual concern. Why should that be regarded as so obnoxious as to be almost treasonable? That is the implication of some of the remarks of the right hon. Member for Down, South.
The decision to set up the Assembly has been taken. The need now is to try to encourage the Assembly to take for itself a greater measure of responsibility by putting forward proposals to the Secretary of State who can lay them before Parliament. I should like to see the Assembly take on a real measure of authority and legitimacy for the conduct of the affairs of the Province. That is the way to try to bridge the divide between the two communities. That is the way in which the people of Northern Ireland can best judge for themselves how they wish to conduct their affairs. I commend to the House the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State about the Assembly and the need to encourage all Members of the Assembly to take the opportunities open to them. In that sense, we can make real progress. In that sense also the right hon. Member for Down, South will find himself increasingly isolated.
§ Mr. Reginald Freeson (Brent, East)
I agreed with the general thrust and most of the content of the speech of the hon. Member for Hazel Grove (Mr. Arnold). I also appreciated the manner in which he addressed the House. I support his commendation of the initiative of the Prime Minister in meeting the Prime Minister of the Republic fairly early in her period of office. I hope sincerely that as soon as the new Republican Government are in office—this will be in the course of the next few days—arrangements will be put in hand for a meeting between our Prime Minister and the new Prime Minister in the Republic.
I would go further. Given the situation in Northern Ireland and the continuously urgent need for political initiatives and political relationships to be developed, there should perhaps take place exceptionally all-party contacts at Prime Ministerial level and Cabinet level with the Republic to open up discussions. There should not be specific proposals at this stage. The tasks should concentrate rather on opening up discussions directed towards political initiatives in the near future.
For a long time there has been an attempt—it is needed even more urgently now—to get contact both at Government level and parliamentary level, on more than an informal, individual basis, among this country, the Republic and Northern Ireland. Perhaps both Front Benches should get together and seek to activate what I think, although I have not recently checked, was provided in the 1949 Act but never activated, and that is a parliamentary level commission between Northern Ireland, the Republic and this House to open up discussion.
My next comment follows some of the remarks of the hon. Member for Hazel Grove. Not only do I wish the Assembly well, however much I should have liked a more dynamic political initiative to have emerged from this House, and hope that we can build on it, but I look forward to the time when that Assembly starts to discuss future constitutional ideas. We should encourage that and do everything that we can to stimulate it in that direction. Would it not be—I am tempted to use the 1122 word—marvellous if, after all this time, the Assembly were to have the discussions that we in this House have all too infrequently, but which we nevertheless have, about the future political settlement of this matter? Is it not time that there was debate in Northern Ireland and among Northern Ireland, the Republic and ourselves about the options; where we go, and to use that oft-used phrase of a famous Prime Minister,Jaw-jaw is better than war-war.Hon. Members may know that I have in my constituency probably the largest single Irish community in this country, and one of my constituents said to me the other day:My God, I sometimes feel, in my more despondent moments, like Edmund Spenser, that great English political administrator, who said of Ulster ten years before the arrival of the Protestant there, and voicing the despair of many Englishmen of the time, that he 'wished that Ireland would sink forever beneath the waves of the Atlantic, and that the whole Island were a sea pool'.I do not quote that in any flippant sense; I quote what a constituent said to me. Many echo those sentiments today. It should be recalled, however, as I said to my constituent, that Spenser went on to say that such talk was that of desperate men who wish the utter ruin of what they cannot redress, rather than the views of grave counsellors who know that even the most difficult political problem may, through wisdom, be mastered and subdued.
The trouble has been that, for many years, we have lacked sufficient "grave counsellors". There were few enough in the 19th century, when this issue emerged so vigorously in the later Parliaments of that century, and there have been few enough in this place until the troubles burst upon us at the end of the 1960s.
I recall attempting, with a few of my hon. Friends, to raise the issues of Northern Ireland in this House. It is now difficult to recall that there was a long-standing convention, not law, in the House that subjects appertaining to Northern Ireland were never to be, and could not be, raised by hon. Members. Is it not an irony that I should have been told that by the Chair every time I and a few other hon. Members tried to raise these matters in the mid-1960s?
From 1969 matters changed. The troubles of Northern Ireland burst upon us, although not without warning. The point has been made that from the time of partition until this last decade there was ample opportunity for the majority to have tried far more vigorously to take the minority along with them. It serves no purpose to go too severely over the ground of history in order to apportion blame. However, it serves some purpose to draw some lessons from history. I fear that there are still times in the House and elsewhere when such lessons are not drawn.
We must wish this most recent of political initiatives well and help it on its way. However, despite my endorsement, it would be unrealistic not to realise that there is nothing new about what is at present in hand. As for Gladstone and others, there can be no permanent solution other than some kind of reunification of the island. That must be the objective, whatever may be the intervening steps towards peace, co-operation and economic and social development, in a war against deprivation and poverty in the Province where there are thousands upon thousands of families suffering the scourge of severe unemployment.
It is the manner by which one achieves that reunification that is at issue. Let me say straight away how 1123 much I, like every hon. Member, abhor not only the violence, in whatever quarter of Northern Ireland, but those who believe, from a distance or close at hand, that this is the way towards some political objective.
Whether it is stated in the House or outside, the obscenity—I use the word deliberately—of what happened in Ballykelly and in so many other places cannot for one moment be accepted politically and is not for one moment accepted by the vast majority of the Irish people in the Republic, in Northern Ireland and in my constituency. Anybody who suggests otherwise, particularly for political motives, is adding to that obscenity.
Those who commit such outrages are not concerned about achieving reunification in the short term. I do not accept the views expressed by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). I accept it to be the objective of such people to achieve the reunification of Ireland.
However, the right hon. Gentleman omitted from his speech another important consideration; whether it is missing from his consideration is another matter. I refer to the fact that those who perpetrate outrages in Northern Ireland and in this country wish to obtain reunification by a particular means and to achieve a particular type of political order both in the North and in the South. They do not intend to establish a parliamentary or democratic system of government. Some people have used violence to that end in the past and they have achieved their objective, however much one might abhor the violence and destruction committed on the road to that objective.
However, there are others in history—to be seen in large numbers in Northern Ireland, associated with the IRA and other such groups—who use violence to achieve a particular form of political State. There was a similar experience in the early days of the Free State. I shall not go into the history of that now, but such elements had to be struggled against by the nascent Free State in the 1920s. They were authoritarians who, in modern times, would no doubt come under the label of Fascists. I do not use that word loosely although it is often used in that way.
There are such elements in Northern Ireland who use violence and their main concern is to work towards that type of State, which they in turn would run. That is my assessment of what is going on. A desire for change is emerging in various quarters in Northern Ireland, as well as in the Irish community in Britain, where there is great interest in the future. People are feeling their way towards changed relationships and new political initiatives which could produce results in the not-too-distant future, if peaceful politics were only given a chance. Those who do not give peaceful politics a chance—whoever they may be—are holding up the emergence of decent results in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Soley
My right hon. Friend is making an important point. Does he agree that one of the recent tragedies in the history of Northern Ireland was that the civil rights movement, which offered so much in the early stages, was destroyed by the paramilitary groups on both sides and by the attitudes adopted by certain people in Stormont and elsewhere?
§ Mr. Freeson
Over the years, that thought has regularly come into my mind. Together with a small minority of Members of Parliament, I helped, within weeks of entering the House in 1964, to form what was then called the Campaign for Democracy in Ulster. From 1124 then on I became closely associated with the civil rights movement. Thus, I was very much aware of what happened to the movement and of our efforts in that period, which eventually ended in the breakdown in 1969 and in the eruption of violence. At the very moment when, belatedly, there were moves for change w within the Province—irrespective of a future constitutional arrangement between the Republic and the North—and at the very time when there was a new wave of interest in changing relationships within the Province, with growing interest being expressed in Britain, the extremists on both sides came into play and destroyed, distorted and bastardised what was afoot in Northern Ireland in co-operation with friends in Britain. That is regularly in my mind.
In the decade or more since then, that has frequently occurred. We are going through such a period now. It has a political and violent aspect on both sides. Some on the Protestant-cum-Unionist side fear change and take up categorical and rigid positions, as we have witnessed today, not for the first time. Some on the other side of the divide take up extremist, rigid and categorical positions which prevent discussion and political initiative.
I have said that I hope that we take broad initiatives towards constitutional debate and discussion among ourselves, the Republic and Northern Ireland. I expressed the hope that the Assembly would shortly give itself time to discuss such matters and to get the initiatives going. Let us be aware that the politics of consent mentioned earlier relate not only to the position in Northern Ireland or to the position of the majority of people in Northern Ireland, but to the people of this country. Between 50 million and 55 million people in this country should not be told decade after decade that there shall be no change in Northern Ireland simply because, with the greatest of respect, 1 million people in Northern Ireland say that there shall be no change.
I do not believe that 1 million people in Northern Ireland take that view. I paraphrase what the right hon. Member for Down, South said. He spoke of the 1 million people in Northern Ireland who will not accept the kind of change that he was attributing to Government policy-some kind of reunification with the Republic.
I stress that which is too infrequently stressed. Between 50 million and 55 million people in the rest of the United Kingdom will not continue to be held to ransom by the veto in Northern Ireland. We, too, have a right to say and to act on political initiatives. That aspect of the debate about veto is too infrequently taken into account.
I cannot pretend, as I come from this side of the water, to speak with any deep knowledge about what might be said by the constituents of the right hon. Member for Down, South or any other Northern Ireland constituents. I can speak with general knowledge from my contacts with individuals with a political interest who live in Northern Ireland and with people over here with families in Northern Ireland as well as in the Republic.
I detect change. I detect more than war-weariness, although that is a large part of it. I detect that people 'want a new political pattern. That is why I said that extremists come into action when that happens. Ironically, I think that the horror of what took place earlier this week was an upstaging by one group of extremists of the so-called political initiative that emanated from here. Many people fear that what was done in Ballykelly was a means of 1125 upstaging the Provisional Sinn Fein initiative that received so much publicity. It is horrifying to say that, but so many horrifying things have happened that it must be said.
Despite the horror of what happened and the many other horrors, there is a desire for political change that could take many forms. It is never too soon to begin discussions involving politicians in the North, the Republic and Great Britain about future relations among those three territories. We should work towards a confederal relationship. That wide term covers many arrangements. An Ulster nationalism may emerge, with some self-determination or self-government, as has been suggested once or twice in previous debates. That would contribute towards a new relationship with the Republic. Perhaps with the new local government arrangements, self-determination could be developed under the umbrella of the Assembly. New ministerial appointments could emerge, as was suggested by the hon. Member for Hazel Grove. But, to use one of his phrases, we should not all kick a ball that happens to be at our feet. The position is too serious for that.
We must be prepared to sit down and to think about objectives. That will be uncomfortable for many people on both sides of the divide and for Westminster politicians, because we shall be unpopular with one group, whichever way we turn. However, that is not a reason for saying that we should not attempt it now. We must get down to talking our way out of the horror, because if we stand pat the horror will continue, not simply at the hands of the thugs whom we all condemn, but as a result of our failure to move our position. We must find a way. We have a responsibility to the majority in the United Kingdom as well as to the majority and minority in Northern Ireland. Our responsibility applies to all the peoples of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. I hope that we shall carry out that responsibility.
§ Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East)
Northern Ireland business comes either as a glut or as a famine. I wished to speak in yesterday's debate, but I did not get the opportunity. The significance of that remark will appear later in my speech.
I must distinguish between the wording of the motion in the name of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) and what may be the spirit behind those words. I do not disagree with the wording and, on that basis, I support the motion.
With regard to the conspiracy theory, which seems to be the substance behind the wording of the motion, it is not beyond the capacity of this or any past or future British Government to engage in such a conspiracy. Nevertheless, the evidence that the right hon. Member for Down, South and the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneux) advanced leaves me less than convinced that this piece of evidence takes us any further towards substantiating such a charge.
It is not enough that the person concerned appears—though there is some reluctance to admit it—to be a former or present employee of an Official Unionist Member of Parliament, in spite of the fact that he claimed not to be politically aware. I do not know whether that is a good recommendation for a Member of Parliament's 1126 researcher. The evidence that has been advanced recently and today leaves many of us less than convinced that the claim is substantiated.
However, there is other evidence which can substantiate the charge. It was produced on 8 December 1980 when the Prime Minister met the Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland, Mr. Charles Haughey. They openly published a communiqué saying not merely that the totality of relationships within these islands was now the subject for discussion between the two Governments, but that committees would be set up and officials would deliberate on the issues and make reports.
The totality of relationships within these islands, if it means what it says, must include the constitutional relationship within these islands. That was the impression that Unionist Members of Parliament had. The first thing that they would have been expected to do was ask the Prime Minister to provide an opportunity to debate the issue in the House. The Prime Minister refused. We tabled written and oral questions to try to elicit information from Government. They refused. On top of that, Mr. Haughey and his foreign affairs spokesman at the time, Mr. Lenihan, went on radio and television and showed that what we feared had transpired during the discussions with the British Prime Minister. There was every bit of evidence of a conspiracy.
Matters have been quiet recently. Being quiet could be good politics. Once one is caught out, it is as well to keep one's head down for a while. I therefore take the quietness as being of little comfort. There is always a possibility that, if a Government are once prepared to go down that road, they are prepared to continue down it when it is more expedient to do so. There is, therefore, some substance in the conspiracy theory, although the evidence that the right hon. Member for Down, South has produced does not help us much to substantiate it.
Against that backcloth of the conspiracy theory, we have the so-called Anglo-Irish parliamentary tier. I and my colleagues oppose it and will continue to oppose it if it ever rears its head again. However, I part company with the right hon. Member for Down, South again in that I do not believe that the existence of what has been called a Unionist Assembly is likely to take us down the road to destruction. If there is any buttress against such a parliamentary tier that could move us further towards a united Ireland, that buttress is a Unionist-dominated Assembly. Therefore, I do not believe that the Assembly is the danger that the right hon. Gentleman makes it out to be. It is, however, a danger to something. It is a danger to his hope never to have devolution in Northern Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman is an anti-devolutionist. He is entitled to that view and I respect him for having it. It is, however, not the view that was set out in his party's manifesto. His party believes in devolution, although the antics of its members in the Northern Ireland Assembly show that it is deeply divided on the issue.
The conflict within the Assembly is one not between the parties but within the Official Unionist party, and it centres on devolution. The most recent conflict—the Official Unionists have said that they will lift up their ball, go home and not play with anyone any more—has arisen because it has not got its own way with Committee chairmanships. None of us have got our own way on that issue. I believe that there are elements within the Official 1127 Unionist Party who will use that and any other factor to try to destroy the Assembly. This is because they do not believe in devolution.
I was interested to hear the Secretary of State refer briefly to power sharing. Over the years I have been opposed to it. I oppose it now and I shall continue to oppose it. I oppose it for the best of motives. I do not believe that any system can work when the losers of an election end up in the Government, especially as the losers will be those who want to destroy the very state that the Government are running. Therefore, I believe, as the Secretary of State indicated, that there are inconsistencies with power sharing. I noted his words carefully and I shall study them even more carefully when we are able to read them in Hansard.
The right hon. Gentleman said that there are ways other than power sharing. I shall be interested to hear from him whether these other ways include the Northern Ireland convention report, or something that flows directly from it, when the minority parties, whichever they may be, have within Northern Ireland a say that is greater than that which the minority parties have in this House. This would be gained through Committee chairmanships. Let us say that there is a 20 per cent. minority. It would get 50 per cent. of the committee chairmanships and the Government would get 50 per cent. These are issues that we should consider and I hope that the Assembly will get down to considering them.
It is unfortunate that there are some candidates who seek a mandate to speak on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland and who, when they receive it, decide not to represent their people in the Assembly to which they have been elected. I believe that they do their electors a disservice by such an act. I trust that the folly of their ways will be seen by them before too long.
Contained in the motion is the conspiracy theory, which I can accept and which I believe the Assembly can act as a buttress against. As well as that we have the anti-devolutionist spirit that the right hon. Member for Down South has demonstrated on a number of occasions.
The motion states that the House appreciates the efforts of the security forces. My hon. Friend the Member for Antrim North (Rev. Ian Paisley) is today in Northern Ireland attending yet more funerals. I do not know whether right hon. and hon. Members appreciate the lifestyle of Northern Ireland Members. When I make an appointment with a constituent or anyone else for more than two days away, it must always be subject to parliamentary duties. That means something entirely different in Northern Ireland from over here. When I say that to a constituent or someone who wants to meet me, it means that I shall meet him provided I do not have to go to the funeral of one of my constituents. Any Member of Parliament for Northern Ireland knows only too well the work that the security forces do in Northern Ireland and the danger that they face. We must pay tribute to the gallantry of the Army, the Ulster Defence Regiment and the police. None of us could ever object to the commendation of the efforts of the security forces. I trust that all hon. Members recognise the gallantry and courage that they have shown.
In his motion the right hon. Member for Down, South links the security effort with political action. There I see something of a danger. There is obviously a link, but I am loth to go down the road that suggests that something on the political front needs to be done before we can defeat terrorism. That, as the Secretary of State was all too quick 1128 to point out, is the motivating force behind his policy, which encourages the Government to sit back until the political circumstances are right before they take the military action that they should.
The only political link with security in Northern Ireland is the political will to defeat terrorism. The right hon. Member for Down, South might agree with my belief that if the political will was there, it would automatically follow that the Government had turned their back on the Republic of Ireland or America and the pressures that could be applied on them from those sources. We make a grave error of judgment if we believe that something political must happen first by way either of a solution to our problems or of any political will on the part of the Government other than the will to defeat terrorism.
The means of defeating the Provisional IRA, which is the main source of violence in Northern Ireland, is at their disposal, through a resolute military initiative against it. The right hon. Gentleman differentiates in his motion between terrorism and counter-terrorism. If there was a political will to defeat terrorism, counter-terrorism would almost automatically drop off. I urge the Government to have the political will to turn their back on those who would try to restrain the Government's hands, and thus defeat terrorism in Northern Ireland.
The Assembly has a useful role in Northern Ireland. Every hon. Member should give it his support. Even in its first stage it can provide for the people of Northern Ireland something that they have not had for many years, which is the opportunity for their elected representatives to scrutinise the Northern Ireland Departments.
At the beginning of my remarks I said that I should like to have spoken last night. I did not get the opporunity. I was glad to see that hon. Members representing British constituencies as well as those in Northern Ireland were eager to speak on Northern Ireland issues.
How often do we end up at 1, 2, or 3 o'clock in the morning debating Northern Ireland issues? We deal with our legislation through Orders in Council. We are allocated one and a half hours for all the speeches. Even if all Northern Ireland Members were against the Order in Council, we could not amend one word of it. Is that the way to deal with Northern Ireland business?
The Northern Ireland Assembly, through its powers to scrutinise and consider, can offer amendments to draft orders. It can go fully into the policies of the Northern Ireland Office. If the right hon. Member for Down, South had stood for the Northern Ireland Assembly and been graced by the support of the people, he would have had an excellent opportunity there to scrutinise what the Government were doing in respect of his conspiracy theory. He could have questioned the Secretary of State in the Assembly. The Assembly gives us an opportunity to probe the Government.
§ Mr. Robinson
The information given to us by the Secretary of State suggests that Mr. Abbott was confronted by someone who represented himself as something that he was not. In that respect, I believe that the person whom Mr. Abbott met was dishonourable. Perhaps the intention was to gull Mr. Abbott into believing that the person had no idea of what was going on in Northern Ireland, so that Mr. Abbott might drop some gem into that person' s hand which could be used by Northern Ireland Members on the 1129 Opposition Benches. However, the fact that he purported to Mr. Abbott to be something that he was not detracts from the value of the evidence that that researcher had to offer. It undercuts the honesty with which we can view that researcher.
This week the Minister of State who deals with commerce and manpower services in Northern Ireland was present in the Assembly. We had a two-day debate on unemployment in Northern Ireland. I had a greater opportunity in that Assembly to hear and question a Minister about unemployment policies than I have ever had as a Member of this House. Even in its first stage, the Assembly has something to offer to the people of Northern Ireland. I go along with the policy of the right hon. Member for Down, South and his hon. Friends, although I perhaps do not share their motivating force, in that I want to see real devolution in Northern Ireland in democratic terms. In trying to undermine and wreck the Assembly, the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues are doing a disservice to the people whom they represent.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
The remarks of the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) illustrate the divisions within the Unionist camp. We should be grateful at least to the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) for initiating this debate because Northern Ireland should be the subject of debates in this House, but he cannot expect many hon. Members on either side to agree with the terms of the motion. In many respects, the right hon. Gentleman's attitude to the future of Northern Ireland is frozen in the Unionist attitude of the debates about Home Rule which took place before the first world war. His opinion seems not to have changed since those debates, in which Unionist politicians argued that in no circumstances should Home Rule be applicable, and certainly not to what they described as Northern Ireland.
There should be no need to emphasise our revulsion at the terrorist outrages that have occurred, not only the terrible tragedy on Monday but the other outrages that have been committed since the early 1970s, in Northern Ireland and on the mainland, including the Birmingham pub bombing in 1974 and many other such crimes.
I agree entirely with those who argue—as my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley) did from the Opposition Front Bench today—that such crimes and atrocities, far from bringing nearer the unification of Ireland, only deepen, as they must, the sectarian divisions between the two communities in Northern Ireland. Is someone who is not part of the minority community likely to be persuaded that he should be more sympathetic to the removal of the border after the sort of outrage that occurred in Northern Ireland on Monday?
There seems now to be a dangerous rivalry between the Provisional IRA and those who describe themselves as the Irish National Liberation Army. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson) suggested, it is almost as though the Irish National Liberation Army were trying to prove that it, too, is part of the Irish armed struggle and cannot be ignored. Not for one moment do I ignore the sectarian violence and murders committed by 1130 those who proclaim their loyalty the United Kingdom. Sectarian violence and murder are not confined by any means to the Republican side.
I do not accept the Official Unionist view—the view of the right hon. Member for Down, South—that the Assembly is somehow responsible for the increased terrorism. I do not believe that the terrorists need any excuse to carry out their actions—and I speak as one who has never been in favour of this type of Assembly, for reasons that I explained at the time. To blame the Secretary of State and the setting up of the Assembly for what has occurred is totally wrong.
There is a pressing need for a political solution involving both communities in Northern Ireland and with an all-Ireland dimension. To a very large extent, the two Unionist points of view were expressed today by the right hon. Member for Down, South and by the hon. Member for Belfast, East. First, there is the view on integration that one associates with the right hon. Gentleman, if not with his party. His point of view is simple and clear, and I believe that it is shared by perhaps 25 or 30 Conservative Members. They say, in effect, that there is no basic difference between any part of Britain and Northern Ireland—in other words, that Northern Ireland should be treated exactly like the mainland, with no difference whatever. But, of course, there is a considerable difference and—like those who opposed Home Rule before the First World War—they will recognise it. We are dealing with Northern Ireland and not with northern Scotland, northern Wales, the northern parts of England or the home counties. To try to say that there is no difference between any of those areas and Northern Ireland is not to face reality. Part of the tragedy for so many years is that the Unionists have refused to face up to any kind of political reality.
Then there is the point of view expressed by people such as the hon. Member for Belfast, East, who say that they want devolution. That is the difference between the hon. Member and the right hon. Member for Down, South. I do not think that the hon. Member would wish to deny that what he really wants is a return to Stormont. He would like to go back to the position that existed between 1920 and 1972. As we know, in 1972 Stormont was abolished by the Conservative Government and direct rule was imposed.
The hon. Gentleman and his colleagues will not recognise or accept that the way in which Northern Ireland was administered between 1920 and 1972—with the denial of basic rights to the minority community, and all the tensions and aggravations involved—led to the civil rights disturbances of the late 1960s. To the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, Stormont was fine, and their only regret is that it was abolished.
§ Mr. Peter Robinson
The hon. Gentleman should know, if he does not already, that my party was the official Opposition in the 1972 Stormont. The Northern Ireland Convention report of 1975, which was agreed by not just the Democratic Unionist Party but also by the Official Unionist Party, contained different proposals from what he described as the old Stormont. It gave the minority a greater say than any minority had in Western Europe.
§ Mr. Winnick
That does not get over my point that the hon. Gentleman, as he has argued on previous occasions, is in favour of a Stormont-type Administration for 1131 Northern Ireland. As he said today, he is in favour of complete devolution for the Province. I believe I have interpreted his remarks correctly.
The Unionist parties do not seem to understand that neither of their viewpoints is acceptable to the minority community. The minority community and most Irishmen recognise how the Six Counties came into existence. My hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith, North said that there were debates at the beginning of the century about the reunification of Ireland. If I may take him to task gently, of course, Ireland was united. The disunity of Ireland resulted from partition. When we talk about having the consent of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland for the removal of the border, it has to be borne in mind that the majority of people in Ireland did not consent to the imposition of partition. There are six not nine counties of Ulster. The administration of Northern Ireland was deliberately framed to give the Unionists a majority. That is why partition was imposed.
It is understandable that the minority community, and many Irishmen in the Republic and elsewhere, take the view that the original gerrymandering that took place was partition. I believe, and so does my party, that there is no alternative to the reunification of Ireland. I want reunification. The right hon. Member for Down, South spoke about plots, conspiracies, and so forth. There is no plot or conspiracy by the Labour Party. It makes its policy clear in its documents. It cannot be accused of doing things under the counter or of plotting with officials. The Labour Party wants to work towards the reunification of Ireland by persuasion and consent.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell
The difficulty that some of us find is that the Labour Party's statement of policy does not explain how consent is to be obtained.
§ Mr. Winnick
The right hon. Gentleman knows full well why the Labour Party has not participated in Northern Ireland elections. It illustrates the difference between the mainland and Northern Ireland. If a Labour Party candidate stood partition would be the inevitable question. There is no doubt or mystery about it. The issues that dominate British political life do not dominate politics in Ireland. What the right hon. Gentleman said illustrates and confirms my point, that Northern Ireland is different from any other part of the United Kingdom. It is unique and that is why the Labour Party originally wisely decided not to put up candidates. As I said during my earlier intervention, official Unionists are no longer part of the Conservative party, but the Conservative party does not intend to put up candidates in the Six Counties at the forthcoming parliamentary election, because it takes the same view as the Labour Party.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell
If consent cannot be obtained in the normal way that one would expect, by going to the people, making speeches, talking to them and asking what they think, how does the Labour Party envisage consent being secured?
§ Mr. Winnick
I shall try to explain how it will be achieved. I do not live in cloud-cuckoo-land. I am aware of the hostility of the majority community in the Province to reunification. I understand the feelings at the time 1132 against Home Rule and the setting up of the Northern Ireland State in 1922. But through persuasion and consent I hope that the time will come when the majority community accepts the need for the removal of partition.
Many steps need to be taken before reunification. One Unionist argument against power-sharing is that Unionist politicians cannot sit down with the minority community, who wishes to see reunification. The Unionists should understand that one of the two main parties of State in this country accepts that a time should come when Ireland is reunited.
I want to see the minority community increasingly involved in the Province's administration. Unionist politicians will not recognise the fact that the more they deny the minority community participation and the chance of a power-sharing Executive and Assembly, the more they play into the hands of the gunmen and murderers and the more it is possible for the terrorists to tell the minority community that there is no alternative, no matter how twisted their argument. To separate the terrorists from mainstream support in the minority community we must ensure that members of that community do not see themselves as outcasts and discriminated against; the minority community should have a fair share in administration.
Power sharing is the only way in which the minority community will accept an Executive there. The Sunningdale agreement was brought in by a Conservative Government. It was destroyed on the streets of Northern Ireland in the early months of 1974. It was an unusual demonstration of loyalty that legislation passed by Parliament should have been undermined in that way.
Another factor that is no help in fighting terrorism there is mass unemployment and with it poverty and squalor. A better economic situation would make it more difficult for terrorism to thrive.
Most people in Britain recognise the need to combat terrorism, but they expect the Government to explore ways to find a political solution acceptable to both sides. The tragedy is that for almost 13 years we have faced such violence and terrorism. Is it to continue for another five, 10 or 15 years? Will we still be deploring the terrorism and violence in the 1990s? How far must the patience of the British people be tested? Surely there must be a solution. We must not carry on with the present situation to the turn of the century and beyond. We should also remember the harm that is done to our reputation abroad by the situation in Northern Ireland. There are, of course, those abroad who are anti-British and who use Northern Ireland as a means of baiting this country. There are many other people, however, certainly in the United States and in many European countries, who find our position in Northern Ireland very difficult to understand and to appreciate.
I believe that we should try for power sharing once again. My disagreement over the Assembly is not that I do not think there should be some form of devolution. I do not believe that the Assembly can possibly work. It was stated from the beginning that the minority community were opposed to it. It is not therefore surprising that, now it is set up, the Social Democratic and Labour Party, the main party representing minority interests, has boycotted it. We have to start again. This touches upon what the right hon. Member for Down, South asked me about consent and persuasion. We should not start power sharing again without a clear warning to both communities. If we were 1133 simply to start again, there would probably be the same outcome as occurred in 1974. We should be wasting our time.
I hope that the Government, if not the present Government the next Labour Government, will try their utmost to bring forward a political solution acceptable to both sides in Northern Ireland. If, however, that solution, after being agreed at Westminster, is destroyed by illegal means as in 1974, we shall have to conclude that there is no way in which a British Government will be able to find a political solution for Northern Ireland. We have to give a warning to those who live in Northern Ireland and, first and foremost, to the politicians there that our patience has a limit. The warning should be given before any constitutional arrangements are agreed by Parliament.
Obviously, if Parliament agrees to proposals for a power-sharing Assembly and Executive, that is a step I would wish to see. If it is defeated, so be it. If, however, it is passed, and a warning is given, and, even after that, it is destroyed, the British Government should take the view that it is impossible to find any solution acceptable to both sides. In those circumstances, and only in those circumstances, we should start the process of withdrawal. We should say, in effect, that, however hard we have tried, and bearing in mind the cost in bloodshed of so many British soldiers, we cannot go on any further. If everything that we have tried is rejected by the politicians in Northern Ireland, we should say that we now intend to negotiate for withdrawal.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell
I just wish to thank the hon. Gentleman for making clear the meaning that he attaches to the word "consent".
§ Mr. Winnick
The answer lies with the Unionist politicians. I know that there are some Unionists who will not believe this. I say, however, with all sincerity, that I would not like to see Britain withdraw in the circumstances that I have described. It would be very bloody. It would be very messy. I have no illusions about the situation in Northern Ireland and what may arise from our withdrawal in such circumstances. Why should I wish our withdrawal to take place in such circumstances? No one on the Conservative Benches would wish that. Why should I? There is, nevertheless, a limit to the British people's patience. If the right hon. Member for Down, South who has a major responsibility in these matters, does not want to see our withdrawal in those circumstances, the answer is clear. Let the Unionist politicians ensure that what is passed by Westminster is actually carried out on the ground in Northern Ireland. It cannot be stated too often that the most effective step, from their point of view, for ensuring that Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom—since they believe that persuasion and consent for a united Ireland is impossible—is to see that the minority community is fully brought into the administration of Northern Ireland. If they do not, if they remain frozen in the same attitudes that I described at the beginning of my remarks, dating back to the debates and controversies on Home Rule before the First World War, Unionist politicians, whether they sit on the Opposition Benches or the Government Benches, will be more responsible than anyone else for the withdrawal of British troops and British political administration from Northern Ireland in circumstances that I hope will not arise.
§ 1.5 pm
§ Dr. Brian Mawhinney (Peterborough)
Although it may be illogical to do so, I, too, congratulate the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) on his success in the ballot and on introducing this motion. I accept the sincerity with which he asked us to attribute the one to the other, although he will not be surprised if I say that I do not agree with some of his speech. Nevertheless, it was a speech which added to his formidable reputation as a parliamentarian and as an orator in this House. I hope that he will accept that in the spirit in which it is said.
I have never understood the concept of loyalty which tends not to believe the law of the land. It is perfectly loyal to wish to see the law of the land changed—we do it in this House all the time—but to claim that the law of the land is not real or true or is unacceptable seems to me a strange position for Loyalists to adopt. Therefore, I have never understood the view that the constitutional aspect of Northern Ireland as an integral part of the United Kingdom, which is enshrined in our law, is not to be believed or trusted.
Hon. Members know that no British Government will rewrite the past 60 years of history; nor will they ignore the wishes of the majority. In fact, as the right hon. Gentleman said, and as is frequently said by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), the fact that at least 1 million people—I suspect more—in Northern Ireland wish to remain part of the United Kingdom is the best guarantee that there could be. That, coupled with the law, makes it difficult for some of us to understand the concept that the British Government would seek to transfer Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom to the Republic, like some past-his-prime footballer. That is not the business of the British Government. I find that particularly difficult to understand, coming from the right hon. Gentleman. After all, the Government are headed by a Prime Minister whose commitment to the integrity of British subjects and British citizens is beyond question.
Attempts are made by some hon. Members to divorce my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State from the rest of the Government, as if he were some lone ranger acting beyond the bridle of Cabinet responsibility. The House knows that that is not true. The House knows that the policy on Northern Ireland is a Government policy, the policy of a Cabinet, at the head of which is a Prime Minister whose commitment to British citizens is such that she mounted the largest task force that this country has seen in recent years to protect British citizens. I find it strange that people should suggest that that Prime Minister, having acted in one way for British citizens in the Falklands, would act in a diametrically opposite way for British citizens in Northern Ireland.
Nor will any British Government ignore the dual nature of the community in Northern Ireland and the dual nature of the political aspirations that exist within that community. As I have said in the House before, to foreclose arbitrarily on one set of those political aspirations, which are legitimate provided that they are pursued peacefully, legally and by persuasion, would be to produce even greater violence and risk to security than we face today.
The constitutional position relates not only to security but to the economy. Most hon. Members will agree that as unemployment in Northern Ireland rises so the potential 1135 for violence and mischief-making increases. That aspect of the problem was debated last night, and I hope that the House will give it further consideration in the days ahead.
The Unionist community in Northern Ireland in some way wishes the guarantee to be qualified to remove any indecision. No indecision exists, as I have tried to point out. The nationalist minority in Northern Ireland wants the guarantee removed. The House should tell such people clearly that they cannot have that. The guarantee is enshrined in law. The conditions are laid down, and I would not support any Government who sought arbitrarily to abrogate what has been laid down.
The motion refers to security. My hon. Friend the Member for Hazel Grove (Mr. Arnold) referred to cross-border co-operation. Security is a function of the information and intelligence which is made available from the community to the security forces. It is not reasonable or rational to believe that the urban and rural guerrilla warfare which is being perpetrated by evil men in Northern Ireland can in the long term be overcome solely by the security forces. They need the co-operation of all the people.
I am encouraged by the fact that that co-operation is increasing. The security forces are receiving more information and that is a contribution which the people of Northern Ireland can make to their safety and security. I hope that all hon. Members will agree that they should be encouraged to do so, especially as the House has committed itself to increasing the size of the police force in Northern Ireland and to encouraging what is rapidly becoming the fact, that Northern Ireland enjoys one of the most—if not the most—professional police forces in the world. It can command respect and confidence from everybody in Northern Ireland. That fact is beginning to permeate even into those minds most set against the police force. That is in part producing the added information which improves security.
The security forces also need the help of politicians. I wish to associate myself with everything that has been said in support and in praise of both the security forces and the police force. While a minority of citizens are disaffected with the State for whatever reason, legitimate or illegitimate, while they feel alienated and estranged from it, they will give support to the men of violence who seek to undermine or to overthrow the State. The security forces can deal only with the consequences of that disaffection; politicians can deal with its causes. People must have something to believe in. They must have something to which they can give their allegiance, and in which they can put their trust. That is why I so strongly support the concept of the Assembly enshrined in the Northern Ireland Act.
Until we provide some locally based institution in Northern Ireland, to which members of both communities can begin to give allegiance over a period, and in which they have some confidence, there is no prospect of removing the shield behind which the evil men of violence hide while they seek to kill, maim and destroy. Indeed, I was interested to hear what the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) said about discovering the useful role that the Assembly could play. The Assembly can make that political contribution to security.
§ Mr. Harold McCusker (Armagh)
The hon. Gentleman must be aware that a security problem is posed by militaristic representatives. After 13 years of the most 1136 bloody violence, 100,000 people voted two months ago for five of their political representatives. Does the hon. Gentleman not accept that those political representatives will never play a part in that Assembly and that those 100,000 people will never want them to do so, or be prepared to give the support that the hon. Gentleman wants, to political institutions, the police or the security forces? How then do we deal with those political representatives, the people who voted for them and their militaristic wing?
§ Dr. Mawhinney
I agree partly with the hon. Gentleman. I agree that it is highly unlikely that those five Sinn Fein representatives will take their places in the Assembly. However, the SDLP representatives may eventually take their places in the Assembly, if the Assembly is seen to move slowly, along the lines mentioned by the hon. Member for Belfast, East, and with which the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker) may ultimately agree; it will then begin to defuse, although not necessarily eradicate, the antagonism that is felt by the minority community and that stems from fear rather than from rational thought.
Therefore, in time we shall politically isolate those people. At the same time, we shall defuse their ability to act as a shield for the men of violence. I have never pretended that the way forward was easy. However, I have always maintained that it offers the best hope of long-term peace and security in Northern Ireland. Nothing else deals with that problem and anything else will leave other problems unresolved, which will simply fuel the fire. I acknowledge that the hon. Member for Armagh has asked the crunch question, but this way forward offers more hope than any other.
The integrationist policy of the right hon. Member for Down, South would undoubtedly inflame the situation in Northern Ireland. In an untypically discourteous moment, he did not give way to me. However, I wanted to ask him a question that lies at the heart of his integrationist approach. He is among those who have said, time and again, that the present political initiative is the cause of the increase in violence. The right hon. Gentleman has never explained why the House should believe that if it followed his integrationist approach there would be any less of an increase in violence, particularly bearing in mind-although neither he nor I would accept their view-that some in the minority community would at least see hope of political advancement under the current arrangements, but would see no hope in the arrangements that he advances and would, therefore, be all the more likely to resort to the gun because the democratic process was closed to them.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman thought that I was discourteous, but I had already made a long speech and was anxious not to prolong it. I am grateful to him for allowing me to intervene. The answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is that at the moment Northern Ireland is more integrated and more centrally governed than any other part of the United Kingdom. Direct rule is not integration-minus but integration-plus, without many of the safeguards and liberties which exist in the rest of the United Kingdom.
It is not disputed that direct rule is the condition most readily tolerated throughout the community in Northern Ireland, whether or not as a second option. If there is a 1137 consensus, it is in toleration of direct rule. I say that direct rule is intolerable because it denies the people of Northern Ireland those forms of modification of central administration which the rest of the country enjoys. I am therefore entitled to assume that integration would not exacerbate but would ease whatever tensions and antagonisms there are.
§ Dr. Mawhinney
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. We agree that in the long term direct rule is intolerable, but we differ about the reasons. As the hon. Member for Belfast, East said, it would not matter if amendments were proposed in this place by Northern Ireland representatives because they would still be voted down.
The real point is that integration, which is supported by the minority not only in Northern Ireland but within the right hon. Gentleman's own party, would be seen by the minority community as a way of shutting the political door. It would be provocation for a scale of violence which would make what, sadly, we have experienced in recent years into a tea party. We do not wish to follow that line.
What is best for Northern Ireland now is to be left alone for a little while. The Assembly should be given a period of quiet in which to develop. It should be given a period of quiet, free of plans and initiatives, not only to establish its authority, but to build confidence which will arm it to face the difficult tasks of the future. I hope that that message will be accepted in Dublin. I trust that those who will assume office next week will not feel under an obligation to direct their interests into what is perceived by them, if by nobody else, to be helpful suggestions about the way forward in Northern Ireland. They should leave it alone.
My right hon. Friend should leave alone in the immediate future the suggested Anglo-Irish parliamentary tier. That is not what we need. It is not what the Assembly needs. The Assembly needs an opportunity to find its feet and to develop. The path has been set and we now wish to go along it.
The right hon. Member for Down, South, because of his intellectual ability if nothing else, knows better than almost anyone in the House that it is impossible to prove a negative. Therefore, he will be free to pursue his conspiracy theory and no one will be able convincingly to say nay. That has been the basis of the right hon. Gentleman's political attack in past months, and I suspect that it will be in the months to come.
I understand the Unionist feeling. I shall not take lectures from anyone on my commitment to the Union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I shall not have my credentials questioned in that way. If the right hon. Gentleman continues to pursue this line, he may provide a service to the House in enabling us to debate the matter, but he is not doing a service to the people of Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Gerard Fitt (Belfast, West)
It must be many years since Northern Ireland was the subject of discussion on each day during a parliamentary week. On Monday, we had the controversy about the invitation to the two Sinn Fein leaders, on Tuesday a discussion of the Ballykelly massacre, on Wednesday the exclusion orders, yesterday 1138 the appropriation order and the renewal of the emergency provisions and today, perhaps appropriately, had more people attended, we should have had a major constitutional debate on the raison d'etre of Northern Ireland.
I live in Belfast, as does the hon. Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney). Perhaps what I shall say will seem to be a contradiction of his remarks, to which I listened intently, because the two opposing views in Northern Ireland are in open confrontation. In many aspects of political life in Northern Ireland there is no merging.
The hon. Member for Peterborough said sincerely—I understand what he was trying to say—that the Government must always take note of the fact that in Northern Ireland there are two legitimate aspirations, one for a continued link with the United Kingdom and the other for the re-establishment of an Irish republic. However, a former British Government did not take account of the Republican aspirations of those who were partitioned in a six-county state. The aspirations of the majority of people in Fermanagh, Tyrone, Derry and in parts of Armagh were not taken into account then and I do not see how the Government can take account of them now.
The hon. Member for Peterborough said that he will not be a part of a Tory Administration or support any Government who try to diminish the guarantee that has been given to the Unionist majority in Northern Ireland. That guarantee stands in open defiance and contradiction of the aspirations of the minority population.
§ Dr. Mawhinney
I said that I would not support a British Government who tried to abrogate the legally enshrined constitutional position, which is perceived to be the guarantee. The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) talks in historical terms about a commitment one way and a commitment the other. He is right, but I encourage him to put that aside and to try to find ways, which I accept have not yet been found, to discover common ground between the two views. But the guarantee is enshrined in law and we cannot have a Government policy that is deliberately designed to undermine the law of the land.
§ Mr. Fitt
I accept the spirit behind the hon. Gentleman's remarks and I shall try to unravel some of the complexities of Northern Ireland.
I said yesterday, and it has been repeated today, that Northern Ireland is an unnatural state. The circumstances that led to its creation were unique. None of the people in the Republic of Ireland, as it is now, or the people in Northern Ireland ever went to the ballot box to vote on a 26-county Republic and a six-county Northern Ireland. I am not sure what the outcome would have been if there had been such a vote in 1922 and the people of Northern Ireland had voted on a county by county basis. I wonder what the result would have been if, in 1922, if we had been thinking of partition, we had told the people of Fermanagh, "You people in this county can vote for inclusion in the Republic or inclusion in the six-county State."
I believe that the majority would have been in favour of inclusion in the Republic, but no one can be sure. The creation of the border between the Six Counties and the Republic has caused confusion. No one can be sure at any time which way the people will vote on the issues that are placed before them. 1139 If Fermanagh had been allowed to vote on whether to be included in the Republic or the six counties, the result might have been 32,000 in favour of joining the Irish Republic and 31,000 in favour of staying in the North. Would that majority have been big enough to enable the transfer to take place, or would there have been 31,000 people living in the Republic who were as disaffected with the Republican state as Catholics in Fermanagh now claim to be disaffected with the Northern Irish one? The same may have happened in county Tyrone, where there seems to be a 1,000 or 2,000 majority at any election that would appear to be inclined towards incorporation into the Irish Republic. Even that has difficulties.
In 1955, 31,000 people voted for a Republican candidate called Tom Mitchell in the constituency of Mid-Ulster. Are we to assume that by voting for a Republican candidate, those 31,000 people were voting in favour of incorporation into the Republic of Ireland? In the recent Assembly elections, the famous man who was to come here this week—Danny Morrison—received only 6,500 votes. That was his number 1 vote but it can be counted in terms of our first-past-the-post system. Are there only 6,500 committed Republicans in Mid-Ulster, or have the 31,000 people who voted in 1955 changed their minds? No one knows. I am not and cannot be sure. What would happen if there were a straight "Yes" or "No" question on a ballot paper to the people of Fermanagh? What would happen if they were told that if they voted "Yes", steps would be taken immediately to include them in the Republic? If they were told that there were no "Ifs", "Buts", "On the other hands" or "Maybe" and that a "Yes" vote would mean their inclusion in the Irish Republic and a "No" vote would mean that they would stay how they are, I am not at all sure what the outcome of that election would be. I am not sure whether every Catholic in Fermanagh, Tyrone and Mid-Ulster would vote to be incorporated in the Republic.
We repeatedly hear from hon. Members on the Unionist side of the fence that an increasing number of Catholics are quite satisfied with the British link and vote for Unionist candidates. I am not sure that that is true. If it is, why did the late Bobby Sands and Owen Carron get 30,000 votes in the Fermanagh and South Tyrone constituency last year? Was the electorate there voting emotionally for the late Bobby Sands, and Owen Canon, or were they saying "We want nothing to do with the Northern Ireland state. We want to be included in the Republic"? If that is the case, there has been a change of mind within a year. Owen Carron got 30,000 votes last year during the hunger strike and in the recent Assembly elections he got only 14,000 votes.
Did the people change their minds from wanting to be out-and-out Republicans last year to wanting to be moderate Republicans this year? The situation is so complex that no individual can be sure that he is arriving at the right decisions. The State was created in the most unusual circumstances. Indeed, they were unique. When there was first talk about partitioning Ireland in 1910, James Connolly, the famous Irish Socialist leader, said that if anyone attempted to do it the move would meet with the fierce resistance of the Labour and trade union movement in Ireland. He said that it would divide the country and place worker against worker. How prophetic he was. For example, the Belfast shipyard worker has the same Belfast dialect as myself and probably lives in the same circumstances in which I lived before I became a 1140 Member of this place. In another part of Belfast there is the Catholic worker. They are divided. They will never vote for the same candidate. One will vote for the Union and for the retention of the link. The other one will vote for some sort of link with the Republic or for some anti-Unionist candidate. The entire working class is divided because of the terrible experiment of partition.
The hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. McCusker) said that in the Assembly elections over 100,000 voted for Sinn Fein. I think that he exaggerated slightly. At least, I hope he did. I understand that 64,000 or 65,000 voted in that way.
§ Mr. McCusker
In the seven constituencies 64,000 or 65,000 voted for Sinn Fein. If the electorates in the other five constituencies had been given the opportunity to vote for a Sinn Feiner, the same proportion would have voted for him or her.
§ Mr. Fitt
That may be true. Did every one of the 64,000 say, "We are voting for a Republican candidate because we want to be included in the Republic," or did they vote for emotional reasons, because of the hunger strike of last year, high unemployment, social deprivation and the disaffection that has affected thousands of young people? I think that I am correct in saying that the majority of the Sinn Fein vote was cast by young people. That represents the disaffection of youth. One can understand that.
If someone has been unemployed since 1969, having left school at 15, and is now nearly 30 and never had a job, he will not vote for the Establishment candidate, whoever he may be. He will not vote for that candidate be he the SDLP representative or myself. He will not vote for a candidate who appears to be unable to offer any prospect of him getting a job. There may have been a protest vote. We can put our own interpretation on the votes cast.
The hon. Member for Armagh suggests that l00,000 were so disaffected with the present system of government that they withdrew their support. If that is so, whatever we say today will be to no avail. If the hon. Gentleman is right, everything that we say will be useless. I do not think that it is as bad as that but I must admit that I see no great reason for optimism in the present situation.
The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) often asks—he is entitled so to do—"What do you mean by consent?" He has posed that question to a number of those who have contributed to the debate. I shall try to give my interpretation of consent. I may be in a minority of one. I may have no support. By far the best possible political experiment that we have had in Northern Ireland since the creation of the state was the Sunningdale agreement. I only hope to God that we can arrive at or formulate another system remotely approaching the Sunningdale agreement. It was not a lot of traitors from the Unionist side, the SDLP side or the Alliance party who went to Sunningdale. It was not a lot of men seeking to line their own pockets. It was not a lot of men seeking to perpetuate their existence in politics who went to Sunningdale and tried to bring about an agreement in the interest of everyone in Northern Ireland. We all recognised that the step that we were taking then could lead to our political demise. It did for many, certainly for the late Brian Faulkner.
My position was not made any better by the decisions that were taken at the time. We realised the enormous 1141 pitfalls that were facing us when we tried to bring about such a new departure. I am totally convinced that the first five months of the Executive in Northern Ireland was the best hope for any future for Northern Ireland.
The hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) was not born in 1922. He is a young man. He carries with him all the animosities, hostilities and herrenvolk attitude that the Unionists had when they were made the lords and masters with the support of the guns and the might of the British Government in the six-county state of Northern Ireland.
I often lay awake at night before I met my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley) and thought of what it could have been like if, on the inception of the Northern Ireland state, there had been a magnanimity of spirit and generosity by the majority that had been created, which knew in its heart that it was not a majority, but a minority in the island of Ireland. That should have impelled those people to think: "We are an artificial majority. We are in the six-county state only because of the might and main of the British Government. It is up to us now to reach an agreement with 35 per cent. of our population to ensure that there is not a first and second-class citizenship." How different things might have been. Had that minority been treated on an equal basis with the majority and had it been given equality of opportunity, perhaps its aspirations for a united Ireland would have been less impelling and it would have been prepared to wait longer for its ideal to be realised.
§ Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)
Will the hon. Gentleman admit that perhaps the folklore to which he referred, which affected the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson), affected his understanding of the situation? Does he accept that we have come round full circle and that the absenteeism that set Northern Ireland on the wrong course in 1921 is now present again, and that despite writers to the contrary, Sir James Craig went out of his way to try to bridge the gaps and was even prepared to go to Dublin and have discussions?
§ Mr. Fitt
I do not accept that Sir James Craig, now Lord Craigavon, went out of his way to be generous. He expressed the right sentiments. However, the facts of life were—and I was part of this—that there was a one-party Unionist state in Northern Ireland from 1922 until it was abolished in 1972. That is not folklore. I was a member of a small beleaguered opposition of 11 or 12 from four or five different parties, which never had any hope of participating in a meaningful way in the governing of the Northern Ireland state. We were purely an Opposition who were expect to remain that way, and we were treated with derision and contempt by the Unionists then governing Northern Ireland.
One needs to have lived through those times to understand the frustration that was building up in the Northern Ireland community at that time. Successive Unionist Governments were warned that the tinder was being piled higher with every act of oppression and repression. I stood at the Dispatch Box in Stormont time and again—the Hansard records of those debates are still available—and warned successive Unionist Governments of how the tension was building up, until it finally broke with the beginning of the civil rights movement between 1967 and 1969.
1142 The hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. M. Smyth) suggested that we were now reverting to the attitude of abstention. I am extremely disappointed that SDLP representatives are not taking their seats in the Assembly. Unlike the hon. Gentleman, I supported the Secretary of State's initiative and I believe that the SDLP representatives should avail themselves of the opportunity to go to the Assembly. They are not stupid politicians. They have integrity and ability and could contribute much to the Assembly's deliberations. They have been in Stormont before, they know their constituencies and, although there have been changes in the SDLP, I know that it still includes many men of good will who might be able to stretch out the hand of friendship in the Assembly. I am disappointed that they have not taken their seats. I hope that they will be prevailed upon to change their minds.
I said that I would try to explain what I meant by consent. I am still trying to do that, in a roundabout fashion. In the first five months of the power-sharing Executive in 1974, when the SDLP, the Unionist and the Alliance members came together, there was at no time any sectarian thinking as we began to take decisions on behalf of the whole Northern Ireland community. Quite the reverse—we were aware of the decisions that would prove difficult, so we got together to ensure that the differences of the past would not divide us as we dealt with the issues day by day.
I may not make many friends on the nationalist or the Republican side when I say this, but as a Socialist I wish to see a united Ireland not because I like the tricolour or am disaffected with the Union Jack, but because I believe that it will bring about normal politics and therefore class politics. We shall then know with whom we are dealing, whom we oppose and with whom we can make common friendship. I am not concerned about a geographical, dissecting line that has caused so much murder and mayhem. I am concerned about the people. That is why, in the power-sharing Executive of 1974, I was more concerned to find means whereby Protestants from Derry or Crossmaglen could talk to Catholics from Belfast, because we have to live in that island and to end our days there. Indeed, a Member of this House ended his days prematurely because of his political opinions in Northern Ireland.
If we can reach common consent on how to run Northern Ireland for the benefit of the whole community we shall find it much easier to build up trust between each other and between the North and the South. Then we can start thinking about a united Ireland. That is a secondary aim. The immediate aim is to try to find common cause so that we can learn to live together in Ireland.
I sometimes read the American newspapers. I read of an 80-year-old Irish-American called Flannery who was involved in the transporting of guns to the IRA in Northern Ireland. That man has never been to Northern Ireland in his life. He has lived in America longer than he lived in Ireland, which he left in 1920, yet he finds it convenient to give money to buy arms and explosives for the IRA in Northern Ireland that will lead to the death of innocent people.
There are many thousands of Irish-Americans who have what they call a legitimate aspiration to the unity of Ireland, but they have never been to Ireland and they are unlikely ever to go there. If there were to be a united Ireland tomorrow, they would all be drinking in the bars in New York and talking about the wonderful unity of 1143 Ireland, but we are the people who have to live there. We are the people who have to face all the difficulties of everyday life.
There are people in Ireland who call me "Fitt the Brit" or regard me as a traitor—as someone who has betrayed his Irish aspirations. I repeat my belief that there will never be any true and lasting peace in the island of Ireland until the accursed border is removed. But the border cannot be removed by a series of Ballykellys or a series of murders.
I am sure that many hon. Members watched the profile of the newly elected Gerry Adams on "Panorama" after he was successful in the recent Assembly elections. He told the interviewer that he wanted the British troops out of Ireland. He also wanted the UDR and the RUC to be disarmed. He wanted to leave the Catholic and the Protestant population at the mercy of the gunmen. That was one of the most sinister aspects of the programme. I thought that there would be an uproar about it. It showed what is in the minds of the terrorists.
§ Mr. William Ross (Londonderry)
When the hon. Gentleman was watching the programme did he also note that the same individual mentioned Limavady in exactly the same context? Has that any significance?
§ Mr. Fitt
Gerry Adams mentioned Limavady in that programme and there may be something in what the hon. Gentleman says.
Let no one believe—particularly on the Opposition Benches—that the newly elected Sinn Fein spokesmen and the IRA are imbued with the Socialist cause, or that they will bring about the Utopian Socialist state in the island of Ireland in the interests of everyone. Those people are not Socialists; they are Fascists. They would impose their will not only on the North but on the South. They are the people who are trying to unite Ireland by bringing about the death and destruction of many innocent people in Northern Ireland.
When we ardently believe something, should we say it, or should we not say it because we believe that, if we were to say it, it would give succour and support to the gunmen? Ken Livingstone may be well-intentioned. He probably has ideas similar to those of the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North before he became a Member of the House and before Ken Livingstone became a member of the GLC. Ken Livingstone has never been to Ireland, but during the hunger strikes last year he met Sinn Fein representatives including Owen Carron and others. The Official Unionist party and the Democratic Unionist party felt it right then to bring over some of the wives and bereaved relatives of people who have been murdered by the IRA. Ken Livingstone's public attitude convinced me that he supported the aims of the IRA, whether or not he supported its means and methods. If he convinced me, how much more poignant must it have been to the Protestant population who feel themselves beleaguered and under siege.
I believe that I shall have the support of the House when I say that I looked a little askance yesterday at the presence of the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn). My hon. Friends and I have voted consistently against what I regard as the repressive legislation of the emergency powers and the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1976. I sometimes went into the Lobby with a heavy heart after some terrible tragedy had taken place in Northern Ireland. I asked myself on Tuesday this week, when I 1144 heard of the terrible tragedy at Ballykelly, whether it would be right for me to go to Westminster and vote against the renewal of the emergency powers. I had a crisis of conscience. I wanted to abstain, to show my abhorrence of the crime that had been committed in the name of the Catholic and nationalist people of Northern Ireland, of whom I am one.
I am consistent in my belief. I am opposed to, and will continue to oppose, the legislation until it is taken off the statute book. The right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East was a member of the Labour Government for many years and he voiced no opinions one way or another about Ireland. He did not go into the Lobby with us until last night. Last night was the first time that he voted against the emergency powers. People in Northern Ireland and Belfast will wonder what it was that made him go into the Lobby last night. His speech was totally irrelevant when it compared Northern Ireland with Cyprus and a host of African countries. Africa cannot be compared with the sad 800 years of history of Ireland. Ireland was part of a British problem before some of the African countries were discovered and before they were populated.
The remarks by the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East will give succour to the gunmen. The gunmen will be happy that Ken Livingstone became involved with Sinn Fein. I know there is the difficulty of not speaking because one is afraid that one's remarks will give succour to the gunmen. That is the terrible dilemma that faces us. The right hon. Member for Down, South need say nothing more about giving succour to the gunmen. The words of his motion are bound to make every IRA man in the country crow with delight. They are not our words. It is not some civil servant who is being maligned and who is unable to defend himself, who has said it. It came from the great brain of the right hon. Member for Down, South. Another bomb will be dropped. The remarks of the right hon. Member for Down, South will give just as much support and succour to the IRA as any remarks that have been made in the House.
I believe that Ireland has to be united either in the short or long term. I do not believe that Ireland can ever he united by a campaign of violence. Nothing but suffering and tragedy has been brought to the island of Ireland and the people of this country by the way in which that campaign has been waged. It puts off the day when Ireland will be united.
We must create more positive political structures than those that exist, through the agency of the Assembly. The Government should tell the Unionists that if they wish to remain part of the United Kingdon they must have partnership with the minority community in administration. The British Government created the minority and the majority; they are responsible for the double minority problem and should try to make both sides work together. The Government cannot tell the Unionists that they have changed their mind and want them to go into a united Ireland. Even if they did, they could not force 1 million reluctant people into the united Ireland.
I was surprised and saddened by the three-faceted scenario painted by the right hon. Member for Down, South—the terrorists, the Unionists and the Roman Catholic population, which he reluctantly identified on a religious basis. Other unionists would have put it more forcibly, but he said that there may come a point when the issue of the constitution is so important that there is a breakdown of the system and the Roman Catholics will be 1145 in danger of attack. Roman Catholics may be attacked in east, west or north Belfast, but Protestants would be murdered in the rural areas. It is a scenario for disaster. We should give the Assembly more teeth to allow people to work together; once we have found an accommodation in the six counties, then let us consider a united Ireland.
§ 2.2 pm
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. David Mitchell)
I thank the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) for giving the House the opportunity to debate Northern Ireland. It is part of the United Kingdom and the state of affairs there concerns all citizens of the United Kingdom.
I wish to respond to the points raised rather than to make a great speech of my own. The Labour Party spokesman, the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley) reiterated Labour's commitment to a united Ireland by consent. I fear that that is a cruel and spurious attempt to gather party support from the credulous. Stressing that a united Ireland may be available disguises the fact that consent is not now available. Any suggestion that the Labour Party is moving towards a united Ireland can only fan the flames of uncertainty and fear. The Unionists will particularly fear that they may be impelled into losing their nationhood. That fear is more profound than is recognised.
§ Mr. Soley
I can think of no more bizarre explanation of what I said. There is every case for a united Ireland by consent. If the Minister denies the possibility of winning consent, he might as well give up the idea of elections. Consent is won through actions taken in government; through institutional bodies and through going to the country, one wins consent.
§ Mr. Mitchell
The hon. Gentleman is entitled to his view. He will find in a moment that I agree with him on something else. What is needed in the province is a period of settled calm and participation.
The hon. Member for Hammersmith, North admitted that there is no way that one can get a million people to join another State without their consent. On that, we are agreed. What concerns me is the impression created that such agreement is obtainable. I do not believe that agreement is obtainable within the foreseeable future.
The hon. Gentleman believes that it is possible to demonstrate to the majority of people in Northern Ireland that is in their best interests that there should be a united Ireland. That is a matter for debate within the Province. It is clear that every election in the Province is an election on the issue of the border. There have recently been elections. The results are clear, emphatic and wholly in line with the results of elections held since the early 1920s. The answer was unambiguous—that, at the moment, there is no consensus for a united Ireland. We should take account of that. Far too much time is spent on debating the issues of the border and the issues of the constitutional future of Northern Ireland, and not enough on the realities of living life in Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom, which it is.
§ Mr. Freeson
The hon. Gentleman is entitled to a view on his judgment of the present political mood. However, his opening remarks were unfortunate. They were not 1146 conducive to sensible and to medium and long-term political discussion. The hon. Gentleman should not have started by virtually foreclosing on the option discussed by my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley) and by many other people in the country.
§ Mr. Mitchell
I shall come back to that point which was made by the right hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson) in his speech. The hon. Member for Hammersmith, North said he saw a road that would logically and inevitably lead to a united Ireland. The hon. Gentleman implied that Northern Ireland should logically be part of the Republic. We have to come down to a sense of reality. Northern Ireland has been part of the United Kingdom since 1800, much longer than many States, including even Belgium, have been in existence. There is no logic in the argument that because there is a continuous land mass, there must necessarily be one state within it. Portugal and Spain, for instance, occupy associated territory in a single land mass. It does not establish an automatic and logical case for there being a single state there.
I agree with the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North about the counter-productive nature of terrorist activity. Every bomb is another brick in the permanency of the wall along the border dividing Ireland, and in men's hearts as well as in their votes. I pay tribute to the courage and the comments of the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) who claimed rightly that campaigns of violence do nothing to bring nearer the objective of those who seek to see, and who have a legitimate right to debate for, a united Ireland.
§ Mr. Fitt
Will the Minister accept that I have tried desperately to be reasonable and to bring about reconciliation? I think that most hon. Members appreciate that. However, the opening remarks of the Minister will inflame those people in Northern Ireland who have a Republican bent of mind. They will see him as coming to the Dispatch Box foreclosing on all options. All those who have tried to be reasonable will be pushed aside.
§ Mr. Mitchell
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Belfast, West said that. Clearly, he misunderstood what I said. I shall make it absolutely clear. We have just had elections in the Province, and those elections have clearly shown that at present there is no majority in the Province for a united Ireland. Therefore, it would be better to accept the result of that election and get on with the problems of governing Northern Ireland, as it stands, under the present constitutional arrangements, instead of endlessly debating the longer-term constitutional prospects that might come up at future elections on the border, polls, and so on. The more we do that, the more we unsettle both communities in Northern Ireland, and the more we make the majority Protestant community feel beleaguered and at risk.
The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) paid tribute to the security forces. I also pay a warm tribute to the work of the police, the UDR, the Army, and all those who are exposed to risk. They take that risk unflinchingly on behalf of the civilised society in Northern Ireland, sometimes at terrible cost, as we all know.
I want to pay tribute to another group, the citizens of both communities who carry out their duty to give information to the police. Any police force is only as effective as the information that it has to work on. In 1147 Northern Ireland, it often takes courage to bring forward that information. I note the words of Bishop Daly earlier this week, who said:I repeat once again my appeal to everyone to reject and to reject utterly those who would seek any end, political or otherwise, through the infliction of violence on others. People who engage in activities of this kind reject Christ and his teachings. They deserve neither sympathy nor support, active or passive. I would also urge anyone who knows anything about this incident to make this known. Otherwise their conscience will have to carry a heavy burden".I am sure that that will receive the unanimous support of the House.
The hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) alleged that there was a lack of political will to defeat terrorism. I hotly deny that. There is no such lack of will. The defeat of terrorism is the first and foremost of the Government's policies in Northern Ireland. The security forces have never been denied the resources they have asked for, and Ministers do not interfere in their operations. Only recently, the Secretary of State announced an additional 800 men to be recruited for the RUC, and some 336 civilians to enable RUC men to move from desk jobs to other activities where they are needed. What we need are the confidence and support of the whole community in Northern Ireland, as well as dealing direct with security matters. The community should be one in which there are no second-class citizens, and in which everyone has a stake. I agree with the hon. Member that the Assembly has a role to play in helping that along.
The right hon. Member for Brent, East talked about the right of the rest of the United Kingdom to have a say in whether there should be political and constitutional change. I have no doubt that he recognises, as I do, a certain weariness with the problems of this part of the United Kingdom, but it would be a deception to pretend that there is an easy way of ending those difficult problems, or a way in which the burden could be miraculously removed from the shoulders of the rest of the United Kingdom.
However, I also recognise that confident majorities can accommodate minorities without conflict. Members of the Irish community living in London feel no sense of conflict. Neighbours are neighbours, and there are none of the tensions that exist in Northern Ireland. Why? Because here we have a confident minority. The key to many of the problems of Northern Ireland is fear, and it is the fear felt by Unionists as much as the fear felt by the Catholic community. I recognise the fears of the Catholic community, the fears of discrimination, to which I shall come back in a moment.
I also recognise that the majority of the community feel beleaguered. Indeed, they feel that there is a lack of support from the rest of the United Kingdom. The right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith, North talk about progress towards a united Ireland. By peaceful means—yes; by consent—yes. The more that theme is hammered home, the more the Unionist majority feel that they are beleaguered and the less able they are to accommodate the legitimate case of the minority which has the right to be debated in Northern Ireland when elections take place there. That is normal human psychology.
§ Mr. Soley
Does not the Minister understand that the present lack of confidence among Unionists is partly caused by the Government and previous Governments? If 1148 he does not understand that, he has not listened to a word that I have said today. It is not that their problems are not recognised. They are recognised. Unless he opens up the political debate for both parts of the community be will play into the hands of the paramilitaries.
§ Mr. Mitchell
The hon. Gentleman and I shall have to disagree as to whether a continuing political debate about the constitution of Northern Ireland and the border is good for the government of the Province and its security or whether it is better to have a period of stable government in which the people of both communities have the opportunity to participate. Perhaps not surprisingly, my approach is different from that of the hon. Gentleman.
The right hon. Member for Brent, East said that if we did not bring about change, violence would continue undiminished. He fails to recognise the extent to which direct rule has brought about a reduction in violence. It has hiccupped down. Against the tragedy that took place earlier this week, I am conscious that it is a hiccupping down, but it must be said that the non-discriminatory way in which direct rule has been administered has resulted in a considerable healing of the wounds that existed 10 years ago. That shows itself in a reduction in violence.
People talk about Northern Ireland as if we were making no progress. However, in 1972 there were 10,628 shootings. Last year there were 642. The number of armed robberies has declined from 1,931 to 412. The number of bombs neutralised has declined from 471 to 120. Explosions have dropped from over 1,300 to 280, and the number of tragedies involving the death of civilians, army, UDR and police have dropped from 468 to 75.
I am conscious of the tragedy that has just occurred which has caused a hiccup in the graph of declining violence. However, people should not fail to recognise that considerable progress has been made. One does not necessarily help that progress by concentrating the debate on the border issue instead of on the real issues of jobs, homes, living conditions and the economy in Northern Ireland.
That brings me to the motion of the right hon. Member for Down, South. He set out his reasons for believing the setting up of the Assembly to be a step in a plot to detach Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom and attach it, loosely at first, to the Republic. If that were the purpose it must be said that we have set about it with remarkable incompetence. First, the Assembly reflects clearly the views of those who make up the electorate in Northern Ireland. The 1 million Unionists in the Province have a 2 to 1 majority over the Catholic community. That Assembly is clearly in a position to prevent any such plot as the right hon. Gentleman has perceived from being carried into effect.
Moreover, it is perhaps strange that the right hon. Gentleman lacks confidence in his colleagues who have been elected to the Assembly, if he believes that they would allow themselves to be used as tools in that way. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Assembly set the main groups in the Province apart, on a course of divergence. I deny that. Indeed, the reverse is true, for three reasons. First, the Assembly gives local people the opportunity to become involved in the management of their affairs. Secondly, the Assembly's committee system makes direct rule more acceptable, because it is more aware of local feelings, and more sensitive and responsive than it would otherwise be. 1149 I know from my visits to almost every district council in the Province that there is a feeling of remoteness the further away from Stormont one is, and that there is an inevitable sense of remoteness because of the Province's distance from Westminster. The Assembly can play a valuable role in the machinery for redressing that. It also plays a part in a major policy objective, that of creating a society in which all have a stake. I hark back to an elder statesman in the Commonwealth's history, Jan Christian Smuts, who did much to bring together the conflicting Boer and British in South Africa during his day and age. He believed in a philosophy that he called holism, which desired that everybody should have a share, stake and part in that country's affairs. It excluded no one, except the terrorist. It offered everyone the opportunity to participate and, above all, brought the whole community together to tackle common problems that were so serious that they could only be tackled in that way. In the context of Northern Ireland, they can be tackled only through the participation of all parties there.
I agree with those who say that participation—the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) made this point—is very important. We seek to pursue policies that will encourage and help participation. Home ownership has a positive part to play in giving people the feeling that they have a stake in the wealth of the community in which they live. The sale of executive houses in the Province—or council houses, as we know them—now exceeds 5,000 a year. Last week, we sold the 12,728th house. We hope to reach the figure of 14,500 by the end of the financial year.
The Co-ownership Housing Association means that a couple of thousand more families will be participating in the community's wealth. The enterprise zone helps to encourage businesses as well as the birth of new businesses, again offering the chance of a stake in the community. In addition, the Northern Ireland budget gives priority to job-creation in the Province. Most clearly of all, the Assembly gives people throughout the Province the opportunity to participate, in consultation with the Government, in the governing of the Province.
Those are positive ways in which we can help to make the majority and minority communities in Northern Ireland feel that they are committed to, and can participate in, the Province. In that way, they can feel that they have a stake in that society. We should pay our attention to that, instead of seeking to divide the community by endlessly debating the border, and spuriously suggesting that there is a way forward by which we can overnight secure consent for a dramatic change from the path that we now follow.
The hon. Member for Belfast, West made a courageous speech. Some parts of it I could not agree with more; other parts I did not agree with. He said that it was important to build up confidence and trust between the two communities that inhabit the Province. That is the way that we should look. The programme that we are pursuing helps to create that opportunity. I look forward to listening to the rest of the debate.
§ Mr. Christopher Murphy (Welwyn and Hatfield)
I wish to make a few remarks in line with what I regard as being Conservative and Unionist principles and policies. 1150 I feel compelled to quote again in the House the statement from the 1979 Conservative party manifesto which clearly shows the party's approach towards the Province. It says:In the absence of devolved government, we will seek to establish one or more elected regional councils with a wide range of powers over local services.
There is a clear absence of devolved government which is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. However desirable a return to Stormont may be to many Ulstermen, it appears not to be regarded as feasible in the changed circumstances of today. It is surely, therefore, incumbent on the Secretary of State to implement that pledge to seek to establish a regional council which many of us wished to see rather than the Assembly initiative. I know of my right hon. Friend's grave reservations about such a council and I respect his sincerity in such a belief, but I urge him to reconsider. The Northern Ireland Assembly could be transformed into a regional council, thus fulfilling that pledge and my right hon. Friend's desire to devolve responsibilities to a new body, albeit in a local rather than a national context. Surely it is better to have a positive new tier of Government than a negative forum which is only in a position to criticise Her Majesty's Government with impunity.
The first part of the manifesto policy statement on Northern Ireland must also be quoted once again. It says:We shall maintain the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in accordance with the wish of the majority in the Province.It is essential that people throughout the United Kingdom and abroad should be continually made aware of that binding commitment. Let there be no hesitation in declaring our continuing support for our fellow citizens in the Province while fully embracing the measures needed to confront the damaging security position.
Co-operation with the Irish Republic must make sense—but it must be co-operation between the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic as two sovereign nations, not just with Northern Ireland. To evoke new constitutional institutions of an all-Irish nature would surely undermine the essential belief in that fundamental commitment. More than anything, Northern Ireland needs the reassurance that all necessary action will be taken to safeguard the security of the people of the Province. We should all work for the best interests of Ulster, within the United Kingdom.
During the last general election campaign the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) made good use of a quotation from Edmund Burke:All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.We need to ensure that good men have an opportunity to do something—to act rather than just to talk. I believe that the House must recognise that and also act accordingly.
§ Question put, That the Question be now put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 7, Noes 0.1151
|Division No. 29]||[2.30 pm|
|Dunlop, John||Robinson, P. (Belfast E)|
|Molyneaux, James||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Murphy, Christopher||Mr. William Ross and|
|Powell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)||Rev. Martin Smyth.|
|Proctor, K. Harvey|
|Nil||Mr. Tom Arnold and|
|Mr. John Wheeler.|
|Tellers for the Noes:|
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)
As it appears from the Division that 40 Members were not present, the Question is not decided in the affirmative.
§ Debate resumed.
§ It being after half-past Two o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.