§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)
On a point of order, Mr. Weatherill. At this stage could you help the Committee or could help be brought to the Committee by means of a point of order? You will recollect that at the last sitting of the Committee it was disclosed by the Secretary of State that, partly in response to the wishes of the right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) on the Opposition Front Bench, it was his intention to table amendments to clause 2.
I do not think that anyone who heard that debate would be in any doubt as to the importance of those amendments. One of the reasons that was in mind—I do not claim that it was the sole reason, but at least it was a reason that was mentioned in the course of the debate before the Committee last rose for doing so at the time when it did—was that it might be possible for the Committee to have before it at any rate an indication of what the right hon. Gentleman had in mind.
One appreciates that since the Question that you are about to propose, Mr. Weatherill, is that clause 2 stand part, it would not technically have been possible, even with the swiftest drafting and tabling in the world, for the right hon. Gentleman's amendments to be actually before the Committee. Foreseeing that, my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) at the end of last week—I trust that the message was conveyed to the right hon. Gentleman—suggested that it would be helpful to the Committee if the right hon. Gentleman could circulate in some form the amendments that he had in mind, a procedure which is not unknown in circumstances of this kind. Unfortunately, that has not apparently been the case. Therefore, we face the difficulty, in entering upon the debate on the Question that the clause stand part, that for many hon. Members the purport of the clause will be substantially, if not radically, altered by amendments of which we have no knowledge.
You may feel that in these circumstances—and I am using the point of order in order to address through you, Mr. Weatherill, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland—it would be helpful if at the outset of this debate, even if nothing can be made available in writing, the Secretary of State indicated the lines on which he was proposing to introduce amendments to this clause at a later stage. Quite obviously the arguments on the clause as it stands, and the decisions on the clause as it stands, are bound to be influenced by knowledge of the right hon. Gentleman's intention.
I would have thought that that would be a course welcomed by, and helpful to, the right hon. Member for Mansfield. So, I put this point to you, Mr. Weatherill, as 748 a point of order—I hope at the right stage—that without guidance upon the future of the clause it is really impracticable for the Committee to debate it in any rational way
§ The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. James Prior)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Weatherill, and in reply to the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), I am quite happy to meet the convenience of the Committee by making my "stand part" speech at the start of the debate if that would help the Committee. Of course, I would then be prepared to reply briefly at the end if that were considered necessary.
I must tell the Committee that I am still considering the amendment that I suggested I might table on Report I do not think by any stretch of the imagination that this amendment has the far-reaching consequences that the right hon. Gentleman is now seeking to give to it; but, if it would help the right hon. Gentleman and the Committee for me to make my speech at this stage of the "clause stand part" debate, I am quite prepared to do so. It would be rather unusual, but I am glad to do anything I can to help the Committee.
§ Mr. John Farr (Harborough)
Further to that point of order Mr. Weatherill, I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for indicating how, with his usual co-operative and helpful attitude, he can help the Committee. His suggestion would be ideal and helpful, but it has one drawback. It is that the debate we have had on clause 2 so far has been minute; it has been very short compared with some of the other debates. Much of the substance of the clause was not covered by the two groups of amendments so far discussed. Indeed, I think I am right in saying that the second group of amendments, which were moved at about 6.30 last Thursday morning by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), were really only formally moved. I am glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman nods his head in assent. After the formal moving, the Committee proceeded to debate the Question, "That the clause stand part of the Bill".
My fear is that if we accept the suggestions of the Secretary of State it could mean that we might not have the benefit of my tight hon. Friend replying to some of the points that many of us have not had the chance to discuss since Wednesday night and Thursday morning. A number of us tried unsuccessfully to get in on clause 2. In our humble way we had poor, inadequate but nevertheless meaningful speeches to make; we did not have the opportunity to make them. If I am successful in catching your eye, Mr. Weatherill, as I hope I shall be, when we get to the debate on clause 2 stand part, I have quite a number of questions that I would like answered.
Therefore, the only drawback to the co-operative suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is that it might prevent him from dealing with the points that will no doubt be raised behind him later during the clause 2 stand part debate. Therefore, if he has an arrangement whereby he could give us some guidance at the outset—
§ The Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)
Order. I thought that I had heard the Secretary of State say that he proposed to make his opening speech on clause stand part and then at the end 749 answer those points that had been raised during the debate. I do not think that the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) need be concerned.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Weatherill. For some of us it is not so important at this time to hear a speech from the Secretary of State as to hear the content of his proposed amendment. We take a different view from him. We believe that this radically alters the proposition that we negotiated with him in good faith—namely, that there are two ways whereby rolling devolution can commence and continue, and that is by 50 per cent. plus 1 if it is cross-community support—to use the term that he used and the term that has been used in this debate—and 70 per cent. That is what we believed was in the Secretary of State's mind. We were very surprised and felt conned—and that was a term that I used in my speech—when we discovered that the Secretary of State was prepared to accept an amendment. I refer to column 235 of Hansard of 9 June, in which the right hon. Gentleman—
§ The Chairman
Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) but he is now seeking to go back on a debate that we had last week. We cannot go back. The Question was put last Thursday morning "That the clause stand part of the Bill". We cannot go back on what went before that.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
I am not trying to go back. The Secretary of State has told us that he is to table an amendment that affects clause 2 and goes to the very heart of the debate on clause 2 stand part. I cannot adequately discuss the Question that clause 2 stand part until I know what radical change this amendment will make. I am not trying to go back, but I am reminding you, Mr. Weatherill, and the Committee that the Secretary of State said that he accepted the thrust of the argument of the right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon). I am sure the right hon. Gentleman is looking forward to knowing what this amendment will do. I am looking forward to it, and it would help us considerably to discuss this issue properly and in the way it ought to be discussed, if we knew what change will be made through the amendment.
§ The Chairman
That is exactly what the Secretary of State said he was proposing to do. I do not think that any further points of order arise on this matter.
§ Mr. James Molyneaux (Antrim, South)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Weatherill. If I might be permitted to make a point, the Secretary of State has attempted to move in the direction of a suggestion that I put to his private office on Friday morning. Could I suggest that this is rather different from an indication from a Minister in charge of a Bill that he is prepared, having listened to the debate, to introduce an amendment on Report? This is rather the other way round. The Secretary of State apparently at a very early stage—perhaps in collusion with certain other right hon. Gentlemen—made up his mind to introduce an amendment for which there seemed to be no demand in the Committee. The Committee had never suggested any such amendment. We have not yet had the full explanation as to where the suggestion came from originally.
The second point I want to make is that I agree with the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) that, 750 far from its being, as the Secretary of State seemed to suggest, an insignificant amendment, it is so radical that it alters our approach not just to clause 2 but to the entire Bill. I hope that the Secretary of State will reconsider the phrase that he used, and that he will therefore feel obliged to go into his forecast and prophecy of what is likely to appear in the amendment rather more fully than he would otherwise have done.
While we can all appreciate that it might be too much to expect the draftsman to produce a detailed draft of the amendment at this stage, what is important—and I hope the Committee will agree with me—is that the Secretary of State should indicate what is in his mind, what the object of the amendment is and what his intentions are.
§ The Chairman
Order. The Committee should leave the matter there. The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) was corrct in saying that there was no way in which the proposed amendment could be tabled before we moved to the Question that clause 2 stand part of the Bill. When the Secretary of State speaks, we shall hear exactly what he proposes.
§ Question proposed [9 June], That the clause stand part of the Bill.
§ Question again proposed.
§ Mr. John Gorst (Hendon, North)
On a point of order, Mr. Weatherill. Since we last met, there have been suggestions in the media that we might, presumably with the Opposition's concurrence, be faced with a timetable motion on the Bill. It is not my intention to argue the merits or otherwise of such a move by the Government at this stage, but it would be helpful to those of us who are preparing speeches on the various clauses—in particular, everything from the current clause stand part debate onwards—for the Secretary of State to give us some idea of how he will be presenting the motion so that we know what areas of the Bill we are likely—
§ The Chairman
Order. That is a completely hypothetical question. It cannot possibly be answered. No point of order can arise on such a matter.
§ Mr. Nick Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)
May I, through you, Mr. Weatherill, ask that the Secretary of State be allowed the widest possible discretion in answering the clause stand part debate? Yesterday we had the good fortune to see a report in The Guardian to the effect that the Secretary of State had obtained the unofficial understanding of enough Labour Members to ensure the passing of a guillotine motion. If that is so—
§ Mr. Prior
Contrary to what my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) has said, I believe that we have already had a detailed discussion on clause 2. Therefore, I wish only to raise several general points.
Let me begin by reminding the Committee of what clause 2 seeks to achieve. It provides for the general or partial suspension of direct rule under the 1974 Act and the corresponding full or partial devolution. It gives Her Majesty power to do that at any time after proposals from the Assembly have been laid before Parliament. Such proposals will be debated in Parliament, in the light of which the Government will decide whether to recommend to Her Majesty the making of a devolution order.
751 That is well established and it should be equally clear to the Committee that subsection (2) gives Parliament full control over devolution by providing that no recommendation shall be made to Her Majesty to make either a full or partial devolution order unless a draft of that order has been approved by affirmative resolution in each House.
The Government have always attached the greatest importance to that provision. I am sure that the Committee would not wish it to be otherwise. Thus, when I explained during the debate on clause 1(4) that I did not believe that it would be right to amend clause 1(4) (a) but that I would nevertheless consider amending clause 2, I was saying nothing that is not already implicit in the Bill as it is now drafted. Nor was I saying anything that the Government have not said many times before.
I wish to make it clear beyond peradventure that there can be no question of a devolution order being made unless the provisions of that order, which will require the approval of each House of Parliament by affirmative resolution, are likely to command widespread acceptance throughout the community.
Although I was flattered to be told by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) that my modest remarks on clause 1(4) constituted an "extraordinarily valuable speech", and although I was dismayed to hear the same remarks described by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) as a "breach of faith", nothing I said then and nothing that I will say today should come as the slightest surprise to those who have followed what the Government have said about the test that must be applied to any proposal for a return of devolved government to Northern Ireland. We have always emphasised that the ultimate test for any devolution proposals is simply whether those proposals can command widespread acceptance throughout the community.
We have never suggested that the approval of 70 per cent. of the Assembly can be a substitute for such an acceptance. The figure of 70 per cent. is, as I explained during our discussion of clause 1(4), designed to ensure that any proposals that enjoy that degree of support in the Assembly are acceptable to both sides of the Northern Ireland community. As the right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) recognises, it might be possible for 70 per cent. to be achieved for proposals that do not meet that criterion.
Therefore, I say again that the 70 per cent. support for any proposals simply guarantees that they will be sent to the Secretary of State, who in turn will lay them before Parliament. At that point the proposals will be debated and the Government will have to give a clear view on whether those proposals meet the essential criterion of acceptability to both sides of the community.
Paragraph 42 of the White Paper, which I have already quoted, is quite clear on this point. It says:The crucial requirement is that the Assembly's proposals should be likely to command widespread acceptance throughout the community: in forming a judgment on this the Government would only consider a proposal to command sufficiently widespread acceptance if it appeared to be acceptable to both sides of the community. If it met this criterion the Government would ask Parliament to approve whatever arrangements were proposed and to transfer powers so that devolved government could be restored.
I said the same thing during the debate on the White Paper on 28 April:If 70 per cent. of the Members of the Assembly agreed on devolution proposals, I would be required to lay those proposals before Parliament, where they would be debated. The 752 Government would give their view on whether the scheme was acceptable to both sides of the community. If Parliament approved the arrangements, devolution would be effected by Order in Council."—[Official Report, 28 April 1982; Vol. 22, c. 859.]
On Second Reading I said:It is important to be clear that 70 per cent. for any proposals guarantees that they will be sent to the Secretary of State who will lay them before Parliament. At that point the proposals will be debated and the Government would have to give a clear view on whether those proposals met the essential criterion of acceptability to both sides of the community. If that criterion were met, the Government would ask Parliament to approve the Assembly's recommendations so that devolved Government could be restored."—[Official Report, 10 May 1982; Vol. 23, c. 475.]
On three separate occasions I made the Government's views clear. I do not understand where the problem has arisen.
§ Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Newbury)
There is a slight difference between the words that the Secretary of State has just used and those in the White Paper. The White Paper says:acceptable to both sides of the communityA moment ago my right hon. Friend used the words:widespread acceptance throughout the community".There is a marked variation in the emphasis in those words. It seems to me—perhaps I misunderstand my right hon. Friend—that he is now allowing the criterion to be drawn in a looser way that would enable the 70 per cent., as seen in the White Paper, no longer to be the obstacle that it has been to some, at least, who felt that it would prove to be an obstacle that would defeat any attempts to devolve powers to the Assembly.
§ Mr. Prior
I do not want to go back over clause 1, but if my hon. Friend looks at clause 1(4)(b) he will see:the proposals have the support of a majority of those members and the Secretary of State has notified the Assembly that he is satisfied that the substance of the proposals is likely to command widespread acceptance throughout the community.That means that if one has more than 50 per cent.—50 per cent. plus one—while it would then be a matter for the Secretary of State to notify the Assembly that he is satisfied, it softens the 70 per cent.
What I have been trying to do all the time—and there should be no doubt or ambiguity about the matter—is to enable the House to recognise that the 70 per cent. Will provide cross-community support or widespread acceptance throughout the community. It is a target to be aimed at and, I hope, achieved. One does not know how elections will go, but if there were no widespread acceptance throughout the community or it did not have cross-community support—one can use either set of words here, except that we have to use the same words throughout the Bill—it simply would not have the political stability which I and, I am sure, the Committee would regard as necessary if the scheme is to succeed.
So my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) should not read any differences into my words and the words that I quoted from paragraph 42 of the White Paper or the wording that I used in the Second Reading debate. Because I felt that there might be some ambiguity, and because that was pointed out to me very forcibly by the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mrs. Williams) and the right hon. Member for Mansfield, I said that I would see whether there was some way of making certain that the principles set out in the White Paper, which 753 are implicit in the Bill, should be made even clearer on the face of the Bill. I am still considering the matter. I thought that it would be quite wrong to make an amendment to clause 4(1)(a) or (b), but that it might be possible—I put it no stronger—to do something in clause 2 to help to strengthen the provision. The House would want to be assured that either it or the Secretary of State could be satisfied that there was widespread acceptance throughout the community.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
The Secretary of State may remember that on 9 June in this House I referred to a conversation that we had at a conference between my party and the Secretary of State and the Minister of State, the Earl of Gowrie. I quoted the Earl of Gowrie as saying thatthe Government had told the SDLP that it may not be included in the 70 per cent.
I said:I see that the Secretary of State agrees with that."—[Official Report, 9 June 1982; Vol. 25, c. 246.]If the SDLP is not in that 70 per cent. vote, will he still look on it as representing both sides of the community, provided that there is Roman Catholic participation in it?
§ Mr. Prior
I shall say to the hon. Genleman exactly what I said to the SDLP, and that is that I am not guaranteeing the SDLP or any other group automatic provision within any Executive or Government that could be formed. That does not lie within my power. I do not know how the election will turn out. I told the SDLP that it could not have an automatic guarantee. It will be for this House and the parties themselves to achieve widespread acceptance across the community. Widespread acceptance means both sides of the community, but it does not necessarily mean any particular party across the community.
This is one of our problems in trying to draft an amendment that could help to strengthen the position of the House, as it would be at that time—and certainly the position of the Secretary of State in trying to advise the House, when it comes to an Order in Council—about what would be widespread acceptance at that time.
§ Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith, North)
Surely, part of the problem is the recognition by the Government, and certainly by the Opposition, that we cannot predict future elections. Therefore, it is impossible to give a clear answer to the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley). There is recognition in the White Paper and elsewhere that, whether we like it or not, there are two different senses of identity in Northern Ireland. There is the cross-community support that we are referring to. It is the identity of the national interest. It is not just about who wins which election or who has a veto thereafter.
§ Mr. Prior
I accept what the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley) says. While he was speaking, I had a look at paragraph 42 of the White Paper. It said:it is for the Assembly to determine how, within the new arrangements, executive and legislative powers should be exercised. The crucial requirement is that the Assembly's proposals should be likely to command widespread acceptance throughout the community: in forming a judgment on this the Government would only consider a proposal to command sufficiently widespread acceptance if it appeared to be acceptable to both sides of the community".754 That is a perfectly reasonable point of view. It does not require 70 per cent. It can be less than 70 per cent., so long as there is a majority, as clause 1(4)(b) makes clear. However, in so far as clause 1(4)(a) did not make the matter abundantly clear, it was thought that an amendment to clause 2 might help to make what apparently was not clear clearer on the face of the Bill. That is what I have tried to do. In my view, it is perfectly consistent with all we have said in and about the White Paper and since that time.
§ Mr. Gorst
I have followed up to a point what my right hon. Friend said in reply to the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), but I am a little confused. My right hon. Friend said that it would be for this House to decide where the balance of argument, and so on, lay, and not for the Secretary of State to make judgments about political parties. Surely, in the first instance, it is the Secretary of State who will decide whether to put the proposal to the House for a decision. Will he not, therefore, need to take into consideration the views of a political party before he passes it on for consideration by the House?
§ Mr. Prior
The House, of course, takes the final decision. It would have two opportunities for debate before taking that decision. First, a report would have to be laid before the House, which the House could debate. Then there would be a second bite of the cherry, a debate on an Order in Council, and the approval of that order. So this House has two bites of the cherry.
I am considering whether we should frame an amendment, as was suggested by the right hon. Member for Mansfield, placing an obligation on the Secretary of State to satisfy himself that the proposal he was putting to the House had widespread acceptance throughout the community at the time when he presented any proposal to the House in the form laid down in clause 1(4)(a) or (b), but particularly, in this case, in paragraph (a). After all, that is how we conduct the Committee stage in this House. We have had debates on the clause in the House in Committee. I have now said that I will look at them. It is perfectly proper and right that it is now a matter for the Report stage, and that is what I intend to do. I can honestly say that I am still discussing with my officials, Ministers and colleagues which amendment would meet the convenience of the Committee. I could then table that amendment on Report. That is the manner in which it is always carried out. There is nothing unusual or exceptional about this except that I have perhaps gone to great lengths to express my concern and to meet the wishes of the Committee.
§ Mr. James Kilfedder (Down, North)
The White Paper, the Bill and the right hon. Gentleman refer to "cross-community support". I am perplexed and worried about this. What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by cross-community support? Is he talking in religious or political terms? Is he talking about the divide between Republican and Loyalist in Northern Ireland or between Protestant and Roman Catholic? Does he not accept that there are Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland who are loyal to the Crown? Many of them wish to remain under the Crown. How will he test their opinion if they vote for one of the numerous Unionist parties? That is the problem.
§ Mr. Prior
It is not easy for either hon. Members or anyone else to prove exactly what constitutes cross-community support. By the time the Assembly has discussed these matters—the Assembly will consist of a number of different parties—and by the time it has put forward a proposal, it will not be difficult for the House to decide in its own terms what constitutes cross-community support or whether the cross-community support that is necessary is there. There are two traditions. There are mixes and there are people who go between those two traditions. We have to accept that and, as I have made remarkably obvious, if there was not a problem we would not be discussing it.
We are trying to write into the Bill words which I believe will satisfy right hon. and hon. Members that every assurance will be given to the House that there is widespread acceptance throughout the community before it has to take a decision on this important matter.
§ Mr. Budgen
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, in the event of there being any dispute in the future between the Assembly and the House, the important words are the words in any Act that may emerge, and that anything that was said to the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) or anything in the White Paper is entirely irrelevant? What will decide the matter are the words in the Act.
§ Mr. Peter Lloyd (Fareham)
I thought that I was clear from the White Paper, the Second Reading debate and our debates in Committee on the exact status of the 70 per cent. I am not clear now and I hope that my right hon. Friend can help me. My understanding is that, if the Assembly produces proposals for devolution that have 70 per cent. support in the Assembly, the Secretary of State has no choice but to present them to the House. If he presents them to the House, which he must do, he is either enabled or obliged—I am not clear which—to say whether he believes that the proposals have cross-community support. If, in his opinion, they do not have cross-community support—this is a matter on which I particularly seek guidance—I take it that there is nothing in the Bill to prevent the House from disagreeing with him and saying that the proposals have cross-community support and, therefore, giving them effect or, more importantly, saying that, although they do not have cross-community support—the Secretary of State is quite right—we will still give effect to the proposals. Am I correct?
§ Mr. Prior
It is always difficult to be certain that I have understood my hon. Friend correctly, but I believe he is correct. It is always a matter for the judgment of the Committee. All I am saying is that it has been suggested by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee that perhaps the House would be better advised if, when it came to consider the 70 per cent. proposal, it was spelt out in more forthright terms that that also had to command widespread acceptance throughout the community. That is what I am considering at the moment, and I shall take into account the views that are expressed today.
I should like to dispose of another misunderstanding, if it is a misunderstanding. There are those in the Committee who, like me, accept that the powers of local 756 government in Northern Ireland are derisory but who, unlike me, believe that the way forward lies in increasing the powers of local government rather than any scheme of devolution to which the Bill is designed to give effect. As I explained to the Committee, after a great deal of detailed examination which I initiated because I wanted to examine this vital matter personally and with care, I am wholly satisfied that the local government route does not advance solutions and in some respects will make them more difficult to obtain. That is my conclusion after much advice from a wide cross-section of people who agree that the powers are derisory but who still have a hang-up about the past. That is what I said in Committee when we discussed the matter on 9 June.
My conclusion is based on a great deal of thought. It is not, however, a conclusion founded on a formal inquiry as my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) and other hon. Members appear to believe since, in that technical sense, there has been no inquiry. There is also no report that I could lay before the Committee.
Having sought to put hon. Members' minds to rest on these points, I should like to make some brief remarks on clause 2.
§ Sir John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest)
With respect to my right hon. Friend, he has said that there has been no formal inquiry, or an inquiry that would enable a report to be laid before the House. He says he has consulted, that he has given the matter thought and that he has come to a conclusion, but that is not sufficient to explain why it is improper, imprudent or inexpedient to enlarge the powers of local government and perhaps to introduce an upper tier of local government.
§ Mr. Barry Porter (Bebington and Ellesmere Port)
I am glad that my right hon. Friend has come to a conclusion on the basis of his thoughts. I should like to know on what evidence those thoughts were based and how he came to his conclusion. We have also had thoughts which, I hope, have been reasonable. We have based those thoughts on evidence and have come to a conclusion on that evidence. We ask for reciprocation.
§ Mr. Prior
I cannot go into this matter in great detail. A Minister should talk to a wide range of people at all times. I have talked to the political parties, to local councillors and to local councils. There are some political parties such as the Official Unionists and the Democratic Unionist Party which would, I believe, be in favour of giving more powers back to local authorities. Certainly the SDLP would be against it. I have talked to a number of individual councillors on councils where, at the moment, there is an SDLP majority. While they work satisfactorily together, I have been advised by them that they think it would be unwise at this stage to increase the powers of local authorities.
§ Mr. Prior
I have also had discussions with the people I meet and I have put the arguments to them. I have come to the conclusion that, although it would be right to seek at a proper time to give more powers to local authorities, that time is not right at the moment. It would not help to get the co-operation that one seeks from the Catholic minority if one went down that road at this stage These are the considerations that a Secretary of State has to take into account.
757 We are in a delicate position in Northern Ireland. We are trying to get the maximum co-operation on security—it is an issue that is before us all the time—and for that we need the active co-operation of all sections of the community. That is what I am seeking. That is why I believe that it would be unwise if we thought that there was some easy answer to be found by handing out further powers to local authorities, even though the powers of local authorities are undoubtedly derisory.
§ Mr. Budgen
Does my right hon. Friend think that there has been a change of opinion about local government since May 1979?
§ Mr. Prior
There have been considerably deeper discussions since May 1979 involving a much wider range of opinion in Northern Ireland. The implications for the minority community and the need to try to support and help that community to feel secure in helping to defeat the forces of evil are factors that perhaps have not been taken sufficiently into account. All these considerations weigh quite heavily with me, as my hon. Friend would expect.
By implication I have already touched on clause 2(1), which provides thatAt any time after proposals have been laid before Parliament under section 1 above Her Majesty mayeither suspend the operation of schedule 1 to the 1974 Act in full or, alternatively, suspend it so far as it relatesto the transferred matters within the responsibilities of such Northern Ireland departments as are specified in the Order.In short, subsection (1)(a) provides for full devolution and subsection (1)(b) provides for partial devolution.
Subsection (3) provides that it is not necessary to proceed with full devolution via partial devolution but allows for that possibility. My hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Patten), the Under-Secretary of State, has undertaken to consider how the wording of subsection (3) might be improved to take account of amendments tabled by the right hon. Member for Down, South.
Subsection (4) provides that under partial devolution the Department of Finance and Personnel may not be devolved. This makes administrative sense as that Department could scarcely be responsible to the Assembly while other departments remained under the control and direction of the Secretary of State. None the less, it is our intention that the devolved departments will have wide discretion to establish expenditure priorities within the overall total.
Subsection (5) brings into play schedule 1, which sets out the machinery by which the fully or partially devolved Administration would operate. Finally, subsection (6) provides that an order effecting either full or partial devolution may contain any transitional provisions that may be necessary to facilitate the movement from direct rule. This is a permissive provision to enable the settlement of practical details.
Clause 2, together with the detail of schedule 1, provides for the establishment of a fully or partially devolved Northern Ireland Administration along the lines of the proposals submitted by the Assembly and laid before Parliament under clause 1. It is an integral and vital part of the Bill. I can reassure hon. Members that the Government will not seek to change it in substance. Any such amendment will be intended to remove any doubts that may linger or arise in the future. Under the Bill any 758 proposals for devolution must command widespread support across the community, which in the context of Northern Ireland inevitably means proposals that are acceptable to both sides of the community. I do not believe that anything else would ever get through the House of Commons, and it is for that reason that I consider it important that there should be no ambiguity on this issue.
§ Mr. J. D. Concannon (Mansfield)
I shall detain the Committee for only a short while. After six years in the Whips' Office, both in Government and in Opposition, I have no arguments to advance against the Secretary of State's statement. I accept that we have a duty to present our arguments in Committee and that the right hon. Gentleman should listen to them. However, on this occasion it is appropriate to accept that amendments should be tabled on Report. I am content to wait until that stage is reached before tabling amendments.
It is rather unfortunate that the Committee has perhaps been left bemused by the 70 per cent. provision. I think that it has confused the Committee in its understanding of the right hon. Gentleman's intentions. However, it is clear that he places paramountcy on a cross-section of the community giving its support and not on the 70 per cent. requirement.
I agree with the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) that we should not approach these issues with a clear division between Protestants and Catholics in our minds. The two identities within Northern Ireland can span the religious divide. If there is some ambiguity in the 70 per cent. requirement, the right hon. Gentleman will be wise to produce amendments on Report. I thought it right for the Opposition not to press their amendments to the 70 per cent provision. I was satisfied with the assurances that we received that there would be full debates and that it will be left to the House of Commons to decide at the end of the day whether it accepts or rejects the proposals that come forward, whether by way of the 70 per cent. requirement or support from a cross-section of the community.
I accept that powers to devolve will not come before the House of Commons to be rubber stamped by it. I concur with the right hon. Gentleman's view that if the greater part of the population of Northern Ireland does not accept the proposals, they will not stand a chance. The right hon. Gentleman was right to stress that.
§ Mr. W. Benyon (Buckingham)
The right hon. Gentleman talks about the paramountcy of the criterion. Surely the paramountcy is this Parliament.
§ Mr. Concannon
I thought that I had said that. The House of Commons can reject whatever proposals come before it, irrespective of whether the Secretary of State accepts them. Paramountcy does not lie with the 70 per cent. requirement but with a cross-section of the community accepting the proposals.
Unfortunately the right hon. Gentleman and the Secretary of State have contrived to give the impression, perhaps accidentally, that there will be a free vote when the proposals come before the House of Commons. They seem to be suggesting that the proposals will be put before the House of Commons and that the Secretary of State may say "I do not like them very much. I am not terribly enthusiastic. However, here is the bone and you can worry it from now until 10 o'clock, if 759 there is not a suspension of the rule, and then you can have a free vote to decide whether you like it." The right hon. Gentleman knows, especially in the light of his experience in the Whips' Office—my right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) once said that no man is ever the same after that experience—that that will never be. The Secretary of State will come to the Dispatch Box and say "My colleagues in the Cabinet and I have come to the conclusion that this does not meet the requirements for cross-community consent. I must therefore ask the House to reject it." Moreover, there will be a three-line Whip on both sides of the House on the matter.
§ Mr. Concannon
The Secretary of State at that time, whoever he may be, will have to give his recommendations to his Cabinet colleagues and party, just as I should have to give mine to the Shadow Cabinet and the Labour Party. Whether they were accepted or rejected, the normal procedures would take place. I do not see much sign in the House today of acceptance of the Secretary of State's opinion. I sometimes wonder what we have been doing for the past two weeks.
The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) takes a paranoid attitude about the Bill. He now accepts press reports that have no foundation.
§ Mr. Budgen
Is there not a risk that, even if there are words about cross-community acceptability in the legislation, the House may decide to act on other criteria? For example, the increase in the representation of Northern Ireland from 12 to 17 Members had nothing to do with electoral justice for Northern Ireland. It was part of a party deal by which support was obtained by the Labour Government from some of the Ulster Members of Parliament.
§ Mr. Budgen
Yes, but its implementation was based upon party political considerations. Is there not a risk that other and extraneous factors will come into play?
§ Mr. Concannon
That is utterly false. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West knows or was in the House at that time, but that question was put to the Minister who had the job of steering that legislation through the House. I know about its birth and how it was steered through.
The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West is getting paranoid about the Bill. He sees collusion in press reports that have no foundation. His contribution to the Bill would be much better if he started to examine the matter in the way that the people of Northern Ireland would wish him to examine it rather than be paranoid about the Bill or the Secretary of State. I am simply unable to understand some of his reasoning.
I have no qualms about the way in which the Secretary of State is conducting himself or about the way in which the Committee stage is proceeding. I am quite happy to wait for the Report stage. If the amendments are not to our liking, we shall challenge them on Report. We accept the Secretary of State's final statement that in no way can the Bill work unless it is accepted by the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson
I shall take up the comment made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of 760 State on the wireless on Sunday. He said that he thought that the House of Commons, in having a debate both on the White Paper and on Second Reading, had had a fair chance to express its view. He may not have known it but I sat through both debates with a speech that I was unable to make. If I make a little of it now, I hope that he will forgive me. I do not intend to waste his or the Committee's time but I have had the speech with me for two or three weeks and I should like to make it.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
Anyone who has taken an interest in the political history of Northern Ireland in the past 10 years has, at some stage, offered proposals in the Chamber for solving its extremely difficult problems. In my day, I proposed an administrative assembly and an advisory council—a type of Northern Ireland Privy Council to advise the Secretary of State. I have pressed for an inquiry into the local government structure of the Province and I have supported the concept of an elected regional council. What is more, in those years I have chided at least one Secretary of State—the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason)—for taking no political initiative on the ground, which he advanced, that he could not find any consensus between the political parties. I suggested that his job was to introduce political institutions that, in his opinion, were good for the Province, whether local politicians liked them or not.
With that track record I can hardly complain if my right hon. Friend presents the Committee with his considered views about how the Province should be governed in the future. I congratulate him both on the flexibility of his approach—it comes through in every speech that he makes—and on his determination that the future course of political events in Northern Ireland will, to a great extent, be in the hands of Northern Ireland politicians.
I am sure that my right hon. Friend is right when he suggests that if the responsibility is placed with the politicians of Northern Ireland none of them can complain if what then follows does not exactly meet the requirements of arty one of the political parties. He has based his political initiative on his twin beliefs that there is an urgent need for a political initiative to give Northern Ireland politicians, an opportunity to play a mare constructive part in the affairs of the Province, by way of an elected Assembly, and that if the initiative develops, as he thinks that it may, the Assembly will be able to develop from a deliberating, consultative and advisory institution to a farm of devolved government for the Province if the Assembly so wishes.
To some extent, my right hon. Friend's intentions meet the pledge that was given in the Conservative Party manifesto at the last general election. I remind my right hon. and hon. Friends of our words. We said that in the absence of devolved government we would try to establish elected regional councils. My right hon. Friend is giving Northern Ireland the opportunity, if it wishes, to have devolved government. If it does not, we must see what happens to the Assembly and in what way it wishes to go. I share my right hon. Friend's intentions. It would be difficult to think of a fairer way of approaching the political problems of Northern Ireland that have bedevilled the Province for the past 10 years, and certainly since 1974.
§ Sir John Biggs-Davison
I thank my hon. Friend for giving way. Does he mean that this should be the last attempt at devolution and that we can then proceed to a more practicable system of administration for Northern Ireland? He will recall that we have had many attempts at devolution and many political initiatives that were aimed at devolution. They have not succeeded. With each failure, the status and prestige of Her Majesty's Government diminishes and the anxieties of Loyalists increase—as do the hopes of terrorists.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
I hope to answer my hon. Friend's point. It is not wise now to predict complete failure for the Bill. It must be given a fair wind. My right hon. Friend may have seized a moment in the affairs of the Province when he can achieve something that has been denied others who have devised initiatives. The flexibility that is inherent in the Bill gives it its best chance of success. We can be sure that an Assembly will be created as a result of the Bill, but we cannot be sure what will happen after it is created, because it is up to the Assembly to decide whether to go for full devolution, partial devolution or no devolution at all.
Let none of us get too worked up about the Assembly. In size, it would be smaller than Berkshire county council. I find it difficult to become greatly agitated about a body so small, which in the first instance will at least give Northern Ireland the feeling that it has some say in the affairs of the Province.
I wish to press my right hon. Friend a shade further. I see in clause 2 some of the essential ingredients for the success or failure of his endeavour. My right hon. Friend described his White Paper as "Framework for Devolution". The very concept of a framework is of something upon which one builds. My right hon. Friend also said—I think that this was originally a media phrase, but my right hon. Friend used it on Second Reading—that the White Paper and the Bill were a do-it-yourself devolution kit. If he really means that, when he has created the Assembly and given it the chance to go in various different directions he must to some extent, like Frankenstein, let his monster go the way that it wishes to go. If we prod the Assembly too much towards legislative devolution rather than towards adding to and improving the administration of the Province, we may be trying to force it down a road along which it does not necessarily wish to journey.
§ Mr. Peter Lloyd
One of the major faults of the Bill is that it gives a do-it-yourself constitutional kit to the elected representatives of Northern Ireland in the Assembly but denies them an important part of the kit—the ability to create their own executive devolution and their own local government. The Bill at present allows no choice. It is legislative devolution or nothing. There is no halfway house. My hon. Friend may be about to suggest that the Bill could be modified to give that choice, but in its own terms it does not provide the do-it-yourself opportunity that it purports to contain.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
My hon. Friend makes a good point that I wished to develop further. I have talked about flexibility. Nothing that I have heard or read in the speeches of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State suggests that his approach is other than extremely flexible. Even his remarks today about widespread acceptance throughout the community suggest to me that he 762 recognises that that acceptance within the community is more important than being too precise about the parts of the community from which the consent comes. I do not wish to put words into my right hon. Friend's mouth. If I have done so, I apologise at once.
If my right hon. Friend simply creates the Assembly as a debating society which is unwilling to go for devolution, and he will therefore not allow it to proceed in a different direction, it will become like one of those supposedly pregnant pandas that attract great publicity but at the end of the day cause a good deal of embarrassment to those who predict a happy outcome. However, I do not believe that that is my right hon. Friend's intention. I believe that he is creating a situation in which the Assembly will be able to proceed on the course that it most actively believes to be in the best interests of Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Porter
On a point of order, Mr. Armstrong. I have listened with great interest to my hon. Friend's fascinating speech on the White Paper, Second Reading or whatever it is. I was fortunate enough to be able to contribute to one of the debates, but I seek your guidance for the future, as I may wish to speak in the Committee. Flexibility seems now to be the name of the game in relation to the Bill, but I do not know whether the flexibility in relation to this debate on clause 2 would allow me or other hon. Members to talk about anything we wish in relation to the Bill, to Northern Ireland, its history and its future, past or present. I raise this point of order from my inexperience, in the hope that you will guide me. It seems to me that the essence of the Bill is in clause 1. Reading clause 2 as a simple solicitor, I understand that it simply allows Parliament to put into effect what the Assembly wishes, if Parliament so decides. What there is to talk about in that is quite beyond me, although I gather that my dislike of the Bill is rather greater than my hon. Friend's.
§ The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)
I was listening carefully to the speech of the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) and I was becoming a little anxious. The hon. Gentleman must relate his remarks to clause 2.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
I am extremely grateful for your tolerance, Mr. Armstrong. I hope that my remarks were leading exactly to the subject of the debate and that what I have said would thus seem to round off my contribution.
§ Mr. Budgen
Will my hon. Friend comment further on his assertion that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State shows extreme flexibility in all circumstances? I am sure that all of us would agree that that is so, but is there not a danger that in this context a concession to one group almost inevitably brings a reaction from another, as in the reaction of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) to the proposed amendment to clause 2? Does my hon. Friend agree that in this context there may be disadvantages in that flexibility?
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
There are disadvantages in anything if it is taken to extremes, but I do not suggest that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State would do that. I believe that he has sought to grasp the nettle of Northern Ireland politics in a way that gives him more chance of success than any of his predecessors in the past 10 years.
763 I turn specifically to the concept of full or partial devolution after proposals have been laid before Parliament under clause I. The speech of my right hon. Friend and the debate on the amendments made it clear that the Departments could be devolved in total or in part. That concept of fragmented powers is interesting, as it is conceivable that the Assembly might wish so to fragment departmental powers as effectively to give itself the powers of a county council. I do not know whether my right hon. Friend has considered that possibility. Presumably it would be possible to devolve from the Department of Finance the functions of rating and rate collection; from the Department of the Environment the policy and funding of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, town and country planning, roads, car parking, water and sewerage services and the Northern Ireland fire authority; from the Department of Health the personal social services and the four health and social services boards, and from the Department of Education all aspects of the education service. It would seem possible for it to do just that. Therefore, if I have understood the Bill aright, the clause contains the possibility for the Assembly to choose to go for something far more like the powers of a regional council than for the full panoply of legislative powers, which it might have but not seek to use.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell
A county council or regional council as commonly understood is not a legislative body. The hon. Gentleman seems not to have grasped the fact that the only devolution open to be proposed by the Assembly is devolution within the terms of the 1973 Act, in which legislative and executive powers are inseparably knit together. With great respect, it is not, as he suggests, within the choice of the Assembly to opt for a Department or even part of a Department in an executive but not in a legislative sense.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
I entirely recognise the point made by the right hon. Gentleman, but having devolved those powers the Assembly may use those powers as it thinks fit. No Department endlessly introduces legislation. It introduces the legislation that it believes it requires, otherwise it seeks to administer a particular service.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell
Departments do not, for the most part, introduce legislation. Legislation is introduced by the Executive. In so far as there is any devolution under the Bill, the legislative initiative is bound to lie with the head of the Department or the Executive, as the case may be.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
I listened to the right hon. Gentleman, but it is nevertheless a fact that not every Department introduces legislation into the House, nor is it bound to do so. Departments only do so when they feel the need to have legislation.
It appears to me that the Assembly can follow a course that may be of its choosing and that my right hon. Friend has not deliberately closed it off from doing.
What status will those who head the devolved Department have? My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food speaks on behalf of the United Kingdom at the Council of Agriculture Ministers. Is it conceivable that in future another Minister or head of Department from Northern Ireland will sit at the same meetings? Will that Minister or head of Department have the same status as my right hon. Friend, or will he simply be part of my right hon. Friend's team?
§ Mr. Prior
Under the Stormont Government the then Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Harry West, often came to see me when I was Minister of Agriculture here. The Westminster Minister negotiated the price review, as it was then, and carried the main negotiations, but he consulted the Minister of Agriculture in Northern Ireland. If my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, who is responsible for agriculture, thinks that it is right and proper and in the interests of Northern Ireland to attend an EEC meeting alongside my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, he will do so. The same would pertain under the new arrangements. The Minister of Agriculture in the new Executive, or in the devolved Department, could, if he so wished—and I expect that he would from time to time—go to Brussels with my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that reply. I shall take it one stage further. We could find that the Northern Ireland Minister for Agriculture had a different view about fisheries or price fixing. My right hon. Friend appears to be saying that the Minister of Agriculture in the United Kingdom is primus inter pares and will, therefore, have the last word. I believe that to be absolutely right.
§ Mr. James A. Dunn
Further refinements have been introduced since Stormont. The permanent secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture always sat in as part of the team advising the Minister responsible for negotiations that took place anywhere relating to agriculture. Further, if any disagreement was registered, it came back to Ministers under direct rule and was taken up at every stage, including the Cabinet committee and even the Cabinet itself.
§ Mr. Gorst
I do not know whether my hon. Friend is entirely satisfied with the Secretary of State's reply, but I should like to put a point that arises from it. The people who are elected to the Assembly may have partial devolution. Some matters may rest with them and others with a Department in this country. With such partial devolution, is there a danger of difficulty in ascribing responsibility for what has, or has not, been achieved when the electorate renews the mandate for the people who are elected? As regards the second stage of partial devolution, how will my hon. Friend reconcile that in terms of the acceptability and desirability of the proposal that he supports.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
By raising that issue my hon. Friend enables me to conclude on this point. Northern Ireland has not had a governmental structure of its own since 1974. Its governmental. muscles are atrophied. It must discover the way of moving again. That is why I place so much emphasis on the regional council and the administrative part, at least initially, of the Assembly moving towards becoming a fresh Government for Northern Ireland as it makes its way from an Assembly, with certain limited powers, and decides the way that it wants to develop. It will develop those muscles naturally and will then discover where its responsibilities lie, who does what, and how that blends in with Westminster.
It is clear that, although the Bill will give Northern Ireland the opportunity to have the powers that it wishes 765 in its Assembly, nothing in the Bill takes from the Parliament of Westminster its role as the mother Parliament of the United Kingdom. My right hon. Friend's answer about who would speak for the United Kingdom at Brussels underlines that point as well as anything could.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I am sure that the Committee is grateful to the Secretary of State for speaking at the opening of this debate on clause stand part and for explaining something of what is in his mind about a possible amendment. As he said, he is not doing anything unusual. It is common for Governments, having listened to what is said in Committee, to announce that they will table amendments on Report, but it is unusual to explain them at the beginning of a debate in Committee. I welcome that departure. It would often be welcome if Ministers made short speeches in opening debates on clause stand part and replied at the end.
I am not certain whether the right hon. Gentleman's amendment would make it obligatory on a Secretary of State to ensure that a proposal for devolution from the Assembly with 70 per cent. support had cross-community consent before he introduced it to the House, or whether he would be bound to introduce it to the House but would warn the House that it had, or had not, cross-community consent. If the amendment means that, although the Assembly had made a proposal backed by 70 per cent. of Members, he would not be bound to introduce it to the House unless he was satisfied that it had cross-community consent, I should have thought that an amendment was necessary to clause 1(4).
As the Bill stands, it seems to be mandatory on the Secretary of State to introduce such a proposal, although he might advise against it. If, on the other hand, it is only to make it clear that in introducing such a proposal the Secretary of State is bound to advise the House whether it has cross-community consent, it would appear that there was little point in retaining clause 1(4)(a). This will virtually be the position, slightly modified, of clause 1(4)(b). In either event, there is considerable danger of conflict between the Government and the Assembly.
If the Assembly were several times to agree proposals that had attracted a 70 per cent. majority that were not then introduced in this House because the Secretary of State felt that they did not have cross-community support, it might lead to an awkward situation between this House and the Assembly. For example, there could be frustration in the Assembly, which will have little else to do except to air grievances in Northern Ireland, which no doubt it will do at considerable length. As it will have no responsibility for taxation, it will no doubt make all sorts of interesting proposals about how money should be spent. At the same time, it may find that its proposals to take responsibility through devolution are rejected by the House of Commons although they are supported by more than 70 per cent. of the elected members of the Northern Ireland body. Surely that could create an awkward position.
Will the right hon. Gentleman's proposed amendment mean that the Secretary of State will not introduce devolution proposals unless he is satisfied that they have cross-community support, or will he introduce them but advise that they do not have such support? Personally I believe that both options are fraught with great difficulties. 766 However, as the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) said, there is no ideal situation for Northern Ireland. There is a difficulty with every conceivable solution that one may propose.
Because of the powerful arguments of the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison), many of us are coming to the view that perhaps sleeping dogs should be allowed to lie.
I hope that the Bill achieves success and commands support in Northern Ireland. If the Assembly is allowed to propose devolution measures with 70 per cent. support, it would be wiser that such proposals should be introduced in the House of Commons even if the Secretary of State has to advise that they do not have cross-community consent. It would be wiser to let the House debate such proposals, and to let Northern Ireland Members put the case for them, rather than that such proposals passed by the Northern Ireland Assembly with such a large majority should never come to this House at all.
Like the Secretary of State, I am open to argument on this point. At present I believe that he should omit clause 1(4)(a) and rely upon clause 1(4)(b), with an amendment to clause 2 if necessary. In the event of his retaining clause 1(4)(a), he should at least ensure that such proposals are debated in this House even though he may have to advise that, in his view, they do not have cross-community support.
§ Sir Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
In discussions during the general election about what the Conservative Party should say about Northern Ireland, I recall that we reached a formula that there should be no important constitutional change unless it was supported by a majority of the majority and at least a minority of the minority. In other words, it was clearly felt that change in Northern Ireland had to be supported by a majority of the Unionist parties in the Province. At the same time, it was felt that it would not be worth while bringing forward any major constitutional change unless it was actively supported by steadfast speech and at least a number of the political leaders identified with the Catholic community. I understood that to be the attitude of the Conservative Party.
I am not entirely clear whether that is still the party's attitude, especially in view of clause 2. I am not clear whether it would be sufficient to have the support of a minority of political leaders from the Catholic community or whether we are insisting that any change should be supported by a majority of leaders of the Catholic community in Northern Ireland. In other words, are we giving a veto to the SDLP?
As I have listened to these debates or read reports of them, I have become unclear about the Government's position. I am not sure whether the Secretary of State is clear in his mind about the position. Therefore, I would welcome clarification on this point before we leave clause 2.
§ Viscount Cranborne (Dorset, South)
How is the Secretary of State to judge what constitutes cross-community support? Will he have to rely on his own judgment or the judgment of the ballot box? If it is his own judgment, surely there are many examples, both here and in other countries, where the judgments of individual politicians, however experienced, are shown to be false when tested against the results of the ballot box.
§ Sir Philip Goodhart
I take it that there would have to be an element of subjective decision on the part of the Secretary of State. For example, four or five years ago the support of the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) and Paddy Devlin for devolution measures of the sort envisaged in the Bill would clearly have constituted cross-community support. While I wish both those gentlemen well, I do not believe that today one could say that they constituted cross-community support.
§ Mr. Budgen
If the test is to be submitted to the judgment of this House and it is one of cross-party support, how is it possible to exclude other considerations? As my hon. Friend has said, a proposal could be put to the House for a decision based on cross-party support, but hon. Members may decide the issue on other and extraneous reasons.
§ Sir Philip Goodhart
My hon. Friend has been a member of the Whips' Office, alas, for too short a time. He knows perfectly well that almost all decisions in the House are taken on entirely extraneous considerations.
§ Mr. Budgen
In my earlier intervention about the change from 12 to 17 seats in Ulster, I perhaps exaggerated my position. I am simply saying that, when deciding whether to do justice to a group, the timing of that decision may be affected by other and extraneous reasons.
§ Sir Philip Goodhart
Having taken some part in the Speaker's Conference and in discussion on increasing the number of Members in Northern Ireland, I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) is right in his pessimistic view on the wheeling and dealing that occurred.
In his opening speech, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State referred to his remarks on local government. He said:It is of course true that changes to the structure of local government even of the most minor kind would be highly contentious within Northern Ireland, and we know why that is. Whatever hon. Members may feel about the history of local government in Northern Ireland … it is enough that there is a deeply held belief that abuse of local government was the cause of many injustices in the past and that the restoration of powers might see the return of those injustices."—[Official Report, 9 June 1982; Vol. 25, c. 229–30.]
My right hon. Friend is right to say that there are fears about the return of extra powers to local government in Northern Ireland. I referred earlier to a conversation that I had some time ago with Senator Seamus Mallon, who told me that it would be impossible to site or maintain street lights in Northern Ireland on other than a strictly sectarian basis. That is not true, but people will continue to believe that it is true until it is seen not to be. Therefore, one must progressively put back greater powers into the hands of councils in Northern Ireland.
My hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) made a highly damaging attack upon me about my attitude to car park charges in Northern Ireland when I was a Minister answerable for the Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland. It is true that nominally the Minister answerable for the Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland is responsible to the House for setting all car park charges in Northern Ireland. When I held that position I was anxious to try to return to the councils real power over car park charges, although one could not do it de jure.
Only by working together on local road programmes, local planning problems, car park charges and the siting 768 and maintenance of street lighting will one get away from the fear of inbuilt prejudice and unfairness and the memories of the past will go away.
My right hon. Friend believes that stability can be brought about in Northern Ireland by getting the politicians to talk together. My impression over the years is that political leaders in Northern Ireland talk to each other a great deal—far more than most hon. Members believe—but that they do not work together to achieve practical results. It is better for local councillors to work together than to bring people together to talk in a vacuum. In that way we shall make progress in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell
I am sure that it was beneficial for the debate that the Secretary of State should have opened it as he did, because this is the crucial clause of the Bill. Clause 1 is only a preface to this clause. The operative clause to bring about devolution is clause 2. No one who has listened to the debate would doubt that there was real misunderstanding and division about the possible amendments to the clause that might be introduced by the right hon. Gentleman.
Therefore, in dealing with the clause as the operative clause of this part of the Bill, we are still living under a sense of irony in that earlier this afternoon the Prime Minister recalled the words of the commander in the Falkland Islands, rejoicing that the Falkland Islands were once more under the Government desired by the inhabitants. A few hours later we are debating whether we should impose upon Northern Ireland a constitution to which almost every organised political body and expression of political opinion is opposed and rejects.
We also know, since the debate last week and the valuable information placed before the Committee by the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison), that the clause is the end process of an initiative designed to overthrow the Northern Ireland policy of the Conservative Partywith the object of establishing another 'power-sharing' government in the province, which could pave the way for a federal constitution linking Ulster to the Irish Republic."—[Official Report, 8 June 1982; Vol. 25, c. 52.]
Those are no longer the words of suspicious, conspiracy-minded Members for Northern Ireland. Thanks to the hon. Member for Epping Forest, we now know that that was the view held inside the Conservative Party at the 1979 general election. We are debating a crucial clause in circumstances in which we realise its bearings and its full significance for the people of Northern Ireland.
The dialogue between the Secretary of State and the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) illuminated the difficulty between clauses 1 and 2. Perhaps I might try to put it slightly differently with a view to obtaining agreement as to where the problem lies. There are three stages in the process of devolution as envisaged by the Bill. The first is proposals from the Assembly, the second is a decision of the Secretary of State to make a draft Order in Council, and the third is the decision of the House to approve the draft order. Those are the three effective stages, and one cannot take place without the other.
Clause 1 sets out in the celebrated subsection (4) the preconditions for stage 1. They are expressed in the alternative in subsection (4), either the 70 per cent. or the 50 per cent. plus one, with the Secretary of State's opinion 769 that there is widespread acceptance throughout the community. When we come to clause 2 and the subsequent effective steps, nothing in the Bill imports either those conditions or any modification to them either to the making of the order by the Secretary of State or to the acceptance of that order by the House. This is the initial cause of worry for many members of the Committee. They have read the White Paper and listened to the speeches of the Secretary of State, but when they read the Bill they find that there are conditions set out for the first stage in clause 1 but no conditions, in terms of the Bill, attached to the second and third stages, which are the stages that matter.
There is one reason why there is this gap and difference in clause 2, and it is important that this reason should be understood. All that clause 2 deals with is an Order in Council, and that will simply deal with the suspension of direct rule, or with the suspension of direct rule localised in one or more Departments. I envisage, and the Secretary of State will correct me if I am wrong, that the Order in Council will be a very brief one. All that it would need to do would be to specify, if it were under paragraph (b), the Departments that were to be relieved from direct rule and pass them across from direct rule to devolution.
Unless I have misunderstood the Bill, it would not spell out the working arrangements that would be an integral part of proposals put forward by the Assembly and on the basis of which the second and third stages were followed. When we debated clause 1, it was clear, and many of the debates on amendments brought this out, that the Secretary of State envisaged that the proposals as they came from the Assembly would be quite detailed as to the nature of the working, the arrangements and the checks and balances. At one point, he even envisaged that there might be specifications as to personality.
When we come to clause 2, which is the operative part, all that the House has to grip on is an Order in Council which does only the baldest thing in the baldest terms. This is our difficulty.
§ Mr. Prior
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has got this right. I am not quite certain whether he recognises that under clause 1 there would be a debate either when the order had to be laid because of the 70 per cent. or because the Secretary of State was "satisfied". There would be a debate then. There would then have to be a second debate when the draft Order in Council came before the House. The right hon. Gentleman is correct in saying that the amendment that I am suggesting that I shall look at will deal with the order-making part of clause 2. That would be to try perhaps to put into the order-making part of clause 2 the necessity of any orderto command widespread acceptance throughout the community.
§ Mr. Powell
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I had appreciated that the relatively detailed and elaborate proposals that might come from the Assembly would normally be the subject of a preliminary debate, a debate in which the outcome would be in the minds of the Secretary of State when he laid the draft order and of the House when it debated it. However, we are still left with the fact that the decision of the House is effectively separated from the details of the proposals.
770 There is thus the difficulty both of the Committee and of the right hon. Gentleman in attaching what he considers to be the necessary power-sharing conditions to the act of devolution that takes place by the making and the approval of the draft. Our difficulty this afternoon was—this is the difficulty felt so acutely by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley)—that as the Secretary of State described the precondition for which he would look in deciding to make a draft order, and for which the House would be advised to look in approving an order, it would be more restrictive than the condition in clause 1(4). That would enable the proposals to come before the House in the first place, so that a proposal that had 70 per cent. support could be debated by the House. However, a proposal that had only 70 per cent. support, without fulfilling the conditions in clause 1(4)(b), would not be a proposal—said the Secretary of State, and one understands why—that would result in his making a draft order or in the House's approving it.
Thus, the funnel narrows as we move down it, from the original work of the Assembly towards the passing of the Order in Council, and the conditions attached to the nature of the power sharing are rendered more severe and specific as that process goes on. I agree with the right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) that, that being so, however great the difficulties in drafting somehow to get this into the Bill, the Secretary of State is right to attempt to do so. I agree, too, with those who say that this second definition of more restricted conditions for devolution is of substantial importance to the parties and public opinion in Northern Ireland in making up their minds about what is proposed in the Bill.
§ Mr. Farr
I have followed the right hon. Gentleman's argument as closely as I have been able. He seemed to say that he fears that when an order comes before the House for discussion it will be in bald and minimal terms, merely inviting the House to, say, approve the transfer of one Department or another. Will the right hon. Gentleman give his mind to the possibility, which I understand exists, of a part transfer of a Department? If that were the case—if I catch your eye later, Mr. Armstrong, I hope to develop this question—there are many Departments that might be transferred in part rather than in toto. If they were transferred in part alone, the relevant order would surely be more fulsome, and there would be better opportunities for discussion.
§ Mr. Powell
I may have misunderstood something that was said earlier in our proceedings. I understood that it was said that if it was desired to divide a Department for partial devolution, that Department would be divided first, while still under direct rule—the Secretary of State nods his assent—and then the machinery would still apply and a simple and plain devolution Order in Council would still be laid before the House.
The central matter, which has become clear only through the debate this afternoon, is that the condition attached to the making of the draft order and its recommendation to the House is different from the condition attached in clause 1(4) to the putting forward and the receipt of proposals of the Assembly, in that paragraph (a) is eliminated as an alternative authorisation, leaving paragraph (b) alone. Whether paragraph (b) remains in the form in which we find it was not clear as the Secretary of State—I make no complaint of this—attempted several different formulations of what he meant by 771widespread acceptance throughout the community.
§ Mr. Peter Lloyd
I have tried to follow the right hon. Gentleman's arguments, as I tried to follow those of the Secretary of State a little earlier. As I understand it, proposals that are approved by 70 per cent. of the Assembly have to be debated in the House. There is no question of that. It cannot be prevented, whatever the Secretary of State's opinion of the proposals. If they are then approved by the House, Whips or no Whips, free vote, whipped vote or whatever, does the Secretary of State have any option as to whether he brings in an order to give those proposals legislative effect?
§ Mr. Powell
That is for the Secretary of State to answer. My understanding is that he has an option. Not only does he have discretion, but he will not use his discretion affirmatively unless those proposals qualify under subsection (4)(b), and not just under 4(a), or, at any rate, the second half of 4(b)—widespread acceptance throughout the community.Hence the importance, which I do not think the Secretary of State or the Committee originally understood, of the clarification that we now have as to what is intended in the working of clause 2.
The Secretary of State referred to the manner in which I spoke earlier of his intervention in the debate last week. He may have thought that I was, perhaps, over-generous in the terminology that I attached to it. I believe that his intervention was important in a number of contexts and not least in the context of widespread or cross-community acceptance.
The Secretary of State came near to misunderstanding the crucial point on the matter of power sharing. That is the point at which he passes from general acceptance throughout the community to acceptance by the political parties in the Assembly. It is the transition from community to political party on which the whole difficulty hinges, and that goes, in my view, to the heart of the matter. Nobody in the politics of this part of the community is confused between the two. Nobody talks about the Socialist community and that the Socialist community should be brought into Government if the Government's policies are to achieve support. In the parliamentary institution in this island we know that a party with specific policies and purposes is, on the basis of those policies and purposes, voted into the House in certain numbers. If in sufficient numbers, they are voted into office. We accept the fact that thereby they have the opportunity to put those policies and promises into effect during the course of that Parliament. Nobody mistakes that party, sitting in the House, for the community out of which it comes or with which it might for some purpose be identified.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. I am making my maiden intervention in the debate. Is not the right hon. Gentleman making two mistakes when he compares the position in the mainland with that in the Province? Has he not forgotten 60 years of Stormont rule when the position in Northern Ireland was the same as that in Great Britain? Why was Stormont dissolved? Why did the Conservative Administration decide that it had failed in Northern Ireland? We know what happened as a result of the imposition of direct rule. It is important to bear in mind 772 the origin of Northern Ireland and that a large number of people—certainly not the majority, but the minority community—resent the manner in which Northern Ireland came into being and say that there was no mandate from the Irish people for the division of Ireland that led to the six counties and not the nine counties of traditional Ulster.
§ Mr. Powell
I am sorry that the hon. Member missed my extensive speech last week which largely dealt with the matters that he raised.
While we would all say that any Government or constitution have to command widespread support throughout the community, we understand how that can be consistent with the Opposition in this country voting solidly against what the Government do. The two things coexist. We have a political Opposition in the House whose objects are incompatible in matters of political dispute with the objects of the Government, yet there is widespread support throughout the community for the carrying on of the Queen's Government from Parliament to Parliament. It is that gap in the thinking that has led to the attempt to impose a grotesque and undemocratic condition upon the Government of Northern Ireland. There is to be no Executive and no system that is not supported by those who, as party representatives, are elected, sent to sit in the Assembly to do opposite and incompatible things.
It is a mistake to suppose that because that is impracticable, therefore, there is not, and cannot be, widespread support throughout the community in Northern Ireland for the Administration. When I use the word "Administration" I come to the essential point that the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) raised. If we insist that in Northern Ireland there must be a separate legislative authority, then we raise the spectre and the fact that the parties in Northern Ireland are, as the hon. Member has implied, not merely representing—though to some extent they do—political objects in the narrow sense; they are representing different aspirations for the future of the Province. The impracticability of combining those—least of all by combining them with schemes of cooperating in an Executive—is the creation of our notion that somehow we have to create in Northern Ireland a legislative devolution.
I shall take the risk of paying the Secretary of State a compliment. I am riot sure that he always regards them as compliments when they come from me, but I shall take that risk again. It is a sincere compliment. I want to thank the Secetary of State for the manner in which, in Committee, he has not done what a great many Ministers in charge of a Bill would do—without incurring any criticism—and left a good deal of the work of and the time in Committee in the able hands of his junior Ministers. With the exception of about a couple of hours, he has sat right the way through and heard every word that has been spoken, as well as intervening. The value of that—and why I believe that we ought to be so grateful—is that I believe that the right hon. Gentleman, like the rest of us, has much to learn. I do not say that cynically or in any insulting way. It is only after a considerable time and after the confrontation of interpretations of the position in Northern Ireland that one comes to a true insight and understands why there are certain things that, try as one might, will not work. I hope, therefore, that as a result of the debate, the right hon. Gentleman will apply his mind again to this—I suggest that it is a fallacy in the notion of 773 power sharing—that I have ventured to summarise as the false equation between community and party, between the acceptance by the community and the agreement and cooperation of a political party.
§ Mr. Gorst
The right hon. Gentleman has been describing the irreconcilable anomaly—the disparity between the elected people and the constituency that elected them. He talked in terms of a funnel down which clause 1 and clause 2 take us to where the Secretary of State makes recommendations to the House. He should not be content with making a statement of the position. Will he speculate, for the sake of all of us and the Secretary of State in particular, how he believes that Members of the Assembly will feel—having argued and discussed at length—if they are told that their proposal does not have the widespread support of the people? How will they feel if the Secretary of State does not put the proposal to the House for ratification or, if he has made a judgment that there is widespread support, there is no certainty that among the people there is that widespread support? What will be the effect on Assembly Members?
§ Mr. Powell
It is always asking for trouble to invite people to do something which is inherently contradictory and which contains built-in impossibilities or contradictions. Not for the first time, that is being done in this part of the Bill.
I apologise for referring to the hon. Member for Beckenham (Sir. P. Goodhart) in his absence, but he made that point clearly. I mention his speech briefly because it cross-checks and confirms what I have been trying to put to the Secretary of State about the distinction between party and community. If there is a legislative Assembly, it is the duty of those sent to that Assembly to get their hands on the levers of the law to bring about the promises, prospects and aspirations which they held up when they were elected.
If the powers are not there, if it is an administrative, not a legislative, body—I almost dare to say, if it is a subordinate body and not a sovereign body—its members can say "This is the machinery that we must work. We must make sense of the machinery and we must get along together in working it." As the hon. Member for Beckenham said, that is what they do already in the narrow sense and that is what they would do in the much wider sense if the House were willing to allow it.
§ Mr. Porter
The right hon. Gentleman is at the nub of the matter. I accept his thesis about politics and the role of the party. The possibilities of proposals coming from the Assembly are, therefore, in the gift of Unionists in their various guises. If the Unionist parties believe that there are impossible and irreconcilable positions, what is the point of continuing with the Bill? Are the Unionists saying that there is no possibility of achieving anywhere near 70 per cent., or even 50 per cent. plus 1, so that the Secretary of State cannot say that there is cross-community support? It seems that in the Secretary of State's view cross-community support comes from a minority community. Are the Unionists saying that cross-community support is impossible? They say that they will stand for the Assembly, but what will they do when they get there? The Committee is entitled to know.
§ Mr. Powell
That intervention demonstrates the importance of these debates. That is why such debates, although lengthy, are in no sense a waste of the time of the House or the Government. They expose the manner in which the impracticable framework is bound to be dealt with and condition those elected to take part in it. If we do not want to create additional frustration and hold out false hopes in the Province, where frustration and false hopes are apt directly or indirectly to cause physical and mortal harm, we had better take the conclusion in regard to the Bill. To that extent I am entirely in line with the point made by the hon. Member for Bebington and Ellesmere Port (Mr. Porter).
The point about a legislative Assembly, legislative devolution and the inevitable built-in conflicts in the context of Northern Ireland brings me to what the Secretary of State said about local government. Most of us will have taken the opportunity at the weekend of reading and re-reading what the right hon. Gentleman said. What he said is without doubt important. It is important because it reveals that the Secretary of State shares the frustration of many of us at the absence of anything but minimal government in the Province. He did not pretend otherwise. Many of us would have used exactly his terminology in expressing that regret.
What is more, the right hon. Gentleman gave his own opinion that if local government were extended in the Province it would not lead to injustice. People might think that, but he stated that his opinion was that it would not. The right hon. Gentleman proceeded to come to the conclusion which in some ways was incompatible with those propositions. He said that he thought that it should be left to a devolved set-up in Northern Ireland to decide whether to increase—and, if so how—improve, restore and evolve local government.
That is exactly the wrong conclusion. It is exactly because local government in Northern Ireland existed under the aegis of a devolved Parliament operating, as a Parliament can only operate, on the basis of the democracy on which we operate in the House that local government was so unpopular and suspect and that there is the hangover—to use the right hon. Gentleman's term—that now exists. Only local government conferred and supervised by the House, and for which, ultimately, a Minister responsible to the House has to answer, will be, like Caesar's wife, above suspicion. It is in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman to achieve that. It is not in the power or gift of any Assembly that he sets up or of any devolved body.
The same argument which refutes the fallacy of power-sharing refutes the fallacy that we have powers to restore local government to Northern Ireland. The debate carries us nearer to a common understanding of the nature of the problem and, I hope, carries the Secretary of State further along the path that his own opinions and inclinations induce him to follow.
I wish to mention only one other matter—timing. There is a deficiency in the clause. The clause begins with the words:At any time after proposals have been laid before Parliament".That is a mistake. It is a mistake to set up an Assembly, to invite it to put forward proposals and then to leave in 775 the Bill deliberately an indefinite gap between making the proposals and laying them before Parliament and practical action being taken.
We shall have the opportunity later of debating the advisability or otherwise of time limits. If when the right hon. Gentleman studies the words again he can find a way of showing to those concerned that this will not be an indefinite interval and that the proposals either will or will not be followed by effective action, that will be a modest but real improvement.
§ Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East)
Like other hon. Members, I believe that clause 2 is the crucial clause. The crucial element of the debate on Wednesday was when the Secretary of State said to the right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) that he was prepared to table an amendment on Report to meet the spirit of the Opposition amendment. The right hon. Gentleman said that his amendment sought to achieve the objective set out on Second Reading. The amendment sought to insert the wordswidespread acceptance throughout the community.I listened carefully to the Secretary of State's words at the beginning of today's debate. The terms "cross-community support" and "widespread acceptance throughout the community" have been used. It was, indeed, the latter term that the Secretary of State took up when he said that on Report he would table an amendment to the effect that the two Houses of Parliament would not be likely to give support to any proposal unless it had widespread acceptance throughout the community.
There is a great difference between the term "cross-community support" and the term "widespread acceptance throughout the community". There is also a distinction between widespread acceptance throughout the community and widespread acceptance in the terms that the Secretary of State later explained, which meant to him that there would have to be acceptance by both political sections of the community.
I come back to a theme that I dealt with earlier. There are two types of person in the Chamber. There are those, like myself, who genuinely want devolution and will do all within their power to make work a Bill that gives a real prospect of devolution, and there are those who are out to scuttle any hope of devolution. Those of us who want devolution and would like to look to the Bill to give us a fighting chance might have been able to say that we had that chance last Wednesday morning, but on Wednesday afternoon we could not have said that because there was no prospect of the Bill, when it became an Act, ever allowing rolling devolution to roll. The Assembly would certainly have the initial functions, which we have already indicated are important and valuable, but it would never under the terms enunciated by the Secretary of State get full devolved powers and executive functions. The reason needs to he explained for those who are not closely involved with Northern Ireland.
One would be an optimist to believe that 70 per cent. support in the Assembly would be achieved easily, but, if it were, it could be argued that there was widespread acceptance throughout the community. As the Secretary of State stated during the discussion about a referendum, it would not be necessary to have a referendum because the politicians in Northern Ireland reflected so accurately the wishes of those they represented that one could say automatically that, if 70 per cent. of the Assembly agreed 776 with a proposition, it would have the support of roughly 70 per cent. of the community. Therefore, one could argue that 70 per cent. support in the Assembly meant 70 per cent. support in the country as a whole and therefore widespread acceptance. If we could have achieved that, we could have come here and argued for further powers.
If the Secretary of State now says that we need not only general widespread acceptance but acceptance from two distinct sections of the community—those who believe that Northern Ireland should maintain its position as an integral part of the United Kingdom and those who believe that Northern Ireland should be taken out of the United Kingdom and placed under the jurisdiction of what to many of us is a foreign and hostile State—then he must know that that, if not impossible, is very close to it.
How could those two sections of the community agree on any proposal, because what they are seeking is diametrically opposite? One is seeking a type of devolution that will maintain the position of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom and at the same time allow us to have some degree of independence—I use that word in its proper context—while the other is looking for a type of devolution that will move Northern Ireland outside the United Kingdom. Therefore, it is virtually impossible to formulate a proposition that would be acceptable to both those sections of the community. The Secretary of State must face up to the fact that he will have to be candid with the Committee about what exactly he means by "widespread acceptance throughout the community".
If a proposition achieves 70 per cent. support in the Assembly and has within that 70 per cent., as it must, some Roman Catholic support—I hate to use sectarian terms but the Secretary of State forces me to do so—is the Secretary of State prepared to say that at least there is support from the two religious sections of the community? Many of us believe that, difficult though that may be, it is possible. But it is impossible to get such support from the two political sections of the community.
The Secretary of State should also deal with the aspect of the Social Democratic and Labour Party being a necessary part of the widespread acceptance or the 70 per cent. support in the Assembly. During the meeting that my colleagues and I had with him and the Earl of Gowrie it was made clear to us that the SDLP was not an essential element in the 70 per cent. The only reason that it would have been necessary to make that comment would have been if the 70 per cent. support was itself a trigger mechanism for Parliament to approve the proposal. We would not have needed the SDLP and would not have been asking whether it had to be part of the 70 per cent. if it was not essential for it to be so. The Secretary of State, in saying that the SDLP was not an essential part of the 70 per cent., indicated that the support of the Official Unionist Party, the Democratic Unionist Party and perhaps the Alliance Party and/or some independents would be sufficient because there would then be support from both sections of the religious community.
The Secretary of State must tell us whether he is now saying that we must have, if not the SDLP, which believes that Northern Ireland should no longer be part of the United Kingdom, IRA supporters like the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Carron) or the Irish Independence Party? Must we have someone of that Litter or pedigree? The Secretary of State had better make that clear to the people of Northern Ireland, because they will 777 be reluctant to permit their politicians to be part of an Assembly that has the sole purpose of attempting to achieve agreement with the like of the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone or, at best—I say that with some caution—the representatives of the SDLP.
Some of us have always argued that district councils should have additional powers only provided it was consistent with having a devolved Government and Parliament in Northern Ireland. But if under the Bill, as intimated by the Secretary of State in his intervention, the Assembly can have only the initial functions of a scrutinising, consultative or deliberative role, some hon. Members might say that it would be better for local government immediately to have additional powers because on the present basis additional powers will not come to the Assembly. The Secretary of State should be frank with the Committee so that hon. Members may know what attitude to adopt not only to the Bill but to the whole prospect of devolution for Northern Ireland.
§ 7 pm
§ Mr. James A. Dunn
May I echo the final words of the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) and beg the Secretary of State to be absolutely frank. I know that he will be, but there are several interpretations in the Committee of how the Secretary of State will draft the appropriate amendment to discharge the undertaking given to the right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon), my right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mrs. Williams) and others associated with similar drafting seeking a further protection above the 70 per cent. The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) probably put his finger on the point, although he must go much further in his elucidation, when he said that under clause 1(4)(a) 70 per cent. acceptance meant that a proposal would automatically come before the House. That is correct in the way that the Bill has been considered up to now. If there were an amendment to clause 2(2) it might well be that the further qualification which the Secretary of State gave an obligation to the House to examine and to bring back on Report would then be examined.
The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) said, as others did, that once the clause comes before the House on the basis of a 70 per cent. majority of those sitting in the Assembly at this time, and goes through this House, it will be left to the Secretary of State, when it comes back for an Order in Council, to give what he considers to be a realistic view on whether it has widespread community support.
I do not think that it is the true situation because the House would not willingly take to that happening. As I understand it, the 70 per cent. proposal would come before the House automatically and the Secretary of State would then have the responsibility of telling the House whether it had the widespread community support that might be later introduced in the Bill. If the House decides to accept the Secretary of State's recommendation on behalf of the Government, the House will determine whether an Order in Council should be made. If I am wrong, I hope that the Secretary of State will give a clear explanation because there are three distinct interpretations of clause 2, although 778 in part they are also related to clause 1(4)(a) and (b). I hope that this can be cleared up at the earliest possible opportunity.
I should like to thank the Secretary of State for adopting an unusual way of dealing with a clause during the Committee stage of a Bill taken on the Floor of the House. That has been most helpful. I know that he will try to answer in detail the questions that have been asked of him before the clause is put to the Committee.
The right hon. Gentleman can help us further. There is an element of anxiety. I do not share it but I recognise that it exists. Rather than leave it to the normal procedure of drafting amendments for Report and then putting them down about 10 days before Report, if the Secretary of State could at the earliest opportunity tell us how he intends to amend clause 2, without spelling out, chapter and verse, what will be tabled, it will be very helpful to us.
The Secretary of State has gone much further than many of his colleagues and predecessors in drafting for those of us who requested it his departmental response to the Bill, and advice on each of the amendments and the clauses. Having gone that far, this latest obstacle ought not to be insurmountable. He has engendered a lot of good will in the House, even amongst hon. Members who disagree with the intentions of the Bill. In no circumstances would anyone receive general support who criticised the way in which the Secretary of State has handled the Bill. I am sure that the compliment paid by the right hon. Member for Down, South to the Secretary of State for his presence in the Chamber for the major part of the discussion on this Bill is endorsed by us all. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Down, South would not wish me always to put a cross by what he says, but if he passes that kind of compliment the Secretary of State should take note because I have never known the right hon. Gentleman to say what he does not mean or not mean what he says.
I ask the Secretary of State to clear up this matter. Also, perhaps he will give us the benefit of knowing what advice he has received on the interpretation of "widespread community support".
§ Mr. W. Benyon
I wish to speak very briefly on clause stand part. I emphasise that it is clause stand part, and I shall not, for exactly the reasons given by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. James A. Dunn) make a Second Reading speech.
Quite obviously people have put a different interpretation on what the Secretary of State said. Am I right or not in assuming that if the proposal gets 70 per cent. support from the Assembly nothing can stop that proposal being subject to a decision of this House? I think I am right because I see my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State nodding.
I listened very carefully to the Secretary of State. What is being proposed in relation to a possible amendment to clause 2 on Report is an indication from the Secretary of State whether he considers that this matter has widespread cross-community support. I would like to ask the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) whether I am right in saying that the Secretary of State could say that this criterion was not fulfilled in relation to a proposal of the Assembly, and this House could then take a decision totally at variance with what the Secretary of State has said?
§ Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)
As I understand it, when the Secretary of State reports to the House he will 779 be reporting as a Government spokesman. I cannot accept the inference in the comment of the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon) that it will be a free vote. In other words, it will be a whipped vote and we have even seen in this debate how the Whips come in to vote out proposals that are contrary to the Government's views.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell
Suppose that there is a debate on the proposals and that does not take place on a motion to take note of the proposals but on a motion to approve. Let us suppose that the House, against the advice of the Secretary of State of the day, votes for approving the proposal. Nothing then happens unless and until the Secretary of State drafts and lays an order. A Secretary of State who said that he did not believe that the criteria were met by the proposal, whatever the House had done, could not be mandated thereupon to bring in an order.
§ Mr. Benyon
I hope that that will be cleared up when we come to the end of this debate. But I can hardly believe that a Secretary of State would disregard the express wish of the House of Commons.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
If the Secretary of State stands at the Dispatch Box and says that the 70 per cent. does not meet the criterion of the Bill—I emphasise that—and the House goes against him, how could he, as an honourable man, lay an order to do the very thing that he says is against the law of the country?
§ Mr. Budgen
My hon. Friend says that it is unthinkable that the Secretary of State should act in that way. Surely before 1969 most hon. Members would have said that it was unthinkable that a Government should vote against the recommendations of the Boundary Commission. No one can be sure how the House will vote when something is put before it.
§ Mr. Benyon
It may well be that this will be the subject of amendment at a later stage. The two Houses of Parliament should be sovereign.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will have second thoughts about including this measure. If deliberations had not been so protracted and disagreeable last week I should have risen to make that point on the previous clause. After a certain time many hon. Members lost interest. However, today's debate is much more productive.
If the Assembly gears itself up to get 70 per cent. for one particular proposal it should go forward. I hope that that aspect can be considered. However, it seems to be unnecessary because when the proposal comes before the House, Ministers will have to make their views known in the debate, and the House will take a decision accordingly. This is dotting the i's and crossing the t's to too great an extent. I hope that it will be reconsidered.
My next point is about timing and has been mentioned by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). I do not understand the wording that is used. Are there reasons why there should be more than a certain delay after the decision has been taken before it is implemented? Some more definite wording should be used.
780 I agree wholeheartedly with those hon. Members who have said that clause 2 is the core—the crux—of the Bill. Hon. Members will decide on the Bill on this clause. I hope that it will be allowed to stand part of the Bill.
§ Mr. Molyneaux
The debate leads one to conclude that it is fortunate that hon. Members have had, and look like having, a fairly extended debate. We did not cover much of the Bill in the course of the last afternoon, evening and early morning on which we considered it. We did not have anything like as wide-ranging a debate as we had, for example, on the amendments to clause 1 of the Bill. I know that many hon. Members wish to contribute and therefore I shall be brief.
In the early hours of Thursday morning I suggested that we should not proceed with clause 2 until we had had an opportunity to sound out opinion and reaction to the Secretary of State's proposals in Northern Ireland. It was not so much the content of the proposals that took many by surprise as the fact that For some unknown reasons—some of which we have now had explained to us, although that does not make them any more acceptable—instead of taking into account what was said about the Bill, on his own initiative, perhaps with a little assistance from the Opposition Front Bench in one of their rare bursts of activity, he produced an amendment that would transform completely clause 2, the Bill and attitudes to it.
I return to the point made by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisey). I am not certain that every Member of the Committee is fully seized of the importance of the impact and consequences of what has been said by the Secretary of State, and, what is more important, what has been left unsaid by him.
I promised that I would convey to the Committee the feelings that I detected in Northern Ireland over the weekend. Although the Secretary of State did not make clear what was in his mind people were greatly alarmed at what they managed to detect from various clues that he left. I can report to the Committee that reaction has been strong. There has been fierce hostility to that which is being proposed.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) quoted the words of the task force commander's signal from the South Atlantic. It brings me to the point that on the day when British arms and the bravery of British Service men have succeeded in restoring to the Falkland Islanders the right to live under a Government of their own choosing, the Government who have successfully directed that operation in the South Atlantic—all honour to them for having done so—are seeking to impose upon the unfortunate inhabitants of part of the United Kingdom a system of government that they and their elected representatives utterly repudiate and reject.
It is interesting that that hostile reaction has come most strongly from those who would have styled themselves as devolutionists—as if practically the entire people of Northern Ireland were not devolutionists in one form or another. However, to put it another way, such was the enthusiasm of those who have been most vociferous in their demands for devolution—at any rate in the early stages of this ill-fated initiative—that they perhaps overlooked the destructive nature of the requirement for cross-community consent that has featured so much in this afternoon's debate.
781 Those people can now clearly see that they have been conned—to use the word of the hon. Member for Antrim, North last Wednesday—or some might say that they have conned themselves. Whatever the case may be, the net effect has been to change the view of those self-styled devolutionists. It is interesting that they now openly declare that although the Secretary of State can, if he is sufficiently determined, and if his colleagues are sufficiently misguided to support him, establish the Assembly, they now see no prospect whatever of progressing to the second stage that, we have been reminded, is supposed to provide a devolved Government for Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Peter Robinson
I know that the hon. Gentleman does not want to misrepresent the views of my hon. Friends. Will he please qualify his remarks by making it clear to the Committee that we are saying that only on the assumption that the Secretary of State requires that widespread community acceptance should include representatives of either the IRA or the SDLP as essential?
§ Mr. Molyneaux
I was not beaming my remarks at the hon. Gentleman and his party. I was referring to that wider band of devolution enthusiasts. I am not even criticising them. I have always supported their view and they are entitled to be super-devolutionists if they wish, provided that they take account of the risks inherent in what is proposed.
I have said in this Chamber that it is the official policy of my party that, first, real control over its own affairs should be restored to Northern Ireland, and secondly, that something not very different from what was misguidedly removed in 1972 by a Conservative Government should be restored. My objection to the Bill and to the cross-community consent requirement, which surfaced in my mind as long ago as 8 March, has always been that it is quite impossible to include in the same executive body, in the same Cabinet, people who want to remain part of the United Kingdom and people who want to belong to a foreign republic. Even more important, it is not just those who as individuals might prefer those options, but it is the physical inclusion in the same decision-making body, executive or Cabinet, of those who are pro the union and those who are anti it. It simply cannot be done, and time will prove that this experiment will be no more successful than the others.
§ Mr. Winnick
When the hon. Member spoke of the decision taken in 1972, is he saying that it was wrong to do away with Stormont? Does he want it to return? If so, he would be saying that he would like the form of devolution that existed for 60 years to be resurrected. Secondly, when the hon. Gentleman talks about people in Northern Ireland who want a link with the Republic, does he now recognise that one of the two main parties here, the Labour Party, at its last conference, made it clear that it would like the reunification of Ireland—of course, by consent—and as a long-term project?
§ Mr. Molyneaux
If the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) were to read the Hansard proceedings in 1972, he would begin to wonder why I spoke against the abolition of Stormont, why I voted against its abolition, and why I have consistently said since 782 then that we are entitled to have restored to Northern Ireland the same type of democracy has existed, not just in Northern Ireland for 50 years, but in the United Kingdom for 700 years. If it is good enough for the rest of the United Kingdom, what is wrong with it for Northern Ireland?
The hon. Gentleman has tempted me into a more delicate controversy. I do not want to hurt sensitive minds. He mentioned his party's policy on a link with the Irish Republic. This is not the place for a debate on that subject. I content myself with saying that that policy is a contradiction in terms. The hon. Gentleman used the word "like". He did not say that his party would demand, but that it would like reunification. There are many things in this world that we would like but which we shall not get. His party has ensured that it will get only as far as liking, and that it will never get it, because it says, in a contradictory term, that it must come about by consent of the people of Northern Ireland. The people of Northern Ireland, whether they are Protestant or Catholic, will never consent to any such thing in his political lifetime or mine. I am sorry to have allowed myself to be diverted, but I hope that I shall be forgiven for doing so, Mr. Weatherill.
The hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) accurately expressed the frustration that has been felt by the people to whom I referred. Many of them will be driven to—and, perhaps, beyond—the point mentioned by the hon. Member for Antrim, North on 9 June, when he said that we may as well not proceed any further. In my view, many of those people in Northern Ireland and many of us in this Chamber—certainly, the majority of those of us who are present in the Chamber now—take that view.
§ Mr. Porter
In an earlier intervention I tried to obtain a specific statement from one of the hon. Gentleman's colleagues in his party. It seems to me that the decision whether one progresses from stage one to stage two lies with the Unionist parties—the DUP or the Official Unionist Party, separately or together. It is inconceivable that 70 per cent., or whatever, in the Assembly could be achieved without the Unionist parties. If those parties are saying that they cannot and will not work with those who oppose their views on the border, what is the point of proceeding? Again I ask, and I think that the Committee is entitled to know: will the Unionist Party make any effort to make this work, or not?
§ Mr. Molyneaux
The answer to that question is quite simple, if it is left to those who represent the Unionist parties. I was reprimanded on an earlier occasion about the use of the term "cobbled together". So I shall use the term coined by the hon. Member for Basildon (Mr. Proctor). If, after unseemly wheeling and dealing, we reached an agreement based on a 70 per cent. weighted majority, the answer is "Yes". We should face our responsibility, we should form a Government, and we should govern Northern Ireland as well as we did for 50, 60 or 100 years, if it makes it any more agreeable.
The trouble is that the Secretary of State says—and he repeated it in his speech today—that, just in case the Unionist Parties reach 70 per cent., he intends to impose another hurdle, and just in case they surmount that 70 per cent. hurdle, he is to set another hurdle, a second and higher hurdle, and that is cross-community consent. That means not just the consent of people by religion, not just the consent of Protestants and Catholics, but it means the 783 inclusion of the groups to which the hon. Member for Belfast, East referred a short time ago—Republicans and groups affiliated to the IRA. If that is done the answer is "No". I am not prepared to engage in any such operation.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Is it not true that neither in Stormont, nor in the Assembly, nor in the Convention, did Unionist groupings come near 70 per cent? They barely reached 60 per cent.
§ Mr. Molyneaux
That is true, and it makes it more alarming that the Secretary of State has decided to do another safety-catch operation, just in case, between us, we should attract so much support from the people of Northern Ireland that power would be delivered into our hands. The Secretary of State, and apparently the Government, are determined to prevent that, at all costs. I shall return to another aspect of that matter in a moment.
The hon. Members for Antrim, North and Belfast, East both correctly reported, as they saw it, the statement of the noble Lord, the Minister of State, that the SDLP need not be in the 70 per cent. That is correct. I have no doubt that that was said to them, and I have no doubt that it was said in good faith. They do not have to be in the 70 per cent., because as long as the Secretary of State insists on the cross-community consent requirement, the SDLP and its Republican allies clearly have to be within that. So the fact that the SDLP is not in the 70 per cent. is quite meaningless, because the second trap will ensure that no combination of Unionists will get beyond that on the route.
I want to take up something that was said, very wisely, by the hon. Member for Belfast, East. If this is the best system, and if we assume that the Secretary of State will build an amendment into clause 2 at some stage, and if it is the Government's intention to proceed, despite all that has been said in this Committee, to the 70 per cent. and the cross-community consent requirements, I agree with the hon. Member for Belfast, East that we should seriously consider, whether there is any point in going further, and whether we should not be wiser, as he suggested, to scrap for ever the whole nonsense and phoney make-believe of talking about powers of scrutiny, debate and advice that this Assembly will have. The Assembly will not go beyond that. Would it not be better to settle here and now, as he suggested, for local government, from which we could progress?
The Secretary of State said that the local government route would not lead to a solution. I have not used his precise words but that is what he meant. You, Mr. Weatherill, have listened carefully to the debates. You will have detected that no one on the Opposition Benches or, indeed, anyone on the Government side has ever suggested that local government is the solution. I have never believed that there is a single solution. We ought to be coming back to the words of the Queen's Speech at the opening of the present Session of Parliament. We should, in a sensible and progressive way, be setting about that which was promised in that Queen's Speech. We should be looking at ways and means of giving to the people of Northern Ireland more real control over their own affairs.
We are not talking about local government being an alternative in the sense that it will provide a form of high-wire act for the Secretary of State and others. It is not intended to do that. It is a necessary step. No matter what results from the debate or from the Bill, local government 784 will have to be restored even to the existing district councils. Stormont or no Stormont, Assembly or no Assembly, Executive or no Executive, that will be the case.
I cannot understand the Secretary of State's constant assertion that if we proceeded to give powers to the existing district councils progress thereafter would be more difficult. Why should that alienate the so-called minority and why should it, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested, alienate the Catholic minority? Which Catholic or Protestant will be alienated simply because the Antrim borough council decides that it will spend £12,000 on resurfacing the Ardmore road as opposed to the Crosshill road? How does a sectarian issue from that decision? Which Protestant or Catholic will be antagonised simply because John Smith will be permitted to add a working kitchen and a new bathroom to his bungalow? Why will he be antagonised if that decision is made by Antrim borough council instead of by a back-room boy in the planning office of the Department of the Environment in Ballymena? The Secretary of State has a duty to explain to the Committee the meaning of the objections that apparently have been poured into his ear by anonymous persons.
The Secretary of State has not told us which parties have been consulted. I hope that the Democratic Unionist Party will be able to declare whether it has been consulted on that point—on the nitty-gritty, nuts and bolts of restoring powers to local government—and whether it has given its assessment of what objections could arise in any such policy.
On 8 March 1982 the Secretary of State dropped a bombshell. He said to our deputation that he had now made up his mind firmly on the 70 per cent. requirement—which he had not done before—and, after a slight pause, he said there would also be cross-community consent. The Secretary of State may recall what I said after I had recovered from the shock. I asked whether he realised that he was playing with weeping gelignite. That is the only accurate description of his proposal. I sometimes wonder whether those who advise the Secretary of State are in some way deliberately setting out to torpedo the Bill in its entirety and to leave only that part that makes provision for the setting up of an Assembly. I am certain that there are those in the governmental machine who do not want the structure to proceed beyond the Assembly. I do not accuse the Secretary of State of double-dealing or of insincerity but I ask him to reconsider and to reflect on the advice that he has been given over past months and to wonder whether he has been the victim of those influences to which I have referred.
§ Mr. Peter Lloyd
The essential problem of clause 2, concerns cross-community support and what it means. There is a worrying imprecision in the idea—what my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) might call flexibility. As the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) said, it is dangerous to have similar phrases, such as "acceptable to the two communities" and "widespread acceptance throughout the community", which have different meanings.
The Union has widespread acceptance throughout the community—the border polls show it—but it certainly does not have widespread or substantial acceptance among the minority, if the minority is defined as those who are 785 not in favour of the Union. That is what the definition will be if the formula is to mean anything. The Secretary of State's definition is crucial because with the 50 per cent. plus one it will be entirely up to him. If it is 70 per cent. it will not be entirely up to him—certainly not in the debate on the proposals in the House—but it will be when it comes to the decision whether to bring forward an order to give effect to the proposals. If the minority, in that narrow and Republican sense, agrees to devolution it must be on terms of, and as a step to, a united Ireland. Why else should it agree? There is no other reason why it should agree because that is its total and long-term objective. That is not necessarily a villainous objective, nor is it necessarily wrong. It is simply very different from what the majority wants. The minority simply will not find a way of coming together with the majority on any agreed form of devolution.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has suggested several times during our debate that the form of devolution that he believes might emerge and wants to see emerge would strengthen the Union. If that is what the minority see coming from the proposals, the minority will not play. Therefore, there is a basic contradiction which cannot be overcome, especially when those who may not be so firm or clear-sighted in their Republican sentiments lay themselves open and by their readiness to consider co-operation invite pressure from their more violent colleagues. The men of violence and those who are not interested in any settlement seek the ungovernability of Northern Ireland. That is their short and medium-term objective.
Of course, even the Republican minority might co-operate with the majority on matters such as housing and other everyday, mundane matters. This has, I suspect attracted my right hon. Friend to think that there is a greater possibility for this type of co-operation within his formula than actually exists. On the contrary, the formula will ensure that it is the fundamentals upon which the community is divided that will be highlighted, and it will write into the constitution a basic contest of political will.
Of all the demerits of the formula and the procedures for achieving devolution that we have discussed, I wish to dwell on the issue that was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury and taken up by others. My hon. Friend observed that, whatever the formula and however willing the Assembly might be to operate it, it would not be able to choose executive devolution rather than legislative devolution. It would not be able to choose local government in the Great Britain sense. That option is not available under the Bill, and I am rather surprised by its absence.
According to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, the great merit of the Bill lies in its do-it-yourself constitution for the Province—in other words, let the representatives of the people in the Assembly work out their own salvation. The only proviso, which appears in the clause, is that it must be acceptable to both communities. Paragraph 5 of the introduction to the White Paper states:The Government believes that the politicians of Northern Ireland have an inescapable responsibility to work out an acceptable scheme for themselves. The Government will institute any reasonable scheme of administration which has the support of a substantial majority of the Assembly and is acceptable to both sides of the community.786 However, the do-it-yourself kit that my right hon. Friend is providing in the Bill is incomplete because local government is not a choice. It is ruled out in advance. It is a form of administration that the Assembly can decide upon, and it may be part of its proposals, but if the House of Commons were to supply it amending legislation would be necessary. Every impediment is being put in the way of a local government solution being adopted.
Why is that? Did my right hon. Friend forget it? There was no discussion of a local government approach in the White Paper. Did my right hon. Friend decide that the local government option was one that he would prefer the Assembly not to choose? I believe from what my right hon. Friend has said that he fears that all the problems of minority acceptance would be just as great as full devolution without the attractions for either community. However, bearing in mind my right hon. Friend's philosophy, which is expressed in the White Paper, his speeches and his briefings, the Bill should offer the choice of both legislative and executive devolution. That would be in line with my right hon. Friend's advocacy on the merits of the Bill. It would leave the elected representatives in Northern Ireland to make up their minds on behalf of their electorates.
I urge my right hon. Friend even now to find a way of bringing forward such an amendment in this place or in another place. I ask him to ensure that the double choice will be available. Such an undertaking would make this a better Bill and a more honest one and would facilitate its progress.
I believe that for the most prosaic but most mistaken of reasons my right hon. Friend did not take the local government option seriously. He believes that no one wants it. He may be right, but I do not think so. Of course, in the terms of his overall approach, that is not a matter for him to decide. My right hon. Friend shakes his head in disagreement. I am sure that the Committee will be grateful if he expands on the reasons why the local government approach was rejected when he replies to the debate. His philosophy indicates that it should be an option for the Assembly to adopt. If my surmise is correct, but clearly it is not judging by my right hon. Friend's reaction, my right hon. Friend was too impressed by what others said to him.
The White Paper received a universal condemnation and my right hon. Friend says that we must not take criticism too seriously. He argues that people will say one thing in the warm-up to an election but operate differently and, in his terms, more rationally afterwards. Criticism of his overall approach has come from all quarters, and, according to my right hon. Friend, that shows that his proposals are non-partisan. I am sorry that he did not show equal scepticism of the criticisms and arguments against local government, which have come from many quarters.
I agree that the argument against local government is widespread but it is not very convincing. A pamphlet was produced by the devolutionist group of the Official Unionists—"Maintaining the Union". It was sent to me to illustrate why integration, whatever that may be, is a nonstarter. I read it and it confirmed my view that the local government route has much to be said for it, even unconsciously by those who are hostile to it.
The authors of the pamphlet appear to want devolution primarily as an insurance against a Westminster sell-out. 787 I was struck particularly by the small amount of space that they gave to what they wanted to do politically in Northern Ireland. In the space that they did give to it, what did they say that they wanted to do? They say that they want to take control of housing, education and libraries. Those are the classic county council and district council services that are enjoyed on the mainland. There was no indication of how the authors would use legislative devolution and legislative powers as opposed to administrative powers in the day-to-day running of the Province.
§ Mr. Richard Body (Holland with Boston)
Does my hon. Friend agree that the opinion polls, of which we have heard so much, appear to confirm that one inference to be drawn is that what the people of Northern Ireland would wish is exactly what was set out in the pamphlet, although they may not appreciate it?
§ Mr. Lloyd
I have read the results of a great many opinion polls in Northern Ireland. They repay a careful and not a cursory study. I do not want to argue about the particular findings of particular polls. I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has a certain impatience with that practice. I understand that view and, to a large extent, I share it. Nevertheless, I shall overcome my reluctance and quote a couple of figures which I think are significant. I have not heard them mentioned in Committee. The finding of one poll was that over 90 per cent. of the members of each community, however defined—I cannot remember exactly how the pollsters defined the communities; it might have been precisely the way in which my right hon. Friend will define them or slightly differently—wanted the laws in Northern Ireland to be as close as possible to those in the rest of the United Kingdom. Now what is the point of using legislative devolution to pass the same laws that we have in Westminster? My right hon. Friend has been part of the process himself. He rightly went to the trouble of translating the Employment Act 1980 into Northern Ireland legislation.
That was very much in the spirit, as I understand it, of the devolved Stormont Assembly from 1920. Efforts were made to ensure that the Province kept, in legislative terms, roughly in parallel with the rest of the United Kingdom. There was, therefore—I believe that there still is—no pressure or desire for law that was different from that of the rest of the United Kingdom. However, there is a real hunger to run local services locally. The pressure for legislative devolution comes, in my judgment, from what I have heard in the Chamber, from what I have read and from my one and only visit to Northern Ireland, which I found illuminating in informing my opinions primarily from the Unionist fear of a sell-out. On the other hand, there is the Republican desire for power sharing, to make it possible to insist on the development of an Irish dimension that, in the longer term, will lead to an arrangement completely different from what the majority want.
There is a third element. The Secretary of State believes that he needs a constitutional construct in which he can set the two communities in a neutralising equipoise. The trick, if he brings it off, will be like riding a bicycle with a stick with an egg on the end of it balanced on one's nose. It is very clever. It might be done for a time, but a loud noise or a sudden alarm would bring the whole thing down. While one is waiting for it to come down, there is the tension and instability that that prospect must create.
788 As legislative devolution is remote as a durable arrangement but the desire for executive devolution is real though unacknowledged for a variety of reasons, the local government option that is excluded by the Bill is the only one capable of bringing the reality of power to the Assembly.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman, who has learnt a great deal in taking an interest in Northern Ireland, will allow me to add another element to his picture of the curious sources of desire for legislative devolution. Anyone who has watched Northern Ireland legislation being passed through the House during the past eight years must have been staggered that the Government machine was prepared to tolerate, at great effort and with loss to the integrity of the debate, so unnecessary a waste of the time of the House as this mechanism for duplicating the law of Great Britain in Northern Ireland.
It would not be long before the hon. Gentleman realised that inside the machinery of government in the Northern Ireland Office there was a cell that was absolutely determined that, whatever else happened, the law for Northern Ireland should be kept separate from that of the rest of the United Kingdom. That was the reason that was disclosed in the document that was read by the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) in a previous debate. I apologise to the hon. Gentleman for interrupting him or adding to his picture.
§ Mr. Lloyd
If that is regarded as being in any way offensive, of course I withdraw it, but I do not think it is, because there is nothing dishonourable in believing that the future of Northern Ireland is best concerned with a united Ireland. We know that some hon. Members hold that view. It is to be expected. However, that proposition and its implications should be recognised and debated fully in the House.
§ Mr. Lloyd
We are beginning to develop an argument that I do not wish to pursue. I do not see why an official should make his views publicly known. His arguments are properly presented to his Ministers and they properly draw from them those conclusions that they believe are right. I see nothing reprehensible in a variety of views, including those which look to eventual reunification of Ireland, being held in the Department.
I am sure that the 70 per cent. and the 50 per cent. plus one formula will prove unworkable. We are therefore driven back to the local government solution. An active Secretary of State, such as my right hon. Friend, who is determined to use his powers, is all that is needed. Perhaps he should be backed by a bill of rights and an ombudsman to ensure that there is no discrimination. I understand from what he has said that my right hon. Friend accepts that as well. Nevertheless, I am sure that he regards that as an altogether too glib a solution to the problem as he sees it. It might prevent discrimination, but neither of us believes that it will be sufficient to reconcile the minority and to 789 bring two communities into partnership. In that sense, there is no solution in the short or the medium term—and who knows about the long term?
The error of the Bill and this clause, and, with respect, of my right hon. Friend, is the belief that it is possible to bring together deliberately, in one go, in the full glare of publicity and with an election at the end of it, two political antitheses. It is the completeness of the ambition of the Bill to bring the two communities together wherein lies its inevitable destruction. The way forward—there is one, rather than a solution—must be quietly and by keeping away from any grand gestures.
Anything that smacks of solutions in the sense that I have described must be doomed. I do not suggest, nor do I believe, that other hon. Members who pursue the same line envisage a solution in that complete sense. Certainly I envisage it as strengthening local government in Northern Ireland by degrees—first a lower tier and then perhaps an upper one. I see that not as a way of solving the majority-minority problem, which is currently insoluble, but of making administrative sense of Northern Ireland, of lightening the burden on Ministers and of passing back some of the responsibility for local services in Northern Ireland to local people. The House should concentrate on improving the supervision of councils and scrutinising legislation, not because it is the way to bring the two communities together, but because they are improvements to the form of government that we necessarily have and must have. That indirect way will not bring together the divided community, but I suspect that the way that my right hon. Friend has chosen will deepen it. If local government law works out in the way in which I, some of my hon. Friends and, I suspect, my right hon. Friend believe that it can it will ameliorate the problems of community divide that are now insoluble.
§ Mr. Prior
I have already made one long speech on the clause. It will be for the convenience of the Committee if I reply briefly and take up several of the important points that have been raised.
I shall deal immediately with a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson). He said that the Bill, especially this clause, was intended to give Northern Ireland politicians an opportunity to play a more responsible part. Despite some of what has been said, I still believe that that is precisely that the Bill tries to and can do. No one doubts that that is necessary. No one doubts that there is and has been for several years, a political vacuum in Northern Ireland that is growing and having a deleterious effect on the life of the community, whether it be from a security point of view, an economic point of view, or the lack of new political faces coming forward to be willing to play a part in the life of the Province. I strongly hold that view. I believe that it has much support across the community in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Prior
No, I have already spoken at great length and it will be for the convenience of the Committee for me to be brief. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury that the flexibility that is written into the Bill is helpful. That is well illustrated by the discussion that we have had on the clause today.
We begin with the proposition that any form of government in Northern Ireland must enjoy support from 790 both traditions in sufficient measure to have stability and to help solve the security, economic and political problems.
The hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) believes in devolved government. He wants the old Stormont back and, indeed, never wanted to get rid of it. I believe that that view is completely unacceptable to almost every right hon. and hon. Member, for the reasons given by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). The right hon. Gentleman does not believe that it is possible to have a straight majority rule Government in the circumstances of Northern Ireland, so he backs integration. That is the logic of the right hon. Gentleman's position. Thus, the hon. Member for Antrim, South and the right hon. Member for Down, South both argue against the Bill, but for entirely different reasons. Both dislike the Bill, but their reasons are different. The hon. Member for Antrim, South dislikes it because it is a form of devolved government that implies that both traditions must at least be recognised, while the right hon. Member for Down, South says that that is all nonsense because it can never be done that way so we must go for integration.
§ 8 pm
§ Mr. Molyneaux
My case against the Bill is that, whatever else it may provide, it does not provide devolved government. No one has yet been able to show how this weird scheme will ever progress beyond the first stage. I pay tribute to the Secretary of State for listening patiently to the whole of this debate, as he listened to the other debates. He must by now have reached the conclusion that although he may succeed in establishing an Assembly, neither he nor any successor of his will ever get beyond that. Therefore, the Bill cannot provide devolved government, which is the aim of my party.
§ Mr. Prior
Here again, we differ. That is a counsel of despair and defeat. It is tantamount to saying that the people of Northern Ireland, for whom I have the greatest respect and admiration, are not capable of seeking to reach agreement on these issues. Given the economic, political and security circumstances of Northern Ireland, I simply do not believe that that view can long prevail.
Even if the hon. Gentleman is right, however, the Bill at least has the merit that it does not force the people of Northern Ireland to have devolved government. They can have their Assembly, their scrutinising powers and their committee system, which I believe is very important, and go no futher than that. Only if they want devolved powers they make the leap to seek some agreement between the traditions and to move forward as a result of that.
That support is expressed in the Bill, as it must be, in the phrase:widespread support throughout the community".Deciding whether that criterion has been satisfied is not just a mathematical calculation but an assessment whether, on the balance of evidence, the proposals have enough support to be successful. In many ways, it would be more clear cut if there were some automatic standard by which that assessment could be made. However, our objective is not tidiness but peace and a better opportunity for all the people to share. Therefore, it is more important to secure the correct mix of support than to adhere to any predetermined formula.
791 That clearly presents difficulties. How can we establish a sensitive and realistic appraisal of the degree of support throughout the community without leaving the decision to the whim of the Secretary of State?
The Bill seeks to provide a double answer. First, it says that the scheme must be worked out by the Northern Ireland politicians in their Assembly. It is up to them. If they do not make a proposal or if they cannot agree among themselves, there will be no progress towards devolved government. The Bill does not specify any particular form of devolved government, any combination of parties or any particular membership of an Executive. It leaves the parties in the Assembly to find that for themselves.
Secondly, if an assessment is to be made as to whether there is the degree of support that we define aswidespread support throughout the community",we believe that that assessment should be made in this House. The House has complete discretion to decide whether it is prepared to grant devolved powers on the basis of a particular scheme devised by Northern Ireland politicians. Incidentally, I should say to my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon) that if the House voted down the advice of the Secretary of State, presumably speaking on behalf of the Government, although there is nothing on the face of the Bill to say that the Secretary of State would have to take further action, it is inconceivable that the matter should be left there. It could not be left there. Indeed, the House would not be content to leave it there. After all, we are dealing with a very important part of the United Kingdom which has suffered enormously in the past few years. The House could not simply vote for things or throw them out and leave the matter there. If anything of that nature occurred, it would have to be given further consideration by the House. It would not be within the general purposes, democracy or understanding of the House if that were not so.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
The clause under discussion begins:At any time after proposals have been laid before Parliament under section 1 above Her Majesty may by Order".That really means the Secretary of State, of course, but no time limit is laid down.
§ Mr. Prior
I shall come to that point, which was also made by the right hon. Member for Down, South.
The Secretary of State's role in this is to act as a filter and adviser. If there is not 70 per cent. support, he need not lay the proposal before the House. If there is, he cannot deny the Assembly access to the House. In every case, of course, he will advise the House whether in his opinion the proposals might work and whether they have the necessary support to bring stability. The House would also no doubt be advised by others and would then make up its mind.
The right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) asked whether I could strengthen the obligation upon the Secretary of State to satisfy himself before bringing an order that the proposals hadwidespread support throughout the communityalong the lines that the White Paper clearly stipulated. Although implicit in paragraphs (a) and (b) but particularly 792 paragraph (b), of clause 1(4), that is not stipulated in the order—making power in clause 2, so there is no specific reference to this point in clause 2.
As I have said, I wish to consider that point again as it is a difficult one. If there is a means of ensuring that the clear purposes that have always been set out by the Government as applying to clause 1(4)(a) are stipulated also in the order—making process under clause 2, I will certainly seek to do that. That also deals with the point raised by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond).
The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) and the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) referred to the first three words of the clause—"at any time". We considered those words carefully when going through the Bill. It is possible that, although the House might want to give general approval to devolution of powers under clause 1(4)(a) or (b), there might be some matters that require further consideration. The House might ask the Government. or the Secretary of State to reconsider one or two matters. We therefore thought it right to allow time for the proposals to be laid before Parliament.
Clearly there must not be an indefinite time. It should be a few months, if necessary. If the Assembly put forward proposals and the House decided, in principle, to accept them subject, perhaps, to some minor changes, it would be to the great advantage of the Secretary of State and the House not to have a long interlude and not to waste much time. Otherwise people in Northern Ireland, having geared themselves up, would rightly be impatient with the operations of the House. That is why we used the words "at any time".
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman can consider an alternative formulation which would not leave the clause open to the interpretation that he himself repudiated—perhaps an expression such as "as soon as convenient". To the ordinary reader the words "at any time" imply an indefinite time. I was surprised that the right hon. Gentleman suggested a period as short as two months as his assessment of what would be the practice envisaged.
§ Mr. Prior
A practical difficulty has been raised by some hon. Members. It might be necessary to split a Department by Order in Council under existing powers before a devolution order was made. If so, that would take some time to happen. However, I shall consider the right hon. Gentleman's request and without giving any commitment, I shall see whether a better form of words can be found.
Some of my hon. Friends referred to local government. I have a great deal of sympathy with their general point. However, I should like them to have some sympathy for me. I have been trying not only to get the community to work together but to support, above all, the forces of law and order. I do not want to take any action that would make that more difficult. By going down the local government route now we would be alienating a number of people or a part of the community that we need to get and keep on our side if security is to improve. There are too many regrettable instances where that is still not the case.
§ Rev. Martin Smyth
Will the Secretary of State spell out two aspects? It has been regularly said that the Bill will lead to greater stability, security and economic progress. 793 At no time have the Government spelt out how that will happen in the next 18 months, and that is what we are anxious about.
§ Mr. Prior
We are not referring to only the next 18 months. We must take a long-term view of the problems of Northern Ireland. I am taking a long-term view and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will, too. Paragraph 3 of the introduction to the White Paper states:Political stability, economic recovery and the defeat of terrorism go hand in hand. Political instability discourages the domestic and international investment so vitally needed to create confidence, prosperity and jobs.In my task of seeking to increase prosperity—
§ Mr. Gorst
On a point of order, Mr. Weatherill. We have had two extremely helpful speeches by the Secretary of State. We have had enormously interesting and valuable speeches from both sides of the House and from several different parties. But in his last useful remarks the Secretary of State made a number of points that I know that other Members of the Committee would like to examine further. As I see that there is a possibility that the Patronage Secretary may think otherwise—
§ The Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)
It is not nearly as hypothetical as it was the other evening.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr.Michael Jopling)
rose in his place and claimed to move, That the question be now put.
§ Question put, That the question be now put:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 157, Noes 29.794
|Division No. 206]||[8.18 pm|
|Alexander, Richard||Cadbury, Jocelyn|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Campbell-Savours, Dale|
|Alton, David||Carlisle, John (LutonWest)|
|Arnold, Tom||Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n)|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Cartwright, John|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (S'thorne)||Chalker, Mrs, Lynda|
|Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)||Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Chapman, Sydney|
|Benyon, W. (Buckingham)||Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n)|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Cockeram, Eric|
|Best, Keith||Colvin, Michael|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Cope, John|
|Blackburn, John||Crawshaw, Richard|
|Bonsor, SirNicholas||Critchley, Julian|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Dorrell,Stephen|
|Bowden,Andrew||Dunn, James A.|
|Boyson,Dr Rhodes||Dunn, Robert (Dartford)|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Field,Frank|
|Bruce-Gardyne,John||Fookes, Miss Janet|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Fowler, Rt Hon Norman|
|Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)||Percival,Sir lan|
|Garel-Jones,Tristan||Prior, Rt Hon James|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Rathbone,Tim|
|Greenway, Harry||RhodesJames, Robert|
|Griffiths, E.(B'ySt. Edm'ds)||RhysWilliams,SirBrandon|
|Grimond, RtHon J.||Ridsdale,SirJulian|
|Hannam,John||Rodgers, Rt Hon William|
|Hayhoe, Barney||Rossi, Hugh|
|Hogg,HonDouglas(Gr'th'm)||Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R.|
|Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Hurd,Rt Hon Douglas||Shelton,William(Streatham)|
|Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||Shepherd,Colin(Hereford)|
|Lang, Ian||Sims, Roger|
|Lee, John||Speed, Keith|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Lloyd, lan (Havant &W'loo)||Squire,Robin|
|Loveridge,John||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Lyell,Nicholas||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradf'd W)||StradlingThomas,J.|
|Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Marland,Paul||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Mather,Carol||Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)|
|Mawby, Ray||vanStraubenzee,Sir W.|
|Mellor,David||Wainwright,R. (Colne V)|
|Mills, Peter (West Devon)||Waller, Gary|
|Onslow,Cranley||Young, Sir George (Action)|
|Page, Richard (SW Herts)|
|Parris, Matthew||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Patten,John (Oxford)||Mr, David Hunt and|
|Pattie,Geoffrey||Mr, Archie Hamilton.|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||McCusker,H.|
|Body,Richard||Morris, M. (N'hampton S)|
|Brown,Michael(Brigg&Sc'n)||Paisley, Rev Ian|
|Budgen,Nick||Powell,Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)|
|Cranborne,Viscount||Robinson, P. (Belfast E)|
|Dunlop,John||Smyth, Rev. W. M. (Belfast S)|
|Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh||Walker, B. (Perth)|
|Gorst,John||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Kilfedder,James A.||Mr. Christopher Murphy and|
|Lawrence,lvan||Mr. William Ross.|
|Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.795
§ Question put accordingly, That the clause stand part of the Bill:—
§ The committee divided: Ayes 146, Noes 29.796
|Division No. 207]||[8.30 pm|
|Alexander, Richard||Lyell, Nicholas|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Lyons, Edward (Bradf'd W)|
|Alton, David||Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson|
|Arnold, Tom||McNally, Thomas|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Marland, Paul|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H.(S'thorne)||Marlow, Antony|
|Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)||Mates, Michael|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Mather, Carol|
|Benyon, W. (Buckingham)||Mawby, Ray|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Mawhinney, Dr Brian|
|Best, Keith||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Mayhew, Patrick|
|Blackburn, John||Mellor, David|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Mills, lain (Meriden)|
|Bowden, Andrew||Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes||Moate, Roger|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Bright, Graham||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Needham, Richard|
|Bruce-Gardyne, John||Newton, Tony|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Onslow, Cranley|
|Butcher, John||Page, Richard (SW Herts)|
|Cadbury, Jocelyn||Parris, Matthew|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Patten, John (Oxford)|
|Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n)||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Cartwright, John||Penhaligon, David|
|Chalker, Mrs. Lynda||Percival, Sir Ian|
|Channon, Rt. Hon. Paul||Prior, Rt Hon James|
|Chapman, Sydney||Rathbone, Tim|
|Cockeram, Eric||Renton, Tim|
|Colvin, Michael||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Cope, John||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|Critchley, Julian||Ridsdale, Sir Julian|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Roper, John|
|Dunn, James A.||Rossi, Hugh|
|Dunn, Robert (Dartford)||Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R|
|Eggar, Tim||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Elliott, Sir William||Sandelson, Neville|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Norman||Scott, Nicholas|
|Freud, Clement||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Silvester, Fred|
|Greenway, Harry||Sims, Roger|
|Griffiths, E.(B'y St. Edm'ds)||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Griffiths, Peter Portsm'th N)||Speed, Keith|
|Grimond, Rt Hon J.||Speller, Tony|
|Gummer, John Selwyn||Spence, John|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Hawksley, Warren||Squire, Robin|
|Hayhoe, Barney||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Henderson, Barry||Stevens, Martin|
|Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Holland, Philip (Carlton)||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Hooson, Tom||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Horam, John||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Thompson, Donald|
|Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas||Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)|
|Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||van Straubenzee, Sir W.|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Lang, Ian||Waddington, David|
|Lee, John||Wainwright, R.(Colne V)|
|Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Wakeham, John|
|Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Waller, Gary|
|Lloyd, lan (Havant & W'loo)||Warren, Kenneth|
|Loveridge, John||Wellbeloved, James|
|Wells, Bowen||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Wickenden, Keith||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Wigley, Dafydd||Mr. David Hunt and|
|Wolfson, Mark||Mr. Archie Hamilton.|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||McCusker, H.|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||McQuade, John|
|Body, Richard||Molyneaux, James|
|Brown, Michael(Brigg & Sc'n)||Morgan, Geraint|
|Budgen, Nick||Morris, M. (N'hampton S)|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Paisley, Rev Ian|
|Cryer, Bob||Powell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)|
|Dunlop, John||Robinson, P. (Belfast E)|
|Farr, John||Skinner, Dennis|
|Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh||Smyth, Rev. W. M. (Belfast S)|
|Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Goodhart, Sir Philip||Walker, B. (Perth)|
|Kilfedder, James A.||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Latham, Michael||Mr. Christopher Murphy and|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Mr. William Ross.|
|Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)|
§ Question accordingly agreed to
§ Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.