§ [Second Day]
§ Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question—[26 November]:
§ That this House approves the Anglo-Irish Agreement (Cmnd. 9657) signed on 15th November by the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach, Dr. Garret FitzGerald.—[The Prime Minister.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ Mr. Speaker
Before I call the Secretary of State, may I draw the attention of the House to the fact that I have a long list of right hon. and hon. Members who wish to take part in the second day of this important debate? We had a number of very long speeches yesterday. I hope that it will be possible to call more hon. Members today.
§ The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Tom King)
As we embark on the second day of the debate, the House will have been struck by the different views on the agreement that are held in different quarters which were expressed on the first day. It is fair to say that it has been generally welcomed in Great Britain and also by the minority community in Northern Ireland. That welcome has been echoed more widely in the United States, among our partners' in the EC and in the Commonwealth. It is seen by the majority, I believe, as a constructive if limited change to try to alleviate the age-old problems of polarisation and to contribute to reconciliation in Northern Ireland, thus making a real advance in the fight against terrorism. But against that favourable view, broadly reflected in this House, we have seen the strong, indeed passionate, opposition of the Unionist representatives in this House. While I have to say that I think that they have seriously exaggerated the effect and scale of this agreement, I accept that there are serious worries and fears among their constituents. It is precisely those that I wish to address.
First, however, I should like to say something on one criticism that I understand. Negotiations between sovereign Governments need confidentiality. In consequence, we were not able to take people in Northern Ireland into full consultation before the agreement was reached in the way that we would normally wish. That was simply not possible in such negotiations, and I fully understand and sympathise with the frustration that this caused. It has undoubtedly caused resentment and that has not helped the consideration of the agreement itself, an agreement that I believe can offer real benefits to unionist as well as nationalist communities.
§ Mr. King
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to make a little progress with my speech.
A number of fears have been raised about this agreement and I said that I should like to address them. The first fear is that this agreement is the beginning of some slippery slope to a united Ireland. In fact, the truth is precisely the opposite. In the first article of the agreement the Irish Government join us in affirming, in what we hope will be a binding international agreement, 885 if the House approves it, that any change in the status of Northern Ireland would come about only with the consent of a majority of the people in the Province. What is more, they have also recognised that the present wish of the majority in Northern Ireland is for no change in its British status.
The British Government have always made it clear that the status of Northern Ireland would not be changed without the consent of a majority in the Province.
§ Mr. King
I will in a moment. The unionists have often pointed out, however, with justice, that there is no binding international commitment to their rights on the part of the Republic. In this agreement the Republic accepts that commitment as well. As Dr. FitzGerald, the Taoiseach, said:It is a commitment that this state will not be a party to any attempt to constrain the people of Northern Ireland, against the will of a majority for any change in the status of Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Marlow
The Government's commitment that Northern Ireland will not become part of the Irish Republic unless a majority of the people wish it is well known and has been stated for a long time. What, however, is the Government's view? Do they wish Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom? Do they care whether Northern Ireland remains a part of the United Kingdom? Do not the Government mind at all? What is their view? Surely the Government care for their citizens.
§ Mr. King
Of course. That is why we insisted on article 1, which commits the Republic of Ireland to this position. The Government's view is precisely that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and that the rights of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland must be respected. We fully support and endorse that. On behalf of the Government, I want to make that absolutely clear. May I also make it absolutely clear that the Government wish Northern Ireland to be a part of the United Kingdom.
§ Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)
If the British Government want Northern Ireland to be a part of the United Kingdom, why have they committed themselves in article 1(c) to taking Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom?
§ Mr. King
The legitimacy of the unionist position, which we fully support, rests upon a democratic, majority vote. That is enshrined in legislation. Consequently, we fully support the view that Northern Ireland should be part of the United Kingdom. If, however, the majority view were to change, the House would have to recognise that fact.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
The first point that the right hon. Gentleman made was important for the people of Northern Ireland. Does he think that it was right and proper for the 886 Dublin Government to confer with the SDLP whose spokesman said on television that his party leader and party members were informed at every stage about how the negotiations were going? Will he condemn that action by the Dublin Government?
§ Mr. King
The fear of a united Ireland has bedevilled life in the Province for far too long. Everyone knows in his heart that it could never happen without consent. Dr. FitzGerald said in the Dail:I believe that no sane person would wish to attempt to change the status of Northern Ireland without the consent of a majority of its people.That is the reality. It is recognised in the agreement. Unionists now have that reality recognised. I believe that the agreement provides the bulwark that they have always sought.
I hope that that message will be understood by unionists in Northern Ireland. It puts into perspective the other parts of the agreement. In particular, it puts into perspective the new Intergovernmental Conference about which so many misleading stories have been told.
The thinking behind the conference is simple and clear. The facts, as the House knows, on Northern Ireland are that there is a substantial majority which is and sees itself as British and which has every intention of remaining British and of being part of the United Kingdom. We must recognise that there is a minority which believes itself to be Irish and which does not identify with the United Kingdom. That is the reality. We may regret it, but we know that that is the position. Our aim has always been to build greater trust and co-operation between the communities. It is now vital to find a way of reconciling the minority to the institutions and administration of the Province. That is the key role of the conference.
Some people reacted to the announcement of the Intergovernmental Conference as though the Republic of Ireland never made any representations about matters in Northern Ireland. Everyone is familiar with the fact that it has been its regular practice to make representations on a full range of matters. There is no secret about that. The effect of the conference is to formalise that and to use it to strengthen and improve the government of Northern Ireland by giving our consultations a wider dimension. At the same time, we hope to use it to improve co-operation between our two Governments on matters of mutual interest, most notably security. That is all.
I wish to make the following points clear. There is no secret agenda or hidden purpose. The conference will not be an executive body. It will be serviced by a small secretariat. Rumours have been spread about that the secretariat would be a large independent body and would become some kind of complaints commission. None of that is correct. It will be a small secretariat which exists only to service the conference and to prepare agendas and papers.
887 The conference will have no decision-making powers. Those will remain firmly where they are now—with British Ministers responsible to Parliament—and, as article 2 of the agreement explicitly states, there will be no derogation of sovreignty in either country. We believe that the conference will be a limited though, we hope, effective device to help us improve our administration of Northern Ireland in the interests of all its people.
There have been complaints. One complaint about the original announcement in the agreement is that the agreement deals only with ways for the minority to express its views and makes no mention of the majority. The majority, because it is a majority, already has channels established for putting forward its views. Indeed, as I look around, I see that 15 of the 17 Members of this House are able to use those channels. They are also a majority in the Northern Ireland Assembly and in most of the councils in the Province.
Nothing in the agreement will hinder or supplant these bodies. We shall continue to listen closely and attentively to them, to take their views into account and to try, wherever possible, to accommodate them. The purpose of the conference is to assure the minority that its views will be heard more effectively. But in no sense is it intended to stifle or supersede the views of the majority, which obviously must be respected.
§ Sir Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
I support what my right hon. Friend and the Prime Minister are seeking to do and wish them to succeed. Can my right hon. Friend say that no attempt will be made politically by the conference to lean on the Royal Ulster Constabulary in respect of its administration of the law? He will know that in southern Ireland the Commissioner of Police is subject to a political instruction. That is not the case in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. King
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will permit me to make progress.
I want to deal with the fear that the conference proceedings will be secret or will be hidden from the unionists. That is unfounded as well. The Government fully recognise the need for the people of the Province to be informed about meetings of the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference. Moreover, the Government recognise the need to devise means to keep the House informed of proceedings, and we shall welcome discussions through the usual channels on how that can best be achieved.
Nor do we believe that the agreement will in any sense hinder devolution. Indeed, the Irish Government have specifically committed themselves in the agreement to support that policy, and any matters that have devolved will automatically pass out of the scrutiny of the conference.
§ Mr. King
I will give way to the right hon. Gentleman shortly.
I also note the comment made yesterday in the House by the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume): 888The agreement means that I am prepared to sit down now and determine how we shall administer the affairs of Northern Ireland in a manner that is acceptable to both tradirions."—[Official Report, 26 November 1985; Vol. 87, c. 786]I say directly to the hon. Gentleman that there is now a clear responsibility on him and his colleagues to do all they can to honour that pledge. Likewise, I hope that the unionists will recognise that the agreement can offer real prospects for devolution.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell
The Secretary of State said that the Government would consider methods of keeping this House and others informed of the work of the conference. How does he reconcile that with the statement in the communiqué:The two Governments envisage that the meetings and agenda of the Conference will not normally be announced"?If the meetings and the agenda are not made known, what can be?
§ Mr. King
It will be the proceedings and the matters that have been discussed. It is a question whether announcements are made after the conference is held. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the communiqué sets out the agenda for the first meeting, although that would not normally be announced. It does not deal with the proceedings after that. I hope that the whole House will agree that it is important that there should be as much disclosure as possible, as secrecy would be extremely damaging and would be exploited by those who did not want progress and reconciliation. I hope that the House welcomes my announcement.
It is the Government's objective that the agreement will, in time, help to isolate the men of violence. In the meantime, it will certainly help us to pursue more vigorously the attack against terrorism. Article 9 is most important in that respect because it is devoted to ways in which cross-border security can be improved and to ways of improving intelligence, training and co-operation between the two police forces. Indeed, I understand that the Chief Constable of the RUC and the Commissioner of the Garda are making arrangements to meet in the near future. We are determined to improve and enhance in every way possible cross-border co-operation to defeat terrorism.
The Irish Government have announced their intention to accede to the European convention on the suppression of terrorism, which will make it much easier to extradite terrorist suspects from the South. They have also undertaken to help us to devise a programme to improve relations between the nationalist community and the security forces.
Many people refuse to believe that the Republic really will work more closely with us on security. Anyone who recalls the recent prison escape attempt in the South and the names of some of those detained in that prison will recognise that as a clear reminder of the threat that the IRA represents to the Government of the South as much as to our Government. I do not think that any hon. Member, on either side of the House, need doubt our real determination to defeat the IRA and the men of violence. But nor do I doubt the Irish Government's good faith in that matter. I believe that increased co-operation with them will yield to both sides real benefits in security.
§ Mr. Stanbrook
My right hon. Friend referred to the possibility of the Irish Government acceding to the European convention on the suppression of terrorism for 889 the purpose of extradition. However, previously the Republic has claimed that it is impossible to do that because its constitution prevents it from making any such arrangement. Have the Government suddenly overcome their legal scruples, or is the Republic really bound by the agreement, even though it is only between two Governments?
§ Mr. King
I am not familiar with the point raised by my hon. Friend. I have accepted in good faith the Irish Government's important statement, and I hope that my hon. Friend will not seek to undermine it. I am sure that the whole House realises the benefit that it will bring.
I am amazed by hon. Members who appear determined to decry every element in the agreement. There would be more credibility in the opposition of some hon. Members if they accompanied their criticisms and genuine fears—which this House respects—with a recognition of the achievements represented in the agreement. I find it very depressing to listen to some hon. Members. I started my remarks by accepting that there are real fears. My goodness, I know that as well as any hon. Member. There are genuine concerns about the agreement among many decent moderate unionists in Northern Ireland. I quite accept that. But I am entitled to expect real achievements and improvements to be accepted in the right spirit.
§ Mr. King
I do not underestimate the fears and worries with which many in the unionist community have received this agreement, but I have tried to show that those fears are seriously exaggerated and misplaced. This agreement offers the prospect of better security and of a return to greater stability and prosperity for them and their children. At the same time, I firmly believe that it buttresses, rather than undermines, their constitutional position.
It is, therefore, with great regret that I hear pledges by Unionist Members in the House, and other unionists, to withdraw co-operation from the Government. I regret the loss of their co-operation, and I regret that I will not have the benefit, I understand, of their views and advice on all the many wide-ranging problems involving Northern Ireland. But, of course, I accept that that is their right, and I respect, as I hope the House does, their decision to opt for the constitutional path of opposition.
I hope that in the coming months all people in the Province will spurn violence or unconstitutional methods, and that, if this agreement is approved tonight by Parliament, that decision will be respected. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, and it is right that this matter should be determined by the Parliament of the United Kingom.
§ Mr. King
If the House decides tonight to endorse the agreement, the Government will, of course, implement its decision. When we do so, we will listen carefully to what all parties in the Province tell us: to what the Assembly tells us, to what local councillors tell us, to what the 890 constitutional nationalists tell us, and now to what the Intergovernmental Conference tells us. We will endeavour to act, in the light of their advice, in a constructive way that will benefit all the people of Northern Ireland.
Of course, no single agreement can solve all the problems of Northern Ireland, but our hope is that this agreement will provide a basis on which to build a better future for the Province—a basis on which we can build greater co-operation and trust between the two communities, and between the United Kingdom and the Republic as well.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Mr. Prior) said yesterday, we cannot go on as we are. We must break out of the stalemate of increasing polarisation and the sickening background of terrorism. Those who say no—
§ Mr. King
Those who will allow no change are saying that the Province can never break out of its cycle of division and despair.
We must give hope, and I believe that tonight the House can give that hope. To those who have made clear their fears, I say, "Give this agreement a chance. Do not prejudge it before you have seen how it works in practice. Because if it can be made to work, all the people of Northern Ireland will be the gainers, and only the terrorists will lose."
That is the ultimate aim of this agreement—an end to terrorism and a return to normality. It is something that the overwhelming majority of people in Northern Ireland crave for, and something that all of us should work for on their behalf.
I commend the agreement to the House.
§ 4.4 pm
§ Mr. Peter Archer (Warley, West)
Whatever else has been achieved by the events of the last fortnight, it is refreshing and encouraging to see a debate on Northern Ireland so well attended, and to see events in Northern Ireland so widely discussed on this side of the water. It is true that a consensus among the people of Northern Ireland can be achieved only in Northern Ireland and that reconciliation can take place only between those who are divided. But in the past, part of the problem has been the feeling that no one outside Northern Ireland cared about what happened there, that tragic divisions were seen, outside Northern Ireland, simply as a problem of security and that policy consisted of a reaction to successive crises.
I was a little troubled, because I thought that the Secretary of State twice gave the impression that the agreement was simply a reaction to violence. I hope that that was unintentional, and I see from his expression that it was. But now the people of Britain are paying attention. There is an opportunity for the respective groupings to explain their case. Whatever other divisions we may have, I believe that all the people of Britain begin from one common premise. During the past fortnight, people who are not politicians and whose conversations with me are usually on different topics have come to see me and have expressed a concern for Northern Ireland. They may not understand the details of Irish politics, they may not be familiar with the events of Irish history, which the children of Northern Ireland learn at their mother's knee, and they may not understand the conflicting aspirations, but they all know that the people of Northern Ireland have suffered too 891 much. They want to see them enjoy peace, and security and prosperity. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) said yesterday, they do not see Northern Ireland as a normal part of the United Kingdom. But that does not mean that they are indifferent.
So when the respective spokesmen state their cases, the people of Britain are listening. We have been repeatedly told of the unionist people's determination to have no part in these proposals. I do not doubt the strength of their feeling about that. If I had not grasped the strength of that feeling before last week, it certainly became apparent when my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell) and I visited Northern Ireland and talked to people about it.
I readily confess that the calm exposition and the logical analysis that are part of the function of the House scarcely belong in the same world as that of the bewildered and anguished people we met over there. But we also met many unionists who were troubled that they had had a bad press on this side of the water. They were aware that they had lost sympathy among the people of Great Britain, and they knew why.
First, those people knew that they had not been well served by the immoderate language employed by some of their spokesmen. I do not include in that the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson), who spoke with such passion in yesterday's debate. He is not the most vitriolic and uncompromising of Unionist representatives—[Interruption.] That was intended as a compliment. But I sense that the hon. Gentleman's contribution to this debate did not persuade the House. No one would doubt his sincerity or the clarity of what he had to say, but I hope I may say without any discourtesy that what was less in evidence was an ability to persuade people who did not already agree with him.
Secondly, it emerged more than once from yesterday's debate that people on this side of the water perceived an inconsistency between a repeated commitment to the Union and a declared intention to frustrate the will of Parliament. In the past fortnight there have been examples of actions which were positively outside the law, and that is not seen as consistent with the repeated denunciations that we have heard of those who seek political ends by unconstitutional means, or with the demands that we have so often heard from the Unionist Benches for more vigorous law enforcement.
I pay tribute to what was said on Saturday and again yesterday by the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) in making clear his opposition to violence. If his speech yesterday was, as he said, his last in the House, I should like to seize this opportunity of saying that I have valued his co-operation and personal friendship. We have all been reluctant in this debate to offer personal testimonials in case the recipient should find them embarrassing, but I would be churlish if I did not place that one on the record.
I have described some of the reasons why the unionist people are right to feel that they have lost some sympathy with the British public. I can understand why that has happened. Sometimes the feeling of insecurity leads to actions which increase the insecurity. The future of the unionist people is in danger most if they lose the sympathy of the British people.
Yesterday the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) said that our past actions had brought us to where we are. The blame does not lie in any one quarter. In the history of 892 Ireland, people on both sides of the divide have acted as I might have acted in their place. One tragedy leads to the next, with the grim inevitability of a Shakespearean plot.
One of the reasons for that insecurity is the feeling that British proposals cannot always be taken at their face value, and that suggestions which on the surface are unexciting will be used to lead the people of Northern Ireland down a road which is concealed by assurances and fair words. It is not easy in the context of the Irish experience to build up a relationship of trust.
That is why the Opposition believe that straight talking is better than pussyfooting. We have been honest and open with the unionist people about our view of the future. We believe that the future of Ireland should be as one country. We do not delude ourselves that the unionist people agree with us, but disagreeing is better than misleading people.
Having given the unionist people the bad news in plain English, I shall set it in context. We have no intention of imposing unity at gunpoint. If Ireland is one day to enjoy the peace and security which history has always denied it, it must be on the basis of a settlement achieved by consensus.
We do not merely admit, we assert, that the unionist people are entitled to retain their identity in the homes of their forefathers, and to protection for their culture, their religion and their interests, not just as we see them but as they see them.
The Forum report stated that clearly. We would not contemplate anything less. Indeed, we shall seek in time to persuade them to accept what some of us genuinely believe—that their identity, that culture, that religion and interests can survive only in a united Ireland with carefully considered constitutional safeguards and with the old grudges and the open sores consigned to history. They cannot survive in the present atmosphere of perpetual frustration, perpetual uncertainty and perpetual insecurity. I do not believe that they can survive in some hypothetical independent six counties or four counties.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell
The right hon. and learned Gentleman speaks of persuading the people of Northern Ireland of the wisdom of the Labour party's policy and thought on the subject. Why does not the Labour party go about its task in the normal way as it does on any other matter in any other part of the United Kingdom—enabling people to vote for the Labour party by putting up Labour candidates in Northern Ireland?
§ Mr. Archer
That is one example of what my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith discussed last night. Northern Ireland is not perceived by the people of Great Britain as being part of the United Kingdom. None of the major parties here is organised in Northern Ireland. I fear that the right hon. Gentleman must accept that. It is a fact of history.
But this agreement is not about that debate. It is about a framework for discussions; it is about breaking away from the present stalemate; it is about talking and listening. It commits no one to renounce a view in which he believes; it asks no one to resile from any cherished aspiration; it prevents no one from making suggestions or holding conversations with anyone else about any topic. It is not a step down any specific road; it is not the thin end of any wedge; it is not the first raindrop in any deluge.
In this debate, we have heard it argued with passion that the agreement is the first step towards the dissolution of 893 the Union. We have heard it argued with equal intensity by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) that it represents the total abandonment of any aspiration to Irish unity. I do not believe that it is either. I believe that if the people in both traditions are to have a chance of considering the options open to them, and if we are ever to embark on the discussions aimed at persuading one another, we must get away from the sloganising, the posturing and the caricaturing of those from whom we differ and the rejection of offers before they are made.
If we are to perceive the various visions of the future from which to choose, we must clear away the fog. Because I believe that this accord may make a modest contribution towards that process, I shall invite my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote in the Aye Lobby tonight. Since we all believe in our power to persuade others when the options are all on view, I believe that the Opposition will be able to persuade the people of Northern Ireland to choose the option in which we believe. It is in that sense that I see it as the first step.
I add my tribute to that by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition to those who helped to conclude the agreement. I do not believe that they were motivated by any consideration but the hope of contributing to the achievement of peace and co-operation. I pay ungrudging tribute to the Secretary of State, whose accession to his high office was associated at the outset with a readiness to talk and to listen, which has not always been apparent on the Government Benches, and was not apparent in the days following the Forum report and "The Way Forward".
I extend that tribute to Dr. FitzGerald, to Dick Spring and to Peter Barry. For them, this was an act of courage. They agreed to words in the document which represented substantial concessions which were not universally popular in nationalist circles.
There can be no prospect of a consensus unless all those involved are prepared to make concessions. We can all argue for consensus on the basis that other people agree with us. We do not make history just by keeping our heads down. There can be no reconciliation, no meeting of minds, no hope for Northern Ireland, without leaders on both sides of the divide who dare to lead.
One consequence of the unhappy history is that language itself ceases to be a means of communication, or an instrument for understanding one another, and becomes the occasion for misunderstanding and conflict.
There have been long disputations about whether the agreement represents a change of sovereignty. Phrases like "sovereignty", "executive and consultative status" and "constitutional" are terms of art. They are the constitutional lawyers' tools of the trade. As a constitutional lawyer, I warn the House against constitutional lawyers. They should be our servants, not our masters. Their function is to state with precision a consensus which has been reached about how people want to be governed. The time to use their terminology is when that consensus has been achieved. Indeed, they sometimes find that such expressions apply to such a wide range of concepts and are so ambiguous that it is better not to use them even at that stage.
If such words are introduced into the discussion at the outset before there is agreement on what kind of 894 community we want to achieve, they will serve only to occasion misunderstandings, to shorten tempers and to grind discussion to a standstill.
If I may be allowed a personal comment as a constitutional lawyer, I wonder whether those who come after us will understand what the debate was about—not those 300 years from now but 30 years on. I suspect that the terminology of the nation state is most appropriate to a world which is already passing.
Many Governments have a legitimate interest in decisions affecting the internal affairs of another country. They may have the right to-express a view not only about matters which affect their own citizens, but about fair treatment for the citizens of that country.
The international instruments on human rights recognise that the 19th-century concept of sovereignty is outmoded. The present United Kingdom Government have properly pressed for the implementation of the Helsinki accords. I suspect that the assumption that every square foot of the earth's surface must lie within the exclusive jurisdiction of one nation state and that no other Government must presume to intervene may not prove to be appropriate to the way in which the human race wishes to order its affairs in the 21st century.
More than once in the debate it has been argued that the agreement will be seen as having been achieved by violence. The right hon. Member for Lagan Valley spoke of it as the next instalment of Danegeld. There will undoubtedly be voices among the paramilitaries and their supporters making that claim, but I am troubled when the claim is echoed and endorsed in more authoritative quarters, for two reasons. First, the argument could be applied to any proposal which is acceptable to nationalist opinion. There is no suggestion, no experiment, no movement away from the status quo and the present stagnation which would not be susceptible to that argument. If that is accepted, there can be no movement, and no hope.
Secondly, I am troubled because I do not believe that the men of violence want the proposal to succeed. Far from acclaiming it as a success, they want to see it fail. If nothing could be embarked upon lest the paramilitaries might claim it as a victory, the paramilitaries might feel that they could bring any policy to a standstill by some act of violence. They would then tell themselves that everyone would rush to say, "We must not do this because it would appear to be responding to violence." Those who do not wish to see a movement towards peace and reconciliation would know that it could be frustrated by the shedding of blood.
There is no guarantee of the success of the conference. That depends on how it is used, and on the good faith and common sense of both Governments. The conference is simply the upturned glass into which its members must pour the practical contents. The British Government will need to show that they are prepared to listen to the representations of the Republic without creating the impression that there is a closed enclave from which everyone else is excluded. To consult the Republic must not be an alternative to consulting anyone else.
The Government of the Republic must use the opportunity, not to settle old scores, but to build bridges, not to reopen wounds, but to heal scars. I give notice that, having supported the Government in the Lobby tonight, we shall give the proposal a break, and that we shall judge it on how it is applied, and what is achieved in practice.
895 When the Minister replies, will he tell the House a little more about the content and procedure which the Government have in mind for the conference? I do not expect him to tell us in advance what the Irish Government will say before they say it, nor am I seeking a commitment about the Government's response to hypothetical situations. But may I mention some of the topics which many people in Northern Ireland hope will be raised because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) said, yesterday, they want to see the conference used to improve the condition of daily life. Some of them are less interested in the vocabulary of constitutional discourse than in pragmatic issues of day-to-day living.
The people of Northern Ireland want to see questions raised about those unemployment levels to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) referred yesterday, and some suggestions for renewing the economy and creating jobs. Some measures will obviously entail detailed co-operation between the two parts of Ireland.
A common transport policy would make a great deal of sense, and it would entail some capital projects which could set human beings to work to meet the needs of human beings. When I travel from London to Belfast, or the other way, I have a choice of flights, and when I travel between London and Dublin I have a choice of flights. But last week when I travelled from Belfast to Dublin, there were no scheduled flights between the two cities.
Many people will hope to hear that the conference has discussed the future of the gas industry to see whether 1,000 jobs can be saved, and whether consumers can have the choice of fuel, which is open to citizens of the rest of the United Kingdom and of almost every other part of Europe. They will want to see raised the condition of some of the hospitals which have been the subject of a united protest by people from both traditions.
There are at present people in London who would take a warmer view of the project if it were used to discuss the living conditions of tenants in the Divis flats. I hope that hon. Gentlemen will take the opportunity to visit the exhibition at the Town Planning Institute, which opened yesterday, about life for people in the Divis. And it is not only those on one side of the political divide who wish to hear discussions on housing.
In a recent poll among tenants of the White City complex, only 0.7 per cent. were happy with their treatment by the authorities, and 62 per cent. regarded their treatment as "poor or very poor." Residents of the Divis flats believe that there is no solution to their problems except demolition, but they are not being listened to. Tenants of White City complain that proposals for demolition were sprung on them without consultation. Therefore, there is material for the conference to discuss.
People on both sides of the sectarian divide wish that someone would look closely at the operation of the Payment for Debt Act. They suggest, not that people should not pay their debts, but that it is wrong that payment should be enforced without proper control by the courts and without taking proper account of a family's needs. If the two Governments read that Act, they will see why there is such intense feeling about it.
We have been told that the conference will be used at an early stage to discuss ways of enhancing security co-operation. That is welcome news. It has improved in some 896 respects, but there is still scope for improvement. According to the joint communiqué, the Governments also propose devoting some of their initial meetings toseeking measures which would give substantial expression to the aim of underlining the importance of public confidence in the administration of justice.I doubt whether the literary style of the document will qualify for the Nobel prize for literature, but we can forgive that. I hope that that means that there will be some early discussions on the super-grass trials, and the delays in bringing cases to court. I hope that it will be interpreted widely, and will include the strip searching of women prisoners in Armagh, including those who have not even been convicted. That is causing genuine and deep resentment. I hope that it will be construed widely enough to include the use of plastic bullets.
Yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition referred to the implementation of the Baker report. We would prefer to see more radical changes than those suggested by Sir George Baker, but I understand that on 8 November the Committee for the Administration of Justice was told that there were not even proposals to implement the Baker report this Session. Perhaps the conference should discuss that. To put the matter at its lowest, there is room to debate whether some of the existing measures contribute to security, or whether they are counter-productive because they are seen as oppressive and unfair.
I know that the Government would not greatly wish to see those issues placed on the agenda, because they do not agree with the criticisms. But that will be the test of the Government's commitment to making the conference work. It is not whether they will respond to suggestions which they welcome but how they will react to suggestions which they would prefer not to hear that will be the measure of their good faith. If, after a period, there are no changes in those matters, the agreement may well be seen as seeking to legitimise the present position.
While I do not ask for firm guarantees in advance of the discussions, it may help some hon. Members to make up their minds, about the agreement if the Minister assures us that the Government will listen sympathetically to any suggestions which are made on those issues.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Is not part of the problem the fact that the Government appear to have said rather different things to different people, and talked with forked tongues? The House is being told one thing, yet the Irish Minister of Justice, Mr. Noonan, has appeared on American television saying that the Republic has been given a major and substantial role in the day-to-day running of Northern Ireland. How are they to be reconciled? It is dangerous to say different things to different people at the same time about the same subject.
§ Mr. Archer
I understand my hon. Friend's anxieties.
Everything will depend on how the agreement is implemented. If it is not implemented in good faith, we cannot expect anything from it, but it offers an opportunity to discuss issues which many of us would like to see discussed. We can only wait to see what the Government's reaction is if those issues are raised.
Will the Minister give the House further information about the way in which the conference is intended to work? In the joint communiqué we were told that the two Governments envisaged that normally neither meetings of 897 the conference nor the agenda would be announced. I understand that that means that we shall not be told about them in advance.
I heard the answer that the Prime Minister gave to the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) and I heard with interest what the Secretary of State said about that point today. I understand that the proceedings cannot take place wholly in public. There is much to be said for an atmosphere in which words can be exchanged without being subjected to textual analysis in the columns of every newspaper. But if we are not given a full and frank report, suspicions will breed and multiply. Those who were not present will suspect that others are privy to the discussions and have been consulted. Those who are not told what is being discussed will guess, and they will guess the worst. I hope that the Minister will tell us a little more about that when he replies.
How widely or narrowly is it envisaged that the agenda will range? Will the Government of the Republic be able to raise individual questions? I assume that the machinery is not intended to operate as what the Secretary of State calls a complaints commission, but clearly the Government of the Republic will be under pressure to include innumerable individual cases, such as the failure of the Housing Executive to decorate a particular house. The proposals could then founder beneath the sheer weight of the agenda items. However, some individual cases may merit inclusion. Perhaps we could be told a little more about the Government's thinking on that.
If the Republic makes a suggestion and the United Kingdom Government are minded to agree, what happens next? Who else will be consulted? There is a feeling among many parties in Northern Ireland that they will not have an opportunity to comment on the proposals. They are afraid that what promises to be a framework for talking and listening may actually be used to exclude some people from having a voice.
Perhaps the Minister can tell us at what stage the opinion of other parties in Northen Ireland will be canvassed. Will it be done before the proposals are formulated, in such a way that the Government have painted themselves into a corner? Perhaps the same problem will arise about consultations with parties in the House.
We in the Labour party say that the conference should be given a chance. That does not entail a promise to endorse everything which may emerge from it. The conference will be on trial, and it will be by its fruits that we shall know it. But we know the consequences of the status quo and the present stagnation and we do not think it right to reject half a loaf because it is not a feast. History will tell who among us is right and who is mistaken. It will also distinguish between those who tried and those who simply despaired.
§ Mr. Edward Heath (Old Bexley and Sidcup)
I strongly support the agreement and I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State on having negotiated it. I pay tribute to the predecessors of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who I know did much of the spadework on this 898 agreement, and to the officials from our Government and those from the Government of the Republic of Ireland who have toiled tirelessly to bring it about.
However, I make one point to the Government. I beg of them not to underplay the agreement. It could serve a most useful purpose. The Government will be attacked, as they were in the House, from both sedentary and a standing positions, and they will be unscrupulously misrepresented in the Province, but there is nothing to be gained from underplaying the usefulness of the agreement.
The leader of the Official Unionists said yesterday that there is nothing in the agreement that was not in the Sunningdale agreement, and that is right. There was the recognition by the Government of the Republic that there can be no change without the full consent of the people of Northern Ireland. We put the fact that there can be no change without that consent into the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973, and it is firmly there from Parliament as a whole. The fact that the Sunningdale agreement was to be registered as an international treaty is also correct and that point is rightly repeated here. There is nothing to be gained from overplaying the agreement but a great deal to be lost from underplaying it.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Mr. Prior), in a moving speech, said yesterday that we could not go on as we are. Many of us have felt that deeply for a long time, but it is not necessarily an argument for making a change of this kind. The agreement serves a positive purpose—to bring about a closer relationship between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. The useful outcome of that could be a much greater effort to deal with the strife inside the Province. Most of us have long recognised that there can be no purely police or military solution to the problem. If we do not realise it after 16 years, I do not know when we shall. There must be a combination of political action with police and military action. This agreement will allow much closer cooperation along those lines.
My hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) whose integrity we greatly respect, said yesterday that we must try to understand the Protestants of Northern Ireland. I agree, but we have also to try to understand the Catholics in Northern Ireland, particularly after 50 years of one-party rule, which lasted until Stormont was suspended. We have to try to understand the situation in the Republic if we are to have a sound solution.
I have tried to understand these different points of view over a long period going back into the distance when I was Chief Whip here, and Brian Faulkner was in Stormont. I confess that I have always found the Irish, all of them, extremely difficult to understand. Shortly after I became Prime Minister, I held a meeting of the three Prime Ministers at Chequers. It was the first time that the three Prime Ministers in these tiny islands had met for nearly 50 years. It is astonishing that we could carry on in the modern world in such a way.
I was struck forcibly by the fact that the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland and the Taoiseach of the Republic spent a great deal of their time reminiscing about their times together, the university to which they went together, their education together, what they had done together and how they were working out everything together. I was the odd man out, and nobody cared about the odd man out because the Northern Ireland Prime Minister and the Taoiseach were working so closely together. It has always been said that we English cannot understand any of the 899 Irish, and one just has to accept that, although we are all part of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. It is because we want to work closely together that I so strongly support this agreement.
In 1961, when I began the negotiations for British membership of the European Community, I went to Belfast to discuss this matter with the Government of Northern Ireland. Lord Brookeborough was then Prime Minister of Northern Ireland and I had a meeting with him and his Cabinet. They were on my side, perhaps a little to my surprise. I was told that this was so because the entrance of Britain and the Republic of Ireland into the European Community would enable us to establish a much closer working relationship, which would remove many of the problems that then existed between North and South.
In particular, they believed that it would help to deal with the threat which they felt at the time, that, because of the higher standard of living in the Province, people would always try to move across the border from the Republic into the Province. This was a threat to their organisation of industry and employment and the figures of unemployment. The Republic of Ireland has considerably improved its standard of living in the past 10 years since it became a member of the Community, and that particular threat no longer exists.
Nobody can doubt that the Government of the Republic find great difficulty with some public opinion in taking effective action on security matters. Here, above all, they can help. It is because I believe that the present Government of the Republic has been the most helpful of all the Governments with whom I have had acquaintance that I thought it was right—I said so at the time—that the Government should accept the settlement of the common agricultural policy, which gave a considerable advantage to the Republic. We were helping our friends. Some of the encouragement has borne fruit and will continue to do so. The great threat is violence in Northern Ireland and this agreement can lead to much closer co-operation between the two Governments in dealing with violence. Why should we want to maintain barriers when we are working more closely with such a large part of the world? I fail to understand the outlook of people who want to keep the barriers and indeed to profit from the barriers that exist today.
Before the troubles of 1959 and 1961 so many things were done corporately by North and South in Ireland without anyone questioning them at all. Transport, water supplies, movement of business, the free movement of personnel, were all carried on jointly and everybody accepted them as being a desirable aspect of life in an island. Today, unfortunately, one only has to mention cooperation in one sphere and there are enormous shrieks of horror. Joint action must be encouraged.
One of the advantages of the Sunningdale agreement is that it was negotiated by the parties in the Province, which were then the power-sharing Executive-elect. They had not actually taken up their positions, but they were the power-sharing Executive-elect. They took up their positions as soon as Sunningdale was signed and they worked extraordinarily effectively. The Sunningdale agreement was between the Government of the South and the parties of the North which were about to become an Executive. It meant that the parties in the North knew everything and that they would always know everything in the discussions. Unfortunately, the present agreement does not have that advantage because since the breakdown 900 of the Sunningdale agreement, some of the parties in Northern Ireland have not been prepared, for one reason or another, to co-operate in the political process. I do not blame any particular party for that. There are representatives of those parties here today.
It makes it extremely difficult for any British Government to work out an agreement in which the political parties of the Province take part. I deeply regret that and I hope that progress will be made to a position where those political parties will become involved.
I am slightly worried that the question of devolution will cause certain items to be removed from the agenda of the Intergovernmental Conference. There is a danger that the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) will object to that because it will give more power to the Official Unionists in the Province and less power to his friends. I hope that that will not happen but from experience one knows that it can. If it does happen that will make devolving particular functions to the Province—which I believe desirable—far more difficult for the Government to carry out. I hope that the hon. Gentleman and his friends will play their part in enabling devolution to take place.
I am in favour of devolution because I believe that only with devolution will there be responsibility in politics, in the press and in public opinion in the Province. Only when the people of the Province themselves are responsible will that happen. With devolution, a more moderate, reasonable and sensible attitude would be taken towards so many problems that exist in the Province. From the bottom of my heart, I wish this agreement well.
§ Dr. David Owen (Plymouth, Devonport)
I echo the hope of the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) that this agreement will succeed. I believe that it is the wish of the vast majority of hon. Members to express to the Prime Minister and to the Taoiseach our heartfelt hope that, working together over the next few months, they will provide a better basis for the understanding of the agreement in our two countries, and particularly in Northern Ireland. Hon. Members are sad and anxious that at present there is little doubt that the agreement does not carry the support, understanding or sympathy of the vast bulk of people in Northern Ireland.
I do not think that the hon. Members who are considering resigning their seats and seeking re-election to the House need do that simply to convince hon. Members that they genuinely speak for the majority of the people of Northern Ireland. If there is a failing in England, it has often been to under-estimate the extent to which the unionist parties authentically speak for very large numbers of people in Northern Ireland. We may not like, and I have often criticised, both the style of their approach and their attitudes, but one does not have to visit Northern Ireland for long to understand that the fears and anxieties that they express in the House are truly representative of their constituents. It may be too late for those hon. Members to reconsider, but I hope that they will not feel it necessary to conduct their own form of referendum on an issue which is not in dispute in the House. We believe that they genuinely speak for the people whom they represent.
If the agreement is to work, its scope must be extended. It is worth reminding ourselves that the background for the agreement is the fact that more than 2,500 of our fellow citizens have lost their lives since 1967 and that nearly 750 of them were members of the security forces. If any hon. 901 Members need a reminder of that terrorism, they need only look underneath the clock in the Chamber and read the memorial to Airey Neave.
It must be in the interests of all to win the confidence of the majority in Northern Ireland and particularly in the interests of the minority and of the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) and his party. To achieve that, we must immediately have a forum for wider debate about the Intergovernmental Conference. I hope that that will be a prominent part of the Assembly's agenda—there is no reason why it should not be. I urge the SDLP, even if it feels that it cannot return to the Assembly in full, at least to participate and take up its membership for that part of the debate concerned with the Intergovernmental Conference and the agenda, and the decisions and debate that result. That would be a concrete gesture of good will and would address the anxiety of some that, having been helpful in securing the agreement, the SDLP has no incentive to re-enter the Assembly or to involve itself in real devolved government.
The Irish Government and the Irish people have an important stand to take in the Republic by ratifying the European convention on the suppression of terrorism. I hope that they will take that action speedily because that will be a considerable reassurance that they intend to fulfil to the letter all the aspects of the agreement.
The agreement, which is a delicate hinge created between the Republic and the United Kingdom Governments, will stand or fall on the fundamental issue of how we jointly grapple with the problem of terrorism.
The Prime Minister, like most hon. Members, would have liked the Republic to give up that part of its constitution which claims the territory of Northern Ireland. It is undoubtedly sad that it has not felt able to carry that through for reasons connected with a referendum and the Republic's own internal political situation.
The calculation is that it is only within a framework like the agreement that the Republic could involve itself in the practical detailed cross-border arrangements that are absolutely fundamental to halt terrorism. I assume that that is the main calculation on which the Prime Minister, an admitted unionist, felt able to risk putting her signature and the authority of the Government to the agreement and asking the House to endorse it. If that is so, we must see concrete agreements and achievements in that area of security. The right hon. Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Mason), too, in a very effective speech yesterday, made it clear that that was the issue on which he would judge the agreement.
It may be difficult for Ministers to admit this, but we know that so long as terrorists do not have a wall against their backs, so long as they can escape the day-to-day tensions of constant police surveillance and the possibility of being exposed and arraigned before the law by slipping across the border for a fortnight, it will be almost impossible to defeat terrorism and violence. At various times it has been suggested that the border should be sealed, but for political, economic and social reasons, everyone has concluded that that is impossible.
Breaking terrorism is not just a matter of military and security forces. There must also be political, economic and social agreement. All those aspects are covered by the agreement. The fundamental point, however, is that the border must be better patrolled than it is now. There must 902 be more sharing of intelligence, joint action by the British and Irish armies and co-operation between the Garda and the RUC to an extent not seen hitherto and at a consistent and persistent level. There is no reason why there should not be a form of joint patrolling and joint helicopter patrols. Cross-border co-operation must be stepped up in a major way.
§ Dr. Owen
I prefer not to give way, as time is short and I wish to be brief.
If cross-border co-operation were stepped up in that way, nothing could begin to give greater confidence to the majority in Northern Ireland.
Certain other developments are also worth considering. I regret that the decision was not taken immediately to set up an Anglo-Irish parliamentary council. If, as I fundamentally believe, this is an agreement between our two Parliaments and our two Governments are to be the executors of that agreement, nothing could be more natural, proper and right than that the House was able to put the actions of the Intergovernmental Conference under parliamentary scrutiny. I believe that that would strengthen confidence in the agreement on the part of the majority in Northern Ireland. Exceptionally, we in Great Britain must accept that in any such council Members representing Northern Ireland constituencies must be given considerable weight. On this occasion we must give up a concept that we have always thought necessary—that of a natural majority for the Government of the day. We must trust Members from Northern Ireland to take the lion's share—that is perhaps too strong an expression, but at any rate a major share—of representation from the United Kingdom in any parliamentary delegation to that council.
I believe, too, that there must be proportional representation of Members from Northern Ireland in this Chamber, as there should be for the United Kingdom as a whole. [Interruption.] There is proportional representation in the Assembly elections for the very sensible purpose of trying to ensure representation of the minority. We should take note of that here. [Interruption.] If hon. Members do not accept that—I realise that such a change will come only with the consent of the British people as a whole, probably through a referendum—they must allow some Members of the Assembly to be represented on the parliamentary council. Otherwise, there will not be the spread of opinion of the parliamentary parties in Northern Ireland which is so critical to the success of the council.
In "The Way Forward", the Official Unionist party advocated a bill of rights and many of us were sad that that did not come out of the agreement. I certainly hope that "The Way Forward" will not go into the dustbin. I do not think that the House took enough notice of the significant steps taken in that report by many unionists to try to convince the minority in the Province that they genuinely wanted a different type of government from that which they had experienced before. I have no doubt at all that devolved government is essential for Northern Ireland. The agreement does not take us much further towards that, and some fear that it has taken us a few steps back from it. We must give the highest priority to achieving that object.
903 I believe that it will always be easier to persuade people in Northern Ireland to return to devolved government in the context of a constitutional arrangement for the United Kingdom as a whole, covering legislative devolution for Scotland and greater devolution and decentralisation for Wales and the regions of England, but that is for another debate. In the immediate short term, the SDLP has a great responsibility to show by word and action that it wishes to help to create a partnership government in Northern Ireland.
Those are all for the future. I have not mentioned the past because these debates are too often dominated by the past. The agreement is still very fragile. It does not have the whole-hearted consent of the people of Northern Ireland, although I believe that it will be shown today to have the whole-hearted consent of the Westminster Parliament. Unionists who wish to live under the Westminster Parliament must listen to that voice and take note of that decision. They cannot have it both ways. The supremacy of the Westminster Parliament—I prefer that expression to the word "sovereignty"—is an absolute for all our citizens. If the vote goes against unionist Members today, I hope that they will accept that decision and live with the consequences. They can, of course, use all constitutional measures open to them. They can resign their seats to show that they speak for the people, although I am already convinced of that. What they cannot do if they are to remain true to their unionist convictions is try to overturn the decisions of this Parliament by unconstitutional means. It is to the credit of the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) that throughout what has been a difficult episode for him personally and for his party, he has made it clear that he intends to take the constitutional route, and he deserves the acclamation of us all for that.
The tone of this debate has been very different from that of Irish debates in the House through the centuries. For that, the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), too, deserves some credit, although it is not often given to him. None of us knows what will be the end result of the agreement. I can only say on behalf of the SDP and the Liberal party that we wish it well. But there is much work to be done. The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup said that the Prime Minister should not underplay the agreement, and I agree with him. It is potentially a very powerful agreement. It is not a modest measure. It could become a very profound and important measure if it received the whole-hearted support of all the people of the United Kingdom. The question is whether that hinge can operate evenly between the Republic and the United Kingdom. It is the responsibility of the House to ensure that the hinge operates evenly and does not discriminate in any way against the majority in Northern Ireland.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)
This will be my last speech in the House for some time. If the IRA threat conveyed to me by the police comes to fruition, it may be the last time that I address the House at all. That being so, I naturally look back to the first time I addressed the House from this Bench.
I recall that in my maiden speech I quoted the comments of the then newly elected Speaker. He said:
At the heart of all the tensions that exist, rightly, between free citizens and which rightly divide them, we meet to resolve 904 those tensions by free and fair debate, respecting not only one's own right to hold an opinion but equally the right of the Other man to hold diametrically opposed opinions and to express them equally freely … And at the heart of that heart sits a neutral chairman, favouring neither side, except for his sworn duty to protect minorities".—[Official Report, 29 June 1970; Vol. 803, c. 7–8.]I wish this debate was taking place in Northern Ireland between the elected representatives of Northern Ireland and on the basis of the principles set out by the Speaker on that occasion. Thus the people of Northern Ireland through their own representatives could perhaps hammer out some agreement that might be helpful in the present crisis and chaos that our Province is experiencing.
Such a debate cannot take place because one party in this House—the SDLP—whose leader, the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume), lectures us about the sovereignty of this House, refuses to come to an Assembly set up by this House for the purpose of discussing, and finding some solution to, the questions before us.
During the first debate in which I participated, Lord Wilson of Rievaulx, then Leader of the Opposition, concurred with the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), the Prime Minister of the day, in giving a solemn promise, which I repeated in my speech, when I said that thepeople in every section of the community in Northern Ireland, irrespective of their political views and religious beliefs, … were entitled to the same equality of treatment"—[Official Report, 3 July 1970; Vol. 803, c. 227.]The opposition of all Unionists to the Hillsborough agreement is because that principle is basely violated by this agreement. There is nothing in this agreement for the majority.
The hon. Member for Foyle, when he addressed the House yesterday—he always lectures in absolutes; he would argue for a united Ireland or nothing—said, "There is no other road." I am entitled, representing the people of Northern Ireland, to look down that road which I am asked to travel with the people that I represent.
The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup said that all the parties in Northern Ireland were represented at Sunningdale. That is entirely untrue. The promise was given in the White Paper, that all parties would be represented, but because of the representations from the Dublin Government, three unionist parties in Northern Ireland were rejected from that conference. I refer to the group led by Mr. Harry West, who later led the Official Unionist party, Mr. Craig of the Vanguard unionist party and the party that I have the honour to represent, the Democratic Unionists. They were kept outside the doors of Sunningdale and now the entire unionist family has been kept outside the doors. The Sunningdale agreement did not work when two thirds of the unionists were outside the doors. What will happen now the door is closed to all unionists?
The right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) more or less read a homily to us about the supremacy of this House, but this House also has an obligation under the laws that it makes to the people of every place in the United Kingdom. There is a solemn obligation passed by this House—in fact I had the honour to move the amendment so that it could become law—that the people of Northern Ireland, if faced with any change in the status of Northern Ireland would have a say. We are not now to have that say. That is the grievance that the people of Northern Ireland have.
905 The hon. Member for Foyle said there is no other road. I am entitled to ask whence this road comes and whither it goes. Only the foolish would commit themselves to a road without examining it. People may say what they like about unionists and loyalists but the unionists in Northern Ireland include Roman Catholics as well as Protestants. The House should remember that. We know this to be true because the European and Assembly elections are run under the proportional representation system. So we know for certain how localities are voting and what their preferences are.
It might surprise the House to know that thousands of people who put a first vote for the hon. Member for Foyle in the first European election, put their second vote for me. They were not adamant Protestants like myself; they belonged to a different faith. I did not need their votes, because I was elected on the first count but the hon. Member for Foyle needed transfer votes. I needed transfer votes less the last time, although I was told in this House by colleagues that I would never attain the same vote again. I am glad that I more than attained it the next time, as I had a record vote, bigger than any vote given to any candidate at any election in the United Kingdom.
I was told by one colleague that the Government Whips had said that my power in Northern Ireland had waned. I welcome an election. As soon as I can, I will come before the electorate again because I believe that the only discipline in a democracy is the ballot box. I have been defeated in elections, I have won elections, but I have always accepted the ballot box. [Interruption] The hon. Gentleman does not know the hard road by which I came to this House. I did not always have a majority. I saw candidates lose their deposits time and again, but I did not lose faith in the democratic method. The right hon. Member for Devonport said that I do not get much credit for that, but what does it matter? The best thing for a man in this place is to know that his people are for him. The important thing is that the grass roots that I represent know that I represent them the way they should be represented.
This morning the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) and I took part in a radio phone-in and Roman Catholics paid tribute to both of us for the way in which we work for both sections of the community. I defy any Member of this House to go to my constituency and show me Roman Catholics that I have not faithfully represented. The Ministers on the Front Bench know that. I represent all the people of my constituency.
This agreement came out of the Forum, which was a proposal of the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume). It was to be a purely nationalist organisation. Dr. Garret FitzGerald wished to enlarge it, but how could unionists go to something which was planning their destruction? No self-respecting unionist went and consequently we had the Forum report. The Prime Minister had some strong words to say about its recommendations. She said, "Out, out, out." There was no sense of triumphalism in Northern Ireland when she said it. I did not see people marching and saying, "That is great, the Prime Minister is on our side." We just accepted reality. Even Labour spokesmen now say that that was the right stance and that it was not possible to pursue the route offered by the Forum report. Little did we know that, after saying that, the Prime Minister would 906 do a complete turnabout. As the Leader of the Opposition said, she made a change. I should like to consider that change.
The road was engineered for all of the people of Northern Ireland, but the amazing thing is that the majority who must walk it and who feel that it is uphill and a hard path, were not consulted at all whereas the minority who will use it for their own ends were consulted at every turn. On television, Mr. McGrady the SDLP's chief whip, said that at every turn of the consultations his leader and party were consulted. I asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to condemn the Dublin Government's breaking of confidentiality, but he did not see fit to do so. If he is not prepared to do that when we are preparing the structure, what will happen when the structure is complete?
The conference is not between Ministers of the South and Ministers of the North but three ways, between the Republic, the SDLP and Northern Ireland Ministers. That means that the SDLP can go to see Ministers as public representatives and come to the Assembly if they want to—they do not come—and, best of all, they have the ear of the Dublin Government, through which they can put their views. The hon. Member for Foyle then has the cheek to tell me that the agreement is the only road. The Ulster people will not be walking that road. I am not talking about rioting that might take place. That is just what republicans are worried about. There has been no rioting among loyalists.
I read that Garret FitzGerald said in Dublin that when the riots start in Northern Ireland and Mrs. Thatcher calls in the troops and sets the RUC against loyalists, the agreement will stick. Protestant people accept the leadership that the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley and I are attempting to provide. We will not fall into that trap. There will be no rioting on the streets or civil commotion. We will use democratic principles. I hope that the House respects that. I hope that it will ensure that fair play is given to those who use democratic principles.
If the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley. I and the colleagues around us do not return to the House and the Government have others to deal with, I could dare to prophesy what will happen in Northern Ireland. We shall be going into uncharted waters. Many right hon. and hon. Members have deep feelings on this matter and will defeat us overwhelmingly in the Lobby. We know that we are heading for defeat, but those who will defeat us are not living on the border. They are not following the funeral processions. They are not mothers of policemen. They are not wives of policemen. Nor are they the wives or mothers of UDR men. Those are the people to whom the House had better pay attention. I am trying as best I can to put the case that they have put to me.
The people who made the road are not sure whether it is well made but say that we should take it. The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) told us about Mr. Noonan's speech in America. He has a view of the agreement that is entirely different from that put forward by the Government. The Government tell me that nothing is changed, that the UDR will remain under their authority, that there will be no change in the British Army and that security is in the hands of the House and that this House alone is responsible, and that Ministers are responsible to it. When the Taoiseach arrived home from Hillsborough, he had something entirely different to say. He stepped off the plane and said: 907in the future, the UDR will operate differently from the way in which it has operated for the last 12 years … That means that from now on as soon as this can be put into effectthat is before this Parliament met to discuss the matter—the position at present where the UDR can hold people up on the road, stop them, search them, question them, will no longer operate.The UDR is the only defence of people living on the border. I was in a home on the border the other day. The last time they saw a police officer was four years ago, yet they have suffered the deepest of trial—the husband was taken, hooded and kidnapped for four hours. Their only defence is the UDR.
I am not criticising the police—there are calls for the police which, if answered, would result in their being killed on the way there or on the way back. We are in a very difficult situation. If the UDR cannot stop terrorists and question them and arrest them, we shall be in more serious trouble than ever before. We must face up to that fact.
What is more, the Dublin premier said:The question of how security should be organised in Northern Ireland is one for the Conference.I suggest that it is a matter for this House and Ministers who are answerable to this House, not any conference. I do not trust the information that would be given at a conference as, by various means, it would get into the hands of those who would get it to terrorists. It is hard enough to have security in Northern Ireland without handing it over to an open conference such as that.
Michael Noonan, the Republic's Justice Minister, commented on the Taoiseach's remark that "the first thing that they will do in the Forum is try to curb the paramilitary UDR". The UDR is not a paramilitary group but a regiment of the British army. It is under the authority of the British Army. But here we have an Irish Minister telling us what he will do with a British Army regiment at the conference. If anything should be done with a British Army regiment, it should be done in order in this House and through the Ministers responsible.
I know that things have happened in the police force and in the UDR, but the whole regiment is not condemned because a few people step out of line. Such people were brought into line. They were arrested and put through the courts. Some are serving their sentences. That is how it should be done. Members of other regiments have done dastardly deeds in Northern Ireland and have been dealt with in the same way.
These people are not sure what the road is. They are not sure about the status of their own document. That seriously worries the people of Northern Ireland. They are exceptionally sensitive to any attempt to take them out of the United Kingdom. Anyone who has read history should understand that this did not start in 1920, but goes far back to the days of the plantation settlement and back into the dim and distant past. There have been continued efforts to destroy the British presence in Ireland. Republicans consider me and my supporters as the British garrison. We were told recently that every Brit had to get out. I am proud to be British; I was born British and I shall remain British.
I have no time for UDI. Although people have said that Ulster nationalism has suddenly bloomed, I have not seen any Ulster nationalism. The 200,000 people at city hall were calling not for Ulster nationalism, but for equal rights within the United Kingdom, where they should be allowed to stay without any pressures put upon them.
908 The agreement has something to say about the status of Northern Ireland. It affirms:Any change in the status of Northern Ireland would only come about with the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland".But nowhere in the document is the status of Northern Ireland defined. What is the status of Northern Ireland? To me and to this Parliament, this is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. That is not the Republic's position. Articles 2 and 3 of the Republic's constitution claim jurisdiction over that part of the United Kingdom.
In the Sunningdale agreement there was a difference between what the Irish Government said and what the British Government said. I refreshed my memory of this today. I noticed how carefully the communiqué is printed in Hansard and I suggest that every hon. Member reads it. It states:The Irish Government fully accepted and solemnly declared that there could be no change in the status of Northern Ireland until a majority of the people of Northern Ireland desired a change in that status.That is no different from what is stated in the new agreement. It is nonsense for the Prime Minister to say that this is the first time, because it happened before.
The communiqué stated:The British Government solemnly declared that it was, and would remain, their policy to support the wishes of the majority of people of Northern Ireland. The present status of Northern Ireland is that it is part of the United Kingdom."—[Official Report, 10 December 1973; Vol. 866, c. 37.]The Governments' declarations were different in the Sunningdale agreement. Mr. Boland took the Southern Government to court because of the alleged violation of the Irish constitution. Only when the Prime Minister and those responsible went to court and swore solemnly that it was a political declaration of the fact could they get themselves off the hook.
Everyone agrees that the majority of people of Northern Ireland must have the final say, but what can I say to those people when they ask, "What if they do not let us have the final say?" The hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) said yesterday that he believed that the status of Northern Ireland had been changed. If a former Minister believes that, can we blame the ordinary Ulster Protestant or unionist Catholic for thinking the same? Are they not entitled to draw the same conclusion? That is why it would be better for the House to accept that there has been a change of status and to test it with a referendum. That is why Unionist Members must resign and go to the country.
There is a crisis in our land. The only thing that will steady our people is the opportunity to do something. Constitutionalists must be asked to vote with their feet. That is what Ulster people want, and the House could help by facilitating the by-elections and the moving of the writs. I warn the House that if any hon. Member tries to prevent Ulster from being represented in the House, he will reap the consequences. The House cannot blame the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley or me. The House should facilitate those who want this to remain a constitutional battle, not one in the streets of our cities. No matter how hon. Members feel about me or those whom I represent, I trust that they will do nothing to hinder us in moving the writs and having the elections at a proper and honest time.
I was on the radio programme "Behind the Headlines" and one of the speakers was John Kelly. The hon. Member for Foyle will know who I am speaking about. Mr. Kelly 909 is a prominent constitutional lawyer, author of a book on the Eire constitution, a former Attorney General and a member of Fine Gael—Dr. FitzGerald's party. No one could question his authority. He was asked why the Republic's Government had not spelt out that the status of Northern Ireland was as an integral part of the United Kingdom. The interviewer said:You seem to be saying in your answer that the absence of the words 'Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom' is deliberate. That is to say, the Irish Government could not deliver that.I know that the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) had some things to say about constitutional lawyers, even though he professes to be one. John Kelly said:I am not saying it is deliberate, but I am saying that a formulation which was in clear conflict with the words of our article 3 is outside the power of our Government to make.The Eire Government cannot give us an undertaking.
What worries the people of Northern Ireland is article 3 of the agreement. It talks about:the majority of the people of Northern Ireland.It does not say a large majority; it could mean a bare majority. We are told that the House wishes to safeguard the minority, but what if the minority changes? I was told by a man today, "You will be bred out anyway in 20 years." I heard that when I was a boy of 12 and they are still breeding us out. But it is interesting to remember that Roman Catholic unionists also breed. I say nothing about the virility of the Protestants.
There is no safeguard here for the minority. If the population is 49.9 per cent. Protestant and the remainder is Roman Catholic or nationalist, the Government will seek to establish a united Ireland. Legislation will be introduced and supported in the respective Parliaments to give effect to the wish of an undefined majority. Why do they not talk about "widespread support in the future?" We are constantly told that there cannot be government without widespread support. However, the status of Northern Ireland can be changed. It is noticeable that no other option is given. Will we be told that the House is sovereign and that down that road we shall have to go? The majority of Ulster people will never go down that road. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman believes that he can persuade them, he should stand in one of the by-elections, put his money where his mouth is and use his energies there. He will need his friends to put up his deposit and election expenses.
I am especially sad today because Northern Ireland had much going for it. The economy was a little brighter and there was a small improvement in what really matters—in the bread-and-butter issues that lie as dear to my heart as they do to the hearts of other hon. Members. It is appalling that, instead of the Government concentrating their efforts on getting the SDLP into the Assembly that was set up by the House, they were prepared to go down this road of folly.
In my entire career I have never seen such unity among unionists. Everyone knows my religious convictions, and anyone who said that I always agreed with the Irish Presbyterian Church—the largest Protestant church in Northern Ireland—would be laughed at. However, at a meeting of the governmental committee of that church I encountered a noted liberal whose theology and mine are miles apart. He said to me, "This is another Munich 910 agreement. I say that because the Munich agreement settled the future of a people who were never consulted." The majority of the people in Northern Ireland were not consulted about this agreement. He also said that the Munich agreement was sold as a programme for peace. But what happened? It was the beginning of the greatest war that Europe had ever had. When a liberal churchman says that, people who would not listen to me or to my colleagues should pay attention.
It is not only those who take a strong unionist stand and who are political activists who are against the agreement. The entire Protestant community and a large section of the Roman Catholic community are against it. A letter was read to the House yesterday; I could have brought along sheaves of letters from people whose religious beliefs are very different from mine, but who are saying exactly the same as I am: that the agreement has driven a division between Protestants and Roman Catholics that should not have been driven. It has divided communities and households.
I say to the hon. Member for Foyle that the time will come when he must make up his mind whether he wishes to talk to the elected representatives of the Northern Ireland people or whether his only interest is in Dublin and in the affairs of the Irish Republic. For one year, my party worked hard to bring him to the conference table. We were even prepared to go outside the Assembly, although we believed that the Assembly was the proper place for discussions. He was invited to present his case to the devolution committee of the Assembly, but he refused to attend. The Official Unionist party and its leader did the same. The Alliance party did the same. The hon. Member for Foyle chose to speak to the army council of the IRA, knowing when he did so that the unionist door would be shut because of our stand against the IRA.
The hon. Member for Foyle will have to learn that he must live with the majority. I have learnt to live with the minority. Only when representatives of his party come round the table, not as inferiors but as equals with us—as Ulstermen elected under the same system, whether it is proportional representation or any other—can we make progress. I objected to proportional representation, but a majority will show itself under any system. Let them come round the table and talk, but let it be on the basis that no one has special privileges. There is only one way to obtain privileges in politics—
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
No, I will not give way—[HON. MEMBERS: "Give way."] I will give way to the hon. Member for Foyle. I was not about to give way to the hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McGuire).
The only way in which a politician can obtain special privileges is through the ballot box. I should tell the hon. Member for Foyle that I will not talk in the terms of this agreement, for this agreement is treachery. As a unionist, I will not sit down and talk to anyone in the terms of this agreement, because it has destroyed the power of the representatives of the majority to negotiate properly on behalf of their people. Their power has been effectively removed.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Had I known the hon. Gentleman was going to say that, I would not have given way.
§ Mr. Hume
I am grateful that the hon. Gentleman gave way. The reverend gentleman has said publicly that he has a well-stocked armoury ready to oppose this agreement. That is not a gentle approach to the problem. He has just said that he is willing to talk to us as equals. This agreement expresses the equal validity of both traditions in Northern Ireland. I am ready to talk to him outside that door in five minutes.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
The hon. Gentleman's statement is an atrocious falsehood. The chief whip of the SDLP made a similar statement during a broadcast, and the BBC forced him to withdraw it publicly. What I said—I repeat it now—was that the constitutionalists of Northern Ireland and the Protestants have many weapons in their armoury. I was talking about resigning seats and about withdrawing consent. I was talking about tactics. Indeed, two days previously, a Minister said that he had many weapons in his armoury to fight something. But because I said it, I am branded. Indeed, the story got the Irish twist. In the end, it was said that I had a cache of arms hidden away. I tell the hon. Gentleman that if I had a cache of arms—
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Yes. I will talk on the terms of equality, but the equality of the unionist people has been destroyed by this document. If the hon. Gentleman gives up the document, I will talk to him at any time, as I said previously. He wants an advantage, but that advantage will not be given to him.
I am sorry that I have detained the House for so long, but it will not hear from me again for some time, and perhaps never again. Elections are unpredictable. My last words to hon. Members are plain. When they go through the Lobby in their hundreds tonight, let them remember the people of Northern Ireland; remember their sorrows; remember their heartaches; and remember that their unionist representatives cannot all be wrong. I have had deep differences with my colleagues on the other side of the House. We have fought as bitterly about issues on which we felt strongly as has anyone in this House; but on this matter, the unionist people are absolutely united. The House should at least listen to them and, having listened to them, should realise that if we are to treat the minority correctly, we must also treat the majority correctly. Let us all be equal. I ask for no special privilege, and no one should have a special privilege over me. Negotiations must begin and continue on a basis of equality.
I regret that by passing this motion, the House will be putting into the hands of the SDLP a weapon that will destroy for ever any chance of devolution in Northern Ireland. That is exactly what is going to happen.
When it was announced that Stormont was away and the trouble was over, I said that it was only beginning. How right I was. It is only beginning and it only began then. Before one tears something away, one must ensure that there is something better to put in its place. The House tore away the B Specials and the Royal Ulster 912 Constabulary. There is now a plan to tear away the UDR and to change the police force in Northern Ireland. If that happens under the agreement, it will not be the House that will pay, but the people of Northern Ireland, whom I am trying feebly, but I trust passionately, to represent in the House.
§ Mr. Harold McCusker (Upper Bann)
When a journalist described my reaction to the Prime Minister's statement on 18 November, he said that it was the roost bitter of all. I should like to believe that, while it might have been the most bitter of all, the bitterness was conveyed with dignity. As I try to explain that bitterness, I hope that I shall also conduct myself with dignity.
The agreement deals with my most cherished ideals and aspirations. On three occasions in the week prior to the signing of the agreement, on the Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, I stood in the House, having been told in essence by foreign journals what the agreement contained, and it was denied to me that an agreement existed or had even been reached.
I went to Hillsborough on the Friday morning, despite the obstacles put in my way by the Northern Ireland Office, the headquarters of the RUC, the divisional commander in Lisburn and the police commander in Hillsborough. I stood outside Hillsborough, not waving a Union flag—I doubt whether I will ever wave one again—not singing hymns, saying prayers or protesting, but like a dog and asked the Government to put in my hand the document that sold my birthright. They told me that they would give it to me as soon as possible. Having never consulted me, never sought my opinion or asked my advice, they told the rest of the world what was in store for me.
I stood in the cold outside the gates of Hillsborough castle and waited for them to come out and give me the agreement second-hand. It is even more despicable that they could not even send one of their servants to give it to me. I had been told three hours before that it would be brought out to me. At 2.45 pm, 15 minutes after the press conference had begun, I asked a policeman whether he would bring me the declaration that betrayed everything that I had ever stood for. A senior police officer went into Hillsborough castle, asked for the document and brought it out to me.
I felt desolate because as I stood in the cold outside Hillsborough castle everything that I held dear turned to ashes in my mouth. Even in my most pessimistic moments, reading the precise detail in the Irish press on the Wednesday before, I never believed that the agreement would deliver me, in the context that it has, into the hands of those who for 15 years have murdered personal friends, political associates and hundreds of my constituents. I hope that no one else in the House ever has to stand outside the gates of anywhere and see his most cherished privileges and ideals turn to dust and ashes in his mouth. That is what it felt like to me.
For 12 years I have asked for only one thing in the House. I believed voices on this Bench, no doubt well-intentioned but foolish, telling me that the House of Commons would one day treat me in the same way as my fellow citizens. I listened to people from other parties telling me the same thing. I am glad to report that even Labour Members were telling me the same thing—if I asked the House to treat me like my fellow citizens, 913 conferring no special privileges or benefits, and I would simply meet my obligations, one day I hoped they would treat me like my fellow citizens.
I pursued that and I told the people of Northern Ireland that. When I walked behind nine funerals in one day and could not console the people, I told them that. When we buried Sir Norman Stronge, Her Majesty's lieutenant in county Armagh, and his son on the same day, I told them, "Don't worry; the House of Commons is above party. It has a responsibility to cherish all the children of the nation." That was said in the proclamation of 1916. I thought that I belonged to the nation, and I thought that the House had an obligation to cherish me as it cherished the rest. When I read the agreement, I realised that that would never be the case.
I have lost 12 years. I have only one complaint. Why was I not told 12 years ago? There are one or two honourable exceptions. The right hon. Member for Waveney (Mr. Prior) told me four or five years ago as precisely as he could. Another prominent member of the Government Front Bench, a very gentle man whose integrity would be accepted by everyone in the House, tried to nudge me towards that realisation nine years ago. I was not prepared to believe it. I thought that one day I would gain equality. Why did not successive Governments tell me that I would never be treated with equality? If I had been told, my attitude over the past 12 years would have been different. I would have looked at political developments in Northern Ireland differently.
The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) talked about unscrupulous misrepresentation. I have three children in Northern Ireland as well as my constituents, so what have I to gain by unscrupulously misrepresenting my position?
I had to go home on the Friday night after the Hillsborough agreement and tell my wife that I regretted bringing up our children to believe what hon. Members have brought their children up to believe, because they will have to live with the legacy that I have to live with. It would have been better if they had never looked at the Union flag or thought that they were British or put their trust in the House of Commons than spending the rest of their lives knowing that they are now some sort of semi-British citizen.
I shall not argue with the Secretary of State about sovereignty because the House can change what it means by that. That came out in the debate yesterday. Sovereignty is what the Government decide it is. The one thing that the right hon. Gentleman cannot deny, and that the right hon. Member for Waveney (Mr. Prior) did not deny, is that the way in which Northern Ireland is now governed has changed fundamentally. I am being told that I should be prepared to accept this fundamental change in the way in which Northern Ireland is governed because of article 1.
The Secretary of State accused me of parroting. I wonder what he would consider this to be. In one hour during the statement on the agreement the Prime Minister said 15 times that Northern Ireland would remain part of the United Kingdom. As well as repeating that 15 times, she assured us eight times that there was no derogation of responsibility for Northern Ireland from the Government of the United Kingdom.
914 On those 23 occasions, the right hon. Lady felt compelled to garnish those statements with all sorts of high-falutin' language, such as:
the most formal commitment made by any Irish Government … For the first time, the Republic has recognised the legitimacy of the Unionist cause … the best guarantee from the Republic that the people of Northern Ireland have ever had … This is the first time that we have had a recognition of that in writing from the Republic of Ireland … I believe that this is the first time in a formal international agreement that the Republic has recognised this position in Northern Ireland".—[Official Report, 18 November 1985; Vol. 87, c. 19–31.]I went to the Public Record Office in Northern Ireland and got a copy of another internationally binding agreement, signed by Stanley Baldwin on behalf of the British Government, by Liam Cosgrave and Kevin O'Higgins on behalf of the Government of the Irish Free State and by James Craig on behalf of the Government of Northern Ireland. It was signed on 3 December 1925 and lodged in the League of Nations on 8 February 1926. If hon. Members are interested, it is registration No. 1088, page 263, of the "League of Nations Treaty Series".
That agreement recognised the legitimacy of the state of Northern Ireland. It recognised the international frontier of Northern Ireland. Of course, five or six years later, De Valera said that it was extracted under duress. That was about four years after he had had Kevin O'Higgins murdered, who, after he had signed that agreement, described it as the best day's work that he had ever done for Ireland.
§ Mr. McCusker
It was easy for De Valera to tear up the agreement and say that it had been extracted under duress when Kevin O'Higgins had been murdered some years previously.
Those are the people I am expected to believe and to put my trust in. Those are the people who will deliver the measures that will save my constituents. Why did they not save the people to whom I have just referred? Why did they not save the 230 of my constituents who have been murdered over the past 12 years? I have listened to Secretary of State after Secretary of State telling me that there is nothing more they can do. Secretaries of State have said, "Co-operation is so good that it cannot be improved." But now things can be done. If one pays the right price, people are prepared to stop killing unionists and those who put their trust in the British House of Commons, which itself cannot protect them.
If hon. Members are wondering why I was angry about having to stand like a dog outside Hillsborough, let me bring this document to their attention. It is produced by the Irish Labour party, entitled "Anglo-Irish Agreement", and has the photograph of Dick Spring on it. It is the party's official response to the agreement. It was issued with a covering letter by Dick Spring, dated 15 November. That was the day when the agreement was signed. Is any one suggesting to me that Dick Spring ran home to Cork immediately after signing the agreement and had this document with his photograph published and sent out to his constituents to tell them what he was doing? The document was printed perhaps two or three days before the agreement was signed, when I was being told in the House, "There is no agreement. We might not even reach an agreement."
Mr. Spring refers to other things in the document, such as the signing of the European convention. I have been told 915 that the first benefit of the agreement is that my constitutional position is now more secure than ever. The second is supposed to be the convention. Mr. Spring says:
When this Convention was first introduced in 1977 it was believed we could not sign .it because of the particular interpretation of our High Court of 'political offences' for extradition purposes. But in the light of the fact that our Courts now make a distinction between terrorist offences and truly political offences this obstacle has been removed. The form of any legislation giving effect to our accession to the Convention would be designed to ensure that the final decision as to whether a particular offence is political or terrorist will continue to be determined by the Courts.The constitutional position has not changed one iota. According to the constitution, the Republic could not sign the convention. It is now able to sign the agreement because the court has moved from A to B. If the court can move from A to B, what assurance do Her Majesty's Government have that it cannot move from B to A? The decision that was taken by the High Court, which is now considered to be so significant, was on whether the gunning down of a 73-year-old widow—a non-combatant, an ordinary elderly rural widow—was a political offence. Even the High Court in Dublin could not bring itself to admit that murdering a 73-year-old widow could be construed as a political offence. That is what the decision is based on.
I wonder whether the same High Court would make the same decision if it were confronted with an extradition request for a young man who confronted an Army or police patrol and shot a member of the Regular Army or the UDR, or a policeman, escaped across the border and was arrested. I wonder whether the High Court would say that it was not a political offence when that man stood in the court and said, "As a soldier in the Irish Republican Army I killed that British invading soldier in pursuit of my political objectives." That is when the test will come. The Government have been given no assurance. Today, we are making a case on the basis that the High Court in Dublin will find that to be a criminal rather than a political offence. I wish that I could trust the Republic more on that one than on the declaration of my constitutional position.
Article 1 of the agreement is a statement of fact. The fact that two and two make four does not have to be lodged at the United Nations. I know that two and two make four. There is no definition of the status of Northern Ireland. The Sunningdale agreement has been mentioned. From our point of view, it was much better than this agreement. What does Dick Spring say? What does the deputy Prime Minister of the Government who signed the agreement say? He has an interesting observation. He also mentions the "first time". We have been told for a week now that this is the first time for us—a big benefit for us. It is also the first time for Dick Spring, who says:But this Agreement for the first time commits the British Government to introducing and supporting legislation for the reunification of Ireland if and when that consent emerges. This commitment settles once and for all the argument about whether Britain wants to stay in the North".That is why they could not say that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom.
Hon. Members can rest assured of this. I shall never have to explain to my constituents again why the Prime Minister believes that they are as British as the people of Finchley. I shall never have to listen to people telling me that Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom. We shall never hear those words. They will be removed from the political dictionary of Northern Ireland.
916 This is where we come to the crunch, because it is where misrepresentation will occur. In return, a commitment has been given to the Irish Government that they can interfere with every aspect of life in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. McCusker
The right hon. Gentleman need not shake his head. This is more than a consultative role. He said that. If he wants to deny it, he can intervene. He said that on a BBC radio programme. When pushed to say why it was more than a consultative role, he said, "It has to be more than a consultative role, because if it was not Dr. FitzGerald would have no power. Oh sorry, I did not mean to use that word." [Interruption.] We can get out the transcript and look at it. I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to say that. Garret FitzGerald says that it is more than a consultative role. The right hon. Gentleman also said it.
I am sorry to take so much time on this, but it is important. It is more important to me and the people of Northern Ireland than to anyone else. The right hon. Gentleman has accused me of lying and misrepresenting the agreement. Let me take him through it. Is the conference concerned with every aspect of life in Northern Ireland? Can this conference discuss every aspect of the life of the people of Northern Ireland? If it cannot, will the right hon. Gentleman please stand up and tell me that it cannot? When he does not take that opportunity, I will presume that that is a reasonable statement.
The conference will be chaired by joint chairmen when it meets on its most important occasions. The right hon. Gentleman is not the chairman and his junior partner the deputy chairman. There will be joint chairmen. The joint chairman from the Republic will be a permanent Minster from the Government of the Republic. He will be joined on occasions by other Ministers from the Republic and from the Northern Ireland Office. They will be joined by advisers and others. At that conference, where they are able to discuss every aspect of life in Northern Ireland, the Government of the Republic can put forward ideas and proposals for the better government of Northern Ireland.
Therefore, we have the meeting convened with its joint chairmen, able to put on the table views and ideas about the government of my Province. Both parties can do that, but it is the fact of a foreign Government doing that which concerns me. Not only will those views and ideas be put on the table, but the British Government have entered into an international binding agreement that they will seek to remove any obstacles and reach agreement on the various ideas and proposals. The right hon. Gentleman says that that is not the case, but this international declaration states:In the interest of promoting peace and stability, determined efforts shall be made through the Conference to resolve any differences.The Prime Minister of the Irish Republic, the other partner in this deal, has said that the conference could fail only if there were a series of disagreements which would show bad faith on the side of either party. He went on, when pressed, to say that many of the proposals that they would make would be taken on board.
We are told today that matters will not all be secret and that efforts will be made to tell the people of Northern Ireland what it is all about. But in essence, irrespective of whether we argue about sovereignty, a coalition will govern Northern Ireland. On one side of that coalition will 917 be Her Majesty's Government and on the other side will be the Government of the Irish Republic. They will have all their Ministers and advisers with them. Proposals will be put on the table by both parties concerning every aspect of life in Northern Ireland. Determined efforts will be made to reach agreements, and that means that on most occasions agreements will be reached. When those agreements are reached, that will be the decision that is taken. If that is not the case, will the right hon. Gentleman please stand up and tell me that I am wrong? I presume that he will tell me later that I am wrong and I look forward to that.
Will the right hon. Gentleman also answer the point that I put to the Leader of the House last Thursday when I said that this agreement renders me redundant? I honestly do not know any longer what role I have as a Member of Parliament. If every aspect of life in Northern Ireland will be dealt with under the auspices of this conference—that is the case—I presume that proposals for draft orders will be considered by the conference. When they come to this House, they will do so with the approval of the conference. If that is the case, what role have I? If I manage to convince the right hon. Gentleman that there is something wrong in his proposals for a draft order, he cannot stand at the Dispatch Box and say that he will change them. That would be an act of bad faith vis-a-vis his partners in the coalition. He will have to go back to them and say that there is new information and ask that the matter be reconsidered. If that is wrong, will the right hon. Gentleman please tell me?
I have suffered the systematic humiliation of being excluded from the government of the part of the country to which I belong because I thought that price was worth paying to be a British citizen. I will not suffer this humiliation. I will not come along here as a self-seeking time server and pretend that I am a Member of Parliament when I am not. That is what the people of Northern Ireland will think I am if I do.
I said at the start that I wished that the House had been honest with me. The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) said that most hon. Members could not understand the people of Northern Ireland because somehow we are different, but he could not explain what that difference was. He described how the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic and the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland could relate to each other because they both respected each other's position. I can relate to the leader of the SDLP without any problem because I respect his position and he respects mine. If I had known that this was the proposition that would be put to me; if I had realised that direct rule, which has been so offensive, would be made this offensive; if I had realised that the government of the Province to which I belong would be put to a large extent into the hands of a foreign Government, I would have viewed my political relationships in Northern Ireland very differently.
The people of Northern Ireland whom I represent would prefer to be governed by a Catholic nationalist in Northern Ireland than a Minister from the Irish Republic who lives in Cork and who did not know where Northern Ireland was until five years ago. If I had known that those were the terms for my continued membership of the House of Commons, I would have considered other options. I did not consider other options because my first option was 918 simply to be an ordinary British citizen. But, as the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) has confirmed, I cannot consider that now. I am not prepared to consider a sharing of power or the governing of Northern Ireland with the SDLP with the threat that every time they do not get their way they will run down to their nursemaid in Dublin to take it up with the Secretary of State in the Anglo-Irish conference.
That is the position in which the unionists are being put. They are being told that they will not be citizens of the nation to which they belong on the basis that they want but that they will be governed within the framework of an Anglo-Irish conference and that if, within that framework, they want devolution it will be on the basis that they virtually concede equality of power to their political opponents in Northern Ireland and, at the same time, give the Irish Government a direct influence on every other aspect of life in Northern Ireland. That is too high a price for me to pay.
I say in all sincerity, and I mean it, that I will never accept this agreement as the means whereby I will be governed in Northern Ireland. Tens and tens and tens of thousands of people in Northern Ireland share that view. If that is construed as me flying in the face of the sovereignty of this Parliament, so be it. I have heard the threats over the past two days. Let us have a referendum in the United Kingdom and let Northern Ireland accept the result. I will accept the judgment. If the people of the United Kingdom say to me that they no longer want me, it will simply be echoing what the Government are saying anyway and they will have to live with the consequences of that decision. That referendum cannot deliver me against my will into an Irish Republic. I will not go to the Irish Republic and what might flow from whatever the developments might be would be something with which eveybody in the United Kingdom would have to live. I am not scared of a referendum. I am prepared to live with its consequences.
I have heard variations on the sponger theme. It is said that we are given £1.5 billion each year and we had better be careful or it will be taken from us. As I said last night, I can accept money from the richer parts of the United Kingdom being given to Northern Ireland if it is the decision of the Parliament of the United Kingdom to redistribute the United Kingdom's wealth to the poorer parts. However, I cannot accept, and I do not want, United Kingdom charity. I do not want money to be offered to me to buy my acquiescence. That is the view of the majority of the people in Northern Ireland. Do not threaten me with a referendum or with turning off the financial tap. We are proud people. When we say what we mean, we mean what we say. I wish that that standard could be adopted by all right hon. and hon. Members.
§ Sir Humphrey Atkins (Spelthorne)
The House has just listened to two very powerful speeches by two Members of Parliament from Northern Ireland—the hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. McCusker) and the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley). All right hon. and hon,. Members fully understand those speeches. The hon. Member for Upper Bann has spent far more of his time than anybody ought to have to spend comforting the relatives of people killed by violence in the last 10 years. The hon. Member for Antrim, North and other Northern Ireland representatives have had to do the 919 same. No right hon. or hon. Member can wonder at the passion with which they speak about the future of the Province in which they live.
I am not entirely sure that the interpretation that the hon. Member for Upper Bann places upon some of the words in the agreement stand up to close examination. I shall return to that in a moment. The hon. Gentleman is very selective about what he believes. It appears that both he and the leader of the Democratic Unionist party believe what is said by Ministers of the Government of the Irish Republic when they are quoted in newspapers, but that they do not believe those Ministers when words are incorporated in an agreement that they sign. Article 2 refers to no derogation from sovereignty. The hon. Member for Antrim, North does not believe those words. Article 9 refers to security and responsibility for police operations. The hon. Gentleman does not believe that, either. The selectivity with which he believes and does not believe is, to put it no higher, difficult to understand.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
I was trying to point out the contradictions. I believe none of them. Many lies are being told in Dublin and many falsehoods are being told in other places. I do not look at any right hon. or hon. Member when I say this, or I should incur your wrath, Mr. Deputy Speaker. However, the contradictions lead us to ask ourselves who we can believe. We believe ourselves and our own interpretation.
§ Sir Humphrey Atkins
No doubt I misunderstood the hon. Gentleman, and I shall study what he said in Hansard. My firm impression, although I may have have been wrong, is that he was supporting his case by quoting press reports of what Irish Ministers had said and purporting to believe them.
My impression is that most people, with the exception of the Unionist parties, are pleased with the agreement. I am one of them. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach are to be congratulated upon achieving this agreement. It has always seemed to me to be a tragedy that the Prime Ministers of two sovereign, independent countries—the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland—should not be on good terms. The Republic of Ireland is the only country with which we share a land frontier. It is the nearest country to us in every way. For the two Prime Ministers not to be on good terms with each other and not to spend a proportion of their time trying to improve the relations between our two countries has always seemed to me to be a pity. We heard earlier in the debate how seldom that had happened. This is one of the great achievements of the agreement, and I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and her Ministers upon it.
Anxiety has been expressed by hon. Members on both sides of the House, not just members of the Unionist parties, about the fact that the agreement gives a foreign country a say in what goes on in part of the United Kingdom. I understand that anxiety completely. The Republic of Ireland is a foreign country. Although it will be unable to do anything, the Republic will have a say. Certain right hon. and hon. Members believe that it would be wrong to give a foreign country even a say in what happens in Northern Ireland, just as it would be wrong if this happened in Surrey, part of which county I represent.
§ Sir Humphrey Atkins
My hon. Friend says, "Hear, hear." I take that point absolutely. It has been mentioned already in this debate that Northern Ireland is marginally different from Surrey. Most of the differences are historical. When I first took up my duties as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in 1979, I was subjected to a long lecture by the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) about Irish history. We had to agree eventually that we could not alter it, but history has undoubtedly had an effect upon the attitudes and the behaviour of people in Northern Ireland. That makes the province different from other parts of the United Kingdom. The hon. Member for Foyle referred to a council. I shall give another example.
When I was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland the Unionist-controlled Lisburn borough council came to the conclusion that a development of flats in its area—it was not being developed by the council but, as happens in Northern Ireland, by the Housing Executive—would be occupied by displaced people from west Belfast and that most of them were Catholics. It was quite right. That is exactly what happened in this development on the edge of the council's borough. The council solemnly sat down and passed a resolution that, when the flats were occupied, it would refuse to collect the occupants' refuse.
That problem was eventually solved, but with some difficulty. It illustrates one of the ways in which Northern Ireland is different from the rest of the United Kingdom. I do not say that any right hon. or hon. Member of either the Official Unionist party or the Democratic Unionist party would support that kind of action. I am sure that they would deplore it. But it happened. I cannot believe that it would happen in most of the other parts of the United Kingdom.
§ Sir Humphrey Atkins
Yes, and look at the fuss that that caused. That is why I am unable to agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow), to whose speech yesterday I listened with great interest and whose actions I very much respect, that regional councils are the way forward. He did not explain—nor did any other right hon. or hon. Member—how the power to be given to regional councils should be exercised.
Successive Secretaries of State and successive Governments have studied how best power and responsibility can be exercised in Northern Ireland. A few minutes ago my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) referred to the Sunningdale agreement. I chaired a conference, without success, which examined whether a way forward could be devised. My right hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Mr. Prior) established the Assembly which might have led, as it might still lead, to power. That must happen. Disagreement will not achieve it. Disagreement solves no problems.
It is essential that sooner or later the power of government in Northern Ireland should be exercised in Northern Ireland, not in this House by Ministers on the Treasury Bench. The future of Northern Ireland and how it is run must eventually be in the hands of elected representatives in Northern Ireland. They are mostly unionists, and they will undoubtedly continue to be unionists for a very long time. Nobody on this side of the Irish sea can decide these matters.
There have been about eight Secretaries of State since Stormont was suspended. They represented constituencies 921 in Cumbria, Cambridgeshire, Yorkshire, Surrey, east Anglia, Oxfordshire and, now, the west country. None was able to devise a system under which the power that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State now exercises could be exercised in Northern Ireland, yet that is what we all wanted to do. Only the representatives of the people of Northern Ireland can do it.
The unionists feel that they were not consulted about the agreement. They feel let down and betrayed. We have heard that from them, and I have no doubt that we shall hear it again. I wholly understand those feelings, but I also understand that, as the unionists represent the majority in Northern Ireland, it is they and they alone in the future who can determine Northern Ireland's destiny. I beg them to consider carefully not just what they will do next month or in January or February, when many of them will return here if they have the elections that they plan, but what they will do next year, the year after and the year after that. What matters is how that country will be run to the benefit of everyone who lives there.
The unionist Members know what a wonderful part of the United Kingdom Northern Ireland is because they live there. They were born there. They represent it. I had the privilege of living there for two and a half years and I came quickly to realise what a marvellous part of the United Kingdom it is and what a tragedy it is that it is so beset by difficulties.
I beg all Ulster Members, in particular the unionist Members, to think carefully about what they will do in the future. I am sorry that we did not hear much about the future from the hon. Members for Antrim, North and for Upper Bann. Each spoke for more half an hour, but they did not tell us how they saw the future developing. No doubt they know. I hope that they do, because it is they who have the future of their Province in their hands.
§ Mr. A. E. P. Duffy (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
I recall a television interview given by the right hon. Member for Spelthorne (Sir H. Atkins) in his early days in office as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland that I witnessed in the House of Commons television room. He referred to "these IRA chappies." My heart sank. I knew that he was made to measure for the IRA. I shall argue later that he bears a heavy responsibility for the rise of Sinn Fein. The Anglo-Irish debate has already brought out sharply conflicting positions. It has also served to emphasise the delicate balance that the Dublin and London Governments are trying to strike.
We have heard from the Ulster Unionists that any role for the Dublin Government represents the start of the slippery road towards Irish unity. Yesterday, the Prime Minister patiently explained that the Anglo-Irish agreement offered them reassurances that they had long been demanding.
Prime Minister Garret FitzGerald insists that the Irish Government's immediate interest is to elevate the position of the nationalist community within Northern Ireland to a level that will overcome its alienation and see it cease to support the IRA. London and Dublin are anxious not to trigger counter-alienation on the part of the unionist community. That is one further delicate balance that they are trying to strike.
922 The British Government divided Ireland 65 years ago and kept the six counties in the United Kingdom. Britain and Ireland have paid in blood and in billions of pounds for that cowardice ever since.
Recent polls in Britain show that only 15 per cent. of the people are happy with that state of affairs. More than half favour British troop withdrawal, and three quarters are against any part of Ireland remaining within the United Kingdom.
Has not the time arrived to consider a change? Once more, the leaders of Ulster's Protestant community have reacted to a British attempt to bring peace to their Province by whipping their followers into self-righteous indignation. In the words of The Economist last week:
Protestants should stop complaining when Britons are brave on their behalf … yet the Protestant majority regards loyalism as implying the right to Britain's loyalty—the right to expect mainland Britain to send young men to die in mean streets, made meaner by Protestant bigotry.Protestant Ulster has refused to share power with the Catholic minority. It has refused not just at the ballot box but by gerrymandering, corruption, violence, terrorism and, most notably, in 1974, by industrial disruption. Despite this, I believe that there are some Tory Members who will go into the Lobby with the Unionist Members tonight.
As Ulster will not tolerate power sharing locally, British Ministers are correct to try power sharing nationally on Ulster's behalf. Just as Britain has taken the easy option of bailing out Ulster politics with direct rule, so it has taken the easy option of bailing out the Ulster economy with British money. Neither has worked. That is why we have also heard reservations expressed about the agreement from some of my hon. Friends. They, like me, find that the agreement represents a step—a movement—and that, of course, is seductive, but they ask whether the step is purposeful enough or whether it will merely legitimise and harden the border.
The agreement will almost certainly lead the Dublin Government into positions where they find themselves assuming responsibility for actions without any power. London is undoubtedly bent on the extraordinary quest of securing Dublin's assistance to help the British Government rule a part of Ireland more effectively and make it more amenable to the British Government's authority.
Garret FitzGerald justifies that on the ground of relieving the continuing nightmare of Northern Ireland nationalists—that their unity aspirations must take second place in the short term to provide a stable, peaceful society for them. In convincing the nationalists that their interests are being adequately represented and thus wean them from the IRA, Garret FitzGerald faces problems perhaps more formidable than the Prime Minister's. If the IRA were merely a criminal conspiracy, it would have been wiped out long ago. But the success of Sinn Fein at the polls has forced the British to do something for the constitutional nationalists represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume).
Sinn Fein's political success originated with a series of hunger strikes to the death in which strikers from the Gaelic and Catholic tradition held out even against the Pope's wishes. It is the martyrdom of the H-block hunger strikers which is responsible for the agreement that we are now debating. There was a supine Secretary of State for Northern Ireland at the time, and the Prime Minister 923 refused to show the compassion, humanity or even the slightest political flexibility that could have headed off the crisis that ended with the death of an elected Member of this House. She is learning.
§ Mr. Barry Porter (Wirral, South)
Is it not right that those in the H-blocks at that time had been convicted of murder and conspiracy to murder?
§ Mr. Duffy
They had been convicted, but I said that a little political nous, a little awareness of Irish history and of their psyche and a little political flexibility in the previous December could have headed off the May crisis. It could also have prevented the death of a Member of this House.
However, the Prime Minister is changing. She is learning. But will a combination of Garret FitzGerald and the right hon. Lady be sufficient to overcome, in the eyes of a burgeoning younger generation to which the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) referred yesterday—South as well as North—the appeal of the growing political effectiveness, as well as the determination, of Sinn Fein? If not, will they be tempted to proscribe it? That would be a step backwards.
I hope that the Government will work unremittingly to wean supporters of Sinn Fein from the bullet to the ballot. But that will mean—even to bring the degree of normality to Northern Ireland that is taken for granted in Britain—the conference and its secretariat working hard on many difficult problems. That includes, for example, the widespread belief among nationalists that the UDR is an armed wing of the unionists intent on inflicting humiliation and reminding them who is boss. Only those bearing certain names, some of which are borne by hon. Members of this House, who have been stopped on country lanes late at night in the north of Ireland by members of the UDR know just what humiliation means.
The problems include also the shoot-to-kill policy in Ulster; the lies, notably in the Constable Robinson case, that have been told to order in Ulster courts; the lack of juries; the hatred of the prison system; the lack of trust in the RUC; provocative Orange marches in predominantly Catholic areas, while confining Republican marches to their own districts; the Flag and Emblems Act, which bans display of the Irish tricolour while allowing the Union Jack to be flown regardless of potential provocation; strip searches of women prisoners; and the scandal of boy prisoners detained at the Secretary of State's pleasure; and the reneging by state-owned Short Brothers in Belfast on its Catholic jobs pledge.
The list of injustices and deeply felt grievances does not end there. If the agreement is to mark a new phase of cordiality in the relationship between Britain and Ireland—the speech of the Foreign Secretary in Birkenhead last Saturday, in which he praised the Irish Republic as a "mature democracy" was an encouraging departure—the feelings of the considerable Irish community in Britain will have to be taken into account and not customarily insulted, as they were yesterday in the House by the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery).
Special attention will have to be given to the cases of the Maguire family and the Birmingham six, who seem more than anything to have been victims of the bad relationship which traditionally existed between our two countries until now.
There is also the question of Irish prisoners in Britain and their treatment. Too many cases of ill treatment are 924 reported to my hon. Friends and me to leave any doubt that there are genuine grounds for complaint. Consideration should be given to their transfer to prisons in Ireland.
§ Mr. Duffy
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if, because of time, I do not give way to him.
There is no escape from the dilemma that either the Republic is to have some real say on behalf of the nationalist minority or there is no basis on which the Republic can redirect the allegiance of the minority to the politics of consent and away from the revolutionary goals of the IRA and the INLA. The basic question is simply whether the most that Britain is prepared to offer can be made to equal the least that Ireland needs to fulfil its part in the agreement.
There is still a danger that the two Prime Ministers will discover that they have been talking about different things—he about Catholic alienation, she merely about reinforcing the Union and intensifying the fight against the IRA. Even if it proved to be the latter and the emphasis was on security, I hope the House will recognise that that could be solved only in tandem with political movement.
Beyond that, it is a fact beyond dispute that a majority of the people of Ireland retain the aspiration for a united Ireland. Does any hon. Member really believe that the agreement can succeed unless it provides for a continuing glimpse of that natural and perfectly legitimate aspiration?
§ Mr. William Cash (Stafford)
The Irish question, which has so pervaded British and Irish politics for centuries, has become the Irish riddle. Often presented in theoretical constitutional terms, the issue has, at its centre of gravity, become primarily practical and political—an attempt, for the right reason, to protect minorities from administrative, economic and religious discrimination and, to ensure the preservation of peace, order and good government of the people in the United Kingdom and Ireland as a whole. There are many similarities with Mr. Speaker's protection of minorities in the House.
The agreement is a unique and important step in solving the riddle and in the continuation of those democratic objectives. It is based on a recognition of the diversity of the traditions in both parts of the community in Northern Ireland and is designed to redress the inequalities that have permeated the politics of the Province.
Without disturbing United Kingdom jurisdiction over Northern Ireland—which remains, despite the remarks of the hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. McCusker), absolute under section 1 of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 and was solemnly acknowledged for the first time by the Irish Government and Parliament last week—the two Governments have taken the historic step of coming together in mutual and reciprocal determination and political co-operation, within the context of the European Community, to protect the people of northern and southern Ireland as a whole from the bullet and the bomb.
I appeal to all those involved to maintain an atmosphere of calm, to avoid the language of hatred and mistrust and to remember that people and children mean more than pieces of paper or political power. I urge the continuation of meaningful dialogue, particularly with the Ulster Unionists.
925 Our mutual histories are littered with attempts to solve this problem. I hope that in due course we may be able to give further political expression to the agreement by eradicating and reconciling any residual theoretical constitutional problems which bedevil the situation and which may yet remain.
I have in mind the complications in our respective statute books of Poyning's Law of 1495, the Act of Union 1800, the view in Ryan's case, the view in Moore's case, articles 1 and 2 of the Irish Constitution and inconsistencies in the statutory provisions enacted in both countries in the 1920s and 1930s. The agreement ensures mutual acceptance of the validity of the 1973 Act. I urge the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) to bear that in mind and to restate his position on the guarantee under section 1.
The two Governments and Parliament have come together on a basis of consent by their electorates as a whole to make a positive agreement and to find a new way forward. The historic and, by their standards, sizeable vote in the Dail last week was a significant step in that direction, and I remind the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) that that included the defeat of Charles Haughey's amendment invoking articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution of Ireland. Enough time has passed to enable further progress to be made.
Constitutional theologians and religious bigots may seek to exploit the obvious difficulties that we face. Nevertheless, the agreement is a testament to the real statesmanship of the Prime Ministers of this country and of the Republic of Ireland and to constitutional ecumenism. It is a real opportunity for the people of Ireland, both north and south of the border, to achieve peace and stability.
Some people have claimed that the agreement will destabilise the position in Northern Ireland. That is not so—it has been destabilised for centuries by the lack of goodwill in seeking reconciliation from within, first in the days of the Protestant ascendancy and latterly since 1920 in Northern Ireland itself.
The agreement follows in the tradition of actions—so far as the times in which they were living allowed—by Charles James Fox, William Pitt, Canning, Gratton, Plunket, Peel, Wellington, O'Connell, Gladstone and Lloyd George, in taking bold and visionary steps to achieve reconciliation and harmony for the individual people of Ireland, both north and south of the border.
I ask the leaders of Ulster to stay their hand, to pause and to be bold, generous and imaginative—as they are truly able to be—in generating trust and goodwill rather than discord and unrest. Do they seek constitutional means as a method of protection or to exhaust remedies as a precursor to further action?
John Morley aptly described the problem in his summary of the Home Rule Bill 1886, when he said:
One of the cardinal difficulties of all free government is to make it hard for majorities to act unjustly to minorities. You cannot make this injustice impossible but you may set up obstacles.I have been asked what constitutional precedent there is for the agreement. There is no need to seek precedent, other than all the course of precedents for seeking peace, order and good government. That is the good and right 926 reason for establishing the rule, and justifies the agreement in terms of convention. In that respect, the same applies to the United Kingdom and to the Irish Republic.
How better could it be put than in the words of the preamble to the agreement:
Recognising the major interest of both their countries and, above all, of the people of Northern Ireland in diminishing the divisions there and achieving lasting peace and stability"?In the 19th century the Irish question turned upon attempts by the United Kingdom Executive to devolve degrees of self-government to Ireland while protecting the Protestant minority. They failed. Only after the legislation of the 1920s and 1930s was there any real opportunity for both Governments to solve it.
By fully recognising the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973, the Irish Government and the Dail have made a quantum leap forward. We in this Parliament will do likewise by approving tonight our Government's participation in the agreement.
A great problem remains—it is the acceptance of the agreement by the people of this United Kingdom who live in Northern Ireland. As has been made clear frequently in the debate, the agreement entails no loss of British or Irish Sovereignty, no sellout and no change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. Those who have taken the trouble to study the document and have some knowledge of Irish history know very well that that is so. Indeed, our High Court during the past few days has now ruled twice that that is the case.
However, we know that an agreement of such importance is fragile, even when buttressed by the vast number of votes to be cast in its favour at the end of the debate. Those votes will be the votes of the United Kingdom Parliament as a whole, speaking clearly to the people of that electorate as a whole.
But what of the elected representatives of Northern Ireland? What of their responsibility to their constituents, their electorate and this Parliament? Does loyalty to a party transcend loyalty to a constituency? The responsibility of the one cannot be divorced from the other—loyalist to whom and unionist of what, and upon what basis? Those are the questions that I ask them carefully and calmly to consider. That is what I meant when, in my opening remarks, I referred to the Ulster riddle. Who would be Lundy now if the gates of prejudice and intolerance, which, under this agreement, could be closed against terrorism and anarchy, were forcibly kept open?
By any reasonable assessment, the leaders of Northern Ireland know in their hearts that the history of the Province since the 1920s has been one of denial of civil and other rights to the Catholic minority. That cannot continue. The alienation is pushing that electorate further into the arms of Sinn Fein. I ask the leaders in Northern Ireland, when they accuse the Government in their mistrust, to ask themselves how that mistrust was created decades ago, first engendered in the 1920s and beyond, and whether we should not now all take note of the attempts at Geneva to solve the apparently insoluble mistrust that exists between Russia and America.
What advantage is there to the people of Ulster—the ordinary people who live and work there—to lose credibility with the remainder of the United Kingdom, which has loyally stood by them for centuries and protected them with their sovereignty, soldiers and subsidies for so long?
927 Constitutional theologians may deprecate and desecrate the agreement, but once endorsed by a massive majority in this United Kingdom Parliament, by its Members as a whole, there is no turning back. Things will never be the same again if Ulster votes against this pact in the by-elections that have been threatened. It is precisely for the reason that the agreement will have the backing of the United Kingdom Parliament as a whole, that the by-elections are potentially so dangerous to the Union. I appeal to the men of Ulster to think carefully in the time ahead about where all this will lead, and about whether they would be resigning for the right reasons. Far from bolstering confidence, it will induce greater chaos and deepen the profound sense of insecurity that has dominated Ulster politics for the past 60 years.
§ Mr. John Gorst (Hendon, North)
I have followed my hon. Friend's remarks with great care. He sounds like a most encouraging idealist. Does he believe that his faith will be translated into success, and if not, what is his view?
§ Mr. Cash
I believe that the agreement supports a real possibility for peace and stability in Northern Ireland.
Surely it would be counter-productive to renounce by resignation the protection inherent for the people of Ulster, of whatever political or religious persuasion, by virtue of membership of this House. To maintain the authority of Parliament, it is necessary to maintain unity, which is the first duty of every representative of the people. To do otherwise would be to mislead the electorate of Northern Ireland by drawing it away from Westminster on a tidal wave of emotion and spurious constitutional doctrine.
There is no such thing as partial consent to our Government by a portion of the United Kingdom, as Gladstone so clearly pointed out in the debate on home rule 100 years ago. Once the votes and the die are cast in those by-elections, there will be no retrieving the position thus created. To repudiate the agreement in Northern Ireland does not and cannot invalidate it—it merely creates a constitutional vacuum and plays into the hands of the men of violence.
The agreement itself, and now the Dail, acknowledge that the present wish of a majority of the people in Northern Ireland is for no change in the status of Northern Ireland. A referendum would add nothing to that, and could not solve the central problem of Ulster. The issue in a referendum, whether in Northern Ireland alone or in the United Kingdom as a whole, would be lost in a welter of personalities, parties and emotions. The prospects for such a referendum would be totally destroyed by the consequences of the proposed by-elections. The difference in the position of Northern Ireland compared with Scotland and Wales, is clearly set out in section 1 of the 1973 Act. The mechanism on the central issue is already there.
Why, then, do the Ulster Unionist and Democratic Unionist Members of Parliament wish to repudiate the agreement? At bottom, underneath the rhetoric, it appears to me that there is a message—no progress, no toleration, no protection for the minority. The irony is immense, for only by endorsing the agreement and by the exercise of responsible consent, can the practical protection of the people of Northern Ireland as a minority within the United Kingdom be sustained against terrorism.
928 It is part of the riddle to which I have referred that Carson himself wanted the protection to be vested here in Westminster, where it remains under the 1973 Act. That the agreement provides. There is no question of any change in the constitutional position of Northern Ireland except by the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland, and the agreement concedes that such consent is not there. Their protection lies in statute conferred by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which it is in the interest of Ulster Members to support.
To repudiate the agreement in by-elections would be to repudiate the authority of the Government, and of the Parliament of the United Kingdom by induced and incited consent. To a significant degree, it would undermine the consent of the electorate of the United Kingdom as a whole to the status of Northern Ireland, as set out in the 1973 Act. Can people not see the dangers of that? Their leaders clearly can, and so must be held accountable for the consequences.
Approval or disapproval will lie in the votes of the good people of Ulster, but once the decision is taken it will become an issue with far-reaching and unpredictable consequences. For decades there has been no serious or effective attempt to integrate the minority tradition into the institutional, administrative, economic, social or community affairs of Northern Ireland. That is at the practical root of the problem. If the leadership in Northern Ireland, believing that it is doing the right thing, chooses now, in by-elections, to take the electorate down the path of despair, it will have frustrated every attempt since 1920 to make progress.
In those circumstances, I appeal to the electorate to repudiate in the proposed by-elections not the agreement, the Government, their fellow Ulstermen who represent 40 per cent. of the population, their parliament or their friends in the United Kingdom and southern Ireland, but those of their Ulster leaders who, if they were to resign, would resign the future of Northern Ireland, and risk putting their electorate truly beyond the pale of the United Kingdom.
If those leaders, in a sterile pretence at protecting the people whom they represent, destroy the basis and credibility of the protection which has been afforded to them for centuries by the United Kingdom, their justification for returning as Members of Parliament will be undermined. If there are elections, the decision will lie with the people of Ulster. I remind those hon. Members who are about to resign, and who will face the people of Ulster with that decision of Becket's words in Eliot's "Murder in the Cathedral"—
§ "Now is my way clear, now is my meaning plain.
§ Temptation shall not come in this kind again.
§ For I now know that it is the greatest treason.
§ To do the right thing for the wrong reason."6.52 pm
§ Mr. Alfred Dubs (Battersea)
It is clear that Northern Ireland is different and has been different from the rest of the United Kingdom since its foundation and since it was made separate from the rest of Ireland because the minority of the people of the north of Ireland objected to the creation of that mini-state.
I have visited Northern Ireland several times. I was a member of the Kilbrandon committee which looked into the results of the New Ireland Forum, and at least some of our conclusions were not far different from the contents of the agreement. On one of my visits, I was shown around 929 Belfast by a woman who I felt sure was a very hard-line supporter of the Democratic Unionist party. At the beginning of the day, I asked her what her attitude was to the border, and she more or less said that she would fight to retain the six counties' separation from the rest of Ireland. The hunger strikes were on, and there was tension in the air. Indeed, a hunger striker's funeral was taking place in the Falls road.
Later that day we were looking at a particularly desolate part of Belfast and I asked her whether she had ever been to Dublin. She said that she had, so I asked her what she thought of it. She said that Dublin was a fine place. I asked, "Are you really saying that coming under Dublin would be worse than all this?" I did not talk about Dublin having a consultative status, but referred merely to "coming under Dublin". She replied, "Put that way, I suppose we could work under Dublin." [Interruption.] Some hon. Members may laugh, but that little anecdote contains hope for Northern Ireland. It shows that it is possible for those who ostensibly vote for unionist politicians to be persuaded to see a different and more peaceful future for their land.
Those who have visited Northern Ireland will have been overwhelmed by the tragedy going on there. It is a reflection of that that when the Leader of the DUP spoke, he did not say anything throughout his lengthy speech about the future of Northern Ireland. He did not offer anything other than a continuation of present events. It was a speech of no hope and of despair. His speech must be contrasted with that made by the leader of the SDLP. The speech made by that hon. Member showed that he was willing to take risks, and that the SDLP had some vision about the future of Northern Ireland and was willing to take risks for the sake of peace in that land.
I can only despair of unionist leaders who say that nothing should be changed and who accept that the violence will continue. They ask merely for more security, and have nothing else to offer the people of the six counties or the people of the whole of Ireland. That is too depressing an assessment for the House to accept. Indeed, it is too depressing to be acceptable to the people of this country.
We must say no to such attitudes, because there must be a different, better and more peaceful way forward. That means some recognition of the responsibilities of leadership on the part of unionist politicians. They must say that they will consider any change to see whether there is anything of benefit there to all the people of the six counties. Sadly, I see no sign of that vision or of the sort of leadership that the Protestant population of the six counties is entitled to expect of them. I see no more than a continuation of the status quo.
It is easy to say that a new suggestion has faults. I also accept that the agreement is flawed. It is not the most wonderful thing imaginable, but at least it offers a way forward. If we always pick to pieces any suggestion made for the future of Northern Ireland, violence will continue. Some people may think that the level of violence is acceptable, but I do not think so. Nevertheless, that violence will continue and our children will end up having the same discussions. That is no way forward.
In this modest agreement, we have an opportunity. Of course the agreement is faulty. Some hon. Members have said that it will help to reduce the level of violence. But 930 in the short term it may not do so, because the men of violence may well see it as a threat and try to undermine it by escalating the violence. But if the agreement is backed by the House, it can form a message to the people of Northern Ireland. In that way, those who have gone along slightly with the men of violence may say that they will not do so any more, thus isolating the terrorists.
I am certain that the leaders of Sinn Fein see the agreement as a threat to the support that they have received from some in the community. I am sure that they are anxious about it, because it will undermine their support. It will not stop the hard-liners committing acts of violence. Nobody expects it to do so. But the agreement's success will be judged by whether the majority of those from the six counties say that they have had enough of violence and will follow this different approach.
I cannot understand why the unionists are so passionately opposed to the agreement. Throughout most of yesterday and today, I listened to their speeches. They cannot object because of the words in the agreement. We are talking about what the agreement signifies and where it goes in the long term.
Perhaps unionist leaders see the agreement as the first step to a united Ireland. I shall deal with that later because I believe in a united Ireland. I think that the traditional unionist politicians fear that the agreement will slowly change attitudes and perceptions in the six counties. It will make the ordinary unionist people who traditionally have regarded Dublin and the Republic as the enemy, believe that it will not be all that bad to give the Republic some advisory say. Because that will make people realise that the Republic is not the enemy of the unionist population in the north, the unionists will be less likely to follow their hard-line leaders. That is a threat to the leaders of the two unionist parties if they believe that they can do nothing about it and that that is the only option.
For that reason, I welcome the agreement. If it makes the people in the six counties adopt a different attitude to the Republic, to co-operating with Dublin and to achieving agreement covering the whole of Ireland—whether on security, the justice system, economic or social policies—so much the better.
For long I have believed in a united Ireland. I hope that the agreement will enable a Labour Government committed to a united Ireland to make progress. That is for the future. That is for the day when there is a different Government. In the meantime we have the reality of a debate about an agreement and the reaction in Northern Ireland and the whole of Ireland to our decision this evening.
I am puzzled about how all the unionists plan to go for by-elections. I think that the Official Unionists have been bullied by the Democratic Unionists for reasons that I do not fully understand. It seems a short-sighted policy. If they are all returned to the seats which they now hold, so what? What will be different? Nothing will have changed and they will have proved nothing. If any of them lose their seats, that will be their problem. Some unionists said that they were making their last speeches in the House. They talk not of the last speeches before the by-elections but of their last speeches ever. I wonder whether that means that they will not resume their seats even if they win their by-elections.
Whatever the arguments by the population forecasters, it is inescapable that at some time in the not-too-distant future the Northern Ireland population will have changed 931 so that there is a Catholic majority in the six counties. The best forecast is that that will happen in 30 years. It may be sooner, or a little later. We have heard that even then a 51 per cent. majority in favour of joining the Republic will not be sufficient for unionist politicians. At what point will they accept that the majority in Northern Ireland want to join a united Ireland?
The unionists must face the consequences of their arguments. There is an inevitability about the population changes and about the process of moving towards a united Ireland. We are witnessing one of a number of last-ditch defences.
When something is inevitable, leadership's task is to ease the transition in a way which is peaceful, protects the interests of the community and ensures stability. Without that, conflict and tension will continue.
The parliamentary tier suggestion is helpful because it would enable closer relationships to be developed between the House of Commons and the Dail. That relationship would be better and be in the interests of all the people of Ireland. I hope that the House will move in that direction.
I do not think that the agreement is the most wonderful thing of all time. It is modest, but it is a step forward in the interests of the peace and well being of the Northern Ireland people and therefore of the people of the whole of Ireland. I hope that the House will give the agreement its overwhelming support.
§ 7.5 pm
§ Sir Frederic Bennett (Torbay)
My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) and the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Dubs) sought to lecture Ulster Unionists on their duties. I believe them all to be capable of making up their minds about where their duties and obligations lie. If they decide that their duties and obligations require them to resign and fight elections it is not up to us to query their motives or to seek to persuade them not to take that action. That would be slightly presumptous.
There is anyhow no need for the unionists to take such action to persuade us, from whatever side, of the depth of passion and emotion and sense of conviction that they have expressed on behalf of the majority of their constituents. It is not necessary for them to take any other step to be convincing.
An advantage of taking part in the second day of a debate is that one has been able to listen and to learn. I listened to almost all the debate yesterday and to all of it today. I have come to the conclusion that we have to face the fact that Unionist Members represent their constituents' conviction—however much we may deplore or question it—that they are now set on the road to absorption under an Irish Government in Dublin.
The speech by the Leader of the Opposition yesterday revealed at the start a rare element of statesmanship; but I regretted that towards the end of his speech he raised the spectre of the Government's economic policies. He said the killings were partly attributable to those policies. That was deplorable and inaccurate because the figures show that casualties and killings were higher when the Labour Government were in office. On a matter of fact, he was talking nonsense.
§ Mr. Robert Parry (Liverpool, Riverside)
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that most of the violence in our inner cities is caused by mass unemployment and deprivation?
§ Sir Frederic Bennett
Much of the trouble in the inner cities is not the result of this Government's policies but of those adopted by the previous Labour Government. But those policies no more contributed to the killings during the last 15 years in Ulster than our policies did.
Some comments made yesterday and reiterated today have put hon. Members like myself in difficulty. I refer to the opinion expressed by Opposition Members, including the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) who wound up last night's debate for the Opposition, that the agreement was a welcome step on the way to a united Ireland. When I support the Government in the Lobby tonight, it will not be because I regard the agreement as a step on the way to a united Ireland, but because I believe, rightly or wrongly, that it is a legislative, constitutional and practical step to cement our obligation permanently to ensure the self-determination rights of the majority in Ulster. I do not agree that this is the first step towards betraying the majority in Ulster. There are good reasons for believing that at a critical time we are cementing an obligation through an international treaty to ensure that the majority in Ulster will never have the right of self-determination about their future taken from them by any British or other Government.
We have talked a great deal about the advantages and disadvantages of the agreement, but there is one disadvantage and one advantage that we have not mentioned. The agreement provides the best possibility ever put before us to gain some ground. Some hon. Members have referred to the fact that at present there is a growing feeling—I am not talking about threats of plebiscites of the British public—in Scotland, Wales and England that we are trying to attain the impossible by seeking to reconcile the two communities in the North. We all know that, and we do not need polls to tell us that.
People are getting tired of trying to achieve something which appears to be unattainable. Therefore, we have a duty to try yet another initiative to bring about a change that is acceptable to the electorate of Great Britain and Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom. The advantages in the new agreement at least justify us giving it a fair chance.
I dislike the second article, about a structured consultative role, as much as anyone, but I am aware from the intolerable arguments that I have had during the past 18 months with my Irish counterparts at Strasbourg that no agreement is possible on any subject or aspect of our relations that does not give some sort of consultative role to the Irish Republic regarding the minority. We must face the fact that Garret FitzGerald would never have got his agreement through the Dail last week without that article.
When, as a supporter of the Government, one deals with the arguments, it is odd that on the one hand there is Mr. Haughey and his men who say that Garret FitzGerald has betrayed the Irish public by giving away too much, and on the other, our Ulster Unionist friends and others who say that the British Government have given away too much.
§ Mr. William Ross (Londonderry, East)
Why is it that no one understands that when Mr. Haughey said that he was simply playing party politics for his own benefit?
§ Sir Frederic Bennett
I would not have given way if I had known that I was to be asked to comment on that. It is difficult enough to understand the Irish and their 933 conduct, but to understand the motivation of Irish politicians is a task beyond my powers. I wish to terminate my remarks as briefly as possible.
§ Sir Frederic Bennett
That sort of remark does not help.
The pre-agreement position of all the Irish parties that signed the New Ireland Forum report—that is, the three parties in the South and the SDLP in the North—is contained in large paragraphs within a booklet. I shall quote only a sentence from each of the proposals which, until Dr. FitzGerald put forward the agreement last week, represented the official position of his Government.
The first was a proposal for a unitary state. The proposal states:A unitary state would embrace the island of Ireland governed as a single unit under one Government and one Parliament elected by all the people of the island.Whatever else one may think, that has been entirely renounced through Dr. FitzGerald's adherence to the agreement.
The second proposition put to the New Ireland Forum was of a federal or confederal state. The proposal states:A two state federal/confederal Ireland based on the existing identities, North and South, would reflect the political and administrative realities of the past 60 years and would entrench a measure of autonomy for both parts of Ireland within an all-Ireland framework.That is far beyond what we are proposing tonight, and represents a significant surrender of the Irish Government's previous position.
The third suggestion, which is endorsed by the other parties to the New Ireland Forum, all of which but one have now abandoned their claims under the Forum, is a joint authority. The proposal states:Under joint authority, the London and Dublin Governments would have equal responsibility for all aspects of the Government of Northern Ireland.The British Government have utterly rejected those Forum suggestions. Some Opposition Members suggested that they were worth following up, but all the suggestions go far beyond what we are being asked to approve tonight.
It would be wrong for anyone to imagine that those who go into the Aye Lobby tonight are composed of two simple factions—those who want to get rid of the Irish problem altogether, and those who would like a united Ireland or who hold other extremist points of view. The view of the majority of Conservative Members will be that, although the agreement may fail to achieve its objectives, as other initiatives have done, it is worth giving a chance to the best initiative that we have had for a long time, which seeks to secure in perpetuity the right of the majority of the inhabitants of Ulster to decide their own future within the United Kingdom.
§ Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)
Some hon. Members will share with me a sense of conviction that the aid from Torbay tonight has not been as helpful as that which landed some centuries ago. It was a better initiative on that occasion and had lasting results for the democratic practice of the nation.
I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Battersea (Mr. Dubs) for latching on to the heart of the agreement. Contrary to the view of the right hon. Member for Torbay 934 (Sir F. Bennett) that Dublin has set its back to a unitary state or a federal Ireland, Peter Barry, the Irish Foreign Secretary, said prior to the finalising of the agreement that they were not negotiating a unitary sate, a federal state or a joint authority, but a step thereto. I believe that when one knows where one is being taken and one does not want to go there, one is far better saying honestly and immediately, "No."
I came to understand why the Opposition joined the Government in accepting this proposal. However, contrary to the voices that have come from the Government Benches, for the first time the Government of the United Kingdom have declared in a solemn agreement between two Governments that they are prepared to disengage from a part of the United Kingdom. That is what is meant by the article to which we take strong exeception and it is because that article exists that the Government of the Irish Republic were able to sell the agreement to their people.
We have learnt a great deal from Sunningdale—at least, the nationalists and the civil servants have, but I am not sure whether Ministers have. As I listened to the debate, I began to think that a skit by Lewis Carroll had been discovered, because it appears that much of what has been said means whatever the speaker says it means, and they can get through with such arguments. Keeping to a literary allusion, as we are now heading towards the Christmas season it might even be "Great Expectations" we are discussing, because we are building tremendous expectations that the agreement will resolve and settle problems—although only for the next three years, and then we shall have a fresh look at it.
Some hon. Members will remember that on three distinct occasions I asked a Minister to explain on what basis the Government built their confidence that such an agreement will be followed through. I am not impugning the signature of Garret FitzGerald on this agreement, but my hon. Friend the Member for Upper Bann (Mr. McCusker) has already brought before the House the point about the agreement of 1925, which was significantly signed by the same party for the Government of the Irish Republic as this agreement. In subsequent movements, that binding agreement was repudiated.
Although, like others, I was read a lesson about constitutional theologians by the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash), I understand that a Government may not bind a successive Government, and this is not a solemn treaty between nations but an agreement between Governments. Therefore, it is a stopgap. As we were told by the hon. Member for Stafford that we should learn from the recent summit, I should put it on record that at that time Gorbachev repeated the words of Palmerston:England has no friends, only interests.Therefore, we have to ask—it would probably take a longer debate than this to sort it out—what are the particular interests that propel Her Majesty's Government down this road.
We have been told that the conference will be open, and that we shall know what is going on. I have had similar experiences as those of the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell). I have found it difficult to get answers to my question, and one has to get evidence some other way. I have had a series of answers from Her Majesty's Government about the meetings of officials who have already been meeting and been told that it is not the custom to say what officials discussed or who they are. However, 935 the House and the people of Ulster have been asked to commit themselves to an intergovernmental agreement between Ministers and officials, which says clearly that officials will meet on several occasions, and sometimes on their own. How can the House know what is talked about at such meetings? There may come a time when we have to legislate, but we notice that the Government are not too keen to legislate because they are not too sure of their case. Secrecy will continue.
The Union has been damaged tonight. Although we have had an impassioned spiel, with the imputation that some of us were acting dishonourably by going to the country, we have to do that. Her Majesty's Ministers say that we do not represent the people and that the moderate unionists will go another way. I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether you can tell me what a "moderate unionist" is? Is it somebody who lives halfway down the road to nationalism? A unionist is a unionist or he is not. He might express his views in temperate language or he might be more extreme, but when it comes to unionism, one is either for the Union or against it. Conservative Members who follow their Whips to support the Government are voting against the Union, although they might be trying to help their Government at a difficult time. In our Ulster tradition, we say that it is better to be open and honourable.
We are told that this agreement will help the economy. We are assured that money is coming into the economy. Perhaps that is in atonement for the money that went out to America from our economy. Perhaps some rich American business people will make amends for the £50 million that has gone through De Lorean. How can the Premier of the Irish Republic hope to get money from America invested in Northern Ireland when he has not been able to resolve his country's difficulties by such investment?
Further, we are told that instability is stopping finance from America going into Northern Ireland. However, if an American business firm wants to invest in the Republic of Ireland, it can do so. On the other hand, if it wants to invest in Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom, it will hesitate to do so if there is the possibility that in a short time Northern Ireland will no longer be part of the United Kingdom. It will put its money elsewhere. Therefore, the greatest task that the House can perform in restoring stability is to say loud and clear to the terrorists and the political joiners from the Irish Republic and in the House that there is to be no change in the constitutional position.
I have in my hand a copy of The Equal Citizen. It was not written by people who would normally support my party. It puts on record what I have already said. I have also a letter from another man who lives in north Belfast and therefore will not vote for me. Using "Erskine May" and the traditions of our British democracy, he points out that if the House is serious about maintaining Northern Ireland within the Union and representing the people properly, it should be prepared to organise the party structures in Northern Ireland and not cut a sizeable section of the people of Northern Ireland from the proper democratic process in this place. I know one reason why they are not—they know that they do not speak for the people of Northern Ireland. Protestants and Catholics are intrinsically, and by and large by a majority, for the Union and only the Union.
936 As we have heard so many ifs, I am reminded of a law professor who used to tell us that if a cow had a tail long enough, it would reach the moon—if.
§ Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)
The hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) was right to draw our attention to the fact that Northern Ireland unionists had never been accepted as truly British by the United Kingdom Government. However, they are, and in many ways they are the best of British, but unlike the English, Welsh and Scots, they have always had to fight to remain British. To adapt a Latin tag, they are saying, "Civis Britannicus Sum." That is a proud cry which I hope that this and future Governments will make even prouder, but it has always had an embattled ring to it in the mouths of British citizens in Northern Ireland. The agreement is only the latest in a long history of challenges to the birthright of British citizens in Northern Ireland. I am sure that, like other agreements, it will be defeated. One day a wiser Government than the present one will integrate Northern Ireland fully into the United Kingdom with generous arrangements for those who choose to be outside it. There will then be justice and equality for all in Northern Ireland.
I disagree with the Government's judgment on this so profoundly that I have no choice but to vote against the motion. However, I do not believe that the Government have acted at all dishonourably. No one who knows my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister could possibly believe that she would act dishonourably, but this issue is past being one of honour and my right hon. Friend and her colleagues are guilty of an error of monumental and historic significance.
The Government's motives in this matter are clearly understandable. They arise out of a certain war weariness, an impatience to end the killing, pain, agony, misery and suffering in Northern Ireland in the past 16 years, and a desire to end the burden that Northern Ireland imposes on the rest of the country. If the Government have made an error in judging how to end the trouble, that is not necessarily unworthy. Under prolonged pain there are times when even the bravest of us would wonder whether we could go on enduring such pain. A plausible and beguiling opponent is able to convince one that there can be peace with honour and the price to be paid in what might appear to be the simple notion of sovereignty seems not excessive compared with the blessed relief that comes with the end of the pain. Surrender can seem sweet when it brings an end to violence, especially if it can be dressed up to resemble a fresh political initiative.
I can conceive of no circumstances in which an abridgement of our sovereignty over Northern Ireland in favour of the Irish Republic would be justified. However, I must acknowledge that if the agreement brought peace to Ulster it would be a triumph. The question is, will it bring peace? I am surprised at the gullibility of so many of my right hon. and hon. Friends, who are normally sane and responsible, in accepting that peace will come to Northern Ireland because the Irish Republic has been given a part to play in its administration in return for a political gesture. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister makes that claim, and that is good enough for some hon. Members. Many pious hopes for peace and stability in Northern Ireland have been expressed, but there has not been the slightest shred of evidence that the agreement is the way to achieve that peace.
§ Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle)
My hon. Friend has made some fair points and seems to be influenced by article 7(c) of the agreement, which states clearly:
The two Governments agree that there is a need for a programme of special measures in Northern Ireland to improve relations between the security forces.Does my hon. Friend accept that there is now a heavy burden of responsibility on the Government of the Republic to ensure that relations on security are improved? If there is not, many of my right hon. and hon. Friends who, like me, will be voting for this agreement will be sadly disillusioned.
§ Mr. Stanbrook
My hon. Friend is quite correct. That point has been made in previous contributions to the debate, including that of the right hon. Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Mason), a former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and that of the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen). That is an important element if we have to have the agreement and if it is to be fair to our country.
§ Sir Frederic Bennett
My hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) has given valid reasons for not wanting the agreement. He owes it to the House to propose an alternative course of action.
§ Mr. Stanbrook
In demolishing an opponent's argument as I hope that I am doing now, there is no need to erect an alternative edifice. I believe, however, that there is another course for Northern Ireland which could be adopted by this or any British Government. It would to some extent be painful and it would certainly be expensive, but in the long run it would be cheaper than any other course so far proposed. That option is complete integration of the Province with the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland could be treated like Scotland, Wales or any other region in the United Kingdom. Its citizens would be able to elect their representatives in this Parliament to govern them in the same way as constituents in Scotland and Wales are governed.
There is no evidence that peace will be the reward for abandoning the position which successive British Governments have defended for more than half a century. Will the IRA end its violence now that it seems to have helped to bring the British Government so far along the road to withdrawal from Northern Ireland? Will the republican minority cease to support the IRA now that the Dublin Government are there to represent them locally? Will the Dublin Government's acceptance of the constitutional guarantee to the majority make the slightest difference? Of course it will not.
§ Dame Jill Knight
Will my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) address himself to a crucial question? Will there be a change in the way in which requests for extradition are dealt with by the Dublin Government? Of 96 requests for extradition, only two have been allowed. Does my hon. Friend think that the agreement will alter that?
§ Mr. Stanbrook
I do not think the agreement will alter that. That matter is not covered in the agreement. The Dublin Government promise in the communiqué to promote the idea that the Republic should become a party to the European convention on the suppression of terrorism, but that is as unlikely a prospect as it has been for the many years since the convention was signed.
938 Will there be peace after 12 months' experience of the Intergovernmental Conference promoting the interests of the republican minority against those of the majority? The unionists are often ignored, reviled and lectured by many of my hon. Friends, including my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash). They were not consulted during the making of the agreement. Will they agree to live with the agreement? Will the sight of jubilant Irish-Americans, never the friends of Ulster—
§ Mr. Michael Morris (Northampton, South)
In the course of his rhetorical questions, does my hon. Friend think that the money that pours in for Noraid from Chicago or New York will stop?
§ Mr. Stanbrook
I imagine that, far from stopping, the efforts to get that money will only increase because the fund raisers will say, "We are on our way, boys, and we are making progress towards our objective," which is to get the British out of Ireland.
§ Mr. Stanbrook
The Official Opposition in this Parliament are giving authority to the objective of a united Ireland, and this agreement is a step on the way to that.
§ Mr. Stanbrook
I shall give way later if the hon. Gentleman will allow me to continue now.
Will the sight of jubilant Irish-Americans and the delight of the nationalists help the unionists to accept the agreement? Of course it will not.
What the Government have done to the unionist cause is to promote the idea of an independent Ulster which, despite the advocacy of the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan), is likely to lead to a situation in which at best the minority are overridden and at worst there is civil war. The agreement is humiliating to Britain because by its terms it states that we can no longer, unaided, provide fair government for all our people. The Government are saying that a foreign Government will be called in to speak on behalf of some of our people. What an abdication of responsibiliy that is. The apparent legality of the document is a blind and likely to mislead.
§ Mr. Stanbrook
I am sure that it is a perfectly reasonable inference to assume from what has happened that there has been pressure for foreign Governments to reach this agreement. As it involves a humiliating loss of sovereignty for this country one assumes that it could not have occurred without such pressure.
Article 2 of the agreement refers grandiosely to the "sovereignty" of the two Governments as though any such thing existed. As a constitutional lawyer, I have always understood that sovereignty was an attribute of the state, of the United Kingdom, and that, following Dicey, Parliament was supreme within the United Kingdom. A transitory Government entrusted with executive power for a limited purpose are never sovereign. No matter how often my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister may sign 939 documents claiming that hers is a sovereign Government, that is not so and it is not possible under the constitution of the United Kingdom.
Why is the word "sovereignty" attributed to Governments in the agreement? It is because the agreement is not an international treaty between two sovereign states, as some have claimed it to be. It is not even made on behalf of the United Kingdom. It is not made in the name of the Queen, which would be necessary if it were a treaty made on behalf of the United Kingdom. It does not bind the United Kingdom. More important, and perhaps more sinister, it does not bind the Irish Republic. It may bind Dr. FitzGerald and his colleagues because he and his Government are parties to an intergovernmental agreement and have signed a document in token of their acceptance, but the agreement does not bind their successors, as it would if it really were an international treaty between two sovereign states.
§ Mr. Corbyn
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that some of us oppose the agreement for reasons other than those that he has given? We believe that the agreement strengthens rather than weakens the border between the six and the 26 counties, and those of us who wish to see a United Ireland oppose the agreement for that reason.
§ Mr. Stanbrook
I appreciate that other hon. Members may have reasons different from mine for opposing the agreement. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that the agreement strengthens the border when he wants to get rid of the border, he will naturally follow that view in voting today. I am saying that the rights and interests of the unionists of Northern Ireland should be uppermost in our minds and that we should never surrender them to anyone else or to any foreign Government. That is a different proposition. I cannot make the hon. Gentleman's case for him as I simply do not believe in it.
The agreement is binding on the two Governments who have signed it. Dr. FitzGerald could not arrange for it to be binding on two sovereign states including the Republic of Ireland because the constitution of the Republic lays claim to Northern Ireland and he as Prime Minister has no right to abandon that claim on behalf of the Republic in adopting a constitutional guarantee for the majority in Northern Ireland. Such a guarantee can be given as a political gesture, but it has no binding legal force on anyone but the present Government of the Republic. In other words, we are abandoning one of the proudest features of our independence for a mere political gesture from a transitory Government.
Until now, we could say to interfering foreigners, "Thank you for your interest, but this is our land and you have no right to interfere." The agreement means that we can no longer say that. From now on, we shall be plagued by Spain demanding a role in the affairs of Gibraltar, Argentina demanding a role in the affairs of the Falklands, and so on. Even Jamaica, India and other states will now have a precedent for demanding the right to be consulted about the grievances of their citizens in the United Kingdom.
Stripped of the blarney about sovereign Governments, the agreement amounts to an offer by Dr. FitzGerald and his colleagues to recognise reality in the shape of the unionist majority in Northern Ireland in exchange for the right to be consulted about matters affecting the republican minority. We should reject it because it is a bad 940 agreement, conceived in desperation, born out of the fear of violence and foreign pressure and confirmed in folly. It will make matters worse, not better, in Northern Ireland, and I for one will have no truck with it.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
In the 47 days of debate on the Floor of the House about the Scotland and Wales Bills an exasperated colleague said sourly that one of the functions of any assembly in Edinburgh should be responsibility for Northern Ireland affairs. I am a Celt and a Scot and I say with humility that a great part of the problem is "us", and not least the English.
Charles I, Stratford, Cromwell, Peel, Gladstone, Lloyd George and, in our own time, the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), Harold Wilson and my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan), all tried, but the truth of the matter is that from this side of the water we have had singularly little success in dealing with the affairs of Ireland.
Why, then, should we imagine that the present initiative can succeed? I do not say this with any venom, but anything from this side of the water is unlikely to succeed. Good, decent, well-meaning men such as my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth have tried, but where have those attempts got us?
Even if the present proposition were a starter, the way in which the Prime Minister has gone about it makes it an absolute non-starter. It is a recipe for distrust and for all sorts of difficulties in the future because the Ministers who have put it forward have spoken with forked tongues.
There was an important point in the debate when the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Sir E. Griffiths) intervened during the speech of the Secretary of State and asked a perfectly legitimate question about the role of the police. I do not yet, of course, have the Hansard in front of me but my understanding is that the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds was reassured that the responsibility for the police would be a matter for this House and for the British Government. That is not the impression of Dublin. The Irish Minister of Justice, Mr. Noonan, who is a careful man, said to an American audience:
In effect, we have been given a major and substantial role in the day-to-day running of Northern Ireland.What I want to know from the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the hon. Member for Chelsea (Mr. Scott) is, whose version is correct? Either the Irish Minister of Justice is misleading the Americans or the Secretary of State is misleading the House and I ask the Under-Secretary who is right? I give him the opportunity to reply. Well, this is symptomatic of the trouble. Ministers will not answer. The hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. McCusker) made a remarkable speech. He asked serious questions but he too got absolutely no answer to his serious questions.
I have known the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland for a long time. No man was more courteous when it came to piloting the Wildlife and Countryside Act through Parliament. As a Member of Parliament sponsored by the National Union of Railwaymen, I had to visit the Minister on matters relating to railway investments and constituency problems. He is an agreeable, decent, nice Englishman. I watched him during the speech of the hon. Member for Upper Bann and he became quite irritated, he turned off and became impatient. The right hon. Member 941 for Old Bexley and Sidcup said that he does not understand these Irish people. This is precisely the difficulty of the English.
What about Scotland? I have a certain record in relation to devolution and no one can accuse me of being a Scottish nationalist but if the Secretary of State for Scotland had not been Willie Ross, then, later my right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Millan) or later still, the right hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) but had been the right hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King) what the heck would I be saying?
Ministers from the constituencies of Bath and Pudsey have been sent to Northern Ireland because it is a step on the ministerial ladder. This is English patronage and it does damn all for Northern Ireland. They are there for a short period. I know that some, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) who, unfortunately, is not here, developed a caring and passionate interest. But to others it is just a job which is simply one step up the ministerial ladder, so what can we expect other than mutual antagonism? This is no way to solve the historic problems of Ireland.
Although I may be unpopular for saying this, and although I do not wish to criticise the soldiers of the British Army, in 1969 I pleaded with my senior colleagues not to send troops into Northern Ireland and especially not the Scottish troops. I did so on the grounds that once we put the Army in it would be much more difficult to pull it out. As long as the British Army is there—I am not criticising the forces—this problem will go on and on. I would pull them out.
It has been said that the situation created will lead to a holocaust. Of course we do not want a holocaust but this is the judgment that I put forward. Left to themselves, the Irish would sort things out.
I have visited the Maze and talked to the hard men. Both sides have relations with one another. I have also visited the women's prison in Armagh and met Elizabeth McKie, a gun-runner and God knows what else. She said—I will not attempt to imitate her brogue—that it would be all right by her if the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) was Prime Minister so long as the Brits got out. By some alchemy, if left to themselves, the Irish would sort something out, a reasonable, viable solution. I may be accused of great naivety, but they have an Irish wavelength. I know that the case of Scotland and Wales is very different. Wales has virtually run the Labour party or at least has sent the House Prime Ministers, as has Scotland in the case of Alec Douglas-Home. However, in more than 23 years I can recall only one Northern Irish British Minister, Mr. Chichester-Clark, who was for a short time Minister of State for Employment.
Whatever hon. Members may think about Sinn Fein it is not clever in this situation for the Prime Minister to talk about "terrorists". They have a point of view. It is a use of language that absolutely infuriates the people of Ireland.
Again, the Secretary of State has referred to the minority as a "minority who believe themselves to be Irish." It is a use of language which is patronising. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) knows exactly what I am saying. If we talk like this we cannot be surprised if we get trouble, and are hated.
Five hon. Members have talked about what might happen in certain circumstances and have used the word 942 "holocaust". In the debate in the other place, Lord Dunleath and Lord Moyola have also talked about a holocaust. I ask one simple question. What the heck do we do—I ask Government and my own Front Bench—if in the coming months the Government are asked for more troops? This would mean England and Scotland sinking deeper and deeper into the mire.
I have always followed my party except on devolution and east of Suez but tonight I shall with heavy heart enter a different Lobby from most of my colleagues because I believe that this agreement is unworkable and counterproductive.
Finally, if the Government can do this, why on earth can they not speak to President Alfonsin? Why be selective? I have said enough.
§ Sir Nicholas Bonsor (Upminster)
The debate has been going on for some 11 hours and it has been one of the most stimulating that I have heard in my six and a half years here. It has been especially good for two reasons. First, almost every hon. Member has spoken deeply and from the heart and the debate has not been divided by the party politics which, sadly, usually separates the two sides of the House. Secondly, we have heard excellent speeches from hon. Members with widely differing views that they have expressed in moderate terms and as a result of deep thought.
The Leader of the Opposition and my right hon. Friends the Members for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) and for Waveney (Mr. Prior) have made speeches that will stand in the annals of Ireland. The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) made a speech with which I wholly disagreed but to which I listened with great respect. I admired the way in which he put his case.
I can add little except a historical background to this sad affair which has resulted in Ireland being split into two and the Irish people being divided for a long time. Anybody who considers the history of Ireland in the early part of this century must feel great sorrow at the people of a fine country being so irretrievably divided. I do not believe that in 1921, when the Ulster Parliament was set up, in 1922, when the constitution was established, or in 1925, when the division was finally agreed with southern Ireland, the Government intended to divide Ireland irretrievably into one part foreign nation and another part United Kingdom.
I am reinforced in that belief by what King George V said when he opened the Parliament in Ulster on 22 June 1921. He said:The future lies in the hands of my Irish people. May this historic gathering be the prelude of the day in which the Irish people, North and South, under one Parliament or two, as those Parliaments may themselves decide, shall work together in common love for Ireland upon the sure foundation of mutual justice and respect.I do not believe that, with those words, he intended to formulate a policy which would result in Ireland being divided between North and South.
It would be wrong for the Government to regard the South as a foreign state with which we can have no truck in affairs that affect the North. Nor do I believe—this is where I differ fundamentally from many of my hon. Friends and most of those who represent Ulster—that the Government must consider that Ulster has to be a part of the United Kingdom for ever. It is absolutely right that Ulster remains part of the United Kingdom as long as that is the express wish of the clear majority. There should be 943 no change unless a clear majority—not just 51 per cent.—think otherwise. Such a transitory majority can be changed by propaganda. The Government should be prepared to accept a united Ireland, however, if that is the clear wish of the majority in the North. That is what the agreement commits the Government to do.
Much has been said about the loss of sovereignty. I have heard every speech so far. I am a lawyer but, unlike some of my hon. Friends, I do not claim to be expert in constitutional law. I have considered the matter closely and I have not seen one word in the agreement which derogates from the sovereignty of this Parliament.
§ Mr. Corbyn
In view of the hon. Gentleman's experience as a constitutional lawyer, will he say whether the agreement potentially infringes the concept of neutrality that the Irish Republic has traditionally pursued and whether, if there are further discussions between the British, American and Irish Governments about future defence arrangements, they will endanger Irish neutrality?
§ Sir Nicholas Bonsor
I had hoped that we would keep our minds on the problem facing the House rather than on some wild fantasy that might happen. I know nothing of defence matters being discussed by our three respective leaders, but I would welcome such talks, as they would be constructive and in the nation's interests.
The consequences of accepting or refusing the agreement have not been described fully and concisely. What do the agreement's opponents offer if we turn it down? Nothing but a continuation of the strife, sometimes escalating and at other times declining. Such strife is needless. Innocent people will continue to die and the demand for substantial resources from the whole of the United Kingdom will continue. That need not happen if Northern Ireland could live in peace and establish its own prosperity. They are offering nothing but continued hopelessness and war.
I listened carefully to my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow), whose resignation from the Government caused regret but drew respect from his admirers, but nothing that he said yesterday gave a crumb of comfort to the people of Northern Ireland if matters continue as they are. If we accept the agreement, there is at least hope. I do not pretend that it must necessarily succeed. Much will depend on the Irish elections next year. If we are to assist Dr. FitzGerald to continue—
§ Sir Nicholas Bonsor
Not for the moment. The hon. Gentleman will say that they are neutral. They are none the less our friends and allies—at least many of us think so. As long as Dr. FitzGerald's Government continue in power, the agreement will stand, and the chance of success will be greater. I cannot envisage what will happen if they fall.
944 There are risks in any agreement that a Government make, but they must be balanced against the possible advantages. The agreement offers hope whereas nothing else does. No alternative has been offered. Only by the cooperation of the people of southern Ireland and Northern Ireland can the future of the whole country be established in peace. It must be the duty of every British Government to strive to return to the circumstances of 1921 and to reestablish the acceptance of our friendship with the Government of southern Ireland. It must be our duty to solve the terrible problem of terrorism and loss of life in Northern Ireland by whatever means. As there is no other way—at least none that has been suggested—
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton
One was put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook), who advocated the full integration of Ulster with the United Kingdom.
§ Sir Nicholas Bonsor
No alternative that satisfies me has been put forward. My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) holds a thoroughly different view from me. I can only speak my mind. I cannot speak for him. Nothing that I have heard offers a way forward for Ireland. That view will be shared by those who follow this debate outside. It must be right for us to support the Government.
§ 8.9 pm
§ Miss Joan Maynard (Sheffield, Brightside)
Many points of view on the agreement have been expressed and many hon. Members have welcomed it. I wish that I could believe that it was, in some part, a solution to the tragedy that faces Ireland, but I cannot. The House must not be misled by the outrage expressed by the unionists. Yesterday, the Prime Minister said:The agreement reinforces the Union."—[Official Report, 26 November 1985; Vol. 87, c. 753.]That puts the matter clearly. The agreement between Dr. FitzGerald and the Prime Minister does not deal with the real issue, which is the urgent need for the reunification of Ireland. It will not further the cause of peace. There will be no peace in Ireland until that unhappy country is united.
The agreement creates a spurious all-Ireland dimension. Dublin will discover that it has responsibility without power. In exchange, Dublin has accepted the unionist veto and the border—that has never happened before. The Irish Republic's neutrality, already shaken as a result of increased encroachment by the European Community into political and military matters, is undermined by the agreement. Irish sovereignty will be further eroded by the deal because it confers a phoney legitimacy on the 1921 partition of Ireland. Fine Gael has its roots in the original sellout, which gave the Irish people a truncated independence and gave birth to the six-county state. Fine Gael has always played the role of a junior partner to British imperialism.
I suspect that the $500 million that the Americans will pour in is a down payment on a future American base or an accommodation with NATO. I remind the House that Ireland is the only member of the EC that does not yet have an American base.
To a startling degree, the agreement mirrors a report last year by a pro-NATO Right-wing think tank.
§ Miss Maynard
That could be a consequence of the agreement. It is an attempt to pretend that we are dealing with the consequences of partition. It does not deal with the root causes of religious discrimination, sectarian police behaviour or the violence of the British Army and of the paramilitary organisations. Unless we deal with the root cause of the problem—partition—there will be no peace in Ireland and the violence will continue and will spread over here. That is why we have the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976. We cannot deny freedom to other people and retain it ourselves.
There must be a declaration of intent to withdraw from Northern Ireland and the lifting of the veto on constitutional change that has been given to the unionists. The bi-partisan policy that the Labour party, once again, shares with the Tories must go. I shall quote from a leader in The Mirror, but not all of it, because it makes personal attacks on the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and some of his colleagues, and I am not in favour of personal attacks. It sums up the issue by saying:
The only test of the new Ulster agreement is whether it can end or reduce the violence. Unfortunately, there is absolutely no reason to believe it can.This is a treaty which has no clothes. It cannot do what it claims to do. It cannot carry out what it promises.Far from weakening men of violence, it encourages them.The effective abandonment by the Southern Government of the aim of Irish unity will be a recruiting sergeant for the IRA.The Ulster Unionists will never yield an inch to the Republic so long as they know that, in the last resort, the British Army and Westminster Parliament are behind them. …It may help Dr. Garret FitzGerald, who is a long street behind in the opinion polls. It may help Mrs. Thatcher, who is threatened by both Labour and the Alliance. … Mrs. Thatcher has nearly all of Westminster's politicians on her side largely because all parties have failed over Ireland in the past.But they have failed because they refuse to recognise the heart of the problem, which is the British presence in Ireland. We will not take the first step to peace until that is removed.The hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. McCusker) said that he would be prepared to accept a referendum, not only in Northern Ireland but in the whole of the United Kingdom. I am pleased about that, because normally the unionists argue for a referendum only in Northern Ireland. They want to have it both ways. If they say that they are part of the United Kingdom, they should accept a referendum in the whole of the United Kingdom. If a referendum in the United Kingdom asked people whether they favoured withdrawal from Northern Ireland, there would be a massive vote in support.
There would have been no meetings or agreement but for the growing support for Sinn Fein, which won 43 per cent. of the nationalist vote in the north at the June 1983 election. The agreement is for politicians, not for people. As a friend of mine said, it is an amalgam of the blue Tories, the green Tories and the orange Tories. The real objective of the accord is the destruction of the Sinn Fein vote. On my recent visits to Northern Ireland I realised that what dominated everyone's mind, including Dr. FitzGerald's, was the growing support for Sinn Fein. Many hon. Members argued that Sinn Fein could not win support through the ballot box, but they have been proved wrong. They are now trying to head it off; if that does not work, perhaps they will decide to ban it.
The coalition Government in the south desperately need political success to return to office at the next election. At present they lag behind Fianna Fail by 19 per cent. All previous political initiatives have avoided the partition issue and all have failed. That is the central issue that has 946 fuelled the conflict during the past 17 years. That will not be altered by changing a few street names into Irish. Attempts at devolved government will not stop the violence while the issue on partition remains unsolved.
§ Mr. Corbyn
Does my hon. Friend accept that the consequences of the British military presence during the past 17 years have been the Diplock courts, the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act and the methods used in Northern Ireland? The problem with the agreement is that the Republic will be forced to support and accept the barbarous methods being used in Northern Ireland.
§ Miss Maynard
I accept that, and I intend to deal with the matter later.
Some of my colleagues may argue that if the hon. Member for Antrim, North and the unionists are against, we should be in favour of the agreement. The National Front opposes the EC and American bases, but that does not mean that we should be in favour.
When I think of Northern Ireland, repression comes to mind. That is a crucial matter that will undoubtedly undermine the agreement. Many people who are no friends of the republican movement, such as Father Faul and Raymond Murray, believe that the alienation of nationalists from the political, legal and security machinery of the state and the growth in support for Sinn Fein arise from the widespread belief, after 17 years, that repression cannot be eliminated or justice done within Northern Ireland.
I believe that to be true. When I hear people talking about democracy in Northern Ireland, I think, "How can we have democracy in a state whose borders were gerrymandered to provide an inbuilt majority to one group of people?"
Bernadette Devlin, and many others in the early civil rights movement, were not originally campaigning for "Brits out" or for a united Ireland. They believed, naively, that reforms would grant to the minority the civil rights which they had been denied for almost 50 years. Now, 18 years since the civil rights movement was formed, the burning issues in the nationalist community which will ensure that the Sinn Fein vote does not drop include the Diplock courts, the super-grass system, the strip searching of women prisoners in Armagh, the plastic bullets, the daily repression, the searches and the raids, the British Army forts in nationalist areas, the torture and ill-treatment by security forces and the long periods of remand. For example, Tommy Power, who has not been convicted of any crime, has been in custody for three years and 10 months and is on his fifth super-grass. Only one soldier, and no member of the RUC, has been convicted of murder during the past 17 years.
Will all that change when the Irish Government are given a non-executive role in some of the North's affairs? On the contrary. As the agreement allows for cross-border co-operation on security, it may well be a carte blanche for matters to get even worse. Thatcher will now have a more co-operative ally—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Lady knows that we do not refer to each other by our names in this place.
§ Miss Maynard
I apologise, Mr. Speaker. The Prime Minister will have a more co-operative ally. With everything signed and sealed in the open, internment or the banning of Sinn Fein could be introduced without serious 947 problems. The carrots to tempt the nationalists in Army-occupied areas are a few street names in Irish, promises of American aid, an attempted return to devolved government and possible community policing. However, to maintain support from many nationalists in the north, Dr. FitzGerald cannot be seen to back continued repression unquestioningly. Likewise, not to completely alienate the loyalists, the Prime Minister must be uncompromising in her methods to defeat terrorism. Therein lies the contradiction.
I end where I began by saying that there must be a declaration of intent by the Government to withdraw from Northern Ireland and a consequent lifting of the unionists' veto on constitutional change. Partition must go. A united Ireland is the only solution. The agreement will not bring peace or unity any nearer. It will fail. I wish that I could believe otherwise, and I wish that the amendment in my name and those of some of my hon. Friends had been selected so that I could have voted for it. I must now decide whether to vote against the Government's motion—I shall certainly not vote for the agreement—or whether to abstain.
§ Sir Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
This agreement is a triumph of hope over experience. I fervently hope that it will work, but I fear that it may not. Nevertheless, I shall do everything possible to ensure that it works, because in Ireland hope must triumph over experience. That statement probably carries the support of the overwhelming majority of the men and women of the RUC, who will be faced with terrible dilemmas as they try to make the agreement work.
My experience of Northern Ireland in recent years has been almost entirely bloody. I have seen terrible things in Crossmaglen, Ballymena and west Belfast, and I have often despaired that there would be any hope of our getting out of this bloody morass. But whenever I feel that way, I consider the ordinary, normal things in Northern Ireland: the glorious countryside, the hard-working population, the devotion of the RUC.
Recently, I saw a ray of hope in Ireland when I attended the special olympic games in a vast stadium in Dublin where about 50,000 people were gathered together. I am the chairman of special olympics, and I walked into that stadium almost arm in arm with Garret FitzGerald. What impressed me was that, during the games, the huge Irish crowd cheered the English team, the Welsh team and the Scottish team, but the loudest cheers were for the team from Ulster. I could not help but believe that, at least on that occasion, there were no northerners and southerners, no Protestants and no Catholics. There were certainly no terrorists. I saw only people of good will coming together in a common cause, and that gave me hope.
I shall support the agreement, with some reluctance, for three reasons. First, I accept what the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition said yesterday: we cannot go on as we are. The terrible tragedy of Ireland demands that we try again. Secondly, the accident of history has brought together two remarkable personalities. The Prime Minister is a leader who has set her heart on carrying through the agreement and the improvements that can follow from it; and in Garret FitzGerald we have, for once in Ireland, a leader of stature and sensitivity who will take risks to bring peace to that troubled country.
948 My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has just entered the Chamber, and I shall say something which I hope will not embarrass her. When she and Dr. FitzGerald attended Mrs. Ghandi's funeral in Delhi, the Prime Minister—perhaps taking a little political risk—invited Dr. FitzGerald to travel back in her RAF aeroplane. It must have been far from easy for him to travel in a Royal Air Force VCIO, but he did—
§ Sir Eldon Griffiths
Perhaps, as the right hon. Gentleman says, he had done it before, but there is a time when two remarkable personalities can come together and achieve progress.
The third reason for my support is that I believe, with some misgivings, that on balance the agreement is in the best interests of the RUC. Indeed, I can think of no group that has more to gain than the RUC from any turndown in the graph of violence in Northern Ireland.
However, I have several questions to which I hope my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State can respond at the end of the debate. The first relates to policing by consent, which the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Miss Maynard) mentioned. If hon. Members who support Ulster constituencies can demonstrate, as a result of the by-elections, that the vast majority of the people of Northern Ireland are against the agreement—I expect that they will do so—what will be the position of the RUC? RUC members have a duty to uphold the law as the House makes it, because this is the United Kingdom Parliament and obedience to it is their duty.
What happens to policing by consent if it is the clear and demonstrated majority will of those who live in Northern Ireland that the agreement shall not prevail? Police officers will face terrible dilemmas. There will be a professional dilemma. How do the police operate against the majority? I need not go into that in detail, because the House will understand what it means in real terms, but under our system of policing one cannot police against a majority.
Secondly, there will be personal dilemmas for the police. If police officers must take strong action against the majority in Northern Ireland, there is likely to be retaliation against their homes and their families. There is nothing new about that, but personal dilemmas of police officers seeking to apply the law as made by this House against the will of the majority in Northern Ireland arid seeing their own families put at risk as a result are real. Ministers need to speak to the police and show them that they understand this. If necessary, they should guarantee that there will be proper protection for the homes and families of police officers if they have to take the courageous step of policing against the demonstrated will of the majority.
My next concern is that of the Intergovernmental Conference. I read the communiqué with interest and discussed it with the police service, particularly paragraph 8, which states that the conference will consider
the application of the principle that the Armed Forces (which include the Ulster Defence Regiment) operate only in support of the civil power, with the particular objective of ensuring as rapidly as possible that, save in the most exceptional circumstances, there is a police presence in all operations which involve direct contact with the community".That is already the policy. But I ask the Secretary of State to listen carefully to the experience of those in the 949 border areas where, despite that policy, the reality is that in many cases it is not possible for there to be ordinarily a police presence. If there is, the police die. There is no choice about this. I wish there were, but the reality in border areas is that there must be armoured protection. There must be a protected position. The police are soft targets. That is why so many of them at Newry and elsewhere have been killed. I hope that it is clearly understood, at least by British Ministers, that the attempts to place a police presence at all points where there is contact with the community will not work. It is important that Dr. Garret FitzGerald understands that. I believe that he does but it is important that the police are confident that Ministers are aware of their position.
I turn now to the problem of political policing. One of the greatest achievements of the RUC over the past 12 years is that it has evolved since, dare I say, the bad old days of Stormont when, in the eyes of most Catholics, the police too often appeared to be the arm of the Orange Order. Since that time the RUC has become politically independent. The Chief Constable of the RUC respects the policies but he takes no orders from political Ministers. Its men and women, of all ranks, are the servants of the Queen, not the Government. They are the limbs of the law. They are not the agents of politicians. It should be a matter of pride for the House and the RUC that they have achieved this improvement.
The question that now arises is whether the new Anglo-Irish Conference will be able to interfere in that type of independent policing. I believe that the temptation for politicians and civil servants will be great. Let us suppose that Ministers from both sides of the border were to conclude that Anglo-Irish harmony would be best served by banning a parade, overlooking a crime or not pressing politically sensitive charges. Would not the conference at least be tempted to bring pressure on the police to apply the law in a manner that best suited the conference's purposes?
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, gave me an assurance earlier that there will be no operational control. I accept that assurance. My anxiety is that a conference takes on an inner life of its own. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will be able to dispose of my anxiety easily, but there will be occasions, in the detail of handling security discussions, when the southern Irish members will suggest to my right hon. Friend and his colleagues that it would be best if some things were done in Northern Ireland by the police or that some things were not done. That is the reality. It would not be acceptable to the Metropolitan police and police forces elsewhere in Britain. It is crucial that the political independence of the RUC is not compromised.
§ Mr. Tom King
What was the point of my giving way to my hon. Friend, when he put precisely that point to me during my speech? I gave him a categorical assurance. I make it clear that I take the decisions with the Minister responsible for the police. The agreement changes nothing about who takes the decisions. My hon. Friend used the phrase "overlooking a crime". It gave me great cause for concern that he could even suggest that. I make it absolutely clear, with the authority of my office, that there will be no political interference in the operation of the RUC. I have already made clear my full confidence in the 950 Chief Constable and the members of the RUC and I hope that, for the second time, my hon. Friend will accept that assurance.
§ Sir Eldon Griffiths
My right hon. Friend need not get himself into a lather. I accept his assurance now as I did before, but I wanted to put the matter more fully to him because, with great respect, he has not had quite as much experience of policing as I have. It is not that there will be a political instruction from the conference—I know that—but there is such a thing as a nod and a wink. There is pressure of various sorts. That happens now and always will.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will understand the dilemma. The police frequently overlook crimes. There are crimes committed all over the place, but what the police have to do is balance the merits of enforcing the criminal law with the merits of maintaining the Queen's peace. So all crimes are not pursued. Much crime is overlooked because there is a wider responsibility on the police. I wanted my right hon. Friend to say that under no circumstances that he can visualise will there be any prospect of the traditions of the southern Irish police, who are politically led and politically responsible to their Minister, infiltrating Northern Ireland. I accept that he has broadly given that assurance. It is a great source of comfort to me and to the police.
I want to end on a broader front. The hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley), who was speaking for the Labour party, made a helpful contribution to the debate, as did the Leader of the Opposition, but I was disturbed to hear him say of the people of Northern Ireland—I know he felt it deeply, and who knows he may be right—thatthe British people do not really recognise them as British. The British see them as Irish. They may call them Northern Irish or a range of other things, such as Ulstermen, but ultimately the British people see them as Irish.He also said that Northern Ireland is
only slightly a part of the United Kingdom."—[Official Report, 26 November 1985; Vol. 87, c. 821–22.]Despite the consensus that has emerged in the House, particularly between the Front Benches, I hope that it is not part of the thinking or the philosophy of my party—the Conservative and Unionist party—that the people of Northern Ireland are not really British, or that they are anything other than our fellow citizens. They are as British as we are. I repudiate the statement of the hon. Gentleman on behalf of the Labour party that they are
only slightly a part of the United Kingdom".It is because, on balance, I believe the agreement will preserve Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom that I and many of my hon. Friends will support it.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (South Down)
This long debate, which is now drawing to its close, has not, at its heart, really been about Ulster. It has been about the United Kingdom; or to put the same point in another way, it has been about this House, for what we have been debating these two days is the proposition that the Government should be approved for having made with another country an agreement whereby a conference will be set up to exercise surveillance over the administration of the United Kingdom.
It is, in my opinion, unacceptable and deeply offensive to the United Kingdom as represented in this House that 951 there should be any dilution whatsover in the responsibility of Parliament for the governance in every respect, the law and the administration of the United Kingdom. We are now proposing to see made a unique and unprecedented breach in that position, an unprecedented arrangement whereby a formal position is allocated to another country in respect of the conduct of affairs in the United Kingdom. That is an affront to this House and to the people of this country, which I believe many people outside the House and, I am sure, many hon. Members have understood for what it really is.
The affront is not lessened but rather sharpened because that agreement relates to only one part of the United Kingdom. It is indeed a specially unique, an unprecedented, proposition that we should endow another country with an institutional right within the United Kingdom, a right of proposal and statement of views, a right formalised in a conference, to influence the administration and the law of a particular part of the United Kingdom.
Fifteen of us are sent here by constituents in Northern Ireland. When they send us here, they intend that we shall sit here as an intergral part of this assembly, and by doing so they express not only their consciousness and their purpose of themselves being a part of the United Kingdom, but their will that they, like the rest of the United Kingdom, should live under law which is made, and exclusively made, by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. To send Members to sit in Parliament is to accept the right, and the exclusive right, of Parliament to make the law under which oneself lives.
What is incompatible with that claim and with that legislative power of this Chamber is that it should be exercised differently in respect of different parts of the United Kingdom. We cannot all come here accepting law made by a majority in this House, because we are all part of the United Kingdom, and then see that law imposed differently—different law made for the different parts of the kingdom.
No doubt hon. Members will be quick to recall that in fact we legislate separately and differently for different parts of the kingdom. We pass separate Scottish legislation because, under The Treaty of Union, the Scots retain the right to their own legal system. Well, that is true, but behind it lies the assent of that particular part of the kingdom to be legislated for in that way—and more than assent, for not many Scots would accept that this House had a right, by virtue of being the Parliament of the United Kingdom, to pass English law which was to be applied in the courts of Scotland. Therefore, we see that there is a counterpart to the undoubted right of this Parliament to make the law for the United Kingdom. It is that, wherever it makes law differently for certain parts of the United Kingdom, it can do so only in accordance with the wishes, and normally at the petition, of the people of those parts of the United Kingdom.
As I have said, we recognise that in the case of Scotland and the rights that are protected by treaty. We recognise it wherever we legislate privately by bylaw or otherwise and differently for different places in the realm, but we do that only on the petition and with the assent of those for whom we legislate. We recognised that principle outstandingly when a previous Parliament passed two Acts conferring devolved administration and legislation upon Scotland and Wales, but refused to bring that into effect until the people of Scotland, in respect of Scottish 952 devolution, and Wales, in respect of Welsh devolution, had uttered their agreement—agreement which in the event they withheld in the terms in which it was required by that legislation.
To claim the right to impose upon a part of this kingdom law—differential law—which that part has not asked for or assented to is to undermine the moral authority of this House. It is to undermine the authority of Parliament as the law-making institution of the whole of this kingdom. What we are proposing to do—to impose upon Northern Ireland a change in the manner in which it is administered by the authority of this House, contrary to the wishes of the majority of the people of that part of the kingdom—is to strike at the very essence of that compact between the electorate and Parliament upon which parliamentary sovereignty depends.
It has been said many times in the debate not simply that the people of Northern Ireland must knuckle under, like it or not, to any legislation that the House passes—I have dealt with that—but that they as part of the United Kingdom, as willing, assenting electors of Unionist Members of the House, must knuckle under to whatever the House resolves by the vote this evening.
There is a deep misapprehension here. This House, by resolution, has no power to make law, nor has the other place by resolution any power to make law. Law is made in this country only in a particular way, by both Houses through a certain legislative procedure that eventually receives the assent of the Crown. It is not true to say that if the motion that is before the House is carried tonight the law of the United Kingdom will have been altered. All that will have happened will be that approval has been given, perhaps by a majority, to the action of the Government in entering into an external contract—a contract between this Government and another Government—although, admittedly, a contract in respect of what we would say are the internal affairs of the United Kingdom.
But no one will be able to say after the Division tonight that the people of Northern Ireland are under an obligation to accept—whatever might be the meaning of the term "accept" in that context—the Anglo-Irish agreement that has been made between the two Prime Ministers. We are again straining beyond its moral limit the authority of this House when we demand that by a resolution of the House we shall have the power to impose the will of Government upon a portion of this country differentially from the rest.
How comes it that we are engaged in such an unprecedented undertaking? What reward are we all to receive for this infraction of the moral basis of our parliamentary government? We are offered two rewards. We have said that two prizes will be gained—reconciliation, and the more effective combating of terrorism in Northern Ireland. I shall examine those two propositions.
The proposition is that in Northern Ireland there are two sections of the community that are deeply at odds over the question of the country to which they ought to belong and that their conflict is inimical to the peaceful and happy prosperity of that part of the United Kingdom. Does any rational person seriously suppose that when there is a deep division within a community reconciliation is to be procured between the parties to that dispute, if dispute it be, by installing an external authority to have a special responsibility for being the protector and representative of one of those bodies?
953 Does not any rational person see that the natural consequence of that must be to inflame whatever implicit antagonisms there may be in such a situation? Why, the very proposition needs only to be stated for its unacceptability to be seen—people are quarrelling; bring in somebody from outside; endow them with unprecedented authority; put them in an unprecedented position so that they may speak for, and advocate the position of, one party to that dispute. That is not a view which, hopeful or unhopeful, any rational person could take.
The Prime Minister is a very rational person indeed, and she does not believe that reconciliation is to be procured in Northern Ireland by what is being proposed. The Prime Minister knows perfectly well what anyone from a general view of what is proposed could concede—the likely outcome of bringing in, of all external countries, the Irish Republic, and installing it in a special privileged position in respect of one of the two communities, or traditions as they are called, in Northern Ireland.
Nor does the Prime Minister really share the proposition that if we do this thing we shall have gained, or be on the way to gaining, the upper hand over terrorism. For she knows that it is because of the constant pressure of terrorism and the urging—do this or the terror will continue; do this or the terror cannot be dealt with—that we have been brought to the position of entering into this treaty with another country, this treaty which many people, not only in this House and not only in Northern Ireland, regard as a humiliation.
The very notion that a Government of the Irish Republic would be in a position to be seen to be assisting the British in putting down the IRA in a part of the United Kingdom is another proposition which needs only to be stated for its absurdity to be grasped. The Prime Minister knows well that the Chief Constable was perfectly right in what he said in Texas, when he declared that the Irish Republic had nothing to offer this country by way of assistance in the combating of terrorism. That is the situation of the Irish Republic. It is inherent in its position. It is inherent in the nature of that state as well as in its location.
There is another fact that the Prime Minister also knows. She knows that when a year ago it was believed, wrongly as has turned out, that she had turned her back decisively upon the series of attempts which have been the characteristic of British policy in Northern Ireland at least since 1969 to wangle circumstances in Northern Ireland which could colourably be presented as progress towards an all-Ireland state, there was in the Province a most remarkable sense of stability, reassurance and hope for the future. She knows, because she has been told, and we know that she has remembered it, that people look back to those weeks with great regret as a time when the people of this supposedly divided community began to say to one another, "Thank God. At last we know there is to be no more hivering and havering; no more messing about. We know where we stand. We know the framework in which we and probably our children will have to live their lives, and now we can get on with the job of living and working together."
All these things—the hollowness of the claims for the consequences of this agreement and the boon which it is in the power of a British Government and this 954 Parliament to confer upon Northern Ireland by lifting from it the constant spectre of a potential alteration in its status—were known to the Prime Minister.
Why was it, then, that since last November the officials who were heard saying that they would now set to work to turn the lady round got their way? How was it that month after month, progressively, British Ministers and the British Cabinet were brought to an agreement which nobody really wanted, which nobody really believed in and which that most determined of all people, the Prime Minister, in her heart knew she did not want? If anybody doubts that, he had only to sit in this House yesterday afternoon and hear the presentation by the Prime Minister. He had only to watch the Prime Minister at the signing at Hillsborough to understand that here was someone doing what she knew was wrong and what she knew was contrary to her instincts and knowledge of the position.[HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."]
We speak in this House, upon our own responsibility and it is our business to say in this House what we believe and what we know. It is fair to ask what force it could be, what power was it, that could turn round the Prime Minister and the Government. What power could be brought to bear—[Interruption.]—certainly not common sense. What power could be brought to bear upon the Government to compel them over a series of months to the capitulation which is embodied in this draft agreement with all the clauses written into it right the way through the wording which covers up the place of other agreements which lie behind it? What force was it? That is the question to which we are entitled to have an answer.
If I used last week an expression which the Prime Minister found offensive, it was because I was indignant at a result being produced for purposes and reasons which were not the real ones. The real reasons have never been denied by Ministers. The real reasons are that the Government were under external pressure which they could not resist. Ministers have repeatedly admitted that this was the case. When, shortly after entering office, the right hon. Member for Waveney (Mr. Prior), who is absent tonight, described the problem in Northern Ireland as international, he knew very well what he was talking about. So let me be more precise.
This has been done because the United States insisted that it should be done. The Ministers on the Front Bench, though they may grin and waggle their heads, know perfectly well, as does the Prime Minister, that that is the case. Hon. Members must still ask what power and reason there could be. What motives could hold the United States and what leverage could it exert to bring about this result? That is a question which Ministers are probably not permitted to answer. No doubt the file is marked "Top secret". But there is no reason why it should not be ventilated in this House.
The United States has, in the form of NATO, enjoyed in the territory and the territorial waters of the Irish Republic important facilities for a number of years and wishes to extend those facilities which are regarded as vital by the strategists of NATO. The possession of those facilities and the possibility of continuing and extending them is dependent upon the compliance of the Irish Republic.
This means that the Irish Republic can exact the price that it has always held out as that which has to be paid before it will even consider collaboration with NATO. That is on record in many places; it is well known; and 955 it was referred to earlier this evening. The price is that it should be given a visible prospect which it can interpret as progress towards an all-Ireland state that would include Ulster. It is that which has been the cause of this turning around of the understanding and the intentions of the Government. It is that which lies behind what is imposed upon this House and which it is intended should be imposed upon a part of the United Kingdom.
To comply, to yield, to bow to pressure, to accept for one's country what the Government have accepted in this Anglo-Irish agreement is a responsibility that will be borne by a large part of the House by its vote tonight, but the ultimate responsibility will continue and in the end it will avenge itself. When in the coming months the consequences of this understanding work themselves out and the Prime Minister watches with uncomprehending compassion the continued sequence of terrorism, murder and death in Northern Ireland which this agreement will not prevent but will maintain and foment, let her not send to ask for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for her.
§ 9 pm
§ Rev. William McCrea (Mid-Ulster)
Having listened on their radios to this two-day debate, the people of Northern Ireland will know by now which right hon. and hon. Members are on the side of the British families and the British citizens of Northern Ireland. Many people in Ulster are dismayed by the agreement. After yesterday's debate, I spoke on the telephone to a few people in Northern Ireland. They told me that there were very few friends of Ulster in the House of Commons. They expect the vote later this evening to end in a defeat for them.
In my constituency of Mid-Ulster people have been butchered by brutal IRA murderers. Its members have committed some of the most barbaric acts that have ever been committed against humanity. The people of Mid-Ulster have suffered from terrorism for many years, yet they declare that they are as British as any right hon. or hon. Member.
Even if the House makes the historic decision to end the Union and even if there is a massive vote against the Ulster unionists, nobody will take from the people of Northern Ireland their blood-bought heritage. We would rather die than surrender to any Irish republican who seeks to destroy us or murder us. We would rather die than have to agree to what people of Ulster decided at the ballot box that they did not wish to support.
This decision will not be reached as a matter of individual conscience or because right hon. and hon. Members are voting in a way that they know is right. I have spoken to several right hon. and hon. Members, and I know that there has been deep heart-searching about this agreement. They say that in their hearts they do not believe that this agreement will bring peace to Northern Ireland, but they have been told by their Whips that they must vote against the Ulster unionists. However, even though they are in the minority, there are right hon. and hon. Members who have courage. They will stand by the Union and by the loyal citizens of Her Majesty's domains, which include British Ulster.
We have been told that the agreement will bring peace, stability and reconciliation to Northern Ireland. Do Her Majesty's Government really believe that it will? The Presbyterian church in Ireland, the Methodist church in Ireland and the Church of Ireland do not believe that it will. They are not hotheads. In previous debates the Prime 956 Minister told me that I was getting worked up, but it cannot be said that the churches in Ireland are getting worked up. The considered opinion of the Presbyterian church in Ireland is that the agreement is unworkable. That is also the considered opinion of the Methodist church: in Ireland the Church of Ireland and the majority of right hon. and hon. Members of the alliance—the middle ground—who believe that they are the sacrificial lambs, they do not think that the agreement will work.
Among those who disagree is the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow), who said:I disagree profoundly with the new policy on which the Government have embarked. I fear that this change of policy will prolong and not diminish Ulster's agony. With all my heart—it is quite a big heart—I pray that I am wrong."—[Official Report, 26 November 1985; Vol. 87, c. 765.]I take another example. Does the hon. Member for Beckenham (Sir P. Goodhart) agree that this agreement is the answer to Ulster's problem? In the House, he said:a foolish initiative can make it more difficult for the communities in Northern Ireland to live peacefully. I tear that this initiative will make it more difficult."—[Official Report, 26 November 1985; Vol. 87, c. 819.]That is the considered opinion of a former Minister in the Northern Ireland Office. Let it not be said that it is only the Ulster unionists and the churches in Northern Ireland who believe that the agreement is unworkable.
The IRA realises that it has bombed the two Prime Ministers to the table. It knows that it was its success that encouraged the initiative. We should listen carefully to what Opposition Members say. Members of Her Majesty's Opposition are going into the Aye Lobby tonight because they believe that the agreement is the first step to a united Ireland. I have a message for them and for everyone in the House. It is that six into 26 will never go. It does not matter who is standing at the Dispatch Box. The Ulster people have decided. Last Saturday, 200,000 people stood solemnly and with grim determination in Belfast. There were those who tried to minimise the importance of that demonstration, but no one can take away the reality. The people of Ulster will decide. No matter what deal has been done they will never accept this agreement because it is a way into a united Ireland. They have no intention of going that way.
§ Mr. Porter
I am trying to be helpful. Does my hon. Friend accept that those of us who are English unionists and who have not, for reasons unknown to us, been able to catch Mr. Speaker's eye, will be in the No Lobby voting against this agreement? Apart from those of my hon. Friends whom he has mentioned, there are many of us who believe that this agreement is an affront to the Union.
§ Rev. William McCrea
I should like to thank my hon. Friend for his remark. Every true blue unionist will be in the No Lobby tonight with the Ulster people standing by their fellow citizens. He who wants to pay lip service to the Union will trot into the Aye Lobby and do as his Whip tells him.
Those in Northern Ireland who took courage from the Prime Minister's determined stand against the Argentine aggressor have asked about this agreement, "Why dial she do it?" That solemn question will be answered in the Prime Minister's conscience not just tonight but in the years to come. It is a matter that is solemn before God. She will answer to the betrayed people of Ulster. Why did she do it? She may have her reasons. Was it Reagan? Was it because of the Sinn.Fein uprising? Was it because the 957 Government's mid-term policies in the United Kingdom were not succeeding that she had to go off at a tangent? Did she believe that she had to think of something else, bearing in mind that the next election will be fought upon law and order? Was that the reason? No one but the right hon. Lady knows the answer.
The people of Northern Ireland will be asking for an answer because, unfortunately, the House will tonight consign them to more coffins, more death and more destruction.
Much will lie on the breast and heart of right hon. and hon. Members on the Treasury Bench. I believed that this was the Conservative and Unionist party. Unfortunately, they have decided that the unionists in Northern Ireland are a liability, instead of desiring them to be in the family. That decision has been made, and let us remember that, it having been made and having been brought to the Floor of the House, we must abide by the result.
Northern Ireland, British Ulster, is not dead. From the ashes in which the House hopes to leave it tonight it will rise again to greater victory. We, the people of Ulster, will make the choice.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I am very sorry to tell the hon. Member that he is not the only one who feels frustrated this evening. There have been a number of long speeches from both sides of the House.
§ Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough)
I wish at the outset to bring the debate into the context of the Anglo-Irish agreement. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer), in a memorable speech, which set the tone for the speeches that followed, sought to assure the House that the Ango-Irish agreement was not the first raindrop in the deluge.
He reminded me of some words used by Winston Churchill in a book on the first world war in which he illustrated the way in which the whole map of Europe had been changed. There had been changes in the modes of thought of men, he wrote, so that their whole outlook on affairs had encountered violent and tremendous change. He described those as the deluge of the world. He wrote:Nevertheless, as the deluge subsided and the waters fell, we saw again the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone.I mean no disrespect to the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) when I say that the steeples are still there. After all, there still are steeplejacks in Northern Ireland. With the steeples go what Churchill described asthe integrity of an ancient quarrel.958 That ancient quarrel brings us to the Floor of the House tonight. It was aptly described in the Unionist document "The Way Forward" in which it was said:The basis of this conflict lies in the ultimate political aspirations of the two communities and in their sense of national and political identity and the allegiance that goes with it …. The aspirations of the minority community is the incorporation of the territory of Northern Ireland into the State of the Republic of Ireland.It added:The majority community is equally determined to maintain the position of Northern Ireland as an integral part of the United Kingdom.The Secretary of State was more succinct when he referred to it earlier as an age-old problem of polarisation.
The right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) referred to "The Way Forward" in his speech yesterday, in which he made a remark that hon. Members found curious. He said that he might not be returning to this place after his resignation. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not emulate the noble Lord Home who, having called a leadership election, declined to stand for that election. I believe that all hon. Members wish—certainly it is the wish of my hon. Friends and me—that, in the event that the right hon. Gentleman stands, and notwithstanding the vagaries of the electorate, we may see him back in the House.
The right hon. Member for Lagan Valley agreed that the main thrust of "The Way Forward" had been towards a United Kingdom in which Northern Ireland was appropriately integrated—thereby missing the opportunity to refer to an Irish dimension to which about 42 per cent. of the minority community aspired. He also put the view that the Anglo-Irish agreement had snuffed out "The Way Forward". He said that there was now no prospect of peace, stability or reconciliation.
I disagree with the right hon. Gentleman on that point, although I agree with his comment that only rights can be guaranteed, not aspirations. However, his quotation from the document, that the time was now ripe for those communities in Northern Ireland to realise that essentially their problems would have to be solved in Northern Ireland, sounded remarkably like the first part of article 4(c) of the Anglo-Irish agreement, which states:Both Governments recognise that devolution can be achieved only with the co-operation of constitutional representatives within Northern Ireland of both traditions there.There appears to be no disagreement on the need for devolved government in Northern Ireland—only the route to be taken is in doubt.
The Secretary of State said that there should be no hindrance to devolution and that there were real prospects of it in future. Therefore, I respectfully suggest to my parliamentary colleagues in the Unionist parties that rather than consigning "The Way Forward" to the dustbin of history or otherwise, we should see how best its proposals can be married with those of the Anglo-Irish agreement. In short, where is the centre ground and how best might it be reached beyond the roar and the thunder of the rhetoric?
Although you may not think so, Mr. Speaker, "The Way Forward" quotes Edmund Burke:All government, indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every value and every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter.959 Compromise and barter appear to be the key words, which is why, I presume, they were included in the document. "The Way Forward" also declares that unionists would have no objection toan Irish dimension in the form of a state recognition of the legitimacy of the fostering of distinctively Irish cultural activities in Northern Ireland.That document cogently argued the case for a bill of rights.
The concept of an Irish dimension and a possible bill of rights are both embodied in the Anglo-Irish agreement under article 5(a), which states clearly:The Conference shall concern itself with measures to recognise and accommodate the rights and identities of the two traditions in Northern Ireland".That includes cultural heritage, electoral arrangements, use of flags and emblems, the avoidance of economic and social discrimination and the advantages and disadvantages of a bill of rights for Northern Ireland.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) said yesterday, no harm would have been done had the Government spelt out their intentions to the unionist community last year, when pressed by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warley, West and my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley), and their wish to seek to marry the proposals of the New Ireland Forum and those of "The Way Forward". If I may use a legal term, they are certainly not mutually exclusive. There is now an opportunity for that to happen. The thrust of the Anglo-Irish agreement is clearly towards devolution and power-sharing. That places the onus on the constitutional parties to bring that about, and provides the framework in which it can be done.
I say to my colleagues in the Unionist parties that resignation of parliamentary seats will not assist the process of achieving the aims set out in "The Way Forward"; that is rather the way back. It shows the insecurity of the Unionists, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith referred yesterday, that rather than seek to play their part as the majority community in Northern Ireland, and rather than seek to sit down and work out proposals that would enhance the welfare of their people in such areas as education, health, welfare and child care, and in the more mundane matters of planning and traffic management, they prefer to set aside those obvious and important gains to heighten the political temperature in Northern Ireland by election fever—a fever that will not infect the mainland and that will leave this House and Great Britain unmoved.
Ultimately, the day will come when Unionist Members are elected or re-elected to this House, possibly claiming that they have had a famous victory, but still having to face the Anglo-Irish agreement, still having to deal ultimately with the realistic prospects of devolution and power-sharing and still having to see how best they can promote the interests of Northern Ireland and their majority community as a whole.
One thing that has come out clearly from the debate is that no one wants the status quo. I cannot see the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) in his place, although I am sure that he is here somewhere. He declared that all should be equal in Northern Ireland. If one is to treat the minority right one must also treat the majority right. That is remarkably close to what the Taoiseach said. The hon. Gentleman said that he was striving in Northern Ireland for equality of status. Thus it would seem that there may be a meeting of minds on that subject.
960 Judging by the debate during the past two days, no hon. Member wants the status quo. The point was eloquently put by the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson). Yesterday he declared: if peace, stability, reconciliation and co-operation were achievable, he would grasp them with a heart and a hand. The hon. Gentleman did not, however, want to venture outside the Union. Nevertheless I congratulate him on the cogent and thoughtful way in which he put his party's case and, as he saw it, that of his electorate.
But if the status quo cannot achieve peace, stability and reconciliation, the House must ask itself what can. Earlier, the hon. Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor) touched on that. There is no other agreement before us. The agreement signed at Hillsborough castle is the only one that we have that seeks to achieve what in the past has been elusive—notably, peace, security and stability in Northern Ireland. It is of course true that the agreement does not alter the sovereignty of Northern Ireland either in international law or in our courts. The status of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom is not affected. But there is an obvious ambiguity in the status of the governance of its people.
The hon. Member for Belfast, East referred to the Downing street declaration of 1969 which declared:The affairs of Northern Ireland are entirely a matter of domestic jurisdiction.Indeed, this Government's policy has been based on three specific and particular premises: first, that Northern Ireland will remain an integral part of the United Kingdom; secondly, that sovereignty will remain NA with the Parliament of the United Kingdom; and thirdly that arrangements for the government of Northern Ireland will remain a matter of agreement between the people of the North and the Government of the United Kingdom.
It is the erosion of that latter principle that has roused the ire of Ulster unionists. For in the case of the minority community this is no longer the case. It has a voice in the affairs of the North. That voice wll be heard through Dublin. It will be heard through the consultative process which will, nevertheless, seek to work by consensus. It is in that process that there is hope for a minority to seek out its identity, to ease its sense of frustration and of sullen aquiescence in a state of affairs with which it has not, in the main, concurred since 1922. That is certainly how it is seen in the streets of Derry.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warley, West referred earlier to our trips to Belfast and Dublin and, in my case, to Derry. I have spoken to Catholics in Derry there who are not members of any political party. They are all clear in their minds that the agreement should be given a chance. It must be given a chance by both communities. If it is allowed to work, it will halt the drift to Sinn Fein and ebb the flow of support for violence and terrorism.
Derry is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, with its sense of history, its wide flowing river and its pleasant location, but its border is as close as its history. On some Catholic estates the gable ends of houses enjoin the, new generation of youngsters to join Sinn Fein. There are grilles on the windows of houses where adjoining Catholic and Protestant estates meet. People are constantly moving from one estate to another, sometimes to take their children out of the encroaching reach of the IRA and sometimes to be with fellow members of the community.
961 Much has been made of statistics—and rightly. A greater writer than I once said:any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind.The right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) quoted the same writer.
§ Mr. Bell
I am grateful for that help.
The hon. Member for Antrim, North referred to funeral processions. The hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. McCusker) said that he had attended nine funerals in one day. The Prime Minister talked about three of our colleagues. My experience last week in Derry cannot match that of Unionist Members, but I was 50 yards from the home of a Roman Catholic who was cut down by the IRA. He left a widow and four children. On the day that I left Derry the man who did the catering for the UDR was shot dead by the IRA. He left five children. In my two days in Derry nine children were made orphans by assassins' bullets.
Death and destruction have no universal copyright, but the agreement, if it does anything, confirms that violence does not pay and that no paramilitary force can impose its will on the British people. The capacity for making widows and orphans is infinite, but as the Secretary of State said, we should seek to isolate the men of violence and to pursue the attack against terrorism more vigorously.
The enhanced border co-operation, while it may not reduce violence in the short term—a point that was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr.Dubs)—should result in a weakening of the terrorist breeding grounds and a fall in terrorism itself.
Some would have us believe that no responsibilities or obligations fall upon the Dublin Government consequent upon the agreement. On the contrary, it places a heavy responsibility on Dublin, which is freely accepted and acknowledged by the Dublin Government, to redouble efforts to defeat terrorism. There can be no greater attribute to the agreement in the eyes of the majority community in Northern Ireland than a diminution of violence.
The Opposition will look at the agreement and its implementation at a variety of different levels. We shall consider security as it affects the prison system, policing and strip searching, to which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition referred yesterday. We shall also consider the agreement at the political level and in terms of industrial and economic policy.
We believe that the agreement not only presents a new opportunity for the two communities, but that it provides the House of Commons with an opportunity—through the questions that we can ask of Ministers across the Floor, through ministerial statement and ultimately through an interparliamentary tier—to assist the Government to fulfil their duties towards Northern Ireland. We can do that not only in terms of the Intergovernmental Conference, but in terms of domestic policies for health, education and social services.
The Minister of State could have fooled me yesterday with his near description of himself as a neo-Keynesian. I know that he has a deep compassion for the Northern Ireland people, but his policies are Government policies 962 and therefore monetarist. In the last six years those policies have not assisted the economic development of Ireland.
One of the terms of the agreement is that the two Governments should undertake to co-operate to promote the economic and social development of those parts of Ireland which have suffered most severely as a result of instability.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warley, West touched on a variety of economic aspects—a common transport policy, capital projects, the gas industry, airline routes between Belfast and Dublin, hospitals, and even the Divis flats. The Secretary of State, in his previous jobs, argued that the only way to create jobs was to cut wages. I hope that he has left that ideological baggage at Heathrow airport. If the argument was false for Britain, it has been even more false for Northern Ireland, where low wages are a major cause of its economic problems. The worst damage that the Government can do to Northern Ireland is further to undermine its self-confidence and economy by telling the workers there that wages must be reduced if they are to price themselves into jobs.
The right hon. Member for Torbay (Sir F. Bennett), in a speech to which I listened with great care, referred to the speech yesterday of my right hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn, and my right hon. Friend's correlation between economics and violence in Northern Ireland. We expect and shall seek to put the Northern Ireland economy on the agenda of the House, with or without the support of Ulster Unionist Members.
Many parliamentary colleagues have followed the two-day debate with the utmost interest. I feel sorry for many of them who have sat for many a long hour without being called to speak. Many have listened carefully to the speeches to make up their mind whether to support the motion. They will have heard my right hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn, my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warley, West restate Labour party policy as it relates to Ireland. Today my right and learned Friend stated it as clearly as it could be stated when he said that we believed that the future of Ireland should be as one country.
If the Labour party believes in an Ireland united by consent and peaceful means, we must ask ourselves how that unity can be achieved, other than by giving the minority community an expression of its identity. How can peace be brought about, other than by a rigorous and fundamental attack by the Governments of the Republic and the United Kingdom on the breeding ground of alienation that spawns violence and gives an upbringing to the men of violence?
The agreement is a modest step in that direction. If the Labour party believes in a united Ireland, how do hon. Members who propose to abstain or vote against the motion tonight convince the wider British public and the wider Labour movement that the party has a genuine conviction in a united Ireland, when even the most modest proposal to seek to give the nationalist community a sense of identity, is not considered worthy of support?
We want a massive majority for the agreement, not because it is bipartisan, but because it is right for the people of Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom and the ultimate aspirations of the Labour party.
963 Yesterday my right hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn was graceful in his praise of the Prime Minister. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warley, West was graceful in his congratulations of the Taoiseach, the deputy leader of the Irish Labour party and the Irish Foreign Minister. He left from his praise the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume), but he needs no pearly words from me. He is well able to fend for himself. This year he was described in the House of Representatives asAn advocate of peace, an advocate of non-violence, an advocate of political participation by all peoples in their society.The words used in the Congressional Record are a fitting record of his attitude, and go to the heart of the fundamental dilemmas which all who live in Northern Ireland face. His address states.
We cannot solve problems of difference by creating divisions. We cannot create peace by using violence. We cannot protect civil rights by attacking human rights. We cannot secure justice by abandoning the rule of law. And we cannot achieve freedom by inflicting injustice.I wish to address a few final words to those who oppose the Anglo-Irish agreement. I say to them in all sincerity and modesty that they should not be caught by the low tide of history or be bound in the shallows and miseries of another 62 years of death, destruction and alienation. They should not destroy the fabric of a society that has so much to offer, where people wish to live their lives in peace and stability with hope for their future, and that of their children. They should help to build a society where the walls need not be painted with graffiti that asks the young people to join terrorist organisations as a way of expressing their identity in the community in which they live. History will not thank those who fail to catch the tide. The Labour party is prepared to support the Government and we commend the motion to the House.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Nicholas Scott)
I apologise to those right hon. and hon. Members to whose speeches it will be impossible for me to refer. However, I echo the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor) about the quality, passion and depth of feeling which all too rarely permeates debates but which has characterised these two days of debate. There have been some exceptions, but overwhelmingly the speeches have been constructive, have expressed genuine worries and fears and have been within the bounds of constitutional and democratic politics.
Nobody can serve for more than four years as a Minister in Northern Ireland without recognising the courage, resilience and endurance of the people of Northern Ireland, of both communities, in the face of the most vicious and sustained terrorist campaign. The respect that we extend to the people in the communities in Northern Ireland reaches out to their elected representatives in the House. They are entitled to our respect because of the unique burdens that they have to bear in representing that divided community so riven by terrorism. It is right that we should give weight to their opinions—perhaps disproportionate weight—because of the burdens that they bear and the experience that they have.
However, at the end of the day, it is for the House to take a decision for the United Kingdom as a whole in the interests of Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom. We do that facing the reality that Northern Ireland is a divided society and that that divided society is caused, at least to 964 a substantial extent, by fears felt in the two communities. The fear, which we have heard expressed over the past two days, in the unionist communities is that some day they may, without their consent, be denied their Britishness and excluded from the United Kingdom. The fear of the nationalist communities is that they may be in a part of the United Kingdom where they may feel that their views are not reflected in the decision-making process.
The agreement seeks to address those twin fears. The fears of the unionists are addressed by guarantees about the status of Northern Ireland and the recognition that at the moment there is no consent for any change in that status. The fears of the nationalist community are addressed by establishing a unique structure—I confess that it is unique—in the form of the Intergovernmental Conference which, short of the move to devolution that we all seek, will provide for the reflection of nationalist views to the British Ministers who will have to make the decisions on matters affecting life north of the border, while it remains for Irish Ministers to take decisions affecting matters south of the border.
The right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) and others have asked questions of detail about how the conference will operate. It is impossible to anticipate in detail how the body will get off the ground and develop its work, but right hon. and hon. Members will know that the initial programme for the first meeting is set out in the communiqué. I understand—I think that the House will support me in this—that it concentrates at the beginning on matters affecting law and order, especially relations between the minority community and the security forces, enhancing security co-operation between the two parts of Ireland and underlining public confidence in the administration of justice.
That point reflects at least one of the concerns of the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West as it includes a commitment to pay special attention to the parts of Northern Ireland that have suffered socially and economically during the troubles of the past 16 years.
Some hon. Members expressed worries about secrecy and about the conference conducting its business without informing the public. The Government are giving the most careful consideration to how, in a constructive way, there can be a public account and discussion of the conference's work as it develops.
The right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), in an important and wide-ranging speech, mentioned the parliamentary body. It is clear in the agreement that if it is the will of both Parliaments to establish such a body, the Governments will support that. It is, however, inconceivable for Governments to launch a body designed to reflect parliamentary opinion. The will for such a body must come from both Parliaments. If they decide that that is the direction to take, the Government will certainly support that aim.
The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) vigorously demanded an assurance that decisions affecting Northern Ireland would remain the responsibility of Ministers in the House. To that I can only say, "Yes, yes, yes." It is reiterated time and again in the agreement, and it has been reiterated in the House by my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State. If it needs to be said again, I say it now. Decisions affecting Northern Ireland will remain with Ministers responsible to Parliament.
965 The hon. Member for Antrim, North raised a point which was alluded to by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Sir E. Griffiths) about the Ulster Defence Regiment and the proposal for RUC men to accompany UDR patrols. That is not something unique to the UDR. All military patrols which are likely to come into contact with the public will, where possible in future, be accompanied by members of the RUC. It may not be possible to do that in all circumstances—but I shall write to my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds about that.
There cannot be much doubt that this extension of police primacy in Northern Ireland is desirable. Policemen are trained in contact with the public in a way that, no matter how carefully one may devise a soldier's training, soldiers can never really be.
The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds raised a number of points about the Royal Ulster Constabulary. I shall make the present situation abundantly clear. Operational matters are matters for the Chief Constable. It is clear from the agreement that they will remain his responsibility. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have responsibility for providing the framework of resources, administration and general policy within which the RUC operates. There is no question of the Government interfering with operational judgment. I do not interfere, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State does not interfere, and the Conference will not interfere with the operational judgment of the Chief Constable.
I understand the pressures on the RUC and its worries as the agreement comes into effect. I shall be meeting officers of the Police Federation in Northern Ireland on Friday to discuss those worries and to reassure them. If the RUC needs additional resources or protection for the families of its members in the light of developments, they will be made available.
I have heard no suggestion so far from Unionists who have spoken in the House—although they have complained about the agreement and said that they will vote against it—that they will turn to action which will put pressure on the RUC on the streets of Northern Ireland. I hope that the unionists will stick firmly to their resolve to follow a constitutional path.
Now is perhaps an appropriate time to pay the warmest of tributes to the Army, including the UDR, and to the RUC, for the burden that they endure, day by day and night by night in Northern Ireland, in defence of both communities.
§ Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion)
As I understand it, perhaps the most important aspect of the agreement is the co-operation in security that we hope to achieve. If there is a difference of opinion between the GOC or the Chief Constable and the Irish representatives, what assurance can the Minister give that the GOC or Chief Constable will not be told, "Dublin does not like this very much—can you modify your view?" Is my hon. Friend absolutely sure that we can sterilise the opinions of the GOC and the Chief Constable?
§ Mr. Scott
The GOC and the Army in Northern Ireland operate only in support of the civil police. It is the Chief Constable who makes operational decisions. I have said this before, but I will say it again if it helps. There is no 966 question of any interference by Ministers or by the Intergovernmental Conference in the operational judgments of the Chief Constable.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Sir H. Atkins), with all the authority that he holds as a former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, agreed with us on the merits of the accord. He also urged us—I believe that this is important—to cast our eyes forward rather than back. Too many speeches in this debate have, at least in part, looked backwards to the constitutional history of Northern Ireland and to the developments that have led to the present situation. If the agreement is about anything, it is about a chance to look forward and a fresh start in tackling the many problems that face us.
I shall not, therefore, follow the hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. McCusker) through the constitutional history of Northern Ireland. I shall, however, deal with the point that he raised about Orders in Council and other measures. The hon. Gentleman suggested that these would be put to the House only with the imprimatur of the Intergovernmental Conference so that he and his fellow Members of Parliament from Northern Ireland would be redundant and ashamed to take their places in the House.
The Intergovernmental Conference will, of course, have the opportunity to comment on draft Orders in Council, just as other bodies comment now when such orders are published. Ministers take advice and comment from a wide range of sources. The Intergovernmental Conference will have no privileged position in respect of Orders in Council or other proposals. We shall listen to its views, but we shall listen just as attentively to the views of the Assembly and to other views that are put forward. I repeat that at the end of the day, however, the decisions will be taken by Ministers who will be answerable to this House and to this House alone. The same will apply to other processes.
§ Mr. Nellist
How will the agreement contribute to political stability in the North when it simultaneously offers no solution to the national question, the partition of Ireland 60 years ago—[Interruption.] I have waited two days to ask this question. The agreement offers no solution to the massive unemployment, poverty and bad housing which provide a breeding ground for sectarianism and it simultaneously heightens the fears and suspicions of Protestant workers, thus increasing the poison of sectarianism and the risk of civil war. Does not the Minister see the possibility of the failure of this agreement leading to Belfast becoming the Beirut of Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland the Lebanon of western Europe?
§ Mr. Scott
I am astonished at the arrogance of the hon. Gentleman. The agreement has been signed by the Taoiseach, both of whose parents were in the Post Office in Dublin in 1916, for what that is worth, and whose nationalist credentials are better than those of the hon. Gentleman. It also has the support of the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) who has been at the coalface of the nationalist cause in Northern Ireland through these troubles. Yet the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) dares to stand up and put his view against theirs.
In this agreement the cause of the unionists and their voice will not be silenced; their voice will be listened to. I suppose that is a hopeless task to seek to reassure the unionists about what is in the agreement for them, but 967 there is much of it for them in terms of the guarantees about the status of Northern Ireland, the phrases about consent and recognition and the guarantee that there is no derogation from the sovereignty of the United Kingdom. The Republic of Ireland has declared its intention to accede to the European convention on the suppression of terrorism.
§ Mr. Scott
I hope the hon. Gentleman will forgive me for not giving way. I have already done so twice.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) and the right hon. Members for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) and for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Mason) said that central to the success of this agreement will be the improvement in security cooperation. I do not imagine for one moment that that will happen overnight, but this agreement, if it wins the support of the nationalist people of Northern Ireland—I was much encouraged by the remarks of the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume)—will lead to the development of security co-operation.
Security co-operation on the border is good. Indeed, the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) said that there was a terrific working relationship on the border in parallel operations. That is good, and perhaps even that can be improved. However, that is not the sole aim of this agreement. I envisage, over a period of years, the two police forces and the two Governments in Ireland gradually taking a strategic view about how to grind terrorism down by denying the terrorists freedom of movement and of men, money, guns, explosives and the advantages of the border which they too easily exploit. There is a commitment by both Governments in this agreement to set their hands to this programme of work.
This is the only way to defeat the IRA—through tactical operations, day-by-day and week-by-week cooperation. If we can pull together both parts of Ireland in a sustained and developed way, we shall finally be able to defeat the men of violence.
There is no question, although I have heard sedentary interventions from Unionists, of their voices being ignored. Our reactions to the Assembly since it was set up—it is a wholly Unionist body—our responses to its reports, and our reactions to its comments on draft proposals for legislation have shown that we have sought to be sensitive to its views about legislation. That will continue, and I urge Unionists to continue to ensure that their views are expressed, through this House, the Assembly, councils, boards and committees in Northern Ireland. The Unionists should use those channels to express their views, for they will be listened to by those of us who have responsibility for taking decisions in Northern Ireland. The views of the Unionists are likely to be predominant because of the balance of population.
§ Mr. Roy Beggs (Antrim, East)
The Minister was referring to the Unionists using the Northern Ireland 968 Assembly. Is he suggesting that they will be the only users of that body, or has he had an assurance that the SDLP will become involved?
§ Mr. Scott
Even when, as I hope, the SDLP comes into the Assembly, the predominant voice within that Assembly will still be unionist because of the balance of population in Northern Ireland. While that body has been wholly unionist, Ministers have listened to it and reflected the views that have been expressed in it in their decision-making. We will continue to do so.
I appeal to nationalists and unionists in Northern Ireland. This agreement can bring great benefit to Northern Ireland, given the chance. It has behind it the commitment and determination of the British and Irish Governments. It also requires the nationalist community leaders—I address this particularly to the hon. Member for Foyle—to respond with generosity, spirit and imagination to the great opportunities which this agreement gives them. Old grievances must be put aside. I know how hard that may be. It requires the nationalists to participate positively and directly in the political process in Northern Ireland. They must make their contributions to help the security forces gain the confidence and trust of all sections of the community, Article 7 of the agreement prefigures some of the ways in which they can do this.
§ Mr. Stanbrook
I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. May I now ask him the question that I asked earlier and to which there has been no reply? Does the agreement bind the Republic of Ireland or only the current Government of the Republic of Ireland?
§ Mr. Scott
The agreement is a treaty. In common parlance, it is a written international agreement between states intended to create rights and obligations between them. It is governed by international law, and a treaty. It is fully and effectively binding when it comes into force. When the two governments exchange notifications under article 13, the document will be a valid international treaty and agreement. I am not a lawyer, but I have to disagree with my hon. Friend's judgment. It is a treaty and fully binding in international law unless abrogated at the time of review or by either side in the interim. I can set at rest my hon. Friend's fears on that score.
969 May I tell unionists that Ministers, whether considering plans for devolution, measures for the security of Northern Ireland or measures about the identity of the two communities in Northern Ireland, will be determined to maintain a fair balance and to work even-handedly. When I arrived in Northern Ireland four years ago, we were in the middle of a hunger strike. Shortly afterwards, the Rev. Robert Bradford, an hon. Member, was murdered and there were acute tensions in the community in Northern Ireland. During those four years, there has been sure and steady progress, politically with the work of the Assembly and on the security front with the steady reduction in the level of terrorism—although it is still unacceptably high—as a result of the activities of the security forces. Despite the high level of unemployment, there have been improvements in the economic situation and there has been a steady return to the Province of the sporting, cultural, business and other activities which mark the normality of that part of the United Kingdom.
I ask the House and unionists to judge, please, the benefits that have accrued to families in Northern Ireland, Catholic and Protestant alike. The agreement imposes no solutions but provides a framework and a practical working solution to relationships between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. Must this be put at risk for a new period of instability? Cannot unionists use the available machinery rather than risk that instability?
If we fail in this work, only the men of violence will have any success. If we are able to succeed and if everybody in the House is prepared to give the agreement a fair wind, there is a prize. The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) asked us to remember the people of Northern Ireland. We do remember the people of Northern Ireland. We know that we can provide no greater gift than their being able to live at peace in their habitations.
I trust and believe that this agreement will give Northern Ireland stability and increased understanding between the communities, which is essential to its future. Both communities will have to feel that they have equal status and equal opportunity to contribute fully to the affairs of the Province. The agreement is an important step in that direction, and I commend it to the House.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 473, Noes 47.972
|Division No. 12]||[10 pm|
|Adams, Allen (Paisley N)||Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)|
|Adley, Robert||Baldry, Tony|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Banks, Robert (Harrogate)|
|Alexander, Richard||Barron, Kevin|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Batiste, Spencer|
|Alton, David||Beaumont-Dark, Anthony|
|Amess, David||Beckett, Mrs Margaret|
|Ancram, Michael||Bell, Stuart|
|Anderson, Donald||Bellingham, Henry|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)|
|Arnold, Tom||Bennett, Rt Hon Sir Frederic|
|Ashby, David||Benyon, William|
|Ashdown, Paddy||Best, Keith|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Bevan, David Gilroy|
|Ashton, Joe||Biffen, Rt Hon John|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Blackburn, John|
|Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H.||Blair, Anthony|
|Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)||Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter|
|Atkinson, David (B'm'th E)||Bonsor, Sir Nicholas|
|Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y)||Boothroyd, Miss Betty|
|Bottomley, Peter||Eastham, Ken|
|Bottomley, Mrs Virginia||Edwards, Bob (Wh'mpt'n SE)|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)||Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Eggar, Tim|
|Boyes, Roland||Emery, Sir Peter|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes||Evennett, David|
|Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard||Ewing, Harry|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Eyre, Sir Reginald|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Fallon, Michael|
|Bright, Graham||Favell, Anthony|
|Brinton, Tim||Fenner, Mrs Peggy|
|Brittan, Rt Hon Leon||Field, Frank (Birkenhead)|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey|
|Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)||Fisher, Mark|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Fletcher, Alexander|
|Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)||Fookes, Miss Janet|
|Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N)||Foot, Rt Hon Michael|
|Bruce, Malcolm||Forman, Nigel|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Forrester, John|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.||Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Foster, Derek|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Foulkes, George|
|Burt, Alistair||Fowler, Rt Hon Norman|
|Butcher, John||Franks, Cecil|
|Butler, Rt Hon Adam||Fraser, Peter (Angus East)|
|Butterfill, John||Freeman, Roger|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J.||Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald|
|Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)||Freud, Clement|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Fry, Peter|
|Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)||Gale, Roger|
|Carlisle, John (N Luton)||Galley, Roy|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde)|
|Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S)||Garel-Jones, Tristan|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Garrett, W. E.|
|Carttiss, Michael||George, Bruce|
|Cartwright, John||Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Cash, William||Glyn, Dr Alan|
|Channon, Rt Hon Paul||Godman, Dr Norman|
|Chapman, Sydney||Golding, John|
|Chope, Christopher||Gower, Sir Raymond|
|Churchill, W. S.||Grant, Sir Anthony|
|Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n)||Gregory, Conal|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Griffiths, Sir Eldon|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Grist, Ian|
|Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)||Ground, Patrick|
|Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)||Grylls, Michael|
|Clarke, Thomas||Gummer, Rt Hon John S|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)|
|Cockeram, Eric||Hamilton, James (M'well N)|
|Colvin, Michael||Hamilton, W. W. (Fife Central)|
|Conway, Derek||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton North)||Hancock, Mr. Michael|
|Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)||Hanley, Jeremy|
|Coombs, Simon||Hannam, John|
|Cope, John||Harman, Ms Harriet|
|Corbett, Robin||Harris, David|
|Cormack, Patrick||Harvey, Robert|
|Couchman, James||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy|
|Critchley, Julian||Hawkins, C. (High Peak)|
|Crouch, David||Hayes, J.|
|Crowther, Stan||Hayhoe, Rt Hon Barney|
|Cunningham, Dr John||Haynes, Frank|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Hayward, Robert|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)||Healey, Rt Hon Denis|
|Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)||Heath, Rt Hon Edward|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)||Heathcoat-Amory, David|
|Deakins, Eric||Heddle, John|
|Dewar, Donald||Henderson, Barry|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael|
|Dobson, Frank||Hickmet, Richard|
|Dormand, Jack||Hicks, Robert|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.|
|Dubs, Alfred||Hill, James|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Sir Edward||Hind, Kenneth|
|Dunn, Robert||Hirst, Michael|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)|
|Durant, Tony||Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)|
|Dykes, Hugh||Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)|
|Eadie, Alex||Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)|
|Holt, Richard||Madel, David|
|Home Robertson, John||Major, John|
|Howard, Michael||Malins, Humfrey|
|Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)||Malone, Gerald|
|Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Maples, John|
|Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)||Marek, Dr John|
|Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)||Marland, Paul|
|Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N)||Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|Howells, Geraint||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)|
|Hoyle, Douglas||Martin, Michael|
|Hubbard-Miles, Peter||Mason, Rt Hon Roy|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Mates, Michael|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport East)||Maude, Hon Francis|
|Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)||Mawhinney, Dr Brian|
|Hughes, Simon (Southwark)||Maxton, John|
|Hume, John||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Hunt, David (Wirral)||Mayhew, Sir Patrick|
|Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Meacher, Michael|
|Hunter, Andrew||Meadowcroft, Michael|
|Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas||Mellor, David|
|Irving, Charles||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Jackson, Robert||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Janner, Hon Greville||Mills, Iain (Meriden)|
|Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd)||Moate, Roger|
|Jessel, Toby||Monro, Sir Hector|
|John, Brynmor||Montgomery, Sir Fergus|
|Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Moore, John|
|Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)||Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)|
|Jones, Robert (Herts W)||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)|
|Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Moynihan, Hon C.|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Mudd, David|
|Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine||Neale, Gerrard|
|Kennedy, Charles||Needham, Richard|
|Kershaw, Sir Anthony||Nelson, Anthony|
|Key, Robert||Neubert, Michael|
|King, Roger (B'ham N'field)||Newton, Tony|
|King, Rt Hon Tom||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil||Normanton, Tom|
|Kirkwood, Archy||Norris, Steven|
|Knight, Greg (Derby N)||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Knowles, Michael||O'Brien, William|
|Knox, David||Onslow, Cranley|
|Lang, Ian||Oppenheim, Phillip|
|Latham, Michael||Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Osborn, Sir John|
|Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel||Ottaway, Richard|
|Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David|
|Leighton, Ronald||Page, Sir John (Harrow W)|
|Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Page, Richard (Herts SW)|
|Lester, Jim||Park, George|
|Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)||Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Parris, Matthew|
|Lewis, Terence (Worsley)||Patchett, Terry|
|Lightbown, David||Patten, Christopher (Bath)|
|Lilley, Peter||Patten, J. (Oxf W & Abdgn)|
|Livsey, Richard||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Lloyd, Ian (Havant)||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)||Pawsey, James|
|Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Lord, Michael||Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Lyell, Nicholas||Pike, Peter|
|McCrindle, Robert||Pollock, Alexander|
|McCurley, Mrs Anna||Portillo, Michael|
|McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|Macfarlane, Neil||Powell, William (Corby)|
|MacGregor, Rt Hon John||Prentice, Rt Hon Reg|
|McGuire, Michael||Prescott, John|
|McKay, Allen (Penistone)||Price, Sir David|
|MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)||Pym, Rt Hon Francis|
|MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)||Radice, Giles|
|McKelvey, William||Raffan, Keith|
|MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Raison, Rt Hon Timothy|
|Maclean, David John||Randall, Stuart|
|Maclennan, Robert||Rathbone, Tim|
|McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)||Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)|
|McQuarrie, Albert||Renton, Tim|
|McTaggart, Robert||Rhodes James, Robert|
|McWilliam, John||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Richardson, Ms Jo||Sumberg, David|
|Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Ridsdale, Sir Julian||Taylor, John (Solihull)|
|Rifkind, Malcolm||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey||Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman|
|Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)||Terlezki, Stefan|
|Robertson, George||Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.|
|Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Robinson, Mark (N'port W)||Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)|
|Roe, Mrs Marion||Thompson, Donald (Calder V)|
|Rogers, Allan||Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)|
|Rooker, J. W.||Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)|
|Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)||Thorne, Stan (Preston)|
|Rossi, Sir Hugh||Thurnham, Peter|
|Rost, Peter||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Rowe, Andrew||Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)|
|Rowlands, Ted||Tracey, Richard|
|Rumbold, Mrs Angela||Trippier, David|
|Ryder, Richard||Trotter, Neville|
|Sackville, Hon Thomas||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Sainsbury, Hon Timothy||van Straubenzee, Sir W.|
|Sayeed, Jonathan||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Scott, Nicholas||Viggers, Peter|
|Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)||Waddington, David|
|Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')||Wainwright, R.|
|Sheldon, Rt Hon R.||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Shelton, William (Streatham)||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)||Walden, George|
|Shersby, Michael||Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)|
|Shore, Rt Hon Peter||Wall, Sir Patrick|
|Short, Mrs R. (W'hampt'n NE)||Wallace, James|
|Silkin, Rt Hon J.||Waller, Gary|
|Silvester, Fred||Walters, Dennis|
|Sims, Roger||Ward, John|
|Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)||Wardle, C. (Bexhill)|
|Snape, Peter||Warren, Kenneth|
|Soames, Hon Nicholas||Watson, John|
|Soley, Clive||Watts, John|
|Spearing, Nigel||Wells, Bowen (Hertford)|
|Speller, Tony||Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)|
|Spence, John||Wheeler, John|
|Spencer, Derek||Whitfield, John|
|Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)||Whitney, Raymond|
|Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Squire, Robin||Wilkinson, John|
|Stanley, John||Williams, Rt Hon A.|
|Steel, Rt Hon David||Winnick, David|
|Steen, Anthony||Wolfson, Mark|
|Stern, Michael||Wood, Timothy|
|Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Stevens, Martin (Fulham)||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Stott, Roger||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Stradling Thomas, Sir John||Mr. Carol Mather and|
|Strang, Gavin||Mr. Robert Boscawen.|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Lamond, James|
|Beggs, Roy||McCrea, Rev William|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||McCusker, Harold|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)|
|Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)||Maginnis, Ken|
|Browne, John||Maynard, Miss Joan|
|Bruinvels, Peter||Molyneaux, Rt Hon James|
|Budgen, Nick||Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)|
|Clay, Robert||Murphy, Christopher|
|Cohen, Harry||Nellist, David|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Nicholson, J.|
|Dalyell, Tam||Paisley, Rev Ian|
|Dicks, Terry||Parry, Robert|
|Dover, Den||Porter, Barry|
|Farr, Sir John||Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down)|
|Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)||Redmond, M.'|
|Forsythe, Clifford ( Antrim)||Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)|
|Gow, Ian||Robinson, P. (Belfast E)|
|Kilfedder, James A.||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)|
|Skeet, T. H. H.||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Skinner, Dennis||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Smyth, Rev W. M. (Belfast S)|
|Stanbrook, Ivor||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Taylor, Rt Hon John David||Mr. William Ross and|
|Walker, Cecil (Belfast N)||Viscount Cranbourne.|
|Walker, Bill (T'side N)|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ That this House approves the Anglo-Irish Agreement (Cmnd. 9657) signed on 15th November by the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach, Dr. Garret FitzGerald.