HC Deb 17 February 1986 vol 92 c15
44. Mr. Dubs

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will now make a statement on the establishment of an Anglo-Irish parliamentary tier.

Mr. Biffen

Consideration of this matter continues.

Mr. Dubs

I think that the Leader of the House has already answered my question—nothing seems to be happening. There is a great deal of support for the establishment of an Anglo-Irish parliamentary tier, but Ministers continually say that it is a matter for Parliament. When we approach the only Minister who can enable things to happen in this House, he says, "Well, it will happen some time." Could we please make some progress, or when the Leader of the House has ceased to be the Leader of the House still nothing will have happened?

Mr. Biffen

Perhaps that will be my contribution to posterity. Discussions between the parties are taking place. Most Irish matters are ones in regard to which speed can be just as dangerous as sloth.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

I have an idea. If the parliamentary tier were added to the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Council, could we not then be rid of the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, which is the cause of so much trouble in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Biffen

I am sure that will be one of the many considerations that will weigh with the inter-party talks.

Mr. Alton

What is the status of the discussions that the right hon. Gentleman says have taken place with the other parties on the Anglo-Irish parliamentary tier? Has he taken account of the 46 signatures to the early-day motion tabled by the hon. Member for Hampshire, East (Mr. Mates), asking for the tier to be established? Will he take the opportunity this week, with the visit of the Taoiseach to Westminster, to initiate talks to establish the Anglo-Irish parliamentary tier?

Mr. Biffen

The answer to the first part of the question is informal, the answer to the second part is yes, and the answer to the third is it will not be necessary because talks are already under way.

Mr. Pavitt

Will the Leader of the House discuss these matters with the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch), who led a successful all-party group to Ireland last year as chairman of the Inter-parliamentary Union? Should not the IPU be involved in any tier that might be created?

Mr. Biffen

That is a very reasonable comment. I shall be very happy to get in touch with my hon. Friend.