HC Deb 23 October 1986 vol 102 cc1283-4
8. Mr. Maclennan

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what recent discussions he has had with representatives of policial parties in Northen Ireland concerning the form and progress of the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

Mr. Tom King

I and my hon. Friend the Minister of State have met the leaders of the Social Democratic and Labour party and the Alliance party for that purpose on a number of occasions. As I have repeatedly said, we should like to have discussions with representatives of Unionist parties too, but unfortunately they have not yet felt able to do so.

Mr. Maclennan

In answer to an earlier question the Secretary of State spoke of progress on human rights being made under the agreement with the Irish Government. Has he thought it right to put forward the proposals of the Official Unionists that there should be a Bill of Rights in Northern Ireland, or the proposal of the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights that the European convention on human rights should be incorporated into the law of the land to give a remedy in our courts?

Mr. King

We have made it clear that we see real difficulties about a Bill of Rights, because inevitably it would involve the whole of the United Kingdom, with all the problems that that might entail, and the connected issues, which have often been debated. At the most recent conference we said that it might be helpful to have a joint declaration on human righs, which might be an affirmation by both Governments. The matter is being studied at present.

Mr. Gow

Has my right hon. Friend seen the text of the speech made by Mr. Charles Haughey at Bodenstown on the 12th of this month, in which he said that in the 12 months since the Anglo-Irish Agreement had been signed the position of Nationalists in the North had seriously worsened? In the discussions to which my right hon. Friend has just referred, have any representations of the sort made by Mr. Charles Haughey been made by the SDLP and other parties in the North?

Mr. King

No, Sir. I have seen Mr. Charles Haughey's comments as well as the comments of many Nationalists, who clearly do not share that view.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that no self-respecting Member of this House would accept a situation in which the representation of the rights and interests of a section of his constituents is vested by international treaty in a foreign power?

Mr. King

That is simply not true, if I may say so to the right hon. Gentleman, whom I would have expected to be more accurate in the matter. To imply that those rights and interests are vested without the opportunity to put forward views, something which in no way deprives others of the opportunity to put forward views — as if the rights had been permanently transferred — is total distortion and an incorrect interpretation of that agreement.

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

Can my right hon. Friend say whether, in the event of a change of Government in the Republic, the Anglo-Irish Agreement could be renegotiated and, if so, whether in that process all the political parties in the North could be included in the negotiation?

Mr. King

The agreement itself provides for the opportunity for review, which would be after three years, or earlier at the request of either party. Obviously any review would be conducted between Governments, but, as I have made clear, I would envisage the opportunity to be there for anybody who wished to do so to put forward any views that he liked. That opportunity exists now, and I am sorry that the Unionist party has not felt able to take advantage of it.

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