HC Deb 15 January 1987 vol 108 cc402-3
13. Mr. Archer

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he will next meet the leaders of the political parties in Northern Ireland to discuss the operation of the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

17. Mr. Soley

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what representations he has received from Unionist parties in Northern Ireland on the Anglo-Irish Agreement; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Tom King

Unfortunately, the leaders of the Unionist parties feel unable to have discussions with me, but I am obviously aware of several concerns felt by members of the Unionist parties and I remain ready to discuss with them the Anglo-Irish Agreement, or any other matters, at any time. I meet the leaders of the Social Democratic and Labour party and the Alliance party regularly and hope to meet them again soon.

Mr. Archer

As the whole purpose of the Anglo-Irish Agreement was to facilitate discussions with the Republic, would it not be pointless if it led to the termination of discussions with everyone else? Will the Secretary of State confirm that any proposal emerging from the Intergovernmental Conference will be the subject of consultations with any party or group in Northern Ireland which wishes to express a view on the merits? For that purpose, will it be made known in good time before the proposal is implemented?

Mr. King

I am more than ready completely to endorse what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said. One of the least truthful statements in Northern Ireland is that somehow the Unionists are debarred from putting forward their views and opinions. I have made it absolutely clear that I would welcome them at any time, and I hope that they will take up those opportunities.

Mr. Soley

When the Secretary of State next meets the Unionist parties, will he reiterate that no agreement jointly negotiated between the British and Irish Governments can be destroyed by threat of force or undermined by a veto applied by any group or political party? Can he make it absolutely clear to them that the will of two democratically elected Parliaments of Britain and Ireland is sovereign in these matters?

Mr. King

Of all the people in Northern Ireland, I would have thought previously that it was least necessary to remind Unionists that the United Kingdom Parliament is sovereign and that its views should be respected.