HC Deb 18 May 1989 vol 153 cc463-4
11. Mr. Gow

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what is the policy of Her Majesty's Government in order to bring to the Province peace, stability and reconciliation.

Mr. Tom King

We are giving particular emphasis to strengthening the economy, improving the prospects for jobs, encouraging better community relations, and giving additional help to areas of particular need. At the same time we maintain the most determined efforts to de feat terrorism, and to encourage a more constructive approach to political development.

Mr. Gow

Is it not true that the Anglo-Irish Agreement has alienated the majority without reconciling the minority? Will my right hon. Friend follow a policy whereby the Province is governed as closely as may be to the way in which the rest of the United Kingdom is governed?

Mr. King

I hope and know that my hon. Friend will have listened to my original answer, and I trust that he found it entirely acceptable as the policy that we seek to pursue. That is the foundation on which we strive to address the governance of Northern Ireland.

Mr. William Ross

Does the Secretary of State agree that one of the principles of governing Northern Ireland in exactly the same way as the rest of the United Kingdom should be to adopt exactly the same electoral process in the Province as that which is enjoyed by the electorate in the rest of the United Kingdom? Will the right hon. Gentleman also bear in mind that the methods used for identification at polling stations are inadequate, as was proved to be true yesterday, when people apparently turned up with forged medical cards? Would not the solution be a single proper identity card for the entire population?

Mr. King

There are strong arguments in favour of the hon. Gentleman's latter suggestion, provided that one can ensure that it operates in a way that is not itself open to abuse. One of the problems of personation in Northern Ireland is the determined efforts made by people to falsify their identity, even when required to produce proof of it. The authorities take as effective steps as they can against forgery and other activities.

I was surprised by the hon. Gentleman's first point. I cannot believe that anyone seriously argues that it is desirable to return to the old electoral system in Northern Ireland.