HC Deb 02 November 1989 vol 159 cc454-5
3. Rev. Martin Smyth

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement about his plans to increase accountability and democracy of government in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Brooke

I should like to see substantial responsibilities devolved to elected representatives of the people of Northern Ireland. Progress depends on the willingness of local politicians to talk and work together.

Rev. Martin Smyth

Will the Secretary of State be announcing any plans in the light of the Government's intention that care for the disabled should be provided in the community? Will there be an extension of powers, perhaps to directly elected local health boards, or does he intend to restore such powers to local government?

Mr. Brooke

Conversations have been going on in Northern Ireland about whether there are further powers which might be distributed to local government. However, the hon. Gentleman asks a rather larger question.

Mr. Riddick

To reassure the people of Northern Ireland that power resides wholly in the hands of the Northern Ireland Office, will my right hon. Friend reassure the House that if any changes are made in the structure or role of the Ulster Defence Regiment, those decisions will be taken after discussions within and between the Northern Ireland Office, the Ministry of Defence and the Cabinet, and that such decisions will not be taken as a result of pressure from the Dublin Government?

Mr. Brooke

I do not think that that question is exactly attached to the issue of devolution, but I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that observation, which I have noted.

Mr. McGrady

Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating those local government officials and councillors who succeeded in attracting to Newcastle, County Down yesterday the United Kingdom tourist convention, which was devoted to the promotion of tourism and, therefore, of job creation in Northern Ireland? Will the Secretary of State equally condemn the action of certain small-minded Unionist councillors who withdrew from that seminar and who added insult to injury for his ministerial colleague, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the hon. Member for Wiltshire, North (Mr. Needham)? Does he agree that that action was detrimental to the promotion of tourism and jobs in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Brooke

We live in a free society and it is up to individual councillors to decide their own actions. However, I am not sure that tourism has been advanced by the action that they took.

Rev. William McCrea

Does the Secretary of State accept that the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland desire to have a devolved Government in Northern Ireland and that the present direct rule is wholly unacceptable and undemocratic? Although the Secretary of State has said that he is waiting for others, perhaps he will tell us what steps he is taking to bring devolution to the Province.

Mr. Brooke

When I became Secretary of State, I invited the leaders of the political parties in Northern Ireland to tell me how they saw matters. All of them accepted that invitation, so I had the opportunity to talk to all of them. As they have all indicated that they are prepared to talk further, I envisage that we shall soon be having a second round of talks.