HC Deb 20 June 1991 vol 193 cc565-75 10.24 pm
Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)

As you have now taken the Chair, Mr. Speaker, I wish to raise a point of order with you before making my speech. The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon), who has now been absent from his place for some time, has accused my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. 'William McCrea) of being elected to this House by the grace and favour of the IRA". Having brought that fact to your attention, Mr. Speaker, I trust that you will read what the hon. Gentleman actually said in Hansard tomorrow and that you will rule whether it is in order for one hon. Member to say to another, that "You are here by the grace and favour of Republican murderous thugs." I do not know whether you want to say anything about that matter, Mr. Speaker—

Mr. Peter Bottomley

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I think that what was said, and was interpreted as such by most hon. Members who were present, was that the same conditions prevailed in the constituency in question as in my constituency—in that I was elected because enough people voted for the third party to allow me to beat the second party. I do not think that anything more was said or suggested—

Rev. Ian Paisley

There was no mention of that.

Mr. Speaker

I was not in the Chamber to hear those remarks, but I shall study them in Hansard tomorrow. As the House knows, in the Chamber we treat each other as men and women of honour. I am certain that the hon. Member who is alleged to have made that remark did not mean it in the sense that the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) has suggested.

Rev. Ian Paisley

I think that you will find, Mr. Speaker, that what has been said by the hon. Gentleman's apologist, the hon. Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley), is not so. You will know that that is the case when you read Hansard. I would resent it if anybody said to me that I had been elected to this House by the grace and favour of murderers. I know that if that was said of any English, Welsh and Scottish Member, he or she would react in the same way.

Mr. Speaker

Was this issue raised at the time?

Mr. Ian Paisley

Yes, immediately.

Mr. Speaker

I am certain that if it was, the Deputy Speaker in the Chair would have dealt with it then.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Madam Deputy Speaker, who was in the Chair, did not accept what I said—that is why I am asking you to read Hansard, Mr. Speaker. As you know, I am not entitled to go upstairs and to bring that Hansard report down to the Chamber, so I am asking you to read Hansard and to give us your view. I advise those who want to apologise for such behaviour in the House that I have been a Member of the House for 21 years, and. I know some of its ways. I also know a lot about Ulster politics and that accusations are made, but we highly resent such accusations.

To begin my speech, I now understand why we are in a mess in Northern Ireland. Tonight, the hon. Member for Eltham has demonstrated in the House the sort of thinking that has brought us to this mess in Northern Ireland. I should love to take the hon. Gentleman to a graveyard in Castlederg which contains row upon row of graves of Ulster Defence Regiment men. Then I should like to take him to the widows and orphans so that he can explain to them the abominable policy that he has outlined to the House as a way of ridding ourselves of the Irish Republican scum who are killing our people. That philosophy is completely isolated from reality and from the sorrows and agony of Northern Ireland that has brought us down into the mess that we are in. When the hon. Gentleman was in Northern Ireland, he lectured us about our bigotry. On radio, he lectured us about the bigotry of the people of Northern Ireland.

The hon. Member for Eltham expounded his philosophy of how we are to rid our Province of what is happening there and of men who are not content to kill their victims but will not even allow them to be buried. I was in that church because I represent the whole of Northern Ireland in another place. While the victim was a constituent of my hon. Friend the Member for North Down (Mr. Kilfedder), he was also my constituent in my European parliamentary constituency. I know the family and I know where the victim lived. He lived adjacent to the place where I preach.

The funeral had to be held up because the IRA said that it had laid a bomb on the very route that the funeral would take to the graveyard and another bomb in the graveyard. The terrorists gave the proper IRA code to the police, so we know that it was not a prank. When we have to face such behaviour, we know that it will never be got rid of by some sort of philosophy in this House. It is impossible to wean those these people away from violence. People maintain that there are so many in a small group and that one by one they can be weaned away. These people cannot be weaned away from their evil

I have read deeply in Irish history. I have read everything that I could lay my hands on about what happened in the Irish Republic. It had similar circumstances to what we have in Northern Ireland today when the irregulars were killing, maiming and destroying in the south of Ireland. Kevin O'Higgins, a Republican whose understanding of Ireland would be entirely different from mine, said that there was only one way to put the violence down. It was by weapons that the people themselves used.

Of course, Kevin O'Higgins lost his life because he carried out the only policy that led to success. But he brought about peace in the southern part of our island. It will take resolution, strength, courage and determination to put down the violent men that are abroad in our Province, not an empty philosophy.

I have studied the figures carefully. If one studies the last council by-election, it is clear that there is a rising tide of political support for Sinn Fein. I know what I am talking about in my area and in other areas. I do not speak as an individual: I speak from an advantage point that no one else in the House can speak from. In numbers, I have had more votes cast for me than any politician living or dead in the United Kingdom. I do not speak for half a dozen people. I am not talking about getting in on split votes. I am talking about massive majorities in my European campaign. I am talking for people. I want to tell the House tonight that it needs to listen to the people.

I shall not take much time to speak about the talks. The Secretary of State knows my mind. I have already seen him. I have talked to him personally with my colleague, the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux). The Secretary of State knows our minds on what is happening, and I shall not repeat anything in the House. Tonight we can see just who is sincere about the talks. In the statement that was made on 26 March, there was no mention of dates; 16 July was not sacrosanct. It was not even in Hansard. Hon. Members can read it for themselves.

All I am saying is that we understood that there were two conditions. The first one was that the Secretary of State would tell us when strand two would commence after he had consulted the rest of the parties on that matter. We then discovered, through a newspaper report, that the independent chairman for strand two was to come to our Province in the first week of July for the first meeting of strand two, then go away and not return until September. The Secretary of State was to consult the other parties when strand two began, but the independent chairman was to come in the first week of July for the start of that process. I wonder why the other delegates were not told that.

Secondly, we were to have 10 to 11 weeks to complete the process. The Secretary of State can stand up now and tell the House whether my colleague, the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley and I thought that we had enough time.

Mr. Brooke

The hon. Member has referred to the fact that he explained to me in private his views on this matter. Since he has chosen to allude to the matter, he will also recall that he raised with me the subject of that newspaper report, and I gave him what I think was a rational explanation of how that report arose. I think that it would be unfortunate if the House were to rise tonight thinking that something conspiratorial had occurred in that context. It was necessary to give Sir Ninian Stephen some idea of when, conceivably, he might be needed to do his job.

Rev. Ian Paisley

The Australian newspapers have quite a number of reports about what is happening and I shall not enter into a long debate tonight, although I could. I could marshal my facts—I know the person who spoke on behalf of the Secretary of State to Sir Ninian, and I could outline the position. But tonight we are asking, "What is the use?"

My honourable colleague, the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley, and I started talking to the Government immediately after this Parliament was elected. We have continued to do so for a long time, and no one can doubt our dedication to the matter. Even the Secretary of State has referred to that fact over and over again.

The Secretary of State had better realise that the people of Northern Ireland cannot be fooled or deceived; the wool cannot be pulled over their eyes. They believe that if there are 10 weeks in which to do a job that seems impossible to complete in that time, extra weeks must be given to do that job. If circumstances arise that cut into those 10 weeks, the ways and means must be found to make available the lost weeks.

We have been prepared to work every day of the week except the Sabbath if that is what is required. We have made that clear from the very beginning. We are not trying to hold up the process. The same red herring is drawn in every time, that the Unionists will not meet the Dublin authorities, but we will do so. We look forward to confronting them with their claim over our territory.

I find it very offensive that the hon. Member for Eltham should say that the remarks made in the House tonight by the Unionist Members were offensive to the Dublin Government. My hon. Friend the Member for North Down said that the process was putting the nose of the Ulster people into the dust. He was right; it is offensive to pull the plug on them in the middle of these important meetings, because the 10-week obligation cannot be met.

I make no apology for saying again that Northern Ireland is not an annexed colony of the Irish Republic. It is part and parcel of the United Kingdom. The hon. Gentleman had better remember that it is not one-way-street loyalty and that the Ulster people have never sought to make it that. They have stood by the United Kingdom in days of peril.

The hon. Member for Eltham was in Northern Ireland, and he should return to look again at the various cenotaphs to learn how many Ulstermen gave their lives for his liberty as well as for those in the rest of the United Kingdom. Some of us will be on the Somme soon to mark the 75th anniversary of the occasion when an entire generation of Ulstermen was wiped out. I resent anyone telling me that I am offensive when I stand for Northern Ireland as an integral part of the United Kingdom and not as an annexed colony of the Irish Republic.

There are three propositions that I am asked as a Unionist to accept, and they are repugnant to me. First, I have to accept the inalienable right of the Dublin Government to be involved in the internal affairs of Northern Ireland. That I will never accept, and nor will the majority of the people of Northern Ireland. Let the House be crystal clear about that. When talking to an hon. Member earlier today, he said, "I am amazed that such a thing should even be suggested." That, however, is the ultimatum that is put to me by nationalists.

Secondly, I am asked to accept that the aspiration of nationalists has never, from the time of partition to this day, been allowed to be expressed. Not even when nationalists were in the power-sharing Executive was the aspiration of true nationalism expressed, because they did not have the Council of Ireland. I am being asked as a Unionist and a member of the United Kingdom to accept that nationalists were never able to express themselves.

Thirdly, I am asked to accept that the police of Northern Ireland are now as great a part of the problem as the IRA. That I totally and utterly repudiate.

These are the propositions that are being pushed upon the Unionist people. The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh—I am sorry that he is not in his place—gave us a list of figures when he talked about discrimination. He need not read homilies on discrimination. The SDLP has controlled four area councils for a long time—Londonderry, Newry and Mourne, Down and Strabane. I have some figures as well—they are Fair Employment Agency figures, not mine. I have little time for the FEA, but its figures have "infallibility" when it comes to discrimination, and they provide the standard which others have to meet.

The figures show that 65 per cent. of the population who are represented in Londonderry council are Roman Catholic and that 75 per cent. of jobs go to Roman Catholics. It appears that 75 per cent. of the population who come within the area for which the Newry and Mourne council is responsible are Roman Catholics, and that 88 per cent. of the jobs go to those people. It appears also that 55 per cent. of the population for which Down council is responsible are Roman Catholic and that 60 per cent. of the jobs go to those people. That is an area which is represented in part by the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady). Lastly, 52 per cent. of the population for which Strabane council is responsible are Roman Catholic, and 60 per cent. of the jobs go to Roman Catholics. There we have discrimination over 18 years.

I listened to the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh talking about the civil service. I do not know anything about civil service figures, but according to the FEA, the largest grade in the Northern Ireland civil service has 12,000 members out of the 21,000 civil servants in Northern Ireland, and 52 per cent. of all recruits in the past five years have been Roman Catholics in that section, although only 40 per cent. of the population are Roman Catholics. Yet the hon. Gentleman says that we are always discriminating.

We have a controversy about schools. I do not think that the Secretary of State has been fair to the House. He has referred to Protestant schools. There is no large Protestant school movement in Northern Ireland today. There are state schools; there are no Protestant schools. To those state schools go Roman Catholics, Protestant, Jews, coloured people; everybody goes. They are all entitled to go there. Those schools grew out of Protestant Church schools.

The Stormont Government, a Unionist Government, said to the Churches, "Give us your schools and we will make a state system." Very foolishly, in my view, they handed over their schools. They should not have done so; they should have asked the Government to give them money to run their schools. But the Protestant churches handed over their schools. The Roman Catholic Church was wiser. It said it would not, and it went on agitating for money. Now it gets 85 per cent. of the cost of maintaining its schools and 100 per cent. for its teachers' salaries and 100 per cent. for its teachers' pensions. So the Roman Catholic schools are treated better in Northern Ireland than in any country I know. I went to America recently and asked how much it gave to its Roman Catholic schools. They told me, not a dollar.

What alarms the Protestant people of Northern Ireland is that we have a body in Northern Ireland, the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights, which I do not know much about—

Mr. Brooke

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman was not seeking to mislead the House, but the settlement which was conducted under the Education Act 1944 for voluntary schools in England and Wales, necessarily in large numbers of Church origin, established exactly that 85 per cent. capital funding and that 100 per cent. for current funding which I thought he might be describing as unique to Northern Ireland.

Rev. Ian Paisley

I do not know, but perhaps the Secretary of State could tell me whether a Christian brother who takes a vow of chastity, obedience and poverty in England is paid the full salary and the full pension.

Mr. Brooke


Rev. Ian Paisley

I accept that. But the Unionist Government were liberal to the Roman Catholic schools and recently the Cardinal Archbishop acknowledged that. I do not know what the Minister with responsibility for education will say, but for 45 minutes we see on our screens a prominent Roman Catholic, the chairman, and a nun giving a press conference, telling the people about the way in which they have been discriminated against. Yet the person who drew up the report was on the radio saying that he had never said that it was discrimination, that he had never mentioned the word in the report.

Mr. Beggs

Does the hon. Member agree that all those people who have faithfully served on education and library boards throughout the Province since 1974 would bitterly resent any suggestion of discrimination by those boards against maintained schools? We would like what appears to be a leaked report to be made public and to be subjected to the most intensive investigation, to establish how that shortfall arose—and whether the maintained schools within the Protestant sector also have been underfunded as a result of some erroneous calculation.

Rev. Ian Paisley

We need to find out what is at the heart of that allegation. No member of my party is ever allowed to serve on any of the quangos and other bodies that are established in Northern Ireland. I could give the House a list of the people who do sit on them. They include failed political candidates—people who could not get elected and who forfeited their deposits, but who have been stuck on those boards because they will not say or do anything.

The hon. Member for Antrim, East (Mr. Beggs) who was the chairman of the board in my own locality, knows that representatives of the maintained schools are on all those boards and can influence voting in respect of the state schools—yet when it comes to their own, they say, "We're different. You can't interfere with us."

I have always believed that people—be they Roman Catholic or Protestant—should have a fair slice of the cake. I have always held that belief, and I practise it in my political life. I defy any right hon. or hon. Member to bring me a Roman Catholic from Northern Ireland who will say, "I went to Ian Paisley with a problem and he did not help." Ministers know that to be true, because they continually receive letters from me on problems affecting all sections of the community.

I am in this House to see fair play, and the Protestant sector of the Northern Ireland community is not getting fair play today. The Protestant community cannot take the beating that it is getting without breaking. This is a hard thing for me to say, but, one day, the Protestant population will break. I say, in God's name, do not drive them to breaking point. I may not be here to speak for them. My colleagues in this House may not be here to speak for them. The people with whom the Government then have to deal may not be reasonable people—the people with whom they would want to deal. But if the Protestant population are pushed, something will happen.

I go to funerals because I feel that it is my duty to try to succour families. I am a pastor—I have worked at being one for 45 years. I can sit at someone's home, and I can nurse the orphans and put my arm around the widows and comfort them. I have received scores and scores of letters thanking me. That is why I go. I do not go for publicity. I do not go to have my photograph taken. I detest photographers at funerals. I wish that they would take their cameras off funerals and allow people to bury their dead in peace and dignity.

At the funerals that I have attended recently, there is an ugly silence. People do not speak. I have never seen such alarm, and people in such a state, as I did at a funeral the other day in the constituency of the hon. Member for Antrim, East. There is a solemn, sad shadow being cast, and people are asking, "Is there any hope for us?"

Everything must be done to ensure that nothing hinders the present political dialogue—nothing. If the Republican Government says this or that must be done, it must be told that it cannot be done, and that the people of Northern Ireland must be allowed the 10 weeks they want. In the name of the dead, of the widows, and of the blood that has been shed, give them 10 weeks. Do not drive the people of Northern Ireland to desperation.

I know what I am talking about, because I have had people in my home and have attended meetings around the country. Elected representatives of Northern Ireland are distracted. Without support, I can do nothing for Northern Ireland.

If I cannot deliver the goods, if I cannot deliver my people to an agreement, we will not have an agreement. The two Unionist leaders can deliver the Unionist people, in support of a fair righteous agreement, but it may be a long time before two Unionist leaders will be in a position to do that again, so, please, in God's name, for the sake of the Province, do not push us. Try to help us and let us hear no more rubbish about it being "an insult to Dublin" to say that they should not interfere. Let us look at Northern Ireland and say that they will try to help them. That is the last plea that I want to make.

10.57 pm
The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Dr. Brian Mawhinney)

Some hours ago I made clear my views at this Dispatch Box on the murder which took place yesterday in the constituency of the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) and I presume to speak again for the House when I respond to his comments and say that he would be entirely right to convey the sympathy of the whole House to his constituent, who suffered so grievously yesterday.

We have already spent about six and a half hours considering Northern Ireland business. We spent some time dealing with important security measures and we have spent some hours discussing direct rule. In its variety of forms, it has been, as always, a wide-ranging debate. At times, it has been robust—as robust as I can recall, and I believe that this is my 12th direct rule debate. At other times the debate has been highly emotionally charged. In a sense those emotions, coupled with the range of substance, are a reflection of life in Northern Ireland. Therefore it is entirely appropriate that our debate should be in that form.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) for the way in which he opened the debate the Oppostion side and for his kind words to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State—words which were reflected by a number of other speakers. While I realise that I am no impartial observer, I thank hon. Members for their words, which I entirely endorse. It would be appropriate to tell the hon. Gentleman that we recognise the sacrifice that he has made in terms of the television cameras and I hope that he will take some encouragement from the fact that it has been helpful.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North was kind enough to mention the changing face of the urban and industrial landscape of Northern Ireland. I was pleased that he also pointed out that the strength of a society is drawn, at least in part, from its diversity, and that it is government's responsibility to try to advance that process.

The one exception to the generous comments about my right hon. Friend came from the hon. Member for Londonderry, East (Mr. Ross) and I regret his personal attack on the Secretary of State. He opened up the debate from the Floor on the question of the intergovernmental conference scheduled for 16 July. That has been the subject of comment by most hon. Members who have taken part in the debate.

The hon. Member for Belfast, East did us a service when he reminded us that in the past seven weeks we have come face to face with a number of difficult circumstances —circumstances which, on the face of it, created the impression that they might take a lot of solution. However, we made our way through all of those.

Like my right hon. Friend, I have heard everything that has been said in today's debate. Let me remind hon. Members what my right hon. Friend said. He said that the Government believed that a basis for the resumption of the talks should be found, and he intended to initiate discussions with all the participants—including the Irish Government—to bring that about. In the light of all that has been said, and the power with which it has been said, I do not wish to add to my right hon. Friend's comments; they will have been heard, as will the other speeches.

The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) made an important point: he said that everyone in Northern Ireland should have a sense of identification with the Province—to feel part of it, and to believe that they had a stake in the community there. If we cannot allow people to generate the circumstances in which they can feel that, they will behave irresponsibly, and that is not in anyone's interests.

I shall not enter into the inter-party discussion about discrimination. Hon. Members have proved this evening that they are very capable of making their own cases and defending their own corners. The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh, however, levelled two charges not against other political parties but against the Government. The first related to the pattern of employment in the Northern Ireland civil service. I think that my right hon. Friend dealt with that adequately, so I shall not repeat the arguments. Secondly, the hon. Gentleman referred to what he described as a report by the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights.

I have not even seen the report, let alone read it. I understand that it is not actually a SACHR report; SACHR invited two academics to produce a paper for it. As far as I know, SACHR has not adopted that paper as its report, still less published it as such.

Mr. William Ross

Will the Minister give way?

Dr. Mawhinney

It is very late, and I think that everyone has spoken at some length.

The hon. Member for Newry and Armagh said that, according to the report—as I have not seen it, I cannot verify either the statistics that he gave or the assumptions on which they were based—there was a £32 million difference between the amount given to the controlled sector and that given to the maintained sector between 1981 and 1986. The historic patterns of funding for schools in Northern Ireland suggest that at least some of the schools in the maintained sector received less per capita than those in the controlled sector. I emphasise that that is a historic funding pattern; it has nothing to do with discrimination.

Before the end of the 1981–86 period, the Northern Ireland Education Department had already recognised the historic funding difference. As the hon. Member for Antrim, East (Mr. Beggs) will recall—I think that we had discussions with his local education and library board on the subject—the Government sought over a period of years to skew the distribution of funds in a way that took account of the historic funding inadequacy, and to put the position right. It is beyond peradventure that the introduction of formula funding under the education reform proposals will be the most effective way to ensure that there is no inbuilt disadvantage in the distribution of resources for school funding, because the funding will simply go with the children.

The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) is absolutely right to point out that there is no de jure discrimination over education in Northern 1 reland. Everyone is entitled to go to a state school, just as everyone is entitled to go to a maintained or integrated school.

That final point reminds me to express again my appreciation to the hon. Member for North Down (Mr. Kilfedder) for the consistent support that he has given to the importance of finding ways to get our young people to inter-relate and understand each other better during the growing up and education process.

The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea) spoke at length and with passion, as we have become accustomed, and I profoundly agreed with him when he said that there was no acceptable level of violence in Northern Ireland. Despite the difficulties that he and his constituents in particular have experienced, I hope that he will accept that I speak for the Government when I say that we will not be satisfied with any level of violence, in his constituency or anywhere else in the Province.

The hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members—including the hon. Members for Londonderry, East and for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble)—said that, in their view, direct rule was not working. I answer in no sense defensively that if direct rule is to be replaced, it can be done only on the basis of agreement. It cannot be forced or imposed. It can be done only by agreement, in which requires people to be willing not only to listen but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley) said, to make accommodation. That issue is at the heart of the current discussions.

The hon. Member for Upper Bann introduced a new concept, at least new to me, in his reference to the United Nations international covenant on civil and political rights. I am not familiar with that covenant, and I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman will return to it. I am not sure that I accepted the premise of his argument because all citizens of Northern Ireland enjoy the right to elect representatives at local and parliamentary levels and themselves to stand for election.

I believe that the hon. Gentleman was seeking to develop the idea that because the circumstances of direct rule were not ideal, it in some way called into question the more fundamental issue. Although 1 agree that the circumstances of direct rule are not ideal, I cannot go with him in terms of the broader and deeper concept that he was trying to develop.

The hon. Member for Belfast, East referred to the report that my right hon. Friend received recently about the case which is known colloquially as the UDR Four or the Armagh Four case. My right hon. Friend has already said that he will deal with the report expeditiously. It involves a lot of material and the House would want that material to be carefully considered and not have my right hon. Friend rush to judgment in a way that might lead to some important factor being overlooked.

No matter how effective and efficient direct rule is perceived to be, it fails to address the central issue of providing locally elected political representatives with a proper say in the administration of the Province's affairs. As has already been pointed out by the hon. Member for Upper Bann, local government in Northern Ireland has very limited powers. Other matters that would otherwise be the responsibility of regional political institutions are under the direction and control of central Government, and that means that local politicians are denied the full range of responsibilities that would otherwise be available to them.

The prospect of stable government in Northern Ireland, founded on cross-community support, must in itself provide the best possible lead for others in the community, in terms of bringing about reconciliation between the different traditions—reconciliation which can only be good for all the people of Northern Ireland. It would also bring home in a way that cannot be achieved under the present arrangements the total redundancy of the terrorist and his activities in the Province and repugnance at the terrorist. I reiterate what other hon. Members said in the debate—no one associated with the political process in Northern Ireland would claim that a political accommodation between the political parties in the Province and between the people of the island of Ireland would, in itself, extinguish the problems of terrorism. But I believe that they might agree that a settlement would deal the terrorist a serious blow. Many people in Northern Ireland and beyond recognise this, and I am sure that it accounts for much of the support from all walks of life which has been given to the current political talks.

To sum up, the Government remain fully committed to the objective of finding a means of transferring substantial power and responsibility to local elected representatives in Northern Ireland, on a widely acceptable basis, within a framework of stable relationships among the people of Ireland and between the two Governments. With that end in mind, we will continue to pursue and develop the current initiative through to its furthest conclusion.

I again pay tribute to all those who are involved in the process. I have no doubt that all of them are serious and wish to make progress and that all of them are working purposefully to that end. Progress can only be good for the people of Northern Ireland as a whole, and therefore for the rest of the United Kingdom.

The talks have a long way to go and it is clearly essential that the current arrangements for the government of the Province are continued for a further period. The order therefore remains essential. Like others, I hope that this is the last time it has to be moved. I commend it to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the draft Northern Ireland Act 1974 (Interim Period Extension) Order 1991, which was laid before this House on 3rd June, be approved.

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