HC Deb 11 February 1998 vol 306 cc361-2
5. Shona McIsaac

What representations have been made to her by the Northern Ireland political parties concerning the Government's propositions for heads of agreement. [26869]

Marjorie Mowlam

Following the publication of "Propositions on Heads of Agreement", the two Governments have tabled numerous papers, raising questions and points as to the future of each of the three strands. The parties are giving detailed consideration to the issues that have been raised and are producing their own papers, in the hope that agreement can be reached between the different positions in time for 1 May.

Shona McIsaac

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. For the benefit of the House, will she elaborate on what she regards as the next step forward, bearing in mind the joint agreement?

Marjorie Mowlam

As we begin to make progress—[Interruption.]

Madam Speaker

Order. I won the battle on the Opposition Benches; I will win the war on the Government Benches.

Marjorie Mowlam

In Dublin, next week and in the weeks ahead, I hope that the detail of each of the three strands—a devolved body, north-south relations and east-west relations—is discussed, so that the parties make concrete progress towards 1 May.

Mr. William Ross

Although the parties involved may understand what is in the propositions for heads of agreement, the ordinary citizen finds the language used extremely ambiguous. When will we hear very clear statements from the Government on what action they intend to take to preserve the integrity of this kingdom?

Marjorie Mowlam

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. As we have said so often in the process, the future of the relationships between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and between the north and the south is in the form of the three strands that are there for discussion and debate between the parties. Nothing will be imposed. The process will move forward with the consent of the parties, the people and Parliament. That means that, ultimately, the people's decision will be the focus of the process.

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