HC Deb 27 November 2002 vol 395 cc305-6
6. Mr. Eric Illsley (Barnsley, Central)

If he will make a statement on the prospects for establishing the Northern Ireland Assembly. [81604]

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Paul Murphy)

As I said in my reply to the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes), we are working urgently with others to find a basis to restore the devolved institutions. I believe that doing so is of the utmost importance to the future of Northern Ireland.

Mr. Illsley

Given the progress that has been made since the signing of the Good Friday agreement—progress to which my right hon. Friend has already referred—does he agree that it is essential that the Assembly is re-established as quickly as possible?

Mr. Murphy

Indeed I do. One of the great changes for the better in Northern Ireland in the past few years is that Northern Ireland people are taking decisions on behalf of other Northern Ireland people. The quicker we restore devolution in Northern Ireland, the better for everyone.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire)

Does the Secretary of State—and the Prime Minister—accept that the trust and confidence, the re-establishment of which he says is so necessary, would be re-established more quickly if he gave the House a categorical assurance that there was no question of giving fugitive terrorists an amnesty?

Mr. Murphy

I think that the best thing that can happen is that, when we talk—as we will tomorrow in Belfast and in the weeks ahead—the parties in Northern Ireland can reassure each other of the importance of settling those issues that are in front of us. That is a matter not only for the Governments, but for the political parties as well.

Mr. Eddie McGrady (South Down)

Does the Secretary of State agree that the permanent re-establishment of devolved government in Northern Ireland can be achieved only by the complete fulfilment of the Good Friday agreement, endorsed by all participating parties. Does he agree that the current round of negotiations should refer only to matters as yet to be implemented under the Good Friday agreement, including those to be implemented by Government?

Mr. Murphy

My hon. Friend is right that the chief reason why those talks have been held is that the institutions have been suspended because of lack of trust. At the end of the day, however, that trust can be restored by referring all the time to the Good Friday agreement itself and its implementation. That is a duty upon our Government, the Irish Government and all the parties working together.

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