HL Deb 01 July 1988 vol 498 cc1833-55

11.33 a.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland (Lord Lyell)

My Lords, this morning I beg to move that the Northern Ireland Act 1974 (Interim Period Extension) Order 1988 laid before your Lordships on 7th be approved. At this time each year, for the past 14 years, the Government have sought renewal for a further 12 months of the powers contained in the Northern Ireland Act 1974. As I said on I believe four previous occasions, there is little cause for satisfaction in that fact, however necessary the arrangements may be.

The truth is that debates such as we are having this morning will continue to be necessary so long as there remains an absence of agreement among the people of Northern Ireland and those who represent them, about the establishment of a different form of government which would be widely acceptable in Northern Ireland. I spoke about a year ago as regards the Government's concerns over the lack of involvement of Northern Ireland's politicians in the government of the Province. I expressed the hope then that we might see progress made towards a constructive dialogue between the constitutional political parties on these matters following the general election of last year.

The Government were not looking, and could not expect to look, for instant solutions. I wish to stress to the House that as a result of discussions between my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the leadership of the constitutional parties which have taken place in fair number over the past year, there is now a clearer understanding of the way forward that we perhaps should follow. I might say more about this shortly.

The main problem that brings me to the Dispatch Box throughout the year—I make no apology for returning to it again as regards Northern Ireland—is that of security. Whatever progress we make on the political front, firm and effective security remains essential to the wellbeing of Northern Ireland and, above all, to the population of the Province. For there can be no political accommodation with those who express their viewpoint by violence, intimidation or murder and with those who seek to terrorise parts of the community into submission and who claim to speak on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland, while merely deepening the divisions and frustrating the hopes of peace that the enormous majority of ordinary people hold.

Over the past few months, the world has been appalled by, first, the slaughter at the Remembrance Day parade at Enniskillen. Then there was the murder on 16th March this year of three people at a funeral at Milltown Cemetery. We follow that on 19th March with the murder of two British Army corporals who were first of all dragged from their car, then beaten and shot. Then there was the horrific bombing at Lisburn on 15th June, which left six soldiers dead and just narrowly avoided a far larger massacre of townspeople. And now, to add to that awful toll, the bombing of a school bus at Lisnaskea. This is an act of callousness which, even at this stage almost beggars the belief of your Lordships and another place, let alone the world at large. Beyond these examples which fill us with such horror, there is a long litany of individual tragedies, of those murdered or seriously injured at the hands of terrorists.

This morning I believe that your Lordships will join with me in thinking of the brutal murder on 4th June of Lance-Corporal Michael Darcey, who was a full-time member of the 6th battalion of the Ulster Defence Regiment. He was ambushed and shot by gunmen in his car as he returned home from duty in Castlederg, County Tyrone. This deprived his already widowed mother, in the most horrible circumstances, of her only son. There are countless individual tragedies throughout the past 20 years in Northern Ireland.

In addition, there is the bombing of businesses, damage to property, extortion and blackmail, punishment shootings and kneecappings; all carried out by those who make the hideous claim to be the defenders of their communities and the upholders of their livelihood. That of all lies is the greatest lie of all.

This litany of horrors that I have spelled out this morning would be so much greater but for the determination and professionalism of the security forces. Every day they face the most chilling threats to their own lives in order to forestall the atrocities of the terrorists. I once again pay my tribute to the work of the police and the army to whom we all owe a huge debt of gratitude. Their courage and resourcefulness in combating terrorism are the foundations which will support any progress we can make towards a more peaceful and harmonious society.

The Government give high priority to policies which will create wider and enhanced support for the police and armed forces and for the system of justice in Northern Ireland. The Government will seek to ensure that the delicate balance is maintained between the operational effectiveness of security policies, and the protection of the individual rights of all citizens. That balance is essential to the success of our security policy as a whole.

Over the past year of direct rule we have also witnessed many signs of encouraging progress on the economic front. Unemployment, our most serious economic problem, declined by almost 10,000 in the year to May 1988. The efforts of the Industrial Development Board and the Local Enterprise Development Unit have resulted in the promotion of a record number of jobs—in the region of 9,200 in the financial year 1987–88. I am pleased to say that we can expect this total to be surpassed in the current financial year. We have seen many examples of company expansions during the past year, and quite significant growth in the local enterprise network within the Province. There are now clear signs of real and growing confidence in the Northern Ireland economy among businessmen, which your Lordships and everybody who has the welfare of the Province at heart will find encouraging.

The Government are committed to introducing strong measures to eradicate job discrimination in Northern Ireland and to promoting genuine equality of opportunity in employment. The changes set out in the Government's White Paper published on 25th May are far-reaching. Among other things, they impose important new responsibilities on employers and entail serious penalties for breach of duty. The emphasis throughout our proposals is on fairness. We do not want to transfer hardship from one section of the community to another. We do not wish to impose an intolerable administrative burden on employers. We intend to give support to anyone who is genuinely trying to create employment and prosperity in Northern Ireland. I am sure that all noble Lords would support that aim. In this context, I am happy to pay tribute to the work of the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights which has made a valuable contribution to the Government's fair employment proposals. Above all, I should like to pay tribute to its chairman over the past four years, Mr. James O'Hara; and to pass on to the House today's announcement in another place of the appointment of his successor, Sir Oliver Napier, whose talents and experience will already be familiar to many of your Lordships.

As the House knows, we believe that a devolved form of government would best serve the interests of all the people of Northern Ireland. That form of government would reflect local concerns and priorities in a manner which direct rule, for all its merits, cannot. It would return to Northern Ireland's elected representatives that direct input to the government of Northern Ireland which at present they lack; and perhaps most importantly, by encouraging the constitutional representatives of the two traditions to settle their differences constructively, it would help to bridge the divide in Northern Ireland's society and so isolate the men of violence.

For these reasons, the Government believe that movement to, or towards, devolution would serve the interests of all the people of Northern Ireland. Of course, any new form of government must, if it is to be stable, be widely acceptable in Northern Ireland. It should involve the elected representatives of the people of Northern Ireland in their government. If we are to make progress, we need a sound basis of agreement among the parties.

Your Lordships will recall that when we debated this order last year I said that there were formidable difficulties in the way of agreement. I added, at the same time, that I believed that the party leaders were seeking a way forward through dialogue. Over the past year, we—that is, my right honourable friend and my colleagues—and the parties themselves have been able to build constructively on the ideas mooted a year ago. Immediately following the passage of last year's order my right honourable friend embarked upon an exploratory dialogue with the leaders of the Unionist parties. Over the past year he has held talks with all the main constitutional parties. The Government's objective in these talks has been to establish whether it might be possible to move towards discussions involving all the constitutional parties in discussions about political progress. I want to stress that progress has been made.

In his talks with the parties my right honourable friend has made clear the continuing commitment of both governments to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The agreement embodies certain fundamental principles which are vital to Northern Ireland's future. They include the affirmation by both governments that the status of Northern Ireland can be changed only by consent; acceptance of the need for close security co-operation with the Irish Government in our common cause against terrorism; the need to increase confidence among the minority community in the administration of Northern Ireland's affairs; and support for progress towards devolution.

During the course of exploratory meetings held earlier this year, the leaders of the two main Unionist parties outlined to my right honourable friend their proposals for changes in the way that Northern Ireland is governed. He found their proposals an encouraging starting point for any wider discussions or negotiations that might come about. We very much welcome the fact that Unionists have something constructive to say and have produced ideas which might be put on the table for discussion. My right honourable friend has also held talks with the leadership of the SDLP. They told him of their support for devolution, and of their willingness to talk to the other constitutional parties about political progress. The Alliance Party of Northern Ireland has also told my right honourable friend that it strongly supports the movement towards devolution and is ready to contribute to wider discussions.

It seems right therefore that the Government should now seek to move away from the phase of initial exploratory discussions towards a substantive dialogue involving the main constitutional political parties. Each of the main parties has expressed interest in making progress towards devolution. They emphasise, albeit from different perspectives, the importance of the Anglo-Irish relationship; and they support constitutional politics and reject violence. The Government, for their part, remain ready to facilitate such a dialogue. They have no wish to specify the format, or agenda, for talks, or to put forward any single blueprint for devolution or movement towards it; but we remain ready to help matters along in any way that we can.

Of course, we cannot force the parties to the negotiating table. Whether or not they will participate is a matter for them. The leaders of the Unionist parties have expressed concern about the existence of a process of talks between the SDLP and Sinn Fein. The Government's own position is clear. Because of Sinn Fein's support for violence, Ministers will not have contact with it. However, we cannot dictate the actions of the political parties. What we can make clear is that it would be disappointing if real hopes of political progress were to be frustrated by the creation of fresh obstacles to talks. The Government, for their part, are ready to talk to the constitutional parties at any time, without pre-conditions.

To admit that there may be obstacles to dialogue is not to say that dialogue is not necessary, or that it is not feasible. There are in fact signs of greater willingness among the parties to pursue new approaches. We welcome that. Our objective must now be to make further progress to, or towards, devolution. We accept that we can move only one step at a time; but the Government are determined to move forward and to encourage the parties to embark on a substantive dialogue together.

It remains essential, as we attempt to move steadily towards the more satisfactory means of government for Northern Ireland which we all wish to see, that direct rule continues. We shall continue to do all we can to eradicate terrorism; we shall continue to promote reconciliation and partnership between both parts of the community; and we shall continue to encourage the growth of wealth and the creation of further enterprise and industry. It is to serve these objectives that the powers contained in the Northern Ireland Act 1974 remain necessary. I commend the order to your Lordships.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 7th June be approved [28th Report from the Joint Committee.].—(Lord Lyell.)

11.50 a.m.

Lord Prys-Davies

My Lords, it is with sadness that we from these Benches are bound to agree with the Government that there is a need to renew this Act; an Act which is described in its title as being an "Interim Period" Act. This is the fourteenth year of renewal.

When the Minister rightly reminds the House that he has come to the Dispatch Box on many occasions during the past 12 months to condemn savage outrages—for example, at a memorial service in a cemetery and at a charity function for the disabled of a particular community—and when each week brings in its train new acts of savagery, there is, I fear, a sense of inevitability about our agreement to the renewal of the Act—even though it is for the fourteenth year.

My noble friend Lord Fitt, drawing on his wide experience of the Province, may well tell the House that in his judgment the Province may have to live with this legislation for many years to come. Yet, it is our earnest hope, from these Benches, that the next 12 months will begin to usher in a more creative period in the history of the Province and that the leaders of the main constitutional and political parties will come to see that it is in the interest of Northern Ireland, and all its people, that they should learn to work out a means which will enable them to work together in common harness. I believe that we can possibly identify one or two small, hopeful signs.

Many of us on these Benches were impressed by the brave words of the cautious leader of the official Unionist Party, and the tone of his remarks, which he made during a television programme which was shown about six or eight weeks ago. He said in public—I emphasise the words "in public"—that he would be willing to have a direct dialogue about the future with Dublin in certain circumstances and under certain conditions. He also acknowledged the need to have regard to the totality of Irish relations. Your Lordships will know that that is a phrase which the Taoiseach is fond of using. So here was a new, more hopeful voice.

Again, during the past 12 months, we have read in our newspapers about the bilateral meetings which the Secretary of State has been having with the leaders of the main constitutional parties in Northern Ireland. Indeed, I think that was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Lyell, this morning. Well, that is another good sign. In that context I should like to express our appreciation for the Secretary of State's tireless efforts to encourage the leaders of the constitutional political parties to seek a common ground from which they could move towards devolved government in the Province.

I noticed that the Minister said that there had been progress. Does that mean that the Government have now been able to identify the major obstacles to progress towards devolved government, and that they are satisfied that such obstacles, with goodwill, can be overcome in the short term? I should be most grateful if the Minister could elaborate on his statement that progress had been made.

I think that one must also refer, as the Minister has, to the talks between the SDLP leaders and the leaders of Sinn Fein. They are seen, of course, by the Unionists to be getting in the way of discussions between the Unionists and the SDLP. I think that we can understand the Unionist position; and we can also understand the Government's position. All that we say is that if the SDLP can persuade Sinn Fein—or some of its leaders—to pursue a nonviolent policy, that would be a considerable achievement, which in turn would help to pave the way for political developments.

The noble Lord, Lord Lyell, rightly paid tribute to the courage of the members of the security forces and their families. Whether on or off duty, or even when engaged in humanitarian efforts, the members of the security forces in Northern Ireland are always a target in the eyes of the men of violence. Whatever criticisms are levelled at the conduct of some members of the security forces in the early 1980s, it is widely acknowledged that they are now acting impartially towards the two communities. However, it is our duty as official Opposition to draw attention to the new report published earlier this week by Amnesty International. The report calls for a wide-ranging judicial review into the policies pursued by some members of the security forces in 1982, as Amnesty International is dissatisfied and worried about the Government's response to the question about the events which took place in 1982. We think it is important that the debate about the sad events of that year should be resolved.

If the Government have nothing to fear from a wide-ranging review, why do they resist it? On the other hand, if it is now seen that grave errors of judgment were made in 1982, should they not be acknowledged? This desperately unhappy matter has been around for many years and it continues to poison the atmosphere. It also has serious implications for public confidence in the security forces and in the system of administration of justice in Northern Ireland.

The announcement by the police authority for Northern Ireland on Wednesday that it was unnecessary to inquire further into the conduct of the chief constable, the deputy chief constable and the assistant chief constable, fails to carry conviction. It fails to carry conviction as it was carried by a majority of only one. Indeed, the fact that it was only carried by one vote is disturbing. I wonder whether the Minister can tell the House how many of the authority's 16 members voted for the resolution. Further, can the Minister confirm that the report made by Mr. McLachlan of the police inspectorate into the conduct of the three officers I referred to was not given to the police authority? Did the authority come to a decision without knowing the contents of that report?

On 25th January last in this House, my noble and learned friend Lord Elwyn-Jones wisely urged the Government, at that early stage, to establish a wholly independent judicial inquiry into the sad events of 1982. He advised then that that was the safest course in the circumstances. That is the advice that we again tender to the Government.

I believe that the Minister could have listed some improvements which have been made in the administration of justice during the past year or two; but there is still too long a delay between remand of suspected terrorists, in the preferring of charges, committal, trial and appeal. However, I note that this is an item on the agenda of the inter-governmental conference.

Another item on the conference agenda is unemployment among Catholics. Surely it must be unacceptable that unemployment among Catholics should still remain two and a half times that which exists among Protestants. But we now have the Government's commitment to the introduction of major legislation within the next 12 months to tackle this mischief; we also have the Government's promise of economic growth which could also help.

Between now and November the two governments will be reviewing the working of the intergovernmental conference to see whether any changes in the nature and scope of its activities are desirable. We on these Benches believe that the Government can draw more than a crumb of comfort from the fact that the agreement has survived, notwithstanding the hostility of the Unionist parties and of Sinn Fein and, of course, notwithstanding the major differences between the two governments in some areas of policy. The agreement's survival for three years is not an end in itself. The agreement must be judged by the contribution it makes to improving security and security co-operation. It is one item that has dominated the business of 15 out of 20 meetings of the conference. It must also be judged by the contribution it makes to the difficult task of effecting reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

Applying both criteria, we are bound to accept that the agreement has not as yet fulfilled all our expectations, not that anyone promised or expected miracles. There have been gains—they could have been listed by the Minister. There have been disappointments. In their approach to the review, the Government will no doubt take account, among other things, of the Unionists' perception that the existence of the agreement in its present form is the single most important obstacle to political development in Northern Ireland. It would be helpful if the Minister could give us a broad indication of how the Government approach the review. "Review" is the word used in the agreement. Is it intended that it should be a broad or a narrow review? While we would not expect or encourage the Government to set aside the agreement until they have a better structure which is acceptable to both communities to put in its place, at the same time we would urge the Government to continue with their efforts to find ways and means of encouraging the Unionists to work together with the other constitutional parties, if only initially, to rescue the Province from the direct rule which is imposed by the order we are today renewing.

To the political parties in Northern Ireland we would just say this: at a time when the President of the United States of America is prepared to travel to Moscow to speak to the leader of the Soviet Union about arms limitation, is it too much to expect, on the fourteenth anniversary of the order, that the political leaders of the two religious communities in Northern Ireland—a very small corner of the world—should also begin bridge building in the course of the next 12 months?

12.2 p.m.

Lord Bonham-Carter

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for setting forth the Government's case for extending the Northern Ireland Act 1974. Like the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, we on these Benches, although sadly, find ourselves in the position of having to approve what is in fact inescapable. We see no alternative other than to support and say that we approve.

Perhaps I may at this point take up a matter which was raised by the noble Lord with which I wholly agree; that is, the Stalker affair, as it is popularly known, and the outcome of the inquiries into the Royal Ulster Constabulary. It is not something that we can by-pass. The outcome—a majority of one among 16 persons—and a decision that no disciplinary action should be taken against any of the officers involved must be deeply unsatisfactory and profoundly worrying. What is worse, it means that an affair which has gone on since 1982, and which has caused all of us deep concern, will not now be over and finished. It will merely continue to be a source of concern and anxiety and provide people with a deep sense of insecurity about the security services themselves. I hope therefore that in his reply the Minister will be able to reassure us—he will find it difficult—that things are not as bad and as unhappy as they seem.

In the course of his opening remarks, the Minister said that one of the problems—I share his feeling was how to instil a sense of confidence among the minorities in Northern Ireland. One of the central political problems which we face in this intractable situation is that we are dealing with two minorities. The Catholics are a minority in Northern Ireland. The Protestants are a minority in the whole island of Ireland. Both groups behave like minorities and both are to some extent affected by the paranoia to which minorities are prone.

It presents, as one need hardly say, a difficult situation. The Catholics have historically been victims of Protestant hegemony and discrimination which the Government's new White Paper on fair employment in Northern Ireland boldly attempts to tackle, and about which I hope to say a word or two in the second part of our proceedings today. It is not surprising that the Protestants, seeing how they have treated a minority, should themselves be anxious never to become a minority in any way. That contributes to the kind of stalemate in which we find ourselves. It is a stalemate of insecurity and fear. Fear, of course, is the worst basis for negotiation. It is that which makes it so difficult to see any progress towards a settlement.

One must therefore welcome the report that was given us today of the small, cautious, but nonetheless positive, steps which have been taken over the past year to engage in a dialogue with the constitutional parties and which I hope will lead us to being able to persuade them to engage in dialogue with others.

The effect of fear among some animals is to make them freeze so that any change in the status quo appears to some of the political parties in Northern Ireland as fearful, and induces a desire to freeze in the position in which we are at present. If we look at the situation which confronts us, I suppose that there could be said to be three options which different groups generally offer. The first is based on the premise, as someone put it, that Northern Ireland is as British as Finchley—a proposition that no one who has been to either place finds it easy to accept—and would return Northern Ireland to the position prior to the imposition of direct rule. The second advocates the removal of British troops—washing our hands of the problem, abandoning the responsibilities which lie clearly on this Parliament, and risking, if not actually provoking, a bloody civil war. The third derives from the Anglo-Irish Agreement, and depends upon a steadfast determination to pursue and to build on its objectives.

The first of those options seems to me a cul-de-sac, the second a policy so irresponsible that it cannot seriously be entertained. We are therefore left with the third, which we on these Benches support. We stand by the commitment of this country, of Britain, to Northern Ireland. We believe, with the Government, that building on the Anglo-Irish Treaty is the only way forward and we welcome and support the statement of the Secretary of State, as expressed on 29th June.

No one pretends, as the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, said, that the Anglo-Irish Agreement is perfect. But it can be improved and it provides an opportunity for the governments of the two countries to consult, to sort out their differences and to coordinate joint measures to fight the common enemy of terrorism.

It seems to me that it must be our objective to persuade the Unionists in both their manifestations to tread this cautious path towards dialogue so that they dare to talk with those with whom at present they refuse to talk; so that they dare to respond positively, and, as appears to be possible, to make Mr. Haughey's invitation an open-ended discussion; so that they dare to recognise that the world changes, just as the Catholic Church has changed in the last 30 years, just as Russia is being transformed in front of our eyes today. With those changes, opinions and attitudes change. Northern Ireland is not the Galapagos Islands.

The Unionists might note the words of Mr. Desmond O'Malley, leader of the Progressive Democrats in the Republic. He said: I want to say to the Unionist community: You are not without friends on this side of the border. I have already spoken of this party's commitment to a tolerant, pluralist Republic. There is a deep and growing appreciation throughout the Republic of the terrible suffering you have endured, not least in the border areas, where a virtual campaign of genocide has been waged against you by the IRA. That shows an understanding and sympathy for the position of the Unionists in Northern Ireland which I think should be greatly welcomed.

The Anglo-Irish Agreement, as Mr. Hume has said, provides a framework. By providing that framework, it seems to me that the two governments have set an example. I do not believe that the Unionists run any risk by engaging and participating in discussions. Talk might even allay their anxieties: it might even allow them to enjoy the fourth freedom as defined by President Roosevelt, freedom from fear.

Lastly, we agree with the Secretary of State that devolution is the right way forward and that we attach great importance to the opportunity which the inter-governmental conference taking place later this year will provide.

12.13 p.m.

Lord Fitt

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Prys-Davies and I sat through most of the debate in another place when this order was being renewed during the week. I am quite certain that he left the Chamber feeling as depressed as I was because there did not seem to be any indication whatsoever that there had been any change in the traditional attitudes of the Northern Ireland representatives that we have seen over many years.

I have been a member of both Houses now for something over 22 years. I have listened to the previous speaker, the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, but this is the first time that I have heard him speaking on Northern Ireland. I have listened over many years to the words of sweet reasonableness, words in both Chambers which were designed to help to ease the awful problem of Northern Ireland. Then I have gone back to Northern Ireland and those words were never heard; they were not listened to. The only attitudes in Northern Ireland are those attitudes which have been created by centuries of history of division in nationality between the two communities.

It is not possible to discuss this order in total isolation from the Anglo-Irish Agreement because as far as the Unionist psyche is concerned that agreement takes precedence over all other legislation that has been promulgated from this House to be effective in Northern Ireland.

There are occasions when I should like to take part in debates on Northern Ireland in this House. I should like to exude optimism. I should like to say that I see changes in Northern Ireland attitudes. That is what people want to hear in these Chambers. They are reasonable people, unaffected by the terrible, tortuous history that we have in Northern Ireland. If noble Lords walk down to the St. Stephen's entrance they will see a little exhibition relating to the tercentenary of the glorious and bloodless revolution of 1688. That is something which is being commemorated in this House. People are commemorating a glorious and bloodless revolution which laid down the basis of our parliamentary democracy. In Northern Ireland it was not glorious nor bloodless. There were all the battles when King William, Prince of Orange, came to Britain in 1688. That is where we get Orangemen from; that is why we get the 2,000 Orange marches taking place in Northern Ireland every year. Those Orange demonstrations are either to assert their supremacy in Northern Ireland or to express their fear of being taken over by the rest of the Irish Republic. In Northern Ireland, in the island of Ireland, there is certainly no reason to commemorate the tercentenary of the glorious and bloodless revolution.

When we come to the anniversary of the next year, 1689, we shall be talking of a Bill of Rights here in the United Kingdom. In Northern Ireland they will be talking about the siege of Derry and how the Apprentice Boys held those gates against the forces of King James II. Three years from now we shall celebrate 1690, when we had the Battle of the Boyne.

Those are three of the most evocative years for the Irish political psyche as between the Protestants and Catholics—this year, next year and the year after. Here we shall be celebrating the glorious and bloodless revolution. We shall be trying to express words that will bring about reconciliation. But to remember the terrible, disastrous history of those three years and the previous years in Ireland may be some help in understanding what motivates the people in the island of Ireland.

I referred to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. When that agreement was first promulgated, I had two versions of it here in the House: the British version and the Irish version. The British version said, "This is an agreement between the Government of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, and the Government of the Irish Republic". Factually, that was right; that is what the agreement was. The Irish version said, "This is an agreement between the Government of Ireland and the Government of the United Kingdom". They could not even agree on its name because the British Government had to sell it to their supporters and the Irish Government had to sell it to the Republican ethos in the Republic of Ireland.

As soon as I read it, I realised that it was not going to work. Having been born in Northern Ireland, having lived in Northern Ireland, having represented one of the communities for many years, having seen and lived with all the divisions, I realised at first glance that this would not work. I debated with myself whether I should say that in this House. I talked to my wife about it. My wife said, "I don't think it is going to work, but don't say that over in the House of Lords because if you say that in the House of Lords they will regard you as some sort of troublemaker. They want to believe that it will work. If you express any reservations, you will be regarded as throwing a spanner into the works".

I told the then Leader of the House that I was not going to say anything in the debate because I could not say anything optimistic about the agreement. I regard the former Leader of the House as being not only a political friend but a great personal friend. He told me that even though I had reservations, I should express them in the House. Therefore I expressed my reservations. That was three years ago. I express those same reservations today. I believed that everything that I said then was going to happen. I did not want it to happen, nor did I will it to happen, but I knew that it was going to happen.

Nothing has happened since the Anglo-Irish Agreement in the island of Ireland that will in any way contribute to a lessening of the hostilities that we have lived with, not only over the past 20 years but throughout centuries. The Anglo-Irish Agreement was allegedly designed to do two things. In its own wording it states that it was designed to bring about reconciliation and harmony between the two communities which would lead to a devolved administration.

But there was a second more important element in the Anglo-Irish Agreement that was not mentioned in the agreement itself. It was meant to deflect international criticism. Some of that criticism from international sources as regards the British conduct of affairs in Northern Ireland was totally unjustified. I mention particularly the Irish-Americans who were continuously criticising Britain for trying to do an impossible job which they themselves had never attempted, nor would they ever attempt, to do.

In the weeks after the setting up of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, I was absolutely inundated with comments sent from the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin and from the Foreign Office in London. There were comments from President Zia in Pakistan, from an ambassador in India, from a spokesman in Uganda and from a spokesman in Malaya. President Zia said that he thought the agreement was a wonderful thing. All those comments were received. They said that we should welcome the Anglo-Irish Agreement. I do not know who it was who persuaded all those spokesmen to send their commendations. But the most important one came from the Belfast Telegraph. When the agreement was first announced that paper stated in banner headlines: "It will not work!"

That was by far the most important assessment of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The Belfast Telegraph did not print that statement because it represented a Unionist point of view or because it was an anti-Nationalist newspaper. I think it was written by someone who was aware of all the passions that existed in Northern Ireland, and who realised that the agreement carried within itself the seeds of its own destruction. Although it may be said from this side of the water that the Anglo-Irish Agreement was set up in order to bring about reconciliation, it was seen as a victory for the minority, as a victory for the Nationalists, as a victory for the Republicans and as a victory for the Republic of Ireland. If it was a victory for them, it must be seen as a defeat for the other element. In Ireland there are victories and defeats. The Anglo-Irish Agreement was seen as a victory for those opposed to Unionism. However much it may be denied, there is a certain air of triumphalism now prevailing among the traditional constitutional and extreme Nationalists. They regard the Anglo-Irish Agreement as a victory for them.

What has the agreement achieved? What was it designed to do? Was it designed to bring about reconciliation between the two communities? Can anyone really say that it has contributed in any way towards that laudable objective? The Secretary of State has said of the atrocities in Northern Ireland that one is continuously searching for words. After every terrible atrocity in Northern Ireland we try to find new words which will express our feelings in relation to it. There are not enough words in the English dictionary. One gets sick and depressed by trying to find new words to express one's feelings in such a situation.

But the Secretary of State found a new word this week. He talked of the "peculiar awfulness" of the past year's tragedies, since the Northern Ireland Act 1974 was last debated. He was referring to Enniskillen, the murder of innocent people and the continuous vicious attacks made on the Protestant community in Northern Ireland. I am not a Unionist. I have fought the Unionist Party throughout my political life. But I have lived with Unionists on the island of Ireland. When the Catholic community was under attack, as it was continuously from certain elements within the Loyalist community, I put forward my views in the Catholic interest. I do the same now on behalf of the Unionist community.

If this Act were designed to do something for the Unionist community, it patently has not done so. Unionists have lost many of their sons, their husbands, their brothers, their fathers, their mothers and their daughters over the past year. The Unionist community as such seems to have nothing going for it. Do the main parties in Northern Ireland really want devolution? That point has not been stated publicly. I have expressed it privately to many of my political colleagues in Northern Ireland of both persuasions, but I have not said it publicly. I say it now after having calculated the impact which it may make.

I do not believe that in my lifetime there will be a devolved government again in Northern Ireland. I do not believe that any of the major political parties want it. When the Labour Government allowed itself to be blackmailed by bringing about an increase in the number of constituencies in Northern Ireland from 12 to 17, it in effect killed any hope of a devolved government. In granting an extra five seats the boundaries had to be rearranged, and Enoch Powell who was the chief instigator of the blackmailing process at that time cut his own throat by that measure. When the new boundaries had to be drawn as a result of the increase in seats, Enoch Powell received 10,000 more Nationalists or 10,000 more Catholics into the South Down constituency. That meant that he was assured of losing his seat in the next election.

At the moment there are 17 representatives. The SDLP already has three seats. There is a possibility that it may obtain one more seat—the seat of Mid-Ulster. I do not think that it will ever obtain Fermanagh, South Tyrone or West Belfast. It has three seats, and there is a possibility that it may get four. If the other Unionist representatives in another place got together and found a means to reconstitute Stormont, there would be a political assembly in Northern Ireland.

At the moment the spotlight of Northern Irish political opinion is focused on the 17 MPs who represent constituencies there and who attend Parliament. If those representatives went out of their way to help in the creation of another Stormont, that spotlight of opinion would immediately swing away from them on to Stormont. Stormont is situated in Belfast. After a debate had taken place in Stormont, the locally elected assembly men would be received into the television studios at the BBC or Ulster Television. Their comments would be taken into consideration. They would be, as we say in Northern Ireland, the fellows in the big picture". The 17 elected representatives at Westminster would find themselves way out on the periphery once again. They are 17 individuals—17 politicians. Would it be right to expect them to create an institution which would detract from their own importance? I have spoken to representatives of both communities and it is my considered, honest opinion that the Anglo-Irish Agreement is not going to bring about devolved government in Northern Ireland within my lifetime. Even though I had a by-pass operation a few years ago, I hope to be around for some time!

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Lord Fitt

My Lords, the agreement may have deflected international criticism. I believe that it has to a certain extent. However, that is not in itself a good reason for the promulgation of such an agreement. The agreement took away the alienation of the minority. However, it has led to an alienation of the majority.

What could the party which I formerly represented have done in the face of that agreement? In the Unionist mentality, it was an SDLP agreement. The SDLP had an input into the agreement and it was talking to the Irish Government and to the Opposition; and the Irish Government and the Opposition were talking to the British Government. However, the Unionist had no voice at all. He was not consulted; he was faced with a fait accompli. It could be said that if the Unionist Party had been invited to take part in those discussions, it would either have wrecked the discussions or would not have attended. We do not know. However, if it had been invited and had not attended, we could have said to it: "You did not come and you are responsible for not taking part in the discussions". If it had attended and had wrecked the proceedings, as it is quite capable of doing and has done many times, it could have been told: "It is your own fault".

As it is, the Unionists can say, with some justification: "The agreement took place over our heads; we were not consulted and were totally isolated. Therefore, how can you expect us to agree with its workings". I say, totally sincerely and with regret, that the Anglo-Irish Agreement has not done any of the things which it was supposed to do.

I believe that the SDLP could, and should, have done much more in the wake of the agreement to try to allay the fears and suspicions that have been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter. The noble Lord is quite right about the double minority syndrome in the island of Ireland. That has been a continuing factor since partition, and for many years before that. The SDLP has not recognised the security forces in Northern Ireland—the army, the police and the UDR. It says: "We will recognise the police when they are carrying out their functions impartially". However, that places the SDLP in the position of saying when the security forces are acting impartially. If the security forces are acting in conformity with the wishes of the SDLP, that is all right. If they happen to be acting in any other way, that is all wrong.

The Unionist mentality sees the SDLP attitude towards the security forces as being little less than open support for Sinn Fein and the IRA. The SDLP will seek every opportunity to criticise the security forces. The security forces in Northern Ireland have not been totally blameless or innocent in many of the things which they have done over many years. However, I believe that the SDLP, in the wake of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, and having had that agreement given to it, should have said: "Yes, we will take our seats on the police authority". How much better it would have been to have had an elected representative sitting on the police authority and questioning what was happening in the security forces. We would have known today—my noble friend Lord Prys-Davies would not have had to ask the Minister—how many people were in attendance at the last meeting a few days ago. The SDLP representative would have been there and would have been able to make a contribution. We would not have had to call for inquiry after inquiry. He would have been able to voice his objections to anything which was not done in the interests of the whole community. At the moment, the SDLP criticises the army, the police and every facet of the security forces. That in itself does nothing to bring about confidence within the Unionist community.

Anyone who reads the speech made by the Secretary of State in another place will see some contradictions. However, I do not think that there is anyone, in this House or anywhere else, who can have any doubt that Sinn Fein and the IRA are one and the same thing. I can confirm from my experience in Northern Ireland that they are one and the same thing. And yet, they have 85,000 votes in Northern Ireland. What do we do about those 85,000 votes? Do we push them aside and say that we do not recognise them? Do we say that we have 85,000 people who cast their votes in a free election whether we like it or not, and we shall have to recognise them?

The Secretary of State and the Minister have said: "We are not talking to Sinn Fein. They are an adjunct of the IRA and we cannot recognise them". The Sinn Fein elected representatives are gunmen at night and politicians during the day. They go to council meetings and sit beside elected Unionist representatives. The Unionist representative does not know whether the Sinn Fein representative has been engaged in a series of murderous attacks on his community. Certainly his organisation has. There is one law for the local authority councillor and another for the Administration in Northern Ireland.

The ordinary Unionist—not the elected representative but the ordinary Unionist on the street—bitterly resents that position. Ordinary people on the street have said to me: "How do you expect us to sit down with Sinn Fein, which is the spokesman of the IRA?". I pose the question to the Government: Do they intend at some time in the future to recognise Sinn Fein because it has 85,000 votes, or are they going to say that they will not recognise it?

In the talks which the Secretary of State is saying that he hopes will come about, he will talk to constitutional parties, which will be the Unionist representatives here and the SDLP. What happens if Sinn Fein says: "We also have 85,000 votes and we are entitled to be heard"? That is already happening. It may have something to do with the Sinn Fein—SDLP talks. I recently read a depressing report of a meeting of the Belfast Corporation, of which I was a member for 23 years. When a Sinn Fein member stood up to speak, the representatives of the DUP began a tirade of abuse. The SDLP representative shouted to the DUP representative: "You have to listen to them; they have 85,000 votes". Is that the thin end of the wedge? Are the SDLP advocating, as a quid pro quo for the present talks, that Sinn Fein should in some way be brought into political discussions? I am not sure. The Government will have to make up their minds on that matter.

On the very important question of the SDLP-Sinn Fein talks, I should like to think—as who in the name of God would not?—that if their objective is to dissuade Sinn Fein and the IRA from engaging in their war of violence, they will be successful. I should like to think that. I would also have liked to think that the Anglo-Irish Agreement would work. However, I have no hesitation in saying that at the end of the day Sinn Fein and the IRA will not desist from their campaign of violence. It is the only card that they have to play. Without that campaign of violence, Sinn Fein and the IRA would be total nonentities in the political situation in Ireland. With all the talks that have been taking place between John Hume and Gerry Adams and other leaders of Sinn Fein, there still remains the not simply continuing but escalating war of violence such as we have seen over the past few days.

The two British soldiers who were killed in the horrifying circumstances that we all saw on our television screens in March are totally forgotten except by their wives, families and relations. They are gone; they are another statistic. The Irish News in Belfast every year lists the number of killings that have taken place since 1969. Every year it is updated. I have that list in my office and I look at it every morning when I go in there. I am continually adding names to it.

What I have had to say here today may not have been to the liking of noble Lords because it does not exude optimism. However, I know that it exudes reality. If there is to be any hope of political development in Northern Ireland, then the political parties in Northern Ireland—the DUP, the SDLP and the Unionist Party—must act with greater honesty. I listened to speeches which were made in another place the other day. It is very easy to stand up in any Chamber in this building and say, "Let us all get together. Let us all have peace. Let us all vote for reconciliation." One would damn nearly get a standing ovation for saying that. One would damn nearly get a standing ovation for expressing those sentiments. It is very easy to say that in this House and then to go outside and do something which is absolutely and totally different. That is what is happening now in the case of the elected representatives in Northern Ireland.

1 noticed that in the debate which took place members of my own party voiced their support for the Anglo-Irish Agreement and said that the Government had to be tough. However, when it came to voting for the continuation of the Act they were not there because no member of the SDLP could be seen to be walking into a Division Lobby to support the British staying in Northern Ireland. That would offend Republican sympathies among certain sectors of their electorate.

I urge the Minister to tell the elected representatives that we feel that they are not doing enough to bring about a devolved government in Northern Ireland. If they do not want a devolved government, let them say so and then this Government can look at other means of redressing the awful situation.

I believe that in the review of the Anglo-Irish Agreement something should be done by this Government to ease the way for the unionists to enter into the political process once again. They have been totally isolated over the past three years and something must be done to ease their way into that review. That review must be positive and must make it clear and public that the agreement was not a victory for nationalism over unionism but that it was really designed to bring together the two communities in Northern Ireland.

12.44 p.m.

Lord Dunleath

My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, I remember the debate in your Lordships' House after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. I remember on that occasion welcoming the aspirations and objects of the Agreement but, like the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, I felt that it was very doubtful that it would work. Whether it was tactless or not, I said so on that occasion in your Lordships' House.

This is perhaps the last occasion on which we shall have an opportunity to discuss the matter before the review of the agreement begins. Surely that review will have to begin soon after Parliament resumes following the Summer Recess if the results are to be announced shortly after the third anniversary of the signing of the agreement. I consider it most important not only that the review should be comprehensive, constructive and flexible but also that it should be fundamental. It should he a fundamental reappraisal of the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

If we were dealing with a regime which had worked reasonably well but in which, quite understandably after three years, areas where it could be improved in terms of administration, procedures and effectiveness had been identified, that would be one thing. However, we are not dealing with that situation. One must ask whether the agreement has worked over the three years in even beginning to reach its aspirations of bringing about peace, stability and reconciliation. That is a stupid, rhetorical question because we all know that those aspirations as set out in Article 4(a) of the agreement have not only not been achieved but are, if anything, further away than they were three years ago.

I think that it is most important that the review or reappraisal should be undertaken not by the Anglo-Irish Conference but by the Inter-governmental Council. It was the Governments of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland which set up the agreement and therefore it ought to be the Governments which look at it from the outside rather than those inside reviewing themselves.

We are told that the agreement has brought about better inter-governmental understanding and that it has brought about improved cross-border security co-operation. One can only ask why, if it has brought about better inter-governmental understanding, there is such a muddle at the moment over extradition. Why have Her Majesty's Government been humiliated time and time again by failure to have suspects extradited? That does not say much for inter-governmental understanding.

As for cross-border security, we were told before the agreement was signed that cross-border security co-operation could not be better. Now it seems that the impossible has been achieved and that it is better. Yet the violence continues.

This is not a matter for tinkering, adjustment or improvement here or there. This is a matter for a fundamental reappraisal. That, incidentally, is a view taken by the leaders of the three main Protestant Churches even to the extent that, in his presidential address to the General Synod last year, the Primate of the Church of Ireland suggested that a new agreement should be negotiated.

To avoid the error that was made last time and to which the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, referred, I urge that, when the agreement is reviewed and in the lead-up to the review the leaders and prominent representatives of all the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland should be invited to participate. If nothing else, that would put pressure upon them to be constructive rather than shouting slogans from their trenches. It would mean that at least they would be part of the consultative process and would not feel the resentment which, as the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, mentioned, they felt on the last occasion. Indeed one welcomes some signs of greater flexibility from certain members of the unionist parties, particularly the official Unionist Party, but one observes the continuing talks between the SDLP and Sinn Fein with regret, sorrow and concern.

Having said that, I agree that an agreement between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland is desirable, as indeed it would be in any part of the world where there are two friendly neighbouring states which share a common land boundary, common interests and, in this case, unfortunately, common problems. Obviously an agreement makes sense. However, if in three years' time the present agreement has not begun to achieve its laudable objectives and instead has probably done more harm than good in alienating so many of the majority in Northern Ireland, then one does not need to be a genius to realise that it is the wrong sort of agreement.

So I should like to urge that, in making this fundamental reappraisal, a formula be sought whereby an effective agreement might be found that will enjoy the support of the majority of the people from all sections of the community. Having said that, I see no alternative other than to renew the legislation for another year and I thank the noble Lord for his presentation of it.

12.51 p.m.

Lord Lyell

My Lords, I should first like to thank all noble Lords who have stayed to discuss this particularly important and possibly regrettable annual order that I have to introduce. I understand that this is the fifth occasion on which I have carried out this task. Every year we have a very constructive discussion and, if I may venture to say so, this year the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, has presented us with a notable review, which is pessimistic at some stages and optimistic at others, of how he sees the political scene in Northern Ireland, the rest of the United Kingdom and also in the Republic of Ireland. A little later in the day I may have a little more to say about his comments.

Once again we are very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, for his careful consideration of the order, and indeed of all the activities that have taken place in the political scene as well as in the wider context throughout the past 12 months. The noble Lord agreed that my most frequent appearances before your Lordships were to inform the House of the most dreadful acts carried out in Northern Ireland with singular regularity. It is certainly not an attractive task for any Minister to perform. At this point I should like to stress that I am always immensely grateful, as I know are my colleagues and the security forces in Northern Ireland, for the immense support that we all receive from this House in such moments of sadness. However, there are many other moments of happiness and joy which I have felt, and the Province too, I believe, has experienced, over the past 12 months.

On the political side there has been some movement over the past year. I am sure it will be remembered that in the latter part of 1985 and in 1986 the major viewpoint of Unionist politicians consisted of saying, "Not an inch—we shall not discuss anything. We shall not speak or have any contacts with Government Ministers, or indeed with any representatives of Government". Anybody who has travelled to Northern Ireland, or has any knowledge of people from Northern Ireland, will not fail to understand how strongly views are expressed there. For my own part I am quite used to hearing views expressed with considerable strength and force. I appreciate every view that is put to me and, indeed, if those views are not put with traditional Ulster forthrightness, I begin to worry about the health of the speaker and ask whether he is off his food or needs medicine. That is my reaction if his views are not expressed with vigour or conciseness.

However, I believe that in the past 12 months there has been a considerable amount of progress. It seems to me that there is a fairly regular pattern of discussions taking place between my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and the leaders of the constitutional parties. I am not able to tell your Lordships today how many times my right honourable friend—and indeed my other honourable and right honourable colleagues—have spoken to members of the constitutional parties in both formal and informal sessions. There is a very wide channel of dialogue and discussion between government representatives and the leaders of the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland.

So far as concerns today's debate, we accept that there are inadequacies in the present system of direct rule. We also recognise that there is a range of deeply felt concerns about the government and the method of government of Northern Ireland. We should prefer to listen to the elected representatives of Northern Ireland who speak from a depth of knowledge which only they have, and indeed from a closeness to their constituents which none of us, let alone a non-elected Minister, can possibly claim to possess. We would wish that all the elected representatives from Northern Ireland would be, and indeed should be, able to participate fully and more directly in the government of the Province.

As a footnote I noted what the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, had to say about a devolved system of government and those who would represent the Province here in Parliament. I particularly enjoyed his reference to what he called "the big picture" in which some of us appear, and in four and a half years in the Province I have learned something about it. Whenever I appear in the "big picture" I know that it is not always good news, since there will probably be some vociferous comments from the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, or the Department of Agriculture and that there will always be strong views expressed. What the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, had to say about local politicians was apt and accurate as always.

The noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, raised two points in particular. One dealt with the Amnesty report in the Stalker affair, the details of which we discussed earlier this year. The noble Lord also asked about the review of the agreement. Perhaps I may deal with that first. It was of considerable interest to other noble Lords and particularly to the noble Lords, Lord Bonham-Carter, Lord Fitt and Lord Dunleath.

The best way to deal with this matter is to say that it is premature to comment on the precise review that will be carried out of the agreement. The review under Article 11 in the agreement is detailed to be the review of the working of the conference, and I stress that it is no more and no less than that. Indeed, Article 11 emphasises that: at the end of three years from the signature of the agreement", and, as I also note, or earlier if requested by either Government, the working of the Conference". (and that I think is a particularly important phrase) will be examined by the two governments, to see whether any changes in the scope or nature of its activities are desirable". I hope that noble Lords will accept that this review under Article 11 will be very much on the working of the conference. I think that that is how we ought to leave the matter today. However, 1 shall certainly give noble Lords an assurance that the working of the conference is constantly present in the minds of the Government and indeed of our colleagues and representatives who help us in everything that we do when dealing with the agreement.

With regard to the Amnesty report and the Stalker affair, I wish to stress to noble Lords that the statement issued by the Police Authority on Wednesday was full and fairly conclusive and I do not wish to add much today to that statement. I stress that a copy of the statement is available for your Lordships in the Library. However, the decision on disciplinary action in respect of the three senior officers was a matter for the police authority. The decision was taken, we understand, by a majority of one. That is what the authority stated. It would be wrong and inappropriate for me to say more about the voting in the authority. The statement went on to stress that special inspection reports are not normally made available to the authority. But the authority has received the assurance of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State that Mr. McLachlan's report has been accepted by the chief constable and indeed that the recommendations of Mr. McLachlan have already been implemented in large measure.

I wish to make two other points on this aspect. In regard to the investigation by the police authority, there was no question of criminal behaviour on the part of the three senior officers. Mr. Sampson made that quite clear in his observations which went to the police authority. He subsequently reiterated that view to them. Disciplinary action is entirely a matter for the police authority. The decision not to appoint an office to carry out further investigations was taken after full consideration of the evidence and discussions with Mr. Sampson, Mr. Kelly and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary.

I conclude by saying that in his Statement in another place on 17th February this year my right honourable friend admitted that serious mistakes had been made and that management of the police force would take its share of the blame for mistakes. However, such shortcomings are not a disciplinary matter. That would have been dealt with by the police authority.

Perhaps I may return to the political points that have been raised on the order. I stressed to the House and to the noble Lord, Lord Prys-Davies, that if we think back to the Unionist attitudes in 1985 and 1986 towards the agreement—that was before the election—we certainly now see a great change. However, the next step must be inter-party dialogue. We hope that that will now be possible, given the stated positions of all the constitutional parties. The Unionists' opposition to the agreement remains, but progress towards devolution would in itself limit the scope of the agreement. I have covered the point on a review of the scope and the workings of the agreement. It would be too early to speculate on that.

The noble Lord, Lord Fitt, declared his abhorrence of the exploitation of the democratic processes by Sinn Fien councillors. He is right. I wish to stress to the noble Lord once again that if Sinn Fein will not disclaim, or indeed disavow, violence and if it continues to make statements and comments that with one hand they hold the Armalite and with the other the ballot paper, there can be no contact between Ministers or government representatives and any representative of a party holding that view and failing to renounce violence.

We published a discussion paper last year about the problems of Sinn Fein councillors in Northern Ireland sitting with elected representatives of constitutional parties. We recommended that council candidates of all persuasions should sign a declaration of non-violence. That would not be a difficult thing. It might be, for all I know, for members of the particular party mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Fitt. But we are still considering some important details of this matter. We have not yet reached a final decision on the introduction of legislation to try to carry out what we think would be a very important step forward.

Perhaps I may welcome the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, to the circle of Ulster speakers in your Lordships' House. I thank him for his very thoughtful speech. On the question of the police authority report the noble Lord will accept that the report, which was issued on Wednesday, covered the three senior officers. Mr. Kelly handed over his report to the Chief Constable on 20th June this year. The noble Lord will know that Mr. Kelly was reporting to the Chief Constable as a result of comments and statements made earlier this year.

On the second major point of the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, concerning change in the status quo, the agreement sets out in fairly clear and unequivocal terms that there will be no change in the status of Northern Ireland without consent. The noble Lord, together with the noble Lord, Lord Fitt, drew attention to this extraordinary problem of a minority within a minority that we have either within Northern Ireland, or within the island of Ireland. It is that problem that we are attempting to address today and, it seems, every day in the political considerations on Northern Ireland.

Perhaps I may direct one or two more comments to the noble Lord, Lord Fitt. Whenever the noble Lord enters the Chamber, we see the face of optimism and—so far as I am concerned, and I am sure this is the view of other noble Lords —f immense courage. We all know what the noble Lord achieved in the course of his political career in Northern Ireland.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Lord Lyell

My Lords, I have listened very carefully to everything that was said by the noble Lord. If there are any points that I have not taken up, I am sure that he will forgive me. We shall write to him on them. I note what he says about the end of devolved government. I hope that he will see devolved government again very soon and be in fine health to celebrate that great event in the Fitt traditional style.

It was entirely in line with everything that the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, has done in his career in your Lordships' House, as well as in Northern Ireland, that he welcomed all the hopes and aspirations of the agreement. I cannot recall his precise words in November 1985, but I stress once again to the noble Lord that the review of the agreement will cover the working of the agreement. The mind of the Govenment is directed towards that, as I speak today. I note well his thoughts that other representatives of the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland might be drawn into those discussions. Perhaps I may raise those points with my right honourable friend and hope that he might have some reply to the noble Lord, Lord Dunleath, although I regret that it will not be today.

We have further Northern Ireland business today. It remains for me to thank all noble Lords who have spoken and for the thoughtful speeches that we have had. I hope that if in a year's time another speech must be made or another order such as this moved, we shall be firmly on the road to devolved government. I believe that over the past 12 months progress has been made on the political front. For that and for many other things in Northern Ireland we may all be grateful.

On Question, Motion agreed to.