I cannot be responsible for speculation of various kinds. I understand that it is bound to happen, but I cannot be responsible for individual proposals which are made in the Press or elsewhere. When the Government have further proposals to make I will, of course, tell the House.
Is it not a lamentable but blunt fact that procrastination and delay by groups in Northern Ireland who refuse to come to talks may contribute to the condemning to death of yet another innocent civilian or another member of the security forces?
That is undoubtedly true. In a speech in Harrogate on Sunday I asked that they should reconsider the position in the light of the existing situation in Northern Ireland. There cannot be a more open offer than that.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, despite all the tragic happenings in Ireland, we should continue to impress upon everyone concerned that there is no solution in violence in Ireland? In my view, the most important aspect to get fruitful talks going in Ireland is the Government's consideration of internment. Will the right hon. Gentleman point out to the overwhelming majority of people, both in Ireland and in this country, the tremendous areas of agreement we have between us in trade, economic and social factors in order that they may become better informed about our attitude towards peace?
Yes. I well understand the importance of the points raised by the hon. Gentleman. As he knows, we fully support the condemnation of violence which he has made and the desire that there should be greater understanding both north and south of the Border and with Britain. Certainly I have done everything possible to try to get a better understanding between the Republic of Eire and Northern Ireland in the discussions which I have had with the Prime Minister of Eire. We shall continue to do that. We must also recognise that there are and will remain people who do not want a political solution, except the immediate unification of the whole of Ireland. Therefore, whatever political solutions are put forward and accepted, there will still be those who wish to break them up.
I think that it is sometimes overlooked that immense restraint has been exercised by the majority community in Northern Ireland. They are to be admired for the steadfastness which they have shown in very difficult conditions. Both major parties—I think that I can fairly say all parties—in this House have said that change can be brought about only by consent, if change is required, in anything affecting the 1949 Act. All parties in this House are committed to that.
While we accept that the Prime Minister cannot be responsible for Press speculation, there is speculation and speculation. Because daily we are being treated to a blow-by-blow account of what purports to go on in Cabinet Committee meetings, would it not be in the best interests of everybody concerned that we should have an early statement?
I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that there has been guidance in this way or a blow-by-blow account of Cabinet Committee meetings.—[Interruption.]—I know that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition is always ready to believe that everything in the newspapers comes from a Government source, which is based on his previous experience in office. This is no longer the case. I assure the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues that, if we have any proposals to make, I will make a statement as early as possible.