Government Proposals (White Paper)

Oral Answers to Questions — Northern Ireland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th December 1972.

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Photo of Mr Rafton Pounder Mr Rafton Pounder , Belfast South 12:00 am, 14th December 1972

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he hopes to publish the White Paper on the future of Northern Ireland.

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

I have nothing to add to the reply given to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) on 9th November.—[Vol. 845, c. 224.]

Photo of Mr Rafton Pounder Mr Rafton Pounder , Belfast South

Early publication of the White Paper is clearly required if the damaging air of uncertainty in political circles in Northern Ireland is to be removed, but will my right hon. Friend take cognisance of the wide body of opinion in Northern Ireland—an opinion which I certainly share—that the border poll must precede publication of the White Paper? Otherwise, there is danger of the two issues intruding one upon the the other.

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

I take note of all these points. The White Paper, whenever it comes, will be of considerable importance to the future of Northern Ireland. It would be a great mistake to try to rush things, thereby possibly making some wrong decisions, merely for the sake of speed. I am anxious not to make any commitment about dates at this stage because I should not wish to make a commitment which in the event was not fulfilled.

Photo of Mr Stan Orme Mr Stan Orme , Salford West

I accept what the Secretary of State says about rushing the White Paper. Nevertheless, is he aware that a build up of tension could arise while waiting for the White Paper, and that it would be in the interests of all if the White Paper were published immediately it is ready?

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

I take note of the hon. Gentleman's view. I realise the importance of not having a long period of tension and uncertainty. Equally, I must reserve the Government's position, because very big issues are involved.

Photo of Mr Stratton Mills Mr Stratton Mills , Belfast North

In preparing the White Paper, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the British dimension, namely, full British standards together with full and adequate representation in this House for Northern Ireland.

Photo of Mr William Whitelaw Mr William Whitelaw , Penrith and The Border

These are all matters which are being most carefully considered.