Anglo-Irish Agreement

Oral Answers to Questions — Northern Ireland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th January 1989.

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Photo of Clare Short Clare Short , Birmingham, Ladywood 12:00 am, 12th January 1989

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will list the reforms introduced under the Anglo-Irish Agreement which have improved conditions for the nationalist community in Northern Ireland.

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office)

Many programmes and measures have been introduced of value to all the people of Northern Ireland, including the minority, since the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed. Among the items which have benefited from discussion through the conference are the establishment of an independent commission for police complaints, the repeal of the Flags and Emblems Act, new legislation aimed at securing full equality of opportunity in employment, the establishment of the international fund, the extension of the franchise for assembly and district council elections and the publication of the RUC code of conduct.

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short , Birmingham, Ladywood

The question for this House is what political strategy we have to end the bloodshed in Northern Ireland. Hon. Members seem to think that they have made a contribution when they denounce it, but it has been going on for 20 years and the prospects are that it will continue for another 20. Do we have a political strategy to bring peace to Northern Ireland? The Anglo-Irish Agreement was meant to be the strategy to reduce support for the men of violence by bringing in serious reforms for the disaffected community. Blanket searches create disaffection and support for paramilitary activity—that we know.

The Government seem to have given up. If they give up on any political strategy of reform and improvement and go for repression, things will get worse—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ask a question."] You are a fine lot to talk about that. What is the hope in the long term? Do the Government believe that this level of violence will go on indefinitely?

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office)

In keeping with your injunction, Mr. Speaker, I will tell the hon. Lady that the Government are not embarked on any act or policy of repression. The acts and policies of repression in Northern Ireland are carried out by the Provisional IRA, not by the democratically elected Government backed by this House. The surest way of making the situation in Northern Ireland worse would be to take the hon. Lady's advice and take the security forces out and the British troops back home.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Baker Mr Nicholas Baker , North Dorset

Does my hon. Friend agree that the progress made by the Anglo-Irish Agreement is constructive and useful? Will he confirm that the policy recommended by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) of removing the security forces from Northern Ireland

Photo of Mr Nicholas Baker Mr Nicholas Baker , North Dorset

—would be especially inappropriate in the light of the present need to remove the explosives and discover the ammunition dumped and hidden by terrorists in Northern Ireland?

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office)

Yes, indeed. It is obviously for the benefit of all the people in Northern Ireland that the British and Irish Governments should have good relations, that those relations should extend to co-operation in security—as was demonstrated by my right hon. Friend's answer—and that the legitimate concerns that both Governments share be dealt with to the benefit of all the people of Northern Ireland.

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short , Birmingham, Ladywood

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Minister and the hon. Member for Dorset, North (Mr. Baker) suggested that my view—

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. I cannot be held responsible for what Ministers or hon. Members say. I know that the hon. Lady feels aggrieved and misinterpreted, but I cannot help her.

Photo of Martin Smyth Martin Smyth , Belfast South

Pursuant to the question asked by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short), as the Anglo-Irish Agreement was intended to bring peace and stability will the Minister tell us what actions and reforms have brought benefit to the British people in Northern Ireland?

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office)

The list that I gave in my main answer—[interruption.]—contributes to the answer that the hon. Gentleman seeks, as did the information given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in the first answer. The House should note that the hon. Gentleman is showing an unwillingness to accept that security co-operation, as evidenced by the information that my right hon. Friend has just given to the House, is of benefit to the people of Northern Ireland.

Photo of Mr James Kilfedder Mr James Kilfedder , North Down

Is it not correct that since the date of the Anglo-Eire Agreement the extradition arrangements with the Irish Republic have worsened?

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office)

The hon. Gentleman knows that we have extradition arrangements with the Irish Republic but that from time to time we have certain difficulties over them. [Interruption.] However, the understanding which underlies them and will make them more effective is well in place.

Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara , Kingston upon Hull North

Is the Minister aware that those hon. Members who are catcalling at his attitude towards the Anglo-Irish Agreement have, as their natural allies, the Provisional IRA and that both groups who adopt that attitude have no real interest in conciliation between the communities in Northern Ireland, which is the basis of the Anglo-Irish Agreement? What every hon. Member should want, need and desire for the people of Northern Ireland and for the safety of our security forces—because it represents the best hope for the island of Ireland and for our relations with the Republic of Ireland—is the proper strengthening and pursuit of the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office)

It is obvious that what will benefit the people of Northern Ireland, and it will emerge from the Anglo-Irish Agreement, lies both in the security realm, which the hon. Gentleman has recognised, and in the political realm, whereby we can devise arrangements for the future of Northern Ireland which command the widespread support of the substantial majority of people on both sides of the community. That is what we are aiming to achieve and that is what this House supports.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle

In view of the controversial views of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) on the "Troops out" movement—

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

I know that the hon. Lady is aggrieved because she thinks that she has been misinterpreted, but I cannot be held responsible for what hon. Members say.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Very well. What is the hon. Lady's point of order?

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short , Birmingham, Ladywood

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker. This is the third attempt wrongly to describe my views on Northern Ireland. Like the majority of British people, I believe that there should be a political settlement and that Britain should politically withdraw from Northern Ireland. It is not my view—[Interruption.]

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. I know what the hon. Lady said.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle

I apologise, Mr. Speaker. Clearly I was not heard the first time. In view of the controversial views on the "Troops out" movement that have been tendered by the hon. Member for Ladywood—

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short , Birmingham, Ladywood

That is not what I said.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle

Can my hon. Friend think of any policy less likely to help the nationalist community than withdrawing the troops unilaterally? Can he think of any responsible nationalist politician who supports the hon. Lady's views on that matter?

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Northern Ireland Office)

There is no doubt that the vast majority of people in the nationalist community, who are law-abiding people, have most to fear from the activities of the IRA and that they owe an immense debt of gratitude to the security forces in Northern Ireland.