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 Mr Paddy Ashdown Mr Paddy Ashdown Leader of the Liberal Democrats 12:00 am, 12th January 1989

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what representations he has received concerning the inter-parliamentary tier of the Anglo-Irish Agreement; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Tom King Mr Tom King The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

This is, of course, a matter for Parliament and my right hon. Friend the Lord President has been taking a close interest in it. I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for forwarding to me his party's views.

Photo of Mr Paddy Ashdown Mr Paddy Ashdown Leader of the Liberal Democrats

Is the Secretary of State aware that during my visit to Dublin before Christmas I discovered a wide cross-party enthusiasm to push forward the provisions made in the Anglo-Irish Agreement for the inter-parliamentary tier and a wide belief that the British Government are holding up that progress? Does the Secretary of State recognise that the distressing events which have occurred in the past three or four months have done severe damage, which he regrets as much as I do, to the Anglo-Irish Agreement? One way of giving that agreement new impetus and direction would be for the Secretary of State to press forward with the inter-parliamentary tier provided for in the agreement.

Photo of Mr Tom King Mr Tom King The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

There is certainly no truth in the suggestion that the Government are holding up discussions on the matter. My right hon. Friend the Lord President has been taking a keen interest in it and so have I. But it is a matter for the House and for the Houses of Parliament. A number of hon. Members have been involved in discussions on various approaches.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

Would it not be more helpful to the situation in Northern Ireland to give more power to the elected representatives of Northern Ireland rather than to involve the parliamentarians of a country whose Prime Minister, although he might not like the methods of the IRA, certainly shares its objectives?

Photo of Mr Tom King Mr Tom King The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

I must make it absolutely clear that my hon. Friend's last comment was quite unwarranted. Anyone with any knowledge of the history of IRA terrorism and the Irish Government's responses to it will know that there has been a very effective response while Mr. Haughey has been Taoiseach on this and on the previous occasion. The list that I read out of the number of Garda arms finds, the recent redeployments that have been taking place and the communication and relations that now exist between the RUC and the Garda are certainly most encouraging.

Photo of Stuart Bell Stuart Bell , Middlesbrough

Is the Secretary of State aware of the series of discussions that have taken place between hon. Members of this House and Members of the Irish Dail, under the auspices of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and under the chairmanship of the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Temple-Morris)? Will he confirm that there is wide support in the House for an inter-parliamentary tier, based upon the—

Hon. Members:

No.

Photo of Stuart Bell Stuart Bell , Middlesbrough

It has its origins in the Anglo-Irish summit of 1981, rather than the Anglo-Irish Agreement 1985. Is it not a fact that we would all benefit from a dialogue with fellow parliamentarians in the Irish Dail, and that that benefit would be shared equally by all people of the islands of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland?

Photo of Mr Tom King Mr Tom King The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

I was sorry to hear hon. Members on the Unionist Benches shout "No" before they had even heard what the hon. Gentleman was talking about. He was talking about discussions being under the auspices of the IPU and how the matter might be pursued under the Intergovernmental Conference of 1981. It is a matter for the House, as to which forum hon. Members wish to go forward, and the Government will view it with interest.