I beg to move,
That the draft Northern Ireland Act 1974 (Interim Period Extension) Order 1990, which was laid before the House on 20 June, be approved.
The draft order renews the temporary provisions in the Northern Ireland Act 1974, under which government by direct rule continues in Northern Ireland. In presenting the draft order, I owe the House both an account of the Government's stewardship in Northern Ireland over the past year and an assessment of the prospect that these temporary arrangements can be set aside in favour of more permanent arrangements for the government of Northern Ireland.
As regards the Government's stewardship, our overriding aim is to provide good government for Northern Ireland. Given the challenges it faces, that requires a combination of policies designed to bring peace, stability and prosperity. As we know only too well, peace in Northern Ireland is still threatened by terrorism. By no means all of that comes from the republican side, but the principal threat to peace comes from the provisional IRA. It is difficult to see any kind of logic in the dreadful atrocities claimed—as though there was pride in the ownership of murder—by the Provisionals. But we must presume, from statements made on their behalf, that they believe that the continuation of the policy of killing and maiming will lead the Government, or some future British Government, to withdraw, or agree to withdraw, from Northern Ireland. If they do think that, they are wholly mistaken. No British Government—and here I am sure that I speak also for the parties in opposition—will respond to terrorism in that craven way. And if, for once, I can presume to speak for the Unionist population in Northern Ireland, the Provisionals are mistaken also if they believe that bombing and shooting will change the determination of Unionist people to remain British. The Provisionals' campaign is therefore not only vicious and depraved; it is also tragic because it is futile. It will not have its intended effect.
The first priority of the Government will continue to be to eradicate terrorism in Northern Ireland—from whichever side of the community it comes. All our policies for Northern Ireland are intended to contribute to, or be consistent with, that objective, but effective action by the security forces against terrorists will continue to be the key factor. The police and the Army know that they have the wholehearted support of Government as they courageously carry out what is, every day of the week, an enormously difficult and dangerous task. The whole House will wish to join me in paying tribute to their courage and determination. We intend to ensure that the security forces have the necessary resources—both physical and legal—for their essential work. Terrorism will continue to be dealt with by firm and effective action within the law. We remain ready to strengthen this further if necessary. We shall shortly be looking at Lord Colville's review of existing anti-terrorist legislation as a preliminary to bringing forward legislation to replace the present emergency provisions Acts before they expire in 1992. When there is a demonstrable need for new powers, I shall not hesitate to ask the House to approve them.
Despite the efforts of the terrorists to bomb jobs away, the Northern Ireland economy has been growing strongly over the past seven or eight years and it is continuing to improve this year. Visitors to the Province will see immediately the changes in Belfast and Londonderry—the new spirit of economic optimism following the privatisation of Shorts and Harland and Wolff. We have been frank about the Northern Ireland economy's structural weaknesses in our new economic development strategy, "Competing in the 1990s". We have set out in it our belief that, if Northern Ireland is to make its way in the Europe of the single market, its industry must become more competitive, its labour force more skilled and its culture more imbued with the spirit of enterprise. That will require much effort by individuals and the private sector. Though the Government will help, the drive must come from outside.
I am happy to say that, in the past year, there have been many hopeful signs of Northern Ireland's ability to bring off such a transformation in its economy. Unemployment is at its lowest point for over six years, though at 14 per cent. it is not, in any sense, at an acceptable level. In the past year or so we have attracted new industrial investors from France, the United States, Germany, Hong Kong, Norway, Korea, Great Britain and Japan. There are about 2,500 people employed in Japanese manufacturing companies in Northern Ireland, which compares very reasonably with the 3,300 in Japanese companies in Scotland. The increase in inward investment looks set to continue. Increasing job opportunities for all and improving living standards are a crucial ingredient to restoring social harmony and self-confidence, and reducing deprivation and communal division.
In the social field our aim is, through fair and effective government, to tackle the underlying problems of division and disadvantage in Northern Ireland. We have shown through the introduction of stronger legislation, which came into force on 1 January this year, our determination to ensure fair employment. We shall be studying closely the recommendations of the recent report of the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights on discrimination. We have taken a number of measures, including the "Making Belfast Work" initiative, designed to achieve real and lasting improvement in conditions in the most disadvantaged areas. The Springvale initiative provides a further example. We are addressing with renewed vigour and success the underlying community relations problems, through encouraging greater cross-community relations and co-operation, and fostering respect for the different cultural traditions.
As I said at the start, our aim is to provide the best possible government for all the people of Northern Ireland. We can, I believe, justifiably claim that we have had some success in that task, but we are governing via the artificial mechanism of direct rule, under constitutional arrangements which are avowedly temporary, and which no one would dream of inventing as a long-term way of governing any sizeable community.
Even if we are, in practice, getting most things right —and that is for others to judge—we are doing so in the knowledge that, as Ministers, we are not directly accountable to the people of Northern Ireland. It seems to me and my ministerial colleagues that we have a moral duty to seek to find ways of returning substantial responsibilities to politicians who are elected by the people of Northern Ireland and who will be accountable to them for their stewardship of Northern Ireland affairs. But before I turn to the efforts that I have been making to address that issue, I wish to deal briefly with a broader constitutional issue.
Although the constitutional question has often seemed central to matters in Northern Ireland, I turn to it now in the hope of putting it to one side. We regard the position as clear. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom in national and international law. It is part of the United Kingdom because that is the clear wish of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland. There will be no change in the status of Northern Ireland unless and until a majority of the people there want it. That seems unlikely for the foreseeable future. I believe that most in this House, and I number myself among them, would wish to see the Union continue, but the principles of democracy and self-determination mean that the people of Northern Ireland must themselves be the final arbiters.
By virtue of its constitution, the Republic of Ireland has since 1937 also claimed sovereignty over Northern Ireland. We do not accept or recognise that claim, which has no basis in our law or, equally important, in international law. That claim is, I know, seen by some in Northern Ireland, and in other parts of this country, as a major stumbling block to the development of constructive relationships. I do not regard it as helpful. Nor, however, do I believe that it should be a major preoccupation—for this reason: the Republic of Ireland has accepted, through the Anglo-Irish Agreement, that the status of Northern Ireland could be changed only with the consent of a majority of its people. In short, through that binding international treaty it has shown that it, too, supports the right of the people of Northern Ireland to self-determination. The agreement also enshrines the Irish Government's support for our policy of establishing local institutions of government on a basis that would secure widespread acceptance throughout the community.
Is not it a fact that the status of Northern Ireland as an integral part of this United Kingdom is not spelt out in the Anglo-Irish Agreement and that it contains no definition of Northern Ireland's status?
Meanwhile, under the direct rule system we now have, I have found the framework for Anglo-Irish relations provided by the agreement valuable. Both the agreement and its working have demonstrated the desire of the two Governments to have a close and friendly relationship, and to tackle the reality of Northern Ireland's different cultural, historical and religious traditions.
Will my right hon. Friend allow me to intervene now? He has gone past the point in his speech at which I wanted to intervene, when he was telling the House that he did not think that the continuing existence of articles 2 and 3 of the Republic's constitution is of any great significance. Will he address his thoughts to this element of that problem? In the McGimpsey judgment, the Irish Supreme Court relied specifically on articles 2 and 3 of the constitution in order to refuse the British Government's extradition request.
I know that my hon. Friend—who follows these matters closely— will forgive me if I say that, in this instance, I do not think that the two matters were related.
While neither Goverment are seeking a new agreement, if a better agreement—which commanded widespread support within both sides of the community in Northern Ireland—were to be arrived at, that would prove to be an important step forward. Obviously, neither Government will abandon the agreement except for something that they regard as better. By what criteria might a new agreement be judged an improvement? I am clear that a central test will be the one that I have just mentioned—that it should enjoy widespread support not only within both sides of the community in Northern Ireland, but from the people of Great Britain and the Republic.
I will give way to the hon. Gentleman, although, given the context of my speech, it is probably not in the interests of the House for me to give way to interventions.
What the hon. Gentleman has said could probably be statistically sustained by opinion polls, but it is one of the reasons why we are addressing the matter today.
The second test would be that any new arrangement should address, at one and the same time, all aspects of the matter, including arrangements for the government of Northern Ireland and relations between the various parts of these islands.
I said on 9 January that any agreement between the constitutional political parties on new arrangements for exercising political power in Northern Ireland would have substantial implications for the Anglo-Irish Agreement, and that both Governments would be bound to consider those implications seriously and sympathetically. The Taoiseach also made clear later that month that
if…a new and more broadly-based agreement can be reached by direct discussions and negotiations between all the parties involved, the Irish Government would be prepared to contemplate, in agreement with the British Government, a new and better structure, agreement or arrangement, to transcend the existing one".
I can confirm that, in the context of discussions about possible future arrangements for the government of Northern Ireland, we should give serious consideration to any implications for the agreement that such arrangements might have, and we would also consider any proposal—including any proposal for an alternative to the agreement —that would advance the underlying objectives of achieving peace, stability and reconciliation.
In this debate a year ago, my predecessor—my right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State for Defence, who is here today—was less than fair to himself when he described political progress as being virtually non-existent.
He made great efforts to explore the scope for political progress towards an accommodation that might be reflected in the re-establishment of local institutions of government. In my own efforts to carry that process forward, I have been conscious of building on the sound foundations that he laid down.
There are a number of reasons for continuing this work. Quite apart from the long history of devolved government in Northern Ireland, and the need to find means of recognising Northern Ireland's distinct local interests and needs, there are two important reasons of principle. First, the present arrangements—under which local government has only the most modest powers, while the regional government has been absorbed into the machinery of central Government—mean that there is no effective vehicle for local democracy in Northern Ireland. There is a gap in democratic accountability which the House cannot contemplate with equanimity.
Without a regional political forum, elected representatives in Northern Ireland are left with little opportunity to influence the decisions of the Government, or to exercise powers that are available to politicians elsewhere in the United Kingdom or, indeed, in the Republic of Ireland. It has been said that a healthy community needs as its respiratory system a healthy and well-functioning political machine. The present weakness of local political involvement in the government of Northern Ireland is not a satisfactory long-term arrangement, and it causes a local power vacuum which terrorists and their supporters attempt to exploit to their advantage.
Secondly, and most crucial to the future of Northern Ireland and for those of us who share the agonies which that community is facing, perhaps the best hope of reconciliation between the two sides of the community is to be found in the achievement and maintenance of a long-lasting local political accommodation. It is the existence in Northern Ireland of the two traditions and the two identities, one of them looking, as it is free to do, to another jurisdiction to the south, with which it feels cultural and other affinities, which, above all, distinguishes its situation from that of other parts of this country. It is that which suggests that a distinct approach is needed, whatever the constitutional arrangements made for England, Scotland or Wales. Although the constitutional position, as I have explained, is clear, the internal and external dimensions cannot be wholly separated.
I should like to report to the House that during the past year modest but, I hope, valuable progress has been made towards the goal of new, democratically accountable, political institutions. In the past few months I have had lengthy discussions with the Irish Government, with representatives of the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland, with spokesmen for other parties in the House, and, indeed, with a wide range of well-informed people in all parts of these islands. I have been greatly encouraged by the co-operative and constructive spirit I have encountered, and by the evident willingness to work to find a way through the difficulties. I have also been gratified by the discretion my interlocutors have shown and which I have sought to reciprocate, and, finally, for the patience of the House. It has been important to the building of confidence that such discussions must take place on a confidential basis.
Our discussions have been, for the most part, on preliminary issues: how talks might begin, how they might be organised, within what timetable and on what agenda. Those matters are important, because, in any talks, the participants should have a clear understanding of what is involved.
Let me briefly explain the Government's position in these matters. First, we wish to safeguard the constitutional guarantees that I have described and to ensure that the future of Northern Ireland is determined by the free will, without intimidation, of the people there. Secondly, we wish to establish arrangements for government which give full rein to the interests of all the people of Northern Ireland, and which safeguard both traditions and provide for the full expression of both identities. Our overwhelming concern is for the people of Northern Ireland, and those who think that we have some other interest mistake not only our sense of responsibility for our own citizens but our determination to ensure that their rights—the rights of all of them—are respected and preserved.
As I said, we seek institutions of government in Northern Ireland which will be directly accountable to all its people, and to which they can all give their wholehearted commitment and support. We do not prejudge the detailed form that such political arrangements should take. The local politicians who are expected to work them must help to create them. Our broad criteria for endorsing any particular system are that it should be workable and likely to prove stable and durable, and that it must command widespread support and provide an appropriate and fair role for both sides of the community.
The exploratory discussions that I have had, especially over the past six months, have confirmed and, I believe, modestly enlarged the shared appreciation of the common ground. They may, too, have strengthened the realisation that a number of those concerned share perceptions, or at least accept others' different views and the reasons for them, to a greater extent than previously.
It seems clear that, if talks are to be held, they would need to embrace all the main relationships and, accordingly, have different strands. One strand would involve the Government and the main constitutional political parties in Northern Ireland. Its objective would be to work towards agreement on new arrangements for the government of Northern Ireland, within the United Kingdom, which might provide a basis for the transfer of political power, authority and responsibility to locally elected representatives in Northern Ireland on a basis that was widely acceptable. That strand would need to deal, too, with the relationship between Westminster and any new institutions in Northern Ireland. That dimension of the issue is perhaps mentioned less often, not because it is unimportant, but because we on our side are clear about it. The Irish Government, who, as I have mentioned, are committed by virtue of the Anglo-Irish Agreement to support our policy to transfer power to locally accountable institutions in Northern Ireland, would not be directly represented in such talks, although we would certainly wish to take account of any views and proposals that they might put forward.
It is generally agreed, too, that the process of talks and negotiations should cover the relationships between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and the implications for the relationship between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. It is also, I believe, common ground that such talks would need to lead to the simultaneous drawing together of the different strands. That is, no agreement on any one aspect would be reached unless and until all parties were finally satisfied with the whole of what might emerge from such a dialogue.
I detect also a significant measure of agreement on the structure that such talks might have, and the role that each of the potential participants might fulfil in the various stages of the process. I would not, however, wish to exaggerate the extent to which views on those matters converge.
The more immediate difficulty—although I hope that the House will join me in seeking to surmount it—is to secure agreement from all the potential participants that the conditions to start dialogue now exist. As is widely known, most, if not quite all, of the potential participants to these complex and interwoven issues have preliminary preoccupations of principle, some of which appeared at first sight to be irreconcilable. Some of the potential participants frankly acknowledge these as preconditions to talking; others do not. My task has been to explore the extent to which those important preliminary points can be overcome.
It is, of course, the privilege and responsibility of all political representatives to express their own point of view. I cannot speak for others, and I would not want it thought for a moment that I claimed to. However, I should tell the House that it is my judgment that there now exists, following the exploratory discussions that I have held, a basis for entering talks intended to cover all the relationships—a basis which I believe would meet everyone's essential interests and which would allow all participants to enter talks on a basis of mutual respect without any sacrifice of important interests or essential principles. The basis would also be consistent with our international obligations, including those under the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
I pay tribute to the flexibility, imagination and resolution of those with whom I have conducted discussions. Many have, I believe, shown readiness to accept the challenges that the long history of Northern Ireland provides, and to respond, with a combination of strength of purpose on behalf of principles and of the interests of those they represent, with a capacity to seek a constructive way forward. I will not disguise from the House the fact that I had hoped to be in a position by now to give some indication of when it might be possible to move to formal talks. I am in fact not yet in a position to do so. It would no doubt have been convenient to be able to give such a report today, but this debate is a function of the parliamentary timetable, and no mystic significance therefore attaches to it. The provision for direct rule will shortly expire unless renewed. The important thing is that we have been making progress and will continue to seek to do so. That can only be on the basis of careful and detailed preparation of the ground at each stage, as has been my practice to date.
As the House is fully aware, I have throughout this process been careful to express the prospects in cautious terms. I have said that talks are possible rather than probable. I have also emphasised that, in the end, it is a matter for the potential participants and, in particular, for the political parties within Northern Ireland, to decide if and when the conditions for carrying matters forward exist. It is, above all, a matter of individual and collective political will. For my part, I will continue to work for a way forward, since it is clear to me that constructive dialogue, particularly between the representatives of the two sides of the community within Northern Ireland, is of the greatest importance.
I was present to support the Secretary of State when he launched his initiative at the beginning of this year. He deserves praise for his endeavours. I hope that, despite a hiccup—I do not think that it is more than a hiccup—the talks will progress to a successful conclusion. The Secretary of State certainly deserves congratulations on his endeavours up to the present.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he said.
I firmly believe that the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and Great Britain would wish the process in which we are engaged to culminate in success. Only the terrorists resist the process, since they can have no part in it, for the views of those who use violence count for nothing while blood is their argument.
The Secretary of State has properly covered not only the immediate political problems that he faces, but the history of his first year in office and the situation in Northern Ireland. He is right to draw attention to the fact that there is still considerable unemployment in Northern Ireland —14 per cent.—and that in some pockets, such as Ballymurphy, the Shankill and other places, unemployment far exceeds that proportion and is far worse than anywhere else in these islands. It is therefore important that we attend to and address that problem.
I do not see the economy of Northern Ireland through the same rose-tinted spectacles as the Secretary of State. However, to be fair, I must place on the record the fact that "Competing in the 1990s" seems to owe more to my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) than to the Department of Trade and Industry and the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley). In view of that departure, one must ask why the previous 10 years were so disastrous.
I note also the profits of the Northern Ireland Electricity service which have just been announced. Obviously, the turkey is being fattened for Christmas and for privatisation. That, however, will not solve the economic problems of Northern Ireland. Energy costs must concern anybody who is seeking to invest in Northern Ireland.
We get the impression that the Government have only just started to turn their attention to the problems of 1992. That problem needs to be faced throughout the whole of the island of Ireland. Indeed, 1992 should be seen in that context. There should be discussions with Ministers on both sides of the water about the important transport and communication lanes that will be necessary if the economy of Northern Ireland—and of the island of Ireland—is to be properly joined with that of Europe.
The Secretary of State will be aware that this is the first year in which the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act 1989 has been implemented. The right hon. Gentleman is also aware that the Opposition thought that, despite the improvements that were made in this House and elsewhere, major defects remained in the Act. However, as the Act is now on the statute book, it should be seen to be made to work. It is gratifying to know that employers in both the private and public sectors have registered in great numbers and that the monitoring returns are now coming in. However, the mere completing of those tasks does not take away the real fear of employment discrimination that still exists in Northern Ireland, as recent reports of the Fair Employment Commission have shown.
Direct rule has often been described as everyone's second-best option, but that comment epitomises the complacency with which Northern Ireland is sometimes regarded on this island. There is a clear implication that a second-rate form of government is acceptable. Indeed, direct rule itself bears a large part of the responsibility for that complacency. In this case, not only is second best not good enough; it is, in itself, an appalling state of affairs.
Direct rule is an arrangement for the containment of violence, not for its elimination. Important though it is to limit the level of violence, after all these years, we must be more ambitious and look for arrangements which will stop violence altogether. I say this because there is a high price to be paid for the present arrangements. The price is paid first and foremost by the security forces, on which we rely to hold the ring until such time as a political settlement can be found. On behalf of the Opposition—and, indeed, the House—I express our sympathy for the families of the victims of violence and pay tribute to the efforts of the security forces.
But if our concern for the security forces is genuine and not merely rhetorical, the best assistance that we, the politicians, can give them is to establish widespread and positive agreement on the way in which the Province should be governed.
The present system also exacts a toll from the peoples of Northern Ireland as a whole. People with no connection with the security forces, or the paramilitaries, continue to fall victim to violence. Sadly, young people continue to fall into the clutches of the paramilitaries and tread the path to prison or an early grave. Yet part of the Secretary of State's speech today took away any sort of excuse that the paramilitaries—certainly on the Republican side—could have. The Secretary of State said:
I believe that most in this House—and I number myself among them—would wish to see the Union continue, but the principles of democracy and self-determination mean that the people of Northern Ireland must themselves be the final arbiters.
Unionism is not the policy of the Labour party, but it is important to note that Her Majesty's Government are stating that, despite what the paramilitaries put out, Great Britain has no strategic, economic or political interest in Northern Ireland which overrides the wishes of the majority of the people in Northern Ireland. That is an important point. So, for the paramilitaries, there is no excuse—their weapon must be persuasion, argument and co-operation. From what the Secretary of State has said, there is no excuse for any form of violence.
The civil liberties situation in the Province continues to blacken Britain's name. None of us can or, I hope, do take comfort from the departures from normal western European standards of law and justice—derogations from the European Convention on Human Rights.
Closely related to the absence of successful political arrangements is the economic deprivation which so affects the Province. As the Northern Ireland Economic Council has pointed out, nothing could do so much for the economic future of the Province as a whole as the establishment of political stability. It is that for which we are looking.
Direct rule is also politically corrupting. There is an absence of accountability which can be filled only by giving power and responsibility to the elected representatives of Northern Ireland. With the best will in the world, Ministers alone cannot exercise the degree of control and scrutiny over Government Departments and public authorities that a democratic system would involve. Direct rule almost inevitably concentrates power in the hands of civil servants and the managers of public authorities because, of their nature, Ministers are transient beings.
In this respect, the behaviour of the Government in undermining the status of bodies where there is some elected representation is unwise. In particular, the decision to overturn the decisions of health boards on contracts even further undermines the role of elected representatives. Furthermore, the increasing tendency to rely on appointees rather than elected representatives seems to me to store up more difficulties for the future. If elected representatives are not given responsibility for these matters, the Government are failing to provide incentives for participation in the political life of the Province. That applies to all parties in the Province.
Direct rule also has a pernicious effect on the political parties in Northern Ireland. The health of a democratic political system can be assessed by the vigour of political parties. Without institutions which allow the parties to exercise power and responsibility, the incentives to take part in public life are limited. With such institutions, the position of the elected representative would be enhanced. That would stop the drift towards the consolidation of rule by a small and unelected elite. There is a clear need to reverse the trend towards the concentration of power in the hands of appointed bodies. It would be far preferable that individuals should make their contribution as elected representatives rather than as unaccountable appointees, there at the whim of the Minister.
For all those reasons, a system of government which receives positive support from the people of Northern Ireland is required. The paramilitaries will not be defeated by direct rule. They will be finished when the vast majority of the population in Northern Ireland can wholeheartedly support the system of government under which they live. The present stalemate cannot last for ever. There is a crying need for effective institutions in Northern Ireland with a significant degree of power, if the possibility of genuine political progress is to be kept open and the hope of democracy kept alive. There is, therefore, a duty on all of us, the two Governments, the parties in Northern Ireland and the House to create new arrangements for the way in which the Province is governed.
The initiative of the Secretary of State in launching his series of wide-ranging talks with various participants was and is welcomed. We pay tribute to his brave and determined efforts to find a way out of the political morass. We wish him well in the endeavours which are to come. We understand his difficulties and the fear that protracted negotiations might run the whole process into the sands. We therefore hope that, before the House rises, he will be able to announce an agreed package. But we must still be careful not to allow artificial deadlines and constitutional necessities such as today's debate to prevent progress.
Above all, we hope that the Secretary of State can bring about the comprehensive accord on the three relationships to which he referred and which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) has correctly argued, must be dealt with in any overall, workable settlement. It is significant that, even if everything were now to fail—I hope and pray that it will not—the agenda has moved on to the acceptance of tripartite discussions. That in itself is a considerable achievement. It is a tribute to the Secretary of State, but also to the parties in Northern Ireland. But we must remember that the negotiations which we hope will take place will not do so in a vacuum. They will be watched closely by those who do not wish democratic politics to prevail and we can be sure that such people will do their best to undermine the efforts of the two Governments and of the constitutional parties. Furthermore, we must accept that the negotiations do not take as their point of departure a tabula rasa. We must look at what has already been achieved, particularly in the years since 1985, what the continuing failures are and how further progress can be made. We must build on existing achievements. We cannot hope to remedy the defects by sacrificing the achievements.
In November 1985, the House adopted the Anglo-Irish Agreement by an overwhelming majority of 473 to 47. The Labour party formed part of that majority because we believed and continue to believe that the agreement is a valuable instrument for dealing with many of the problems of Northern Ireland and of Anglo-Irish relations. At the same time we have always been clear that the Anglo-Irish Agreement should not be confused with the ten commandments. It is a means to an end, not an end in itself. If a better way forward can be found, the Opposition will be only too happy to lend their support. But we must make sure that the arrangements which may supersede, transcend, replace, supplant—or whatever word is used —represent progress and not a reversion to an earlier form of stalemate.
A major achievement of the agreement is that it has established mechanisms by which the British and Irish Governments can deal with each other and which have been more successful than anything in the past. Given the importance of co-operation between the Governments, not only in terms of security but with respect to political stability and a feasible set of arrangements for Northern Ireland, the mechanisms are an asset which must be protected. Co-operaton between the Governments, not necessarily the Anglo-Irish Agreement, is an asset.
The major defect of the agreement was, of course, the exclusion of Unionism and the Unionists. Until such time as the Unionist parties play their full and constructive role in acceptable political institutions in the Province, Northern Ireland cannot enjoy political normality of any description.
We do not underestimate the difficulties which the Secretary of State will face during the next few weeks. But considerable progress has been made which could not have been imagined when he embarked upon this enterprise. Nor would it have been possible if the leaders of the major political parties in Northern Ireland had not been prepared to sit down with him and work out, equally painstakingly, a way forward which they felt might be acceptable to the other side of the argument. The leaders of the Unionist parties and of the Social Democratic and Labour party are to be commended for their patience and commitment in advancing the talks so far, as do the minority parties in Northern Ireland which do not have places in the House.
The task of the Secretary of State is not an easy one. We wish him well in his endeavours. We hope that, in association with the leaders of the parties in Northern Ireland and the Irish Government, he will be able to present to the House an agreed package for a durable and practical solution. He has travelled a long way in the past six months. The Opposition trust that he will successfully complete the course.
This is the 15th renewal of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1974 which, as you will know, Madam Deputy Speaker, is a temporary device for the annual renewal of the authority of the Secretary of State of the day to govern Northern Ireland. Back in the 1970s I well remember a leading London newspaper complaining that the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) and his colleague who succeeded him, Lord Mason, strutted about Northern Ireland and behaved as if they had the authority to govern Northern Ireland. I made no such complaint about the attitude of the right hon. Gentlemen. I make no similar complaint today about the right hon. Gentleman who now holds that office.
However, my colleagues and I do complain about the mechanisms available to the present Secretary of State and the mechanisms that were available, and only those which were available, to his predecessors, because I am certain that all his predecessors were far from satisfied and that he is far from satisfied with the efficiency of the mechanisms that he is forced to operate under the 1974 Act.
Since the Secretary of State received his seals of office, he has endeavoured to improve dramatically those mechanisms. Those of us who have worked closely and, I hope that he will concede, constructively with him over the past 10 months hoped that today, with 10 months of discussions behind us, he would be in a position to chart out the course for what could have been the last renewal of direct rule in its present form. Our optimism prevailed until some 12 hours ago when it became clear that an operation was under way to bring down the shutters. No purpose will be served by castigating the Government of the Irish Republic and the parties in Ireland who share their views, because the seeds of disaster were sown and are to be found in the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985 which appeared to concede to the Dublin Government—any Dublin Government—joint sovereignty over part of the United Kingdom. So the Dublin Government can hardly be blamed for refusing to relinquish that apparent—I say "apparent"—role. The pro-Union people of Ulster would in all charity ask the people and Government of the Irish Republic to accept that we have not consented, and never will consent, to interference by any external Government.
Repeated opinion polls and a recent election in Upper Bann have proved conclusively that what consent there was is steadily diminishing. So there is obviously need for a fairer, more acceptable and much wider agreement, and I hope that Her Majesty's Opposition will support us in trying to design an agreement which really will deliver that which we all wish to see—peace, stability and reconciliation—but which the present agreement has signally failed to deliver.
That should not be taken as any anti-Irish sentiment. I would expect the Dublin Government to react similarly and reject any interference by me on behalf of the large Protestant minority in the Ulster county of Donegal. So they should not take it amiss when I say to them that I am asking for no privileges and no right to interfere in their jurisdiction which I am rejecting for our part, or for the whole, of the United Kingdom.
Those, even in this House, who adhere to the idea of a united Ireland and who insist that, in the meantime, Northern Ireland must be deprived of real democracy, should heed the views of someone who can be called an impartial observer. I refer to the distinguished churchman constituent of my hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis), Father Denis Faul, who has assessed the situation as meaning that only 20 per cent. of Roman Catholics would vote for a united Ireland. That suggests that only 8 per cent. of the entire electorate of Northern Ireland would wish, if given the choice, to vote for a united Ireland.
This Parliament—and, I hope, the Parliament of the Irish Republic—will come to accept that if the right to self-determination and to have a workable and fair democracy is to mean anything, the wishes of the 92 per cent. of the Northern Ireland electorate cannot be ignored year after year.
I pay tribute to the integrity of the Secretary of State. In all our lengthy discussions, we have been impressed by his honesty and fairness. Although the main avenue appears to have been blocked off, hon. Members— especially those of us who have discussed issues and negotiated with him during the last 10 months—owe it to him to build on the good will that he, more than anyone, has established. We must assist him—I hope that he will have the assistance of hon. Members in all parts of the House—in achieving success in those avenues not subject to any foreign veto.
We have a duty to salvage what we can and to set about devoting the time that remains in the lifetime of this Parliament to taking every modest step possible to ensure that the people of Northern Ireland—all of them—enjoy standards of government and administration that are in no way inferior to those enjoyed by their fellow citizens in the rest of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
It is greatly to be regretted that the Secretary of State was not able to make today the statement that he no doubt anticipated being able to make. We must face the fact that the hands of a foreign Government—outside the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom—were able to keep a Secretary of State, answerable to the Crown for part of the territory of the United Kingdom, from making a statement of importance to the future of Northern Ireland.
The Secretary of State is to be commended on his patience, diligence and truthfulness in approaching the members of various parties to whom he has spoken. My contact with him, along with the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux), was straight and plain. We did not agree about much, but we found the Secretary of State prepared to listen, to take aboard views that were put to him and to measure and weigh them in making decisions. We appreciate what he has done, and I think that I can say that on behalf not only of my hon. Friends but of the leader of the SDLP, the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume), whom I believe I see nodding assent.
The right hon. Member for Lagan Valley said that what we are discussing is not a happening of a few hours back. The happening took place in this Chamber, as the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) said, when the House overwhelmingly committed itself, following an undigested consideration of the matter, to the Anglo-Irish Agreement, without realising what the implications were or what the outworking would be.
Had the House made a correct decision, we would not be having this debate. We would not have heard the official Opposition spokesman say, in effect, "If we can get something to replace it, we shall be happy to consider it and then support it." The Secretary of State would not have used the language he used today.
In no community can we afford to set aside the views of any sizeable part of that community. That is strengthened by the fact that in no community can we afford to set aside the views of the majority of the people in that community.
The Secretary of State says that it is vital to obtain widespread acceptance for what is done. The Anglo-Irish diktat did not have widespread acceptance. The Secretary of State says that neither Government is seeking a new agreement. While I do not go with his reasoning—because he was not arguing, in the language he used today, for a new agreement—the right hon. Gentleman should be looking for a new agreement. The Taoiseach of the Irish Republic should also be looking for a new agreement.
Some of us who live in Northern Ireland, on both sides of the religious and political divide, must reap the sowing of the decision on the agreement that was made in this Chamber. We reap it every day. I reaped it recently when two gallant police officers, Gary Meyer and Harry Beckett, who protected me every Friday as I stood at Belfast city hall conducting religious services, were shot through the head by two vicious assassins. As I sat with the widows and their children, I thought of the sad weeping that we have had because of decisions taken in the House of Commons. No one in the House can wash their hands, Pilate-like, of what flows from those decisions. We need to face up to the reality.
What support is there for the Anglo-Irish Agreement? The Roman Catholic community is divided on the agreement. The SDLP supports it, but a large section of the Roman Catholic community says no to it. Sinn Fein says no to it, and Sinn Fein takes a sizeable slice of the Roman Catholic community's vote. We are told by people in the House that those who vote for Sinn Fein are not really voting for murder or for the IRA but are expressing a viewpoint, and they are opposed to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The vast majority of the Unionists are opposed to it. That has been shown not by opinion polls, but by solid votes. All the Unionists in the House resigned their seats and put it to the test, and we know the result of that test.
We know that the majority of people in Northern Ireland do not back the Anglo-Irish Agreement. If they do not, and if the Government's criterion is that we should have a form of government which they do back, should not the House be applying itself to having the agreement replaced and superseded? I would go further and say that it is our bounden duty to seek to do that. That is why I and the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley spent time with the Secretary of State and, as the Secretary of State knows, at times put ourselves to great inconvenience—willingly and gladly, as he acknowledges. Why? Because there is an urge upon us to apply ourselves to the matter.
I greatly regret the road block. I would not be so pessimistic as the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley. I hope that the road block will be cleared. I hope that the Dublin Government will see that they are standing in the way of what could be a profitable move forward in Northern Ireland for a constitutional settlement which would help every part of Northern Ireland and all its people. I trust that there will be serious thoughts in Dublin tonight about the attitude and actions that they have taken. What they have done will be deeply resented by the people of Northern Ireland. It will strike into their hearts once again what the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley has said—that they perceived that the Anglo-Irish Agreement gave sovereignty to the southern Irish Government over the internal affairs of Northern Ireland. That perception has been demonstrated today.
The Secretary of State told us:
Although the constitutional question has often seemed central to matters in Northern Ireland, I turn to it now in the hope of putting it to one side.
It cannot really be put to one side, because the Anglo-Irish Agreement did not, as he would suggest, for all time put out of the realm of controversy the status of Northern Ireland. Article 1 says:
The two Governments affirm that any change in the status of Northern Ireland would only come about with the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland.
It does not say what the status of Northern Ireland is. What is the status of Northern Ireland? By a constitutional imperative, as viewed by the highest court in Dublin and approved by Mr. Haughey, it is that Northern Ireland is part of the Republic and the laws that it passes have validity if applied to the whole island of Ireland. There was a reason why that was not spelt out. If it had been spelt out, its validity would have been tested before the courts and the Government knew that they could not win on that issue. That is why there were two Sunningdale agreements. One was signed by the south and one by the north.
The hon. Gentleman is expounding, carefully and accurately, article 1 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Does he agree that the crucial part of it is the reference to the fact that there would be no change in the status of Northern Ireland? It says, "would", not "could". The Secretary of State misquoted that. Could is normative, whereas would is merely descriptive. Therefore, there is no undertaking on the status of Northern Ireland and what should happen in the future.
I accept that, but I come back to the Sunningdale agreement, which had a section, signed by the United Kingdom, spelling out the status of Northern Ireland. But that was omitted from the document signed by the Republic. Why? Because the Prime Minister knew that, constitutionally, he could not sign that because it would have been challenged.
There were also two Anglo-Irish Agreements each describing the Taoiseach in different terms and each describing the British Prime Minister in different terms.
That was done for the same reason. The people of Great Britain may be hoodwinked, but the people of Ulster will not be. We know what is written into the constitution of the Irish Republic. We imbibed it with our mothers' milk. We know it exactly. It came as no surprise to anybody in Ulster what the High Court intended to do. Everybody knew the situation.
I am glad that in the south of Ireland there is now a strong lobby in favour of the removal of articles 2 and 3. I am glad that Mr. Jack Lynch, a former Fianna Fail Taoiseach, now says that the time has come to get rid of articles 2 and 3. It will be a happy day for the whole of Ireland when that obnoxious claim is removed from the constitution of the Irish Republic. Then, for the first time, we shall have a normal constitutional relationship, and from that we will be able to achieve a neighbourliness which is not possible at present.
We cannot accept the Secretary of State's interpretation, and that will come as no surprise to him. But I plead with him to think carefully about the criterion. If the criterion is widespread acceptance, he does not have that for the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Therefore, he should think about setting himself to achieve a new agreement, no matter how difficult that may be. I emphasise that.
I worry about a paragraph on page 5 about enlarging the constituency, where the Secretary of State says:
It should enjoy widespread support from Northern Ireland, Great Britain and the Republic.
If he intends to submit that to the people of Great Britain, he should remember that I was the first person in this place to say that we should ask the people of Great Britain what they wanted to do with Northern Ireland, and I was severely castigated for it. I have heard many people saying that they want to cast out Northern Ireland. They might get a rude surprise. Perhaps that is why the Government are delaying asking the people of Great Britain.
The internal affairs of Northern Ireland are no concern of the Republic, but neither are the internal affairs of the Irish Republic any concern of mine. I do not campaign against the Irish Republic. When the press pushes me to make statements, I refrain from doing so. It is no concern of mine, and the Republic is entitled to do whatever it wishes.
The Secretary of State needs to define the issue. I do not want to think that he is now suggesting that if there is to be a final package, the part relating to the internal government of Northern Ireland must be submitted to the people of the Irish Republic before it can be implemented in Northern Ireland. I hope that the Government will clarify that.
Much has been said about the majorities. The people of Northern Ireland can stay within the United Kingdom provided that there is a majority in favour of that. That does not mean widespread support; it could be a majority of one. Similarly, if they want to join the Irish Republic, they can do so, provided that they have a majority in favour of that. What if the people of Northern Ireland want to go somewhere else? Why is there no provision for that majority? All majorities should have equal status. If power is given to one, it must be given to all. Perhaps the majority of people in Yorkshire would like to go somewhere else. It is ridiculous that, every time we debate Northern Ireland, we are told that it is up to the majority to say, "Goodbye".
When I was a boy of seven, I was told that the Protestants would be bred out. Protestants also breed; they have families. It would be foolish of the House to think that a majority will come about through some form of birth control or birth explosion. There will always be a majority in Northern Ireland wishing to remain a part of the United Kingdom, and if the United Kingdom treats them in the same way that it treats those in other parts of the United Kingdom and if they give them the same benefits, that will not change.
It used to be the standard procedure of the Northern Ireland Office to tell English Members that the Catholic population was projected to exceed the Protestant population at some future time—I note that the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) nods —and it was suggested that all wise politicians should prepare themselves for that.
That might be true. I was never briefed by the Northern Ireland Office. I had the great privilege of escaping from its falsehoods and blatant lies. I was in a happy position.
The House should remember that not all Roman Catholics are republicans. We need to wake up to that fact. Many Roman Catholics vote for Unionist candidates. Indeed, I am sure that all Unionist Members receive post from Catholics. I cannot tell how people vote in a Westminster election, but I can tell how they vote in a European election. I have stood by the election box and noted the percentages. I was amazed at how many first preference votes for "John Hume" had "Ian Paisley" as second preference, although I did not notice many first preferences for me giving John Hume as second preference. That just happens to be a fact of life. I know that a box in an entirely Roman Catholic community contained many, many votes for me. I am sure that the SDLP would also claim that Protestants vote for its candidates, and that is probably true.
When I referred to a great birth explosion, I noted that the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland—the righ hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South—laughed. Perhaps he wants to be a party to that, or perhaps he wants to distance himself from it. He should disabuse himself of his folly, because the majority is there, and it will remain.
I am concerned at the inference in speeches in the House—it appeared in the speech of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North today—that a constitutional settlement will somehow take the IRA off the streets of Northern Ireland. That is a fallacy. A few days ago at Bowdenstown, Gerry Adams and his friends made it clear that it mattered not what initiatives were being taken, the IRA would continue to turn on the heat in Northern Ireland. If we move towards a constitutional settlement, there will be many vicious murders, and soft targets will be attacked. There can be no doubt about that. Even when such a settlement exists, the IRA will continue its campaign. No one should be so naive as to think that a constitutional settlement would end the IRA menace.
People should read the history of the Irish Republic. At its birth, it faced a similar problem with the Irregulars, headed by De Valera, who murdered their kith and kin in the Irish civil war. That has been almost forgotten. Kevin O'Higgins was the man who settled that by saying that the only way to deal with republican murderers was to take them out of society. He brought peace to the troubled south, but he paid the price for doing so. He was murdered by those who realised that he had won. However, because he had won, the Irregulars became respectable and De Valera went into the Dail. He became Prime Minister and his successor is Charlie Haughey. When people read that history, they will understand what Irish republicanism is all about and the way to deal with it.
Terrorism and evil murder are stalking the land in Northern Ireland. I appeal to the Government not to handcuff the security forces. They must give the police the money that they need. More money than ever before is needed by the police in Northern Ireland. They approach leading figures and say that they are under severe threat —they want to provide security, but can provide only a certain amount because of monetary considerations. The Government will have to put the sinews of war and finance into their campaign against terrorism.
Where do we go from here? The Secretary of State must dedicate himself to progress. All hon. Members should make sure that people know our intent that the talks should take place. Finally, the press should quit speculating. I read in today's newspapers what was said at the talks and what concessions were made as if they had been real negotiations. But they were talks about talks; we have not yet reached the negotiating table where all those matters will be discussed. I trust that when there is a settlement, the Secretary of State will be man enough to put it to the people of Northern Ireland, not at an election but at a referendum so that they can accept or reject it.
I join the Secretary of State in saying that everyone in Ireland and in Britain wants his initiative to succeed. Contrary to the impression given by others who have spoken in the debate, the good will of the Irish Government in the matter is totally unquestionable.
I should place on record my own appreciation for the immense efforts that the Secretary of State has put into a difficult task, the sensitivity that he has shown to different points of view and to the integrity and dedication with which he has pursued the objective of bringing us all round the table. We all acknowledge that he has made considerable progress, and I look forward to the talks. I also pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux), the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and the leader of the Alliance party, who is in the Strangers' Gallery, for the integrity and good will with which they have approached the talks. We must develop that spirit in the full knowledge that we face a difficult task because there are deep differences and divisions. The talks will be a serious beginning in dealing with the problems.
We are helped by the wider atmosphere in which we work today. The Unionists are celebrating the 300th anniversary of the battle of the Boyne. Some feared that the celebration might turn out to be divisive, but we should remember who was there in 1690. In addition to the Irish, the Danes, the Dutch, the Germans and the French fought on both sides.
Since 1690, all those countries have settled the differences between them, but Ireland has not. They have settled many deeper differences and have moved on to a wider European scene. There are lessons for us in that, as the origins of our problems are European. From a nationalist Republican point of view, the English presence in Ireland was due to Ireland being considered the back door for her European enemies. The plantation of Ulster was England's response to O'Neill's and O'Donnell's links with Spain. The Act of Union was England's response to the French invasion of Ireland in 1798.
Today we have a new Europe, and Ireland is rebuilding her links with Europe, as is Britain. That has profound implications for the traditional reasons that are given for using violence in Ireland. We rightly condemn them for that and we must continue to condemn unequivocally. One has only to look at the statistics of death in Northern Ireland to see that 55 per cent. of the people killed in the past 20 years were ordinary people going about their daily work who were blown to bits or shot in so-called mistakes or accidents or in tit-for-tat killings. That will continue in future if the terrorists continue their campaign, and they know that. What is their justification? They say that Britain is an island defending her own economic and strategic interests by force.
Can anyone seriously say today that Britain has an economic interest in Ireland, when the British taxpayer is paying £1.5 billion a year to keep our economy going? Does anyone believe that Britain has a strategic interest in Ireland in a nuclear world, and that a military presence is necessary for strategic reasons? Does anyone believe that, when everyone knows that, if the violence stopped, the troops would be off the streets in a matter of weeks?
We have the legacy of our past, but the meaning of sovereignty and independence has changed. Today we have shared sovereignty and interdependence. The issues about which we quarrelled in the past are gone, but our legacy is a deeply divided people. What does the IRA say about that? It says that we are being prevented by force from exercising the right to self-determination. Is that true? The people who live in Ireland are deeply divided about precisely how to exercise their right to self-determination. Agreement on how to exercise that right cannot be achieved by force or physical violence, but only through dialogue and peaceful means.
We might follow the example of the European peoples who contributed to the origins of our problems. Fifty years ago, when millions of people were being slaughtered across the continent and cities were being devastated, had someone stood up in the House and said that in 50 years' time the British Prime Minister would be sitting in a Council of Ministers which had planned a single Europe and was moving towards European political union, yet the Germans were still German and the French were still French, everyone would have said that that person was a dreamer or a fool.
But that has happened. We who are trying to resolve a conflict might ask why. It has happened because people have set aside the past. We are very good at dragging up the past; our respect for the past paralyses our approach to the future. It is easy to drag up the past to justify our attitudes to the present, but everyone does that and it keeps the conflict going.
Let us leave aside the past and agree to build institutions in Ireland that respect our differences, but we must do that in agreement, as agreement is at the heart of the matter. There is no way in which we can solve our problems by one section of our people countering another. It is no longer about pushing difference to the point of division; it is about accommodation and respect for difference. Having set up in agreement those institutions which respect our differences, we can then work the common ground, which all hon. Members representing Northern Ireland would agree is substantial. Our economic interests in particular will increase as we move into the single market. By spilling our sweat rather than our blood, we can break down the differences between us and grow together at our own speed. That is the strategy that I believe we should follow.
After a terrible 20 years, there is a spirit abroad that demands political leadership and talks between the Governments involved as soon as possible. I wish the Secretary of State well, and I am confident that it will not be too long until the remaining loose ends are tied up, so that we can begin the difficult, but I hope successful, process of bringing lasting peace to our people.
I hope that the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) will not misunderstand me when I say that I greatly admired the speech that he has just made. This is a special debate. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland opened it with a characteristically thoughtful speech. Each of the three Members of Parliament from Northern Ireland who have spoken so far in the debate, each of whom has been involved in the preliminary discussions with my right hon. Friend, has paid tribute to his personal qualities and patience. I took no part whatsoever in the talks about talks, but those who have not seen the Secretary of State in action at first hand know enough about him to realise that he has precisely those qualities that are required to bring about agreement in the Province.
My right hon. Friend referred frequently to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. May I correct what I think may have been a misunderstanding on his part? He said:
the Republic of Ireland has accepted, through the Anglo-Irish Agreement, that the status of Northern Ireland could be changed only with the consent of a majority of its people".
The implication of my right hon. Friend's words was that, before 15 November 1985, the Irish Government believed that the status of Northern Ireland could be changed otherwise than by consent.
The Government have frequently claimed that one of the prizes of the Anglo-Irish Agreement was that the Irish Government acknowledged for the first time that there could be a change of status only with the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland. I have with me, however, the text of the communiqué that was issued after the Sunningdale agreement was signed 17 years ago —12 years before the signing of the Anglo-lrish Agreement. The text of the Sunningdale agreement reads:
The Irish Government fully accepted and solemnly declared that there could be no change in the status of Northern Ireland until a majority of the people of Northern Ireland desired a change in that status.
The House will note that the words of the Anglo-Irish Agreement reproduced verbatim the words that appeared in the Sunningdale communiqué in 1973.
Will the hon. Gentleman compare article I of the Anglo-Irish Agreement with the Sunningdale agreement? He is right to say that, to a large extent, the Irish Government's statement in the Sunningdale agreement was on similar lines to their statement in the Hillsborough agreement of 1985. Will he, however, please check that the word "could" that was used in 1974 became "would" in 1985, which changes the meaning?
The hon. Gentleman has made that point already. I do not quarrel with it, although I think that he goes too far in asserting that there is a difference between "could" and "would".
Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that there is a substantial difference between that which is contained in the communiqué, which leads to no commitment by either Government in legal terms, and that which is written in a solemnly binding international agreement? Does he not agree with the suggestion that that which is contained in the solemnly binding international agreement is binding on both Governments and that anything which is stated in the communiqué does not bind either Government?
The next passage in my right hon. Friend's speech was very startling. It seemed to me that my right hon. Friend was calling for a new Anglo-Irish Agreement. The words that led me to that conclusion were these:
There is no reason why the present agreement should be the last word. While neither Government are seeking a new agreement, if a better agreement—which commanded widespread support within both sides of the community in Northern Ireland—were to be arrived at, that would prove to be an important step forward.
What is so striking about my right hon. Friend's choice of words is that he asserts that a precondition for a successful agreement is that it should command widespread support within both sides of the community.
Before the Cabinet gave its final approval to the agreement, the question that was asked in the Cabinet, and that one would expect to be asked, was, "What about the Unionists?" The architects of the 1985 agreement—the Foreign Office, the present Foreign Secretary and to a very small extent indeed my right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State for Defence—were obviously asked by the Cabinet what the reaction of the Unionists would be. The Foreign Office and the Northern Ireland Office said that, if signed, the agreement would be welcomed in Dublin, the Vatican, Roman Catholic Europe and, above all, the United States.
The question that was then put was, "You've told us how pleased all these people will be, but what will be the reaction of the Unionists?" It was not a bad question. The answer that was given to the Cabinet was, "Paisley will huff and puff, but most Unionists will be well satisfied with the agreement." With that assurance, the Cabinet gave its approval to the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of State is in his place. He answered a debate in April when I reminded him of this truth. However, his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was not in the House that day. I do not rebuke him, but my right hon. Friend the Minister of State knows that the Prime Minister was misled. Five weeks after the agreement was signed, the Prime Minister gave an
interview to the Belfast Telegraph. She was asked about the reaction of the Unionists during those five weeks. In that interview, the Prime Minister said:
The reaction has been much worse than I expected. One is trying to find out why.
Are we not falling into the Irish trap of fighting old battles time and again? We won the argument about the Anglo-Irish Agreement. My hon. Friend knows full well that I voted with him against it. We won the argument, but we lost the vote. There is only one thing that I know today: that three constitutional parties want to make progress. I do not know whether the talks about talks have run into quicksands. I hope not. Until and unless the Secretary of State comes to the House and says that they have run into quicksands, I am willing —indeed, eager—for him to continue his negotiations. Please let us not say things in this House today that will make that less likely. Please let us get on with this debate, which is about direct rule. There is no alternative to it. Let us try to make progress.
I am praising my right hon. Friend, who said something this afternoon that none of his predecessors said. He told the House, in this most important debate, which has been conducted with intense good will on both sides of the House—which I want to continue—that any agreement made with the Government of the Irish Republic must command
widespread support within both sides of the community".
He knows very well, as does every hon. Member, that the Anglo-Irish Agreement does not command widespread support in the Province. I am praising my right hon. Friend for acknowledging the defect in the agreement. Northern Ireland cannot be governed differently from the rest of the kingdom, save with the consent of a majority of the people who will be governed differently. We do not have that consent, or the consent for the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
I have sent my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State an alternative to the agreement. He specifically said that, if a better agreement were to be arrived at, that would prove to be an important step forward. I think that it would.
My right hon. Friend has been engaged for several months in the talks about talks. His conduct has been praised by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) and those participating in the talks. He had hoped to be able to tell the House this afternoon that agreement had been reached and that talks would begin in the autumn. He regrets that he has not been able to secure that agreement. I understand fully his wish, which is declared in the agreement, that we should try to establish a form of assembly in Northern Ireland that would be supported by all the political parties, whose powers and power-sharing arrangements would be agreed. We have tried this before, and we were committed by the agreement to try again.
That policy has the support of the Irish and British Governments. I doubt whether the arrangement that my right hon. Friend envisages—a power-sharing assembly with legislative powers—will provide a stable structure of government for the Province. On the contrary, such an assembly, which by definition would mean that it did not enjoy the confidence of any of the political parties, would be built not on past success but on past failure.
Is there a different and better way forward in Northern Ireland than that proposed by my right hon. Friend? I believe that there is—the policy fashioned by Airey Neave when he was shadow Secretary of State, a post that he held from February 1975 until his assassination on 30 March 1979. The Conservative manifesto of 1979 said that, in the absence of devolved government, we would seek to set up regional councils with widely devolved powers over local councils.
There is not such a gulf between my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and myself. I want administrative devolution; he prefers, apparently, legislative devolution. That is certainly the implication of article 4 of the agreement. There is no permanent resting home between the fact of the Union, to which he referred in his speech, and the claim in articles 2 and 3 of the constitution of the Republic.
The trouble is that the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the idea of an assembly with legislative powers were an attempt to split the difference between the fact of the Union and the claim of the Republic to a place of special privilege in relation to Northern Ireland. Instability will continue, even if we can cobble together a power-sharing executive and assembly.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will reconsider—he has wisely said that he will consider all proposals presented to him in good faith—Airey Neave's proposals, because Airey had studied this for about four years. We should confer modest additional powers on the 26 district councils. That proposal is not anathema to my right hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench. Even the hon. Member for Foyle would be quite happy to see modest additional powers conferred on the 26 district councils.
I am reluctant to interrupt again, but in the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) may I assure the hon. Gentleman that my hon. Friend would take no satisfaction from his proposal. To avoid any misunderstanding, I feel it necessary to inform him of that.
I am grateful to the representative of the Social Democratic and Labour party for saying that it is opposed to modest additional powers being conferred on district councils. I am grateful for that elucidation, but I say that we should confer modest additional powers on them. Further, we should set up a regional council with powers analogous to those enjoyed by county councils in England and by regional councils in Scotland. We could proceed slowly, but administrative and not legislative devolution is required.
We should cease to legislate for Northern Ireland by unamendable Order in Council. The policy that I have outlined could and should guarantee to Roman Catholic and nationalist fair treatment under a just law, which is of the first importance in Northern Ireland.
I wish my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State well in the task that he has set himself, but if the talks are not able to reach agreement I hope that he will reflect again on the policy that was fashioned in 1979, which died with the assassination of Airey Neave.
I apologise to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and to all hon. Members for the fact that I shall have to leave this debate before long.
I place on record the fact that I have not heard or seen reported for the past two or three decades a debate that has carried as much hope as today's debate. It is a privilege to be here at a moment of tremendous hope, although that hope has not yet come to flower, as some of us had hoped it might, but is still in the bud. That hope is carried not only in the words of the Secretary of State—we can all understand his position—but in the important and perhaps almost historic speeches that we have heard from the leaders of all the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland, with the exception of the leader of the Alliance party, who is not in the Chamber. However, he is here in the Gallery, if I am permitted to say so. [HON. MEMBERS: "You are not."] I am reminded that I am not. We have heard many important statements and we all understand why people are covering ground for themselves in the difficult position in Northern Ireland. But we can all take a great deal of hope from the tone of the speeches.
History is important, but it is the curse of Ireland, and timing is often important as well. Once again, this debate comes at a most wretched time. The Secretary of State has been involved in delicate negotiations. It would be fair to say, to coin a phrase of the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), that deadlines should not be part of that process. However, the Secretary of State, for reasons that we all understand, has had a deadline imposed on him by this debate. It would have been impossible for him to come here and not to make a statement about the progress of the talks which we all know have been going on. It is clear to us all that he has had to make that statement before—perhaps only shortly before—he would have liked to. That is a shame.
I join other hon. Members in congratulating the Secretary of State on a remarkable achievement. He has, without doubt, united efforts where most of us thought that it was impossible. He has laid foundations where none of us believed that it was possible to do so and he has created hope in Northern Ireland where many of us expected to see only despair for a long time to come. The House, the people of Northern Ireland and the cause of peace are greatly in his debt. It is right at this time to add my appreciation—and, I suspect, the appreciation of all hon. Members—for the leaders of the constitutional parties who have taken part in the process. All of them have displayed a great courage and have shown that they put the peace of Ireland before their own sectional interests. The fact that we have not been able to bring events to the conclusion that we might have liked now is a cruel blow, but a blow that can be understood.
I wish to change the tone of what has been said so far. We are now left in a dangerous position. We all know that some of what the Secretary of State and others have been trying to achieve has been exposed today. They have been travelling across no man's land and at the moment when the searchlight has come up, they are not quite on safe territory. There will be a delay until the Secretary of State can announce the finishing touches to the process. The delay is deeply dangerous because it may undermine the positions that people have been taking in private, if not necessarily in secret. The fact that the delay may incorporate 12 July makes the matter even more delicate.
I speak as a Northern Irishman myself. The hon. Gentleman will know that the period around 12 July is one of some natural tension in Northern Ireland. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."]
Like the right hon. Gentleman, I am not a Member of the Orange Order, but I hope that I can put him right about the period around 12 July. Traditionally, it is a peaceful period. There was a time a few years ago when people who were ignorant about the meaning of 12 July did their best to build it into a period when there would be a flashpoint and trouble. For a year or two, especially when people felt angry about the advent of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, there was trouble. But that has not happened traditionally and it has not happened in recent years. It behoves all of us, including the right hon. Gentleman, not to suggest that we might expect trouble around 12 July. We in Northern Ireland know that there is such a thing as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point and I concede it to him. We all recognise that there have not been great disturbances around 12 July. When I was a child in Northern Ireland, I was very involved with 12 July. However, it is a period during which what is said rather than what is done may contribute to tension.
The hon. Gentleman and I will have to disagree on that.
It is bound to be the case that those who seek to proceed in Northern Ireland by terrorism and by violence will see the next period as crucial. They believe that by the extended use of terrorism and violence they can undermine the climate that the Secretary of State has been creating so carefully. That is why I want to make three appeals. First, this is a moment at which we must not let acts of violence undermine what is now in prospect. It is essential that we hold with determination to our current positions. There is no doubt that those who wish to wreck peace in Ireland will use this period to attempt to do so.
Secondly, I hope that those who have been courageous in participating in discussions with the Secretary of State will hold their ground. Their courage and determination now will be a considerable ingredient in the success that I hope that the Secretary of State will achieve.
Thirdly, I appeal to those who now delay—and I do not seek to point the finger. Those who are causing a delay in putting the finishing touches to what the Secretary of State wants should realise that delay is profoundly dangerous. If the brave attempts of the Secretary of State and others now fail, the cause of peace in Northern Ireland may be set back considerably—perhaps by as much as a decade. That would be a disaster and a tragedy. Every day's delay, every week's delay and every month's delay put this delicate and precarious position at more risk. I appeal to those who are contributing to the process to ensure that delay is kept to the absolute minimum. As they delay, the chances of success, the chances of peace and lives are greatly put at risk.
This afternoon, the Secretary of State introduced for a further year direct rule in Northern Ireland. He rightly questioned it as a long-term solution to the system of government in Northern Ireland, and Unionist Members share that view. He mentioned that this was a temporary provision. For the past 16 years, Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland have described it as a "temporary provision." The House will recall that income tax was originally introduced as a temporary provision.
Our parties are totally opposed to the present system of direct rule in Northern Ireland and share with the Secretary of State the aspiration that there will soon come a time when we shall have a system of government that is answerable to the people who live in Northern Ireland. We despise and reject the system which, for the past 16 years, has denied the elected representatives of Northern Ireland in this our national Parliament the right to full parliamentary debates on our legislation and the right to table amendments to it. The hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) referred to eastern Europe. It is ironic that the people of eastern Europe should have greater parliamentary rights than the people of Northern Ireland, but those countries' representatives have the right to table amendments to new legislation. As a British Member of Parliament, I can table amendments to English, Scottish and Welsh legislation but not to the legislation of Northern Ireland. That system must be brought to an end.
The Secretary of State referred to the Northern Ireland economy and to security. I join him in expressing great appreciation at the improvement in the economic life of Northern Ireland. In the past 20 years, the terrorists and those who support them have done great damage to our economy. It must be remembered that Roman Catholics as well as Protestants have lost jobs as a result of the IRA terrorist campaign. On security, we join the Secretary of State in placing our full confidence and support in the Royal Ulster Constabulary, in the British Army and in its largest regiment, the Ulster Defence Regiment, for the work that they are doing for the citizens of Northern Ireland—Roman Catholic and Protestant alike.
Roman Catholics and Protestants also share in the great misery caused by the IRA. Several thousand lives have been lost, not all of them Protestant; many Roman Catholics, too, have suffered as a result of the terrorist campaign. Thousands of us, including myself, have been injured during that campaign—both Roman Catholics and Protestants once again. Many Roman Catholics and Protestants have had their businesses destroyed. In considering the economy and the security situation, we must remember that, during the past 20 years, Roman Catholics and Protestants alike have suffered as a result of terrorism.
There has been an air of disappointment about this debate. The Secretary of State said quite openly that he could not go as far as he had hoped to, and his remarks confirmed much of the speculation in the press. It seems that, even until yesterday, he had hoped to be able to go further. There used to be a slogan in Northern Ireland, which the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) will remember well: "Ulster says no." It seems to me that today that slogan has been replaced by another: "Dublin says no." It appears that some form of veto has been exercised at the last minute to stall what many of us had hoped would be political progress in the totality of relationships in these islands.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland took the initiative in January this year, and during the past six or seven months the leaders of the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland and, indeed, the Dublin Government have been in consultation with him. That is what politics is all about—dialogue, participation and an examination of the problems. I think that the Secretary of State will agree that there was a positive response from all the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland, and we pay tribute to the leadership given by the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) and the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), who have jointly presented the Unionist position to the Secretary of State.
There has been some despondency today, but I am not despondent. Unbelievably, in November I will have been a Member of Parliament for 25 years. I have spent 10 years at the European Parliament as well as serving here and —more interestingly—eight years in the Northern Ireland Parliament and time in two Northern Ireland assemblies and at the constitutional convention in Stormont. All those various institutions created by different political initiatives have collapsed one by one, for reasons that we need not go into this evening. But with all my experience, I am not despondent.
I may be disappointed, but I say to the Secretary of State, "Carry on," because many of us in both sections of the community in Northern Ireland admire the leadership that he has given to the people of Northern Ireland in 1990. We want him to carry on the work that he has been doing and we will respond positively, as has been evident from the contributions made by the two Unionist leaders in recent months.
The first and most important question that needs to be addressed is Northern Ireland's position within the United Kingdom, and we warmly welcome the confirmation by the Secretary of State today of the Government's position on Northern Ireland. Our rights here in the national Parliament must also be addressed quickly.
We agree that there should be some devolution of power back to the people of Northern Ireland, although the exact form of that devolution has yet to be considered. It is tremendously important that Catholics and Protestants, Unionists and Nationalists should become involved in the administration of the state, so that they gain trust and confidence in each other and so that younger politicians become involved in the political life of Northern Ireland. We hold out the hand of friendship to the Nationalist minority—which will remain a minority for some time if the birth statistics given by the hon. Member for Antrim, North are anything to go by—and offer its members a shared responsibility in the administration of the state.
Then there is the question of the relationship with Dublin—a major problem. Dublin may today have exercised the veto given to it by a Conservative Government whose representatives flew in by helicopter unbeknown to the Ulster people, signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement and flew out again before we heard on the 1 o'clock news that they had for the first time given a say to a foreign Government in the internal affairs of part of the United Kingdom. That decision was taken without reference to the two pillars of democracy, consultation and consent. There was no consultation with the people of Northern Ireland and no consent was sought. The Anglo-Irish Agreement was imposed upon us. As the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) implied, it was thought that, in time, the Ulster people's opposition would be worn down, but that has not happened.
There is now greater realism in London and Dublin, both of which realise that the opposition of the people of Northern Ireland to the Anglo-Irish Agreement is much stronger now, in 1990, than it was four and a half years ago and that the agreement has become the major obstacle to political progress in the Province. That obstacle must be removed. London and Dublin recognise that today—unfortunately, four and a half years too late. We in Ulster —Roman Catholics and Protestants alike—have had to suffer the results of the stalemate during that period.
We must address the relationship of Dublin to Northern Ireland. The hon. Member for Foyle said that history had implications for the internal affairs of Northern Ireland. He referred to the role of Ireland and of the United Kingdom in Europe. For 10 years, he and I served together in Strasbourg in the European Parliament and very often we co-operated in the interests of Northern Ireland. However, he missed one point in trying to draw a comparison between the situation in Ireland and that in France, Germany and elsewhere in Europe. Barriers are disappearing in Europe and borders are becoming more free. France and Germany are co-operating. However, they all recognise each other. France does not claim jurisdiction over part of Germany. It recognises Germany. Recognition is the main problem in the island of Ireland today as we look forward to co-operation.
Of course, in the European context today there are more reasons for co-operation between Belfast and Dublin than at any time since the Republic of Ireland left the United Kingdom in 1921. We have common policies now in fisheries, agriculture, the environment and in many other aspects of public life. It would be good for all the people in the island of Ireland if we could have some means of co-operating together on some of those issues. There is an openness on the Unionist side if the obstacles to co-operation can be removed.
The obstacles must be spelt out from the Unionist Benches. I disagree with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland that the constitutional claim by the Republic over Northern Ireland could more or less be forgotten or ignored. That is not so. As the recent judgment confirmed, in any negotiations with Northern Ireland, the Republic is under a constitutional imperative to use co-operation with Northern Ireland to try to gain a united Ireland. So long as the Republic does not come to us as a partner who respects us, I am afraid that we cannot have real co-operation within the island.
As Unionists, we are anxious to bring about more co-operation within our island. However, first of all Dublin must reconsider articles 2 and 3 of its constitution. They must be amended by a referendum within the Republic of Ireland. If we see that kind of progress, we can certainly get real co-operation within the island of Ireland between the people of Northern Ireland and the people of the Republic. That would be good for the totality of relationships within the whole of the British Isles.
I look forward to the day when we will have a settlement in Northern Ireland which involves both sections of the community and the Administration; which will bring about co-operation between Belfast and Dublin; which will guarantee Northern Ireland's position within the United Kingdom; and which will bring to an end the perennial squabbling between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland on the issue of Northern Ireland.
Should progress not be made—we remain hopeful that it will be made—should Dublin continue to say no, there must come a time, sooner rather than later, when the order that we are renewing tonight will cease to be the law of this land. We must move quickly to a situation in which the people of Northern Ireland, irrespective of those who are now saying no, are given their full rights in this our national Parliament.
As I listened to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, I could not help but feel that I was listening to and watching someone who was sad because his expectation for today could not and would not be realised—or at least realised within the time scale that he had set himself. From various meetings with the Secretary of State since he first came to Northern Ireland, I have found him to have attributes which, dare I say it, some of his predecessors did not possess. He has the ability to listen and then to respond to the points that one has made instead of trying to lead one down an alley or divert one's attention to a different issue. This evening, the Secretary of State has, despite the setback, endeavoured not to lead us down a different alley or on to a different issue.
The Secretary of State spelt out clearly that the impediment to progress that we had all expected derives from the attitude of the Government in Dublin. If the Secretary of State has not been too harsh in dealing with that Government's attitude, perhaps that is because he recognises, as we all do, that a Government sitting in the Dail have an imperative enshrined within articles 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution to do nothing—I use the term in the constitution—before it achieves the
reintegration of the national territory.
However, we all know that the island of Ireland has never been a single political entity except under the Administration based in Westminster. For the past 70 years the people of Northern Ireland have had a political identity. We cannot sweep away 70 years of history.
The hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) referred to the changes in eastern Europe. If we look at the map of Europe, it is clear that many countries honoured today achieved their boundaries after the establishment of Northern Ireland as a political entity in the early 1920s.
The Secretary of State made one mistake this evening. He said:
Although the constitutional question has often seemed central to matters in Northern Ireland, I turn to it now in the hope of putting it to one side. We regard the position as clear.
Irrespective of how the Secretary of State meant it—I think that I know what he meant when he said
We regard the position as clear"—
the first part of his statement will be misunderstood. In the Irish Republic it will be interpreted as meaning: "Quite
honestly, if nobody raises the matter, if nobody concentrates our minds on the issue or draws articles 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution to our attention, we here in the House of Commons do not particularly care about it." I want the Secretary of State or whoever replies on his behalf to emphasise that the second part of his statement is more important than the first. That will reassure us greatly in Northern Ireland. At this moment of some disappointment, we need that reassurance.
Will the Secretary of State reconsider the implications of the McGimpsey court case? It has become increasingly clear, not just in respect of what has happened regarding the proposals that the right hon. Gentleman had hoped to bring here today, but since 1 March, that when the McGimpseys went to the Supreme Court they managed unequivocally to bring out what the present Taoiseach said he has always recognised—that there is a constitutional imperative to unite the island of Ireland, and that the territorial claim is a real legal claim in Irish terms, not merely a political aspiration.
The extradition cases brought in the past few months have proved that there is a serious restriction on any Irish Government—whether a Fianna Fáil Government, or one made up of an amalgam of parties or of any other single party—as they are not permitted by their constitution to enter into any agreement that may respect the position of Northern Ireland or of Unionists in Northern Ireland. I challenge the Secretary of State to consider that issue, and to decide—if I am right, and if the courts have proved me right—whether it is the responsibility of the Government not merely to assert that they and the House do not recognise the Irish Republic's territorial claim, or to assert that that territorial claim is not recognised internationally, but to go a step further and take the issue to the international courts. The Government have taken other issues involving the Irish Republic to the international courts—successfully, in one or two recent cases—to have them resolved.
If the Government shirk their responsibility in this respect, some of us are prepared to take the case to be judged in the European Court. In the light of the strong statement that the Secretary of State made this evening, it is the Government's responsibility to take the issue to an international court, and to have his opinion and that of the House endorsed once and for all.
If hon. Members are serious about trying to bring peace, stability, understanding and co-operation to Northern Ireland—all Unionist Members are committed to that—we must establish the basis upon which we can do so. That basis does not exist now, as there is a fundamental difference of opinion between the British Government and the Government of the Irish Republic about the status of Northern Ireland.
I remind the House of the exact degree of scepticism voiced by the advocate of the Irish Government during the McGimpsey court case when he talked about article 1 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement and the status of Northern Ireland. He referred to the McGimpseys' counsel thus:
Now, Mr. O'Flaherty referred to Article 1, my Lord, headed 'The Status of Northern Ireland'. When one reads that Article, one looks at the status of Northern Ireland, it is not defined at all. It is carefully not defined, my Lord, carefully not defined.
I have quoted those words in the House before, and I make no apology for doing so again. As long as we try to build progress on a lie or on a deceit we are bound to fail. I ask the Secretary of State to seek the truth, and let us build upon that.
I join in the general approval that has been given to the activities of the Secretary of State, and I hope that that will not cause him any problems. I cannot think of a more difficult job, and I was immediately impressed, early in his tenure of office, when he gave the press a review of his first 100 days in office. Not everyone shares my enthusiasm for that interview, but it was refreshingly honest after the best part of two decades of deceit, humbug and a lot of false promise and hope. If the House is realistic, it will realise that the right hon. Gentleman was merely relaying to the public information from Army intelligence sources and military strategists about the real balance of forces and potentials in the north of Ireland.
Equally, I hope that no one will be particularly surprised if I say that I hope that something will grow out of this initiative. It would be wonderful if it did. I agree with other hon. Members that there have been a lot of initiatives, about which much was said at the time, but over the two decades they have all run into the ground.
I would not want to do or say anything to damage the initiative if it can bring together the communities in the north of Ireland, provide a lasting solution to the problems that beset the island of Ireland and lead to the establishment of normal relationships within the two communities and between Ireland as a whole and mainland Britain.
The House knows that I should like to see a united Ireland. I suspect that, if it were united, people would, within a very short time, look back on these events with amazement. The horrors of the past few hundred years, and especially of the past 20 years, would rapidly recede into history.
I do not apologise for returning to a subject that I have raised before and I am not trying to undermine the Secretary of State's work, but for Britain to carry the enthusiasm of both communities in the north of Ireland they must be certain that there is a degree of justice and openness about what Britain does in Ireland. Those of us who have pursued the issue of some of the abuses that have taken place in the north of Ireland in recent years will help to create a lasting and peaceful solution. While abuses remain covered up there will be continuing suspicion and reluctance to trust that the British Government are genuinely even handed.
I shall again dwell on the events surrounding the Kincora boys home. We have been told again and again that that matter has been investigated and closed. We have been told again and again when we have raised the issue of what happened in Kincora that if hon. Members have any evidence they should submit it to the appropriate authorities and it will be fully investigated. Yet, with every month that passes, more and more damning information comes to light, showing that those who have genuinely tried to investigate what happened in Kincora—the RUC —have been blocked in their investigations.
I want to draw particular attention to what I thought was an excellent programme on BBC television on 2 June —"Public Eye"—which once again brought major new evidence to light by identifying a senior intelligence source who was able to point out that he had notified MI5 at the most senior level of the events in the Kincora boys home.
I shall recount the events at Kincora for the benefit of any right hon. or hon. Member who has not followed the story. Certainly anyone who has had to rely on the British press for that information will be very uninformed. Three men who were subsequently sentenced for their acts at Kincora—Joe Mains, Raymond Sempel and William McGrath—presided over the Kincora boys home for the best part of two decades and had a record of systematic, year-by-year child abuse of the most violent kind. They were guilty of acts that are deeply shocking. It is impossible to read the testaments of the boys concerned without being shaken—they are horrifying. That abuse continued for perhaps even longer than two decades.
It is worrying that disquiet at that state of affairs was expressed first not by someone on the left or even in the Labour party. When those three evil men were finally sentenced to prison for their long campaign of child abuse, the then Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, Sir Robert Lowry, said—
Perhaps I may interrupt my hon. Friend to make this observation. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is usually the most courteous of men, but I note that he is leaving the Chamber. It may well be that he has urgent business elsewhere, but some of us are of the opinion—and the Parliamentary Private Secretary, the hon. Member for Lancashire, West (Mr. Hind), may laugh—that the issue that my hon. Friend raises will not go away. It will be raised again and again because it is a disgrace to the British state.
I agree with my hon. Friend. It is a pity that we do not have a further response from the Government to the points that have been raised. I also agree with my hon. Friend that the issue will not go away and that we will continue to raise it. There are other guilty men who should be in prison for what they did, or for what they did not do, but who remain free.
Sir Robert Lowry said when sentencing Mains, Sempel and McGrath:
It is not my custom, nor is it wise, to allocate blame to people who are not before the court. But many people will be surprised to learn that such a state of affairs as prevailed in this boys home was able to go on for so many years.
Ten years have elapsed, and there have been six inquiries, but still no satisfactory answer has been produced to Sir Robert's point.
It is a matter of widespread public concern in Northern Ireland in particular that, although the authorities knew since at least the early 1970s what was happening at Kincora, there was no intervention. The suffering and abuse inflicted on those boys continued. The word "abuse" cannot fully describe what was done. There were two decades of systematic, continuous, violent anal rape of the most appalling kind. I commend right hon. and hon. Members to read the boys' accounts. Many of them have grown into men whose lives can never be put back together. They live with the consequences of the treatment that they suffered. If there is any evidence that the state knew what was happening as early as 1974 but decided to take no action, that is a crime as grave as that of the sodomisers themselves.
I often find that people tend to hurry off when I am talking. It is a continuing problem that I have. It may be that people do not like to hear what I have to say.
This year, there has been a series of dramatic developments, and I refer not just to the findings of the investigation by "Public Eye". Earlier this year, after years of our hearing Colin Wallace being dismissed as a crank, a Walter Mitty figure, and someone who was to be ridiculed, the Secretary of State for Defence came to the House and admitted that there was evidence to support Colin Wallace's allegations. Although most press attention focused on Clockwork Orange and on whether there had been a campaign to destabilise the Labour Government in 1974, that was not the biggest crime. The vital point is that Colin Wallace was aware of events at Kincora and made his senior officers aware of them. He also drafted press briefing material that drew attention to the role of McGrath, who was running a paramilitary organisation called TARA. That material was forensically tested to provide evidence for Paul Foot's book, and it was proved that those documents were written at the time claimed by Colin Wallace and not after the event. The documents made it clear beyond doubt that senior Army intelligence officers and MI5 knew as early as 1974, and certainly by 1975, that systematic child abuse was occurring at Kincora—which was allowed to continue until 1980, until exposed not by the authorities but by the press.
We have a right to say that if the Government had devoted one tenth of the effort directed at denigrating Colin Wallace to investigating with an open mind the events at Kincora, the problem might by now be resolved, and all the guilty brought to justice.
We know that there is to be an investigation by Mr. Calcutt, but I regret that the Government have not made its terms wide enough to allow Mr. Calcutt to investigate Kincora. In the past, the terms of reference of those charged with investigating Kincora were so narrowly drawn that it was virtually impossible for them to investigate the claims that Army intelligence and MI5 knew what was happening. That has fed the strong suspicion that there was a reason for MI5 allowing that child abuse to continue. That is the most disturbing allegation that can be made.
If my hon. Friend will allow me to intervene once more while the Secretary of State is present, I emphasise the sheer anger that is felt by some of us. On 10 June, Colin Wallace wrote to the Prime Minister, mentioning certain persons by name:
I enclose with this letter a selection of pages from a document which was typed during the period for the Information Policy unit by Mr. C. T. T. Whitehead, until recently Deputy Chief Press Officer at the MOD and currently with the Home Office".
At least a fortnight later, Mr. Whitehead had not been contacted and knew nothing of the matter. No one had bothered to do anything about Mr. Wallace's letter. There
was a complete reluctance on the part of some individuals to get up off their backsides and find out more. That is why we are so angry.
I share my hon. Friend's anger. This issue should stand apart and not be subject to the usual restrictions on the length of time available for the Secretary of State to reply. It is not unusual when one writes to a Minister about detailed points of concern relating to Kincora that six months elapse before one receives a full reply. Instead, one is sent holding reply after holding reply. That suggests that someone is deeply worried.
The television programme "Public Eye" on 2 June brought new information to the attention of the public. It definitely identified that by 1975 the state knew about the abuse of young boys at Kincora. Roy Garland, who had been number two in the paramilitary organisation TARA, as effectively its deputy commanding officer, approached the police. He had been frustrated by not being able to get some movement by the RUC on the allegations that he had heard, so he conveyed his concern to two intelligence officers based at Army headquarters in Lisburn. A meeting was arranged by one of Roy Garland's Christian contacts who had introduced him to an Army intelligence officer. Interviewed on "Public Eye", Garland said:
I must say I had the impression they knew a lot already —that like most of these situations, there was nothing terribly radically new that I had to tell them. One of these officers appeared to be really concerned about the situation. Now, when I say concerned, he seemed concerned about McGrath's job and the political involvements as well, and he seemed really and genuinely concerned about it. He said he was a Christian, an evangelical Christian like myself.
Roy Garland never knew what had happened to the information that he gave the two Army intelligence officers, and assumed that nothing further had been done. We owe a debt of gratitude to the "Public Eye" programme, which managed to find out what did happen to that information. Thanks to Roy Garland—not someone with whom I agree politically—by 1975 both the Royal Ulster Constabulary and Army intelligence knew that systematic child abuse was going on; yet for a further five years lives were destroyed and devastated because of the abuse of young boys.
We need to know what happened to Roy Garland's information. The "Public Eye" programme managed to find the senior of the two Army intelligence officers who met Roy Garland. He was given the alias "James" in the programme; for obvious reasons he does not wish to be named or identified, as certain people might want to take action against him, and I have no intention of naming him today. The officer was prepared to appear on television and to make very disturbing allegations. He claimed that the information that he had obtained from Roy Garland had been passed on to MI5. "James" continued to work in Northern Ireland for another year or two on various military intelligence operations, but was blocked from doing anything about the information from Roy Garland concerning child abuse.
The senior officer's job was targeting loyalist organisations to gather intelligence. Many people in Army intelligence at that time thought that there was a danger of UDI in Northern Ireland, and of some sort of coup d'etat. While the public believed that the main target was the IRA, a vast amount of Army intelligence work was devoted to the activities of some people who have managed to get themselves elected to the House of Commons. In retrospect, it will probably be found that Army intelligence got a bit excited and carried away; I do not think that there was ever any realistic prospect of an independent Northern Ireland state, but often Army intelligence does get carried away, to say nothing of what happens in MI5.
Watching the programme, we waited with bated breath to see what happened to Roy Garland's information. It was clear that he had filed his report, which went to a senior MI5 officer—who had been identified by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) as Ian Cameron. In a letter to my hon. Friend on 26 June, Colin Wallace identified the officer concerned—
I have the letter here. It says:
"For example, the BBC 'Public Eye' programme demonstrated very clearly that:
The MI5 officer who received the information indirectly was Ian Cameron. The Army intelligence officer wrote a report of his meeting with Garland, and sent it to his Army superiors as a matter of routine. He said that it was then passed to MI5—which shared the same building at Army headquarters—and that he was summoned to see the senior MI5 officer. On the "Public Eye" programme, he said of that meeting:
I can't honestly say that I was expecting three gold stars but I went up feeling pretty positive, expecting a normal meeting. Instead I got blown out of his office. He's rude to me, he tells me that the kind of information that I have submitted is not proper intelligence, that we have nothing—we, as intelligence officers, don't dabble in homosexual affairs, that these moral matters are nothing to do with us. He vilifies my report, he tells me to cut off the contact. I can remember him saying to me words to the effect 'get rid of him, break the contact, just get rid'. I'm surprised because we had had a pretty good relationship going up until then. He blows me out of the office.
That, surely, is a remarkable position for one of the most senior MI5 officers on operational duty in the north of Ireland: having been told of systematic child abuse by a leading militant Protestant paramilitary, MI5 decided to do nothing about it.
We were told in the programme about other information made public by "James", the unidentified Army intelligence officer. We were told that he was involved in discussions about trying to blackmail another Unionist paramilitary leader, of suggestions that MI5 had film of that Unionist leader involved in homosexual activity, and of how that information was to be used to make him more amenable. It seems likely that, when MI5 arrived in the north of Ireland as the troubles blew up at the end of the 1960s and found—as we now know from all the published accounts of intelligence sources there—that there was virtually no effective intelligence-gathering network, it would have found a nest of vipers burrowed away inside Kincora, and tremendous opportunities. One could either expose that abuse and stop it, or use it to entrap people that one wished to control—people who were perceived as a threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom. I think that that is what happened—that MI5 was aware of what was going on at Kincora, but considered it more important to continue to gather intelligence that could be used to blackmail those Unionist politicians who were not part of the establishment network.
I have not the slightest doubt that the prime target of much of that activity was the Democratic Unionist party. All kinds of rumours began to float around. The leader of the DUP—the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley)—has raised in the House other attempts to smear leading members of his party, involving forged bank accounts and a network of rumour and suspicion. Senior officers in MI5 made a calculated decision that it was better, on balance, to allow the child abuse to continue, because the intelligece being gathered gave them a hold over some of the more eccentric figures inside the Unionist paramilitary organisations.
I agree with my hon. Friend. The vast amount of time that I have put into this matter has led me to the conclusion that the British state sought to destroy the hon. Member for Antrim North, but has been unable to do so. He was the prime target, not the IRA or the Irish National Liberation Army. For all our disagreements, he is a democratic politician who puts his views to the ballot box. Elements within the British security services decided to destroy him and his party by any means possible. Kincora was part of that. After three years of examining the matter, I have not found a shred of evidence to link that party with the events at Kincora, although I have had many interesting titbits dropped in my direction to try to lead me to make such a suggestion in a public speech.
In the past 10 years there have been six inquiries into Kincora, and a vast amount of work has been done. However, all the public disquiet remains.
In 1980, the first of the three RUC inquiries led to the conviction of McGrath, Mains and Sempel. A month after those convictions—December 1981—the then Northern Ireland Secretary, James Prior, announced the establishment of a committee of inquiry to be headed by Stephen McGonagle, the former ombudsman for Northern Ireland. It sat for one day, three members resigned, and that was the end of that. McGonagle, who was interviewed on the "Public Eye" programme, made it quite clear that he thought that all the inquiries that had been conducted so far were unsatisfactory and had not indentified what had been going on, and that there needed to be a full, frank and open inquiry.
Two new investigations were set up after that. One involving possible criminal matters was headed by the chief constable of Sussex, Sir George Terry. Sir George was asked to oversee a new RUC inquiry into allegations that Kincora was part of a homosexual vice ring involving civil servants and other prominent figures. That was conducted by the same RUC team under Superintendent George Caskey, who had brought McGrath and the others to justice. Sir George completed his report in October 1983. The following year, the public inquiry got under way with a retired English judge, William Hughes, as its chairman.
Whenever I have raised the matter in the House, I have been told again and again by leading members of the Government that it has been investigated by Hughes. The first page of the Hughes inquiry report states that under its terms of reference it was not investigating anything to do with the intelligence services or public figures. That is right at the beginning of the report—we do not need to read the rest of it. I ploughed through it—it is not the lightest or most entertaining reading. It is quite a horrifying story. It is nonsense to suggest that that is the answer to the allegations that many hon. Members have raised.
The RUC team, led by Superintendent George Caskey, under the supervision of George Terry, tried to probe the activities of the Security Service, however. That came to light in the "Public Eye" programme; most hon. Members had not been aware of it before. The programme makers tried to put key questions to the senior officer in MI5 but they were denied access to him by the Ministry of Defence. There we have the RUC charged with investigating this matter and being blocked, not by some criminal or by some sleazy character in the shadows, but by the Government—barred from interviewing the MIS officer about why he had not acted on the information that was passed to him by Roy Garland. It is absolute nonsense.
It will be obvious by now that my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow and I are not defending people with whom we find ourselves broadly in political agreement. None of the people whom I have been defending so far would throw a vote my way this side of hell, but they were right. They were sought to be targeted and destroyed by the British state. Few people have been more critical than I of abuses by the RUC, but it is not the fault of the RUC that this matter has not been brought to a conclusion. It tried but it was blocked by the Ministry of Defence, which denied it access to the MI5 officer who refused to take action on the information that was passed to him from Roy Garland via the Army intelligence officer.
Roy Garland told the RUC team about his meetings with the Army intelligence officer who was given the name James in the programme. The RUC then spoke to that Army intelligence officer, and he gave his account of the way in which he had been treated by the senior MI5 officer who refused to take action. It was obvious that the RUC would need to interview that MI5 officer.
Its attempt to gain access to MI5 began at Stormont, at a meeting with a deputy secretary at the Northern Ireland Office, who had recently been attached to the Ministry of Defence. Arrangements were made for detectives from the RUC team to visit Ministry of Defence offices in London. Over two months, several meetings took place between the RUC and an official representing the Ministry of Defence, but, despite repeated requests, the MI5 officer was never made available for interview. No explanation was ever given. Further approaches were made through the Northern Ireland Office and, eventually, a compromise was reached. The RUC would submit a series of questions in writing. The list of questions included why no action was taken to investigate the allegations Army intelligence had passed on, why the Army intelligence officer concerned was told to drop Kincora, why he was told to set up contact with the source, and whether MI5 knew what was going on in the home and, if MI5 did know, whether it was prepared to let it continue for another purpose. No answers to those questions were ever received.
We are not talking about a bunch of criminals using a slick, expensive barrister to avoid justice; we are talking about the British Government, some of the most senior officers answerable to the British Government, and this Government—not a previous Government—blocking the RUC's attempt to bring the guilty to justice.
The avenue of inquiry came to a halt, not surprisingly, when the Director of Public Prosecutions directed that there would be no further criminal prosecutions with regard to Kincora. As far as the RUC was concerned, the case had been closed—over its objections at the squashing of its investigation. The RUC investigation was completed without the evidence of the senior MI5 figures and, as late as 1982, the Security Service had managed to obstruct a top-level police investigation overseen by a senior English chief constable. I find that breathtaking. This really is the time to hear members of the Government explain why the Government took that action. Would there have been a threat to the security of the British state if the matter had come out into the open? That would be so only if something absolutely horrendous was being done.
I am prepared to give way if any hon. Member wants to volunteer some information on why this Government stopped their own loyal officers in the RUC investigating the Government's own Security Service's involvement in the matter. I notice that no Conservative Member is rushing to intervene to enlighten me or the House on what has been going on.
When Sir George Terry completed his report, he made one conclusion, which he worded carefully. He thanked the military authorities with fulsome praise and said:
the military sources have been very frank with me and perfectly open during the ongoing inquiry under Detective Superintendent Caskey.
That clearly does not include MI5. There is no reference to the co-operation of the intelligence services.
Frankly, I do not think that the Government can continue to stonewall any longer. I have raised this matter in the House for three years. Members of other parties have been doing so for over a decade. There has been waffle and bluster. Clearly, one does not blame the present Secretary of State, who has inherited an explosive mess. It is not his fault. Most of those who are responsible for the decisions have long since retired, but that does not mean that they should be able to retire with honour.
There has been bluster, but there has also been abuse. I happen to think that the present Ministers are courteous and helpful. However, I remember that awful night—I have never been angrier in the Chamber —when my hon. Friend and I were given by a Minister a load of abuse such as I have not had in 27 years. It was from the then junior Minister at the Home Office, the right hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Mr. Patten). I thought that he was a disgrace to that university town that night. The right hon. Gentleman has never apologised or withdrawn his remarks. He said things that were subsequently proved wrong by a Government statement; if they were not wrong, the Calcutt inquiry would not have been set up.
I thank my hon. Friend for reminding me of some of the unkind things that have been said. As someone who has spent 20 years in the London Labour party, it did not seem too bad to me at the time—I have heard worse.
We are not talking here about great national secrets, we are talking about covering up a matter concerning a moral issue of the gravest importance: the abuse of young men and officials knowing about it and officialdom apparently, for some reason, doing nothing. That's something that not only shocks and horrifies me, that's something that will shock and horrify in every part of our society and I believe that this issue … has to be brought out into the open and we have to say these three most difficult words in the English language: 'we were wrong'—either because it was bungled or because there is some more sinister, conspiratorial reason for covering it up. And I don't know what the reason is but I do know that it was covered up because I put the information in and nobody did anything about it.
Surely someone on the Government Benches can explain what went on to justify that decision not to take action when MI5 was told about the child abuse, and to allow it to continue for another five years. I do not believe that that was a mistake. I do not believe that someone simply filed it away. The abusive way in which the Army intelligence officer was treated by the senior MI5 officer makes it clear that it was not a mistake; it was an MI5 operation which it did not want blown and wound up.
I do not blame Conservative Members for this, because it all happened years ago, but the cover-up must stop because the people who decided to take no action are guilty of the most appalling crime. They are complicit in the destruction of the lives of young boys, many of whom will never by able to recover or lead normal lives. The sums that are now being handed out in the courts as compensation are irrelevant to the damage that those young men suffered. Elements in MI5 decided to allow what was happening to continue because they felt that it was in the national interest to be able to blackmail Unionist politicians who were involved in the abuse.
I could have made a speech about who might or might not be involved in the abuse. Any hon. Member who travels to Ireland and picks up a copy of a magazine such as Now will read a list of names of the great and the good. I am not prepared to repeat those names in the House because I am not certain that the lists are accurate. We know that several people were involved, but only three men have gone to prison for the continual violent anal rape of young boys at Kincora. I believe that many more leading figures were involved. We know—I wrote about this outside the House last year—that four people who were suspected of abusing those boys died in mysterious circumstances while the RUC was investigating them. Even in terms of the violence that exists in Northern Ireland, it is a remarkable coincidence that people were killed between one interview with the RUC and another.
I believe that something absolutely rotten at the heart of the British intelligence services is festering away. As long as I am a Member of the House—or even outside it —I shall continue to keep on about this, because the people who took the decision to allow that abuse to continue are guilty of an appalling crime and they should be exposed for it—not just the three scapegoats. They sought not only to destroy the lives of those boys, but to use what was going on to try to destroy the reputations of Members of this House and of legitimate political organisations. I do not agree with those organisations but they have every right to exist and function in a democratic society. There is no justification for those people continuing to be employed by the British Government in any form whatsoever. It is time that they were exposed.
It is time that the Government stopped waffling and admitted what went on, punished the guilty people and made damn certain that we make changes in the way in which our intelligence services operate so that something like this can never happen again.
I follow the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone), not wishing to travel down the road that he has detailed, but certainly expressing some concern about it. My greatest concern is why the present Administration seem to be continuing to cover up the past. One could perhaps have understood the cover-up if they were responsible but, as they were not, I find it very difficult to understand. I recognise that one difficulty with popular journalism is that there are many false trails and that people were smeared by innuendo and suggestion. The sooner it is cleared up, the better for all.
The right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) did not give us one of the finest commando raids when he concluded his speech with some absolutely irrelevant statements and departed, although he apologised for doing so. I believe that it is still one of the conventions of the House that an hon. Member remains in the Chamber until the hon. Member who succeeds him on the Floor concludes his or her speech, and does not simply leave. We all have pressures upon us, and it seems wrong that an hon. Member should pull rank to catch Mr. Deputy Speaker's eye and then depart, leaving the rest of us to carry on the business.
I categorically refute the right hon. Gentleman's innuendoes about the institution of which, for 18 years, I have been privileged to be the Grand Master in Ireland and, for 10 of those years, in the world at large. The right hon. Gentleman alluded to the speeches on 12 July. I should like him to provide the evidence. For someone who grew up in the sheltered area of Comber in North Down, the right hon. Gentleman does not seem to know much about the community and the bonds that have bound people over the years, whether they were Orange or Green. It is fascinating that, on the 300th anniversary of the battle of the Boyne, there are still those who differentiate between the Orange and the Green. It shows their bad understanding of history. The Williamite forces wore green to distinguish themselves at the Boyne. Thereafter, they stood for the principles of civil and religious liberty.
That is one reason why I am speaking in this debate. Although Ministers may not be happy to acknowledge it, I happen to believe that in Northern Ireland today we are suffering from as much arbitrary power and tyranny as James I sought to impose upon this nation and upon Ireland at that time.
We in this land have the privilege of parliamentary constitutional government. As it comprises human beings —male and female—it is not necessarily perfect, but until we get a better system, it is the one that I favour.
I stand here with a sense of regret in two respects. Perhaps events have proved me right and we have not had the detailed statement that some people thought we would have—the press certainly speculated that that was what we would have today. You will remember, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and colleagues who have read Hansard will know, that at business questions last Thursday I urged that a detailed statement should not be made and that, because of the sensitivity of the discussions, it would be better if a document were circulated among the party leaders concerned so that there might be a considered response.
I am happy that the response in this debate has, to a large extent, been balanced and sober. My fears of last week have not been realised, but there is a road block. As I understand the vibrations and the drums that beat throughout the land, it appears that the breach came from Dublin. When I heard about it, I was reminded of something that happened some years ago in Dublin when the then Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Ryan, said to me, " I have always said to the Government here that if they were serious about Irish unity, they would build a better road towards Belfast". It appears that today they have joined the IRA in putting a road block between Dublin and Belfast. That is their responsibility, and history will judge them on it. I hope that the Secretary of State, who has gone down that road of negotiation, and paid tribute to those who have been engaged on it, will continue to move down that road.
I should like to put the record straight. It seems to me that, because we in Ulster have clearly said no to the Anglo-Irish diktat, some people say that we are absolutely negative. Since 1987 and the general election, the leaders of the Unionist people have been in regular touch with the Secretary of State. Indeed, the previous Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Bridgewater (Mr. King). who is currently Secretary of State for Defence, received a document, but it was obvious either that somebody in the Northern Ireland Office was unable to read or that the Northern Ireland Office has developed the secrecy of MI5 or MI6. It was suggested at one stage that it did not have the document. There was much good-humoured discussion about whether we should have literacy classes to help them to read it. If it had been written in my handwriting, I could have understood the difficulty, but that could not have been the problem because the document came from others.
Subsequently, the current Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has had conversations and discussions with the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) and the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), seeking to be positive and to restore a form of democratic rule to Northern Ireland, as part of the United Kingdom, but holding out the hand of friendship, which we have done more than once to those who seceded from us.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) is missing. I understand why he had to leave and I knew that he was leaving. He treated us to the concept of Europe. We are prepared to play our part in Europe. Some of us are not terribly keen on certain movements that are taking place in Europe, but we have sought to play our part in various ways. However, our neighbours have not been prepared to play in the spirit of neighbourliness. As a result they have again put road blocks on the intermixing of people from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
We are told that one of the poorest areas of Northern Ireland is Newry, and the House has been berated regularly for not putting industry and so on into Newry. However, when people from Dundalk, Drogheda and even Dublin travelled across to Newry to shop we were told that it drained the Exchequer of the Republic. Against European regulations the Republic pulled down the shutters. Even when the courts in Europe said that it was wrong, it continued to filibuster in an attempt to look after its self-interest. That is fair enough, if it is open about it But when we look after our self-interest we are told that we are bad boys and we should not do it.
In 1921 in the island of Ireland, in keeping with the pattern that was prevalent at the time, the people were given a choice. The people of Northern Ireland said that they wanted to remain within the United Kingdom, but the people of the Republic said that they wanted to leave. A council of Ireland was set up. The Unionists of Northern Ireland appointed delegates, but the people of the Republic of Ireland refused to appoint delegates. Ever since, we have been maligned for various reasons.
I appreciate why the hon. Member for Brent, North—
Yes. Brent, North is across the way. I appreciate why the hon. Gentleman paid tribute to the RUC. Even in the worst days of 1969, with less than its establishment of staff because it had played fair by the laws of the land and reserved places for members of the Catholic community, the RUC acted impartially. Whoever broke the law was on the receiving end of the RUC's actions. The RUC sought to investigate the case to which the hon. Member for Brent, East drew our attention. They exercised their rights within the law in other cases. As the RUC is made up of human beings, I do not doubt that some of its members acted amiss. When we achieve a perfect society we shall have joined the Prime Minister in her expectation of twanging the harp. I do not expect to achieve a perfect society this side of eternity but, with the imperfect circumstances that pertain, we must consider other matters.
I am glad that it has been clearly demonstrated that obstructions were not created by Ulster Unionist leaders. Suggestions have been made in the media that my right hon. Friend the Member for Lagan Valley has constantly changed the goalposts. Our election manifesto and every statement that we have made show that we have not changed an iota of our pattern of policy. We sought to negotiate. The London and Dublin Governments said that there could be no change to the agreement. We sought to persuade them to change it. They said that to do so it would be necessary to suspend the workings of the Anglo-Irish Conference. There are those in Northern Ireland who say, "Hang the whole bunch; we should not have them near the place." The reasonable request of Ulster Unionist leaders was that the working of the conference be suspended. It would have been an absolute abomination—Ministers will confirm this—to have men and women sitting round a table discussing the future of Northern Ireland when the helicopter was coming in or, what is even worse, when they left the conference a well-known journalist would stick his microphone in their faces to find out what their reaction was to Mr. Collins's or Mr. Haughey's visit to Northern Ireland. It would be nonsensical and the atmosphere would be wrong. We have maintained that position.
The House has been lectured for 10 years on the market economy and value for money. Ulster Scots would say that if the job of the secretariat was to staff the working of the conference and the conference did not work, the secretariat should be dismissed because it did not give value for money. Those are the three things for which we have asked and we have not changed those requests. We have not changed the goalposts.
Northern Ireland has had 16 years of direct rule. As a Unionist, I would not mind if it were direct rule. People say that it is a second-best solution. None of us wants second best; I want the best. There is something wrong with a Parliament that allows civil servants in Northern Ireland to escape the scrutiny that we demand of civil servants in the rest of the Kingdom. Whether they are Northern Ireland bred and based civil servants or those who are seconded for a period, like Ministers, they should be under the scrutiny of the House.
There is no reason why there should not be a Northern Ireland Select Committee. Let us get away from the nonsense that if there were devolved government in the Province we would not need a Select Committee. There will always be issues which affect the House and which require the scrutiny of the House. There is no reason for any further delay. I should like the Secretary of State to read over some of the answers that the Lord President has given me on the matter. He said that I should speak to the Secretary of State. My hon. Friends are speaking to him. As I understand the working of the House, it is not the job of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to create a Select Committee. It is for the Lord President to move a motion on behalf of the Procedure Committee. That will be done in due course to establish a Select Committee on Social Security. I plead that we should stop drifting in so-called direct rule. Let us have a Select Committee of hon. Members to monitor what is going on with greater scrutiny.
The hon. Member for Foyle dreamed dreams and saw visions. I could do the same. Our neighbours have a view of history that is debatable. Yorkshire miners and other people were abused by the landlords in Yorkshire at the same time as my family and others were abused by landlords in Ireland. It is far too simplistic a view of history to say that the bad English were oppressing the Irish. Thousands upon thousands of people from the Republic of Ireland are voting with their feet and coming back into the Kingdom. I suggest that the Labour Front-Bench spokesmen's support for devolved administration for the regions would be a way forward. The Labour party may not yet have my vision of a federal solution for the islands, but ultimately that will be the way forward. Few people in the Republic of Ireland will argue against that when they have already crowned Jack Charlton an honorary Irishman.
Hon. Members on both sides, including the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone), have raised important issues which need investigating. I hope that, in view of the representations that have been made, the Government will carry out the fullest possible in-depth inquiry so that the full facts and the truth may be revealed.
As we debate this extension measure dating from 1974, it is clear that the way in which we legislate for the people of Northern Ireland is disgraceful. Vital issues affecting the lives of the people there do not receive sufficient consideration. Having said that, I must admit, as I look round the Benches on both sides of the House, that we have adequate debating time today for Northern Ireland affairs. That is happening only because so few hon. Members want to take part in the debate
That will not be the case on future occasions—for example, at Northern Ireland Question Time, which is prime television time. On those occasions, hon. Members will crowd into the Chamber, trying to remove the fire from the remarks of hon. Members who represent Northern Ireland constituencies. It is to be hoped that there will be fewer planted questions, even from Conservative Members.
I note, as I speak of planted questions in those terms, that the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland shakes his head in dissent. Does he really believe that the Government have never even thought of using that tactic? I assure him that I have seen pieces of paper with questions written on them being handed by certain hon. Members to other hon. Members, the former asking, "Will you please sign this, and it can go in for Question Time?"
My hon. Friend will be aware that, even though hon. Members representing constituencies in Northern Ireland may hand in their questions first, they never appear first on the Order Paper for Question Time. Indeed, some of them never even appear among the listed questions. Of all questions that are asked, the House should be interested in hearing from hon. Members who represent constituencies in Northern Ireland. I am not suggesting that other hon. Members should not have an opportunity to ask questions, but Northern Ireland hon. Members should have their questions called if those questions are handed in on time.
I am obliged to my hon. Friend for that intervention. He will agree, however, that hon. Members who represent Northern Ireland constituencies would be delighted to know that other hon. Members in all parts of the House were deeply interested in the internal affairs of all parts of Her Majesty's domain, including Northern Ireland. Irrespective of prime television time, it is a shame that, for this debate, the Benches are so unoccupied. The public who see the television screening of the debate will appreciate that for themselves. They will also realise that many hon. Members do not care about the problems of the people of Northern Ireland.
The Secretary of State said that he owed the House an account of the Government's stewardship in Northern Ireland over the past year. The facts of that stewardship should be drawn to everyone's attention, and that is why we need full debates regularly on matters affecting the people of Northern Ireland. In that connection, we should have the same privilege as other hon. Members of tabling amendments to legislation affecting the people of Northern Ireland.
That is why I agree with the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) that there should be a Northern Ireland Select Committee, in which we could scrutinise in depth what is happening in the various Departments. After all, it is time that questions were put to civil servants about what is going on. Although we have the front men—the Ministers—we should be able to question civil servants on issues affecting the Province, for they are beavering away in the background. May we have an assurance tonight that such a Select Committee will be established and that instead of the Order in Council procedure, which is a despicable and deplorable way of legislating for the people of part of the United Kingdom, we will have a proper forum in which to discuss all relevant issues in depth?
I join other hon. Members in commending the Secretary of State for the way in which he has endeavoured to make progress in Northern Ireland. I listened with interest to my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) commend the efforts of the Secretary of State. Although I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman has acted, and will continue to act, with courtesy and refreshing honesty, members of the Northern Ireland Office have been beavering away with private press releases, press conferences and interviews with members of the press, seeking to undermine the elected leaders of Ulster Unionism. That has been a despicable action on the part of members of the press corps in the Northern Ireland Office. They would be better employed putting out propaganda to benefit the Province, rather than seeking to undermine the leadership of Ulster Unionism.
The elected leaders of the Unionist parties in the House have the backing of the members of their parties for the stand that they have made for Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom. All the underhand efforts of those little, despicable men and women in the Northern Ireland Office will not destroy the character and integrity of the leaders of Ulster Unionism.
I urge the Government to tell certain people in that press corps to get on with the business of projecting a bright future for Northern Ireland across the world, instead of adopting a negative attitude, trying to backstab those who are in the front line and who, through the ballot box, represent the will and wishes of the vast majority of the people of Northern Ireland.
When the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) spoke about unemployment, he referred to the situation in Ballymurphy. I am not suggesting that that area does not have an unemployment problem. I want all the people in our Province, and throughout the United Kingdom, to enjoy productive employment. But I remind the hon. Gentleman that not only Ballymurphy suffers from high unemployment. We in Mid-Ulster have massive unemployment—the second-highest in the United Kingdom.
I urge Her Majesty's Opposition to look wider than particular Nationalist areas. Let us consider not whether a person is a Nationalist or a Unionist when we debate unemployment. Let us ensure that the people of Mid-Ulster, be they Protestants or Roman Catholics, have jobs. I am sure that the hon. Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall) will agree that everyone in the Province has a right to a job.
The Secretary of State spoke about encouraging employment, and to that end we have had visitors from Japan, France and the rest. But if he studies the figures carefully he will find that not much employment has been brought to Mid-Ulster or west of the Bann. It is essential that the Government encourage employment in those areas west of the Bann which are suffering massive unemployment, for example, Castlederg. It has also suffered more from terrorism than any other area of equivalent size in the United Kingdom. The people there are terrorised by merciless IRA attacks from over the border. That is fact, not rhetoric. The IRA terrorists come from over the border, carry out their terrible acts and then return to their safe haven in the Irish Republic until they desire to move again.
Once again, I beg the Government to look afresh at the needs of my constituents. That is what stewardship in Northern Ireland is all about. People have an urgent need for a job, but it does not follow, as some would maintain, that because they have no job they turn to terrorism. That is an excuse for terrorism. In my constituency of Mid-Ulster, neither Protestants nor Roman Catholics turn to terrorism because they lack employment. However, it would be a major benefit for my constituents to have a job to go to in the morning. There is nothing more refreshing than to rise in the morning, go out and do a good day's work and, one hopes, receive respectable payment for it at the end of the week. That would benefit not only my constituents but the community as a whole.
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North spoke about the Fair Employment Act. The impression given today and in previous debates is that discrimination is endured by only one section of the community. It is interesting that Newry and Mourne council has been accused of discriminating against its Protestant community, yet the SDLP is the major group on that council. It is also interesting to note that not one SDLP Member is present for this important Northern Ireland debate. I accept that the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) has had to leave to attend to other business, but others could have been present to deal with this important matter.
The SDLP and the Nationalists were in control of Strabane council for many years, and Protestants were discriminated against by that council. It is easy for people to identify a particular religious group and claim that it is being discriminated against. I do not agree with discrimination against a person. A person should not get a job because of his religion, nor should he be denied a job because of his religion.
The head of the Fair Employment Agency, Mr. Bob Cooper, came to Magherafelt district council, on which I had the honour to serve for some 17 years, during which time the SDLP was in control for 12 years and the Unionists for four years. A report on that council accused Magherafelt council, under the control of the SDLP, of discriminating against Roman Catholics. We have not yet had Mr. Cooper's final report, but it has emerged from his inquiries that for 16 years, 12 of them under the SDLP, the only years during which there was fair employment were —wait for it—the four years when I was chairman and the Unionists were in control. I make it abundantly clear that I and my party believe that every person has a right to a job, irrespective of who that person is and from what community he comes. I am delighted that scrutiny showed that when the Unionist family was in control of Magherafelt council there was fair employment for all. There will be no praise from the Government for Magherafelt council for those years under Unionist control, and Mr. Cooper will also be strangely silent on that.
I could deal with many aspects of the Government's future, but I must deal with an important matter which has affected my constituents since November 1985 and which was dealt with by the Secretary of State in the second part of his address—the Anglo-Irish Agreement and what is to happen now.
Most of us, on coming to the House today, expected that the Secretary of State would tell us that we were moving forward and that things were progressing. But that is not the case. We are told that optimism has turned to pessimism or, to use other words that we have heard today, that the optimism has been blighted. The reality is that the southern Government have once again vetoed a statement from the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State did not make the statement that he intended to make today because of the veto of a foreign Government.
I have been a Member of the House for eight years and during that time I have heard many boasts about Parliament's sovereignty. It is strange that, despite all the boasting, the Secretary of State could not make the speech to the House of Commons that he intended to make because of the desire of the leader of a foreign country to veto progress in Northern Ireland. People in Northern Ireland are sickened by the interference from Dublin in the affairs of our part of the United Kingdom. Let it be abundantly clear that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. That is the stance of the people of Northern Ireland. By entering into an alliance with a foreign Government through the Anglo-Irish Agreement, the Government have changed that. I do not have the same rights as every other citizen within the United Kingdom. What is happening in my part of the United Kingdom is not happening in every other part.
The Secretary of State told us today that the Anglo-Irish Agreement confirms the fact that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. That is not true. Article 1 states:
Any change in the status of Northern Ireland would only come about with the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North said, that status is one thing in Dublin but quite another in this House and in the United Kingdom. If the Government believe that we are misinterpreting the agreement, why not test it in the European Court, in the light of all that has happened such as the McGimpsey case in Dublin?
If the Government believe that they are right, surely they would be delighted to prove it. Nothing would please them better than proving that our interpretation was wrong. I genuinely believe that the Government do not believe what they are saying, so they are misleading the House by declaring that the Anglo-Irish Agreement secures Northern Ireland's position in the United Kingdom. It does nothing of the sort; it allows a foreign Government to meddle in the affairs of Northern Ireland.
I listened carefully to the considered speech of the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow). He asked whether a new agreement would need the widespread support of both sides of the community in Northern Ireland. Why did not the Government seek that widespread support for the Anglo-Irish Agreement? Why did not the Government want to find out whether the people of Northern Ireland oppose the Anglo-Irish Agreement? Why not put it to the people? They must accept that I and other Unionist Members were elected on a platform of opposition to the Anglo-lrish Agreement.
We were told that the agreement would be judged on three criteria—peace, stability and reconciliation. That was not how we said it would be judged; that was the stance of Mr. Garret FitzGerald, who entered into the agreement with our Prime Minister. He is from the south of Ireland. We must judge it on peace, stability and reconciliation. The Government know well that there is no widespread support for the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
In his statement, the Secretary of State said that there was no reason why the present agreement should be the last word. The Government know that it is opposed by the people of Northern Ireland. They say that if a better agreement which commanded widespread support from both sides of the community in Northern Ireland were to be reached, it would be an important step forward. Therefore, any alternative to the agreement must command widespread support. If the current agreement is to stand, should not it also command widespread support from both sides of the community in Northern Ireland?
The reason why the Unionist view was not sought at the time the agreement was entered into was that the Government had bought the SDLP line—to face down the Unionists. The leader of the SDLP said that. Reconciliation was not a consideration, only facing down the Unionist population. No matter how long the agreement stands, the Government must realise that it will never be accepted, and anyone who suggests that it will be is deceiving both himself and the House.
Some of us care deeply about what happens in the north of Ireland. To the dismay—indeed, minor annoyance—of our colleagues, we voted against the agreement. I have no regrets. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman did not mean it, but he appeared to label everyone generically as having voted in favour of it. That is not fact: I voted against it.
I accept what the hon. Gentleman says. A small number of hon. Members—47 out of 650—voted against the Anglo-Irish Agreement. However, it was forced upon the people of Northern Ireland by the vast majority of hon. Members. Many hon. Members came to the House when the vote was called, not having listened to the arguments or the debate. They were the usual Lobby fodder and they forced through the agreement. Both the Government and the Opposition believed that they could force it upon the people of Northern Ireland, who they thought would huff and puff, but whose resistance would disappear. If those hon. Members wish to be honourable before this House, they must admit that they were mistaken, first, about the opposition to the agreement and, secondly, in thinking that it could be forced upon the people of Ulster under the disguise of democracy. Some 600 hon. Members voted to force it upon the people of Northern Ireland, against their will, and that is called democracy.
The people of Northern Ireland oppose the agreement. I am delighted that the Government, at this late stage, appear to recognise that fact. The Secretary of State now accepts that the agreement is not working and cannot work and that an alternative must be sought. The Unionist population are willing earnestly to consider that. They are willing to play their part, as the Government acknowledge. After the agreement was signed, the Prime Minister stated that it could be devolved away. There were people in the Northern Ireland Office who sold to the Prime Minister something that was not reality because it cannot be devolved away. The people of Northern Ireland have a democratic right to oppose that obnoxious agreement and to seek something that is durable, practical and constructive.
Yesterday evening I watched the television hoping that the English football team would win and today I read in the papers about the disappointment and the tears of despair on the faces of the players. I honestly believe that Members of Parliament do not fully understand the tears of despair that have been shed by the innocent people of Northern Ireland who have suffered a terrible campaign of destruction and murder.
My constituents have suffered as much as if not more than most. The other day, I walked behind the coffins of two policemen. I spoke to their widows and sought to bring them some comfort and succour in their hour of need. I stood there having suffered the ravages of the IRA within my own family. I ask hon. Members, whenever they think about despair, to think about the way forward and to remember that all the settlements and constitutional talks one could ever conceive of will never talk away the Provisional IRA. Its members are roaming at will in my constituency. They are blowing up businesses and have been blasting and scattering bodies across my constituency for the past 20 years.
Few hon. Members have visited the homes of widows, met their children and experienced the tragedy for themselves. Although I do not doubt the sincerity of those who sympathise, widows are sick to the teeth of sympathy from people who have the power to allow a campaign of military might against the IRA and to bring about the defeat of those who are terrorising the community.
The Prime Minister said that it was her desire to eradicate terrorism. Twenty years on I ask the Minister, without beating about the bush, to tell me and my constituents, the widows and the intended widows, when the nightmare of terrorism will end. With all respect to the leaders of my party, the Official Unionist party, the SDLP and Ministers, if anyone in the House thinks that a constitutional settlement tomorrow will wipe out the IRA, he has been fooled. The IRA is embedded in the community and the only way to defeat terrorism is to root it out of the community and to allow every decent citizen, Protestant and Roman Catholic, to live in peace, enjoy stability and to have lasting and real reconciliation.
First, I should like to comment on the speech by the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea). Some may think it strange that one who has spoken as often as I have should be called at 8.14 pm on a subject that is so important to the United Kingdom. In response to the hon. Gentleman, I register a personal sadness that so many on this side of the water for one reason or another have not taken more interest in the affairs of Northern Ireland. I am guilty of that as, like my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone), I want to refer to a particular matter, but I hope that it will not be interpreted as meaning that I do not care about the wider and general issues involved in the agony experienced in Northern Ireland.
I address my parliamentary colleagues of all parties. Anyone who has been a Member of Parliament for as long as I have, or anyone who sits in the House of Commons, almost by definition is not easily shocked. We become ever more resigned to the ways of the world. However, I should like to raise two issues that greatly shock me, and I shall start with the one that shocks me least.
In an appendix to his evidence to the Royal Commission on the press in 1977, the former Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson revealed that
seven burglaries of the homes of members of my staff took place in the three months before I announced my resignation".
Within a week of the announcement of my forthcoming series of interviews with David Frost on Yorkshire Television, the contracts section of Yorkshire Television was burgled and papers examined".
He went on:
My political secretary has had two burglaries from her home…Shortly before Easter 1977, a break-in took place in my study in my home in Buckinghamshire.
I make that 19 burglaries. In most of them nothing was taken, although in all of them papers had been rifled through. One can match all those incidents with what Peter Wright says rather sooner than one would think.
I shall not go on about Harold Wilson's disquiet about those matters, but I stress that it is an all-party affair. I was as deeply shocked when I saw with my own eyes an extremely nasty document referring to the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) in a personal capacity. It was marked with the stamp of the Army headquarters at Lisburn.
I do not believe that Labour or Conservative Prime Ministers should be smeared in that way. I repeat that if Wilson and Heath suffered, as did Ted Short and William van Straubenzee, certain politicians from Northern Ireland suffered much more. I admit that what happened on this side of the water was less than what happened to the colleagues of some of those in the Chamber. But politicians can look after themselves, and that brings me to the second matter which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East said, will not go away.
Generically it must be called Kincora and the Wallace affair. I am utterly shocked by what has emerged about Kincora and the knowledge that vulnerable boys in the care and guardianship of the British state were repeatedly abused over a period of time. My hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East was right to say that it took place over a considerable time. That knowledge was in the hands of the intelligence services of the state but was withheld for a considerable time from the proper police services of the state. I repeat that, were I in the shoes of Sir John Hermon, whom I do not know, and the RUC, I should be simply livid at what happened.
I refer to an answer that I received on 21 June 1990 from the Minister of State. I make no complaint about the fact that temporarily he is not in his place. In an oral question I asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
what information his Department received concerning obstruction into the process of inquiry into alleged sexual abuse of boys and the Kincora boys home.
In his reply the Minister of State said:
I do not believe that any relevant information was withheld from successive inquiries.
Well may my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East smile. I then asked:
What evidence does the Minister have for that opinion? Does he share the disgust of many of us that for some reason the interests of the security forces apparently took precedence over the interests of vulnerable boys in care in a real sense and under the guardianship of the nation?
The Minister replied:
My opinion comes from my study of the papers on the matter. I would share the concern that the hon. Gentleman expressed if I thought that the facts were as he described them. I do not believe that they were; the RUC had information, but as Sir George Terry's report explained, that information was acted on not immediately but some years later."—[Official Report, 21 June 1990; Vol. 174, c. 1105.]
Naturally, I sent a copy of the Hansard report to Colin Wallace. In all the dealings that I have had with him he has not yet brought information to me that proved in any way to be false. He has impressed, under scrutiny, some of my right hon. and learned Friends, including my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer). They made very careful inquiries. I intend, therefore, to put on the record Mr. Wallace's reply to the Minister. He said:
I have just read Mr. Cope's disgraceful reply of 21 June to your question about MI5 withholding information about the Kincora scandal from police officers engaged in the Terry inquiry. Quite frankly, I think Government Ministers now treat Parliamentary questions with utter contempt and make no attempt whatsoever to provide proper answers to any queries raised by Members.
I have always been treated with courtesy by the Minister of State. He is a great improvement on some of his predecessors. Mr. Wallace continued:
For example, the BBC's 'Public Eye' programme demonstrated very clearly that:
(c) Although an Army Intelligence officer informed detectives on the Terry inquiry team about his knowledge of the matter in 1982, no reference to his evidence was made in the official report written by Sir George Terry, the conclusions of which were given to Parliament. Indeed, Sir George Terry even claimed that military sources had been very frank and he was satisfied that military intelligence knew nothing about the scandal.However, Colin Wallace added:
You will recall that on 7 June, in reply to a question from you about the 'Public Eye' programme, Mr. Cope"—the Minister of State—
confirmed to Parliament that 'James', the Army Intelligence officer who appeared on the BBC programme, had indeed been interviewed by the police in 1982, but that the programme contained 'no material about Kincora not available at the time to Sir George Terry's inquiry'.I am satisfied about the credentials of James. He is no particular friend of Colin Wallace—in fact, not a friend at all. He is a very Christian man; I use the word "Christian" in the sincerest sense, a sense which I believe that I share with Northern Ireland Members of Parliament. Mr. Wallace continued:
The issues which Mr. Cope refuses to address, therefore, are:
on 21 June?
I think you will agree that had Parliament known of MI5's refusal to co-operate with the police on this issue there would have been a very justifiable outcry from many Members.If any hon. Member thinks that I am taking up the time of the House, I ought to point out that I sent to some Northern Ireland Members—who, I believe, gave it to their colleagues—a copy of the letter because they have, as they have said, a genuine interest in the matter. Colin Wallace continued:
The Government's behaviour on the Kincora issue is utterly deplorable.That is his judgment. The subject will not go away. If Ministers believe that this is being dragged up just by the bloody-minded Members who represent Brent, East and Linlithgow, they should realise that a good deal more than that is at stake. Collin Wallace continued:
There have been widespread cries of indignation in Parliament and the media over child abuse scandals such as that in Cleveland, but almost total silence over Kincora which went on for almost 20 years with the full knowledge and 'approval' of Government agencies. The Government should be hunted from office by every decent person in the country because of its cover-up of this disgraceful episode.
This is not a party political matter. I must say that bluntly both to Colin Wallace and to anyone else who thinks so, though I do not believe that he is motivated by party political issues. I believe that this is a moral issue. I had a great deal of sympathy for the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster when he asked why we make such a fuss about things on this side of the water, yet when the same occurs in the north of Ireland there is a cut off. That attitude may have led to the displacement of Robin Chichester-Clark, Stratton Mills, Rafton Pounder and several hon. Members who represented Northern Ireland when I first came to the House. I can see that they came to political grief because of the collective attitude of the House of Commons.
Colin Wallace made available to me his rather important letter from Mr. Miller of the Ministry of Defence. I refer to one paragraph:
You attached to your letter of 23 April seven documents which you suggested support your allegation of a smear campaign by Crown servants against Members of Parliament. As to the document which you identify as a draft of the synopsis of part 1 of Clockwork Orange, you have provided no information to indicate that its references to Harold Wilson were the work of anyone but yourself. I am aware of no substantive evidence that such drafting received any official sanction, nor that the use of such material was ever authorised. As to the remaining documents, it is not evident from them that any was written by a Crown servant with
intent to smear Members of Parliament or that they were ever used by Mr. Mooney or any other Crown servant for that purpose. In the letter that you addressed to the Prime Minister on 12 May, you sought to justify a number of allegations by quoting from the transcript of a telephone conversation between General Leng and Mr. Penrose. In fact, General Leng has given a firm assurance to government officials that he has no knowledge of any capaign, under any codename, by Crown servants to smear Members of Parliament.
I put that on the record because it is important to the remainder of my remarks. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East, I doubted whether any of those sources had been cross-checked. I realise that it is a heck of a sweat delving back into the past, but the issue and the background are such that we as a nation cannot afford to be lazy. The letter continues:
As regards Mr. Calcutt's inquiry, contrary to the allegations in your letters of 12 and 18 May, there is no question of the Government or officials attempting to influence individuals in the way you suggest or of putting pressure on them not to give evidence to Mr. Calcutt. I have nothing to add to the conclusions of the Report made available on 14 May, to which your letter of 18 May also referred. Finally, I understand that the Home Office is currently considering the representations made on your behalf concerning your conviction, and will be replying shortly on the matters raised.
I am unaware of any substantial activity by the Home Office. My hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East and I know that, before the Calcutt inquiry was established, the attitude of the Home Office Minister was absolutely disgraceful.
How is the Master of Magdalene, Mr. Calcutt, getting on, because he seems to have much to do? I should have thought that there was some urgency about this matter.
On 10 June, Mr. Wallace wrote to the Prime Minister. It is important that the House understands exactly what he told the right hon. Lady, especially as she tells me that someone is replying on her behalf. Normally, I am absolutely reasonable about these matters. Prime Ministers cannot be expected to do everything, but the Prime Minister is in charge of the security services—I do not know who else is—and the buck stops there. I see the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) nodding. Prime Ministers have some responsibility for these matters. I am dismayed by the developments that are taking place in the modern prime ministerial role, because the awful open questions that are asked mean that a Prime Minister has to delve in and be prepared and briefed for the yah-boo of Question Time on everything that affects every Department. That may undermine Cabinet Government, but it also means that Prime Ministers may not have the time to concentrate on matters that they should be concentrating on, such as responsibility for the security services.
I remember that Mr. Macmillan, my first Prime Minister, would transfer anything that did not affect him or relate to the work of No. 10 Downing street. That is how the system should work, and that is why this afternoon I asked the Leader of the House when we shall debate the report of the Select Committee on Procedure and the scandal of oral questions and the syndication of questions.
The letter to the Prime Minister says:
I refer to my letters of 23 April and 12 May to you and to my letter of 18 May to the Secretary of State for Defence. I have now received a response dated 4 June from Mr. J A Miller, Private Secretary to the Minister of State for the Armed Forces.
That is the letter to which I referred:
Even by the abysmal standard of past MOD answers, Mr. Miller's latest letter is perhaps the most misleading and dishonestly evasive reply I have received to date. Bearing in mind that his reply will almost certainly have been approved by your office and that of the Defence Secretary, the contents of his letter can best be described as a grotesque insult to Parliament. My letter of 23 April had attached to it two documents which contained examples of blatant smears about a number of Members of Parliament, including Harold Wilson, Tony Benn"—
and the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume).
Those documents also bore what is almost certainly the handwritten editing comments of Mr. Hugh Mooney, a former Information Research Department officer who was until December 1973 Information Adviser to the General Officer Commanding Northern Ireland. You will have noted that Mr. Mooney's editing marks on the documents do not delete any of the smear material about either the Parliamentary Labour Party in general or the named politicians in particular.
I do not make a great party issue of this, because the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup suffered as much as anyone. The letter continues:
Referring to those documents, Mr. Miller says: 'It is not evident from them that any was written by a Crown servant with the intent to smear Members of Parliament or that they were ever used by Mr. Mooney or any other Crown servant for that purpose.' Bearing in mind that the above reply has been sent to me on your behalf, are you seriously suggesting that the documents bearing Mr. Mooney's handwriting were produced by some unidentified person who has no connection with any Government department or agency? Is it your view that the documents were edited by Mr. Mooney knowing full well that they were never going to be disseminated to anyone either inside or outside the Security Forces?
I propose, when Hansard is printed, to write to Downing street asking for a reply to that question. Mr. Wallace continues:
In the light of Mr. Miller's reply and the 'thorough inquiries"'
—that is gobbledegook; they were not thorough—
which you assured Parliament have been carried out into my allegations, I would be grateful if you would explain
Mr. Wallace continues:
Mr. Miller makes no reference to the forged Sinn Fein documents bearing what appears also to be Mr. Mooney's handwriting and which contain information indicating that the Parliamentary Labour Party leadership is not only Communist, but also working in partnership with Sinn Fein against Britain's membership of the Common Market.
I do not take that kind of thing very seriously; we all have our own views on the Common Market and the allegation was not going to alter very much. However, the taxpayer should not be expected to finance such nonsense against any democratically elected Government.
Mr. Wallace continues:
Perhaps even more outrageously misleading is Mr. Miller's reference to my letter to you"—
that is, the present Prime Minister—
of 12 May, with which I enclosed extracts from the transcripts of the tape-recorded telephone conversations between Barrie Penrose of the Sunday Times and General Sir Peter Leng, former Commander Land Forces Northern Ireland. In his letter, Mr. Miller claims:
'In the letter which you addressed to the Prime Minister on 12 May, you sought to justify a number of allegations by quoting from the transcript of a telephone conversation between General Leng and Mr. Penrose. In fact, General Leng has given a firm assurance to government officials that he has no knowledge of any campaign, under any codename, by Crown servants to smear Members of Parliament'.
Mr. Wallace says:
Mr. Miller's comment is typical of the disinformation disseminated by Government sources about my allegations. As you know very well, my letter of 12 May did not claim that General Leng had any knowledge of any campaign by Crown servants to smear Members of Parliament. My letter said"—
I have checked this and it is true—
I attach for your information extracts from the tape recordings of the exchanges between General Leng and the Sunday Times. I think you will agree that they show:
Colin Wallace continues:
You will also recall the following extracts from my letter and the tape recordings.
The document says:
The first telephone call begins with Barrie Penrose reading to the General an extract from page 28 of Paul Foot's book, 'Who framed Colin Wallace' in which Paul Foot refers to General Leng and the 'Clockwork Orange' project.
PENROSE: … So, I don't know whether you recall this 'Clockwork Orange'?
LENG: Well, I hardly recall it and certainly I had no part at all in anything to do with politicians and nor would I. I mean my policy at that particular stage was that we had to play the game straight. We had to find out, we obviously had to do some research into terrorists but there was to be no dirty tricks at all as far as I was concerned, and one or two people, and I don't recall who, came up to me and said to me we'd like to do this, and my answer was always no. The Army has got to be played clean because these things get found out in time.
Page 4 of 27 of the document, which is in my possession, says:
PENROSE: … And how many people would have known about Clockwork Orange? Would it … I am just wondering …
LENG: Well, I think the senior Intelligence officer would have known. Broderick [Chief Information Officer] would have known. Mike [Len] Garrett [Chief of Staff HQ Northern Ireland] …
PENROSE: And on Kincora you come out absolutely as one would expect, saying there has got to be action on Kincora. Do you recall that?
LENG: No …
Page 7 says:
PENROSE:…You said in the memo according to [Mike] Taylor that the RUC and the social services I think ought to be brought in here because the file named men and boys who were obviously part of this abuse which we all know about since.
Ministers should talk directly to Mike Taylor and I shall ask them whether they have done so. The document continues:
LENG: Yes, I recall that.
PENROSE: Do you? And you said take action. They waited because obviously there had been other members suggesting this from junior officers, but it was yours that finally convinced Taylor that this was going to happen, but of course it went on for another six or seven years, but again that wasn't your fault.
Page 8 of 27 says:
PENROSE: It was just to remind you that there were homosexual abuses taking place, namely by the housefather named McGrath.
PENROSE … who was also the leader of TARA, and of course eventually that was all proven in court some years afterwards, and also a man named McKeague, but I mean this is obviously outside …
LENG: Yes I do remember the homosexual insinuations and I do remember saying this is a police business, not ours.
I may be naive but it seems to me that if a Commander-in-Chief, Land Forces says, "This is a police business," someone somewhere should be doing something about it. Commanders-in-Chief, Land Forces are not exactly ignored—at least, I think it would be very strange if they were.
Page 16 of 27 reads as follows:
PENROSE: The actual operation, I mean Clockwork Orange, when it was first mooted was in fact Denis Payne —several people have mentioned that—who was at NIO.
That must be in the records of the Northern Ireland Office. I confess that I do not know whether the Secretary of State has access to those records, because there is a difficulty with past records. Perhaps the Secretary of State wants to intervene—
I must make it clear for the record that the Secretary of State is drinking water.
Page 16 continues:
LENG: That's right. There was of course that branch as well. NIO would come in and cross fertilise if they wanted to keep something from the RUC—dont't quote me again. PENROSE: No, No. No.
Page 18 of 27 reads:
PENROSE: No, of course. It's just to see how, if you would forgive me, how the bureaucracy works. So, Clockwork Orange in this case comes from Denis Payne's office, so it's Intelligence to Intelligence, and then you're shown it …
LENG: I'm not always shown it. Only if they need to involve someone at a higher level.
PENROSE: Right …
PENROSE: … Clockwork Orange was Policy. This sounds like a statement rather than a question, but a statement asking for confirmation.
LENG: And Clockwork Orange was Policy.
PENROSE: Yes. And so … Denis Payne sends the file over and this is Policy from NIO.
LENG: I wouldn't have thought he would even send a file over if I may say so because the less that was committed to paper the better.
I am not convinced that that is in the honourable tradition of the Grenadier Guards. People do not say that things should not be committed to paper unless there is some reason for that.
Page 19 of 27 reads:
PENROSE: Oh, of course, I'm sorry, of course.
LENG: And I think there would be discussions because certainly Intelligence and Intelligence are meeting continually.
PENROSE: Yes. So … fine, so it comes from there. Your job is of course … you have to OK Peter Goss, the senior Intelligence officer, and Tony Holman and others, to release information to the unit, to the Information Policy unit.
I see that my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall) is getting restive. I do not want to annoy him but the debate can go on until 11.30 pm, so we have time.
Page 19 continues:
LENG: Yes, to the Information Policy unit or down to the units of the Army.
LENG: As the case may be.
PENROSE: So, you knew obviously there was a five [MI5] involvement in Clockwork Orange, but you obviously wouldn't have known …
LENG: The detail.
PENROSE: The detail.
I do not want to start criticising individual officers, but it seems to me that General Officers Commanding should not pass by on the other side of a very awkward road. If such things happen, it is up to commanding officers to get themselves involved.
Page 19 continues:
PENROSE: Right, and the other thing is that—which is obviously very important—is that as you didn't see the file that was kept at Lisburn, you wouldn't have known obviously its contents because there would have been no need for you to know.
The principle of the need to know is all very well but General Officers Commanding in Northern Ireland should be a bit inquisitive about what goes on in the north of Ireland.
Not surprisingly, Mr. Miller totally ignores virtually all of the other documents which I sent to you"—the numerous documents that had been sent to the Prime Minister at No. 10 Downing street—
He makes no comment on the forged bank account purporting to belong to the Rev. Ian Paisley, nor does he attempt to explain why the Security Forces should have been collecting documents such as the one containing the homosexual smear about Edward Heath.As an Opposition Member, I am outraged by the document that I have seen carrying the imprimatur of the headquarters in Northern Ireland in which allegations are made about the Prime Minister of this country. Years later, that is still quite unacceptable. Wallace continued:
The key question which the Government refuses to address is: 'Did those documents exist at Army Headquarters Northern Ireland during the mid 1970s, and if so for what purpose were they created or collected?' Given the many false assurances provided by Ministers in the past, the Government has a duty to tell Parliament the truth about these issues. For example, I enclose with this letter a selection of pages from a document which was typed during that period for the Information Policy unit by Mr. C. T. T. Whitehead, until recently Deputy Chief Press Officer at the MOD and currently with the Home Office, and which contains information designed to smear Irish Prime Minister, Charles Haughey. It should be a very simple task for your advisers to check if this is correct or not.
The Minister may recall that the matter was referred to last Friday on page 3 of The Independent. I mention that in passing; I do not wish to go over the whole of Mr. Anthony Bevins's contribution. But if Ministers think that I am talking about something in the distant past of purely academic interest I would point out to them that it is strange that the political editor of The Independent should decide to deal with the matter on page 3. Heaven knows, there was enough news. The article referred to the fact that Mr. C. T. T. Whitehead, who apparently had no information about those matters or that they were going to be raised, now holds the very important and sensitive post of press officer to the prisons department of the Home Office. Is it true that he typed all that stuff? The Prime Minister has copies of all that. What have the Government done to check with various other people to whom the documents were sent to discover whether they are false? There is a good deal of potential corroborative evidence around. Or have the Government simply, as my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East and I suspect, pulled the shutters down and adopted an attitude like Henry to Thomas a'Becket—"Who will rid us of these people?"— and done nothing about it?
To be blunt, we are going to use every parliamentary stratagem to stop that happening. This matter refers to Parliament as a whole. Parliament has a right to be inquisitive about such matters. That is why I have spoken at great length and have read out the letter to the Prime Minister. It is clear that she had no intention of answering it. What can we do about that other than to put everything on the parliamentary record and badger her day after day until she produces some kind of an answer?
In his letter Mr. Miller refers to the draft of the first part of Clockwork Orange which was sent to the Prime Minister. He claims:
I am aware of no substantive evidence that such drafting received any official sanction.
If that is the Prime Minister's view, Colin Wallace says that he would be grateful if she would explain who authorised and instructed a member of MI5 to type that draft. What was Mr. Whitbread, Penny Sadler or anyone else doing drafting those documents? They did not draft them simply because they wanted to. Those things do not happen out of thin air like alchemy. Someone, somewhere issues instructions that they should happen. They do not happen by chance.
Many serious people are interested in this matter. I will quote from an unprompted letter from Laura Grimond, the granddaughter of former Prime Minister Asquith. She wrote to me on 12 June from Orkney:
Just a line to thank you for sending me the most interesting correspondence re Colin Wallace, and also the Hansard of your extremely effective speech in the Army Debate 5 June.
Laura Grimond may think it was effective, but I have not had much of an answer from the Minister of State for the Armed Forces. He did not say anything. Speeches are effective only if they achieve something. Therefore, I do not think that my speech was particularly effective. She continued:
The fact that predictably it was ignored by the Government … says much and simply underlines the continuing cover-up on as much as can be covered up in matters relating to Colin Wallace and the conduct of the Security Forces in Northern Ireland. Apart from Inspector Byford's letter in the Times of 8 June 1990 I haven't seen any
come back from the Yorkshire TV Film, but don't see the full coverage of the National Press up here. If no replies to the questions you put are provided there must be further reactions.
She then says that she is sending copies of the correspondence to a number of people with personal contacts. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Staffordshire, East (Mr. Lightbown) should not be dismissive about this matter because the Lord Chancellor is not. The Lord Chancellor has offered me an interview. I have known him for many years and I regard him as a most serious and honest man. I hope that all these matters will be brought before him before he is prepared to grant me an interview.
My comments about the Calcutt Inquiry are equally valid. If, as has been shown above, the Ministry of Defence is determined to continue providing false and deliberately misleading information about my case then it is clear it will do so to the Calcutt Inquiry. Furthermore, given the obviously evasive nature of Mr. Miller's letter to me and the fact that you allowed such an inadequate reply to be issued in your name, the Calcutt Inquiry seems utterly pointless.
That is not my view, because David Calcutt has his own reputation to safeguard. Some people, including some of his fellow academic lawyers, will be intensely interested in the rigour of Calcutt's inquiry. I hope that he will uphold his considerable reputation—I do not know how he has time to do all this—by going in detail into what he was asked to do. I was pretty unhappy when I heard him describe his narrow terms of reference on the radio.
For reasons that the Secretary of State knows, I shall not refer to another inquiry tonight, but everything depends on the terms of reference of inquiries. If Calcutt comes up with a narrow report, the Secretary of State should not think that that will shut up the growing number of hon. Members who are concerned about the case of Colin Wallace.
Although the Inquiry was set up more than three months ago, my legal advisers and I still do not know what official documents we will be allowed to have access to; what witnesses, if any, we will be able to interview or cross-examine; or whether or not we will be able to see any of the evidence submitted by other witnesses. Even worse, although the Ministry of Defence has unlimited access to legal advice, I have still been refused counsel's opinion unless I pay for such advice myself.
That is one of the reasons why some of us have gone on and on about Colin Wallace's case. The set-up in this country means that the very rich can afford some defence, but people who cannot pour out a great deal of money in legal fees encounter great difficulty. Of course Colin Wallace will not get legal aid. He says:
It would appear, therefore, that half of the inquiry will be able to have unlimited funds and assistance from the taxpayer, but any help I receive will be strictly limited.
I will send a copy of this speech to the Master of Magdalene and I hope that he will take it into account, because it is a serious problem for him.
I ought also to refer to one or two extracts that bother me and some of my colleagues from Northern Ireland, if I may call them that.
The leader of the Ulster Unionists says that I may, and I thank him. He, too, has seen the documents, and he wonders where they came from. We wonder whether the Government know where they came from.
The document says:
In Belfast, the need was for arms immediately. The commander had been interned the previous week but the acting commander became the established representative of the IRA in Belfast. In response to his cry, an assortment of arms of varying antiquity and condition from a variety of sources started to materialise. A Mr. Naughton, an executive of the GEC factory in Dunleer claimed to represent a body that could supply £150,000 with no trouble, although he personally would not be a supplier. He also made it clear that the money would not be handed out freely as Haughey had done. He asked questions as to the IRA's socialist policies and political involvement in the South and to what use the guns bought with this money would be put. The IRA man recognised the situation and gave the correct answers, answers that pleased Naughton as well as Padraic Faulkner who was behind Naughton. Faulkner had been appointed to the Committee on the previous day and £100,000 had been allocated for the relief of victims. Mr. Naughton offered £3,000 to the IRA leadership through Paddy Devlin and Paddy Kennedy. He handed over £1,000 and promised a further £2,000 which never came. His Committee appeared to think that the rebels cause was a better investment.
Who on earth typed that? I should like to know whether it was paid for by the British taxpayer. Who gave authority for it to be typed? Those documents are in the hands of Downing street, and it had better reply. It goes without saying that Mr. Haughey is only the Taoiseach. What exactly happened ought to be established, because those matters are widely known.
The document goes on:
The same people except for Blaney met on September 18 at Charles Haughey's home. The IRA officer said that there would be no problem in obtaining arms provided £50,000 was forthcoming. It was suggested that he open a bank account so that the money could be paid in. This he did in Dundalk the following morning with a £5 deposit. No further money was paid in. The Dublin Cabinet was realising that it would not be so easy to take the IRA over. A new IRA could be quicker and cheaper.
Meanwhile, the Director of Army Intelligence had met Haughey to talk about intelligence moves in the North again. They decided to use the relief centre at Monaghan as a clearing house for information from the North—Army I.O. John Duggan and Finbarr Drohan had already advised on its suitability. It was agreed that the £100 a week should cover running expenses and the cost of producing a weekly newssheet which would help establish contacts in the North.
Seamus Brady had produced a booklet called 'Terror in Northern Ireland'—an account of the August fighting in Belfast—for the Central Citizens Defence Committee in Belfast. The Government Information Bureau paid for the book, and over a thousand copies were given to Paddy Devlin to distribute at the Brighton Labour Party Conference. Two thousand copies were kept for distribution overseas, and the rest went to the CCDC to sell at 2/6d a copy. Hugh Kennedy became the PRO CCDC for CCDC and began to build the image of Tom Conaty, a wholesale fruit importer whom it was planned to make Chairman of the CCDC in place of Jim O'Sullivan.
I would like to know where all that sort of stuff came from. I believe that the hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) has views to express on that subject, so I shall give way if he wants to intervene.
The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) showed those typescript pages to me earlier. I wondered whether they were extracts from a document that was published in Dublin round about 1975, by members of the Official IRA, as it was called then, giving its account of the formation of the Provisional IRA. It was subsequently declared a subversive document under the Republic's emergency legislation and is now extremely difficult to get hold of.
It is certainly consistent with accounts that appeared elsewhere, notably at the arms trial in which Blaney, Haughey and others were defendants. A short version of the thesis that lies behind it is to be found in Connor Cruise O'Brien's introduction to Martin Dillon's recent book.
It raises serious questions which deserve an answer. I am not in a position to begin answering them. However, it is high time that we had the truth. Ministers can find out, though I admit that there may be difficulties. I am to some extent a little embarrassed because all that happened a long time ago, but there should be records.
If Ministers really wanted to find out the truth, they could ask Mr. Whitehead certain questions. He is a very senior official. I will tell the House what he was reported as saying in The Independent on 29 June this year:
The Prime Minister was urged yesterday to reply to an allegation that a civil servant was involved in a 1970s attempt to smear Charles Haughey, the Irish Taoiseach, with an IRA connection. The allegation was made in a letter to Margaret Thatcher from Colin Wallace, a former Army press officer in Northern Ireland, on 10 June.
But in the Commons yesterday, Tam Dalyell, Labour MP for Linlithgow, asked Sir Geoffrey Howe, Leader of the Commons, for a full response to the letter, 'containing a document, which may well have been a smear, typed by Mr. Christopher Whitehead, currently head of public relations of the prison service, linking Charles Haughey with the IRA'.
All that does not—or should not—come out of the blue, because the deputy Prime Minister said that he would draw the attention of the Northern Ireland Office to the fact that if I was called I would hope to raise those matters.
The Leader of the House said that my
intervention would no doubt be taken into account when ministers replied to a Northern Ireland debate next Thursday.
Mr. Wallace said yesterday that the document, an extract from a 100-page original in his possession, was one of eight that he has submitted to Mrs. Thatcher. He said the documents substantiated his allegation that officials had carried out a disinformation campaign in Ulster in the mid-1970s. Mr. Whitehead, a Home Office chief press officer"—
this is why I say to the hon. Member for Upper Bann that we must know whether or not the allegation is false—
said last night"—
28 June, that is—
that he had no response
to the allegation that I had made. If he had said that he knew nothing about it, and that he did not do it, that is one thing, but to have no response to an allegation such as that —well, hon. Members must draw their own conclusions.
The article continued:
The official, who was on detachment to the Army press service in Northern Ireland towards the end of 1973, said he had not been asked whether he had typed the document. I was not aware this had happened at all, he said.
This is why I am so angry, as I said when I intervened in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East. The Prime Minister has had the letter for 14 long days. No one has bothered to ask a man in a senior position in the Government service—in a key Department such as the Home Office—whether or not he had typed the document. It is a simple question.
The article went on:
The Independent passed a copy of the document to an Irish official last night. There was no reaction, but the allegation is bound to worsen Mr. Haughey's already delicate relationship with the United Kingdom.
Things are now out in the open. I suspect that the matter was not exactly news to the Irish Government, who, I know, want the matter cleared up. The article added:
Mr. Wallace's letter was prompted by a Ministry of Defence official who told him earlier this month:"—
I refer to Mr. Miller's letter—
You attached to your letter of 23 April seven documents which you suggested support your allegation of a smear campaign by Crown servants against Members of Parliament.
Have the Government bothered to try to find out about any of the other seven documents? If I am going on at inordinate length, it is because I want to suggest that I will do it again if I am given an opportunity, unless the Government bestir themselves.
May I help to put this in context? Many people will be surprised that we have not had a reply from the Prime Minister. She received a detailed file of all the most serious allegations from Colin Wallace at the beginning of the last decade, and nothing was done about it. For nearly 10 years those serious allegations have been in the Prime Minister's possession, and in all that time there has been not one serious response: they have been laughed off, brushed aside and denied.
My hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East and I have had the experience of being repeatedly laughed off. In 1986 I started off pretty sceptical, as I was told by Lord Mason not to touch this subject. However, other people said that I should examine the matter.
I was asked to start on this matter by a friend of the late Sir Maurice Oldfield, who was a mutual friend. I did not start with an attitude of destruction or of wanting to cause embarrassment. Frankly, I do not want to play party games in this matter. I am not sure whether I have pleased many of my colleagues—in fact, I am jolly sure that I have not. The article goes on:
'As to the remaining documents, it is not evident from them that any was written by a Crown servant with intent to smear Members of Parliament or that they were ever used … for that purpose.' Mr. Wallace said that response ignored identifiable handwriting on the documents.
The question about the handwriting must be gone into. Again, that matter can be easily checked. Hon. Members from Northern Ireland are saying, "Yes," because they know the whole background.
I do not want to go on endlessly, but, on 4 June, there was a very direct letter. If the Minister's Parliamentary Private Secretary, the hon. Member for Lancashire, West (Mr. Hind), would like to help—his Minister is taking the matter very seriously—he could persuade his colleagues that they and my colleagues too will save themselves much time and bother by taking the letters seriously. What reply will the Secretary of State send to a letter dated 4 June? It states:
Dear Secretary of State,
I am writing to you once more about the Kincora affair in the light of the reported broadcast by the BBC2 Public Eye programme on 1st June 1990.
You will no doubt be aware that the contents of the programme cast into doubt previous claims that the issue has been fully investigated.
The programme alleged that the Security Service refused to co-operate with the enquiry conducted by Chief Superintendent George Caskey on behalf of Sir George Terry. In particular, it claimed that the following questions were put to the Security Services"—
we are back on the same matter that my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East mentioned—
1. Why was no action taken to investigate the allegations the witness described as 'James' had passed on?"—
I have a clear idea about James, and I believe him to be a credible witness—
2. Why was this witness told to drop the Kincora case?
If the matter had all been part of the past, do hon. Members think that television, with all else that goes on, would still devote a long programme to it? Television does not do these things unless someone is interested, and we are interested in that question. The letter asked:
No reply … was ever received. In the circumstances, I would appeal to you to provide an explanation for this failure to co-operate with the RUC. There are obvious implications for the primacy of the police and the respect for the rule of law by all security agencies. The whole issue should now be subject to the full and thorough investigation which it is obvious has not yet taken place.
Furthermore, the testimony of 'James' validates the evidence of Mr. Roy Garland. This fact alone indicates that the security forces were aware that there was cause for concern in connection with Kincora. As a result, the key question is no longer whether or not the security forces were aware of the concern, but why they did not act upon this awareness. Once again I appeal to you to recognise that the Government has a responsibility to the innocent victims of Kincora, whose lives have been devastated, to establish finally for once and for all the truth about this squalid business.
The Secretary of State knows that he received a letter of 12 May. He also knows about the personal letter to the Secretary of State for Defence on 18 May. He further knows that some of us are bothered about the passing of the buck. On Thursday 24 May, I tabled a question:
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether the Calcutt inquiry announced on 30 January, Official Report, column 112, will be taking evidence from (a) Len Garrett, (b) Sir Peter Leng, (c) Denis Payne, (d) Jeremy Railton, (e)"—
this is most important—
Penny Sadler, (f) Bernard Sheldon"—
who was the legal adviser for many years—
or (g) John Waterfield; and whether it would be open to representatives of Colin Wallace to cross-examine witnesses.
I should have thought that that was an important matter of public policy, but the Minister of State for the Armed Forces stated:
These matters are for Mr. Calcutt."—[Official Report, 24 May 1990; Vol. 173, c. 379.]
I do not know how David Calcutt will decide, but I should like it on the record in Hansard that some of us will be very disappointed if he does not see every one of those named individuals. It is all very well to say that there should be a quick conclusion, but seeing witnesses takes time and Mr. Calcutt may have to see them more than once. What sort of an inquiry is David Calcutt supposed to be undertaking? No inquiry could be full without seeing those witnesses.
In conclusion, there is a whole history of letters to the Prime Minister. There was a very important letter on 12 May which was not properly answered. The answer that I received to my speech in the Army debate on 20 June— D/Min(AF)/⅓—was no response whatsoever to my detailed speech.
I do not apologise for speaking at such length. I thank my parliamentary colleagues for having been so patient and, by their demeanour, not signalling impatience, but concern.
I am pleased to state that by nodding I was assenting to what the hon. Gentleman is saying, and supporting him in his efforts to establish the truth and, through that truth, to establish justice and proper treatment for those who have been guilty of offences that bring into disrepute this House and the entire establishment that is responsible for this nation's affairs.
I trust that the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) will forgive me if I do not take up any of the concerns that he expressed because I wish to return to the Secretary of State's speech. However, I shall make just one comment on the matter to which he referred, which is more relevant to the speech of the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone).
I was glad to hear the hon. Gentleman pay tribute to the work of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and to make it clear that, in the investigation into that very sorry affair, the RUC was not party to any cover-up, and pursued matters as far as it could. The same is also true in respect of another issue that also appears to be becoming a cause célèbre—the so-called Stalker matter. If people are fair when they look into that matter, they will see that the RUC investigated it carefully and thoroughly. If there were obstructions and cover-ups, they tended to come from the same source about which the hon. Gentleman complained.
However, that is to go off at a slight tangent. I wish to come back to the speech made by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he opened the debate. Together with my colleagues who spoke earlier, I express our appreciation of the Secretary of State's efforts over the past few months to find a way forward from the present impasse and to get round the obstacles concerning the administration of Northern Ireland. We appreciate what he has done. We particularly appreciate the integrity with which he has pursued the matter. It gives us some confidence for the future. I hope that he will not allow the road block that he has run into to bring him to a complete stop but that he will consider ways in which he can surmount or avoid it.
I welcome some aspects of the Secretary of State's statement. When discussing the administration of Northern Ireland there is a tendency to talk about three aspects. The hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) referred to a tripartite arrangement, and other hon. Members have used that phrase. They referred to the circumstances within Northern Ireland, the relationship between Belfast and Dublin—the so-called north-south axis—and the relationship between Dublin and London—the so-called east-west axis. I was glad that the Secretary of State made it clear that there are not only three parts.
There is a fourth part—or one could regard the fourth as implicit in the first. It is impossible to discuss representative institutions in Northern Ireland without addressing their relationship with this House and with London and their position within the kingdom. When one talks about arrangements within Northern Ireland, one does not talk solely on a Northern Ireland basis but on a United Kingdom basis. That must be underlined, and the Secretary of State did so.
We are glad that the Secretary of State made it clear that, in any discussions about arrangements for Northern Ireland and its place within the United Kingdom, the Government of the Republic of Ireland would not be directly represented. Unfortunately, he went on to mention ways in which the Republic might have an input. We would not welcome that. We hope that that will be one of the changes that will result from the developments that will certainly take place—whether today, this month, this year or whenever.
I do not want to speak at length about the Anglo-Irish Agreement, but it has had its day. It is on the way out. It was a bad mistake. We are sad that it has taken the Government so long to appreciate that a mistake was made. The Secretary of State used the ritual phrases that the Government are not considering an alternative agreement, that the current agreement is a valuable instrument and so forth. The logic of his position on replacing the agreement, however, is fatal to the agreement. He referred to the need for institutions to have widespread acceptance and support within the community. He knows—indeed his reply to my intervention showed it—that the agreement does not have widespread support in Northern Ireland. It never did and never will. He referred to the opinion polls that underline that fact. We can refer not only to opinion polls but to election results, which show that opposition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement has not diminished. If anything, the opinion is becoming firmer. The sorry shambles that we have seen today and yesterday will only reinforce that.
The Secretary of State and others who may speak at the end of the debate will not want to describe too bluntly the nature of the problems that they encountered during the past day or two but the press and the public are aware of it. They also know that the Government of the Irish Republic have put down their interdict and that the Government appear to have stopped as a result. That itself will give rise to renewed anger over the agreement. So one can confidently predict that opposition to the agreement will not diminish but will, if anything, get stronger.
Having praised part of the Secretary of State's speech, I fear that I must express disappointment—my hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) dealt with this at length—over the fact that he did not deal with the constitutional position, and particularly with articles 2 and 3 of the constitution of the Irish Republic. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to treat that as a matter of no great import and suggested that it would not provide an obstacle.
The hon. Member for Foyle encouraged us to look at European parallels. One parallel that springs immediately to mind provides an instructive contrast. I refer to one aspect of the unification of Germany which is now taking place. Hon. Members will recall how, a few months ago, intense pressure was brought to bear on Chancellor Kohl over the recognition or otherwise of the Oder-Neisse line, which demarcates the border between what is still technically the Democratic Republic of Germany and Poland. That line was produced as a result of Stalin's expulsion of millions of Germans from Pomerania and Silesia. Those people, or their forebears, had lived in that area for eight to 10 centuries. They were expelled violently with massive bloodshed in the months after May 1945.
One understands why, in the past, German leaders were reluctant to give unequivocal recognition to the Oder-Neisse line. But nobody suggested a few months ago that Chancellor Kohl—if he achieved a united Germany and was still its Chancellor—would launch a European war to recover Pomerania and Silesia. He was reluctant finally to disappoint the dispossessed Germans whose homes were in the lost territories. Because of that reluctance, tremendous pressure was brought to bear on him, by our Prime Minister among others.
The recognition of that frontier—the withdrawal of any possibility of a territorial claim, bearing in mind that Germany does not have a territorial claim over Poland; there was just the possibility that there would be a claim in future—was regarded as a matter of massive concern, yet the border existed, with peace on both sides. Nobody was conducting a war, or even a proxy war, by encouraging or supporting terrorism, directly or indirectly, in other territories.
Move to the frontier of the United Kingdom, for it has a frontier, and one finds that it is disputed. There is disturbance there. Something close to a form of proxy war is being waged, indirectly, by the Republic of Ireland against the United Kingdom. The Secretary of State says that that is not an obstacle. Of course it is an obstacle.
Consider what has happened in Europe in the last 20 to 40 years. A number of states with minority and boundary problems are beginning to evolve a relationship together —we need not go into the vexed question of what the nature of that relationship will be in future—on the basis of forswearing territorial claims over the territory of each other and on the basis of the recognition of existing frontiers. That recognition is achieved not in a qualified but in an unqualified manner which does not recognise any possibility of change.
Consider the situation in the Sud Tyrol, an area which is 75 per cent. German-speaking. It was always part of a Germanic state up to about 1922. Austria, by the treaty of Vienna in the 1950s, forswore any territorial claim to recover those territories which had been part of Austria. On that basis, it is proving possible to construct a legitimate regime within the Alto Adige and to have some local administration that is functioning, admittedly with difficulty. That is an example of what should be done.
When one looks at other societies in Europe that have had such problems, one sees again and again that the key to the solution is the recognition of existing frontiers and a recognition that they will not change. That is embodied in the Helsinki and the Vienna agreements. To say that the matter will not be raised with the Irish Republic and that its territorial claim will be ignored is not good enough.
I should add that the so-called guarantee in article 1 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement is, as we all know, worthless. It might be more fruitful to take up with the Irish Government the fact that their constitution is in breach of the Helsinki and Vienna agreements, which the Irish Republic has signed. The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs might occasionally refer to that matter. I am sure that the other countries of Europe would be interested in taking up that matter.
I emphasise that the recognition of existing frontiers is important if they are regarded as immutable. To hold out the possibility of change is to encourage terrorism. The so-called guarantee of Northern Ireland's position that has been repeated here again tonight by the Secretary of State —that Northern Ireland will remain part of the United Kingdom so long as the majority of the population wish—is in itself a cause of instablility because it recognises the possibility of change.
If by some strange chance it should happen that at some future referendum a majority in Northern Ireland voted in favour of unity with the Irish Republic and that was carried into effect, creating an all-Ireland state, does anyone think that the next day the Taoiseach of the Irish Republic would turn round and say that the six counties that were previously Northern Ireland would be part of the Irish Republic so long as the majority so wished? No. The national unit would be regarded as settled, in just the same way as people in England regard the English national unit as settled. They would be amazed if a Minister said that Kent would remain part of England so long as the majority of its people so desired.
To refer to change is to hold out the possibility of change. Here again, the institution of direct rule reinforces the possibility of change. The fact that since 1974 the House has not been prepared to handle Northern Ireland affairs properly gives terrorists the message that the Government do not really want Northern Ireland to be part of the United Kingdom; that they would get rid of it if they could.
The Secretary of State said that the Government would not bow to terrorism, would not want to see change, and so on. He also said, I think wrongly, that all the policies and actions of his Administration are consistent with the eradication of violence. They are not. The maintenance of direct rule is inconsistent with policies designed to eliminate terrorism. Eliminating direct rule, treating Northern Ireland as if it is part of the kingdom, and dropping the reference to the possibility of change would help to reinforce policies to eradicate terrorism.
If it is thought that dropping the so-called guarantee presently enshrined in section 1 of the Northern Ireland Consitution Act 1973 would create some uncertainty, I can say that it would not. The position of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom was created not by the 1973 Act, but by article 1 of the treaty and section 1 of the Acts of Union, which all stated the union to be for ever and to be immutable. That is the correct position to which one should return.
That issue should be addressed and if, as a result of any future progress, one wants to see stability in the affairs of Northern Ireland, that is the way to achieve it. I note that it was said that stability was one of the aims of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, and now we have shown how it can be achieved.
I commend other aspects of the Secretary of State's speech. He recognised the disadvantage of the present system of direct rule to the political health of Northern Ireland. I hope that he will deal with that problem urgently, not only through promoting schemes for devolution—although that would be good—but through tackling the position of local government.
It is not healthy that the present 26 district councils have no effective powers. At the last local government elections, we and other political parties encountered considerable difficulty in persuading people to become candidates. Indeed, there was an average of only 1.7 candidates per seat—a remarkably low figure. There is a real danger that the district council system will collapse at the next elections unless something is done to make local authorities more attractive, especially against the background of the Government's policy of contracting out such services as are left to them.
Those problems should be dealt with urgently. If local government is to be attractive and if people are to be encouraged to serve in it, legislative changes must be made well in advance of the next elections. We all know how difficult it is to fit legislation into the parliamentary programme and to get it enacted.
I am talking about legislative programmes because I do not envisage any such change being made by Order in Council. It is generally acknowledged that that procedure is indefensible. I am only amazed that it has taken so long for the necessary changes to be made. No legislation is required to end the Order in Council procedure. It could be ended tonight or tomorrow simply by the Minister deciding to make no more such orders and to take through the House, under the proper Bill procedure, all those measures that it is currently intended should be made by Order in Council.
There is no obstacle in the way of the other major change that is required to remedy the defects of direct rule, namely, the introduction of a Select Committee. That point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth). It can and should be done, and there is no reason why it should not be done urgently. We must consider whether we are sending out the wrong signals. Failure to handle Northern Ireland business in a proper, democratic, accountable way is sending out a message that Northern Ireland's position in this House and in the United Kingdom is temporary and contingent. If we want stability, and if we want to discourage those who seek change by violent means, we must make it clear that Northern Ireland's position is neither temporary nor contingent, and that its affairs are treated with real concern by this House.
I wish to deal with those parts of the Secretary of State's speech that outlined forms of devolution, and to comment briefly on the concept of widespread acceptance. That is usually regarded as being a synonym for power sharing. It means that one party is guaranteed a position in the Administration, whatever the circumstances. The right hon. Gentleman used the phrase "democratic accountability". I hope that he recognises the incompatibility between democratic accountability and power sharing.
Under power sharing, one or more parties is guaranteed a position in power, irrespective of the election. Therefore, by definition there cannot be accountability. Democratic accountability must mean that it is possible for the people to vote a Government out of office. Power sharing means that certain parties cannot be voted out of office.
The Secretary of State referred to widespread acceptance. I shall draw a parallel that relates directly not to Northern Ireland, but to the House and the Government. Do the present Government have widespread acceptance throughout the community?
But does the present system of government have widespread acceptance? of course it does, because the system springs from the operation of the House, in which Governments are formed. The system has widespread acceptance, although any particular Administration may or may not have widespread acceptance or support, depending on their popularity. One would not automatically decide that the system of government cannot operate if, for example, the Government's standing should fall below 40 per cent. in the opinion polls, which I believe happens occasionally.
In that case, should one say that the House should be abolished and closed down because the Government no longer have widespread support? Of course not; what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. The principles and standards of democracy must remain, and so long as the institution has widespread support, Governments may come and go. If that holds true here, it must hold true across the few short miles of water that separate Northern Ireland from Great Britain.
In that light, we are sometimes puzzled by the concept of widespread support and acceptance, and we wonder whether the matter has been properly thought through. In the past, proposals for power sharing have tended to give a certain party a guaranteed position in Government. As a consequence, that party has a veto on the Government, so a minority group is given a veto over the operation of an Administration. Obviously that creates an impossible situation, just as the veto exercised by the Dublin Government over the proposals that the Secretary of State was about to introduce to the House creates a difficult if not impossible situation.
In one sense, we were rather amused, because we remember that a number of years ago the hon. Member for Foyle went around lecturing people saying that the problem was the existence of a veto and that, if the Unionist veto were removed, everything would be sweetness and light. But now we discover other vetos that he does not recognise as vetos and does not wish to remove. We hope that the rather salutary lessons of the past few days will encourage the Government to remove those vetos. They should be removed, as they are obstacles to progress.
We do not regard what the Secretary of State has done or the talks that have taken place as anything new. Immediately after the 1987 general election, the leaders of the Ulster Unionist party and the Democratic Unionist party initiated a series of talks with the then Secretary of State. Those talks about talks went on for some time, until in 1988 the Unionist leaders put before the Secretary of State an outline of proposals for an alternative to and replacement for the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The then Secretary of State let them gather dust and did nothing about them. Following the appointment of the current Secretary of State, the Unionist leaders brought the matter before him and the recent series of discussions emerged from that.
From our point of view, what is happening is a response to the initiative which the Unionist leaders launched two years ago. It has taken a long time to reach this stage, but we appreciate the fact that the present Secretary of State has at least made an effort which has always eluded his predecessor, and we are glad that some progress has been achieved.
We are also glad that the sequence of events outlined by the Secretary of State corresponds with the sequence of events often outlined by the Unionist leadership—that there will be statements by the Governments of the Irish Republic and the United Kingdom about their willingness to replace the Anglo-Irish Agreement, to be followed by suspension of the meetings of the Intergovernmental Conference and of the working of the secretariat, followed by bilateral talks to establish whether there is a basis on which people can proceed. They would have to be followed by inter-party talks, aimed at trying to achieve an acceptable solution with regard to the Northern Ireland dimension, which includes the United Kingdom dimension. Consideration would then have to be given to the consequences of that for the north-south axis and the east-west axis.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) outlined that sequence of events some time ago. We are therefore surprised that, within the last week, the Dublin Government have found difficulty with a sequence of events that was made clear to them months ago.
Yes, in August of last year. Presumably they were aware of them. They intimated a number of months ago that they were willing to proceed along those lines, so they must have known what they were doing. One wonders, therefore, why those difficulties have emerged during the last few days and what caused the Irish Government to change their mind. Was it because they thought that some kind of manoeuvre would extract last-minute concessions from us? If so, they are wasting their time.
As for the issue that concerns the Irish Government —the circumstances in which any Unionist might find himself holding discussions with the Dublin Administration—it is remarkable to us that it does not seem to have occurred to them that, in the last analysis, the only people who will decide when Unionists will speak to the Dublin Government are Unionists. We shall not speak to the Dublin Government unless we are satisfied that the circumstances are right. One wonders, therefore, why they approach the matter indirectly. Is it yet another example of their inability to treat the Unionists who live in Ulster with the respect with which they insist that other people should be treated?
My role once more seems to be to sweep up before the speeches from the Front Bench. The issue is direct rule and, therefore, the lack of democracy in Northern Ireland.
Democracy is partly about people having the vote. Northern Ireland is ahead of England, Scotland and Wales, in that its electoral register is in a very healthy state. The effects of the poll tax mean that 600,000 people in England, Scotland and Wales are missing from the electoral register. That is not the case in Northern Ireland. The number of those who could vote for the first time last year in Northern Ireland increased by 18 per cent. During the past three years there has been a fall in the number of people who could vote for the first time in England, Scotland and Wales.
Although Northern Ireland's electoral register is healthy, unfortunately the electors have little opportunity to vote. They can cast their votes in general elections, European Community elections and local government elections of limited importance, but they cannot vote on matters that affect Northern Ireland. Democracy is not just about having the vote. The minorities in Northern Ireland feel that majority rule is oppressive.
The spirit of democracy and the civil liberties arrangements in the system are of great importance. The speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) was relevant to the matters that we need to discuss —the health of the democratic system generally in this country and in Northern Ireland in particular. The civil liberties and rights of minorities and individuals are of overwhelming importance, but the rights of the majority must be fully considered, responded to and reflected on in that spirit.
We often forget how much people from the island of Ireland and Northern Ireland, especially working-class people, be they Protestant or Catholic, have in common. Their interest in having jobs with decent wages, in seeing that the prices that they pay for goods in the shops are correct and in having proper and decent health service and social security provision is the stuff of politics. They are matters of common concern. Hon. Members from Northern Ireland advance those common interests, especially in appropriation debates and in debates on the economic and social welfare of Northern Ireland.
That is not to deny the fact that strong issues divide people in Northern Ireland. We are only too well aware of them because Northern Ireland affairs sometimes bring the House to life. Yet sometimes we forget the issues of common interest.
The cultural divisions—with religion as their symbol —and the divisions in loyalty among people of the two communities are powerful, but surely in looking for solutions to Northern Ireland's problems we should be building on their common concerns and interests. At last, the Government and the Secretary of State seem to be searching for a democratic framework for Northern Ireland that will allow their differences to be expressed without destroying the political framework. I welcome the noises that have been made in that regard.
There is a fracture in the position that the Secretary of State outlined in his speech. At one point he said, correctly, that we should be considering
increasing job opportunities for all and improving living standards.
He sees that as crucial
to restoring social harmony and self-confidence, and reducing deprivation and communal divisions.
Earlier in his speech, he said:
Industry must become more competitive, its labour force more skilled and its culture more imbued with the spirit of enterprise.
There might be nothing wrong with that last quotation, but the problem is that we know that it is coded language for other values and ideas. Crude free enterprise,
devil-take-the-hindmost Thatcherism is pushed as the economic and social framework for Northern Ireland, as it is for England, Scotland and Wales.
There is a difficulty. It may be possible for the Secretary of State, by sleight of hand, to advance some of the principles in his speech, to consult the oracle and to draw the various forces together so that moves can be made towards greater democracy and unity in Northern Ireland, but unless the economic and social elements of a democracy are involved, that will be achieved only by clever politics, rather than by more deep-rooted factors which could begin to draw people together.
We have fair employment legislation in Northern Ireland which sometimes assists both sections of the community, but full employment is even more important and would allow the principles on which fair employment is based to function more readily. I hope that the democratic principles of voting. of civil liberties, of rights for the individual and of concern for the different sections of the community will be considered as principles that can be drawn together, both in the devolution measures that Northern Ireland needs so that it can have its own Parliament making its own decisions, and in allaying the fears of individuals among the minority and the majority. A Bill of Rights is especially important for Northern Ireland.
We are not discussing whether a Bill of Rights is relevant to England, Scotland and Wales. The position in Northern Ireland is different from that in England, Scotland and Wales, but we might learn from a Bill of Rights being established there. The question of what is in a Bill of Rights is beginning to be important. Civil liberties, rights of access to education and jobs, and other provisions that need to be built in are beginning to be important considerations for the Northern Ireland community.
I understand the hon. Gentleman's point about the contents of a Bill of Rights. However, as far back as the Northern Ireland constitutional convention, which produced a report that the House did not bother to read or to debate properly because an element of the convention would not vote for anything unless it was given a guarantee that it would be in government, we gave a commitment that failing a Bill of Rights for the United Kingdom, an assembly in Northern Ireland would introduce a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.
As part of the discussions leading up to the establishment of devolved government for Northern Ireland, a Bill of Rights may begin to be worked out, whether it is instituted through the House or in Northern Ireland. It may be an essential element in helping to knit those areas together.
In Northern Ireland, we have policies, for example, on education for mutual understanding. That development is to be welcomed, but we also need participation and democratic procedures through which mutual understanding can begin to develop and grow throughout the community. If we are not prepared to work solidly in that area and if the politicians from the different parties are not prepared to be pulled together in working for this, there will be considerable shortcomings. That is a contrast with the developments in eastern Europe and the developments, which many of us support vigorously, in South Africa. The principles that we believe are to be exported from the United Kingdom sometimes need to be imported into areas such as Northern Ireland. I remind the House of my initial point about the extension of the franchise and the defence of the franchise for England, Scotland and Wales.
Unfortunately, many of our debates on Northern Ireland take place on Orders in Council and are crammed into one and a half hours late at night. Our debate on an education measure that was as significant as the Education Reform Act 1988 lasted three hours—about one minute for each clause and 10 minutes for some 13 schedules. That measure did not merely duplicate the Education Reform Act; it contained many provisions that were special to Northern Ireland.
Those hon. Members who do not attend our appropriation debates—and my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone), who made a very interesting speech—would be most welcome to come and debate the bread-and-butter issues with us. Democratic Socialists may have differing views about the solutions to Northern Ireland's problems and to constitutional matters, as well as to the major and more dramatic issue of terrorism, but we have a view of the way forward, and it will be a long haul. We believe that the answer lies in democratic arrangements for which we Socialists believe there is a social context. Where markets lead to monopoly and exploitation, collective action must come in. Collective action is open to bureaucratic abuse, which can be contained only by democratic and participatory forces. The solution for Northern Ireland is very different from that which has been peddled in England, Scotland and Wales in the past 10 years.
The task of the House today has been to consider the extension for a further year of direct rule in Northern Ireland, although I note that the column listing parliamentary business in this morning's edition of The Independent said that we would be debating home rule. I do not know whether that was a Freudian slip. Since I came to the House in 1979 it has been something of a ritual to come along every year to renew direct rule. There never appeared to be much prospect that we could look forward to anything other than the previous years' arrangements.
As we are considering the renewal of direct rule, it seems to me appropriate to look at what direct rule means to Northern Ireland and how it works in Northern Ireland. First, let us consider how direct rule works in relation to legislation that comes before the House and how Northern Ireland is treated. I am a Northern Ireland Member, but, in dealing with the mass of Northern Ireland legislation, I do not have the opportunity to do what I can do when the House considers legislation for England and other parts of the United Kingdom. We take Bills through their various readings, and in Committee we can table amendments. On each of those occasions, we can speak for as long as we like or for as long as Mr. Speaker or the Chairman will tolerate us. We can have dozens—in some cases even hundreds —of hours of debate in Committee and on the Floor of the House. That appears to me to be a reasonable way of dealing with legislation. Lest this House should allow anything to slip through its fingers, the other place goes through exactly the same process. That is how the arrangements work for England, Scotland and Wales.
As a Northern Ireland Member, I can table amendments to legislation affecting other parts of the United Kingdom and I can speak on it until I am blue in the face—by and large, in prime time on the Floor of the House.
When it comes to Northern Ireland business, we are treated in the most shabby way possible. We have what is called an Order in Council which first sees the light of day by way of a draft order that arrives on our desks. It also goes to various organisations that might have an interest in the legislation and they are permitted to comment on it by a certain date and to offer their views and suggestions. When that draft order comes to the House and is considered, we do not have the various stages and we cannot table amendments even if we see something that is blatantly inaccurate in the proposed legislation. We cannot amend it: it is on a take-it-or-leave-it basis and, with the Government's majority, it is usually a take-it basis.
That is the way in which our laws are made for Northern Ireland. They pass through the House in 90 minutes flat. The Government Front-Bench spokesman will expect at least 15 or 20 minutes in which to open the debate and the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman will expect the same time. What time does that leave for Northern Ireland Members out of that one and a half hours? In the face of that, we are supposed to be happy that the United Kingdom is treating Northern Ireland in that way.
As always, my hon. Friend is right.
We should consider the attendance in the Chamber during this debate. We have been dealing with an important Northern Ireland issue, but the attendance is different when we deal with issues that affect the rest of the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland is treated badly by the House in the way in which its laws are made.
The Secretary of State said:
We are governing via the artificial mechanism of direct rule under constitutional arrangements which are avowedly temporary"—
they are "temporary" but we are extending a 1974 order—"and which no one would dream of inventing as a long-term way of governing any sizeable community.
That is inadequate in relation to the way in which the laws are made for Northern Ireland in the House, and it is just as bad when we consider the way in which Northern Ireland is administered. While hon. Members from other parts of the United Kingdom have local government which is responsible—no matter how much the Government would like to control it—for health, housing and important issues relating to the environment, in Northern Ireland we have none of those powers. In our local government we are allowed to be responsible for recreation and community centres, for parks, for emptying the bins and for burying the dead. That is the beginning and the end of it.
The people who take the local decisions in Northern Ireland are people from England, Scotland and Wales who come over as Northern Ireland Office Ministers. Occasionally someone who has left our shores returns to take over some of the administration of our Province.
With the best will in the world, and no matter how dedicated to the task those people may be, they are not elected in Northern Ireland. They are not accountable to the people of Northern Ireland and very often, although I do not blame them for it, they do not know the nuances of what is happening in Northern Ireland. I have known occasions in Northern Ireland when members of the SDLP and the two Unionist parties and representatives of all sorts of other varieties of constitutional parties in Northern Ireland have agreed on an issue, but the Government have taken another view. They know better than we do, so they just jolly away and do what they intended to do in the first place in spite of the wish of the elected representatives of Northern Ireland.
That is not the way to rule Northern Ireland. That is not a satisfactory way in which to deal with the situation. However, the Government admit that that cannot continue and that there must be more accountability and a greater role for the elected representatives in Northern Ireland. However, when the situation changed in November 1985, instead of giving control and responsibility to elected representatives in Northern Ireland, the Government gave a role and responsibility to the Government of the Irish Republic, still leaving the elected representatives in Northern Ireland without any real responsibility for their own affairs.
The Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed. Tonight we were expecting to debate a speech somewhat different from the one delivered by the Secretary of State. I must express my disappointment—and I know it is also a disappointment to many other hon. Members—that the speech that we are debating is somewhat limited in its scope. We believe that it is limited because the Government of the Irish Republic were not prepared to give their consent to the delivery of the original speech, because they wanted to have an input at an earlier stage in the dialogue.
If I were unkind, I might tell the Government that the thorn that pierces their flesh comes from the tree that they planted. Through the Anglo-Irish Agreement they led the Government of the Irish Republic to believe that they have a control and responsibility in Northern Ireland which they now seek to exercise. If the Government of the Irish Republic are reticent to agree to this sort of process because they believe that Unionists are insincere, that Government are wrong.
I pay tribute to two Unionist leaders—I fully support the steps that they have taken—who have entered into this arrangement genuinely and sincerely. They are not interested in a process that only deals with one aspect of our problem, as they want to deal with all its aspects. If they merely dealt with the internal relationship in Northern Ireland, and with the problems of creating structures there, they would still have the Anglo-Irish Agreement around them, and that is not satisfactory to Unionists.
I am as bitter and angry about the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement today—I am no more likely to accept it today or tomorrow—as I was on 15 November 1985. It is not an acceptable way to govern Northern Ireland and it does not have the consent of the community there. That has been proved in elections and signalled in opinion polls. The Government should be in no doubt that the agreement is not an acceptable way forward.
Behind the Secretary of State's speech and the trend in policy that he has been pursuing capably has been a recognition that the best structure for Northern Ireland is one which will have the consent of both sections of our community. The Secretary of State has recognised that the Anglo-Irish Agreement does not enjoy that consent, and a better agreement is possible.
Unionist parties have put proposals to the Secretary of State to demonstrate that we are sincere and genuine. Let no one inside or outside the House doubt that the Unionist parties have entered into this process in good faith, that they now stand ready to take part in a dialogue, that they want to be a part of that process and that no responsibility for delay should be left at their doorstep.
The Secretary of State is to be thanked by the community in Northern Ireland for the efforts that he has made. He need not expect that divisions which have lasted for decades—indeed, centuries—in Northern Ireland can so easily be removed. If that had been an easy task, someone would have been able to perform it before. The Secretary of State should not be so downhearted as to lay down the task. I urge him to persevere with it, because it is in the interests of the community in Northern Ireland that we have stable political processes. That very stability will cause a reaction from the men of violence, who will not want the creation of stable structures.
The vacuum that will exist in the absence of political stability in Northern Ireland would create the atmosphere in which terrorism thrives. Terrorists will always find it easier to do mischief when a country has no political stability. I urge the Government not to give up the task, because we need firm and stable political structures. The people of Northern Ireland deserve them. I urge the Government not to give up the task, because we need to defeat terrorism. The best way of doing that is to place responsibility for law and order in the hands of an elected representative assembly of the people of Northern Ireland. They will then be in a stronger position to take on the IRA than any British Government could be.
I wish the Secretary of State well with that process. He should not give up. I trust that, before long, he will be able to report to the House that he has produced an agreement between the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland and all the others concerned on the basis of which a dialogue can begin.
This is the first time for years that I have sat through a debate on Northern Ireland that has given me personal hope for its future. I believe that the debate has also given the people of Northern Ireland grounds for hope. I am impressed by the fact that the right hon. and hon. Members representing the constitutional parties of Northern Ireland all expressed cautious optimism this evening, which is something on which the Secretary of State can start to build political structures in the Province.
It is impossible for me to respond to all the points that have been raised, but I hope to do so where most appropriate. Before doing so, I recall that my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) accused me, about halfway through his speech, of being disgruntled with him. I do not know whether that was the correct choice of word, but I have no complaint at all with the content of my hon. Friend's speech. If I was disgruntled, it was at the length of his speech—it was not a question of personal dissatisfaction with him. I recall that in a debate on 20 April my hon. Friend drew attention to a fairly long speech of 77 minutes made by the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown).
Perhaps that is not unusual in the hon. Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes. In any event, I was only drawing attention to the ambiguous nature of my hon. Friend's remarks, in complaining about the length of speeches made by other hon. Members but making an extra-long contribution himself.
Turning to the speech of the Secretary of State, I am sure that he must be pleased both personally and politically that the leaders of all the Northern Ireland parties have praised him this evening. He is probably also aware that this afternoon, in the Dail, the Taoiseach commented on the task that the right hon. Gentleman has undertaken and gave further support to the Secretary of State's personal position. The Taoiseach said:
The Irish Government have consistently supported the Secretary of State's initiative. We have been as helpful and as positive as possible. We have engaged in an intensive programme of discussions and at least eight meetings have been held at Ministerial level with the British in recent months.
The penultimate paragraph of the speech is particularly welcome and important. It reads:
Further consultations with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland are necessary at this stage but we are confident that a satisfactory formula and basis for meaningful discussions can be found.
I think that we can all say amen to that.
At the beginning of his speech, the Secretary of State again gave us an overview of the Government's economic and social policies in Northern Ireland. He was, I think, proud to draw attention to the progress that the Government claim to have made, especially in the economic sphere. No objective individual would deny that great strides have been made in that regard; nevertheless —as I have told the House and the Government before —there is no room for complacency. Unemployment is still far too high, and productivity rates are still intolerably low compared not just with those in Britain, but with those of our main European competitors. Much still needs to be done.
Referring to the emergency provisions Acts, the Secretary of State said:
When there is a demonstrable need for new powers, I shall not hesitate to ask the House to approve them.
I have no idea what he has in mind, but, if he will not hesitate to ask for approval for new powers, will he at the same time show a similar initiative and energy in removing from the statute book powers that are no longer required or used, such as those relating to internment? We have made that point to him repeatedly in debates on the emergency provisions Acts.
The right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) made specific reference to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. He said that Northern Ireland had
not consented, and never will consent, to interference by an external Government.
He would argue that such interference was implicit in the agreement. I do not wish to dispute his point of view, although it may not be the same as mine; let me point out,
however, that the agreement has been overwhelmingly approved by the House of Commons, and my guess is that, if it were put to the House again this evening, it would still be approved by a massive majority. The only way in which it can be removed or superseded is through the normal political process—in this place, in London generally, in Belfast and in Dublin.
I note that, in five years, the Anglo-Irish Agreement has failed to deliver peace, stability or reconciliation; nor has it brought us the better security and extradition procedures that were promised, or an end to megaphone diplomacy. Given that the hon. Gentleman still supports it on the same grounds, I presume that he would still endorse the piece of paper waved by Neville Chamberlain in 1938, which—having received an overwhelming vote of approval in the House—proved equally unsuccessful.
The hon. Gentleman's last comments are unbecoming both to him and to the House.
When we compare the present position in Northern Ireland with the position five or 10 years ago, there is no doubt that there has been progress in controlling terrorism, advancing the cause of the nationalist community, and ensuring that the nationalist community is now more confident in its position in Northern Ireland and in the security forces in Northern Ireland, and far more inclined to pass on information to the security forces, which helps in the pursuit and arrest of terrorists. Co-operation between the security forces in Northern Ireland and in the Republic is now such that even the security chiefs in Northern Ireland would praise the security forces in the Republic.
The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) said that the internal affairs of Northern Ireland have nothing to do with the Government of the Republic. The hon. Gentleman is perfectly entitled to his point of view, but, as he already knows, the troubles in the north have a knock-on effect in the Republic. They place an intolerable financial burden on the people of the Republic to pay for security. Much of that security arises as a consequence of the co-operation between our security forces and those of the Republic.
The hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) gave the European dimension of the events of 300 years ago, which certainly made an impresson upon me—I do not know whether they made an impression on hon. Members from Northern Ireland. The hon. Gentleman said that perhaps the present and future European dimension offers the best hope for all the people of the island of Ireland. I certainly agree with the hon. Gentleman's main point: that we need to build institutions north and south that respect differences between the various communities but emphasise the common interest. Anyone who examines the economy and the social problems of the island of Ireland is inevitably struck time and again by common matters, whether they be problems or whatever. Common interests exist, and we must continue to build upon them.
The hon. Gentleman said that it is better that we share sweat rather than blood. That sums up the matter. All hon. Members hope that the people of the island of Ireland can work together and produce a more prosperous place for all the people.
The right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) referred to shared economic and social hardships and the victims of violence. He said that we must build upon shared experiences to build political institutions that are able to ensure that both communities have responsibility for the internal government of Northern Ireland. Again, we can all share that expression of hope.
I am sure that the Secretary of State will be pleased to note that, according to the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis), he has made only one mistake today; he is normally accused of having made many.
Although much of the debate has been devoted to the future governance of the Province and the likely success or otherwise of the talks, we are talking about the renewal order for direct rule in the Province. It is clearly unsatisfactory that Westminster politicians should make day-to-day decisions that would be better made by local politicians in the Province.
Direct rule is inadequate and occasionally unjust. On the one hand, it encourages complacency and arrogance from the Government, as is evidenced by Lord Skelmersdale's recent overruling of the health boards over contracts, while, on the other hand, it denies power and genuine responsibility to the elected representatives of the Province, with a consequent detrimental effect on democratic politics and political parties. However, as has been said many times this evening, a real glimmer of optimism now exists. We can all only hope that that optimism is built upon so that we can begin to make new arrangements for the governance of Northern Ireland.
We should not underestimate the daunting task facing the Secretary of State and the harsh realities that he and politicians, both north and south of the border in the island of Ireland, will have to face. Contrary to what the hon. Member for Antrim, North may believe, Opposition Members have never regarded the Anglo-Irish Agreement as an end in itself, but as part of a mechanism that would eventually lead to a better alternative.
I believe that there is cross-party agreement on the need to find a better alternative to the agreement, but the key word is "better". Some people have deliberately attributed unattainable goals to the agreement—perhaps the better and more easily to undermine it—but that has never been the Opposition's position. As the House knows, we formed part of the vast majority in favour of the agreement when it was voted on in the House, but our support was not based on over-inflated expectations about what the agreement could achieve. We never viewed it as a final solution.
As has been said, the great defect of the agreement is the exclusion of the Unionist parties. The agreement does not purport to deal directly with the relationship between Unionism and Nationalism in the Province, but it has inevitably altered the framework within which that relationship exists. The key issue is to deal with that defect without jeopardising the progress that has been made in other areas. Protecting that progress does not mean that substantial institutional changes cannot or must not take place.
However, and in conclusion, all dimensions of the conflict must be tackled if the original problem of the Anglo-Irish Agreement is not to be replaced by new ones. If there is a Division—which I somehow doubt—we shall certainly vote with the Government in support of the renewal order.
Last year when replying to the debate, I had the privilege to point out that in their election manifestos all the main constitutional parties in Northern Ireland had made constructive statements about the future. But even in that debate, we did not have the sense of hope that has pervaded today's debate. If a new agreement is reached, I have no doubt that people will look back and see this debate as one of the important milestones along the way to that process.
The majority of hon. Members who have spoken have referred to political developments. Two speeches were exceptions to that, so I shall address them first. Both the hon. Members for Brent, East ( Mr. Livingstone) and for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), whom incidentally I should like to thank for his expressions of courtesy as they related to those on the Front Bench at that moment, and especially —and deservedly so—to my right hon. Friend the Member for Northavon (Mr. Cope), referred to their concern about what is known as the Kincora affair and related matters and to the conduct of some intelligence officers, among others. Both made detailed speeches, especially the hon. Member for Linlithgow. We shall examine those speeches carefully, not least to ascertain whether issues have been raised that might require a response from my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, or from other ministerial colleagues.
I pay tribute to not only the content but the tone of the speeches in the debate. It would be improper of me not to start by recognising a unique feature of the debate. It is not often that representatives of six different political parties in the House stand up and pay a united tribute to a working colleague. The words used included "integrity", "honesty". "fairness", "patience", "diligence", "truthfulness" and "sensitivity". All were addressed to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. That was a remarkable tribute. I suspect that he will subsequently rebuke me, although in character mildly and graciously, for drawing attention to that fact. The House has spoken and, especially in a Northern Ireland debate, it is worth drawing attention to the united view of the House. I know that my right hon. Friend will appreciate it.
No matter how great my right hon. Friend's contribution, he would be the first to recognise that others have contributed significantly to what progress has been made thus far. I pay tribute, and know that he will want to be associated with it, to the leaders of the three parties represented in the House—the Ulster Unionist party, the Democratic Unionist party and the Social Democratic and Labour party—for their role in moving the process forward as far as it has moved. I have no doubt about the contribution that they will continue to make as we seek to move it further forward. On behalf of the Government, I assure the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) that the sincerity of the Unionists' participation in the process is in no sense in doubt.
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) opened his speech by saying that direct rule is an arrangement which is designed to contain but not to eliminate terrorism. I hope that on reflection he will change that sentiment. I remind him again of what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said at the beginning of his speech. It will continue to be the first priority of the Government to eradicate terrorism in Northern Ireland. That remains the position. Given the robust support that he and his right hon. and hon. Friends have given to the fight against terrorism, I know that he will want to be associated with that sentiment.
Yes, we want to see the eradication of terrorism, but we believe that while we have direct rule, the weapons of democracy are considerably weakened. It would be far better to have representative institutions which are acceptable to the whole population in Northern Ireland, thus reducing the area in which the terrorists can gain support.
That view would command widespread support throughout the House. The hon. Gentleman and I also have common ground when we say that terrorism cannot be either excused or condoned in any circumstances. Indeed, the very word terrorism occasionally gives me cause for concern. To those who are not well versed, it might conceivably conjure up a picture that gives some vague justification for those acts or gives a degree of glamour to what these people do. Let us be clear that when we talk about terrorists we are talking about murderers.
During the debate there was a significant discussion about the constitutional point that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made in his speech. There may have been some misunderstanding when he said that he turned to the constitutional question
in the hope of putting it to one side.
Indeed, the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) invited me to reaffirm the second half, as he put it, of that sentence, which was:
We regard the position as clear. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom in national and in international law.
That remains our position. I am happy to oblige the hon. Gentleman by confirming that.
The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone and I took part in an Adjournment debate not long ago on the constitutional question and articles 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution. Most people understand the concern, unhappiness and disquiet caused by the existence of those articles. As I told the hon. Gentleman in that debate—I speak from memory—we would certainly expect the Unionist parties, as part of the discussions that we hope will take place, to want to put those articles on the table for discussion.
The right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux), the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) all, in their individual ways, again identified the continuing concern and unhappiness of the majority community in Northern Ireland about the Anglo-Irish Agreement and their need and desire to see that agreement replaced. I believe that I am right in saying that the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley said at one point that its replacement was of paramount concern to the Unionist community.
I think that we have reached the position where the possibility of a new agreement now exists. I remind the House that my right hon. Friend said that there was no reason why the present agreement should be the last word. He said:
While neither Government are seeking a new agreement, if a better agreement—which commanded widespread
support within both sides of the community in Northern Ireland—were to be arrived at, that would prove to be an important step forward.
I have heard speeches which described that as a departure, a new emphasis or a change of mind on the part of Government. I do not care to become involved in any of those designations. I am happy to reaffirm what my right hon. Friend said, and to the extent that it is an encouragement, that is good. But any such new agreement will have to flow from dialogue and discussion. That is self-evident. As the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley said, it will have to be built on what has already been achieved.
One is looking for agreement among the political parties that any talks, taken as a whole, should be the occasion to tackle all the dimensions of the problem. That can be expressed in terms of the relationships between the various peoples and communities involved. It can also be expressed in terms of possible institutional arrangements and relationships. Indeed, the manner in which those matters are expressed is, like so much else, sensitive. But more important than that sensitivity is the fact—I believe it to be a fact—that there is general agreement, or common ground, to use my right hon. Friend's expression, that all these matters should be addressed as part of the same process.
It is important to realise that the shared perceptions go further than that. It is also of central importance that each of the potential participants in any talks takes the view that in practice it will be possible to reach a conclusion on any one aspect of the matter only with full knowledge of what will be involved in the others. The various questions interlock and, in the end, while much work would need to be done to address questions separately, final decisions could be taken only on the outcome of the talks taken as a whole. That is of great importance, not least because of the reassurance that it offers to all concerned. Any talks which began with the local political leaders feeling that an important interest had been compromised could not be expected to succeed.
It is essential that any agreement emerging from the talks should be one to which all participants can give their wholehearted assent. No one should feel pressurised to take part or to reach an agreement except on the basis of full and willing consent. Perhaps everyone would readily understand and agree with that, with the exception of the Provisionals, who appear to believe that dialogue can be conducted with the bomb and the bullet.
All neighbours in Northern Ireland need to learn to live together. On behalf of the significant majority of people in Northern Ireland, I reaffirm that they do live together. There is a perception in Britain that everyone in Northern Ireland is at everyone else's throat. Nothing could be further from the truth. If any hon. Members do not believe me, I invite them to come to Northern Ireland and see for themselves. They will be impressed and they will return. That is the acid test.
Most people in Northern Ireland live as good neighbours, one with the other. The right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) was correct to point out that the events which affect the lives of people in Northern Ireland affect them irrespective of which church they worship in on a Sunday. There is a commonality of experience, and of aspiration, which provides a degree of hope for the future.
The hon. Member for Antrim, North was right to remind the House that there is no direct relationship between where people worship on a Sunday and how they vote. The easy and misleading use of labels to describe what is going on in Northern Ireland is frequently an obstacle to progress. The House owes the hon. Gentleman a debt of gratitude for pointing that out.
Differences exist in Northern Ireland, but they do in every community. It is the responsibility of all of us to make sure, and to do what we can to ensure, that those differences are not allowed to lead to division. Differences can become the strengths of our society, but the legacy of the past too frequently leads to the division of today and the perpetuation of division tomorrow. That was the message of the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) and he was right to point it out.
No one is seeking an homogenised Ulster man or Ulster woman to remove differences. One is simply seeking to put differences in their context and to help people to understand, to appreciate, and in some cases to come to terms with the fact that others are different. But that does not make them in any sense threatening. There are misconceptions to be addressed and all of us have a role in that process, not least in the process of political progress.
The Government believe, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made clear, that there is now the basis for talks aimed at achieving political progress in Northern Ireland. There is a basis for entering talks intended to cover the three relationships and, as my right hon. Friend said, it is a basis which he and the Government believe would meet everyone's essential interests.
We have reached that point, not least because throughout the process no one has set a deadline. There has been some suggestion that today's debate constituted, in some form or other, a deadline. It did not. As my right hon. Friend said, direct rule must be renewed if it is to continue, and it must continue in the interim because that is the means of governing Northern Ireland. While there are those who argue that there may have been a degree of convenience, there was no deadline. The process has prospered because no deadline was imposed. I think that my right hon. Friend would agree that, having made progress thus far without a deadline, he is not about to be tempted down that road. We hope to go further, but that remains for another day.
The right hon. Member for Strangford said that he thought that the slogan had been changed from "Ulster says no" to "Dublin says no". The hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) spoke of road blocks. I hope that they are as encouraged as I am by what Mr. Haughey said in the Dail this evening:
While substantial progress has been made on a number of important aspects—progress which we believe can be built on at an early date—a satisfactory basis which would avoid problems later and ensure success has not yet been fully established. Further consultations with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland are necessary at this stage but we are confident that a satisfactory formula and basis for meaningful discussions can be found.
I venture to suggest that, on this occasion at least, the House should unite in endorsing the words of the Taoiseach to the Dail.
I have listened to what the Minister said. Does not he think that it would have been helpful if, after five years, the Taoiseach had said those words yesterday, thus enabling the Secretary of State to come to the House today with a more hopeful and positive message—as he wished to do—rather than with a statement issued this afternoon that suggests ambiguity?
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman reflects the understandable impatience of everyone in Northern Ireland and the House to move to arrangements that will be lasting and will command widespread support in the Province and the House. But he will recognise that the issues with which we are dealing have been around for a long time. People feel strongly about them. As the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) said, they are not issues that lend themselves easily to resolution, or they would have been resolved long ago. The characteristic of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to which the House paid tribute was his patience. We have made progress. We do not make that statement flippantly. We recognise the issues that remain to be resolved. We hope to make further progress, but we are more likely to do so if we do not set deadlines.
Is not it true that we have been stymied in our debate because of the Taoiseach's actions? It is wrong for the Minister to end his speech without the honesty and integrity that were characteristic of the Secretary of State. Let us have the whole truth from him. We know, and the leaders of the talks know, that it was Dublin which prevented the sort of speech that we had expected to hear from the right hon. Gentleman today. The hon. Gentleman should admit that.
What I shall admit is that throughout a series of discussions over the past 10 months my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State used his judgment in making progress. He has taken people with him step by step. At times he has patiently addressed what, on the surface, appeared to be irreconcilable differences in a way that satisfied the people concerned. The ultimate reason why the Secretary of State did not make a different speech today was that, in his judgment, the time is not yet right for him to make that speech. It would not command the support of all those with whom he had held discussions and therefore would not lay the best possible foundation on which to build for the future.
That is not true. The fact of the matter is that I have been deceived by the Secretary of State. Let us get that out into the open tonight. The people of Northern Ireland wanted to hear the Secretary of State say certain things today. A few hours before the debate began the Secretary of State was going to make a different speech. The Minister should lay it on the line that it was Dublin that held it up. If the Secretary of State can persuade Dublin during the next few days to take a different route, we shall all welcome it, but let us not bluff anybody. We should let the world know that today that speech was not made because of Dublin's actions.
I am not seeking to bluff anyone. The people of Northern Ireland want the Secretary of State to be able to say that there is a basis for making political progress. I hope, as does the hon. Gentleman, that the day is not far removed when that speech will be able to be made to this House. What is not at issue is that that speech has to be made on a particular day at a particular time. As my right hon. Friend said, today's debate has no mystic significance. It is a function of the parliamentary calendar; it is not a function of the talks that he has had during the past 10 months. However, I join the hon. Gentleman and the other party leaders in their wish to see progress made to the point at which the Secretary of State can make the sort of speech that I believe the vast majority of the people in Northern Ireland want to hear.
I am grateful to the Minister for giving me the opportunity to confirm what has already been said. As far as I know, there was no disagreement between the leaders of the main parties in Northern Ireland. The blockage came from elsewhere. We can only guess from whence it came. However, the clear implication of what the Minister said about three sentences back was that the leaders of the parties in Northern Ireland had judged that the time was not yet right. I think that I can say, subject to what the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) may say, that we came into this building today on the clear understanding and in the expectation and hope that, at long last, on the 15th renewal of direct rule, we should hear the good news that from now on we were in business, and that before the next anniversary of direct rule arrived we should have achieved something for the people of Northern Ireland—as I said in my speech, for all the people of Northern Ireland, not just for Unionists.
I believe that the record will show that I said that it was the Secretary of State's ultimate judgment that today was not the day on which to make the sort of speech which I happily acknowledge that the right hon. Gentleman, along with other hon. Members, wished to hear.
A few weeks ago I had the privilege of hosting a reception in Parliament buildings in Belfast for a group of school children from the constituency of the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley. Seven primary schools in Lisburn had come together under "Education for Mutual Understanding" and had produced an anthology of poetry, which is well worth reading. The event attracted a certain amount of media attraction. A 10-year-old boy from Largymore school—the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley will be aware that it is a controlled school —was asked what "Education for Mutual Understanding" meant to him. Most adults would find that question difficult to answer, never mind a 10-year-old boy. He made three or four attempts to answer and told a story which initially seemed to those who heard it to be a diversion.
The boy told of a trip that his school and St. Joseph's school had made to Canada, how good it had been and how much he had enjoyed it. He said that the highlight of the trip was being allowed to get into a kayak and row across a lake. He made it clear that after a little while they learnt how to row straight across the lake. He told the interviewer, "There were two of us from Largymore who were paddling on the left of the kayak, and the two from St. Joseph's were paddling on the right. We eventually got it going in a straight line." He paused and said to the interviewer, "Do you know, if the two boys from St. Joseph's had got out of the kayak we would have just gone round in circles."
From the mouth of a primary school boy in Northern Ireland, that seems to sum up the overwhelming need of the Province—the ability to combine together to make progress in a straight line.
I am conscious of the political realities of Northern Ireland. I know of the significant difficulties that still must be resolved and I am aware of the sensitivities, but equally I know of the hope and the magnitude of the prize to be won. I commend the order to the House and hope that it will be the last time that it will be necessary to move it. I also hope that the spirit of the debate can at last be translated into substance.