Political Parties (Discussions)

Oral Answers to Questions — Northern Ireland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 22nd November 1990.

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Photo of Andrew MacKay Andrew MacKay , Berkshire East 12:00 am, 22nd November 1990

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on his discussions with political parties in the Province during the last month.

Photo of Mr Peter Brooke Mr Peter Brooke The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

Since the summer recess, I have had a number of meetings with the leaders of the main constitutional political parties in Northern Ireland and the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Ireland. All have expressed support for the view that formal talks should be launched soon which would address all relevant dimensions to the political problems of Northern Ireland, including the prospects for transferring substantial power, authority and responsibility to locally elected representatives in Northern Ireland on a widely acceptable basis.

Photo of Andrew MacKay Andrew MacKay , Berkshire East

Does my right hon. Friend agree that even though those talks might not reach a positive conclusion, the fact that they have been going on for so long offers the first positive hope to come out of the Province, in political terms, for a long time?

Photo of Mr Peter Brooke Mr Peter Brooke The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's comment. I hope that his view is shared by Members of Parliament from the other constitutional parties in the Province. I certainly found the dialogue extremely fruitful.

Photo of Mr Russell Johnston Mr Russell Johnston , Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber

Will the Secretary of State advise his Cabinet colleague the Secretary of State for Scotland to follow his example in respect of consulting other political parties about devolution?

Photo of Mr Peter Brooke Mr Peter Brooke The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and I are agreed that different constitutional arrangements may be needed for different parts of the kingdom. It is important that appropriate arrangements be available for those parts.

Photo of Mr Seamus Mallon Mr Seamus Mallon , Newry and Armagh

Will the Secretary of State confirm that during his discussions with the Northern Ireland parties and with the Government of the Republic of Ireland there is genuine concern to ensure that we make political progress? During those discussions, did he see any traces of the terminal disease called creeping integration?

Photo of Mr Peter Brooke Mr Peter Brooke The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

The fact that the talks have been going on for a long time has proved an opportunity for almost every subject to be discussed. I dare say that the subject mentioned by the hon. Gentleman has been raised at some stage during the past 10 months.

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

In his speech in the Low Countries the Secretary of State identified a number of areas where the main difficulties now arise. Does he now feel that he will be able to make positive progress in those two areas?

Photo of Mr Peter Brooke Mr Peter Brooke The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

It may well become necessary to pause and take stock, but we have not yet reached that point. As I have indicated elsewhere, I currently await a response from the Irish Government to certain proposals that I have put to them. Thereafter, I would expect to have a further round with the Northern Ireland parties. I continue to find constructive my experience with all my interlocutors.