Northern Ireland (Framework Documents)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:31 pm on 22nd February 1995.

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Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdon 3:31 pm, 22nd February 1995

I agree with my hon. Friend, as he knows from his own period as a Northern Ireland Minister precisely how people feel about those issues, and precisely what the difficulties are; I am particular grateful to him for his comments with that in mind. As far as the designation of authorities is concerned, it is worth spelling out the point clearly, so that it cannot be misunderstood by people in Northern Ireland, and I would not wish it to be.

In the first instance, this would be discussed among the political parties. If they agreed, there would be a referendum. After the referendum, there would be legislation in the House. The Assembly would then be set up, and any changes—any further powers that might then be devolved to the north-south body—would be devolved by the Northern Ireland Assembly itself. Agreement in the north-south body could be reached only with the agreement of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The fear that arose at one stage in the past that this would be an entirely independent, entirely autonomous, high-powered executive body that would rapidly change the mode of existence and way of life across a great swathe of functions in Northern Ireland is self-evidently wrong. I hope that that fear has been well and truly put at rest by the documents published today.