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House of Commons

Thursday 22 June 1989

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. Speaker-- in the Chair ]


New Southgate Cemetery and Crematorium Limited Bill

Read the Third time, and passed.

Associated British Ports

(No. 2) Bill.-- (By Order) Order read for resumed adjourned debate on Question--[23 May]-- That the Bill be now read the Third time.

Hon. Members : Object.

Debate to be resumed on Thursday 29 June.

British Railways (Penalty Fares) Bill

[Lords] (By Order) Order for consideration read.

To be considered on Thursday 29 June at Seven o'clock.

London Regional Transport (Penalty Fares) Bill

[Lords] (By Order)

Order for consideration read.

To be considered on Wednesday 28 June at Seven o'clock.

Buckinghamshire County Council Bill

[Lords] (By Order) Order for consideration read.

To be considered on Thursday 29 June.

London Underground (Victoria)

(By Order)

British Film Institute Southbank Bill

(By Order)

Vale of Glamorgan (Barry Harbour) Bill [Lords]

(By Order) Orders for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time on Thursday 29 June.

Hayle Harbour Bill

[Lords] (By Order)

Order for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time on Tuesday 27 June.

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Oral Answers to Questions


EC Structural Funds

1. Mr. Archer : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps he has taken to maximise the share of the European Community structural funds accruing to Northern Ireland.

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Ian Stewart) : The Government welcome the designation of Northern Ireland as an objective 1 region for structural aid from the European Community. Following partnership consultations, a development plan for the Province was submitted and negotiations with the Commission on the Community support framework are under way. Work on preparing earning measures is well advanced.

Mr. Archer : Since the present quota system of allocation will no longer apply after 1992, will the Minister ensure that his Department is ready with projects to assure Northern Ireland of its proper share of the funding? Will he undertake to ensure that every penny of European money will go to increase public expenditure and not to reduce the commitment of the Treasury?

Mr. Stewart : We are very anxious to ensure that Northern Ireland has the maximum opportunity to obtain the maximum amount of funding for the best possible projects through the earning measures. Work is already in hand and my officials are having another meeting with European Community officials about this next week. With regard to additionality, to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman referred, I am fully confident that we shall meet the European Community additionality requirement. I understand from Commissioner Millan that any constraint on the availability of funds is more likely to come from the number of existing commitments in the pipeline than from any problems on our front.

Rev. Ian Paisley : Will the Minister tell the House how many bodies he consulted in drawing up the strategic plan that he intends to submit to Brussels for action? How have the consultations taken place, why was a very important body--the Institution of Civil Engineers--left out, and are the discussions still going on?

Mr. Stewart : I can tell the hon. Gentleman that consultations took place between a very large number of bodies. With regard to the formal consultation process, a body with a statutory function in relation to the plan or the earning programme is defined in the Community's rules as being a partner for specific consultations. However, the Government consulted much more widely and included the Confederation of British Industry and the trade unions. If the particular body to which the hon. Gentleman referred has views that it wants to put to us on the use of the programmes and the structural fund we should be glad to hear from it.

Mr. John D. Taylor : As the most important Euro-route out of Northern Ireland is that between Belfast and Larne and then out through Scotland, will the Minister assure the House that the Belfast-Larne road will be improved as a

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matter of priority in the development scheme being submitted to the European Community? Will he confirm whether the line of the other Euro-route--from Belfast to Dublin, down to the border--has yet been finalised?

Mr. Stewart : The arterial routes which the hon. Gentleman mentions are important parts of the transport infrastructure for Northern Ireland, both to Scotland and to the Irish Republic. Transport proposals have been put to the European Commission in the context of our plan. It will be for the Commission, but in consultation with us, to establish the priorities within that and if those qualify, I will be glad.

Mr. Hume : Does the Minister agree that the designation of Northern Ireland as an objective 1 region, and the strategic plan to be based on that, represent a major opportunity substantially to raise living standards in Northern Ireland if the Commission's objectives are met? Does he agree that the Commission stipulates that special interest groups in Northern Ireland must be consulted and that expenditure must be extra and additional to normal Government expenditure? What steps has he taken, first, to ensure that there has been consultation, not just contact, with special interest groups, and, secondly, to assure the Commission that expenditure will be additional?

Mr. Speaker : Briefly, please.

Mr. Hume : Will the Minister assure the House that the final detailed plan submitted in October will include local development programmes for each part of Northern Ireland?

Mr. Stewart : In addition to the consultation and notification that took place before the development plan was permitted, there will be ongoing discussions with interested parties in Northern Ireland. That is in addition to those which have a statutory function and are thus technically partners under the European rules.

The projects for which we are seeking European funding, when they come forward in our public expenditure system, are bids within our overall bid to the Treasury. The mere fact that they are treated in that way for public expenditure purposes does not mean that they are not additional. They would not exist if EC funding was not forthcoming. To separate them out in accounting terms, as some have suggested, would merely put them at risk if for any reason European funding was not forthcoming.

Mr. Thurnham : I have just attended a meeting at the Institution of Civil Engineers at which an excellent report was put forward containing a number of proposals for structure investment, a copy of which I will pass to my right hon. Friend. In view of the apparent decline in investment in Northern Ireland compared with the rest of the United Kingdom, I hope that my hon. Friend will consider that report carefully.

Mr. Stewart : I am glad to say that investment in Northern Ireland has been improving in an encouraging way in the past year or two, but that does not mean that I shall not be interested to see the document that my hon. Friend mentioned.

Mr. Jim Marshall : May I press the Minister a little further on the concept of additionality? He will be aware

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that there is a difference of view between the Government and the EC Commission. Can he say anything about the Government's thinking on that? More importantly, the Minister's reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) that separating the projects out might put them in jeopardy suggested that they would go ahead irrespective of any EC funding. If that is so, the Minister must accept that they are not additional to existing programmes. We need a cast-iron guarantee that in future any EEC funds will be additional to those approved by the House and the Treasury.

Mr. Stewart : Contrary to what the hon. Gentleman suggests, I see no problems in our conforming with the additionality requirements but the matter turns on the subsequent point that he made. I was trying to explain that if those items were taken out of the main public expenditure block for Northern Ireland, as approved by the Treasury and incorporated in our public expenditure plans, any delay in receiving European funds between one financial year and another which meant that the amounts were not forthcoming in full would mean that those projects could not take place. The current arrangement provides some flexibility for the Government in Northern Ireland. I welcome that flexibility and would not want us to be deprived of it.

Playing Fields

3. Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many playing fields have been sold for development in the past five years ; what was the comparable figure in 1974 ; and if he will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Dr. Brian Mawhinney) : Comprehensive records of playing fields in Northern Ireland are not held centrally. Of those grant-aided by the Department of Education, four were sold for development in the past five years. None was sold in 1974.

Mr. Greenway : Will my hon. Friend confirm that on principle the Conservative Government will make it a priority not to allow development on school or other playing fields or green spaces? Will he contrast that with the behaviour of Labour-controlled Ealing council, which is promoting a building on the Cayton road playing field in my constituency?

Mr. Speaker : Order. That is a bit wide.

Mr. Cryer : It is very wide. It is an abuse of Northern Ireland questions.

Mr. Greenway : Should not those playing fields be saved for children and for environmental reasons?

Dr. Mawhinney : I know that my hon. Friend robustly defends his constituents' interests. I assure him that we consider every possible opportunity to retain playing fields. My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that in the same five years nine major playing field complexes were transferred at no cost to Belfast city council and one to Newtownabbey council.

Mr. McNamara : I am sure that we all approve of the Minister's last statement, but will he confirm that the Government have a ratio for the number of playing fields appropriate to the numbers of pupils in a school and that

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any surplus land has to be sold off for development and that that is the rule in this country? Perhaps the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) should find out what the Ministry of Education and Science is doing.

Dr. Mawhinney : I am not aware of any ratio. From time to time, due to the decrease in school numbers, land becomes available-- [Interruption.] It is not a ratio. We try to retain that land in the public sector for public use where there is demand or need, but occasionally land is sold off for development.

Mr. Peter Robinson : When land was transferred free of charge to Belfast and to Newtownabbey councils, why were the former playing fields used by the Stranmillis college not transferred to Castlereagh council free of charge?

Dr. Mawhinney : The hon. Gentleman, who is a member of that council, knows the answer full well.

Bill of Rights

4. Mr. Harry Barnes : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will publish a draft Bill of Rights to guarantee human rights and civil liberties in Northern Ireland, for consultation.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Tom King) : Human rights and civil liberties are already well protected by existing legislation in Northern Ireland. I am always willing to consider proposals for strengthening the existing safeguards, but I am not convinced that a Bill of Rights is required.

Mr. Barnes : Later today we shall be discussing direct rule and there will be an opportunity for the Minister to elaborate on the points that he has made. I hope that we can discuss the possibility of a Bill of Rights. It is likely that Front Bench spokesmen on both sides will wax lyrical about the need for democracy in Northern Ireland and then, for the fifteenth time, we shall moot the re-establishment of direct rule. Would not a Bill of Rights help to produce the circumstances and the framework in which we could move towards real devolved government in Northern Ireland?

Mr. King : I think that if the hon. Gentleman has studied the matter, he will know that there are very real problems about trying to produce a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland without encompassing a Bill of Rights for the United Kingdom. If the hon. Gentleman is seeking to address the protection of rights, I am certainly determined to ensure that they are properly protected. If that is achieved by separate and individual measures, he will know that one of the rights to which people are entitled is protected from discrimination. The Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Bill now before Parliament will be a major step forward in that direction.

Mr. Gow : Will not the human rights and civil liberties of the people of Northern Ireland be best protected if they are governed in the same way as their fellow citizens in the rest of the United Kingdom? Would their rights not be better protected if Northern Ireland Members could move amendments to proposed legislation and if the system of legislating for the Province by Order in Council ceased?

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Mr. King : I have always made it clear that I am ready and willing to listen to any ideas for improving the procedures in the House. As the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) has said, we shall shortly be debating the continuance of direct rule. I have made clear on three occasions--the fourth is about to arrive--my concern about direct rule and the fact that it is not a satisfactory long-term solution. I should very much like to find better ways to address some of these issues.

Mr. McCusker : Is the Secretary of State aware that a Bill of Rights is one of the few issues which meets his oft-stated criteria for cross- community support in Northern Ireland? Is he aware that members of the Unionist community in Northern Ireland believe that his reluctance to produce a Bill of Rights has more to do with the fact that he could not continue to govern us by the present totally undemocratic methods if there were a Bill of Rights?

Mr. King : As that is the first constructive comment that I have heard from the hon. Gentleman, I welcome it. He has made some suggestions, whether I agree with them or not, about how one might address the real issue of the government of Northern Ireland, and he has done so on a cross- community basis, claiming that he has ideas which could command support across the communities. I would welcome hearing any further suggestions that he might like to make.

Mr. Kilfedder : It is 15 years or more since I moved a motion urging the establishment of a Bill of Rights for the United Kingdom and, failing that, for Northern Ireland, so there is nothing new in that suggestion, although no doubt it will take the Secretary of State by surprise, as so many other matters take him by surprise. Surely the people of Northern Ireland are entitled to decide this matter by a referendum. Let us have a Bill of Rights based on the United States constitution and the amendments thereto.

Mr. King : As the hon. Gentleman made clear, the proposal that he put forward many years ago was on the basis of a Bill of Rights for the United Kingdom. The issue has to be addressed in that way. It is almost impossible to conceive of a separate Bill of Rights which would apply uniquely to Northern Ireland. The issue raises wide concerns and interests. As the hon. Gentleman knows, it is not a new subject and has been widely debated.

Mr. Maclennan : Why does the Secretary of State pretend that the hon. Member representing the Ulster Unionists, the hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. McCusker), has made a new proposal when his party made the proposal in writing more than two years ago? It has been supported by other parties from Northern Ireland and by the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights. Does he not recognise that if he is unwilling to move in this way he will be seen to be governing against the wishes of all parties in Northern Ireland as well as my right hon. and hon. Friends, and he will face the unattractive prospect of being dragged back to Strasbourg time and again as more and more violations of the European convention on human rights occur.

Mr. King : Obviously, I did not make myself clear. I was seeking to explain that it is novel to hear constructive proposals from people who until now have preferred to remain silent. I welcome that. I know that this issue has

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been much discussed. It has been much discussed within my party and there have been long-standing discussions. I recognise that there is scope for serious discussion and I have called times beyond number for constructive suggestions.

Rev. Ian Paisley : Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his remarks to the hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. McCusker) about not making constructive remarks in the House will be treated with utter contempt by the people of Northern Ireland in the same way as the contemptuous remark that he made about me during the previous Northern Ireland Question Time? My political demise was greatly exaggerated by the right hon. Gentleman. Will he go back to the pigeonhole and withdraw from it the reports of the Convention and the Assembly which say that we should have a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland supported across the board? Does he not think that in this centenary year, and with his name being King, he should have his Bill of Rights?

Mr. King : I am much distressed by that intervention because I know the deeply sensitive nature of the hon. Gentleman. The thought that anything that I said caused him distress disturbs me beyond measure. I am thinking of charging for the use of my name in the hon. Gentleman's election address as I noticed that it appears considerably more often than his own.

Mr. Mallon : Does the Secretary of State agree that a Bill of Rights for the North of Ireland is incompatible with the provisions of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 and the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1984 and that until that pernicious legislation is removed from the statute book any positive and constructive discussion about a Bill of Rights is pure pie in the sky?

Mr. King : It is not accurate to say that. If the hon. Gentleman studies the European convention, he will realise that there are circumstances in which nations seeking to defend themselves against the evils of terrorism may, on occasions, have to take emergency steps which are consistent with, or recognised under, a convention on human rights because of the particular circumstances at the time. Any Bill of Rights would have to recognise those circumstances. The real attack on the rights of citizens and individual liberty comes from those who seek to murder and maim their fellow citizens.

Mr. Stanbrook : Have not the people of Northern Ireland been deprived of the biggest right of all in a democracy--that the will of the majority should prevail, with safeguards for the minority?

Mr. King : If my hon. Friend would like to join me, we can debate that subject in much greater detail shortly.

Who Framed Colin Wallace"

5. Mr. Dalyell : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he has acquired for the Library, "Who Framed Colin Wallace", by Paul Foot, published by the second Earl of Stockton.

Mr. Ian Stewart : No, Sir. However, I understand that there are already two copies in the Library.

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Mr. Dalyell : Why does the Minister suppose that Colin Wallace has come to be believed by the publishing house of Macmillan and its libel lawyers, by the late Airey Neave, who was happy to have information from Colin Wallace, and by raging Left-wingers such as the hereditary Earl Marshall, his grace the Duke of Norfolk?

Mr. Stewart : I cannot answer for publishers or many of the other groups of people whom the hon. Gentleman has mentioned. As far as I know, the allegations that have been repeated in the book concerning the conduct of various persons have been fully investigated over a long period in the past. On the responsibilities of my own Department, I am not aware of anything in the book that would justify any further inquiry.

Mr. Foot : Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate, as he might expect from the names on the Order Paper, that the book is first, extremely well published and, secondly, extremely well written and that it will, therefore, be far better than most of the stuff he and his Secretary of State have to submit to during the week? Will he also tell us in detail whether his Department was consulted about the letter that appears in the book which was addressed to the Prime Minister and which set out in detail the reasons why there should have been a proper investigation into the matter and why the demands for an investigation would continue? Was the Prime Minister's failure to reply based on any evidence from his Department?

Mr. Stewart : The right hon. Gentleman's reference to the authorship of the book is a form of benevolent nepotism, which he is entitled to use. The contents of the book and all the allegations raised by Mr. Wallace have been investigated separately by the Royal Ulster Constabulary, Sir George Terry and Judge Hughes, and none of the allegations have been found to stand up. Mr. Wallace was given the opportunity to give evidence himself to those inquiries, but despite the fact that he was given assurances that he would not be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act 1911, he refused to do so. The House can draw its own conclusions from that.

Mr. McNamara : Only the conclusions of the Terry report were published--not the evidence. When will the public be allowed to judge whether the conclusions follow from the evidence?

Mr. Stewart : I regard that as a serious slur on Sir George Terry.


6. Mr. Duffy : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the security situation in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Tom King : Since I last answered questions on 18 May, there have been no deaths due to terrorist action, but one young soldier was killed in an accidental shooting.

The security threat and incidents remain at a high level, but the determined efforts of the security forces have resulted in 120 people being charged with serious offences, including 13 with murder and 26 with attempted murder since the beginning of the year. A total of 200 weapons, almost 25,000 rounds of ammunition and 435 lbs of explosives have been recovered in Northern Ireland. I

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understand that the Garda Siochana has recovered 60 weapons, approximately 15,000 rounds of ammunition, and a substantial quantity of explosives.

Mr. Duffy : What representations has the Secretary of State received from Ulster Television and the National Union of Journalists about the two soldiers who posed as a television camera crew while filming outside a polling station in Derry on 17 May, during the local government elections?

Mr. King : The hon. Gentleman takes an interest in Northern Ireland affairs, but his supplementary question made no mention of the security forces and sought to find immediately a point on which he could seek to criticise, without even a welcome for the fact that, for the first time in my experience, I have been able to tell the House that there have been no security force fatalities in the period since I last reported. On the specific point that he raised, as far as I am aware I have had no representations but I know that that matter is being looked into by headquarters, Northern Ireland.

Mr. Maginnis : What value does the Secretary of State attach to maintaining the morale of the RUC? In the words of his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, may I suggest that it is monstrous under the circumstances that he has failed to deal with the manner in which the deputy chairman of the Police Authority totally devalued her position as a member of that body? It does not matter whether it was at a private dinner party paid for out of public funds, or a public function at which Mrs. Phyllis Bateson behaved in such an outrageous manner. Will the Secretary of State consider whether she should still, after all this time, remain a member of the Police Authority? Will he take to heart the cliche "in vino veritas" or, as my grandfather would have said, "If it is not in when you are sober, it won't come out when you are drunk"?

Mr. King : I hope that the hon. Gentleman is thoroughly pleased with that contribution. He would be one of the first to say, "Why don't more Catholics support the RUC? Why don't more Catholics who accept office and serve on the police authority"--

Mr. Maginnis : Many do properly.

Mr. Speaker : Order.

Mr. King : The hon. Gentleman's contribution has been of no value whatsoever. He is simply seeking to repeat a private conversation, of which I have no personal knowledge which, in any case, is the subject of some disagreement. I respect very much indeed, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman and all other hon. Members will support-- [Interruption.] --yes, the RUC, of course, but also the members of the Police Authority who accept appointment, effectively without reward and at considerable personal risk, especially if they are Catholics and represent the Nationalist community. They do that, and when they are villified in that way it does the hon. Gentleman-- [Interruption.] There is a nasty stench about the comment and I am not the only person in Northern Ireland who deplores it.

Rev. William McCrea : Does the Secretary of State agree that many people in Northern Ireland and throughout the United Kingdom have expressed disquiet about the whole issue of the deputy chairman of the Police

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Authority? Does he further agree that it is interesting that at no time has the deputy chairman denied that she said those certain things about the former Chief Constable or about the Royal Ulster Constabulary? Without getting the Secretary of State's hackles up, does that not cause him concern, and is he not concerned that people in Northern Ireland should have confidence in those who are guiding the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Police Authority? One final question-- [Interruption.] Will the Secretary of State tell the House what embarrassment that said person caused him in the doorway at the end of the night?

Mr. King : The first part of the hon. Gentleman's statement was wrong--

Rev. William McCrea : No it was not.

Mr. King : A denial has been issued by the person concerned--

Rev. William McCrea : No.

Mr. King : If the hon. Gentleman would do me the courtesy of listening, he would hear me say that the person concerned has issued a denial. It would have been a courtesy for him to have respected that from the start.

Rev. William McCrea : That is a false statement.

Mr. King : I am not a bit surprised to find the hon. Gentleman joining in ; it is exactly what I would have expected of him. I am sure that the House will judge accordingly.

Mr. Ashdown : I join the right hon. Gentleman in his repudiation of the distasteful question asked by the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis).

Has the right hon. Gentleman given further consideration to the issuing of plastic bullets to the UDR? Is he aware that if he approved such a measure he would be issuing a highly controversial weapon to what has come to be regarded in Northern Ireland as a highly controversial force?

Mr. King : I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his initial comments. The UDR is receiving training in the use of plastic bullets for protection in certain circumstances. No decision has yet been taken about the deployment of those weapons. I want to make it absolutely clear that were a decision to be taken to issue those weapons, there would be no change in the UDR's role or in deployment ; it would be decided merely on whether the UDR needed them for its own protection while carrying out its existing tasks.

The alternative--as happened recently--would be to leave the UDR with no option other than to resort to the use of live rounds because it had nothing between either retreat or the use of lethal force. I think that the right hon. Gentleman would understand the problems in that sort of circumstance.

Sir Michael McNair-Wilson : Did my right hon. Friend see the "Cook Report" about the various organisations that give commercial backing to the IRA through various devices such as estate agencies? In particular, did he see the footage showing an IRA unit using a general purpose machine gun against an unarmed Lynx helicopter? Can he assure the House that in future helicopters will have proper protection and armament against possible attack?

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Mr. King : I saw that programme, which I felt underlined something to which I had already drawn the attention of the House on a number of occasions, which is the importance of tackling--as we are seeking to do-- gangsterism, extortion and the various illegal fund-raising activities that support and underpin terrorism. On my hon. Friend's latter point, I do not know how genuine the film was, but nevertheless the threat of machine-gun attack against helicopters is real. A number of steps were taken some time ago to give all possible protection to helicopters in the important work that they do.

International Fund for Ireland

7. Mr. McCusker : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will list all those countries and organisations which have contributed to the International Fund for Ireland, showing the amount each has contributed to date.

Mr. Ian Stewart : The United States has contributed $120 million over the period 1986 to 1988 and has committed itself to a contribution of £10 million during 1989. Canada has agreed to provide up to 10 million Canadian dollars over a period of 10 years and New Zealand has contributed a one-off payment of 300,000 New Zealand dollars. The European Community is contributing 15 million ecu this year with the prospect of similar amounts during 1990 and 1991.

Mr. McClusker : The right hon. Gentleman appears to have achieved a fair degree of success in that novel way of treating public expenditure priorities in Northern Ireland. Why has he not rattled the begging bowl in Australia, Japan or Korea? Even South Africa might be a reasonable place to try that. In view of the money from charitable sources that we have sent to Ethiopia, why does he not go to Addis Ababa and rattle a begging bowl there? If a begging bowl approach is to be part of the future of Northern Ireland, will the right hon. Gentleman talk to his colleagues about introducing begging as a topic in the education syllabus for Northern Ireland?

Mr. Stewart : The hon. Gentleman seems to suggest that there is something undesirable about contributions to the international fund being made available to support the interests of his constituents and those of other Members in Northern Ireland. I find that a difficult proposition to accept. It seems to me that the international fund is an important expression of international support for the British and Irish Governments in what they are trying to do to counter the adverse effects of terrorism in Northern Ireland and in the adjacent areas of the Republic.

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