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We know the Prime Minister's style when it comes to Europe. It is the style of the garrulous next-door neighbour who is always leaning over the fence, always criticising in the most raucous voice she can find what the neighbours are doing. My party believes that it is time to stop shouting over the garden fence and to join a unified European house.
Democracy and freedom are on the march all over Europe. Yet those are precisely the values that are under
Column 43threat in our nation from a Government who know nothing of the need to reform our own antiquated political system and who have systematically eroded the freedom of our citizens. The Government's failure to face up to Britain's role in Europe marks out clearly their lack of vision. The Government have ended their usefulness to Britain. They are burnt out of ideas and have lost their way as to how to ensure that Britain faces up to the challenges of the 1990s. It was said in the 1980s that this was the Government of TINA--"There Is No Alternative". As we enter the 1990s we have another TINA--"There Is No Agenda". The Government have no agenda for economic regeneration, healing the terrible divisions in our country or what part this nation should play in the structuring of the new Europe. This programme has shown that, though the Conservatives have provided the Government of Britain in the 1980s, they have nothing to offer this nation in the 1990s.
Sir Patrick McNair-Wilson (New Forest) : I warmly support and endorse the proposals in the Gracious Speech. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her superb speech. She has every reason to feel confident about the next general election. With my right hon. Friend as our leader and Prime Minister, I have no doubt that we shall be successful again.
I listened to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition and found it both confused and confusing. At one stage he called for the Government to spend money on the Channel rail link, yet he seems to have forgotten that it was a Labour Government who, in 1975, cancelled the Channel tunnel altogether. Such selective memory seemed to run as a thread throughout his comments.
I shall refer to three issues in the Gracious Speech. The first relates to defence. It is becoming fashionable to believe that the changes that are happening in Europe have created a position in which defence can be put as a secondary item on our agenda. I believe that defence and our ability as a nation to defend ourselves are perhaps more important than ever before and of the highest priority. If we find that troop levels in western Europe are being reduced, the independent nuclear deterrent will become even more significant if we are to play our part in keeping western and world peace.
There can be no doubt that Labour Members who seem to pretend that we should rethink the whole of our defence policy and throw away this precious unilateral and important defence mechanism have got it completely wrong. We need more than ever before to reinforce our belief in a proper British nuclear deterrent over which we have control.
Mr. Menzies Campbell (Fife, North-East) rose--
Sir Patrick McNair-Wilson : I shall give way in a moment. There is much reference in the Gracious Speech to the economy. I wholeheartedly support the Government's determination to pursue firm financial policies. Since the crash of October 1987 we have seen across the western world the possibility of economic depression looming, as it did after the year in which I was born--1929. I
Column 44congratulate the Government on the fact that after that crash they made the absolutely correct assessment of the position and made it clear that credit and expansion would be available to ensure that the recession and depression of the 1920s--cured only by rearmament during the second world war--never again beset us.
We all know that it is impossible to fine-tune an economy. The Government clearly took a broad-brush approach to a devastating situation. However, we have come through what could have been dark years with a growing economy. The fact that the Chancellor is now taking action to control that growth is wholly sensible. We saw a previous Labour Government trying to spend their way out of trouble and creating a mountain of debt and roaring inflation for this nation. Therefore, I completely agree with the economic policy currently being pursued.
There are those who talk about the devaluation of our currency--the pound sterling--as some sort of panacea to solve everybody's difficulties at once. However, 40 per cent. of our imports--including North sea oil--are paid for in dollars and if we allow our exchange rate to fall we shall be looking inflation straight in the face. When the previous Labour Government were in their last years of office and sterling was in serious trouble, the countries with the two strongest currencies in the world--the deutschmark and the yen--were flooding Britain and the western world with goods.
Therefore, the idea that devaluation will somehow produce a bonus for exporters is entirely wrong. In the short term it may do some good, but when we have to build the next set of orders and raw materials have to be paid for, we shall immediately find that devaluation is no cure-all, but the high-road to economic ruin. A high and sensible value for our national currency is essential if we are to have a strong economy.
I reject the idea that has been put around this afternoon and on other occasions that joining the European exchange rate mechanism is a cure-all for our difficulties. We have one of the most important currencies in the world. It is one of the great reserve currencies, is totally convertible and, compared to the others in Europe, has the unusual characteristic of a substantial oil component. Given that there is still exchange control on the European continent, if we, with our own problems, derived as I have just explained from the best possible intentions, were to place our currency in that organisation--designed originally by the Germans for currencies with like characteristics--there is no doubt that, far from creating stability and easing our difficulties, we would create horrendous problems for ourselves.
Mr. William Cash (Stafford) : Does my hon. Friend know that at a meeting of the West Midlands industrial council about 10 days ago the very question about whether to enter the ERM was posed and not a single person from any sector--import, export, retail, commerce or warehousing--had any desire to enter the ERM?
Sir Patrick McNair-Wilson : I am delighted to hear my hon. Friend's remarks because that is another reason why I would consider the exchange rate mechanism to be completely obnoxious. I have been a Member of this House for many years and I remember the struggles that Governments of all parties had with fixed exchange rates. I remember the problems of defending a fixed rate and I even remember the then Prime Minister telling us on the
Column 45day of sterling's devaluation that he was not talking about the pound in our pockets. Of course he was, because inflation started to climb almost immediately.
Having got out of that quagmire of fixed exchange rates and allowed the Government, together with financial institutions, to determine sterling's proper level, putting ourselves back into that trap of a fixed exchange rate, able to move only 2.5 per cent. either side of a straight line, would condemn everyone in this country to a wholly unacceptable standard of living. We would be burdened with problems and would have to take all sorts of actions, dictated to us by people we had not elected who would decide how our economy was to be run. I am certain that to surrender our control over the management of our economy would be an unmitigated disaster.
Mr. Tim Rathbone (Lewes) : I am listening carefully to my hon. Friend and I take exactly the opposite point of view. His position seems peculiar in the light of the Government's commitment to enter the EMS as soon as the situation is correct. My hon. Friend's arguments against entry are on the principle and not on the practice.
Much has been said about balance of payments problems. However, it has not been mentioned that as a result of the tragic accidents in the North sea, with which we are all familiar, between 12 and 15 per cent. of North Sea oil has been shut in. When that oil comes on stream, it will have a substantial and beneficial effect on our balance of payments.
The Gracious Speech mentions "green" legislation. All of us in the New Forest welcome anything that can be done to protect our environment. I spent many years in the steel and related industries. One must recognise that there is a point at which the installation of environmentally friendly machinery starts to become unprofitable. I thoroughly welcome legislation that will encourage and perhaps force environmental improvements in industry and in waste disposal and so on. However, we must look seriously to see how we can help industry financially to bring that about. Not long ago the presence of acid rain was denied by the Central Electricity Generating Board. It is now probably one of the biggest issues that we have to face. While green legislation is the right way forward, I urge the Government to make sure that industry is helped where necessary to bring the ideas to fruition.
Mr. Dalyell : As the hon. Gentleman will know, I admire him for the actions that he has taken in relation to the New Forest. Does he share the concern of some of us about the possible break-up of the Nature Conservancy Council? Is he aware of the powerful case argued by Dr. Derek Ratcliffe, the former chief scientist of the council, against any break-up of the NCC, which is a distinguished and effective organisation?
Sir Patrick McNair-Wilson : The hon. Gentleman raises an important issue but I do not want to go into it too deeply, because the New Forest is an unusual part of England. It is not a national park and therefore does not have the sort of controls that exist in other parts of the country for similar areas. Our situation is unusual in that the government of the New Forest is the Forestry Commission and an elected court of verderers. That is an
Column 46excellent way to manage the forest and it works well. However, I understand that some people would like to make changes. I shall have discussions with the relevant Ministers about that in the near future.
An important part of the Nature Conservancy Council is based at Lyndhurst in my constituency. I have nothing to say against the work of the NCC but we must recognise that a proliferation of organisations are managing environmental protection. It is in everybody's interests to concentrate these important bodies in a more effective single entity that can achieve results. In the New Forest there are the bodies to which I have referred such as the Forestry Commission, the court of verderers and the Nature Conservancy Council. However, there are also local authorities and a range of other bodies concerned with protection. We must consider honing those down to a handful of effective bodies rather than continuing with the hurly -burly of bodies that have grown up over many years. I understand the hon. Gentleman's argument, but I do not wish to go down the path that he has described.
The Gracious Speech mentions the restructuring of the coal industry. I should have liked to see something about legislation for British Rail which is, after all, another nationalised industry. The line running through Clapham junction is one of the main arteries between my constituency and London. In the excellent report on the Clapham rail disaster, Sir Anthony Hidden spoke about the need for a new look at some of the British Rail legislation. For the last 10 years or more I have been sponsoring British Rail Bills. As the House knows, they are private Bills. The private Bill mechanism is now getting into serious difficulty. One of the proposals of the Committee of which I have the honour to be Chairman was that British Rail activities should be brought into line with those relating to motorway construction. It is high time that that was considered. I am not convinced that using the private Bill machinery for such a technologically advanced industry as British Rail is the most satisfactory way to proceed. Sadly, we have seen the difficulties that have resulted from accidents in the rail system. Those difficulties are increasing all the time and we should seriously consider a new Bill to change the way in which British Rail obtains its powers. That would ensure that safety and the other matters to which Sir Anthony referred are most carefully considered. The sponsor of a private Bill always faces the difficulty of having sufficient and adequate information to make his case. Ministers play a passive role when British Rail Bills are discussed. It would make more sense if they took a more active role in shaping the railway industry of the future.
I commend the Gracious Speech to all hon. Members. However, if we are to have legislation about coal we should have legislation for the railways as well.
Mr. Roy Hughes (Newport, East) : I add my congratulations to the mover and seconder of the Loyal Address. We have heard about the glories of Eastbourne and the marginal nature of the constituency of Bury, South. I am sure that my party will do something about that constituency at the next general election.
The content of the Gracious Speech was much as anticipated. We are to have more controversial legislation, but it was noticeable that there is not so much as usual.
Column 47There are political reasons for that. I support any moves to combat terrorism, whether national or international. Likewise, I support moves to improve food safety, especially after all the scares of recent months.
There are highly contentious proposals to reform the National Health Service--including, if the White Paper proposals are followed through, restrictions on general practitioners and provisions to enable hospitals to opt out of the state scheme. The Opposition believe that those proposals are steps towards the privatisation of the service. There have been many protests from the general public. Doctors have been up in arms. People are fond of the NHS. They agree that it has been underfunded and, in support of their arguments, they point to long waiting lists, closed wards and the general rundown of our hospitals. There is a glaring example of that in Glamorgan, which the Secretary of State for Wales should investigate without delay. Many NHS employees are paid only a pittance.
The creation of the NHS was perhaps the greatest achievement of the immediate post-war Labour Government. It was carried through the House by the late Mr. Aneurin Bevan, opposed by the Conservative party. Mr. Bevan came from Tredegar, at the top of the Sirhony valley in what was then known as Monmouthshire but has since been renamed Gwent. In that town, before the NHS was established, there was an embryonic service known as Tredegar medical aid. The motto on the door of its headquarters read :
"The health of the people is the highest law."
I commend the wisdom of that slogan to the Government.
Rather than dwell on the proposals contained in the White Paper on the NHS, which can only have the effect of undermining it, the time of the Secretary of State for Health would be better spent in resolving the ambulance dispute. A dedicated group of people in a vital public service have been driven to industrial action in support of their perfectly reasonable pay claim. The ambulance men are asking for parity with the other emergency services--the police and the fire brigade. Nevertheless, they have pledged to be bound by any independent arbitration decision on their claim.
One of my constituents, an 11-year-old schoolgirl, has written to the Prime Minister about the ambulance men's dispute. She was badly injured in a car crash a while ago and is now recovering in hospital. Emma Herbert of Penhow was impressed by the dedication of the ambulance crew who attended her. She wrote :
"Dear Mrs. Thatcher, I am writing to you because three weeks ago I was hit by a car. The ambulance men were kind and helpful. After their work they came to see me. They all have a hard job and they do it well. They keep calm, which is hard to do. Please can you give them more money because at the moment people's lives are at stake?" There is no need for me to embellish the words of that little schoolgirl--they speak for themselves, and they highlight the fact that the Secretary of State is remiss in his duty in not submitting the ambulance men's claim to independent arbitration so that this long and dangerous dispute can be quickly settled.
Column 48present, will my hon. Friend repeat what he said? The Government should investigate the situation in east Glamorgan immediately because people's lives are at risk.
Mr. Hughes : That situation is a glaring example of the run-down of our hospital system. I said that the Secretary of State for Wales himself, not the Under-Secretary of State, should make haste to that great hospital and ensure that whatever is wrong there is sorted out, including the provision of sufficient funds for the hospital's proper administration.
Another controversial item in the Gracious Speech is the further reform of industrial relations and trade union law. The object, as in previous legislation, is to make it more difficult for the trade unions to defend the interests of their members--and that comes from a Government who have been so concerned about trade unionists' rights in Poland and in other countries of eastern Europe.
During the previous Session of Parliament the Government pushed through no fewer than 31 Bills, including the privatisation of our water authorities-- an obnoxious measure if ever there was one. That was followed by the sale of the electricity supply industry ; linked to that was the disclosure of the previously hidden costs of nuclear energy. Now we have the suggested impending resignation of Lord Marshall who was to play such an important part in that privatisation venture.
The Government have grown used to trampling over all opposition and simply failing to see reason. They have had 10 years of relatively unrestricted power. What have they achieved, and what are today's proposals likely to achieve? Let us look at the scoreboard, the economic indicators. The regional imbalances are as great as ever--as people in Wales, like those in Scotland and Northern Ireland, know. That is the reality, despite all the honeyed words and the gift-wrapped packaging from the Secretary of State for Wales. Unemployment is still higher than it was in 1979, despite all the changes in benefit regulations and in the method of compiling the statistics, together with a proliferation of part-time jobs. The trade deficit, as a percentage of our national income, is likely to be the highest ever in the industrial world--£20 billion is the speculated figure for this year, despite all the cushioning effects of North sea oil revenues. Measures in the Gracious Speech are not likely to do much to rectify those dreadful figures.
Interest rates stand at 15 per cent.--double the German level. They have been raised 11 times since June 1988. Every 1 per cent. on base rates adds £250 million to industry's costs. High interest rates damage the economy by making it more difficult and expensive to borrow in order to invest. That in turn makes it more difficult to tackle the underlying causes of the balance of payments deficit and our inflationary tendencies. There is little help in the proposals contained in the Gracious Speech.
The latest inflation figures announced last Friday showed a fall from 7.6 per cent. to 7.3 per cent., but the overall trend is still upwards, despite a year of high interest rates. Mortgage rates are sky high. The Halifax, our largest building society, has raised its mortgage rate to 14.5 per cent.--the highest since November 1981. Those exorbitant rates have created havoc in the housing market. First-time buyers have no chance at all. They will not get much help from the document being debated today, and the proposals in the Autumn Statement will give them only
Column 49peanuts. The proposed Bill to introduce student loans will damage the interests of children from working class homes. It is no wonder that it is bitterly opposed by students and their organisations. All the Government's controversial proposals in the Gracious Speech and in previous ones will have little effect on Britain's economic malaise. The harsh reality now is that we have an economic crisis, and there is a big question mark as to whether it will deteriorate into a major recession with all the hardship that that would cause.
Mr. Geraint Howells (Ceredigion and Pembroke, North) : My hon. Friend is a good Welshman and I am sure that he is as disappointed as I am that Wales was not mentioned once in the Queen's Speech and, worst of all, that after a decade there is still no sign of a Welsh assembly for the 1990s until the Government are voted out of office.
In conclusion, when we consider today's proposals in tandem with the Government's record, it is clear that there has been a redistribution of wealth in Britain in favour of the rich and better off. That is the achievement so heartily praised in The Sunday Telegraph on 15 October, when the editor proclaimed :
"All-important has been the blow dealt by Thatcherism to the politics of compassion."
He could say that again. He could tell it to the homeless, the pensioners, the war widows, the disabled and the unemployed. He continued :
"No longer need people be ashamed or guilty of being rich. If anything the boot is now on the other foot, with the poor expected to feel the shame."
What a Government, and what an indictment!
The Gracious Speech and the general political situation demonstrate that the Government are on the ropes. At the next general election they will be suitably despatched, and Labour will have the task of restoring Britain's economic fortunes and creating a fairer society. 5.43 pm
Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North) : I come to the House today from a sombre, sorrowing, shocked and deeply pained Province. While today's speeches have been characterised by matters of serious national concern, I regret that none of the speakers found time to consider a running sore at the heart of our society today--terrorism in our midst and the deaths of the past few days. It grieves me greatly that the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the Social and Liberal Democrats --if that is their correct title--and other Members have not addressed their minds for at least a few moments to the tragedy that is upon us.
First, I should like to put on record the deep gratitude of the Ulster people to those from outside the Province who have come to their aid as members of the security forces and who have suffered as a result. The people of Ulster think today of Sergeant Mudd, a man who lost both his legs in a murderous, vicious and devilish attack upon him and his wife. When one remembers how that sergeant served in Northern Ireland to protect all sections of the community, including Gerry Adams the leader of Sinn Fein, one can understand the viciousness of the attack that has been launched by that evil cancer of the IRA and others.
Column 50I also pay tribute to the heroism of Lance Corporal Stephen Wilson aged 23, Private Donald Macaulay aged 20 and Private Matthew Marshall aged 21 of the 3rd Battalion of the Parachute regiment who were cruelly and viciously gunned to death. I should like to put on record that the evidence shows that those who did them to death came from the Irish Republic, have returned to that safe haven and are free to go about further business of killing. I utterly repudiate the suggestion by Charles Haughey that there is not a safe haven for IRA activists in the Republic. We all know that that is where they come from and that is where they return after committing those acts of barbarism. I would not like anyone in the House to reach the conclusion that the Ulster people do not feel deeply and grieve deeply with those families who have passed through that dark and terrible valley of affliction.
I must mention two other victims. Robert Glover, the Moneymore business man who served all sections of the community and gave employment on a vast scale to Protestants and Roman Catholics, left three daughters all under eight years of age. One should think about that widow and those little ones who have lost their father. The reason given by his murderers was simply that he was supplying building materials to those serving the security forces, the police and the Army. Yesterday, I walked behind the coffin of David Halligan aged 57, knowing the anguish and grief of his family, and his contribution to society. For 18 years, in a difficult area, he put his life at risk as a serving member of the Ulster Defence Regiment, and before that he served in the Ulster Special Constabulary. Those acts of barbarism, those killings and the result of them must be highlighted in this debate.
I find appalling, and galling to the people of Northern Ireland, the reference in the Gracious Speech to Northern Ireland, which says :
"In Northern Ireland, my Government will maintain its support for the enforcement of the law and the defeat of terrorism."
As an elected representative for Northern Ireland, I find that hard to stomach. Some days ago, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland made a speech in which he announced to the people of Northern Ireland that the IRA could not be militarily defeated. I want hon. Members to judge the atmosphere in the Province when he announced that the Government cannot win the war against terrorism. Why let those people die? Why are the Government not prepared to announce that they will surrender? It is time that they were honest with the people of Northern Ireland.
I know quite a lot about Ulster people, but I do not want to bring to the House merely my own findings. I shall read a report of what was said by an Irish Presbyterian minister who preached at the funeral of Robert Glover :
"Responsibility for the death of Moneymore businessman Mr. Robert Glover must be laid at the door of the Secretary of State, mourners were told at his funeral this afternoon.
Mr. Peter Brooke had given an open invitation to the IRA to continue their vile activities, the Rev. James McCormick told mourners at the town's First Presbyterian Church.
If anyone wondered what the IRA had to achieve by such an atrocity, Mr. Brooke had supplied the answer, said Mr. McCormick. A couple of weeks ago the Secretary of State more or less told the IRA that eventually the Government will give in Well, we have a message for Mr. Brooke. Sir, if you have not the nerve or the desire to win this fight, then go home and let us have someone who has and who will. And if you were, as many think, merely uttering the thoughts of your leader, say to her that we will not talk or give in to such people.'"
Column 51The Belfast Telegraph report goes on :
"The minister was referring to Mr. Brooke's remark that he believed that the IRA could not be defeated militarily and that talks with Sinn Fein should go ahead if the IRA laid down its arms." The House should know that what that minister said is reflected throughout the community, and the Primate of the Church of Ireland expressed similar sentiments.
I pray to almighty God that hon. Members will seriously face up to the situation that confronts us, because while other national and international issues are important there is one thing that is of the utmost importance-- the right of people to live, which is being taken away.
Running parallel with the present situation is the mounted attack on the Ulster Defence Regiment. There seems to be a conspiracy between the Dublin Government, members of the Social Democratic and Labour party and others to try to blacken a noble company of men who are serving their country as best they can, many of whom are paying the price for their loyalty to all sections of the community. That is why I tabled a motion today. I shall close by reading it because it sums up the feeling of people in the Province. It says :
"That this House, recognising the gallantry of the members of the Ulster Defence Regiment who, at great personal risk, serve on the front line in the battle against terrorism, remembering the courage and devotion to duty of so many of its members who have been murdered by Republican terrorists and sympathising with their loved ones, and affirming that all citizens must be subject to the law, rejects the campaign spearheaded by the Dublin government and nationalist politicians to discredit and destroy the entire regiment because of allegations, not yet proven, against some of its members ; aware that according to the honourable Member for Foyle, Irish Republicans have been responsible for the deaths of 250 times as many people as the Ulster Defence Regiment, deplores calls by Irish ministers for the regiment to have no contact with the public ; deplores the treating of members of the Ulster Defence Regiment by the Stevens enquiry team as if they were terrorists ; sympathises with their families who, because of the recent Stevens directed operation of mass arrest, now live in fear for their lives and those of husbands and sons serving with the regiment ; does not consider that the future of a regiment of the British Army is a proper subject for meetings of the Anglo-Irish Conference ; and is implacably opposed to any interference whatever in the role of the Ulster Defence Regiment at the behest of the Dublin government."
I trust that tonight, as we leave the House, we shall all remember the plight and sorrow of many families and that as politicians we must do something about this matter, which calls for the urgent attention of the House.
Mr. James Molyneaux (Lagan Valley) : The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) admirably described the gravity of the security situation in Northern Ireland and gave some of the reasons why it has deteriorated so rapidly in recent weeks. I fully support what he said, particularly about the future of the Ulster
Column 52Defence Regiment. The fact that he dealt with those matters enables me to move on, perhaps to suggest some more basic remedies. It is a general feature of public affairs that regional parties are often accused of concentrating entirely on local issues. The inaccuracy of that charge is demonstrated by the fact that at the annual conference of the Scottish National party and the Welsh National party concern for regional affairs did not prevent them from--or obliterate their interest in --discussing events on the European stage. That interest, which they have displayed on the wider stage, is confirmed repeatedly in their contributions in the House. At my party conference four weeks ago, I confronted the delegates with the following questions. I said :
"At last year's Conference the talking point was Europe in 1992. Today that is old hat because no one can predict what the map of Europe will be like five years from now.
Will Germany be renunited? And what will be the effect of that on the EEC? Can Eastern Europe remain divorced from the rest of the continent and remain shivering outside what Mrs. Thatcher and Mr. Gorbachev call our European home'?
Can any known force resist the tidal wave of souls seeking freedom after fifty years in bondage?"
Four weeks before the dramatic events in East Berlin, the Ulster Unionist party which I lead--and it was not alone in this--was looking ahead and assessing the impact of those events on our nation and our part of it. We shall not be deterred by the inconsistencies of this Parliament and this Government, but we will expect them to explain how they can demand respect for the ballot box in eastern Europe but ignore the verdict of the ballot box in a Province of this kingdom which, after all, gave birth to parliamentary democracy. We have heard no suggestion that any one of the eastern European nations should substitute for Communist rule another diktat giving a permanent influence to a foreign Government or protecting power status through a secretariat situated provocatively in the centre of its capital city. I hope that events in eastern Europe will persuade Britain to put its house in order.
An earlier Ulster leader, Lord Carson, begged the House of Commons to treat us "as you do yourselves". Unfortunately, Parliament ignored Carson's plea and, worse still, proceeded to make us different and then to blame us for being different. If Parliament cannot yet bring itself to treat us like other British citizens, is it too much to ask that it treat us as it is preparing to treat the Poles, Hungarians and Germans? On all sides, we hear demands for the removal of the diktats imposed without the consent of all those peoples and for the ballot box to reign supreme. I suspect that, but for the multiple interventions in his speech, the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) might have supported some of the suggestions that I intend to make.
Mr. Winnick : I totally oppose terrorism in all forms--the Provisional IRA as well as the terrorist killers on the other side--and I believe that a united Ireland can never come about through terror. As for Carson, did not the Irish people as a whole make the point before the first world war that Ireland should receive its freedom, but the House of Commons and the House of Lords refused to accept the right of Ireland as a whole to be free? If there is a comparison to be made, surely the Irish people would say that they were the victims of the denial of their freedom while home rule was being advanced by so many people in the House of Commons at the time.
Mr. Molyneaux : Yes, but Lloyd George granted to Ireland what he hoped would be two home rule Parliaments--north and south. He hoped, like many people in Whitehall at the time, that the northern Parliament would take itself out of the orbit of the United Kingdom, but Carson and Craigavon knew better and decided otherwise. That remained the conviction of the majority of the people, Protestant and Roman Catholic alike. That is why 16 out of 17 constituencies in Northern Ireland elect Members to represent them in this House which governs the whole of the United Kingdom.
When the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) intervened, I was about to say that Ulster people support the laudable aims for the eastern European nations, but they ask themselves why they are denied those rights. We have done our best to pave the way for their restoration. In January 1988, the hon. Member for Antrim, North and I handed to the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland outline proposals for a workable alternative to what was, even then, a failed agreement. No fault was found with that plan. The Prime Minister stated that she regarded it as constructive. However, because it would have rendered obsolete the hideous diktat mechanism and its secretariat, the two Governments could not bear to think about it. They were as unyielding as Herr Honecker before the Gorbachev visit and, even now, they might never have heard of East Berlin. Their stubbornness constitutes a massive road block on the path to devolution, because no devolved structure could hope to survive under the stifling dead weight of article 4 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. For the foreseeable future, I suppose that one can expect the diktat oppressors to keep on saying no, but as I am sure that the Government will want to be consistent- -they are not always consistent, but let us give them the benefit of the doubt and hope that they will be consistent in this case--with their laudable support of democracy in Europe, I can see a way of assisting them to escape that contradiction.
Without reference to the Anglo-Irish Conference and Agreement and without endless all-party wrangling and round table conferences, the Government can take two steps on the road to restoring democracy to Northern Ireland. First, with minimal legislation, they can restore to district councils real powers over a wide range of functions not subject to political dispute or vulnerable to manipulation by majorities or minorities.
The second step concerns Parliament. Again, only minor amending legislation would be required to sweep away the monstrous colonial rule Order in Council procedure which was introduced as a temporary device when Stormont was abolished in 1972. Its perpetuation for 17 long years constitutes a standing reproach to this Mother of Parliaments and arguments for its retention have lost any validity that they ever had. If the Poles and East Germans are entitled to parliamentary democracy, there can be no justification for denying it to the parliamentary representatives of a part of the United Kingdom.
The stabilising effects of those two modest steps would have a significant impact on the most grievous and urgent consideration of all--the defeat of terrorism, referred to in the first sentence of that paragraph of the Gracious Speech dealing with Northern Ireland.
Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh) : The right hon. Member knows that I am at one with him in my feelings about the hour and a half of debate that we get on an Order in Council. Surely there is a better way of dealing with it than that. The solution is for the political parties in the north of Ireland to start to talk and then to have their own forum, administration and means of making decisions, rather than going through the present subterfuge of pursuing integration while running away from the reality that we could have our administration if the right hon. Gentleman's party, among others, would sit down and talk.
Mr. Molyneaux : The Ulster Unionist party, which I lead, and the Democratic Unionist party, which the hon. Member for Antrim, North leads, have made it abundantly clear that we will gladly do that once we are released from the iron cage of the Anglo-Irish Agreement and article 4 is no longer valid and no longer imposes on us in a Stormont Government not only how we should behave but what powers devolve to us.
I know that the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) will have studied carefully and spotted the significance of a little phrase never before used in legislation affecting Northern Ireland. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) will confirm that in his time the words used were "transferred matters", whereas the words used in the agreement are :
"only certain matters' may be devolved".
I have it on good authority from a senior Government servant that those "certain matters" will be decided by the Anglo-Irish Conference and what the conference gives, the conference can--and perhaps will--take away. I should like to carry the argument further, but I am pressed for time.
The Government pledge themselves to
"maintain its support for the enforcement of the law and the defeat of terrorism."
They will have to do much more than merely "maintain" support ; they will have to increase support for the security forces if they are to achieve the declared aim of a distinguished member of the Government, the present Foreign Secretary, who said of terrorists when he was Home Secretary in March this year :
"They are professional killers No political solution will cope with that. They just have to be extirpated."
On 2 November, at the last Northern Ireland Question Time, the present Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said in reply to me :
"I gladly give the assurance that I am at one with my right hon. Friend the present Foreign Secretary on that matter."-- [Official Report, 2 November 1989 ; Vol. 159, c 452.]
I understand that the present Secretary of State for Northern Ireland stated only a few hours ago in a public speech that he is determined that the IRA will not be allowed to win. However, there is something to add to that. It cannot be allowed to be thought that it should end in a draw. The IRA and all other terrorist movements must be eradicated--or, to use the word of the Foreign Secretary, extirpated--before there can be peace, progress and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.
We are meeting today for the first time after various atrocities, including those referred to by the hon. Member for Antrim, North, the murders of the three paratroopers at Mayobridge and the Colchester atrocity. I hope that the words of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland are a