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House of Commons

Thursday 14 March 1991

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. Speaker-- in the Chair ]


Cardiff Bay Barrage Bill

[Lords] (By Order) Order for further consideration, as amended, read.

To be considered on Thursday 21 March.

British Railways Bill

(By Order)

Order for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time on Tuesday 19 March at Seven o'clock.

Mr. Speaker : As Bills 2 to 9 have blocking motions, with the leave of the House I shall put them together.

Cattewater Reclamation Bill

(By Order)

Hook Island (Poole Bay) Bill

(By Order)

London Docklands Railway (Lewisham, etc.) Bill

(By Order) East Coast Main Line (Safety) Bill -- (By Order)

London Regional Transport (Penalty Fares) Bill

(By Order)

London Underground (King's Cross) Bill

(By Order)

Redbridge London Borough Council Bill

(By Order)

British Railways

(No. 3) Bill-- [Lords] (By Order) Orders for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time on Thursday 21 March.

Midland Metro

(No. 2) Bill -- (By Order)

Birmingham City Council Bill

(By Order)

Read a Second time, and committed.

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Oral Answers to Questions


School Playing Fields

1. Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many acres of school playing fields have been sold in the past year ; and if he will make a statement.

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Dr. Brian Mawhinney) : In the past year, eight acres of surplus playing fieldsassociated with Orangefield secondary school in Belfast were sold, but will continue to be used as playing fields.

Mr. Greenway : I welcome that reply and wish that England had a similar record. Can my hon. Friend confirm that the green lungs which playing fields represent will be preserved at all costs in Northern Ireland, and that the Government will see to it that boys and girls at school there receive a proper physical and sporting education and have the playing fields needed for that purpose?

Dr. Mawhinney : I can assure my hon. Friend on all the latter parts of his question. We attach considerable importance to physical education and sport and to providing the facilities necessary to carry them out. I cannot promise, however, that we shall maintain a green lungs policy at any cost ; but I assure my hon. Friend that we shall not dispose of playing fields and open spaces unless there are overwhelming reasons for doing so.

Rev. Martin Smyth : I welcome the assurance that there will be sporting facilities, but does not the Minister think that it was wrong of the Belfast education and library board to decide to put on the market the part of the property adjacent to Finaghy primary school containing a swimming pool, when the board could have put the other side of the school on the market and maintained the swimming pool as a needed leisure facility in the Finaghy area?

Dr. Mawhinney : As the hon. Gentleman pointed out, that decision was taken not by the Government but by the Belfast education and library board. However, I shall draw the hon. Gentleman's concern to the attention of my right hon. and noble Friend the Paymaster General.

Small Businesses

2. Mr. Stevens : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many small businesses have been created in Northern Ireland in the last two years ; and if he will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Richard Needham) : This information is not available. However, as an indicator, VAT registrations during 1988 and 1989 show an estimated 7,700 new, mostly small, businesses.

Mr. Stevens : I am grateful for that reply, particularly as I understand that my hon. Friend only arrived back in this country at about six o'clock this morning after trying to promote Northern Ireland in Japan.

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Do not the figures that my hon. Friend has quoted confirm the success of the Government's enterprise initiatives in Northern Ireland, and are not they a tribute to the spirit of the people there, who are determined to push aside the effects of terrorism in that Province?

Mr. Needham : Domo arigato gozaimasu Stevens-san. One thousand more new businesses started in the past two years in Northern Ireland than in the preceding two years. Self-employment has risen by 60 per cent. in the non-agricultural sectors since 1981 and the Northern Ireland economy is going through the recession exceptionally well, as evidenced by today's unemployment figures. However, as my hon. Friend remarked, more should and must be done because small businesses are the crucial base for our future expansion. I am confident that new businesses will continue to grow on the basis of our present success.

Mr. Speaker : May I ask the Minister to interpret the first sentence of his answer for Hansard?

Mr. Needham : I said, "Thank you very much."

Mr. Clifford Forsythe : The Minister will be aware that we welcome any businesses coming into Northern Ireland or any businesses that start up in Northern Ireland, but does he agree that the time has come to give local small businesses the same sum per job created as that given to outside enterprises coming into Northern Ireland?

Mr. Needham : It is crucial that we remain competitive with Wales, Scotland, the Republic, Portugal or any other countries in trying to attract business, including outside enterprises coming in to Northern Ireland. We still give considerable incentives to business in Northern Ireland. It is crucial that our help should be directed to marketing, training and improving productivity and competitiveness instead of merely giving grants. The fact that we are moving to a more competitive business environment in Northern Ireland, with more productivity, better marketing and better selling, means that our business is doing better. We shall help small business, but small business must do everything it can to help itself.

Rev. Ian Paisley : I welcome the Minister's remarks, as I welcome everything that is being done to bring small businesses to Northern Ireland. Bearing in mind that the Minister says that we are getting through the recession successfully, perhaps he will deal with the other side of the coin and tell us how many small businesses have had to close down in the past two years?

Mr. Needham : About 6,000 have deregistered in the past couple of years, but that is not a substantially greater figure than hitherto. I repeat that the Northern Ireland economy is growing at a faster pace than that of the rest of the country. That can be seen from the fact that our unemployment figures are hardly rising, if they are rising at all. We have reports from Coopers and Lybrand Deloitte, PA Consultants, even the Northern Ireland Economic Research Council, which is not the most optimistic of bodies, the Trustee Savings bank and the British chambers of commerce stating that the Northern Ireland economy is coming through the downturn in the economy better than any other region--something that has not happened at any time since 1921.

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Anglo-Irish Agreement

3. Mr. John D. Taylor : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on his most recent discussions with the Government of the Republic of Ireland about a replacement of the Anglo- Irish Agreement.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Brooke) : After discussions, not only with the Irish Government but with the leaders of the main constitutional parties in Northern Ireland, I have drawn up a text which I believe provides a sound basis for formal political talks on all the key relationships. This text which, in my view, respects the essential principles of all concerned, is now being sent to all the potential participants, with the request that they should respond to me, I hope positively, before Easter. I shall make the text public in due course.

Fourteen months of painstaking collective effort about important but essentially preliminary points lie behind us. Against that background, I do not believe that we can sensibly engage in further textual barter. The moment for decision has come. We have a real chance to move forward together to substantive talks. These would offer the prospect of a significant transfer of power to local politicians in Northern Ireland and a new beginning for relationships between both parts of Ireland, and among the peoples of these islands.

Mr. Taylor : That was a substantial reply, which we in the Ulster Unionist party welcome. The party has always been keen on talks within Northern Ireland and eventual talks with Dublin.

Is the Secretary of State aware that his reply is timely, bearing in mind, as he emphasised, that he has been on the job for 14 months and that many people in Northern Ireland were beginning to lose interest in the process? Can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House why the document that he agreed with the Ulster Unionist parties on 24 December--Christmas eve--was subsequently rejected by the Dublin Government about seven weeks later? Is that because the Dublin Government, as reported in the press, now refuse to talk to Ulster Unionists as part of the United Kingdom delegation? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that people in Northern Ireland see the Dublin Government using the Anglo-Irish Agreement as a vehicle through which to obstruct political progress in Northern Ireland and talks between Unionists and the Dublin Government?

Mr. Brooke : I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his welcome for what I said. No one could be more conscious than I that we have been 14 months engaged in the process, as I have lived through every moment of them. As to the text that I have discussed, not only with the Unionists but with the other potential participants in the talks, at all stages there has been discussion about whether we could find a draft that would be acceptable to everybody. Now that we have reached the stage where I am putting forward a text which I hope respects the interests of all concerned, if we can proceed during the immediate future with good will towards all other participants, we are more likely to get to a successful conclusion.

Mr. Peter Robinson : Does the Secretary of State recognise that in many quarters of the press there will be

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confusion about his statement today, for over past weeks and months many had expected the Secretary of State eventually to mourn the passing of his initiative but instead find him with the air of an expectant father? He believes that he has a text which will get support from the parties in Northern Ireland and the Dublin Government. Can he tell us whether he has come to that conclusion because of his talks with party leaders and with the Dublin Government? Has the gap that existed after 24 December been narrowed as a result of his meeting with the Government of the Irish Republic? May I assure the Secretary of State on behalf of my party that when the text is made available to us it will be examined carefully but in a positive light?

Mr. Brooke : Throughout the process I have always been disturbed by the association of my name with the initiative, on the general basis of the case of the Liberal peer, the publication of whose memoirs at the turn of the century was held up for three weeks because the printers had run out of capital "I"s. As to the substance of the hon. Gentleman's question, throughout the exercise there has been a continuing convergence towards narrowing the gap. I pay tribute to all concerned for their contributions to the process.

Mr. Duffy : Will the Secretary of State not be discouraged by the reluctance of certain parties in Northern Ireland to sit down and talk, which may owe less to a lack of political will than to private hopes about the outcome of the general election? Will he draw comfort from the fact that certain items on the political agenda, which were not there when he arrived, owe much to his political courage and imagination?

Mr. Brooke : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his closing sentence. I have not been discouraged as we have gone through the process, because there has been a desire for convergence on everybody's part and everyone has played a constructive role. As to the result of the general election, that is a subject about which I have no doubts.

Mr. Kilfedder : I, too, congratulate the Secretary of State on his untiring endeavours to promote talks. I look forward to seeing the document which will be published in due course. I hope that it will ensure that there will be talks. Will the Secretary of State ensure that the Foreign Office makes all proper arrangements for the visit of the President of the Irish Republic when she comes to the United Kingdom in June, albeit on a private visit, so that we can show that the people of the whole United Kingdom wish nothing but the best of friendly relations with the Irish Republic?

Mr. Brooke : There is a slight element of a concealed agenda in the hon. Gentleman's question, but I have no doubt that everyone will welcome the President of the Irish Republic as and when she comes.

Mr. Winnick : Is it not the case that substantial political progress depends in essence on two matters--first, that the minority community in Northern Ireland should have an input and that both communities should be treated on an equal basis and, secondly, as has fortunately been the case in the past few years, that there should be growing co-operation between the Irish Republic and this country? One hopes that that co-operation, which to a certain extent

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is shown by the Anglo-Irish Agreement, will remain in force and will be part of the policy of the present Government as well as of future Governments.

Mr. Brooke : Underlying the talks of the past 14 months has been the proposition that I put on 9 January last year, that any arrangements likely to succeed would need to enjoy widespread acceptance. That has informed all our discussions. As the hon. Gentleman will know, the Irish Government have been involved in those talks continuously over the past 14 months and have made their own input to them.

Mr. Ian Bruce : Does my right hon. Friend agree that to ensure that the majority community is positive, flexible and responsible, he ought to make it clear now that there will be no unreasonable veto of the minorities or of the Irish Republic, so that a deal can be made that will be acceptable both to the minority community and to Her Majesty's Government?

Mr. Brooke : One of the considerations that has informed all our conversations has been the awareness of all taking part that everyone has the freedom to withdraw from them, if they wish to do so. In that sense, although I personally would not use the word, everyone has a veto, but I sincerely hope that it will not be used.

Mr. McNamara : We admire the Secretary of State's tenacity over the past 14 months and, as he knows, we have wished him well in his discussions. We share to a degree the regret that he must feel that it has been necessary for him to issue today what amounts to an ultimatum. That is a matter of regret for us. Is it the Secretary of State's opinion, on the basis of his discussions, that it is possible for all the parties involved to sit down and work things out according to a suitable timetable? Does he agree that if the parties concerned do not accept his position, we shall be back at square one? Does he further agree that the three relationships will have to be re-examined, whatever might replace his present round of talks-- though I hope that they will not be replaced? Does the Secretary of State acknowledge that the next fortnight will be an important time for reflection for the people who are party to the discussions, because the only persons who will delight in the talks not progressing further after the next fortnight will be the men of violence from both communities?

Mr. Brooke : It was not in my mind to present what the hon. Gentleman described as an ultimatum, but, after 14 months of constructive negotiation with all the parties, I am concerned to take personal responsibility, on behalf of the Government, for a text that will be acceptable to all. In that sense, and by definition, I run the risk that everyone will accuse me of misreading the tea leaves in making that proposition. Nevertheless, I believe that that is a sensible way to draw matters to a conclusion. As to returning to square one and dealing with three relationships, that seems to be a form of multidimensional chess, but I will endeavour to unravel the hon. Gentleman's proposition. I wholly agree with his remarks about terrorists.

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Community Relations

4. Mr. Burns : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on his plans to encourage the churches to promote community relations.

Dr. Mawhinney : The Government have indicated on a number of occasions that they are prepared to help Church-based programmes which promote cross-community contact, greater mutual understanding, or appreciation of cultural diversity. In addition, I have met the Church leaders twice to explore what further help the Government could give to encourage local initiatives. I hope to meet them again in the near future.

Mr. Burns : Does my hon. Friend agree that it is crucially important in encouraging community relations that the churches should conduct ecumenical acts of worship and work together in the community?

Dr. Mawhinney : Ecumenical services and the like are matters for the churches and for Church leaders, not for Government Ministers. I agree strongly with my hon. Friend that the involvement and standing of churches in the Northern Ireland community give them a significant role to play, should they be willing to accept it, in those areas which are, in the first instance, divorced from theology or worship.

Rev. Martin Smyth : Does the Minister agree that much more has been done at congregational level than has sometimes been given credit? Does he accept that one of the greatest hindrances to better community relations is a separate Church-based education system which penalises children going to state or integrated schools, and in which many priests will not even help children to take their first communion?

Dr. Mawhinney : I certainly agree with the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question. There is a lot going on, on a cross-community basis, with the Church and churches at its focus. As to the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question, the Government believe that parents should have the opportunity to make choices concerning the education of their children. No doubt the hon. Gentleman, like me, welcomes the fact that, as a consequence of the introduction of the cross-community scheme a couple of years ago, about one third of all the schools in the Province, and about 300 youth clubs are involved in joint local projects. That was not happening a few years ago and it is a measure of the progress that has been achieved. I look forward to more progress in the years ahead.

Rev. Ian Paisley : In view of the remarks that the hon. Member has just replied to, will he confirm to the House that the Moderator of the largest Protestant church in Northern Ireland, the Irish Presbyterian church, has made it clear that he will not take part during his office in any ecumenical services, and that that is not merely the view of one Protestant communion? Does not he think that it would also be helpful to community relations if he gave the same type of help to Protestant church schools as he gives to Roman Catholic church schools?

Dr. Mawhinney : On the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, I repeat what I said in my initial answer. The behaviour of Church leaders towards ecumenical services is a matter for them to decide, not for

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Government Ministers. Outside the direct theological issues and issues of worship and joint worship I know that the hon. Gentleman will recognise that the churches are involved in many other activities which would provide a platform for more joint action than takes place at the moment. On the second part of his question, I think that he understands that what he refers to as Protestant churches are able to apply to the Department of Education for funding for Protestant church schools on the same basis as any other school. I shall reflect his concern to my right hon. and noble Friend the Paymaster General, who now has responsibility for these matters.


5. Mr. Stanbrook : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the progress towards eradicating terrorism in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Brooke : The Royal Ulster Constabulary, sup-ported by the armed forces, continues to make progress towards the defeat of terrorism, within the rule of law. It does this by pre-empting, deterring and, as necessary, responding effectively to terrorist attack. During 1990, 380 persons were charged and 440 persons were convicted for terrorist related offences, including 80 and 35 for murder and attempted murder respectively. Some 223 weapons, nearly 22,500 rounds of ammunition and more than 4,300 lb of explosives were recovered. We shall continue to be resolute in our determination to end terrorism in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Stanbrook : If my right hon. Friend wants to deal with the political causes of Irish terrorism, will he consider redrawing the border between the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic so as to exclude those who do not wish to be British and to include in Northern Ireland only those people who do, with generous resettlement grants for those who find themselves on the wrong side of the border from their point of view?

Mr. Brooke : I mean no disrespect to the question asked by my hon. Friend, but I cannot think of anything that would be more likely to encourage terrorism than if it were seen that a redrawing of the border followed from their actions. At a more general level, it is my experience with borderlines that someone is always cross to be on the wrong side of them.

Mr. Molyneaux : Is the Secretary of State aware that there is widespread support for the attitude of the General Office Commanding Northern Ireland in his references to the defeat of terror in the Gulf area? Does the Secretary of State agree that there is an urgent need for the eradication of terrorism, whether it is directed by Saddam's army council or by the self-styled army council of the IRA?

Mr. Brooke : The GOC's statement earlier this week, to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, could not have been clearer. It was a resolute statement of Government policy and I stand wholly behind it.

Rev. William McCrea : For over 20 years now, the people of Great Britain and Northern Ireland have endured the scourge of terrorism. Will the Secretary of State tell the House and my constituents when the victory over terrorism will be won? Does he not agree that the

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secret of the Gulf war lay in the lack of political interference in military measures? Will he tell the House that the Government will adopt the same resolute manner in eradicating terrorism in Northern Ireland, and that the handcuffs and the political restraints will be removed from the security forces, so that they can do their job in a proper military fashion?

Mr. Brooke : I cannot give the hon. Gentleman a precise date for the victory over terrorism, but I have no doubt that it will occur. In answer to the second question, let me repeat that the security forces in Northern Ireland operate under the rule of law and I do not believe that, on reflection, the hon. Gentleman would wish it otherwise.

Mr. McNamara : I welcome the encouraging figures given by the Secretary of State. May I ask him two specific questions? First, has the review of the question of permanent vehicle checkpoints been completed yet? Secondly, are the Government taking any steps to try to protect taxi drivers from the special risks to which they currently seem to be subject?

Mr. Brooke : A good deal of work is being put into reviewing the PVCP policy. I cannot commit myself to a timetable for the conclusion of the review, but I accept that different views are held in the community about the value of PVCPs, which I have discussed with representatives of that community. I understand the hon. Gentleman's concern about taxi drivers, and we are looking into that.


6. Sir Michael McNair-Wilson : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what further discussions he has had with leaders of the political parties about a measure of self-government for the Province.

Mr. Brooke : My hon. Friend the Minister of State and I have, within the last fortnight, met the leaders of all the main constitutional parties in Northern Ireland. As a result of my conversations with them, I have been able to take the steps that I outlined a few moments ago in my answer to the right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor).

Sir Michael McNair-Wilson : Building on that answer, will my right hon. Friend tell me whether he agrees that the heartfelt longing of so many people in the Province for a measure of political stability and local administration should take precedence over anything else that he may seek to achieve in any further talks? In his talks with the political parties, did he find enough common ground among them to encourage him to believe that a devolved Administration in the Province may be possible in the not- too-distant future?

Mr. Brooke : The longing to which my hon. Friend has referred has come through not only to me but to the leaders of political parties with whom I have been engaged in conversation. I have observed concern that the talks should succeed, and that we should proceed to constructive measures. The fact that we have been able to reach the point that we have reached, and that I have been able to draft the text to which I have referred, is, I think, evidence that common ground is beginning to exist.

Mr. Harry Barnes : To what extent is a Bill of Rights on the agenda in the discussions? Such a Bill would be

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particularly appropriate for Northern Ireland, because it would protect minorities in different sets of circumstances--both Protestant minorities in Catholic areas, and vice versa.

Mr. Brooke : I do not think that it would be appropriate for me to tell the hon. Gentleman exactly what I am in the process of putting to the political leaders ; it is a confidential matter between them and me. I can tell him, however, that--as I have said on previous occasions--although the Government do not see a Bill of Rights as an early part of any agenda, they would be prepared to consider it if it became relevant in the conclusion of an overall arrangement.

Mr. Latham : Is my right hon. Friend aware that none of his many friends in the House wish him to be viceroy or proconsul for ever? We wish his latest initiative every success, bearing in mind the fact that it follows in the long tradition that has been going on for more than 400 years.

Mr. Brooke : I am certain that that was a very nice remark of my hon. Friend's ; in that spirit, I hope that I am correct in agreeing with him.

Political Progress

7. Mr. Mallon : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he last had discussions with the representatives of the Government of the Republic of Ireland about political progress in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Brooke : I last met the Irish Foreign Minister, Mr. Collins, on 11 March.

Mr. Mallon : I very much welcome the Secretary of State's statement today and I am glad that a final draft is being put to the parties, not least because 14 months is a long time--it feels like 400 years--for the discussions. Does the Secretary of State agree that, if negotiations take place, as I hope, they will be based on the three sets of relationships that we discussed in great detail during the previous talks? Does he further agree that it is only on the basis of those three sets of relationships that a workable and lasting arrangement can be found?

Mr. Brooke : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he said, and I share his sense of the passage of time. I do not mean to be discouraging when I say that the 100 years war went on for 116 years.

The three sets of relationships have informed all the discussions that we have had, and I agree with the hon. Gentleman that they seem to be the best basis for such talks in terms of securing widespread acceptance.

Mr. Bellingham : When the Secretary of State had these discussions with his Irish republican counterparts, was extradition on the agenda? Can he say exactly whether the new extradition arrangements are working properly?

Mr. Brooke : I am not sure that extradition per se falls into the category of political progress, which is the question that the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) asked me ; but in the meetings that we have at the Intergovernmental Conference under the Anglo-Irish Agreement, extradition is of course discussed, and there are exchanges in both directions.

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Mr. Trimble : I should like to refer the Secretary of State to Tuesday's Irish Times, in which Mr. John Bruton, the leader of Fine Gael, the second largest party in the Irish Republic, is reported to have said :

"The deletion by the Irish Government"--

Mr. Speaker : Order. Paraphrase it, please.

Mr. Trimble : I am sorry, Mr. Speaker.

I should like to refer the Secretary of State to Tuesday's Irish Times report in which Mr. John Bruton, the leader of Fine Gael, the second largest party in the Irish Republic, is reported to have said that the deletion by the Government of the Irish Republic of the reference to Northern Ireland's status as part of the United Kingdom from its latest proposals showed that the Irish Government's main objective was to try to arm-twist the Unionists into a united Ireland. This view is reinforced by a statement of Mr. Ahern, a member of the Dublin Cabinet, in which he said that any solution that did not provide for movement towards an all-Ireland unitary state would be unacceptable.

Is that, in the Secretary of State's view, consistent with the so-called recognition in article 1 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement? Is it one of the interests of the Irish Republic that he is trying to protect in his proposals?

Mr. Brooke : The text to which I referred in my answer to the right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) was composed subsequent to the Tuesday when the text to which the hon. Member has referred appeared in the Irish Times. Given that we now have a potential common text which I am putting to the leaders of all the parties and to the Irish Government, I do not think that we shall make a successful outcome more likely by engaging in retrospective argument about what has occurred in the past.

Mr. Dickens : Does my right hon. Friend believe that Her Majesty's Government are putting as much urgency and energy into solving the Northern Ireland question politically and peacefully as they are putting into the search for a solution to the middle east question?

Mr. Brooke : Yes.


8. Mr. Ron Brown : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the security of civilians in Northern Ireland.

Dr. Mawhinney : Since I last answered questions, on 14 February, there have been six civilian deaths and two security force deaths arising from the security position. I am sure that the House will endorse the Government's condemnation of the brutal mortar attack outside Armagh on 1 March, which sadly resulted in the deaths of two young UDR soldiers and the maiming of two others ; and of the vile attack at Cappagh on 3 March, in which four civilians died. For the most part, Northern Ireland is a safe place. Sectarian violence--including violence aimed at persons believed to be connected with the security forces--persists, although not at the levels experienced in the 1970s. We are not complacent ; we are determined to create the conditions in which all the people of Northern Ireland can live without the threat of terrorist violence.

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Mr. Brown : Does the Minister of State understand that, just as Labour Members have condemned the killing of innocent civilians in the Gulf, we also condemn the unnecessary killing of innocent civilians in Northern Ireland? However, to condemn is not enough ; we need some sort of political initiative, which we hope will be taken soon and will be successful. In the meantime, do not the working-class communities in the Province deserve better? They deserve protection. I believe that the only way to achieve that--and this may be controversial--is to set up defence squads based on the trade unions-- [Laughter.]

Mr. Speaker : Order. The hon. Gentleman has every right to put his point of view.

Mr. Brown : Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As I was saying before I was interrupted, should not defence squads be set up, based on the trade unions, with the participation of both Catholic and Protestant workers? Would that not make more sense than more and more people being killed unnecessarily? It may be no panacea, but does the Minister of State agree that at least it should be considered?

Dr. Mawhinney : Probably those who would find that suggestion the most controversial are the trade unions.

I wish to pick up the hon. Gentleman on the use of the words "innocent civilians". Everyone involved within the law in Northern Ireland is innocent--not only the civilians, but the security forces, the UDR and the police. The use of the word "innocent" as an adjective linked with "civilian" does a great disservice to the people of Northern Ireland and to the security forces.

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