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The Prime Minister : I am grateful to add the hon. Gentleman's tribute to the hon. Member for Foyle. I have paid tribute to him in the past for the work that he pursued for so many years, and I am glad to reiterate it today.

I agree entirely with the remarks of the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) in respect of the United States and Europe. I believe that there will be overwhelming support for the proposals set out in the joint declaration. We must hope that that transmits itself to those people who have the power to stop the killing, and that they choose to do so.

Mr. George Walden (Buckingham) : Does my right hon. Friend agree that whether or not this welcome declaration leads to an end to violence, it finally strips away the remotest pretext for violence and for international sympathy or support for violence ? It also broadens the political base for the repression of violence from whatever quarter, should it continue.

The Prime Minister : My hon. Friend touched on a most important point when he said that the declaration strips away any pretext for tangible support. That is true within the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, and in respect of the tangible support that has come from other sources from time to time.

Mr. Dennis Canavan (Falkirk, West) : Although there is widespread hope that today's declaration will form the basis of a peaceful settlement, does the Prime Minister agree that much remains to be done to ensure a lasting peaceful settlement ? As to talks with various parties, will the Prime Minister give an absolute assurance that no party will be able to use a boycott or veto to scupper the peace process and that the Prime Minister will not be deflected by his Government's desire to secure the support of Unionist votes in the House ?

The Prime Minister : I do not believe that the participants in the talks would put up with a veto, which is the most practical point arising from the hon. Gentleman's question. However, if the talks procedure itself is to produce a lasting outcome, it will need to carry the consent of people in Northern Ireland. I shall seek, therefore, to encourage the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland at

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which the hon. Gentleman directed his remarks to play a full part in the constitutional discussions. They have done so thus far ; they have done so very constructively. A great deal of progress has been made and I believe that they will wish to continue to make progress, as was indicated by the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) a few moments ago.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) : As a committed Conservative and Unionist Member of the House, I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend's total commitment to peace. All Members of the House join him in hoping that the declaration will produce peace. Does my right hon. Friend accept, however, that the strength of the United Kingdom is composed of the component parts of the United Kingdom--England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales--and that any breach of the Union will weaken the whole? Will my right hon. Friend, as I did some years ago, go to Northern Ireland and campaign for the Union and support those who are in favour of the Union, should the necessity arise?

The Prime Minister : My views about the Union, as I indicated a moment or so ago, are well known and I do not believe that they can be seriously challenged by anyone who considers the record at the general election, before the general election, or subsequent to the general election, or considers the detail of the joint declaration. I also hold to the belief, however, that in the circumstances that exist in Northern Ireland it is for the people of Northern Ireland to determine the position. I believe that that is the right way to proceed and I think that in due course that is the way in which we must proceed.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray) : In welcoming the statement and wishing its ideals and its aspirations fair wind, although I recognise the many difficult days which still lie ahead, may I re-emphasise, on behalf of the constitutional nationalist parties in the House, the importance that we attach to achieving our aims through the ballot box, through reasoned arguments and through the democratically expressed views of the people of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom, be that through a referendum or through a general election?

I also congratulate the hon. Member for Foyle on the bravery that he has shown for many months, along with other people whose names perhaps are not so well known in this context, and I hope that the efforts that have been made will bring about a lasting settlement. Finally, I remind the Prime Minister that in Europe there is a great opportunity for the diversity of nations to be recognised as equal partners.

The Prime Minister : On her first two points, the hon. Lady will carry almost everyone with her, and I believe that she deserves to. The third point was rather more elliptical, but I think that, in principle, I can agree with the hon. Lady.

Mr. James Couchman (Gillingham) : I congratulate my right hon. Friend and all those who have helped in the making of this historic agreement. Will my right hon. Friend reassure the House, however, that no commitment--explicit or implicit--has been made for any form of amnesty for those people who have been convicted of the most heinous crimes in Northern Ireland, and that the

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judicial process will pursue, with utmost diligence, those who have continued with their crimes of violence in recent weeks?

The Prime Minister : I can give my hon. Friend that absolute commitment.

Mr. Ken Maginnis (Fermanagh and South Tyrone) : May I suggest to the Prime Minister that it is appropriate at this time that we remember two brave and dedicated men from my constituency who made the supreme sacrifice as members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary at the weekend? Drew Beecom and Ernie Smith were fine men. Those are the sort of people who must never be betrayed. I have experienced at first hand for more than 20 years the treachery of the IRA. Is there implicit in paragraph 10, which deals with a possible permanent end to violence and the way in which the men of violence can in due course enter the democratic process, provision by both Governments for a process of verification? Will he assure us that that process includes the surrender of arms and explosives and that it requires those who have been involved in violence to declare, by drafting a new manifesto and seeking approval at the ballot box, that they totally eschew violence before they can fully enter the democratic process?

The Prime Minister : They will certainly be required to give evidence of sincerity in a renunciation of violence. That is the purpose of having a gap between the renunciation and the entry into exploratory preliminary talks, so that we can examine the matters that the hon. Gentleman raises. The dreadful murders of the two brave men that he mentioned at Fivemiletown are the latest in a long catalogue of the wholly unnecessary and wasteful actions that have destroyed so many people's lives in Northern Ireland. If the options that are opened up as a result of this declaration are to be taken up, there is a possibility that perhaps no more brave men need join them.

Mr. Henry Bellingham (Norfolk, North-West) : Is my right hon. Friend aware that there will be widespread welcome for the third paragraph of the declaration, which emphasises the key role of the European Community? Does he agree that the development of the single market will break down economic barriers and build up trust between the two communities? Does he also agree that it is important to have greater sporting links, as they also break down barriers and could build up the links between the two traditions? Does he agree that it would be an excellent idea if there were an all-Ireland soccer team?

The Prime Minister : An all-Ireland soccer team would be a great loss to many people who have watched Northern Ireland play the Republic on many occasions. Those of us who like watching the five nations rugby championship would also rather miss that clash. Beyond that, however, my hon. Friend is right about the impact of the single market.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South) : None of us have doubted the Prime Minister's commitment to the Union, but perhaps in drafting the declaration it might have been wiser to put in Great Britain, because then we would have kept Scotland within the Union.

Mrs. Ewing : No, thank you.

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Rev. Martin Smyth : May I explore a little further whether, having offered the carrot, the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic has made any commitment to join in applying the stick if it is necessary and the offer of peace is not accepted? As I understand it, the two Governments and the two nations are not at war. May I also clarify a misunderstanding that may have gone unnoticed in this place today? Sinn Fein has a democratic place and has been elected, but its representatives did not take their places in this House and it has not been prepared to act as a proper democratic party.

I shall give three simple illustrations. Having made a declaration that they would not support violence, as they would not then be eligible to be councillors, one of Sinn Fein's elected councillors has gone to the United States to defend the acts of the IRA. The other evening in my constituency, a 1,000 lb bomb was placed by the IRA in a nationalist and predominantly Roman Catholic area. It could have devasted new houses and a Roman Catholic -controlled school and one woman died. Representative McKnight of Sinn Fein refused to condemn the IRA. Is it not near time that we stopped that mollycoddling and laid down the terms under which Sinn Fein can be represented as a proper democratic party?

The Prime Minister : On the hon. Gentleman's first point, if the offer that implicitly lies there is not taken up, I have no doubt that the two Governments will continue to work together in intensified mode on security matters against men of violence, whether from the IRA, the Ulster Freedom Fighters or the Ulster Volunteer Force. The relationship between Sinn Fein and the IRA is well understood, as is the pseudo-constitutional position of the president of Sinn Fein. Therein lies the link--the necessity for a complete renunciation of violence before there can be any intention of accepting the representatives of Sinn Fein in any constitutional talks.

Several hon. Members rose--

Madam Speaker : Order. May I remind hon. Members that we are not in the middle of a debate but asking questions on a statement. I am sure that if I call a few more hon. Members, they will co-operate with me and ask brisk questions, and perhaps we could have a brisk exchange.

Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East) : Can the Prime Minister tell us what loyal Ulster has done wrong to have this further betrayal visited on it? When he talks to the House about the consent of Northern Ireland being required, will he remember, because the people of Northern Ireland have not forgotten, that their consent was neither asked for nor given for the Anglo -Irish Agreement? Their consent was neither asked for nor given for this declaration. It seems that their consent will be required only for the final act of separation.

Can the Prime Minister tell the House whether his stomach is no longer turning at the prospect of sitting down with the IRA? Can he tell us why he has taken away the unfettered right of the people of Northern Ireland to have an act of self-determination and why he has included it in the self- determination of the island as a whole? Why is it that Prime Ministers from this House who protest the most that they are Unionists are always the ones who do the greatest harm to the Union?

The Prime Minister : I am afraid that I have to say to the hon. Gentleman that I think that that was intended to be

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a wholly destructive intervention. There is no question, and the hon. Gentleman knows that there is no question, of betrayal in any sense. I would invite the hon. Gentleman to read the joint declaration and then read it again and again until he understands it, because he cannot justify what he has just said.

The constitutional guarantee and the consent principle are writ large in the statement. In the letter which the hon. Gentleman published this morning, with the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), the hon. Gentleman claimed that I had

"given the Prime Minister of a foreign and alien power joint jurisdiction over part of Her Majesty's dominions".

That is what the hon. Gentleman wrote this morning. He was utterly and totally wrong about that. I have done no such thing, as the joint declaration makes unambiguously clear. The declaration states that self- determination must be

"exercised with and subject to the agreement and consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland".

The hon. Gentleman should read the declaration before he comments on it, and not mislead people about it. I hope that one day the hon. Gentleman will not always put himself between actions that will bring peace and that peace.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) : Can the Prime Minister tell us whether the loyalist paramilitaries will also be expected to lay down their arms? Can he tell us what he means about the concurrent referendums? For instance, we now know from questions that he has answered that the referendums may not be on the same day. If the decision of the referendum in the south of the country is in favour, and the decision of the referendum in the north is against, do they add them up? [Interruption.] Can the Prime Minister explain what will happen in those circumstances? Does it mean that there will be no further progress? I should like to know the answer.

The Prime Minister : I sometimes despair at the hon. Gentleman. Everyone is expected to lay down their arms--that is perfectly clear. As I said, I despair at the hon. Gentleman's understanding. I have made it clear almost times beyond number at this Dispatch Box over recent weeks and now that there must be a majority in Northern Ireland. If there is no majority in Northern Ireland, the constitutional guarantee stands.

Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West) : In view of paragraph 4 of the declaration that the British Government "have no selfish strategic or economic interest in Northern Ireland",

will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Governmentstill have a "strategic or economic interest" in Wolverhampton? [Interruption.]

The Prime Minister : Well-- [Interruption.] Don't tempt me-- [Laughter.]

Let me explain to my hon. Friend : we shall not impose our views on the majority in Northern Ireland, but that, of course, does not and cannot mean that we are indifferent to their concerns and their future. We support the Union, and we protect its people. We support their rights with our cast- iron constitutional guarantee. We support their economy, and we support it generously. We deploy 18,000 of our troops in Northern Ireland, because of our concern about the situation there, and we want to ensure that the

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people in Northern Ireland about whom we are concerned, from both communities, can have a safer and more prosperous future in which democracy can thrive. None of that is selfish ; all of it is our responsibility.

Mr. Roy Beggs (Antrim, East) : Does the Prime Minister accept that only when articles 2 and 3 have been removed from the Irish constitution--

Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann) : Removed?

Mr. Beggs : Removed. Does the Prime Minister accept that only when articles 2 and 3 have been removed will my constituents recognise that, for the first time, an opportunity has arisen to seek to develop new relationships between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic? Will he bear with me when I describe the great disappointments that my constituents and people elsewhere in Northern Ireland have had over little things, such as the £7 million defrauded by a citizen of the Irish Republic in Dublin out of the people who invested in International Investments Ltd? Despite the

representations that have been made from Northern Ireland on that little issue, we have had no satisfaction. Therefore, we have great doubts whether we shall get satisfaction on the greater issues.

The Prime Minister : I sympathise with the hon. Gentleman's constituents. I freely confess that I am not familiar with the particular case that he mentioned, but I am sure that if he brings it to the attention of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, my right hon. and learned Friend will examine the matter to see whether anything can be done.

Mr. Barry Porter (Wirral, South) : Does my right hon. Friend accept that no rational Unionist could fail to give the declaration a cautious welcome, but does he also accept that it is sensible that the declaration has not been made in an atmosphere of euphoria, as though it would bring "peace in our time"? However, it is an opportunity. I take sides with the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) in asking whether my right hon. Friend also agrees that those who may have some persuasive influence, although no direct influence, over the loyalist paramilitaries should persuade them to lay down their arms--before the IRA men lay down theirs, in my view.

The Prime Minister : We all wish to see the men of violence lay down their arms, whether they claim to represent the loyalist or the nationalist cause. In my judgment, both groups of people involved in violence betray the causes for which they claim to speak. My hon. Friend is right about the status of the document. It is an opportunity for peace, but it cannot be guaranteed by the two Governments ; I do not guarantee it. It lies there to be taken up if the people who can deliver peace will take it up. It is not a certainty, but it is an opportunity.

Mr. Trimble : The hon. Member for Wirral, South (Mr. Porter) referred to euphoria. Does the Prime Minister recall the euphoria years ago when the House foolishly endorsed the Anglo-Irish Agreement, which has blighted the politics of Ulster ever since ? If we are suspending judgment on the statement today, it is in the hope that it will lead to a way out of the cul-de-sac to which the people of Ulster have been condemned for the past eight years.

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Will the Prime Minister comment on the democratic deficit in Northern Ireland ? At his press conference today he said that his object was to increase the democratic rights of the people of Northern Ireland. Does he realise that it lies uniquely within his hands to remedy that democratic deficit, and will he give us an assurance that he will not be held to ransom by other parties in other countries that are trying to block that remedy for their own selfish motives ?

The Prime Minister : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for saying that he will suspend judgment and study the document. I am sure that that is the right thing to do. The document is complex, and genuinely deserves and will reward careful study. I hope that when he has studied it he will be reassured. As I said earlier to the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux), the leader of the Ulster Unionist party, I am keen to proceed with the talks process. I look forward very much to examining the ideas which the right hon. Gentleman has presented to me on strand 1. We shall examine those quickly and pursue the discussions that my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram) has been engaged in for some time.

Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge) : May I say to my right hon. Friend that it was a remarkable achievement to have received such an unambiguous statement from tficient to convince the IRA that, even by the standards of its own perverted logic, when neither Government will give it any succour or support, it has no alternative but to come to the bargaining table.

The Prime Minister : My hon. Friend is entirely right and I see no need to reiterate his point.

Mr. Clifford Forsythe (Antrim, South) : Is the Prime Minister aware that while the House has generally accepted his statement, the people of Northern Ireland will not perhaps look at it in the same light because for years and years and for election after election, they have voted to show that they are part of the United Kingdom? They will hardly regard the agreement as further copper fastening because they already felt that they were part of the United Kingdom. Do the Prime Minister and the House realise that the people of Northern Ireland require every encouragement to see this statement and the agreement in that light because they have always felt that they were part of the United Kingdom and they do not understand why we need an agreement to point that out?

The Prime Minister : In a sense, the hon. Gentleman answered the point when he said that the people of Northern Ireland have shown that they are part of the United Kingdom and that they feel strongly about that. The fact that they feel strongly about it and the debates that so frequently ensue in Northern Ireland mean that there is a need for reassurance and that reassurance is offered by the joint declaration today. They have shown, as the hon. Gentleman says, that they wish to be part of the United Kingdom. As long as they continue to show that, they need have no doubt that they will remain a part of the United Kingdom.

Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth) : My right hon. Friend may not be aware that 25 years ago I was serving with the Army in Northern Ireland and had the task of helping build the peace line that divided the Protestant and

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Catholic communities of the Shankill and Falls road. Does he accept that the initiative is not just the best chance of peace, but the only chance of peace in the foreseeable future? Does he further agree that we are talking not only about peace, but about prosperity, jobs and trade for north and south Ireland to improve the standard of living of all the people?

The Prime Minister : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making a point that has not yet been made this afternoon. Were we able to end the violence that has scarred Northern Ireland for so long, it would make a remarkable difference to the business prospects of Northern Ireland, to the prospects for tourism and to the prospects for the flow of inward investment into Northern Ireland. I can think of no single event that would raise the quality of life and the standard of material prosperity for the people of Northern Ireland than an ending of violence.

Mr. A. Cecil Walker (Belfast, North) : I welcome the Prime Minister's commitment to the constitutional parties. Will he confirm that the creation of a Northern Ireland assembly is still on the table?

The Prime Minister : I can confirm that that is still part of the strand 1 talks.

Dr. Liam Fox (Woodspring) : Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the real importance of the declaration is that it removes any pretext for terrorism, violence and murder and that now the onus is clearly on the men of violence to give up their arms and take the peace process further?

The Prime Minister : Yes, that is entirely right. It is their decision and we hope that they will make it.

Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East) : It is hoped that Sinn Fein will respond positively to the joint declaration and persuade the IRA to end its armed struggle. However, some issues in the joint declaration may worry responsible Unionism in Northern Ireland--the issue of articles 2 and 3 has already been suggested. Will the Prime Minister elaborate on paragraph 11 of the declaration which deals with the establishment of a forum for peace and reconciliation? It seems that that forum is to be established by the Irish Government, although they will talk to other parties. I am not clear whether that forum is to be for the whole of Ireland or just for the Republic. Is not it the case that Northern Ireland really needs a forum for peace and reconciliation and that it should be developed in that area?

The Prime Minister : The forum to which the hon. Gentleman refers is an initiative of the Irish Government which I understood would be launched after an announcement that violence had ended. That is certainly what the Taoiseach said this morning. It would be open to all constitutional parties in the north and south, but would, of course, be entirely optional. There would be no compulsion on any party to attend.

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne) : In giving the joint declaration a cautious, but heartfelt welcome, may I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his courage in seizing what is potentially a poisoned chalice? May I press him further for crucial detail? Does his definition of a cessation of violence include the handing over of at least some

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weapons and explosives and will he assure the House that convicted murderers in Northern Ireland will serve the whole of their sentences?

The Prime Minister : I can certainly confirm that not only do I not have any notion in my mind of amnesty, but there is no suggestion of a reduction in sentences awarded by the courts. That is a matter for the courts and not something in which I wish to interfere. Were there to be an end to violence, the crimes that are currently being investigated would still be the subject of investigation in the future--that is the way our criminal justice system operates and it will continue to operate on that basis. We hope that there will be a surrender of some arms. The sine qua non is the absolute assurance that there is a renunciation of violence and that that renunciation is shown to be carried out.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) : Does the Prime Minister recognise that the basis of a lot of the talks that have occurred in the past few weeks is the initiative taken by the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) in meeting Gerry Adams, the leader of the Sinn Fein? In the spirit of expanding democracy in Northern Ireland and in the whole country, what consideration has he given to the repeal of the prevention of terrorism Act, to a lifting of the ban on Gerry Adam's movements to this country and to the ending of the broadcasting ban on Sinn Fein so that the peace process may be further hastened in Northern Ireland?

The Prime Minister : I have not given consideration to those particular matters. Indeed, in the Republic of Ireland, there is a tougher ban, as I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will know. I indicated earlier my admiration for what the hon. Member for Foyle has done over many years, not only over recent months. The Taoiseach's initiative did not begin a few months ago, but commenced in February 1992, at our first meeting in Downing street, soon after he became the Taoiseach.

Mr. Frank Cook (Stockton, North) : The Prime Minister must be pleased and proud to put the offer for peace on the table today and I, like most hon. Members, am happy about it. However, will he bear in mind that the active elements of terrorism in Northern Ireland will not wish to see a cessation of violence--the element that have what I call a gangster mentality who have been making a good living from what is going on? Some of those men will want actively to perpetrate further acts of violence under the guise of someone else. Will the Prime Minister give an assurance that he will carefully scrutinise any transgression that may threaten the agreement so that we know who is the guilty party? While a referendum is being--

Madam Speaker : Order. I have asked for brisk questions. I am allowing the statement to run a long time because it is so important to the House. I wish that hon. Members would not abuse my tolerance and put one question so that I can call all hon. Members who wish to speak.

Mr. Cook : It is a most important question.

Madam Speaker : I am sure that all questions are important. The hon. Gentleman must determine the priority of his questions.

Mr. Cook : On a point of order, Madam Speaker.

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Madam Speaker : Order. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will ask his question speedily. I have pleaded for short questions so that other hon. Members might be called. I think that that is a fair and just way to proceed.

Mr. Cook : Concurrent with the concurrent referendums in north and southern Ireland, can we have an appropriate and complementary referendum in the United Kingdom to find out what mainland Britain thinks?

The Prime Minister : I had not contemplated a referendum of that sort on this particular issue. On the early part of the hon. Gentleman's question, I think that he is right. In terms of the criminal aspect that so often runs alongside terrorism, he touches on an important point. There is a possibility that terrorists might give up terrorism but that some might decide to continue with what one might call freelance gangsterism. The hon. Gentleman touches on an important point, and I am glad that he did so.

Mr. Calum Macdonald (Western Isles) : Will the Prime Minister clarify the final sentence of paragraph 7, which contains the important commitment from the Taoiseach that

"in the event of overall settlement, the Irish Government will, as part of a balanced constitutional accommodation, put forward proposals for changes in the Constitution which would reflect the principle of consent"?

May I take that to mean that it does not preclude a change of that nature in the constitution in advance of a final settlement and that we might still hope that the Irish Government might, of themselves, grasp the nettle of articles 2 and 3?

The Prime Minister : It certainly does not preclude that. The hon. Gentleman has read it entirely correctly. It is a rather allusive way of indicating the fact that articles 2 and 3 might, at an appropriate time, be put forward for changes in the Irish constitution. The hon. Gentleman has read it accurately.

Ms Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) : In paragraph 4, the Prime Minister reiterates on behalf of the Government that Britain has no "selfish strategic or economic interest in northern Ireland." Even if hon. Members do not like it, they must accept that many people in Northern Ireland will regard that as a betrayal, even if we think it is wrong. Will the Prime Minister clarify what he means by that sentence? Does not he, as a British Prime Minister, think that British citizens, many of whom lost members of their families fighting for this country in the war, might feel a little sad? Will he say what he really means by it?

The Prime Minister : The essence of it is that our interest is benevolent, not selfish. I set out a series of ways in which I felt that that should be interpreted in my answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen). The essence is that we are not going to impose our views on the majority of the people in Northern Ireland against their wishes. That is the essence of what it is about, but it does not mean, and should not be interpreted as meaning, that we are indifferent to their concerns or their future. We are not indifferent to their concerns or to their future. That is why in terms of economic support and, for the past many years, military support to preserve security, we have shown our concern for the people of Northern Ireland--all of them, both communities-- in the most tangible way possible.

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Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian) : I fully understand why the declaration concentrates mainly on finding ways of persuading Sinn Fein and its paramilitary allies to stop murdering people, but, as the majority of recent terrorist incidents have been the result of so-called "loyalist" paramilitary activities, does the Prime Minister agree that the whole House would never forgive people who went on carrying out such acts in the name of loyalty to the House and the state and nor would they forget politicians who condoned such activities?

The Prime Minister : The House wants no one to murder and kill on the basis of loyalty to the Union except perhaps at a time when the country might be at war with another nation. That is not the case. The hon. Gentleman is quite right--the actions of those who call themselves loyalists besmirch the Unionist cause and are not accepted by constitutional Unionists. Their activities are as malign as those of the IRA.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow) : I hope that my reaction is not cynical, but, given the document's emphasis on the Government's commitment to honour

"the democratic wish of a greater number of the people of Northern Ireland",

the island of Ireland will surely remain divided in the foreseeable future. Is that not a reasonble assumption? Is it not also fair to assume that significant interested parties will seek to put on the agenda the hugely important issue of a united Ireland?

The Prime Minister : I think that I have made it clear repeatedly over the past 1 hour and 25 minutes that we believe in the principle of consent and that is what, rightly in my judgment, is enshrined in the document.

Mr. Frank Field (Birkenhead) : Will the Prime Minister list to what extent the British Government's policy has been changed as a result of the joint agreement? Does he accept that merely to bring the parties to the conference table does not necessarily lessen the chance of violence? Does he recall that the last time a comprehensive peace treaty was under discussion, which all major parties had sought election successfully to support, a civil war and bloody carnage followed, the like of which we had not seen before and have not seen since?

The Prime Minister : The joint declaration is consistent with our policy, as I told the House earlier.

Mr. Field : What has changed?

The Prime Minister : It is consistent with our policy, as I told the House earlier. The hon. Gentleman referred to what happened in the past, but it is rather a counsel of despair. I think that the hon. Gentleman, like me, would wish to see us make a move that may end violence and lead to a constitutional settlement. That is what we are doing. In no sense do I believe that it is going to be easy, and in no sense do I believe that we can snatch at it in a second and change the whole way of life in Ireland, or even in Northern Ireland, but it is presenting an opportunity to take a first step towards securing a long-term constitutional position by ending violence. While that violence continues, no progress can be made economically and only limited progress can be made politically so it is a wholly desirable

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step. We are seeking to ensure that violence ends so that we can begin the further discussions that will have to take place.

Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East) : I should like to add my congratulations to those who brought about this joint declaration and I am very pleased because it is, of course, Labour party policy that there should be a united Ireland only with the consent of the people in the north. Does the Prime Minister agree with me that the chill of the horror of violence in Northern Ireland goes across the border? Although we bow to the experience of Northern Ireland Members, it does not go down well to hear the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) claim that it was only in his fiefdom. Is he aware that I lost a relative in 1973 in a pub bombing in Belfast?

Is he aware that last night there was a peace vigil at St. Martin-in-the- Fields at which hon. Members of all parties stood with people from Northern Ireland calling for an end to violence and killing for Christmas and, we hope, onwards in Northern Ireland? There were people there from the Ophsal Commission and members of Families Against Intimidation and Terror. Does he know that people in Families Against Intimidation and Terror are saying that they are underfunded? Does he not agree with me that the civil society will have to be built in Ireland, not just political initiatives, before the people of Ireland who are against violence can come into the light and drive the men of terror into the darkness?

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