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House of Commons

Thursday 17 March 1994

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[ Madam Speaker-- -- in the Chair ]


Federation of Street Traders Union (London Local Authorities Act 1990) (Amendment) Bill (

By Order )

University of London Bill (

By Order )

Orders for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time on Thursday 24 March.

British Railways Order Confirmation Bill

Considered ; to be read the Third time.

Oral Answers to Questions


Inter-party Talks --

1. Mr. McAvoy : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the resumption of the inter-party talks process and on talks he has had with the Irish Government.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Sir Patrick Mayhew) : I recently met the leaders of the three Northern Ireland parties involved in the bilateral discussions. The Minister of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram), is discussing our ideas at further meetings with the parties. At the intergovernmental conference on 10 March, both Governments reaffirmed their commitment to the search for a comprehensive political settlement covering the main relationships.

Mr. McAvoy : Is the Secretary of State aware that this is St. Patrick's day, when we celebrate a great man of peace ? Bearing in mind the right hon. and learned Gentleman's responsibility to follow in the footsteps of that man of peace, what proposals does he have to bring the Ulster Unionist party back into the three-stranded talks process ?

Sir Patrick Mayhew : I acknowledge the first part of what the hon. Gentleman said--indeed, I have personal reasons to be pleased that it is St. Patrick's day.

There is no question of bringing the Unionist parties back into the talks at the moment. The Democratic Unionist party is not prepared to engage in bilateral discussions, but I am pleased that bilateral discussions are continuing on their former basis between my hon. Friend the Minister of State and the Ulster Unionist party, the Alliance party and the Social Democratic and Labour party.

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Mr. Peter Robinson : In his discussions with the Dublin Government, has the Secretary of State agreed--as Mr. Reynolds said that he had in a recent Irish News article--on a definition of the word "consent" in the Downing street declaration ? Under that definition, which the British and Irish Governments have agreed, there can be constitutional mutation which leads to a united Ireland without the consent of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland, and only the final legal act of severance requires consent.

Sir Patrick Mayhew : There has been no such agreement.

Mr. Molyneaux : Does the Secretary of State recall that, in the original scheme some four years ago, it was decided, and accepted by all concerned, that the first phase should concentrate on designing a workable, practical system of devolved government in Northern Ireland and that we would move, in due course, to discuss a possible relationship between that body and the Irish Government ? Does the Secretary of State still feel that that was a natural order of progress ?

Sir Patrick Mayhew : The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to say that the statement of 26 March 1991 set out the three strands. It was arranged that there should be discussions on the first strand until the stage was reached when, in the judgment of the Secretary of State, it was appropriate to invite the Irish Government to join the discussions, to discuss matters connected with strands 2 and 3. I think that it has come to be recognised among the parties that the three-stranded approach is essential and it has been borne in on me from all sides that people cannot be expected to reach final conclusions on any particular strand until they know the position of other parties on other strands. That is a sensible way of proceeding.

Mr. Couchman : Will my right hon. and learned Friend reassure the House--the callous brutality of the mortar attacks on Heathrow in the past week and of other terrorist atrocities notwithstanding--that the thrust for peace remains, that the Downing street declaration of December remains a vehicle for peace and that he will not let Sinn Fein and the IRA derail the thrust for peace through either the three-stranded talks or the declaration ?

Sir Patrick Mayhew : It was not only callous ; it was extremely wicked to launch the attacks of which my hon. Friend speaks. The declaration stands as a freestanding declaration of principle, of consent and of rejection of violence. If Sinn Fein or the Provisional IRA considers that, by violence, it can secure a departure from the declaration or any concession from the British Government, it would be better employed taking a running jump. There is to be no concession and no departure.

Mr. McGrady : May I bring greetings to you, Madam Speaker, and all Members of the House on this St. Patrick's day from the Hill of Patrick in my constituency ? Does the Secretary of State agree that the best prospect for the peace process now is the continuation of the inter-party three- stranded talks, based on the carefully negotiated agreement of 26 March 1991, which is still extant ? Does he agree that, based on the principles enunciated in the

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Downing street agreement of 15 December 1993, the hope for peace, for which we all pray, would be best served by that ?

Will the Secretary of State recommence the first phase of the talks because, as he said, the strands are interwoven ? We had passed from strand 1 into strands 2 and 3. We should not go back to the starting post, but carry on from where we left off. Those parties that, for reasons of violence or politics, cannot join in that process should be allowed to join the table when they feel that they can do so.

Sir Patrick Mayhew : The best hope for peace is if the Provisional IRA and anybody else who uses violence for political means recognise that it will get them nowhere. They will end up in prison ; in the past four weeks, 40 people have been charged with serious terrorist offences. That is the best hope for peace. I absolutely agree that it is necessary to proceed with the political talks with which I have already dealt this afternoon in answer to the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux).

Lady Olga Maitland : Will my right hon. and learned Friend, when he next meets the Irish Government, raise the issue of cross-border security ? I acknowledge that relations are good between the RUC and the Garda, but it would be helpful if the Irish Government showed more commitment in terms of providing resources and manpower, sharing intelligence and permitting Army helicopters to go in hot pursuit of terrorists when they flee to the south. After all, terrorists are no respecters of any sovereign nation.

Sir Patrick Mayhew : Cross-border co-operation is always on the agenda at meetings of the intergovernmental conference. Progress has certainly been made. Improved communications, technical co-operation, liaison structures and joint threat assessments are all items of improved co-operation. I draw the attention of my hon. Friend and the House to the statement issued yesterday by the Chief Constable of the RUC in which he said that co-operation was at an all-time high. He said :

"The success rate of the Garda in finding arms and explosives, and making arrests, has been first rate and is plain for all to see." We shall continue to pursue those matters with the Irish Government.

Mr. Alton : Will the Secretary of State take the opportunity of underlining what the Irish Prime Minister said--that the struggle is not now against the British Government but against the Irish people ? Will he consider the possibility of appointing someone like Ninian Stephen or perhaps the President as an interlocutor or mediator to take the peace process forward ?

Sir Patrick Mayhew : The hon. Gentleman accurately quotes what Mr. Reynolds said in America yesterday. I add to that another quotation. He said :

"If they"

the Provisionals

"are trying to get new or additional terms for people who use violence to try and achieve a political end, then they will not succeed."

I do not think, however, that there is any need for a mediator ; the joint declaration makes the position abundantly clear and it will stand. As the Taoiseach said, the Provisionals have to recognise that, if they wish to join the democratic process, they must give up violence for good.

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Mrs. Angela Knight : My right hon. and learned Friend will be aware of the outrage felt by my constituents in Erewash and throughout Derbyshire at the failure of the Irish courts to extradite the two people wanted for questioning by the Derbyshire police force about the murder of a soldier in Derby two years ago. In his talks with the Irish Government, will my right hon. and learned Friend undertake to do everything he can to ensure that they change their law in such a way that the Irish courts would extradite in circumstances in the future ? Murder is murder ; it is not a political crime.

Sir Patrick Mayhew : I warmly agree, as of course does the whole House, with my hon. Friend's last sentence. She never fails--and very properly--to remind me of the concern of her constituents in that recent case. It is to be understood that the Irish Government are now taking through their parliamentary process--it has been through the Dail--a Bill that would have removed two of the three grounds on which the High Court judge relied in refusing the extradition request in the two most recent cases. I must recognise that the Irish High Court judges are as independent of their Government as ours are of the British Government. We referred to the first case at the previous intergovernmental conference and mentioned the disappointment that was widely felt at the outcome.

Mr. McNamara : The Secretary of State will, of course, remember that, in that particular case, the judges in the Republic made a comment on a third ground about the prejudging of cases by the British press and how dangerous that was. We have had examples of that both in the Republic and in this country.

May we go back to the original question that was raised ? I noted that the right hon. and learned Gentleman dodged the point that was put to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Rutherglen (Mr. McAvoy). Can he say that no attempt whatever will be allowed to decouple the first strand from the other two strands, that he still stands by "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed" and that he does not regard that as a fatuous formula ?

Sir Patrick Mayhew : There is no question of dodging anything at all. I will not make any comment on the case ; I never make comments on judicial observations either in our own jurisdiction or in anybody else's. It is perfectly legitimate to express disappointment at the outcome. That is as far as I go.

On the hon. Gentleman's second point, it has been made clear time and again that the Government stand behind a three-stranded approach. I suppose that I could go on saying that, but it would take a lot of time if I did. There is no question of decoupling. Whether the parties in the resumed talks wish to maintain that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed is a matter for them. That is not a matter on which I can lay down a rule.

Harbours and Ferry Service --

2. Mr. Peter Bottomley : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland who advises him on the safety of the harbours and the ferry service linking the inhabited island with County Antrim.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Tim Smith) : Advice on these matters is provided by the marine directorate of the

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Department of Transport, which, from 1 April, will be known as the Marine Safety Agency, and by the Health and Safety Executive.

Mr. Bottomley : Northern Ireland has one inhabited offshore island-- Rathlin. If Rathlin were in the south of Ireland or in Scotland, the harbour facilities would be improved. Will my hon. Friend engage all the efforts of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State, who has more right to call himself Irish than St. Patrick, to ensure that, whether from European funds or from Northern Ireland funds, the harbours at Castle Bay and Ballycastle are improved ? That cannot be done by Moyle council itself. There must be some other form of funding.

Mr. Smith : I am aware of my hon. Friend's interest in Rathlin island and am sorry that it was not possible to include improvements to the harbour facilities in this year's public spending round, but I will do as he suggests for the future.

Mr. Beggs : Does the Minister agree that the ferry services operating from Belfast and Larne, County Antrim, and my constituency operate within the highest possible safety standards ? Does he further agree that the safety of ships' passengers and crews would be enhanced by the provision of a lifeboat at Larne and by the improvement of roads to the ports of Northern Ireland and to the ports on the western coast of the most inhabited island--Great Britain ?

Mr. Smith : I fully understand the hon. Gentleman's interest in the port of Larne and will look carefully at what he said about the provision of a lifeboat. I am looking with great care at road links.

Rev. Ian Paisley : I, too, should like to greet the House on St. Patrick's day and also to say that the Secretary of State could do a good service to Northern Ireland for once by declaring St. Patrick's day a public holiday. That would please the nationalists, because they think that St. Patrick was a Roman Catholic, and the Protestants, because they know that he was a Protestant and a Brit.

Having said that, I remind the Minister that the real problem for Rathlin island is not its harbour but the deplorable harbour at Ballycastle. Is he aware that, last Friday, many school children could have been drowned by the terrible swell in the harbour at Ballycastle ? Will he see to it that some of the structural funds that will now be available from the EEC will be put to an urgent reconstruction of the harbour at Ballycastle so that the people from Rathlin have a proper entrance to the mainland ?

Mr. Smith : I am afraid that I am not in a position to render St. Patrick's day a public holiday, much as I should like to do so. I will refer the matter to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State.

I was very concerned to hear what the hon. Gentleman said about Rathlin island, and I will visit the island as soon as I can to see what can be done.

Privatisation --

3. Mr. Mackinlay : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what are the Government's plans for privatisation in Northern Ireland.

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The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Sir John Wheeler) : The Government will privatise Belfast international airport by way of a trade sale during 1994. The Ports (Northern Ireland) Order will permit any trust port to bring forward a scheme for privatisation. The previously announced intention to privatise water and sewerage services will not take place within the lifetime of this Parliament.

Mr. Mackinlay : Why do the Government ignore the views of the Belfast harbour commissioners, the work force at the port and the overwhelming majority of the people of Northern Ireland, as reflected by the elected representatives ? Those people consider the privatisation programme completely irrelevant to the real needs of people in Northern Ireland and the rest of the country.

Why is the Minister going to privatise the professional police force at Northern Ireland airport, and why is he ignoring the views of the Belfast harbour commissioners, who reject the privatisation proposal ? Will he review these crackpot proposals ?

Sir John Wheeler : I certainly do not accept the hon. Gentleman's description of the initiatives as "crackpot"--far from it. The proposals are designed to improve the quality and standard of services. I understand that the House considered the question of Aldergrove airport and its police service a short time ago and that the House was assured that the police service would continue to function as heretofore.

Rev. William McCrea : During discussions in the ministerial team about the continuation of the plans for privatisation in the Province, did the Minister and his colleagues consider the possibility of privatising the Northern Ireland Office ? Surely, if privatisation is regarded as a policy in the interests of the community, the privatisation of the Northern Ireland Office would be very popular. It would clean out the nest of those who flirt with our political enemies and negotiate privately with people who are our murdering foes.

Sir John Wheeler : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the originality of his proposal. I am confident, however, that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State and my ministerial colleagues are satisfied with the high quality and standard of service given by the civil servants who serve the Northern Ireland Office.

Mr. Stott : The Minister of State may not recall--if he does not, the Under-Secretary of State certainly will--that, during the debate on the privatisation of Belfast international airport, I pointed out that Commissioner Bruce Millan had informed me that the European Commission might seek a clawback of the proportion of money that the Commission had put into the refurbishment of the airport following its privatisation. My hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. O'Brien) has received a similar letter from Commissioner Millan, saying that the Commission may seek to claw back

Madam Speaker : Order. I have not heard the hon. Gentleman ask a question yet.

Mr. Stott : Is the Minister aware that we have had a further letter from Bruce Millan, saying that a similar clawback principle would apply if the Government privatised any of the trust ports in Northern Ireland ?

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Sir John Wheeler : I understand that my hon. Friend the Under- Secretary of State dealt with the matter in the debate in the House a short time ago. If there is any further information that the Government should take into account, they will certainly do so.

Downing Street Declaration --

4. Mr. Riddick : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the latest situation regarding the Downing street declaration.

Sir Patrick Mayhew : The declaration by the two Heads of Government is a statement of the fundamental principles of democracy, consent and the rejection of violence. It is, accordingly, not time limited, and will stand.

Mr. Riddick : Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that one of the clearest signals that the Irish Government could send the men of violence would be a statement that they intend to scrap articles 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution, which lay claim to Northern Ireland, if the men of violence--the IRA and Sinn Fein--do not renounce violence, as foreseen in the Downing street declaration ? In any event, is not such a claim an anachronism in this day and age ?

Sir Patrick Mayhew : The answer to the second question is, honestly, yes, it is an anachronism. I believe that to be essentially understood. One of the most interesting features of the joint declaration is a clear statement by the Taoiseach in one of its paragraphs of his understanding of the resentment that the two articles cause to Unionists. On the other hand, he says that they represent an aspiration of many nationalists. A clear steer is given by the Taoiseach in that declaration--that if an overall package is agreed, then as part of a balanced constitutional settlement, amendments to the constitution will be put to the Irish people and will be supported by the Irish Government. I do not believe that there is anything between the two Governments on this issue, and my hon. Friend is right to raise the matter in that context.

Mr. Mallon : May I also bring greetings from the Hill of St. Patrick in Armagh, where St. Patrick wisely chose to live and work ? That he decided to die and be buried in Downpatrick was a matter of fine judgment on his part.

Will the Secretary of State agree with me, and remind the House and others, that the joint declaration of 15 December was signed not for Sinn Fein and the IRA, but for all the Irish people ? The most recent opinion poll in Ireland shows that 92 per cent. of the Irish people overwhelmingly rejected violence and supported absolutely the principles in the joint declaration. Does the Secretary of State agree that the two Governments should now proceed to apply those principles to a set of arrangements for the whole island, which, in the words of the joint declaration, could bring agreement among all the people of the island, and do that in such a way that it is not prevented by the Unionists who have opted out or the republicans who will not opt in ?

Sir Patrick Mayhew : I agree very much with the first part of the hon. Gentleman's statement-- [Interruption.] Perhaps I mean the second part, after the obeisance to St. Patrick, which was entirely appropriate.

On the remainder of the statement, the joint declaration is based on the principle of consent. That is what got up the

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noses of the Provisionals. They recognise that they cannot obtain consent for their version of a united Ireland by democratic means. Accordingly, they resort to violence. The declaration said that nobody who resorts to violence for political ends will join the democratic process. It is because of that stance that the Provisionals are rejected all around the world, not least in the United States of America. The two Governments stand side by side on the declaration and on their determination to advance with the main constitutional parties down the talks process with the same objective there has always been.

Mr. Hunter : As it was the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic who said that there would be a crackdown against the IRA if it rejected the terms and the spirit of the joint declaration, will my right hon. and learned Friend "seek clarification", as the expression goes, from the Prime Minister as to what he meant by that crackdown and inquire when there will be clear evidence of that response ?

Sir Patrick Mayhew : Those matters are always under discussion at the meetings that take place on a regular basis. It is important to recognise that no security measure has been held in abeyance. My hon. Friend would be rather critical had any practical measure been held in abeyance pending the response of the IRA to the joint declaration. The full range of security measures has been, and will continue to be, brought to bear on all terrorists. Those measures are reviewed the whole time, not least in conjunction with the Irish Government. I am glad to read what the Chief Constable of the RUC said yesterday about the high level of co- operation between his forces and the Garda.

Mr. Trimble : Does the Secretary of State agree that the declaration addressed two questions--first, the circumstances in which a united Ireland could be achieved, which is a purely hypothetical question as there is clearly no consent for such an outcome, and, secondly, how the IRA could enter democratic politics if it so wished, although it is perfectly clear that it does not so wish ? Given the response to those hypothetical questions, does the right hon. and learned Gentleman further agree that the declaration is an irrelevance and cannot be used as the basis for future institutions and should not be used by him as an excuse for not implementing arrangements for stability in Northern Ireland that he knows have the most widespread acceptance ?

Sir Patrick Mayhew : The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that I have never used the joint declaration as an excuse for anything. As I have said more than once this afternoon, the declaration is a declaration of fundamental principle ; it does not cease to be one on 15 March, having been one on 15 December. Nor does it preclude the taking of any security or political measures that are deemed prudent and sensible for the achievement of a less antagonistic and more tranquil and prosperous way of life in Northern Ireland--the purpose which all the constitutional parties joined up to serve and to seek. The hon. Gentleman played a notable part in that process a year ago.

Mr. McNamara : The Secretary of State will be aware that he has the full support of the Labour party for his interpretation of the declaration. We regard it as a set of principles that will outlast any possible lapse in talks. That must be the way forward. Does he accept that Labour

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believes that, if the parties cannot reach agreement, implicit in the declaration is a responsibility on both Governments to attempt to develop their own institutional framework for peace and to put it to the parties ?

Sir Patrick Mayhew : I acknowledge the hon. Gentleman's comments in the first part of his question, but he will not entice me into a clarification of what has always been extremely clear in the text of the joint declaration. I shall not follow him into any discussion of what is implicit. I am perfectly prepared to recite what is explicit and what it does not contain. That is all that I want to say about that.

We must recognise, as both Governments did in the joint declaration, that there is no prospect of anything workable or durable being achieved in Northern Ireland, save that which is based on consent. That is the fundamental principle. We must continue, patiently and steadily, to probe what may be possible, what the areas of common agreement are and what, if possible, may require adjustment in people's positions. That is what we are doing and I should like to see a slightly more positive and slightly less carping attitude from the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Brandreth : Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that prospects for inward investment will be particularly enhanced by the success of the initiative launched at the time of the declaration ? Does he have any progress to report on inward investment in Northern Ireland ?

Sir Patrick Mayhew : My hon. Friend is absolutely right. One of the most hypocritical and disgusting features of the Provisional IRA is that it claims to speak for the people of Ireland, but does nothing but diminish their prospects for employment and prosperity. Fortunately, such are the attractions of Ireland--north and south, but I am talking about Northern Ireland--for inward investment from overseas that, in the past year, the Industrial Development Board has been able to secure £200 million worth of inward investment and about 2,000 jobs. Prospects for this year are no less bright.

Party Leaders (Meetings) --

5. Mr. Home Robertson : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he next hopes to meet the leaders of the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland.

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Michael Ancram) : My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State has recently held meetings with the leaders of the three Northern Ireland parties who have been engaged in private bilateral discussions and I have subsequently begun a series of further bilateral meetings with representatives from those parties to discuss our ideas for giving sharper focus and direction to the talks process.

Mr. Home Robertson : Will the Minister continue to do everything possible to drive forward the peace process, in spite of the antics of fanatics on both the loyalist and republican sides ? Will he take this opportunity to say a little about the Secretary of State's ideas for the establishment of cross-border executive boards, with delegated powers from the Irish and British Governments ? What functions does he intend such boards to cover ?

Mr. Ancram : We have made it clear all along--I agree with the hon. Gentleman--that no one can be allowed to

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exercise a veto over the talks process by the exercise of violence. I repeat that assurance. It is for that reason that the talks process is proceeding. As to the second part of his question, the hon. Gentleman is talking about matters that are essentially part of the discussions that are required to take place over the three strands. It will be of no constructive use for us to try to define the parts of any strand in public in this House before negotiations have taken place with the participants in the talks. That is something to be considered in due course as part of the talks process.

Mr. Bill Walker : Does my hon. Friend realise that some of us are often baffled by the language that is used when describing matters political in Northern Ireland ? How can there be consensus if one is saying that there can be no veto ? I do not see how the two can be bedfellows. Does it mean that we will never reach any agreements at any time ?

Mr. Ancram : No. The phrase that has been used many times in relation to finding a settlement in Northern Ireland--indeed, across the three relationships within the islands of the British Isles--has been that any solution has to be broadly or widely acceptable to the peoples involved. Therefore, any settlements in relation to institutions in Northern Ireland would have to have the broad agreement of the people of Northern Ireland.

Mr. A. Cecil Walker : Does the Minister agree that the constitutional leaders hold the key to peaceful political progress in Northern Ireland ? Does he accept that the consensus of opinion is that all efforts should be directed, with those leaders, towards a devolutionary process rather than towards pursuing the three-stranded approach with the Irish Government ?

Mr. Ancram : I appreciate the importance of the leaders of the three constitutional parties who are presently taking part in bilateral talks with me. I certainly intend to continue those bilaterals. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State has already said, it is matter of practical reality that we cannot look at one strand within the three- stranded concept in isolation from the other strands. A solution in one strand cannot be achieved without solutions within the other strands. For that reason, we have made it clear that the talks that are taking place at the moment involve all the participants across all three strands.

Mr. Dykes : I thank my hon. Friend for the hard work that he has done already in trying to keep the political dialogue going. Does he agree- -particularly on this of all days--that the remarkable phenomenon of bringing fully into account the Irish dimension is that the two Governments stand shoulder to shoulder on the declaration and that there is no movement away from that ? That is the disconcerting reality for the extremists, and we expect the moderates on the Ulster Unionist side also to acknowledge that reality.

Mr. Ancram : I agree absolutely with my hon. Friend that it is immensely important that the two Governments continue to stand shoulder to shoulder on the basis of the joint declaration. At the same time, I think that it is important that the Irish Government have restated their commitment to the talks involving the constitutional parties. I believe that we are not yet ready to get around a

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table. There is groundwork to be done and that groundwork will be undertaken, I hope, by the constitutional parties and the two Governments.

Peace Process --

6. Mr. Austin-Walker : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what further plans he has to bring about peace in the north of Ireland.

Sir Patrick Mayhew : I propose to continue to enlist and engage to the full every means whereby it is appropriate for a democratic society to defend itself against those who assault its principles and its people.

Mr. Austin-Walker : Will the Secretary of State confirm that it is the Government's view that, apart from the unification of Ireland by coercion or the expulsion of Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom, no constitutional political party has any veto on political progress, including the establishment of institutions agreed by the two Governments ?

Sir Patrick Mayhew : Of course it is a matter of constitutional reality that no one has a veto. It is something that has passed into the current language at the instance of people who object to the fact that the numerical majority of people living in Northern Ireland do not wish to end the Union. That is what is objected to and it is then described as a veto at the suit of some political parties. It is quite untrue.

Sir James Kilfedder : I bring greetings from North Down, where St. Patrick landed 15 centuries ago. He was a distinguished Briton who returned to northern Ireland. Is not it appropriate that, on St. Patrick's day, we should remember St. Patrick's utter and unqualified condemnation of the murderers in Ireland in his day ? He described those people as wishing to "gorge themselves on blood". He condemned to eternal damnation not only them but those who acquiesced in such slaughter. Does not the Secretary of State agree that St. Patrick's words are as applicable today as they were 15 centuries ago ?

Sir Patrick Mayhew : Of course that is right. I cannot claim to represent the place where St. Patrick landed or the various places where he is buried. I can claim only to be named after him and I am very glad about that, among the other things to which the hon. Gentleman has drawn our attention.

Mr. Canavan : Is the Secretary of State aware that this is indeed an historic occasion ? It is the first time that a Secretary of State called Patrick has answered Northern Ireland questions on St. Patrick's day. Bearing in mind that St. Patrick is the patron saint of the entire island of Ireland, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman try to live up to his name by ensuring that any constitutional settlement contains a meaningful all-Ireland dimension that will help to reconcile and unite all the people of Ireland ? Will he remind his good friend the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) that if Ireland were united, St. Patrick's day would almost certainly be observed as a public holiday throughout the 32 counties, instead of in just 26 of them ?

Sir Patrick Mayhew : St. Patrick's day is a public holiday for the Northern Ireland civil service, and probably rather more generally. If there is to be an all-Ireland connotation in anything that is agreed, at any time, it will

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be only because, for a start, that is the wish of a numerical majority of the people living in Northern Ireland. That is recognised by the Irish Government in the joint declaration. Everything must be based on consent. However, anything that serves, by way of tradition or example, to concentrate upon those things that unite, rather than those that divide, people in the island of Ireland is to be welcomed. I regard as felicitous my good fortune to be answering Northern Ireland questions on St. Patrick's day. It seems to have got me along all right so far.

Mr. Spring : Will my right hon. and learned Friend join me in welcoming the remarks of Speaker Tom Foley of the United States House of Representatives ? Does the Secretary of State agree that, in retrospect, Gerry Adams's visit to the United States, far from being a spectacular propaganda victory for the IRA, drew attention to the isolation that that organisation's espousal of violence is causing not only in the Republic of Ireland and in the United Kingdom but in the world at large ?

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