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Rev. Ian Paisley : Would the hon. Gentleman care to answer a simple question that many people in Northern Ireland are asking today ? What consent was sought from the majority in Northern Ireland to the Anglo-Irish Agreement ?
Mr. Hunter : I will not answer that question, because I regard it as irrelevant to the debate. The Anglo-Irish Agreement exists, and many of us- -not least Lady Thatcher--are on record as expressing some misgivings about that. For many reasons, would that we were not starting where we are, but we cannot do other than seek a meaningful debate on the basis of our present position. I shall therefore deliberately turn my back on the hon. Gentleman's question. I have spoken of two pillars of policy that I strongly applaud--the constitutional guarantee, and the search for a meaningful dialogue and settlement of the structures in Northern Ireland. The third pillar is the uncompromising and uncompromised pursuit of the fight against terrorism.
Column 969That involves a constant process of revaluation : are we really sure that we are devoting enough resources to the task, and are they being used in the optimum manner ? Are the structures of intelligence-gathering right, and are they properly co- ordinated ? Then there is the question of the involvement of the Republic. We seek ever greater commitment and co-operation, while acknowledging the real progress that has been made in recent years. Those are questions that must be asked, and the Government are asking them.
Lady Olga Maitland (Sutton and Cheam) : Does my hon. Friend agree that it is essential for all parties in the House fully to support the fight against terrorism ? Is it not very disappointing that Opposition Members--the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) and the hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn)--have hosted a meeting with Sinn Fein members in the Houses of Parliament ? That is the very body that promotes bloody terrorism. Does my hon. Friend agree that we must all work with one mind ?
Mr. Hunter : I certainly agree with the last point. I repeat that I have no doubt whatever that all hon. Members are dedicated to the fight against terrorism. My quarrel with the Labour party is that its reasoning is wrong. I do not for a moment doubt its opposition to terrorism, but I believe that its assessment of how the fight should be conducted is inadequate.
I make one final point about dealing with terrorism. We have recently been presented with what I choose to call the
Annesley-Trimble proposals, referring to the hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble). Serious questions have been posed about the admissibility of hearsay and electronically gathered evidence, redefining the right to silence, re-examining the supergrass syndrome and considering greater protection for witnesses. Those are important points. I am not sure that the hon. Member for Upper Bann has necessarily got everything entirely right, but many Conservative Members listened carefully to what he said and look forward to the on-going debate under those headings.
As I have said, there is no alternative other than to endorse the extension order. I believe that the Government should receive, deservedly, applause for the overall strategy that they are pursuing in Northern Ireland matters.
Mr. James Molyneaux (Lagan Valley) : I know that some will take the view that Unionist representatives were wrong to decide to open up discussions after the general election in 1987 with the freshly re-elected Government to see if it would be possible to find an alternative to and replacement for the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985 which, as has already been said, is now recognised as one of the great miscalculations in British history.
On balance, but only on balance, I think that we were right to try the path of discussion and negotiation, particularly since, as a pro-Union community --the greater proportion of people in Northern Ireland--we had solidly made manifest our opposition to the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
In the five years from 1987 to 1992, it looked for a while as though we were assured of a fair and honourable
Column 970response, but by mid-1992 it was apparent that our willingness to talk had been construed in some quarters as weakness. The final disappointment came in November 1992 when the two Governments decided to terminate--that was the word--the three-strand talks. In the three weeks before Christmas 1992, agents established contact with terrorist leaders. That was common knowledge in the early part of last year and was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) in the House on 13 July last year.
The three weeks before Christmas 1992 were an important reference point, proving conclusively that muscle men were to be placed on a par with democratically elected parties. The signal was clearly understood by the greater number of people in Northern Ireland and it became--and remains--a major obstacle to the launch of new high-level talks and it casts a shadow over the low-key discussions, patiently and ably steered and chaired since September last year by the Minister responsible for political development, the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram). I cannot help feeling that the Minister is not being helped by Dublin's insistence that new talks must be the same high profile, high wire act which was such a monumental failure before.
Irish Ministers also insist that the guidelines to which we all submitted and subscribed on 26 March 1991 be rigidly observed, particularly the three -strand structure. Some hon. Members have taken the same line. Very well. But that formula specified a sequence, commencing with strand 1, which dealt with an internal structure for the better governance of Northern Ireland. It was always agreed that such an internal structure would be broadly approved and banked--that was the word--before moving on to the strand 2 discussions, concerning relations between the new Stormont structure and an Irish Government.
Now, Dublin Ministers are ignoring the fact that they are breaching the agreed guidelines by ignoring the sequence pattern and by making unhelpful public pronouncements on all three strands at once. Worse still, they seem determined to devise an alternative framework that is presumably designed to be a different agenda from that which was approved and agreed in 1991 by all prospective participants.
Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh) : I must quarrel with the point that the right hon. Gentleman has just made. In the last negotiations, which, as he said, centred on the strand 1 section, the right hon. Gentleman's colleague the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis) presented a paper on the same type of north-south arrangements about which the right hon. Gentleman is now speaking. There was no arbitrary division between the discussions on strand 1 and the other elements of discussion, as was proved by the right hon. Gentleman's party in its presentation of that paper.
Mr. Molyneaux : I will be charitable to the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon), as his memory is at fault. He will recall that a team from his party--authorised by its leader, the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume)--engaged with representatives of the other parties in the working party which drew up a model for a devolved internal government.
The leader of the Social Democratic and Labour party entered certain reservations that he declined to remove until he could see the shape of the strand 2 agenda. Other party leaders will remember that we rescued the talks from a complete breakdown at the end of the strand 1 discussions. In the Queen Elizabeth II building across the road we suggested that we jump prematurely into strand 2 so that at least the hon. Member for Foyle--I do not know whether the other members of his party took the same view--could see the shape of the agenda. At the end of strand 2 discussions, in an effort to breathe life into the negotiations, papers were submitted on the last day of the session. That was a different operation.
Mr. Mallon : I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving way so that we can test both our memories. In effect, there was no such thing as an agreed paper by any section of those involved in the talks. A discussion paper was presented to the plenary session, but it was never adopted. It was noted, but it had no more status than that.
Mr. Molyneaux : The records will show that agreement was reached by representatives of the hon. Gentleman's party on the shape and structure of the new Stormont assembly. It was held up and we did not press it because the hon. Member for Foyle had entered reservations which he did not withdraw.
The new agenda--what the Irish Government seemed to be proposing--steered the discussions away from the priority of finding agreement on an internal arrangement for co-operation between legitimate constitutional parties in Northern Ireland and the administration of the affairs of the people of the Province towards an altogether different objective of joint sovereignty, within which framework the internal governance of Northern Ireland would be allocated a place, presumably given assurances of good behaviour on our part. As was made clear in the authentic Irish Government paper of 19 November 1993, the internal government structure could be demolished at any time by the said joint authority.
The way was paved for all this in the SDLP submission to what we might call, if the Secretary of State will forgive me, the Mayhew talks in 1992. That submission confirmed that equality or civil rights were not the main concern. In reference to the Unionist proposals, the SDLP said :
"While in general terms, such proposals might be both acceptable and sufficient in a society in which equality of treatment for minorities was the only issue, they are not sufficient in a society in which allegiance is a central problem."
It would appear that the central problem of allegiance can be resolved only by some form of joint authority. The House should be aware of the implications of this because the House will be involved. Joint authority must extend to a greater land mass than the six counties of Northern Ireland because there are many millions of Irish citizens living and working in England who, in various ways, owe allegiance to the Irish Republic.
It follows, in pure logic, that joint authority must have common application to the entire British Isles, so it seems that we are back to the Act of Union as a model of common citizenship and shared sovereignty. That will not only put a stopper on any form of devolution anywhere in the United Kingdom ; it will remove at a stroke what is essentially a home rule structure in Dublin, retracing its steps to resume its honoured place in the British nation.
Column 972However presented, packaged or devised, any form of joint authority must terminate in British Isles unity, because there is no halfway house.
I am indebted to the Cadogan Group of academics for the list of solid reasons why the Reynolds ambition of a joint authority would be unworkable. They state, first :
"It is impracticable. There is no modern precedent for it, and most schemes put forward for Northern Ireland look unworkably complex.
It is impermanent. Many proposals are either explicitly or implicitly put forward as transitional stages towards a greater degree of Irish unity.
It is unbalanced. Fundamental to the concept is the supposition that the British Government has the same relationship with unionists as Dublin has with nationalists. This is not so.
It is undemocratic. It tends to isolate the governors from the governed, leaving the administration remote from and unrepresentative of the people of Northern Ireland.
It is almost impossible to finance on a permanent basis. All schemes assume that the very high costs involved would be paid by Britain or by external sources. No proposal suggests that British financial support would necessarily prove permanent."
We would add merely that joint authority, however it is disguised, amounts to a change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. It is even contrary to the principle stated in the Downing street declaration. The principle of consent for the people of Northern Ireland, of all faiths and none, is the single most important element in the declaration. That consent is the governing principle in all future arrangements for governing Northern Ireland. That is made clear by the fact that the American Government have underwritten the importance of consent.
It has been common ground among the Northern Ireland parties, at least since 1975, that there should be a Bill of Rights based on the European convention, yet it has also been recognised that, because the convention refers only to individual human rights, which are necessarily qualified, the convention does not fully meet the need. In particular, it does not refer to the rights of communities or minorities.
In recent years, those collective rights have been addressed by the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe through the development of the human dimension in the Vienna accord and the charter of Paris. The latter states the principle, which has been worked out in some detail and is mentioned in the fifth paragraph of the charter. It states :
"We affirm that the ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious identity of national minorities will be protected and that persons belonging to national minorities have the right to freely express, preserve and develop that identity without any discrimination and in full equality before the law."
Those standards should regulate the relationship between Britain and Ireland and should safeguard the rights of minorities in each state. Any new agreement between the British and Irish Government to replace the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement or any new institutions of government in Northern Ireland should conform to those standards. The way in which those standards would be implemented or enforced presents problems. The standards are not really justiciable and would not be suitable for court-type procedures as in many cases they represent the best administrative practice. Regard should also be paid to the first steps taken by the CSCE on implementation, which have taken the form of intergovernmental administrative procedures rather than court-enforced legal procedures. It may be considered appropriate to ensure that
Column 973any implementation provisions in any new agreement are compatible with those that the two Governments have agreed should apply throughout Europe.
Her Majesty's Government have a clear duty urgently to tackle the democratic deficit in Northern Ireland. In "Blueprint for Stability", we have set out what we and many others regard as a fair and practical method of doing that. The second motion on the Order Paper deals with a change in the structure of the governance of Northern Ireland, which appears not to have been subject to the formula "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed".
The Government are just getting on with it.
I say, with great respect, that Ministers must go further and faster down the road to the restoration of accountable democracy in the Province, where about a third of the population--Protestants and Roman Catholic--fall into the middle-class category. Last weekend, a Sunday newspaper of repute reported rumours of middle-class financial assistance to Loyalist paramilitaries. I warned precisely of that problem during the Queen's Speech debate last November. It is vital that the middle classes do not fall prey to the same disenchantment that has become the norm in so-called working-class Ulster. The House cannot pretend that suspicion does not exist. It must be removed by action, and the time for action is now.
Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North) : On Monday in the House, I asked the Prime Minister a question that was relevant to the constitutional talks in Northern Ireland. It appears in column 561 of Monday's Hansard . The thrust of my question was how was it that, if strand 1 talks were to take place again in the same sense as they had taken place in the past, after his talks with the Prime Minister of the Dublin Government, the Prime Minister announced that they had discussed strands 1, 2 and 3. The Prime Minister replied : "No, my discussions with the Irish Prime Minister were not about strand 1, which has been the subject of discussions between the British Government and the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland. My discussions with the Irish Prime Minister related to political strands 2 and 3. We still have not achieved agreement, but we are making progress. We have commissioned further work."--[ Official Report , 27 June 1994 ; Vol. 245, c. 561-62.]
I went to the BBC and obtained a transcript of what the Prime Minister said in Corfu. He stated that there was
"an impediment to progress for a very long time. The question of joint authority is not on the table, what is on the table is a series of things in strand one, strand two and strand three".
At the talks with the Prime Minister of the Dublin Government, the Prime Minister discussed strand 1, 2 and 3, but he said in the House that they had not discussed strand 1.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland made a plea for people in Northern Ireland to believe in him ; to believe in the Government and to believe in the credibility, integrity and honesty of what they state. When the people of Northern Ireland see night after night the Dublin Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs reiterating the very opposite of what the Secretary of State seems to be saying, and what the Prime Minister at times is saying, how can they trust ?
Column 974My next quotation comes from the right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor), who was also speaking on Monday, discussing joint authority. I shall quote from the transcript :
"Joint authority for Northern Ireland--in other words flying the tricolour and the union jack over Belfast city hall. The Secretary of State is going to agree to something even worse ; he is going to agree that Northern Ireland and the Republic will be controlled by all-Ireland authorities which will have executive powers over the internal affairs of Northern Ireland. So the man is trying to deceive the Unionist community, and it is time he was exposed."
My attitude, the attitude of my party and the attitude of the majority of unionist electors at the recent elections endorsed that view--that something was afoot.
When he was in America, the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic could not hold himself in ; he made a statement that was carried in the Irish Times and that formed the basis of a news editorial in the Daily Telegraph on 23 June. The Daily Telegraph 's editorials do not often say things with which I agree, but on that occasion it said :
"Speaking in the United States, he"
that is, the Taoiseach
"indicated that Dublin would contemplate dropping Articles II and III of its constitution, which lay claim to the North, only in return for a North- South body that would exercise "executive powers" over aspects of Northern Ireland's government . . .
This is a dangerous pretence. The Unionists are entitled to reject Mr. Reynolds's notions out of hand. If such a plan was ever implemented, the Loyalists of the Shankill Road would perceive it as a Republican victory won by terrorism, and probably respond in kind. The IRA, meanwhile, would perceive it as an encouraging halfway house, endorsing their legitimacy. Only John Hume's Nationalist SDLP would wholeheartedly welcome such an arrangement. That would be scant consolation indeed for the British Government, which would have to pick up the pieces as yet another constitutional experiment ended in bloodshed and tears across the province . . .
But in the meantime, it is deeply irresponsible of Dublin to allow the tail to wag the dog. Articles II and III are at the root of the Irish problem. They embody and perpetuate Unionist distrust of the South. Their removal should be viewed by Dublin not as the culmination of any peace process, but as its starting point." And that is where we need to start today.
I am amazed that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), leading for Her Majesty's Opposition, put forward at the Dispatch Box a defence of something that is not only illegal under international law and criminal under practical law, but immoral--the defence of articles 2 and 3. The hon. Gentleman knows well that those articles have no standing in any international court, and no standing in law. If the southern Government thought that they had any standing in an international court, they would have taken them there long ago.
Rev. William McCrea (Mid-Ulster) : Surely my hon. Friend will agree that the only people who will be delighted by the speech made by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) at the Dispatch Box-- especially the part about the rigged democracy that he suggests for the people of Northern Ireland and the part about sovereignty--will be the terrorists and the republican propagandists.
First we find the Labour party spokesman attacking any concept of majority rule in Northern Ireland. He says, "You cannot have majority rule." That is very different from the Taoiseach's concept of majority rule. At his meeting with the Irish Association in Dublin on 10
Column 975January, Albert Reynolds was asked if he would consider a 51 per cent. majority in favour of Irish unity as sufficient consent for change. He replied :
"not 51 per cent.--50 per cent. plus one".
So there are two standards. The standard for the south is a majority, but Northern Ireland cannot have majority rule
Mr. Mallon rose
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North went further. I intervened and he graciously gave way to me, although he may be sorry that he did so. Now he says that we cannot have proportional majority rule either. If certain segments of a Northern Ireland assembly formed a coalition and achieved a majority, that would not be allowed either. The hon. Gentleman's idea is to elevate a minority into the same area of equality as the real majority. That is what this is all about. How can there be a settlement on those terms ? It is absolutely impossible.
Of course, the Secretary of State talks about consent. I find that revolting to the people of Northern Ireland. What consent was asked of the people of Northern Ireland for the Anglo-Irish Agreement ?
Rev. Ian Paisley : I shall not give way. I say to the right hon. Gentleman, who when he was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland presided over that awful situation, that he knew in practical values what consent was achieved. There was no consent to the Anglo-Irish Agreement. We were not asked to give consent. He himself said that, although people had resigned their seats, the Government did not care what the results of the elections were--the result of the Anglo-Irish Agreement was here to stay. That is what he thinks of democracy. We have been through all that.
What sort of assembly shall we have if we cannot have majority rule, or even proportional majority rule ? It is a system that cannot work. And of course, people have a vested interest in seeing that it does not work.
What about the matter of consent ? The hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) told us that there was a great pillar
The hon. Member for Basingstoke said that the pillar of that wonderful consent was something about which we should be very glad. I would like to think that the people of Northern Ireland alone would have the opportunity to give their consent. But while the Secretary of State stands up in the House and tells us, "Oh yes, it is the people of Northern Ireland alone who will have the right to give consent," out in America, the Foreign Minister of the Irish Republic says something entirely different. He says :
"We will use all our resources to persuade both communities in Northern Ireland into new arrangements which are honourable in terms of their past, just and fair in terms of the present, and
Column 976equally open in terms of the future to whatever political model commands consent across the entire spectrum of the Irish people." He makes it absolutely clear that it is nothing to do with the people of Northern Ireland.
That view was tested by me at Hillsborough house when the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux), the leader of the Ulster Unionists, was present, as were the leader of the Alliance party and the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume), the leader of the Social Democratic and Labour party. I said, "You can have a settlement in Northern Ireland, Prime Minister, by going to the people now and asking the question that is asked in the border poll legislation, and let the people settle it." The other three leaders all agreed with the Prime Minister that there should be no going to people on the border poll legislation, so the people will not have that opportunity.
I was not in the House after the election when the Secretary of State said that the people had given their consent because in the election, the majority of people voted for the Downing street declaration and the peace process, or at least were to some extent quiescent about it. One can see how ridiculous that is by reading the manifestos of those standing, as I did. I heard the hon. Member for Foyle say that the election had nothing to do with the peace process and that I should not even be permitted to bring in the matter because it had nothing to do with the election, which was about Europe. What is more, the Ulster Unionist party took a similar attitude on the matter.
One candidate did not take that attitude--the Conservative candidate. Let us look at the vote that was recorded for the Conservative candidate, who was ably canvassed for by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. She got 5,583 votes--0.99 per cent. of the entire vote of the Province. Yet the Government then say that there is consent. There is no consent in Northern Ireland.
Rev. Ian Paisley : The matter today is all-important to the people of Northern Ireland because if we are not to have the solid rock of democratic principles as a base, we will not have this shamrock of a Downing street declaration. If we do not have the solid rock of democratic principles, we shall not proceed very far.
Is there any House in the world where the main Opposition spokesman would get up and talk as we have heard the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North talk today ? He said that we could not have even proportional representation. He should tell South Africa that it should not have proportional representation because it is not democratic. He says that we cannot have majority rule and, therefore, that we cannot have proportional representation.
Column 977The issue will have to be decided by the choice of the people. Mr. Churchill used to say, "Trust the people." Why will the people of Northern Ireland not have the opportunity to decide their own future by the ballot box ? I know the reason why. It was given by Garret Fitzgerald in his book, "All in a Life". He says that joint sovereignty is
"simply a method that the British Government might choose to adopt in the exercise of its sovereignty in order to regulate the affairs of one part of the Kingdom."
That is what has happened. Joint sovereignty has come in because the British Government are prepared now to share with the Government of the Irish Republic the way in which our country is to be governed and the way in which its future is to be decided. That spells disaster for our Province.
Many people in Northern Ireland are deeply troubled about what happened in the coroner's court concerning the Teban accident. I would like an assurance from the Secretary of State that he will have a careful look at the matter because many hearts that have already been broken will be rent asunder again by what happened in that court, as he knows. I trust that something will be done to mend that. 5.26 pm
Mr. John Hume (Foyle) : I will not indulge in the ranting to which we have just listened and which we are fed up with listening to in Northern Ireland. We have heard in today's rant, once again, everything that the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) is against and, once again, we have not heard what he is for in dealing with the problem.
As the Secretary of State has pointed out, the order is a reminder that the very first principle of democracy does not exist in Northern Ireland-- agreement on how the people are governed. In fact, it has never existed in Northern Ireland. Such agreement is the basis of order in any society. It is self-evident that anyone who wanted to provide the basis for lasting stability would be totally committed to reaching agreement among our divided people.
I very much welcome the fact, therefore, that the Secretary of State and the Government have committed themselves totally to such agreement, together with the Irish Government. It is the duty of all parties to commit themselves to such agreement. Surely at the end of the day, agreement threatens no section of the people. No one doubts that, given the attitudes that exist, such agreement might be difficult to reach, but at least we should give people on the ground hope by being at the table and staying there until we reach agreement. I hope that that will happen soon, that the challenge that has been thrown down by both Governments in the Downing street declaration will be faced up to by everyone and that we can come to the table in an atmosphere where the gun and the bomb have gone for ever.