Order for Second Reading read.
To be read a Second time on Thursday 20 October.
Read the Third time, and passed.
1. Mr. David Shaw : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps he is taking to ensure that the process of administration of Northern Ireland involves the input of opinions from all political parties which support the present constitutional arrangements.
The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Michael Ancram) : The Government are fully committed to involving all the constitutional political parties in Northern Ireland in the good government of Northern Ireland. Their views are sought on all legislative proposals and at all times my ministerial colleagues and I are available to discuss issues of concern with representatives from the political parties.
Mr. Shaw : Should not the greatest emphasis be placed on involving in the administrative process people who support the current constitution ? Should we not recognise that the majority of the people of Northern Ireland and of the whole United Kingdom want to see the parties and people who support the present constitutional arrangements much involved in furthering the future of the constitution of Northern Ireland and to exclude from consultations and talks people who have no understanding of or time for the present constitution ?
Mr. Ancram : I agree. We have made it clear all along that those who wish to partake in the dialogue by which we hope to reach a political settlement must abide by the constitutional and democratic methods suitable to this country. People who have not renounced violence on a permanent and credible basis will not be part of that dialogue.
Column 1152seriously consider the proposal of the hon. Member for Dover (Mr. Shaw) and perhaps settle for something more modest which would enable the people of Northern Ireland to work and live together, as the greater number of them clearly want to do ?
Mr. Ancram : I understand the desire of the people of Northern Ireland to see democratic institutions working again within the Province, and I understand the right hon. Gentleman's keenness to see that. However, I have made it clear on a number of occasions that my view and that of the Government is that that cannot be achieved in isolation from decisions on the other relationships involved--between the north and the south and between the two Governments. Those issues are interlocked and can be solved only on an interlocking basis.
Dr. Hendron : Does the Minister accept that while most people in Northern Ireland and, indeed, the island of Ireland believe that there must be change--that is what the talks in which the two Governments are involved are all about--only political parties that support the democratic process and have a mandate from the people can be involved in talks ?
Mr. Ancram : I certainly confirm that. That has been the situation since the current talks started in March 1991. We have made it clear that the main constitutional parties will be involved in those talks if they wish, and I still regret that one main constitutional party is not prepared to take part in those talks at the moment. I repeat, however, that the British Government will not see involved in those talks parties that have not renounced violence permanently and credibly.
Rev. Ian Paisley : Further to the question of the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) and the answer that he received, has the Minister read the statement made two days ago in the United States of America by the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic, who said that he is seeking in the present talks the reconstruction of the police ? Will the Minister comment on the Irish Government's proposal to remove the word "Royal" from the Royal Courts of Justice and the Royal Ulster Constabulary to achieve some sort of a settlement ?
Mr. Ancram : I am not going to become involved in the detail of the current discussions between the two Governments, but it is clear that if they are to be successful they must be based on a broad spread agreement among the people of Northern Ireland. Anything that is not likely to secure that broad spread agreement would be unacceptable.
Mr. Ancram : I know that the hon. Gentleman has made that point on a number of occasions, and I appreciate his wish to be involved. At the time when the talks process began, however, it was decided that only the main constitutional parties should participate ; otherwise there would have been a proliferation of parties seeking to do so. Let me tell the hon. Gentleman --as I have told him before--that I am always delighted to hear his views on where we should be going and that I will meet him whenever he wishes.
Mr. Canavan : May we have an assurance that the proposed summit will go ahead next week and that the agenda will include the setting up of structures on an all-Ireland basis ? We should bear in mind the fact that even the Government of Ireland Act 1920 referred to a Council of Ireland and a Parliament for the whole of Ireland and also yesterday's announcement that the European Union would make additional money available for cross- border co-operation.
Mr. Ancram : As I have said, I will not talk about the detail of the current conversations between the two Governments. I will say, however, that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will see the Taoiseach at the Brussels Council tomorrow, where they hope to have a serious working meeting to review progress made by officials on the framework document, as well as security issues and the prospects of an end to violence. They will also consider the prospects and timing of the next bilateral summit.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Sir Patrick Mayhew) : The joint declaration stands as a statement by the British and Irish Governments of fundamental principles by which they will be guided. We have made it abundantly clear that violence for political ends is incompatible with these principles and that it will continue to exclude those responsible for it from the democratic process.
Dr. Spink : In view of recent speculation that Sinn Fein may soon respond to the joint declaration, will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that Government policy remains that there will be no commencement of even exploratory talks until there is a permanent and total cessation of violence ? Would he care to comment on the Taoiseach's recent comments on the matter ?
Sir Patrick Mayhew : I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. We have made it clear time and again that there must be a permanent cessation of violence, and an unequivocal declaration and commitment to that cessation.
On 12 July Mr. Reynolds, the Taoiseach, said in the United States :
"Other parties will not sit around the table with those who reinforce their argument by the use of violence or the threat of it. That is why there must first be a lasting and definitive commitment to a purely democratic political strategy."
That is the joint position of both Governments.
Mr. Dykes : Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that one of the striking features of the process since the joint declaration is the fact that the two Governments have continued to stand shoulder to shoulder in their search
Column 1154for peace ? May we again put on record our thanks to the Irish Government for the constructive role that they are playing ?
Sir Patrick Mayhew : They have indeed stood shoulder to shoulder. That is what makes the use of violence for political purposes so abundantly self-defeating. Those who use it in that way know perfectly well that both Governments are determined that coercion shall not be rewarded. That is the view of the British Government and also of the Irish Government. We make common cause very effectively to ensure that those who resort to violence are thwarted and defeated.
Mr. Hain : Does the Secretary of State accept that many of us share his disgust--and probably even despair--at the recent terrifying explosives find in Heysham, and the recent IRA attacks ? May I urge him, however, not to be diverted by those events or by other pressures from the central goal of getting Sinn Fein to the negotiating table in one way or another, as that is one of the keys to peace ?
Sir Patrick Mayhew : It is obviously desirable thatevery political party with a democratic mandate which is committed to the democratic process should participate, in one way or another, in the discussions, but people should not suppose that by continuing to resort to violence, or by justifying it, they can somehow hold up that process because they cannot-- they will be left outside. So it is for them to choose--the process is unstoppable.
Mr. Mallon : The Secretary of State will agree that in the joint declaration his Government define their role as the creation of agreement among all the people of Ireland. I am sure that he would also agree that that implies creating a unity of purpose and a political agreement with which all the people of Ireland can identify. How and when will that be presented to us by the two Governments so that the emphasis can shift to the legitimate political process and away from those who support and plan acts of violence ?
Sir Patrick Mayhew : The hon. Gentleman refers to the discussions going on between the two Governments, the objective of which is to reach a shared understanding of the sort of package that would lead and help the democratically elected and constitutional parties in Northern Ireland, with the two Governments as appropriate, to reach that overall settlement, which has been their goal since 1991. That is what we are about. Of course it is not easy. The reason why we are trying to achieve that settlement is that from time to time party leaders have said, "We cannot say how far we are prepared to go and what our bottom line would be on, let us say, strand 1 or strand 2 until we know the position of the Governments." It is therefore desirable that the Governments should demonstrate that shared understanding, if we can. It is not easy, but a lot of progress has been made. I cannot say when success will be achieved, but there are sensible grounds for believing that it will be.
Mr. Robathan : I am sure that hon. Members are pleased to hear that we stand shoulder to shoulder with the Irish Government, but what tangible progress has been made by the Irish Government or what concessions have made by that Government to the concerns of the people of the North of Ireland, who belong to the Unionist majority, since either the Anglo-Irish Agreement or the Downing street declaration ?
Sir Patrick Mayhew : As I think that my hon. Friend knows--I have often told him so--the co-operation between, for example, the two police forces has progressively improved over the years and in very recent times. If he consults Hugh Annesley or the Commissioner of the Garda Siochana, as I hope that he will, he will become aware of the close character of co- operation and trust which exists and of the practical ways in which they are helping each other. I do not share the view implicit in my hon. Friend's question : I know that he takes an interest in this matter and how sincere he is, but I do not share his implicit distrust of the Irish Government or the view that they are somehow not fully committed to the defeat of terrorism--I am satisfied that they are.
Mr. John D. Taylor : Since one of the main objectives of the declaration, now more than eight months old, was to bring about a renunciation of violence by the IRA and to involve it in the political process, leading towards some form of devolution in Northern Ireland in which the leader of Sinn Fein, Mr. Gerry Adams, and the leader of the Democratic Unionist party, the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), would both work together and play a major role, how long will it be before the declaration achieves that objective ? [Interruption.]
Sir Patrick Mayhew : The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) will no doubt speak for himself--and I expect that we shall hear him--either from an upright or from a sedentary position. Both Governments made it clear at the time that the purpose of the declaration was to set out fundamental principles of democracy, of the rejection of violence and of realism. That was achieved, and that is why I said that the declaration stands. Of course, if those people who have believed--and still believe-- that they can make progress towards their political objectives by violence are persuaded that they have been mistaken, that is well and good and we shall all rejoice. But if, contrary to all the evidence, they continue to think that they can make progress by violence in our democracy, that is too bad : we shall proceed with the process in which all the principal political parties have been engaged and we shall carry it through--we do not intend to give up.
Mr. McNamara : The official Opposition entirely support what the Secretary of State has just said. On another matter, however, does he accept that the Government of Ireland Act 1920 should be amended to reflect the principle of consent ?
Sir Patrick Mayhew : I do not accept that it should be amended to reflect the principle of consent because it seems to me that the principle of consent has been well and truly established in a number of statutory instruments since the Government of Ireland Act. Everyone knows that it is the policy of the Irish and British Governments that no change in the status of Northern Ireland can or should take place, save by the consent of those who live in Northern Ireland. Both Governments have said from the very beginning--and my predecessor said from the very beginning--that absolutely nothing is precluded from being put on the table in the constitutional talks. That is my answer to the hon. Gentleman--there is no need for the Act to be amended, but if someone wants to have it amended we shall examine any proposal and consider it on its merits.
The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Sir John Wheeler) : There is already an excellent level of co-operation between the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Garda Siochana. Both Governments, however, are constantly striving to find ways of improving the effectiveness of security measures.
Mr. Spring : In view of the current level of violence and the appalling acts of terrorism perpetrated in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, will my right hon. and learned Friend reassure the House that co- operation is taking place at the highest level, as is necessary to deal with the tragic situation on both sides of the border ?
Sir John Wheeler : My hon. Friend is correct. Violence occurs on both sides of the border and neither country can afford to be complacent. However, I can tell the House that co-operation between the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Garda Siochana is of the very highest level. The Gardai's record speaks for itself : last year, they recovered nearly 400 firearms, more than 25,000 rounds of ammunition and nearly 3,800 lbs of explosives, and inquiries and arrests have continued this year.
Mr. Maginnis : With respect, the Minister is singing the same tune that we heard in 1975, 1980, 1985 and 1990, and that we shall probably also hear in 1995. It is boring, it has too many flats and it certainly does not reflect the fact that, as the Minister must admit, lorry load after lorry load of explosives are being trundled across the frontier from the Irish Republic into Northern Ireland and that, very possibly, the Heysham bomb came from that direction, too. In the same vein, will he
Mr. Maginnis : Will the Minister face the reality that security is ineffective at the level where it counts, irrespective of what happens at the highest level between the Chief Constable and the Commissioner of the Garda Siochana ?
Sir John Wheeler : I visited the Commissioner of the Garda Siochana only last week and was able to see the level and extent of the training and arrangements for the management of the Garda Siochana. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that that police force is as determined as the Royal Ulster Constabulary or any other police force in the United Kingdom to confront terrorism wherever it can, and the record of success is improving all the time.
Mr. William O'Brien : On behalf of Her Majesty's Government, will the Minister give assurances that resources will be provided to ensure that there is cross-border co-operation, and will he prevail upon the Government of the Irish Republic to do the same ? If we are to develop tourism and business trade between the north and the south, which is the way to peace initiatives, we need to be sure that such traffic will be able to travel between the north and the south without interference and that there will be security at the border.
Sir John Wheeler : I can assure the hon. Gentleman that both police forces and both Governments are well aware of the importance of commerce and of facilitating the movement of traffic between the two countries. That has to be achieved within the bounds and constraints of defeating and controlling terrorism, and every effort is made to work towards those objectives.
Lady Olga Maitland : I totally accept the Minister's assurance that there is good co-operation between the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Garda, but does he agree that it would be helpful if certain members of the Irish Government could cast aside some of their political sensitivities so that we could enhance security ?
Sir John Wheeler : My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State and I regularly meet Ministers from the Republic of Ireland. Through the intergovernmental conference procedure, we have the opportunity to review in detail the security arrangements between the two countries and the successes of our police forces, and to examine how they could be further advanced. We shall continue to do that.
4. Mr. Corbett : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the talks that he has had with the parties in Northern Ireland and with the Irish Government in relation to the constitutional future of Northern Ireland.
Sir Patrick Mayhew : Bilateral discussions are continuing with three of the main Northern Ireland parties. I last met the Tanaiste, Mr. Spring, at the intergovernmental conference on 17 June, when we reviewed progress on the preparation of a joint framework document which might facilitate the negotiation of a comprehensive political settlement involving the main constitutional parties and the two Governments as appropriate.
Mr. Corbett : Can the Secretary of State give us the date of the next Anglo-Irish summit, and does he propose to put on the table proposals for cross-border executive bodies in exchange for amendments to articles 1 and 2 of the Irish constitution ?
Sir Patrick Mayhew : We have had that one already. It is not for me to say when the next summit meeting will take place. The two Prime Ministers will meet in Brussels tomorrow and will have a workmanlike discussion, which will no doubt cover the prospects for and timing of the next summit. The agenda, too, will depend upon such matters.
Mr. Winnick : Do the two Governments recognise that the rejection of the joint declaration by Sinn Fein and the IRA, totally without justification, has led to the escalation of violence both from the Provisional IRA and from the loyalist murder gangs ? Although I totally disagree with virtually everything that the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea) stands for, will the Secretary of State join me in utterly condemning the assassination attempt ? We are all most grateful that the hon. Gentleman survived it, but if his children had been slaughtered we
Column 1158would no doubt have heard the same weasel excuses from those responsible as we heard from those responsible for the child murders in Warrington.
Sir Patrick Mayhew : I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has referred to the disgraceful and disgusting attack on the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Rev. William McCrea). I endorse what the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) has said ; indeed, I said as much myself when I visited the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster at his home the morning after the attack. Only a matter of seconds saved his 14-year-old daughter from being murdered, and no doubt the intention was that the hon. Gentleman would be murdered, too. The people involved presume to speak about self-determination and their support for the self-determination of the Irish people. How can self- determination be secured, save by democracy ? The hon. Member for Mid- Ulster is a democratically elected representative, but those people have been elected by nobody--in their mouths, talk of peace and the peace process is no more than hypocritical blasphemy.
Mr. Trimble : Does not the Secretary of State realise that recently we have come to the painful conclusion that, despite our willingness, the Government are not presently committed to any serious discussions with the Northern Ireland political parties and prefer instead to allow themselves to be strung along by the Irish Government and the Provisional IRA ? Does not he also realise that the reported concession offered by the Irish Government over the amendment to article 3 of the constitution is utterly worthless and totally hypocritical ? Is not it time to bring that charade to an end and for the Government to bring forward sensible proposals for the good government of Northern Ireland, along the lines which were mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) ?
Sir Patrick Mayhew : I understand the hon. Gentleman's impatience. I do not share the feelings that lead him to describe what is going on as a charade ; nor do I recognise that the Government are being strung along by the Irish Government. That said, I recognise impatience. But it is the duty of us all--I am not a particularly patient man by temperament--to demonstrate as much patience as we can as long as there seems to be a realistic prospect of bringing the discussions to a successful conclusion. If it becomes clear that that cannot succeed, I shall remember and the Prime Minister shall remember that the British Government have responsibility for Northern Ireland. Then it will be for us to consider what we bring forward ourselves, unilaterally, by way of facilitating the achievement by the political parties of the kind of overall settlement which has been everybody's objective for so long.
Mr. Alton : In combating terrorism which prevents political progress from being made in Northern Ireland, will the Secretary of State tell the House what progress is being made in combating the systematic organised crime which bedevils Northern Ireland and the flow of arms and weapons into the island of Ireland from state-sponsored terrorism by a country such as Iran ?
Sir Patrick Mayhew : The hon. Gentleman knows that the Iranians have been rumbled in exactly that context. Every step is being taken to ensure that no arms reach any paramilitary organisations from any source outside the
Column 1159island of Ireland. Furthermore, while we are making progress, there is no doubt that racketeering exists on a completely unacceptable scale. We have amended the law and the new law is being applied. It will be very much easier to concentrate on that if violence for political purposes has been brought to an end. But it is a real problem of which we are well aware.
Mr. McNamara : Is the Secretary of State aware that the statements that he and the Minister have made regarding the possibilities of a summit next week may send conflicting signals to different parts of different peoples in the island as to the success and the determination of the two Prime Ministers and the two Governments ? Will he therefore consider carefully whether it would be better in the long run if, after the officials have had their discussions this week, the two Prime Ministers at least meet formally at a summit to stock take and to discuss how far they have got and where they may be able to make progress ?
Sir Patrick Mayhew : As a mere Sherpa, who does not aspire to lead the summit, it is really not up to me to say more than I have said already. The two Prime Ministers will meet tomorrow and they will be discussing the prospects for a summit meeting and the timing for it.
Mr. Ancram : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will be making an announcement about the outcome of the forestry review in Great Britain shortly. An equivalent announcement on incentives for private forestry in Northern Ireland will be made as soon as possible.
Mr. Ross : While I welcome that reply about the statement on incentives, does the Minister appreciate that we have had tremendous success in private planting in Northern Ireland over the past few years, but we are right up against the deadline at which people must make plans to buy the small trees to promote the package ? They cannot promote the package if one is not available. Can we have the statement on incentives as soon as is humanly possible ?
Mr. Ancram : I agree with the hon. Gentleman that improvements have been made in planting in Northern Ireland over the past few years and it is our intention to build on that success with the incentive scheme review when it is announced. I accept the hon. Gentleman's comment that there is pressure on those who want to know the planting incentives for the next year and I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is also aware of that pressure.
Column 1160and the end of March 1994, the Industrial Development Board has secured inward investment in technology firms amounting to some £227 million. The IDB's recent successes in this area are a very encouraging development.
Mr. Coombs : It is clear from my hon. Friend's answer that information technology can play an important part in building up the economy of Ulster, despite the troubles which have been discussed during this Question Time. How many jobs were created in the technological sector, including information technology, last year and what was the total value of that investment ?
Mr. Smith : My hon. Friend is entirely right about the importance of IT. I am glad to be able to tell him that last year the IDB had one of its most successful years ever. We secured more than 2,300 new jobs and investment of £259 million.
Mr. Clifford Forsythe : In view of the support that was given through the "Best of Northern Ireland" exhibition that took place in the House--one of the persons who gave that support was the Secretary of State- -is not there a case to be made for holding a "Best of Northern Ireland" exhibition in the United States of America or other parts of the world, specially adapted of course ? Would not that be a good way to bring inward investment to Northern Ireland ? Will the Minister give his support to that idea ?
Mr. Smith : That is an extremely good idea. I should certainly like to consider it. As the hon. Gentleman probably knows, the IDB already organises trade fairs overseas. I recently went to a successful trade fair in Washington called "The Look is Ireland" organised jointly with the Irish trade board.
Mr. McGrady : Thank you for the new baptism, Madam Speaker. It is usually O'Grady rather than O'Hara. I was interested in the Minister's response to the question. He lauded the IDB for its efforts in the past year. Will he and the Department take cognisance of the fact that many of the minority areas suffered 50 years of Unionist misdirection of industry and that that has not been corrected by 20 years of direct rule ? For instance, in the past 10 years less than 1 per cent. of inward investment has come to South Down. Less than 1 per cent. of the total number of jobs created have come to South Down. Yet we are 10 miles from the central port of Belfast and in the southern part of the constituency we have a new and modern harbour. Can the Minister explain that discrepancy, which continues year after year ?
Mr. Smith : The hon. Gentleman knows that we are unfortunately not in a position to direct inward investors to any particular area in Northern Ireland. I should like as much the hon. Gentleman to see more inward investment in his constituency. I shall visit his constituency soon and discuss the issue with him.
8. Mr. Nicholas Winterton : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many police officers, reservists and military personnel have been killed or seriously injured in Northern Ireland in the last 12 months.
Sir John Wheeler : Between 1 July 1993 and 30 June 1994, six RUC officers, five military personnel and 79 civilians were killed as a result of the security situation in Northern Ireland. In addition, 131 RUC officers, 319 military personnel and 489 civilians were injured.
No effort will be spared in bringing those responsible for terrorist crimes to justice. Already this year, 246 people have been charged with terrorist- related offences, including 54 with murder or attempted murder.
Mr. Winterton : I thank my hon. Friend for what I would describe as those horrific statistics. Does he accept that the peace process is sadly contributing to those horrific statistics ? Does he further accept the fact that we are negotiating with a country that claims part of the United Kingdom as its territory in its constitution and yet we expect our security forces to protect that part of the United Kingdom ? Does my right hon. Friend accept that the sooner the Republic of Ireland renounces its claim to Ulster as part of its territory, the sooner these dreadful slaughters will cease ?
Sir John Wheeler : My right hon. and learned Friend has already dealt with an aspect of my hon. Friend's question. The fact is that the Republic of Ireland and its police service work as closely as they can with the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the United Kingdom's security forces to prevent crimes and outrages. They will continue to do so. As to my hon. Friend's point about the peace process, the only peace process that matters is the giving up of violence and killing, and the operation of democracy.
Mr. Jonathan Evans : While we express proper concern over the security situation, does my right hon. Friend agree that the House should not allow this Question Time to pass without passing to the security forces our great congratulations on the find of explosives on the Warrenpoint to Heysham ferry, which undoubtedly saved one Member of Parliament--or maybe more than one Member--from seeing an outrage committed within their constituency ? Will my right hon. Friend convey to the security forces the grateful thanks of the House for their activities in that regard ?
Sir John Wheeler : I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He is absolutely right. The security forces are achieving remarkable results. They are professional. They are achieving significant results in the sense that something like four out of five potential terrorist attacks and killings are stopped or prevented before they occur. That shows the degree of professionalism, and I will gladly convey my hon. Friend's remarks to the security forces.
Mr. Beggs : Condemnation of violence and expressions of sympathy to bereaved families and those who are maimed because of IRA atrocities are much too small a response from those who are responsible for the security of service personnel and civilians in Northern Ireland. How many more attacks on helicopters, sniper attacks, mortar bomb attacks and, indeed, blockbuster bomb explosions must occur before the Government face up to the reality that, with or without the support of the Irish Republic, we must have selective internment of the "Godfathers" ? The Government should not insult our intelligence any more by
Column 1162repeating the comment made time and again that security co-operation was never better than it is today, because it must have started from a very low position.
Sir John Wheeler : As to the hon. Gentleman's substantial point about the question of internment, it remains available to the Government and is constantly kept under review. But we must measure that possibility against the advice that my right hon. and learned Friend and I receive from the Chief Constable as to the successes of the RUC and the security forces- -their achievements, the collection of intelligence and what they believe is the right policy to pursue to prevent these outrages from occurring.
12. Rev. Martin Smyth : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what consultations his Department has had with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office regarding visits to Northern Ireland by foreign heads of state.
Rev. Martin Smyth : Does the Minister share my concern and the concern of many in Northern Ireland that the President of the Republic of Ireland is exploiting British Government tolerance in so-called private visits which are really public engagements and reinforcing the irredentist claim of articles 2 and 3, even to the point of unveiling plaques on public buildings funded by public money ?