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Rev. Martin Smyth rose--

Mr. McNamara: Sit down for a moment.

I thought that it was a little disingenuous of the Secretary of State to say that this matter in no way prejudices the three-stranded talks and that those talks will continue onwards. That is completely incorrect. This is a complete alteration of the playing field in relation to strand 1 of the talks, which deal with internal relations in Northern Ireland. It creates a situation where there are no pressures in any way on the majority parties in Northern Ireland to come to any agreement. They were able to spin out the Brooke talks. They spun out the Maple talks and the Mitchell talks. They did it very cleverly from their point of view; I understand that.

Sir James Molyneaux: We were expert.

Mr. McNamara: As the right hon. Gentleman says, they were expert, and no one was more expert than him, whether it was the size of the table, where we met, what the agenda would be, or whether we would sit down under the leader of a foreign Government. It went on and on. The talks were spun out, as they have continued to be. When the majority parties got into difficulties, bingo, out of the air, they produced decommissioning, so we understand their tactics and the way in which they have dealt with it. That is why this is a bad idea. The pressures for getting a settlement in Northern Ireland are reduced that much by this proposal.

Mr. Peter Robinson rose--

Rev. Martin Smyth rose--

Mr. McNamara: I will give way to the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) and then to the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson).

Rev. Martin Smyth: I appreciate the hon. Gentleman giving way because I know that he does believe in the

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facts and the element of truth, which is on the record, and that he would not want to mislead the House. Does he agree that, when on their last legs, the Callaghan Government were supported by two Ulster Unionists, who fondly believed that they might have got a gas pipeline, but it was his colleague, the former hon. Member for Belfast, West, now Lord Fitt, and the absentee who came to abstain in person, Frank Maguire, the then hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, who brought down the Government?

Mr. McNamara: If the majority of the Ulster Unionists, who had been so obsequious to Callaghan while they were getting their extra seats and their other stuff, had voted with the Labour Government, they would not have been brought down.

We also knew how my right hon. Friend the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland had treated Mr. Maguire and Mr. Fitt. We also knew what was going on in Castlereagh and in the Bennett inquiry. We knew how we had used those people, with the Liberals, to maintain the Government. Then, when the Liberals left us, they were discarded like an old pair of gloves in favour of the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley(Sir J. Molyneaux) and his friends.

We know exactly what went on then. That is why we are saying that the present development represents a weakening of the position.

Mr. Peter Robinson: The hon. Gentleman is becoming something of a revisionist. May I take him back to his earlier comments, when he said, gesticulating to give greater effect to his words, that the Unionists grasped the issue of decommissioning out of the air. Would he like to reflect on that comment, given the fact that the Unionists were required not simply by necessity but by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the Dublin Prime Minister, who said that the issue had to be addressed at the start of the process? Under the instructions of his friend the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic, as well as those of our own Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the Unionists were required to do that.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Geoffrey Lofthouse): Order. I remind the House that we should not get into a debate about decommissioning. We are talking about the Northern Ireland Committee.

Mr. McNamara: I agree, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I merely point out that when all the discussions were taking place about ceasefires and so on, decommissioning was not raised by anyone--

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Michael Ancram): Oh yes, it was; ask Mr. Spring.

Mr. McNamara: Oh no, it was not. That was not quite the case.

I shall finish on the following point. My hon. Friend the Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam), who will soon be the Secretary of State, was correct to say that all matters involving forums, Grand Committees and so on will have to be considered again. It is absolutely wrong that a great constitutional principle such as we are now establishing should be dealt with on the penultimate day of a

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Parliament, without proper consultation or examination, and without considering all the ramifications of what is being done.

The Government are paying their debt. I understand that--but one thing is more important. In a few weeks' time the British people will pay their debt to the Government, and we will not see much more of that Government.

8.40 pm

Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim): We have listened to a most interesting speech by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara). In one amazing part of it he said that we were subjecting the Northern Ireland people to British legislation. I happen to be part of the United Kingdom, and this is the United Kingdom Parliament.

We do not want Irish republican legislation. We do not want anyone interfering in Northern Ireland's internal affairs. We want to be ruled by this Parliament, which is constituted to rule us. It is utter nonsense for any Member of the House to say that it is a sort of disgrace that British legislation techniques are being brought in to rule us. That sort of speech, instead of forwarding good relations, puts them back and back.

Mr. McNamara: I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman wants to be ruled by British legislation; I simply remember how splendidly he performed at the time of the Ulster Workers Council strike.

Rev. Ian Paisley: All citizens of this kingdom have a right to protest against laws they do not agree with. If they are wrong, the law can take its course. It has taken its course with me on three occasions, when they locked me behind bars, to the hon. Gentleman's delight--[Interruption.] Yes, to his delight and celebration. I remember some of the things he said at the time.

Let me make it clear to the House that Ulster--Northern Ireland--is part of the United Kingdom, and that this is the United Kingdom Parliament. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North made it clear--or perhaps it was his friend across the Gangway, the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady)--that the southern Government should be consulted about what we are doing tonight.

What are we doing tonight, Mr. Deputy Speaker? I do not want to make you restless, so I emphasise the fact that we are dealing with House business--the business of Committees in the British House of Commons for this United Kingdom of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. That is the concern of no one but the House.

The House alone can appoint its Committees, and it is outrageous for Members of that House to suggest that a foreign Government should now be able to put their hand into the Chamber and dictate to it whether we should appoint a Committee to look after the business of citizens of the United Kingdom. Would we have liked France telling us that we could not have a Grand Committee for Scotland, because France and Scotland were always very close? Are we saying that Spain should look after Welsh people and should decide whether we have a Welsh Grand Committee? This matter goes to the very heart of our situation. People say that we antagonise one part of the

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population of Northern Ireland if this Parliament does its duty, but this Parliament has not been doing its duty with regard to Northern Ireland for years. Would we be talking about a democratic deficit if we had been doing our duty?

The people of Northern Ireland have no real authority in local government, planning, education, health and social services and the bread and butter issues. The Minister responsible for education in Northern Ireland told us that he was going to abolish the five education boards, but when we all went to see the Prime Minister, he put up his hands and surrendered. He said the Government would not do away with the boards--that is on the record. I said that it was a good thing for a Prime Minister to surrender to a Unionist, while the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) said that it was a bad thing. Is that the way Northern Ireland is to be ruled?

Is it good government when the Minister responsible for education goes against everybody? He thought that because the Social Democratic and Labour party was not in the forum, it would not associate with us on this issue, but there are schools in the areas represented by the SDLP, and it knew what was happening. There was unity. That controversy did damage, and we do not know to this day how much was spent in all the Minister's investigations into trying to introduce a three-board rule, which has something to do with Drumcree, and nothing to do with anything else.

We have not had good government in Northern Ireland because this House has not been acting in the way it should. We had the same controversy about the number of seats in this House when we had 12 seats. I heard the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Sir J. Molyneaux) say that we had a fair proportion, but we have nothing of the kind. In proportion to the population and size of Scotland, according to the Library we should have 22 seats, but we received only 17. We were undersold by the British Government, who would not give us our entitlement. Some say that the Government are now paying us off, but it is a poor pay-off.

Elements of the Committee in Northern Ireland will be entirely different from the Scottish Grand Committee. In a document we presented many years ago to the Prime Minister--some Ulster Unionists rapped us for it--we said that we should have a proper Grand Committee and Select Committee to look after the business of Northern Ireland. I do not know whether the hon. Member for South Down is making it up, but in the appointment of the members of a Select Committee, how did the nationalist population not receive parity of esteem? It received the same number of members, in proportion, as other parties. It was entitled to only one member of that Committee, and it got one member. If the hon. Gentleman reads the Hansard reports, he will see that he referred to parity of esteem on the Select Committee.

Let me make clear that anything this House does to give us the government to which we are entitled as part of the United Kingdom will be opposed by nationalists--that can be expected. Everything is considered as some sort of a pay-off. It is a pity that this Parliament did not listen to representatives from Northern Ireland years ago, and set up a Grand Committee and a Select Committee. At least then we would not have had that faux pas over the five boards; at least we would have been getting somewhere with the good government of Northern Ireland.

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The Labour party spokesman briefly mentioned decommissioning. The talks could have covered decommissioning, but by a vote of this Government, the southern Government and the Social Democratic and Labour party, we were not allowed to discuss that matter or vote on it, so do not blame the Unionists for that.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North who used to sit on the Labour Front Bench but has gone backwards and higher, tells us that we stopped the Brooke talks and the second part of the talks. We did nothing of the kind. The Irish Government brought them to a halt by calling an Anglo-Irish meeting, having agreed that there would be no Anglo-Irish conferences during the talks. On two occasions, the Irish Government called such meetings--and now we are blamed in this House for stopping the talks. Why does that man not go to Dublin and blame those who did stop the talks? We will be blamed for everything. The framework document is on the table and is the policy of the two Governments. Their agenda is a united Ireland--at the talks. Are we expected, as Unionists, to go there, bow the knee to them, and say yes?

I do not know what the policy of the next Government will be. I was delighted that the hon. Member for Redcar (Ms Mowlam) said that she is looking forward to an unequivocal ceasefire. So am I, because we did not have one. We had a farce. Look at the people who were crucified, who were beaten up, who were shot and who were destroyed, and it is all coming back again. A ceasefire ought to be a ceasefire.

We do not want the restoration of the unequivocal ceasefire of the past, for it was not unequivocal. We want an unequivocal ceasefire, so that all the belligerence stops and does so in such a way that we know that it has stopped. How does it stop in such a way? When the weapons that can break the peace are surrendered.

One can have Sinn Fein at the table, and I believe that it will declare a ceasefire--it is coming and I think that the Labour Government will accept it. Perhaps before the end of May, they will say that Sinn Fein will be at the table.

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