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Mr. Robert McCartney: Is the Minister suggesting that any poll result in Northern Ireland, like that which occurred in Wales, would be anything but utterly disastrous for social or political peace in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Murphy: In Wales, we had a small majority--6,000 out of a population of 3.5 million. It could not have been much smaller. Obviously, I accept that there is a difference between Wales and Northern Ireland. There was much speculation about the referendum on the agreement. People asked what would happen if the majority was 50 or 55 per cent.; some said that, to be acceptable, the majority would have to be 80 per cent., while others said that it would have to be 70 per cent. Naturally, the more people who vote in a referendum the better, and those of us who supported the agreement were delighted that some 72 per cent. voted in favour of it.

Where does this argument begin and end? We can only say that a majority is a majority, which is why, essentially, we cannot change it. The agreement, printed word for word in the Bill, says that, when a matter is put to the test, it is tested on a majority of people in Northern Ireland who want to vote on it. Because the matter is so crucial to the people of Northern Ireland, I have not the slightest doubt that, were such a poll to be held, a very high percentage of people would vote and we could rely on the result.

Mr. Grieve: Does the Minister agree that one can say with certainty of those who do not vote in elections that they do not consider the matter serious enough to go out and cast a vote? That is what it boils down to, whether we are talking about elections or referendums.

Mr. Murphy: I entirely agree with that point.

However, these are hypothetical matters and we do not know when those border polls would be held. All we can say is that the agreement is clear. Consent is the most important principle and consent can be tested only by the majority vote of those who take the trouble to vote.

Mr. Trimble: I apologise to those hon. Members present for the fact that we have spent far too long discussing this issue in view of all the other matters to be considered, so I shall try to keep my closing comments brief.

The Minister gave an effective reply to the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson), but at no time did he touch on my amendment, because it would not change the majority for the efficacy of the vote, and neither does it purport to do so. It relates purely to the binding character of the vote. Clause 1(2) places an obligation on the Secretary of State, and the effect of the amendment would be that, if the vote were less than 60 per cent., the Secretary of State would not be under

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an obligation, but would have to consider what to do. She would not be bound by the vote and would thus be in the same position as the Government are at present with regard to every referendum that has been held in the United Kingdom. None of the referendums held in the United Kingdom has been binding; all have been purely advisory. The amendment would preserve that position.

I was greatly struck by the point made by the hon. Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (Dr. Godman) about the unintended consequences of weighted majorities. However, everything has unintended consequences, and we must bear that in mind when framing legislation. We may be unable to predict the precise circumstances that will arise at a future date, so it is important to preserve discretion. That is what my amendment would do. However, we have debated the matter and have registered views. In view of the hour, and the fact that we have many more important things to consider, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Trimble: I beg to move amendment No. 105, in page 1, line 15, after 'of', insert 'the Republic of'.

The First Deputy Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 162, in clause 67, page 31, line 37, after 'of', insert 'the Republic of'.

Mr. Trimble: Amendment No. 105 is simple. It merely complies with existing legislation by calling the Republic of Ireland by its correct name in British constitutional law. From 1949 until now, the entity previously known as the Irish Free State, and properly known under its own constitution as Eire, has been referred to within the United Kingdom as the Republic of Ireland. There has been no legislation to change that.

The Government will rely on the fact that theIreland Act 1949 used the word "may", but that has to be interpreted in the context of the time and the circumstances. It was regarded then, and has been until now, as fixing for the purpose of our legislation the name of the entity in the other part of the island of Ireland as the Republic of Ireland. If the Government want to change things, let them table an amendment to the 1949 Act, but let them not assume that they can change legislation by the exercise of prerogative.

Mr. Peter Robinson: There are at least two instances in the Bill where reference is made to "the Government of Ireland", at clauses 1 and 67. I tabled amendments to both. I was surprised that the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) had tabled an amendment to clause 1 in the same terms, because the sloppy and slovenly drafting of the agreement probably caused the problem. The right hon. Gentleman accepted that terminology when he accepted the agreement, because those are precisely the words contained in the agreement. I am glad that he now realises that it is proper to correct the work that he did not properly do at an earlier drafting stage.

I can think of no past legislation referring to "the Government of Ireland". Ireland is an island; it has on it two states. It is clear from the terminology used in legislation that reference to those whom we

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describe as the Dublin Government is reference to the Government of the Republic of Ireland. Reference to "the Government of Ireland" suggests that Ireland as a whole has one Government. Quite clearly, that is the tendency in the Bill, which intends to advance such a notion.

I hope that the Minister will make it clear that he will follow the proper terminology, which has been used consistently in legislation, and I note that reference was made in the recent decommissioning scheme to the Government of the Republic of Ireland. I hope that he will correct what has happened, although he cannot say that the Government had not noticed the terminology and that it was an accident. When his legal team went through the consultative process with my colleagues and me, it was pointed out to them on several occasions that the term "Ireland" had been used. It was also used in the discarded clause 26, in terms of authorities in Ireland.

I trust that the slovenly work of those who drafted the agreement has simply been carried through and that the Minister is about to correct it.

Rev. Ian Paisley: I drew the Government's attention to this matter when they published the agreement. I was told that it was a printer's error which would be changed. All the agreements that went out in Northern Ireland used the words


    "for the Government of Ireland".

They said that that was a mistake and that they would correct it. The official document, which is issued by the Table Office, also uses the words

    "For the Government of Ireland".

In Europe, the Government of Ireland started to behave in the same way. They began to dilute the name of the Government here--the Government of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. The right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) will remember that we went to the authorities in Europe and had the correction made. This was the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the Republic was officially called the Republic of Ireland. I think that the House should at least be the custodian of its own bailiwick, and should call the Government of the Republic what it is, according to its own standing.

10.15 pm

Mr. McNamara: I do not intend to delay the Committee for long, but I must repeat that making the proposed change would substantially alter the content of the agreement and the draft clauses in annexe A, which speak of the Government of Ireland.

It was interesting to hear the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) speak of two states on the island of Ireland. I thought that there was one state, and part of a state. If the hon. Gentleman wants to make a declaration of unilateral independence, that is up to him, but Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

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Mr. John D. Taylor: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. McNamara: No, with great respect.

There is much more in this than is immediately apparent--

Mr. John D. Taylor: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. McNamara: No, not for a moment or two.

It is not for me to go into all the history, and the phraseology, of what has or has not been the name of the state in the southern bit of the northern part of the island of Ireland. That has been the subject of controversy on many occasions, in different contexts. The agreement contains draft clauses; the draft clauses are, in effect, in the Bill. That is the agreement. Let us not nitpick; let us leave it as it is.

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