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11.15 pm

Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim): The order says:

So we are asked to say that sufficient progress has been made. That statement will then become law and cannot be gone back on--yet no progress has been made on decommissioning.

I am disturbed by the Secretary of State's attempts to paint things differently from how they are. He should tell the truth. Everyone knows my party's attitude on the issue; we have fought two elections on it. Our position is clear and was spelled out in our manifesto. It ill becomes the Secretary of State to bandy about words such as "hypocrites" and "hypocrisy" when he is well filled with those himself.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman must withdraw that remark. He should not refer to any Member of Parliament with words such as "hypocrisy".

Rev. Ian Paisley: I wonder why the same remark can be said about me by the Secretary of State, but nothing is said--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The Secretary of State did not say that about the hon. Gentleman, I can assure him of that. He would not have done that in my presence. I repeat, the hon. Gentleman cannot continue his speech until he withdraws that remark.

Rev. Ian Paisley: If there are two laws in the House, I shall withdraw the remark.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I note that the hon. Gentleman has withdrawn the remark, but there is only one law.

Rev. Ian Paisley: I want to put on the record what my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) said yesterday in the Assembly. His words show that all the Secretary of State's so-called optimism about the Democratic Unionist party surrendering its principles is false. My hon. Friend said:

Mr. Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Rev. Ian Paisley: No, I will not. The Deputy Speaker tells me that, as the second speaker from Northern Ireland tonight, I have to cut short my speech. I am not giving way to any hon. Member--or right hon. Member--from the Labour Benches.

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My hon. Friend continued:

This House tonight seems to think that a suitable partner in government is a man whose hands drip with the blood not only of the people whom I represent in the House, but of his own fellow Roman Catholics. Hon. Members should go and read about the sobs of a widow in Londonderry. Mr. McGuinness got her son to return from exile with a promise that nothing would happen to him, but he was sent for, taken out and brutally murdered. Hon. Members should talk to her about what Mr. McGuinness really stands for.

My hon. Friend continued:

I hope that no other hon. Member will try to do what the Secretary of State tried to do tonight to Democratic Unionist Members. Those Members took office not because this House wanted them to, but because the people of Northern Ireland--according to the laws of this House--gave two seats to the Democratic Unionist party. The Secretary of State, like others who have occupied his position, would like to get rid of the Democratic Unionist party. However, I am afraid that it happens to be here to stay, and will at least outlast the short life that he will have in Northern Ireland.

There is not one truly democratic country in the whole world which would, for one moment, accept the principle that armed gunmen, thugs and murderers, with their hands dripping with the blood of their fellow countrymen, their fellow co-religionists and their fellow citizens should, as of right, be given office in government. Where would we find another democracy passing a measure like this? It is a fundamental of a pure and proper democracy that only those who have eschewed murder and bloodshed should be permitted to be placed in the government of their country.

There used to be laws to keep criminals from taking office. Now we are asked to pass a law to put criminals into office--and the Government think that the people of Northern Ireland should join in some happy ceremony on this occasion. They should go and tell that to the widows, the orphans and those with vacant seats in their houses, and they will get an answer. The Secretary of State needs to talk to, not lock the doors on, those victims and the people who are in tears daily because of the agonies they have suffered. He should listen to what they have to say.

Shona McIsaac (Cleethorpes): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Rev. Ian Paisley: No, I will not.

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The House is asked to approve a law that provides that those who have engaged in murder--the most heinous and atrocious of murders--must have a way opened for them to get into the government of Northern Ireland. That is what we are being asked to do. True democracy rests on a bedrock of liberty. It was established not to satisfy the views and aspirations of a mere single generation, but to secure the blessings of enduring principles of liberty--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I call the hon. Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (Dr. Godman).

11.25 pm

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Inverclyde): We have heard a characteristically impassioned but wrong-headed speech from the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley). I endorse the warm compliments paid by the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. MacKay) and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) and the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon).

I also offer my compliments to that remarkable woman, my right hon. Friend the Member for Redcar (Marjorie Mowlam). In the early days when she took office she faced formidable problems, but she behaved with immense courage. The fact that we now have an international tribunal reviewing the Bloody Sunday affair is a tribute to her.

There are those on the Opposition Benches who see these developments as the further unravelling of the United Kingdom, but we have a different United Kingdom to the one we lived in just two years ago. It is now a multinational state based on, among other things, the principle of consent. That holds for the people of Scotland, the people of Wales and, of course, the people of Northern Ireland. In the many years that I sat on the Opposition Benches, I did not think that I would see the setting up of a Scottish Parliament, but it is now firmly established, as is the Northern Ireland Executive, with the Assembly about to begin work.

I have said over and over again that the critical factor of decommissioning has to be addressed. It looms over the Executive and the Assembly, and the paramilitaries must co-operate with General de Chastelain to ensure the comprehensive and viable decommissioning of weaponry. However, as I have said before, everybody in Northern Ireland stands to gain from the Assembly, based as it is on the principle of consent.

That admirable politician, Monica McWilliams, who, I am glad to say, is a member of the Assembly, said yesterday:

I hope that that holds for the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson). I hope and trust that all of the Ministers will do their damnedest to improve the lives of everyone in Northern Ireland.

There will be some lively, even heated, exchanges when the new Ministers are cross-examined by the Scrutiny Committees. I can tell the hon. Members who

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are going to be Ministers that new Scottish Ministers have found appearing in front of Committees in the Edinburgh Parliament a somewhat interesting experience. There are certainly some interesting pairings of Ministers and the Chairs of Committees in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Whatever hon. Members may think of Mr. McGuinness, and I certainly have serious reservations about him, I was much taken by his comment yesterday that he is committed to the campaign for the integration of schools and is opposed to the 11-plus. Hon. Members with constituencies in Ulster will know how often I have spoken against the 11-plus. As someone who failed the exam, I have always thought that it should be abolished anyway. The words used by Mr. McGuinness were reassuring.

The Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, my old and hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall), carried on the work involved in the integration of schools. Such integration is a force for good--long may it continue and develop. As a child, I attended a Catholic school. If it were possible for me to have children again, I would not send them to segregated schools. The integration question is very important in the context of Northern Ireland.

Finally, those with the appropriate responsibilities should ensure that a programme is set up in the near future to bring together cross-border organisations and other bodies. From a Scottish perspective, we now talk about British-Irish relations and about a different kind of United Kingdom.

I believe that another force for good is the Council of the Isles. Hon. Members, especially the right hon. Member for Upper Bann, will not be surprised to hear me say that if that council could be given a permanent secretariat, after the manner of the Nordic Council, it would make good sense to locate that secretariat in Glasgow. That is my appeal. It could not be based in Greenock--[Hon. Members: "Why not?"]. I assure my hon. Friends that it would make good sense to locate the secretariat in Scotland rather than in Dublin or London.

I say to those hon. Members who are members of the Unionist parties in Northern Ireland that they and their constituents have everything to gain from this Assembly.

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