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David Burnside : The Ulster Unionist Council will speak in its own time and in a clear voice on behalf of the Unionist people. Would the hon. Gentleman put a question to his own party and add to the knowledge of the House and the people of Northern Ireland? If the IRA does not disband, end all its activities and become a normal, democratic party, will the SDLP ever separate from Sinn Fein within the nationalist-republican community and co-operate with other democrats in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Mallon: The hon. Gentleman may be aware that there was a Good Friday agreement, that it was based on the d'Hondt system, that his party is part of that d'Hondt system, that his party helped to agree that d'Hondt system, and that the d'Hondt system is based on inclusion not exclusion. He has tried to make a point of this many times. He would be better employed supporting his own party and the efforts of those in his party who have shown great courage in trying to deal with this matter, rather than going round with a dagger behind their backs at every opportunity.

David Winnick : Should not those such as the hon. Member for South Antrim (David Burnside) show the

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same courage as my hon. Friend and his colleagues, who over the years during the IRA terror stood up to the bullying, intimidation and threat to life and never once gave in to the terrorist elements who wanted to force Northern Ireland into the Republic without the agreement of the majority?

Mr. Mallon: I thank the hon. Gentleman for making that point. I have referred to the political vacuum. I know what it is for 30 odd years to try to keep a political process going without a forum, without status, and without the means of the political process at our disposal. During those 30 years, we never bowed to the pressures from people in the republican movement who wanted and still want to do us the greatest damage that they possibly can.

We want an election. The pundits tell us that we would lose seats and that we would be overtaken. I can tell hon. Members and the pundits that that will change, whatever happens to the political process in an election. One of the groupings that this postponement suits best is not the Ulster Unionist party but Sinn Fein. It gives Sinn Fein breathing space and time between its own failures and an election to regroup so as to manipulate the situation. A section of Unionism—I am not sure which party those people belong to—is trying to create circumstances that are favourable to Sinn Fein.

Mr. Dodds: The hon. Gentleman said that the Belfast agreement was about inclusion, and he referred to the d'Hondt system. Coming from where he comes from in terms of support for the Belfast agreement, does he accept that it was always argued—indeed, it is explicit in the agreement—that parties should be excluded if they are not committed to exclusively peaceful and democratic means? Surely the question from the hon. Member for South Antrim (David Burnside) that he failed to answer deserves a response.

Mr. Mallon: The answer is clear. The Secretary of State, at any given moment in time, has the facility and the power to have a motion brought to the Assembly, just as the leader of the Ulster Unionist party has the facility to do that.

Mr. Peter Robinson : We exercised it.

Mr. Mallon: The hon. Gentleman exercised it for publicity reasons. For five years he has done nothing but give more publicity to the people whom he is trying to exclude. That is the reality that the hon. Gentleman should consider.

The third question that I believe should be asked is: will the two Governments jointly recognise that there are faults on more than one side? In the early part of the debate, specifically the Secretary of State's contribution, there was no recognition that there are faults on more than one side. Will the methodology for negotiations continue? Will the Governments continue to show the indulgence that has been shown not to those who properly honour their commitments and the agreement, but to those who break their commitments? There is a feeling in the political process that unless we transgress we will get nowhere. It is akin to the statement that was made to us as a political party when we were told, "You know your problem is that you don't have guns. If you

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had guns, you would be in a better way politically." That was not said by someone from the heartland of south Armagh, but by the Prime Minister, who lives in Downing street and who has been dealing with this process. I am making a serious point. I saw this when I was in office, and I see it now. A political party such as ours, which plays by the rules and does not transgress, is disadvantaged. I put it to the two Governments that it is time they examined their own methodology, stopped coddling those who break all the rules and made them face up to a different approach as to how we go forward.

I hope that when it comes the autumn and when we get to the next election, as I hope we will, the two Governments will introduce a degree of collectivity into their approach—a collectivity that is not based on discussions with parties separately so that no one knows what has been discussed or agreed. In the past seven months, there was no collectivity in any of the decisions made. How can we have a strong political process when parties are encouraged to act individually, not collectively?

The fourth question is this. If all the things in paragraph 13 are done in October, so much the better—well and good. But if that does not happen, if the worst fears become a reality, if there are no elections in the autumn and if there is no sign of the kind of movement on all sides that is required, what will the Government do?

I suggest that the Government have agreed what they will do. It is called the joint declaration, and I suggest that they go and do it, because they have not just political authority but, in the event of the political parties' failure to secure the necessary type of agreement, moral authority. Moreover, institutional arrangements enable it to be done. It would be better if the political parties themselves made the advances, but if the choice is between parking the political process and allowing all the elements that are necessary in the joint declaration to remain, I believe that the Governments have only one option: to implement the joint declaration.

Finally, there is the fifth question. It is eminently possible that some parties have decided not to negotiate before an election in September, October or whenever it takes place. Some may well be here. Some may well have decided not to negotiate until after the election. Where does that leave the postponement? The question must be considered carefully. At least two parties I can think of would find such a tactic very tempting. The Government must ensure that in no circumstances can negotiations be postponed until after an election in an attempt to garner the best result.

Let me say this to the DUP. I want it to be an active, organic party in the political process, rather than one that takes the goodies on offer while accepting no collective responsibility for the process. I say that genuinely, because I believe that the more inclusive its politics are, the stronger and better it will be. I say it because I want people to be involved, not excluded, as the hon. Member for South Antrim (David Burnside) suggested earlier.

Let me end with this appeal. The DUP is a strong political party, strong enough and courageous enough to abandon a position that is in fact apolitical, and will not deliver for the north of Ireland or its members'

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constituents in the way that it would like. I ask it to join the other political parties in ensuring that this autumn sees a fully fledged working of the Anglo-Irish agreement, including it as well as the other parties.

8.4 pm

Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann): I apologise to those who speak after me. I fear that duties elsewhere in the House will take me away.

Reference has been made to the fact that this is the second time in a couple of months that the Government have come to the House to make changes to arrangements in Northern Ireland. Unfortunately I was not present when the first such change was debated, but I have looked at the reports of previous debates, and I rather regret that I was not here on that occasion. I want to say something about the Bill that postponed the election until the 29th, and what was said by the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) at the time.

Referring to the discussions in Hillsborough at the beginning of March, the hon. Gentleman said:

That is good knockabout stuff, and I am sure that the hon. Member for Belfast, East enjoyed saying it. Let me say this to him with all seriousness, however, and I want him to listen carefully. There is not a single word of truth in any of it. The next time he feels like repeating those sentiments, he should bear in mind what I have said tonight. If, knowing the truth, he proceeds to say something that is not accurate, there is a term that will clearly apply.

Let me make another thing clear—[Interruption.]

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