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8.49 pm

Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim): I wish to put on record my utter condemnation of the behaviour of the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) this evening. It flew in the face of all the laws and characteristics of this debating Chamber, and I have been here for more than 30 years. I refer to the way in which he attacked my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) and then told the House that he was leaving immediately. He refused to give way—he refused to accept interventions, then fled the House. The Holy Book saith:

That is how the right hon. Gentleman fled the House. Such conduct is a disgrace, and people in Northern Ireland will be saddened that a representative from Northern Ireland should act in that way. Strong attacks are made in this House, but if you are not prepared to take the heat, you should get out of the kitchen. I have taken a lot of heat in the House, with almost every Member yelling at me and getting to their feet to shut me up, but I will continue to make my points. I regret that the hon. Member for Walsall, North (David Winnick) is not in the Chamber, as I would like to tell him that no parliamentary Chamber will make me sit down with the representatives of a movement founded on murder, bloodshed and the most criminal of acts. No Parliament has the right to tell a man he must sit in government with such a person. I have the right to say who I will sit in government with.

I do not run from the people—I go and fight every election. My record stands above that of any other politician, whether in the United Kingdom or in Northern Ireland. I have the best voting record, and have had the best support throughout Northern Ireland. I fight my corner and make my speeches, but if I am attacked, I listen and reply. I trust that I give as good as I get, but that is for the people to decide. The behaviour of the leader of the Ulster Unionist party in telling the House that he was sorry that he was not here a fortnight ago, then taking the opportunity to attack the integrity and trustworthiness of a colleague of mine in the House without giving way or providing any opportunity for interventions is to be condemned. The House would say exactly the same if any other Member of Parliament behaved like that.

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I do not want to be distracted, but it has been said that the right hon. Gentleman has a good record. Consider that when he was reselected for the seat that he is to fight, he did not win the first vote—another Unionist did. He nearly lost his seat in the last Westminster election, and may do so at the next one. No one should be deceived by his pretence that he is in control of the situation. I noticed that he did not say in the House what mistakes we made in the general election—our best yet, as we returned more Members than ever to the House. Happy mistakes! I hope that we will make a few more in the next election and achieve similar results. Those matters should therefore be laid to rest.

Mr. Peter Robinson: Before the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) scurried out of the Chamber, he made a prophecy that the Ulster Unionist party would sweep all before it in the election. He was not worried about it, and was content that the UUP would win. Does my hon. Friend recall that the right hon. Gentleman said before the Westminster election of 2001 that his party would increase the number of its members returned to the House? He predicted that there would be 10 of them sitting on this Bench. Would my hon. Friend care to count them?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Before the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) responds, let me say that it might be as well if we moved on to the contents of the Bill. I understand the hon. Gentleman's concerns, but it would be a good idea if we moved on to the Bill.

Rev. Ian Paisley: All I can say is that the people of Northern Ireland will give their verdict, if they get a chance. It is clear from the discussions tonight that Government Members well know that the Government have acted in order to save the scalp of the right hon. Member for Upper Bann. The ordinary people of Northern Ireland have a deep hatred of, and are not prepared to sit down with, murderers—those who murdered their own co-religionists—but the ordinary people will have their say, and loudly.

Mike Gapes rose—

Rev. Ian Paisley: I am not giving way, as it is five minutes to 9. I am the leader of the second largest Northern Ireland party in the House and I have been called almost at the end of the debate.

Mike Gapes rose—

Rev. Ian Paisley: I am sorry, but I am not giving way. The hon. Gentleman will have to contain himself for once.

Let me tell the House that this matter is not about postponing the election. I noticed that many speakers used the word that I used in the first part of the debate—cancelling. This is a cancellation. If it were a postponement, we could have autumn defined. I ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who comes from Wales, a beautiful Principality that I dearly love, when autumn starts and ends in Wales. Perhaps at the

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end of the debate he will do so through the mouth of the Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office, who comes from Scotland. Then, I, an ignorant man from Ulster, will know when autumn starts and ends. The Secretary of State need not smile; he should tell us. The one thing that worries me is the idea that the position has to be clear. Clear to whom?

The IRA has carried on its ravaging without apology. I read a statement the other day made by its deputy leader, Mr. McGuinness, who said that the IRA had no apology to make for the stand that it had taken historically in Northern Ireland and throughout Ireland. There was no sorrow in the hearts of IRA members for their own co-religionists who had suffered seriously at their hands.

I think of the broken-hearted mother in the city of Londonderry who asked Mr. McGuinness whether her boy could come home. That was Mr. Hegarty, and Mr. McGuinness told the mother, "Bring him home. Let him call on me, and all will be well". Mr. Hegarty came home, called on the gentleman concerned—I am sorry to use that term to describe such a brutal man—and in a few days, Hegarty's body was found. The man who told his mother to bring him home had killed him. He came home to die.

The House asks me to sit down with that man in government. We will not sit down with him. Let me tell the hon. Member for Walsall, North that members of the Democratic Unionist party never sat down at any time in the Northern Ireland Executive. We did not attend it.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon) is not present. He has gone. I am sorry that he made an appeal for me to change. He was the very man in the Assembly who worked to put the Democratic Unionist Members out of Government. He joined the right hon. Member for Upper Bann to call them rogues, who should be thrown out. There he stands tonight, his hair as silvery and his tongue as golden as ever, pleading with me to join them. We will not be going that way. The House should realise that if we are to have democratic government, the Government must be chosen by the people. People cannot be nominated to such a Government; the voice of the people must be heard.

When the election was postponed from 1 May to 29 May, the Minister of State, who is in charge of security in Northern Ireland, said that the Government were allowing a short delay to give the parties the opportunity to reflect. What happened? They then decided that a further delay was needed, but that delay was no longer a short delay. Today's delay will be until the autumn, and now we have to find out when the autumn starts and when it finishes. What we are debating tonight is a cancellation.

I smiled when the hon. Member for Walsall, North—I am glad he is back in the Chamber—said that he was a good democrat, and I do not doubt that. But when General Pinochet cancelled the elections in Chile in 1973, he was not a good democrat. When General Abacha of Nigeria suspended elections in June 1993, fearing that his opponents would win, he was not a good democrat. The President of Sri Lanka postponed elections in August 1998. Perhaps Northern Ireland is

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best likened to the Ivory Coast, where the general stepped in to stop the election campaign in October 2000 and took control of the main vote counting centre. The Secretary of State has taken over the electoral offices and has told everyone: no elections.

Ulster people should be allowed to exercise their franchise. The SDLP—with which I have had many differences—believes that there should be voting. Even the IRA-Sinn Fein—I give them no credit whatever—say that they are for elections. The only person who has set himself against the elections is the person who fled from the House in confusion tonight. He does not want the elections. He does not want them because he does not like what will happen at those elections. Everyone knows it. The dogs in the street know what has happened. It is the fundamental right of the people to pass judgment. One cannot force people to pass judgment against their will. The people will vote. They will want to vote.

It is a sad reflection that Members should appeal to Unionists to go out and sell something that the Unionist population abominate. They abominate it because they did not vote for a referendum on the agreement. Many of the people who voted in that election never read the agreement. They voted because of graffiti written on the wall by the Prime Minister—promises that there would be no gunmen in Government. "Guns or Government" was the slogan that the right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) used. We were promised that there would be no amnesties and that things would be different, and our people went out and voted. They voted because they believed in what the Prime Minister said. But they do not believe him today.

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