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I support most of this ingenious and intricate Bill. Although it is generally dangerous to take all stages in one day, I am sure that this House will agree that the case for that is made in the circumstances explained to us by the Secretary of State this afternoon.

In my time as Secretary of State, I came to realise that those with democratic political aspirations in Northern Ireland would ultimately rather share power with one another than go on being ruled from Westminster. I regarded that as the one real beacon of hope, because they were prepared, in principle at any rate, to merge their differences to resume democratic responsibilities for the province—and quite right too. There was a deep sense of shame that, alone in all the areas of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland was unable to govern itself by acceptable standards.

For the constitutional parties it was clear that there had to be an acceptance of basic democratic principles. It was also very clear that while as a Government we could and should help with transition we certainly could not coerce—the very word ought to sound a knell in the history of Ireland. The real question was how our help should be fashioned. The art of the matter seemed to lie in proposals calling for political courage, but not such that leaders would be left by their rank and file to go it alone. Proposals also had to defer to the ingrained penchant for scepticism that one meets so readily in Ireland, north and south, but not so much that no one actually leads forward out of his trench at all. Satisfying both those tests is easier to aspire to than to fulfil. They hold good today as tests, and that is how this Bill should be judged.

The timetable is tight today, so I propose to deal very shortly with matters. Over the nine years since I finished as Secretary of State, I have watched with sympathy and paid tribute to the efforts of my rather numerous successors and to those of the political

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leaders in the province—and to none more than the noble Lord, Lord Trimble, to whom the people of the United Kingdom as a whole, not only those in Northern Ireland, have come to owe so much. In consequence, as we all recall, for some time Northern Ireland experienced the restoration of a large measure of devolved government. That has been shown to be capable of working. It has also been shown to be incapable of surviving without acceptance by all parties, as a fundamental ground rule, of the rule of law.

Paradoxically our experience is hopeful because, following elections, the leaders of the DUP and of Sinn Fein now face each other across contested ground from which, to a greater or lesser extent, other parties of their respective traditions have been cleared, to put it rather brutally, by the electorate. Of the DUP and Sinn Fein, each wishes to participate in government and knows it cannot do so alone. Each needs its supporters to believe it has kept faith with them, but I suspect each knows also that it has an opportunity that will not recur for a long time.

The temporary impasse we face contains promise and danger in equal measure. The Bill can enhance the promise and mitigate the danger because it prevents doors closing for the time being, while at the same time giving an earnest of the Government’s commitment to what every true democrat wants to see in Northern Ireland. All one’s experience shows how hard it is to reopen a door to negotiations once it has been allowed to close—far harder than it is to find ways, however subtle, that justify keeping it open despite earlier deadlines having passed. If negotiations ultimately come to fruition, no one will mind that they were extended by the use of smoke and mirrors to some extent. If they fail, it will have been worth a try, and direct rule will continue.

I find that the scheme in the present Bill is justified, but there is no scope for any qualification in the Government’s fundamental requirement that Sinn Fein accepts the validity and constitutionality of the PSNI, and that it takes up its responsibilities in relation to it. If that acceptance is ultimately secured, it will have been worth some extra time.

There is one matter on which I disagree strongly with the Bill: the provision to abolish by order selection in Northern Ireland secondary schools in default of agreement. That is wrong in principle and profoundly undemocratic in practice. We shall come to that in Committee. That said, I believe it is enough to say that the Bill deserves its Second Reading, and that I support it.

4.23 pm

Lord Laird: My Lords, I join other noble Lords in thanking the Minister for explaining the Bill at Second Reading. I want to be brief, to be fair to everyone. What I would like to say has already been said, but it is worth underlining once again the points made by several noble Lords. The most important aspect over the next period is to ensure the unequivocal support for the police and justice by Sinn Fein, the one party that has not signed up to that

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course of action. The mood in Northern Ireland at the moment has an element of scepticism. Some would say, “If Sinn Fein/IRA wants so much to have policing and justice in Northern Ireland as a devolved power, we have to think carefully about whether we want that as a devolved power”. People tend to think like that in Northern Ireland.

I tend to agree with those noble Lords who have indicated that the timetable may be somewhat tight. In fact, the whole concept of timetables may be a waste of time. If we are to have an election in March, that is when people will, quite naturally, put in their manifestos pledges and undertakings, which may then be difficult to honour a few days later, once they have entered into an Executive. You could find that you have elected people to a deadlocked Assembly. I am not sure if that is what the Government want, but that may be one of the results. We need a period of time—whether it is called sanitisation or proving—to allow Sinn Fein/IRA to sign up and to be seen to have signed up and to prove its credentials. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. We cannot once again go back to the situation that we had over four years ago when we kept going in and out of the Executive and of the Assembly because Sinn Fein was not doing what it was supposed to do.

I draw attention to a remark made by the Minister in opening this debate. He made the point that this Bill will lead to equality and total fairness in Northern Ireland. I have certain reservations about that. One of them is an area that was dealt with at St Andrews, although I accept that there was not agreement on it. However, according to the Secretary of State, all parties knew about the inclusion of an Irish language Bill. There are clauses in the Bill that we are discussing today about Irish language and Ulster-Scots language, history and culture. I am extremely concerned that one of the major tenets of the Belfast agreement, which talked about parity of esteem and total equality, has not been kept to in this Bill or in the suggested introduction of an Irish language Bill. There is nothing more likely to define areas in Northern Ireland than having some street signs put up in Irish and English and some just in English. That would be a kind of middle-class way of marking out your territory, which is currently done in working-class areas in Belfast by painting the kerbstones either red, white and blue, or green, white and gold. Do we really want to make middle class and other areas, including commercial areas of cities, cold areas for members of my community by putting signs up in Irish and not giving the same amount of respect to the culture to which people like me belong?

It seems to me that once again we have a situation where whatever Sinn Fein and the SDLP want, they seem to get. I remember a number of instances over recent years when I was seeking small sums of money for the culture from which I come to tidy up local areas, take down pictures of paramilitary people and put up pictures or paintings on walls of icons of Ulster-Scots history, such as David Crockett. That money was refused. We tried to do other things for small amounts of money, including the idea that was approved by most people, except by the Government of course, of producing a film about the Ulster-Scots

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culture, history and heritage in Irish, to explain our culture to our fellow countrymen and the residents on the island of Ireland. With the exception of the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council, no organ of the Government would give us any house room, any encouragement, or any funding for what was a very worthwhile project.

Yet here we are again, and the culture from which I come is being sidelined and marginalised. That will cause tremendous discontent back in Northern Ireland. It will be a topic, and a rock on which the boat of this Bill may at some time strike. I am very concerned about this. Will the Minister confirm that the Irish language Bill will be left to the Assembly and that it will not come through this Parliament? There has been some encouragement from the DUP Members of the Assembly, who assure me that it will not get through the Assembly and will not get cross-community support. Will the Minister also confirm that if for any reason there is no Assembly and the election does not take place, that Bill will never see the light of day again?

What is the position on on-the-runs? Was the on-the-run legislation, which was so quickly pulled off the stocks here in this House and in the other place in the earlier part of this year, discussed at St Andrews? If so, what was agreed? Why is the Secretary of State now telling people, particularly in America, that arrangements will be made to sort out on-the-runs?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt just to knock this one on the head. This, frankly, is so negative it is not true. We have made it abundantly clear that there is no prospect of that Bill ever coming back to this Parliament.

Lord Laird: My Lords, I am highly delighted, but—

Lord Rooker: I have told you ten times.

Lord Laird: My Lords, I am highly delighted, but the trouble is that we still seem to find instances of the Secretary of State informing people, particularly in America, that this question will be dealt with. I do not know how that can happen without legislation before this House. However, I thoroughly welcome the Minister’s intervention and thank him for it.

In terms of getting the atmosphere right, and bearing in mind some of our recent problems in Northern Ireland regarding the credibility of Ministers, particularly in respect of judicial reviews, I would like the Minister to spell out the purpose of the meeting between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and an all-party delegation from Northern Ireland on the workings of Northern Ireland’s finances over the next four years. A somewhat hyped-up spin was put on suggesting that there was extra money. I am not sure that we want extra money—as an Ulster-Scot, I want to pay my way in every possible way—although I should point out to this Chamber that in the late 19th century and for the most of the first half of the 20th century Northern Ireland was a net contributor to the Exchequer of the United Kingdom, due to its engineering works and other industries.

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Having now fallen on hard times, we are entitled to be net takers from the Exchequer. That is fair. I am not putting on a poor-mouth; I want clarification on what was agreed, because it seems to me that all that was agreed with the Chancellor of the Exchequer was the next four years’ funding, which will obviously be an increase through inflation. That has already been made available not just to the Northern Ireland Office but to six other departments of state. It is not special treatment for Northern Ireland. The trouble is that this spin is put on and it is difficult for people in Northern Ireland to trust what the Government have been saying. Trust is the one thing that has always been lacking in Northern Ireland and neither we, the Government nor anyone else should do anything to diminish the trust of the ordinary voter, the man in the street.

In conclusion, I support the Bill on Second Reading.

4.32 pm

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, I shall have some hard words to say about some aspects of government policy. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, will understand that that does not affect my respect for him personally. I only wish that the Secretary of State could answer to this House rather than the unfortunate noble Lord, Lord Rooker, being left to carry the can. It should not be thought that I do not applaud and support what has been achieved to end the bombings and shootings, even if not yet the beatings and robberies, in Northern Ireland.

I was fascinated to read in the Daily Telegraph that animal behaviourists have discovered that chickens are not as stupid as we thought. It seems that they are not fooled into believing that something has ceased to exist when it is hidden from them. They know that it is still there but simply hidden. That brings me back to the IRA and why I will not in future pay the Government the compliment of calling them bird-brained.

The noble Lord, Lord Smith, reminded us of the amount of fudge that has had to go into persuading both the DUP and IRA/Sinn Fein that their wish lists have been granted, although they were completely and mutually exclusive. Back in the days when I had some experience of industrial relations at grass-roots level, it was always clear to me, when an agreement was drawn up that meant different things to the different parties, that it would be the basis for the next dispute. I fear that that has all too often happened in Northern Ireland.

Today, we are dealing with a Northern Ireland Bill, but our audience will spread well beyond that Province. We have to accept that this Bill is another stage in the relentless march of Sinn Fein/IRA into power in Northern Ireland—power which has been won by bombs and bullets because it could not be won by the ballot alone. As this may be—we hope that it will be—the last piece of Northern Ireland legislation in this House for a while, I hope that I will be forgiven for speaking for slightly longer than I normally do.

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It is deplorable that this legislation should be required to complete all its stages in both Houses in about 36 hours chock to chock. I wonder whether we have forgotten that good old parliamentary adage, “Legislate in haste but repent at leisure”. It was only this morning that I saw the report of the proceedings in another place. I hope that most noble Lords have now had a look at those words. I shall not repeat the wise words of Mr Lembit Öpik speaking there yesterday. As the Secretary of State had no answer to the points that he raised, I shall not waste the House’s time by expecting answers here. He spoke out not just as a parliamentarian but as an Ulsterman, so I suppose it was no surprise that he got the brush-off.

When we read the Hansard report of debates on Northern Ireland in the other place, we forget that, as usual, although Sinn Fein/IRA hold seats in that House, its Members never turn up to participate in the enactment of legislation. I suspect that there is a fairly strong message in that for us all.

I know that some will be muttering to themselves that my views on Northern Ireland are distorted by what Sinn Fein/IRA did to my wife. I must say that that annoys me. My views were formed long before 1984. What happened then did not distort but merely informed those views, as did the murders of my friends Airey Neave, the Member for Abingdon, the Reverend Robert Bradford, the Member for Belfast South, Tony Berry, the Member for Southgate, Ian Gow, the Member for Eastbourne, and many others from outside the ranks of parliamentarians.

Those who commissioned, authorised, planned and financed those murders and not hundreds but thousands more are now sanitised—almost sanctified—and are about to be put into office to govern Her Majesty’s subjects in Northern Ireland. This morning the press is expressing its horror at the murder of a politician in Lebanon.

I said that what we say and do here will be heard outside Northern Ireland, and so it will. It will be heard by terrorists worldwide, and there is a lesson that they will learn: if you are dealing with the British Government, bomb and kill, then negotiate. If you do not get what you want, then bomb and kill some more. When you have it almost all, bargain the release of your bombers and killers for a ceasefire. Then threaten more bombing and killing if you do not get even more.

Unlike Alfred the Great’s Anglo-Saxons, Tony Blair’s new Labour pays Danegeld again and again and, as we have heard today, Sinn Fein/IRA is holding back still. Why is it holding back? If it is going to pledge that it will support the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the forces of justice, why does it not do that now? Why did it not do it yesterday or last week? Why is it pushing the Government along to slide through one deadline after another? I fear that that is because it asked for something more, and I fear that it will get something more.

Today we face not so much IRA terrorism—one hopes that we will not face that again—but Islamic terrorism. We rightly ask that imams true to the teachings of Islam condemn the terrorists who invoke the name

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of Islam to justify bombings and murders. On 11 November—perhaps a well chosen day—a newspaper published a picture, which I have here, of Mr Martin McGuinness, who is soon to be a Minister in Northern Ireland if the Government’s plans go ahead, wearing his IRA gunman’s uniform at the funeral of an IRA bomber. It seems that he has graciously given consent to the publication of this picture now, from which we might draw the inference that he thinks his past is no longer a threat to his future.

I come back to the superior intelligence of chickens. Something at that funeral was hidden from the camera, but it was there all right. It was a Roman Catholic priest conducting the burial service for a terrorist being buried on consecrated ground, having been granted a Christian service and absolution. He should have been excommunicated.

I have no animus towards the Catholic Church or faith—would that our bishops defended their faith with such courage as the Catholic Church does—but how do we expect an imam to condemn Islamic terrorists when he sees how Christian priests in a Christian country have sheltered, excused and supported Sinn Fein/IRA terrorists? The Government have done precisely the same.

I was speaking recently to my old friend Robin Chichester-Clark, one time Member for Londonderry, and the last Ulster Unionist to hold office at Westminster, whom a number of noble Lords will have known in the other place. I had the privilege to serve as Robin’s PPS, which is how I became drawn into the politics of Northern Ireland well over 30 years ago. “May be”, opined Robin Chichester-Clark, speaking of Her Majesty’s Ministers, “they are cleverer than we think. The Labour Party has long been in favour of a united Ireland, but the majority in Northern Ireland would not give its consent. But if you can destroy the grammar schools without the consent of the people, if you can impose a catastrophically unfair system of property taxation on them, if you can impose on them a compulsory place in government for Sinn Fein/IRA murderers, perhaps even the staunchest Orangemen will look over the border to a more successful, lower-tax country, without gunmen in the Cabinet, and wonder what loyalty to the Crown has brought to Northern Ireland”. He might have added: if you can impose on them the sexual orientation orders by which it seems a Christian priest would be at risk if he read out 22:5 of Leviticus or 18:22 of the Book of Deuteronomy.

I have two specific questions about the Bill. First, why does it not put funding for the Northern Ireland parties on the same basis as for the political parties in the rest of the United Kingdom? Why is it so essential that money from dubious sources in North America should be allowed to be recycled through the Republic of Ireland into the politics of part of this kingdom? We do not allow it anywhere else. What is so different?

Secondly, how will the Secretary of State know whether the pledges to support the police and justice systems, which we expect may be made, are honest? We must have our doubts. I understand that Mr Adams objects to MI5 operating in Northern Ireland. Must he recant on those remarks? Is it a

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requirement, understood in the pledge which will have to be made, that references to the police include references to MI5, or will a part of Her Majesty’s kingdom be off limits to MI5? Will the Secretary of State require Sinn Fein/IRA not merely to make an airy pledge, but to remove the bar which they currently have in place on witnesses coming forward to help bring to justice the killers of Omagh and the McCartney killers? If they do not remove that barrier, which currently prevents the prosecution of those responsible, what will happen?

I know—as the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland of Asthal, put it to me here the other day—that the people of Northern Ireland now enjoy something nearer to peace and normality than for the past 35 years and more. That is important and I know that, in some quarters, peace counts for more than principle. What is more, peace has brought jobs to Northern Ireland. If devolved government is established there, there will, most importantly, be jobs for politicians. If it is not, then the politicians in Northern Ireland—although happily not in Westminster—will lose their jobs.

Of course we are all in favour of peace, but at what price? Noble Lords in the Government and their right honourable friend the Prime Minister are in favour of peace in Iraq—which is why, I understand, we made war on that country. I have no doubt of their commitment to peace for the Iraqi people, even if they go about it in a funny sort of way. I accept that Ministers may think that the way in which Airey Neave, had he lived, would have gone about securing peace in Northern Ireland, and the way in which I would have gone about it if I had had responsibility, might be different from this Government’s approach. Of course, that would be right.

This Bill will underline the truth of the old adage that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I hope that I am proved wrong.

4.48 pm

Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, most of the major points have of course already been brilliantly made by a number of speakers. Nevertheless, I shall refer to a very few.

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