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Northern Ireland Bill

Volume 26: debated on Tuesday 29 June 1982

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As amended, considered.

New Clause 1

Relations With The Republic Of Ireland

'The Assembly shall, by its Standing Orders, make provision for the establishment of a Committee of Members of the Assembly for the purpose of

  • (i) discussing such matters as it or the Assembly may consider necessary to improve relations between the Assembly and the Republic of Ireland;
  • (ii) entering into discussions with those authorities in the Republic of Ireland as seem appropriate with regard to (i) above;
  • (iii) reporting such discussions to the Assembly together with such recommendations as may have been approved by the Committee and the appropriate authorities in the Republic of Ireland.'.—[Mr. Soley.]
  • Brought up, and read the First time.

    3.56 pm

    I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

    It would be simple to present the new clause as just another attempt to achieve a united Ireland. The Opposition make no secret of the fact that we believe that there should be a united Ireland by consent. That is our policy and a clause such as this will do nothing to hinder it and could help it.

    However, the clause is necessary whatever view one has of the constitutional future of Northern Ireland. Today we shall discuss, as we have in successive debates for some days, the recognition that Northern Ireland's position in the United Kingdom is unique and results from the border between it and the Republic of Ireland. We cannot hide from that.

    By the new clause we wish to improve the relationship and the co-operation between Northern Ireland and the Republic and, in so doing, to improve and build on the relationship between the United Kingdom and the Republic. If we do not do so, the Opposition contend that the economic and political miseries in Northern Ireland will continue as they have continued for many years, especially since 1969. However, I repeat that the misery is nothing new. It has been there certainly since 1920. We must recognise that and respond to it if we are not to let down the people of Northern Ireland regardless of whether they are Unionists, Republicans, Catholics, Protestants or anything else.

    The new clause can assist in bringing about a united Ireland by consent. That is our long-term aim, but a reading of the new clause shows clearly that we wish to enable the Assembly to set up a committee to improve relations between the Assembly and the Republic of Ireland, to allow an interchange between the Assembly and various bodies in the Republic and to enable Assembly Members who take part in such an interchange to return with recommendations. It has been implicit in all our debates that such a proposal is necessary and we have advanced it for some time.

    Northern Ireland's unique position in the island of Ireland has a long historical background and I do not intend to delve into its roots. But the Opposition recognise that the border was drawn in 1920 and that since then two distinct communities have grown up in the North who feel that they owe their allegiance to two different States. We cannot ignore that fact and recognition of it enables us to discuss the problems that have pulled the communities apart, certainly since 1969 and for some time before then.

    We have talked of cross-community support and it is important to put on record what we mean by that because the words have sometimes been used loosely. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have talked about the two communities, cross-community support and many other such phrases. We recognise that there are two distinct national identities in Northern Ireland. One feels a distinct relationship, both culturally and politically, to the Republic of Ireland, the other has the same relationship with the United Kingdom. We are not alone in recognising that. It is reflected in various documents to which I shall refer.

    4 pm

    The key to the issue is that within each of the two communities there are, as is always the case in any community, some people who take a hard line and others who are prepared to compromise. It is a hard fact that for many years members of the two communities have been prepared to kill, torture and ultimately die to support their view of the future of Northern Ireland. That is the tragedy that has torn the people of Northern Ireland apart. That is what has brought so much misery to the people who live there. All hon. Members recognise that the special experiences of the people of Northern Ireland deserve our special and sympathetic consideration.

    The existence of the two communities is recognised in the recent White Paper. In paragraph 17, it says:
    "The difference in identity and aspiration lies at the heart of the 'problem' of Northern Ireland; it cannot be ignored or wished away."
    I wish at times that the Right wing of the Conservative Party, which has been doing its filibuster on the Bill, would speak to that aspect of the problem. We cannot pretend that it can be wished away. We must deal with it. We cannot continue to duck it. The existence of the two communities was also recognised in section 2(1)(b) of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 which says:
    "the Assembly and … the electorate on which that support is based, is likely to be widely accepted throughout the community".
    The problem was also implied in Sunningdale and has been covered in numerous debates in the House. The existence of two distinct communities along the lines of separate national identities has long been recognised.

    Attempts to encourage and allow closer relations between the Republic and Northern Ireland have been supported by legislation, White Papers and discussions. Paragraphs 22 to 24 of the White Paper deal with the special relationship with the Republic. Section 12 of the 1973 Act also deals with the relationship with the Republic. It was a major point of discussion at Sunningdale and at the recent Anglo-Irish talks. It is an important point. It will not go away.

    I have said before both in the House and elsewhere that we make a fundamental mistake if we try to pretend that the problem is merely one for the people of Northern Ireland. I have always argued that the people of Northern Ireland, whether Unionist or Republican, Protestant or Catholic, have just as much ability to govern themselves as do we or people anywhere else. The problem is that we have divided the island of Ireland in a way that has destabilised the island's economic and political development. In doing so, we have stepped back and said that the people of Northern Ireland cannot govern themselves, that they are always fighting among themselves, that they do not seem to know what they believe in but they are prepared to die for it.

    Such phrases are thrown around, and they reflect on the character and personality of the people of Northern Ireland. It is untrue and unjust. To a considerable extent, the problem lies here in London. The problem requires recognition in London that Britain has a responsibility and that the so-called problem of Northern Ireland is as much a British one as it is Northern Irish. It is ultimately a problem of British and Irish relations. If we grasp that point, if we start from that point, we have a much better chance of solving the problem in the long run.

    I have listened to the hon. Gentleman's argument. It appears he is talking about improving relations between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The new clause refers to a representative Assembly in Northern Ireland and a sovereign State. Surely it is impossible to achieve the objective that the hon. Gentleman desires through the medium of a device such as this. If a majority of the Members of the Assembly wish to consider any form of relations with, for example, a representative Assembly in the Republic, it is up to it so to decide. It would be quite wrong for us to impose upon it by statute a duty to establish any such machinery, especially as, constitutionally speaking, it is quite improper.

    I am glad that the hon. Gentleman recognises the problem. There is one element of compulsion in the new clause. We use the word "shall", saying that the Assembly "shall" appoint a committee. It is up to the committee thereafter to decide what it discusses and what groups and organisations it will consult in the Republic. The hon. Gentleman asked how that improves relations. A series of steps should be taken. The first is to bridge the gap between the communities in Northern Ireland. The second is to bridge the gap between the Republic and Northern Ireland and the third is to bring together Britain and the Republic. Those elements cannot be divided. They must not be regarded as separate components. They must be dealt with together. An increasing number of Unionists have been prepared to recognise the special link with the Republic. If we recognise that in statute we will encourage such a point of view.

    Just as some Unionists fear that the Bill will push them into a united Ireland—they fear new clause 1 the more so for the same reason—so some Republicans fear the Bill as they believe that it will simply restore Unionist rule without there being safeguards for the minority.

    It is worth looking back at the opportunities that we lost before 1969. Simply by examining the statistics, we know that there was a serious problem for the minority community in housing, employment and civil liberties. The result of missing those opportunities finally exploded into the violence of 1969. The lost opportunities were capitalised upon and developed by paramilitary groups from both sides of the divide. We tend to refer only to the Provisional IRA. We forget that there are paramilitary groups on both sides. They are both responsible for a terrifying number of deaths and acts of destruction. To fail to notice that is to demonstrate unacceptable partisanship.

    Recently, hon. Members notably the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell)—have said that the Bill gives hope to the Provisional IRA and that it will therefore result in further loss of life. Terrorism, the argument went, lives on hope. I dispute that. Precisely the reverse is the case. Terrorism thrives on and is born of despair. That despair emanates from the failure of the political process to enable sufficient numbers of people of good-will to join together and pronounce a resounding "No" to the acts of the paramilitaries on both sides of the argument. It is despair that breeds terrorism. If we are to eliminate paramilitary groups we must create political, economic and social institutions that are believed by an ever-increasing number of people to be fair and effective for both communities. Failure to do that—as we have failed for many years—will result in continuing acts of terrorism. They may decline, they may drop back to the level before 1969, but does anyone believe that that was then desirable?

    I remember being told in the 1950s not to go to certain parts of Belfast in uniform and not to talk about the Queen in some areas of Belfast and I remember seeing police officers armed. I remember our having to guard military bases both in Northern Ireland, and on the mainland. There were raids at the time to capture arms. Do we want to return to that? Was that the great golden age of Stormont? Moreover, do the people of Northern Ireland want to return to that?

    The hon. Gentleman has suggested that this is an aid to the Labour Party's policy of achieving a united Ireland by consent. How does he reconcile the compulsory nature of the new clause with the consent that is supposed to be the basis of his party's policy?

    The only compulsory aspect is the setting up of the committee. If I were to criticise my own new clause, it would be because it would not necessarily result in the committee being effective. I believe that an increasing number of people on the Unionist side of the community wish to improve relations with the Republic of Ireland because they know that, regardless of the future constitutional position of Northern Ireland, if they are to live in peace and to get over their appalling economic difficulties they need a closer and more sophisticated relationship with the Republic. We believe that if the committee is set up it will work after a period. It may be slower than I would like, but I believe that an increasing number of Unionists are coming to see the advantages of this way forward.

    The hon. Gentleman has not yet addressed himself to the use of the word "shall". In the debates on the Bill, the Labour Party has commendably and consistently supported the principle that this House should set up a framework for the Assembly and that the Assembly should then be left to organise its own affairs in the best way possible. The need for cross-community support is part of the framework that we have agreed.

    Why is the hon. Gentleman now departing from that principal of non-interference with the actual mechanisms of the Assembly? If what he says is true, as I believe it substantially is, the Assembly itself will come to this position. Is it not better, therefore, to stick to the framework as he has commendably and consistently done and to leave the Assembly to organise its own affairs rather than at this stage start to intervene in its standing orders?

    First, we should not ignore the fact that the minority community also needs to get something out of the Bill and that it, too, wants some safeguards in the Bill. As the hon. Gentleman knows and appreciates, the minority of the community needs some recognition that the links with the Republic will be real.

    The hon. Gentleman's argument about not interfering with the mechanics is difficult to sustain when there is already the 70 per cent. factor and the cross-community support, for which the Secretary of State rightly argued. If we intervene in that respect, we need to intervene also in others. We need to set up the machinery to enable the process that I have described to take place. If we used the word "may" instead of "shall", my fear is that no committee would be set up for a very long time. We cannot predict the result of the elections. If they reflected greater willingness by some Unionists to negotiate on this point, the hon. Gentleman might be proved right, but if it does not work out that way there may be great reluctance to do this, although a significant number of Assembly Members would want such a committee. It is to them that we wish to give this support. It should be remembered that some of them may be Unionists. It does not follow that they would automatically all be on the Republican side.

    4.15 pm

    I was arguing that only when people began to feel that the form of government available to them was both fair and effective could we undermine the paramilitary groups. The success of parliamentary groups depends not so much on the individuals who carry out the acts of violence as on the passive reluctance of the communities whom they seek to represent to give them away. Thus, the Provisional IRA can operate within its community without too much fear of betrayal. There is an element of fear, of course, but it receives significant passive support. Precisely the same is true of a number of the paramilitary organisations on the Unionist side. That is the problem. Paramilitary groups of this type could not function in the United Kingdom; people would not tolerate their activities because, with the exception of certain small minorities, the vast majority of people in this country have confidence in the political and economic institutions of the State. We must recognise that that is not the case in Northern Ireland.

    Only when that problem is solved will the power of the paramilitary organisations, both Unionist and Republican, be eroded. I therefore ask Unionists both in the House and in Northern Ireland to give this matter careful thought. The advantages of closer co-operation with the Republic can help the people on the Republican side of the divide, while growing confidence in the political system of the Assembly or whatever else grows up will give the Unionists greater confidence. Only when that confidence exists will the paramilitary groups be undermined.

    The hon. Gentleman asks the Unionist section of opinion in Northern Ireland to take a certain view. Does this mean that the Labour Party intends to approach those people in the proper manner in which the electorate is approached with propositions? Does it intend to put up candidates in Northern Ireland and to test the acceptability of those views in the proper manner? It is no use his saying in this House that he wishes to speak to Unionists in the Province. If the Labour Party wishes to speak to Unionists in the Province, it has the means to do so. Otherwise, the hon. Gentleman is talking humbug.

    I could not disagree more with the right hon. Member for Down, South. I have spoken to members of his party in Northern Ireland and I have spoken at public meetings of Unionists in Northern Ireland, and I shall continue to do so. The right hon. Gentleman knows why the Labour Party does not organise in Northern Ireland. It is because we have always held the underlying view within the Labour Party that Northern Ireland is not an integral part of the United Kingdom—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—in the way that some people would recognise. The Labour Party has always recognised the very close link with the Republic. Moreover, I put it to the right hon. Gentleman and to the House that if the Conservative Party were to come clean on the matter it would admit that it recognises exactly the same. That is why the Government are having so much trouble with the Bill. It is because the party has called itself the Conservative and Unionist Party but the Unionist element is concerned because the Unionists have in effect broken away from the party.

    I am not sure that this is covered by Labour Party declarations but if what the hon. Gentleman has said is true and the Labour Party considers that Northern Ireland is not an integral part of the United Kingdom, why does it not have the courage and the decency to come to Northern Ireland and tell the people there and test the proposition by putting up candidates who would stand for the proposition that the Province is not part of the United Kingdom?

    Again, the right hon. Gentleman is avoiding the issue. For some time, as we have said many times, there has been a recognition that Northern Ireland is unique in the United Kingdom. The right hon. Gentleman seeks to get away from that by arguing, as he is perfectly entitled to do, for total integration with the United Kingdom. That is an understandable position, but the very fact that he argues the case shows that there is considerable concern in both the Unionist and the Conservative Parties that that is not the reality of the political situation. That is the problem to which the right hon. Gentleman must address himself. If that is the recognition—in his view hidden, in my view explicit—that Northern Ireland does not fit into the normal picture of the politically integrated entity of the United Kingdom, we must face that issue and not buck it as some hon. Members have tried to do or seek to get around it, as the right hon. Gentleman tries to do by arguing, against the Conservative Party, for total integration with the United Kingdom.

    Is the hon. Gentleman saying that if the political parties were to be organised on both sides of the Irish Sea—the Labour Party, a party allied to the Conservatives and, perhaps, other parties because the Social Democrats are organising there—that would obstruct his purpose, which is to remove Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom?

    We must look at this in the light of the hard reality of political life, which all of us in the House know. Members of the Conservative and Labour Parties have all canvassed. If a candidate knocks on the door of a house in West Belfast and asks whether the occupant will vote for his party—whether Labour or Conservative—he will be asked "Where do you stand on the border?" The response he receives will differ according to his reply to that question. In East Belfast the same question will be asked of the candidate, but the response to his reply would be the opposite to that in West Belfast. In other words, if one takes the Unionist view, one will get the Unionist vote. If one takes the Republican view one will get the Republican vote.

    The hard political reality which must be faced is that, sadly, the issue of national identity overrides the normal class and economic issues on which most of our elections are based. That will continue while we fail to recognise that there are two national identities living in Northern Ireland, and that there is a special relationship between Britain and Ireland.

    The hon. Gentleman might be interested to know what I do in my constituency, both during and between elections. I go to all parts of my constituency and tell all my constituents that I consider that they should have the same rights as are enjoyed by anyone anywhere else in the United Kingdom and that so far as it lies within my power I shall secure that for them. I am prepared to say that throughout my constituency.

    I know that, and I am sure many hon. Members in Northern Ireland do exactly the same, but the fact is that the right hon. Gentleman fails to get the Republican vote. The reason is exactly the same as applies to other parties. The right hon. Member knows that the Northern Ireland Labour Party has a different approach. Its members say to constituents that they will not address themselves to the problem of the border but will focus on economic issues. That is a brave approach, and I pay them that compliment in public. However, the Labour Party in Northern Ireland ceased to exist as an effective political party because it failed to face up to the issue of the border.

    Does the hon. Gentleman agree that he has some justification for the stance he takes? For example, in the two by-elections in Northern Ireland last year in the constituency of Fermanagh and South Tyrone, the Republican candidates were elected. One can take it that the voters may have been voting against the Government's attitude to the hunger strike, but it could also be taken that they were voting against the inclusion of the constituency of Fermanagh and South Tyrone within the Northern Ireland border.

    The hon. Gentleman is right. One of the tragedies of the Fermanagh and South Tyrone by-election was that many people felt unable to vote for a Unionist candidate who said, properly and within his rights, what the right hon. Member for Down, South said. If we fail to face the fact that national identity, sadly—I say this as a Socialist—overrides class interest, we shall fail to solve the problem.

    We have made it clear that we want the Unionists to consider the benefit of closer co-operation with the Republic. That can take a number of forms. Although I do not want to go into the subject in depth, I refer first to economic co-operation. My argument, particularly to those who take a Unionist approach to the matter, is that the economy of Northern Ireland has been divided as much as the politics of Northern Ireland.

    Progressively, the economic problems of the Republic and the North have been made worse by the lack of co-operation across the border. They have been developing on competitive rather than complementary lines. To imagine that that can be beneficial in an island the size of Ireland is nonsense. The economic problems of Northern Ireland have become far worse than we have known them in recent times and the same applies to the Republic. Whatever we do in the House—speaking for the Labour Party, we will do everything possible—it will always be slightly undermined by the division between the two economies.

    There are many areas in which co-operation could be improved, or increased, because we must remember that some co-operation already takes place. Energy, agriculture and transport are all key areas. It is in the long-term interests of the people of Northern Ireland to have a closer industrial development policy programme with the Republic of Ireland so that the two countries are not vying for the same factories and the same developers and trying to undercut each other with different tax rates, and so on. There is a strong case for a coherent and growing economy for the whole of Ireland that benefits Northern Ireland and the Republic.

    Ultimately, I see no reason—indeed, I encourage it—why security should not be discussed by members of the Assembly with representatives of the Republic. [Laughter.] I hear some laughter. There is nothing funny about that suggestion. There are a number of ways in which that discussion can start. For example, a body from the Assembly could say to the representatives of the Republic of Ireland "We are dissatisfied with some of your measures and we want you to do something about them." Surely that is not unreasonable. The Republic might agree that something should be done or it might say that the Assembly has got it wrong. However, the Assembly has the right to take up such matters with the Republic. Not only does it have the right, but it is in the interests of the Unionist community that it should do so.

    The new clause does not set up final solutions to the problem. Nor does it impose final decisions on the Assembly about what issues it should co-operate on. That is for the Assembly committee to decide.

    There is, and always has been, a special relationship between Britain and Ireland. Sometimes that relationship is close. Their cultures and histories have intertwined over the years. It is easy to get the differences out of perspective, but difficult to solve the problems between them. We must begin a process between Northern Ireland and the Republic, and between the Republic and Britain, to restore the special relationship that we believe should exist—a good and productive relationship that benefits the people of Britain, Northern Ireland and the Republic. We can achieve that, and the new clause is a step in that direction.

    The House is in the debt of the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley). He has made very plain how much the policy of the Labour Party has changed since the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. It is clear that the Labour Party—I presume that the hon. Gentleman was speaking for his party, athough there are not many members of it here to hear him—has established that if some day the people of Northern Ireland give their consent to a united Ireland, the Labour Party will support them, but the hon. Gentleman has gone beyond that and has actively pursued the removal of Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom. That is the message that he has clearly given to the House.

    4.30 pm

    I agree with the hon. Gentleman that there is a special relationship between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Clearly, within that, there is a special relationship between that part of the United Kingdom which is in Ireland and the Republic to the South. That relationship has existed ever since partition. It is imposed by history, geography, cultural exchanges and human movement. Today, there is a common travel area within these islands, which also extends to the Channel Islands. In a sense, there is a virtual common citizenship, some aspects of which give rise to strong feelings among some of my hon. Friends. They do not like the voting arrangements that exist between the two countries, whereby there is no reciprocity, although Mr. Haughey said that he would do something about it.

    I understand that in the Republic we may vote in local elections but not in parliamentary elections. However, there is this virtual common citizenship. As well as a common travel area, we should like to see a common security area. When we are considering the Irish dimension, which is the subject of new clause 4, we notice with regret that there appears to be some deterioration in security arrangements between North and South.

    Indeed, my noble Friend Lord Brookeborough has said that a large measure of surveillance against terrorist incursions from across the border, particularly in county Fermanagh and county Armagh has been withdrawn. He has also said that the Dublin Government have admitted that a fair percentage of the Garda Siochana manning border posts has been removed. There is, therefore, this disturbing development in security co-operation, which has been excellent so far as the police forces of the two countries are concerned.

    That is something to which we attach the greatest importance. If there is any usefulness in this special relationship—the Prime Minister has called it a unique relationship—we would expect a far larger measure of co-operation. We would expect extradition and the observance by the Irish Republic of its international obligations with regard to the suppression of terrorism.

    I said that there is nothing new in this relationship between North and South. Indeed, one of the reasons why the Northern Ireland Parliament was set up was that the unification of the island of Ireland could come about by means of a Council of Ireland that represented both the Northern and Southern Parliaments. It is interesting to recall that the Northern Parliament appointed its 15 representatives to the Council of Ireland but that the Oireachtas in Dublin did not. That should be remembered when we think about who is responsible for the lack of friendly relations between North and South.

    In recent years, down to the time when Brian Faulkner was leading the Unionists, the Council of Ireland was recognised as a reasonable aim for both parts of the island of Ireland. Businesslike co-operation has always taken place ever since partition. At the moment, that seems to centre on energy. The argument goes on about whether power should be delivered to the North from Kinsale or whether, which seems both economically and politically desirable, gas should be piped to Northern Ireland from Scotland.

    It is in those spheres of practical businesslike co-operation that the Irish dimension or the unique relationship is valuable. I do not particularly quarrel with what is said in paragraph 23 of the White Paper, which states:
    "The Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Council, which was established following the Anglo-Irish talks and Joint Studies which began in 1980, gives institutional expression to the unique relationship between the two governments without affecting national sovereignty".
    Paragraph 24 states:
    "Relations between the United Kingdom and the Republic will in general continue to be conducted within the ambit of the Council".
    I think that the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North was speaking about something different from relations between the United Kingdom and the Republic. He was speaking much more about relations between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. That is what makes Unionists so suspicious of the Anglo-Irish talks and the working of the officials in the service of the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Council. They think that both the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Council and the Bill are designed to provide an Assembly that can be the northern end of an eventual fused institution for the whole island of Ireland. That is their fear, and the hon. Gentleman's speech reinforced every fear that a Unionist may have in that regard.

    What effect does my hon. Friend think the hon. Gentleman's speech has had on what I still understand to be the Labour Party's policy of a bipartisan approach to Northern Ireland? Time and again, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has reiterated that he is for the Union of Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. It seemed to me that the speech of the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley) tended to go in exactly the opposite direction. Does that mean the end of the bipartisan policy?

    My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State thinks that the Bill will reinforce the Union and make Northern Ireland more stable and peaceful and a more profitable area of investment. I am sure that my right hon. Friend believes that. On the other hand, the Opposition have been supporting my right hon. Friend because they believe that it will lead to a united Ireland. They mean not a united Ireland under the Crown or within the British Commonwealth, but a united Irish Republic. Either the bipartisan policy is at an end or it is in a state of some confusion.

    The Labour Party's policy is a united Ireland with consent, and we have been pursuing that policy for a considerable time. The fact that the Conservative Party is asking for unity within the United Kingdom is another matter.

    Everything that the hon. Gentleman has said so far has suggested that the Northern Ireland Assembly ought to have closer contacts with the Republic to discuss security and economic matters. Otherwise, he is implying that in some way it is happening secretively. We are arguing that it should happen openly.

    I shall answer the second part of the interjection first. I think that the correct way to proceed to build on the unique relationship, or to improve it, is for Northern Ireland Members to be associated with any contacts that there may be between parliamentarians of the United Kingdom and the Republic. That is something quite different from asking Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly to enter into a direct dialogue with a foreign State, and a foreign State that does not recognise the sovereignty of the United Kingdom in Northern Ireland.

    Did the hon. Gentleman say that the Labour Party had always stood for a united Ireland? In 1949, when Southern Ireland became a republic and left the Commonwealth, it was the view of Clement Attlee and his Cabinet colleagues that, even if Northern Ireland wished to leave the United Kingdom, it should not be allowed to do so. We should not go as far as that. We should say that if the people of Northern Ireland wish to leave the United Kingdom, that should be their right; but they do not wish to do so. The position of the Labour Party is different. As I understood it, the position of the right hon. Member for Barnsley, when he was Secretary of State, was also different.

    It seems to me that there are two main obstacles to the improvement of relations between the two sovereign States within the British Isles.

    It should be placed on record that the Attlee Government did not lay down that if Northern Ireland wished to depart from the United Kingdom it should not be permitted to do so. The Ireland Act 1949 provided that if the Parliament of Northern Ireland—not the people of Northern Ireland—decided to leave the United Kingdom, that would be the overriding factor.

    I was speaking of the Cabinet views and papers that are now available in the Public Record Office, where the hon. Gentleman can consult them. The position of the Government of that day, like the position of the present Government, was that it rested then on the Parliament and now on the will of the people of Northern Ireland. The hon. Gentleman is formally correct, but he would do well to study the papers that have been published about the views of the Labour Government at that time.

    There are two impediments to the development of what should be a beneficial relationship between the two sovereign States within the British Isles. The first is the demand, or the claim, of the Southern Ireland Government to the sovereignty of Northern Ireland.

    The second is this Bill, because it is arousing so many fears among Unionists in Northern Ireland. They have heard about and read these debates. They have heard the interpretation of the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North that the Bill will lead to a united Ireland. They know that the Government are being supported by the Labour Opposition because of the belief that the Bill will lead to a united Ireland.

    I do not think that the hon. Gentleman should go that far in his interpretation. The Labour Party has made it clear that there is nothing in the Bill that will inhibit its policy. The Bill would be helpful in certain ways. The hon. Gentleman, the Unionists and other Right-wing Members of the Conservative Party have to face the fact that, if the Bill fails, they can rest assured that Labour Members will be back here arguing even more strongly that their policy is the real alternative.

    If we want to build a better relationship within these islands, we must reassure the people of Northern Ireland that there is no danger to their position within the United Kingdom. We must consolidate that position. Those of us who have expressed a view, which is contrary to that of my right hon. Friend, as to how that should be done believe that the Bill, as it stands, is injurious to the reassurance of the people of Northern Ireland that their position is secure.

    It is not possible to have a united Ireland. What is possible is to have united islands on the basis of the sovereignty of the two powers within these islands—the Republic and the United Kingdom. Perhaps I can modify that slightly. If, as is most improbable, Southern Ireland were to end its secession from the United Kingdom, a united Ireland would be possible. Meanwhile, we should strive for what is possible—the unity of the British Isles, recognising the sovereignty of the Republic and of the United Kingdom.

    4.45 pm

    I am happy to follow the admirable formulation that has just been offered to the House by the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison). This is the last day on which the House will be allowed to debate the Bill. As we enter upon the last day there is a certain piquancy in the House having before it a new clause tabled by the Labour Party. It has recently affirmed—going not so far as the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley) went this afternoon—that it would like to see a single all-Ireland State, provided that that comes about by the consent of the people of Northern Ireland.

    When the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North was asked why, as a democratic party, the Labour Party did not argue for and seek that consent from a majority of the electorate in Northern Ireland he said "You know perfectly well the reason why. It is that if we put up a candidate on that policy we should be beaten." In other words, what the hon. Member really wants—whether his party as a whole wants it or not I am not sure—is unification brought about without consent. He knows, and has said this this afternoon, that not only is that consent not available, but that he cannot foresee it. That was the result of the exchange between the hon. Member and myself.

    As the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) pointed out, on the face of the new clause is written compulsion. What it means, if it were to be written into the Bill, is that there should be no such Assembly and no such constitution unless the Assembly does this thing. It is a "shall" clause and not a "may" clause.

    In putting this clause on paper, I do not know whether by a kind of tactlessness or clumsiness, the Opposition have done a service. They have reminded us in the most graphic form, by something placed on the Notice Paper, what is the underlying purpose and concept behind the Bill. Indeed, before I looked at the drafting of the clause, which is unsatisfactory in a number of respects, the thought crossed my mind that this might be one of the clauses that was originally in an early draft of the Bill and had been dropped out in case it should cause any difficulties in the passage of the Bill. However, I cannot believe that a clause drafted in these terms ever occupied that position, although, having regard to what is in it, it might have done. The genesis of the Bill lies in the successive stages of the evolution of an Anglo-Irish institution; the successive stages in the agreements—or the meetings, because there were more meetings than there was agreement—between the right hon. Lady the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic at the end of 1980 and the end of 1981.

    What was agreed upon, and what appeared in the latter communiqué, was not an Anglo-Irish council in the sense of an institution spanning the Irish Republic and the United Kingdom. It was not an institution, such as the hon. Member for Epping Forest was referring to, in which two sovereign powers, mutually recognising their respective rights and territories, would seek to co-operate on matters of mutual interest. It was not that at all.

    It was clear from the beginning that it was to be a tripartite arrangement. There was to be an element which was called the parliamentary tier in which the Irish Republic would be presented, in which the United Kingdom, as represented by the House, would be represented, but which would also embody a separate and third representation of that part of the United Kingdom which is Northern Ireland.

    After that meeting took place we were all able to read of the regret of the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic that his work was unfinished. Unfortunately, it could not be finished as there did not exist a representation of Ulster separately from the rest of the United Kingdom that could throw up the tripartite participation destined to lead to a dual participation, as between what is called the North and South, which had been envisaged as part of that plan.

    Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that written into the Sunningdale agreement was the power of veto by any of the three participating parties? Had any member of the Unionist Party in Northern Ireland felt that its position was endangered, that veto could have been used. The same veto could have been used by either the British or the Irish Government. Therefore, there was at all times a protection of the Unionist point of view in Northern Ireland.

    That is the Sunningdale member's defence of the Sunningdale constitution and the Sunningdale agreement. However, the essential point, upon which the intervention does not touch, is that from the start the arrangements deliberately treat Northern Ireland as an entity separate from the United Kingdom. It was envisaged, at any rate by one side of the talks that took place last November between our Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic, that the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland are to be separately represented in the parliamentary tier.

    The Opposition have put upon the Notice Paper, subject to any deficiencies, just such a clause. The hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) was right to point out the tell-tale fact that the relations referred to are not those between Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom and the Government of the Irish Republic, but between the provincial Assembly inside the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.

    Not only are the two "unequally yoked", in St. Paul's famous words, in that it is a combination of a State or nation—the Republic of Ireland is undoubtedly a nation—and an internal institution in another country, but the purpose of using the elected Assembly as a means to further the move towards a federal unification of Ulster and the Irish Republic appears upon the face of the new clause.

    It is a thousand pities that this is our last day together. Despite some rather late sittings, the Government and the House have been learning. We might even comfort ourselves with the notion, however remote from probability, that those out of doors have been learning.

    One of the most important forms of progress that has been made in our learning was due to the hon. Member for Epping Forest and the evidence that he produced, which has since echoed throughout our debates. Before the last election in 1979 an organ of the Conservative Party warned that a Conservative Government would be under great pressure to overturn the policy that it was offering to the electorate and promising to Northern Ireland, and—I quote the words again because they are of inestimable value—
    "to launch a new, high-powered political initiative on Northern Ireland, with the object of establishing another 'power-sharing' government in the province" —
    then followed the significant words—
    "which could pave the way for a federal constitution linking Ulster to the Irish Republic."—[Official Report, 8 June 1982; Vol. 25, c. 52.]
    Considering that that was written in 1979, it was not a bad shot at the contents of the communiqué of the Thatcher/Fitzgerald talks of November 1981. Many hon. Members must have been impressed, if not with the prescience, at any rate with the knowledge that was displayed by whoever wrote those words. They are clearly words not written without authority nor in detachment from the considerations inside the Conservative Party prior to the election as to what should be its attitude and policy in Northern Ireland.

    The Conservative Party has learnt that in the Bill it is witnessing that prophesied subversion or inversion of its policy towards Northern Ireland. It has also learnt the reasons for and the purposes of that. The information which the hon. Member for Epping Forest placed before the House in Committee, and its implications for the nature and purposes of the present Bill, are corroborated by information of which it is right the House should be put in possession. In doing so, I have no alternative but to implicate officials.

    The reasons why, in the general course, the actions and opinions of officials are not brought into question in the House are well understood. Ministers take responsibility for advice and information on which they decide to act, and it is the Ministers who are answerable to the House. However, there is one exception to that rule. It arises where there is reason to suppose that the advice tendered to Ministers has not been bona fide and that the information supplied to them has been misleading or incomplete. If that were so, it would be right and necessary for the House to look beyond the Ministers who answer to it directly.

    The Secretary of State will be familiar with the name of an official in his office, one Clive Abbott, who had a large part in the work leading up to the present Bill, and who, if not the "onlie begetter" of the Bill, has been closely concerned with its production and passage. It may well be that his was the briefing on which the Secretary of State assured the House of his belief that the Bill would promote political stability in Ulster and strengthen the Union.

    5 pm

    During the past year or two, Mr. Abbott has supplied to academic researchers information in response to questions put to him, and I wish to quote from the note of certain replies which, in the course of that activity, he gave on an occasion some 16 months ago, because they are particularly germane to the Bill and to the context in which it has been placed by the disclosures of the hon. Member for Epping Forest. I shall, of course, provide the Secretary of State with a copy of the whole text after the close of this debate and I have asked my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) to furnish all necessary details to the Prime Minister forthwith, in view of her special responsibility for the Civil Service and of the investigation on security and as well as other grounds, which I anticipate will be ordered by her. The following question was put:
    "Is it true to say that between May and October 1979 there was consultation between the two governments"—
    the Government of the Republic and this Government—
    "on Northern Ireland and that after coming to power the Tory Party changed its policies on Northern Ireland?
    A. Before the Conservative Party came to power in 1979 it had promised that local government functions would be returned to local councils. We had to tell them that it was just not on."

    The hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to cheer later.

    "We had to tell them"—
    hon. Members should note the word "we"—
    "that it was just not on. In terms of the future government of Northern Ireland integration is a non-starter for two main reasons. First, we would automatically lose the co-operation we are getting from Haughey over border security. Secondly, we couldn't break certain undertakings we have given to the Irish government over the constitutional future of Northern Ireland."

    Did not the right hon. Gentleman say that that document was concocted, or written, in 1979? In 1979, Haughey was not Prime Minister—

    I did not say that. The hon. Gentleman did not hear me. I said that the replies were given about 16 months ago. The hon. Gentleman should listen more carefully. As I promised, the Secretary of State will have every facility.

    Will the right hon. Gentleman repeat the second reason, as I did not quite get it?

    I shall gladly repeat it. As I promised, the Secretary of State will be given the text at the end of the debate. The second reason why it is "not on" to treat Northern Ireland as an integral part of the United Kingdom is that

    "we couldn't break certain undertakings we have given to the Irish government over the constitutional future of Northern Ireland."
    I pause before proceeding to further quotation. In the course of the proceedings on the Bill, the Secretary of State has repeatedly explained to the House why the fulfilment of the Conservative Party's election policy or indeed any instalment of local government is "not on". He said that it would run counter—I want him to hear what I say—to ingrained prejudices in the Province and that in any case there was in Northern Ireland the 50-year tradition of devolution of a different type.

    It is not the first time in our proceedings that I affirm that the Secretary of State was no doubt being completely sincere and candid. Had he known that any extension of local government
    "would automatically lose the co-operation we are getting from Haughey over border security"
    he would manfully and plainly have told the House and his party "This is what we had intended to do; but we cannot do it because we are being blackmailed by the Irish Government". He would also have told the House if he knew that his action was constrained because he
    "couldn't break certain undertakings we have given to the Irish government over the constitutional future of Northern Ireland".
    He would not have dreamt of concealing that. No Minister could conceal so vital a fact from the House.

    Is not the House entitled to an explanation of who "we" are? Are "we" the Government of the United Kingdom, or are they officials? Are we not also entitled to an explanation about what the undertakings are, or were, and under what circumstances they were given?

    I shall come to that point. I am sure that the investigation that cannot but follow the debate will cast light on the meaning of the first person plural pronoun in that sentence.

    The Secretary of State, it appears, has been placed in a false position, albeit a position foreshadowed from inside his own party organisation three years ago. The Prime Minister, with her repeated repudiation of any external influence, let alone binding obligation as to the constitutional future of Northern Ireland, has been placed in a false position. The Opposition have been placed in a false position because the "unbreakable undertakings" evidently existed before the change of Government, thus raising the question whether the Labour Government or any of their members were a party to them. The right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) has as great a vested interest as the Secretary of State in knowing—I do not believe this—or declaring the truth of the matter.

    Finally, the House has been placed in a false position by having a Bill commended to it on premises that turn out not to have been the true ones. In case there is any doubt about the relevance of all this to the Bill, I shall proceed to a further—my only further—quotation, for the relative lengthiness of which I apologise. The quotation appeared in an answer similar to that which I have quoted. Mr. Abbott continued:
    "As I have said before, a devolved government with power returning to local councils is not on. But an assembly which controlled such things as housing, through our already established quango, NIHE, given preliminary powers which would be extended progressively, is a possibility."
    That is the Bill, is it not? That is what has been put before the House. "But", Mr. Abbott continued,
    "any such developments would have to involve close consultation with the Irish government."
    It is not possible—

    Is the right hon. Gentleman telling the House that he is in possession of a Civil Service document given to responsible Ministers, whether in the Labour Government or the present Government? Is he saying that he has in his possession a document that was the product of the Civil Service when advising the Northern Ireland Office at that time?

    I am telling the House exactly what I have put on the record and what I have told the House. The hon. Gentleman will recall that I have requested my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South to ensure that all relevant particulars and identifications are placed at the disposal of the Prime Minister, as being primarily and personally responsible for the Civil Service.

    It is not seriously possible for the Bill to be presented for Royal Assent, whatever happens to it in another place, until these matters have been cleared up; until the House knows, in a manner about which there can be no dispute or prevarication, what were the undertakings which had been given on the constitutional future of Northern Ireland to the Irish Government; and until the House knows whether that briefing was the briefing on which the Secretary of State has commended the Bill to the House. Clearly it is impossible for the Bill to become law until then.

    The House, as well as the Government and their predecessors, are faced with the question that must be resolved publicly before we can proceed. It could just be that what has happened this afternoon was not entirely unforeseen when the attention of the hon. Member for Epping Forest was drawn to the singularly significant words that the Conservative Party itself wrote for its own candidates in 1979.

    The charges that the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) has brought are of such a grave character that I believe that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State would like to adjourn the debate until he is in a position to answer. It is difficult to see how we can proceed with any serious discussion after what has been said.

    The question is not strictly for me, although the right hon. Member for Brighton Pavilion (Mr. Amery) addressed it to me. The right hon. Gentleman will recall that the House passed a motion which forbids any motion interposing during today's proceedings. The Government have fully within their resources the ability to deal with the matter placed before them this afternoon. It is fully within their resources to ensure that the Bill does not reach the statute book until the matters that have to be resolved have been resolved to the satisfaction of those

    Unlike the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), I shall confine myself undramatically to what I believe will be the effect of the new clause on the working of the Bill. I shall leave aside the genesis of the ideas that may be construed in the clause. It is clear that if the clause is approved, it will be totally mischievous. It is a device that cannot possibly bring the communities in Northern Ireland together. It cannot help to make harmonious, devolved Government in Northern Ireland possible. If it is accepted, it will make the Bill, which was always likely to fail, a certain non-starter. The all-Ireland dimension was the explosive device in the Sunningdale agreement, and it destroyed it.

    5.15 pm

    A committee of the type proposed would be bound to underline the two different national aspirations which are at the root of the constitutional problem in Northern Ireland. The hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley) was right to stress that that is the underlying problem which causes us to be debating Northern Ireland today.

    The clause would ensure that from day one a clash could not be avoided over the one matter on which the two communities, by the nature of things, cannot agree—the relationship with the Republic of Ireland. The requirement to set up a committee would prevent that matter from being put aside so that those involved could concentrate on the more mundane matters on which common ground does exist.

    It is foolish to suggest such a clause here because the all-Ireland question is not directly or immediately relevant to the everyday government of or provision of services in Northern Ireland. The clause could almost have been planted by anti-devolutionist Unionists as a self-destruct mechanism.

    The most constant characteristic of the Bill is that it requires nothing over which there is no agreement between the two communities. Each national tradition has, in effect, a continuing veto that gives equal weight to the minority and the majority. That is one of the major reasons why the Bill will not succeed. But this clause provides for the minority to be granted an arrangement that the majority does not want. There is no equal weight, no veto and no agreement in that. The balance of the Bill would be destroyed over an item about which the majority's fears are strongest. The clause would help to make it absolutely certain that the Bill fails.

    It is no good saying, as the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North said, that there would be a Unionist majority on the committee, at least among Northern Ireland representatives, and that therefore the Unionists need fear nothing. The fact is that they do fear. The hon. Member for Hammersmith, North has enhanced, exacerbated and enlarged those fears. By what he said when he spoke, even in terms of the hon. Gentleman's federal objective, his speech rushed the fence which he cannot, in the nature of Unionist resistance, clear, but which he might have been nearer to clearing if he had been more patient.

    It is no good saying either that there are practical all-Ireland questions which should be discussed on an all-Ireland basis and that the only sensible way is to put the machinery in the Bill. The Bill is posited on the belief that there are sensible people in both communities in Northern Ireland and that if each is given a chance to feel the way to working together they will find common ground. If that is so—and it is—why does he not leave it at that and give the Bill a sprinkling of a chance with the majority knowing that it is not being hustled by the proponents of a federal Ireland into something that it does not like? If the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North is right when he says that more and more Unionists are coming to see that it would he useful, practical and desirable to discuss with the Republic some all-Ireland matters which they have in common, surely he should allow them to develop such links according to their merits and circumstances. Such a relationship will prove much more durable than the unwilling hothouse arrangement created by legislative prescription that is proposed in new clause 1.

    I take it that we shall hear more about the allegations of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) when the documents are produced. The serious allegation is that the Government entered into a secret undertaking with the Government of the Republic of Ireland of which this House ought to have been informed and was not. The word "undertaking" has many meanings—

    I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman but the implication is that a secret agreement had been entered into with the Government of the Irish Republic. It is not clear whether it was entered into by, or with the knowledge of, Her Majesty's Government at the time.

    I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman. I did not realise that he was alleging that a secret agreement had been entered into without the knowledge of Her Majesty's Government. That would seem to be a most extraordinary procedure. No doubt the Secretary of State will deal with that. I thought that the right hon. Gentleman was alleging that Her Majesty's Government had entered into some type of undertaking or understanding with the Government of the Republic of Ireland and that that was part of the genesis of the Bill.

    The word "undertaking" can be interpreted in various ways and it is not clear so far whether the Bill was founded on that undertaking or not. No doubt that matter will be cleared up.

    I turn now to what Mr. Abbott said. It appears that he expounded what was Government policy, for better or for worse. I am not certain that much blame can be attached to him, although he may have been indiscreet, but I am not averse now to having an investigation into how the Government receive their advice. Such an investigation will take place over the Falkland Islands and that may be a precedent to be followed in Northern Ireland. It may be that the bureaucracy is now so strong that we may have to forgo the old convention that was pointed out by the right hon. Member for Down, South—that Ministers are wholly responsible—and have an inquiry into where they receive their information from. However, the Secretary of State will deal with those matters.

    I come now to new clause 1. If the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley) had introduced the new clause to draw attention to an extremely important matter—the relationship of the Republic of Ireland to the House and to the Assembly—I would support him. He is entitled to say that that relationship has been neglected in our debates on the Bill. However, if he is asking the House to approve of the exact proposals in the new clause, I could not support him. I believe that there should be closer relations between Northern Ireland and the Republic. If I were a citizen of Northern Ireland, I should be in favour of much closer political relationships between the two pieces of Ireland, but I know full well that that is not the view of the majority in Northern Ireland. I do not intend to advocate a shotgun marriage.

    It is often overlooked that it is by no means certain that a closer relationship is wanted by the Republic of Ireland. In public the people of the Republic will all say that they want a united Ireland, but spoken to in private they recognise, not surprisingly, the great difficulties in which they will be placed if they were suddenly saddled with Belfast. There would be the upkeep of Harland and Wolff, not to mention De Lorean, and the enormous obligations that are inherent in taking over Northern Ireland. Therefore, at the moment, I do not believe that the marriage is possible but in the long run I would be in favour of closer relationships.

    New clause 1 brings us back to the nature of the Assembly, to which I have referred before. Surely it would be within the powers of the Assembly to enter into relationships with the Republic if it wanted so to do. I do not share the view that it should not. Local authorities on the mainland now travel to Brussels and other places to argue about fishing and other matters. Surely the Assembly, if it so wishes, can enter into relations with the Republic and should be encouraged to do so. It does not need our authority. I should be grateful if the Secretary of State would confirm that. I doubt whether a committee is the right way to set about it, but that is a matter of detail. It could set up a committee if it so desired.

    The Secretary of State examines the matter largely from the point of view of doing something to cure the violence in Northern Ireland and the division between the separate communities. That is the paramount matter, but is he not in danger of forgetting the lessons that we are now learning from local authorities, over which we have been led into great difficulties because their powers are ill defined? They can undertake all sorts of activities for which they are not bound to pay or accept responsibility.

    The Government are in constant trouble with local authorities because the authorities have become involved in all sorts of business for which they expect central Government or the ratepayers to pay, and which are not closely defined. I beg the Secretary of State to examine the problem with regard to the Assembly and before the Bill becomes law to be a little more precise about what it can do and who will pay for it. The Assembly may be faced with temptations such as conferences, hired consultants and negotiations with Southern Ireland. Who will pay and what authority will the committee have?

    The hon. Member for Hammersmith, North has conferred a favour on the House by enabling us to express our views about the relationship between the Assembly and Southern Ireland, which otherwise we would have been prevented from debating. However, having done that, I hope that he will withdraw his clause and leave this debate on the Order Paper to show that we believe that the Assembly is entitled to have contact with Southern Ireland and that we hope that that contact will grow fruitfully.

    The remarks that I intended to make in the debate on new clause 1 have been somewhat undermined by the revelations of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). I was going to oppose new clause 1 as strenuously as I could. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley), has curiously expressed astonishment at that statement. I am sure that if he pauses to think he will not be as astonished as he is trying to make out.

    The Irish dimension goes to the heart of the doubts of the critics of the Bill. No one on the Conservative Benches, and I suspect no one on the Opposition Benches, would doubt the good faith and good intentions of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. Indeed, those who have watched him, as I have during my short time in the House, could in no way impugn his motives with regard to the Bill.

    In the light of that assessment—perhaps rather an impertinent assessment on my part—the allegations made by the right hon. Member for Down, South become even more serious. In view of the high regard with which my right hon. Friend is held on both sides of the House, I hope that he will take the earliest opportunity possible to refute the right hon. Gentleman's allegations. If not, I hope that he will not only explain what transpired during the interview quoted by the right hon. Gentleman, but reply to those matters which have been raised as a result of the right hon. Gentleman's intervention.

    The terms of new clause 1 are in no way surprising coming, as they do, from the Labour Party. Looked at baldly and in spite of the obligation imposed by the word "shall"—an obligation to which the right hon. Member for Down, South drew attention—there seems to be nothing reprehensible in the clause in the sense that it seems to express good intentions of the type expressed in the White Paper and by my right hon. Friend. It is only when we have the benefit of the interpretation of the intentions behind the clause given by the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North that we begin to appreciate the motives behind its drafting. The motives go to the very heart of the doubts that many of us express about the Bill.

    5.30 pm

    I became doubtful about the Bill because, despite assurances to the contrary by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, its provisions seemed to undermine dramatically the strength of the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Everything that the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North said in introducing the clause confirmed the doubts that I conceived when I first read the Bill.

    Paragraph 23 of the White Paper "Northern Ireland: A Framework for Devolution" refers to an Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Council and to
    "the unique relationship between the two governments".
    It enters the caveat that that unique relationship which should be fostered, as I understand it, by Anglo-Irish talks and joint studies should not affect national sovereignty. In the context of the new clause, I find it difficult to reconcile what is likely to happen as a result of Anglo-Irish talks with the pious expressions of hope expressed in paragraph 23.

    I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison), who, in an intervention, said that he had no objection in principle to conversations taking place between the people of Northern Ireland and the people of the Republic about such matters as economic co-operation, energy and security. I am sure that that would be splendid. As has been observed in another intervention, that type of initiative is taken regularly by local authorities on this side of the water. Initiatives are taken by county councils and metropolitan authorities in Brussels. Loans are raised abroad. Local authorities seem to be able to do such things without acting ultra vires.

    We must be careful when we consider whether the talks that we have adumbrated will have an effect on national sovereignty. Let us suppose that new clause 1 had been bracketed with new clause 3, which stands in the names of the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) and his right hon. and hon. Friends. If that had happened, new clause 1 might have been somewhat more innocuous than it is standing alone, backed by the explanation of the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North.

    I remind the House that new clause 3 refers to the
    "supreme authority of the Parliament of the United Kingdom"
    "unaffected and undiminished over all persons, matters and things in Northern Ireland and every part thereof."
    If such an expression as that is included in the Bill, it seems legitimate that conversations covering matters of mutual interest should take place.

    I am worried when we come to consider the explanation of the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North and the revelations of the right hon. Member for Down, South. I cannot quote from the document to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. However, he quoted from an answer given by the official to whom he referred. I intervened to try to understand exactly what the right hon. Gentleman was saying. His second reason for saying that Northern Ireland integration was a non-starter was that we could not break certain undertakings that we had given to the Irish Government over the constitutional future of Northern Ireland.

    Many questions arise in my mind—a mind that hitherto had been innocent of suspicions of the kind that the right hon. Member for Down, South has endeavoured to sow in the collective mind of the Committee that considered the Bill. One sentence released in my mind a Pandora's box of all the worst suspicions that Unionists have entertained about the motives behind the Bill.

    I could not possibly entertain these suspicions—I am not being sarcastic or disingenuous—about my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. Therefore, I entreat him, if we are to consider the Bill seriously, and even though we may disagree with it, to give us a full explanation of what led up to the extraordinary statement that was made by the official concerned, or to undertake to investigate as a matter of the greatest urgency the circumstances behind the statement.

    According to the right hon. Member for Down, South, the official said "We could not break certain undertakings". Who does the official mean by "We"? Does he mean the Labour Government before the 1979 election? Does he mean the present Government, who were elected in 1979? Does he mean—this I cannot believe in view of the tradition of probity of the English Civil Service—certain undertakings that were given sub rosa—under the table—by officials of the Northern Ireland Office or of the Foreign Office? I am reluctant to believe that the latter is a serious possibility. However, my right hon. Friend would be doing a service for all who hold him in such high regard if he were to clarify the matter at the earliest possible opportunity.

    Secondly, what were the undertakings about? What was the constitutional future of Northern Ireland that was envisaged by the official? Who thought of it? Of what did it consist? What plans were in train to bring it about? The sentence raises more questions than it settles. If the Conservative and Unionist Party is to remain the united force that it still is, we must have answers to these questions very rapidly.

    If my right hon. Friend is unable to give the answers to those questions, many of my hon. Friends and I will find it difficult to support the constitutional principles of the Conservative Party that we thought we had at least in part understood. Indeed, the wishes expressed so clearly by the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North, when he moved the new clause, would be shared by members of the Conservative Party. I am reluctant to reach the conclusion that the bipartisan policy that has been a feature of Northern Ireland policy for so long is intact but envisages a bipartisan policy that many Conservative Members would consider anathema and dangerous to the safety and unity of the Kingdom.

    I intend to vote for the new clause. I am not unmindful of the great difficulties that the new clause could cause in Northern Ireland.

    As I have said before in debates on the Bill, I was a Member of the Northern Ireland Parliament. I was also a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly—I was deputy chief executive—and a member of the constitutional Convention. I remember well the discussions that took place on all 21 points in the Sunningdale agreement. One of the most difficult questions with which we had to grapple was the question of a Council of Ireland. The clause relates to the setting up of a more diminished Council of Ireland than was envisaged at that time. I have already said that so far as I was able to see the Council of Ireland did not in any way endanger the Unionist position in Northern Ireland.

    A veto was written into the proposals, which could be made by one man, whether he be, on the Northern Ireland side, a member of the SDLP, the Alliance or the Official Unionist Party, as it was then, under the leadership of Brian Faulkner, or, on the other hand, a member of the British Government or a member of the Irish Government involved in the Council of Ireland proposals. It took only one man to disagree with any one proposal for that proposal to be subjected to a veto. I am ready to recognise that that part of the Sunningdale agreement on the Council of Ireland was not understood by the Unionist majority in Northern Ireland.

    Some members of the party that I led at that time made unfortunate remarks immediately after Sunningdale. One member was alleged to have said that the Council of Ireland was the vehicle that would trundle the Unionist Party from Northern Ireland to the Republic. That patently was not so. That statement, taken out of context, highlighted and exploited in all sections of the Unionist press in Northern Ireland, did much to create fear, hysteria and suspicion among the Unionist majority population in Northern Ireland. I freely admit that the gentleman who made that remark met with a great deal of opposition and wrath from me at that time. I do not believe that what was printed was what was meant by that member of my party but it had the effect of scaring the living daylights out of the vast majority of the Unionist population.

    The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) said that new clause 1 was a "shall" clause. He has moved a lot of "shall" clauses. I have been in the House when he has wanted to insert a whole lot of "shalls" and do away with a whole lot of "mays". There is nothing strange about that. The new clause says:
    "The Assembly shall, by its Standing Orders, make provision for the establishment of a Committee of Members of the Assembly for the purpose of
    (i) discussing such matters as it or the Assembly may consider necessary to improve relations between the Assembly and the Republic of Ireland".
    Throughout Irish history things have always taken place at the wrong time. I am not in the least inhibited by some of the things that will be said against me when I make these remarks. The Government in the Republic are not the most favourable Government who could be in power when we are discussing such a clause.

    5.45 pm

    I understand the Unionist fears. There is a Falklands spectre in attitudes in this country, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

    The Government in the Republic of Ireland have had a disastrous effect on Anglo-Irish relations, more so on North-South relations in the island of Ireland. I do not support the attitude taken by the Irish Government. Perhaps the newspapers in the Republic and Northern Ireland will say that the clause is telling us in some way to reach a deal with Charles Haughey, the present Taoiseach, and his Fianna Fail Government. However, the clause is saying nothing of the sort. It is saying that, whatever Government may be in power in the Republic, there is the reality that we live on one land mass. We must co-operate on security because of what is happening now. There is no reason why we should not co-operate industrially and economically, on gas and electricity. I do not think that there is any reasonable person, whether in the House or any political party in the island of Ireland, who would say that that co-operation should not take place.

    Many years ago when I sat on the Government Benches Sir Knox Cunningham, who represented Antrim, South, and I began to talk about co-operation on gas and electricity. He said that he did not want Republican gas in Northern Ireland. He did not want green gas, in other words. That shows the ridiculous lengths to which Unionist fears can go. If the Republic is happy to use the surplus of electricity in Northern Ireland, we should be prepared to use any surplus gas in the Republic.

    Is it not clear from the view that President Reagan has expressed recently that he has fears of Soviet gas? Does that fall into the same category?

    President Reagan is far removed from Dublin, Drogheda, Belfast and Newry. I wonder what the views of Unionist Members would be on the resignation of A1 Haig. I do not believe that in our politics we can go so far as to pass an opinion on that international event. Perhaps the right hon. Member for Down, South can be included in that.

    The island of Ireland is a small island. We are not connected to the Continent of Europe. We are an offshore island off another offshore island. I have heard Conservative Members talk about the fears of the Unionist Party, as if there were only one population or political party in Northern Ireland. There are many political parties in Northern Ireland. Essentially there is a great divide between the nationalist population and the Unionist population. This has nothing to do with the IRA, or the INLA—or the murdering gangsters who purport to represent that section of the minority.

    The Catholic population has fears that must be taken into account when considering the legitimate fears held by Unionist Members on behalf of their constituents. I recognise the difficulties inherent in the acceptance of the clause. I remember the dying days in 1974 of the Northern Ireland Executive. The Executive did not die because of power sharing. An increasing number of people in Northern Ireland, right across the political and religious divide, were—albeit reluctantly—beginning to accept that a one-party State had gone for ever and that there had to be power sharing if there were to be any hope of political progress.

    There now appear to be differences between the different sections of the Unionist Party. At that time there were 11 members of the United Ulster Unionist Council sitting on both sides of the House. There was an uneasy coalition between different sections of the Unionist population. That amity has since disintegrated. The fear that welded them together was that the Council of Ireland would in some way drag them into the Irish Republic against their will. However, the Sunningdale proposals gave an effective guarantee against that in the form of a veto. The clause does not in any way force Members of the Assembly to take part in discussions that they feel might endanger the constitutional position of Northern Ireland. After the committee was set up there could be a period during which those fears could be allayed or dispelled and agreement could be reached on other Northern Ireland projects—the setting up of an Executive or the appointment of chairmen of committees. When confidence had been built up among the elected representatives within the confines of Northern Ireland it would be seen that there was no danger in accepting this committee.

    Why not set it up at that time? I asked the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley) that question and he ducked the answer. Why this element of compulsion? Why not allow the Assembly to do what we require in every other area as confidence and trust is built up, allowing it to evolve its own committees and institutions? Why force the issue?

    I accept the hon. Gentleman's reasonable attitude. The Council of Ireland proposals were the most difficult that we had to discuss at Sunningdale. The same arguments were put forward. I was convinced by the opinion that was expressed—that opinion did not emanate from the SDLP or the representatives of the Republic—and that was fully supported by the majority of Members that there had to be a package that had to include the 22 Sunningdale articles. If it was done bit by bit, each proposal that was added would bring a good deal of controversy and would exacerbate the difficulties.

    My record clearly shows that I have never supported, and never would support, any move, whether by a clause in the Bill or by the armed intervention of the IRA, to force the Unionist population into the Republic against their will. I do not believe that is possible. Nor will I support the concept of bringing about a united Ireland by intrigue, coercion or armed force. That view may lead to my demise from politics in Northern Ireland. I am prepared to accept defeat in the belief that one cannot coerce, dragoon, bully, shoot or murder the Unionist population into a united Ireland against its will. I am convinced that the clause does not attempt to do the things that I have condemned.

    I was trying to follow the logic of the hon. Gentleman's argument. There was one inconsistency that the hon. Gentleman might like to clear up. He said that the clause—although diminished in value—was an Irish dimension. He then said that it was not the power-sharing element of the Sunningdale agreement that brought about its destruction but the Irish dimension. If it was the Irish dimension that destroyed Sunningdale and this—although diminished—is an Irish dimension, will it not bring down the Assembly?

    I believe I have been consistent. I am convinced that the Council of Ireland proposals led to a great deal of animosity and hostility being directed towards the Executive. This is a mark II Council of Ireland. The clause does not say that there must be seven members from the Northern Ireland Executive, seven members from the Republic of Ireland and seven members from the British Government. The clause does not mention numbers. It faces the reality that Northern Ireland is part of the island of Ireland. The Republic will not go away and Northern Ireland will not wake up one morning to find that it is part of the land mass of England, Scotland and Wales.

    The hon. Gentleman is making a good case. Can I pursue the question of "shall" and "may"? It is a delicate decision. The case for "shall" as opposed to "may" is that if there is a majority of 51 per cent. opposed to it, although 49 per cent.—including a significant number of Unionists—would like to compromise and make some progress that would be to the benefit of the people of Northern Ireland, such progress could not be made. That is the argument for "shall" as opposed to "may".

    My hon. Friend has drawn to my attention something that I have said in the House before. The Sunningdale agreement was reached in December 1973. Unfortunately, for reasons that had nothing to do with Northern Ireland, there had to be an election in the United Kingdom in February 1974. That was only six or seven weeks after the Executive had taken power in Northern Ireland. The election had nothing to do with power-sharing, the Irish dimension or the Council of Ireland. It had everything to do with industrial relations and the miners' strike at that time. In the election, 51 per cent. of the votes were cast against the Sunningdale agreement and 49 per cent. of the votes for pro-Sunningdale candidates. The 51 per cent. returned 11 UUUC candidates. One candidate was elected by the pro-Sunningdale vote. That was myself. I agree that a margin of 49 per cent. to 51 per cent. should not be allowed to dictate the future progress of political development in Ireland.

    6 pm

    I wish to address some remarks especially to the Secretary of State. I am not particularly talking to hon. Members sitting behind me or to those on the Conservative Benches. Their attitudes are conditioned by the history of Northern Ireland and, so far as Right-wing Members of the Conservative Party are concerned, by other matters. I ask the Secretary of State not to reject the new clause lightly. It is an integral part of any political progress that may come about in Northern Ireland. I ask him to treat it with the seriousness that it deserves. It has not been put on the Notice Paper flippantly. It is a recognition that Ireland is an island and that one cannot attempt to govern six counties of that State in a spirit of total animosity and hostility towards the Republic.

    We have to be honest. I am not certain what would be the outcome if a referendum were conducted in Fermanagh. The fact is that the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Carron) does not sit in this House. He believes that his county should not be under the jurisdiction of this House. I disagree totally with all the political sentiments of that gentleman. However, he has the support, or would appear to have the support, of the people in county Fermanagh. The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Mr. Dunlop) will, I think, agree that if there were a straight vote between a Unionist candidate and a Nationalist candidate in county Tyrone the result would be the same. I am not, of course, certain. No one can be certain. If, however, that happened, the Unionist majority in Northern Ireland would be left with four counties. If Derry and South Armagh were taken off, this would leave the Unionist majority with three or two and a half counties. One cannot therefore talk all the time about the Unionist majority and about Unionist fears and suspicions.

    The Unionist majority in Northern Ireland is an artificial majority. The Catholic nationalist minority in Northern Ireland is an artificial minority. The border was drawn in Northern Ireland without any reference to the people who live in Northern Ireland. Indeed, it was opposed by a significant section of Unionists in Northern Ireland. I understand that the Secretary of State is under considerable pressure not only from Northern Ireland but also from hon. Members in this House over the Bill. I do not wish to exacerbate existing tensions by naming names. I do not want to involve the right hon. Gentleman in more hot water. I can only say that I have found, at all times, that civil servants in the Northern Ireland Office, under both Labour and Conservative Governments, have acted as civil servants.

    I am not sure where the right hon. Member for Down, South got his information. I recall that when the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) supplied information to the House that could only have been given to him by a civil servant in Northern Ireland, hon. Members on both sides were most annoyed that he should have made the information public. I understand that many of those employed by the Northern Ireland Office do not intend to make the Civil Service their career. Many are confirmed academics who are asked at times, by whatever Government are in power, to put forward their views on a particular subject. It would be very inhibiting if a civil servant who had been asked, in the interests of the Government, to give his point of view, feared that at some time in the future he would be regarded as a traitor and that his name would be mentioned in the House.

    All civil servants do not have to agree with the policy of the Government in power. I believe that I have met Mr. Clive Abbott whose name has been mentioned. I think that I must have met him on a number of occasions when I have met a succession of Secretaries of State who are surrounded on such occasions by their Civil Service advisers. It is wrong to point the finger at someone who has given his career to the Civil Service in Northern Ireland. It is wrong that he should be called a traitor because he does not agree, or it is suspected that he does not agree, with the policy now being promulgated. It is also unfair.

    The right hon. Member for Down, South, when he reconsiders his remarks, may find that he has attacked a member of the Civil Service who has given sincere service to his Department. The fact that he may disagree with the right hon. Gentleman's views are not sufficient reason for the right hon. Gentleman perhaps to have put the career of that civil servant in jeopardy.

    There are many civil servants in Northern Ireland with whom I have disagreed. I have yet to stand up and place their careers in jeopardy. The right hon. Gentleman has made it imperative that the Secretary of State makes some response to what has been said about the civil servant. I believe, in conclusion, that the Secretary of State should not lightly reject the new clause.

    I wish to take up briefly the penultimate point made by the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt). I am sorry that the Secretary of State is now leaving. I can well understand that the Secretary of State feels that he has heard more than enough of my aggression and prolixity. I make no apology for that. Our wish to defeat this Bill made our conduct both proper and necessary. But the Secretary of State has now effectively got the Bill. I hope that my remarks will be treated as those of someone who accepts the present position and who suggests, almost as a detached Englishman, that there may be a way in which we Englishmen can look objectively at some of the lessons that have been learnt in the long hours spent considering the Bill.

    At one stage during our deliberations, we pressed and pressed the Secretary of State to say why he had abandoned the Tory Party promise that there should be substantial enhancement of local government in Northern Ireland. I was impressed by his argument that, while English logic might support the enhancement of local government, the myths of the Irish, and more especially the Northern Irish, were such that the enhancement of local government would create suspicion and mistrust, certainly within the minority community.

    Whether there is such a myth and whether it can be exorcised, I cannot say from my relatively detached, English position. However, I understand the power of the myth in politics and what we have seen today is a further example of that power. It is the deep suspicion that is felt by the majority community in Northern Ireland that they may be sold out. Every time we notice any sign of the myth becoming a reality, we see action and concern among the majority of the community and we see the sensitivity of the Secretary of State.

    I accept the stage that the Bill has reached and, without wishing to be ironic or funny, I shall be brief in examining the causes of the suspicion and misunderstanding that are felt by the majority community. The meetings that the Prime Minister had with Mr. Haughey when he was Taoiseach for the first time were unfortunate. The Prime Minister refused to answer questions in the House of Commons about what was said at those meetings.

    I do not suggest that misunderstandings have been created entirely by the Secretary of State. The refusal of the Prime Minister to answer questions in the normal way in the House of Commons was likely to be misunderstood and it was misunderstood. The behaviour of Mr. Haughey after those meetings in his first period in office as Taoiseach was entirely predictable to those of us who have observed his conduct from England. It was entirely consistent with his character that he represented his meetings with the Prime Minister as a personal triumph for him and the beginning of the road towards a united Ireland.

    Indeed. It was most unfortunate that the Prime Minister allowed herself to be put in that position. It was also unfortunate that, according to press reports, the Secretary of State, in his first attempt at a White Paper, made a clear commitment to a Council of Ireland and an Irish dimension. But, according to press reports that have not been denied, the Cabinet required the Secretary of State to remove those passages from the White Paper.

    6.15 pm

    It has also been the Secretary of State's misfortune that, in all significant respects, he has had the Opposition's support. It is plain that there is a considerable divergence of view between the right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) and the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley). The right hon. Gentleman represents the old consensus formed when the two Front Benches agreed on a policy for Northern Ireland. His support is the more unfortunate because there is more than a suspicion in many people's minds that, had he had the opportunity when he was a Minister for Northern Ireland, he would have presented a similar Bill with the support of similar civil servants. Yet we find that the Bill is supported by Labour Members because they, like Mr. Haughey, perhaps mistakenly, see it as a significant step—

    That may be so, but he may also be powerful. I am not talking about whether he is a nice man with whom to have a cup of tea but whether he is a repository of power, which he certainly is. It has been the Secretary of State's misfortune to have the Opposition's support on grounds that can only undermine his position.

    The misfortune has been increased today. I do not wish to exaggerate the information that the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) laid before the House. However, there is an understandable reluctance in Britain to accept without argument or debate the advice that all civil servants offer their Ministers. No one suggests that all civil servants are inclined to become a little too big for their boots, any more than it can be suggested that all policemen are bent. However, sometimes powerful and intelligent civil servants who represent the forces of continuity within their Department are more powerful and persuasive than their nominal political masters. There is more than a suspicion in Britain that the civil servants at the Foreign Office had an independent policy on the Falkland Islands that was never properly considered by their nominal masters. We shall discover whether that is true during later inquiries, but there is none the less a suspicion.

    The information and the evidence produced by the right hon. Member for Down, South raises that grave suspicion about the Northern Ireland Office. In asking that the Secretary of State should lay those fears at rest, I shall not prolong my speech to force him to do so. I cannot by further intervention persuade him that I have any leverage in the matter. However, I hope that he understands that I wish him well personally. He has paid great attention to the matter and has fought hard in difficult circumstances to secure the advance of the initiative. He would do well to attempt to lay the initiative upon firm foundations. There is too much of the myth to which he referred in another connection in an earlier debate. There is too much misunderstanding about that. Would my right hon. Friend not be right, although we cannot now force him to do so, to delay a little?

    The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) referred to the creation of political myths. One should be dealt with immediately. It is not true that the Labour Party has consistently supported the Secretary of State with the Bill. On the contrary, it has abstained at every stage. It has not taken any discernible line. It is entitled to do that. Nevertheless, neither the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, nor the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison), has the right to suggest that the Bill has enjoyed the consistent support of the official Opposition. It has not.

    The second myth, which may be created rapidly by the hon. Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Cranborne), is that Mr. Abbott is a civil servant in the Foreign Office.

    The hon. Gentleman referred to the possibility of there being some connection with the Foreign Office. I listened closely to the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). I understood him to refer, with great regret, to an official in the Northern Ireland Office. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), I believe that the phrases that the right hon. Member for Down, South quoted could bear a perfectly innocent interpretation as well as a much more worrying one. Both the present Secretary of State and his predecessors have stated several times that the Government are not in favour of a return, on the old form, to local government in Northern Ireland. That is no news. That has been the case many times when Northern Ireland has been debated in the House.

    There remains the understanding. Most hon. Members have understood for a long time that the Government would not move towards integration. I hope that the Secretary of State will say something about that. I do not find the quotation that the right hon. Member for Down, South made as portentous as he implied unless he was suggesting that a particular civil servant acted Napoleonically. In that case, I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland that that is unfortunate and it would be better if civil servants did not act in that way. I do not see why the right hon. Gentleman gave the quotation unless he places the most unfavourable interpretation on it or that it necessarily carries the significant interpretation that he made.

    I shall remind the right hon. Lady of the expression:

    whoever that is—
    "couldn't break certain undertakings we have given to the Irish government over the constitutional future of Northern Ireland."

    I did not mishear the right hon. Gentleman. He speaks so clearly that anyone who pays any attention can understand what he says. The phrase can be interpreted to apply to integration. The House has understood for some time that the integration of Northern Ireland with Great Britain in the way that the right hon. Gentleman has consistently expounded was not normally expected by the Government. Do I misunderstand?

    Yes. The natural meaning is that to treat Northern Ireland as part of the rest of the United Kingdom was contrary to an understanding that was reached with the Government of the Irish Republic as to the constitutional arrangements in Northern Ireland. That is what it says.

    I am sorry. I listened closely to the right hon. Gentleman but the quotation could still bear my interpretation. Constitutional arrangements would also include integration, unless I am unclear about the meaning of the word.

    Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland, the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley) has done the House a service by enabling us to debate this subject. I am sure that that was his intention. It is disturbing—Conservative Members have made this point clear—that almost any interpretation of an understanding on closer co-operation is often treated as grounds for suspicion as if it is in some way a commitment by the Government to reunification only by consent. That is to say that the views of the people of Northern Ireland must be paramount, to use a phrase that was recently used in another context. That remains the bipartisan element between the parties that have so far taken part in the debate here.

    If that is so, if all parties in this House accept the right of the people of Northern Ireland to determine their future, the attempt to find a major division between the parties falls to one side. The hon. Member for Hammersmith, North and the right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) have said repeatedly that unification must come by consent. That is a different interpretation. All parties have accepted that consent is the essental preliminary to any change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. That is the basis of the House's tripartisan approach.

    The more often one talks about reunification in the Northern Ireland context the more often one creates suspicion. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West referred to that. It is feared that in some sense and at some stage the consent will be pushed away. I do not believe that, nor do I believe that the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North said that it was the case. He merely said that he would like that to happen.

    My party takes a firm stand on the consent of the people of Northern Ireland—it is critical. That consent might be more readily forthcoming, not through reunification but by co-operation, if suspicions of Northern Irish Unionists could be put at rest. The more certainly they believe that they will not be betrayed on consent, the more readily they will accept co-operation that in future might lead to a different relationship among the Republic, Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

    In that context, paragraph 23 of the White Paper is correct. It refers specifically to a parliamentary Joint Committee on which Members of this House and of the Dail might serve and of which Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly might be a part. That is the most reassuring formulation upon which closer co-operation could be built. On that point I more readily support the Secretary of State than the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North, because, as the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Lloyd) said, the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North is trying to move faster than he can, given the depth of the suspicion of the Unionists about consent.

    All hon. Members have said that there is scope for co-operation on economic matters. There is scope for co-operation on the economic infrastructure and on higher education, in which there is a Northern Irish surplus and a Southern Irish deficit. As my party, with the support of the Liberal Party, has said, there might also be cooperation on a Joint Committee to examine the application for EEC funds to benefit the island of Ireland. That is an obvious area in which co-operation might be developed. A lead has been given in that direction by Members of the European Parliament, whether they be Unionists, Paisleyites or even members of the SDLP. I should also welcome the development of a joint appeal court along the lines that were suggested by Dr. Garret FitzGerald, when he was Taoiseach, before Mr. Haughey replaced him.

    The right hon. Lady has talked with considerable reason about suspicion and the prevalence of that emotion in the politics of Northern Ireland. Does she agree that, if my right hon. Friend were to elucidate the circumstances lying behind the answer that was given in the interview that the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) quoted, to a large extent, if that explanation were satisfactory and laid the suspicions of the Unionist majority to rest, it would help the process that she advocates?

    6.30 pm

    It might, but I fear that the mistrust is so profound that even the evidence and the good will of the Secretary of State would have difficulty dispersing it. That has come out clearly in the debate.

    Clause 12 of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 provided a precise right for the Northern Ireland Executive to seek arrangements and agreements with the Government of the Republic, without any parliamentary accountability and without any reference to this House. If that was the position in 1973, it is rather sad—perhaps it is a sign of how far we have slipped back—that the suggestion of a link between the Assembly and the Parliament of the Republic should be the source of so much suspicion. That is why I think that the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North has moved too quickly. To be fair, however, the 1973 Act went a great deal further than anything that he or his right hon. Friend is currently suggesting.

    My final question to the Secretary of State concerns clause 4(4), which refers to the right of the Assembly to set up any committee that it wishes. Paragraph 23 of the White Paper states:
    "The Government would expect the arrangements"—
    that is, arrangements with the Republic—
    "to enable members of the Northern Ireland Assembly to participate if they so wished."
    The definite article is used. The reference is to "the" arrangements. Will the Secretary of State tell us a little more about the type of arrangement that he had in mind in the White Paper but to which there is no subsequent reference in the Bill other than in clause 4(4)? Secondly, does he envisage under clause 4(4) an arrangement of some kind which would involve the Assembly possibly in a link between this House and the Dail? It would be helpful to the House to have the right hon. Gentleman's observations on that point.

    It may be for the convenience of the House if I intervene at this stage. If other hon. Members wish to take part in the debate, perhaps I may be allowed the leave of the House to reply to them later. In view of the matters that have been raised, it may be for the convenience of the House if I speak immediately rather than allowing matters to develop in a way that I think would be wrong and most unfortunate for the people involved. An example of this was the intervention of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) in the speech of the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mrs. Williams).

    I begin by setting out once again the Government's position with regard to the status of Northern Ireland, as I believe that it has at times been forgotten in the debate. The status of Northern Ireland is clearly laid down in the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973. Section 1 of that Act reads as follows:
    "It is hereby declared that Northern Ireland remains part of Her Majesty's dominions and of the United Kingdom, and it is hereby affirmed that in no event will Northern Ireland or any part of it cease to be part of Her Majesty's dominions and of the United Kingdom without the consent of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland voting in a poll held for the purposes of this section in accordance with Schedule 1 to this Act."
    That remains the position of Her Majesty's Government. I wish to put that on record straight away.

    That does not mean that there are not fears, to which the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) drew attention, on both sides of the community—fears on the part of the Catholic population about their future just as much as fears on the part of the Unionist population about their future. It does us no good, however, if in this House we seek to erect fears and suspicions that are absolutely groundless in fact.

    That is why I seek to deal with the remarks of the right hon. Member for Down, South. I must say at the outset that I have yet to see the documentary evidence that he intends to produce. From what I have been able to discern so far, the right hon. Gentleman gave the impression that there was some official document by an official of the Northern Ireland Office—either a letter or a written set of answers to questions, or something of that nature. That is the only possible way in which we could begin to take the matter seriously.

    So far as I am aware, it was nothing of the sort. So far as I can identify the occasion, a researcher went to see a junior member of the Northern Ireland Office and asked him a number of questions. Presumably, the researcher took down his record of what he thought the junior official at the Northern Ireland Office had said. Generally on such occasions, if the researcher wishes to be precise in what he does, he checks back with the person with whom the interview took place. On this occasion, that did not happen. Therefore, so far as I can tell, there is no justification for the quotation produced by the right hon. Member for Down, South.

    This is very important. That is why I sought to intervene at this stage. When the right hon. Member for Down, South intervened in the speech of the right hon. Member for Crosby, it began to appear that what the right hon. Gentleman had produced was being accepted as an exact quotation. So far as I can ascertain, it was nothing of the kind. The right hon. Gentleman achieved a considerable sense of drama by the manner in which he produced this. As a result, for a short period, he caused far greater importance to be given to his document than was in any way justified.

    I wish to make it absolutely clear that there are no such undertakings as the right hon. Gentleman accuses the Civil Service or a junior civil servant or the Government of having given. There are no such undertakings at all. No civil servant could have given such undertakings and reported them as being Government policy, because only Government Ministers can make Government policy. I therefore refute totally any accusation that such undertakings were given. In this case, I do not even believe that it is correct to say that the gentleman concerned said those things, but even if he had said them it would have been quite wrong to believe that they were undertakings given by the Government, because they were not.

    With regard to the accusation that Mr. Haughey said that he did not like local government reform, the number of people who have told me in the past few months that they do not like local government reform is legion. I do not need Mr. Haughey to tell me that. The nationalists and a good many others can tell me that, and they have done so. The House may be interested to know that during the side meetings during the talks between the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of the Republic last November the then Foreign Minister of the Republic told me that he did not like my ideas of local government reform. He made that perfectly clear. I said that I accepted that he did not like them, but that I did not necessarily agree with him and that it was for me and for the Government to make up our own minds. Of course we knew that the Government of the Republic did not like our ideas.

    Where a State has a land border with another State, and where we have had so much trouble with security, it is not necessarily wrong to take the views of that other State into consideration when considering the importance of security aspects. We would be extremely negligent if we did not do so. On that point there is no problem.

    I ask the House to accept my absolute assurance that no such undertakings have been given and that no civil servant could have given those undertakings. If he did, they are meaningless because they are not ministerial undertakings. That is the constitutional position to which I strongly hold.

    I deplore the attitude of the right hon. Member for Down, South. He had no cause to name a junior civil servant in my Department. That civil servant—a fine young civil servant who has served the Government and myself extremely well—did not appear on the team dealing with the Bill until some time in February. I had never met him until then. Although by that time my mind and that of the Government were not entirely made up, many consultations had taken place. I had examined fairly and reasonably every possible scenario put to me about devolved government, local government powers, direct rule and integration.

    It is nonsense to suggest that anything that the civil servant said about relationships, or about undertakings given to the Republic that Ministers knew nothing about, had any effect on my attitude in presenting papers to my Government colleagues. It would not have made the slightest difference because I was making up my mind on what to present to Ministers. In no way was I influenced, nor could I have been influenced, by an undertaking supposedly given to the Irish Government by a civil servant. In any case, I believe it to be wholly erroneous.

    My right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary and my other Cabinet colleagues have followed these matters through with the papers that are presented to Government and to the Cabinet. They would have had their say, and did so. The views put forward in the White Paper and in the Bill are those of the Government after considering all the issues.

    The right hon. Gentleman has been pursuing his theory of a conspiracy for a long time against members of my Department. He has been wrong to do so. He has not produced to my satisfaction or, I imagine, that of the House any evidence today to substantiate his allegations of the past few months. Having said that, I understand that he intends to let me have the documents concerned. I hope that they are signed and that the letter has Abbott's signature on it. I shall expect it to have; otherwise I cannot take these matters seriously. In any case, I believe that they are totally immaterial to the Bill and to the discussions that we have had over a long time. Unless the right hon. Gentleman can produce further evidence—

    I remind the right hon. Gentleman of what I actually said. I said that I wished to quote from the note of certain replies which were given. That is what I promised to put in the hands of the right hon. Gentleman. That is entirely consistent with what I said to the House.

    6.45 pm

    That was not the impression gained by Conservative Members. Were those notes written notes? Were they agreed notes? What were those notes?

    That is disgraceful. I hope that, on reflection, the right hon. Gentleman will apologise to a young civil servant to whom he is bound to have caused a great deal of distress. The young man has been trying to carry out his job properly, but he has been named. That is an unusual step to take in the House.

    The right hon. Gentleman has already admitted in his reply that the Government have been influenced in their constitutional proposals for Northern Ireland by what they regarded would be the effect on cross-border security.

    I am talking about security, and I am entitled to do that. Security dogs us in Northern Ireland day after day, as the right hon. Gentleman should know. I have an absolute duty to do everything within my power as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to improve security on the border. I shall always stick to that point.

    The rest of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was mostly concerned with a further argument for integration. We have had those arguments for a great deal of time over the past six days in Committee.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) made a thoughtful speech. I hope that my hon. Friend will accept that, although we disagree on the Bill, I have nothing but admiration for his constant interest in Northern Ireland affairs. I respect his position. At one time he took a different view, but he has changed that. He tells me that in a few years I may change as well, but that is another matter. However, he has maintained a totally honourable position.

    My hon. Friend made a significant and interesting remark in saying that he was a supporter of a united Ireland within the sovereignty of the Republic and the United Kingdom. I hope that we can hear more about that in due course because that is an attempt to bring the Republic and the United Kingdom closer together.

    My right hon. Friend did not quote me correctly. I said not "within the sovereignty", but "recognising the sovereignty" of the two nation States within the British Isles.

    I apologise for misquoting my hon. Friend, but it is the beginning once more of the recognition that there are two identities, that there are two allegiances, and the need to see how those allegiances can be brought together.

    I return to the White Paper. Paragraph 18 clearly states:
    "The object of the Government's proposals is to point to a way whereby, in spite of their acknowledged and continuing differences, the two sides of the community may achieve sufficient mutual respect, and make sufficient mutual accommodations, to participate more creatively in the public life of the Province".
    That recognition exists there.

    The new clause seeks to recognise the fact that there are those who wish to have a closer association with the Republic. The right hon. Member for Crosby mentioned co-operation on economic matters, as did other hon. Members. It is perfectly right that we should have the closest co-operation on economic matters. I have been enormously upset by the fact that co-operation between North and South is now less than it was in the days of the old Stormont. It has got worse in recent years rather than better.

    Many years ago, when I was Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the corresponding Minister in the Stormont Government was Mr. Harry West, who for a time served in this House. I know that he had a far closer relationship with the Republic Government on a whole range of agriculture matters than we have today. Therefore, much more can be, and needs to be, done. At present, we are in competition on quite a few matters. It would make sense if there was not such a level of competition between us. Therefore, all that can be done to improve co-operation on economic matters is to the advantage of both the Government of the Republic and Northern Ireland itself.

    However, I believe that this matter is best left to the Northern Ireland devolved Assembly. One of my hon. Friends said that there were many fears and suspicions. One of the sad factors of the last two or three years, when there have been summit conferences, has been suspicion that machinations, decisions and agreements have been made between the Government in Westminster and Whitehall and in Dublin without consultation with, or the knowledge of, the people of Northern Ireland. That has been unfortunate, because it is untrue and it has led to great suspicion. That is one reason why I believe that an Assembly acting on its own is more likely to improve those relations, particularly on economic matters, than is the case at present under direct rule.

    As a number of hon. Members have pointed out, the new clause would make it compulsory for the Assembly to set up this committee. Nothing in the Bill prevents such a committee being set up it if is the wish and the will of the Assembly. The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) said that perhaps Sunningdale and post-Sunningdale—the Irish dimension—were pushed a bit too hard and that if time had been taken over this a better atmosphere might have been created. The hon. Gentleman ought to recognise that if we try to make such a committee compulsory we may put people's backs up and we shall not achieve any success or advance at all. The only way in which a committee of this nature can possibly succeed is if it is adopted voluntarily by the Assembly. It has the power, it can do so whenever it likes and I hope that in time it will do so.

    The right hon. Member for Crosby also asked about the arrangements that could enable Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly to take part in any Anglo-Irish body that was set up at parliamentary level. The White Paper is quite explicit about that. Paragraph 23 states:
    "The Government would expect the arrangements to enable members of the Northern Ireland Assembly to participate if they so wished."
    The arrangements one has in mind are that if and when this Parliament and the Dail decide that they wish to make progress on this matter and an Assembly is in being, it would be for the Assembly Members, if they so wished, to say that they would like to take part.

    When I have been tackled on this question by the SDLP, I have made it perfectly clear that I believe that this is not the great blueprint for the pan-Irish arrangement that it would like to see. I believe that any body of that nature would be much more akin to, say, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. I must make my view on this matter clear, because I do not want any misunderstanding. I do not believe that this will develop quickly into a body that has powers. It must be entirely voluntary. I would not wish to say anything that prevented participation by individual Members of the Assembly when that body is set up.

    It is not for me to say when that will happen. That is a matter for this House and the Dail. The Dail has made no move as yet so far as I am aware, and this House certainly has made no move. In fact, as the hon. Member for Belfast, West pointed out in what for him were quiet tones, relationships between the Government of the Republic and this House at present do not make it easy for such an arrangement to come into existence. That was the hon. Gentleman at his most responsible and quietest. It was the understatement of the week for him, if not for others. I therefore believe that the setting up of such a committee will take some time.

    That in no way prevents what we all hope to see—the development of good relations between the Republic and the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland. We shall continue to do everything we can to impress on the Republic the fact that not only does it have a responsibility to help us with our security problems, but that it is very much in its interests that it should deal with terrorism itself. I hope that the very good co-operation will continue, and I assure my hon. Friends that it is continuing at present. Nothing will be done in any way to stop that.

    In its first phase, the Assembly will have no powers as such. It can set up committees if it wishes to do so, but it will be controlled by the amount of money that it is voted. That remains under the control of this House, as do all money matters, while the Assembly is in its early phase. Therefore, the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) need not worry that at that stage the Assembly will spend money on a proliferation of committees and bodies of one sort or another, because it will not be in a position to do so.

    Anyone who knows the problems of Northern Ireland knows the suspicions that can be raised and the prejudices and fears that are ever-present on both sides of the community. A number of them have been raised this afternoon, and they are never far below the surface. The Government and I are seeking to achieve a difficult objective. A number of things could so easily go wrong. However, we wish to fill this political vacuum to try to give some opportunity for the people in Northern Ireland to test their debating skills and their arguments, the one against the other, as we do in the House. It may lead to a meeting point which over a time can lead on to the better government of Northern Ireland.

    7 pm

    We have to make a start somewhere, and we have decided to make a start with what I would term phase 1 of the Assembly. It will have the power to set up committees if it wishes to do so. It will take some time before committees are set up other than those provided for in the Bill. I hope that by setting up this Assembly and giving it an opportunity to debate we shall at least remove some of the suspicions that for a number of years have been held about the attitude of the House and of successive Governments. These views have enabled people such as the right hon. Member for Down, South to raise fears and to dwell on them in a manner that is extraordinarily damaging to the peace and future of Northern Ireland, which he represents.

    We have now had over three hours debate on new clause 1, and we have a long way to go. I should not wish it to be thought that the Opposition has started at this late stage to try to filibuster the rest of the Bill.

    I am amazed at the reaction of hon. Members to the new clause, which we shall be pressing to a Division. It has been said that the Opposition have done the House a service by tabling the clause so that hon. Members can have a chat about the issue it raises. However, this is a much more serious issue than one to have a chat about. This is the time when the Labour Party has to start putting its votes and sympathies where its policies belong.

    It is not good enough to say that we all know that in Ireland the South talks to the North and Ministers talk to each other. I know that this happens because I was involved in so many of the discussions. The talks, and the help that each side can give the other on the economy, security and many other issues are opportunities that should be grasped by both sides.

    The Labour Party has brought this issue—the Irish dimesion, if the House wishes to call it that—to the Floor of the House. We intend to keep it there so that the House can discuss it at every opportunity. This is a problem that will not go away, and the sooner that the House faces up to the issue, the better.

    The Labour Party believes that we must win the consent of the Northern Irish people, and of the Southern Irish people, if our policies are to be furthered. There will have to be co-operation and hard work if we are to win that consent. Nobody knows better than I do how difficult a task the Labour Party has set itself. We are not talking about next month or next year. We do not envisage any time scale. It is the policy of our party that we should work towards a peaceful solution in the island of Ireland.

    It is despicable that our new clause 1 has been the vehicle for what I regard, after 16 years in the House, as the dirtiest piece of political assassination I have yet witnessed. It must have been the Tory dirty tricks department that helped that assassination, because whenever the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) was speaking, I noticed the knowing grins on the faces behind the Ministers. That gave me the impression that there was collusion on this supposedly infamous "document", which turned out to be anything but a document.

    From my knowledge of the certain gentleman in the Northern Ireland Department, I know that he is a fine upstanding civil servant. The right hon. Gentleman gave the impression of having a signed and sealed document that he could place before us. The political assassination that took place this afternoon is on a par with what happens in Northern Ireland. It was like pulling the trigger of an Armalite rifle on this poor civil servant. It is despicable, and I despise the fact that the Opposition's new clause was used as a vehicle for this political assassination of a civil servant. There were no grounds for doing so, and I should back the Secretary of State to the hilt on that issue.

    We shall press the clause to a Division. The problem of the Irish dimension will not go away. We have to face up to it, and the sooner the House does so, the better.

    Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

    The House divided: Ayes 87, Noes 174.

    Division No. 249]

    [7.06 pm


    Bottomley, Rt Hon A.(M'b'ro)McNamara, Kevin
    Bray, Dr JeremyMcTaggart, Robert
    Brown, R. C. (N'castle W)Marks, Kenneth
    Buchan, NormanMarshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
    Campbell-Savours, DaleMason, Rt Hon Roy
    Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
    Clarke, Thomas C'b'dge,A'rieMiller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
    Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S)Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby)
    Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
    Crowther, StanMoyle, Rt Hon Roland
    Cryer, BobO'Halloran, Michael
    Davidson, ArthurPalmer, Arthur
    Davis, Terry (B'ham, Stechf'd)Park, George
    Deakins, EricParry, Robert
    Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
    Dewar, DonaldRace, Reg
    Dormand, JackRoberts, Albert (Normanton)
    Duffy, A. E. P.Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
    Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.Robertson, George
    Eadie, AlexRooker, J. W.
    Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're)Sheerman, Barry
    Ennals, Rt Hon DavidSilkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford)
    Evans, loan (Aberdare)Silverman, Julius
    Evans, John (Newton)Skinner, Dennis
    Ewing, HarrySnape, Peter
    Faulds, AndrewSoley, Clive
    Field, FrankSpearing, Nigel
    Fitt, GerardStallard, A. W.
    Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)Stoddart, David
    Forrester, JohnStrang, Gavin
    Foster, DerekSummerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
    Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
    Graham, TedWainwright, E.(Dearne V)
    Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife)Welsh, Michael
    Harrison, Rt Hon WalterWhite, Frank R.
    Hogg, N. (E Dunb't'nshire)Whitehead, Phillip
    John, BrynmorWilson, William (C'try SE)
    Jones, Barry (East Flint)Winnick, David
    Kerr, RussellWoodall, Alec
    Lestor, Miss JoanWoolmer, Kenneth
    Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Young, David (Bolton E)
    Litherland, Robert
    McCartney, HughTellers for the Ayes:
    McDonald, Dr OonaghMr. Frank Haynes and
    McKay, Allen (Penistone)Mr. George Morton.
    McKelvey, William


    Alexander, RichardArnold, Tom
    Alison, Rt Hon MichaelAtkins, Rt Hon H.(S'thorne)
    Amery, Rt Hon JulianBaker, Nicholas (N Dorset)
    Ancram, MichaelBanks, Robert

    Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyLuce, Richard
    Benyon. Thomas (A'don)Lyell, Nicholas
    Benyon, W. (Buckingham)Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson
    Berry, HonAnthonyMcCusker, H.
    Best, KeithMacGregor, John
    Bevan, David GilroyMadel, David
    Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnMajor, John
    Blackburn, JohnMarlow, Antony
    Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W)Marten, Rt Hon Neil
    Boyson, Dr RhodesMates, Michael
    Braine, SirBernardMather, Carol
    Bright, GrahamMawby, Ray
    Brooke, Hon PeterMawhinney, Dr Brian
    Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'n)Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
    Bruce-Gardyne, JohnMayhew, Patrick
    Bryan, Sir PaulMills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
    Buck, AntonyMolyneaux, James
    Budgen, NickMorgan, Geraint
    Bulmer, EsmondMorrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
    Cadbury, JocelynMudd, David
    Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Murphy, Christopher
    Channon, Rt. Hon. PaulNeedham, Richard
    Chapman, SydneyNelson, Anthony
    Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Neubert, Michael
    Cockeram, EricNewton, Tony
    Cope, JohnNormanton, Tom
    Cranborne, ViscountOnslow, Cranley
    Critchley, JulianPage, Richard (SW Herts)
    Crouch, DavidPaisley, Rev Ian
    Dorrell, StephenParris, Matthew
    Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.Patten, John (Oxford)
    Dover, DenshorePattie, Geoffrey
    du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardPawsey, James
    Dunlop, JohnPink, R. Bonner
    Dunn, Robert (Dartford)Porter, Barry
    Eggar, TimPowell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)
    Elliott, Sir WilliamPrice, Sir David (Eastleigh)
    Eyre, ReginaldPrior, Rt Hon James
    Fairgrieve, Sir RussellProctor, K. Harvey
    Faith, Mrs SheilaRaison, Rt Hon Timothy
    Fenner, Mrs PeggyRhys Williams, Sir Brandon
    Fisher, Sir NigelRidley, Hon Nicholas
    Fookes, Miss JanetRidsdale, Sir Julian
    Forman, NigelRoberts, Wyn (Conway)
    Fraser, Peter (South Angus)Robinson, P. (Belfast E)
    Gardiner, George (Reigate)Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)
    Goodlad, AlastairRossi, Hugh
    Gow, IanRost, Peter
    Greenway, HarryRumbold, Mrs A. C. R.
    Grist, IanSainsbury, Hon Timothy
    Hamilton, Hon A.Scott, Nicholas
    Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
    Hampson, Dr KeithShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
    Heddle, JohnShersby, Michael
    Heseltine, Rt Hon MichaelSilvester, Fred
    Hicks, RobertSims, Roger
    Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.Skeet, T. H. H.
    Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
    Holland, Philip (Carlton)Smyth, Rev. W. M. (Belfast S)
    Hooson, TomStanbrook, lvor
    Hordern, PeterStanley, John
    Howe, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreySteen, Anthony
    Hunt, David (Wirral)Stevens, Martin
    Hurt, John (Ravensbourne)Stewart, A. (E Renfrewshire)
    Hurd, Rt Hon DouglasStewart, Ian (Hitchin)
    Irvine, Rt Hon Bryant GodmanStradling Thomas, J.
    Johnson Smith, Sir GeoffreyTapsell, Peter
    Jopling, Rt Hon MichaelTaylor, Teddy (S'end E)
    Kellett-Bowman, Mrs ElaineThomas, Rt Hon Peter
    Kilfedder, James A.Thompson, Donald
    Kimball, Sir MarcusThornton, Malcolm
    Lamont, NormanTownend, John (Bridlington)
    Lang, IanTrippier, David
    Latham, Michaelvan Straubenzee, Sir W.
    Lawrence, IvanVaughan, Dr Gerard
    Lawson, Rt Hon NigelViggers, Peter
    Lennox-Boyd, Hon MarkWaddington, David
    Lester, Jim (Beeston)Waldegrave, Hon William
    Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Walker, B. (Perth)
    Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)Warren, Kenneth

    Watson, JohnWolfson, Mark
    Wells, Bowen
    Wheeler, JohnTellers for the Noes:
    Wickenden, KeithMr. Robert Boscawen and
    Williams, D. (Montgomery)Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones.

    Question accordingly negatived.

    New Clause 4


    'Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act a member of the Assembly who, whether in pursuance of a resolution of the Assembly or otherwise, becomes a member of any body comprising representatives of the Parliament of the United Kingdom and of the Parliament of the Republic of Ireland, shall be deemed to have vacated his seat on the day on which he becomes such member and shall be disqualified for membership of the Assembly so long as he continues such membership.'— [Mr. Molyneaux.]

    Brought up, and read the First time.

    I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

    We may discuss at the same time the following:

    New Clause 10

    Disqualification From Membershipembership Of The Assembly

    'In section 3(1) of the Northern Ireland Assembly Act 1973 at the end there shall be added:—

    "(c) if he possesses the dual citizenship of the United Kingdom and any other country.".'.

    New Clause 11

    Disqualification For Membership Of The Assembly

    'In section 3(1) of the Northern Ireland Assembly Act 1973, at end there shall be added: —

    "(c) if he has accepted nomination for, or is a member of a legislature or local authority outside the United Kingdom;
    (d) if he has accepted nomination for election to, or is a member of the European Assembly.".'.

    New Clause 20

    Further Disqualification For Membership Of Assembly

    'In section 3(1) of the Northern Ireland Assembly Act 1973, at end there shall be added—

    (e) if he is a minister of religion having a cure of souls;
    (f) if he is, or has been, a member of a proscribed organisation.'.

    In the course of debate on the Bill, we have been told over and over again that the House is considering a Bill to provide a framework, no more—an elastic framework—for the internal government of Northern Ireland.

    There can be no valid objection to the Members of the proposed Assembly taking part in bodies within the United Kingdom. However, it is our view that the Members elected to the Assembly should be free to concentrate all their energies and intellectual powers on the task that they are being given by the Bill—to provide better government for Northern Ireland. We are not under any illusions. That will be achieved only in the long term.

    In the Secretary of State's closing words in the previous debate, I detected the fatalistic view that the process of assisting in the government of Northern Ireland might never be reached. It seemed that he had become as convinced as the rest of us that, as time and our debates went by, it was less likely that we would get beyond stage one. However, Members of the Assembly should be free to concentrate on the limited task set out in the Bill, and to do so within the context of the United Kingdom. That is vital.

    There can be no objection to Members of the Assembly participating in the deliberations of elected bodies within the United Kingdom. It would not make sense to exclude many of those who may become candidates from the valuable part that they are playing in local government in Northern Ireland. Given the restrictions on their powers, I have often thought it surprising that people of the calibre of those occupying seats in our 26 councils should have been attracted into local government in Northern Ireland. Without fear of contradiction I can say that they are of a much higher calibre than their predecessors who occupied seats at various levels when I was a county councillor in the 1960s. Indeed, I included myself in that category. There is talent in the ranks of those councillors and, as I have said before, it is a shame not to use it to the full. It is no small wonder that they become so very frustrated with every year that passes.

    We would not want councillors, with their experience of the limited area in which they are allowed to operate, to be excluded from membership of the Assembly. At the other end of the scale, we see no reason why Members of either House of Parliament should be excluded from membership of the Assembly. Indeed, there might be advantages in duplicating membership in that way. It is just possible—although no more than that—that that would reduce the possibility of friction, tension and misunderstanding developing between this sovereign Parliament of two Houses and the Assembly.

    However, there can be no justification for Members of the Assembly involving themselves in an ex officio or voluntary capacity in any type of foreign structure, even if it includes representatives from other parts of the United Kingdom. I do not hesitate to include in that category the European Assembly. I hope that the advice of my right hon. and hon Friends will be taken and that the Members of the proposed Assembly will be persuaded to concentrate their energies on what they have been elected to do, instead of wandering off to foreign institutions such as the European Assembly, or any other inter-parliamentary tier or union. Still less should they join any form of council for Ireland.

    The new clause is very wide. Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that a Member of the Assembly should not be a member of a body such as the Inter-Parliamentary Union, which allows Members of Parliament from assemblies throughout the world to meet, including Members from the Republic of Ireland?

    I thought that I had made it clear that I meant bodies that at least claimed to have some legislative or administrative role.

    I want to do all I can to concentrate the minds of Members of the Assembly on the almost impossible job imposed on them by the Bill.

    I shall deal briefly with the other new clauses. It is proposed that a person should be disqualified from membership of the Assembly if he possesses dual nationality. It is not unreasonable to suggest that a body elected to govern part of the United Kingdom should consist of citizens of the United Kingdom and of British subjects. Therefore, those who sometimes take pride, and even glory, in the fact that they are citizens of another nation should not be able to become Members. Our clause covers a fairly wide area. We shall be interested to hear the views of other hon. Members and the thoughts of those who have tabled other new clauses.

    We are debating an interesting group of new clauses. I hope that no one will take exception to the comment that they seem to be political grubbing dressed up as high principle.

    The new clauses deal with four groups of people whom the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) and his colleagues, as well as my right hon and hon. Friends, wish to exclude from membership of the Assembly. The first group consists of those who are Members of the European Parliament. It does no harm to ask why they should be singled out. Hon. Members will know that we are talking about three people. First, we are discussing Mr. John Taylor, who is a member of the same political party as the hon. Member for Antrim, South, but does not share his view about the future government of the Province. It is interesting that the leader of the party should seek to exclude a colleague from the Assembly when his commitment to devolution would stand a much greater chance of making the Assembly work.

    The second person to be excluded is the leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, Mr. John Hume. One need not stretch one's imagination to see that it would be of political advantage to the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues if the leader of the SDLP were precluded from taking part in the elections and in the Assembly's deliberations. It is suggested that Mr. Hume might not be averse to this state of affairs, but that is irrelevant. The Assembly's chance of success would be greatly increased if the leader of the SDLP could take part in it.

    The third person to be excluded is the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), with whom the hon. Member for Antrim, South wages many a political battle in the Province. Again, one need not strain one's imagination to see that the exclusion of the hon. Member for Antrim, North would be of considerable political advantage to the Official Unionists.

    Therefore, the first group to be excluded could be safely said to have been barred on nothing more than plain, blatant political grounds.

    The second group to be excluded consists of ministers of religion, or as the new Clause 20 states
    "a minister of religion having a cure of souls".
    With the frankness of an Ulsterman I must say that there is a degree of political motivation behind that.

    7.30 pm

    The reason for the proposal is to ensure that those in the Assembly are able to devote themselves to the Assembly's work. The hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) said that, having arrived in the House of Commons, he would not be actively engaged as a minister of religion. People such as he would not be covered by the new clause. Surely it is desirable that those who have "a cure of souls" should devote themselves to that instead of becoming political parsons.

    I accept my hon. Friend's assurance. Nevertheless, that does not dispel the nasty suspicion in the back of my mind that there is at least a political consequence that has not escaped the House.

    Whatever one's views of him personally, his party or his policies, the hon. Member for Antrim, North has made a contribution in Northern Ireland. He has a following and support in Northern Ireland which cannot be gainsaid. For the House, being aware of that, to approve such a new clause would be to attempt to destroy at the outset the Assembly from which he and others would be debarred. That might be consistent with the views of some hon. Members, but they have tried that tack and not succeeded. It should be made clear that they cannot succeed by the back door where they have failed by the front door.

    I hope that the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) will not be embarrassed if I relate that because of personal ties—as he was, in his capacity as a minister, the last person to speak to my sister before she died of a brain haemorrhage some years ago—I have a bond of friendship with him which transcends political differences. I do not wish to be party to anything that would deprive the Assembly of the contribution that he and other reverend gentlemen in the Province could make, if properly elected by constituents.

    I can understand the logic of the argument, but where does the hon. Gentleman see the difference between members of the Anglican Church and members of the Church of Ireland who are prohibited from serving in this House? One hon. Member who was elected as my predecessor, the Rev. J. J. MacManamy, was elected and debarred from the House. Is it right to debar an Anglican or Church of Ireland clergyman and to permit in the House members of the Presbyterian and Free Presbyterian Churches and others with strange religious appendages? If we are to debar clergymen, we should debar the lot.

    From its inception the Bill has been plagued by interventions leading hon. Members down byways far from the content of amendments under consideration. I have listened to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, encouraging others not to be so tempted, and I shall resist the temptation.

    The third group debarred by the new clauses includes people with
    "dual citizenship of the United Kingdom and any other country".
    It is interesting that the new clause dealing with that was tabled by two Englishmen. They appear to be unaware that, with the exception of the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) who is an Englishman representing an Ulster constituency, Ulster Members are eligible constitutionally for dual citizenship. That is not something that the Unionists care to take up, but they can walk into an Irish embassy any day of the week when it is open and come out with an Irish passport. Some may have done that.

    What applies to them applies to every other person in the Province. Each of the 1½ million people in the Province are eligible for dual citizenship. One can conclude only that the hon. Members who framed the new clause were unaware of that and that, having been made aware of it, they will wish to withdraw it. Alternatively, one is forced to the conclusion that the new clause is another means of trying to wreck the Assembly by the back door when attempts by the front door have failed.

    I draw attention to the recent Falklands dispute. All the BBC bulletins from Buenos Aires were made by people with Belfast accents. That was because people with Belfast accents and Irish passports were more acceptable to the Argentinians. The BBC directed reporters born in Northern Ireland to apply for Irish passports.

    Perhaps I can assist my hon. Friend in understanding the reasoning behind the new clause which he has criticised. My hon. Friend says that all Northern Ireland residents are entitled to citizenship of the Republic of Ireland. He says that that should be known by the hon. Members who put their names to the new clause. Surely there is a clear distinction between possession of, and eligibility for, such citizenship. Only when a person applies for an Irish passport does he become a citizen of that country. One might be entitled to dual citizenship, but that is not what is proscribed. Actual possession of dual citizenship is proscribed.

    I am grateful to my hon. Friend who is a constitutional lawyer of eminence. I cross swords with him with trepidation and I may be slapped down. I do not believe that my hon. Friend is right. I am a British citizen, whether or not I apply for a British passport. My application for a British passport does not make me a British citizen. I possess British citizenship whether or not I seek an external manifestation of it. Similarly, according to the Irish constitution, I possess Irish citizenship, regardless.

    That is not helpful. Whether I like it or not—I hasten to assure my hon. Friend that I have not applied for an Irish passport—I believe that I possess Irish citizenship regardless of whether I seek the external manifestation of it, which is a passport.

    I do not want to trade on a long friendship but will the hon. Member for Peterborough admit that he is arguing in antipathy to the new clauses for a drastic revision of the law of this land? As long as Irish people travelling across the Irish Sea can immediately have full rights of citizenship here while citizens from Commonwealth countries cannot, it cannot be argued that there is not a colour bar in this country.

    I am being tempted again and I shall resist except to say that the hon. Member for Belfast, South has a valid point and that at some time the House will have to address itself to his argument. I shall not be tempted further than that.

    The fourth group of people to be covered by the new clauses are members of proscribed organisations. I am sure the House will agree that those are not the type of individuals whose commitment to the Assembly is likely to make it succeed or improve the chances of its success.

    Having dealt with the four groups of people who are covered by the new clauses and having shown that they do not have the degree of substance sufficient to persuade the House to accept and add them to the Bill, one must say that the conditions that apply in the House should be good enough for the Assembly.

    If the House is prepared to have people who are involved in other parliaments and other organisations, particularly in the European Parliament, what is good enough for the House should be good enough for the new Assembly. If the House permits ministers of religion, with or without a care of souls, to be a part of it, what is good enough for the House should be good enough for the new Assembly. If the House is prepared to accept as Members those who have dual citizenship, whether or not they have availed themselves of it, what is good enough for the House should be good enough for the new Assembly.

    I am sure that the reasoned arguments that I have tried to lay before the House will be more than sufficient to persuade the Minister to say that the Government will have nothing to do with the new clauses.

    I intervene briefly to support what my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney) said about members of proscribed organisations. Will the Minister give an absolute assurance, before we conclude this part of the debate, that he will accept new clause 20? If not, we shall have to divide the House.

    7.45 pm

    The hon. Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney) in summing up his argument said that what was good enough for the House should be good enough for the Assembly. My hon. Friends and I and other hon. Members have been arguing that point throughout the proceedings, but we have been constantly denied the same franchise and democratic terms as the House enjoys. We have had imposed upon us principles of democracy that are contrary to the principles of the House. Therefore, I believe that the House should have further thought about this matter. Even allowing for the guillotine, there should be an opportunity for a last minute repentance. Perhaps before the night is over, and in the light of the appeal by the hon. Member for Peterborough, the House will reconsider and give the same standards of democracy to the Northern Ireland Assembly as are enjoyed by the House.

    I understand the argument about debarring people. We are not keen to debar people, but we have had experience of the Northern Ireland Convention when, as a party, we encouraged Members not to seek a dual mandate. On that occasion, at least one Member decided to stand and he was elected. But, as has happened here, the business of two meeting places does not facilitate the performance of duties by individuals. We recognise the problem. If the Northern Ireland Assembly is to be a working body and if the House desires it to be a working body, those who practise not the cure of souls but the cure of bodies will recognise that it is not possible to be in the body and in a different place at the same time. If we are to achieve a working Assembly, the House should consider the merits of the arguments against dual membership.

    New clause 1 dealt specifically with relations between a subordinate Assembly of the House and the sovereign Parliament of another nation. The House, having reserved to itself relations with foreign powers, should not devolve powers to a subordinate organisation to deal with a sovereign Parliament.

    That was the heart of the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux). I have pleasure in supporting that plea and in asking the House to reconsider the tremendous plea made by the hon. Member for Peterborough to give us the same standards as apply here.

    I wish to speak to new clauses 10, 11 and 20. I much enjoyed the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney). He drew attention to the many anomalies which already exist in the legislation governing membership of this House. There are many anomalies and it is about time we corrected them. I shall come to some of them during my speech.

    Just because we tolerate anomalies in the House it does not follow that we should repeat those anomalies when setting up representative organisations and legislatures elsewhere. Indeed, perpetuation of error is a grievous sin and one which we should always try to avoid. In new clause 10, with regard to the eligibility for membership of the Assembly, it is proposed that we should exclude those who possess dual citizenship of the United Kingdom and any other country. When one thinks of eligibility for membership of this place one is reminded that notoriously peers and lunatics are excluded.

    How did the hon. Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Cranborne) get through the net?

    That is an exception which does not appear to be repeated in the provisions for the Assembly.

    We have an extraordinary tolerance for residents who have all the normal civic rights of Britons but are not Britons. They can vote in our elections to choose the Government of the United Kingdom. We have the problem that has been highlighted by my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough of citizens of the Irish Republic who are resident in this country. Irrespective of whether they have dual citizenship of the United Kingdom and any other country, they, being resident in this country and registerable on the electoral list, are entitled to vote in our elections if resident on 10 October of each year. They can and do exercise an important influence over the Government of the United Kingdom because of their large numbers. They exercise also an equally important influence over the choice of Government. That is one of the anomalies that must be brought to a speedy end.

    We went to a great deal of trouble last Session to revise our nationality law. We understand that the British Nationality Act 1981 will come into full effect on 1 January 1983. Unfortunately, the provisions of our nationality law, whether before or after the 1981 Act, do not cover voting rights. Those rights are conferred by separate legislation which was not amended by the British Nationality Act 1981. Unless we do something about that—I hope that we shall next Session—citizens of the Irish Republic who are resident in the United Kingdom will, after 1 January 1983, continue to be entitled to the full civic rights of British citizens without being British citizens and will be entitled to vote on the choice of Government in this country.

    That is a historical anomaly. It has existed all the time that we have perpetuated the myth that all British subjects are entitled to vote in our elections. As "British subjects" means a group comprising about 900 million throughout the world, including all Commonwealth citizens and residents of the Indian subcontinent, clearly it is an anomaly that has to be changed.

    When the British Nationality Act 1981 is brought into full effect, my understanding is that citizens of the Irish Republic will continue to be treated as if they are British subjects. Fortunately, we have rationalised the law and improved it in the 1981 Act. We have narrowed the definition of British national identity to a concept known as British citizenship. That is something that has never existed in our law before. We have therefore been able to resolve questions such as those which are raised in the new clause.

    Dual citizenship is not excluded by the 1981 Act. Therefore, as matters stand, anyone seeking to be elected to the Assembly may be a British citizen and, in addition, a citizen of the Irish Republic. My hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough has said that he is probably a citizen of the Irish Republic. He may be, but if he is he is so by the law of the Irish Republic, which does not apply in the United Kingdom, and one might say "Thank goodness." There is only one law that applies to us all in the United Kingdom and it is the law that is passed by Parliament and interpreted and applied by our courts. Therefore, my hon. Friend's citizenship by English law is that of the United Kingdom and not of the Irish Republic.

    Any country in the world, if it wishes—it is the wish of many—may confer citizenship on those who are resident in territories to which it lays claim. This is the point of the conferment by the Irish Republic of its citizenship on those born in Northern Ireland.

    I do not follow the logic of the argument that my hon. Friend is advancing. British law confers only British citizenship. Therefore, the concept of dual citizenship is not conferred by British law. By definition, dual citizenship involves the law of another country. My hon. Friend can have it one way or the other but he cannot have it both ways. If there is such a thing as dual citizenship, that phrase by definition acknowledges that the law of other countries applies to some British subjects in a substantive way whereby they have more than one citizenship. If he excludes other than British law and talks only about British law, there is no such concept as dual citizenship. Which way would he have the House believe that he wants to have it?

    I congratulate my hon. Friend on his exposition of this point of law. I understand that English law provides that only by its own terms can a person become a British citizen—for example, for the purposes of the 1981 Act as it will be applied—and that it takes no regard of what other nations may provide in their laws so as to confer citizenship by their laws. We do not say "If X is the citizen of another country, he may not have British citizenship unless he renounces that first citizenship." That is the difference. That is all that is implied by a recognition by English law of dual citizenship. However, English law does not confer dual citizenship.

    If I understand my hon. Friend correctly, he is saying that the Table Office should not have accepted the new clause because it refers to dual citizenship, which is not recognised by British law and, therefore, by definition is inappropriate in the context of this Bill.

    I am not saying that. I am trying to make it clear that we are all under what lawyers call English law, although we should perhaps call it United Kingdom law. If it is stated in the Act, on the assumption that the Bill is enacted, that a person who possesses dual citizenship shall be ineligible for membership of the Assembly, that provision will have to be applied as it stands, subject to the provisions of English law. As I have said, I do not believe that it is necessary for us to go into this exercise and to accept that any other nation in the world has the right to confer its citizenship upon a British citizen. The difference is that British citizens—I am using the term as it will apply after 1 January 1983—may if they wish apply for citizenship, or the formal recognition of their citizenship of another country. There is no law against that. That happens when an application is made for a passport.

    8 pm

    Acceptance of a passport in English law is an acknowledgement of the sovereignty of the authority issuing the passport. Therefore, I should have thought that an application for a passport for the Irish Republic involved an acknowledgement of the sovereignty of the Irish Republic. Therefore, allegiance to that sovereignty is incompatible with British citizenship. In common sense or justice it cannot be possible that a man owes allegiance to two sovereignties. However, some people walk around with two passports. As my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough said, British citizens travel around the world with passports issued by the Irish Republic." The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) said that people had obtained such passports.

    In obtaining those passports, people are expressing an allegiance to a foreign sovereign. It is one of the features of our tolerant society that we do not make that illegal and do not punish people for it. However, many States do. Many States say that it is incompatible with their citizenship for any of their citizens to owe allegiance to another sovereign. That is the position in the United States and a great many other Western nations.

    It is part of our extraordinary relationship—it is not unique—with the Republic of Ireland that we in the United Kingdom allow so many anomalies and privileges to be conferred upon citizens of the Irish Republic, not only by way of voting rights but because they may continue to possess citizenship of their republic while at the same time becoming or being British citizens.

    Therefore, the new clause is eminently sensible. Those who possess dual citizenship of the United Kingdom and any other country should be ineligible to stand for membership of the Assembly because they have a divided loyalty and a divided allegiance—an allegiance not only to Northern Ireland but to the Republic of Ireland. When politicians try to frame a law that meets the anomalies, prejudices, tolerances and expediencies of our time, they are subject to muddled thinking, which gives much trouble to courts and lawyers who try to interpret it. We should not indulge in it. That is why I believe that the new clause is good and should be supported.

    A similar point is made in new clause 11, which relates to the dual mandate and members serving two legislatures. We have great difficulties in the House about our relationship with the European Assembly, which will be perpetuated and complicated by this provision, whereby, but for the passage of the new clause, it may be possible for members of one assembly to be members of another. We have not worked out how to resolve those problems.

    Such a conflict of interests leads to greater complications than we realise. We have had the recent spectacle of 11 Members of the European Assembly, including two Members of the House, voting to abolish the unanimity principle in the decisions of the Council of Ministers when dealing with the budget and other matters of vital interest to us, in which we are anxious to maintain the principle of unanimity.

    How was it possible that those 11 members out of 80 or more representing this country voted in that other legislature in a way that appeared to be completely contrary to the interest of this country? They were entitled to do so, but the views that they expressed were diametrically opposed to almost all informed opinion in this country. They did so because at that moment they thought of themselves as serving the interests only of the European Community. They thought of themselves not as Members representing the United Kingdom in the European Assembly, but in the larger interest as members of the European Community—the 10 States of Western Europe.

    It has been argued by the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) that no progress will be possible in the European Community until voting in the Council of Ministers is by a majority on all matters, including the vital interests of individual States. That proposition is not acceptable to most of us.

    The fact that those 11 Members voted in that way must be put down to the fact that their allegiance at the time was to the interests of another entity, albeit one that comprises ourselves, in which we are a small minority. More surprising is the fact that two of those Members are at the same time Members of the House. Those Members were not voting in that capacity. In the House they represent individual constituencies of the United Kingdom. No. doubt, when in the House, they think of themselves as striving for the greater good and interests of the British Nation, quite separate from the interests of the European Community. That is an attempt to rationalise and clarify the difference. I do not understand it. I could not do it.

    The weakness is inherent in the concept of dual membership of assemblies. Therefore, will we not have similar problems when we apply that concept to the Bill and Members of the Assembly? One thinks of our tortuous relationship with the European Assembly and the fact that in the House we are jealous not only of our powers but of our premises. We do not provide members of the European Assembly with accommodation here or the right to come freely to our Galleries to observe what is going on. Few of the representatives are known to hon. Members. Their views and ideas are formed and canvassed in a separate realm from our own.

    I have always been against the principle of devolution. I opposed the Scottish and Welsh devolution proposals. One of the main grounds on which I opposed them was that I saw subsidiary parliaments—such as this would be—as breeding a type of legislator who would be remote from membership of this place and who might therefore pursue a path with which we might ultimately collide. That would not serve the unity of the United Kingdom. Members of the Scottish Parliament—that is what it would have been called—would see themselves as representatives of the interests of Scotland. There would be rivalry between those representatives and members of this place representing Scottish constituencies. Whereas Members coming from Scotland to this place naturally would look upon the interests of the nation as a whole—they do, it must be said—those in the narrow confines of their Assembly in Scotland would see Scottish interests in sectional terms separate from those of the United Kingdom.

    We have a united country—as we have had for centuries—and it would be a retrograde step to institute assemblies in which frictions might arise and be encouraged.

    Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, though it is not often understood, it is quite different when this Parliament makes different law for different parts of the United Kingdom since it does that as the legislature of the whole kingdom? There is no real confusion between the two, although they often are confused.

    I respectfully adopt the right hon. Gentleman's argument. Different parts of the United Kingdom sometimes need different solutions, albeit sometimes for the same problems. We do not all progress or deteriorate at the same rate, so it is perfectly proper for us legislate for the domestic problems of Scotland—the education system, for example—as a United Kingdom Parliament and for English Members to be present during the debates, although the debates are normally carried on by Members representing Scottish constituencies. Logically, in terms of good constitution making, that is as it should be. It is not proper in constitutional terms to provide that solutions for part of the United Kingdom should be provided by a separate legislature within that part. That is incompatible with the unity of the United Kingdom and the supremacy of the United Kingdom Parliament.

    Whatever constitutional arrangements are made ultimately for the good government of Northern Ireland—I do not believe that the proposals in the Bill are suitable or appropriate or will be successful—I hope that Northern Ireland interests will be catered for in the same way. All hon. Members, whether they be English, Welsh, Scottish, or from Northern Ireland, may discuss the problems of Northern Ireland in the House and come to a conclusion that would be reflected in law passed by this Parliament and not by any subsidiary assembly. I support new clause 11, which happily includes my name among those proposing it.

    8.15 pm

    New clause 20 includes a most important proposed disqualification for membership of the Assembly. The proposed disqualification of ministers of religion
    "having a cure of souls"
    is something of which the hon. Member for Belfast, West approves. Being an amiable person, he is bound to want to agree with that if possible. It is one of the greatest anomalies that exists in this country with regard to membership of this place. If some clergymen can be Members of the House it seems indefensible, although no doubt there could be argument by some, that we should exclude only those of the Church of England.

    I did not subscribe to the new clause. No doubt my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn and Hatfield (Mr. Murphy) will be able to explain it. I understand that only ministers of religion
    "having a cure of souls"
    I take that to mean being in active practice as clergymen—should be disqualified, and if that is so we should still have an anomaly in the law governing the membership of this place, since the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley)—

    He is a clergyman who is in practice, albeit, as the hon. Gentleman says, he may not have a cure for souls. Something has to be done about that anomaly. I hope that it will be considered by those responsible for the Bill.

    The second part of new clause 20 is important and fundamental. I hope that the Government will accept it. Membership or past membership of proscribed organisations should lead to disqualification from membership of the proposed Assembly. I believed that that was obvious, because membership of proscribed organisations is already a criminal offence both in this country and in Northern Ireland. However, that does not stop members of proscribed organisations from standing for election. Unless the law is changed, that cannot be prevented.

    There was considerable agony during the last Session over the steps to be taken to make those people who have been sentenced to imprisonment ineligible for membership of the House. It was with some difficulty that we eventually passed an agreed law to cover that matter. I suggest that we should anticipate that sort of problem in respect of the Assembly. There might be practical problems arising out of membership of the Assembly for this very reason. It is my hope that the Government will adopt that part of new clause 20.

    One could be forgiven for believing that the filibuster continues. There have been many castigations of hon. Members for not taking part in the debate. The hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) argued that the problems of Northern Ireland should be debated by English, Scots and Welsh Members of this Parliament. The hon. Gentleman is a lawyer. It does not require such a qualification to be able to count. There are 11 hon. Members present. I do not think that there are any Scotsmen or Welshmen among us. There are only English and Northern Ireland hon. Members. I do not therefore consider that the House is paying a great deal of attention to what is regarded as a serious piece of legislation affecting Northern Ireland.

    They are more concerned with the World Cup, about which I wish to comment in relation to Northern Ireland. I also wish to say something about passports.

    New clause 4 starts by saying:
    "Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act a member of the Assembly who, whether in pursuance of a resolution of the Assembly or otherwise, becomes a member of any body comprising representatives of the Parliament of the United Kingdom and of the Parliament of the Republic of Ireland …"
    One need only consider the hundreds and, indeed, thousands of bodies that comprise Members of the Parliaments of the United Kingdom and of the Republic of Ireland. One has only to think of the Anglo-Irish group as it operates in this House, of the EEC organisations and of the European organisations. There are many bodies without a parliamentary basis to which parliamentarians from this House, from the Republic of Ireland and from Continental countries belong. The new clause cannot therefore be regarded as serious. I wonder who was responsible for the drafting of the new clause. Even more interesting is the fact that the sponsors of the new clause are the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux), the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) and the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Ross).

    The hon. Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney) will be aware that rumours are circulating throughout Northern Ireland that all hon. Members in this House, including myself, will be competing for seats in the newly created Northern Ireland Assembly in the election in October. It appears to me that those who drew up the new clause are disqualifying themselves from fighting for seats in the new Assembly. If the new clause is accepted, it will mean that those hon. Members, should they be successful in the competition for seats, could not, or would not, be Members of this House. They are, in effect, disqualifying themselves.

    The construction of the new clause to which my name, along with others, is attached relates to

    "a member of any body comprising representatives of the Parliament of the United Kingdom and of the Parliament of the Republic of Ireland".
    —in other words, an Anglo-Irish parliamentary body. It does not purport to, and I believe does not, disqualify persons who are Members of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

    That may be the intended effect. I believe that I am literate enough to recognise that members of the Anglo-Irish parliamentary body in this House would have to resign from that body, if not from this House, before they could take up a seat in the Assembly.

    The hon. Gentleman said that the new clause would disqualify hon. Members of this House from being elected to the Assembly. The hon. Gentleman has now accepted that it disqualifies from membership of the Assembly those who are members of an Anglo-Irish parliamentary body.

    I do not accept the argument put forward by the right hon. Gentleman. I still maintain my original stance. The clause would seem to make it more difficult for those who are sponsors of the new clause to seek seats in the Assembly. If that is true, it shows that they are not wholeheartedly in support of seeking seats in the Assembly.

    The hon. Member for Peterborough tried to give some justification to what the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) said. I maintain the argument that if the Rev. J. J. MacManamy, a minister of the Church of Ireland, was disqualified from taking a seat in the House, the same principle should apply to every other reverend or so-called reverend gentleman. I shall speak later on new clause 20 about the saving of souls and ask who is saving souls.

    New clause 11 deals with dual citizenship of the United Kingdom or any other country. We have already had an academic argument between the hon. Member for Peterborough and the hon. Member for Orpington about dual citizenship. The true position is that many Members of the House of Lords carry Irish passports, as do many Members of this House. I received word from the Minister within the past week that a new passport office or immigration office is to be opened in Belfast. At the moment there is no such office in Belfast and if one needs a passport to go on holiday or for any other reason the passport application has to be processed through Edinburgh or Glasgow.

    However, anyone living in Northern Ireland can go to the Irish Tourist Office, fill in a form and with alacrity—there may be political undertones behind it—they are given an Irish passport. Many devoted Loyalists, Orangemen and upholders of the British tradition in Ireland were in Spain last week on Irish passports cheering the Northern Ireland football team. God be with them. I wish that I had the opportunity to go with them because the Northern Ireland team is entitled to be cheered by whatever passport holder. Many Loyalists in Northern Ireland hold Irish passports. Many of them are political representatives and many are in the Belfast corporation. They hold the passports for reasons of expediency. I am not in a postion to name names, as the right hon. Member for Down, South did this afternoon.

    I know many people who have travelled on Irish passports for reasons of expediency but who are firm upholders of the present constitutional position of Northern Ireland and who would in no way wish to be put into the Republican tradition. Many are breaking the law since they have both a British and an Irish passport. A blind eye is turned to the practice. The fact that one may carry an Irish passport and yet live in Northern Ireland should not suggest that the holder of the passport is anti-British. Many carry an Irish passport purely as a matter of convenience. That does not suggest that they are disloyal or hostile to Britain. Many people living in the Six Counties may have an Irish passport for either sentimental reasons or for reasons of convenience.

    Would the hon. Gentleman explain that the reason why so many people acquired an Irish Republican passport was to do with the Civil Service industrial dispute? Long delays occurred in passport applications and many people had pressing reasons to have one, such as a booked holiday. Perhaps that is why many of those who are in Spain now have such a passport. The Irish Republican passport was the only one handy.

    I did not suspect that I would have support from such an unexpected quarter. The hon. Gentleman is right because there have been many Civil Service strikes in Northern Ireland. Many people will confirm that Northern Irish citizens obtained an Irish passport as a matter of convenience.

    8.30 pm

    I did not say that it was illegal to hold two passports. English law states that it is no offence to have dual citizenship, so the holding of two passports is not illegal.

    The hon. Gentleman has clarified that it is not illegal, but in his previous remarks he seemed to be rather offended by people from Ireland being able to carry Irish and British passports. He entered into an immigration debate about Irish people residing here and drawing British benefits. That was the tone, if not the content, of his speech.

    I was inclined to drop my opposition to new clause 11 because of the way in which the hon. Member for Orpington spoke of the European Assembly. It is not a European Parliament, but it seems to be accepted that its Members call themselves Members of the European Parliament. I agree that some of the attitudes adopted and the votes taken in the European Assembly could be inimical to the best interests of Britain and Northern Ireland. Members of the European Assembly sometimes suffer from delusions of grandeur and talk down to hon. Members. They believe that they have a greater knowledge of European affairs. Was the new clause directed at those people or at the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley)? I am inclined to swing to the latter belief, because there is no doubt that the UUUC has disappeared. Those who were good friends when it was first formed now seem to be bitter enemies. It would be to the advantage of the Official Unionist Party if the hon. Member for Antrim, North were no longer to grace us with his presence in the House.

    Might not new clause 11 have been directed towards the SDLP? Not only would John Hume, as leader, be debarred, but Seamus Mallon, as deputy leader, would also be debarred. Will the prospect of the Northern Ireland Assembly succeeding and bringing the communities together be enhanced if the leaders of the minority community are debarred from the Assembly?

    I cannot answer the second part of the question because I must not make a personal comment, given my history in Northern Ireland. However, that would kill three birds with one stone. It would kill the hon. Member for Antrim, North and the leader and the deputy leader of the SDLP. Perhaps that was the intention. I could understand that if that was the intention of the new clause.

    I vividly recall being an alderman of the Belfast corporation, deputy chief of the Assembly and a Member of this House at the same time. I was able to attend all three in one day. I hope that my presence at the three assemblies was helpful and enabled each to arrive at the right conclusion. Being a member of several bodies is no disqualification from getting an honest opinion.

    New clause 20 should be unanimously rejected. It uses the words
    "if he is a minister of religion having a cure of souls".
    Who in the name of God drafted that clause? Who is to determine whether one has or has not a cure of souls? I am sure that the hon. Member for Antrim, North believes that he cures souls every five minutes of the day. The same response would not be forthcoming from the Vatican. When Pope John Paul was over here, it was a case of who was saving souls in Liverpool. The Pope blessed the hon. Member for Antrim, North. It does not seem to have done him much good. Who can take the wording of the clause seriously? "Having the cure of souls" indeed. I shall have a private word with the hon. Gentleman who drafted it.

    I apologise for interrupting again. I listen to what the hon. Gentleman says on the new clause with some unease. I happen to be a member of the Methodist Church. Last year in the city of Cork, at the church's annual conference, I was congratulated on attaining 50 years as a fully accredited local preacher. We are accepted as part of the Methodist Church because of the scattered Methodist congregations in Ireland. It is necessary to use laymen to complement the ordained ministry. I have been wondering with unease whether I am included in the new clause.

    I am sure that the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) will appreciate the tale of two little fellows who were having an argument one day about the goodness of their fathers. One was the son of a Methodist minister, the other the son of a Methodist lay preacher. The argument waxed hot and heavy. Finally, the lay preacher's son, back against the wall and feeling somewhat defeated, believed that he would clinch the argument and said "Ah, well, your dad is paid for being good and my dad is good for nothing." That is the type of description that might be applied to me.

    If it will please the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Mr. Dunlop), I shall move a manuscript amendment to disqualify all such people, especially if they are fully accredited lay preachers. The hon. Gentleman's comments just go to show how dangerous such an amendment is. One is getting into deep water.

    It is to some extent true that political priests in Ireland are not restricted to the Protestant side of the fence. There have been many Catholic ones, not as many as the Protestants have, but they are just as vociferous. Everyone knows what they are about. Last year, during the dangerous time of the hunger strike, some political priests made their opinions known in Northern Ireland. Their pronouncements did much to exacerbate the tension. At least they did not seek election to Parliament. Had they done so, they would not have been successful.

    Paragraph (f) of new clause 20 seeks to disqualify a person
    "if he is, or has been, a member of a proscribed organisation."
    Who proscribed the organisation? Do we take it that it means proscribed by this House? Was it proscribed by a Labour Government or a Conservative Government? It would have been clearer to say:
    "if he is, or has been, a member of a party or organisation proscribed by Parliament in this country."
    All kinds of people can issue proscriptions.

    Having got over that difficulty, however, is it not a fact that many people who have been members of proscribed organisations have repented of their ways and become very good citizens of this country or of other countries? Young people may be inclined by their age and the age in which they live to join organisations that might be described as revolutionary. When they grow up and the atmosphere or the conditions in the country have changed they may become stalwart citizens. It would be quite wrong to place an overriding ban on anyone who has been a member of a proscribed organisation even after the organisation has gone out of existence or the person involved has retired from it.

    One has only to think of the Workers Party in Northern Ireland. Indeed, I was speaking to a gentleman from that party this afternoon. That party now has a great deal to commend it in the political structure of Northern Ireland. Yet at one time its members were members of the Official IRA, and 10 years or so ago they carried out some terrible crimes that were certainly worthy of condemnation. It is now desperately trying to get away from that murderous past and it is to be commended for its efforts. Therefore, in my view, those who are or have been members of the Workers Party in Northern Ireland or the Republic should not be proscribed from seeking election to this House or to the Assembly.

    If we did not allow such people to seek election, we should make it more difficult for the Official IRA to change its ways and to become a legitimate political party. Is not that the real danger?

    I agree. The Minister will have met members of the Workers Party and he will be aware that they have a turbulent past. Certainly Opposition Members have met members of that party. I have always opposed them because of their involvement with violence, but I am gradually being brought to the belief that they have finally cut all links with violence. I believe that those people should be helped along the way to maintain that position. In 1970 and 1971, immediately after internment, there was a serious escalation in emotional activity and it was easy for young boys of 15 or 16 to become involved. They have now got away from that and are trying to play their part in constructive politics in Northern Ireland. If the clause were carried, such people would be banned on the grounds that when they were 15 or 16 they supported an illegal organisation. That can only drive people out of politics. I do not think that sufficient thought was given to that part of the new clause.

    For those reasons, although I could continue at much greater length, I believe that after all the debates on the Bill and on the timetable motion the debate on these new clauses, far from being constructive, is merely delaying a final decision on the Bill.

    8.45 pm

    I support part of the spirit of new clauses 11 and 20. Paragraph (c) of new clause 11 reads:

    "if he has accepted nomination for, or is a member of a legislature or local authority outside the United Kingdom".
    That would be a disqualification for membership of the Assembly. I am certain that my hon. Friend will argue that the wording of clauses 11 and 20 is defective. However, I earnestly ask him to look at the spirit behind new clause 11 and to accept, at least in part, the motives behind the framing of it.

    It is with a certain amount of trepidation that I enter a sphere over which my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) has already demonstrated his considerable mastery. Section 1(1)(c) of the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1957 provides that membership
    "of the legislature of any country or territory outside the Commonwealth"
    is a disqualification for membership of the House of Commons. I understand that would disqualify for membership of the Assembly anyone who is a member of such a legislature.

    Perhaps my hon. Friend will also help me on the two other proposals put forward under paragraph (c) of new clause 11. If that is already covered by the 1957 Act, I shall be content. I have not found such a provision in the 1957 Act, but it is possible that I may have missed it.

    If I am right that those two disqualifications are not in the 1957 Act, will my hon. Friend accept them as disqualifications for membership of the Assembly? If a prospective or existing Member of the Assembly accepts nomination for a legislature outside the United Kingdom, that presupposes that he would happy to be a member of an Assembly that is part of the United Kingdom and of a legislature that is not, thereby putting himself in an impossible position of divided loyalty.

    I know that later we are to debate the form of oath or affirmation that Members of the Assembly should take. Members of this House go through an impressive and unforgettable swearing-in ceremony when they first arrive. Therefore, some such affirmation of loyalty should be considered by my hon. Friend before Members of the Assembly can take their seats. That would be an expression of loyalty to the Crown and all that flows from it.

    For the sake of argument, the prospective member of the Assembly may be about to stand for membership of the Irish Parliament. I can easily understand—there have been several examples over the past few weeks—members of the Irish Parliament finding themselves in direct opposition to the interests of this country. During the Falklands crisis Ireland and Italy were not willing to renew sanctions imposed by the rest of the European Economic Community. Accepting nomination to another Assembly is as good as accepting membership of that Assembly. The intention is clear. Therefore, it becomes incompatible with membership of an Assembly which, however much we may dislike it, is nevertheless membership of an Assembly within the United Kingdom. Even if the drafting of that part of the new clause is defective, perhaps the Minister will consider introducing an amendment along the lines that I have outlined, if not here, at a later stage in another place.

    As to membership of a local authority, again I must seek guidance from my hon. Friend and others who know more about the subject than I do. Is it now possible for a Member of the United Kingdom Parliament to be a member of a local authority outside the United Kingdom? If so, it is arguably less undesirable than prospective or actual membership of a legislature. I can envisage circumstances in which it might be desirable.

    Nevertheless, the same arguments apply, at least in part, as those against membership of a legislature. In the case of Northern Ireland, do not those arguments apply even more, particularly in view of the proximity of the Republic and the difficulties of loyalty that from time to time may arise?

    Much has already been made about whether or not ministers of religion
    "have the cure of souls."
    Again, I enter this argument with a considerable amount of trepidation, particularly in view of my history as one of the sponsors of a Ten-Minute Bill which, in some quarters of the Church of England, was considered to be a direct attack on the autonomy of that organisation.

    Indeed, and that was one of the points that we tried to argue. I shall not, Mr. Deputy Speaker, be tempted along that interesting bypass. I know that you would call me to order if I attempted to do so. As always, my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) is keen that I should put some footnotes to the bulk of what I say and to follow them to their logical or illogical conclusion. I resist such a temptation.

    Anomalies exist about membership of this House as it affects ministers of religion, and they have already been referred to. I have heard it said that clergymen are like beech trees and that nothing flourishes under them. From personal observation, I have considerable sympathy with that view. Therefore, at least emotionally, I am sympathetic to the provision proposed in the first part of new clause 20.

    In this instance I must restrain my personal prejudices and content myself with observing that many clergymen seem to be involved in the politics of Northern Ireland. If they were precluded from taking part in the Assembly and its procedures, I suspect that not only would the character of Northern Ireland politics be radically altered—for all I know, perhaps for the better—but that, because of the amount of electoral support that they seem so regularly to get, many Northern Irish voters would be disfranchised. Reluctantly, therefore, I am inclined to ask the Minister to reject the first part of new clause 20.

    As to the second part—this is where I hope the Minister will enter into the spirit rather than the letter of the new clause—despite the strictures of the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), there is at least a nugget of a point. The hon. Member for Belfast, West, in spite of his understandable reservations about clergymen in Northern Ireland, reminded us of our Christian duty of forgiveness.

    There is no doubt that many hon. Members would not be members of the Labour Party today had their Communist past been held against them. I think in particular of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) who, I am told, was once a member of die Communist Party. Had the Labour Party in its wisdom banned ex-Communists from joining it, I suspect that many distinguished members of that organisation would never have joined and the Labour Party would be that much the poorer for it.

    For that reason, I find myself in sympathy—

    Does the hon. Gentleman accept that some Conservative Members are former members of the Communist Party?

    If I were not so sensible of the amount of time that I have already taken, and if I had not felt that I might have been trespassing on the good will of the House, I should have gone on to make that point. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making it for me, after I had mentally excised it from what I was about to say. The point was well made, and I accept it.

    The words "or has been" in paragraph (f) of the new clause are perhaps a little restrictive. The arguments put forward by the hon. Member for Belfast, West were persuasive. However, I am sure that neither my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State nor any hon. Member could quarrel with paragraph (f) if the words "or has been" were excised. Will my hon. Friend consider giving an undertaking at some later stage to do that? After all, it can make little sense for members of a "proscribed organisation"—I understand that those two words have a technical meaning in the context of Northern Ireland—to become Members of the Assembly. It would surely make the whole exercise even more laughable than some of us believe it to be already.

    The topics covered by the four new clauses being considered together in this debate are so diverse and fascinating that it has been difficult for hon. Members taking part in the debate—even the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), who is temporarily absent—to have avoided the impression of having strayed into bad habits, and even doing a little filibustering. I am sure that this was merely due to the range and importance of the subjects.

    I wish to resist even that temptation, however, with some exceptions. Much confusion has been caused in new clause 20 by the use of an expression perfectly well known and familiar to Anglicans, but unfamiliar, if not unknown, to those of other religious persuasions. A person with a "cure of souls" is, to an Anglican, a beneficed clergy. For the purpose of exclusion from this House, a clergyman is a person episcopally ordained. This is an Anglican usage and it is rather important for those of us who are Anglicans to remember that there is a certain ethos, even a certain vocabulary, peculiar to ourselves, of which we may not always be entirely conscious.

    The use of the word "cure", so grossly misunderstood in the medical or theological sense by the hon. Member for Belfast, West is enshrined in the memorable phrase in the prayer for the church militant.
    "Bishops and Curates, and all Congregations committed to their charge".
    Curates are, in that case, beneficed clergy who have congregations who are in their charge. "Cure" is no more than "cura"—"care of."

    9 pm

    Having disposed of that barely more than philological point in connection with new clause 20, may I refer briefly to the remarks of the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) in connection with new clause 10? As he was speaking, I was greatly tempted to return, and to return at large, to those lush pastures of the law of citizenship in which he and I grazed together for so many happy days and nights during the passage of the British Nationality Act in the last Session.

    My observation, which was not fully dealt with in the hon. Gentleman's speech, is germane to the whole background of the Bill and to relations between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. It is an extremely serious observation. Under the terminology of dual citizenship, the hon. Member for Orpington was sometimes referring to the fact that, in the law of the United Kingdom, privileges otherwise available only to citizens of the United Kingdom or British subjects are accorded to those who are citizens of the Irish Republic although they are not also United Kingdom citizens or British subjects. That anomaly excites frequent comment and constant surprise on the part of British electors when they come to fill out the form for registration as an elector. It is a matter for serious and practical debate.

    Many of those who discover and discuss that anomaly imagine that it is a demand made upon the United Kingdom by the Irish Republic, and that by discussing those privileges accorded in the United Kingdom we are entering upon sensitive territory where we would be in danger of causing offence, legitimate or otherwise, to the Irish Republic and its citizens. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    That anomaly originated in December 1921 when the United Kingdom made the fatal mistake—a characteristic, self-deceiving mistake—of determining to pretend that the Irish Free State was still part of His Britannic Majesty's dominions and was analogous to the Dominion of Canada. In pursuance of that deliberate self-delusion, we continued to treat the citizens of the Irish Free State as what in our absurd and unrealistic view they were—British subjects—from which it automatically followed that they would have the privileges and rights of British subjects in Britain.

    By the time that it became impossible for us to maintain that form of self-delusion, when the Irish Free State became an overt Republic, we had already devised the strange mechanisms of the British Nationality Act 1948, which enabled those who were not within the allegiance nevertheless to be treated as the equivalent of British subjects or Commonwealth citizens. Therefore, it was natural that the old delusion, embalmed in those anomalous privileges, should be carried from the period 1921 to 1949 into the period after 1949.

    So far as I know, no Government of the Irish Republic—no Government of the Irish Free State—ever demanded or claimed those privileges for its citizens. Indeed, to do so would have contradicted the central proposition. This was an imposition which, in the interests of our own self-deception, we laid upon the Irish Republic and its citizens.

    It is part of a regret that we can all retrospectively maintain that in 1921 we were unable to recognise that a new nation, as much a nation as ourselves, had come into existence. Therefore, there is a political reality behind the debate that has arisen from new clause 10. One day, I hope that we shall get round to recognising the separate nationhood of the Republic of Ireland in the proper and decisive manner by treating its citizens in the same way as we treat the citizens of other foreign, but normally friendly, independent nations. That is all that is being claimed by those who have argued this case.

    I return to the subject of new clause 4, which was moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux). Perhaps we shall be forgiven the parental partiality of regarding it as the most important of the four new clauses that are grouped together. In a sense, it is the counterpart to new clause 1. That new clause sought to oblige Members of the Assembly to participate in the parliamentary part of an Anglo-Irish Council whereas if this new clause is carried—and we shall insist on recording our opinion in the Lobby—it will write into the measure the reassurance that the Bill and the strange Assembly brought into existence by it is not a backdoor into an Anglo-Irish Council and is not designed to quote once again the immortal words of "Daily Notes No. 9":
    "to pave the way into a federal union between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic."
    Whoever, particularly those of us who served in our youth in the research and parliamentary sections of one of the political parties, would dream that the daily notes for candidates, which it was part of our chore to produce during an election campaign would, after a lapse of years, become the subject of intense discussion and debate on the Floor of the House? It only shows, as a wise man once told me on Turin station, "You never know one little bit". Whoever wrote "Daily Notes, No. 9" for the general election in 1979 did not know one little bit the notoriety that would attach to the words that he penned.

    It is still necessary to request the Government to recognise how genuine and deeply founded are the fears of many of those who oppose the Bill that its precise object is
    "to pave the way into a federal union between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic."
    Many of those who have taken part in our debates have come to recognise that the likelihood of devolution and of devolved government being realised by the agency of the Bill is remote. Even the Secretary of State regards it as less, rather than more, probable. Therefore, the only thing that is certain about the Bill if it is enacted is that it will result in an Assembly. It is essentially a Bill to create an Assembly.

    That is bound to ring ominous warning bells in the minds of Northern Ireland Members who have been told, in so many words, by those organising the Anglo-Irish Council that what is missing from its completion, what is missing from the adumbration of an eventual federal structure, is an Assembly—just an Assembly—that would enable Northern Ireland to be represented there, not as part of the United Kingdom, which it is, but as something separate and thereby destined to be differently associated in future from the rest of the United Kingdom.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) coined a useful formulation when he said that, in effect, if the Assembly participated itself, or through its members, in the parliamentary tier of an Anglo-Irish Council, that would be a devolution of foreign affairs. That is because if the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic are independent nations, the relations between them will be foreign affairs and the participation of the Assembly in those affairs, by participation in the Anglo-Irish parliamentary tier as envisaged, would be a participation in foreign affairs.

    Under the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 foreign affairs is an excepted matter. It is placed beyond the reach and even the anticipation of a devolved Assembly and Government in Northern Ireland. Schedule 2 to the 1973 Act specifies excepted matters. It is interesting that paragraph 3 of that schedule states that excepted matters include:
    "International relations, including treaties, the making of peace or war and neutrality, and matters connected therewith"—
    So far, that might appear to be plain sailing. A devolved Government and Assembly inside the United Kingdom—an Assembly representing an integral part of the United Kingdom—could surely not take part in, take decisions on or legislate about international relations or external affairs as thus defined. But I have not quoted the rest of the paragraph. It continues
    "but not—
    (a) the surrender of fugitive offenders between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland"—
    I pass over that ominous sub-paragraph. The schedule continues:
    "(b) the exercise of legislative powers so far as required for giving effect to any agreement or arrangement made under section 12 of this Act."
    Section 12 of the Act is the Sunningdale section. It is the Council of Ireland section of the Act. Into the structure of the 1973 constitution was built this anomaly and contradiction. External affairs and foreign affairs are not devolved—except relations with the Irish Republic.

    Some hon. Members, such as those who sit on the Opposition Front Bench, are saying today "The Irish Republic is just over the way. The Irish Republic is nearer physically to the United Kingdom than any other nation of foreign Power. The part to which it is nearest is Northern Ireland, so why the fuss? Is it not natural that it should be put in an exceptional position?"

    I wish to answer that query. It is a natural query to come from those who do not live, as it were, with Northern Ireland. There is an answer. Those in Northern Ireland never forget that, by the constitution of the Irish Republic, the Province is part of the Irish Republic. They never forget that, they never can forget it and they never will forget it as long as that remains part of the constitution of that separate State.

    9.15 pm

    When one places into that context the proposition that relations with the Irish Republic should be an exception to the logical exclusion of external affairs from the sphere of a devolved Assembly or Government in Northern Ireland, one understands something of the suspicion, fear—even hatred—which is entertained for this Assembly-creating Bill. It is designed either to enable or, if the new clause which the House rejected had been carried, to enforce direct relations between a representative organisation of a part of the United Kingdom with the only nation which claims that part of the United Kingdom as its own territory.

    I should have thought that any reasonable, detached person would see the implication. One does not have to be an Ulsterman to see the implication of saying that relations with the one power that claims the soil of Northern Ireland as its own shall be treated as if they were not external relations but as in some way internal relations. I should have thought that any reasonable, impartial observer of the scene would have said that that was a fundamental concession and admission going a long way towards accepting the assertion written into the constitution of the Irish Republic that Northern Ireland really belongs to it and that there is really therefore no foreignness between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

    From that insight there follows the deduction that a Government and a Parliament who will legislate on those lines, who will pass schedule 2, paragraph 3, of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 and who will pass a Bill to create an Assembly that the Secretary of State said this afternoon he hoped will behave as the Opposition amendment sought to oblige it to do, will recognise the significance of such a Bill.

    The Bill declares the ambiguity and the ambivalence of this House and of Her Majesty's Government to the very question which creates all the division about which we talk when we discuss Northern Ireland—to which nation it is to belong. The Bill is another instalment in a long and unhappy story marked by the Government of Ireland Act 1920, and the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 in which, quite deliberately, the House has legislated ambiguously as to the status of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom.

    Was there not an important Act in between those two Acts—the Ireland Act 1949? The right hon. Gentleman will recall that at that time Herbert Morrison said that the Irish Government did not wish to be in the Commonwealth and did not wish to be foreign and, so far as he was aware, they were equally sincere on both points.

    Many of the records of the late 1940s—some of them have been referred to in the debate—are worth restudying at the present time.

    It is the essential ambiguity of the Bill that the new clause seeks to destroy. It seeks to say "If you are going to set up an Assembly, at any rate set it up with this ambiguity ab initio removed and denied by making it impossible statutorily for it to perform the function which is envisaged for it by those who want to blur the transition and to pave the way."

    The Secretary of State quoted again this afternoon the first section of the 1973 Act—the so-called guarantee. He asked "After that, what are you all afraid of? What is there to worry about if you have section 1 of the 1973 Act?" In fact, it was not unlike section 1 of the 1949 Act. I accept that it was unlike it in some respects, but in one essential it was the same.

    I shall tell the Secretary of State why we are worried. We are concerned about the ambiguity that subsists between the declaration in the 1973 Act and the Bill, between the declaration of integral membership of the United Kingdom until the people themselves decide otherwise and the creation of a structure unique within the United Kingdom, of which one of the desired purposes—possibly the only practical intended purpose—is to enable Northern Ireland to participate as Northern Ireland in an Anglo-Irish Council, with all the implications which I have argued flow from that.

    If the Bill is enacted, we shall be renewing the fatal ambiguity which I put to the House in the early 1970s and which it did not like me putting before it. I say again that the root cause of the destruction and murder in Northern Ireland is uncertainty. All the time all concerned can appeal to reason and ask "Is it not probable, from the behaviour of Her Majesty's Government and from the contradictions which Parliament ever and again creates, that sooner or later a way will be found and a way will be paved—the sovereign power, the mother country, clearly contemplates it—whereby Ulster will be taken out of the country to which it belongs and put into a context to which it has no voluntary intention of belonging?" It is that mischief against which the new clause seeks to provide. If it is not carried, that mischief will be put firmly upon the record on the day on which we pass the Bill.

    We have had a long and interesting debate on four new clauses. I think that the House will have gathered in the process that the law on disqualification is exceedingly complex. It is clear that it contains some anomalies and I do not mean to begin this reply by trying to explain in detail all the ramifications of the law on disqualification. However, I want to make clear to the House the general principle that has guided the Government as it comes to a view on the clauses that are before it. It is the straightforward principle that the policy on disqualification from the former Northern Ireland Parliament and subsequently the Northern Ireland Assembly has followed closely, although not identically, the law on disqualification that applies to the House. The Government see no reason why this guiding principle should cease to apply to the new Assembly when it is elected.

    I should remind right hon. and hon. Members that there is in process a review of the existing criteria for House of Commons disqualification. That disqualification criteria for the Northern Ireland Assembly are not identical to those for the House of Commons, but there is a close link. In general, it would be best to await the outcome of the review of the grounds for disqualification for the House of Commons and then decide whether an amendment to the Northern Ireland Assembly Disqualification Act 1975 should be considered. That is the general principle.

    New clause 4 is in the name of the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux). My hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. Lewis) and the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) are right that, strictly speaking, the new clause would run wider than is the intention and would debar on a wider basis than is intended. The words of the new clause would achieve their end because the new clause is designed to achieve immediate disqualification of any Member of the Assembly who chose to participate in a possible Anglo-Irish body at parliamentary level. That is its purpose. It is on those terms that I shall deal with the new clause.

    We know already that the unique relationship between the two Governments of the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom has been given institutional expression by the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Council. It has been contemplated that at some point in the future it will be complemented by an Anglo-Irish body at parliamentary level. As has been said time and again, that is a matter for the Parliaments of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland to decide.

    It has been demonstrated during proceedings on the Bill that the mere existence of a Whip does not guarantee compliance. Hon. Members come to the House to exercise their judgment. It would be wrong to prejudge the issue by denying Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly the right to take part in the new body, were it to be formed. Its existence must be regarded as hypothetical. However, were it to be formed, to deny Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly the right to take part would be wrong.

    The Minister has reminded us of the ministerial Anglo-Irish council, which was designed to discuss and decide on matters of mutual interest. Will he inform the House whether that body was called into being during the Falklands crisis? If so, what conclusion did it reach?

    The hon. Gentleman knows the answer to that. The council will continue and I am sure that in future it will do useful work.

    The House has already debated the White Paper, upon which the Bill is based in many ways. We expect that if a parliamentary body comes into existence arrangements will be made for Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly to participate, if they wish, alongside Members of that Parliament. That may be an important new means of developing close and more beneficial practical cooperation between the two parts of Ireland as well as between the United Kingdom Parliament and the Dail. Benefits have come from such co-operation in the past and I hope that new benefits will come in the future. That in no way calls into question the constitutional position of Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom, or arouses any of the fears about ambiguity or ambivalence mentioned by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). Therefore, I cannot advise the House to approve the new clause when it is put to the test in a few moments, as he promised.

    Will my hon. Friend consider whether, since the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Council is an institution for the conduct of relations between two sovereign States—foreign affairs is not a matter for the Northern Ireland Assembly—it might not be better if the Northern Ireland voice in that parliamentary institution, if it comes into being, came from those who are elected to this House from Northern Ireland?

    9.30 pm

    There is nothing to prevent them from playing that part as well. We envisage a role being played by members of the Assembly in any body that comes into existence.

    My hon. Friend's answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) suggested that he is putting Members of the Assembly on the same level as Members elected to the House from the point of view of the parliamentary tier of any all-Ireland council. That must be utterly wrong. Those who are elected here are elected to express their views on all matters—foreign affairs, defence and everything else. Those elected to the Assembly have, to begin with, probably a small role, and even if matters develop as the Secretary of State hopes—which I do not myself believe—they would still have not much more than local councillor status. That cannot be right. One cannot put the two on the same level.

    It will be for the Parliaments of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland to decide the terms upon which the body is established, and for them to decide what role within that body Members of the Assembly may have. It is certainly not for me to lay down any of that. Eventually, the Parliaments themselves will decide.

    I cannot advise the House to support new clause 10 which seeks to disqualify individuals possessing dual citizenship of the United Kingdom and any other country. As we have heard, many people in Northern Ireland—mainly, although not exclusively, from the minority community—enjoy both British and Irish citizenship. Even assuming that it were administratively possible to filter out candidates for the Assembly who possessed such dual citizenship, to do so would antagonise the minority community. It would be seen as an attack upon them. It would also run counter to the heart of the Government's policy as outlined in the White Paper, that there should he respect for the two traditions in the life of the Province so that members of both communities may achieve mutual respect and participate more creatively in the public life of the Province. If the new clause were to be read a Second time, it would be seen by the minority community in Northern Ireland—even if it were administratively possible—as an attack on that community.

    The Minister seemed to be implying—perhaps he did not intend to— that respect for a minority point of view included the acknowledgement within the United Kingdom of those who by their claim to citizenship owed an allegiance different from that of the United Kingdom. That surely cannot be.

    It has become the practice, for one reason or another—a number have been outlined in the House today—for a large number of people in Northern Ireland, not exclusively the minority but mainly them, to have dual citizenship. To pass this new clause and restrict their opportunities to take part in the Assembly would be perceived by them as an attack on their position. I cannot advise the House to support the new clause.

    I have to give similar advice about new clause 11 which would disqualify candidates who were members of legislatures or local authorities outside the United Kingdom and candidates for or members of the European Assembly. My hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Cranborne) has already drawn the attention of the House to section 1(1)(e) of the Northern Ireland Disqualification Act 1975 which provides that
    "a person is disqualified from membership of the Northern Ireland Assembly who for the time being … is a member of the legislature of any country or territory outside the Commonwealth."
    That of course includes the Irish Republic and is entirely consistent with the established procedures of the House over many years as well as that in the first Northern Ireland Assembly.

    I do not believe that it would be right to change the existing rules for Assembly elections, although if we were in the future to alter the arrangements for the House of Commons we might decide that there were implications for the Assembly.

    Does the hon. Gentleman mean that someone who is a Member of the Irish Senate will not be eligible for the Assembly?

    That is exactly what I mean. I do not believe that it would be right to accept the arguments that have been put in the debate to exclude Members of the European Assembly from membership of the Northern Ireland Assembly when they can simultaneously be members of the European Assembly as well as of this House.

    New clause 20 seeks to disqualify both ministers of religion and members of proscribed organisations. I shall not enter into the complexities of the disqualification of clergy for membership of this House and thus the Northern Ireland Assembly. A wide-ranging review of the rules for disqualification is taking place. I think that we should await its findings. It is right that the qualifications or disqualifications for the Assembly should stay firmly in line for the time being with those for the House of Commons. The Government would not wish to change that aspect of disqualification.

    Of all the arguments put forward in the debate, the one to which I was most sympathetically inclined was the second half of new clause 20 which applies to the disqualification of members of proscribed organisations. Even here, however, I cannot advise the House that the Government would wish to accept the suggestion. The House should understand that individuals who commit serious crimes, including membership of proscribed organisations, are already, for the most part, excluded from the Assembly as they are from this House.

    This was a consequence of the Representation of the People Act 1981 which was introduced to close a loophole in the law following the election last year of Robert Sands as Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone. The House will recall that the Act disqualifies anyone sentenced to be detained for more than one year. That will cover, I believe, most of the serious offences that hon. Members had in mind in tabling this aspect of new clause 20.

    It is not simply a question of having committed a crime. Someone might stand for the Assembly in the name of a proscribed organisation. One cup is already full, with the veto being given to the minority community. If we are now to be told that official members of a terrorist organisation will be allowed to stand, this is too much. We shall vote against it.

    Obviously my right hon. Friend must make up his own mind. The House gave serious consideration in 1981 to this problem in deciding what to do about supporters of organisations such as the UVF or the Provisional IRA who sought to stand for this House. The solution arrived at was incorporated in the Act. I am saying that the same criteria should apply in relation to the Assembly. We should march hand in hand with the provisions made for the House of Commons.

    I should like to take the Minister back to an important remark he made earlier. Did he say that a senator in the Dail will not be allowed to stand for the Assembly and that under existing law he would be disqualified? Hon. Members know the two individuals we are talking about. If they are disqualified, this should be spelt out so that the individuals concerned are aware of the situation.

    Under the terms of section 1(1)(e) of the Northern Ireland Assembly Disqualification Act 1975 a person would be disqualified from membership of the Assembly if he

    "is a member of the legislature of any country or territory outside the Commonwealth".
    That would clearly cover membership of the Senate in the Republic of Ireland.

    Finally, following full devolution, it would be open to the Assembly to pass a resolution in accordance with the Northern Ireland Assembly Disqualification Act 1975 on which changes could be made to the law on disqualification for the Assembly. If, upon consideration, the Assembly wished to change any of the provisions regarding disqualification for membership of the Assembly, it would be for it to pass a resolution and then for an Order in Council to be passed under the terms of the Act. Therefore, I cannot advise the House to pass any of the four new clauses that are before us.

    On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will you tell my hon. Friends and myself whether you will permit a Division on new clause 20?

    Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

    The House divided: Ayes 22, Noes 161.

    Division No. 250]

    [9.40 pm


    Amery, Rt Hon JulianMorris, M. (N'hampton S)
    Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnPaisley, Rev Ian
    Budgen, NickPowell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)
    Cranborne, ViscountProctor, K. Harvey
    Dunlop, JohnRobinson, P. (Belfast E)
    Gardiner, George (Reigate)Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)
    Goodhart, Sir PhilipStanbrook, Ivor
    Kilfedder, James A.Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
    Lawrence, IvanWalker, B. (Perth)
    Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
    McCusker, H.Tellers for the Ayes:
    Molyneaux, JamesRev. Martin Smyth and
    Morgan, GeraintMr. Christopher Murphy.


    Alexander, RichardLuce, Richard
    Alison, Rt Hon MichaelLyell, Nicholas
    Alton, DavidLyons, Edward (Bradf'd W)
    Ancram, MichaelMacGregor, John
    Arnold, TomMadel, David
    Aspinwall, JackMajor, John
    Atkins, Rt Hon H. (S'thorne)Marlow, Antony
    Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)Marten, Rt Hon Neil
    Banks, RobertMates, Michael
    Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyMather, Carol
    Beith, A. J.Mawby, Ray
    Benyon, W. (Buckingham)Mawhinney, Dr Brian
    Berry, Hon AnthonyMaxwell-Hyslop, Robin
    Best, KeithMayhew, Patrick
    Bevan, David GilroyMellor, David
    Blackburn, JohnMeyer, Sir Anthony
    Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W)Mills, Iain (Meriden)
    Boyson, Dr RhodesMills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
    Braine, Sir BernardMitchell, R. C. (Soton Itchen)
    Bright, GrahamMoate, Roger
    Bruce-Gardyne, JohnMorrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
    Bryan, Sir PaulMudd, David
    Buck, AntonyMyles, David
    Bulmer, EsmondNeedham, Richard
    Cadbury, JocelynNelson, Anthony
    Campbell-Savours, DaleNeubert, Michael
    Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Newton, Tony
    Chalker, Mrs. LyndaNormanton, Tom
    Chapman, SydneyPage, Richard (SW Herts)
    Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Parris, Matthew
    Cockeram, EricPatten, John (Oxford)
    Cope, JohnPattie, Geoffrey
    Crawshaw, RichardPawsey, James
    Critchley, JulianPenhaligon, David
    Cryer, BobPink, R. Bonner
    Dorrell, StephenPitt, William Henry
    Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.Price, Sir David (Eastleigh)
    Dover, DenshorePrior, Rt Hon James
    du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardRaison, Rt Hon Timothy
    Dunn, Robert (Dartford)Rhodes James, Robert
    Elliott, Sir WilliamRidley, Hon Nicholas
    Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)Ridsdale, Sir Julian
    Eyre, ReginaldRoberts, Wyn (Conway)
    Fairgrieve, Sir RussellRoper, John
    Faith, Mrs SheilaRoss, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
    Fenner, Mrs PeggyRossi, Hugh
    Fisher, Sir NigelRost, Peter
    Fitt, GerardRumbold, Mrs A. C. R.
    Fookes, Miss JanetSainsbury, Hon Timothy
    Forman, NigelSandelson, Neville
    Fraser, Peter (South Angus)Scott, Nicholas
    Garel-Jones, TristanShaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
    Goodlad, AlastairShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
    Grimond, Rt Hon J.Shersby, Michael
    Grist, IanSilvester, Fred
    Hamilton, Hon A.Sims, Roger
    Hampson, Dr KeithSkeet, T. H. H.
    Heddle, JohnSkinner, Dennis
    Hicks, RobertSmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
    Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.Speller, Tony
    Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)
    Holland, Philip (Carlton)Stanley, John
    Hooson, TomSteen, Anthony
    Hordern, PeterStevens, Martin
    Howe, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyStewart, A. (E Renfrewshire)
    Howells, GeraintStewart, Ian (Hitchin)
    Hunt, David (Wirral)Tapsell, Peter
    Hurd, Rt Hon DouglasThomas, Rt Hon Peter
    Irvine, Bryant GodmanThompson, Donald
    Johnson Smith, Sir GeoffreyTrippier, David
    Jopling, Rt Hon Michaelvan Straubenzee, Sir W.
    Kellett-Bowman, Mrs ElaineVaughan, Dr Gerard
    Kimball, Sir MarcusViggers, Peter
    Lamont, NormanWaddington, David
    Lang, IanWainwright, R. (Colne V)
    Latham, MichaelWaldegrave, Hon William
    Lester, Jim (Beeston)Watson, John
    Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Wells, Bowen
    Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo)Wheeler, John

    Wickenden, Keith
    Williams, Rt Hon Mrs (Crosby)Tellers for the Noes:
    Mr. Robert Boscawen and
    Wolfson, MarkMr. Peter Brooke.

    Question accordingly negatived.

    I understand that the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) wishes to move new clause 20 formally.

    On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. New clause 20 is in two parts. The first would outlaw

    "a minister of religion having a cure of souls"
    from standing for the Assembly. We know who that is directed against. The second has to do with membership of a proscribed organisation. I should like to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you would put the two matters separately to the House. If you cannot do that, I should also say that I would have to abstain from voting on the new clause.

    It is not necessary for anyone in this place to explain if he does not go into the Lobby. I must put it as one new clause.

    New Clause 20

    Further Disqualification For Membership Of Assembly

    'In section 3(1) of the Northern Ireland Assembly Act 1973, at end there shall be added—

  • (e) if he is a minister of religion having a cure of souls;
  • (f) if he is, or has been, a member of a proscribed organisation.'.—[Mr. Amery.]
  • Brought up, and read the First time.

    Question put,That the clause be read a Second time:—

    The House divided: Ayes 19, Noes 163.

    Division 251]

    [9.52 pm


    Amery, Rt Hon JulianMorris, M. (N'hampton S)
    Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnPowell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)
    Budgen, NickProctor, K. Harvey
    Cranborne, ViscountRoss, Wm. (Londonderry)
    Farr, JohnShepherd, Richard
    Gardiner, George (Reigate)Stanbrook, Ivor
    Goodhart, Sir PhilipWalker, B. (Perth)
    Kilfedder, James A.
    Lawrence, IvanTellers for the Ayes:
    McCusker, H.Rev. Martin Smyth and
    Molyneaux, JamesMr. Christopher Murphy.
    Morgan, Geraint


    Alexander, RichardBraine, Sir Bernard
    Alison, Rt Hon MichaelBruce-Gardyne, John
    Alton, DavidBryan, Sir Paul
    Ancram, MichaelBuck, Antony
    Arnold, TomBulmer, Esmond
    Aspinwall, JackCadbury, Jocelyn
    Atkins, Rt Hon H. (S'thorne)Campbell-Savours, Dale
    Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
    Banks, RobertChalker, Mrs. Lynda
    Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyChannon, Rt. Hon. Paul
    Beith, A. J.Chapman, Sydney
    Benyon, W. (Buckingham)Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
    Berry, Hon AnthonyCockeram, Eric
    Best, KeithCope, John
    Bevan, David GilroyCrawshaw, Richard
    Blackburn, JohnCritchley, Julian
    Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W)Cryer, Bob
    Boyson, Dr RhodesDorrell, Stephen

    Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.Neubert, Michael
    Dover, DenshoreNewton, Tony
    du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardNormanton, Tom
    Dunn, Robert (Dartford)Parris, Matthew
    Elliott, Sir WilliamPatten, John (Oxford)
    Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)Pattie, Geoffrey
    Eyre, ReginaldPawsey, James
    Fairgrieve, Sir RussellPenhaligon, David
    Faith, Mrs SheilaPink, R. Bonner
    Fenner, Mrs PeggyPitt, William Henry
    Fisher, Sir NigelPrice, Sir David (Eastleigh)
    Fitt, GerardPrior, Rt Hon James
    Fookes, Miss JanetRaison, Rt Hon Timothy
    Forman, NigelRhodes James, Robert
    Fraser, Peter (South Angus)Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
    Garel-Jones, TristanRidley, Hon Nicholas
    Goodlad, AlastairRidsdale, Sir Julian
    Grimond, Rt Hon J.Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
    Grist, IanRoper, John
    Hamilton, Hon A.Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
    Hampson, Dr KeithRossi, Hugh
    Heddle, JohnRost, Peter
    Hicks, RobertRumbold, Mrs A. C. R
    Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
    Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)Sandelson, Neville
    Holland, Philip (Carlton)Scott, Nicholas
    Hooson, TomShaw, Sir Michael (Scarb)
    Hordern, PeterShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
    Howe, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyShersby, Michael
    Howells, GeraintSilvester, Fred
    Hunt, David (Wirral)Sims, Roger
    Hurd, Rt Hon DouglasSkeet, T. H. H.
    Irvine, Bryant GodmanSkinner, Dennis
    Johnson Smith, Sir GeoffreySmith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
    Jopling, Rt Hon MichaelSpeller, Tony
    Kellett-Bowman, Mrs ElaineSpicer, Jim (West Dorset)
    Kimball, Sir MarcusStanley, John
    Lamont, NormanSteen, Anthony
    Lang, IanStevens, Martin
    Latham, MichaelStewart, A. (E Renfrewshire)
    Lester, Jim (Beeston)Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
    Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Stradling Thomas, J.
    Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo)Tapsell, Peter
    Luce, RichardTaylor, Teddy (S'end E)
    Lyons, Edward (Bradf'd W)Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
    Madel, DavidThompson, Donald
    Major, JohnTrippier, David
    Marlow, Antonyvan Straubenzee, Sir W.
    Marten, Rt Hon NeilVaughan, Dr Gerard
    Mates, MichaelViggers, Peter
    Mather, CarolWaddington, David
    Mawby, RayWainwright, R. (Colne V)
    Mawhinney, Dr BrianWaldegrave, Hon William
    Maxwell-Hyslop, RobinWatson, John
    Mayhew, PatrickWellbeloved, James
    Mellor, DavidWells, Bowen
    Meyer, Sir AnthonyWheeler, John
    Mills, Iain (Meriden)Wickenden, Keith
    Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)Williams, D.(Montgomery)
    Mitchell, R. C. (Soton Itchen)Williams, Rt Hon Mrs (Crosby)
    Moate, Roger
    Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)Wolfson, Mark
    Mudd, David
    Myles, DavidTellers for the Noes:
    Needham, RichardMr. Robert Boscawen and
    Nelson, AnthonyMr. Peter Brooke.

    Question accordingly negatived.

    It being after Ten o'clock, MR. SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to the Order [22 June], to put forthwith the Questions on amendments, moved by a Member of the Government, of which notice had been given, to that port of the Bill to be concluded at Ten o'clock.

    Clause 2

    General Or Partial Suspension Of Direct Rule

    Amendment proposed: No. 7, in page 2, line 32, leave out from 'unless' to end of line 34 and insert

    'each House of Parliament has passed a resolution approving a draft of the Order and stating that its provisions are, in the opinion of that House, likely to command widespread acceptance throughout the community.'.—[Mr. Prior.]
    Question put, That the amendment be made:—

    The House divided: Ayes 165, Noes 22.

    Division No. 252]

    [10.03 pm


    Alexander, RichardEyre, Reginald
    Alison, Rt Hon MichaelFairgrieve, Sir Russell
    Alton, DavidFaith, Mrs Sheila
    Ancram, MichaelFenner, Mrs Peggy
    Arnold, TomFisher, Sir Nigel
    Aspinwall, JackFitt, Gerard
    Atkins, Rt Hon H. (S'thorne)Fookes, Miss Janet
    Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)Forman, Nigel
    Banks, RobertFraser, Peter (South Angus)
    Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyGarel-Jones, Tristan
    Beith, A.J.Goodlad, Alastair
    Benyon, W. (Buckingham)Grimond, Rt Hon J.
    Berry, Hon AnthonyGrist, Ian
    Best, KeithHampson, Dr Keith
    Blackburn, JohnHeddle, John
    Boscawen, Hon RobertHicks, Robert
    Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W)Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
    Boyson, Dr RhodesHogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
    Braine, Sir BernardHooson, Tom
    Brooke, Hon PeterHoram, John
    Bruce-Gardyne, JohnHordern, Peter
    Bryan, Sir PaulHowe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
    Buck, AntonyHowells, Geraint
    Bulmer, EsmondHunt, David (Wirral)
    Butler, Hon AdamHurd, Rt Hon Douglas
    Cadbury, JocelynIrvine, Bryant Godman
    Campbell-Savours, DaleJohnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
    Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
    Chalker, Mrs, LyndaKimball, Sir Marcus
    Channon, Rt, Hon. PaulLamont, Norman
    Chapman, SydneyLatham, Michael
    Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Lester, Jim (Beeston)
    Cockeram, EricLews, Kenneth (Rutland)
    Concannon, Rt Hon J.D.Lloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo)
    Cope, JohnLuce, Richard
    Crawshaw, RichardLyons, Edward (Bradf'd W)
    Critchley, JulianMadel, David
    Cryer, BobMajor, John
    Dormand, JackMarlow, Antony
    Dorrell, StephenMarshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
    Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.Marten, Rt Hon Neil
    Dover, DenshoreMates, Michael
    du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardMather, Carol
    Dunn, Robert (Dartford)Mawhinney, Dr Brian
    Elliott, Sir WilliamMaxwell-Hyslop, Robin
    Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)Mayhew, Patrick

    Mellor, DavidShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
    Meyer, Sir AnthonyShersby, Michael
    Mills, Iain (Meriden)Silvester, Fred
    Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)Skeet, T. H. H.
    Mitchell, R, C. (Soton Itchen)Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
    Moate, RogerSoley, Clive
    Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)Speller, Tony
    Mudd, DavidSpicer, Jim (West Dorset)
    Myles, DavidStanley, John
    Needham, RichardSteen, Anthony
    Nelson, AnthonyStevens, Martin
    Neubert, MichaelStewart, A. (E Renfrewshire)
    Newton, TonyStewart, Ian (Hitchin)
    Normanton, TomStradling Thomas, J.
    Parris, MatthewTapsell, Peter
    Patten, John (Oxford)Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
    Pattie, GeoffreyThomas, Rt Hon Peter
    Pawsey, JamesThompson, Donald
    Penhaligon, DavidTrippier, David
    Pink, R. Bonnervan Straubenzee, Sir W.
    Pitt, William HenryVaughan, Dr Gerard
    Price, Sir David (Eastleigh)Viggers, Peter
    Prior, Rt Hon JamesWaddington, David
    Raison, Rt Hon TimothyWainwright, R. (Colne V)
    Rhodes James, RobertWaldegrave, Hon William
    Rhys Williams, Sir BrandonWatson, John
    Ridley, Hon NicholasWellbeloved, James
    Ridsdale, Sir JulianWells, Bowen
    Roberts, Wyn (Conway)Wheeler, John
    Roper, JohnWickenden, Keith
    Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)Wilkinson, John
    Rossi, HughWilliams, D. (Montgomery)
    Rost, PeterWilliams, Rt Hon Mrs (Crosby)
    Royle, Sir AnthonyWolfson, Mark
    Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R.
    Sainsbury, Hon TimothyTellers for the Ayes:
    Sandelson, NevilleMr. Ian Lang and
    Scott, NicholasMr. Archie Hamilton.
    Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')


    Amery, Rt Hon JulianMorris, M. (N'hampton S)
    Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnPaisley, Rev Ian
    Budgen, NickPowell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)
    Cranborne, ViscountProctor, K. Harvey
    Dunlop, JohnRobinson, P. (Belfast E)
    Farr, JohnRoss, Wm. (Londonderry)
    Gardiner, George (Reigate)Shepherd, Richard
    Goodhart, Sir PhilipSkinner, Dennis
    Kilfedder, James A.Stanbrook, Ivor
    Lawrence, Ivan
    McCusker, H.Tellers for the Noes:
    Molyneaux, JamesMr. Christopher Murphy and
    Morgan, GeraintRev. Martin Smyth.

    Question accordingly agreed to.

    Amendment made: No. 8, in page 2, line 37, leave out from first 'or' to end of line 38 and insert

    ', if one or more Orders have been made under paragraph (b) of that subsection, so as to supersede that Order or those Orders. '— [Mr. Prior.]

    10.16 pm

    I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third Time.

    In Committee, a wide range of issues were discussed very thoroughly. After such a long and full debate there can be no doubt about the fundamental purposes of the Bill or of the significance of its central provisions, which are contained in clauses 1 and 2.

    The Government's proposals, to which the Bill gives effect, are in essence both modest and straightforward. They seek to give the people of Northern Ireland an opportunity to work out together, within the framework provided by the Bill, a way of living together in peace and justice. I remain convinced that that is something that the people of Northern Ireland must do for themselves. No "solution" imposed from outside Northern Ireland will work. And whatever the successes of direct rule may have been—I would not wish to underestimate them—they are no substitute for the people of Northern Ireland taking greater responsibility for their affairs.

    Many of the arguments that we had in Committee and at other times, centred on the argument between integration and devolution. I say to the Official Unionists on the Opposition Back Benches that there seems to be a conflict between the attitude taken by the right hon. Member for Down (Mr. Powell)—who has made it absolutely clear that he is a total integrationist, and whose arguments have all been adduced to that end—and the speeches made by the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) and his hon. Friends who, I understand, are committed to devolution like all the other parties in Northern Ireland although they are not committed to the form of devolution proposed in the Bill. A sharp distinction can be drawn between the reasons put forward by the right hon. Gentleman and those put forward by his hon. Friends. That should be made clear.

    We have made it clear that this is a permissive Bill. The Government will recommend to Parliament any reasonable scheme for devolution proposed by the Assembly, provided that it commands widespread acceptance throughout the community. This is not some arbitrary requirement that we have dreamt up. It is no more than a recognition of the facts of political life in Northern Ireland. For that reason, the Government's proposals do not require any group in Northern Ireland to compromise its deeply held beliefs. Rather, they provide a means whereby—despite their acknowledged and continuing differences—the two sides of the community can achieve sufficient mutual respect and make sufficient mutual accommodations to participate more creatively in the public life of the Province for the good of all its people.

    That is the objective which the test for devolution proposals prescribed in clause 1 are intended to serve. These tests are designed to help the Assembly in devising proposals that will command the necessary degree of support. It is for those reasons that the Government amendment to clause 2(2)—to the effect that when approving a draft order for full or partial devolution each House of Parliament will be required to state that the provisions of the order are likely to command widespread acceptance throughout the community—was tabled on Report, following the debate in Committee. I believe that that is right.

    It is also right to retain the two tests in clause 1(4). If 70 per cent. of the Assembly—a figure designed to ensure that any devolution proposals enjoy support in both parts of the community—can agree on devolution proposals, they should be laid before Parliament so that it can consider whether the proposals provide a satisfactory and stable basis for devolution. Equally, if devolution proposals are formulated and they enjoy support in both parts of the community, even though they do not obtain 70 per cent. support in the Assembly, the Secretary of State should have the discretion to bring them to Parliament's attention.

    The Government have never argued that the Bill will solve all Northern Ireland's problems. The debates show how difficult that will be. I hope that it is now clear why, after very careful consideration, we believe it right to take this step. I say to my right hon. and hon. Friends that we took this step after immensely careful consideration. I and my Cabinet colleagues knew the difficulties that there would be. We did not wantonly find a means of trying to disagree with some of our hon. Friends on the Back Benches. We should, of course, have preferred not to have had the disagreement, but at the end of the day we had to decide whether to take steps. I have always believed that we were right to do so.

    I cannot accept that the price of our proposals for the creation of what we hope will be just and durable institutions will be more deaths—and I refer to what the right hon. Member for Down, South said. After more than a decade of violence, during which more than 2,000 people have been killed, it is all the more important to seek political arrangements to which all the people of Northern Ireland can subscribe. Unless we can establish and foster political institutions which meet that fundamental criterion, I do not believe that there will be lasting peace, a return to prosperity and the restoration of hope that there can be a better future in Northern Ireland. That is why, more than anything, I part company with the right hon. Member for Down, South and some of my hon. Friends. I do not believe that the alternative suggested—integration or just more local government powers associated with integration—are an answer to the deep-seated and deep-rooted problems.

    To deny the people of Northern Ireland the chance of working out together political arrangements to meet their needs is not merely to deny them and their children hope of a peaceful future. It is to reduce the chances of a lasting return to economic prosperity. The skills are there. The human talent is there. Good industrial relations are there, for the most part. What is lacking is the long-term political stability which is essential to industrial investment.

    To those who say that the Government's approach ignores the lessons of Northern Ireland's history, I say that it is precisely because of that history that it is essential to establish demonstrably just and fair institutions.

    Successive Governments since direct rule was introduced have adopted that approach in relation to political rights and to the more general question of fundamental human rights. The Government attach particular importance to human rights in Northern Ireland. I have said before that human rights are well protected. Over the years a wide range of measures designed to prevent discrimination have been introduced. Like my predecessors, I have benefited from the advice of the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights, but I recognise that fears still exist about how human rights should best be protected.

    I can assure the House that we are not complacent and that we shall continue to do all that we can to ensure that the rights of each citizen are fully protected and respected. The Bill's provisions, while not dealing directly with human rights, are wholly consistent with our firmly held views on the subject.

    The proposals to which the Bill gives effect provide a real opportunity, if the people of Northern Ireland are willing and prepared to take it, to fashion for themselves fair and durable political institutions that give hope for stability. It is for those elected to the Assembly to take the initiative as to the extent and pace of devolution. But right from the start the Assembly will have a key role as an elected local forum for scrutiny and debate, a role upon which it can build in the ways provided for in the Bill. In that respect the Committee system that is introduced by the Bill is of immense importance. It is through that system more than anything else that the way forward is likely to come.

    I am under no illusions about the difficulties that lie ahead, particularly the formation of a Northern Ireland Administration which meets the criteria laid down in the Bill and which have been discussed fully in Committee. But I remain convinced that this is the right step to take and that we should take it now. To my hon. Friends who have worked extremely hard and have spent a great deal of time late at night and at other times opposing the Bill, I say that they carried their opposition to the Bill through all its stages and that I respect their views. But it is important for the people of Northern Ireland that now that we have had our battles in the House we should seek the maximum agreement and the maximum support for trying to get the Act, as I hope that it will become after it has been through another place, accepted and working.

    To those who said that the Act will be unworkable I say that, if it is desired to make it unworkable, that can be done, but if there is a will to make it work, it can work. One has to examine all these matters in the light of the history of the Province and in the light of its present position and, my goodness, Northern Ireland needs more than anything at the moment a will for people to work together and a will to make things work. That is particularly true of political institutions.

    All these matters will take time. One must not expect instant results once the Assembly is elected and begins its work. It will take some time and we should not be too disappointed if not much progress is made at the beginning. The Bill will provide an opportunity to break the political vacuum that has existed for a number of years. The fact that no one in Northern Ireland is becoming over excited about the proposals may be a good thing. If they had been built up to be the panacea for all the problems of Northern Ireland, they would have stood little chance of being successful. However, the Bill is being introduced in a comparatively calm climate. There is not the great antagonism to the Bill that was suggested by the right hon. Member for Down, South, but neither is there great support for it. I am prepared to admit that.

    The right hon. Gentleman has said that there is no support for the Bill. That is not the view that I have, and it is not the view in his party. The right hon. Gentleman does not speak for his party on this matter. There is considerable support in a quiet way because the people of Northern Ireland recognise that they have to seek to make political progress. The fact that they do not have things all the way that they would want them is not necessarily to say that the progress should not be attempted. I believe the progress should be attempted. What is more, I can pledge the full co-operation of Ministers in the Department to do all that they can to help the Assembly on its way once it is set up.

    We must do what we can to help the political institutions of Northern Ireland to develop in what we believe is the only way possible. It is in the spirit of asking my hon. Friends, once the Bill is enacted, to give it a fair wind, to try to help it to work and to try to give the people of Northern Ireland the confidence to work it that I commend it to the House.

    We considered the Bill for a long time in Committee. I hope that the scars that it may have caused on the Government side of the House can be quickly healed in the attempt that we are making to bring to a deserving group within the United Kingdom an opportunity for the political advancement and political stability which it has lacked for so long.

    10.32 pm

    I think that the House will understand that the motion on the Order Paper in the names of my right hon. and hon. Friends is a technical one that was tabled to ensure that a debate should take place on Third Reading. As the Secretary of State said, we have had a long journey with the Bill. It began with the White Paper and took us through Second Reading, Committee, Report, and finally Third Reading. The majority of right hon. and hon. Members have agreed that in Northern Ireland there must be a paramountcy of widespread cross-community support for political advancement.

    The Labour Party's policy paper recognises that need. On page 5 it states:
    "it will be necessary to continue for a time with direct rule—possibly, in the interim period, seeking the establishment, by agreement, of a devolved partnership administration…it would be no part of the political programme of the Labour Party to force Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom or into the Republic of Ireland. Before any constitutional change is made, therefore, we would seek to obtain the consent of the people of Northern Ireland".
    That is the Labour Party's position and that has always been so. We do not believe that partition can be ended by threats, coercion or force. I hope that any attempt to say otherwise today will be ended by my quotation from the policy paper.

    As the Bill has passed through the House we have tried to safeguard the position of the minority. Alterations have been made in Committee and on Report in the proper direction that will lead to a better chance of securing the widespread cross-community support that we have all sought. We would have liked the changes to go further. However, the Bill is slightly better than it was on Second Reading.

    New clause 1 caused great trouble during the first sitting in Committee and many points of order were raised. It was then new clause 4. Its purpose was to update clause 12 of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973. I was surprised by the response that greeted it. The issues that are before us will not go away and we must be open enough further to discuss them in the House. The Opposition will take every opportunity to do so.

    The Secretary of State mentioned the 70 per cent. provision, which has been an albatross for him. I do not know where he suddenly picked up the idea. I believe that he would have loved to drop it, but I understand why he cannot, and why it must remain in the Bill. The Opposition are happy that the widespread cross-community support is paramount. The House will deal with that.

    The Opposition are prepared to let the Bill have its run when it becomes an Act. We are prepared to let the Northern Ireland people decide the Bill's fate. I trust that those who are elected to the Assembly will take their time and will not rush at things. Much has to be done before devolution proposals come forward to the House. Much has to be done to make sure that everyone can work round the table and discuss matters. Much of the antipathy between the two communities can be worked out round the table.

    We have had a remarkable Committee stage, and a timetable motion to go with it. We have also had the activities of the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow). As yet, what I said has not been denied. They seemed obvious things to say. If there had been no substance in them, they would have been denied. Today there was an unfortunate episode. The least said now, the better.

    I have no doubt that we will, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will see the error of his ways. That was character assassination at its worst. It has the political equality of pulling the trigger of an Armalite at a British soldier in a back street in Northern Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Bill cost lives. He has already cost one, through the political assassination of a young civil servant in the Northern Ireland Office on no evidence.

    Is not the right hon. Gentleman forgetting that on many occasions in the past when members of the security forces and many other people in Northern Ireland were believed by the security forces to be in great danger of their lives, it was found possible to move them out of Northern Ireland? If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) place a civil servant in the tremendous danger that he has described, will he advise the Secretary of State to transfer him to a safer post?

    The hon. Gentleman misunderstood what I said about character assassination. There is a difference between pulling the trigger at someone and character assassination in the House. I equated the terrorist action of pulling the trigger of an Armalite with what the right hon. Gentleman did to the civil servant today.

    No party in Northern Ireland has a good word for the Bill. That was a good start for the Secretary of State. If one of the parties had had a good word to say for the Bill, the right hon. Gentleman would have been in trouble. In Northern Ireland, as far as I know, every party will fight the Assembly elections. If the Bill is to work, the communities will have to work together, with the onus falling on the majority community, to make sure that the Bill works.

    After the long Committee and Report stage, there is no need for the Labour Party to change its stance on the Bill. Therefore, we do not aim to divide the House on Third Reading.

    10.38 pm

    Ireland has been the grave of many a reputation. All of us who have taken part in this long debate have been sticking out our necks, no one more so than my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

    I have to admire the courage with which my right hon. Friend came forward with a new initiative half way through the lifetime of this Parliament and after only a few months in his new office. It recalls in a way the risks taken by George Wyndham, another Conservative Secretary of State, then for all Ireland, who proved to be his own undertaker. I hope that that will not be my right hon. Friend's fate.

    To understand the Bill we have to look back. The original home rule Bills proposed by Gladstone and Asquith envisaged home rule for the whole of Ireland including Ulster. They were prepared to coerce the Province into being part of a united Ireland. That was the breaking point for Joseph Chamberlain and Hartington who deserted the Liberal Party and joined the Conservative Party primarily on the issue of Ulster. It was the issue on which Lord Randolph Churchill—the great Churchill's father—coined his slogan:
    "Ulster will fight; and Ulster will be right."
    It was on the same issue that Balfour and Bonar Law encouraged the mutiny at the Curragh to ensure that the armed forces were not used to coerce Ulster.

    After the First World War the Lloyd George coalition Government came up with a compromise. They conceded home rule to the South; they imposed home rule on the North. The North did not want it, but home rule was imposed on Ulster in the hope that there would be a council of all Ireland, an idea to which my right hon. Friend returns. To ensure that it would work they wanted devolved government in the North as well as the South. That was reluctantly accepted by the Conservative leaders, Austen Chamberlain and others, and even more reluctantly by Carson and Craig. Stormont was intended to keep the door open to reunion.

    I shall tread warily in dealing with what I might call the discussion between the prior and the abbot. I have no doubt that the document lent to us by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) is authentic. Equally, it does not necessarily reflect the Secretary of State's views.

    My right hon. Friend has absolutely no reason to say that he has every reason to believe that that document is authentic. How does my right hon. Friend justify that remark?

    I have consulted the right hon. Member for Down, South, who is a Privy Councillor. He has informed me of its origin, and I should not like to doubt his word. As far as I understand it, the document has not been checked, but the right hon. Gentleman believes it to be an authentic document, taken down by someone who had the interview with the civil servant. To the best of the right hon. Gentleman's knowledge and belief, it is a true document.

    What my right hon. Friend has just said is not enough evidence to suggest that that document is authentic. If it had been signed, was on a proper paper and there was proof that it is an exact recording of an interview, that might be different. My right hon. Friend cannot say more than that he has been told by the right hon. Member for Down, South that he believes the document to be authentic. That is not sufficient reason for saying that the document is authentic or for assassinating the character of a deserving civil servant.

    The last thing I want to do is to assassinate Mr. Abbott's character. I believe, however, that the document reflects the flavour of the thinking in the Northern Ireland Office. I am not prepared to put it aside simply because my right hon. Friend says he is not sure whether it is authentic. I am not using it against Mr. Abbott. I am using it against my right hon. Friend, and this I shall continue to do.

    The Secretary of State has it in his power, as none of the rest of us, outside the security services, has, to ascertain the full truth of the matter.

    What is more, I shall certainly do so. At this stage, I have no evidence that it is authentic and a good deal of evidence to suggest that the document has no authenticity of any sort.

    I have already stated that I am not using this against Mr. Abbott in any way. I am using it against my right hon. Friend's office.

    In 1921, Stormont was imposed upon the north of Ireland. It is interesting to find that Mr. Abbott is alleged to have said that
    "the 1921 treaty was a squalid deal in which Northern Ireland should never have existed."
    This may or may not be an authentic view of his. I have some reason to suspect that it is the view of the Northern Ireland Office.

    My right hon. Friend suspects that it is the view of the Northern Ireland Office. It is just possible that it is the view of the person who wrote it in the hope that he would be able to cast an unnecessary slur on Northern Ireland civil servants and Ministers in the Northern Ireland Department.

    My right hon. Friend may be right. But it may seem, as I develop the argument, a little different from what my right hon. Friend says.

    So that there can be no accusation of second hand information, I should like to relate briefly a conversation that took place at a function sponsored by the Northern Ireland Office three years ago when a senior civil servant said to me "Mr. Molyneaux, you and I are intelligent enough to know that the only solution is a united Ireland."

    The hon. Gentleman simply adds to my idea of the flavour of thinking in the Northern Ireland Office. Stormont was imposed on Northern Ireland as a means of progress towards eventual reunion. At least, however, Stormont gave the majority community the decisive say. My right hon. Friend is trying to go a step further. He is trying to set up an Assembly where the minority will have a veto. When we say that the minority will have a veto, we mean, in effect, that the leaders of the minority community, who are closely associated with Dublin, will have a veto. This is, and cannot help being, a step towards the reunion of Ireland and away from the union with the United Kingdom.

    This is inescapable. If one gives a veto to the minority community and one knows that the minority community is linked to Dublin, this must be the effect of the Assembly that my right hon. Friend is trying to create. I go back to the White Paper and Second Reading. My right hon. Friend began by claiming that his proposals would help the security of the Province. He did not say much about how they would achieve that. Some of us, I think, took the view that the argument was irrelevant. I took that view until we saw the Abbott transcript. The transcript tells us that, had there been integration or local government, we would not have had the co-operation of the Dublin government. The justification of my right hon. Friend's statement that his Bill would help security is that if we avoid local government or integration we may obtain more co-operation from the South. That is implicit in what he says.

    I am not clear whether the document purports to be answers written by the civil servant of a record of a conversation that the right hon. Gentleman believes to be correct.