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Commons Chamber

Volume 26: debated on Tuesday 29 June 1982

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House Of Commons

Tuesday 29 June 1982

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

Woolworths (Aberdeen Development) Order Confirmation Bill

Read a Second time, and committed.

Oral Answers To Questions


White Paper


asked the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects to publish the defence White Paper.

The statement on the Defence Estimates for 1982 was published last Tuesday.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that we support and applaud his decision to publish the White Paper, particularly his commitment to publish the addendum on the Falkland Islands when the results of that operation are known?

Is he further aware that many of us support and applaud his decision to retain "Intrepid" and "Fearless"—a decision which was made well before the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands—as evidence of our commitment to the amphibious operation that is so important to our defence of the northern flank?

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's support of my decision to publish the White Paper. I was glad to be able to look at the matter of "Intrepid" and "Fearless" again towards the end of last year. They form a substantial and important part of our amphibious capability.

Does the Secretary of State recall the statement on page 12 of the White Paper that the Royal Navy is in the middle of a major programme of new warship construction? Will he confirm that that is a major programme only because of orders placed by the Labour Government, and that planned numbers of carriers, destroyers, frigates, attack submarines, Sea Harriers, Royal Fleet Auxiliaries and Royal Marine Commandos are all distinctly down compared with the situation inherited from the previous Administration, despite recent events?

About 28 modern warships are under construction in the yards at the moment. Because Britain suffered under the misfortune of Labour Governments over several years, a large proportion of the orders were placed by Labour Governments.

In the current financial year the Government are to spend £½ billion more in real terms on the Royal Navy's conventional programme than the Labour Government spent. The hon. Gentleman has nothing to criticise in our programme for the Royal Navy.

In view of the remarks by a senior NATO commander that there is a clear case for an increase in defence expenditure by NATO countries, that the cost of weapons systems is increasing faster than the rate of inflation, and that certain weaknesses in our missile systems have been brought out in the recent conflict in the South Atlantic, does my right hon. Friend agree that there is a clear case for increasing defence expenditure in Britain?

There is no evidence so far that our missile systems were unsuccessful. The evidence is that all our missile systems performed extremely well. Clearly, we must look into that further in the next few months.

No one would be more happy than I if there were an increase above the 3 per cent. in defence expenditure. The threat grows, and it is substantial. However, as my hon. Friend knows, the Government's present policy is to devote a yearly 3 per cent. real increase in defence expenditure in accordance with the aims of NATO.

Will the Secretary of State give a clear and unequivocal answer to the question posed by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy)? Is not the Government's policy, as embodied in the Defence Estimates, to reduce the size of major warships down to frigates in the Royal Navy for the next decade?

As the decade moves on, there will be fewer destroyers than frigates in the Fleet than was planned when the Labour Party was in Government. Nevertheless, it is true that the conventional naval programme is taking a larger share of this year's defence budget than it took when the Labour Party was in office. There has been some reduction in our forward plans, because we took a policy decision to spend more on weapons systems, such as torpedoes and Sea Wolf, than on platforms. That was a conscious policy decision and it was right. There is no point in having a frigate that is not properly equipped and armed.

Is it not a fact that, leaving aside Polaris and so on, 28 per cent. of the defence budget is spent on the conventional Navy and that, according to the Secretary of State's plans, the percentage will drop as the decade progresses?

About 28 per cent. of the total defence budget this year will be spent on the conventional Navy. The figure was about 27·9 per cent. when the Labour Government were in power. When Trident is introduced the percentage spent on the Navy will increase. Trident is a crucial part of the Royal Navy, and I see no reason to exclude it from any discussion of our defence policy.

Falkland Islands


asked the Secretary of State for Defence what are his plans for the future defence of the Falkland Islands.


asked the Secretary of State for Defence what proposals he has for future United Kingdom defence commitments covering the Falkland Islands and South Atlantic.


asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement about plans for the defence of the interests of the United Kingdom and its dependencies in the South Atlantic.


asked the Secretary of State for Defence what measures for the future defence of the Falkland Islands he now proposes.


asked the Secretary of State for Defence what proposals he has for the future defence of British territory in the South Atlantic; and if he will make a statement.

We are actively considering what forces will be needed in the South Atlantic in the future. Meanwhile, as the House will readily acknowledge, there is in the Falklands area a substantial task force of proven capability.

Order. I propose to call first those five hon. Members whose questions are being answered.

As it is essential to provide for the adequate defence of islands that have been won back by our Services with such magnificent heroism, how will the right hon. Gentleman find the money to maintain that important commitment, to replace lost vessels, to maintain the 3 per cent. increase and the Trident programme and to carry out the necessary strengthening of our conventional defences?

I hope that I shall receive some small additional contribution from Her Majesty's Exchequer.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are 13 United Kingdom overseas dependencies, including the Falkland Islands, involving 5·5 million people? Does not the experience of the Falkland Islands show that Parliament should determine their future either in the wider international context involving their security, or—if they are to remain the sole responsibility of Britain—by adequately defending them and deterring any potential aggressor?

The constitution and future of our dependencies are matters for my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. Clearly, Hong Kong has the largest population of the dependencies, and, as my hon. Friend knows, we defend it in a substantial manner. The same goes for Gibraltar. Of course we will do our utmost to defend our dependencies, but not at the expense of the defence of the United Kingdom.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the task force's success and the expeditious retaking of the Falkland Islands were underlined by the interdependence of each part of the Armed Services? Will he reassure the House that that will be the cornerstone of his defence strategy and that it will be reflected in the logistics, organisation and administration of the different parts of his Department?

The manner in which all three Services worked together in the Falklands campaign was absolutely magnificent. Under the ultimate command of Admiral Fieldhouse, the co-ordination, goodwill and the way in which all three Services worked together was an example of how such things should be done.

Now that sovereignty over the Falkland Islands has been restored, will it be the Government's defence policy to regard any future attack on Port Stanley as if it were an attack on Portsmouth?

I am sure that if there were an attack on Port Stanley we would respond in exactly the same way as we did recently.

In furtherance of mutual defence interests in the South Atlantic, will my right hon. Friend open negotiations with friendly countries in the southern hemisphere, such as Australia, New Zealand, Chile and South Africa?

I am sorry, but I am somewhat puzzled by my hon. Friend's question. If there is a formal end to hostilities with Argentina, we shall want to discuss the future of that part of the world with all the adjoining countries. Indeed, we wish to retain the excellent relations that we have with other South American countries, such as Chile, Uruguay and Brazil. Even during the conflict we retained reasonably good relations with all those countries.

What has been the effect of the Falklands conflict on our NATO commitments, and what will be the likely effect if we continue to defend the Falkland Islands to the necessary extent?

Clearly, sending the task force to the South Atlantic meant that a large part of our contribution to the maritime presence in the East Atlantic was temporarily absent. That goes without saying. Virtually nothing was withdrawn from Germany and the British Army of the Rhine, although I believe that a few soldiers were used. However, the Royal Navy was deployed in the South Atlantic.

Will the Secretary of State take measures to ensure that the defence of the Falkland Islands is not threatened by the supply of British arms to the Argentine? The Government continued to supply arms until 24 March.

I realise that the hon. Gentleman feels strongly about arms sales. However, he knows that the majority of arms sold to Argentina were sold under contracts that were entered into by the Labour Government. We shall continue to review all arms sales. In certain circumstances we shall not sell arms to some countries. That policy will continue.

Would Argentine acceptance of resolution 502 constitute a cessation of hostilities and thus reduce the need for the present level of defensive effort in the Falkland Islands?

We need a specific declaration from the Argentine that hostilities have ceased. Given that we have repossessed the Falkland Islands, mere acceptance of resolution 502 would not be a sufficient indication that the Argentines intend formally to cease hostilities. However, the new Government have not yet taken office. We shall probably have to await that event before getting a clear sign from Buenos Aires.

Britain will no doubt have to keep some military presence in the Falkland Islands for the foreseeable future, including perhaps three or four frigates and other Armed Forces, but what effect will that have on our NATO commitment? Will there be a gap in our NATO commitment, or will the right hon. Gentleman build more ships to fill the gap?

In the short term, if we need to keep frigates in the South Atlantic, they will naturally not be available in the East Atlantic. Part of our NATO arrangement has been that, in a national emergency, we would be free to use our NATO contribution elsewhere. That remains the position.

Harriers (Development)


asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether the Government are now considering developments in the capability of the Harriers and Sea Harriers, including the possibility of developing the aircraft as a supersonic fighter interceptor.

Harrier and Sea Harrier aircraft performed magnificently in the South Atlantic. We shall, of course, be studying very carefully all the implications of those operations. As already announced in Cmnd. 8288, presented in June last year, we are jointly engaged with the United States in the AV8B development of the Harrier, to be known here as the Harrier GR5, which will provide significantly improved performance over its predecessor, especially in range and payload.

The Royal Navy is planning a programme of mid-life improvements to the Sea Harrier which will allow that aircraft to fulfil its role until the late 1990s. Studies on the next generation of combat aircraft are still at an early stage, as I told my hon. Friend during his Adjournment debate on 1 March, but the possibility of a supersonic short take-off and vertical landing aircraft will certainly be covered.

I am filled with admiration for the stupendous heroism shown by the Harrier pilots. Is my hon. Friend aware that the technology used to develop the P110 would also be of assistance in developing the aircraft to meet air staff target 410, which is broadly described as the supersonic Harrier?

Are the factories producing the planes safe? Do any of the aircraft come from the Brough factory in Yorkshire? Are there any plans for the areas where planes from the Brough factory are tested which could put that factory in great danger?

I do not know what the hon. Gentleman is driving at as regards the safety of the Brough factory. Perhaps he will write to me and I shall reply.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the present Harrier was derived from the 1127 and that a supersonic version was the 1154, which was scrapped together with the TSR2? Will my hon. Friend examine the 1154 programme when looking for a supersonic version?

I am aware of the background described by my hon. Friend. In an advanced V/STOL programme we are looking for an answer to our needs to the end of the 1990s or to the mid-1990s. Obviously, technology must move a good deal further than that which applied in the examples cited.

As a matter of urgency, will the Minister say whether the Government are favourably disposed towards underwriting or giving an affirmative answer to the British Aerospace P110, which is its latest development?

On several occasions from the Dispatch Box I have told the House that the position has not changed. We are continuing to work with British Aerospace and are considering its proposals. We shall obviously give whatever assistance is possible within the constraints of the defence budget.

Cruise Missiles


asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on progress on the installation of cruise missiles.

Preparations are on schedule to receive the first cruise missiles before the end of 1983.

Will the Minister confirm that cruise missiles are not verifiable, that there is no right of veto over their use by the United Kingdom Government and that millions of people in Holland, Belgium, West Germany and Britain are deeply opposed to the deployment of cruise missiles? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in Britain such opposition is symbolised by the determination of the women camped outside Greenham Common to demonstrate that the nation rejects the potential escalation in nuclear weaponry?

As has been explained from the Dispatch Box in the past, the arrangements for the use of the bases are the same as have applied for 30 years—namely, that they cannot be used without the joint agreement of the American and British Governments.

Many people may be opposed to the presence of cruise missiles in Britain on the basis of false assumptions spread by people who do not understand the true facts. I am convinced that millions of people believe that we should preserve our defences and are in favour of the installation of cruise missiles, which are intended by the United States, at the request of Europe, to demonstrate its commitment to the defence of Europe.

Since the deployment of the missiles is to some context contingent upon the success or otherwise of the Geneva talks on limiting intermediate range nuclear missiles, will my hon. Friend say when an outcome of the talks can be expected?

My hon. Friend is right. If the proposal by the American Government for the zero option is successful, it will not be necessary to install the missiles. My hon. Friend asked about progress. My experience is that when negotiating with the Soviet Union about disarmament, one must be extremely patient. That is the right approach now.

Is not the zero option a false option, because it does not take into consideration other weapons systems in Europe and only puts the American systems on land against the Russian systems on land? If we must be patient, why cannot we be patient about the establishment of cruise missiles? Why not wait for the outcome of the Geneva talks before we decide?

If one compares like with like, taking the SS20, the SS4 and SS5 missiles on one side and the Pershing and cruise missiles on our side, the ratio in favour of the Soviet Union is 4:1. If one includes aircraft, the ratio becomes about 6:1.

I was asked about the time scale for the installation of cruise missiles. My opinion is that continuing to show our determination in a united manner to install the missiles in default of agreement provides the best chance of persuading the Soviet Union to agree to the zero option.

In view of the divergence in defence policy between ourselves and the United States, particularly in the Middle East, is it not essential that we should have a physical bar on the use of cruise missiles? Otherwise, Soviet perception of United States policy in Europe might visit a dreadful retribution on the United Kingdom?

My hon. Friend is 180 degrees off target. Our determination to show our resolve with the United States to defend the United Kingdom and Western Europe is the best safeguard for peace.

Suez Canal Campaign Medal


asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will reconsider the decision not to award a campaign medal for service in the Suez Canal Zone in 1951–52.

I thank my hon. Friend for that abrupt and very disappointing reply. The Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, asked that that service should be recognised. Is my hon. Friend aware that the number killed in the four months of the campaign was as great as the number killed in one year during the height of the Malayan emergency? Is my hon. Friend further aware that the Egyptian Government awarded their troops a medal? Is it really true that political considerations, which are now totally outdated, prevailed at the time to avoid giving offence to the Egyptian Government? Surely it is high time that the injustice was remedied.

I am sure that I speak for the whole House when I say how welcome the change in my hon. Friend's title is.

The matter was considered 30 years ago by the Army Board. I see no ground for reviewing it now.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. If there was a personal reason for asking the question, I should have declared an interest in the campaign.

On a further point of order. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Special Clothing


asked the Secretary of State for Defence to what extent clothing used by Service personnel in the Falklands conflict has proved adequate in the climatic conditions encountered.

Knowing the Falklands winter to be exceptionally inclement—a combination of high winds, much rain and temperatures around freezing-point—substantial extra issues of modern high-quality clothing were made to troops taking part in the operation. It is, however, too early for us to be able to assess detailed reports to see what lessons about clothing may be drawn from the operation.

Does my hon. Friend agree that one has only to look at television pictures of the troops in the Falklands to see that the warm lightweight clothing worn by the British troops compared impressively with the bulky and heavyweight clothing worn by the Argentine troops? Is he aware that letters home confirm that the troops were impressed with their clothing? Will my hon. Friend confirm that boots did not leak and that waterproof and windproof clothing was in fact waterproof and windproof?

It is extremely difficult to get boots that do not leak. The new combat boot, of which 2,500 pairs were delivered to the Forces at the beginning of June, is an interesting piece of equipment and we believe that it will probably fit the bill.

Is the Under-Secretary of State aware that four and half years ago, in the depth of winter, I had the great pleasure and honour to visit our Royal Marine Commandos at their winter training in Arctic conditions in Norway? Is the hon. Gentleman further aware that I was kitted out with exactly the same items of clothing as those worn by the Marines and found them extremely adequate, and that was the view of a colonel of the United States Marine Corps, who was also highly delighted? For those reasons, I was fully confident that our Royal Marines and other Service men would acquit themselves as well as they did in the South Atlantic, in contrast to their opponents from the Argentine.

I recall the hon. Gentleman's visit to the Arctic Circle. I am glad, as I am sure the Armed Forces will be, to have his seal of approval for the equipment. I am glad that he has obviously never suffered from trench foot.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the clothing used by the crew of HMS "Endurance" was just one factor in enabling them to carry out their duties so magnificently in repossessing Southern Thule and defending South Georgia and the Falklands? Will he therefore urge his right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench to make a statement as soon as possible about the future of the ship, so that it can continue its traditional role in the South-West Atlantic?

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State may have something to say about that matter in the debate later this week.

Was 63 Squadron of the RAF Regiment adequately kilted out when it was in the Falklands? Is it intended that the regiment should remain in the Falklands or return to Germany? I am sure that the Minister will appreciate that any information that he can give about the squadron will be appreciated by the relatives of the men, who can obtain no information from his Department?

I am extremely disturbed to hear what the hon. Gentleman has said. I shall look into the matter immediately and write to him.

Raf Kemble


asked the Secretary of State for Defence what future use is envisaged for RAF Kemble.

Is the Minister aware that many of my constituents who work at RAF Kemble believe that there is a continuing need, in the light of the Falklands dispute, to keep the station open—[Interruption.]—With 3 or 4 million unemployed they need all the employment that they can get, even at RAF Kemble, so let us have none of that. Is the hon. Gentleman further aware that there are disturbing rumours that in future RAF Kemble is to be used as a maintenance depot for cruise weapons and/or the storage of chemical weapons? Will he categorically deny these rumours?

In answer to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, I have been kept fully posted by my hon. Friends the Members for Chippenham (Mr. Needham) and Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), on the situation at Kemble. In answer to the second part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, as he knows, the United States Air Force is examining the available facilities and, unfortunately, has not yet been able to divulge anything to me about its intentions. However, I have given the United States Air Force every possible facility and hope that we shall be able to do something.

Is my hon. Friend aware that many of my constituents work at RAF Kemble and that they are all convinced of the excellence of the institution and the good work that they do? Is my hon. Friend further aware that in an area where alternative employment would be difficult to find, a great deal of difficulty will be caused to my constituents when the station closes down?

I am conscious of that. I am seeking to co-operate in every possible way with the Americans or anyone else who seeks to use the facility.

Recruitment Procedures


asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he is satisfied that recruitment procedures are working smoothly and efficiently.

Is the Minister aware that many of the sons and daughters of my constituents who have applied to join the three Services have been kept waiting for as long as six, 12, and 18 months after being given an affirmative answer in earlier interviews before they are told whether they have a firm place in the Armed Services? In some cases this has gone on for 18 months and it is a great drain on the resources of young people looking for employment.

I am aware of the problem, which, unfortunately, extends beyond the hon. Gentleman's constituency. The candidates who are recommended for places in the Services are told clearly that this does not guarantee entry. I have reaffirmed with those responsible that they should emphasise that point in order to avoid disappointment. It is an inevitable problem when there are more people seeking to enter the Services than there are places for them.

Is my hon. Friend aware that, contrary to what the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. Sheerman) seems to think, recruitment procedures in Her Majesty's forces are absolutely first class and in many respects are superior to those in use in British industry and commerce?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for those kind comments, but if it is possible I shall seek to remove the difficulty that the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. Sheerman) raised in the original question.

Arms Sales (Latin America)


asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he now has any plans to review the United Kingdom's arms sales to Latin American military Governments in the light of recent events.

The sale of defence equipment is kept under continual review. All applications are considered individually on their merits in the light of all relevant factors.

As the Government suddenly discovered during the Falklands struggle that the Government of Argentina are Fascist, is it not reasonable to assume that they will look at all the other Governments in Latin America—most of which are similar? Are the Government aware that when the Falklands business broke equipment was on the high seas going to the Fascist Argentine Government from the British Tory Government? Is it not reasonable to ask that all those arms sales should be carefully examined in the light of the political stance of those Latin American Governments and the likelihood that they are still suppressing their people with the aid of this Government?

I cannot recall the hon. Gentleman addressing a question on similar lines to the Labour Government when they were supplying military equipment to the same Fascist Government and many others.

While I appreciate that my hon. Friend does not have access to all the papers of the previous Administration, will he try to discover how many draft letters of resignation from the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) exist in the archives on the subject of arms sales?

Since in the Falklands war some British troops were killed with British-made weapons, is it not time for all of us seriously to consider whether Britain should not seek gradually to disengage from the international traffic in arms? Is it not a fact that very often arms are produced in Britain with an eye to the balance of payments as much as on British defence requirements?

As the right hon. Gentleman will know, the questions that he has raised are interrelated. The ability of British industry to supply the equipment that is needed by the British Armed Forces does turn, to some degree at least, on its ability to export items of defence equipment.

Will my hon. Friend list the other weapons, in addition to the Canberras and the type 42 ships, that were sold by the Labour Government to the Argentine, particularly when the right hon. Member for Lanark (Dame Judith Hart) was at the Foreign Office? If my hon. Friend can list those weapons, will he place the list in the Library?

I gave a considerable list—almost an exhaustive one—on the last occasion when defence matters were dealt with at Question Time. It is in the Official Report for that day.

Falkland Islands


asked the Secretary of State for Defence what is his latest estimate of the cost to public funds of the Falkland Islands campaign, including the cost of ships, aircraft and equipment lost and destroyed.

It is not yet possible to be precise about the costs of the campaign and of replacing equipment lost or consumed. But a preliminary assessment of the broad order of costs incurred by 4 June—which was, of course, before the end of hostilities—is about £500 million in 1982–83, £250 million in each of the two following years and lesser amounts thereafter. But these figures will need to be revised in the light of more recent information and of decisions about how and when equipment is to be replaced.

Do not the figures show that the failure to interpret intelligence and the failure to take preventive action have led to one of the costliest blunders by the Ministry of Defence this century? Do not honour and integrity demand that the Secretary of State should now resign?

I seem to have heard that somewhere before. I have no doubt that all these matters—especially a study of intelligence—will be considered by any inquiry that takes place on the Falklands covering many years.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the figures show that the cost of the Falklands war to 4 June is well within line for many forms of public expenditure on individual items that we take for granted—for example, the costs of British Rail, which are nearly £1,000 million a year?

I take my hon. Friend's point, but I do not know whether I should like to compare the costs of British Rail with the cost of the Falkland Islands campaign. We must not reduce our defence effort, our NATO effort, our defence of the United Kingdom and everything that the West stands for by the diversion of funds from that main defence effort to the Falklands campaign. I have already made a general statement on the Government's policy in that respect.

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us—we have, of course, been reading press reports—whether the cost that he has mentioned will come out of the Contingency Fund, with the Treasury's agreement, or, ultimately, out of the defence budget?

The costs will be met as an addition to the defence budget, which is already planned to increase by 3 per cent. per annum.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that if the policy decisions that are contained in his White Papers had been implemented some years earlier it is reasonable to suppose that some of the ships lost during the Falklands expedition would not have been lost, because the new equipment for defence measures would have been available?

I do not know whether I can go quite as far as that. However, the large programme that we now have in progress for upgrading the weapons systems on Royal Navy ships—especially the decisions that we have taken in the past year on the new satellite, on Sea Wolf and on the new heavyweight torpedo—will greatly increase our capability. These upgradings will come into effect in future.

Training (Foreign Forces)


asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will review the policy on which invitations to foreign Governments to send members of their armed forces for training in the United Kingdom is based.

It has long been our practice to provide military training for other countries. Each case is examined taking into account defence, foreign policy and economic considerations, together with the availability of places and the qualification of the individual student. I see no need to review that practice.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that over the years members of the armed forces of countries with appalling human rights records have been trained in the United Kingdom? Does he recognise that many believe that it was disgraceful that Argentine soldiers were trained in this country practically until the conflict broke out, especially in view of Argentina's shameful human rights record? Does not this demonstrate the need to change the basis of the Government policy, which is totally unsatisfactory and discridited?

This is a difficult policy to apply. We apply the criteria that I have described. Argentine military personnel received military training in the United Kingdom in every year from 1975 to 1978.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that while we train some foreigners we exclude from our Armed Forces a good number of British subjects because of their ethnic origins, especially the Poles, of whom many live in my constituency? Their parents left Poland 40 years ago. Surely it is about time that my right hon. Friend reviewed this policy.

With respect to my hon. Friend, I think that his supplementary question falls slightly outside the original question. However, I shall gladly consider the effect of it.



asked the Secretary of State for Defence what is his latest estimate of the total cost of the Trident programme.

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the statement of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence on 11 March, and to defence open government document 82/1.

Will the Minister tell the House how much the figure varies from the original sum that he and his right hon. Friend gave to the House when they announced the cost of Trident, and whether he expects the cost to hold true in future?

I have no reason to expect the figure to vary. I have explained on previous occasions that there are good reasons to believe that the programme can be held more or less to target. That was done with the Polaris programme.

Does the Minister agree that the effect of the decision to take the D5 instead of the C4 will increase the effect of Trident spending on other defence spending by 25 per cent.? Does he accept that this will make it far more difficult to maintain adequate conventional forces, especially naval forces, over the next couple of years?

I do not follow the first part of the hon. Lady's supplementary question, in which she referred to 25 per cent. If she will explain this issue to me in correspondence, I shall gladly examine it. It is not a figure that I have previously come across. As we are planning to increase our defence spending by 3 per cent. a year there will be more funds available for conventional forces, even some years from now, in spite of the Trident programme.

Prime Minister



asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 29 June.

This morning I attended a meeting of the European Council in Brussels. In addition to my duties in the House I shall be having several meetings later today.

I am very grateful for that reply from the Prime Minister. Will she tell the House what advice she would offer members of the railway trade unions now that the NUR conference has decided to suspend its strikes?

I think that first of all I should like to say "Thank you" for the good sense that prevailed among the many railwaymen who turned up for work, and to those who voted in Plymouth. I am sure that their view is shared by the many who use the railways for travel and those who use them for transporting goods. Secondly, the negotiations on productivity have still to take place. They are extremely important. I hope that the unions will now deliver on all the outstanding measures of productivity that were included in their pay agreement last year. Out of the six measures, four have yet to be agreed.

Does the right hon. Lady agree that the very best way of celebrating what has happened on the railways would be for the Government to come forward and deliver on the investment programme? Does she not think that this would be the best course to take in the interests of not only the railways and the railwaymen but the nation? Has she had time today to study the paltry forecasts that are now made by the Treasury? Will she confirm that it is now even scaling down the miserable forecasts that it was making earlier? Is that not a further reason why the investment programme on the railways and elsewhere should be stepped up by the Government?

With regard to investment on the railways, one has to be certain that one will get the productivity and a good return from that investment before it is made. May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that £150 million was invested in electrification, track and signalling works on the St. Pancras-Bedford line? The work was started in 1976 and it is almost complete. It is only disagreement over manning that is holding up new electric services between Moorgate and Bedford. That is an example—there are others—of the investment that has been made. However, the insistence on double manning does not bring a return on investment and the equipment is not even being properly used. With regard to the CBI survey, the results of the inquiry are disappointing and they confirm recent indications that there has been some flattening out in activity over the past six months or so. But the CBI's own end-May forecast, the latest London Business School forecast and most other independent assessments, point to continued and resumed recovery during the course of 1982 and 1983. It is important that we keep inflation coming down and that we make every effort to keep interest rates down.

None of the right hon. Lady's prophecies about flattening out accord with her earlier prophecies about the upturn. Is she aware that since she first discovered the original upturn, unemployment in this country has gone up by about 1 million? How does she think that anybody will understand or agree with her predictions in future? As for the railway negotiations, does she dispute that one of the matters that is in dispute is the Government's own investment contribution, and that Mr. Weighell claims—I believe justly—that his members have fulfilled what they promised and that they are waiting for the Government to do the same?

The forecasts that I quoted were not mine, but those of other independent assessors, including the CBI end-May forecast. Those forecasts are pointing to improvements later. With regard to investment, I point out to the right hon. Gentleman that the external financing limit for the railways this year is £950 million, the highest amount ever. The right hon. Gentleman says that some of the productivity agreements have been delivered. There were six productivity items for which payment was made last year. They were, first, flexible rostering, secondly, experiment with open stations, thirdly, single manning, fourthly, introduction of the trainman concept, fifthly, no guards on the Bedford-St. Pancras new service, and, sixthly, removal of guards from freight trains fitted with automatic brakes. So far only the first two items have been agreed by the NUR.

Does my right hon. Friend realise that eight soldiers have died in the past eight weeks in Northern Ireland? Does she agree that when we are rightly honouring our dead and wounded in the South Atlantic war, we must not forget that those who have died in Northern Ireland have died for a cause that is as vital and compelling as any in our ancient history?

Yes, Sir. Death and terrorism in Northern Ireland go on week in and week out, year in and year out. We should never forget those who risk their lives to uphold the law in Northern Ireland and to protect all law-abiding citizens in that Province. I gladly pay tribute both to them and their families for the wonderful work that they do.

Has the Prime Minister had recent news about, or has she any comments on, the predicament of the three British journalists detained in Argentina?

There has been bail for those three journalists. We hope and believe, as at present advised, that they will leave Argentina today. That is expected. We hope very much that it will come about.

Is not the real lesson of the railways dispute in the past few days that the urgent need is to extend and enlarge the democratic procedures of the trade union movement and to increase the use of the secret postal ballot? Will the Prime Minister consider at the Committee stage of the Employment Bill in another place putting in the amendments, in favour of which the Social Democratic Party argued in the Employment Bill Committee?

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman's points about the conclusions to be drawn from what has happened during the dispute with the NUR. Those people can be paid the cost of using a postal ballot, should they wish. I cannot promise to introduce that clause in this Session, but I hope that it will be introduced before the general election.


asked the Prime Minister whether she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 29 June.

Will any of my right hon. Friend's meetings later today be concerned with the forthcoming discussions on the level of public expenditure next year? If so, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that improvements in individual living standards should come well before any enlargement of the public sector? If she agrees with that, will she confirm that the Government adhere to our manifesto objective of reducing the burden of direct taxation?

I agree with my hon. Friend. Given the choice between higher public spending and lower personal taxation, most people would plump for lower personal taxation. That is our objective.

Is the Prime Minister aware that, as a direct result of her policies, unemployment in the Northern region is now approaching 250,000? Is she further aware that the publication of those figures last week united the region as never before? The Newcastle Journal featured a banner headline stating:

"Jobless 'disaster' hits North."
Is she further aware that the regional secretary of the TUC condemned the fairy stories that she and members of her Government tell when they talk about a recovery in the economy? The regional secretary of the CBI said precisely the same thing. We are not chasing Ministers who are simply trying to talk us out of a recession.

The answer to unemployment, which we have been discussing in the European Council, is to keep inflation coming down, to try to keep interest rates down, to keep unit costs down so that we can be competitive, to take on board all the latest technology and to have excellent productivity agreeements so that it can be used. The answer is not necessarily found just in making speeches but in encouraging those who can produce the new creative jobs in industry.

Will my right hon. Friend be able to confirm today that the Government will press energetically for the release from prison in Argentina of Daisy Jane Hobson, who has been sentenced to 22 years' imprisonment, tortured and badly treated by the Argentines?

In the past we have made representations. That person has Argentine nationality as well as British nationality. Therefore, we do not have sole jurisdiction over what happens. We constantly make representations in such cases. In a country such as Argentina, I am afraid, they have no great effect.


asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 29 June.

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

To protect herself against allegations of political favouritism in making appointments to public bodies such as health authorities and to the chairmanship of those authorities, will the Prime Minister instruct her Ministers to publish the political affiliations of such appointees?

I am sure that if the affiliations were all known, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services would be happy to give them to the hon. Gentleman, if he wishes. The hon. Gentleman asked me about that matter last week. Just because appointments come to an end does not mean that people have a right to be reappointed. I stand by both the reappointments and new appointments made by my right hon. Friend. Both are excellent.

When my right hon. Friend considers the form of the proposed inquiry, will she enable it to seek explanations of how British Governments allowed themselves to be pressurised into negotiations over the future of British and democratic Falkland Islanders when they knew, but Parliament did not, that among the thousands of people taken into Argentine prisons and torture chambers were United Kingdom subjects?

The inquiry will not only have access to documents but will be able to interview and cross-examine Ministers, ex-Ministers and civil servants. I shall not constrain the people concerned as to what they can ask.


asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for 29 June.

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Will the Prime take time off today to read the article in The Times today by Mr. Kingsley Williams, retiring chairman of the Wessex regional health authority, in which he says that her Government have deliberately provoked the confrontation in the National Health Service, that regional administrators have twice told the Government that their pay policy is indefensible and that the 6 per cent pay offer means a substantial cut in the standard of living of low-paid workers? Will the right hon. Lady listen to the voice of practical experience and call off the vendetta against National Health Service workers and meet their just demands for a 12 per cent. pay increase?

Since 1979 the amount of money in real terms spent on the National Health Service has increased considerably. There are now 34,000 more nurses than there were and also more doctors and other professional ancillary workers in the National Health Service. One would have assumed that, had we had efficient administration, with more resources and more medical staff the service would be better.

New Member

The following Member took and subscribed the Oath: Thomas Clarke Esq., Coatbridge and Airdrie.

Statutory Instruments, &C


That the Town and Country Planning (Minerals) (Scotland) Regulations 1982 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.—[Mr. Boscawen.]

May Day Bank Holiday (Amendment)

3.33 pm

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to substitute an alternative day for the May Day bank holiday.
It is my intention to abolish the bank holiday on 1 May and substitute an alternative day, preferably, St. George's Day on 23 April—also Shakespeare's birthday—or, if that is impractical, to have the Sovereign's official birthday, which is 12 June. Other appropriate days might be considered although those two are favourite. This is an amendment Bill, to change the date of the holiday, not to take it away altogether.

Since the inception of this politically motivated May Day holiday—announced in 1976 and implemented in 1978—I have never ceased to be astonished by the number of people, from all walks of life and of all ages, who have shown their irritation at the celebration of that day as a holiday, and who, since the announcement of my Bill, have written to me in great numbers—all but one in favour of the Bill. Everyone wants extra holidays and no one will turn down a day off, whatever the national cause. It is my contention, however, and the motivation behind the Bill, that a more appropriate day should be chosen, more in keeping with the traditions of England than the workers' jamboree, most readily associated with the march through Moscow displaying all the military might and hardware of the Communist bloc.

When I tabled the Bill originally, I specified 23 April—St. George's Day—as the alternative date. That is still my first choice, for reasons that I shall amplify. Upon the advice, however, of one of my sponsors, I have altered the terms of the Bill so that, should 23 April prove administratively impossible because of the proximity of Easter, another alternative could be used—for example, the Sovereign's official birthday on 12 June, which is also celebrated by trooping the colour. I hope that flexibility will meet the approval of the Department for Employment which has consulted various organisations to rationalise the early-year holidays. I regret that the Department has not accepted my alternative suggestions.

The Bill is not meant to be provocative, overtly jingoistic or excessively patriotic. It is entirely coincidental to the Falklands conflict and the birth of a future King of England. It is a step towards celebrating an appropriate English festival rather than one of doubtful political and foreign connotation. Patriotism should not be confused with nationalism which may be summed up as:
"our country, right or wrong".
Patriotism has its roots deep in the instincts and affections of the people. Love of country is an emotion of which to be proud; in so far as, for example, St. George or the Sovereign represents a part of that national spirit, surely a day celebrating their existence, achievements and importance to our English way of life is to be welcomed.

To suggest, as does my only opposing letter—unsurprisingly, from the Lancashire Association of Trades Councils—that
"Support for St. George's Day places you in the camp of the National Front, who together with other Fascist organisations claim St. George's day as their own"
is as ridiculous as it is sad. It is also offensive. It shows an obsessive determination to do away with anything that reminds us of tradition, history and even romance. My Bill seeks to remedy that state of affairs.

With all due deference, and intending no slight upon my Sovereign, my preference is for 23 April, the English patronal festival celebrating St. George whose English connection dates back to the Crusades, when it was thought that he rendered spiritual service to the forces serving under Richard the Lionheart. The day of his martyrdom—23 April 1222—was ordered to be a festival by the Synod of Oxford. In 1350 was founded the Order of the Garter with St. George as its patron. Ever since that time, the cross of St. George has been our national emblem.

St. George was a man of courage, social awareness and strong Christian beliefs. The story of his defeat of the dragon is an allegory of the forces of light overcoming the forces of darkness, symbolising the triumph of order and creative power over chaos and disintegration. What better ideals are there for us to celebrate?

The birthday of our greatest man of letters, Shakespeare, whose mastery of the English language and whose contribution to its spread throughout the world is inestimable, is also celebrated on 23 April.

As an Englishman, who—in this context only, regrettably—lives in St. Andrew's Road, Preston, I must emphasise that the Bill is confined to England, although I hope fervently that my hon. Friends from Scotland and Wales will soon take the opportunity to seek to substitute their patronal festivals on 30 November and 1 March respectively for this tedious, unimaginative and unloved 1 May holiday. I hope that the House will support me.

3.41 pm

I understand that the hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Thorne) seeks to oppose the Bill.

Yes, Sir.

The hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. Atkins) said that the Bill was not politically motivated, before going on to refer to St. George's Day. The hon. Gentleman omitted to mention also, in continuation of that idea, St. David's Day, St. Patrick's Day and St. Andrew's Day. I am sure that if he sought to bring in a Bill to add those celebrations to May Day, there would be no objection on the Opposition Benches. However, that is obviously not his intention.

The hon. Gentleman's intention is to sweep away a long history of tradition in Britain—[HON. MEMBERS: "Four years".]—where, for many years, there has been a spring holiday at which people come together to celebrate their feeling of community. Many of these holidays grew into celebrations of internationalism. The feeling gained ground that communities should come together to make clear their unwillingness to be involved in inter-capitalist wars.

It is interesting that the hon. Gentleman sought to withdraw his Bill on an occasion when the House was debating the Falklands. I wonder if he took that decision because he also accepted that there was an international tradition such as I have described. There have been, and continue to be, in many countries celebrations of May Day. The German Social Democratic Labour Party celebrates on that day. Similar celebrations take place in Holland. Those in America have their Labour Day.

It should be noted, incidentally, that May Day became a bank holiday not by the wishes of ordinary British people but by the wishes of the organisations that the hon. Gentleman seeks to represent. I do not think that May Day is a bank holiday. It is a people's holiday. Long may it remain so—on May Day.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 13 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of public business):

The House divided: Ayes 125, Noes 148.

Division No. 248]

[3.45 pm


Adley, RobertLester, Jim (Beeston)
Alexander, RichardLewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Ancram, MichaelLloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Aspinwall, JackMcCrindle, Robert
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (S'thorne)McCusker, H.
Atkins, Robert (Preston N)Macmillan, Rt Hon M.
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)Major, John
Banks, RobertMaude, Rt Hon Sir Angus
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyMawby, Ray
Benyon, Thomas(A'don)Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Benyon, W. (Buckingham)Mayhew, Patrick
Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnMeyer, Sir Anthony
Blackburn, JohnMiller, Hal (B'grove)
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W)Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Bright, GrahamMoate, Roger
Brinton, TimMolyneaux, James
Brotherton, MichaelMonro, Sir Hector
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'n)Montgomery, Fergus
Browne, John (Winchester)Morgan, Geraint
Bryan, Sir PaulMorrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Buck, AntonyMudd, David
Budgen, NickMurphy, Christopher
Bulmer, EsmondNeale, Gerrard
Carlisle, John (Luton West)Nelson, Anthony
Chapman, SydneyNeubert, Michael
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n)Page, Richard (SW Herts)
Cockeram, EricPawsey, James
Corrie, JohnPollock, Alexander
Costain, Sir AlbertPorter, Barry
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.Powell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)
Dover, DenshoreProctor, K. Harvey
Dunlop, JohnRathbone, Tim
Dunn, Robert (Dartford)Rhodes James, Robert
Durant, TonyRhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Eggar, TimRobinson, P. (Belfast E)
Elliott, Sir WilliamRost, Peter
Fairgrieve, Sir RussellRumbold, Mrs A. C. R.
Farr,JohnSainsbury, Hon Timotny
Fisher, Sir NigelShersby, Michael
Fletcher-Cooke, Sir CharlesSilvester, Fred
Fookes, Miss JanetSims, Roger
Fox, MarcusSkeet, T. H. H.
Gardiner, George (Reigate)Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Glyn, Dr AlanSmyth, Rev. W. M. (Belfast S)
Goodhew, Sir VictorSpeller, Tony
Gow, IanSpence, John
Greenway, HarrySquire, Robin
Grimond, Rt Hon J.Stanbrook, Ivor
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)Stevens, Martin
Hastings, StephenStokes, John
Hawksley, WarrenTapsell, Peter
Heddle, JohnTaylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Hicks, RobertThornton, Malcolm
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.Trippier, David
Holland, Philip (Carlton)van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Hooson, TomViggers, Peter
Hordern, PeterWalters, Dennis
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)Wells, Bowen
Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)Whitney, Raymond
Johnson Smith, Sir GeoffreyWilkinson, John
Kaberry, Sir Donald
Kershaw, Sir AnthonyTellers for the Ayes:
Kimball, Sir MarcusDr. Brian Mawhinney and
Latham, MichaelMr. Nicholas Lyell.
Lawrence, Ivan


Alton, DavidMcDonald, Dr Oonagh
Anderson, DonaldMcElhone, Frank
Ashley, Rt Hon JackMcKay, Allen (Penistone)
Atkinson, N.(H'gey,)McNally, Thomas
Bagier, Gordon A. T.McNamara, Kevin
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)McTaggart, Robert
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd)McWilliam, John
Beith, A. J.Marks, Kenneth
Bidwell, SydneyMarshall, D (G'gow S'ton)
Booth, Rt Hon AlbertMarshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
Boothroyd, Miss BettyMaxton, John
Bray, Dr JeremyMaynard, Miss Joan
Brown, R.C. (N'castle W)Mikardo, Ian
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Buchan, NormanMiller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Campbell-Savours, DaleMitchell, R.C. (Soton Itchen)
Canavan, DennisMorris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Cartwright, JohnMorris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Morton, George

Clarke, Jhomas C'b'dge, A'drie

O'Halloran, Michael
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S)O'Neill, Martin
Cohen, StanleyOrme, Rt Hon Stanley
Coleman, DonaldOwen, Rt Hon Dr David
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.Palmer, Arthur
Cowans, HarryPark, George
Crawshaw, RichardParry, Robert
Crowther, StanPowell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Cryer, BobPrice, C. (Lewisham W)
Cunliffe, LawrenceRace, Reg
Cunningham, Dr J. (W'h'n)Radice, Giles
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, Stechf'd)Richardson, Jo
Deakins, EricRoberts, Albert (Normanton)
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Dixon, DonaldRoberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Dormand, JackRobertson, George
Dubs, AlfredRobinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're)Rooker, J. W.
English, MichaelRoss, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Ennals, Rt Hon DavidRowlands, Ted
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)Sandelson, Neville
Evans, John (Newton)Sheerman, Barry
Ewing, HarrySheldon, Rt Hon R.
Field, FrankSilverman, Julius
Flannery, MartinSkinner, Dennis
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)Snape, Peter
Foot, Rt Hon MichaelSoley, Clive
Forrester, JohnSpearing, Nigel
Foster, DerekStallard, A. W.
Foulkes, GeorgeSteel, Rt Hon David
Fraser, J. (Lamb'th, N'w'd)Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
Garrett, John (Norwich S)Stoddart, David
Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)Stott, Roger
Graham, TedStrang, Gavin
Hamilton, James (Bothwell)Straw, Jack
Harrison, Rt Hon WalterSummerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Hattersley, Rt Hon RoyThomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Haynes, FrankThorne, Stan (Preston South)
Heffer, Eric S.Torney, Tom
Hogg, N. (E Dunb't'nshire)Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Homewood, WilliamWainwright, R. (Colne V)
Hooley, FrankWatkins, David
Howells, GeraintWelsh, Michael
Hoyle, DouglasWhitehead, Phillip
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Whitlock, William
John, BrynmorWilliams, Rt Hon A. (S'sea W)
Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rh'dda)Williams, Rt Hon Mrs (Crosby)
Jones, Barry (East Flint)Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldWinnick, David
Lamond, JamesWoodall, Alec
Lestor, Miss JoanWoolmer, Kenneth
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Young, David (Bolton E)
Litherland, Robert
Lofthouse, GeoffreyTellers for the Noes:
Lyons, Edward (Bradf'd W)Mr. Ernie Ross and
Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. DicksonMr. Russell Kerr.

Question accordingly negatived.

Orders Of The Day

Northern Ireland Bill


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.