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General Or Partial Suspension Of Direct Rule

Volume 26: debated on Tuesday 29 June 1982

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

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

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

The House divided: Ayes 165, Noes 22.

Division No. 252]

[10.03 pm

AYES

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

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

NOES

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

Question accordingly agreed to.

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

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

10.16 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10.32 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10.38 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I understand it to be a record of a conversation taken down by someone that the right hon. Member for Down, South, with his respectability and responsibility as a Privy Cuncillor, thought fit to bring before the House. Some of it rings true to me in the context of my right hon. Friend's speeches. We wondered how the Bill would help security. The argument is that, had we gone for local government or integration, we would not have had co-operation from the South.

My right hon. Friend also said that the Bill would help the economy of Northern Ireland. I and my right hon. and hon. Friends wondered why. Again, there is something important in the Abbott transcript. He says:
"In any final settlement we have to realise that the United States will be given a discrete role to play especially in the financial field. Generally the two bureaucratic machines of the State Department and the Foreign Office work closely together."
My right hon. Friend has never explained how the Bill will help economically. If there is to be American aid, there would be some logic in what he is preaching to us.

Going beyond that, two main issues have been raised by my right hon. and hon. Friends. The first is local government, which was in our manifesto and was the opinion of Airey Neave. Detailed arguments have been advanced explaining why local government would help and there appears to be widespread support for it in the Province. My right hon. Friend has never tried to reply to those arguments. He said that it would be unacceptable to the minority community. I question whether even that is true. The community may accept it, but I concede that it is unacceptable to the leaders of the minority community and to Dublin.

Does my right hon. Friend remember that when we debated the White Paper I drew the House's attention to the fact that, when I occupied my right hon. Friend's office, I convened a conference of the main political parties in the spring of 1980? I told the House on 28 April that all the parties, whether they came to the conference or not, put forward suggestions for the future governance of the Province that did not include improving local government. I advanced that as a reason why it was not generally acceptable in the Province. Has my right hon. Friend received evidence to the contrary since then?

I have talked to right hon. and hon. Members from the Province, who seem to believe that there is a demand for it. There may not have been in my right hon. Friend's time, or the question may have been put to those hon. Members in different ways, but there is considerable scope, commanding the support not of the leaders of the minority parties but the leaders of the majority parties, for doing so.

In my judgment, the leaders of the minority parties object largely not because they fear that discrimination would be exercised in local government but because they see it as a step towards the integration of the Province with the United Kingdom. I can see the argument of those who pull the strings in Dublin, but it is not an argument that a Conservative Minister for Northern Ireland should use to go back on our manifesto and on the opinion of Airey Neave.

The second major problem that we raised concerns integration. On this, there is a curious question and answer in the Abbott memorandum. Mr. Abbott was asked:
"Is not the proposal to introduce a number of extra seats in Westminster a move towards integration?"
He replied, first,
"The Unionists will not get all the five seats".
That is all right. He then said:
"We would see this does not happen by gerrymandering the boundaries.
I do not know whether there is any truth in that. I am not saying that it is true. I am saying that it is the flavour of the kind of thinking that prevails in the Northern Ireland Office.

Powerful and detailed arguments were advanced by many of my right hon. and hon. Friends in favour of integration.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) has just said that there was the possibility that boundaries would be gerrymandered. He then said, pointing to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State "I do not know whether he did that or not". That implies the possibility of an illegal act by the Secretary of State. Does not my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State deserve your protection in this matter?

I do not think that the allegation was quite so precise as that, and I do not think that the Secretary of State needs my protection.

My hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney) should listen more carefully. I did not say that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State suggested gerrymandering. I merely quoted what someone in his office was alleged to have said. In the context of the full conversation, which I suppose will be available to everyone tomorrow, it seems to me to reflect the flavour of the thinking in the Northern Ireland Office which should give us cause for concern.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman understand that when any commission is set up by this Parliament or by the Government to look into boundaries in Northern Ireland every party has the opportunity to appear before it and to make whatever accusations or allegations it wishes? At no time did either the Official Unionist Party or any other Unionist party say that the boundaries were being gerrymandered in order to put us into a united Ireland.

All I can say is that perhaps my speech and the debate that we have had on this will give us some flavour of what the Assembly will be like.

Powerful and detailed arguments were put forward in favour of integration both from the Conservative Benches and from the Ulster Benches and they deserve a detailed reply, but they were brushed aside. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State simply told us that Northern Ireland was different and was not to be compared with Scotland. It is much less different than Scotland after Culloden or Wales after Owen Glendower. I dare say that the Secretary of State would have favoured a different policy in Scotland after Culloden, but in that case he ought not to be the Conservative Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Where has the Bill come from? It is a curious fact that when we had a manifesto in favour of integration and local government two Secretaries of State should both have been converted to devolution. Were they manipulated by their civil servants? My right hon. Friend is too shrewd for that. I cannot understand why it has happened. My right hon. Friend has paid lip service to the union of the Kingdom, but his arguments lead to the same conclusion that emerges from the document that the right hon. Member for Down, South made public.

Two aspects are clear from the debate as well as the document. The Bill seeks to slam the door on integration and it signals to Dublin that here is a framework for reunion. Mr. Haughey may not see it, but Mr. Garret FitzGerald certainly does. This is the same language that we have heard from the Foreign Office on the Falklands and Gibraltar. In effect it says that we are not against reunion if the majority should want it. We cannot force reunion on the majority, but we can stop integration and give the minority a veto. That is what the Bill does. It is a far cry from a United Kingdom as we know it. I am reluctant to quote Abbott again, but there is one more—

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is impossible to take part in a debate when we do not have the document concerned. I ask for your protection, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for Back Benchers. The document has been sprung on us this afternoon and quotes are continually being made from a document that we cannot see.

The right hon. Gentleman is not discussing the document: he is discussing the Third Reading of the Bill. If he wants to relate it to his speech on the Bill I cannot prevent him from quoting from the document. It is relevant.

Further to that point of order. We have now seen what was originally a series of allegations transformed into a document and a memorandum. Is not the House entitled to see the document or memorandum before they are treated as if they actually exist?

Further to that point of order. It appears that those who have consistently sided with the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) have been provided with copies of the documents, but those who have not sided with him have not. Surely that adds to the flavour of the debate.

Order. I want to help the House. It is not a matter for the Chair. It is not an official document. Any hon. Member has the right to refer to a document if he wants to, but he must justify it to the House.

In accordance with the traditions of the House I shall be happy to lay the document on the table as soon as I have quoted the gentleman's opinion on the ultimate solution. He states:

"In the end there will be a confederal Ireland. One could call it an honourable draw in which a package would be put together whereby Protestant rights would be guaranteed, there would be some realignment with the Commonwealth and the Irish Republic and a defence agreement would also be made."
That is a far cry from the United Kingdom as we have previously considered it. I am now happy to place the document on the table for all those hon. Members who wish to see it.

The Bill now goes to another place where I hope it will be as severely mauled as it deserves. The final judgment will not be with the other place or with the House.

I put two simple questions to my right hon. Friend to assist me in understanding his position. First, if he had been in a position to do so, would he have voted against the Government of Ireland Act 1920? Secondly, was my right hon. Friend in favour of the abolition of Stormont?

Unfortunately, in 1920 I was only one year old and not in a position to exercise the mature judgment, which I am sure my hon. Friend would wish me to exercise. Not having heard all the arguments, although having read many, I would not like to express an opinion.

As to the abolition of Stormont, I am on record as warning the House that it was a dangerous step. I expressed the gravest doubts about it. I hope that that answers my hon. Friend's questions.

The Bill now goes to another place, but the final judgment will rest with the people of Ulster. I hope that they will see it for what it is—an abdication of responsibility, a step towards the dismemberment of the United Kingdom and towards a reunion of the whole of Ireland. I hope that they will condemn it to the ignominious failure that it deserves.

I dislike having to say this about a measure brought forward by a Government whom on all other grounds I support, but I see no alternative except the rejection of this measure, because then there can be little doubt in anyone's mind that the solution that my right hon. and hon. Friends have advocated with persistence throughout these debates will be the only one that is then acceptable.

11.5 pm

You will be relieved to know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I shall not be drawn into a discussion on ecclesiastical documents at this time of the evening. I simply want to say that since Second Reading, the House has come to know the Northern Ireland Bill very well, but not to love it.

Bit by bit, we have pieced together the history of the Bill. We began with the assertion by the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) that "There will be an Assembly". That was his forecast. That assertion by a former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland was made before the Conservative Government knew that they would set up an Assembly.

The right hon. Member for Leeds, South did not at the time have the benefit of reading the famous daily notes, but they confirmed his forecast when they said:
"The next Government will come under considerable pressure to launch a new high-powered political initiative on Northern Ireland".
The House is familiar with the remainder of that quotation. Only today, the House has discovered how that pressure was applied and how successful it proved to be.

Frankly, that has puzzled me for the past three years, because my last conversation with the late Airey Neave convinced me that he was utterly determined to proceed with Conservative Party policy despite the pressure, of which he was well aware, before he was silenced. Perhaps the right hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Atkins), whom I am glad to see in his place, can indicate precisely how and why he changed his mind and why he succeeded in changing the mind of the Government within a matter of weeks, when he turned the policy through 180 degrees to face the other way.

One of the factors that entered my mind was the submission made to the Prime Minister by the hon. Gentleman on behalf of his party, when it refused to attend the conference, urging a return to Stormont.

In view of some of his recent experiences, the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland can perhaps be forgiven for being somewhat forgetful. He will remember that my party's submission to the Government came nine months after he had changed his mind. It contained the statement that if the Government found it difficult or impossible to do what was set out in their manifesto, they would find the blueprint for carrying out their manifesto undertaking in paragraph 7 of the submission. That is my answer to the right hon. Gentleman, but I hope that he will give his answer, if he has an opportunity to do so at a later stage.

The Secretary of State seeks to extract what comfort he can from what he regards as the differences between my right hon. Friend the Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) and myself. The important thing is that, unlike a great many people, we are united on maintaining the Union. We both recognise that the Bill is, and is intended to be, a threat to the Union, and its pedigree and history prove that. We are also united in judging the structure as unworkable. The Secretary of State said last night in Belfast city hall that it was not his intention to impose any kind of rigid scheme and that it is up to the Ulster people to make the most of the opportunities that he is offering.

If that is so, why has the Secretary of State planted three massive road blocks in their path? The first of these is the 70 per cent. weighted majority and the second is the cross-community consent requirement. The third is that which he has levered into place in the form of amendment No. 7, which came conveniently in our proceedings tonight in time to be muzzled, and any discussion thereon stifled, by the guillotine. The third massive road block is perhaps just as dangerous as the other two, and is as effective as the other two in preventing any progress beyond the mere election of an Assembly.

I chose my words carefully, because, like my right hon. Friend, I do not wish to suggest that the Secretary of State is guilty of deceit, or of deliberately misleading people. However, he is in danger of misleading the Ulster people by saying and perhaps sometimes believing, two things that have been referred to by the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery). The first is that the problems of the economy of Northern Ireland can be remedied, and only remedied, when a devolved structure is established in Northern Ireland. By devolved structure, he can only mean an Assembly talking shop without real power, because he knows as well as we do that the economy of Northern Ireland is in a dangerous and perilous state.

The Secretary of State is convinced by the logic put forward in these debates day after day, and night after night, that the Assembly will not progress beyond the point of being a talking shop. Therefore, he is in danger of misleading the Ulster people in saying that the economy of Northern Ireland will be put to rights and improved if only the people will agree to elect an Assembly.

The Secretary of State is also in danger of misleading Northern Ireland on another point mentioned by the right hon. Member for Pavilion. He is suggesting that security will be improved, and can only be improved when an Assembly is elected. He has claimed to have made a concession there, in that he is permitting the Assembly to talk about security.

Since the House took on to itself the responsibility for security in Northern Ireland, we have been talking week in and week out about security, but where has the talking got us? If the Secretary of State disbelieves the statements made by my right hon. Friend and others that this initiative was in danger of costing lives, he has only to look at what has happened in the past two or three weeks. While we in the House have been debating the Bill, there has been the expected and predictable increase and escalation of violence. It saddens me that the Secretary of State did not take remedial and preventative measures before things got to this sorry state.

At my party conference last October, I warned, and was criticised for warning, that the present Government had no intention of restoring devolved Government in a workable form. For a brief period, I hoped that I was wrong. Unfortunately, I was correct in my forecast. Moreover, it is now recognised by the rank and file of my party that that which is being foisted upon Ulster is unacceptable and unworkable.

In case the Secretary of State doubts my assessment and my qualifications for conveying the views of my party, the Ulster Unionist Council, at its meeeting on 11 June, unanimously supported my view that that which he is proposing would do no good to Ulster nor to anyone who had the interests of the Union at heart, and would be of no benefit to citizens of Ulster whatever their political views. My view was further endorsed only last Friday, 25 June, at a meeting of my party's executive. That view is widely shared among those whom we meet in our constituencies.

If elections are held for the proposed Assembly, I shall continue to put forward the views that I have consistently put forward since 1972. I am well content to leave the decision to the common sense of the long-suffering Ulster electorate.

11.15 pm

I shall be brief. I deprecate the stratagem that has been adopted today, which we have now heard again in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery).

Like other hon. Members, I can only judge from what I hear. I ask two questions. First, why was this matter launched on us today like this? Secondly, can anybody in his right mind conceive of a civil servant, no matter how indiscreet, talking about gerrymandering when he knows that it is impossible because of the independence of the Boundary Commission? Therefore, the less said about this the better.

The Bill has now reached the end of its tortuous course. I am glad to welcome the completion of its passage through the House. I trust that nothing—but nothing—will impede its progress to the Statute Book.

We have inevitalby heard more about the defects of the Bill than about its merits during its progress through the House. That is the duty of oppositions the world over. Most of the criticism has cut little ice in the House, and even less in the country a large.

Two reservations have been voiced continuously which I understand but do not accept. First, there is the argument that has been used particularly by my hon. Friends that devolution to Northern Ireland would have repercussions elsewhere in the United Kingdom, particularly in Scotland and Wales. Secondly, it has been said that this is contrived power sharing and not a true democratic solution.

I urge my hon. Friends to reconsider those two points. I submit, as has been said so often in the debates, that Northern Ireland is different from other parts of the United Kingdom. It must be conceded to be different economically. Unemployment is not, God knows, confined to Northern Ireland. It is difficult to combat anywhere, but it is impossible to combat against a background of instability and violence.

Northern Ireland is different—one must face the fact squarely—because of terrorism. There is only one way to combat terrorism and that is to deprive the men of violence of their base. In the Second World War the Nazis did so by fear. That is not open to us. We can only do it by resolution and by winning the support of the people as a whole.

It is because I believe that the participation of the minority community in the government of the Province is so essential to this end that I particularly support the Bill.

Northern Ireland is also different because it is a divided community. Under direct rule those divisions will increase and not lessen. Westminster will continue to be the whipping boy for both communities.

I always take demography with a pinch of salt. We do not know what the Boundary Commission will recommend in its report, but even 10 years from now, when the next Boundary Commission report takes place, substantial changes will undoubtedly occur.

Time is not on anyone's side in Ulster. It is no good looking for orthodox democratic solutions on the Westminster model. Instead, we must look at those other countries and communities in which the problem of division occurs. We must consider Belgium, Cyprus before the Turkish invasion, Lebanon before the Palestinian intervention, the Sudan and so on. Where the divisions have been healed, it has been achieved by special arrangements [Interruption.] The divisions in Lebanon were healed before the Palestinian intervention. There was a gentlemen's agreement that one community should have certain offices, while the other community had others. [Interruption.] The cases are all different, but the factor that they have in common is that the divisions were not healed by one community dominating the other, or by a third party holding the ring. They were healed by the people working together.

The divisions in Ulster can be healed not by the British Government or the Irish Government, but by the Northern Ireland people themselves. As I listened to the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) making his constitutional points so eloquently, to the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) speaking with great fervour about the fears of the Protestant community and to the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) making the same case for the minority community, I thought—as I have so often thought when taking part in debates on Northern Ireland—that it would be wonderful if the undoubted talents of those hon. Members, their colleagues, and all those of good will in the Province, were to combine to seek the peace and reconciliation that all Ulster's friends want.

The Bill provides that opportunity. I believe that it is an opportunity which will be welcomed by the people of Ulster as a whole. There is strong evidence for that. I accept that they may not take it—the history of Ireland is littered with missed opportunities—but it is right, so right, that the people of Northern Ireland should be given the chance.

11.21 pm

I shall not take up the remarks made by the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon) other than to say that they were constructive and useful.

The right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) made a strange speech because something that had begun as being at most an allegation, became a document, a memorandum and finally a direct quotation. I noted that the right hon. Gentleman referred to the opinion expressed by Mr. Abbott. It is vital that the House should remember that there is as yet no proof before us that Mr. Abbott expressed any opinion, or is prepared to stand by any such statement and there is no clear proof that the document ever existed at first hand. Therefore, I hope that on reflection the right hon. Member for Pavilion will realise from his long parliamentary experience that it is dangerous to allow a possible fiction to become a fact and to be quoted as if it were a fact. As I listened to him I was reminded of the Zinoviev letter, or possibly of Hamlet's ghost. Either way, I could not see the material basis for his statements.

The Liberal and Social Democratic Parties found it possible to support the Bill in the Lobby. It is important to support Bills that one believes in in the Lobby, and that is why we did so. We are grateful to the Secretary of State for his remarks on new clause 7, which underpinned the Bill's provisions by referring to the wide support of the whole community. Like the other Opposition Parties we felt strongly about that, and are glad that he saw his way to making that concession.

There are two things that we would have liked. First, we would have liked to see a method by which the Assembly could raise doubts about the administration of any devolved Department, instead of leaving that to the Secretary of State. I say that for the straightforward reason that the Secretary of State might find it difficult to discharge that responsibility as the Assembly would be elected, and he would be in a very different position from a Member of the Assembly, who is accountable to it.

Secondly, we and others regret that the Secretary of State did not find a way to have a clear vote so that if there was no development of devolved powers to the Assembly, or no acceptance of responsibility by the Assembly, there would be a clear opportunity for the House to review the position and consider whether the experiment of an Assembly without such responsibilities should continue. Throughout, there has been concern about whether the Assembly might become something of a talking shop, or that Parliament and the Secretary of State would be scapegoats for Northern Ireland's problems. Many of us believe that responsibility should quickly follow the establishment of an Assembly. So be it. I hope that the Secretary of State's judgment is correct and that the Assembly will accept the responsibilities that he wishes it to adopt.

The Secretary of State and his colleagues have shown exemplary patience during Committee and Report stages, which have not been easy. I pay due credit to the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux), and the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) for their persistence and determination, much as I disagree with almost everything that they said. They deserve tribute for the extraordinary endurance with which they sustained their arguments.

I wish the Bill well. There is more support for it in Northern Ireland than hon. Members gave credit for in our debates. It is high time that Northern Ireland politicians, whether Ulster Unionist or SDLP, gave a chance to the constructive instincts of their fellow citizens to express themselves by allowing the Secretary of State's attempt to find a new base for political development and a new beginning in Northern Ireland to take place with the goodwill of the House.

11.27 pm

We are in the closing stages of discussing a Bill which has been opposed vigorously. I have no regrets at having supported that opposition whenever I could.

I should like to explain the motive that prompted many of my right hon. and hon. Friends in their action. I am opposed to the devolution of law-making powers for any one part of the United Kingdom. We fought the Scotland and Wales Bill, and later the Scotland Bill and the Wales Bill, on that principle. The same motives have inspired our fight against this Bill.

There has been argument that the Assembly's first function will be a talking shop. The arguments are valid. I am amazed at the Secretary of State's masochism in contemplating an Assembly that will be a rod for his own back. My principal anxiety is about the anticipated later stage, when the Assembly possibly reaches out to take legislative power from this Parliament, with this Parliament's permission. Many of my right hon. and hon. Friends find that deeply repugnant. We find it dangerous to this House and dangerous to Northern Ireland's place within the United Kingdom.

My deeply held view is that this House legislates for all the United Kingdom on an equal basis and that each one of its Members has an equal right to legislate for all United Kingdom citizens. The proposals in the Bill deeply offend that belief. Looking back, it is amazing that the White Paper never properly dealt with the United Kingdom parliamentary dimension and that Ministers have only come to give belated recognition to it as our debates have proceeded. It is as if all the detailed consitutional debate in the previous Parliament on the devolution Bills had never happened.

Surely it cannot really have escaped the notice of Ministers how during the Committee stages of those Bills we brought out all the nonsense and dangers of seeking fragmentary devolution for just one part of what in legislative terms is a unitary State.

It is claimed by some of the supporters of the Bill that Northern Ireland is internally different from Scotland or Wales. I would not dispute that for one moment, but the constitutional questions that were posed by the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) in the previous Parliament and which came to be called the West Lothian question are just as relevant to devolution in the case of Northern Ireland as they ever were for Scotland.

What will be the position if the devolution provisions in the Bill ever roll forth? Members from Northern Ireland will have no direct influence over certain areas of legislative responsibility in their Province but they will share responsibility for such legislation affecting England, Scotland and Wales. What will be the position from the point of view of a non-Irish Member of the House? As a Member representing an English constituency, am Ito be asked to accept that hon. Members from Northern Ireland should share in legislating for my constituents while I am to be robbed of equivalent responsibility regarding theirs? We have heard a great deal of argument and discussion in Committee about the need for any proposals to command widespread acceptance throughout the community in Northern Ireland. What about widespread acceptance in all the other communities of the United Kingdom? That dimension has still been overlooked by Ministers in pressing forward with the Bill.

If the devolution provisions in the Bill take effect it is inevitable that the position of Northern Ireland Members in the House will unfortunately be called into question. Supporters of the Bill may ask "How do you explain the fact that Northern Ireland had devolved government for 50 years?", although admittedly it was of a different type from that proposed in the Bill. I would point out to them that that devolutionary form of government existed at a time when there were large and comfortable majorities supporting Governments in this House. Yet the first time since the Second World War that we had an evenly balanced Parliament—I refer to that elected in 1964—the then Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson), immediately questioned the position of Northern Ireland Members in the House. At that time, they were under-represented. The danger, now that they have 17 Members here, is far more likely than was apparent when they had only 12. The next evenly balanced Parliament was that of 1974–1979, but then Northern Ireland legislation was back in this House. Let there be no doubt that, had we still had Stormont in those years and Northern Ireland Members here, the position and the role of those Northern Ireland Members would have been seriously challenged by the Government of the day. Their position will be challenged again when we have a Government whose existence hangs on the votes of Northern Ireland Members. It will be argued "Why should they decide the fate of our Government when they have an effective Parliament and Government of their own?"

Those who have argued against the Bill, especially Ulster Members, have pointed to the danger for the Union that will arise from creating an Assembly that is intended to deal directly with the Irish Republic and its elected Members. This is the argument about the parliamentary tier and an all-Ireland council leading who knows where.

I am certain that running parallel with that danger is all the risk resulting from the undermining of Northern Ireland elected Members in this place, to the detriment of the unity of this House and to the detriment of the unity of our kingdom.

This is the poison in the Bill, which has been hard fought through its passage. Tonight this House is being invited to take the poisoned chalice to its lips. I am certain that only disaster for the kingdom can flow from this proposed legislation. I have always been a Conservative and Unionist, and I am a Conservative and Unionist still. It is for that reason that I must oppose the Bill to the very end.

11.37 pm

When the Secretary of State moved that the Bill be read the Third time, he described the Bill as modest and straightforward. That is a description that I dispute. The right hon. Gentleman said that its aim was to give greater responsibility to the people of Northern Ireland. He neglected to add that it will give that responsibility at a cost that the Unionists will find unacceptable.

This is not a modest and straightforward Bill. I speak as one with a commitment to a devolved parliament and to devolution to Northern Ireland. For various reasons many hon. Members have combined who might in other circumstances find themselves on opposite sides of the argument. They have done so to oppose the Bill on the basis of what it will do to the Union, whether it will preserve it or place it in danger.

The Secretary of State spoke earlier about the demand for local government. It is my experience—I represent a constituency in which there are two councils controlled by the broad Unionist family and one council controlled by the Republican attitude that is represented mainly by the SDLP—in my work and in private conversations with councillors of every stripe that there is a demand for greater power and responsibility so that councillors will have the authority to deal with the problems that arise in their constituencies. Often the opinions expressed in councillors' private conversations differ from the public pronouncements of their parties. That arises from the confusion in many people's minds about the role of local government powers as opposed to the role of a devolved parliament in Northern Ireland. That is an area that could have been properly explored in as great a depth as possible in our abbreviated discussions in Committee. I should have liked to do so with the assistance of other hon. Members.

There is no doubt that the so-called Macrory gap is really two gaps. There is a local government gap and there is a devolved parliamentary gap when one compares the present situation with that which prevailed until 1972. I regret that we have not had an opportunity to explore those gaps individually and collectively.

The Secretary of State says that everyone wants devolution. He has not made plain to the House and the country the difference between the type of devolution that he is offering and the type of devolution that my colleagues and I demand. That difference is as great as the difference between day and night. In essence we are demanding a restoration of the Stormont principle of majority rule. The Government are offering us a restoration of the Sunningdale system, which is based on power sharing, which means a veto for the minority grouping in the Assembly.

The right hon. Gentleman has made it plain that only the power-sharing option in the devolved structure is acceptable to him. My hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) referred to three road blocks. I wonder whether there were three. The 70 per cent. provision is pure nonsense. It has no meaning or reality. The only thing that will matter in the majority in the Assembly is that it is a cross-community majority, a majority that enjoys the support of politicians from a variety of Unionist and Republican parties, or at least one party that believes in an all-Ireland republic. That is why I believe that the 70 per cent. provision is nonsense and can be cast aside as a road block. It has no meaning.

Therefore, we are left with two road blocks—one is cross-community support and the other is what was set out in amendment No. 7 by the Secretary of State today. That comes down to the subjective view that the right hon. Gentleman will take and on which he will base his advice to the House from the Dispatch Box. That subjective judgment will be based on his perception of the colour of the majority that comes to him with proposals for devolved powers.

The Labour Party has made it plain during the debates on the Bill that it has come to the conclusion that it will work for a united Ireland. Members of that party may say that that means a united Ireland by consent, but they are placing themselves in the same position as those in the Government who are not committed to the Union either. I and my colleagues are extremely grateful to the members of the Conservative and Unionist Party who, by their actions, votes and voices throughout the debate have shown themselves to be Conservative and Unionist.

However, we are concerned about those who have trooped through the Lobbies at the behest of their Whips, as Tories only. Those who obey the Whips on this occasion have forsaken the Union, whether they know it or not. It may take the working out of the Bill in practice to convince them, but I hope that some day they will be convinced of the error of their ways, although I confess that I am inclined to doubt that in some cases.

I have heard the hon. Gentleman and many of his colleagues in the last few weeks. Many of us are not whipped. We walk through the Lobbies because we believe in the legislation. I hope that the hon. Gentleman acknowledges that.

I acknowledge that the hon. Gentleman and many of his colleagues do that, as do many Conservative Members. However, that only proves how sadly mistaken they are and how little they understand the effects of the legislation. Either the hon. Gentleman does not understand the legislation or else he is against the preservation of the Union and believes in a united Ireland. If he believes in a united Ireland, I am sorry that we have not heard him publicly support his Front Bench.

It is no use for hon. Members saying "Yes, we support the Union," and then doing nothing about it. Saying only that one is in favour of the Union is purely negative. The Union can only be sustained and kept alive by people who are committed to it and act positively for its preservation. It is because the people of Northern Ireland fear that the House is not committed to the Union that they continue to call for devolution. The House should understand that the electorate of Northern Ireland distrust the intentions of the House and that that distrust is deepened by this legislation.

The ordinary man and woman in Northern Ireland have taken an interest in what is taking place in the House. They understand the basic principle underlying the Bill and they object to that principle. They object to the system of power sharing that is outlined in the Bill. It is all very well for the Secretary of State to stand at the Dispatch Box and say that it is entirely up to the people of Northern Ireland, but, as I said during my speech on the White Paper, the coercion is there.

The battle may be over here, but, as has been stated, we shall carry that battle to the streets, the towns and villages of Northern Ireland. We shall carry it to the people and tell them plainly what the Bill means. When they understand that, they will send a majority to the Assembly committed to a policy of devolution which is not that proposed in the Bill by the Secretary of State.

11.47 pm

The House would do well to look again at what happened during the early stags of the setting up of the State of Northern Ireland. The right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) made some amazing statements. He told us that Stormont was imposed upon the Ulster people. That could not be further from the truth. In 1916, Lord Carson, by a resolution of the Ulster Unionist Council, accepted Lloyd George's proposal to exclude Northern Ireland from the home rule Bill. If the debates on the Government of Ireland Act 1920 are read, it will be seen that the Unionists agreed to the permanent exclusion of Northern Ireland from any settlement that would take them into the South of Ireland. The right hon. Member missed the point, because when the Council of Ireland proposed in the 1920 Act was set up, the Unionists appointed their representatives to the Council. The Dublin representatives refused to attend the Council. The history of Northern Ireland should be clearly recorded.

Northern Ireland was far better able to resist any imposition then because Lord Carson had at least 100,000 men mobilised and armed ready to resist the imposition of anything by the House. The people of Northern Ireland should learn from this debate that their destiny is in their own hands. I am not worried about what any civil servant said or did not say, or what comments are made about it. I want to say from the House to the people of Northern Ireland "Your destiny is in your own hands. As long as you have the determination and as long as you have the courage of your convictions, neither this House nor Dublin can decide your destiny. You will decide your own destiny."

The people of Northern Ireland need to hear that message loud and clear. They can go to their beds tonight unconcerned about any civil servant's comment or any non-comment that the civil servant might have made. It matters not. Ulster is secure when the principles to which the Ulster people are dedicated are upheld with conviction by them.

I must ask myself a second question. Will it be harmful for an election to take place and 78 representatives to be sent to Stormont to take part in an elective forum for Northern Ireland? If those returned from the Unionist side have the convictions and the courage that they ought to have, then, instead of a free run to the Irish Republic, there will be established a further buttress to keep the Ulster people firmly within the Union.

At other times, people were elected under false colours and, once elected, were prepared to betray the Province. I do not think that the atmosphere in Northern Ireland today will lend itself to that. I believe that there will be returned from the Unionist side those who are determined to see that the principles of democracy are upheld and that the wishes of the majority to remain within this kingdom are upheld.

I welcome the first part of the Bill. I believe that an election should take place. I believe that such a forum should be set up. I believe that direct rule has been unbridled in the past. I believe that the committees can at least examine what our overlords at Westminster are doing. But no one should think that such a forum and such committees will solve Ulster's security problem or its economic problems. Anyone who suggests that is talking nonsense.

The direction of security is in the hands of this House. As the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) has said, every hon. Member representing Northern Ireland has from time to time put forward views on security. Yet the problem continues. As past days have shown, it is escalating. We come to the House today from a sad Province that has in recent days experienced gruesome murders and terrible bombings with the promise of many more to come.

The responsibility for that situation does not rest with elected Ulster representatives. It rests squarely on the Government and with this House. I stated, when the House took the decision to disband Stormont, that one day the chickens would come home to roost and that the House would have to face up to its responsibilities. It is all very well for hon. Members to say that people in Northern Ireland should face up to their responsibilities. But this House has responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is to see that the great civil right of any individual—the right to live—is protected. We are fast losing that right in Northern Ireland and the Government have a solemn responsibility on security. I trust that they will face up to it.

Would the hon. Gentleman confirm that the late Brian Faulkner said when Stormont was paroled that, without security powers, Stormont was nothing more than a county council?

He may have said that, but he surrendered the security of Northern Ireland to the then occupant of 10 Downing Street and handed over the B Specials on a plate. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to make that statement, it is an indictment of the then leader of his party.

The Government must urgently face up to their security responsibilities. However, another responsibility is the right to work. The adults and young people of Northern Ireland need work. We have a serious economic problem. Elected Members can influence and help, but the responsibility for our economy and the procurement of jobs rests squarely on the shoulders of the Front Bench. Let none of them believe that, by electing an Assembly in Northern Ireland, they can pass the buck to that Assembly, because the Ulster people are too wise for that. They will say simply "The responsibility is not ours but yours. If you do not give us the tools to do the job, you must do it yourselves and the time has come for you to get on with it."

I trust that when the Assembly is elected there will be no attempt by an hon. Member or by the government to force its pace. The Assembly can vindicate its responsibility and its Members can show that they are capable of bearing responsibility by taking the powers that they have from day one and trying to convince the House and the United Kingdom that they are worthy to have not only those powers but devolved powers for the government of Northern Ireland.

It is all very well for hon. Members to say that the Northern Ireland people have a solemn responsibility and that it would be nice if hon. Members of different political persuasions could work together. Example is better than precept and we do not find it in the House of Commons. If I suggested that those who are called Left-wingers in the Opposition should join the Right-wingers in Government, people would laugh at me and say that I had taken leave of my senses. However, there is a smaller gap between Left-wing Socialism and Right-wing Conservatism than there is between those who wish to take Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom and those who wish it to remain there.

That rift goes very deep. We saw it in Magherafelt district council recently. A motion was proposed that greetings be sent to the Prince and Princess of Wales on the birth of the royal child. It was thrown out by the SDLP members. How can one expect Unionists to enter into a coalition or a forced agreement on power-sharing with those who do not adhere to the basic elements of loyalty to the Crown, the Government and authority? That is just one brief example. The pace cannot be forced. The House would do well to note that no self-respecting Unionist in Northern Ireland is now prepared to enter into Government with a Republican. That is a fact of life and the House will have to learn it.

Therefore, it is better for the Assembly to move along according to Mark 1 as I might call it. The 70 per cent. criterion is a major hurdle to ask any democratic forum to surmount. Even if we succeed in that, however, we still have no definition of "widespread acceptability". The House has been putting off defining it, but it is time that it was defined. Otherwise, when the elected representatives in Northern Ireland have done their homework and produced a 70 per cent. majority—if that can be done—when the vital decision is then taken in this House, the rules will suddenly be changed and a definition will be produced out of the Secretary of State's hat to suit the Government's wishes and thinking.

It is mere duty that keeps some of us from Northern Ireland in this House and in the political arena. To be a Member of the House from any other part of the United Kingdom may have its privileges and pleasures, but those of us who bear the burden and heat of the day in the present situation in Northern Ireland long for the day when there can be normal politics and when Members of Parliament instead of following the funeral processions of their constituents will be able to do the work that they should rightly be called upon to do.

I should like to think that the people of Northern Ireland will be given this opportunity and that when this House has seen them elected and seen how they can shoulder the responsibility that they can shoulder from the first day it will not then try by any process of coercion to push them down another road. If such coercion were attempted, we should see a resistance the like of which the House has never seen before, because among the section of the community that I represent there is a determination that the time has come when they must make a determined bid to do something in Northern Ireland that will make it possible for them to see some prospects for their families. That is what I want to see in Northern Ireland, so that the younger community will have something to live for in Northern Ireland—some hope of a job and some hope of those decent blessings that flow from ordered and lawful society.

Only that part of the Bill that will produce that forum is acceptable to us. The other parts are entirely unacceptable and unworkable. There is no need to wait until the Assembly is elected. It will be clear from the first day that the proposals are unworkable. Time will prove that, too.

Finally, I wish to deal with the suggestion of gerrymandering. On behalf of my party, I have attended the hearings held concerning the 17 seats. I do not favour 17 seats for Northern Ireland. I believe that there should be 22. That was the recommendation of the Convention. The hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) and I put that proposal to this House, but it was rejected. Indeed, the official Unionists did not vote with us on that. The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) and the hon. Member for Antrim, North attended the Speaker's Conference on this matter agreeing to the 17 seats. It seems strange that there is a suggestion of a gerrymander. I have attended many hearings as representative of my party. Beside me was the Official Unionist representative. Never once was it suggested that there was a gerrymander on the boundaries of those communities.

Does the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Mr. Paisley) accept that submissions were made by the Ulster Unionist Party? It was the only party that submitted proposals in writing, but they were not considered and called at that stage because none of the other parties had done their homework? At successive hearings objections to the details were made.

I completely refute that. My party made written submissions and attended the hearings. The important stage was when the submissions had to be made at the hearings. Submissions were made by the Official Unionist Party and many other parties. Moreover, no member of the Official Unionist Party suggested that the Boundary Commission was gerrymandering.

Objections were made to certain wards and areas not being included. Such objections are made at all Boundary Commission hearings. Certain changes were made, but it was never suggested that the 17 seats were gerrymandered in order to bring about a united Ireland. The hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) will agree that that was not the force of the argument put by anyone at the hearings.

The Boundary Commission could not be manipulated by any member of the Government. If it can be manipulated by a member of the Government it is time that the House took action. I have never heard a proposal from anyone in the House that a change should be made in the Boundary Commission.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there was correspondence between the former Secretary of State and the Boundary Commission on the package?

Yes. The Secretary of State is entitled to put his views on the matter, as is any other hon. Member. It would be strange if one hon. Member could put his views to the Boundary Commission and another could not. As the representations are open, I can see nothing wrong with a member of the Government making suggestions to the Boundary Commission. I have suggested certain changes relating to my own constituency of Antrim, North. Some of my submissions were supported by the Official Unionist candidate. That is not a gerrymander.

I remind the right hon. Member for Down, South that he told the people of Northern Ireland that the 17 seats were a further security for the union. I do not believe that. Even with 22 seats, if the House decided to break the union those 22 votes could do nothing against 600. The union is only as strong as the people of Northern Ireland. When they cease to be strong, no matter how many seats they have in the House the union will not be underpinned. The union is underpinned by the determination of the Ulster people.

The Secretary of State must come clean about how many seats the election is to be fought on. Will it be 12 or 17? We are entitled to know. The Government should now tell us the number that they have agreed. They should say whether the election will be based on 12 or 17 seats.

The second part of the Bill is so serious that my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) and myself will vote against its Third Reading. I regret that my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. McQuade) is not here because of his wife's serious illness. Had he been present, the three of us would have gone into the Lobby against the Bill.

12.10 am

I congratulate the Government on having the strength of purpose to see the Bill through. Once a decision had been taken by the Cabinet—I use the word advisedly—the Government were absolutely right to introduce a timetable motion to ensure that the Bill reaches the statute book so that we can move ahead to the elections in the autumn.

I am more confused than ever by the stand of the Official Unionist Party. As I listened to some of the comments made this evening, my confusion grew even more. I place on recored the fact that during the time that I had an association with the Northern Ireland Office, the principle that underlay the activities of all the officials with whom I was privileged to work was that of self-determination.

The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) should recognise that as the same principle that led the House of Commons and the Government to uphold the freedoms and the rights of the Falkland Islanders, to whom he has referred many times. Time and again in the Northern Ireland Office, the principle to which we have returned has been that of self-determination for the people of Northern Ireland.

To suggest that somehow or other officials or, indeed, Ministers can drive Northern Ireland out of the Union is absolute nonsense. Not only is the presence of Northern Ireland within our constitution enshrined in law; it is also enshrined in the wishes repeatedly expressed by a majority of the people of Northern Ireland and by a majority of the House of Commons. I simply do not know where those fantasies—for that is what they are—derive from. It is high time that substantive evidence was produced to give some credibility to the accusations that have been flung about the Chamber today in a quite outrageous manner.

That is not all that I want to say about the Official Unionist Party, because the hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux), in jocular mood, earlier made a passing reference to me. Each time his party is invited to pass a resolution, it says that it wants a devolved Parliament and a devolved Administration. Since when has the Unionist Party ever said that it wants integration with the rest of the United Kingdom? Never, so far as I know. That has never been said. If the hon. Gentleman wants to correct me, I shall be happy to give way.

As a child—that is a long time ago—I can remember being told by Lord Craigavon and later by Lord Brookeborough that Northern Ireland was and would remain an integral part of the United Kingdom. Presumably, they have been integrationists from that day to this.

The hon. Gentleman should be more aware than most people that Northern Ireland has never been administered as an integral part of the United Kingdom. It may have been legislated for, but it has never been so administered. On the eve of the conference convened by my right hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Atkins), the hon. Gentleman's party published a document calling for devolution.

As I said on Second Reading, as recently as March this year, the Unionist Party executive council again passed a resolution calling for a devolved Parliament and a devolved Administration. It has never called for integration. That is argued for, no doubt sincerely, by the right hon. Member for Down, South, but so far as I am able to ascertain, it is not a view that is widely shared by Official Unionist Party members in the Province.

I recently visited Northern Ireland for the first time in some months. I found that many members of the Official Unionist Party are looking forward to the elections, to participating in the campaign and joining in the activities of the Assembly. I believe that I am right in saying that the hon. Member for Antrim, South recently gave a press conference at which he said that, as far as he was concerned as leader of the Official Unionist Party, it was in order for Westminster members of the Official Unionist Party to present themselves as candidates for the Assembly.

What is even more confusing is that I had not been in Northern Ireland for more than a few hours when a number of people told me that there were even rumours going round that the right hon. Member for Down, South was seriously considering his position, and that he might, come the autumn, participate in elections and seek to work the Assembly. If that is the case, I am glad, but again it would be helpful to know whether it is the case. It is not altogether surprising that some of us are in some confusion about the views of the Official Unionist Party.

I thought that I had made it clear towards the end of my remarks this evening that I was prepared to lead my party into the election, but that I would put forward the views that I have consistently put forward for the past 10 years, and that we should win that election.

I am pleased to hear that the Official Unionist Party is to try to make a success of the first part of the Bill, because that is good news. I hope that the party will participate in the election, because that is important.

The heart of the matter is whether the Government were right to introduce the Bill. The Government faced three choices. The first was to continue direct rule, which, as I have said before, has not been all that successful. It is not the long-term answer to the problems of Northern Ireland.

The second policy was a move towards integration, but this is a policy that has no support in the Province, other than from the right hon. Member for Down, South and a few of his friends. It is not something that is supported by the majority of people in Northern Ireland and it is therefore not something that the House could recommend to the United Kingdom or the people of Northern Ireland as the way to proceed.

I listened carefully to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner). He put his case well and forcefully. However, Northern Ireland, having enjoyed devolved institutions for 50 years, made them work, developed a civil service of its own, and a whole body of mind and spirit with which to approach the problems of the Province, sincerely wants to have another attempt at trying to govern its affairs.

Therefore, unlike my hon. Friend, I believe that the Bill holds out the opportunity of strengthening and not weakening the Union. That is a matter of judgment and opinion, but it is based on the two and a half years that I was privileged to be associated with the Northern Ireland Office and the Province. I developed a great respect for what I call the "integrity" of Northern Ireland, for its political, institutions, culture, and language in terms of symbols and the way that people expressed themselves. To the extent that the people of Northern Ireland apparently wish to make one further attempt to govern themselves in matters of local concern and responsibility, the House is right to afford them the opportunity to do so.

The third possibility that was open to the Government was to introduce this measure, and I am glad that my right hon. Friend and his Cabinet colleagues chose to do so. Most of the debates that we have had during the progress of the Bill have been centred upon rolling devolution. The earlier stages of what the Bill does—the setting up of the Assembly and its committees—will be the real proof of whether the Members that are elected can work together. It is on that stage that we should now concentrate to see whether there is sufficient good-will and understanding of the problems that can be debated and discussed among Members of the Assembly. We can then see whether the Secretary of State would be right to grant the powers that he can grant under the Bill in the form of devolved powers to the Assembly.

That leads me to another important point which was made by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley). It is the people of Northern Ireland, via their elected representatives to the Assembly, who will decide whether the Bill will be effective. That is as it should be.

It is only fair to point out that time and again English Ministers find themselves at a disadvantage in Northern Ireland because they are not Ulstermen. They are cut off from the normal political stimuli which they receive as English Ministers. It is high time that they received the benefit of more local advice and opinion from elected representatives in the government of the Province.

Many serious issues in Northern Ireland would be greatly helped by being properly debated in the Assembly. It would be to the benefit not only of the Members of the Assembly and the people of the Province, but also to the Secretary of State, his Ministers and ultimately the House.

The union can be strengthened on that basis. Contrary to what the right hon. Member for Down, South suggests, the people of Northern Ireland cannot be driven out of the Union by officials or Ministers. The rights of the Northern Ireland people are enshrined in law. That is as it should be, and that is why I too am a Unionist.

12.21 am

I do not doubt the Secretary of State's sincerity, nor do I question his integrity. He has produced the Bill in good faith and he honestly believes that it will be beneficial to the Ulster people. He has worked hard on it. In forming a judgment on the Bill, account must be taken of the conscientious way in which he has performed his duties as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland since he took office.

However, I fear that the Bill will create greater problems than presently exist in Northern Ireland. I know that in his speech in the debate on the timetable motion the Secretary of State said that those who vote for the Bill are voting for an end to violence in the Province. The inference is that those who vote against the Bill are voting for the continuation of terrorism and for a political vacuum. That is not so.

No matter how much the Secretary of State may revel in the paternity of the Bill—although the hon. Gentleman with the Ulster accent, the hon. Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney) who has long since parted from Northern Ireland, may be responsible—it will not cause the IRA to give up its atrocities. The IRA will, I fear, regard the new Ulster scenario as evidence that the Government are prepared to make valuable concessions if its murderous thugs push hard enough.

That is not a preposterous assumption for me to make. We saw the disastrous consequences which flowed from equivocal signals being given to the Argentine Government by the Government or their Foreign Office. The political aims of the Irish Republican terrorists are in no way compatible with the political aims of the vast majority of the Ulster people. Therefore, sadly, the Ulster people will continue to be mercilessly exposed to death, mutilation and destruction.

It is said that the Bill provides for creeping devolution. That is a dreadful term, but perhaps it sums up what may be in store. But the Assembly may never go beyond being a talking shop where politicians with no responsibility or prospect of government can indulge in perpetual and irresponsible criticism of this House and the Government.

As I pointed out in the debate on the White Paper, the Government are creating a rod for their own back. Of course, that is, or should be, of concern to the Government and to members of the Conservative Party. However, I am concerned about the welfare of the Ulster people and Northern Ireland's future as part of the United Kingdom.

Of course, I have great faith in the Ulster people. No other people would have had the resilience to withstand 13 years of terrorism, of terrible atrocities and of the weaknesses that have been manifested by successive Governments. However, they still have courage, and great heart and spirit. Those who have jobs to go to go about their work. However, I fear that the Assembly could degenerate into a political arena for the trading of insults and abuse and the hurling of words of anger. Such scenes and speeches will be headlined in the news, will be brought by television into every home in the Province and will further inflame passions there.

Is that what the House wants? I do not think so. The IRA needs no excuse for hideous deeds. It will make cynical use of the political situation and will step up its campaign of terrorism. With each fresh IRA sectarian atrocity there will be a further deterioration in the political situation, in the number of jobs and in security. That is a frightening prospect. In addition, we face the dreadful spectre of unemployment, which—as my hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) said—will not be solved by the Assembly.

I have briefly expressed some of my fears. However, they are real fears, and I have a duty to express them. I am worried about the prospect of an Assembly that has no clear powers, and therefore no mandate from the electorate to do anything. I want meaningful devolution for the Province, and I want it now. I want the Ulster politicians to be given responsibilities and duties. If they are given that responsibility, they will be responsible. It is suspected that one reason for creating the Assembly is to give elected representatives—who may represent the Republican Party—an opportunity to serve on an all-Ireland parliamentary council or tier with parliamentary representatives from the Irish Republic. Ulster Loyalists emphatically reject a council of Ireland, or whatever else it may be called, that questions Ulster's sovereignty as part of the United Kingdom and interferes with its administration. It would be detrimental to the interests of those who wish to maintain the link with the Crown, and its very existence would give further incentive and encouragement to the IRA.

Before the Government introduced the Bill, they should have had the courage to introduce a Bill of rights for Northern Ireland and at the same time ended the religious apartheid in education that is foolishly maintained at the taxpayers' expense and that is a disgrace to any civilised society. In that way, we can create harmony and political stability. Every Government have shirked that vital issue, yet nothing could be more divisive of the Ulster community than sending children—even toddlers—in the same area to different schools on the basis of religion. I condemn the scandalous situation, just as I have condemned it for many years. It would not be tolerated in England if the children were divided for educational purposes on the basis of colour, so why should a division on the basis of religion be tolerated? I accuse successive Governments, officials, politicians and churchmen of condemning young people to the heartbreak of being brought up in a divided community when those very children could be the architects of a new era in Northern Ireland.

The Secretary of State has made a plea which cannot be rejected out of hand by any reasonable person. It is a plea for the will to make the measure work. I sincerely hope that politicians will heed the right hon. Gentleman's passionate call and that now that the battle in the House is over, goodwill will prevail.

If, despite all the warnings and fears, the Bill is enacted, let Ulster give it a fair trial. Ulster has suffered. It has seen dramatic change over many years. Ulster men and women, despite their criticisms and reservations, will give the Bill a chance. It could project a new image of Ulster throughout the world—and God knows, Ulster needs a better image than it has had for the last 10 or 15 years.

The calibre of those elected to the Assembly will determine the outcome of the new institution. The Ulster people will look to the Government to provide stronger measures to protect them—innocent men, women and children and our gallant security forces—from the dastardly deeds of the evil men of terror. I appeal to the Government to ensure that the Ulster people are better protected and that no more lives are lost in the experiment.

I hope that the Secretary of State, acting on the advice of his officials, is right. If he is right, I shall pay magnanimous tribute to him. Whatever happens, I hope that the Ulster people will not suffer. I call on the Ulster people and the hon. Member for Antrim, North to try to make it work, if it is what the House and the Government determine that they should have.

12.31 pm

I was not present when the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) submitted the Abbott paper, but I have seen a copy. It begins in question and answer form. The question is put:

"What has been the influence of the ad hoc committee on Northern Ireland vis a vis the State Department's attitude to Northern Ireland?"
The ad hoc committee is a committee of the American Congress. The reply, supposedly given by Mr. Abbott was:
"There are only 132 members of the committee."
That is broadly true.

He goes on:
"It is not an official Committee."
That is also broadly true. He then says:
"It tends to be dominated by the 'four horsemen' (Kennedy, Carey, Biaggio and Moynihan)."
There are certain problems about that sentence. If one thinks that Biaggio is one of the four horsemen, one might as well think that the right hon. Member for Down, South is the Home Secretary in the present Government. The error is of that magnitude. When the clock strikes 13 in that clanging fashion, I tend to doubt the validity of the rest of the document.

I do not believe the conspiracy theory. I believe in the muddle theory. I fear that the Bill is a result of the muddle theory. I fear that the way in which our debates have been conducted has added to that confusion. Because of the guillotine we shall have spent more than three times as long on the first part of the Bill—which all hon. Members know will not come into effect—as on the part of the Bill which will come into effect—the Assembly and the Committee. We have not even discussed the way in which the deliberative Assembly will choose the business to discuss. We have not had discussion about the powers of the Committee and whether, for example, it will be able to carry out an investigation into the predictable disaster of the De Lorean car company.

The Government appear to believe that it will be "all right on the night". I do not believe that it will be all right on the night. If the Assembly is not to turn into a boxing ring where people belabour each other and accentuate the sectarian divisions in the community and unite only to criticise the Westminster Government, it is essential that it has proper standing orders, proper rules and properly defined limits for the actions of the investigating committee.

The House has not been able to discuss this properly and I can only hope that the other place will be able to debate the Bill more satisfactorily than we have been able to.

12.37 am

We end our long proceedings on the Bill in an unfortunate and embittered atmosphere introduced by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) and supported by the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery). I do not want to spend much time on that matter except to say that, while I do not know what standards should be set by Privy Councillors, I assume that they are not supposed to be below that of the community in general. If, in my previous occupations outside the House as a councillor or whatever, I had had passed to me the type of papers that were passed to the right hon. Gentleman the first thing that I would have done, unless they had been signed, dated and clearly identified, would be to check with the Secretary of State to discover whether they were genuine. I would still have reserved my right to come back to the House if there were any doubt about that matter. While I was thinking about the sort of person that I would have to be to use the papers in the way that they were used, I began thinking that among other things I would have to be at best a little careless and perhaps rather callous towards those who were not in as good a position as I am to defend myself. The saddest part of the history of Northern Ireland since 1920 is the way in which some, not all, of the Unionist leaders have been their own worst enemies by their abuse of power and their rather careless and arrogant attitude towards the minorities. At best, one can describe their concern for the minority and even their concern for democracy as halfhearted. That has done the Unionists no good at all. I have spent a great deal of my time during the debates and outside the House arguing that the rights and needs of the Unionist people need to be considered with great care, because there is no way in which one could or should ignore the rights and needs of 1 million people, yet we have seen today the way in which the needs of those people have been ignored by their leaders. That is sad and unfortunate and the message should go out from the House that if people are to use information in that way, one has to question what sort of use they would make of power generally.

I turn briefly to the speech of the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mrs. Williams), who spoke on behalf of the Social Democrats. She kindly said to me in the debate on 16 June that she would tell me what the SDP attitude would be to a united Ireland or an integration into the United Kingdom. I am sorry to say that we have not had that answer. I regret that we shall not be able to get it tonight. I understand why, and I urge the right hon. Lady to give the matter some thought before she tells us how the SDP has decided to resolve the matter.

It is not enough to tell the House that the SDP will give more support to co-operation. Co-operation is a good thing, but so is a bowl of strawberries and cream, and neither will help us in isolation. Ultimately we must have a policy and an aim. We do not always achieve such aims or cross every "t" and dot every "i," but at least they give us something to strive for, and it will help the people of Northern Ireland to understand what the policy outcome will be. That is important.

If the SDP does not do that, it will fall into the same trap that the Conservative Party has fallen into, and that is to fail to recognize—I accept that the Conservative Party has recognised this in recent year—that Northern Ireland is not like any other part of the United Kingdom and cannot be treated like any other part. When we start to recognise that and to make special allowances for the Province as the Secretary of State has rightly done in the Bill, we raise fears in the Unionist parties about future intentions. That is why it is the Opposition's view that we should be explicit about our aims and intentions. We should always emphasise the importance of consent, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) and I have done so throughout our debates. We consider that recognition to be of extreme importance.

The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) said that the people of Ulster will decide their own destiny. I agree with him. The people of Northern Ireland will do that. However, in the longer term their decision might surprise him. I believe that the people of Ulster have been learning a great deal in the years of misery and agony that they have been experiencing. I do not accept that some of the wilder statements of the Unionist parties will be adhered to as some Unionists think. Great changes are taking place in the attitudes and values of the people of Northern Ireland and these are healthy changes.

The hon. Member spoke of the need for work. I agree that the devastation of unemployment in Ulster is obvious to us all. I believe that that economic imperative will hasten the process that I have described. Already we see the inescapable signs that the people—Unionists and Republicans alike—are recognising that the division of the island is nonsensical in both political and economic terms. That does not mean that we can wave a magic wand to make everything come right overnight. However, it will begin a process that will cause the people to recognise that they can come together in consent.

I shall conclude with words that are based on those used by the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder), whose views I listen to with great care. I have some sympathy for his views on education and religion. I have considerable understanding of the problem. It is not popular to say that even here, let alone in Northern Ireland.

The hon. Gentleman and other members of the Unionist parties spend much time condemning the Provisional IRA. The hon. Gentleman is right to do so, but yet again a member of a Unionist party has failed to condemn the paramilitary organisations on the Unionist side. They must be condemned too. They are part of the equation. It cannot be said that all responsibility lies with the IRA. It is right to condemn the Provisional IRA when it commits an atrocity and only it. It is right also to condemn the Ulster Volunteer Force when it commits an atrocity. We must be careful of our words in this House. We must be careful to condemn the paramilitarists, be they Unionist or Republican.

I am sad that the debate has ended as it has. The right hon. Members for Down, South and for Pavilion have much to answer for and much on which to dwell. I hope that they will have the courage in due course to return to the House to apologise.

12.45 am

My first duty in making the final speech on consideration of the Bill is to express thanks to my right hon. and hon. Friends who, through a long and difficult Committee stage and Third Reading, have supported the Government consistently through late sittings to see the Bill through the House of Commons. I know that no one enjoys missing sleep, but we have been much buoyed up by the support that they have given us. I include in those thanks appreciation to those in other parts of the House who have supported us in the Lobbies and in the debates on the amendments.

My right hon. and hon. Friends who could not agree with the approach in the legislation also went without sleep, and sustained an energetic and thoughtful campaign against the Bill. I respect their views. I am delighted that, when decisions were taken, the House agreed with the Government rather than with them, but I compliment them on their efforts through the long sittings.

We have come to the end of a long road. We have had many debates, some of which were very long. I remain convinced that the approach outlined in the Bill gives us the best chance of political advance in Northern Ireland. The Bill gives us the chance—perhaps no more than that—of a new beginning in the Province. I do not pretend that there is a set of railway lines going into the future that shows the path that the Assembly will take and sets out the possibility of devolved government. There are many uncertainties about the future, yet I remain convinced that the Bill gives us the best chance of success. I do not believe that the future will be easy. The solutions that we seek are unlikely to come quickly, but it is now possible for us to begin to take the first steps towards achieving those solutions.

As has been said many times in our debates, the essence of the Bill is to provide maximum flexibility so that the people of Northern Ireland and their representatives will be able to mould a system of devolved government that meets their needs. That is the right approach.

I now turn to some of the detailed points that have been made by right hon. and hon. Members in the debate. I appreciate the general welcome that the right hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Concannon) and his hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Soley) gave to the proposals. They would have liked us to go further on some matters. The balance that we have in expressing the need for widespread community support is right. It gives us a sound basis for the future. I would go so far as to say that only with that as the foundation stone of the Bill would we have any hope of getting a stable or secure basis for devolved government in the Province.

I turn with some sadness to the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), with whom I have been privileged to work previously. It was one of the saddest speeches that I have heard in my long period in the House. I do not know when my right hon. Friend became infected by the conspiracy theory, but today he constructed a case on what he was pleased to call at times the Abbott transcript and at other times the Abbott memorandum. He prejudged and built a case on the shakiest of foundations, some aspects of which have been outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Sir P. Goodhart). I do not want to go far down that road with my right hon. Friend, because it was one of the saddest speeches that I have heard.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that the material that the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) distributed will be examined. In view of the manner in which the allegations have been freely made, I shall give my first reaction to the document. It purports to be a verbatim transcript of Mr. Abbott's answers to questions. We have no evidence that it is in any way accurate or how it was obtained. It is strongly denied by Mr. Abbott.

As the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North said, one would have expected that if the right hon. Gentleman was genuinely concerned to establish the facts about the document, he would have come to my right hon. Friend on a Privy Councillor basis, shown him the paper and provided all the available background information so that a judgment could be made. If he was dissatisfied with that or with the reaction of the Secretary of State it would have remained open to him to raise the matter in the House. Instead, with elaborate protestations of reluctance to name civil servants, he has made his allegations with maximum drama to obtain the greatest possible publicity before there was any opportunity to test their validity. I regret that my right hon. Friend the Member for Pavilion found it necessary to add to the impact that the speech of the right hon. Member for Down, South has had. I believe that in many ways it was an abuse of parliamentary privilege. The only thing in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Pavilion with which I can agree is that the final word will remain with the people of Northern Ireland.

The hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) went over much of the ground that has become familiar to the Committee and the House during recent weeks. I fail to understand the constant reiteration by the hon. Gentleman and some of his hon. Friends of what he sees as the threat to the Union when the buttress of this legislation and the whole approach of the Government to the government of Northern Ireland is enshrined in section 1 of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973. I cannot think that one would want more than that to buttress the confidence of the people of Northern Ireland and to remove all the fears and ambiguities about the future of Northern Ireland. That is what section 1 of the 1973 Act provides.

My hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon), in a thoughtful and serious speech, talked about the background to the legislation. The point that emerged strongly about which I feel deeply—it has emerged more than once during the debate—is that Northern Ireland has special needs. The solutions to the problems of Northern Ireland will not be applicable to other parts of the United Kingdom. The way he ended his speech, when he asked the people of Northern Ireland and the House to give the legislation the chance to work, hit exactly the right note. Nobody claims the certainty of success, but we believe that the proposals deserve a chance and that the people of Northern Ireland deserve a chance to make them work.

I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mrs. Williams) for her support throughout the passage of the Bill. I acknowledge that she too has some reservations about the final shape in which the Bill leaves the House. Both in the amendment she tabled and in her speech this evening she stressed that it would have been better somehow to concentrate the minds of the newly elected Members of the Assembly by imposing a time limit within which they would have to make some proposals for devolved government. I can see some advantages in that, but having thought about it with great seriousness in Committee, I remain convinced that the advantages would be outweighed by the disadvantages, and that inflexibility might be caused by imposing a time limit. If it appears that the Assembly is not working out and doing useful work and that it is unlikely to produce proposals for devolved government, the Secretary of State will be able to dissolve it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner) almost dismissed the first stage of the workings of the Assembly. He did not like the later stages, but he did not do justice to the important work that the Assembly will be able to do during its first stages. We look forward to working with the Assembly to make sure that its committees can do effective work in those early stages. In the Department for which I am responsible I look forward to working closely with the committee that will shadow it and I hope that better government will be achieved in Northern Ireland.

I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate has consistently opposed devolution wherever it has raised its head. I may have had more sympathy with the case that he made over the Scottish and Welsh Bills than in this instance. I have to repeat again that Northern Ireland is different. It had devowed government for 50 years. Devolved government is still the preferred choice of the majority of people in Northern Ireland. Indeed, there has been the publication within the Official Unionist Party only in the last day or so of the Union Group pamphlet written by David Trimble in which he says:
"Most people in Northern Ireland would like to see a system of devolved government. That is the inescapable conclusion to be drawn from every election and opinion poll. Of course, they are prepared to tolerate other forms of government, such as direct rule, with varying degrees of enthusiasm but devolution is the preferred option."
I believe that to be true. The Bill is an effort by the Government to give to the people of Northern Ireland the chance to develop a form of devolved government that is suitable to their needs.

Is it not the case that Mr. Trimble and those who think like him are demanding, more or less, the old Stormont back in the terms of the majority report of the constitutional convention? Is it not also the case that the Government will not give that to them and that the Government must therefore think of something else?

The central point about the Bill and about the Government's approach is that neither side of the community in Northern Ireland can have everything that it wants. The nationalist side cannot have enforced power-sharing. The Unionist side cannot have a return to the unfettered power of Stormont. So the Government are saying that they will not impose something on the Province but will put into the hands of an elected Assembly the chance to work out proposals that are acceptable and command widespread support throughout the communities.

The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) answered effectively the points about gerrymandering that were raised during the debate. The hon. Gentleman expressed in his usual vibrant manner his well-known views to the House. He mentioned the committees. I should like to say again how much we look forward to working with the committees as the Assembly develops.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned security and the economy. I am convinced, as most people who have had anything to do with the Government of Northern Ireland and security there, I think, know, that it is widespread support throughout the community that alone can guarantee in the long term an improvement in the security situation. Without that widespread support for the security forces and for the security policies in Northern Ireland, we shall never achieve the long term improvement in security that is needed.

I do not pretend that the Bill will change, suddenly and dramatically, the economic situation in Northern Ireland. I am equally convinced, however, that if we go on as we are we face a continuing slide in the economy. The elected representatives and the political leaders in Northern Ireland have a responsibility for the perception of Northern Ireland throughout the world. Potential investors look at the presentation of Northern Ireland by those who speak for it politically. That must mean right hon. and hon. Members of this House as much as Ministers.

The Government believe that an Assembly can give the people of Northern Ireland the opportunity, if they respond constructively to the proposals in the Bill, not only to devise lasting institutions in which members of both communities can work together in harmony but to have the immediate chance of making their views known more effectively to Government and to have an influence on policy of a kind that has so far been lacking during direct rule. The Bill seeks to give them that opportunity.

There are two traditions in Northern Ireland. Its problems are unique. It has unique needs and we must find unique solutions to them. The Bill is a brave attempt to give the people of Northern Ireland the chance to "control their own destiny", in the words of the hon. Member for Antrim, North. Their destiny is in their hands. They will react wisely to that opportunity and they can give, not just to the present generation and their children but to future generations, the chance for devolved government, security and peace.

The Bill now goes to another place. Let us hope that the other place will not be the poodle of the Patronage Secretary but the watchdog of the constitution.

It being One o'clock, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to Order [22 June], to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—

The House divided: Ayes 137, Noes 29.

Division No. 253]

[1 am

AYES

Alexander, RichardLang, Ian
Ancram, MichaelLester, Jim (Beeston)
Arnold, TomLuce, Richard
Aspinwall, JackMadel, David
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (S'thorne)Major, John
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)Marlow, Antony
Banks, RobertMarten, Rt Hon Neil
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyMates, Michael
Beith, A. J.Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Benyon, W. (Buckingham)Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Best, KeithMayhew, Patrick
Blackburn, JohnMellor David
Boscawen, Hon RobertMeyer, Sir Anthony
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W)Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Boyson, Dr RhodesMills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
Bright, GrahamMoate, Roger
Brooke, Hon PeterMorrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Bruce-Gardyne, JohnMorrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Bryan, Sir PaulMudd, David
Buck, AntonyMyles, David
Butler, Hon AdamNeedham, Richard
Cadbury, JocelynNelson, Anthony
Campbell-Savours, DaleNeubert, Michael
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Newton, Tony
Channon, Rt. Hon. PaulNormanton, Tom
Chapman, SydneyO'Halloran, Michael
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Page, Richard (SW Herts)
Cockeram, EricParris, Matthew
Cope, JohnPatten, John (Oxford)
Crawshaw, RichardPawsey, James
Dorrell, StephenPink, R. Bonner
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.Prior, Rt Hon James
Dover, DenshoreRaison, Rt Hon Timothy
du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardRhodes James, Robert
Dunn, Robert (Dartford)Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Elliott, Sir WilliamRidley, Hon Nicholas
Eyre, ReginaldRidsdale, Sir Julian
Fairgrieve, Sir RussellRoberts, Wyn (Conway)
Faith, Mrs SheilaRoper, John
Fenner, Mrs PeggyRossi, Hugh
Forman, NigelRost, Peter
Fraser, Peter (South Angus)Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R.
Garel-Jones, TristanScott, Nicholas
Goodlad, AlastairShaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Gow, IanShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Grist, IanShersby, Michael
Gummer, John SelwynSilvester, Fred
Hamilton, Hon A.Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Hampson, Dr KeithSpeller, Tony
Heddle, JohnSpicer, Jim (West Dorset)
Hicks, RobertStanley, John
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.Steen, Anthony
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)Stevens, Martin
Hooson, TomStewart, A. (E Renfrewshire)
Hordern, PeterStewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Howe, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyStradling Thomas, J.
Hunt, David (Wirral)Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
Hurd, Rt Hon DouglasThomas, Rt Hon Peter
Irvine, Rt Hon BryantThompson, Donald
Godmanvan Straubenzee, Sir W.
Johnson Smith, Sir GeoffreyVaughan, Dr Gerard
Jopling, Rt Hon MichaelViggers, Peter
Kimball, Sir MarcusWaddington, David
Lamont, NormanWaldegrave, Hon William

Watson, JohnWilliams, Rt Hon Mrs (Crosby)
Wells, BowenWolfson, Mark
Wheeler, John
Wickenden, KeithTellers for the Ayes:
Wilkinson, JohnMr. Anthony Berry and
Williams, D. (Montgomery)Mr. Carol Mather.

NOES

Amery, Rt Hon JulianMacmillan, Rt Hon M.
Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnMolyneaux, James
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'n)Morris, M. (N'hampton S)
Budgen, NickPaisley, Rev Ian
Carlisle, John (Luton West)Parry, Robert
Cranborne, ViscountPorter, Barry
Cryer, BobPowell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)
Dunlop, JohnProctor, K. Harvey
Farr, JohnRobinson, P. (Belfast E)
Fell, Sir AnthonySkinner, Dennis
Fraser, Rt Hon Sir HughSmyth, Rev. W. M. (Belfast S)
Gardiner, George (Reigate)Stanbrook, Ivor
Goodhart, Sir Philip
Kilfedder, James A.Tellers for the Noes:
Lawrence, IvanMr. William Ross and
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)Mr. Christopher Murphy.
McCusker, H.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read the Third time and passed.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. During this evening's debate there has been constant reference to a certain document that is not in the possession of the House. I invite you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to consult Mr. Speaker with a view to his ruling tomorrow on the propriety of referring to a document that is not in the possession of the House and that contains grave and unsubstantiated allegations against a public servant who is not in a position to defend himself. Those allegations have been made under the protection of parliamentary privilege.

I understand that the document is unofficial and unsigned. I say to the hon. Gentleman and to the House that every hon. Member should choose his words with great care in the House, but it is not out of order to quote from such alleged documents. Every right hon. and hon. Gentleman must take the responsibility for his own speech.