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Devolution

Volume 86: debated on Thursday 14 November 1985

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8.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's policy towards devolved government in Northern Ireland in the light of the publication of the third report from the Devolution Report Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The Government believe that a new devolved administration which the constitutional parties would be willing to operate together would have much to offer. I am studying the report against that background.

Have there not been too many abortive attempts at devolved government since the abolition of Stormont? Will my right hon. Friend concentrate on administrative devolution, and govern this integral part of the United Kingdom as though it were an integral part?

Obviously I shall take careful note of the third report, which has been sent to me. I understand that it was sent to me as a basis for negotiation, and that the parties in the Assembly have made it clear that they are not committed to any of its details. I have undertaken to study it carefully, and I shall do so.

Does the Secretary of State realise that if there is passion on this Bench today it is because the hon. Members on this Bench, more than any others, know exactly what will flow from the agreement which has been so widely published? We are worried because we know exactly what the results of it will be. What will the Secretary of State, the Government and the House do when we are proved to be correct?

The hon. Gentleman says that he knows exactly what the details are, and that the report has been widely published. Neither statement is correct. Part of the complaint that I have had to deal with is that hon. Members have been kept in the dark. If there is an agreement, will the hon. Gentleman please study its terms carefully, and not rush into judgment until he has had a chance to look at the facts?