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Commons Chamber

Volume 87: debated on Tuesday 26 November 1985

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House Of Commons

Tuesday 26 November 1985

The House met at half-past Two o'clock

Prayers

[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Contingencies Fund 1984

Ordered,

That there be laid before the House accounts of the Contingencies Fund, 1984–85, showing:
  • (1) the receipts and payments in connection with the Fund in the year ended 31st March 1985, and
  • (2) the distribution of the capital of the Fund at the commencement and close of the year; with the Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General thereon.—[Mr. Moore.]
  • Oral Answers To Questions

    Defence

    Local Overseas Allowance

    1.

    asked the Secretary of State for Defence what representations his Department has received concerning Her Majesty's forces local overseas allowance; and if he will make a statement.

    5.

    asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he is satisfied with the present levels of local overseas allowances for British forces in Germany; and if he will make a statement.

    A number of representations were received from hon. Members and from service men in Germany following the reduction in local overseas allowance in Germany earlier this year. The reasons for this reduction were explained fully by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement when answering the debate on the Adjournment on 20 May.

    I am satisfied that the LOA system represents an extremely important financial protection for service men when they are asked to serve in countries overseas that have a higher inflation rate than that in the United Kingdom.

    I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman's answer. The reduction in the local overseas allowance for BAOR troops has a certain pin-stripe logic in Whitehall, but it means a pay cut for the troops. I have discussed this with the troops. They tell me that single men in particular have suffered a pay cut of between £20 and £30 a month. [Interruption.] Conservative Members do not like having to listen to this, but I am afraid that they will have to. Will the right hon. Gentleman address himself to that matter?

    I must say to the hon. Gentleman and to those right hon. and hon. Members on the Opposition Front Bench who support him that the pin-stripe logic to which he referred commended itself to the previous Administration. They operated the same LOA system as we operate. Where the differences in the cost of living narrow between the United Kingdom and an overseas country, the LOA is bound to be reduced. I ask the House to bear in mind that our service men in Germany, following the Government's adherence—unlike our predecessors—to the provisions of the armed forces pay review, have had a pay increase this year in excess of 7 per cent., although they are living in a country which enjoys an inflation rate of less than 3 per cent.

    While I understand the reasons for the change in the LOA, its effects upon BAOR are becoming quite frightening. A number of young, highly-qualified technical soldiers have given notice that they wish to leave the Army. These soldiers may or may not accept the argument about a lower rate of inflation, but their greatest argument relates to transportation back to the United Kingdom, since transport charges are a complete "fix" under the cartel.

    I am glad to be able to tell my hon. Friend and the House that in the last few days we have announced an important concession. It will enable all service men to have the costs of the third school visit of their first child, for which at present they have to pay, met out of public funds. That concession will apply as from the school Christmas holidays. It has been widely welcomed in Germany.

    As it costs £2·8 million to train a fast-jet pilot for the central front, and as we are seeking to save only £17 million on the local overseas allowance, only eight pilots have to leave the Royal Air Force for all the savings that the Ministry of Defence hopes to make to be lost. The commercial airlines are recruiting vigorously among jet-trained pilots. Is this not another example of the Government being penny wise and pound foolish? They are seeking to make short-term cuts without considering the long-term interests of the Royal Air Force.

    The hon. Gentleman is confusing two completely separate issues. He rightly referred to the very considerable cost of training a fast-jet pilot. However, the relatively small adjustments of the LOA at the margin will not have a material effect upon the ability of the civil airlines to recruit trained RAF pilots.

    Most people understand the reasoning behind the change, but I suspect that there would have been a great deal more support for it had there been an elongated introductory time scale to give service men a chance to adjust. Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that this is not a false dawn for savings and that we are not losing the savings involved in this change to those who are opting for unaccompanied tours and the greater financial benefit that that involves?

    The reduction in LOA in Germany had some phasing in, which was designed to get over the particular problem to which my hon. Friend refers. I remind him that it is important to ensure that normally there is immediate application of LOA changes, because a large number of them are upwards, and we want to give the service men the benefit of the LOA increases, such as those that have recently taken place in Cyprus, Italy, Sardinia, Gibraltar, Portugal, the United States, Denmark Belize, Norway and Hong Kong.

    Tornado Aircraft

    2.

    asked the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects to complete negotiations with British Aerospace plc for an attrition order of Tornado aircraft for the Royal Air Force.

    Negotiations are in progress on the purchase of nine additional Tornado GR1 aircraft to help offset expected attrition losses. Orders have been placed for essential long-lead time materials.

    Will my hon. Friend confirm that the order for the nine Tornadoes and, I hope, a few more, will be placed soon? Will he also confirm that the extra orders placed for Tornadoes for Saudi Arabia and Oman, which are much to be welcomed, will not affect the RAF order to replace the aeroplanes that have been taken out for the Saudi Arabian order?

    The time of a production order for these aircraft has to be considered in the context of the Saudia Arabian deal, but if we lose aircraft through accidents or whatever, they will have to be replaced.

    There will be some diversion from the RAF to meet the Saudi deal. Our concern is to minimise that effect. We have a commitment to this aircraft, which will have to be replaced. However, the precise timing will depend on finance and on the extent of factors yet to be negotiated in the Saudi deal.

    Would not the hon. Gentleman have saved himself some embarrassment if he had taken the advice given to him by the hon. Member for South Ribble (Mr. Atkins) and ordered early so that he could have delivered both on time?

    My hon. Friend understands, as the hon. Gentleman does not, that the point about diversity arises because the production lines at Warton will be full. Because of the substantial order obtained from Saudi Arabia, the production lines at Warton will be full well until the 1990s, and there will be excellent work for the European fighter aircraft programme as well.

    Does my hon. Friend accept that the attrition rate for the Tornado in operational conditions on the central front will soon become high unless the aeroplane is equipped with an effective stand-off weapon? What progress is being made to procure such an air-to-surface missile?

    We are studying this matter jointly with other countries, because it is important to ensure that the Tornado is effective. As my hon. Friend knows, it is also important to maintain the mid-life update.

    Procurement Programme

    3.

    asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he is satisfied with the present methods of defence procurement; and if he will make a statement.

    We continue to seek improvements in the way that we procure the equipment the services require for a price which gives the taxpayer best value for money. To this end we shall pursue vigorously the twin aims of expanding competition and collaboration.

    Why should defence contractors be able to hide behind rules of confidentiality from answering questions about the post-costing of defence contracts where excess profits have been made by them? Is the Minister aware that a prominent journalist wrote to me enclosing a list of post-costed defence contracts where excess profits had been made, all of which have been investigated by the Ministry of Defence? Is he aware, further, that I am prevented, by the rule of confidentiality, from raising that list in a public sitting of the Public Accounts Committee, when all those matters are in the public interest and should be made known to the public?

    I shall certainly look at that point. Post costing occurs in non-competitive contracts. It is done in confidence because some matters are commercially sensitive, and, even if the contract is non-competitive in the United Kingdom, the intention may be to sell the equipment overseas. Therefore, commercial confidentiality is important. However, I shall investigate what the hon. Gentleman has said.

    Is my hon. Friend satisfied with the defence procurement arrangements for the European fighter aircraft, which, as well as the United Kingdom, involves Germany, Italy and Spain? Will he take this opportunity to say whether the apparent efforts by the French to come back into the scheme are too late?

    We are satisfied that work is proceeding with all speed on the project definition of the European fighter aircraft. As well as being a tremendous opportunity for British and European industry, it is a tremendous achievement. As for the French approach, we would have preferred the French to be in the project from the beginning, but we shall have to examine the details of what exactly they have in mind.

    What assurances has the Minister given to Dennis Ferranti to enable it to go ahead with a massive capital expenditure on CNC lathes to make mortar shells, when those shells are currently made quite effectively by ROF Birtley?

    I am not familiar with the case that the hon. Gentleman raises, but if he writes to me I shall look into it.

    Trident

    4.

    asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on progress to date on the Trident programme.

    The Trident programme is progressing satisfactorily. I have nothing to add to the answer given to the hon. Members for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) and for Stretford (Mr. Lloyd) on 2 July 1985, at column 116.

    In January this year, when the sterling-dollar exchange rate was $1·09 to the pound, Labour and Liberal Members were highly critical of the cost of the Trident programme. Since then, there has been a 34 per cent. increase in the value of sterling, with a commensurate decrease in the credibility of the Opposition. Can we now assume that the Opposition parties have become enthusiastic supporters—

    Can we now assume that in relation to the Trident programme the Opposition parties are enthusiastic supporters, and does their care and concern about the cost and the jobs that go with it depend—

    My right hon. Friend announced that the cost of Trident was £9·2 billion at 1984 prices, assuming an exchange rate of £1 to $1·38. If, as my hon Friend has said, the pound strengthens against the dollar, that will affect the price of Trident, given that there is a 45 per cent. import content. My right hon. Friend has stated to the House the effects of changes in the exchange rate—any hon. Member can calculate those for himself—and he will be presenting his annual estimate of the cost of the programme in the light of changes in the exchange rate.

    Will the Minister confirm that the British-manufactured warhead for the Trident missile will have to be tested, if not at the United States nuclear test site in Nevada, somewhere else?

    We shall have to carry out tests that are necessary, but I cannot confirm what the hon. Gentleman has said.

    As and when Vickers is privatised, how does my hon. Friend intend to ensure that it does not abuse its monopoly position in the building of Ohio-class and SSN submarines?

    It is the Government's intention that there should be a number of submarine builders in this country, just as there are at present. Vickers has a monopoly, not of conventional, but of nuclear submarines. We envisage that there will be plenty of competition for conventional submarines, and I am certain that the privatisation of Vickers, which I am sure will be achieved shortly, will do nothing but good and will be good value for the taxpayer.

    Is it not the case that the exchange rate is wholly outside the control of the Government and most other Governments? That means that if the cost of Trident is £10 billion, £5 billion in dollars is wholly outside the Government's control. Is that not a foolish financial arrangement, apart from the fact that it is ridiculous to spend that sum on a weapon which can never be used?

    One thing is certain. If we had attempted to build and develop the whole of Trident ourselves, it would have been an extremely expensive programme, and far more expensive than Opposition Members would have been remotely prepared to contemplate. At £9·2 billion, the programme is excellent value for money, given the deterrent power that Trident missiles and submarines have. That sum spent on any other weapon system could not purchase the equivalent deterrent capability.

    Procurement Programme

    6.

    asked the Secretary of State for Defence what are the priorities in his weapons procurement programme.

    I refer my hon. Friend to the details given in chapter four of the 1985 "Statement on the Defence Estimates", which describes the equipment that is coming into service or being developed for the armed forces to enable them to discharge their responsibilities to greatest effect.

    Whatever the rights or wrongs of those priorities, will my hon. Friend assure the House that we shall never again see such a scandalous fiasco as the Nimrod programme? When can he come to the House and make a statement on the cost of Ptarmigan?

    Obviously, the Nimrod programme causes the Government considerable anxiety, and I hope to come to the House to make an announcement. At present we have completed our technical evaluation of options for development to an acceptable operating standard. We are discussing with the company proposals to reach that stage of development on a fixed-price basis. My hon. Friend is right in saying that this is a serious matter.

    Is the Minister aware that the phrase, "We would not mind getting back into chemical weapons, if the public could be persuaded," is a non-attributable phrase used by certain senior Whitehall officials? In view of the fact that the Secretary of State's answers to my recent questions have been evasive, ambiguous and insulting to people who have a right to know what Government policy is, will the Minister make a definitive statement about the Government's attitude to chemical weapons?

    We are trying to negotiate arms controls, and we are not planning to develop our chemical weapons. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has stated the position to the House on many occasions.

    Will my hon. Friend bear in mind the regional economic dimension of weapons procurement policy, and consider the number of jobs, for example, on Tyneside, that are dependent on defence industries? Will he order his procurement policy in such a way that sufficient orders staged in the right way are maintained for such areas to keep the number of jobs at least stable, and preferably growing, in those industries?

    I note what my hon. Friend says. Obviously, with a £9 billion defence equipment budget, our first requirement must be value for money, and, in general, contracts must be awarded to the lowest bidders, but we also bear in mind the health of British industry. That is not to say that there are not occasions when other factors come into play.

    What priority do the promises made to Swan Hunter shipbuilders on Tyneside have in the Minister's weapons procurement programme?

    Swan Hunter has received large orders from the MOD in the past. Swan Hunter can tender for the type 23s in future, and it has done extremely well from the defence budget.

    Does my hon. Friend agree that the Trident programme has high priority and is important to Scotland because it provides steel orders for Ravenscraig, the tubes are made at Babcock, and because it provides jobs at Coulport and Rosyth? Does he agree, therefore, that Scotland has a deep interest in that programme, and that it should continue to have high priority?

    The Trident programme has a critical role, which is much appreciated. It also has a significant effect on employment, because there are 17,000 direct jobs and 13,000 indirect jobs dependent upon it, which makes Opposition Members' concern about what will happen at Rosyth a little hypocritical.

    Reverting to the question of the hon. Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames), who started this exchange, what exactly does the phrase "acceptable technical standards" mean when applied to the new Nimrod radar? How does it differ from the original specifications laid down by the RAF for that type of radar? When with we have something to plug the gap in our radar defences?

    The hon. Gentleman has, if I may say so, been here long enough to know that his first question cannot be answered in public.

    Does not the fact that one of the major priorities for the Government's defence procurement is the Trident missile system mean that there has been undue delay in the placing of other contracts for conventional weapon systems and that some of the equipment being used by our forces is becoming increasingly outdated? By concentrating on Trident and not spending money on conventional forces, is not the Minister missing an opportunity to raise the nuclear threshold?

    It certainly does not mean that, because Trident takes 3 per cent. of the defence budget and 6 per cent. of the equipment budget. Furthermore, Britain spends as a proportion of its total defence budget a higher proportion on equipment than any other country in NATO.

    Highway Code

    asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether his Department gives advice to visiting forces about adherence to the " Highway Code" during military exercises in the United Kingdom.

    No. We expect visiting forces to see that their drivers are made familiar with the provisions of the "Highway Code".

    Does the Minister recognise that sufficient incidents have now occurred to suggest that United States forces personnel are either unaware of the provisions of the "Highway Code" or are deliberately flouting them? Is not that particularly serious when they are driving large vehicles in large convoys, often carrying nuclear weapons? Does he approve of the practice of United States cruise carriers driving round with stickers in their windscreens proclaiming:

    "We don't brake for CND"?

    The hon. Gentleman should be aware that I do not believe that there is any evidence that United States service drivers commit more road traffic offences than anybody else. I can assure him that all United States service drivers have to pass a test, which is prescribed by all United States service authorities, before they are allowed to drive in the United Kingdom, and that includes a test of knowledge on the "Highway Code".

    I recognise the driving skills of the United States Army in Britain. Surely the people who should be blamed are those members of the CND, especially Leicester CND, who deliberately get in the way of cruise convoy carriers as they are going from A to B. It is no good trying to pass the buck back to the United States Army.

    My hon. Friend is entirely right. Those who obstruct the public highway and vehicles that are on it are not merely endangering themselves but can be endangering others.

    How many launchers and missiles are now deployed in the United Kingdom, and have there been any new deployments in the past months?

    We have made clear the present situation in the "Statement on the Defence Estimates" and we have also made clear the long-term deployment numbers. It is not my right hon. Friend's policy to give detailed arrival times, for obvious security reasons.

    Aircraft Noise (Compensation)

    8.

    asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will make a statement on the progress of the departmental review on compensation for those living near operational Royal Air Force stations, and subject to significant disturbance from aircraft noise.

    The review has now been concluded and a number of improvements were announced in the reply that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Baldry) on 14 November, at columns 260–61.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that my constituents living near RAF Cottesmore will warmly welcome the tone of the Department's response to their representations? Will he ensure that the number of people to get insulation this time will be rather more than the 10 who were offered it in the previous review?

    I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments about the announcement. I recognise that he has been extremely persistent on behalf of his constituents in representing their concerns. We estimate that some 7,000 extra private dwellings around some 50 airfields will benefit from the new availability of noise insulation. As my hon. Friend will understand, I obviously cannot say how many more will benefit in the Cottesmore area, but I hope for his sake, and particularly for mine, that it will be rather more than previously.

    Can the Minister give a much better reply to those who complain about noise from low-flying aircraft and who will not get compensation? Is he aware that many of the answers that he gives are far from satisfactory? Could training involving low-flying aircraft take place on one day a week so that residents can be notified in advance and prepare themselves for the nuisance?

    I hope that the hon. Gentleman will understand the problem. It would not be possible for the RAF to be able to maintain the standards of proficiency and expertise required on the basis of training on one day a week.

    The announcement that the noise compensation scheme is to be introduced has been warmly welcomed by many people living near airfields. Can my right hon. Friend say when it will be known which houses and which parts of the villages are eligible for compensation?

    We shall have to carry out a set of new noise contour surveys around the airfields to be able to give that information. As my hon. Friend is aware, we are reducing the qualifying grant level from 75 to 70 decibels. We shall carry out the noise contour survey as rapidly as we can, but it may take some months for certain airfields, and even one or two years, or longer, to cover all 50 airfields. We shall press on as rapidly as possible.

    Arms Control

    9.

    asked the Secretary of State for Defence what representations he has made to the United States of America Administration regarding the arms control talks in Geneva.

    The Government have been in close consultation with the United States Administration on their approach to the arms control talks at Geneva, most recently when my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary took part in President Reagan's meeting with the North Atlantic Council after his meeting with Mr. Gorbachev. They made it clear that we welcomed the successful outcome of the meeting, and fully supported United States positions at the Geneva negotiations.

    Does the Secretary of State accept that we are now in a new situation with the atmosphere that was created at last week's summit? Does he agree that it is now time to consider asking the Americans to stand down on the issue of the strategic defence initiative research programme and the further deployment of cruise missiles in Britain, in order to give the Geneva talks a chance to achieve the radical reductions in nuclear arsenals that we all want to see?

    The hon. Gentleman signally fails to understand that the reason for the better relationship between the superpowers is that we did not follow that advice.

    Does my right hon. Friend agree that if the policy advocated by the Opposition were to be implemented—the unilateralist approach—that could substantially undermine the negotiations now taking place in Geneva?

    My hon. and learned Friend is correct. If the Western Alliance had followed the advice of the Labour party there would be no negotiations, because it would have thrown away all the cards in advance.

    The Secretary of State and his right hon. Friend will be aware that the two superpowers have been close to agreement for some time on non-proliferation and a chemical ban. Does he not think that those are matters on which urgent representations might have been made so that at least something could have resulted from last week's talks?

    I am sure that the hon. Gentleman, who has much experience of such matters, will realise that widespread and wide-ranging advice has been available on all matters. There has been the closest consultation in the Western Alliance on all issues of arms control.

    Does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be a gross error of judgment, whatever concessions may be made in later negotiations, for SDI to be conceded at this stage? Does he also agree that the more pressing priority is to give real impetus and concrete terms to an interim agreement on a reduction in intermediate nuclear forces?

    I am sure that all those matters will be weighed within the consultative process of the Alliance. The House must realise that no agreement is possible now or at any time, on the research programmes involved in the strategic defence initiative, because many of those programmes will continue into the technologies that will be at the heart of the civil and military capabilities of tomorrow, whether or not there is a defence initiative.

    Is it the case that one area where progress might be made following the summit is on an agreement covering intermediate forces in Europe? In that context, is it not unreasonable to expect the Soviet Union simply to ignore Britain's missiles? Will the Government review their policy of refusing to count Polaris or Trident among the number of missiles and warheads in Europe?

    I cannot see what interest the hon. Gentleman thinks he serves by persuading Britain and, I presume, France to trade in their intercontinental deterrence systems to try to persuade the Russians to reach an intermediate agreement. We have always made it clear, from the date of the 1979 twin track decision, that an agreement was available on the intermediate range nuclear weapons systems. It still is.

    Does my right hon. Friend recall Winston Churchill's famous words: "Peace through a balance of terror"? Does he agree that the talks will be successful because we are negotiating with a balance of terror?

    Will the Secretary of State give the House some information about his discussions with the United States on United Kingdom participation in SDI? What percentage of the £26 billion over five years does he expect to get for British industry? What effect does he expect it to have on scientific research and development in the United Kingdom?

    I have had very detailed conversations with my colleague Caspar Weinberger of the United States about two issues in connection with the research programme for the strategic defence initiative: first, that there should be a proper reflection of this country's technological capability and recognition of the dangers of a one-way flow of technology across the Atlantic; and, secondly, that it should be recognised that, for Britain to play a part, it has to be significant. I am glad to be able to tell the House that Mr. Weinberger and I reached agreement to recommend to our respective Governments the form of undertaking that we could enter into. I hope very much that we shall be able to make positive progress on that matter in the near future. In that case, I have no doubt that there will be substantial opportunities for British industry.

    We welcome much that has come out of Geneva, but will the Secretary of State assure us that the views of Caspar Weinberger on this issue are representative of the Reagan Administration, because, in other areas relating to Geneva, they were not representative? Secondly, will the right hon. Gentleman assure us of the Government's position in relation to what the Foreign Secretary said about star wars last March? In the absence of any debate or statement on star wars, what is the Government's position?

    The Government's position is precisely as it was when my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister met the President of the United States at Camp David and made it clear that we believed that research into the programme was inevitable and that any further advance in the context of the programme would come within the ABM treaty. That remains our position.

    Defence Establishments (Location)

    10.

    asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he has reached any conclusions in his review of the geographical distribution of units and establishments.

    For a variety of reasons the services are disproportionately located in southern England and, as the House will be aware, I want to see what can be done to redress the balance. A more even geographic spread would benefit the regions and is highly desirable on those grounds, but all proposals must stand on their economic and operational merits.

    I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that answer. Is it not archaic that so many units and establishments are located in the south-east facing the Channel, where the threat appears to have diminished, rather than in the north-east, nearer the NATO flank that we are pledged to defend?

    I thought that my hon. Friend was about to suggest that we should address the threat from Liverpool. I should tell him that the Ministry of Defence is carrying out further work on this important matter.

    The Opposition welcome the Secretary of State's statement that he wishes to move defence establishments from constituencies represented by Conservative Members, near Bath and in Hampshire and Sussex, to areas of high unemployment. I hope that we shall see some fruits of that desire. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that a defence establishment in my constituency was the first to be closed under the John Nott review. Will the right hon. Gentleman show his good will by keeping open factories and establishments in areas of high unemployment before he embarks on this exercise?

    The right hon. Gentleman will realise that even I cannot keep open establishments that have long since been closed. All those factors will be carefully borne in mind, although I must introduce the caveat that the underlying commercial realities are bound to have a significant influence on our decision-making.

    Is my right hon. Friend taking active steps to examine the scope for defence establishments to be located in the north-west?

    We are considering how the decision-making process tended for many decades to concentrate facilities in the south. In that context, the location of some facilities in the north-west is bound to be on the agenda.

    Dr Richard Wagner

    11.

    asked the Secretary of State for Defence when he next intends to meet Richard Wagner, Special Assistant to the United States Secretary of State for Defence.

    I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. Since Dr. Wagner alleges that the Secretary of State misled the House, will the right hon. Gentleman apologise and take this opportunity to explain to the House which new nuclear battlefield weapons will be used in future by our Army in Germany?

    I have already made it clear to the House that I wholly reject the suggestion to which the hon. Gentleman drew attention, and I have made my views known to the United States Administration. The effects of SACEUR's proposals on the composition of our nuclear forces are being carefully considered. If I have any announcements to make, I shall make them in the House at the appropriate moment.

    My right hon. Friend has already mentioned his important discussions on the strategic defence initiative with the United States Defence Secretary. He will be aware that representations have been made, I believe to the Prime Minister and to others, by leading representatives of the computing community in Britain, suggesting that the important objectives of the SDI are completely incompatible with what is known of the potential of computing and software here and in the United States. He will also have seen the papers published at the weekend by Professor Parnass, who was a member of the SDI software team, stressing that the objective is unattainable. Since this is a matter of the utmost significance, will we have an opportunity to discuss it?

    Whether the House has an opportunity to discuss this is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. I dare say that my hon. Friend's views have already got through to that most important decision-maker. The attainments of the computing industry are secondary to the fundamental point that research programmes have been started in the United States. Those research programmes are of interest to us, whether or not they obtain the objectives.

    The Opposition welcome what the Secretary of State said about Dr. Wagner's remarks. We also welcome the withdrawal of some battlefield nuclear weapons, but we are worried that, at the end of the day, we might have more powerful battlefield nuclear weapons in central Europe. Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that, before decisions are taken, the matter can be debated in the House? Part of the problem about remarks by Dr. Wagner and others is that the House does not debate such matters. Apart from any other consideration, such matters should be debated in the House before decisions are taken.

    The House must think it extraordinary that a representative of a Government who modernised our independent nuclear deterrent by the Chevaline process without telling anyone that they had done it should expect us to subject modernisation programmes for nuclear weapons systems to debate in the House. It is unthinkable.

    Nuclear Weapons (Road Accidents)

    12.

    askd the Secretary of State for Defence how many road accidents have occurred in the last year on roads in the United Kingdom which involved a vehicle carrying nuclear weapons.

    It has been the practice of successive Governments, for security reasons, not to comment on the methods of transporting nuclear weapons.

    I am not asking about the methods of transportation. Why are the Government not prepared to give any information about accidents involving the transport of nuclear weapons, and in particular about the incident in Scotland on 20 June? Is the Minister aware that the results of the Ministry of Defence inquiry into that accident have not been made public and that there has been no inquiry whatever by the Strathclyde police?

    I should have thought it was obvious that if the Ministry of Defence gave details of accidents involving nuclear weapons it would be disclosing the methods of transportation.

    Prime Minister

    Engagements

    Q1.

    asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 November.

    This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House I shall be having further meetings later today. This evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty the Queen.

    I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Has she had time to note that the latest trade figures show a surplus of £400 million? Does not the hat trick of trade surplus, reducing inflation and increasing growth give the lie to opponents who say that my right hon. Friend's economic policy does not work?

    Yes, and I thank my hon. Friend for pointing these things out so forcefully. This is the sixth year of balance of payments surplus. When one adds to that the optimistic CBI forecast yesterday and today, it augurs well for the future and for employment.

    Will the Prime Minister find time in her busy day to acquaint herself with the widespread concern expressed by employers and trade unionists in the textile and clothing industry about the latest negotiations for the new multi-fibre arrangement? Does she appreciate that if the Government weaken their position in those negotiations and allow a flood of imports, the result will be even higher unemployment in areas where it is already well above average?

    I am aware of that concern. A new multi-fibre arrangement is being negotiated. The hon. Gentleman will be aware of the possible knock-on effect on other industries and on export capacity. We have to take all those factors into account.

    Will my right hon. Friend take the earliest opportunity to convey to the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe the deep sense of shock and loss felt in this country at the murder last night of the headmaster of Tegwani school and his English-born wife Jean? Will she also convey our sympathy to the Methodist Missionary Society? Does my right hon. Friend agree that terrorism and murder, wherever they occur, are an affront to the whole of mankind?

    I shall gladly convey my hon. Friend's message and reinforce it with the Government's message. I agree wholly that terrorism is the enemy of democracy and that we must try to defeat it wherever it occurs.

    Is the Prime Minister aware that the Conservative candidate in the Tyne Bridge constituency is on record as saying that the people of that area have been brainwashed into believing that they are deprived? Is that Government's policy and the view of the Prime Minister?

    Perhaps I may reply with some facts and figures. In 1985–86 the Manpower Services Commission will provide 25,000 places on the youth training scheme, 27,000 places on the community programme by April 1986, funding for more than 3,600 people on the enterprise allowance scheme in 1985–86 and training for some 13,000 adults in 1985–86, an increase of 82 per cent. over the previous year. Those are the facts. I leave the hon. Gentleman to make up his own mind.

    Q2.

    asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 November.

    Does my right hon. Friend agree that the failure of the Labour party in Liverpool to fix a rate for the past 10 months, its failure to observe the law, its use of a private army to intimidate those who oppose its views and the fact that it has displayed a monumental contempt for the democratic process, for the welfare of the citizens of that city and for the welfare of its 31,000 employees, shows that it would be a disaster for Britain if the Labour party were ever to be returned to national government with such members? Should not the Leader of the Opposition stop wringing his hands and denying their existence?

    Q3.

    asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 November.

    Is the Prime Minister aware that 415 pensioners have already died from cold this year? What will she do to stop that happening for the rest of the year?

    The amount of money given for fuel allowance under the present Government greatly exceeds that given by any previous Government and greatly exceeds the increase in the price of fuel. It is an excellent record, and I commend it to the hon. Lady.

    Q4.

    asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 November.

    As the teachers' strike continues to inflict damage on our schools, does my right hon. Friend agree that there can be no lasting improvement until parents are given more choice and a greater say in school policy, and until headmasters are accorded the role of managing director, answerable to their boards and with authority to run schools properly, as is suggested in a recent and excellent pamphlet entitled "No Turning Back" drawn up by me and some of my hon. Friends?

    My hon. Friend has been kind enough to send me a copy of his most excellent pamphlet. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science has also read it and will digest its contents. I am sure also that my hon. Friend will welcome the Education Bill announced in the Gracious Speech, which proposes a strengthening of the parents' voice in the running of schools and clarification of the roles of governing bodies, head teachers and local education authorities. I share my hon. Friend's and parents' concern that, although they are paying full taxes and rates, children are not at the moment receiving the education to which they are entitled, because of the teachers' strike.

    I thought that the Secretary of State for Education and Science might have been writing a response to the hon. Gentleman's pamplet "No Going Back" entitled "No Going Forward". [Interruption.] It is rubbish.

    The Prime Minister met President Reagan last Thursday after his welcome meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev. We have asked her to make a statement to the House. Why has she not agreed to do so?

    I gave a very full reply to a written question. It would be strange to make a statement on a summit that I did not attend.

    I think I can say on behalf of the House and of people outside that that is not good enough as an answer. The matters raised in this first summit for many years are of vital interest to us all, and the Prime Minister's reflections on her meeting with President Reagan are naturally important. Why could she give a full press conference but not make herself available for proper questioning by hon. Members who represent the British people?

    Immediately after we had the NATO meeting, I rightly gave a press conference. I do not think it right to give a statement to the House on a summit meeting which I did not attend and in regard to which I could therefore not reply fully. I had already put the statement issued from the summit in the Library of the House.

    Why a press conference on a summit that the right hon. Lady did not attend, and no statement to the House for cross-questioning on a summit that she did not attend?

    Because the press conference was given on the NATO meeting immediately after that meeting, not on the summit. The press conferences given by President Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev and the official communiqué will give the right hon. Gentleman far more detail than anything that I could give.

    Precisely. On that as on other things, there is "no turning back". The right hon. Gentleman got it wrong.

    Q5.

    asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 November.

    In recognising our support for the Local Government Bill, which is now going into Committee, will my right hon. Friend confirm that it will help to stamp out abuses, such as that of the GLC spending more money on supporting anti-police groups in London than the Labour party spent nationally throughout its general election campaign in 1983?

    As my hon. Friend knows, following the recommendations of the Widdicombe committee, the Bill is designed to prevent local government money from being spent on party political propaganda. That committee has a continuing remit. If it makes further recommendations, we shall follow them up with further legislation.

    Q6.

    asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 November.

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

    Does the Prime Minister recall that in a recent television interview she told how Alderman Roberts, in his final speech, said that in honour he had taken up the gown and in honour he laid it down, and then she shed a little tear? There is no criticism of that, but how many tears will the right hon. Lady shed for the 700 miners at Herrington colliery who in honour took up the pick and shovel and in honour laid them down?

    The hon. Gentleman is fully aware that there is a full and proper procedure for the closure of collieries—they were closed under the previous Labour Government—and that procedure will be followed.

    Given the need for a far-reaching intergovernmental agreement this weekend in the EC, will my right hon. Friend assert that the Government will put their full weight behind developing a fundamental agreement that will really take the Community forward?

    We are not aware of what will come out of the intergovernmental conference. If there are proposals for any treaty amendments, they will have to come before the House.

    Is the effective cut in child benefit, which comes into operation this week, intended to be permanent, or temporary?

    The right hon. Gentleman has heard the proposals for increases in social security which overall offer more than £2 billion. Child benefit has been increased substantially in recent years. For the future, the right hon. Gentleman must await further announcements.

    Has my right hon. Friend noted the recent statement by the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) that the crime involving David Wilkie, which took place during the mining dispute, was not a crime? Will she condemn that disgraceful statement as an appalling example to our young people?

    My hon. Friend will understand when I say that that is a matter for the courts, not for the Government. What Opposition Members say about it must be judged by the British people rather than by the Government.

    Q7.

    asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 November.

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

    May I jolt the Prime Minister's conscience about the disastrous effects that her monetarist policies are having in Scotland and, in particular, in Lanarkshire? Is she aware that Scotland's steel industry is in a dreadful state and that there are to be 200 more redundancies at the Clydesdale works in my constituency? The men are already working short time, and those redundancies will add considerably to unemployment in Scotland. What does the right hon. Lady intend to do about it?

    From the CBI survey and the figures, the hon. Gentleman will know that this year output is up for the fifth consecutive year. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that production capacity greatly exceeds orders for steel. There is no way in which we can continue to keep everything open in such circumstances. The previous Labour Government had to close some things, but held up many closures which should have taken place. This Government allocated £130 million in order to purchase quota to keep Ravenscraig open. That was this Government's earnest of good faith in the future of Ravenscraig.

    Q8.

    asked the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 26 November.

    As the Prime Minister of a country that abhors terrorism and all that it stands for, will my right hon. Friend explain why the Tanzanian terrorists who came to Stansted have been given an amnesty and are to be allowed to stay in this country for a year when they have served their terms of imprisonment?

    Because of terrorist activity, is it possible to prevent airlines flying to Greece, where arms have been taken on to planes at Athens airport?

    We must await the inquiry into the events at Athens airport before determining precisely where the fault lies and reaching any conclusion.

    On my hon. Friend's point about the Tanzanian hijack in this country in 1982, those involved were tried in our courts, found guilty and given considerable prison sentences. Some of them are now out of prison. An undertaking given at the time has been interpreted as our saying that the terrorists would not be returned to Tanzania. They have been refused asylum in this country, but will be allowed to stay for 12 months.

    On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. During Question Time I asked the Minister of State for Defence Procurement what assurances he had given Dennis Ferranti about the purchase of CNC lathes to manufacture mortar shells currently made by the royal ordnance factory on Tyneside. The Minister replied—

    Order. That is not a point of order for me. I cannot be responsible for what a Minister says.

    Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am not asking you to be responsible for what the Minister said, but to rule whether it is in order for anyone to mislead the House. The Minister said—

    Order. This is an extension of Question Time. There is a major debate ahead of us. I cannot be responsible for answers given from the Front Benches, any more than I can be responsible for the questions asked.

    On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will recall that during Question Time the shadow Secretary of State for Defence made a statement to the House—

    I must tell the hon. Gentleman that I cannot deal with his point of order because the matter that he raises is not my responsibility. What is the point of order for me?

    Is it in order for an hon. Member to ask another hon. Member to write to him about a subject on which he has already written to him and to which he has already replied?

    Statutory Instruments, &C

    Ordered,

    That the draft Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963 (Schedule 4) (Amendment) Order 1985 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.
    That the draft Supplementary Benefit (Resources) Amendment (No. 3) Regulations 1985 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.
    That the draft Agricultural Holdings (Fee) Regulations 1985 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.
    That the Agricultural Holdings Act 1948 (Variation of Fourth Schedule) Order 1985 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.
    That the draft Asbestos Products (Safety) Regulations 1985 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.—[Mr. Biffen.]

    Anglo-Irish Agreement

    We now come to the important debate on the Anglo-Irish agreement. I have not selected either of the amendments on the Order Paper.

    3.33 pm

    I beg to move,

    That this House approves the Anglo-Irish Agreement (Cmnd. 9657) signed on 15th November by the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach, Dr. Garret FitzGerald.
    Since 1969, nearly 2,500 people have lost their lives in Northern Ireland as a result of terrorism, more than 750 of them members of the security forces. As the House is only too well aware, there has also been further loss of life among the armed forces, police and civilians in the remainder of the United Kingdom, including three of our colleagues in this House.

    That is the stark background to today's debate and it takes us immediately to the historic divisions between the two communities in Northern Ireland, which we cannot ignore.

    Whatever the differences that may emerge in our debate, I believe that we shall all be united in our determination to end the violence and to bring to justice those who are guilty. We shall all be united in our deep sympathy for the thousands of families whose lives have been darkened by the shadow of the gunman and the bomber; and we shall all be united in our admiration and gratitude for the men and women of the security forces in Northern Ireland and, indeed, from all parts of Great Britain, so many of whom have paid the price of protecting us with their own lives.

    But it is apparent that any initiative, however modest, to bring the people of Northern Ireland closer together to beat the terrorists raises emotions and fears rooted deep in the past. I understand those fears, although I do not believe them to be justified.

    Faced with all that we have seen in the past 16 years, it was not enough for the Government to rely solely upon the security forces, valiant though they are, to contain and resist the tide of violence. Let me make it clear that there can be no such thing as an acceptable level of violence, whether in Northern Ireland or elsewhere in the United Kingdom. The Government owe a duty to the security forces and to all the law-abiding people of Northern Ireland, Protestant and Catholic alike, to do everything within their power to stamp out terrorism—not by giving in to the terrorist, not by giving him a single inch. Indeed, the fact that the terrorists have condemned the agreement is a demonstration that we have done no such thing.

    The fight against terrorism is greatly weakened if the community is divided against itself, and it is greatly strengthened if all people committed to democracy and the rule of law can join together against the men of violence. That, the Government felt, required a further attempt to reconcile the two communities in Northern Ireland.

    The Unionist community, firmly loyal to the Crown and to the United Kingdom, represent a proud tradition of devotion to the Union which everyone in these islands should respect, and which this agreement does respect. They have a right to feel secure about Northern Ireland's position as part of the United Kingdom. This agreement, by reinforcing the principle of consent, should make them feel more secure, not only today but in the future. Unionists have the assurance that neither an Irish Government, nor of course a British Government, will try to impose new constitutional arrangements upon them against their will.

    The nationalist community think of themselves as Irish in terms of their identity, their social and cultural traditions and their political aspirations. The House can respect their identity too and acknowledge their aspirations, even though we may not see the prospect of their fulfilment.

    The only lasting way to put an end to the violence and achieve the peace and stability in Northern Ireland is reconciliations between these two communities. That is the goal of this agreement.

    I now draw the attention of the House to what I consider to be the most significant points of the agreement. The preamble sets out the commitment of the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic to work for reconciliation; our utter and total rejection of violence; our recognition and respect for the separate identities in Northern Ireland; and our acceptance of the right of each to pursue its aspirations by peaceful means. These principles reflect the hopes of both communities.

    Article 1 of the agreement makes it abundantly clear that there is no threat whatsoever to Unionists' heartfelt desire to remain part of the United Kingdom. It provides, in a formally binding international accord, a recognition by the Irish Government that the status of Northern Ireland will remain unchanged as long as that is the wish of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland. It recognises also that the present wish of a majority is for no change in that status. There can be no better reply to the fears that have been expressed in the House than this explicit recognition of the legitimacy of the Unionist position.

    Article 2 of the agreement acknowledges in a practical and strictly defined way the concern that the Irish Republic has with matters relating to Northern Ireland. In the past, that concern has sometimes been expressed in critical or negative terms which did not help the cause of harmony between the communities in Northern Ireland. Article 2, therefore, establishes an Intergovernmental Conference. This will have no executive authority either now or in the future. It will consider on a regular basis political, security and legal matters, including the administration of justice, as well as cross-border co-operation on security, economic and cultural matters.

    This co-operation will not be a one-way street. The Irish Government will be able to put forward views and proposals on certain matters affecting Northern Ireland. We for our part shall be able to pursue issues of concern to all peace-loving people in Northern Ireland. Notably cooperation in the fight against terrorism—co-operation which goes beyond the borders of Northern Ireland. The matters within the scope of the conference are spelled out in greater detail in articles 4 to 9 of the agreement. I should like to draw the House's attention to three particular points about these articles. First, if devolution is restored, those matters that become the responsibility of the devolved Government will no longer be within the purview of the intergovernmental conference. We hope that the agreement will encourage the constitutional representatives of both communities to come together to form a local administration acceptable to both. This hope has been specifically endorsed by the Irish Government. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will be exploring with the constitutional parties how best to make progress. Meantime, the Assembly continues in being, with all its statutory responsibilities.

    Secondly, article 8, which deals with legal matters, says that consideration will be given to the possibility of establishing mixed courts. Let me say straightaway that we have absolute confidence in the judiciary in Northern Ireland. Indeed, the integrity and courage which they have shown in recent years in maintaining high standards of judicial impartiality have been outstanding.

    We know the difficulties which would be involved in mixed courts both in Northern Ireland and in the republic. We recognise the reservations which are held by the legal profession. We see no easy or early way through these difficulties. That is why, although we are prepared to consider in good faith the possibility of them at some future time, we have made it clear that we are under no commitment to introduce them.

    Thirdly, I draw the House's attention to the proposals for improved security co-operation in article 9. This provides for a programme of work to be undertaken by the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Commissioner of the Garda to improve co-operation in such matters as threat assessment, exchange of information, technical co-operation, training of personnel and operational resources.

    The really vital element in this programme is fuller and faster exchange of information, especially pre-emptive intelligence which helps to prevent acts of terrorism.

    These are specific measures which I believe will lead to real improvements in security—improvements which will be welcome above all to those men and women who live in the border areas and who have been subjected to so many merciless attacks designed to drive them from their homes and farms.

    That improvement should be further reinforced by the Irish Government's intention to accede to the European convention on the suppression of terrorism.

    The convention's purpose is to ensure that those who commit terrorist offences should be brought to justice and that any offences involving the use of explosives or firearms should not be regarded as political.

    Irish accession should greatly increase our prospects of securing extradition from the republic of persons accused or convicted or terrorist crimes. This will be a major and a welcome step forward in the war against terrorism.

    I draw the House's attention to the reference in article 12 to the possible establishment of an Anglo-Irish interparliamentary body. Both we and the Irish Government felt that this was a matter for our Parliaments themselves rather than for Governments to pursue. I hope that contacts will be established through the usual channels to consider how discussions on an interparliamentary body can most effectively be taken forward.

    I have tried to explain to the House the most significant points of the agreement. In view of some of the mistaken claims about it, I want also to say something about what is not in the agreement. The agreement does not affect the status of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom. It does not set us on some imagined slippery slope to Irish unity, and it is nonsense to claim that it might.

    The effect of article 1 is to confirm the provision in section 1 of the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 that Northern Ireland remains part of the United Kingdom as long as a majority there so wish. That again is a recognition of reality. The guarantee for the majority lies in the fact that it is a majority. That fundamental point is reinforced by this agreement.

    I have listened carefully to the right hon. Lady. Can she explain why the Irish Government signed the agreement?

    I believe that the Irish Government signed the agreement because they share with us its objectives: to try to defeat the men of violence and to try to achieve peace and stability for all the people who live, and who will continue to live, in Northern Ireland. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to read it, all of this is set out fully in the preamble to the agreement.

    Second, I want to make it clear that the agreement does not detract from British sovereignty in Northern Ireland—or, for that matter, from Irish sovereignty in the republic. We, the United Kingdom Government, accountable to Parliament, remain responsible for the government of Northern Ireland. Yes, we will listen to the views of the Irish Government. Yes, we will make determined efforts to resolve differences. But at the end of the day decisions north of the border will continue to be made by the United Kingdom Government anc south of the border by the Irish Government. This is a fundamental point. There can be no misunderstanding.

    Third, I want to dispel the absurd notion that the Government will listen to the views of the republic on Northern Ireland matters, but not to the views of our own unionist community.

    There are already many ways in which the majority community in Northern Ireland can and do put their views to the Government. The right hon. and hon. Members of this House who represent the unionist parties are themselves an important channel. Another is the Northern Ireland Assembly, an important and experienced body which could be used to improve the arrangements for consultation. Yet another is the many representations that unionists make to Ministers. The unionist voice is clearly heard and will continue to be heard.

    If the Anglo-Irish agreement is to bring about a real improvement in the daily lives of the two communities in Northern Ireland, it must be matched by a detennined effort on the part of all law-abiding citizens to defeat the men of violence. And that effort must rest on clear and consistent principles of justice, equity and fairness. For if democracy is the rule of the majority, the other side of the coin is fairness and respect for the minority, for all are citizens of the United Kingdom.

    On the economic front, we will continue to pay special attention to Northern Ireland's needs. During direct rule, spending on economic and social programmes has risen since 1972–73 by 50 per cent. in real terms to £3,600 million last year. That amounts to nearly £2,500 a head, far more than in any other part of the United Kingdom. Spending on that scale shows the high priority given by successive Governments to the needs of Northern Ireland and its people. Our concern will continue.

    On security, our efforts will also continue. Thanks to the magnificent work of our policemen and soldiers, we have already made some progress, but we still have much to do. I believe that our security forces can take new heart from the promise of greater security co-operation that will flow from the agreement.

    In commending this agreement to the House, I should like first to pay tribute to Dr. Fitzgerald, who has worked honestly and sincerely for an agreement to bring reassurance to both communities and a real prospect of peace and stability.

    Second, I say to the members of both communities in Northern Ireland that, if Parliament approves the agreement, the Government will steadfastly implement it. This House represents all the people of the United Kingdom and its decisions are binding on all of them. We shall not give way to threats or to violence from any quarter. We shall look to the co-operation of all men and women of good will who want a better future for Northern Ireland and for their families.

    Before my right hon. Friend leaves the point about the accountability of Parliament, will she say whether there will be any opportunity for Parliament to know about the deliberations of the Anglo-Irish conference? Will its deliberations be made public anywhere, or debated?

    It is not expected that everything that is said in the intergovernmental conference will be made public. I am giving consideration to how we can report to the House, for obvious reasons. We attend many intergovernmental conferences in Europe and elsewhere and usually report to the House about those that we attend. I am giving urgent consideration to this matter because I realise that there is concern about it.

    Finally, I address myself once more to those among the unionist community who have openly expressed their fears and worries about this agreement. Far from representing any threat to the union of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom, the agreement reinforces the union, and that should bring reassurance and confidence to the unionist majority. It clearly recognises—as it should—the validity of their great tradition, and it holds out the prospect of greater success in the struggle against terrorism from which the majority have suffered so much. As one who believes in the union. I urge the unionists to take advantage of the chance offered by the agreement.

    We embarked on this agreement because we were not prepared to see the two communities for ever locked into the tragedies and antagonisms of the past. The younger generation, above all, has a right to expect more than that. The price of new hope is persistent endeavour. That is what we ask, and ask equally of all.

    3.52 pm

    Today, as at all times when we discuss the affairs of Northern Ireland both inside and outside the House, we do so against a background of tragedy and atrocity. We think of those who have lost their lives, as the Prime Minister said, and we think of their loved ones and those whose lives have been devastated by sectarian killings and attacks. We remember those families who, when they felt the forces of violence, no matter what the status of those killed—soldiers, policemen, adults, relations or children—have always ended with a despairing question—"Why did it happen to us?" Many hon. Members have heard that question from grieving relations much too often, and, tragically those who represent Northern Ireland seats have heard it more often than the rest of us.

    As we debate the accord, we remember too the courage and the fortitude of those who have lived and worked with and within the tortured community of Northern Ireland. We know that the problem of Northern Ireland, plainly, has spilled across the water and scarred Britain. We acknowledge the debt that we owe, both on the mainland and in Northern Ireland, to the civil servants, the police, Members of the House and so many ordinary men and women in Northern Ireland who have been willing to help in the search for peace and a way out of the sterile sectarian divisions.

    As we think of these things, we have to remind ourselves yet again that there are matters other than security that are of importance to the people of Northern Ireland, and that there are issues worthy of report and debate other than the constant plague of conflict.

    We are sometimes told that there is no solution to the historic problems of Northern Ireland, but, however difficult it may be, and however long it may take, we must never give up the search for a solution. That would be defeatism paid for in blood. If we give up the search for peace, we say to the people of Northern Ireland, "Your agony must endure for ever". In all conscience, we cannot and must not do that.

    This House has a special duty to recall that the problems of Northern Ireland are a matter not just for the Province or for the Republic but, most definitely, for Britain as well. In addition to the tragedies and their irreparable costs, there is the price of conflict which the New Ireland Forum research team has reasonably estimated to be over £9,000 million between 1969 and 1982 and a further £1,500 million or so a year with the addition of the £120 million or so a year that we spend out of public coffers in maintaining the armed forces in Northern Ireland. It is not fitting for this House remorselessly to consign such sums to Northern Ireland without at least being able to demonstrate to the people of Wales, Scotland and England that we deliberately pursue all means of achieving an end to the conflict and the massive costs that go with it.

    We must also recognise that many of the legislative and other changes that have come about as a result of our inability to find a political solution in Northern Ireland disfigure the democracy of our entire country. Courts without juries, strip searches in prisons, internment without trial and many other things can be said to have arisen from the circumstances of their time, but no democracy can or should bear such changes lightly or for long, because if it does it puts at risk the very liberty that it seeks to defend.

    For all those reasons, the Opposition will do whatever they can to promote the chances of peace, and the prosperity that depends on that peace, in Northern Ireland.

    The status quo offers absolutely no solution to anyone at all. For that reason, we shall approve the Anglo-Irish agreement, which for reasons of accuracy and not affectation I wish had been called the British-Irish agreement.

    The agreement is clearly a development from the New Ireland Forum set up in Dublin in 1983. That was a bold and visionary step taken by the major political parties in the Republic, together with the Social Democratic and Labour party. I pay tribute to those parties and their leaders, one of whom we are fortunate enough to have in this House. None of those leaders has given up his legitimate commitment to constitutional nationalism or his commitment to the reunification of Ireland. They have recognised that, just as they cannot be forced to relinquish their aspirations of getting rid of the border, neither can the unionists be forced to relinquish their desire to keep that border between the north and the south. The constitutional nationalists have decided that, while retaining their historic ambition of unity, they will now give pre-eminence to reconciliation and a formal and binding acknowledgement of the fact that they have long recognised—that unification cannot be achieved without consent.

    In the Dail last Tuesday, the Taoiseach, Dr. FitzGerald, said:
    "No sane person would wish to attempt to change the status of Northern Ireland without the consent of the majority of its people. That would be a recipe for disaster and could, I believe, lead only to a civil war that would be destructive of the life of people throughout our island."
    As well as speaking for the Irish people, Dr. FitzGerald recorded the sentiments of all the British people.

    That is the reward that the gunmen got for their violence. They have engendered such revulsion against insecurity, fear and brutality that they have made nationalists seek change even at the cost of indefinitely postponing their own nationalist aspirations.

    The terrorists can and will treat the matter with complete cynicism. They will undoubtedly deride the action of the Irish Government and Irish political parties, and they will rely on their sworn enemies in the unionist groupings to erode and erase the agreement. No doubt that is what the Provisional IRA and the Irish National Liberation Army seek. Since they know that the most critical test of the credibility and acceptability of the agreement is its effect on secutity in Northern Ireland, they will continue with their terrorism and the noxious insincerity of their bullet and ballot strategy to sustain insecurity throughout the Province and in the Republic. Those terrorists, like every hon. Member, must know that the success of the agreement will be difficult to build and prove, but that its failure will be easy to contrive.

    The gunmen alone cannot make the agreement fail. That outcome would need the most unholy, unsigned, unspoken alliance with those whom they most despise. Will that alliance be forged? Some hon. Members can make a major contribution to providing the answer to that. They do not belong to the Government or a future Government. They are not men of violence, and not even people who tolerate violence—to their eternal credit. They belong to the unionist parties of Northern Ireland. I recognise their fears, I know that they feel beleaguered, and excluded from designing their own destiny, that they live in constant anxiety about a sell-out, and that any failure by a British Government to explain their intentions heightens those feelings of fear. I know that they feel that deals have been done behind their back, and some will feel deep and genuine resentment at that. However modest the agreement, and however cautious and conditional the change, those feelings run deep, and in many quarters of the unionist community those feelings are absolutely genuine.

    However, I cannot help thinking that there is a minority in the unionist community who quite enjoy the opportunity that is afforded by anxiety, and who will mobilise fear and bigotry in Northern Ireland. Zephaniah Williams, the Welsh Chartist, said:
    "When prejudice blinds the eye of the mind the brightest truth shines in vain."
    I do not address the bigots or the wallies on either side of the sectarian divide, when I plead with the majority of non-nationalists not to be blinded by prejudice. I ask them to see that the sole beneficiaries of a breakdown would be the terrorists, that the objectives of the constitutional nationalists for the foreseeable future are limited to reconciliation and stability, and to see their acceptance of consent as the absolute precondition of any change. I ask them to see that the common cause of peace is a greater cause than the preservation of this miserable murderous status quo, and that in the agreement there is no loss of sovereignty by either Government or Parliament—certainly nothing that can begin to compare with the concessions of sovereignty that come as a natural consequence of our membership of the European Community.

    I also plead with the non-nationalists to see that, if sovereignty is to be meaningful, it must involve the power to live effectively in peace under the law. Sovereignty cannot be an expression of vanity that covers the inability to rule with those conditions, like clothing on a skeleton. I ask them to see that the role of the Irish Government is consultative, and no more, that even that role can be transferred by progress with devolution, and that the basic reason for the involvement of the Irish Government, even in this capacity, is to be found in the refusal or inability of constitutional Northern Ireland unionists and constitutional Northern Ireland nationalists to share power, despite the opportunities afforded to them to do so.

    I plead with them to see that the feelings of slight and suspicion, which are manifested, do not overwhelm them and leave them isolated as unionists from all those people, north and south of the border and on both sides of the water, who want to use their common longing for peace as the means of defeating violence. I ask them to recognise that the motives that led the constitutional nationalists, south and north of the border, to make the agreement are a convincing mixture of material self-interest and moral duty, not a cunning strategem for unification by stealth with the agreement of the British Prime Minister. That is the truth about the agreement.

    The Irish state suffers from the contagion of violence—arms, robberies, killings, casualties, the waste of resources and the degeneration of its whole society which comes from a climate of conflict. The Republic cannot and does not want to afford that constant drain on its meagre fortunes, or the risk from it to the fabric of its society. Those are some of the pressing realities that brought Garret FitzGerald, Dick Spring and their colleagues first to the Forum and then to the agreement.

    The other motivation, which is less tangible but no less forceful, of those men, whom I am happy to count among my friends, is their moral obligation towards the communities of Northern Ireland—the nationalist community, which is alienated and prey to either the temptations or the intimidation of terrorism, and the unionist community which is impaled, like its neighbours, on insecurity and estrangement.

    The suspicious will understandably ask what is in the agreement for FitzGerald's Fine Gael, Spring's Irish Labour party and Hume's SDLP. There are three things that are in it for them. First, there is the possibility of promoting reconciliation. Secondly, there is the practical demonstration that they are trying to fulfil their moral obligations to the whole of Ireland—the Ireland that they love with a special passion. Thirdly, there is the chance of combating the terrorists by intensified joint security measures, and by achieving extra credibility within Northern Ireland for constitutional nationalism to throw back the tide of terrorist nationalism that comes with various pretences.

    All those people and parties take great risks, and bring great credit on themselves. They are earnestly trying, against all the odds piled up by history, to put the purpose of securing peace above the easier course of indulging prejudice and courting popularity. Some people in every land are paralysed by history. Others are provoked by it, and they are such people. They have decided to try to be makers of history, rather than observers of it. They took that decision in modesty and responsibility, not in vanity or ambition. They want the history of conflict and waste to be changed to a future of conciliation. They are certainly Irish nationalists, but they are front-door agents for peace, not back-door fixers of unification. Unlike many others, they have decided to be part of the answer, rather than part of the problem. For that, my colleagues and I will support them in their aims and the practical application of them.

    In doing so, I wish to acknowledge the contribution made by the Prime Minister to the agreement. I do not underestimate the effort that she has made, and I say without any taunt that it has involved a significant and welcome adjustment in her position during the past six years. I say further that the change is all the more credible because those six years have not only been marked by the continuing pressures of tragedy that come from Northern Ireland; they have also for her been punctuated by personal losses with the killing of Airey Neave and with the death and destruction of the Brighton bombing. I recognise her contribution freely, and I recognise it fully.

    It is not, therefore, in any spirit of recrimination that I put this consideration to the right hon. Lady. The cause of this agreement would have been better served if she had taken the advice of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) and my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) last year when they asked her to try to spell out to the unionist communities what her intentions were in developing the relationships with the Dublin Government. That might not have assuaged all fears, it might not have silenced all the shouts, but it would have been evidence of trust and consultation which could have provided an essential credential for the agreement now.

    I have to say, too, that the right hon. Lady's response to the report of the New Ireland Forum was, as I said at the time, precipitate and peremptory. Subsequent events, including the signature of the Hillsborough agreement, have demonstrated that. My party was the only party in Britain which gave the Forum the interest which it deserved, although I acknowledge the contribution made by a section of the unionist community in providing a coherent and cogent alternative review and set of proposals. That provided an opportunity for an informed debate, but unfortunately that debate was killed before it got started. But had we proceeded along those lines the atmosphere of accord may have been more literal and the atmosphere in which the agreement has been made may have been more propitious.

    We gave evidence to the Forum on 19 January 1984. We said then that the way forward lay in the joint British-Irish initiative that could not easily be vetoed by either side of the entrenched communities of the North. We are glad that the agreement recognises that. We further suggested major innovative attempts to cross-border co-operation which could lead to the closer operation of the economic and social policies of the North and South. That is also recognised in the agreement.

    We suggested ways of creating links between the criminal justice system in the North and in the South and we note that the Government are at least going to consider such links at meetings of the intergovernmental conference. We endorsed the view of the report that the crisis in Northern Ireland and the relationship between Britain and Ireland required new structures that could accommodate the rights of unionists to effective political, symbolic and administrative expression of their identity, their ethos and their way of life, and the rights of nationalists to effective political, symbolic and administrative expression of their identity. The agreement establishes and defines such structural change and the accommodation of rights, and we welcome that.

    That is all to the good, and I draw attention to these matters simply to show that there has been for some time a course which could have been navigated, as we recommended, in a different way and at a different speed, which might have made the circumstances of this agreement more propitious.

    In addition to the matters of consultation with unionists and recognition of the validity of the report from constitutional nationalists, there is another point that I must put to the Prime Minister. It is not in any way retrospective and it has a direct bearing on the conduct of affairs and the potential of the agreement. It concerns the economic condition of Northern Ireland. As everyone knows only too well, Northern Ireland is a poverty-stricken place. It has the lowest male wages, the highest shop prices and the highest energy charges of any economic region in the United Kingdom.

    The poverty is manifested in many ways, not least the high morbidity and hospital admission rates. It is also manifested among the young in the fact that a high proportion of them leave school without any form of qualification. Most of all, Northern Ireland has a 21·4 per cent. unemployment rate, and that has increased from 9·7 per cent. in 1979. Those rates do not respect religious or political demarcations. In Craigavon and Armagh, unemployment is more than 20 per cent. In Coleraine and Enniskillen, it is more than 25 per cent. In Dungannon, Derry and Magherafelt, it is more than 28 per cent. In Newry, it is 32 per cent. In Cookstown and Strabane, 35 per cent. of the registered workers are unemployed.

    Against that background, it is obvious that the agreement between Governments for the purpose of promoting common objectives of reconciliation is a fine thing and the effort at popular consent is a creditable activity. But both need a crucial further element—the prospect, at the very least, of economic development and security.

    In addition to the usual arguments for fighting unemployment and sponsoring recovery, Northern Ireland has its own special and unenviable case. It is that violence cannot be excused by poverty, idleness or unemployment, but it clearly cannot be said to be unconnected with those evils. Violence, support for violence, toleration of violence may come from political fanaticism or plain gangsterism, but it can thrive on the scale of Northern Ireland only in conditions of economic insecurity and the alienation which that breeds. [Interruption.] I am telling the truth. I know that the hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens) is never very keen on that.

    Therefore, I say to the Prime Minister that it is essential in Northern Ireland, as elsewhere, for her to adopt new policies of expansion and employment in order to stimulate recovery, to increase opportunity and to generate jobs. [Interruption.] Those hon. Members who are groaning now must answer the question: Do they think that an increase in employment, a reduction in unemployment and the generating of prosperity in that community would have the effect of increasing or decreasing the alienation in that community? Common sense of today, not some imagined history of which the hon. Gentleman speaks, tells us that such alienation, especially among the young, is rooted in the poverty, ugliness and strife that comes out of continual levels of economic deprivation.

    We want that kind of economic development and recovery for the United Kingdom and will continue to work for it. Meanwhile, in Ireland, steps could be taken through the provisions and procedures of the Hillsborough accord, to promote the possibilities of economic development. Transport and tourism, as the Secretary of State and, indeed, his predecessors have previously recognised, have obvious possibilities for joint economic strategies, and so, too, does energy, as we have heard from many Northern Ireland Members.

    What an absurdity it is that Britain can exchange electricity supplies with continental Europe but that Northern Ireland and the Republic cannot. Why do the Government refuse to put money into the Kinsale gas link when it appears that they are going to accept EEC and even American money for projects? What proposals will the Government make for bringing the agricultural systems of North and South together so that the whole island can secure the advantages that would accompany that? Will the Government make proposals to fill the surplus college places in Northern Ireland with the students who encounter a shortage of places in the Republic?

    Those are areas of action which can all give life to the words of the accord and meaning to the work of the Intergovernmental Conference. But the most useful source of reassurance and stability—I repeat it in order to emphasise it—would come from the promotion of economic recovery, deliberately and systematically by Her Majesty's Government.

    There are other areas, of course, in which the Government could work in order to mobilise support for the accord. We expect the Government to take deliberate steps to go beyond the current strategy of sending out letters and circulars in order to ensure clear understanding among the unionist and nationalist communities in Northern Ireland of the nature, purpose, potential and limitations of the agreement.

    Exaggeration, either of hopes or fears, will be of no practical help to anyone. That will not impress the bullies or the bigots on either side of the sectarian divide. In any case, they are beyond communication. That still leaves a huge majority in both communities to be talked with and not talked at. There are opportunities for Parliament to communicate with the majorities in both communities, too.

    We note that the Intergovernmental Conference shall be a vehicle through which initiatives regarding the wellbeing of Northern Ireland are being channelled. However, that should not obviate the role of the United Kingdom Parliament also to come forward with its own initiatives—for instance, the initiative to put into effect the recommendations of the Baker report which was debated in the House last year concerning the operation of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978. In addition, we need not wait upon the Intergovernmental Conference before demanding a review of the procedures for strip searching at Armagh prison, to get prompt action on a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland and secure an early repeal of the Flags and Emblems (Display) Act 1954 that has long been sought by the Opposition. [HON. MEMBERS: "Too long."] Conservative Members should be acquainted with the fact that too many people in Northern Ireland say with justification that democracy is what happens in Westminster after 10.30 pm. When we have the opportunity for a two-day debate on those matters, they can expect the debate to be exhaustive and comprehensive, covering matters that concern our fellow citizens in Northern Ireland.

    The hon. Gentleman should go to bed earlier.

    The agreement of Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the Republic of Ireland to give appropriate support to the development of a British-Irish interparliamentary body is worthy of further consideration, and we shall be seeking additional details from Ministers. In that area and in many others, there are obvious obligations for everyone in the House to demonstrate interest and commitment in communicating the opportunities that can arise from the agreement.

    As a matter of policy and of commitment, the Labour party wants to see Ireland united by consent, and we are committed to working actively to secure that consent. However, that is not the reason for our action in approving the Hillsborough accord. We recognise that the priority is reconciliation in the communities of Northern Ireland and between the communities of Northern Ireland. It is that objective which brings our agreement.

    I do not honestly know whether at some time in the future unity will come out of that reconciliation. That can be determined only by a majority which, in future decades, will probably have different components, be in different conditions and have different leadership. However, that peace will come only out of reconciliation and the normality and confidence that reconciliation brings. Further, any unity or development towards community between north and south will come only out of that peace. As an effort for that reconciliation and for that peace, the Labour party approves the agreement.

    4.23 pm

    Since my departure from the Government 10 days ago I have made no public statement or comment. I wanted first to explain to the House the reasons for that departure.

    My first encounter with Northern Ireland took place nearly 30 years ago. As a young subaltern I was stationed at Omagh in county Tyrone. It has been my good fortune to return to Ulster on many occasions since then, first as a soldier and then as a Member of this place. I have been proud to count unionist Members of this House as my friends.

    It is nearly seven years since I spoke in a debate on Northern Ireland, from the Opposition Front Bench, with Airey Neave at my side. I speak today to show that it is not necessary to have a big mouth or a loud voice to care deeply about Ulster. I speak, too, as one who condemns violence in all its forms. I speak as a unionist who repudiates today and who will repudiate tomorrow, every kind—I repeat, every kind—of unlawful or unconstitutional action. Unlike others I do not impugn the motives of Her Majesty's Government. In particular, I do not doubt for one moment the sincerity and the sense of honour of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

    Those who fashioned the Anglo-Irish agreement, principally my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary, said to themselves, "We are faced with a continuing tragedy in Northern Ireland." I say in passing that I regret that no Foreign Office Minister is taking part in the debate. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary also said to themselves, "Lives are being lost, innocent people are being maimed and injured, property is being destroyed, unemployment is higher and investment lower in Ulster than in any part of the kingdom. We must try to abate those evils. Things cannot go on as they are. We must make a new initiative. We must do something about Ulster."

    For years, successive Governments and successive Secretaries of State have told the House that a particular initiative could not be pursued in Northern Ireland because it would be unacceptable to the minority. Note that in this part of the United Kingdom the Government take pride, in my view rightly, in pursuing policies that they believe have the support of the majority despite the objections of a minority.

    However, I will be told that Northern Ireland is different from England. I will be told that in Northern Ireland one cannot proceed save with the broad assent of the minority. I do not necessarily subscribe to that argument but if it is valid, how is it possible to proceed now with a policy that may be broadly acceptable to a minority but that is totally unacceptable to the overwhelming majority, among whom is a significant number of Catholic unionists?

    The Government believe that the majority ought to be well satisfied with the agreement and profess some surprise that it is not. Conor Cruise O'Brien puts it well in The Times today. He writes:

    "But the political impact will not be determined by … theories about how people ought to feel, but by how people actually do feel. And the feeling, on both sides … is that the Catholics have won a significant step in the direction of a united Ireland."
    In round figures, as the House knows, there are 1 million Protestants and half a million Roman Catholics in Ulster, but it is a grave over-simplification to equate religion with political allegiance. I do not ask the House to accept my word for that. It is not only my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Sir J. Biggs-Davison) who is testimony to that truth. In the past few days I have received letters from Roman Catholic unionists who endorse that view. I have been authorised to quote from one. A doctor now working in Liverpool writes:

    "As an Ulsterman—and incidentally a Catholic—who has always voted Conservative (and Ulster Unionist before I came to England) I can only say that I am absolutely appalled by the terms and implications of the Anglo-Irish agreement which gives a foreign Government a say in the affairs of a part of the United Kingdom. There is not a shadow of doubt that the status of Northern Ireland has been changed without the consent of the majority of its people".
    Nor is it only the so-called Protestant bigots—and there are Protestant bigots in Northern Ireland—who oppose the agreement. Again, with the authority of the writer of the letter, I wish to quote. I do so not because I need to rely on others to support the views that I hold, but because the views of decent people from Northern Ireland are tragically misunderstood or simply unknown in the House. This is the letter that I have been authorised to read:

    "I am now living quietly in a bungalow with my two sisters … We are the ordinary 'silent' Unionists of Northern Ireland. Our days are filled with caring for our families and homes, and we do not have the time, or the inclination, to demonstrate at protest marches, or wave banners, or gather at meetings of hate. But we are British. And we are also bewildered, and hurt, and angry. How do we, the silent majority, effectively express our hurt and fear and protest at what is being done to us? Our politicians hurl abuse and anger, but I do not think that they gain sympathy that way. The ordinary quiet-living British people of Northern Ireland are totally united in their opposition to the Hillsborough agreement, and in their desire to remain British without condition, but can you tell me, please, if there is any possible way we can convey our wishes to those who are in Government over us and at the same time to gain understanding and support from the other citizens of the United Kingdom? I feel that the lack of understanding from those who do not live here, together with the feeling of helplessness at not knowing how to gain that understanding, is the hardest part to bear."
    I have done as my correspondent asked. I have brought her fears to the attention of my right hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench. However, I want to repeat her crucial words:

    "the lack of understanding from those who do not live here … is the hardest part to bear."
    For many Members of the House, Northern Ireland is a faraway country of which we know little. Indeed, it may be that more Members of the House have visited the Republic than have visited Ulster. I hope that in the coming months more hon. Members will be able to visit the Province, not just to listen to soldiers and members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, heroic though they are, but to listen to the views of ordinary people who often are equally heroic.

    Following the signing of the agreement at Hillsborough on 15 November, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that she was a unionist and a loyalist. I shall never question her sincerity, but I have to say to my right hon. Friend that those words were received with incredulity by unionists in Northern Ireland. The Anglo-Irish agreement has been signed without understanding of the views of the overwhelming majority of the people of Northern Ireland. It has been signed against a background that gives wholly disproportionate consideration to the views of the minority. Under the agreement, the Irish Government will put forward views and proposals on political, security and legal matters, including the administration of justice. The Government who will put forward their views and proposals relating to Northern Ireland are the same Government from whose territory murderous assaults have been made on the innocent in the Province and to whose territory the guilty have returned and found too often a safe haven.

    Article 2 of the constitution of the Irish Republic lays claim to the territory of the whole of the island of Ireland. One might have thought at least that if the Republic's Government were to be allowed—and in the most solemn terms of an international treaty—to put forward proposals relating to political, security and legal matters, they would have agreed to remove article 2 from their constitution. The British Government claim that it is a major step forward for the Government of the Republic to have given formal acceptance of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom. If that is so, why was article 2 not removed?

    We are told that the agreement will mean more effective co-operation on security matters between the Republic and the United Kingdom. Is it really suggested that without the agreement such co-operation would have been less effective? All civilised Governments, with or without a formal agreement, should commit themselves unreservedly to the elimination of terrorism. If the Government of the Republic have been unable hitherto to be as effective in combating terrorism as we were entitled to expect, why are we so confident that they will be able to deliver now?

    The Intergovernmental Conference will be composed of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and a Republic Minister, who, in effect, will be the Minister for Northern Ireland affairs. The two Ministers will be the joint chairmen. The Republic Minister, even though he has only a consultative role, will be perceived to be the representative of the minority community. Thus, for the first time, a Minister from a foreign country will be representing at official level citizens of this kingdom. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister referred to the arrangement in her speech. That arrangement leaves unionists with no comparable status. That arrangement will be damaging, and incalculably damaging, for those who are asserting the principle that unionists and nationalists are fellow citizens. Instead of reconciliation there will be further division.

    Our fellow countrymen from Northern Ireland will perceive—and will not be wrong in perceiving—that the agreement would never have been signed unless there had been a prolonged campaign of violence. The agreement will be perceived as having been won as a result of violence. The Irish National Liberation Army and the Irish Republican Army will believe that their violence is succeeding. The Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Ulster Defence Regiment will perceive that they have been betrayed.

    The new agreement is being trumpeted in Dublin mainly because the Irish Government will be able, in the most solemn terms, to
    "put forward views and proposals on matters relating to Northern Ireland".
    When those views and proposals are submitted to the United Kingdom Government, they will be made known in Dublin. When those views and proposals are accepted by Her Majesty's Government, Ulster will feel that the views of a foreign power are being given greater weight than the views of the majority in Northern Ireland. The Intergovernmental Conference will not be able to receive the views of the majority. The views of the minority will be expressed, not by the minority itself, but by the Government of a foreign power.

    No Member of the House should criticise the agreement without putting forward an alternative policy. I remember the words of our manifesto at the 1979 general election. They were words in which I had a hand. The manifesto said:
    "In the absence of devolved government we will seek to establish one or more elected regional councils with a wide range of powers over local services."
    Alas, following the assassination of Airey Neave, that policy was never implemented. It may be that he was assassinated because that was his policy. Successive Secretaries of State have abandoned that policy. Six years on, although there is still an absence of devolved government, there is still no
    "one or more elected regional councils".
    I approved of the policy set out in the 1979 manifesto.

    I approved, too, of the words of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister at a meeting organised by the Ulster Unionist Council in Belfast on 19 June 1978, when she said of the Conservative and Unionist party and the Ulster Unionist party:
    "Our two parties share one overriding common purpose: the maintenance and strengthening of the union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. we shall not consider any plans for the political future of this part of the United Kingdom which could result in the weakening of the union."
    To my deep regret, the Anglo-Irish agreement is inconsistent with those words.

    The Government assert, and continue to assert,
    "that any change in the status of Northern Ireland would only come about with the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland."
    I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench to understand that, with this agreement, the overwhelming majority of people in Northern Ireland believe that there has been a change in status. I must tell the House that frankly, so do I.

    We should implement the policy laid down in the 1979 manifesto. We should assert that those in Northern Ireland who aspire to a united Ireland will be respected. We should assert that Ulster Unionists are ready to achnowledge the place in Ulster of the Roman Catholic, whether unionist of republican, as in any other part of the kingdom, and that all men and women should be entitled to express their views, opinions and identities under a rule of law which would safeguard their rights. We should assert that the policy of the Government is to maintain and to strengthen the union.

    I shall not give way. The House has been patient and I have almost done.

    My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is in her place. I do not recommend resignation. It is every bit as painful as I had expected. No doubt the Prime Minister would face the departure of some of her colleagues with greater equanimity than that of others. I do not know into which category I fall. However, Ministers of State are of no importance. They come and go, and when they go their room is soon filled. Life goes on for the Department very much as before—although, following the appointment of my hon. Friend the Member for City of London and Westminster, South (Mr. Brooke), to whom we send our congratulations and good wishes, no doubt very much better than before.

    As right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House know, for the departed Minister, tomorrow is very different from today. Only my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, and possibly not even she, understands how deep is my regret at my departure. But I have one consolation that is denied to all others the memory of the four years of the previous Parliament, when it was my privilege to have tried to be of some help to the finest chief, the most resolute leader and the kindest friend that any Member of this House could hope to serve.

    I disagree profoundly with the new policy on which the Government have embarked. I fear that this change of policy will prolong and not diminish Ulster's agony. With all my heart—it is quite a big heart—I pray that I am wrong.

    4.43 pm

    It is a privilege to follow the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow), not only because he has articulated, in a way that I could never attempt, the views of the rank and file citizens of Northern Ireland—unionists, nationalists, Protestants and Roman Catholics—but because he was a promising Minister who sacrificed a promising career because of his integrity. The fact that the hon. Member was intently listened to, even by those who disagree with him, proves that he is respected and admired for that integrity.

    The House will have gathered that my right hon. and hon. Friends and I will be voting against the motion. However, I fully recognise that I have a duty and responsibility to explain plainly and sincerely why we shall take that course. We opposed the Anglo-Irish agreement because it will destroy any possibility of achieving peace, stability and reconciliation—three words that have found themselves by accident in the agreement's preamble. Those words have been repeated—I do not say this in a disrespectful way—rather aimlessly in the debate so far.

    During my six years as leader of the Ulster Unionist party, my objective has been to achieve for all the people of Northern Ireland those prizes of peace, stability and reconciliation. As leader of the largest party in Northern Ireland I feel, as I have always felt, that I have a duty to lead. For any party leader, that means some political risk. I accepted those risks, because I had to consider—today I still have to consider—the young people to whom the Prime Minister referred when she spoke at Hillsborough on the day of the signing. The fact that I am nearer the finishing post than are those young people, makes that consideration all the more compelling.

    With all that in mind, in April 1984 I endorsed the policy paper "The Way Forward". The main thrust of that paper was equal British rights for all British citizens. I shall read what I believe, and what the Prime Minister conceded in the aftermath of her statement a week ago, to be the key paragraph:
    "The time is now ripe for both communities in Northern Ireland to realise that, essentially, their problems will have to be solved in Northern Ireland by their political representatives and that any future prospect for them and their children is best provided for within the Northern Ireland context. This will require a mutual recognition of each other's hopes and fears. Only rights can be guaranteed, not aspirations".
    The next phrase is probably the most telling for an Ulster Unionist leader to use:

    "but it is the responsibility of the majority to persuade the minority that the Province is also theirs."
    When a leader gives a positive lead, there is always criticism. All party leaders, great and small—I do not mean in stature but in the numbers of their Back-Bench Members—are criticised, and this case was no exception. After much criticism, discussion and persuasion, the entire document was endorsed as party policy. However, although there was widespread interest from within the ranks of the minority, as well as the majority, there was little response from the elected representatives of the minority, except one good friend of mine who said, "You really terrified us with that phrase about convincing our people that the Province is also theirs. That would not suit us." The Leader of the Opposition said that it was a tragedy that we did not carry forward our thinking on that occasion more than 18 months ago. He said that it was a tragedy that there was not fuller debate on that document and on the considerable shift in principles set out in the document. To my great regret, those proposals for achieving peace, stability and reconciliation within the bounds of Northern Ireland have been snuffed out by the Anglo-Irish agreement, and that document must be regarded as so much waste paper.

    I owe it to the House to explain why the agreement will bring not peace, but the sword. On the day when the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) announced his decision to abolish Stormont, he justified his decision—he could be forgiven for putting forward that justification at such an early stage—on the grounds that it would end violence. However, as the IRA had demanded Stormont's removal, it naturally regarded the decision as the first payment of the Danegeld. The right hon. Gentleman did not intend it in that way, but I hope that he will accept my word for it that that was how it looked to the so-called army council of the IRA.

    The Prime Minister, like many of us in humbler positions, is tempted, especially in times of stress, to use phrases produced by her advisers—to give them their polite title—and such may have been the origin of a sentence uttered by the Prime Minister in her address to journalists at the signing ceremony. The sentence made my blood run cold. To quote from the transcript, she said:
    "I was not prepared to tolerate the situation of continuing violence."
    That fatal sentence—I fear that it will literally be fatal for many—will convince the so-called army council of the IRA that, reinforced by the sweeping one-way concessions in the agreement, continued violence will extract the third and final payment of the Danegeld in the shape of an Ireland designed to their specifications, not the specifications of Dr. FitzGerald or even Mr. Haughey. Indeed, the IRA claimed credit for the concessions two weeks before the signing. At the Sinn Fein conference, the IRA spokesman, Martin McGuinness, declared that any concessions to violence in the coming agreement would be welcomed by the IRA as a surrender to the armed struggle.

    Far from the prospect of peace, I fear that we must brace ourselves for a renewed onslaught from a terrorist movement convinced of victory. That movement is in no way worried about the possible weaning away of Catholic support, which will not reduce its capacity for murder. As General Grivas said, there is a handicap in having too many supporters. He reckoned—he knew what he was talking about—that the maximum number of murderers he needed at any time was about 150. The IRA cares nothing for the predicted drop in support for Sinn Fein in terms of the ballot box, which it regards as ancillary to what it calls its "cutting edge" of terror.

    The second casualty of the agreement is stability, because stability depends on a known way. But how can there be a known way when there is no consent? During the past 15 years, the only period of stability was that achieved by the right hon. Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Mason). He achieved that stability by making it clear in the honest, forthright terms for which he is noted, what was not going to happen, and by making it equally clear, in words and in deeds, that he would stand no nonsense from any quarter. I must say—this may pain Conservative Members—that, ironically, Conservative Central Office accurately forecast the end of what I call Mason stability, in the daily notes to candidates dated 11 April 1979. It stated:
    "The next government will come under considerable pressure to launch a new high-powered initiative on Northern Ireland with the object of establishing another power-sharing government in the province which would pave the way for a federal constitution linking Ulster to the Irish Republic."
    We need not await the verdict of history to judge the accuracy of that forecast. For the past six years, we have seen a constant stream of foolish, failed initiatives, confusion and instability.

    The third casualty of the agreement is reconciliation. Progress in that area is possible only if those who must be reconciled believe themselves to be secure. If Roman Catholics are meant to be assured by the agreement, why do so many of them say that they share my view? Why do so many of them tell me that they have conveyed their reservations to the Northern Ireland Office? I am in no position to confirm that; I depend upon their word. The answer is that they have never accepted—nor do they want—Dublin's protecting power stance. Far more significantly, they have made it clear that they do not wish to live in a cold war atmosphere created by this proposed regime for which the necessary consent simply does not exist.

    Tallying with the impressive quotations by the hon. Member for Eastbourne, the nightmare of Roman Catholics was expressed to me last Saturday by three young Roman Catholic constituents as they left the so-called loyalist rally—in reality a pro-union rally—at the city hall. They begged me to persuade the Prime Minister to think again and, as one of them put it, to
    "beg her not to condemn us to spending the rest of our lives in an atmosphere of distrust and tension with our Protestant neighbours."
    That was a very moving occasion for me.

    That grim prospect has been publicly recognised by church representatives, authoritative newspaper editors, moderate organisations and individuals, and, most of all, by those who have worked so hard for reconciliation in Northern Ireland and are now depressed because all that they have achieved has been obliterated at a stroke.

    I notice that newspapers such as The Sunday Times and The Observer criticised the Government's failure to reassure unionists. I understand—this was hinted at by the Leader of the Opposition—that the Northern Ireland Office is contemplating, at the expense of the taxpayer, providing copies of the agreement to every household. But the Secretary of State, who is observant, will know that the main newspapers in Northern Ireland have twice set out the full text of the agreement, unabridged and without journalistic comment. The people have read it for themselves, and the Government's difficulty is that the people understand what they have read. Perhaps the Government intend to circulate a publication placing a gloss on the agreement. Dublin will do likewise, but they will conflict. The statements are already conflicting. I fear that the second state will he worse than the first.

    The Government have a credibility problem, created not by them but for them by the Dublin Government, who leaked the agreement four days before the signing and who circulated copies of it two days before the signing to foreign embassies and other institutions. That breach of good faith with Her Majesty's Government, not by the Government, placed Her Majesty's Ministers in a position where they had no alternative but to mislead. That is no accusation; I am trying to defend Ministers. In good faith, they had agreed with Dublin to maintain as late as the Thursday afternoon before the signing on the Friday that agreement had not yet been reached. It is not in a spirit of accusation but out of sympathy with Her Majesty's Ministers that I say that three Ministers of the utmost integrity were placed in such a position—the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland during Northern Ireland Question Time, the Prime Minister at Prime Minister's Question Time and the Leader of the House at Business Question Time. All were forced to use the phrase, "if an agreement is reached", when, thanks to the Dublin double-cross, the whole world knew that agreement had already been reached.

    I should like to address a personal word to the Prime Minister. Millions of our fellow British citizens throughout this nation feel that the Prime Minister has a lasting contribution to make to the destiny of the nation, but if she is to fulfil their expectations she must retain her standing and authority. I am sure that the Prime Minister knows that she owes it to those people not to damage those assets by lending her name to statements which have no validity or veracity.

    One of the Prime Minister's statements asserted that the status of Northern Ireland is unchanged. I accept that the territory is not to be transferred—or not yet at any rate—and technically it could be claimed that the final approval of legislation will rest with Parliament and the Crown. In reality, however, as all hon. Members know and as the hon. Member for Eastbourne clearly stated, the legislation will be formulated and agreed, because the agreement states:
    "determined efforts shall be made through the Conference to resolve any differences."
    In reality, therefore, Parliament and the Queen will give rubber stamp approval to legislation designed by a form of coalition with a foreign sovereign state.

    As I said earlier in my comments about the Prime Minister's commanding position in the nation, my plea to the Prime Minister is not to allow anyone to continue to say in her name that the status of Northern Ireland is unchanged. I trust that she has already rebuked the subordinates who led her to claim that the agreement contains, to quote her own words,
    "the most formal commitment to the principle of consent made by any Irish Government."—[Official Report, 18 November 1985; Vol. 87, c. 19.]
    The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup pointed out that the same commitment was given by a previous Irish Government in the Sunningdale agreement o 1973—which was also registered as an international agreement at the United Nations. The right hon. Gentleman will also confirm that an even earlier commitment was entered into by the Irish Government in 1925 and that that agreement was lodged at the League of Nations.

    In the course of what I hope will be a constructive and well ordered debate—I am not casting any reflection upon the Chair, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because the responsibility lies with hon. Members—the House is entitled to ask what is new about that commitment or in Irish attitudes since 1925 and 1973.

    The Prime Minister will not mind my saying that, over the years, she has sought my assessment of attitudes and feelings in Northern Ireland. In what may be my last contribution in the House, I am sure she will not object if I report to her in the presence of right hon. and hon. Members. I have to say honestly and truthfully that in 40 years in public life I have never known what I can only describe as a universal cold fury, which some of us have thus far managed to contain. I beg the Prime Minister not to misjudge the situation but to examine and assess the damage which will be done to the aims of peace, stability and reconciliation. Perhaps the leader of the Labour party and the leaders of the other opposition parties will not mind me saying to the Prime Minister that she will lose nothing in the eyes of the House or of the country if she decides to steer a safer course.

    5.6 pm

    Taking part in this debate is bound to be a painful business for anyone who has served in Northern Ireland, as one is bound to have mixed emotions. Over a period, in Northern Ireland and among one's unionist friends on the Back Benches, one develops a great affection and respect for their views. I have come to respect the views of the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) and of other unionist Members.

    I did not share the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) three years ago when I tried to set up the Assembly, but recognise that my hon. Friend has always held very strong views in favour of the unionists. I have always considered my hon. Friend to be a romantic unionist. I do not believe that his idea for a regional council, included in the 1979 Tory party manifesto, was a runner in Northern Ireland, but I am sure that I speak for my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when I say that if it had been a runner it would have been by far the easiest course to take. I do not believe, however, that at that time or at any time since the proposal would have commanded the support of the people of Northern Ireland.

    The right hon. Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Mason) was applauded by the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley, but I must tell him that there was no great peace in his day. He will accept that terrorism continued and stability was lacking. It is a myth to believe that there has been peace or stability in Northern Ireland in the last 14 or 15 years, because there has not.

    More hon. Members are dominated by a feeling that if one is in politics and trying to make a contribution one must take some risks, because the risk of doing nothing does not necessarily solve the problem. Had the Government accepted the option of simply continuing without change, there would be no progress towards peace and stability and the agony of terrorism, the murders and the funerals would continue. Accusations that the Government and the defence forces are not sincere in trying to contain and destroy terrorism would also continue. I came to the conclusion that the risks of doing nothing were greater than the risks of trying to make changes, given that any change in Northern Ireland would be bound to be resisted by one side or the other. We have seen some examples of that today.

    We have heard, too, that the rundown of the economy, rising unemployment and the sheer weight of public expenditure are far greater in Northern Ireland than anywhere else in the United Kingdom, and it is a very bad thing for any economy to be so dependent on public expenditure. All those things lead one to believe that efforts must be made to bring the community together so that terrorism can be isolated and perhaps in the long term greater peace and security provided. I use the phrase "in the long term" advisedly, because we know that in the next few weeks wicked people will seek to raise the temperature by murdering people to ensure that no settlement takes place. We all know that such people are to be found in the IRA. Therefore, things may well get worse before they get better.

    That may be so—who can tell?—but it does not and should not stop us making a great effort to see what we can do.

    The unionists are proud people with a great tradition and they have suffered enormously. The whole House should recognise that. My hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne has said that the silent unionist majority are not understood. I believe that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and most people in the House understand that silent majority and the worries expressed by the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley today. We know that the agreement offends their view of the constitution. We must also accept that, although it makes no difference to the status of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom, in the eyes of the unionists it changes that status in Northern Ireland itself. Frankly, if it did not do so to some extent, there would be no chance of getting the minority community to accept it. We must accept that and understand why it raises problems for the unionists. We do them less than justice if we do not appreciate that.

    I believe that, despite the fears of the unionists, there are great advantages for them. First, there is the reaffirmation of the binding international treaty. Secondly, the signing of the agreement on extradition for political offences is also important. Thirdly, if they can do a deal on devolution, the effect of the Intergovernmental Conference will be reduced. Fourthly, they should now press for more local government powers, to which they are entitled under these arrangements.

    I hope that the nationalists, too, will do a deal on devolution, because it is also to their advantage to have government within Northern Ireland by the people of Northern Ireland with less influence from the Republic and perhaps from the Government and Parliament in London. Secondly, the nationalists should now co-operate much more fully on security. We know that the vast majority of them abhor violence, but in the past they have not done enough to convince all the people, and especially the unionists, that they are really serious about security matters. I hope that names will now go forward to the police authority and to the other institutions in Northern Ireland engaged in security matters.

    The nationalists should also convince the Government of the Republic that, as the agreement has been well received in the Republic, it is time for the Republic to go a step further and renounce article 2 of its constitution. The Government of the Republic may have been surprised at the welcome given to the agreement, so they are now in a stronger position to take action in that respect.

    I am sure that the British Government understand the mood of the unionists, and it is important that they should do so. Hard things will be said and done. Hard things are often said in Ulster because that is the way in which people express themselves, although only the more adventurous spirits do so while the others simply keep quiet.

    I believe that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has shown enormous courage. I do not know whether my support is a help or an embarrassment to her, but I assure her that I have nothing but praise for the part that she has played in these negotiations. She has made a very difficult decision. If she has taken some time to make up her mind about it, that is the more to her credit and shows her desire that the unionists should in no circumstances be excluded from the United Kingdom.

    A genuine effort has been made to try to achieve peace in Northern Ireland. We cannot go on as we are. Neither the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley nor my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne has put forward any convincing alternative. There is no other way but to take some chances in the interests of peace in Northern Ireland as a whole. All who have been working for reconciliation will wish to know that there is much greater understanding of the position of the unionists in Northern Ireland than they may have thought in the past, but at the same time we look to them to try to come to terms with people whom that have disliked—I put it no higher than that—for so long.

    I believe that the unionists should trust my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the House. I beg unionist Members to reconsider their proposal to resign their seats. I believe that by trusting the House and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who is a unionist, they will be able to achieve a more peaceful and prosperous life for their constituents and that the whole of Northern Ireland will benefit. Those of us who have lived in Northern Ireland but are English make no bones about the difficulty of understanding all the workings of the Irish mind. I know that the Irish do not trust us and that they object to much of what we do, but perhaps for once they will recognise that there is genuine respect for their point of view and a determination to try to make some slight progress in the interests of all the people of Northern Ireland and of the United Kingdom. If they can approach this issue in that way, the courage of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister—which is echoed a thousand times over by the courage of unionists and others in Northern Ireland—will have some reward.

    Some of my hon. Friends may have doubted my motives over the years. My right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), for instance, may not always have thought that I was pursuing policies designed to achieve reconciliation or that I fully understood the views of the unionists. I believe that we should all unite under the leadership of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister at this difficult time, because, if we show unity and understanding here, that may have at least some effect on the people of Northern Ireland.

    5.20 pm

    During the course of this debate it seems that we have been tilting at a number of imaginary windmills. Some speakers have referred to the breaking of the Union while others have talked about the creation of a united Ireland. It is quite clear to anyone who has taken the trouble to read the proposals that neither of these issues is contained within the agreement. Repeatedly arguments have ben put up to defeat issues that are not within the agreement.

    The right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux), the leader of the Ulster Unionist part, talked about the possibility of a high-powered initiative for federation which he said was in the 1979 briefing notes sent out by Conservative central office. I personally believe in confederation as an approach. Confederation would enable the Irish of the north who are Catholics to look towards Dublin, whilst the Irish of the north who are Protestants or unionists would look towards London. However, this agreement is no more about confederation than it is about breaking the Union or the creation of a united Ireland.

    The agreement is a genuine attempt by the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach to break the straitjacket that has become Northern Ireland. The Hillsborough agreement represents the outcome of months of effort by politicians and civil servants who have made a genuine effort to reconcile the two traditions in Ireland. Like the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow), I have had the privilege of spending time in Northern Ireland and the Republic, most recently as part of a Liberal-SDP commission under Lord Donaldson. In July, we published our report entitled "What future for Northern Ireland?" Many of the ideas promoted in that report are contained in the agreement. However, we would have gone further on issues such as the Anglo-Irish parliamentary tier. I was pleased when the Prime Minister said earlier that it is something that the House and the Dail could consider further. A parliamentary tier would help to compliment those initiatives which have been taken in this agreement.

    We recognise the Hillsborough agreement as an honest and brave attempt to wrench the initiative from the men of violence and to take a few, albeit faltering, steps away from the bigotry and hatred which have led to 2,500 deaths during the past 16 years, 24,000 injuries, and some £11 million-worth of damage in Ulster caused through acts of political violence. We welcome the initiative because it marks an important change in the attitude of the two Governments towards one another.

    Some years ago the brave non-sectarian Alliance party in Northern Ireland said:
    "positive development of Anglo-Irish relations could lead to the growth of mutual trust and respect in place of bitterness and recrimination which has bedevilled Anglo-Irish relations for too long."
    Hillsborough is a step along that road.

    This agreement is the bulwark against Sinn Fein. If it fails, it will give credence to the lie that violence alone can bring progress. It will lead to the enticement of more young men and women into violent organisation and violent actions. This agreement is a courageous step by the Prime Minister and the Taoiseach to challenge and defeat that lie.

    Those who choose to distort and lie about the content of this agreement will be taking the side of violence to sustain their tribalistic and sectarian positions, deliberately keeping alive divisions for their own selfish political ends. The Nobel peace prize winner, Solzhenitsyn, understood the nature of violence. He said:
    "Violence can only be concealed by the lie. Anyone who has once proclaimed that violence is his method is inevitably forced to choose the lie as his guiding principle."
    The way forward in Northern Ireland is through mutual respect, mutual forgiveness for past injuries and wounds and building up the common ground.

    During the Donaldson commission inquiry, I visited the Maze prison where I met a young man, Liam McAnoy. That young man, brought up on the Falls Road, at the age of 18 joined the official IRA, and he committed a murder. He has since renounced violence and 12 years later I had the privilege to meet him. Since then we have corresponded.

    The hon. Member for Eastbourne spoke earlier about people who had written to him and who had genuine fears about what might happen in Northern Ireland. Liam McAnoy, who has been consigned to the Maze for an act which he bitterly and sincerely regrets, can now see what needs to be done in Northern Ireland if we are to avoid more bitterness and hatred. In a letter to me he says:

    "Justice requires, just as peace demands, the pacific coexistence of both communities in mutual acceptance and respect and in equality of rights. Violence and talk of civil war makes the attainment of co-existence more difficult."
    The creation of that justice requires the establishment of bodies such as the Intergovernmental Conference which must win the respect of the Protestant and Catholic communities alike. The founder of the Corrymeela Community, the right Reverend Dr. Ray Davey, in a sermon at Westminster abbey in March 1980, signalled the other prerequisites for peace in Northern Ireland. He said:
    "Truth demands that we be willing to look at another's point of view when it is opposed to ours and to try to understand it."
    Liberals believe that this requires a moderation which is the only hope of reconciliation.

    In the spirit of trying to understand another point of view it is incumbent on all the people of Great Britain, especially the English people, to try to understand the fears and anxieties of the unionists. This agreement was made in secrecy, largely without consultation, without information and without consent. While Dublin—I make no complaint about this—kept the SDLP in the picture, the British Government chose not to involve the Northern Ireland parties in the Hillsborough process. Assemblyman John Cushnahan, the Alliance leader, whom I met here last Friday, told me that many people in Northern Ireland are gravely dissatisfied with the way the agreement was made. We agree with him. Their condition, which is a fair one, is that the secrecy must now end. At the minimum, agendas and conclusions reached by the Intergovernmental Conference must be published. If that does not happen, every matter pursued by the Secretary of State will be represented by some unionists as deriving from the Republic through the deliberations of the Intergovernmental Conference.

    Unionists may be tempted to shout treachery and no surrender and to retreat behind historical images of the siege of Londonderry. The unionists claim to be law-abiding members of the Union. How will that square with the erection of shutters and barricades and the repudiation of an agreement endorsed by two democratically elected Parliaments? The remarks by the hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. McCusker) were out of accord with the unionist tradition which has always pledged itself to constitutionality. This morning, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Steel) said:
    "The so-called loyalists in Northern Ireland must look again at their definition of loyalty, which means nothing if it does not include support for the authority of the Westminster Parliament. To threaten unconstitutional action even before Parliament has had a chance to debate the proposals will be the action of disloyalists and would only harden the belief of the British people that the unionists are quite incorrigible."

    Would the hon. Gentleman accept that at the rally on Saturday in Belfast, when passions were running somewhat high, the main cheer came for the portion of my speech when I said:

    "Violence is no part of our campaign"?
    I was speaking on behalf of my colleagues on this Bench and of my colleagues who represent the Democratic Unionist party.

    I am glad to hear the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley say that. It is in complete sympathy with everything that I have heard him say in my six years here. I was distressed to hear the comments of one of his colleagues. I hope that we shall talk, as we have during this debate, about how Parliaments and elected Members can reconcile the two traditions. That is the only way to defeat the people who murder and maim to achieve their political objectives.

    We appreciate the suffering of unionists, especially during the past 16 years. As many right hon. and hon. Members have said, they are a keen and proud people, but they should remember that we on this side of the water have also suffered. Many of our constituents who were members of Her Majesty's forces have been murdered in the Province. The financial burden has been heavy, and there has been a not inconsiderable loss of civil liberties in Britain because of the tragedy of Northern Ireland.

    We in the United Kingdom do not regard the Republic as our enemy. There is a special relationship between us. Many millions of Irish people live and work in Britain and many thousands of British people live and work in Ireland. We are closely integrated. The unionists have a right to be upset by the triumphalism and the talk of victors and vanquished, of which some Catholic clergymen, alas, and politicians have been guilty.

    As an English Catholic, I regret the continued intransigence of the Catholic Church on issues such as mixed and inter-Church marriages and integrated Christian education. Like the right hon. Member for Waveney (Mr. Prior), I regret that the SDLP has so far made no gesture to the unionist community about whether it will participate in the Assembly. I hope that the leader of the SDLP will be able to say something about that later.

    I listen regularly to the hon. Gentleman and admire much of what he stands for. The SDLP should now drop its veto on the Northern Ireland Assembly and commit itself to partnership in government in the North. It should also encourage more Catholics to join the Royal Ulster Constabulary. When I was in Northern Ireland earlier this year and met Sir John Hermon, I was intensely worried by the RUC's difficulty in encouraging more Roman Catholics to join, although there has been some improvement this year.

    A MORI poll, conducted in 1981, showed that 70 per cent. of Protestants and 62 per cent. of Catholics would accept Northern Ireland remaining as part of the United Kingdom, but with its own Assembly and guarantees for Catholics. My right hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) earlier this year said:

    "What is needed is a partnership at the level of a devolved government".
    If the Government use the Northern Ireland (Constitution) Act 1973 as a framework for devolving power, the guarantees that the Catholic community in the North should be able to expect would be missing. I hope that the Secretary of State will be clearer about the power-sharing proposals and that the SDLP's lingering doubts will be removed. Partnership in government is the best way to remove the alienation of the north's Catholics—of finally extinguishing the Bunsen burner that has kept the cauldron smouldering.

    Those of us who heard Noel Dorr, the Irish ambassador in London, speak here last night will have noted that he stressed the alienation of the Roman Catholic community in Northern Ireland. The agreement is about removing that alienation. That is why it is worthy of support.

    For unionists, the incentive for being involved in such a partnership is that it will reduce the influence held by Dublin. If political leaders refuse to provide their people with the leadership that they are entitled to expect, the people must be prepared to change those leaders, whether they be unionist or nationalist. The Government should ensure that a copy of the agreement is sent to every household in Northern Ireland. It is not good enough to be told that it has appeared in some Belfast newspapers. If unionist politicians now try to wreck the agreement by forcing by-elections—and I desperately hope that they will reconsider such action—the Government should be prepared to consider holding those elections under a system of proportional representation, as currently applies to local government, Assembly and European Parliament elections. That would turn the elections into a far more convincing test of public opinion and enable the Government to reach over the heads of sectarian leaders.

    There is something in the agreement for everyone. For unionists, there is a double guarantee of their right to self-determination within the Six Counties. There is an acceptance of their identity by Dublin and an acceptance that it will be registered publicly at the United Nations. There is to be no Executive rule and no joint authority, both of which are anathema to unionists. There is also the Republic's commitment to ratify the European convention on the suppression of terrorism. There is the promise of better cross-border co-operation and improved security—progress on extradition and trials in another jurisdiction.

    For nationalists, there is a recognition of their identity, respect for their democratic aspirations and for their symbols, culture, sports and repeal of offensive legislation such as the Flags and Emblems (Display) Act 1954. There is a chance to be partners in government and of parity of esteem and equality of opportunity.

    For all, there is an opportunity of better human rights for individuals and groups and a framework for greater cooperation between our two countries. There is the opportunity for more common services to be developed and the chance in the longer term of parliamentary cooperation and a permanent body to oversee the Intergovernmental Conference. There really is something in this agreement for everyone, and I hope that moderate Unionist politicians will re-examine it in that light.

    The alliance report, which we published in July, said:
    "the status quo in Northern Ireland is not an option."
    That view has been echoed time and again today. The Irish and British Governments have acted boldly in an attempt to shift the status quo. They deserve broad support. Perhaps a small window has opened in Northern Ireland. If men and women of ill will now slam it shut, the violence and despair that will inevitably follow will be upon their heads.

    5.36 pm

    This debate provides a unique occasion for Ulster Unionist representatives, because it is not often that a man gets the opportunity to deliver the oration at his own funeral. When the Prime Minister signed the agreement in Hillsborough castle, she was in reality drafting the obituary of Ulster as we know it in the United Kingdom.

    It is important for the House to understand why Ulster Unionists came to that conclusion. We did not reach that conclusion simply because of one document that arrived on 15 November. A long series of events led to that occasion. I am old enough to remember when, in 1969, the Labour Government issued the Downing street declaration, which said:

    "the affairs of Northern Ireland are entirely a matter of domestic jurisdiction."
    I can recall how our Prime Minister, on 8 December 1980 when in Dublin castle, signed a communiqué with Charles J. Haughey which altered that stance, because the communiqué said that
    "the totality of relations within these islands"
    was now a fit subject for discussion between the two Governments. From that moment we had the outworking of the "unique relations" between the Governments of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. We had joint studies, cross-border co-operation and then the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Council, the purpose of which was
    "to provide the overall framework for intergovernmental consultation … on all matters of common interest and concern"—
    wait for it—
    "with particular reference to the achievement of peace, reconciliation and stability and the improvement of relations".
    At that stage, the council had a responsibility to deal with matters of mutual interest and concern. We have moved from that to a new status which, under this institution, is to give the Republic of Ireland—a foreign Government—a direct role in the government of Northern Ireland.

    It does not end there, because the agreement announced at Hillsborough castle is but the tip of the iceberg. I know that the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State and others have been careful to say that there is no other agreement. But, then, we were told that there was no agreement right up until it was signed at Hillsborough castle. Indeed, some weeks in advance of 15 November, the deputy Prime Minister of the Irish Republic had already had a document printed which he sent to every member of his party. It indicated the full text of the agreement. Incidentally, he said that that agreement was signed by
    "the Taoiseach and the Prime Minister of Great Britain."
    It represents quite a change in our status when the deputy Prime Minister of the Irish Republic recognises that Northern Ireland is not to be one of our Prime Minister's responsibilities.

    The document says that the task upon which the conference will embark involves trying to achieve an agreement with our Government on matters such as parades and processions, and putting the UDR out of business. It implies—although we have not yet been told—that the meeting of Ministers will take place in Belfast. It is clearly a framework for further agreements. What other reason could there be for a front cover entitled, "The Republic of Ireland No. 1 Agreement."?

    I notice that the hon. Member for Foyle (Mr. Hume) is in the Chamber. He has at least been honest with the people of Northern Ireland in saying that the agreement is a process. In the Irish News—where else?—he said that it was "a first step." The next day he said that there were to be "progressive stages." Those who had any doubt about where they were to lead were told by him on RTE:
    "We are not waiting for Irish unity. We are working for it."
    I accept that there is no harm in the hon. Gentleman wanting to work towards that goal, but I wish to ensure that the unionist community in Northern Ireland knows what he and the Republic are working towards. It is clear that this process is intended to take us out of the United Kingdom. Yet the people of Northern Ireland have democratically expressed their wish to stay within it. The agreement is intended to trundle Northern Ireland into a all-Ireland Republic.

    The unionist community in Northern Ireland has identified this process. It is not an end in itself, and was never intended to be. It is one step towards a united Ireland. Indeed, the Prime Minister has excused the deal by saying that its laudable aim is to achieve peace, stability, reconciliation and co-operation. That is my aim too. Like some other hon. Members, I live in Northern Ireland. Our stake and investment are in the Northern Ireland community and, most importantly, our families and constituents live there. It is in our interests to have peace, stability, reconciliation and co-operation. If I felt that they were achievable I would grasp them with a heart and a hand, but not outside the union. That would be too high a price to pay.

    The document reminds me of another piece of paper waved by a former Prime Minister. In many ways the words are too similar. That Prime Minister's words were "Peace in our time". Under this agreement, peace, stability, reconciliation and co-operation are not achievable. How can they be achieved by alienating the majority of people in Northern Ireland? It was never intended that there should be peace, stability, reconciliation and co-operation as a result of this agreement. After all, if that had been the intention, the Government would have wanted, above all, to take the elected representatives of the majority community in Northern Ireland along with them.

    This may be my last opportunity to address the House. The first time I did so, it was without interruption. I trust that I will be able to speak without interruption today.

    If the document has been intended to do us good, the Prime Minister would have been only too willing to allow the unionist community to be consulted. She would have been only too pleased to take it along with her and to ensure that the representatives of the unionist people in Northern Ireland could have some input to the discussions.

    The Government of the Irish Republic were only too happy to give the hon. Member for Foyle that facility. The Government of the Irish Republic and this Government briefed people all over the world. The Government of the Irish Republic briefed the Secretary of State to the Vatican. The President of the United States was briefed, as were the United Nations and the European Community. But those who were to be affected by the deal were kept in the dark.

    I do not intend to give way during my speech. The hon. Gentleman can ask me to give way as much as he likes, but I do not intend to be interrupted by giving way.

    I ask the Government to scrap this one-sided, anti-unionist deal and to involve unionists in the process of obtaining peace, stability, reconciliation and co-operation in Northern Ireland. As I have said, we would participate with a heart and a half. More than many, I recognise that it is not my duty simply to say, "No, we will not have it." It is my duty and that of other Unionist representatives to say what can be done in a positive way in Northern Ireland. Before the debate ends, I hope that I shall have had the opportunity to do that.

    I want to point out what unionists have done, and are prepared to do within the union.

    On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My point of order relates to the very nature of the House. I understand that, other than for major speeches and ministerial statements, the House is a place in which hon. Members' views can, within reason, be scrutinised. Some hon. Members complain that they are misunderstood and that we, on this side of the water, do not fully comprehend this or that. However, if we cannot ask questions of clarification, how can we be expected to understand them?

    With his long experience of the House, the hon. Gentleman knows that it is for the hon. Member who has the Floor to decide whether to give way. The hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) has made it clear that he does not intend to give way.

    The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) knows very well that I have given way to him and many other hon. Members before. But because of the uniqueness of the occasion, I do not intend to do so today. I have a message that I want to leave with the House before I walk out through those doors, and I do not intend to be diverted by any hon. Member.

    I call upon the Government to consult and not to confront the unionist community. Unionists have been positive. The former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland who laid the Assembly legislation before the House knows very well that it was the unionist community in Northern Ireland that went into the Assembly and that co-operated with the Government. It was the hon. Member for Foyle and his party who stayed outside and withdrew their consent. Is it the reward for those who co-operate with the Government that an agreement that is ultimately to their destruction should be foisted upon them to the benefit of the hon. Member for Foyle and his party?

    The Northern Ireland unionist parties—the Ulster Unionist party with its document, "The Way Forward" and the Democratic Unionist party with its document, "Ulster—the Future Assured"—put forward positive proposals for peace, stability, reconciliation and co-operation in Northern Ireland.

    Even in the Northern Ireland Assembly, with the help of the conciliator, Sir Frederick Catherwood, the parties sat down and reached agreement on a framework that the Government could use in negotiations with the political parties—not only the Unionist parties but the Alliance party. We have been positive in Northern Ireland.

    I say again that we are prepared to remain positive within the United Kingdom. We are prepared to allow the Prime Minister to engage unionists in constructive politics, and if the Prime Minister wishes to call my bluff, I should be only too happy. Do not confront us and put us out of the union with this deal.

    The willingness of the unionist community to seek an agreement is undeterred. If the Government want peace and stability in Ulster, I ask them where that can best be achieved? There seems to be a new rule in British politics—if there is a dispute within a house, the way to solve it is to reach an agreement with the two neighbours. It is even more strange when the agreement reached between the two neighbours gives aid and succour to one of the parties to the dispute.

    If the Government want peace, stability, reconciliation and co-operation in Northern Ireland, they must recognise that that can be achieved only by the politicians|—the elected representatives of the people of Northern Ireland—reaching agreement. They cannot impose reconciliation; they cannot impose peace and stability and they certainly cannot impose such an agreement which strikes at the fundamental principle in which the majority in Northern Ireland believe, and that is the union. That is the strangest of British strategies.

    Does the agreement measure up to the Government's test for the sort of proposal that would be acceptable? The former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland brought the 1982 Act before the House on the basis of
    "widespread acceptance throughout the community."
    He argued passionately that there had to be "cross-community support." Throughout the years there have been homilies from politicians of one party or another about the necessity for consent in Northern Ireland. They told us that Northern Ireland could not be governed without the consent of the minority.

    If that is true, I have to tell the Government that they can never govern Northern Ireland without the consent of the majority. Do they have that consent? Have they tried to access whether there is such consent? Will they test whether there is consent? The people of Northern Ireland have the right and entitlement to be consulted about their constitutional future.

    Our citizenship of the United Kingdom does not allow the Government to do whatsoever they may wish with Northern Ireland. Our citizenship of the United Kingdom must be on the same basis as applies in any other part of the United Kingdom. If, for whatever reason—be it good or ill—the Government decide that Northern Ireland must be treated differently from the remainder of the United Kingdom, that can be done only if there is consent, and the consent not only of the Government and Parliament, but of the people of Northern Ireland.

    It was that principle, enunciated in the House, that resulted in the referendums for Wales and Scotland. Have not the people of Ulster the same right to be consulted as the people of Wales and Scotland? Do they not have the same right to give their approval to any deal that, ultimately, will affect their future and the way that they are governed? I believe that they have that right and that they should be given it. If this House is not prepared to give them that right, it is incumbent upon the elected representatives of Northern Ireland to give them that right.

    Right hon. and hon. Members criticise me, but I ask them how they would like it if the agreement affected their constituencies—if the governance of their people was not directly by this House, but by a structure that allowed a foreign power, at its own behest, to make challenges and to request consultation. The agreement goes even further than that and requires that
    "a determined effort is made to resolve the differences"
    between the two Governments. I doubt whether many right hon. and hon. Members would want that for themselves or their constituents.

    The agreement is not merely consultative. The House should not pass this measure believing that it is only a talking shop, in which the Irish Republic can make comments. It is much more than that. I am sure that the Prime Minister will not mind if I divulge certain comments made during our meeting yesterday, when we put the point about consultation to her on two occasions. On the first occasion, she was about to speak when the question was answered by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. I asked whether only a consultative role was involved or whether it was more than that. He said, "It is not executive." On the second occasion, the Prime Minister said, "It is what it is in this agreement."

    What do those who have been more candid say about the agreement? The Prime Minister of the Irish Republic says:
    "it is more than consultation".
    The deputy Prime Minister of the Irish Republic says:

    "the agreement goes beyond the right to consult."
    John F. O'Conner, the dean of the faculty of law at UCC, said:

    "Whatever the eventual political results, the legal result of the new agreement is that Northern Ireland has now become subject to a status in international law which has no real parallels elsewhere. It never was, nor has it become, a separate entity in international law. It is not a condominium. It is a province of the United Kingdom which for the first time has become subject to the legal right of two sovereign governments to determine how all matters which go to the heart of sovereignty in that area shall in future be determined."
    It is not only the unionists—[Interruption.] Hon. Members may not like what the dean of the faculty of law said, but if they want to dispute it, they had better do so with him.

    It is not only the unionists who believe that the deal is unfair to the unionist community in Northern Ireland. Senator Mary Robinson of the Irish Republic—no relation of mine, I assure the House—rejected the agreement because it went too far. She said:
    "This is absolutely the most serious moment in the political development of this island since we gained independence."
    That lady is no unionist—she was one of the signatories to the Forum report. Yet even she says that the agreement goes too far.

    The Belfast Telegraph, never a close friend of the unionist community, said:

    "Even those who, like this newspaper, can see benefit flowing from closer consultation with Dublin, must draw the line at such institutionalised links between the two countries."
    I say again that it is not only the Ulster Unionists and the Democratic Unionists who believe that the deal goes too far. The ordinary citizens of Northern Ireland, never previously involved in politics, were present at the mass demonstration at the city hall in Belfast.

    I was born a free citizen of the United Kingdom. I was brought up to respect the Union flag. At my father's knee I was taught the love that I should have for the monarchy, and throughout my life I have put that into practice. I was nurtured on the principle of the greatness of our British heritage. I have taught all that to my children. I now have to tell this House that over the last 17 cruel years, when Ulster has been confronted by a vicious campaign of terrorism, not one of the unionist community was prepared to allow that campaign to shatter his loyalty to the United Kingdom.

    It is not a one-way street. It never has been for Ulster. We cheered with this country during the Falklands campaign. Ulster suffered its losses just as many did on this side of the Irish sea. During the second world war, we made sacrifices, just as many people in this part of the United Kingdom, and we did it without conscription. During the first world war, Ulster gave of its best for Britain. After watching the Ulster Volunteers on the Somme when 5,000 Ulstermen lost their lives at the enemy's hand, a great British general—General Spender—said, "I am not an Ulsterman but there is no one in the world whom I would rather be after seeng the Ulster Volunteers in action." In peace and in war Ulster stood by the kingdom. That has been the way of loyal Ulster.

    I never believed that I would see a British Government who were prepared to damage Ulster's position in the United Kingdom. Our resolve has been hardened by the bitter times in past years when a terrorist campaign was aimed at undermining our position in the United Kingdom. There would never have been a Hillsborough castle agreement if the IRA had not been bombing and shooting. That is a fact of life. Can one blame the people of Northern Ireland for thinking that violence works? It makes the task harder for those of us who chose the way of constitutional politics to tell people not to involve themselves in violence.

    I wish that the House had a sense of the deep feeling of anger and betrayal in Northern Ireland. Yesterday, while I was waiting in an ante-room in No. 10 Downing street before meeting the Prime Minister I saw on the wall a portrait of Rudyard Kipling, who was a great patriot. I recall the words of his poem "Ulster 1912", which begins:

    "The dark eleventh hour
    Draws on and sees us sold
    To every evil power
    We fought against of old."
    Later, it states:
    "The blood our fathers split,
    Our love, our toils, our pains,
    Are counted us for guilt,
    And only bind our chains.
    Before an Empire's eyes
    The traitor claims his price.
    What need of further lies?
    We are the sacrifice."

    6.3 pm

    Listening to some of the hon. Members who have spoken in the debate one could have been forgiven for thinking that we were not discussing a serious problem, but, after listening to the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson), one should not be in any doubt that we are discussing a serious problem.

    I was glad to see a full House at the beginning of the debate. That is the first achievement of the Anglo-Irish conference. It shows that the serious human problem facing the peoples of these islands has at last been given the priority that it deserves. It has been put at the centre of the stage.

    I was glad also that a meeting took place at the highest level between the British and the Irish Governments at which a framework for ongoing discussion was set up. In an excellent unionist speech, the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) told us what we already knew—that he was a committed unionist and that he did not particularly like to associate with the loud-mouthed persons with whom I have to live. We did not learn from him of the problem in Northern Ireland—that we have a deeply divided society. The hon. Gentleman did not bother to analyse why we have a deeply divided society and the political instability and violence which the agreement seeks to address.

    This is the first time that we have had a real framework within which to address the problem. The problem is not just about relationships with Northern Ireland. One need only listen to the speeches of Northern Ireland Members to know that it is about relationships in Ireland and between Ireland and Britain. Those interlocking relationships should be addressed within the framework of the problem. The framework of the problem can only be the framework of the solution, and that is the British-Irish framework. There is no road towards a solution to this problem that does not contain risks. The road that has been chosen by both Governments is the road of maximum consensus and is, therefore, the road of minimum risk. We should welcome that.

    Our community has just gone through 15 years of the most serious violence that it has ever seen. Northern Ireland has a population of 1·5 million people. About 2,500 people have lost their lives in political violence—the equivalent of 86,000 people in Britain. Twenty thousand people have been seriously maimed. When I say "maimed", I mean maimed. That is the equivalent of 750,000 people on this island. About £11 billion-worth of damage has been caused to the economies of Ireland—North and South. In 1969, public expenditure by the British Government in subsidy, subvention or whatever one calls it was £74 million; today it is £1·5 billion. Two new prisons have been built and a third is about to be opened—our only growth industry. There are 18-year-olds who have known nothing but violence and armed soldiers on their streets. Young people reach 18 and then face the highest unemployment we have ever had. Forty-four per cent. of the population is under 25.

    If that is not a time bomb for the future, what is? If that is not a problem that needs the serious attention of the House and the serious attention that the Prime Ministers of Britain and of the Republic of Ireland have given it in the past 18 months, what is? Is this not a subject that screams out for political leaders in Northern Ireland to take a good look at themselves, their parties and the leadership that they have given? There is only one clear-cut lesson to be learnt from this tragedy—that our past attitudes have brought us where we are. Unless we agree to take a hard look at our past attitudes, we shall be going nowhere fast and we shall be committing ourselves to the dustbin of history, clutching our respective flagpoles.

    We are being given some choices. The agreement gives us no more than an opportunity to begin the process of reconciliation. The choices offered to the people of Northern Ireland are the choices offered by hon. Members here present. The unionist parties have consistently sought to protect the integrity of their heritage in Ireland—the Protestant heritage—and no one should quarrel with that. A society is richer for its diversity. My quarrel with the unionist parties has been that they have sought to protect their heritage by holding all the power in their own hands and by basing that on sectarian solidarity. That is an exclusive use of power which is inherently violent because it permanently excludes a substantial section of the community from any say in its affairs.

    That was spelt out clearly by the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) when he said that he offered an act of leadership. He was sincere. He said that the majority should assure the minority that they would be made part of society. He tells me that it is an act of leadership to make me and the people I represent part of our society 65 years after Northern Ireland was created.

    We have been lectured about democracy and the democratic process by hon. Members from both unionist parties. They are practitioners of the democratic process. I do not want to spend too much time on examples of their practice, but they were the masters of gerrymander. Today their voices are somewhat muted, but they have not changed much.

    In Belfast city council not one position on any board has gone to a minority representative. One council has even apologised to the electorate because it made a mistake in appointing a member of the SDLP to one position out of 105.

    The hon. Gentleman is complaining because his party cannot win elections. Many people here have to face the fact that their party cannot win elections. It is a fact of life, but it is not a reason for power sharing.

    I thought that the hon. Gentleman's intervention might be intelligent. I shall not lecture him on how Northern Ireland was set up, how it was deliberately created and how from day one it has been run on a sectarian basis. The only way to break that down is through partnership.

    Hon. Members from both unionist parties have lectured us about democracy. That brings us to the heart of the Irish problem. The sovereignty of this Parliament is the basis of the British system and of the rule of law. The sovereignty of Parliament has been defied only twice in this century—on both occasions by Ulster Unionists.

    In 1912 the Ulster Unionists defied the sovereign wish of Parliament to grant home rule. That was only devolution within the United Kingdom. They objected and accepted instead home rule for themselves. That taught them a lesson which they have never forgotten—that if one threatens a British Government or British Parliament and produces crowds in the streets from the Orange lodges the British will back down. Others learnt from that that if one wins by the democratic process the British will back down to their loyalist friends and then they say, "Why not use force instead?" Those two forces are still at the heart of preventing a development in relationships within Ireland. Those who threaten violence are those who use it. The same two forces are opposing the agreement today.

    Does the hon. Gentleman recall that in 1969 he brought on to the streets of Ulster the hordes who, when he left them alone, fell into the hands of violent men? The hon. Gentleman says that he is not allowed to share responsibility in Northern Ireland, but as I have told him before the SDLP refused to put their names forward for positions within the council of which I am a member and tried to nominate Sinn Fein members instead. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will apply his mind to that.

    I am applying my mind to the record of the unionist parties, the members of which have spoken today. I shall apply my mind to my own party later. I am expecting everyone to do a little rethinking.

    The logic of the road down which the unionist leadership is taking its people is inescapable. Unionists once again are prepared to defy the sovereign will of this Parliament. When they come back after their elections and Parliament says that it refuses to back down, what will they do? Where will that lead us? They are going down the UDI road. That is their logic. They say that they are loyal to the United Kingdom. They are the loyalists and they must accept the sovereignty of Her Majesty's Parliament. But they do not.

    What would happen if London Members resigned, were re-elected and returned saying that the majority in Greater London wanted to keep the Greater London council? That would lead to a complete breakdown of parliamentary sovereignty. That is where the unionists are leading us and they must know it.

    It is sad in 1985 to meet people who are suspicious of everybody. They are suspicious of London, suspicious of Dublin and suspicious of the rest of the world. Worst of all, they are suspicious of the people with whom they share a little piece of land—theirneighbours. It is sad that they never talk of the future except with fear. They talk always of the past. Their thoughts are encapsulated in that marvellous couplet
    "To hell with the future and Long live the past.
    May God in his mercy look down on Belfast."
    That is more relevant than the words of Rudyard Kipling.

    There has to be a better way. However grand we think we are, we are a small community. We cannot for ever live apart. Those sentiments were expressed in 1938 by Lord Craigavon, one of their own respected leaders. What are we sentencing our people to if we continue to live apart? People are entitled to live apart, but they are not entitled to ask everyone else to pay for it.

    The other opposition to the agreement comes from the Provisional IRA and its political surrogates. They murder fellow Irishmen in the name of Irish unity. They murder members of the UDR and RUC—fellow Irishmen. Those members see themselves as protectors of their heritage, but the Provisional IRA brutally murders UDR and RUC members in the name of uniting the Irish people, the heritage with which we must unite if we are ever to unite Ireland.

    The IRA's political wing is full of contradictions. I hope that no one in the House has any sympathy with it. Its members blow up factories, yet complain about unemployment. Its political spokesmen complain about cuts in public expenditure and in the same evening the military wing blows up £2 million of public expenditure in one street. A motion rightly condemns the execution of a young South African poet, but the IRA then shoots in the back of the head a young unemployed man and puts bullets in the head of a young man and his wife in west Belfast. The IRA complains about Diplock courts, yet runs kangaroo courts. What does that offer Ireland?

    The hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) asks about Irish unity. In the late 20th century it is nonsense that there should be divisions. If European nations which twice in this century alone have slaughtered one another by the millions can build institutions that allow them to grow together at their own speed, why cannot we do the same? He quoted me in an interview as saying that I was working for Irish unity, but I went on to say that those who think that Irish unity is round the corner are wired to the moon.

    The divisions in Ireland go back well beyond partition. Centuries ago the leaders of Irish republicanism said that they wanted to unite Ireland by replacing the name of "Catholic-Protestant dissenter" with the common name of "Irishman". That was in 1795. Thirty years before partition Parnell said that Ireland could never be united or have its freedom until the fears of the Protestant minority in Ireland could be conciliated. This is a deep problem. It will not be solved in a week or in a fortnight. The agreement says that if Ireland is ever to be united it will be united only if those who want it to be united can persuade those who do not want it to be united. Sovereignty has nothing to do with maps but everything to do with people.

    The people of Ireland are divided on sovereignty. They will be united only by a process of reconciliation in which both traditions in Ireland can take part and agree. If that happens, it will lead to the only unity that matters—a unity that accepts that the essence of unity is the acceptance of diversity.

    Our third choice is the agreement. For the first time it sets up a framework that addresses the problem of the interlocking relationships between the people of both Irelands. It is the approach of maximum consensus. It is the way of minimum risk. For the first time—this is a positive element in the agreement—it respects the equal validity of both traditions. That is what the right hon. and hon. Members of the Unionist party are complaining about. It is not a concession to me or to the people whom I represent. It is an absolute right to the legitimate expression of our identity and of the people I represent. Nobody can take that from us. The recognition of the equal validity of both traditions removes for the first time every excuse for the use of violence by anybody in Ireland to achieve his objective. A framework for genuine reconciliation is provided. Both sections of our community can take part in it.

    Several hon. Members have said that the SDLP has a double veto on devolution. I have already said several times to them in public, but let me say it again so that they may hear it, that I believe in the partnership between the different sections of the community in Northern Ireland. That is the best way to reconcile our differences. By working together to build our community we shall diminish the prejudices that divide us. The agreement means that I am prepared to sit down now and determine how we shall administer the affairs of Northern Ireland in a manner that is acceptable to both traditions.

    No. [HON. MEMBERS: "Give way."] I noticed that the right hon. and hon. Members of the Unionist parties were allowed to speak without interruption. When they were interrupted, they did not agree to give way.

    The second question that appears to excite people about my party's attitude relates to the security forces and to policing in Northern Ireland. Our position—this is not a policy but a statement of fact that applies to every democratic society—is that law and order are based upon political consensus. Where political consensus is absent there is an Achilles heel. Violent men in Northern Ireland take advantage of that Achilles heel. For the first time the Intergovernmental Conference will address that question. It has committed itself to addressing that question. It has also committed itself to addressing the relationship between the community and the security forces. I want to give every encouragement to the conference to do so at the earliest possible opportunity. If it does so, it will have our fullest co-operation. I want the people whom I represent to play the fullest possible part, as do any citizens in a democratic society, in the process of peace and order. While we await the outcome we shall continue to give our full and unqualified support to the police force in impartially seeking out anybody who commits a crime in Northern Ireland.

    On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) has a position to state in this argument. I may not happen to agree with him, but just as it was wrong—

    Mr. Deputy Speaker
    (Sir Paul Dean)