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Intergovernmental Conference

Volume 116: debated on Thursday 14 May 1987

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17.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the issues discussed at the last meeting of the Intergovernmental Conference.

I last met Irish Ministers at the meeting of the Intergovernmental Conference on 22 April. We discussed security co-operation and measures aimed at promoting equality of opportunity in employment. Details are set out in the joint statement issued after the meeting, a copy of which has been placed in the Library.

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for that reply. At this stage in our parliamentary proceedings, may I say how much I appreciate the courtesy of the Secretary of State and his colleagues over the past two years when dealing with Northern Ireland matters? May I assure the Secretary of State that after 11 June, when my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) and I are standing at the Government Dispatch Box, he will receive the same courtesy from us?

Will the Secretary of State take note that as a future Labour Government we shall give full support to the Anglo-Irish Agreement? We reaffirm that commitment now and look forward to the first Intergovernmental Conference in the new Parliament.

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's opening remarks, although I did not particularly enjoy his second point. I believe that all elections in the early stages are founded on a fine degree of fantasy among Oppositions. The hon. Gentleman will find the reality at the hustings. After the election I look forward to the hon. Gentleman, in opposition, showing the same consistency in support of the Anglo-Irish Agreement as he has so far.

Has the Intergovernmental Conference addressed its attention to the question whether it is possible to govern one part of the United Kingdom differently from the rest of the United Kingdom, and differently from the way that it has been governed before, without the consent of a majority of those who are to be governed differently?

No, Sir. The government of any part of the United Kingdom is a matter for the United Kingdom Government and this Parliament. This is entirely our affair. There has been no change. I know that my hon. Friend holds a different view, but I maintain positively that there has been no change whatsoever in Ministers' responsibilities and that there has been no change in the sovereignty of the United Kingdom or its Parliament.

I respect the Government of the Republic of Ireland's views. I am interested in listening to their views and value them. The events of recent days—the evidence on the television screens—of the problems that the IRA poses for the Republic of Ireland, as well as for Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom, are clear enough confirmation of the very close identity of interest that we have in the defeat of terrorism.