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David Winnick: I see the hon. Gentleman nodding. However, I hope that those Unionists who are in favour of the agreement have the necessary courage to argue for the agreement and to explain why it has been of the benefit that it undoubtedly has been. The Secretary of State has produced on several occasions figures for the number of people who are alive who would not have been if it had not been for the agreement and also for the upturn in the economy and the jobs that have been created. They are all substantial gains for the people of Northern Ireland. That is why I believe it necessary for those Unionists to have the courage to overcome the
Mr. Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry): The hon. Gentleman has gone to considerable lengths to establish what the Unionist Members of the House who are in favour of the agreement should do. However, he also accepted that a majority of them are against the agreement. If he accepts that, why can he not accept that that is the will of the Unionist community and the way in which it sees the agreement?
David Winnick: The DUP takes a position and it will serve no purpose for me to repeat it. However, the Ulster Unionist party is in favour of the agreement. As I have said, the hostility within that party must be overcome. After all, other political partiesmy party and the Conservative partyhave all had internal battles in our day. If we believe in a certain view and think that it is in the best interests not only of our party but of the country as a whole, we have to argue our case.
It is not for me to say this, because I was on the other side of the argument when the Prime Minister took a view about clause IV and public ownership. He believed that it was necessary to change that clause and, at the time, I believed that he was wrong. However, he argued his point of view against a great deal of hostility inside the party and he won the day. That is my point to those who are in favour of the agreement.
David Burnside: I think that I am probably the best example on the Unionist Benches tonight. I voted for the agreement, but you are asking me to campaign as an Ulster Unionist Member of Parliament who voted for the agreement. How can you expect me, as someone who feels conned by the agreement
The hon. Gentleman asked Members like me to campaign for the agreement at branch level. Does he not understand that that is impossible when we feel that we were conned by the accompanying promises from the Prime Minister? The hon. Gentleman must know that, as we have repeated the point many times in the House. Sinn Fein has not gone down the democratic route and we will not sit in government with a terrorist, military and criminal organisation. It would be dishonest of us to look the electorate in the face and to campaign on behalf of the agreement as it now stands.
David Winnick: I do not believe that that is the view of the right hon. Member for Upper Bann. He speaks with greater authority on behalf of his party than the hon. Gentleman. There was no conning, and the very fact that the Bill is being introduced now demonstrates the commitment of the Government, together with the Irish
Mr. Roy Beggs (East Antrim): I put it to the hon. Gentleman that words from the IRA will be no more acceptable to the leader of my party than they would be to me and other Unionists in Northern Ireland. The hon. Gentleman must exhort Sinn Fein-IRA to demonstrate their commitment visibly as well as by declaring that the war is over. We must see the decommissioning and the destruction of the weapons and explosives that have been used against us for 30 years.
David Winnick: Of course no one argues with that, and the IRA must demonstrate such action on the ground along the lines that the hon. Gentleman pointed out. I want that to happen. If one drew up a list of hon. Members who have least defended the IRA's activities in any way, I would be very high on that list along with Northern Ireland Members. I doubt whether I would be challenged in any way for the years and years in which I have demonstrated my total opposition to all forms of terrorist activity. If I may reminisce, when I met the top leadership of Sinn Fein 20 years ago this September, I said that no British Government would ever give up Northern Ireland, irrespective of any terror applied, because Northern Ireland could not be given up against the wishes of the majority of the people.
If the IRA demonstrate what the hon. Gentleman and I want to see, I would expect him to argue for the agreement, to defend the agreement and to make the point with which I started and conclude my speech: the fairest way to govern Northern Ireland is through power sharing or inclusive government. That is the only way in which Northern Ireland can be governed in a democratically acceptable way.
Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell): It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Walsall, North (David Winnick). He speaks a lot of sense on Northern Irelandif not necessarily, in my view, on everything else. I have considerable sympathy with his support of the Bill.
We should go back a little and remind ourselves of why the Executive ended: because Sinn Fein-IRA failed to fulfil their part of the Belfast agreement. The situation came to a head when it was discovered that members of Sinn Fein-IRA had infiltrated Stormont. The right hon. Member for Upper Bann (Mr. Trimble) rightly refused to continue to serve as First Minister, which is why the impasse occurred.
In parentheses, it is worth reminding ourselves that the new Chief Constable, Hugh Orde, apologised to Sinn Fein-IRA for the way in which their members were arrested in Stormont for what most of us would consider to be a serious offence. That situation is in marked contrast with what recently happened to Liam Clarke, the distinguished journalist of The Sunday Times who, with his wife and eight-year-old daughter, was woken up by armed police officers at 2 am. He had his study door smashed down although he could provide a key and was held in custody for 23 hours. I hope that the Secretary of
The Secretary of State will recall from his time as Minister of State for Northern Ireland that, although I have always been passionately in favour of the Belfast agreement, I have been critical of the Government at times because they have not fully implemented it. In fact, he and the hon. Members for Newry and Armagh (Mr. Mallon)I much admired his brave speechand for Walsall, North have accused me of not always adopting a bipartisan approach on Northern Ireland. When I was shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, I always said that if I did not think that the Government were right, I reserved the right not to support them and to criticise and disagree with them. I am sure that my successor also reserves that right.
My principal concern has always been that the men of violence, whether so-called loyalist or republican, have all too often got away with it. They have not ended their violence by any stretch of the imagination. As the hon. Member for East Antrim (Mr. Beggs) said in a pertinent intervention, words are not enough; there must be action. I was pleased that the hon. Member for Walsall, North confirmed that that is the case.
We need action: the end to punishment beatings, the end to intimidation and extortion, the end to the surveillance of possible targets and the decommissioning of all illegally held arms and explosives. Some, but not quite all, of the Secretary of State's predecessors, especially the first Secretary of State, Mo Mowlam, have come close to adopting a policy of appeasement. Had they stood up to the men of violence, we would not be having this debate and the Executive would not have been suspended.
As I said when I intervened on my successor as shadow Secretary of State, I believe that when sinners have repented, they must be much encouraged. The Secretary of State has made absolutely the right decision. He said that the decision was difficult. It must have been. No democrat or Parliament loosely and without careful consideration postpones or cancels an election, but the decision was right. Many Conservative Members strongly support the Secretary of State, contrary to the impression that may have been given by my Front-Bench spokesman. Many of those people have great experience of Northern Ireland and have held ministerial office there.
It is important to stand firm. The right hon. Member for Upper Bann was correct, as he so often is, when he said that IRA-Sinn Fein had played their normal clever game. They had given a little, which looked quite good, but it was nowhere near enough. To have succumbed to them by allowing the elections to go ahead and the Executive to be formed again would have been an absolute and complete disaster.
If I may say to the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Mr. Davies), it is a little naive to think that when IRA-Sinn Fein make tiny concessions after doing so little for so long that somehow they should be rewarded, which is what he suggested the Secretary of State should do. I think the opposite and am anxious for
I wish the Government well and will support them in the Division Lobby. It is essential that the House send a clear message to the men of violence by voting by a large majority to suspend the elections for the reasons outlined by the Secretary of State.