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Baroness Hayman: My Lords--

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, I am sorry but I cannot give way as my time has almost run out. What we have found is that the better the GP the greater

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the hospital referrals. I may have misunderstood what the noble Baroness said. The discussion was about a primary-care led health service. If there are better informed GPs who look after their patients better there is more work in the hospitals and not less.

The noble Lord, Lord Winston, referred to Calman. We are concerned about the costs and the structures of Calman. We estimated that in the past doctors had 46,000 hours of experience before they became consultants. Although opinions seem to vary on this, they will now have between 13,000 and 18,000 hours of experience. There will be dramatic changes. As regards the funding, I understand that the department is aware of the pressure that that will put on hospitals and that that will be taken into account in the planning of the health service.

The noble Lord looked two ways. He wanted all these major services in big centres, and yet he complained that they had them in too many; for example, the Westminster and Chelsea, and the Hammersmith. We cannot have it both ways. I am proud of our health service. I wish to see it continue.

Northern Ireland

4.29 p.m.

Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister on the Anglo-Irish Summit earlier today and its implications for the peace process in Northern Ireland.

    "The Taoiseach and I met in Downing Street this afternoon and agreed a way forward, set out in our communique, copies of which have been placed in the Library of the House. Let me summarise the main points of the approach.

    "First, both Governments condemn unreservedly the IRA abandonment of the ceasefire and subsequent acts of terrorism and call for the immediate and unequivocal restoration of the ceasefire.

    "Secondly, we have confirmed that the two Governments will have no ministerial dialogue with Sinn Fein until the ceasefire is restored. Thirdly, I am glad to say that the Irish Government have now made clear their support for an elective process that is broadly acceptable to the parties in Northern Ireland. We and the Irish Government will conduct further intensive consultations with the parties between now and mid-March. After that, this Government will bring forward for consideration by this House appropriate legislation for the elective process, and we will take other decisions necessary for the peace process to take place.

    "Fourthly, both Governments reaffirm their commitment to all-party negotiations with a comprehensive agenda. These will be convened on 10th June, following a broadly acceptable elective process. Whether those negotiations will include Sinn Fein will depend on whether the ceasefire has been restored.

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    "Fifthly, we have agreed that at the beginning of the negotiations, in order to build confidence, all participants, including Sinn Fein if the ceasefire has been restored, will need to make clear their total and absolute commitment to the principles of democracy and non-violence set out in the Mitchell report and to address, also at the beginning of the negotiations, Senator Mitchell's proposals on decommissioning.

    "Madam Speaker, I believe these agreements and commitments represent a balanced approach to which I hope all the parties in Northern Ireland will be able to subscribe. No-one will find in there all they might have asked for. Equally, no-one need fear that their basic interests and requirements are being overlooked.

    "The approach the Taoiseach and I agreed marks out a clear route to all-party negotiations. We believe that this route is viable and direct. That is why we have set a firm date by which the negotiations will be launched. There is still detail to be filled in, and some important issues to be settled. That is the purpose of the intensive consultations due to start next week and last until mid-March. But we now have a framework and a timescale to address and decide these matters. We are ready to meet all the parties in whatever format best suits them, but I repeat that there can be no dialogue between Ministers and Sinn Fein until the ceasefire is unequivocally restored. That is the Irish Government's position as well.

    "The issues still to be settled include: first, the nature of the electoral system to be used in the elective process. There are strong views for and against different systems. While the decision is for us, we intend first to explore and test all the options in discussions with the parties before coming to our decision on what seems most broadly acceptable; secondly, the nature and role of an elected body that will come out of the elections. Again there are strongly held views, although many believe such a body has a role to play as a forum for peace; and, thirdly, format, structure and agenda of the negotiations themselves.

    "Madam Speaker, we have been discussing these issues intensively with the Northern Ireland parties and the Irish Government for some time now. I would have liked to have been in a position to announce agreement on these issues and to have been able to publish detailed proposals today. There are, however, still gaps to be filled in. That is why we have called for fresh but time-limited consultations to make a last effort to reach agreement on these issues. If I judge it would be helpful I may put forward to the parties, and perhaps publish, specific written proposals during the consultations. At the end of that period, the two Governments will review the outcome.

    "Whether or not final agreement on all issues can be reached during this period, let me make clear that at the end of it, the Government will put forward to this House legislative proposals for elections in Northern Ireland. Decisions on the other outstanding arrangements will also be announced. These decisions will be taken on the basis of a judgment of what is most likely to be broadly acceptable to the parties,

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    and to the people of Northern Ireland. We have decided to act in this way to make clear that the process cannot be held up further if in the end there is still lack of agreement.

    "Madam Speaker, we are taking these decisions upon ourselves together with the Irish Government where appropriate, because we do not believe that the overwhelming desire of the people of Northern Ireland for lasting peace will brook further delay. We are ready to fulfil our responsibilities.

    "There is one other aspect of the communique I should bring to the attention of the House--the suggestion that there could be referendums in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. These could be held on the same day as the proposed election in Northern Ireland. The aim would be to give the people of Northern Ireland the opportunity to speak clearly about their own commitment to peaceful, democratic methods and rejection of violence.

    "The Government will consider with the parties whether such a referendum would be valuable or not. There is clearly room for debate about what the question or questions should be in such a referendum. But we will listen to the views of the parties and make our own views clear at the end of the consultation period.

    "Meanwhile, let there be no doubt about three points: first, that there is no place whatsoever for violence or the threat of violence in the peace process or in the negotiations. Those who advocate violence or do not dissociate themselves clearly from its use or threat by others cannot expect others to go on sitting at the negotiating table with them. Senator Mitchell's report sets out clear principles on democracy and non-violence, makes clear the priority to be attached to the decommissioning of illegal weapons and makes proposals on how this can be tackled. These issues, however difficult, cannot be dodged. They will be on the table at the beginning of negotiations. If it becomes clear that any party is not committed to these principles and this approach, either at the beginning of negotiations or subsequently, there will in our view be no place for them at the table.

    "The second point is that there has never been any justification for terrorism and violence in Northern Ireland. These proposals and the firm commitment to all-party negotiations by a fixed date will remove any lingering shred of obfuscation and pretence about this. Thirdly, the battle against terrorism is being intensified. Co-operation between us and the Irish Government has never been better. We will hunt down those responsible for bombings and killings and maintain security at whatever level it needs to be to protect the citizens of this country as they go about their daily business.

    "Madam Speaker, the people of this country and the Irish Republic have made clearer than ever before their demand for an end to violence. That demand must now be met and the people have the right to expect the violence to stop for good.

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    "The search for peace has been much complicated by the resumption of terrorism on 9th February. But the Government said they would not be deflected from their efforts and we have not been. I am grateful for the support we have received in our efforts from this House, across all the parties. We and the Irish Government are united in our determination to stamp out terrorism and bring lasting peace. With the support of this House I believe we will succeed. But I warn the House that the road ahead may yet be long and stony. The men of violence will not give up lightly. Among them are people who do not truly want peace as we understand it.

    "As we go though the process leading to the negotiations and take the difficult decisions, concerns will be raised from this or that side, this or that interest. We will, of course, take account of all views, but we will not be deflected from our central objective. Because the men, women and children of Great Britain and Northern Ireland demand no less of us. It is their lives and their futures that must be our first concern.

    "Madam Speaker, I commend to the House this approach to negotiations and ultimately to a lasting and comprehensive peace."

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

4.40 p.m.

Lord Richard: My Lords, on behalf of the Opposition, perhaps I may thank the noble Viscount the Leader of the House for repeating the Statement that his right honourable friend has just made in another place. I should like to say at the outset that we welcome the Statement. We believe that the Government are right to pursue that potential road to peace and we therefore support it.

For the sake of clarification, as I understand it there are basically three elements in the route that is now proposed. First, June 10th is now a firm date for the commencement of all-party talks, negotiations, or whatever word one likes to use. Secondly, there is to be some form of electoral process in the period between now and 10th June. Given the pressure of time that that imposes, I imagine that that process will be sooner rather than later. However, I am not clear from the Statement--and I shall be most grateful if the noble Viscount could help us in this respect--of precisely what it is that the electoral process is designed to produce.

I believe that the right honourable gentleman the Prime Minister says in the Statement that perhaps it could provide a forum for peace. Can the noble Viscount say whether it is intended that the elections are to be held in order to produce negotiating teams with a negotiating mandate to go into the negotiations on June 10th, or whether there is some other reason for them which is not set out in the Statement?

Thirdly, as I understand it, preliminary talks over the details are to start very early; indeed, I believe that someone has said as early as the beginning of next week. A possible fourth element is the idea of having a referendum. I assume that that would be a referendum

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both in Northern Ireland and in the Republic, although, again, that is not clear from the Statement. Of course, that may be because the right honourable gentleman is speaking for this country and not for the Irish Republic. If the noble Viscount can tell us that that is how it is envisaged, we would be grateful.

One's immediate comment is that clearly it is most important now to ascertain what the attitude of Sinn Fein will be to this route towards all-party talks. Sinn Fein has urged all-party talks for a very long time. It seems to me that Sinn Fein now has a very clear and obvious route whereby those concerned can get the all-party talks for which they have been pressing. We would obviously prefer--indeed, everyone would--that Sinn Fein were part of the whole process and taking part in the talks. However, I very much agree with what the noble Viscount said: Sinn Fein cannot run them and it cannot be in charge of the process. It is right that Sinn Fein should have to accept the Mitchell principles, if I may call them that, before its members fully participate in the all-party talks. On one point of detail in that respect, is it envisaged that Sinn Fein should accept those principles before the talks start, or will they be on the table when they all sit down in order to try to negotiate?

Those are not minor points but they are, perhaps, peripheral ones for today. I believe that the best we can do today is to welcome the progress that has been made and emphasise yet again how important it is that the two Governments march in step on the whole issue. We wish the process well, and hope that it will succeed.

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