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Dr. John Reid: Although the hon. Gentleman with his much vaunted history of Ireland is too blind to see it, one of the gains that we get is a compromise from republicans on engaging in dialogue in the House, as I shall point out later. Now that I have told him the gain, will he tell me the answer to a fundamental question that he promised 20 minutes ago, and explain the foundation of Conservative Members' opposition? Do they object in principle to what is being done on facilities or is it the money? If they object in principle to extending the facilities now that the IRA have decommissioned, why did his Government not object in principle when they were blowing up ordinary civilians throughout the country?
Mr. Davies: I will not allow the right hon. Gentleman to get away without taking up the absurdity of his remarks at the beginning of his intervention. I distinctly heard him say that it was necessary to pass the motion to give us opportunities for dialogue with Sinn Fein-IRA. He has an opportunity, as do I or any one of us, to engage in dialogue with Sinn Fein-IRA in Belfast or anywhere else, including London, if they came here. They can come to the House of Commons
Mr. Davies: I shall give way to the right hon. Gentleman if he will sit down for a moment and let me finish my sentence. We have every opportunity for dialogue with Sinn Fein-IRA, to use the right hon. Gentleman's phrase; they can come to his office in the House of Commons any time they choose. The idea that we have to pay them money, travel expenses and an office cost allowance to have a dialogue is absurd. Does he think that whenever he wants to have a dialogue with someone he has to pay them money in advance?
Dr. Reid: The hon. Gentleman is proving himself not only blind but deaf. I did not say that that was necessary to have a dialogue. I said that one of the gains that we all got from the move was to bring Sinn Fein into dialogue in the House. Now that I have clarified that again, will the hon. Gentleman answer the question. Is he objecting in principle or to the money?
Mr. Davies: I shall answer the right hon. Gentleman's question frankly. The proposal is objectionable and problematic in principle, but life consists of making difficult choices. If the right hon. Gentleman did not know that, let me tell him it now.
Mr. Davies: No, no, no. The right hon. Gentleman cannot ask me a question and not even allow me to finish one sentence before he tries to get in again. I am sorryhe will have to sit there until I have finished answering his question.
Mr. Davies: Let me finish; this is important. Under no circumstances are we prepared to contemplate it simply as a kind of goodwill gesture or unilateral concession. Above all, the arrangement is not necessary orif the right hon. Gentleman would like me to correct my earlier quotation of his remarksdesirable to help to promote dialogue. That is utterly absurd and he knows it full well.
Dr. Reid: Now we have it. There is an objection in principle to the facilities of the House being extended to Sinn Fein after the IRA have gone on ceasefire, after Sinn Fein has Ministers and Members of the Assembly, and the IRA have decommissioned. [Interruption.] Can the hon. Gentleman explain why there was no objection in principle from the Tory Government to the facilities being made available when the IRA were not on ceasefire, Sinn Fein was not participating in the Northern Ireland Assembly, and the IRA were bombing and blasting their way through this country?
Mr. Davies: I have already explained exhaustively to the right hon. Gentleman that there is no analogy between the position in Stormont and the position at Westminster. Surely I need not repeat myself a third time on that subject. I have also explained exhaustively that, contrary to what his right hon. Friend the Leader of the House implied at the beginning of his speech, it is certainly not true that the motion would restore the status quo ante. That impression would have been extremely deceptive, had the right hon. Gentleman continued to sustain it. I am glad that he corrected himself and the point has been made clear.
Before I conclude my remarks, I must set out, first, what we find particularly objectionable about the Government's approach to Northern Ireland, and secondly, how the Opposition could do a great deal more to protect this country's interests and facilitate decommissioning.
We object to the Government's policy of endless unilateral concession. We object to the lack of reciprocity, discipline and any sense of how to conduct a businesslike negotiation. We have seen that again and again. The Justice (Northern Ireland) Bill, in which there are further unilateral concessions, had its First Reading today. We saw another example last night, when the regime for
The Government's approach is disastrous. Sinn Fein-IRA do not take it seriously. They know that they have merely to whine, and the Government will keep them happy with some new concession. That has been the story all along.
Our second great objection to Government policy is the extraordinary mind set with which they approach the problem. They seem to think that of all those with whom they might be negotiating in a hard world, Sinn Fein-IRA alone are soft people who will respond generously and sentimentally to concessions. The lack of realism is amazing. It was most graphically represented the other day when the House debated the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill.
As originally drafted, the Bill contained an extraordinary clause whereby the powers taken against terrorism in the Billunderstandably taken, in the present circumstanceswould not apply to terrorism directed against a part of this country. Of course, we objected to that, and the Government accepted the error of their ways and withdrew that pernicious distinction. However, the Government seemed prepared to introduce an anti- terrorism Bill which perversely discriminated against this countryin other words, a Bill that provided a less severe regime for terrorist threats directed against our own citizens than for terrorist threats directed elsewhere. It is difficult to speculate on the mind set that could produce such a distortion.
Mr. Davies: I said that I would not give way to the hon. Gentleman. Did he not hear me the first time? [Hon. Members: "Oh!"] I am sorry that I cannot give way, but the hon. Gentleman will understand that many hon. Members want to take part in the debate. I accept that it is necessary for Front Benchers to take as many interventions as possible and I appreciate that that is what Parliament is about, but there comes a point when one must move on. I am within a few minutes of letting everybody else take part in the debate, if I am allowed do so.
Against the background of completely uncontrolled concessions, the Government's seemingly complete failure to appreciate the need to maintain some balance in their dealings with Sinn Fein-IRA, and an extraordinary tendency to believe that terrorist threats in this country are not as real as those in the rest of the world, it is not surprising that we in the Conservative party have had to review very seriously our policy towards supporting the Government. We would love to get back to a greater