THE SCOTT DEBATE : Unionist demands `seen off' by Major


Chief Political Correspondent

Senior Tory MPs said last night that the Prime Minister had "seen off" the Ulster Unionists' demands for concessions in the Northern Ireland peace process as their price for voting with the Government.

After a day of horse-trading to stave off defeat, ministers said last night's vote showed that John Major was not in the Unionists' pocket.

Douglas Hurd, the former foreign secretary, said: "We saw them off. They were making all sorts of demands at the last minute. You cannot treat the Prime Minister like that."

There were desperate attempts through the day by ministers to prevent the Ulster Unionists from voting against the Government, which they thought had succeeded, until the division at 10pm. Three Labour MPs were "nodded through" because they were too ill. Julian Critchley, the Tory MP, appeared in a wheelchair.

As the vote approached, the Prime Minister called David Trimble, the leader of the Ulster Unionists, to his private office at the Commons in a last-minute attempt to seal a deal before the vote.

Earlier, Sir Patrick Mayhew, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, wrote to the Ulster Unionist MP, Ken Maginnis, to offer a partial concession over plans for elections in Northern Ireland.

The Unionists' vote against the Government came as a shock, but the Government had carefully set about limiting the defections from the Tory benches. In the end, it was that care which was the deciding factor.

The opening speech by Ian Lang, the President of the Board of Trade, seemed lacklustre but it was designed to avoid the bombast of the week before, which had upset some Tory MPs as "over the top". It contained enough acknowledgment that mistakes had been made to sway any waverers.

And the assurances on the future safeguards against Public Interest Immunity certificates were tailor-made for Rupert Allason, the Tory MP for Torbay and author of books about spies.

The Ulster Unionists were angry that the Government was contemplating holding the elections on a single massive constituency for the whole of Northern Ireland, favouring the smaller parties, including Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party, which last night abstained in the vote.

Sir Patrick tried to assure Mr Trimble's official Ulster Unionists that no decision had been reached on the arrangements for the elections. He said it could be made at a meeting of all the parties in "proximity talks" before the elections.

The Unionist leader reported back to his nine-strong team, which met at about 8.15pm in the Commons. They privately rejected the assurances as not enough but refused to tell the Government. They also calculated that if they voted against the Government last night, they could vote for the Government in the confidence motion to underline the importance of their votes over the Government.

A senior Northern Ireland minister said: "They made demands which we would not meet. It's as simple as that."

But Mr Major will seek to avoid any lasting rift. Mr Trimble was at pains to point out that his party's vote against the Government was based on the merits of the Scott inquiry report, rather than a rejection of the draft formula for rescuing the peace process, which is now likely to be unveiled tomorrow at a summit between Mr Major and John Bruton.

Arts and Entertainment
Game Of Thrones
Uh-oh, winter is coming. Ouch, my eyes! Ygritte’s a goner. Lysa’s a goner. Tywin’s a goner. Look, a dragon
tvSpoiler warning: The British actor says viewers have 'not seen the last' of his character
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier leaguePlus updates from Everton vs Palace
people'I hated him during those times'
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Heskey's aim has improved since the end of his English football career

Long after his career in English football has ended, Emile Heskey's impotency in front of goal remains an object of ridicule.

Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleFirst memoir extracts show she 'felt pressured' into going out with the Sex Pistols manager
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late
Lewis Hamilton in action during the Singapore Grand Prix
Formula OneNico Rosberg retires after 14 laps
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam