Inside Parliament: Rejection for Hume delivered with praise: Major insists Ulster MP's Sinn Fein talks 'not the right way to proceed' - Lamont sceptical over European Union

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Indy Politics
There was no difference between the tears of a Protestant and the tears of a Roman Catholic, Ian Paisley, leader of the Democratic Unionists, said yesterday as for the second Monday in succession the Commons united in horror at a weekend of slaughter in Northern Ireland.

Building on his pulpit truism, Mr Paisley went on: 'These murders come from hell and they lead to hell, and there can be no justification of them on any grounds whatsoever.'

The differences, as exchanges on John Major's statement again made plain, begin with any consideration of a way out of this particular hell. The Prime Minister said his door was open to all the leaders of constitution al parties but gave little indication of anything fresh he might have to say to them.

The Greysteel shooting, which left seven people dead, was, like the Shankill bombing and six other terrorist murders last week, a 'despicable attack on innocent and peaceable citizens', he said. 'These murders will bring the terrorists no advantage, but only the prospect of long years in prison.'

Reporting on the special meeting of the European Council and his talks with Albert Reynolds, the Irish prime minister, Mr Major said the Government would intensify its efforts to restart talks between the constitutional parties. But he rebuffed John Hume, leader of the Social and Democratic Labour Party, saying the plan he worked out with the Sinn Fein leader, Gerry Adams, was 'not the right way to proceed'.

Mr Hume said he had seen a 'real opportunity of achieving a total cessation of violence . . . When I say it is the best opportunity for 20 years that I have seen, and when the Prime Minister describes me in that statement as 'courageous and imaginative', why has he rejected my proposals before he has talked to me about them?' Mr Major was given an account of the Hume-Adams report by Mr Reynolds, but said he was not given the report itself. Repeating his admiration for the 'persistence and courage' of Mr Hume, he went on: 'I have to make a judgement as to whether the actions that are taken will lead to consent, throughout every aspect of the community, which is the irrevocable necessity if one is to have a settlement that will endure for a long period.' Mr Hume's proposals, reached in 'the fashion' they were, would not do that. As if in confirmation, Mr Paisley rose next, warning Mr Major that the people of Northern Ireland were listening very carefully. Would he tell them what detail of the Hume-Adams document had led him to reject it?

The Prime Minister repeated that on the basis of what Mr Reynolds had said, he did not think it would lead to consent across Ireland. 'We need a settlement that will last.'

He was not looking for 'a short-term ceasefire. We are looking for a permanent cessation of violence'. Joe Hendron, SDLP member for West Belfast, said his colleague Mr Hume had 'tried to end one of the killing machines'. He appealed to Mr Major to use his 'good relationships' with the Unionist MPs to get them to 'speak directly to the Ulster Freedom Fighters and the Ulster Defence Association, in any cases where they can, to try and persuade them to end their terrible campaign of violence, the same as Mr Hume has done'.

But Mr Major said: 'I doubt that the constitutional politicians in Northern Ireland have any authority over these murdering butchers. I think that is undoubtedly the case whether the murdering butchers are the UFF or the IRA. We are dealing with people beyond the pale of civilised behaviour.'

European Union, the main business of the Brussels summit, at least for the Continental members, was of secondary importance to most MPs. But it still excites Norman Lamont - a sceptic since he ceased to be Chancellor. Given Mr Major's scorn of the Maastricht timetable for monetary union and the break-up of exchange rate mechanism, what was the purpose of going ahead with the European Monetary Institute now, he wondered.

'What is the EMI actually going to do? Are we not in danger of being drawn into a further bout of fantasy by the European Community, from which we will find it difficult to extricate ourselves?' Mr Major said there was 'much greater realism' across the Community over monetary union.

That same realism lay behind siting the European Monetary Insititute in Germany rather than London, he implied. The decision was 'not surprising' since Britain was not committed to the final stage of EMU.

But John Smith asked: 'How, when Mr Major's policy was to have Britain at the heart of Europe, the result is that the EMI is now to be placed at the heart of Germany? How does he intend to explain to the City of London this latest triumph of his negotiating skills - perhaps a case of 'game, set and match' to the Bundesbank?'

John Prescott, Labour's transport spokesman, warned BR managers planning to join bids to run private services that they might be out of work when his party renationalised the system.

As MPs began consideration of Lords amendments to the Railways Bill, Mr Prescott, who will become employment spokesman after it becomes law, said Labour believed in a public sector railway.

'I hope those managers who seek to make their own bids remind themselves that if it comes back to being a publicly-owned system, perhaps we might look elsewhere for managers to run it, rather than those who have shown their hands.'

MPs had expected to discuss the Bill into the small hours but at 10pm the Government did not move the procedural motion to allow debate to continue. Instead more than 400 amendments, including those dealing with BR's right to bid to run services, will be dealt with today under a guillotine. Labour denounced it as 'an outrage' when MPs were about to go away for two weeks 'unasked-for holiday'.

Even two Tories voiced concern, but Tony Newton, Leader of the House, said the Bill had already had 183 hours of debate in the Commons and Lords.

(Photograph omitted)

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