HC Deb 27 June 1947 vol 439 cc857-73

The limitations and restrictions imposed by the principal Act on the power of the Parliament of Northern Ireland to make laws shall be deemed never to have extended to prevent that Parliament from enacting the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Acts (Northern Ireland), 1922 to 1943, or to prevent the of section one of the Civil Authorities (Special Civil Authority (as denned in subsection (2) Powers) Act (Northern Ireland), 1922, amended by section one of the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act (Northern Ireland), 1933) from making or varying or revoking any regulation thereunder; and, the provisions of the principal Act notwithstanding, the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Acts (Northern Ireland), 1922 to 1943, and each and every regulation made thereunder shall continue in full force and effect until the first day of October nineteen hundred and forty-seven and no longer, unless Parliament otherwise determines.—[Mr. Bing.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

12.45 P.m.

Sir Hugh O'Neill (Antrim)

Before the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) moves, "That the Clause be read a Second time," may I raise a point of Order in regard to it, Major Milner? So far as I read it, the Clause seeks to repeal provisions of an Act of Parliament passed by another legislature within the Empire. I cannot speak on the legal aspect, but it seems to me that if that were done it would be opening a new and doubtful chapter in the constitutional history of the British Empire, and quite apart from that point, which seems to be a very substantial point indeed, this Clause suggests also that the Special Powers Act of Northern Ireland is ultra viresthe Government of Ireland Act, 1920. If that is so, surely the proper procedure is for that point to be tested in the courts? There is provision in the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, for testing any constitutional matter of that kind in the Privy Council. Surely, that is the proper place to do that, and I suggest to you, Major Milner, in view of both the points I have made, that this Clause is not properly in Order.

The Chairman

I have given serious consideration to the point as to whether or not I should call this new Clause, and have also had regard to the fact that it was put in very late—it appeared for the first time on the Order Paper today. I am sure the right hon. Baronet appreciates that the question of importance or merit does not affect the question of Order. I have taken advice and I have come to the conclusion that the new Clause is in Order and that I have no alternative, on the grounds of Order, but to call it. I would point out to the right hon. Baronet that this Bill is promoted largely to remove doubts regarding the validity of certain laws made by the Parliament of Northern Ireland, and there are quite a number of additions under the Clauses of the Bill which directly remove doubts. In the circumstances, I can only say that in my judgment this new Clause i? in Order.

Mr. Bing (Hornchurch)

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time."

I must begin by apologising to the Committee for the fact that this Clause appeared on the Order Paper only at the last moment. I would like to say that those of my hon. Friends and myself who have been interested in this matter in Northern Ireland had hoped that we should be able to carry through the Committee stage of this Bill as expeditiously as possible because of the excellent advice given to the Government of Northern Ireland by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Antrim (Sir H. O'Neill). It was only yesterday in the Northern Ireland House of Commons that the Northern Irish Prime Minister announced that he was not accepting the advice of the right hon. Baronet and in those circumstances it occurred to me that it was only proper to put down a Clause which would clear up the doubts which exist as to the validity of the Special Powers Act. Of course, had the suggestion of the right hon. Baronet been accepted—and after all he made this after discussion with the Northern Irish Home Secretary—it would not have been necessary at this late stage to trouble the Committee with this matter.

This Clause deals with Section 5, which as the Home Secretary has so rightly said, is the sheet anchor of the constitution of Northern Ireland. My submission to the Committee is that the Special Powers Act infringed on the provisions of Section 5 (1) of the Government of Ireland Act. In those circumstances, I thought that the Committee might agree with me that the proper course would not be to put some individual litigant to the expense of going to the House of Lords, but to validate for a period the actions of the Northern Ireland Government and thus give them the opportunity, after 1st October, 1947, to reconsider the position— either by coming to the House to ask for further authority to enable them to carry their Special Powers Act, or else to repeal those portions of the Special Powers Act which they may come to the conclusion infringe the constitution of Northern Ireland. That, shortly, is the object of this Clause.

To deal as shortly as I may with the point of substance involved, in the first place Section 5 (1) of the Government of Ireland Act provides clearly and distinctly that the Parliament of Northern Ireland shall make no law which tends, either directly or indirectly, to take any property without compensation. That is a principle which I should have thought would have commended itself to hon. Gentlemen opposite. It does seem to me a little odd that they should be so anxious where the property of the wealthy people is concerned while disregarding cases which concern poor and -humble folk. One of the first things the Northern Ireland Government did under the Special Powers Act was to make Regulations by which any person authorised by the Home Secretary could seize, under Regulation 18C, any property which he himself considered might be in any way involved in any offence. Let me just give the Committee one or two examples of how that power has been used in dealing, for example, with members of the Labour Party of Northern Ireland.

One of the pre-election raids took place on the houses of members of the Labour Party, and in one case the policeman seized from an officer of the Labour Party a copy of Plato's "Republic." When some criticism was raised the policeman replied, "You are an educated man and should know that we cannot have anybody's republic here." In a second case, concerning this time the chairman of the Labour Party of Northern Ireland, a man in a position of some importance, one of the books seized—I leave aside all standard Socialist works which were taken as a matter of course—was the well-known Irish classic "Twenty Years a Growing," and the argument there advanced was that since the book was written by an Irishman it must be somewhat suspicious. Then the policeman looked round—and I am sure this will interest the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Queen's University of Belfast (Professor Savory)—and proceeded to seize Alexander Dumas' "Twenty Years After." On being asked the grounds for this he said that the book appeared to be a sequel to the first work. It seems to me to be rather a long way round to have to go all the way to the House of Lords to get one's books returned.

I put it to the Home Secretary that it might be desirable that we should consider whether or not these provisions of the Special Powers Act infringe Section 5 (1) of the Government of Ireland Act. If they do, we have offered hon. Gentlemen opposite a Clause which will rectify that, and it is up to them to accept it or not. If they are not willing to accept it, then I think there may be an argument for our not pressing it from this side of the House because the whole validity of the Special Powers Act might be tested. If they think they can stand on a regulation which provides for forfeit when there is a provision in the constitution saying that no property may be taken without compensation, that perhaps is a matter which might be tested, and I will have a word to say to the Home Secretary about this in a moment.

There is just one other aspect of the question which does arise as to whether the whole Special Powers Act from beginning to end is not void. That is a much more difficult and technical point but, shortly speaking, what happened was that in 1920 this Parliament delegated to the Parliament of Northern Ireland powers to make laws for the order and good government of Northern Ireland. Those powers were delegated by the Northern Ireland Government, first to the Home Secretary, then, by a subsequent Amendment, to the Parliamentary Secretary, who is entitled to make laws which have the right to repeal Acts of this Parliament in certain circumstances. These powers have since been further delegated to any police officer or police constable—which means even part-time constables, some of whom are not perhaps quite as impartial as one would like them to be. It seems to me that to delegate powers of legislation to police officers is wrong. The right hon. Gentleman opposite knows of this because a by-election is proceeding in his constituency at the moment and the meetings of his party are actually held in the barracks of one of the police organisations.

Sir Ronald Ross (Londonderry)

On the other hand, the hon. Member's meetings are held without displaying the Union Jack—which he dare not—and-without playing the National Anthem.

Mr. Bing

The Clause at present under discussion does not deal with the propriety or otherwise of using patriotism as a party technique, but I should have thought that one of the first duties of a Northern Ireland patriot would be to obey scrupulously the Constitution laid down for Northern Ireland by this Parliament. If anyone is speaking of union I should have thought that the first act of a Unionist would be to be over-scrupulous in obeying the laws laid down by this Parliament for the conduct of his own country. To return to the point I was making, I do hope that the Home Secretary will consider whether this power to delegate every right to make laws to a part-time police constable—that is the extraordinary power contained in the Special Powers Act—is a proper delegation in the terms of the Government of Northern Ireland Act. I would just mention that in dealing with other matters the Northern Ireland Government have always argued that they could not delegate, and my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast (Mr. J. Beattie) will recall that when he was arguing on the repeal of the Special Powers Act he had quoted against him by a Minister of the Northern Ireland Parliament the maxim Delegatus non potest delegareto explain why he thought it was impossible for the Northern Ireland Government to delegate certain powers. But here they turn round the other way and delegate powers to any part-time police officer. I do not want to take up any more of the time of the Committee in dealing with this. I would only say that it seems to me that at this stage Parliament should take some steps with regard to this Act, because if they do not do it at this stage, some other urgent occasion may occur when the matter will have to be dealt with, and the time may not be so convenient or desirable as is the present, at any rate, for hon. Gentlemen opposite.

Mr. Mitchison (Kettering)

I wish to support the Motion, which I propose to do quite shortly and without plunging any further than is strictly necessary into the domestic controversies of Northern Ireland. I take the view, and submit it for the consideration of the Committee, that enough has been said on this and on other occasions to show that there is very grave doubt whether the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act and all the regulations made thereunder were properly made. If there is very grave doubt I would suggest that the right and the sensible thing to do is to validate what has been done in the past, but not to allow it to continue indefinitely. That is the object of this Clause. On the one hand, it makes it impossible to go back and raise questions as to whether this or that action was rightly taken in the past; on the other hand, it does not continue that protection indefinitely and leaves it open to the authorities in Northern Ireland to consider their position.

I should have thought that enough had been said to make it advisable for them to consider their position and, having considered it, to see whether they are content merely with this temporary extension or whether they wish to put matters on a more certain footing at the end of the period mentioned in the new Clause. For these purposes, the date 1st October, 1947, stands in the new Clause. I cannot necessarily speak for the hon. Gentleman who moved the new Clause, but as far as I am concerned, and, I expect, so far as he is concerned, there would not be much difficulty in a small variation of that date one way or the other. I imagine that the new Clause would be withdrawn if it were accepted in principle on the understanding that the date was not absolutely right and that a little more time would be required for the purpose. That is a matter of detail and not of principle.

I say nothing about the merits of what has happened beyond this, that there appears to be very serious doubt whether the grave steps which have been taken in Northern Ireland have been properly taken under proper orders and regulations. In those circumstances, I suggest that the Committee should do the sensible thing, and that representatives of Northern Ire- land here ought to accede to this view by validating the past, but not continuing indefinitely for the future a state of affairs which, at the best, is doubtful, and which may, they must recognise, have been technically a very serious injustice.

1.0 p.m.

Mr. Ede

It seems to me that my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) has invited us to do what is an impossible task for a legislative and deliberative assembly; that is, to assess the validity of Acts of Parliament for another Parliament. Very few of us are qualified to do that. My hon. Friend is a barrister, and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) is one of His Majesty's counsel, learned in the law; but I am a layman, and my experience with lawyers has been very much the same as the experience of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) with doctors.

Mr. Bing

The Home Secretary will recollect moving Clause 11, which validated another Act of the Northern Ireland Parliament exactly in the same way as this would do.

Mr. Ede

I did so because the advice on which I have to rely, and for which the House pays, was that that was advisable. My view on this matter was expressed by a colleague attending quarter sessions for the first time. He had listened very carefully to the speech made for the prosecution, and then, when defending counsel rose he said, after counsel had been speaking for a couple of minutes, "What is this fellow doing? I understood this case until he started." This House is not a competent body to determine the validity of Acts of this Parliament or other Parliaments. It is frequently said in the course of our Debates that it does not matter what the Minister says in explaining a Bill but what the courts will say when the matter is before them. On the advice I have received, I do not believe that the Acts of which complaint is made are invalid; but I do not regard that as the final issue, for the persons who advise me are not the persons appointed in the final issue to determine whether an Act is constitutional or not. If there is a feeling in Northern Ireland that some of these actions are not merely ludicrous but illegal, the courts are open, and Sections 49 and 50 of the Government of Ireland Act provide for appeal to the House of Lords from any court in Northern Ireland, viathe Court of Appeal, in any case involving a decision on any question as to the validity of any Act of Northern Ireland. In addition to that, and this is very important, Section 51 of that Act has a general saving of the power of His Majesty in Council to refer any question to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and for the right of any person to petition His Majesty for such a reference. What that really means is that, in the case of Northern Ireland, if a subject feels he has a grievance he petitions His Majesty through the Home Secretary of this country, who will submit the petition to His Majesty in Council with such advice as he thinks proper.

Mr. Beattie

Does my right hon. Friend mean that the petition comes through him, or through the Home Secretary in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Ede

I am the Secretary of State whose duty it is to present petitions to His Majesty on matters of this kind arising within the Realm. In my time I do not recall that I have received such an application. I do not know whether prior to my time any petition has in fact been submitted, but if the allegations made today came to me in the form of a petition, it would be my duty to consider them and to make such recommendation in regard to the hearing by the Committee of the Privy Council as the circumstances of the case appear to warrant. This House cannot possibly decide whether an Act of Parliament is valid or not. One of the commonplaces of an Opposition, no matter to what party they belong, is to denounce what the Government propose to do as being unconstitutional. In this country that is a pretty safe charge to make because we have no written Constitution, except for the Parliament Act, and the Constitution is very much what one thinks it is, but in regard to Northern Ireland, the Constitution in this matter is laid down in Section 5 of the principal Act. There it is quite clearly and definitely stated, and if there is any feeling that it has been violated, I should have thought the proper thing to do would be to challenge the issue in the courts.

I have no doubt that even if they were not satisfied with the courts of Northern Ireland the appeal still lies in courts in this country, and, ultimately, under Section 51, to His Majesty in Council. I suggest that the Committee would be embarking on a very dangerous principle indeed if it said we were to consider the validity of an Act passed by another Parliament. As the right hon. Member for Antrim (Sir H. O'Neill) suggested in his point of Order, we would not make this claim in regard to an Act of Parliament of the Union of South Africa, or any of the other great Dominions. There, too, the first appeal, as I understand it, is to the courts of the country in which self-government is being practised and, ultimately, in most of these cases there is an appeal to His Majesty in Council. Quite recently there was a very important constitutional' case brought over from the Dominion of Canada to be argued before the Privy Council.

Mr. Scollan

Is it not the case that there is a very distinct difference here, because Northern Ireland has direct representation in this House?

Mr. Ede

No, we are dealing with these matters which are within the competence of the Northern Ireland Parliament, which this House has said belongs to the Parliament of Northern Ireland. Do not let us forget that the great self-governing Dominions owe their constitutions to Acts of this House. There we have parted with all control of government. Here we have parted with the control of certain matters to a Parliament which is capable of legislating within its own rights within its own territories. The first challenge to the validity of its actions should come in the courts of its own country. If the decision given there does not satisfy the person who has the grievance, he has the right first to come to the courts in this country and, if he so desires, to petition His Majesty in Council. I believe that the Measures complained of are constitutional, but I am not a lawyer. If they are challenged the machinery is open for use by those who have a grievance, and I suggest to this Committee that it will be a very dangerous thing for this House, without the capability of hearing the evidence in a judicial spirit, to attempt to judge the validity of Acts of another Parliament. For that reason I hope my hon. Friend will not press this new Clause.

Mr. Paget (Northampton)

I entirely agree with what my right hon. Friend has said when he says that this House is no place in which to judge the validity of an Act of another Parliament. Indeed, I was rather afraid that in his opening remarks he was falling to some extent into the very fault about which he has expressed an opinion now as to the validity of this Act. This Amendment does not assert that the Act is invalid, but it asserts something quite different— that its validity is doubtful—and if there is any question as to that I would submit, as has already been said, that if this House shows that the validity of this Act is at least in doubt, the right hon. Gentleman can act. He knows that a high judicial opinion in Northern Ireland, when high judicial opinion was still at the Bar, expressed the view on a number of occasions very emphatically that the whole of this Act was invalid. In those circumstances, surely it is clear that the validity of all or part of this Act is doubtful, and what this Amendment suggests is that we do exactly as this House is doing with regard to the Fire Services Emergency Act, not deciding whether it is valid or invalid, but acting upon the basis that it is doubtful and putting those doubts at rest. That is what we ask for here.

Dr. Morgan (Rochdale)

May I interrupt the hon. and learned Gentleman?

Mr. Paget

No, I am sorry I cannot give way. If the Home Secretary takes the view that this is undesirable here and it should be decided in a court, I would remind him of two things, first, that testing anything in a court is for a private individual a very expensive matter; and secondly, Section 51 empowers him not merely to act upon a petition, but to take the initiative in that matter. If the Home Secretary will tell us that he will take the initiative which he is expressly empowered by Section 51 to take, which Section anticipates that he will do it, and bring this Special Powers Act before the Privy Council to consider its validity, or the validity of the orders made under it, then I think, speaking for my friends on this side of the Committee, we shall be fully satisfied and we will not press this new Clause.

Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

I want very briefly to put one further point against this Clause. The whole argument of the hon. Member for Horn church (Mr. Bing) was directed to show that the Special Powers Act is illegal, ultra vires,and unjust. If that is so, why should it be validated? It may well be that actions have been taken by citizens of Northern Ireland who have been unjustly treated under the Special Powers Act, but if that Act be now validated their actions may be brought to an end prematurely. It seems to me to be quite inconsistent to attempt to validate an Act which is called unjust, ultra viresand illegal.

Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and negatived.

First and Second Schedules agreed to. Bill reported, with Amendments; as amended, considered

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."—(King's Consent signified.)

1.16 p.m.

Mr. Delargy (Manchester, Flatting)

I would not like this Bill to have a Third Reading and pass to another place without saying one or two words to speed it on its way. I think the House will agree that we on this side of the House have behaved during the whole course of this Bill with considerable restraint. During the Second Reading four of us spoke and only three Labour back benchers addressed the House then. Those who did speak spoke briefly and to the point. At no stage of this Bill did we attempt obstruction and indeed we could have done so—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)

I do not see what relevance that has to the Third Reading of the Bill. The hon. Member must restrict his remarks to the contents of the Bill.

Mr. Delargy

I was merely leading up to the statement—I am sorry if my introductory remarks have been too long— that all we wished for was certain safeguards in the Bill. We are agreeing, though somewhat reluctantly, to the Bill as amended—reluctantly because the safeguards for which we pleaded during the Committee stage have not been granted to us. We thought that during the Second Reading of the Bill we had been given hope that some good would have come from the other side of the House. I refer to the admirable suggestion made by the right hon. Member for Antrim (Sir H. O'Neill), a suggestion which was welcomed by all of us and was applauded by Members on both sides of the House and by thousands of people outside. Only 48 hours after that remark was made I was addressing a meeting of 10,000 of the right hon. Gentleman's opponents, and when addressing this immense gathering, and after I had paid him the compliment he deserved, those 10,000 people cheered most enthusiastically. That being so, with what distress and dismay have we now heard the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland officially repudiate the admirable suggestion made by the right hon. Member for Antrim. That repudiation does at least prove to this House and to this country that very important things—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Member seems to be dealing with something quite outside the purview of the contents of the Bill as amended, and I must ask him to restrict himself strictly to it and not to go into other matters.

Mr. Delargy

I will bow to your Ruling. I was addressing myself more to what we would have liked to see in the Bill than to what is in it. We agree to the Bill reluctantly, and I was trying to show why we were reluctant that this Bill should pass. Unfortunately, it seems that the Home Secretary, in refusing the various safeguards which we asked for, seems to have the somewhat quaint opinion that the law in Northern Ireland is observed in the spirit and the letter in which it is observed in this country. It is a most quaint opinion.

Sir Hugh O'Neill (Antrim)

On a point of Order. Is it not one of the rules of procedure of this House that, while on the Second Reading we may discuss extraneous points or what we think ought to be in the Bill and so on, on the Third Reading we are definitely confined only to what is actually in the Bill?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The point of Order made by the right hon. Gentleman is the correct position. I have tried to indicate it to the hon. Member and I hope he will abide by it.

Mr. Delargy

Very good, but I was merely saying—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker rose

Mr. Delargy

I have not said it yet.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

No. But what the hon. Member was merely saying was in contravention of the Rule which has been laid down, and I imagined that he was about to raise it again.

Mr. Delargy

I deeply deplore that the Amendments which we suggested were not accepted, and I hope that on some future occasion we will be able to discuss this matter far more thoroughly on a far more important Debate—I refer, of course, to the principal Act of which this Bill is an Amendment.

1.20 p.m.

Mr. John Beattie (Belfast, West)

By this Bill much can be done for the working class people of Northern Ireland provided that the authorities have the will. I would not wish to be described as an opponent of this Bill at any point. I expected to receive a little help towards the definition of the powers already granted, but I failed in my objective. I am as wise now as I was before I started. This Bill has now been given the full power of the Parliamentary machine subject, of course, to financial control which they have not yet received but which I hope they will receive.

I do not know whether the rain which is coming through the windows is the dew of Heaven or the tears of an angry Tory from another place.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I have given instructions for the windows to be closed.

Mr. Mack (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

Is it in Order, Sir, for the hon. Member to move up and down the benches whilst he makes his speech?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The circumstances are a little exceptional.

Mr. Beattie

The disturbance is not caused by any unruly Members of this House. It is caused by an Authority who is supreme over the destinies of all people.

I accept this Bill in principle, and I hope that the Government will be compensated for their labours in this House. Like the hon. Member for Platting (Mr. Delargy), I go away today not altogether in a very cheery mood. The people of Northern Ireland were expecting the Secretary of State to make certain concessions which he has not seen fit to make—

Mr. H. Hynd (Hackney, Central)

Could umbrellas be provided for hon. Members on this side of the House?

Mr. Beattie

I do not know whether the disturbance caused to hon. Members on these benches is due to the rain, or whether it is my voice and oratorical ability which disturbs them. I conclude by saying that whilst the Home Secretary and I have had conflict now and again, I have always thought at the back of my mind that he had a wrong impression in regard to our attitude. I wish to say on behalf of the working classes that the masses of the Irish people will feel very annoyed and disappointed and will regret the action which this House has taken.

1.25 p.m.

Major Haughton (Antrim)

On behalf of those who are associated with me. I welcome the Third Reading of this Measure. There will be no difficulty at all in keeping within Order by sticking to what is in the Bill. I am too constantly reminded of that by the forces of water and electricity which are obvious to us all. I could not allow this occasion to pass without welcoming the provisions which this Bill contains. I was sorry to hear the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Beattie) end what was a very nice speech with a word of dismal foreboding. I think great good can come from this Measure. It provides for extension of water power and of electricity, and for social services equal to those that have been introduced in this country. It also provides an opportunity for industrial expansion in Northern Ireland which will be good for everybody in the realm of employment, housing, etc. I think this Bill will also be welcomed by those firms of international repute who have thought fit, despite the dismal things said by the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Bing) about the conditions over there, to place their industries in Northern Ireland. I am thinking of firms of world-wide repute such as Courtaulds, Nestles and many others. On behalf of all those whom I represent, and on behalf of industry and the working people of Northern Ireland, I welcome the Third Reading of this Bill.

1.27 p.m.

Dr. Morgan (Rochdale)

I welcome and approve this Bill. I know that some of my hon. Friends on this side of the House disagree with sections of it because it has been passed on to a Parliament with which they disagree. I think that social legislation of this character should be put within the power of any Parliament in order to help the working classes and to give them adequate health services and other social needs. I want to make my position clear. I am as much against the present constitution of the Ulster Government, because of the way they have behaved in the past, as any other hon. Member, but I approve of this Bill being given to them on the understanding that their administration of it will be performed in a perfectly judicial honest and impartial spirit, to the benefit of every citizen of Northern Ireland.

1.28 p.m.

Mr. Bing (Hornchurch)

In welcoming this Bill, perhaps I may recall the words of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary when he was introducing it. I quote his words from memory. He said that the way in which the provisions of this Bill are carried out will be a test for the Government of Northern Ireland. I think that all on this side of the House who have spoken in this Debate welcome this Measure in that light. We think that the various provisions in this Bill can be carried out in a fashion beneficial to the people of Northern Ireland. We hope that they will be, but in saying that, it is only right that we should say also that the ultimate authority does not rest with the Government of Northern Ireland. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will remember that the final Section, Section 75, of the Government of Ireland Act lays down very clearly: Notwithstanding the establishment of the Parliament … of Northern Ireland, … or anything contained in this Act, the supreme authority of the Parliament of the United Kingdom shall remain unaffected and undiminished over all persons, matters, and things in Ireland and every part thereof. If the provisions of this Bill are not carried out in the spirit in which it is intended by this Parliament, that will create a situation which we on this side of the House will not tolerate, and we shall have to go back to the Government of Ireland Act.

1.30 p.m.

Sir Patrick Hannon (Birmingham Moseley)

I want to congratulate the Home Secretary on this Bill. I think it is a good Bill, and that it will work very excellent results in Ireland. It represents a new approach, for the first time for long years, between the two sides of the Border. I hope, however, that the present administration in Northern Ireland will respond to the suggestions made in this House today. What everybody desires in Ireland, with its long story of conflict, is that peace shall be restored, and I believe that this Bill paves the way in that direction. I would like to say, particularly as an Irishman in this House, that I congratulate the Minister responsible for this Measure, but let me also say that I have the greatest confidence in the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, who, I believe is one of the great gentlemen of our time. Hard things have been said by both sides in the past. I hope that, when this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament, much of this exasperation will be forgotten and that it will be the means of giving full effect to the objectives which the Home Secretary has indicated.

1.32 p.m.

Mr. Ede

I thank the hon. Member for Moseley (Sir P. Hannon) for the kind words he used about me, and I would like to say this. In the long and troubled history of the relations between Ireland and this country, I think we have established a record on this occasion, for we have managed, with the good will of both sides of this House, to get this Measure through without a Division, unless someone is going to challenge the Third Reading, and I should be most reluctant to say anything which might give them the inclination to do anything of the kind. The Bill enables the Parliament of Northern Ireland to give certain economic and social benefits to the people under its control, and to extend some of those benefits to the people of the other part of the island. I sincerely echo the words used on both sides of the House in expressing the hope that this Measure will be used to the full. I am quite sure that, if it is, it may very well be an important milestone on the road we have to travel in the British Isles together.

1.34 p.m.

Mr. Osbert Peake (Leeds, North)

I should only like, in one sentence, to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the way in which he has conducted this Bill through the House, and also to congratulate my hon. Friends from Ulster constituencies on the great restraint they have shown under considerable provocation.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.