HC Deb 22 April 1969 vol 782 cc262-324

3.46 p.m.

Mr. Speaker

Before I call the hon. Member to move the Adjournment Motion, may I remind the House that many Members not only from Northern Ireland but also from England and Scotland wish to speak in this brief but important debate. From time to time I appeal for short speeches, and sometimes the House responds; I hope that it will do so today.

Mr. Paul B. Rose (Manchester, Blackley)

I beg to move, That this House do now adjourn.

You were kind enough yesterday, Mr. Speaker, to grant me leave, under Standing Order No. 9, to move the Adjournment of the House in connection with the situation in Londonderry and the stationing of troops at key installations in Northern Ireland. I should like to take the opportunity of being the first Member of the House to welcome the new Member, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin). [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]

The events in Northern Ireland this weekend are a classic illustration of unheeded warnings from my hon. Friends on this side of the House. An almost uncontrollable situation has developed because too little has been done too late.

In the debate on Northern Ireland on 22nd February, 1965, before this situation had developed, I then advocated the setting up of a Royal Commission to investigate the grievances in Northern Ireland.

Alas, the time for Royal Commissions is past. And the fault lies largely with hon. Gentlemen opposite from Northern Ireland, who on that occasion flatly refused to acknowledge that there was any cause for concern or anxiety at all about civil rights and discrimination in Northern Ireland. They were rightly concerned with the potato subsidy. The hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) informed the House that 36 per cent. of the nation's pigs come from Northern Ireland. But not a word about discrimination or civil rights. We also faced the convention of non-interference, a convention which in that debate prompted my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy) to ask you, Mr. Speaker, what, apart from Short Brothers and Harland and Wolff, we could mention in a debate on Northern Ireland.

That convention is dead. It was killed when my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) was seen by millions of television viewers, his head streaming with blood after a vicious batoning while surrounded by a group of members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. If anybody challenges that statement I have a photograph with me which illustrates the point.

It is the tragedy of this situation—I cannot stress too much the delicacy of the situation today—that it was not until heads were broken in Londonderry that the attention of the British Press, public and Parliament was focused on Northern Ireland. It was not until violence again erupted in Derry and other parts of Northern Ireland this weekend that the Unionist Chief Whip announced the possibility of universal suffrage in local government elections, a principal plank in the civil rights campaign.

Why should it be necessary to wait until a situation is out of control before elementary demands for human rights are met by the Unionist establishment? Formerly references to the John Bull's political slum or the deep south of British politics were the prerogative of an occasional article in the quality Sunday newspapers.

There were far too few people with the foresight to see what was on the horizon in Northern Ireland. Perhaps Captain O'Neill was one of them, but his tragedy is that he has failed to take a firm grip of his own party and carry through the much needed reforms at a time when their passage might significantly have affected the course of events in Northern Ireland. Now he is seen as a man on the run; as a man who is forced into one reluctant concession after another as the civil rights movement gains momentum and as a man caught in the cross-fire because of the even more violent reaction of the Paisleyite extremists I hear that the arch-demagogue Paisley has ordered his men into the streets. As The Times correspondent wrote yesterday: One of the immediate dangers shown up by the week's events is that the extreme Protestants are apparently inflamed both with anger and some fear at Miss Bernadette Devlin's success at the Mid-Ulster by-election and that groups of them are apparently still being organised and led on almost military lines in the sort of counter demonstrations that always bring about the worst form of street riots. For me, violence from whatever side it comes must be deplored by this House. There is a grave danger that the obduracy of the Unionist establishment has created a situation in which the responsible leaders of the civil rights movement are now losing control over their own followers, who are becoming more and more inflamed by the grievances that they have voiced.

Where does the blame lie? I ask hon. Members to go to Strabane and see one-third of the adult population unemployed, or to go to Newry and see boys who have never worked and who have very little prospect of getting jobs, not only because of blind economic forces which occur elsewhere, but because of a system of discrimination in employment which stigmatises them from the day they leave school. They should go to Dungannon and see housing estates segregated as though they were something dreamt up by the warped mind of a Dr. Vorster.

They should go to Derry and see the symbol of Unionist power gerrymandered in such a way that it allows just over one-third of the population to exercise control over the majority of the people of that city. They should go to the now legendary Bogside area and see the squalor and desperation that has made Derry the symbol for Northern Ireland that Jarrow was for the British Labour movement in the '30s. This is a city where houses cannot be built in two small wards for fear of upsetting the political power of the Unionist establishment in the area.

When the police go into Bogside they receive a reception which only an occupying Power would receive, and their brutality on occasion has been attested to, certainly to my satisfaction, by onlookers who have been present when civil rights marches have taken place and by many residents of the area.

Writing in the Observer last weekend, Mary Holland described how two policemen pinned a boy of about 15 in a shop doorway while a third policeman batoned him in the stomach and how an old man, on coming out of a public house, was batoned to the ground by a policeman, who went on beating him about the head.

Violence has escalated on both sides and, with all the authority that I can summon—it is bound to be limited, coming from someone on this side of the Irish Sea—as Chairman of the Campaign for Democracy in Ulster and having supported this campaign since I first came to the House, I appeal for calm and an end to violence in Northern Ireland.

What has burning post offices to do with what was a moral crusade for the elementary right to a house and for the right to vote at a local government election, which 26,000 of our citizens—citizens of the United Kingdom—are currently denied, where there is this fantastic system of company votes which allows one person in Derry to exercise 52 votes in local government elections? What has it to do with the allocation of houses on a sectarian basis by party bosses?

The situation in Northern Ireland is bad, but it is not yet an Alabama or a Prague. While there can be no passive acceptance of injustice, of the continued strangle-hold of the Orange Order and of the Unionist Party, which deliberately stimulates sectarianism to divide citizen from citizen, I do not believe that the case for civil rights will be best advanced by violence.

Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that while he has called for calm he is using words in a way that is like putting petrol on flames?

Mr. Rose

I called, with all the authority that I could summon, limited though it is, for calm and an end to violence on both sides in Northern Ireland. If that does not satisfy the hon. Gentleman, what will?

As I was saying, I do not believe that the aims of the civil rights movement can be best achieved by violence, because in the end those who will suffer will be those who have for too long been oppressed. A generation has grown up in Northern Ireland who are not prepared any longer to tolerate the kind of mediaeval bigotry that one sees in the graffiti on the walls of Belfast asking us to 'Remember 1690', along with various obscenities about the Pope and the Queen. The new generation is concerned with 1969 and the fact that we in Britain cannot sign the European Convention on Human Rights in its entirety because of the situation in Northern Ireland, and in particular because of the position under the Special Powers Act.

It has been said that the South African Government would give its right arm for the Special Powers Act; for the right to arrest without warrant, to imprison without charge or trial and deny recourse to habeas corpus or a court of law, to permit punishment such as flogging, to deny the claim to trial by jury, to do any act involving interference with the rights of private property, to prevent the access of relatives or legal advisers to a person in prison held without trial and to prevent and prohibit the holding of an inquest after a prisoner's death. These powers exist under the Special Powers Act in a part of the United Kingdom over which this Parliament has control.

Let us get one thing clear; we are not talking today about the Border but about civil rights. The Border may have been a tragedy and evil, but it is there, and Mr. O'Higgins of the Fine Gael Party in the Republic of Ireland recently stated his position. He said that his party was opposed to force as a means to end partition. Nevertheless, I understand that the Republic of Ireland naturally has a legitimate interest in the situation. I hope that any talks that take place between my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and Mr. Lynch will be fruitful in this respect. I believe that this is a British problem and not a United Nations one.

I consider that the Border will wither away when people of all denominations in Northern Ireland rediscover a common bond of humanity. It will not be removed by senseless acts of violence like the explosion at the Silent Valley Reservoir in the Mourne Mountains, probably a misnomer, or electricity pylons near Armagh. There are too many borders in people's minds that must be broken down and the only way to deal with this situation is to see that everybody in Northern Ireland has the same rights as every member of the community in the rest of the United Kingdom.

Let us follow the example of Mid-Ulster and accept the issue which faces Northern Ireland as it was stated at that election; that it is not a question of the Border but a question of whether we shall give to the people of Northern Ireland the same rights and privileges that we expect on this side of the Irish Sea. It is as simple at that.

It is no good saying that we cannot ensure this. The Government have their hands full with, for example, Mr. Lardner Burke and the International Monetary Fund, but this is a part of the United Kingdom over which we have ultimate control under Section 75 of the Government of Ireland Act. We cannot remedy all the grievances at once. We cannot immediately remedy the manifest discrimination against Catholics in the legal profession, in the top Civil Service or against Catholic and Labour members and trade union representatives on Government bodies. I do not have time to detail the figures. However, we have enough power, certainly financially—with the £120 million subsidy, through strings which can be attached to Government finance and through the direct assumption of power, to ensure that Ulster is brought into the 20th century.

It is no use waxing eloquent as some of my hon. Friends and I myself do over Rhodesia while we have this mess to clear up in our own backyard. I remember moving an Amendment to the Parliamentary Commissioner Bill to the effect that we ought to have a Parliamentary Commissioner in Northern Ireland. I remember moving a similar Amendment on the Race Relations Bill to include a provision on religious discrimination and to extend it to Northern Ireland. My pleas at that time were unheeded, but now, unfortunately too late to have any effect, we have an Ombudsman for Northern Ireland. If we can apply the Prices and Incomes Act to Northern Ireland, surely there is nothing we cannot do from this Parliament.

A number of concessions have been made, but the Government of Northern Ireland have not so far undertaken to establish the British standards of universal adult suffrage to which I referred. They have not yet undertaken to exclude the gerrymander; and one man one vote is not one man one vote without the exclusion of the gerrymander. There is no proposal to have the equivalent of the Race Relations Act in Northern Ireland. There is no proposal so far to prevent discrimination on public boards, local authorities and large companies. There is no real undertaking with regard to a satisfactory solution of local authority housing allocations. It is true that the Government of Northern Ireland have now proposed what we have always proposed—a points system; but this will be open to modifications by the local authorities on the spot. The Unionists have still not set up an inquiry into the events in Derry in October.

I would ask the Government of Northern Ireland also to remove the Special Powers Act. We have been told a great deal about parity in legislation, but even when it comes to trade union legislation our Trade Disputes Act, 1965, which reversed Rookes v. Barnard, does not apply to Northern Ireland. Workers there have to contract in instead of contracting out. But above all, I believe it is electoral law and electoral practice in Northern Ireland that have to be changed, the gerrymander of wards, the siting of polling booths, widespread personation and the kind of intimidation we saw even during the election of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster. These are things that have to end. Hope has to be given to the minority that they can participate as full, first-class citizens in a part of a nation where, to its shame, they are denied their full human dignity. I can well understand the reluctance of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to take over police powers in Northern Ireland and put himself, perhaps, on what might be considered the wrong side of the barricades. But as is sometimes pointed out, the Ulster police force—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Rose

As The Times pointed out, the Royal Ulster Constabulary is a very weak force and has to resort to rough tactics, sudden baton charges and the use of water cannon to maintain any form of control. It was said in the same article that only sheer luck so far has prevented loss of life. The problem is that its auxiliary force of B specials are entirely unacceptable as a supplementary force because of their sectarian and political background. There can be no confidence in their impartiality or, in my submission, in the impartiality of the Unionist Government. Therefore, I ask my right hon. Friend to be decisive, to strip them of their power if necessary, while simultaneously granting the elementary demands for human rights in Northern Ireland. I ask also for a crash programme of economic development in Northern Ireland, particularly in the area west of the Bann, for a reversal of the policies which led to the resignation of Mr. Copcutt over the siting of the new town of Craigavon, and of the denial of a university to Derry which should be an area of regeneration economically to revitalise what has become a forgotten corner of the United Kingdom.

I worry when I hear of people at a Unionist conference putting down a Motion asking for "resolute action" against what it calls "a disruptive minority masquerading as champions of human rights"; and I am sad when I hear my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster saying, as she did the other day, that it is too late for us to do anything now, that we should have done it long ago, and referring to "a state of civil war in Northern Ireland". I can only say it need not be so. If we act resolutely, if we have the guts to make a final ultimatum to the Northern Ireland Government, if we have the guts to tell them they must act decisively or abdicate responsibility to Westminster for a period during which the Unionist stranglehold can be broken, we can prevent the situation escalating.

I am very much in two minds about the sending of troops. I agree they are needed to defend locally key installations, but the trouble is that they can be a continuous provocation to those who, rightly or wrongly, look on this as an occupation by a foreign Power. If we are to send our lads there let us keep them in khaki guarding isolated urban installations and not post offices in Belfast or Derry, for then they may be the recipients of the anger and antagonism of the civil rights movement or the Paisleyite extremists. Defending power stations is one thing; guarding post offices in Belfast is another.

Mr. Henry Clark (Antrim, North)

The hon. Gentleman refers in a rather possessive way to "our lads in khaki". Surely he is perfectly well aware that the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom are the Armed Forces of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and are just as much our Forces as his.

Mr. Rose

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has accepted my point that this is our country and that our country includes Northern Ireland and that therefore we have a right to talk about Northern Ireland, something that we have not done for 18 months and which we were unable to do under the Convention when hon. Gentlemen opposite persistently raised this as a point of order to prevent hon. Members like myself from giving warning four years ago of what was going on in Northern Ireland.

Finally, there are some very serious questions that we have to ask about the use of military force. Who has authority in peace time over the Armed Forces? Is it the civil power? If it is the civil power, which civil power is it? Is it the civil power in Westminster or in Stormont? The forces cannot and must not be at the disposal of the Northern Ireland civil authorities.

Mr. Roy Roebuck (Harrow, East)

Is my hon. Friend aware of the evidence given to a Select Committee by Lord Haldane in 1908 on the use of the military in cases of civil disturbance, in which it was made abundantly clear that soldiers are merely used in their capacity as civilians and citizens and not as Armed Forces in such a situation?

Mr. Rose

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has given me a great deal of information on this point. The concern that I feel is over whether that civil authority will be the civil authority here or the Government of Northern Ireland.

Finally, I do not believe we can abdicate our ultimate responsibility and play Pontius Pilate in this. It is a responsibility which we in this House must accept to ensure that all our citizens, of all religions and of all races on both sides of the Irish Sea, are accorded the same rights, privileges and responsibilities which we must accept in a great democracy. Let not our good name be tarnished by a Selma or a Watts in the mother of democracy. Let us meet this challenge and show that like the civil rights movement across the barriers of religion and community, as one people we can, we must and we shall overcome.

4.9 p.m.

Mr. R. Chichester-Clark (Londonderry)

I should be the last to wish to raise the temperature of a debate conducted in an atmosphere as grave as this. However, I shall perhaps be forgiven, and will cause no offence, if I reiterate what I have always believed; namely, that the Englishman has not yet been born who understands Ireland, North or South. For that reason, the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) showed what seemed to me genuine astonishment when he was interrupted by my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls), who asked whether the hon. Gentleman was pouring petrol on the flames. The hon. Gentleman may well find that some of the things which he said, when they are read at home, cause more trouble than he intended.

I must answer one point which the hon. Gentleman made. He referred to the Bogside. I had some experience of this last weekend. The hon. Gentleman suggested that it was impossible for the police to go in there because of the welcome they would receive. The police regularly patrol that area, and the occurrences to which the hon. Gentleman referred have been very rare indeed—almost unprecedented. The hon. Gentleman somewhat overpainted the picture of hostility between the two communities. I know that there have been grievances and strong feeling between groups of people, but for the most part the two communities have lived amicably together for years.

I propose to ignore what the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) said yesterday. I do not believe that this is the kind of issue which we wish to discuss if we can avoid it. The right hon. Gentleman was acting as the rogue elephant of his party.

Yesterday in the House I sought to make a distinction between the activities of the hard core of the Irish Republican Army or its splinter groups and those of the so-called civil rights movement. I believe that I was right to do so. I did it deliberately because it is important that the House should recall what happened in Northern Ireland from 1956 to 1962. At that time the I.R.A. was very active. Six policemen were killed and a number of others were wounded. A Constable was shot from behind a church wall on a Sunday. Others were wounded. Millions of £s worth of damage was done.

During the night before last a number of post offices in Belfast were attacked. Some were gutted and others were badly damaged. All the attacks are believed to have occurred within about ten minutes, which hardly suggests the casual work of a disgruntled civil rights worker returning from a peaceful sit-down at the front of the city hall. It is worth remembering that an attack on a post office constitutes an attack on one of the services specifically reserved to Her Majesty's Government. On the same night a bomb explosion wrecked the main water supply pipe for the Silent Valley reservoir, as a result of which a great many people in Belfast and in the surrounding districts were without water. I think that they are still without water. Some of my hon. Friends were affected, and no doubt they can confirm what I say. I understand from people who have seen it that this was not the work of an amateur. Indeed, it undoubtedly suggests the work of the I.R.A. possibly its splinter group, or a reasonably well-organised body of that kind.

The I.R.A. has not been dormant over the last few years. I need mention only the incidents in 1967–68 for which the I.R.A. claimed responsibility, which it does not by any means always do. There was the tarring and feathering of a gentleman named T. G. McGuinness for being an informer. There was a raid on the Newtownbreda bank to increase party funds. Two Territorial Army centres were destroyed and another centre was attacked. There have been incidents this year, too, and I do not think that the I.R.A. would deny them. Time is likely to show that what happened two nights ago in the incidents to which I have referred was almost certainly the I.R.A.'s work or the work of a dangerous splinter group which regards the acts of its larger brother organisation as being far too tame.

In those years, British troops were used not just for guarding key installations but for bomb disposal and helicopter and spotter plane work. They were used for anti-I.R.A. patrols on the Border and in the Border areas. That is not what the Home Secretary is asking of them today. They are merely being asked to do static guard duty at key points essential to the life of the community.

I am satisfied—no doubt this will be challenged—that the I.R.A. has resumed its activities. It will not admit the activities of the last two nights. It wants them to be regarded as part of a spontaneous uprising against alleged oppression. It has chosen, from its point of view, an optimum moment, when the police forces of Northern Ireland are stretched to their utmost. Whether these activities are being carried out by I.R.A. flying squads operating over the Border or internally, I cannot tell. But there is undoubtedly knowledge—we have known this over the years—that bodies of men belonging to this organisation have drilled in the country across the Border. The Republican Government in the South would be well advised to keep very close surveillance to see whether this is going on now. Perhaps the Home Secretary will draw this to the attention of the Minister who is responsible for these matters.

The Home Secretary is merely allowing the use of troops to guard key installations. This might happen in any part of the United Kingdom. I only hope that the same situation will not have to be faced in any other part of the United Kingdom.

I turn to the events of last weekend in Londonderry. I was an eyewitness to a good many of them. On Saturday, a march from a place which will be only too familiar to some—a place of tragedy, I agree, called Burntollet—was banned on the order of the Minister for Home Affairs. Reports of subsequent events are still somewhat confused. But, as is reported, it is clear that one of the leaders of the so-called civil rights movement—a Mr. Ivan Cooper, now Member of Parliament for Mid-Derry at Stormont—stated categorically that he believed that the ban on the march was justified.

Despite the ban, small groups of people assembled. Certain rival factions were present, but not very much happened. Later in the afternoon groups of demonstrators sat down in some of the streets of Londonderry below the centre of the town. Above them, in the area known as the Diamond, there were a number of youths waving Union Jacks. At some point there was stone-throwing between the two factions. The police intervened, and for a long time they were subjected to a barrage of stones, pieces of iron, bottles and bulbs from Belisha beacons, and running battles followed. The youths with the Union Jacks melted away and were not seen much for the rest of the night. The early evening and much of the night was undoubtedly extremely ugly. Quite a lot of it has been seen by hon. Members on television. On other occasions—and this matter has been treated with scorn by some hon. Members; I hope that they will be patient with me if I say it again, because it is true—I.R.A. leaders and agitators of a different kind have been seen taking part in these so-called civil rights demonstrations.

Mr. William Molloy (Ealing, North)

If the Government of Northern Ireland had long ago conceded decent and dignified human rights to the minority, the I.R.A., if the hon. Gentleman's argument is correct, would not have been able to cash in on the disturbances which have taken place recently.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

That is a point of view. I shall come to that as I go along. On this occasion the evidence of the television was slightly different as I saw it with my own eyes. It seemed to me that those who could be seen throwing pieces of paving stones, waving their clubs, and pushing in windows of police barracks were rather different. It seemed to me that with few exceptions they were gangs of youths of 16 or 17 who were goading each other on and very much enjoying the sound of breaking glass. It struck me that on the evenings when they are not indulging in these practices they are not the types of people who necessarily spend a long evening in the intellectual contemplation of the evils of the local government franchise in Northern Ireland or in deep contemplation of other aspects of other people's civil rights. Be that as it may, there was an outbreak that night and the police were attacked with petrol bombs on more than one occasion.

Much has been made of the fact that shots were fired by the police. I happen to know how this occurred, and I saw afterwards the van or water hose carrier, whatever it may be called, which was attacked. In this case it was, I gather, tilted on to one side and a petrol bomb was thrown inside. Those inside, rather than face being incinerated, jumped out. They were surrounded by a hostile crowd. To disperse the crowd, one of them fired a number of shots over the heads of the crowd. I see nothing much wrong with that.

I was in Londonderry on the following day—all day. I visited the Bogside area. So did certain other people who are in the House today. I visited not only that area but the Unionist areas as well. I do not know whether others in the House visited that area as well. However, I felt it right to have as clear a perspective as possible and to see as much as possible of the riot-affected areas.

I hope never again to see not just so much broken glass but so much stark human misery unnecessarily caused as I saw on that day. It was misery which was shared on all sides. There was anxiety everywhere. People were clearly very frightened indeed. Much of this was caused by that Saturday night riot.

I am bound to record, however, that not all of it was caused by that. In view of the kind of story which is put out by Mary Holland, I think it right that something should be said on the other side, too. I found people, in this case in Unionist parts of the city—no doubt we shall hear other stories from the other side—who were living alone. There were elderly women who had been awakened at night by the singing of various civil rights songs outside. Then came the ring of the doorbell. Then pieces of burning paper were pushed through their letterboxes. [Interruption.] We shall hear the other side of the story. I know that this kind of thing goes on. It must be recorded that it is not just on one side. I found one street where there are elderly people—most of them women living alone—who were really very upset by the situation.

Mr. Simon Mahon (Bootle)

The hon. Gentleman is accusing youth of this sort of behaviour in Londonderry, but is it not true that any Member would put youth in an entirely different category from the Londonderry police, who have been responsible for exactly the same sort of behaviour?

Mr. Chichester-Clark

This is the kind of allegation which is not usually made by the hon. Gentleman, whose views I normally listen to with great respect. However, he has not been there; he knows nothing about it. I shall come to the question of the police in a few moments. I think that the hon. Gentleman has made a most irresponsible remark.

These people were awakened on several nights by people outside singing civil rights songs and shouting, "Break all the bloody glass". This is the sort of thing which I fear is done in the name of civil rights. This is an area in which the people have shown nothing but a desire to live in peace. They have taken no part in any of these activities. My sympathy goes out to the ordinary people of Londonderry who have not taken part in these things—to the shopkeepers and businessmen whose Saturday trade has been ruined. Some of them are even thinking of leaving the city. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The House has listened to one side quietly. We must hear the other side.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

I think, too, as the hon. Member for Blackley does—I accept his sincerity—of those who are wondering where work is coming from. What will they think about these things? They are now wondering which industrialists will be deterred from coming to Londonderry.

Mr. John Lee (Reading)


Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) is not giving way. The hon. Member for Reading (Mr. John Lee) must resume his seat.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

This is the tragedy. Londonderry was literally on the verge—perhaps it had even crossed the verge—of an industrial breakthrough. The hon. Member for Blackley is an assiduous reader of the papers from across the way. I need not recite all the facts and figures. He knows how many jobs have been provided there over the last two years. He knows how many have been provided over the last year. He knows how many more there are in the pipeline. I accept the hon. Gentleman's sincerity. I know that he is as anxious as I am to bring work to that city; I am perfectly certain of that.

An Hon. Member

The hon. Gentleman is?

Mr. Chichester-Clark

I have fought very hard for jobs for Londonderry. That should be within the recollection of even the hon. Gentleman. It is certainly within the recollection of the Secretary of State.

I want to say a few words now about the police. They have been greatly maligned. If anyone wants to create real trouble in any country, if it is desired to create anarchy, if it is desired to have a mini-revolution, the textbook way is, "Discredit the police". Hon. Gentlemen must in fairness accept that there is an element of this going on—a deliberate attempt to discredit the police.

I can only say that what I saw on Sunday convinces me that the conduct of the police deserved the very highest praise. There was the occasional exception. One was shown on television where a policeman who had been pelted among his colleagues for many minutes with stones and other missiles picked up a stone and lobbed it rather gently back. [Laughter.] Yes, I have the evidence of my own eyes. The missile fell far short. I wonder whether hon. Gentlemen think that the figures showing 216 policemen injured—one in danger of losing his sight, two with fractured jaws, others with serious abdominal injury and head wounds, most of those still in hospital—against about 80 civilians treated for injuries present a picture of police brutality? Does it? From what I saw of some of the brutality used against the police—perhaps "brutality" is too strong a word to describe what I saw, though I saw some of this—I am surprised that more policemen did not lose control of themselves.

I come down strongly in praise of the work of the police as I saw them. I only hope that those who recklessly pit themselves against the forces of law and order will pause to remember that if they get hurt the policemen are human beings, too. There has been some danger in the last few days of forgetting that.

I want to say a few words, too, about the civil rights movement itself, so-called. [HON. MEMBERS: "And civil rights."] I have said plenty about civil rights in the past. I use the phrase "so-called" advisedly because I believe that the time has come for the Press and other media to consider whether it is wise, just or fair any longer to use the description "civil rights" at all.

I accept that at the beginning there were people who sincerely believed that they were joining a movement which would do something for its country, but there have been a great many resignations from the civil rights movement over the last few weeks and months. [An HON. MEMBER: What about the Unionist Party?] There was a General Election there recently on the basis of one man one vote, and more Unionist Members were returned to Parliament than ever before. I do not wish to pursue this. I accept that that is a partisan point.

I believe—and I ask the House to treat this seriously—that hon. Gentlemen opposite should withhold their jeers, because it is my view that months ago infiltration into the civil rights body began from the I.R.A., from Communist elements, and latterly from the student element, of a kind to which many countries all over Europe have become accustomed during the last few months.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon (York)


Mr. Chichester-Clark


Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way to me?

Mr. Chichester-Clark

Were I to give way I should certainly choose an hon. Gentleman opposite to give way to. I am sure that he would know more about this subject than does the hon. Member for Orpington.

Any area where old antagonisms can be stirred and exploited is an inviting target for the activities of such a body, and where the divisions are of a religious nature, how much easier is it to exploit the situation, and how much more tragic that it should be so exploited. I know that many hon. Gentlemen opposite believe that the Northern Ireland Government are an oppressive régime. They believe, further, that an oppressive régime and its supporters will always spin stories about Communist infiltration. That being so, I suggest to the Home Secretary that if what I have said is disbelieved by hon. Gentlemen opposite he should send five or six of his best C.I.D. men to Ulster, at the invitation of the Northern Ireland Government, and let them have every facility to look into what is going on there.

Mr. Lubbock


Hon. Members

Give way.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Londonderry is obviously not giving way. Interruptions prolong speeches, and many hon. Members wish to take part in this debate.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

I have already given way, and I must get on with my speech.

The truth of the matter is that the creators of the civil rights movement, sincere as many of them were, have inadvertently created a monster over which they now have no control. Hon. Gentlemen opposite should ask Mr. John Hume. I no longer believe that this body calling itself the C.R.A. has more than an incidental interest in civil rights.

Hon. Members

What about civil rights?

Mr. Chichester-Clark

I hope that I may be wrong, but it may be that hon. Gentlemen opposite will exert pressure for the removal of some grievance, or alleged grievance, of one specific nature—[Interruption.] I shall make my speech and leave hon. Gentlemen opposite to make theirs.

Perhaps I am wrong, but I ask the right hon. Gentleman to realise that it may be that there is no alleged grievance of a specific nature the settling of which will bring the agitation which is currently present to an end. I believe that things have got beyond that. I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite to think, and to think again, before they show any further encouragement to marches, protests and countermarches in Northern Ireland.

The phrase "civil rights" is a very evocative one, and it brings to mind Martin Luther King. One remembers the words that he used about his supporters. He said that they meant to join society, not to overthrow it. Perhaps more hon. hon. Gentlemen opposite should go to Northern Ireland—it is not so expensive to get there—to obtain the necessary knowledge and satisfy themselves that some of these people really mean to join society and not to overthrow it.

I am not at the moment hopeful of a great détente between the communities there in the present atmosphere. I support the Home Secretary in the action that he has taken to restore law and order in those places where it has broken down. I support the right hon. Gentleman's attempts to return things to normal, and I appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite to support the Home Secretary with their voices, too.

I have said many times in this House—and I think that some hon. Gentlemen opposite realise this—that the scars which exist in Ulster are historical scars. They go back for many years. Things cannot be changed overnight. If the last General Election in Northern Ireland showed anything, it must have shown hon. Gentlemen opposite two things. First, it showed that while there have been some changes, while there has been some alteration in the process of sectarianism in voting habits, it was no flood, and that is an understatement. Perhaps it showed something else, too. It showed that interference or attempted interference from here, however well intentioned, more often than not has the wrong effect.

4.37 p.m.

Miss Bernadette Devlin (Mid-Ulster)

I understand that in making my maiden speech on the day of my arrival in Parliament and in making it on a controversial issue I flaunt the unwritten traditions of the House, but I think that the situation of my people merits the flaunting of such traditions.

I remind the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) that I, too, was in the Bogside area on the night that he was there. As the hon. Gentleman rightly said, there never was born an Englishman who understands the Irish people. Thus a man who is alien to the ordinary working Irish people cannot understand them, and I therefore respectfully suggest that the hon. Gentleman has no understanding of my people, because Catholics and Protestants are the ordinary people, the oppressed people from whom I come and whom I represent. I stand here as the youngest woman in Parliament, in the same tradition as the first woman ever to be elected to this Parliament, Constance Markievicz, who was elected on behalf of the Irish people.

This debate comes much too late for the people of Ireland, since it concerns itself particularly with the action in Derry last weekend. I will do my best to dwell on the action in Derry last weekend. However, it is impossible to consider the activity of one weekend in a city such as Derry without considering the reasons why these things happen.

The hon. Member for Londonderry said that he stood in Bogside. I wonder whether he could name the streets through which he walked in the Bogside so that we might establish just how well acquainted he became with the area. I had never hoped to see the day when I might agree with someone who represents the bigoted and sectarian Unionist Party, which uses a deliberate policy of dividing the people in order to keep the ruling minority in power and to keep the oppressed people of Ulster oppressed. I never thought that I should see the day when I should agree with any phrase uttered by the representative of such a party, but the hon. Gentleman summed up the situation "to a t". He referred to stark, human misery. That is what I saw in Bogside. It has not been there just for one night. It has been there for 50 years—and that same stark human misery is to be found in the Protestant Fountain area, which the hon. Gentleman would claim to represent.

These are the people the hon. Gentleman would claim do want to join society. Because they are equally poverty-stricken they are equally excluded from the society which the Unionist Party represents—the society of landlords who, by ancient charter of Charles II, still hold the rights of the ordinary people of Northern Ireland over such things as fishing and as paying the most ridiculous and exorbitant rents, although families have lived for generations on their land. But this is the ruling minority of landlords who, for generations, have claimed to represent one section of the people and, in order to maintain their claim, divide the people into two sections and stand up in this House and say that there are those who do not wish to join the society.

The people in my country who do not wish to join the society which is represented by the hon. Member for Londonderry are by far the majority. There is no place in society for us, the ordinary "peasants" of Northern Ireland. There is no place for us in the society of landlords because we are the "have-nots" and they are the "haves".

We came to the situation in Derry when the people had had enough. Since 5th October, it has been the unashamed and deliberate policy of the Unionist Government to try to force an image on the civil rights movement that it was nothing more than a Catholic uprising. The people in the movement have struggled desperately to overcome that image, but it is impossible when the ruling minority are the Government and control not only political matters but the so-called impartial forces of law and order. It is impossible then for us to state quite fairly where we stand.

How can we say that we are a nonsectarian movement and are for the rights of both Catholics and Protestants when, clearly, we are beaten into the Catholic areas? Never have we been beaten into the Protestant areas. When the students marched from Belfast to Derry, there was a predominant number of Protestants. The number of non-Catholics was greater than the number of Catholics. Nevertheless, we were still beaten into the Catholic area because it was in the interests of the minority and the Unionist Party to establish that we were nothing more than a Catholic uprising—just as it is in the interest of the hon. Member for Londonderry to come up with all this tripe about the I.R.A.

I assure the hon. Member that his was quite an interesting interpretation of the facts, but I should like to put an equally interesting interpretation. There is a fine gentleman known among ordinary Irish people as the Squire of Ahoghill. He happens to be the Prime Minister, Captain Terence O'Neill. He is the "white liberal" of Northern Ireland. He is the man who went on television and said to his people, "There are a lot of nasty people going around and if you are not careful you will all end up in the I.R.A. What kind of Ulster do you want? Come with me and I will give you an Ulster you can be proud to live in".

Captain O'Neill listed a number of reforms which came nowhere near satisfying the needs of the people. Had he even had the courage of his convictions—had he even convictions—to carry out the so-called reforms he promised, we might have got somewhere. But none of his so-called reforms was carried out. He suggested a points system for the allocation of houses until such time that the Tory Party could see its way to introducing a crash housing programme. He suggested that a points system should be introduced, but he did nothing to force the majority of Unionist-controlled councils to introduce it. He thought that his suggestion would be quite sufficient to make everyone doff their caps, touch their forelocks and say, "Yes, Captain O'Neill. We will introduce it." But the local councils of Northern Ireland do not work like that.

We come to the question of what can be done about incidents like that in Derry at the weekend. Captain O'Neill has thought of a bright idea—that tomorrow we shall be given one man, one vote. Does he think that, from 5th October until today, events have not driven it into the minds of the people that there are two ideals which are incompatible—the ideal of social justice and the ideal and existence of the Unionist Party? Both cannot exist in the same society. This has been proved time and again throughout Northern Ireland by the actions of the Unionist Party.

In the General Election, Captain O'Neill had the big idea of dividing and conquering. Captain O'Neill, the "liberal" Unionist, said, "Do not vote for Protestant Unionists because they are nasty Fascist people". When the election was over, he had no qualms about taking the number of so-called "Fascist" Unionist votes and the "liberal" Unionist votes together, adding them up and saying, "Look how many people voted Unionist".

We, the people of Ulster, are no longer to be fooled, because there are always those of us who can see no difference between the Paisleyite faction and the O'Neill faction, except that the unfortunate Paisleyite faction do not have hyphenated surnames. So we are faced with the situation that Captain O'Neill may, in the morning, say, "You now have one man, one vote". What will it mean to the people? Why do the people ask for one man, one vote, with each vote of equal value to the next?

The Unionist policy has always been to divide the people who are dependent upon them. The question of voting is tied up mainly with the question of housing, and this is something which the House has failed to understand. The people of Northern Ireland want votes not for the sake of voting but for the sake of being able to exercise democratic rights over the controlling powers of their own areas. The present system operates in such a way that Unionist-controlled councils and even Nationalist-controlled councils discriminate against those in their areas who are in the minority. The policy of segregated housing is to be clearly seen in the smallest villages of Ulster. The people of Ulster want the right to vote and for each vote to be of equal value so that, when it comes to the question of building more houses, we do not have the situation which we already have in Derry and in Dungannon.

In Dungannon, the Catholic ward already has too many houses in it. There is no room to build any more in that ward. It would appear logical that houses should be built, therefore, in what is traditionally known as the Protestant ward or, euphemistically, the "Nationalist" or "Unionist" ward, where there is space. But this would give rise to the nasty situation of building new houses in the Unionist or Protestant ward and thus letting in a lot of Fenians who might outvote the others.

I wish to make it clear that in an area such as Omagh the same corruption is carried on because Protestants need houses and the only place for them is in a Catholic area. The one point that these two forms of activity have in common is that whether they are green or orange, both are Tory. The people of Northern Ireland have been forced into this situation.

I was in the Bogside on the same evening as the hon. Member for Londonderry. I assure you, Mr. Speaker—and I make no apology for the fact—that I was not strutting around with my hands behind my back examining the area and saying "tut-tut" every time a policeman had his head scratched. I was going around building barricades because I knew that it was not safe for the police to come in.

I saw with my own eyes 1,000 policemen come in military formation into an oppressed, and socially and economically depressed area—in formation of six abreast, joining up to form 12 abreast like wild Indians, screaming their heads off to terrorise the inhabitants of that area so that they could beat them off the streets and into their houses.

I also accept that policemen are human and that if someone throws a stone at a man and injures him, whether he be in uniform or out of uniform, if he is human he is likely to lift another stone and, either in self-defence or in sheer anger, to hurl it back. Therefore when people on either side lose control, this kind of fighting breaks out.

An unfortunate policeman with whom I came into contact did not know who was in charge in a particular area. I wanted to get children out of the area and I asked the policeman who was in charge. He said, "I don't know who is running this lot." I well understand this kind of situation at individual level, but when a police force are acting under orders—presumably from the top, and the top invariably is the Unionist Party—and form themselves into military formation with the deliberate intention of terrorising the inhabitants of an area, I can have no sympathy for them as a body. So I organised the civilians in that area to make sure that they wasted not one solitary stone in anger. [Laughter.]

Hon. Members may find this amusing and in the comfortable surroundings of this honourable House it may seem amusing, but at two o'clock in the morning on the Bogside there was something horrifying about the fact that someone such as I, who believes in non-violence, had to settle for the least violent method, which was to build barricades and to say to the police, "We can threaten you."

The hon. Member for Londonderry said that the situation has got out of hand under the "so-called civil rights people". The one thing which saved Derry from possibly going up in flames was the fact that they had John Hume, Member of Parliament for Foyle, Eamonn McCann, and Ivan Cooper, Member of Parliament for Mid-Derry, there. They went to the Bogside and said, "Fair enough; the police have occupied your area, not in the interests of law and order but for revenge, not by the police themselves but because the Unionist Party have lost a few square yards of Derry and people have put up a sign on the wall saying 'Free Derry'". The Unionist Party was wounded because nothing can be morally or spiritually free under a Unionist Government. They were determined that there should be no second Free Derry. That is why the police invaded that area. The people had the confidence of those living in that area to cause a mass evacuation and to leave it to the police alone, and then to say, "We are marching back in and you have two hours to get out". The police got out.

The situation with which we are faced in Northern Ireland is one in which I feel I can no longer say to the people "Don't worry about it. Westminster is looking after you". Westminster cannot condone the existence of this situation. It has on its benches Members of that party who by deliberate policy keep down the ordinary people. The fact that I sit on the Labour benches and am likely to make myself unpopular with everyone on these benches—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Any Socialist Government worth its guts would have got rid of them long ago.

There is no denying that the problem and the reason for this situation in Northern Ireland is social and economic, because the people of Northern Ireland are being oppressed not only by a Tory Government, a misruling Tory Government and an absolutely corrupt, bigoted and self-interested Tory Government, but by a Tory Government of whom even the Tories in this House ought to be ashamed and from which they should dissociate themselves.

Therefore I ask that in the interests of the ordinary people there should be no tinkering with the kind of capitalist methods used by both the Northern Ireland Unionist Party and Mr. Jack Lynch's Fianna Fail Party. It was with no amusement but with a great deal of horror that I heard the somewhat peculiar statement by the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) about an O'Neill-Lynch United Party. This brings home to me that hon. Members of this House do not understand what is going on. Of all the possible solutions of our problem the least popular would be an agreement between the two arch-Tories of Ireland.

I should like in conclusion to take a brief look at the future. This is where the question of British troops arises. The question before this House, in view of the apathy, neglect and lack of understanding which this House has shown to these people in Ulster which it claims to represent, is how in the shortest space it can make up for 50 years of neglect, apathy and lack of understanding. Short of producing miracles such as factories overnight in Derry and homes overnight in practically every area in the North of Ireland, what can we do? If British troops are sent in I should not like to be either the mother or sister of an unfortunate soldier stationed there. The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Mr. Henry Clark) may talk till Domesday about "Our boys in khaki", but it has to be recognised that the one point in common among Ulstermen is that they are not very fond of Englishmen who tell them what to do.

Possibly the most extreme solution, since there can be no justice while there is a Unionist Party, because while there is a Unionist Party they will by their gerrymandering control Northern Ireland and be the Government of Northern Ireland, is to consider the possibility of abolishing Stormont and ruling from Westminster. Then we should have the ironical situation in which the people who once shouted "Home rule is Rome rule" were screaming their heads off for home rule, so dare anyone take Stormont away? They would have to ship every Government Member out of the country for his own safety—because only the "rank" defends, such as the Prime Minister and the Minister of Agriculture.

Another solution which the Government may decide to adopt is to do nothing but serve notice on the Unionist Government that they will impose economic sanctions on them if true reforms are not carried out. The interesting point is that the Unionist Government cannot carry out reforms. If they introduce the human rights Bill and outlaw sectarianism and discrimination, what will the party which is based on, and survives on, discrimination do? By introducing the human rights Bill, it signs its own death warrant. Therefore, the Government can impose economic sanctions but the Unionist Party will not yield. I assure you, Mr. Speaker, that one cannot impose economic sanctions on the dead.

5.1 p.m.

Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)

It is a privilege for me to follow the hon. lady the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin). I should like first to welcome her to this House and congratulate her on the speech she has just made.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Thorpe

There is one quality—and there are many others—which she showed during her by-election campaign and in the course of her speech. That is the quality of courage, a quality which we in this House, wherever we may sit, respect.

This House has heard in the past impassioned speeches from hon. Members who come from Ireland. The names of Parnell, Tim Healey, Redmond and many others spring to mind. Therefore, the hon. Lady has a great tradition to follow. Those Irish Members were at some times of great assistance to the Government of the day, and sometimes they were the reverse. I hope that she will be successful in either of those two objectives as regards Her Majesty's present Government—that she will give the former when it will be the suitable treatment but that she will give the latter when it is necessary.

I am delighted that my colleague, Sheila Murnaghan, formerly Liberal Member in Stormont, should have had the privilege of supporting the hon. Lady at her eve-of poll meeting during the campaign. I hope that we shall hear much more from the hon. Lady in the future.

The hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) said that no Englishman understands Ireland. That may well be true, and it may well be that I shall fall into that fault. But I can at least claim that I have more Irish blood coursing in my veins than anything else. [Laughter.] I also have a little Welsh. [Interruption.] I have no doubt about my paternity, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not, either.

An Hon. Member

And a little whisky?

Mr. Thorpe

I would hope so, and a very little English to make up the bulk. It is therefore with some feeling of pride that I speak about Ireland.

It is significant that on the day when the hon. Lady takes her seat we should be discussing Northern Ireland, because for far too long the problems and grievances of this unhappy part of the United Kingdom have been neglected by the House. When we remember that Section 75 of the Government of Ireland Act makes it quite plain that we are the sovereign body but that we are also expected to vote large sums of money every year to subsidise the Government of Northern Ireland, it is a disgrace that we have not had further discussion and debate about what has been happening.

No doubt amongst a large number of hon. Members, particularly on the Ulster Unionist bench, there may be great indignation at the proposal of the Government in Dublin to approach the Secretary-General of the United Nations about the situation in Northern Ireland. But if the United Kingdom is to continue to claim convincingly that what happens in Northern Ireland is our concern and not that of the United Nations, the United Kingdom Parliament, and particularly the United Kingdom Government here, must live up to its responsibilities, both legal and moral.

We as a party are firm believers in the desirability of decentralisation for the people of all parts of the United Kingdom. But it must be on the basis of equal rights of citizenship, which it is notorious do not exist in Northern Ireland today.

I think that all hon. Members will agree in deploring the violence to people and the destruction of property which have disfigured the past few days, especially in Belfast and Londonderry. But it would he both complacent and foolish to see these disorders in isolation and treat them merely as hooliganism to be suppressed. Nor do I think that the hon. Member for Londonderry was on very firm ground when he talked about infiltration. Who has infiltrated the Unionist Party in the past few months? They have certainly not been progressive liberals; they have been Paisleyites with a large and small "p".

It is obvious that extremists will exploit the situation to their own advantage, and that the hon. Lady had a fair balance between her condemnation of extremists on either side. To me, Paisleyism and the I.R.A. have far more in common with each other than either of them has with decent and moderate opinion, but the trouble is that the political conduct of the ruling party in Northern Ireland and the economic and social conditions which exist combine to appease one form of extremism and provoke the other.

Whatever the views of the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown), I recognise the right of the majority of people of Northern Ireland to remain in the United Kingdom for as long as they desire. But we regard the refusal of the Ulster Unionist Party to afford the full rights of citizenship to the Catholic minority in the province as not only offensive and wrong but crass folly. It is notorious that the delay in according full democratic rights to all citizens is the result of Paisleyite and other bigoted pressures which have been brought to bear on the Government there. This has given us evidence that the extremist tail wags the Unionist dog, and, as it does so, widens the gap between the Stormont Government and the Catholic minority.

Every day that the pressure of Paisleyites—whether the rough-hewn kind or the more polished but no less noxious Brookeborough variety, which is so strong in the Orange Lodges and, therefore, in the councils of the Unionist Party—delays reform makes the maintenance of law and order more difficult. Procrastination by the Stormont Government provides the best propaganda for the I.R.A. The preservation of law and peace depends on recognition of the claims of justice. Surely after such an appalling history in Ireland this should be obvious to everybody in the House.

Sir Knox Cunningham (Antrim, South)

Including the Liberal Party.

Mr. Thorpe

Including the Liberal Party. But perhaps I would except the hon. and learned Gentleman from the ambit of that general conclusion.

Sir Knox Cunningham

I should be grateful—

Mr. Thorpe

I ask not for the hon. and learned Gentleman's gratitude. We remember the part he played in opposing Captain Terence O'Neill in the last election.

The complete solution of the problem is unlikely to be achieved in the present Parliament. As the Orangemen never tire of reminding us, the problems have existed since the 17th century.

A great amelioration in the conditions in Northern Ireland is possible. So, unhappily, is a great deterioration. A great deal depends on this House and on the Government of the United Kingdom. Therefore, I would like to make certain requests. First the Government should make it plain to the authorities, subordinate authorities let us remember, that the subsidies for Northern Ireland and the provision of British Servicemen to carry out guard duties which normally fall to the police cannot continue indefinitely without reform.

I hope that we shall hear a little more about the very difficult situation in which our Servicemen are being placed. The Northern Ireland Government must produce a timetable for carrying out the reforms which Captain O'Neill has promised, and which, unhappily, a large minority of Unionists have succeeded in delaying. The timetable must be publicly announced and it must be brief. It would be utterly inadequate, in the present circumstances, to delay until the Cameron Commission, inquiring into the causes of unrest in Northern Ireland, has reported. The appointment of the Commission was a wise step, but its value would be undermined if its existence were made the excuse for delaying measures which all reasonable opinion recognises to be necessary.

Second, I appeal to the Ulster Unionist Members in this House to set an example of civic courage and strike a blow against sectarianism, which Captain O'Neill has so often deplored, by severing their connection with the Orange Order. Whatever may be said for the theoretical principles of this allegedly religious organisation, everyone knows that it is an instrument for preserving political power in the hands of one part of the community. Why otherwise would a man like Phelim O'Neill have been thrown out of the Orange Lodge for no other reason than that he had the temerity to attend a Roman Catholic service in his own constituency?

Mr. Lubbock

Answer that one.

Mr. Thorpe

The value of that symbolic move would be of enormous significance. One of the few encouraging developments in Northern Ireland has been the fact that a few of the more enlightened Unionists in Stormont have taken this step. There is therefore something they could do as a practical measure.

Third, I would renew the suggestion I made yesterday that a conference of all parties in Northern Ireland might be called to consider the problems of the province. It is of the utmost importance to demonstrate that reasonable suggestions from the Opposition will be met with a reasonable response by the Government in Stormont. Reason can sometimes flourish better in the calm of a round-table conference than on the floor of a legislature.

Fourth, I would appeal to the Irish politicians in the Republic to treat the present crisis with restraint. One cannot ask them to give up their principle of a united Ireland, in which they sincerely believe. But they can, by their speeches, either inflame or soothe the wounds of Ireland. I believe that the unity of Ireland can never be achieved except on the basis of free consent by the majority of the people in the six counties as well as on the basis of the wishes of the 26. I appeal to all hon. Members and to the British electorate as a whole to recognise their responsibilities for, in the words of the Act which established Stormont, … the better government of the province. If, today, we are faced with talk about the possibility of civil war in part of the United Kingdom, if British soldiers in part of the United Kingdom are in greater danger than their comrades in, say, Cyprus or Anguilla, to name two other troubled islands, it is partly because this House has too long and too often ignored the situation of chronic grievance and profound distress. The Unionists may boast of the benefits of the British connection—but in Derry, where unemployment ever since the war has never fallen below four times the present British average, people may be forgiven for doubting it.

The Unionists may boast of British standards. We should all like to see British standards. We want to see at least as good a standard in Ulster as in any part of the United Kingdom. We want to be equally certain that there is no gerrymandering of boundaries, that there is no plural vote in local elections, that the Race Relations Act is applied equally to Ulster as it is to Britain, that the housing problem is as fairly tackled, and houses allocated as in the rest of the United Kingdom. These are not tremendous demands to make, but it is an extraordinary thing that to this day we have to make them.

Anyone who has been to Londonderry and visited the major factory, with the highest turnover of human beings in Londonderry—namely, that large, bleak labour exchange, where there is a never-ending queue of men wanting jobs—cannot but feel passionately that we have to try not only to rescue the economy of Ulster but to give the people the same civic rights as in other parts of the United Kingdom. In a province which has been dominated by a single party for nearly half a century those standards are today in disrepair. I believe that we owe it to Northern Ireland and to ourselves to see that this neglect is ended.

I believe that the Home Secretary's announcement yesterday and the debate which we are holding today represent a watershed in the future politics of Northern Ireland, because it means that at long last this House has realised its responsibilities and is prepared to grapple with them. We must try to help heal these wounds and end the neglect. Unless we do this, the violence of the last few days will increase and spread, and I pray God that it will not be so.

5.16 p.m.

Mr. John Ryan (Uxbridge)

I am sensitive to the fact that many of my hon. Friends wish to contribute to the debate, so I will make a very brief speech. I am extremely glad to be the first Member of the Government side of the House to be able to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) on a quite outstanding maiden speech. Those Members whose memories go back much further than mine must have found it very hard to think of one of equal passion and concern for the people the hon. Member represents, and on whose behalf she will have a quite brilliant contribution to make to our debates.

I am glad that the Home Secretary is on the Government Front Bench, because I want to begin by considering the statement he made yesterday. I do not quarrel with anything that he said, my quarrel is with what he did not say. I hope that when we have a Government contribution today it will take the scene a bit further than where it was left yesterday. The unfortunate impression was given yesterday that as long as gas, electricity and water were flowing, as long as public investment and public utilities were being defended, the area of responsibility of the British Government or this party stopped there.

That is certainly not my position, nor I believe is it the position of many on the Government side. Much as we agree with the albeit negative action into which the Government were forced through making British troops available to defend these utilities against violence which I deplore, and which was a negative intrusion, we want to see a clear statement about what positive steps the Government intend to take to deal with some of the problems which contribute to the real malaise of the situation in Northern Ireland, not merely the symptoms of that malaise.

There are three points I want to raise and the first, which troubles me enormously, is this. It is the test of the civilised nature of any society that ordinary citizens can turn to the police for aid and assistance without any doubt that their claim for assistance will be met fairly. I do not believe that this is the position in Northern Ireland. When there is a lack of confidence by the minority population in the police then one of the most elemental parts in the fabric of that society is worthless.

In the present disturbances in Northern Ireland there is a danger that the Northern Ireland Government will summon the B Specials into the area of operation, to try to assist the regular police in their difficult task of maintaining law and order. The B Specials have been described as Paisleyites in uniform; they have been described as extremists who are a sectarian organisation, politically motivated and politically selected. It would be interesting if the Home Secretary would give a breakdown of the recruitment of the B Specials, the different parts of the Six Counties whence they come, their loyalties and their political affiliations. It is the belief among the masses of people in Northern Ireland that the B Specials comprise a sectarian organisation and that their use in a situation of civil distress is like using petrol to put out a fire. This is an extremely serious matter and something on which the Home Secretary must comment.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) spoke about his dream of one Ireland. I disagree with him to the extent that I believe that the basic cause of the civil unrest in Northern Ireland is discrimination in jobs and in housing and the basic cause of that discrimination is the existence of the Border. The repressive legislation which my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) described exists to prevent Irishmen from being Irishmen. That was why the Border was created. Forty years have passed and, whereas the Border is possibly the root cause of the present problem, the mere abolition of the Border is not the solution of that problem.

I am encouraged that the problem is being recognised increasingly as a problem of civil rights and not of reunification of the country. I can see no difference between the civil rights of a Catholic in Derry and the civil rights of a Communist in Dublin or a Protestant in Malta or Madrid. Such things are indivisible and one should not talk in Republican terms of such matters.

Mr. George Brown (Belper)

Will my hon. Friend examine this proposition? The root cause, he recognises, as we all must, is the artificial division of Ireland imposed upon it from outside. Mixing my similes as an Irishman is entitled to do, under that umbrella other evils have arisen, such as the denial of civil rights. Does not my hon Friend agree with me, therefore, that no matter what is done about the temporary problems of civil rights, important as they are, until the root cause of the problem is removed—the reason why Roman Catholics fear Protestants and Protestants fear Roman Catholics—the troubles of Ireland, whether in the North or the South, will not be put right?

Mr. Ryan

I disagree with my right hon. Friend. Much as I value his opinions on many subjects, I fear that his contacts with the situation in Northern Ireland may be rather out-dated, and it would be of benefit to him if he went there and talked to civil rights leaders such as Ivan Cooper and John Hume, who would in no situation argue the Republican position. I have heard this argument put forward at Stormont by Mr. Austin Currie. The civil rights movement is not geared to pulling down the Union Jack in Northern Ireland. It is geared to giving the same tolerant constitutional relationship under the Union Jack in Northern Ireland as is enjoyed in the rest of Britain under that flag. I agree with my hon. Friend that it is an artificial division. But this is a matter for the Irish to decide, and I hope that the Home Secretary will underline the constitutional position which he has stated before and which is accepted by the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland.

This Government have a particular responsibility in this matter. One difficulty is that the civil rights leaders claimed that Captain O'Neill was stalling for time and that he was undertaking his delaying reforms so as to give time for a change of Government here in the belief that a Conservative Government would be elected and reforms would no longer be necessary. This was a fundamental impediment to the trust in Captain O'Neill by the minority of the population and a great deal of responsibility for this rests with the Leader of the Opposition. Had he made his position clear—I do not mean by sending a letter to Captain O'Neill for him to wave on television—by using every connection between the Conservative Party in this country and the Unionist Party in Northern Ireland, this argument that Captain O'Neill was stalling for time would have been rendered invalid.

At the Labour Party conference in Blackpool last year the Prime Minister said that the Labour Party is a party of civil rights. I believe that this is so. We cannot stand by and see the poorest people in Northern Ireland, those who are unemployed in Derry, the worst housed people in Derry, the people with very little hope, beaten to the ground and their desire for constitutional reform thrown into extremist channels which they do not want, and which their moderate leadership does not want them to follow.

The sands of time are running out and we look now to the Government for action. This action should not stop at sending troops but should embrace detailed consideration of the constitutional relationship between the two countries, and whether it is right to allow the Government in Northern Ireland, which is discredited and mistrusted, to operate in the most sensitive area of the control of the police.

There is a difference of attitude in the way in which people in this country regard my right hon. Friends compared with the attitude of the minority population in Northern Ireland towards their Ministers, from Mr. Craig onwards, in the control which they exercise. The situation now is one of extreme urgency and I look for decisive steps from the Government.

It is a sad comment that we are discussing these basic issues which should have been eliminated many years ago. If the feeling of the Government and the reflection of our political party were followed in Northern Ireland, this would lead to a better life, to freedom and tolerance, civil liberties, better education, better jobs, better housing, which are what the civil rights movement was born to achieve.

5.26 p.m.

Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (Chelmsford)

; I join in the congratulations that have been paid to the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin). Since the time of F. E. Smith I do not suppose that the House of Commons has listened to such an electrifying maiden speech. I would also congratulate you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and Mr. Speaker and, indeed, the House, on having acquired such an addition to our body. As long as the House can attract qualities of courage, eloquence and sincerity then there is some hope for us yet. I would merely say to the hon. Lady that not all of us with hyphenated names are necessarily totally irredeemable.

The situation in Northern Ireland is dangerous but not desperate, and it is essential for all who genuinely care for the future of Ireland to measure their words carefully and avoid all inflammatory utterance which would make the situation worse.

No citizen of the United Kingdom can be indifferent to the fate of Ireland, with which our history has been so tragically interwoven for many centuries. Least of all can those who by family and faith are connected with Ireland be indifferent to what happens in Ireland, whether it be in the South or in the North.

The most helpful contribution one can make in a short compass is to try to disentangle the issues which are involved in the debate. The first issue is of maintaining peace, security and order in Northern Ireland, and no one who wishes to avoid chaos there can doubt that the Home Secretary's decision to commit troops to guard key installations was right and that he acted with wisdom, resolution and speed. Hon. Members of this House can best back him up by their condemnation, as a corporate body, as the House of Commons, of the use of violence in any part of the United Kingdom as a means of political action. Let no one in Northern Ireland be in any doubt about it: violence is only justified when no constitutional means of redress are available. That is not the case in Northern Ireland, whatever else may be the case there.

At the same time, this House is entitled to say to the Home Secretary that the use of British troops should be kept to a minimum, because no one can regard the spectacle of British troops being involved in Ireland without a feeling of dismay. As The Times said in a perceptive leader this morning: Seven centuries bear witness to the fact that English initiatives in Ireland, even on those rare occasions when they have been well-intentioned, make matters worse not better. The second point that I want to make is that injustice is perpetrated against Catholics in Northern Ireland. They are denied the equality of the franchise in local government. They are discriminated against—

Sir Knox Cunningham


Mr. St. John-Stevas

No, I will not give way—

Sir Knox Cunningham

This is quite untrue.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

They are discriminated against in housing and employment and until now in important respects they have been second-class citizens in the land of their birth. That is wrong, and it should not continue. It should be condemned unequivocally from this side of the House. It is my duty to speak out and I will speak out.

Sir Knox Cunningham

It happens to be quite untrue.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Ulster is an integral part of Britain, and the same standard of justice and equity must prevail in the Six Counties as in other parts of the United Kingdom.

The situation there is being remedied. A programme of reform of very great importance has been initiated, and it must continue and be accelerated. The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster has cast some doubt upon the contribution of Captain Terence O'Neill, and she used very effectively the weapon of mockery against him. But it was a weapon being used in a vacuum, because she used it with no consideration for the difficulties in which the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland finds himself, where literally he is caught between two fires.

I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland who, to advance the welfare of his province, has put his own personal career at stake. How many hon. Members of this House can say the same? More than that, he has put the future of his own party at stake for the sake of the future of Ireland. It is not exaggerating to say that his contributions to Ireland bears comparison with the greatest contributions that have been made by Irish patriots in the past. He has made clear to the people of Ulster that the choice is between ordered progress and reform on the one hand and regression to another dark age when the dinosaurs, be they orange or green, would be free to roam again at will.

The third point that I wish to make concerns the Constitution of Northern Ireland. I cannot pretend that I regard partition as the ideal solution. It was a child born of necessity, born of the need to avoid bloodshed and chaos. But I regard it as unequivocally preferable to the bloodshed and disorder which is the only alternative. For the foreseeable future, Ulster will remain linked with Britain, and no greater disservice to the people of Ireland could be made in this situation than to suggest that the policy of any British Government would be other than to support the Constitution of the United Kingdom in so far as it applies to Northern Ireland.

That is why I would characterise the remarks of the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. George Brown) yesterday as unhelpful and irresponsible. He was giving the impression that the Border might soon be abolished. While I might take that from certain hon. Members of this House, I cannot take it from an hon. Member who held high office in the present Administration and who, when he had the opportunity, did nothing to put those words into effective action.

Mr. Simon Mahon

Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that the long-term future and prosperity of Ireland and of these islands as a whole might be resolved by a united Ireland?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I appreciate that point, and it is one on which I intend to conclude. I will come to it in due course.

At the present time, if the extremists on either side in Northern Ireland thought that the resolution of the Government was weakening on this point, it would be the signal to precipitate, each for their own ends, a civil war.

Finally, I ask if it is not time for the forces of moderation on the Catholic side in Northern Ireland to make their contribution to supporting the lawfully constituted State of Northern Ireland—I do not say the Government. Is it not time to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's? Should not Cardinal Conway, an enlightened and far-seeing prelate, make some suggestion in this regard? In the present situation, nothing could do more to abate sectarian bitterness than a constructive initiative from the Primate of All Ireland.

Hatred and violence will never abolish the Border. It will only strengthen it. If the two parts of Ireland are to come together, as the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon), envisions, at some time in the distant future, in a new arrangement of which only a dim outline can be discerned at present, then it must be preceded by the creation of a new unity of the spirit in Ireland. It is only that kind of unity that can transcend manmade boundaries.

5.37 p.m.

Mr. Gerard Fitt (Belfast, West)

I want first to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) on her excellent speech. There is not an individual hon. Member on either side of the House who can fail to be impressed by the utter sincerity and concern that she has expressed on behalf of her constituents. Having heard her, I believe that the Government must take effective steps. Such a voice cannot go unheard. She has appealed to the House this afternoon. She has placed the responsibility for all that happens in Northern Ireland fairly and squarely where it belongs, on the shoulders of this Government.

I remember clearly when I was first elected to this House. In the course of my maiden speech, I pointed out many of the problems existing in Northern Ireland. I appealed to every hon. Member, irrespective of his political party, to find out for himself whether I was exaggerating or understating the position. I appealed for a deputation of Conservative, Liberal and Labour Members to go to Northern Ireland to see for themselves what was happening in what is alleged to be part of the United Kingdom.

In the months following, I accompanied certain Members on this side of the House to Northern Ireland. Among them were my hon. Friends the Members for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose), Glasgow, Kelvingrove (Dr. Miller), Kingston-upon-Hull, North (Mr. MacNamara) and upwards of a dozen others. I took them to Strabane, to Derry, to Dungannon and other parts to see for themselves. They came back and reported to the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary. In one report, they said that they considered the situation in Northern Ireland to be "absolutely appalling."

If it was right for those hon. Members to go to what is alleged to be part of the United Kingdom, it was the bounden duty of other hon. Members representing the Conservative Party to go to see the conditions existing there. In 1966, in Trafalgar Square, I predicted that unless the situation was remedied, unless social justice was made available to all sections of the community in Northern Ireland, the people would take to the streets in defence of their own fundamental feelings.

On that occasion I was violently attacked by the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills). He took a certain phrase out of context in my speech and circulated it to every hon. Member of this House. I was charged with advocating violence—with bringing the bomb, the gun and the bullet back into Northern Ireland politics. What I was saying—and it has been proved correct today—was that the ordinary people of Northern Ireland who had been oppressed by Unionism for so long would no longer tolerate these conditions. The fact that we have in this House this afternoon a 21-year old Member of Parliament representing Mid-Ulster proves conclusively that the younger generation in Northern Ireland is not prepared to tolerate the conditions under which their parents were forced to live.

Mr. Stratton Mills (Belfast, North)

The hon. Gentleman has referred to me. I have his words here. The provocative words that he used were that people are quite entitled to take what means they can. That shows that he at least bears partial responsibility for the hooliganism in Londonderry over the weekend, plus the explosions and damage to the reservoir and other property.

Mr. Fitt

What I said was that the people who had been oppressed by Unionists for so long would be entitled to take whatever means they could to redress their wrongs. I said it in this House. I do not retract a word of what I said then.

Mr. Stratton Mills


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)

Order. The debate is very short. I hope that hon. Members will keep their speeches short and allow as many hon. Members as possible to take part.

Mr. Fitt

The hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) referred to a speech made by Martin Luther King. To quote Martin Luther King again, he said that an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. There are many injustices in Northern Ireland and it is the responsibility for this Government to remedy them. For 48 or 49 years, since the partition of Ireland, people have looked to this House in the hope that it would take some effective steps to ensure that social justice would be made available to all citizens in Northern Ireland.

Yesterday afternoon my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary found it necessary to come to the Dispatch Box to make the statement that British troops were to be used in Northern Ireland. It appeared to me that the Government were more concerned about what would happen to the British troops going into service in Northern Ireland than with one and a half million of Her Majesty's subjects permanently demiciled there. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is untrue."] It is not. It is true.

The hon. Member for Londonderry, Whe the civil rights agitation first began—I presume he meant on 5th October—said that he believed that there were honest and sincere men who were concerned with bringing about reforms in Northern Ireland. I believe that I could be included amongst those persons.

Sir Knox Cunningham


Mr. Fitt

I was suggesting on 5th October that we in Northern Ireland should have one man, one vote, and we should have the same system of franchise that operates in this country, that there should be a fair drawing of electoral boundaries, that we should have the Race Relations Act, that jobs should be given to people on merit and qualification without consideration being given to their political allegiance, and that homes should be built for the thousands of people all over Northern Ireland, but particularly in Londonderry, who had been waiting for years but were denied homes, not because they did not need them, but because a vote went with a house in Northern Ireland and those votes could possibly be used to unseat the Unionist Government, particularly the local government in Londonderry.

Yesterday the Home Secretary spoke about the reforms which had been promised by the Unionist Government at Westminster. It cannot be denied that Londonderry, since partition and for many centuries before, has always had an anti-Unionist majority. Of the people who live in Londonderry, 75 per cent. are hysterically opposed to the Unionist Party, but they are controlled by the Unionist local authority because of the most vicious classical gerrymandering which exists in any part of Europe today. In Londonderry 25 per cent. control the 75 per cent. majority.

We were asking for one man, one vote at local government level, which would mean that the majority of the population of Londonderry would have control of their own council. But Londonderry means so much to the Unionist Party. It is so steeped in the Unionist mythology of 1690—the breaking of the boom and the apprentice boys—that it is the right arm of Unionism. Under no circumstances will the Unionist Party allow democracy to have its way in this city. It is the right arm of Unionism and they cannot afford to lose it.

The Commission for Londonderry was regarded as a reform by the Unionist Party and it was also regarded as a reform by my right hon. Friend yesterday. What happened was that those who were opposed to the vicious gerrymandering in Londonderry made it known to the outside world, and, since 5th October, people in Britain have begun to notice the significance of the population figures in Londonderry. The Unionist Party then said, "You have made it impossible for us to control Londonderry, but we will make sure that you do not control it. Therefore, we will have a Commission".

Mr. Henry Clark


Mr. Fitt

That is not a reform. The majority of the people in Londonderry, who are anti-Unionist, should control Londonderry. The Commission is not the answer. The Commission is a negation of democracy. The only reason the Commission was brought into being was to stop the people of Londonderry controlling their own affairs.

Mr. Henry Clark


Mr. Fitt

Yesterday evening on television, and here again this afternoon, we heard this hoary old tale about how the I.R.A. has attacked the constitution and the State of Northern Ireland. We also repeatedly hear in Northern Ireland how Ulster won the war with the United Kingdom. There are so many captains, majors and colonels flying around in Northern Ireland that people would think we were living in an absolute military dictatorship. Indeed, when one enters the Stormont, one does not know whether to bow or to salute.

We have heard how the State has been under Beige. It is rather strange that the places where the explosions have occurred have made it necessary for British troops to be brought in. The explosions occurred at Loughgall, in County Armagh, and in Kilkeel in County Down. Neither of those areas could in any way be regarded as nationalist areas. Only this morning I received—

Mr. Henry Clark

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Fitt

No. Only this morning I received confirmation that it is a well known Unionist Party trick, every time it finds itself in difficulty and to justify recruiting 1,000 members of the B Specials, to create explosions. There is absolutely no doubt—[Laughter.] I have heard this horse laugh before and it is very suitable to the hon. Member.

The full responsibility for all matters, persons, places and things in Northern Ireland rests under the supreme jurisdiction of this House. I hope that this Government will now see the dangerous situation which exists in Northern Ireland. I have tried, in the three years that I have represented my constituency in this House and my other constituency at Stormont, to say that British standards should be made applicable to all citizens of the United Kingdom. If it is good enough for Doncaster, it must be good enough for Derry; if it is good enough for Birmingham, it must be good enough for Belfast—[An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] We want exactly the same rights and privileges as are enjoyed by all other citizens in the United Kingdom.

If the Unionist Government—I am now making the most serious statement that I have ever made and I make it in the full knowledge of where I am speaking—can exist only by having the Draconian Special Powers Act to support it, by denying social justice to the 40 per cent. minority in Northern Ireland, by discriminating in jobs and houses, if that Government can exist only by having all these standards to support it, that Government has the right to be overthrown. It is the moral duty of anyone who believes in Christianity and of anyone who believes in social justice to overthrow such a structure, which can exist only with such legislation to protect it.

A very serious situation exists in Northern Ireland. I realise that, within a matter of hours, many people in Northern Ireland will once again be taking to the streets. This has been brought about by 40 years of frustration, 40 years of being trampled underfoot by what my hon. Friend the young Member for Mid-Ulster has repeatedly called in her election addresses, "the Unionist ascendency class"—a class and Government which has maintained itself in power by deliberately creating sectarian strife in Northern Ireland.

I have said repeatedly from this bench and in other ways in my public life that the ordinary Protestant and Catholic in Northern Ireland would be prepared to live in peace and amity and accord, were it not for the machinations of the Unionist Party. How ridiculous it is today that Paisley supporters, many of whom do not have the right to vote themselves, should be taking to the streets to prevent the implementation of the principle of one man, one vote. They have been deluded by the Unionist Party for far too many years and I believe, irrespective of what is happening in Northern Ireland now, that this Government must take very cogent steps to remedy the situation.

Addressing the Labour Party Conference last year, the Prime Minister said, "We are the party of human rights. We stand for the dignity of Man." I ask the Prime Minister to apply a little of that philosophy to the six north-eastern counties of Northern Ireland. If the British Government refuse to accept their responsibilities, they must be held responsible for the very serious consequences which will arise in Northern Ireland from today onwards.

5.54 p.m.

Mr. Stratton Mills (Belfast, North)

I rise to follow the speech of the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), which, I say frankly to him, was full of falsehoods, and one of the most disgraceful speeches that I have heard, even by his standards. He referred to his speech in Trafalgar Square some time ago and I should like to remind him of the words that he used then. He said that people would be … quite entitled to take what means they can … and went on to say that he hoped that it would not be necessary to shoot brother Irishmen." The inflammatory nature of those words must be considered as part of the background of violence which has erupted in Northern Ireland over the last few months.

I would remind the House that, once again, he returned to this theme of working outside the democratic and constitutional framework—

Mr. Roebuck

On a point of order. The hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) has accused my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) of falsehood in the House. It was indicated to him from this side, informally, that this was out of order. I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to rule upon that.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Unless the hon. Member was reflecting on the personal integrity of the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), it would not be out of order.

Mr. Stratton Mills


Hon. Members


Mr. Stratton Mills

I ask the House to give me a hearing, as it has given it to other people in this debate.

Earlier in the debate, the hon. Member said that the Government of Northern Ireland "had a right to be overthrown". I do not know whether he meant by constitutional or by violent methods, but I appeal to him—I do not wish to make too much of this—not to use that kind of language in the situation which we face today in Northern Ireland. It can do nothing but harm.

I find the atmosphere of this debate one of great sadness and I hope that it will not be used by hon. Members opposite for political opportunism. This is the most serious debate that we have had for half a century on Irish matters and I hope that no words will be used to stoke flames this afternoon and that all hon. Members will aim at the reduction of temperatures.

I accept that Northern Ireland is not perfect. Accusations are made against us and I certainly would not wish to deny them all, but I wish to ask, what part of Britain or indeed, of the world is perfect? The Unionist Government under Terence O'Neill is moving in the right direction and I believe that nationalist grievances, real or imagined, have disappeared, are disappearing or will shortly have disappeared.

My hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) referred to the civil rights movement and its composition. There are the constitutional leaders, people like John Hume, who must be worried by the way in which things have been developing inside the movement. There is the Republican, Communist, I.R.A., Trotskyite element, which is very small, but has immense influence in the body and then there is the hooligan element, which has become particularly active and violent in the last few days.

Reflecting on the affair at Londonderry over the weekend, my hon. Friend referred to the young people who were involved. The Press pictures, which I have here, make this point extremely clearly. Most of the people involved in the stone-throwing were in their teens. I was struck by a picture of a civil rights marshal, a man of slightly older years, with blood streaming from his face, trying to restrain young men from throwing stones.

One point which has not been mentioned today, and which is extremely relevant, is the type of weapons which were used over the weekend. The Belfast Telegraph correspondent referred to looting, to home-made spears fashioned from steel bars, to washers ground to a razor edge—they can scarcely have been produced spontaneously—to chunks of iron grating littering the roadway, and to bricks, bottles, stones and petrol bombs. I ask the House—are those the normal weapons of the peaceful civil rights demonstrator? Are those the spontaneous weapons which the civil rights demonstrator falls back on, or had they been organised well in advance of these incidents?

My hon. Friend referred to Martin Luther King. Did Martin Luther King throw stones, petrol bombs or spears? His method was one of peace.

There are many Members of Parliament who would do well to condemn this violence. It would be as well if the hon. Member for Belfast, West would strongly condemn the acts of hooliganism which took place in Londonderry and condemn the I.R.A. violence over the weekend. He is silent.

Mr. Fitt

I will condemn any acts of hooliganism which took place in Derry if the hon. Gentleman will give me a quid pro quo. Does he condemn the people who gathered at Burntollet Bridge last Saturday, with the intention of beating up defenceless civil rights marchers, when the Minister of Home Affairs said that he could not give protection because of the possibility that guns would be used. Does he condemn that type of action?

Mr. Stratton Mills

I made it perfectly clear in January that those people who organised violence against civil rights marchers at Burntollet Bridge were totally in the wrong. I make that clear again. I ask the hon. Gentleman to use his influence to bring down the temperature. It is easy to throw a stone or to make a petrol bomb and throw it, but the next stage will be the squeezing of triggers, the use of hand grenades and more serious weapons. This is what must be in the mind of those who are dealing with the situation.

My hon. Friend referred to the work of the police. I believe that on this occasion they did a fine job under gross provocation and acted with much restraint. The extent of their injuries, as compared with civilian injuries, bears this out. It would not be unfitting if we were to have some tribute from the other side of the House to the restraint shown by the police on this occasion.

The hon. Member for Belfast, West referred to the Unionist Government as having created the incidents over the weekend, incidents in which a reservoir supply pipe was destroyed, electricity pylons damaged, post offices burnt out and police stations attacked. It is important to put on record that the hon. Gentleman has accused the Unionist Government themselves of creating these incidents. What fantastic nonsense, without one single shred of evidence being put forward by the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Fitt

What I said was that the explosions in Loughgall and in Kilkeel were not in areas known for their Nationalist sentiment. Those are the two which I mentioned, not the rest.

Mr. Stratton Mills

I am sure that HANSARD will bear out the words of the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman is only saying what the news bureau of the I.R.A. has stated. It accuses the Unionist Government of these incidents, and I say that there is no shred of proof in such a statement. The police have made clear that these incidents were organised by the I.R.A., but the I.R.A. have denied responsibility for these incidents. Why is this? [Interruption.] How does the hon. Gentleman know that? Is he so close to them that he can tell? The truth is that the I.R.A. want those explosions to appear as a spontaneous local manifestation. That is the picture which they are trying to present.

It is also worth reminding the House that when the I.R.A. withdrew from their previous campaign in 1961, they said that they would come back to the attack. This is the occasion when they have come back to the attack, but they are wearing the clothes of the civil rights movement.

Miss Devlin

In view of the statement which the hon. Gentleman has just made, he should bear in mind that during my own election campaign, in a small town known as Plumbridge, not a body of extremists, but the loyal Orange Order on Radio Telefis Eireann said that the civil rights people were getting in everywhere, and that there was nothing for the Protestant people but to take to the gun to shoot them and to use violence. There is the interpretation put upon these facts by the hon. Gentleman. There is equal reason for believing that this is the work of the Orange Order. This made it possible for Captain O'Neill to call in the British Army without losing face. It could equally have been done by the Unionist Government.

Mr. Stratton Mills

I do not want to be rude to the hon. Lady on her first day here, but if she believes that the Unionist Government organised this, she will believe anything.

I close by saying that one must constantly bear in mind in this debate the aim of the people organising these acts of hooliganism and terrorism. They deliberately wish to cause in Northern Ireland civil commotion. They wish to try to point to the breakdown of law and order to overthrow Terence O'Neill, to discredit Stormont and the police, and ultimately to bring in Westminster as the direct governing body. This is the road to disaster. I hope the message will go out loud and clear from this House this afternoon. It is that there should be no condonation of violence or of terrorism. Peace and calm are what is needed in Northern Ireland most of all.

6.8 p.m.

Mr. Quintin Hogg (St. Marylebone)

No one can take part in this debate this afternoon, particularly from one of the Front Benches, without feeling a great sense of responsibility. I am sure that the Home Secretary and I are at one in that.

Yesterday, just after this debate had been decided upon, a stranger came up to me in the Central Lobby. He obviously was an Irishman and, from what he said, a Roman Catholic. He said to me, "Mr. Hogg, I want you to make me a promise. I want you to promise that, if there is a debate on Northern Ireland tomorrow, you will make a speech in favour of conciliation and reform." I made that promise. If I had wanted to choose two words to represent the desire which I had in my heart that my words might achieve, it would be those two words. The man said that he was a supporter of the civil rights movement.

Before I embark upon what I have to say, in the few minutes which I propose to take, I hope that the House will forgive me if I add my congratulations to the hon. Lady, the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) on her maiden speech. She has come to us this afternoon in dramatic circumstances. When I congratulate a maiden speaker, my thoughts go back 31 years to the occasion on which I addressed this House for the first time, after a stormy by-election in which I became the centre of a great deal of controversy. I have been so ever since. I thought how much greater was the strain which the hon. Lady had had to undergo in her by-election than I had had to undergo in mine and how much greater an ordeal she had had in speaking on her first day in the House than that to which I had to submit. My heart went out to her when she spoke.

She began by half apologising for taking this course. But I am sure that she was right. We all make up our minds in this place what our duty is, but I know that had I been placed in the same situation I would have taken the same course. Indeed, she would have been wholly lacking in any sense of occasion had she not done so.

I echo what the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) said about her courage, but I should like to tell her something. Yesterday I asked an hon. Friend of mine, "What is this new hon. Member like who is joining us?" My hon. Friend replied, "She is a very brave young woman." The hon. Friend I asked was my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark), who spoke just before her today and for whom I gather she entertains something less than affection. I have known my hon. Friend rather longer than she has. He is a generous-hearted and honourable man.

I hope that the hon. Lady will forgive me if I tell her something else. She has represented very well this afternoon the feelings and passions of those who have sent her here to represent them. We are very glad indeed to find her doing this, even those of us who do not agree with the views which she utters, because this place is designed for the discussion of views. It would be a poor place if views held as strongly by so many people did not have an advocate in this House.

I hope that when she goes back to her constituents from time to time she will bring news of what we think here and of the sort of people we are. This is a strange institution, full of odd people like myself. It is almost unique in the whole world. If I were asked what its salient characteristic was, I should be inclined to say that it is the most effective institution the world has ever seen for enabling men and women to live together in peace. That is not altogether irrelevant to the subject under discussion.

The hon. Lady is genuinely welcome, even among her political opponents, and we look forward to hearing many other speeches in which she will represent her constituents as well as she has done this afternoon.

A matter has struck me which has so far not been mentioned. It is that we are not here in the presence of an isolated phenomenon. There are two Germanies, two Koreas, two Indias, two Vietnams, two Palestines, even, God help us, two Cypruses, and, at the moment, two Nigerias. Let us, if we can, stop thinking that either the Irish or the English, either the Protestant or Roman Catholic or either the Unionist or the Nationalist is wholly responsible for the present situation because he has a double dose of original sin. That is not the case.

We are in the presence of a phenomenon which has baffled mankind throughout the world. Moreover, there is not an hon. Member here who caused it. We inherited it from our forefathers. If I had been brought up in a Roman Catholic house I should be going to Mass instead of Matins every Sunday. I know that from experience, for I find it difficult to go out through another door from that wherein I went. This should lead us to understand that we gain nothing by blaming the other side for civil disturbances in communal matters and that we have everything to gain in appealing to our own side to exercise restraint and compassion.

I echo the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) when he appealed to religious leaders to add their weight to the voice of conciliation. Of all the reasons for knocking one another about, the very worst is that we are all Christians but of a different kind. If Christianity means anything in the world today—I happen to believe that it is one of the most relevant and vital of professions—it means in the end that we are all adherents to the religion of love.

I listened with attention to the speech of the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Ryan). If, during my remarks, I do not mention at length every hon. Member who has spoken, I assure the House that I found a great deal to agree with and something to disagree with in every speech. The hon. Member for Uxbridge spoke of a bipartisan policy in this matter, which is a difficult thing when one comes to Irish affairs. The political overtones and relationships in British politics of Irish affairs do not need to be emphasised by me. We are familiar with them.

I hope that the Home Secretary will agree that the less British party politics are allowed to enter into this, the better. I do not say that that can be altogether avoided, but when the hon. Member for Uxbridge called for a bipartisan policy, it crossed my mind that some part of it already exists. When the Home Secretary announced his policy yesterday my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) said that he approved of what the Government had done in condemning violence and in using British troops in a passive rôle.

I add my warmest hopes that the Government of Northern Ireland will continue a reformist policy. I take a rather less desperate view of the situation than do some hon. Members, possibly because of the Irish blood which runs in my veins. It was, I think, inevitable that after the Treaty—it is a curious fact that my father made his maiden speech from the Despatch Box on the Second Reading of the Measure introducing the Treaty—for a long time on both sides of the Border and in this House attitudes towards Ireland would freeze in the situation in which they had been in about 1914. I regard it as utterly deplorable that that should have been so. But human beings being what they are, it was utterly inevitable.

What I believe we are seeing, if we choose to look upon the hopeful side of the situation, is the breaking of the log jam, the beginning of the thaw; and this is a situation, inevitably, when stresses and strains are more and not less acute. But I look forward with the hon. Member for Blackley (Mr. Rose)—although I do not in the least endorse his prescription, for reasons which I will give in a moment—to the day when the politics of Northern Ireland are about housing and employment and particularly about employment, and will concern not religious profession or the Border or matters of that kind but the realities of modern life in a modern world in what is still one of our depressed areas—and not even in some ways a development area—with a proportion of unemployment which is practically the highest in the United Kingdom.

The more Northern Ireland men and women concentrate on those issues, the more completely, I believe, will the religious differences be left behind; and the realities of the situation will become the realities of modern politics in which no one desires unity but everyone is aiming at the betterment of the society in which he lives.

That brings me to the close of my remarks and to the various prescriptions which have been uttered. My hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry said that no Englishman was ever born who understood the Irish. In that he was at one with the hon. Lady who made her maiden speech, when she said that the common factor between all Ulstermen was that they very much disliked Englishmen who told them what they ought to do. It was then perhaps a little paradoxical that the particular remedy proposed from the Bench which had uttered these sentiments should demand that the Government of Great Britain should impose its will upon the people of Northern Ireland. I am against that, not because I do not believe that the present Government in this connection should not aim, as I would aim, at complete equality between British subjects but precisely because I do not believe that their interference would work. I think that it would involve more and not less violence and would also involve the Government in breaches of a pledge which I personally, if I were a member of that Government, should not care to undertake.

Mr. Fitt

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman recall that in 1920 this House imposed the partition of Ireland on the people of the Island of Ireland, and in these circumstances is not the duty of the Government to ensure that citizens of the community in that part over which the Government still have control are afforded equality of opportunity and social justice before the law?

Mr. Hogg

I began my speech by saying that this was not an isolated phenomenon. I meant to add, and I do so now because it is an answer to the hon. Gentleman, that in all the cases of partition to which I referred—I believe I referred to over a half-a-dozen—the partition which exists is something which no one would have desired. Some people, of whom my father was one, disliked the partition of the British Isles. There were some—and the hon. Gentleman is probably one—who dislike the partition of Ireland. There are others, and I know them, who dislike the partition of Ulster into the Six Counties and the rest. No one has had his way. But the particular agreement which my father introduced into this House nearly 50 years ago, pleasing to nobody, has had this merit: before that time men and women of different persuasions, but who by any standards of human conduct would otherwise have been regarded as good, were dying in their own blood. And since then that has hardly happened.

I would say to hon. Members opposite who do not happen to agree with me and my Party that I have enumerated these other cases of, oppression if you like, partition if you like; but can anyone point to one in which there has been so little effusion of blood as there has been in Ireland since that Treaty? My father introduced that Bill into the House saying that he disliked it but that he did so because this Government had given their word. For nearly 50 years we have kept our side of the bargain and we believe that it is not too much to ask that all who were parties to that bargain which has led, at any rate, to the cessation of bloodshed should also keep theirs.

Mr. John Lee

The right hon. and learned Gentleman is making a very thoughtful speech, but surely what is at issue is not the question of partition but the question that because the powers given under the 1920 Act have been allowed to fall into disuse, oppression will continue until a situation is reached, if it has not been reached already in Ulster, which cannot be remedied without bloodshed?

Mr. Hogg

I promised to let the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary have one minute less than he now has available to him, so I will not do more than deprive him of one more minute. No one denies that this House has the legislative responsibility imposed on it by Section 75 of the Government of Ireland Act. That does not give the Government executive responsibility nor does it absolve them from their pledges as to the way in which that legislative responsibility should be used. No one must be under any impression but that if we use this responsibility foolishly or imprudently, the result could be perfectly disastrous and the bloodshed, which so far we have avoided in its most deadly form, might recur. I have said what I had to say and I wish the Home Secretary an equally gentle hearing in the course of his speech to that which I have just received myself.

6.28 p.m.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. James Callaghan)

I should like to thank the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) for the manner in which he spoke this afternoon and to agree with him in his expressed view that party politics should not be any more obtrusive than is possible for us in this particular situation. All of us who are not Irish Members have only to listen to the arguments stated with equal conviction and passion on both sides of the House this afternoon to recognise the complexity of what my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) truly described as a tragic and delicate situation—and I agree with him. It has been a sombre and serious debate and certainly it is not my intention to depart from the standards which have been set in the debate because I do not want by one word to make more likely the prospect of bloodshed in Northern Ireland.

I begin by referring to the remarkable Parliamentary occasion which was ushered in by the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin). No doubt she has now gone. I fully understand that when I recall what an exhausting Election campaign she must have had, for we have all been through that process. Then she finds herself no doubt suffering from the attentions of the Press and television—and we have all been through that process. Then she finds herself faced with the ordeal of coming here and speaking to a fuller House for a maiden speech than I ever recall in my 25 years. It all amounts to a most formidable ordeal, from which she has emerged with very great brilliance.

I am reminded of the story about my right hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Miss Jennie Lee) who was about to address a miners' rally in Scotland many years ago when she was a slip of a girl. I did not tell her that I would recount this story because it has only just come into my mind. She said to the hard-bitten old trade union leader, "I feel very nervous". He is supposed to have said to her, "Lassie, if you feel nervous, it is because you are thinking more of yourself than of what you are going to say".

What the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster showed today was not just courage but fearlessness. The voice of the people was ringing through her. She was so concerned with what she had to say that she felt she was representing all that they had to say. That is why, although it was such an ordeal, she emerged triumphant. I am glad to have been part of this Parliamentary occasion.

The significance of the timing of this debate should not be overrated. It has been made clear in Ulster today that the governing party has had one meeting this morning and is to resume tomorrow morning discussion of the vital issue of one man, one vote. In simple arithmetical terms, there are about 900,000 Parliamentary electors and 700,000 local government electors in Northern Ireland. People on the other side of the Irish Channel should know that it is hard for us to understand how we can deny adult suffrage in any of the elections of this country. I trust that when they meet again tomorrow morning they will take account of what I believe is a general view in the House of Commons here that what we seek, and indeed what we require, for all citizens in the United Kingdom is equality of rights, privileges and responsibilities. We cannot accept that people are part of the United Kingdom, and are proud to be so, unless those standards obtain throughout the areas which we represent.

I understand the depth of feeling which lies behind the opposition to this proposition. I say to some of my hon. Friends who have spoken that sometimes people speak as though what we have to deal with is a reactionary Ulster Unionist Government. If it were only that, the problem would be easier to solve. But it has become clear today, and it is known to everyone, that we are not dealing with a Government alone. We are dealing with deep-seated passions and fears which run through both groups and both communities in Ireland.

It might be argued that the Ulster Unionist Government, in view of the pressures being brought upon them, are willing and anxious to take these steps. I do not at this moment take sides. But we must remember—and, having stated my adherence to the principle, I seek to remember—the great pressures to which the Ulster Unionist Government are subjected by their own supporters and by those who have put them in office because of their real and genuine fears.

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)


Mr. Callaghan

My hon. Friend will realise that I wish to state the Government's position and I have very little time to do so.

Mr. McNamara

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way. I agree with much of what he said. Would he state categorically that the Border is not in issue?

Mr. Callaghan

Perhaps my hon. Friend would allow me to make my own speech. I promise to come to that point, as I regard it as most important.

The nature of the problem with which we are dealing is not ephemeral. There is a desire to secure basic constitutional rights which I think everyone in the House believe should exist in Northern Ireland. If they are not conceded, there follows the basic desire to protest. This has brought the backlash of violence which is escalating. The pattern in which we are moving is one in which grievances produce protest, protest produces violence and violence is followed by counter-violence. Attitudes are frozen into immobility. This is succeeded by more violence. The end of that road would be the complete collapse and breakdown of relations between the communities and the collapse of the system of government under which they are living. We are only in the early stages of the journey along that road, but it is imperative that, although our voice may not be heard much on the other side of the Channel, the united voice of Westminster should express itself loudly and clearly against any further progress along that path to hell.

The Government's approach—and it is the approach not purely of this Government but of successive British Governments—springs perhaps partly from what the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster said. Never was born the Englishman who understood the Irish problem. The Government's approach has sprung from the simple conception that these problems are most likely to be solved successfully and permanently if the people of Ireland solve them, They have the institutions. They have a Parliament and a Government. The Government are supported by some rejected by others.

I hope that this will be accepted by Ulster Unionists in the spirit in which I say it: when a Government have been in power for 50 years, unchallenged and apparently unchallengeable, apparently without an Opposition who can take over, there is a double responsibility on those who hold that unchallenged office to rule in the interests not of half the nation but of all the nation. They have to take upon themselves the responsibilities of opposition as well as of government. They must listen to the cry of those who feel themselves to be excluded from the apparatus of Government. In the normal course of events, as long as politics follow their present path in Northern Ireland, we cannot hope for the Government to put right their difficulties. There are no doubt people in this country who feel excluded from government as long as a Labour Government are in power. But they hope, mistakenly no doubt, that the situation will be put right. Likewise, when there is a Conservative Government, many people feel excluded. But, again, they hope that the situation will be put right.

But that is not the position in Northern Ireland. The Ulster Unionist Government are a trustee for all the people, not just for the Protestants. It is in that sense and in that spirit that I hope that the Parliamentary Party which is meeting there tomorrow morning will realise the nature of the problem which it has to solve and, despite the pressures brought upon it, will use wisdom and magnanimity to solve this problem by conceding at least this issue.

Mr. John Lee

And if it does not?

Mr. Callaghan

Perhaps my hon. Friend would allow me to make my speech.

I hope that I made my point in a way which does not create a backlash among Ulster Unionist Members in Northern Ireland because it is of deep significance.

I turn to the point at which my hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. John Lee) was hinting. The Government and I recognise that the Parliament at Westminster has supreme authority under the Government of Ireland Act. But we have delegated very great authority. Therefore, the call should go out from Westminster that it is to them that we look to make the changes. They are the trustees; they have been given the responsibility. But I repeat that final responsibility rests in this House. Therefore, the Government's policy is that the people of Northern Ireland should have the same rights as citizens anywhere else in the United Kingdom to enjoy equality of treatment, to live in peace with each other and to enjoy prosperity. Those things are interdependent.

There will be no tranquillity in Northern Ireland unless there is equality of treatment. There certainly will be no prosperity unless both the other conditions are supported. So, as I have said, our rôle as a Government in this is to encourage and support the institutions in Northern Ireland to create the conditions in which this situation can be achieved.

I turn to the question of our relations with other countries, because the Parliament at Westminster is responsible for the relations between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic and all other countries. What I want to say about this is quite simple and clear. I repeat once more that there can be no change in the relations between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic without the assent of the people of Northern Ireland. It is expressed in the Statute through the Parliament in Northern Ireland. It is that pledge which I am repeating now, because there should be no misunderstanding about that situation; and the British Government have no intention of departing from it.

I want in the few minutes remaining to me to comment on one or two of the issues which have been raised. The hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) said that he thought that the I.R.A. had committed these offences. I must make it clear that I have no evidence to that effect. The I.R.A. is usually ready to claim what I regard as the discredit for these attacks. It has not done so on this occasion. Nor has it denied it.

I want to make it clear to my hon. Friends who may not keep up with this situation that the I.R.A. today is a very motley collection, quite unlike the I.R.A. of 30 or 40 years ago. I am sure that those of my hon. Friends who follow this matter know this, but it is important that it should not be thought that the I.R.A. necessarily has the same motives or the same backing as it had many years ago.

I remind the House of what the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster said about the use of a pamphlet calling for "the gun" in her by-election. This is no language to use in the situation of Northern Ireland by any political party or by supporters of any political party, because there is more than one group that can command and does command explosives in Northern Ireland today. Freedom will not grow out of the barrel of a gun.

I conclude by saying this to the hon. Lady—and I say it to her because of the remarkable speech which she made. I want to apply to her the most stringent criticism I can as a compliment to her. I shall not say what a splendid speech it was. What I want to say to her is that I thought that her conclusions did not follow from what she had to say originally. At any rate, if they did, they would leave me in an impossible situation.

The hon. Lady said that the Ulster Unionist Government cannot solve this problem. She said that the Government at Westminster cannot solve this problem. She said that economic sanctions against Ireland will not succeed. She said that Mr. Jack Lynch and the Republic of Ireland cannot succeed in solving this problem. One day the hon. Lady may be standing here. It will not be sufficient then for her to state a series of negatives.

The Government have to take a positive attitude. The attitude which we take is quite clear. Taking into account the hon. Lady's view that perhaps we cannot be expected to understand or to know the situation as well as she and her colleagues from Northern Ireland do, we believe that it is our responsibility to use our maximum influence on the institutions which exist in Northern Ireland to secure the same standards in that country as exist here. We believe that, if we were to go further and to embroil ourselves directly in the situation, unless it became absolutely inevitable, we could well be making the very mistakes which the hon. Lady has already condemned.

In conclusion, I echo the words of the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas). He made an appeal to his fellow Catholics in Northern Ireland to observe that the apparatus of the State is there to be used and that it can be used positively. Reforms have come about. More are needed. I do not cast doubt on the good will of Captain O'Neill. I paid tribute to him yesterday. He is a man caught in the cross-fires, a man who I think is subject to very great pressure. But those who want reforms should help him at the present time. That is the best path forward for Northern Ireland.

It being three hours after the commencement of Proceedings, Mr. SPEAKER interrupted the Proceedings pursuant to paragraph (2) of Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration), and the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

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