§ 7.1 p.m.
§ Miss Bernadette Devlin (Mid-Ulster)
I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 6, leave out 'Ulster Defence Regiment' and insert—'Local Territorial Force (Northern Ireland)'.
§ The Chairman
With this Amendment we may discuss also Amendment No. 13, in page 1, line 6, leave out 'Ulster Defence' and insert—'Northern Ireland Fencible'.
Amendment No. 9, in clause 6, page 5, line 22, leave out 'Ulster Defence Regiment' and insert—
'Local Territorial Force (Northern Ireland)'
and Amendment No. 11, in Title, line 1, leave out 'Ulster Defence Regiment' and insert—
'Local Territorial Force (Northern Ireland)'.
§ Miss Devlin
I disagree with those hon. Members who may feel that this is a minor point which does not merit a great deal of discussion. In view of the action of the Government, of leaders of the Government and of the Labour Chief Whip, I cannot be blamed if I am given to understand that I and the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) stand alone in this House as the only two hon. Members against whom pressure cannot be brought. I am not inferring that hon. Members who have supported us in the past and who will do so tonight will submit to such pressures. I merely say that pressures will be brought to bear.
I wish to give my justification for talking at length about this important matter. There are many reasons why I feel that the Title must be changed. I cannot accept assurances from the Ministry as to the relevance of the Title. The first and most minor point is one of geographical accuracy. Wide newspaper publicity has been given to the various 981 proposals to effect a change in the name of the regiment, and most hon. Members will suppose that my greatest objection to the Title is that Ulster is nine counties, but that is a minor point.
It is obvious that Ulster consists of nine counties, that it is one of the four provinces of the island known as Ireland, four provinces which once represented the four kingships, and that three of the counties within the Province of Ulster, that is, Monaghan, Cavan and Donegal, lie within the jurisdiction of the 26-county Irish State and are not the responsibility of this Parliament.
However, if the British Government and the Secretary of State for Defence wish to add to the stupidity and blundering which has occurred in dealing with the Bill by committing a classic Irishism and calling the force the Ulster Defence Regiment, which would be an alien or hostile force within one-third of the territory it claimed to represent, then that is the business of this Government and of the Secretary of State for Defence. On that basis it can do little more than provide facile copy for newspaper reporters remarking on the quaintness of the Irish situation. It will be excellent material for tomorrow morning's cartoons.
When the more serious consequences of this force, if it is to be established, are realised, it will be one of the lighter sentences or paragraphs in the tomes of history to be written about this period, and this will be one blunder in a line of blunders made by the British Government in dealing with the Irish question.
But I have a number of much greater objections. The first is the use of the word "Ulster". To hon. Members, Ulster means either the Northern Ireland State or the Province of nine counties. They are not worried which term is used, but it should be recognised that, since the establishment of the Northern Ireland State, there has been sustained quarrelling about the proper title to be used to describe that State. Commonly, the Northern Ireland area is described, in a coat-trailing manner, as Ulster by people associated with extremist Protestant thinking. Even the Ulster Farmers' Union has its overtones of Protestantism.
The use of the word "Ulster" by members of the Northern Ireland Government and by this House is nothing more than a 982 sectarian gibe. Ulster is a notion closely associated with aggressive Orange organisations in the Northern Ireland area, many of whose slogans and legends incorporate the Ulster title. Bluntly, when an organisation is described as an Ulster organisation, it is generally accepted as a Protestant organisation and, as I will later explain, a Protestant extremist organisation.
The Secretary of State may find this tiresome, and a futile exercise in semantics, but he will have to learn what he has not yet cared to discover, that it matters to the people of Northern Ireland, in whose lives slogans, titles, flags and emblems play a very important rôle. The adoption of the present title must be taken in conjunction with the actions of the Northern Ireland Government, which have been supported by the Secretary of State for Defence and by this Government. Advertisements and statements on television about an Ulster Defence Regiment, which, as yet, does not exist, have already been mentioned
The Government intend to push through legislation against the wishes of several hon. Members, against the wishes of the Civil Rights Movement in Northern Ireland, against the wishes of the Campaign for Democracy in Ulster—a body which exists both in this country and in Northern Ireland—against the wishes of most of the Opposition parties in Northern Ireland, and in direct collusion with the Ulster Unionist Government. The Bill is being laid before the House by a Labour Government in direct collusion with the Tories.
I will try to explain the sectarian appeal and use of the word "Ulster". If the name of this force remains the Ulster Defence Regiment, the number of Catholics who will join it will be negligible. Hon. Members may infer from this that Catholics are unduly sensitive about titles. The Secretary of State seems to be unaware of why Catholics in Northern Ireland distrust anything which bears the name "Ulster Defence", or anything approximating to it.
Let us take four organisations in the North of Ireland. They are the Ulster Defence Committee, the Ulster Constitution Defence Committee, the Ulster Protestant Volunteer Force and the Ulster Special Constabulary. The first three, by 983 the evidence of their own constitutions, are avowedly extremist Protestant organisations. It is fair to say that all four have been very closely associated with the disturbances in the North of Ireland.
I take as an example the constitution of the Ulster Constitution Defence Committee, which is also the constitution of the Ulster Protestant Volunteer Force. I should like, with permission, to quote some extracts from the constitution of those bodies, because I believe them to be relevant to the naming of this new force, the Ulster Defence Regiment. I quote from the constitution:The Ulster Constitution Defence Committee and the Ulster Protestant Volunteers which it governs is one united society of Protestant patriots pledged by all lawful methods to uphold and maintain the Constitution of Northern Ireland as an integral part of the United Kingdom as long as the United Kingdom maintains a Protestant Monarchy under the terms of the Revolution Settlement.To continue:The Ulster Constitution Defence Committee has a membership of 12"—I remind the Committee that I am quoting from the constitution itself—originally called together by the Rev. Ian Paisley. This Committee is the governing body of the Ulster Protestant Volunteer Divisions and the only official voice for the movement… The Ulster Protestant Volunteers take their name from the Parliamentary Division in which they are situated. No one who has ever been a Roman Catholic is eligible for membership. Only those who have been born Protestants are eligible for membership.To continue:Each meeting of both the Ulster Committee and the Ulster Protestant Volunteer divisions must be opened with a reading from the Authorised Version of the Bible. Each member must be prepared to pledge his first loyalty to the Society, even when its operations are at variance with any political party to which the member belongs.The importance of that statement will be seen a little later in my remarks.
The constitution continues:The body of representatives pledge to maintain the Constitution at all costs when the authorities"—the authorities being the Northern Ireland Government, police force or otherwise—act contrary to the constitution".This undoubtedly would mean in the view of the Constitution Defence Committee. 984The body will take whatever steps it thinks fit to expose such unconstitutional acts.From what I have quoted it may be supposed that I speak of a cranky organisation whose activities would not seem to be of great significance. But the Cameron Report, in paragraph 220, on page 88, tells of the difficulty in discovering that many members of the Special Constabulary were members of the bodies I have just described. Complaining of the lack of information about these organisations, the Cameron Commission concluded that there was a very substantial overlap of members. If hon. Members find this irrelevant, I would point out that we have been informed by the Secretary of State for Defence and by the Government that the bones of this new Ulster Defence Regiment will be the existing Ulster Special Constabulary. It is, therefore, important that we should be aware of the facts and should remember that Lord Cameron concluded that there was a considerable overlap between the members of the B Specials and the members of the Ulster Protestant Volunteer Force.
During last weekend I had a number of investigators speak with members of these bodies and with members of the Special Constabulary. They took statements from some of these people indicating that far more than half the members of the Special Constabulary are members of the Ulster Protestant Volunteers or the Ulster Volunteer Force, the latter being a front for the former. So it may well be that the initial impression formed by most of us that the new regiment, according to the Bill, would be nothing more than the old extremist organisation in a new guise, is much nearer fact than right hon. Members will give us credit for.
I give a few practical examples of how closely the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Ulster Constitution Defence Committee have been associated with military style activities in the past. During the first days of the trouble in August this year the Chairman of the Ulster Defence Constitution Committee, the Rev. Dr. Ian Paisley, called on the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Major James Dawson Chichester-Clark—[An HON. MEMBER: "Squire of Moyola."] Yes, Squire of Moyola and a constituent of mine. This is what he told the Prime Minister.
I do not think that this is out of order, Mr. Gourlay, since it is important that 985 I try to establish the links between what is now an illegal force and a force of unknown strength that is liable to become the bones of the Ulster Defence Regiment——
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ The Deputy Chairman (Mr. Harry Gourlay)
Order. We are not discussing the composition of the regiment. We are discussing whether the name should be changed. I am trying to find in the latter remarks of the hon. Lady some relevance to the Amendment.
§ Miss Devlin
I am trying to establish the relevance of what I am saying by saying that the Ulster Defence Regiment will attract a number of people to the force. I am doing so by illustrating other bodies in Northern Ireland who bear similar titles and the kinds of persons who join that force. I seek to establish to the Committee that this title would attract the same kind of person to the force.
If I may continue, the Rev. Ian Paisley called on the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. He told him how he, Mr. Paisley, was prepared to mobilise 10,000 armed men of the Ulster Volunteer Force and place them at the service of the Government. One may imagine how many people in the North of Ireland felt, first at hearing that the Rev. Ian Paisley could go along to the Prime Minister and state that he was prepared to mobilise 10,000 men; secondly, that the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland did not immediately slap him in chains for having 10,000 armed men; and, thirdly, and much worse, that afterwards the Rev. Tan Paisley told the Press that his offer would be considered.
It was widely believed in the North of Ireland that a substantial minority of the Northern Ireland Cabinet were not at all averse to Mr. Paisley's suggestion. Members of the Committee will know that the necessity of mobilising the Ulster Volunteer Force was avoided by activating many of the same men as the Ulster Special Constabulary.
The Committee may think that I am still talking only in terms of the title and that this is just a matter of semantics. But let me give one more example. One day in August Mrs. John Callagher, in the town of Armagh, switched on her radio and heard that the Ulster Special Constabulary had been mobilised. Before 986 that day was over Mrs. Callagher's husband was shot dead by the members of the Tynan platoon of the Ulster Special Constabulary.
The Ulster Special Constabulary at this point in time are the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Defence. He is responsible for the Title of the Bill; he is responsible for the people who will be enrolled in this force. He is also responsible for the fact that the members of the Tynan platoon of the Ulster Special Constabulary are on active duty in Northern Ireland, and that not one of them has been brought to trial for this man's death.
Let me have no assurances from the Secretary of State that this Title does not mean that this type of person will be in the proposed regiment. I can accept no assurance of that kind, because it is inherent in the very Title that these people will join this kind of force.
§ Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)
While not accepting anything of what the hon. Lady says about the B Specials, going back over her argument, does she not admit that it would be better now that Roman Catholics in the community should be encouraged to join the new force and use their influence in it, so that we can look forward to a better, more prosperous and more charitable future in Northern Ireland?
§ Miss Devlin
As to whether I would ask anyone to join this force, I think that I have made my attitude quite clear. I am pointing out, as a matter of fact, that existing bodies in the North of Ireland bear the title "Ulster Defence" for a sole purpose. I will continue to point out that purpose. Then I will ask the hon. Gentleman whether he thinks for a moment that any sane person should be asked to join a force which is so closely tied with forces which have been the downfall, destruction and death of his father. I will continue, and the hon. Gentleman can answer afterwards, if he wishes.
Following the fatal shootings in Armagh and Belfast, the Ulster Constitution Defence Committee further publicised its name and its aims. By that time, full responsibility for the security of Northern Ireland was in the hands of the G.O.C. there. Therefore, I presume that the Secretary of State is fully aware 987 of what I am about to describe. It will be interesting to hear how he reconciles his concern about the advertisement and the activity of the Ulster Constitution Defence Committee with the title which he has chosen for the new regiment.
The body which I am now discussing is not the Ulster Defence Regiment. It is the Ulster Constitution Defence Committee. On public walls and on factory notice boards throughout Belfast, posters were plastered by the Ulster Constitution Defence Committee headed with the slogan, "For Defence of Ulster". What is the Secretary of State setting up the Ulster Defence Regiment for if it is not for the defence of Ulster? At that point, we have an identical purpose—for the defence of Ulster. A recruitment poster headed with this slogan asked for all able-bodied Protestant men prepared to maintain the Constitution by force to take themselves to No. 25 Shaftesbury Square, Belfast, there to enrol and receive instructions. During the days which followed, groups of men flocked to that address and were enrolled. In the factories, the recruitment posters generally were accompanied by posters by another "Ulster Defence" force calling for the forcible expulsion of all Catholic workers.
It is against that background that Ulster defence forces of various sorts have acquired their reputation. While the title of the proposed regiment carries the connotations which I have described, with the Ulster Constituton Defence Committee as the successor of a variety of other clandestine, terrorist groups such as the Reprisal Society, the Protestant Defence Committee and the Ulster Defence Force, in the minds of people in Northern Ireland "Ulster Defence" means, "Kick the Papists".
If the Secretary of State really thinks that a 50-year-old link between the repression of Catholicism and Catholic people and Ulster defence has meant the repression of Catholics, how does he expect a solitary person to wipe away that idea in a day? Does he expect any Catholic to join one more "Kick the Papists" organisation?
§ Mr. Stratton Mills (Belfast, North)
Is not the hon. Lady totally opposed to any forces of this nature? Therefore, is not 988 her quibbling about the name sheer impudence?
§ Miss Devlin
With respect to the Chair, I consider that anything said by the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) is sheer impudence.
The Secretary of State must agree that the interpretation of "defence" which he puts on the proposed regiment is different in the way that I have pointed out from the interpretation which people in Northern Ireland put on "Ulster Defence".
To move on to his idea of defending Ulster, emphasising the need for defence in Northern Ireland encourages everything that is wrong in the area. Northern Ireland's history of sieges, its apartheid mentality and the idea of the wolf at the gate all stress the notion of an overwhelming need for external and internal defence. This reflects the history of the area, not only in the past 50 years but over the last 200 years, during which combinations of landowners and the leaders of extremist organisations such as the Orange Order have been urging the need for repressive measures against Catholics and dissident Protestants.
It was the late Randolph Churchill who coined the phraseUlster will fight and Ulster will be right.The British Government now seriously intend to give the area, with its history of crazed militaristic activities, an army of 6,000 men with which to play. They are actively assisting in the war games of Northern Ireland when they send such a force into an area which has seen too many guns and too many armed sides defending this, that or the other in the past.
Do the British Government think that the answer to the problem is 6,000 armed men? When we have the Ulster Defence Regiment, let there be no doubt who will be the enemy. If it is true to the history of bodies established for the so-called defence of Ulster, the regiment will be employed not only against Catholic people but against the critics of the Northern Ireland Government. In Northern Ireland, "Ulster Defence" does not mean the defence of the territory claimed by the United Kingdom. In Northern Ireland, "Ulster Defence" means the defence of the party of hon. 989 Gentlemen opposite. It has never meant anything else.
I am at a loss to understand why the proposed force is not to be called "Local Territory Force (Northern Ireland)". Why has the Secretary of State chosen to go against the pattern of legislation in this House? Since the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, this House has never used the name "Ulster" in its legislation. It has always referred to "Northern Ireland". If the tradition of this House is to be broken, surely we are entitled to some justification for it from the Secretary of State.
We have the fact too, that in the past there has existed a territorial force in Northern Ireland. There is no reason why we should now be sitting here discussing the creation of an entirely new body when, if what the Secretary of State really wants is a territorial force, he can use the existing law and increase the existing territorial forces.
I have a question which I wish to put to the hierarchy of the Labour Party— [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I mean, of course, to the Secretary of State. Hon. Members do not like me referring to the Labour Party heirarchy. I did so quite jovially, because their authoritarian attitude towards their Members reminded me of the attitude of the Catholic Church.
I will state for the Secretary of State of Defence why the Bill was called the Ulster Defence Regiment Bill and I should like to ask him a few questions on it. The first is: who suggested it? We have been told that consultations took place with the Northern Ireland Government. The Committee has a right to know exactly what those consultations were and how much of the Bill was at the suggestion of hon. Members of the House of Commons——
The Deputy Charman
Order. I must remind the hon. Lady that we are not discussing the Bill. We are discussing the Amendment which she is proposing.
§ Miss Devlin
I will, therefore, not refer generally to the Bill, but purely to the title. Who suggested that it be called the Ulster Defence Regiment Bill? Did the Secretary of State, not having had any previous experience of passing legislation 990 called Ulster, suddenly decide that a change of air was good for it?
Did the Minister of Home Affairs in Northern Ireland decide that Ulster Defence Regiment would help the member of the B Specials, who are about to be driven out of their positions, to accept that there was to be a new force?
Will the Secretary of State for Defence admit honestly to hon. Members that he has been duped by the Stormont Government, because, being unaware of what Ulster defence meant, being unaware of the history of Northern Ireland and the connotations of Ulster defence, he thought it a minor point and, feeling that there were bigger points which he would have to stick out for, allowed the Stormont Government very shrewdly to suggest Ulster Defence Regiment and accepted it?
I find it most depressing that a supposed Socialist Party—modern Labour in search of its soul—can enter into what the Home Secretary describes as though it was a binding contract with a junta of politicians, whose views make the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, Southwest (Mr. Powell) look like a "Left" Liberal. The fact that this bargain has been entered into is indicated because, from among hon. Members from Northern Ireland on the benches opposite, there was only one Amendment, and that Amendment has not been selected for discussion. I should be out of order in referring further to that Amendment.
Hon. Members opposite are very happy with the Bill. They have got something there. They know, as well as I do, what Ulster defence means. They are very happy to have it mean that, because they are the descendants of the people who gave it those connotations. They are happy to see it, because it deals with the problem of facing up to the facts and saying that there can be no force in Northern Ireland like the Ulster Special Constabulary. It means that they can have the B Specials back under one of two forces. They will feel very happy and very much at home in the Ulster Defence Regiment because, as I will show later in the debate, its functions, like its title, smell of Unionist Government junta politics, winding this House by the tail, and of the fooling of my right hon. Friends into thinking that the Unionist 991 Government had any idea or intention of changing their mind or their rôle.
Therefore, I should like to hear from the Secretary of State for Defence whether his advisers were aware of the connotations of this title before deciding to use it, whether they were fully informed of the activities of like-named bodies, whether they were aware of the existence of like-named bodies, whether they made any investigation or consulted any persons representing interests other than those of the ruling junta in the North of Ireland, and, if such negotiations took place with other bodies or persons, who they were or what they were and whether this title was selected by Whitehall or was urged on them by the Stormont Government?
I should point out to the Secretary of State for Defence that a Stormont Minister boasted that it was their idea during an Orange Order meeting last week. I should like to know whether the Secretary of State for Defence now realises that Stormont have fooled him into taking this title, whether he will now take steps to extricate himself from the mess into which he has got the House of Commons, whether he will consult fully with other interests in Northern Ireland before proceeding with the title, and, in the light of the foregoing, whether he will support my Amendment or, at worst, indicate clearly the freedom of hon. Members of his party to vote as they wish.
I should also like to ask what investigations were made concerning the possibility of employing already existing powers to extend the Territorial Force in the North of Ireland and why it was decided to proceed by creating a new and obnoxiously named regiment rather than the more simple procedure of amending or revivifying existing legislation on the Territorial Force?
I do not think that my right hon. Friend can answer all those questions to my satisfaction, and I do not think, in view of the information that I have given to him, that he can seriously ask me to accept anything other than his acceptance of the Amendment.
§ Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk)
I shall not speak for long. Having listened to the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin), I despair of trying to solve the 992 problems of Northern Ireland. No one in this House could accuse me of being partisan in this matter. The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) knows that I got into serious trouble after complimenting him on a speech that he made about the problems of Northern Ireland. Therefore, although it is difficult to speak objectively in this matter, I think I can speak as objectively as any hon. Member in the Committee.
What worries me about the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster is that she is all the time harking back. There is a real determination here and in Northern Ireland to look forward to the future and to try to solve a great many of the problems that have confronted Northern Ireland for many years. The hon. Lady made her speech with great sincerity, but it worries me in trying to arrive at a solution to the problem, because whatever is suggested she views with the greatest suspicion. I am not criticising the hon. Lady for taking that view. The feeling that she has expressed is a healthy and normal condition, which I understand. However, I put it to her—she will probably appreciate this more than some of her not so beautiful hon. Friend's opposite or some of my hon. Friends on this side of the Committee—that a rose by any other name smells just as sweet.
So what is in a name? What is important about the new force is that it does the job which the people of Ireland want it to do. To spend a great deal of time on the name is not in the best interests of the Committee or of the problem in Northern Ireland.
In my innocence I have been in Her Majesty's Forces. I know that there were many regiments which were proud of a title preceded by the word "Ulster", The same applies to this new force. Whether one likes it or not, the mass of the people think of the Six Counties as Ulster. I know there is a great controversy among hon. Member opposite, who say that Ulster consists of nine counties. But the United States of America is generally termed, in ordinary conversation, "America", although everybody knows that Canada is also in North America and that there is Central America and South America——
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
As one who was brought up in Canada, perhaps I might point out to the hon. 993 Gentleman that he will grossly offend his Canadian friends if he refers to the United States of America.
§ Sir D. Glover
I agree, but that does not stop millions all over the world, whether it offends people or not, from referring to the United States as America.
The same applies here. A title has been chosen with, I believe, no ulterior motive, which would generally, especially in the Armed Forces—we should not forget that the new regiment will be part of Her Majesty's Forces—be understood as an Army title. What surprises me is that when a constructive effort is being made to overcome much of the argument and criticism of a force which has been greatly maligned this line should be taken.
This force, which has been designed to overcome the suspicions and prejudices which are thought to exist in Northern Ireland towards the old force, has been entitled the Ulster Defence Regiment. First of all, many people think of the Six Counties as Ulster, so the word "Ulster" is reasonable. So is the word "Defence". It is designed for the defence of Northern Ireland, although I know that there are arguments on both sides.
We should get away from fruitless argument about the name and spend more time on the constitution of the regiment and its officering so that we can try to remove the strong fears of many people in the Six Counties about what the regiment will consist of after recruitment and what its rôle will be. I believe that the present name flows easily off the tongue and expresses broadly the regiment's purpose. It is not offensive unless one is deliberately seeking offence. It is a reasonable name, so the Committee should reject the Amendment——
§ Miss Devlin
Logically, since the hon. Gentleman's argument is that there is nothing particularly important about the title—[Interruption.] Hon. Members seem to be nodding in agreement. Surely, therefore, the most logical thing to do, since I am making a strong case for people who feel strongly about the title —and since the argument is that the title does not matter—would be to call it the "Local Territorial Force (Northern Ireland)", and leave it at that?
§ Sir D. Glover
I said that I did not want to detain the Committee long because there are far more substantial Amendments to come. I hope that the hon. Lady will understand that when one is forming a military force it is important that the title gives it some credence in the minds of ordinary people. If one started using the term "Fencible" as is suggested in another Amendment, 99 per cent, of the population would not know what it meant, because it is years since the title was used. The hon. Lady would call it the "Local Territorial Force (Northern Ireland)", which will not stick in people's minds——
§ Sir D. Glover
It is not a title which will make sense. One would have to be a senior wrangler to remember it.
For those purely technical reasons, and since there are more important matters, I hope that the Committee will reject this Amendment.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
I support this Amendment, because it in no way conflicts with Amendment No. 13, my Amendment, which we are discussing with it. I favour both Amendments, and not only for the reasons given in an excellent speech by the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin), upon which I should like to congratulate her. Such speeches are rarely heard in this House. It was not only long but carefully reasoned and very well delivered.
I support the Amendment for reasons which the Secretary of State gave on Second Reading. He said:The Bill … deals with one of the most sensitive aspects of the present problem in Northern Ireland …but it is dealing with those problems in a most insensitive way and a way calculated to increase the difficulties.
My right hon. Friend also said that the Bill was intended to make…a contribution to peace in Ireland as a whole."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th November, 1969; Vol. 791, c. 1319.]In my submission, it will not do so as it stands but may tend in that direction if these Amendments are made. Therefore, for the reasons which the Secretary 995 of State himself gave, the Government should accept either or both of these Amendments. Of course, the Government can hardly accept both, since they both deal with the peculiar name of this proposed regiment. But they should accept one of them.
Ireland is divided and six counties are called Northern Ireland, while the three which are also part of Ulster are situated in Southern Ireland. The Bill will defeat its own aim by tending to increase the differences and to destroy possible peace in that island. Ulster has nine counties and Northern Ireland has six. The Bill trespasses upon the constitutional territory of the Irish Republic by purporting to legislate for the whole of the nine counties. It is called the Ulster Defence Regiment Bill. There is no ground for calling it such. It is likely to increase the discord and the number of disturbances in the island.
For those reasons, among others, I support both Amendments and leave it to the Government, in their good sense, to choose which they will adopt as relevant and most appropriate to the structure of the Bill.
§ Mr. Henry Clark (Antrim, North)
The hon. and learned Member is seeking to point out geographical inaccuracies. Will he not contemplate a further inaccuracy, in that the southern part of Ireland, commonly referred to in international circles either as Eire or as Ireland, has only 26 counties out of 32?
§ Mr. Hughes
I am afraid that the hon. Member is just as mixed up as was the Minister about the geography or topography of the island. If the Government had realised that Northern Ireland covered only six counties out of the nine and that the three others were the territory of the Irish Republic, they would not have named the Bill in such a way; nor would they have named the regiment as it has been named. I am obliged to the hon. Member for suggesting that line of thought, and for that reason also I strongly support both Amendments.
§ Mr. R. Chichester-Clark (Londonderry)
In order not unduly to raise the temperature I do not propose to refer at great length to the speech of the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin), who proposed the Amendment—except 996 to say that it should be treated with the disgust that it deserves.
In passing, the hon. Lady mentioned that a man had been shot during the troubles in the city of Armagh. I, as much as or possibly more than anyone else, want to see whoever did that deed brought to justice. At the moment there is no proof who did it, but I want to see that person brought to justice, as I want to see everybody who commits acts of violence brought to justice, at this or any other time.
The Bill has a good Title, and the title of the regiment is a good one, which will engender a great deal of pride among people in that part of the world, who appreciate the worth of the military connotations of the name "Ulster". Therefore, I hope that the Amendment will be rejected.
Also in passing, I suggest that the word "Territorial" contained in the Amendment may not commend itself to the Government, for reasons upon which I shall not dwell. The world "Ulster" is offensive to no one, except, perhaps, to the hon. Lady. I suspect that there are very few other people in Northern Ireland who are offended by it. I doubt whether it is a talking point in Lecky Row or the main street of Cookstown. I do not think that much sleep is being lost there. At least, that was the case until a few minutes ago, when the hon. Lady made her speech.
I do not think that the speech made by the hon. Lady in condemnation of the new force will do it much harm, because nowadays it is widely thought that condemnation by the hon. Lady is the kiss of life.
§ Miss Devlin rose——
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
I shall give way from now on to anyone who has a relevant point to make. Those who fulminate against this title——
§ The Deputy Chairman (Mr. Harry Gourlay)
Order. If the hon. Member is not prepared to give way other hon. Members must remain seated.
§ Sir D. Glover
On a point of order, Mr. Gourlay. The hon. Lady was heard 997 to say, "Would the dishonourable Gentleman give way?". Surely she should be asked to withdraw that remark.
§ Miss Devlin
I did say "dishonourable and ungallant". I withdraw the statement, but I ask to be allowed to keep the sentiment.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
I am relieved that the hon. Lady feels like that about me. I should feel very disturbed if she felt any other way. I suspect that, with certain exceptions, those who are opposed to this name for the regiment are opposed to the whole concept of the force. There may be others. There may be some hon. Members opposite—more than a few— who, I suspect, merely take this line over the name in the hope that there is more than one way of killing a cat.
As my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) said in the Second Reading debate, we do not hear of many people refusing to accept milk from the Ulster Dairies, or refusing to travel by the Ulster buses. I do not think—for all that the hon. Lady may have suggested—that all the drivers or conductors of those buses are Protestant extremists, or that the Ulster Society for the Protection of Children is run entirely by extremists. That is very unlikely. Nor are there many who leave their television sets permanently tuned to Channel I in order to avoid seeing Ulster Television on Channel 9. Nor is the Ulster Teachers Union boycotted by anyone.
Nor, as far as I know, is the Ulster Farmers Union. I should be interested to hear from the hon. Lady whether she suggests that it has Protestant overtones. The Ulster Farmers Union works happily for the good of the Ulster farmers, and is recognised and negotiated with by the British Government. The Royal Ulster Agricultural Society shows are patronised by men and women of all creeds. I have heard no objection to the word "Royal" or "Ulster".
A short time ago, in Committee, WJ discussed the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Only the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) 998 though it worth while to make a point about the territory denoted by the word "Ulster". As far as I know, Ulster Savings Certificates are not boycotted or banned by anybody. They are bought indiscriminately.
In defence terms the word "Ulster" has honourable connotations, of which most inhabitants of the territory of Northern Ireland or Ulster are justly proud. Almost every Northern Irish Territorial Army unit has the word "Ulster" in its title. Before the war there was the 3rd Ulster Searchlight Regiment, and every unit in it had a title containing the word "Ulster". As far as I know that did not prevent anybody, of any denomination, from joining it. In 1955,1 believe, it was amalgamated into the 245th Ulster L.A.A. Regiment. Furthermore, there was always an Ulster Division of the Royal Naval Reserve. It may have been the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve at one time, but it is now the Royal Naval Reserve. The Protestants of Ulster have always joined these units, and, as far as I remember, I have never heard any objection raised to the name "Ulster". It is a good name and ought to be retained.
The Amendment was moved by an hon. Lady from Northern Ireland whose charity one might expect, would begin at home, or at any rate in her constituency, but I must say that not for many years have I heard anybody in the constituency of Mid-Ulster seek to change its name. As far as I know it is only the Member they want to change.
I believe that this force is very well named, that it will engender pride and that people from all sides will join it.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Niall MacDermot (Derby, North)
May I make it clear from the start that I am not one of those who support the Amendment because I am opposed to the entire Bill. I recognise that a case has been made out for a force of this kind to be established, but I am very much opposed to the name which has been chosen for it.
Perhaps I should make clear my personal position. As most hon. Members are aware, I am an Irishman, born in Dublin and brought up in what is now the Republic of Ireland. I have been educated, and have spent all my life since I left school, in this country. I served in the British Army, am a member of the 999 Bar in this country and I have been a Member of Parliament here for 10 years for English constituencies. I come from a Catholic family but I am not myself a Catholic. I received a Protestant and not a Catholic education. I hope that that background helps me to see both sides of the situation.
When she moved the Amendment, the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) put her finger on the point when she said that if this title is given to this force, the number of Catholics who will join it is liable to be negligible. The hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover), in a charming but, I hope he will not mind my saying, woolly and singularly English speech, suggested that we should stop looking back to the past and look forward to the future. I entirely support that sentiment, but if he wants people to do that, it is better to support a title which does not have associations with the past and will not make the people he wants to look to the future look back to the past.
It is not the word "Ulster" by itself, it is not the word "Defence" by itself, which is offensive. It is the combination of these two words, "Ulster Defence", which has certain associations which are highly charged politically in Northern Ireland, and that is why it is important to change the name. It is a reason which it is extremely difficult for Englishmen with no knowledge of Irish affairs to grasp and understand. It is a reason which hon. Members opposite who represent Northern Ireland constituencies will be unwilling to recognise. Nevertheless, I believe it to be a real reason and a real objection, and it will be a serious prejudice to the future of this Force and its composition and to the people willing to join it if it starts life with a name such as this.
It has been suggested that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. I have always thought that a singularly foolish statement, for I can think of many a name which could be given to a rose which would make it smell far less sweet. The title which is given to this force does not smell sweet in the nostrils of many people to whom, I genuinely believe, it is the Government's intention that it should smell sweet.
1000 That is the reason why it should be changed. I was delighted to see my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Home Affairs on the Front Bench a few moments ago, and I am sorry that he has left, no doubt for some necessary refreshment. I hope that as soon as he has had that refreshment he will return and will remain until at least this debate is complete because, with all respects to my hon. Friends in the Ministry of Defence, I do not believe that this is a matter which can be fairly and properly judged when seen only, as it were, from under a military cap.
It is true that the word "Ulster" has some romantic and honourable associations for military people. They are indeed associations which go back long before the establishment of the Northern Ireland Government, long before the partition of Ireland. I recall serving in the last war in 3rd Division, in which we had a number of Irish regiments. Among other things I had to go to talk to them. Most of the men, like myself, came from Southern Ireland. The Irish regiments have great associations for Irishmen from all parts of Ireland. But that has nothing to do with the nature of this force, which is not an ordinary military force but a para-military force occupying a half-way rôle between a military force and a police force.
It is very important that people in Northern Ireland are persuaded and convinced that it is not, as has been suggested, merely a means of perpetuating the Ulster B Specials under a different name but a genuinely fresh, newly-recruited force, recruited on a genuinely impartial basis. To give it a title which contains the phrase "Ulster Defence" means that it will have aseociations on which the hon. Lady instructed the House. I am sure that most hon. Members present knew little or nothing about those associations. It is because of those associations that I urge the Government to say that they will look at the matter again. The term "Ulster" in itself would be a complete inaccuracy if it were to be applied to what is a Northern Ireland body. The hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clarke) gave examples of a number of no doubt wholly admirable bodies which style themselves with the word "Ulster" in their title, and I have no doubt that he is right in saying 1001 that no one has objected to them. But they are not constitutional bodies. For the Government to set up a new constitutional body, which is to operate under the British Army in Northern Ireland, and to call it the Ulster Defence Regiment, is taking an important constitutional step and, I would say, an important constitutional step backwards. They ought not to do it. It does not improve a difficult situation which I know the Government are anxious in every way to try to ease. Indeed, they have been easing it with consummate skill ever since the recent struggles arose.
I do not believe that the Government are so ignorant as not to have realised at least some of the implications of what they were doing. That leads me to believe that this is a negotiated title. It is clear that in the negotiations which have taken place between the Westminster Government and the Northern Ireland Government there must have been a certain amount of give and take in the proposals contained in the Bill. I suspect that the Government of Northern Ireland were insistent upon this title and that the Government here perhaps did not realise the full implications of acceding to that request. If I am wrong, I am delighted, and in that case it will be much easier for the Government to change the title. If I am right, I urge the Government to have second thoughts and to realise that there are more serious implications in this matter than perhaps they recognised at the time they made the agreement.
I do not forget that the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon), in welcoming the Bill on Second Reading and, no doubt, speaking the minds of hon. Members opposite representing Northern Ireland constituencies, particularly laid stress on his welcome for the title of the new force. That has made me have further doubts.
I hope that what I have said and what other hon. Members will say will be sufficient to make the Government agree to look at this matter again. I have now completed more than ten years' service as a Member of this House and in that time I have not refrained from supporting my party in the way the Whips would like. But I must give this warning: unless the Government are able to say that they will look further into this matter, 1002 that record will not remain unblemished.
§ Mr. McMaster
The hon. and learned Member for Derby, North (Mr. MacDermot) has missed the main point. He has said that the title "Ulster Defence Regiment" may in itself be sufficient to deter a certain number of the minority from joining the force. I ask him to consider the alternative.
Anyone who listened to the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) will realise that a minority there feel strongly about the constitutional position and make no bones of the fact that they want to see a unified republic. They are not likely to support any defence force, whether it be called the "Northern Ireland Defence Force" or the "Ulster Defence Force". The name is irrelevant. What matters is the purpose for which the force has been brought into being.
The hon. and learned Member is wrong in calling it a para-military force. The Minister has made it clear that it is a military force. It is not to be used for a civil rôle, but purely as a reserve force to protect Northern Ireland's borders.
§ Mr. Roy Roebuck (Harrow, East)
The hon. Gentleman was talking about constitutional means. As an Englishman, when I hear the name "Ulster" together with defence I think of the unconstitutional activities of Carson and "Gallaper" Smith. Does the hon. Gentleman really maintain that Ulster is the constitutional name for Northern Ireland?
§ Mr. McMaster
That contribution does not affect my argument. There is a minority in Northern Ireland who support nationalist and republican candidates. They number perhaps 100,000 out of a Roman Catholic population of between 500,000 and 600,000. This small, militant, republican minority will not support any force, no matter what name it has.
I want to refer to some of the things the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster said. I am sorry to see that she is leaving the Chamber. She has now sat down again, I am glad to see. I should like to put on record that I and my colleagues do not accept anything that she has said in her wilder allegations about the Ulster Special Constabulary. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton 1003 (Mr. Heffer) wants to interrupt, perhaps he would do it standing and not from a sedentary position.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
The hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends from Northern Ireland all make reference to the fact that they are not interested in what the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) says, claiming that she is irresponsible, and so forth. Yet they make whole speeches attacking her. If they are not bothered by her, why do they keep attacking her?
§ Mr. McMaster
If the hon. Gentleman will reserve his remarks to the end rather than the beginning of my speech, he will see how irrelevant they are.
I repeat what I said in an intervention in the hon. Lady's speech. I hope that all reasonable and sensible Roman Catholics will come forward and make this force work. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) said, we must look to the future in Northern Ireland. As my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) said, this debate about a name is nothing more than a quibble.
I am sorry that the hon. Lady cannot stay with us. We have seen in her speech and in the speech of the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt)—[HON. MEMBERS: "He has not spoken yet."]—that there is in Northern Ireland a minority not prepared to accept the Constitution. These republicans are outlawed both in the North and the South, and they have created untold misery for thousands of their fellow citizens, both Protestant and Catholic, in Northern Ireland. I have seen this in my constituency during the past six months.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ The Deputy Chairman
Order. We are not at this juncture refighting the battles of Belfast, but are dealing with the Amendment.
§ Mr. McMaster
I shall leave that point. I was merely answering something which had been raised by the hon. Lady.
The situation has left in Northern Ireland a legacy of bitterness which we have to live down there. We in Northern Ireland accept this new body under its 1004 new name and want to make a success of it so that we can look forward to a more settled and peaceful future. I hope that the regiment will never be called upon to defend Ulster's borders against an armed attack across those borders, either by the I.R.A. or any other force.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
It has been argued by some hon. Members that this Amendment is subsidiary and one on which we should spend little time because we have more important arguments to come to later. I am not denying that there are important arguments that we shall come to later in the evening, but I believe that they could be affected by the Government's attitude to this Amendment. Indeed, we have our procedures and order matters in this style so that we have an opportunity in our debates for the Government to make a response to appeals made from this side of the House, or from opposite, and, if the Government wish, at all times it is within their power to expedite the business of the Committee by accepting or showing good will towards particular Amendments.
We have had three or four powerful speeches on the Amendment. Anyone who heard the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) would agree that hers was a formidable speech with a considerable amount of evidence in it. The only mistake she made was in her misapprehension about the way we conduct our affairs inside the Labour Party, but we shall be able to enlighten her on that when we come to the conclusion of the debate. But that is my only quarrel with her; she made a most powerful speech.
Also, no one on this side will deny that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. MacDermot) made another. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) also spoke with special knowledge. For the moment, for reasons of delicacy, I will not refer to what has been said by hon. Members opposite, but I repeat that no one can deny that, on this side, there have been powerful arguments for the Amendment.
If the Government wish to speed up the debate and to get to what they may consider to be more substantial matters, they should come forward and show some 1005 good will towards the Amendment. I cannot see any reason, except for those which we may discuss later, why they should not. This is not very auspicious for our later discussions, for the Government so far have not made any move to accept or to acknowledge the importance of the Amendment.
I know that there are some hon. Members opposite, most of whom have now departed, who say that this is a trivial question and is not a matter of any importance. The hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) said that he proposed to treat the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster with disgust. That is not the kind of language I like to hear, although I suppose that it is parliamentary. We will have to spend some part of our debates teaching the Tory Members from Northern Ireland some elementary good manners. I know that they have not had to exercise them in the past, because we have not had many debates on this subject, but we shall have many debates on Irish questions in the days and nights and years to come.
Hon. Members opposite, the "Parliamentary B Specials", must show some good manners. This is particularly true when, after the hon. Member had said that he would treat my hon. Friend's speeches with disgust, Tory Members proceeded to writhe under the lash. That is what happens to Tory Members from Northern Ireland when my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster speaks, and some of us find that process extremely gratifying; we can bear it and will continue to do so.
The Government would be most unwise to argue that the question of the name is a triviality. That was the principal argument of the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover). All the examples recited of the Ulster dairy and the Ulster bus service had nothing to do with defence or these explosive questions which are so deep in Irish history. But for hon. Members to try to treat this matter as a triviality is highly dangerous, because every time they say that the name does not matter the force of the interruption by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster becomes the greater: if it does not matter, why not make the change?
Let us consider why they do not want to make the change. I would have 1006 thought that all hon. Members would agree that if this newly-named defence force is to succeed, it will have to be distinguished from the old B Specials at least in this fact—that it will be a balanced force and that it will have members of the Catholic as well as of the Protestant population. We are all agreed about that, even hon. Members opposite. I note that the hon. and learned Member for Antrim, South (Sir Knox Cunningham) has not turned up. He does not agree with that proposition, but the others pretend that they do. We will give them the credit for saying that they agree with the proposition, and I see that they nod. They say that they want plenty of Catholics to join this force, and again I see them nod.
Do they think that more Catholics will join if the name is changed, or fewer? Do they think that if they keep the Ulster name it will make any difference? Why not change it? On the subject of what will be the response of members of the Catholic population in Northern Ireland my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster and my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West speak with considerably more authority than do Unionist Members opposite. I do not believe that there is any hon. Member who would honestly say that as many Catholics are likely to join a force called the Ulster Defence Regiment as are likely to join a force which has a neutral name, even if it is not precisely the name suggested by my hon. Friends.
If hon. Members opposite are sincere in their desire that as many Catholics as possible should join the force, or at any rate a sufficient number to hold the balance and to make it fundamentally different from the old B Specials, they can prove their good will at the beginning of the debate by agreeing to the proposition to change it. If they refuse, if they say that they will not change the name and are adamant about keeping it, that will sow suspicion not only in the minds of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster and my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West, but even in the minds of unsuspicious people like myself. We will begin to ask why it is that the Northern Ireland Members are determined to keep the name.
I believe that they want to keep the name precisely because to do so would 1007 keep the Catholics out, precisely because it would identify the new force under the old cloak. That is why they want to keep the name and that is why we want it changed. This is where the Government come into the matter.
The Government have to choose between the demands which have been so insistently made by Unionist Members and the vast majority of Labour Members. I have not the slightest doubt that if the majority of my hon. Friends were asked whether the name should be the Ulster Regiment, they would agree to change the name. Certainly, they would do so after having listened to the remarkable speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. MacDermot).
What I want to know from the Government, and I should like a straight answer, for it will make a great deal of difference to my attitude to the whole of the debate, is whether they are in a position to accept the Amendment, whether they are in a position to accept the persuasive arguments of my hon. and learned Friend, let alone those of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster. We have deep suspicions about this. We suspect, as my hon. and learned Friend suggested in language much more reticent than that which I normally employ, that the reason why the Government could not agree to the Amendment is that there is some understanding between this Government and the Stormont Government. I am not prepared to tolerate it in matters such as this.
We all know that Governments are bound to engage in negotiations with outside bodies of different kinds and that they present the understandings they have made to the House of Commons. That is a normal process of government and Governments could not be carried on without it. But the whole of this situation in Northern Ireland arises because of the collapse of the faith of large numbers of people in the Stormont Government. That is why we are debating the matter at all. That is why British troops are in Northern Ireland—because the great mass of the people, at least the minority, have lost faith in the Stormont Government. The majority may still have faith in it, but the faith of the minority has collapsed, collapsed to such 1008 a degree that we have to take steps in Northern Ireland which are quite exceptional to those taken in any other part of the United Kingdom—we have had to send troops there to preserve law and order and the common decencies for the people who live there. In that situation extreme measures have had to be taken by a Labour Government, and they do not like sending troops to some of these places. [HON. MEMBERS: "Anguilla."] They were probably unwise there, and they did not send them to Southern Rhodesia, where they might have had a better excuse.
They sent them, quite rightly, to Northern Ireland, but it was an extreme measure caused by the collapse of the confidence of a large number of people in the Government of Stormont. In that situation it is intolerable that a Bill should be introduced in this House under which, in effect we are required to reject every Amendment proposed on behalf of the powerful minority in Northern Ireland because of an agreement—if this is so—made with the Stormont Government, the very Government the collapse of whose authority has led to this situation.
§ [Sir ROBERT GRANT-FERRIS in the Chair]
§ Some of us for many days past, ever since the Bill was proposed, have been urging the Government by every means available to us, through normal party machinery and other methods, to be prepared to accept Amendments. In that sense, the Amendment is a test of their good faith. It does not involve a major change in the structure of the force. We shall debate that later. It does not even involve the question of whether they will carry out the Hunt recommendations, another matter that we shall come to later. Those are important questions.
§ The Amendment involves the simple question of the explosive matter of the name, which everybody who knows anything about it on either side of the Committee knows goes deep back into Irish history. On that subject, it is a question not whether the Government are prepared to make Amendments but whether they are in a position to make them.
§ On a matter of this nature, on which overwhelmingly on this side we have 1009 been critical of the Stormont apparatus for generations, and for generations have been seeking to remedy it, we are not prepared to be told that we cannot amend even the name of the new force. Therefore, it would be quite wrong for the Committee not to vote on the matter. But if the Government are not prepared to make a concession—and they could have made it earlier—let us consider what they would have to face if they made one. They would have to go to Stormont and say that the name had to be changed, and they could say, "The name will be changed because the British House of Commons, after considering the matter, thinks that it would be better to change it so as to encourage more Catholics to join the force."
§ We argue that because we know— and there is not a single Member in the House who does not know it in his heart, whatever he may say with his vote and voice—that what I am saying is true. If the name is changed there is a better chance of having the force on the basis that Northern Ireland hon. Members opposite claim they want. Everybody knows it. The Government know it, and the only argument against the Amendment is that they are shackled to the agreement they made with Stormont.
§ If that is so—and I believe it to be the case, unless they can give me sound evidence to the contrary—the business of the House of Commons is to break the shackles, to set the Government free from their Stormont undertaking, if that is what they have made.
§ Mr. Foot
Even Ministers should have rights, even Ministers of State and Under-Secretaries of State. Macaulay once said that an Under-Secretary or a Minister in a Government outside the Cabinet was a slave. I would not use such severe terms.
I am not talking about the normal situation. This is an extremely serious matter. I am not joking about it. Are we to be told throughout our debates that we cannot have any substantial Amendments because there has been some kind of agreement with Stormont? I do not expect to be told it in those explicit terms. If there has been an 1010 agreement I expect it all the more to be concealed.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army (Mr. Ivor Richard)
We are on a hiding to nothing.
§ Mr. Foot
It is not a hiding to nothing. My hon. Friend's best course is to show his independence.
The argument of hon. Members opposite who have said that the matter is trivial reinforces the case of my hon. Friends who say that it is important. However one cares to regard it, it is a powerful argument for changing the name. If, on this minor Amendment, we are not prepared to start getting the Government to accommodate themselves with the opinion of the House of Commons, we shall be in difficulties.
I want to see, as, I believe, do many hon. Members, the whole situation in Ireland starting off on a new basis. The charge that has been made is that the Ulster Defence Regiment will be the B Specials over again. If we want to alter that, we should start by altering the name. Then let us proceed to examine the structure. But let the Government not tell us at the beginning of this debate that we must accept what was originally put in the Bill and that we are not entitled, as we are on every other Bill, to amend it.
Let us discuss, constructively and with force, the structure of the Bill, but let the Government show some good will to those who, for many years, have been saying that this Irish question should be debated in this House. We are not prepared to tolerate a situation in which a minority in Northern Ireland, for whom we are responsible, are abused, discriminated against and treated in the fashion that they have been treated over 50 years. We want the new start in Ireland and the way is to change the Bill—perhaps considerably—but we should start first by changing the name.
§ Mr. Lubbock
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) has made a powerful speech for the Amendment, to which I am sure the whole Committee will have paid great attention. There is only one point on which I disagree with him. That is that if the Minister gives the House an assurance that there has been no secret compact with Stormont, I for one will be prepared to accept his 1011 assurance: I hope that he will be able to give it.
This is a very important matter, on which clarification is needed, especially after the series of speeches on Second Reading in favour of some change in the name and the further series of speeches to which Ministers have listened in this debate. I agree with the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale that this does not involve any matter of principle for the Unionists or any concession as to the composition or powers of the force, and that it should have been a trivial matter which we could have got out of the way in the first few minutes if the Minister had said that he would accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) or some other change in the title to eliminate the obnoxious word.
I must say that I am not wedded to the hon. Lady's Amendment, because her title is far too cumbersome, but if the Minister would say that he would eliminate the word "Ulster" and bring forward an alternative title incorporating the words "Northern Ireland", which I understand are acceptable to all sections in the province, this would satisfy me. None of the Unionist Members has objected to this. They have produced arguments in favour of the retention of the word "Ulster" which sound pretty half-hearted to me. I am sure that if the hon. Gentleman said that he would make the proposed change he would upset no one on this side.
The hon. Gentleman would then be able to go to Stormont, as the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale said, and say that, in response to the overwhelming opinion of the House of Commons both on Second Reading and in Committee, he felt that something of this kind should be done. I have put this to him, because, like the hon. and learned Member for Derby, North (Mr. MacDermot), I am wholly in favour of the principles behind the Bill and I want to see it go through and be made to work as soon as it is on the Statute Book. The Minister should consider carefully whether it is more likely to work with a change in the name than if he insists on keeping the word "Ulster".
The hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) said that he despaired, as he 1012 listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster, of there ever being any harmony in the province. Had he still been here, I should have liked to quote to him one sentence from a very distinguished person:Ireland cannot change for the worse, but unless religious animosities or violence of parties can be in some measure allayed, I do not think she can receive much benefit from any plan of Government.This was from a letter sent by Lord Cornwall to his brother James on 17th November, 1788.
Things do not seem to change very rapidly in Northern Ireland, but this quotation shows, if the hon. Gentleman needs any further persuasion, that, unless we get rid of this sectarian bitterness, no scheme like this regiment or any of the other Measures to be taken to implement civil rights in the province will operate properly——
§ Mr, Henry Clark
I have listened to the whole debate, including the speech of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot). It has been of a very high temperature. I think that I know Ireland at least as well as hon. Members who have spoken on this side, but I do not see the connection between Ulster and sectarian differences and why the words "Ulster Defence Force" are so highly charged. We have had evidence from only one hon. Member with Irish experience—the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin)—who, frankly, is not the most unbiased witness the House has ever heard.
§ Mr. Lubbock
Perhaps I will add only one further example. To come on from 1788 to 1912, I remind the House of the sectarian bitterness occasioned by the formation of the Ulster Volunteer Force, supported by the traitors, Sir Edward Carson, Bonar Law and Sir Henry Wilson. I remind the House also of what——
§ Mr. Lubbock
I will give way presently—Mr. Winston Churchill, as he then was, said about the character of that force 1013 in a speech which he made shortly afterwards. He said:As long as it affects working men in England or Nationalist peasants in Ireland, there is no measure of military force which the Tory Party will not readily employ. They denounce all violence except their own. They uphold all law except the law they choose to break. They always welcome the application of force to others. But they themselves are to remain immune. They are to select from the Statute Book the laws they will obey and the laws they will resist.That was what the then Mr. Winston Churchill said about the Ulster Volunteer Force and its supporters whom I have mentioned. This illustrates, to answer the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Mr. Henry Clark), why the word "Ulster" is a very dangerous one to use.
§ Mr. Lubbock
Since the official title of the province is Northern Ireland, I cannot see any objection to the use of those words. I do not see why that title should be unacceptable to the Unionists, either here or at Stormont. As far as I am aware, it would be quite acceptable to them, with the possible exception of the hon. and learned Member for Antrim, South (Sir Knox Cunningham), who is not here. If there is any difficulty about this, let us discuss it and have hon. Members' alternative proposals. Let them suggest a new title, which they have not done. They have not put down an Amendment although they realise the controversial nature of this proposal. If they want the force to work and they disagree with the suggested alternative of the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster, why did they not try to suggest a title of their own which they thought would be acceptable? All I am trying to do is to get as wide as possible a measure of agreement so that the proposal can work.
§ Mr. McMaster
Does not the hon. Member understand that the trouble is not whether the title is "Ulster" or "Northern Ireland" but arises from the title "Northern Ireland Defence Force"? It carries the idea of defending Northern Ireland, and hon. Members opposite would be as likely to object to "Northern 1014 Ireland Defence Regiment" as to "Ulster Defence Regiment".
§ Mr. Lubbock
That also would be rather too long. That is my criticism of the hon. Lady's Amendment. I would simply use the title Northern Ireland Regiment. That would be a proud and honourable title that would be acceptable to all sections of opinion.
Perhaps this is a matter which hon. Members on this side could deal with, if any more of them speak in the debate, and say whether they would come to a compromise on it, if they do not like the hon. Lady's suggestion, and produce some form of title that would be mutually acceptable to all sides of this House and with which we could then go to Stormont and say that it would do the utmost to ensure that the objects which we both seek are fully accomplished.
The hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark), who mentioned the Ulster Dairy, Ulster buses, Ulster television, and so on, was off the mark. None of those is a military force. I do not think that the point was, as the hon. and learned Member for Derby, North (Mr. MacDermot) put it, that there was a constitutional difference between those commercial organisations and the Ulster Defence Regiment. They are purely peaceful in their activities. There is no threat to the minority as far as I am aware in the activities of the Ulster Dairy. It sells milk to whoever wants to buy it; there is no risk of its discriminating in favour of Protestants in Northern Ireland. That is why it does not matter very much what the title of a dairy or a bus company may be.
In the case of a military force, the title assumes a quite different complexion. I agree with the sense of what the hon. and learned Member for Derby, North said, although I think that it is the military rather than the constitutional significance of the difference which really matters.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Captain L. P. S. Orr (Down, South)
Is the hon. Gentleman really suggesting that a force set up under the authority of this House, under the G.O.C. Northern Ireland and subject to the Minister of Defence is likely to discriminate against anybody?
§ Mr. Lubbock
If I were to answer the hon. and gallant Gentleman I would have to refer to the vetting procedure, and that arises on a later Amendment.
We are discussing the number of likely applicants from the Catholic and Protestant sections of the community who will wish to give their services in the first instance. What the hon. and gallant Gentleman is implying may be correct; that, by virtue of the procedures that will be adopted, and which I hope will be thoroughly explained to the House, the G.O.C. will be able to weight the applications heavily in favour of the Catholics rather than the Protestants to take into account the different numbers that will come forward. The hon. and gallant Gentleman will know what I have in mind.
I am not sure that it is correct to say that no Catholics will apply. Rather, I agree with those who say that even if a minority of potential recruits are deterred from applying, that would be a serious matter. I vastly prefer to accept the opinions of people like the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster and the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), who have knowledge of the views of the minority in the Province, than those who speak for the Protestants in Northern Ireland and who, therefore, are less likely to know what emotions are aroused by the use of these words in the title.
I suggest that this discussion should be ended quickly so that we may hear the Minister's reply and, as the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) said, judge what attitude the Government and the House are likely to take to later Amendments. I therefore view this as a critical test of the Government's good faith and of their intention to make this regiment work.
§ Mr. E. L. Mallalieu (Brigg)
Like my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. MacDermot), I do not oppose the establishment of this regiment. Indeed, it could be an extremely useful balm on the Irish situation. However, that it quite different from saying that I approve of its name. Because I want this regiment to serve a useful purpose in bringing peace to Ireland, I am keen to see the Government change their mind about its name.
1016 We are discussing a situation in which one section in Northern Ireland passionately wanted to get rid of the Specials while another section as it happened, a larger one—equally passionately wanted to keep them. The Home Secretary—he is probably at the back of this, although we have representatives of other Departments on the Government Front Bench—coming to this problem with the utmost good will, has hit on what I hesitate to call, but must call, this gimmick; the establishment of a regiment to bring peace to Ireland, and this is one of his contributions.
If this regiment is established, each side in Northern Ireland will be able to say that it has scored strong points towards its own point of view, and that is extremely valuable in this situation. I would have liked to see my hon. Friends—who obviously want peace in Ireland at least as much as I do; this particularly goes for the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) and my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt)—bring a lightness of touch into the situation which is more associated with their island than with ours. Instead, they have come down somewhat heavy-footed and Anglo-Saxon-like in favour of——
§ Miss Devlin
With due respect to my hon. and learned Friend, and since he and not I called it a gimmick, may I point out that my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) and I represent the people of Northern Ireland, and are much more interested in their welfare than good gimmicks on behalf of the Secretary of State for the Home Department.
§ Mr. Mallalieu
My hon. Friend is entitled to make that remark, but I did not use the word "gimmick" in any derogatory sense. A gimmick can be very useful, and I am all for finding the right gimmick for the right situation. It is perfectly true that I do not represent the people of Northern Ireland but I would remind my hon. Friend that, even though it may not be for very long, I have lived in Northern Ireland for longer than she has; so she must have some respect not only for the knowledge of certain hon. Members but for their real intention of doing the right thing to bring back peace to that unfortunate country.
1017 I ask my hon. Friends on the Front Bench to think again about the name. We have in this House become accustomed to the downright arrogance or impertinence of hon. Members opposite representing Northern Ireland constituencies—for many of whom I have a great personal regard—in assuming that Ulster would be an ordinary word to use when they really mean Northern Ireland. It is to make themselves look bigger than they are because they know that so many counties are outside Northern Ireland, and that is a great pity; but is there any reason why the Government should perpetuate that situation, and in a Statute? I beg them to think again.
§ Mr. Rafton Pounder (Belfast, South)
May I follow directly on the observations made by the hon. and learned Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu) and take up two points, beginning with the one with which he concluded when he implied that those of us on this side of the Committee who have a genuine affection for the use of the word "Ulster" are being arrogant? This is extremely unfair. I happen to like the word on the ground of euphony. I have always liked the name, and I strongly resent any accusation that I am being sectarian. I think that his remark was a little harsh.
I know the hon. and learned Member meant his remarks about seeking a gimmick in the best possible sense, but he would be the first to realise that, in the tension in Northern Ireland, to refer to the proposed regiment by means of a word which suggests a gimmick can create an unfortunate climate. Whether or not the fears are realistic is irrelevant.
Many people in Northern Ireland genuinely believe that there is a need and an urgency for a regiment such as is envisaged. There has been a lot of talk about semantics, but let us be quite accurate. It may be true that this is the first time that there has been in the title of a Bill a breach of convention in the description of Northern Ireland, but one may cast one's mind back to the Ireland Act—not the Republic of Ireland Act. So there is a precedent for using customary names rather than names which may be expected to be found exclusively in treaties.
§ Miss Devlin
As I understand, the Government of Ireland enactment to 1018 which the hon. Gentleman refers is based on legislation which dealt with the question of treaties in Ireland. Originally, it referred to Ireland as a whole. This set the precedent for the existence of the title in the subsequent Act. Therefore, on that simple basis his argument must fall.
§ Mr. Pounder
With respect to the hon. Lady, we are at cross purposes. I was referring to the Ireland Act.
§ Mr. Gerard Fitt (Belfast, West)
Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that the term in this case was particularly appropriate because the Ireland Act of 1949 dealt with the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, so that it was appropriate to call it the Ireland Act?
§ Mr. Pounder
I recall that the purpose of the Act was to codify the situation in the Republic of Ireland rather than in Ireland as a whole. Do not let the Committee get tied down on that small point. Let us move on.
The argument so often advanced by hon. Members opposite that recruitment will be affected because of the name, cannot be relevant. It is conjecture at this stage. Nobody can say whether recruitment will or will not be affected. It is a matter of opinion or a matter of judgment.
I cannot believe that it will have the undesirable effect of minimising the number of those who will come forward to assist in the proposed regiment. It is quite wrong to imply, as has been implied by more than one hon. Member opposite, that the name of Ulster is synonymous with Protestantism, or that its very overtones are sinister. To me, that is an irrational argument, it is emotional, and it is without foundation.
A number of people in Northern Ireland who are opposing the name are also opposing the requirement for the regiment, the cost of the regiment, and so on. This surely is nit-picking. If it is not one thing it is something else on which they fasten, simply because they dislike the concept of the regiment.
Then there is the invalidity of the argument put by those who are so keen on trying to change the name because, they say, it is the only barrier between acceptance or otherwise.
§ Mr. Russell Kerr (Feltham)
Is the hon. Gentleman telling the Committee 1019 that there is no significant body of opinion among the Catholic minority which takes objection to this name?
§ Mr. Pounder
Time alone will tell whether it is a significant body of opinion. There have been vociferous objections, but vociferous objections do not necessarily reflect the views of the majority. It tends to be the minority that is most vociferous. It is easy to conjecture one way or the other. I am not prepared to make an assessment on the effects. I am simply expressing my own personal view. I do not think that it will have an effect——
§ Mr. John Ryan (Uxbridge)
Will the hon. Gentleman tell the Committee what objections he has received from his own constituents to the Ulster Defence Regiment?
§ Mr. Pounder
I have received no letters for or against the name. It can, therefore, be assumed that the majority of my constituents are happy with the name. If they were not, they would have let their views be known.
The hon. and learned Member for Derby, North (Mr. MacDermot) tended to make the point that Ulster was a negotiated title. I would be the last to dissent from the view of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), who laid stress on the paramountcy of Parliament, but surely it is better if it is a negotiated title. Anything in the present situation in Northern Ireland which appears to the people of Northern Ireland to be imposed from outside will only further put off the day when both communities can live together in peace and harmony. Expressed another way, the Englishman has not yet been born who understands Ireland and its problems, whether in the North or in the South. Therefore, I hope that this is a title which has not been forced on the regiment by anybody.
Whatever one may think, and however one may argue about the title of the regiment, what is relevant is that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee want to see the regiment get off the ground. I hope that as many people as possible from both communities in Northern Ireland will make themselves available for membership of that regiment.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Roebuck
I begin by expressing my disappointment at the absence from the Treasury Bench of my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Defence and the Home Secretary. This Bill is regarded as being of such importance that it is being considered by a Committee of the Whole House. Many hon. Members on this side, including myself, believe that substantial alterations should be made, and I am not convinced that my two hon. Friends on the Front Bench have authority to listen to our arguments and be swayed by them. If that is not the case, no doubt they will intervene and put me right, but I suspect that they have been briefed by my right hon. Friends and told to resist the many Amendments which have been tabled, notwithstanding our arguments.
I intend no disrespect to my hon. Friends when I say that it is usually the organ-grinder who dictates a change of tune. Certainly, their demeanour when listening to the arguments of my hon. Friends has not been that of people willing to consider carefully the substantial and compelling points made with a view to making changes.
I am not an Irishman, nor am I a Roman Catholic. I am a Lancashire Methodist. I object to the proposed name for the force because, for a long time, I have regarded it as an impertinence for the Irish Republic to refer to its territory as "Eire", which I understand is the Erse word for the whole of Ireland. By the same token, it is wrong for those in the Province of Northern Ireland to refer to that area as "Ulster". Quite demonstrably, Ulster extends beyond the Province of Northern Ireland. When we are trying to spread peace and good will and to sow harmony, it is nonsense to pick on a title which will be offensive to large numbers of the very people whom we are anxious to induce to support the Constitution.
As I said by the way of intervention in the speech of the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster), when I hear the name "Ulster" my mind goes back to Carson, "Galloper" Smith and others who picked the laws which they intended to uphold. I ask those hon. Gentlemen opposite who are members of the Ulster Unionist Party to realise that the term "Ulster" is offensive and 1021 repugnant not only to those of my hon. Friends who come from Ireland or have Irish connections but also to those of us on this side of the Irish Sea who seek to uphold our constitution.
My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) has put forward very many compelling reasons why the proposed title is likely to lead to great difficulties. She has pointed to the tragedy of the man who was shot by someone who belonged to an organisation which had the name "Ulster" in its title. In the face of those arguments, I cannot understand the objections of hon. Gentlemen opposite. If they say that they believe in the Union Jack and uphold the constitution, what is wrong with the proper name for the Province, which is Northern Ireland?
The most interesting contribution came from the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover). The hon. Gentleman, quoting from Shakespeare, said that a rose by any other name will smell as sweet. But the hon. Gentleman had forgotten a piece of Scottish military history about an English general who went to Scotland. The sweet william was named after him, but it was known to the Scots as stinking Billy. He was so known, and so were the British troops. Therefore, it has some significance, particularly when we are dealing with lesser breeds like the Scots and the Irish, and is a matter to be taken into consideration.
Does the alternative, Northern Ireland, offend anybody? Does it offend any hon. Gentlemen opposite who are in the Ulster Unionist Party? If so, can we be told why, because it has not yet emerged.
The hon. Member for Ormskirk was on a better point and so was the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Pounder) who spoke of euphony. He seemed to think that "Ulster Defence Regiment" was a more poetic sort of title than the one proposed by my hon. Friends. To some extent I agree.
But what is wrong with L.D.V.? I am not as old as the hon. Member for Ormskirk—as I hope is clearly apparent—but I remember that in the early days of the war we had the L.D.V.—the Local Defence Volunteer. That was a very honourable title. Is not that precisely the same kind of organisation which is proposed for Northern Ireland—an organisation to defend the State against incursions 1022 from across the border? I see no objection to that.
§ Mr. Henry Clark
The hon. Gentleman will remember that the L.D.V. retained its name for approximately six months. It was then thought fit to change it in Northern Ireland to the Ulster Home Guard. If the hon. Gentleman objects so much to the Ulster Defence Regiment—I am sure I can speak for most of my colleagues—we are prepared to accept Ulster Home Guard.
§ Mr. Roebuck
The L.D.V. was changed to Home Guard here. I have no objection to it being called the Home Guard. But that is not the point. The offensive portion is the word "Ulster".
There have been accusations floating across the Committee that those who object do not want the Bill. That is not so in my case. I want the Bill to succeed, but this title will tend to make the proposed regiment not succeed. Therefore, if the hon. Gentleman is with me in wanting this regiment to succeed, I hope that he will concede this point and state later, if he catches you eye, Sir Robert, precisely his objection to the "Northern Ireland Defence Regiment". I understand there is no objection from some of my hon. Friends. Therefore, can there not be a bit of concord between the two factions in Northern Ireland to try to make it succeed?
My hon. Friend the Member for Mid Ulster (Miss Devlin) put a very pertinent point: who thought of this idea; where did the title "Ulster" come from? It has been suggested that it was the idea of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in some negotiations in cigar-laden Guinness-topped back rooms. I do not know whether that is so, but I ask the direct question of my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench, as the Home Secretary is not to reward us with his presence: where did the title "Ulster" come from? Is it the result of some deal with Stormont? If so, what authority had my right hon. Friend to pledge the House of Commons to agree to it? Let us know a great deal more about it.
After all, to a large extent it is the money of taxpayers on this side of the Irish Sea which will be spent on the operation—[An HON. MEMBER: "Exclusively."] My constituents have already spent far too much in trying to put 1023 right the errors which have been perpetrated by hon. Gentlemen opposite. In that I include the Conservative Front Bench. I am never sure what the difference is between Ulster Unionists and the Conservative Party. I suspect that they are the same—[An HON. MEMBER: "They are the same."] Therefore, hon. Gentlemen opposite can bear some of the blame for inflicting an even greater load on the British taxpayers. If my constituents are to pay this money, I want the force to be efficient.
It is clear from what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster, and from the noises which have been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), that this title is bound to be an obstacle to the efficient recruitment and running of this regiment. I therefore ask my hon. Friends on the Front Bench, if they have the authority to do it, to accept the Amendment.
Like my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Mac-Dermot) I have a fairly reasonable record in the Division Lobby, but I shall not vote for this proposal, so the Government had better change their mind.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
Having intervened briefly in the debate on the Police Bill, I feel I should intervene with equal brevity on this matter. I have listened to every speech, and it seems to me that one which most requires an answer from this side of the House is that of the hon. and learned Member for Derby, North (Mr. Mac-Dermot). I thought that he spoke with reason and with authority—I am sorry that the hon. and learned Gentleman is not here—and I very much admired the tenor of his speech.
As I understood it, the gravamen of what he said was that some people in Northern Ireland feel very strongly that the word "Ulster" should not be used in the title of this regiment. I accept from him, and indeed from others, that that is so. Many people in Northern Ireland feel strongly on this subject. But it must be set against that that other people in Northern Ireland feel equally strongly that the word "Ulster" should be used in the title. [An HON. MEMBR: "For the wrong reasons."] The hon. Gentleman 1024 says that. I wish that he would listen. Let us accept that some people in Northern Ireland feel strongly that the word "Ulster" should not be used, and we have been given reasons for that. I hope the Committee will accept that others in Northern Ireland feel equally strongly that it should be used.
§ Mr. Russell Kerr rose——
§ Mr. Griffiths
Later. As I see it, it seems that it is a matter of weighing the opinions. I think it has to be accepted that there is a minority which wishes the word not to be used. The Government are right to give this minority opinion the most careful consideration, but, at the same time, while the Government must weigh the opinion of the minority, they are not entitled to trample on the sentiments of the majority, and there cannot be any doubt that a majority——
§ Mr. Paul B. Rose (Manchester, Blackley) rose—
§ The Temporary Chairman (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)
Order. The hon. Member who has the Floor is clearly not giving way, so the hon. Member who is trying to intervene must not persist.
§ Mr. Griffiths
There can be no doubt that, while the minority's feelings are entitled to be considered, the majority's view is plain, and it is that the word "Ulster" should be included in the title. That is my answer to the hon. and learned Member for Derby, North.
§ Mr. Rose
The hon. Gentleman has made an important point. Will he understand that the overriding consideration is the minority, that unless the minority is convinced of good will its members will not join the force? The only way in which this force can work is if the minority are prepared to join in large numbers. Therefore, in this case the priority is that the minority should accept this. This is one of those cases in which one has to yield to the minority in order to create a viable and effective force and get away from the shadow of the past.
§ Mr. Griffiths
That is the hon. Gentleman's view, and I recognise what he is saying. Nevertheless, if the force is to be a success, it is the more important that it should not begin by offending the 1025 clear majority sentiment in Northern Ireland. We all wish this force to be a success and it falls to the Government to weigh all these difficult and imponderable questions. The Government will be right to come down on the side of the demonstrably majority opinion in Northern Ireland, and I hope that no hon. Member who wishes the force well will dispute that point.
§ Mr. Russell Kerr
I do not wish to be obstructive, but would not the hon. Gentleman agree that the majority which he, correctly, I imagine, describes as being in favour of Ulster being in the title would not be offended if the words "Northern Ireland" were substituted for it?
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I hope to develop this point a little later. I content myself at the moment by saying again that the Government must weigh carefully the opinion of the minority, but they must come down in the end with the majority.
The name of the regiment is important, most of all to those who serve in it. If the name is to be successful as far as possible it should be short and clear and should evoke pride and loyalty. I believe that the title "Ulster Defence Regiment"qualifies under the first of these counts. It is short: it could hardly, in the circumstances, be shorter. "Ulster" is short, "Defence" is short, and "Regiment" is as short as it can reasonably be. Therefore, the title is inherently better than the one proposed in the hon. Lady's Amendment, because it is much easier for people to use.
Although this may not be regarded as important in this House—though I think it is outside—it happens to abbreviate very well. It comes out in the letters U.D.R.—not, perhaps, the most euphonious combination of letters for hon. Members opposite, but very much better than L.T.F. (N.I.), which sounds more like a new line on the underground than anything else. So, on the ground of brevity, "Ulster Defence Regiment" is a good title.
Second, it is important that it should be clear; and it is clear. Almost all of us would agree with this. To most people in this country, the word' "Ulster" means the Six Counties. It may be 1026 argued that, historically, Ulster was wider. I accept that, of course—
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. I am sorry, but I think that the hon. Member gave way to the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy).
§ Mr. Hugh Delargy (Thurrock)
I am following the hon. Member with great attention and sympathy. His argument, so far as I can see, is, first of all, that the title is brief; second, that the majority likes it and the majority's opinion must prevail over that of the minority. Would he address himself to something which he does not always consider—to the fact of Ulster? Six counties do not make up Ulster. There are nine counties in Ulster and, as he should know,Contra factum non valet argumentum.
§ Mr. Griffiths
The hon. Member may, if he wishes, be able to catch your eye and make his own speech, in one language or another, Sir Robert, after I have resumed my seat. I said simply that the word "Ulster" is clear to the great majority of the people of this country, and that is an advantage.
I suspect that the reason why hon. Gentlemen who have signed the Amendment object to this word is that they object to the existence of Ulster. That is what lies behind the Amendment, I think——
§ Miss Devlin rose——
§ Mr. Griffiths
No, I will not give way—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] I will, of course, allow the hon. Lady to interrupt in a moment. I suspect that her difficulty over the Ulster Defence Regiment is that she does not want to defend Ulster. She wants to put an end to Ulster by achieving a union with Southern Ireland. This is a perfectly tenable point of view, which has been heard in the House before. But I must say that this is not a view which is shared by the overwhelming majority of the House, on both sides, as she will discover in the Lobby.
Nor is it the view of the majority of the people of this country. The great majority of our people are prepared to defend Ulster and to maintain Ulster under the 1027 Crown. That is why I, for one, would wholly reject this Amendment.
§ Several Hon. Members rose——
§ The Temporary Chairman
Does the hon. Member give way to the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. John Lee)?
§ Mr. Griffiths
There are so many hon. Members asking me to give way, Sir Robert, that I am at a loss to choose one. I give way to the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin).
§ Miss Devlin
The hon. Member is totally mistaken in thinking—albeit that his own opinion is important—that because he says that Ulster contains six counties it does any such thing. Ulster contains nine counties.
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. We simply cannot argue how many counties there are in Ulster. We are here to discuss whether this force should be called the Ulster Defence Regiment or something else. We must keep closely to that point.
§ Miss Devlin
If the hon. Member is still giving way—that is one objection. I pointed out that this was a minor objection to my agreeing to the Bill. I gave a number of other reasons. My opinions on the Bill are quite clear. I totally reject it. I also stated that, given the fact that it was going through the House, there were at least some Amendments which might help to make it more tolerable—and that one was not to call this force the Ulster Defence Regiment.
It is totally unfair for the hon. Member to say that I am against the existence of Ulster. I would point out to him that Ulster existed long before he or his party did—and it will do when he is rotting in his grave.
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. I must remind hon. Members that in order to be effective and parliamentary, interventions must be short.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I see no reason why the hon. Lady should not have preferential treatment in the House. I do not think that it matters. I repeat my point, which I fear may have been lost in the length of the hon. Lady's intervention. I do want to defend Ulster. I do wish Ulster 1028 to remain united with this country. I am in favour of the Bill, and opposed to the Amendment, precisely because I want to defend Ulster. That is why I am in favour of the "Ulster Defence Regiment".
The third criterion for the name of the regiment is that it should engender pride and loyalty among those who serve in it. In my part of England the Suffolk Regiment is a name that rings with pride. The Anglian Brigade also is a name that has real meaning to those who serve in it. That is why I suggest that the Ulster Defence Regiment will create pride in those who serve in it. All over the world there are men and women from Northern Ireland— Catholic and Protestant. They are in America, Australia and Canada, and they are proud to say, "I am an Ulsterman". I am glad that they are proud of it and I therefore find it surprising that anybody in this House, of all places, should object to that name being included in the title of a proud regiment.
The extraordinary statement has been made by the Liberal Party spokesman this evening that the word "Ulster" is obnoxious. That is most extraordinary, coming officially on behalf of the Liberal Party. Men and women who have gone out from this country have died for what they had considered to be their country—Ulster—when serving in the Royal Ulster Regiment. The British Army has been proud of them. I therefore resent the audacity of the Liberal Party Whip in describing the word "Ulster" as obnoxious. [Interruption.] I have quoted him precisely.
§ Mr. Roebuck rose——
§ Mr. Griffiths
I shall not yield to the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Roebuck). The Liberal Chief Whip said that "Ulster" was an obnoxious word, and he should withdraw that.
Men from Ulster say, "I am an Ulster-man" for one reason—that they wish to distinguish themselves from Eire. Indeed, what they are guilty of, and what hon. Members opposite are accusing them of, is that they are proud to assert their Ulster nature, because it emphasises that they are British. That is the heart of the matter. They separate themselves from Southern Ireland, indicating that they are British, and they are entitled to use this title in order to make that assertion.
1029 Why do the supporters of the Amendment object to the title? I believe that it is because they do not want this regiment at all, under any name. It is very much to be regretted that when we should be anxious to get the new regiment off the ground hon. Members are almost seeking to put Catholic citizens off from joining it, as if they were anxious to sabotage the regiment before it is established. Originally they were anxious to have the regiment because they thought that it would destroy the B Specials. Now they have suddenly cooled and they do not want to hear of the very regiment for which they were asking a month ago. But the majority in the House and in the country want it because they want the Union, and they want to see this regiment helping to maintain the Union.
The hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) said that the use of the word Ulster was "a gross trespass on the affairs of the Irish Republic". What an extraordinary statement to hear in this House. The Irish Republic would do well not to trespass, as it has done, on our affairs. I am surprised that the hon. and learned Member should stand up here for a country which seeks to take away from the United Kingdom a part of our territory.
The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), who speaks as if he were a one-man House of Commons, spoke of the parliamentary B Specials. In the Irish question he has made himself the leader of a parliamentary Mafia, which is the best description I can find of the motley collection of his supporters. He said that this was an explosive issue and proceeded to make an explosive speech. The hon. Member represents a constituency in the Principality, where we have the Welsh Guards, the Royal Welch Fusiliers, the Welsh Border Regiment and other regiments with "Welsh" in their name. From time to time he even carries a leek about with him. How extraordinary then that he should wish to destroy the same territorial link which is indicated in the phrase "Royal Ulster Regiment". If we accepted his logic we should end up with such regiments as the Royal Fusiliers (Wales), the Borderers (Wales) and the Guards (Wales).
In any case, the whole burden of the hon. Gentleman's argument was that the Bill is solely concerned to recruit mem- 1030 bers of the Catholic population into the defence regiment. That is precisely what it is not intended to do. I thought it was intended to recruit citizens of our country who live in that area, without regard to their religion—without regard to whether they are Catholics or Protestants. So, I submit that it was he and his supporters who introduced the sectarian element by saying that the Bill is designed to recruit Catholics. It is not. It is designed to recruit those who will serve our country well without reference to their religious affiliations.
§ [Mr. SYDNEY IRVING in the Chair]
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The hon. Member also seems to see a dark and sinister plot between the Under-Secretaries of State on the Front Bench and the Stormont Government. A less sinister pair than those two hon. Gentlemen I have rarely seen. I could say many things about them but "sinister" is not a word I would use. But if indeed Her Majesty's Government at Westminster have made a prior arrangement or have reached a prior understanding with the Stormont Government about this—and I expect they have—surely the Committee should welcome it. What is wrong with the Government of this country seeking to reach an understanding with the Government of Northern Ireland, who are required by law to administer the Province? The Northern Ireland Government are accepted by this House as the lawful authority running that part of the United Kingdom. It is surely the right procedure that Ministers in this House should reach an understanding with the lawful, elected authorities of Northern Ireland before bringing in a Bill which will affect that part of the United Kingdom.
§ When I first heard of this Amendment, I thought that it was a creature of the Race Relations Board. I thought that, since there were difficulties over recruiting Scottish housekeepers, we were going to have difficulties about recruiting Ulster policemen. [Interruption.] Hon. Members opposite are obviously caught on a very sore point and do not like it. I can think of no reason at all why the word "Ulster" should not be included in the name of a regiment which we all hope will succeed.1031
§ I conclude with a simple thought. Those who support the Amendment, particularly the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster, have done so because at the back of their minds they do not want the regiment at all. They do not want Ulster—they want union with Ireland. They do not want to defend Ulster. They want to see it taken into the Irish Republic. The great majority in this House and in the country are utterly opposed to them on that account. The Government are opposed to them as well. Therefore, when the Division comes, some of the Irish Mafia will no doubt vote against the Government but the great majority in this House will support the Bill.
§ Mr. Richard
I have listened to every word in the debate and after two and a half hours it seems to me that perhaps those of us who have been at the receiving end of the brickbats should be entitled to say something.
First, I want to say to the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) that, whatever reasons there may have been for Her Majesty's Government having eventually lighted on the title, "Ulster Defence Regiment", few of those reasons found themselves in his speech. If the cause he has at heart is really what he expresses it to be—the desire to see that the regiment ends up as a balanced force in which the minority of the Province participate—his speech has not helped. On the contrary, it will prove, when read in Northern Ireland, to be the most enormous hindrance.
I must also say to the hon. Member, who is not speaking from inexperience——
§ Mr. MacDermot
I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend so early, but terminology is important. He talked about the minority of the Province. The Province is Ulster and the Catholics are not a minority in Ulster. They are a minority 1032 in Northern Ireland. I hope that my hon. Friend, speaking as he does on behalf of the Government, will cease to refer to the Six Counties of Northern Ireland as the Province.
§ Mr. Richard
I think that the substance of my hon. and learned Friend's correction is almost certainly right, but I am bound to say that that was a somewhat semantic interruption which did not help the general tenor of what I am trying to say. If one is to approach this subject with any degree of objectivity, one may try to bring the temperature down somewhat and take two or three steps back from the debate.
Of course there were discussions and consultations between the British Government and the Northern Ireland Government. The Northern Ireland Government is the body which is constitutionally charged—it may not have been wholly successful—with the Government of Northern Ireland. The British Parliament has not yet invoked Section 75 of the Government of Ireland Act and I sincerely hope that we will never have cause to invoke that Act, because if there is one situation which makes me shudder, it is the possibility of direct rule by Westminster of Northern Ireland.
I cannot believe that any of my hon. Friends, however strongly they may feel about such matters as the Title to the Bill, or certain provisions in the Bill, would want to go that far. [Interruption.] There may be one or two of my hon. Friends who disagree with me, but I think that the great majority of my hon. Friends, and I am sure the majority of the country, would agree with me about that.
If that is right, the Government had a responsibility to consult. They had to consult. They had to discuss matters with the Stormont Government. They would have been failing in their duty if they had not done so. It is also true that, as a result of those consultations and as a result of those discussions, certain proposals emerged, and in due course I may come to the specific proposals, both for and against.
I am glad that the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) is in her seat. She told us today how dreadful this name was, how appalling it was that the British Government had alighted 1033 upon this connotation of the words "Ulster" and "Defence" and she said that this had ruined the force before it started. That did not exactly seem to go with what she said on Second Reading:I do not want to spend much time on the title. There are much more important things in the Bill which need to be dealt with."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th November 1969; Vol. 791, c. 1426.]That is absolutely right. There is no great legal or constitutional significance in the use of the word "Ulster" in the title of the Bill; it is a description of the force. The words "Ulster Defence Regiment" are the title of the force. They are not intended to, and nor do they, impart any constitutional change; nor do they have any legal or constitutional significance for Northern Ireland.
It tends to be overlooked in this whole dispute that this new force is to be part of the British Army. As such, there is no more significance about using the word "Ulster" in relation to the Ulster Defence Regiment than there has been in using the word "Ulster" in certain other regiments in the British Army.
§ Mr. Roebuck rose——
§ Mr. Richard
I will tell my hon. Friend why not. It is because there are certain hon. Members from whom I am prepared to take lessons in parliamentary demeanour, but he is not one of them; perhaps he will restrain himself.
The word "Ulster" has been used in Army units or sub-units. Until very recently, in the Regular Army there was a regiment with the name "Royal Ulster Rifles". In March, 1968, it amalgamated with two other Northern Ireland regiments to become the Royal Irish Rangers.
As regards Territorial Army volunteer reserve regiments, there are the 102nd Ulster and Scottish Light Air Defence Regiment, which has "Ulster" in the title, here associated not with anything south of the Border but something from Scotland; the 6th Battalion Royal Ulster Rifles, still a Territorial Army unit in Northern Ireland; the 40th Ulster Signal Regiment, formed in 1967——
§ Mr. Delargy rose——1034
§ Mr. Richard
May I just finish this part of my speech, and then I shall willingly give way to my hon. Friend.
There is HQ 152 Ulster Regiment, formed in 1967 from five units and sub-units, four of which already have the word "Ulster" in the title. Therefore, if one wants to import some kind of sinister significance into the use of the word "Ulster" the place one should not go is the title of regiments that have been in the British Army in the immediate and recent past.
§ Mr. Delargy
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. He has mentioned the Royal Ulster Rifles and various other regiments. Will he tell us the date of the foundation of those regiments and whether or not they existed before the Northern Ireland Government existed? Since he is so keen on the word "Ulster", will my hon. Friend accept a verbal Amendment and let us call the force the "Two-thirds of Ulster Defence Regiment"?
§ Mr. Richard
I could not accept that title.
With regard to the first part of my hon. Friend's intervention, of the regiments to which I referred, some of which are Territorial Army and some of which until very recently were in the Regular Army, no fewer than three were formed in 1967 and the early part of 1968—
§ Mr. Richard
They may affiliate to old regiments, but the point is that this force is part of the British Regular Army and there is nothing sinister in the use of the word "Ulster". It has been used on a number of occasions in the recent past and has not more significance in this respect than that.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North) rose——
§ Mr. Richard
I should like to go a little further, and then I shall be pleased to give way to my hon. Friend.
It is significant that on the day the White Paper was published, when I was in Belfast, among other things to try to gauge the initial reaction of various sections of the population to the Government's proposals for the setting up of the Ulster Defence Regiment, while there 1035 were, naturally, criticisms from different groups of some of the provisions in the White Paper the one criticism I did not hear was of the use of the word "Ulster" in the title. It is a complaint which has come in more recently as perhaps people have considered and taken up positions, perhaps too firm and definite positions, on the title.
§ Mr. McNamara
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. Will he take it from me—as he was in Northern Ireland at the time—that objection to the title was the first objection to the force raised in this House by me the day the White Paper was announced?
My hon. Friend gave a detailed coverage of the links with various regiments in the Army. I can see that this is very much part of this case. The point he has yet to deal with, and the point we want dealt with, is the other connotations of "Ulster", starting with the Ulster Volunteer Force of 1912 and going through the B Specials and the organisation that was founded.
§ Mr. Richard
I promise my hon. Friend that I shall not forget the B Specials in the course of my remarks.
As to my hon. Friend's first point, the complaint may have been made here when the White Paper was published. I was then sitting in the Visitors' Gallery of the Parliament in Stormont. It should go on record that the initial reaction of the Opposition in Stormont was not a complaint about the use of the word "Ulster". Their reaction may have been on different grounds, but that was certainly not one of the main grounds.
In her speech on Second Reading, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) had this matter in just about the right perspective. Of course she has strong views about the Bill. I would expect her to have. With her history, her political background, her experience, entering this House in the way she did and representing the people that she does from that part of the United Kingdom that she does, it would be ludicrous if she did not have strong and passionate views about the Bill. But her initial reaction on 19th November was right. It was, "There is the title, of course, but let us 1036 get on with more important things." That is what she then did, and very effectively—she moved on to more important things.
§ Miss Devlin rose——
§ Mr. Richard
Therefore, it is important that one should try to get the significance of the title and the use of the word "Ulster" in that title into some more rational and sensible perspective.
§ Miss Devlin
I thank my hon. Friend for giving way. I had asked him before and had decided not to rise, but he repeated the point.
I started by saying tonight that this is a minor point. When I first stated, as I still do, that the title, compared with the rest of the Bill, was a minor point, right hon. Members on the Front Bench agreed. Therefore, my only point is that, whereas hon. Members on this side have put forward strong arguments, no strong argument is given for the retention, and right hon. Members see it, as we see it, as basically a minor point. Why not, therefore, give way to the strength of feeling on a minor point and let us get on to the more important points?
§ Mr. Richard
My hon. Friend makes that point for the third or fourth time tonight. If she really regards it in that light, to take 40 minutes to move an Amendment followed by a debate for nearly three hours on a point which is now regarded as something of no significance or consequence, does not impress me very much.
I would urge the House to look at the substance and not the shadow of the Amendment. As I said earlier, there were discussions and consultations with the Northern Ireland Government. Of course there were. It would be quite untrue—I do not think that my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) was suggesting it, but that he was asking a question, which I will try to answer—for anyone to suggest that there was any kind of secret compact between the British Government and the Northern Ireland Government. Indeed, such discussions as have taken place have been in an extraordinarily open, frank and indeed overt rather than covert manner.
My hon. Friend's second question was whether the House of Commons, Parliament, was not able to pass Amendments. 1037 Of course Parliament can do that; it can always do that. When I was sitting four seats further back, my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale and I—I not nearly half so well, of course—were making much the same points on a Bill on boundaries, namely, that Parliament is sovereign. It is still sovereign, and no one has altered its sovereignty. By using the word "Ulster" in the title no one is seeking to fetter the unfettered and undoubted sovereignty of the House of Commons.
My hon. Friends should consider the substance and not the shadow. It would be quite wrong for anyone to try to draw up a balance sheet and say, "This accommodates one section of the community and this accommodates another section." Not only would it be wrong, but I would be the last person to do it at all or have thought to do it had it not been for one thing. That is that a great deal of the debate today, particularly from my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster and others on the other side has seemed to suggest that, somehow or other, all that is happening here is that the B Specials are to be continued under another name.
That is the gravamen of the attack that is made upon the Government's policies. I beg my hon. Friend to let us try to look at it for once in a fairly calm and objective way. There are at least a dozen differences. [HON. MEMBERS: "We are not discussing that."] We are discussing the proposal to call this force the Ulster Defence Regiment in the context of the speeches which have been made against the Government's proposals tonight.
Let me give those differences. The first is that the new regiment is a part of the British Army and not an auxiliary police force. The second is that the call-out for the force, specified in the Bill, can only be on the authority of the Army.
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
On a point of order. May I submit, Mr. Irving, that there is a later Amendment which deals with the point that my hon. Friend is now on about, that what he is saying is wholly out of order on Amendment No. 1, and that it would be most unfair to the Committee if the later 1038 Amendment could not be moved before the Minister gave his reply?
§ The Chairman
Nothing that I have heard the Minister say to date is out of order. He must, of course, relate all his remarks to the question of the Amendment, which concerns the title of the force. As long as he does that, he will be in order.
§ Mr. Richard
That is precisely what I am trying to do, Mr. Irving.
It has been put to me by my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale and other hon. Members tonight that somehow, as part of an unholy agreement made between the Government here and the Government in Northern Ireland, this is the title that was chosen and that we should have known better. That is the attack that has been made. All I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale is that it would be worth while for a moment to draw up the balance sheet and look at the one side and at the other. [Interruption.] I am astounded that hon. Friends of mine below the Gangway do not want to hear this balance sheet drawn up.
Let us do it now. The first difference is that the Ulster Defence Regiment is to be a part of the Army and not an auxiliary police force. The second is that the call-out for the force is specified in the Bill and is only to be on the authority of the Army. Thirdly, there is a Regular Army presence in the force down to battalion level. The fourth point is that the size of the force, as compared with the old Ulster Special Constabulary, is reduced from 8,500 down to a ceiling——
§ Mr. Lubbock
On a point of order. Surely, Mr. Irving, the hon. Gentleman cannot advance arguments relating to the size of the force when there are several later Amendments dealing with this point—Amendment No. 19, for instance, and, I think, Amendment No. 20. Is not the Minister prejudicing the discussion of those Amendments if he goes into the facts and implies that the Committee has already come to a decision on them?
§ The Chairman
As long as the hon. Gentleman does not elaborate these matters, he is perfectly in order.
§ Mr. Richard
I am not attempting to elaborate any of those items. I am merely answering the criticism that, somehow, the Government have entered into a dishonourable agreement with the Government of Northern Ireland. I am showing those who advanced that argument—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) would not have said it, but many hon. Members on this side have said it.
It is important, therefore, to look at what a mythical balance sheet would show. The next point that it would show is that the new force cannot be used for crowd or riot control. That is specific. Assurances have been given.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
On a point of order. There cannot be two rules of order, Mr. Irving, one for Ministers and one for back benchers. There will be plenty of opportunity later in the Committee for the Minister to deploy the important arguments which he now deploying. On the present Amendment, may I, with respect, say that I cannot imagine that in any of the speeches which have been made from the back benches to date, it would have been possible to regard the statements made by the Minister as coming within the rules of order.
§ The Chairman
There is only one rule of order. Anything that I heard during the debate in line with what the Minister has been saying would have been in order.
§ Mr. Roebuck
On a point of order. For the convenience of the Committee, would it be helpful if we rehearsed all the arguments that have been put forward and to which the Minister says he is replying?
§ Mr. Richard
I am sorry if I have upset some of my hon. Friends. One argument advanced against the Government's position is that somehow or other a dishonourable agreement has been 1040 reached between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of Northern Ireland. I trust that my hon. Friends will look at the substance of this and not at the shadow. The shadow is the title. The substance comprises the points which, for some extraordinary reason, my hon. Friends do not appear to wish to hear.
I was about to refer to a much more onerous training obligation and, therefore, to consequential health obligations. Arms will no longer be kept at home as a normal matter of duty, save in exceptional circumstances. Military law will be applicable to the force. It is not at present. Further——
§ Mr. McGuire
On a point of order. With great respect, Mr. Irving, I suggest that the Minister has already been allowed sufficient latitude. As one who has listened to the whole of the debate, I suggest that the discussion has been connected with the title and has had nothing to do with the matters to which my hon. Friend has referred. Would you keep him within the bounds of order, the order to which back benchers must subscribe?
§ Several Hon. Members rose——
§ Mr. Richard
On a point of order. I indicated that there were no less than 12 points that I wanted to raise. It may assist the Committee——
§ The Chairman
Order. That is not a point of order. I hope that we will not have a debate on points of order.
§ Mr. Richard
I was hoping to assist the Committee. If it is convenient, I will leave the remainder of the points that I intended to make—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—until a later point in argument. In the Government's view, it is important to look at the substance of the agreement rather than at the shadow; and, as I said, the shadow is the title.
§ Mr. W. Howie (Luton)
On a point of order. I am anxious to vote against the Government on this issue. However, the enthusiasm with which my hon. Friends 1041 are preventing the Minister from replying is making me unreasonably sympathetic towards the Government. I hope that they will allow the Minister to continue, so that I may make up my mind.
§ Mr. Richard
I agree, Mr. Irving, that it is not a point of order, though it is a point of encouragement.
Looking at the substance of the proposal, the Government consider that the use of the word "Ulster" is, frankly, unimportant. There are respectable military precedents for the use of the word in other regiments of the British Army. It is for this and the other reasons I have given that the Government have decided in favour of using this word.
§ Mr. Howie
Before my hon. Friend resumes his seat, would he say who, in the discussions that took place between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of Northern Ireland, first had the idea of calling it the Ulster Defence Regiment? Did we suggest it, or did it come out in the general to and fro of debate?
§ Mr. Richard
I said that there had been discussions and consultations between the two Governments. Further than that my hon. Friend, who is experienced in these matters, will not expect any Front Bench spokesman to go.
§ Mr. Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)
There was one point on which I agreed with the Under-Secretary of State in his pugnacious reply to a pugnacious debate, and that was when he said that the title of the regiment had a descriptive rather than a constitutional significance. Both before and after listening to the debate it has seemed to me that in choosing a title for the regiment it would be wise to be guided both by current opinion and by past practice——
§ It being Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
§ Committee report Progress.