HC Deb 01 December 1969 vol 792 cc1042-213

Again considered in Committee.

Question again proposed. That the Amendment be made.

Mr. Goodhart

I was glad that the Under-Secretary also referred to the distinguished record of the Royal Ulster Rifles, alongside whom I had once the honour to serve. On Second Reading, it was said that Catholics and Protestants had served in this regiment in harmony and with common distinction. It is true that this regiment was formed before 1920, but many of the units to which the Under-Secretary of State referred were raised after 1920 and, whether there are 4,000 or 6,000 men in the Ulster Defence Regiment, during the Second World War far more than 6,000 Catholics served in units and regiments bearing the title "Ulster".

While past practice would seem to favour the use of the title Ulster, it would also appear that current opinion is not wholly against it. Earlier this evening I looked in the telephone directory for Northern Ireland under the heading "Ulster", and found column after column of firms and associations bearing the title Ulster. There is the Ulster Anti-Prohibition Association, which, I imagine, has wide support in all sections of the community. There is the Ulster Federation of Homing Pigeons' Society, which, again, I imagine has wide support in all sections of the community. There is the Ulster Teachers' Union, a body which is, I imagine, as militant as the teachers' union in my constituency.

There is not one of these associations in which the question of changing the title is a matter——

The Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman must address the Chair.

Mr. Goodhart

Very well, Mr. Irving. It would not seem to me that at this moment there is much uncontrolled current protest against the use of the word "Ulster" in Northern Ireland.

Not much has been said this evening about the alternative title put forward in the Amendment. I was glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds turned his mind to this point. I share the view that the Government might suffer some embarrassment if the word "Territorial" were to be accepted in the Bill. In the past, they have been almost as anxious to show that this new regiment has no connection with the Territorial Army Volunteer Reserve as they have been to show that the Ulster Defence Regiment is not the Ulster Special Constabulary with a different name.

The reason for this embarrassment is not very hard to find, because the events in Ulster have made a nonsense of the oft-repeated thesis that home defence is unnecessary. Indeed, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) in his Second Reading speech reminded the House that Northern Ireland is not the only part of this country where terrorists blow up water mains.

Mr. Heffer

Would the hon. Gentleman also tell the Committee that I said that because the Welsh Nationalists have been blowing up Liverpool's water supplies there was no need for me to demand the creation of a special force to deal with the Welsh Nationalists? I felt that we had an Army to deal with that situation.

Mr. Goodhart

But it leads me to think that we need a force exactly of the sort we had in TAVR III which the Government have decided to scrap. The Government do not like to be reminded that terrorism and violence could happen a great deal closer to Westminster than Belfast and the word "Territorial" is an active embarrassment to them.

The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) said that this Amendment was a test of the Government's good faith. But from the way in which he put his views to the Committee and from the aggressive and inflammatory remarks by the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin), it became plain that this could be counted upon not only as a test of good faith, but also as a test of strength. If, after the speeches we have heard, the Government give way to the views put forward by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale and the hon. Lady, then it would be taken by a majority of the inhabitants of Ulster as being a surrender to political intimidation——

Mr. Michael Foot

Did the hon. Gentleman say "intimidation"?

Mr. Goodhart

Yes, intimidation.

Mr. Foot

If the hon. Gentleman is describing a debate which we are conducting to establish our rights as "intimidation", he should withdraw.

Mr. Goodhart

It looked to me as though it was having just that effect on the Under-Secretary.

The hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy), in an interjection which I took to be jocular, said that the regiment ought to be called the "Two-Thirds of Ulster Regiment". If violence comes to Ulster and there is no adequate defence against it, not just two-thirds of Ulster will suffer, but both communities of Ulster and every member of those communities.

Mr. Brian Walden (Birmingham, All Saints)

I came here, no doubt against the dictates of common sense, to vote for the Government should there be a Division. That is still my intention, for very much the reasons given by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State.

What surprises me, and has been surprising me for the past three hours, is how men can agree on the same issues and even go into the same Lobby, and yet arrive at a different conclusion about the wisdom of the Government's course of action.

I agree profoundly with my hon. Friend when he says, "God help us if ever we have directly to govern Northern Ireland." Once we get ourselves into the position of talking regularly about Northern Ireland, we shall never have time to talk about anything else.

The semantics leave me cold. I am interested only in what my hon. Friend has said. He said, first, that the matter was a very unimportant, shadowy one and that the substance was the force itself and what it could do. I agree with him. Then he went on to say that there had been no agreement with the Northern Ireland Government which was binding upon Her Majesty's Government and that the Government did not come here having tied the hands of the House of Commons in some sort of pact with the Stormont Government. That is an assurance which, necessarily, I accept.

I note, too, that in the course of earlier exchanges the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) indicated, very sensibly, that he would not care fourpence if he found himself serving in a body called the Northern Ireland Defence Force. I took the hon. and gallant Gentleman to mean that that was also the view of the protestant community.

What on earth has kept us here for three hours? If the Government think that the matter is shadowy and has no substance, if no deal has been done with Stormont, if a senior protestant Ulsterman who has the honour of being a Grand Master of the Orange Order agrees that he could not care less about the title of the force, what prevents the Government saying, "We think that you are a pack of idiots to care whether it is called 'Ulster', 'Northern Ireland', or 'Six Counties'. But, since you do, since time is precious, and since the whole issue is a crashing bore, we will give way and substitute the name 'Northern Ireland'."?

Mr. Henry Clark

I am in considerable agreement with what the hon. Member for Birmingham, All Saints (Mr. Walden) has said, and I am very happy to say so. We have had the most ridiculous debate. We have had the maximum of semantics and the minimum of fact.

The only fact which seems to have been applied by anyone who might have had a chance of knowing came out in the course of the speech by the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin). However, she is not famous for touring her constituency and listening to the voices——

Mr. John Mendelson

Get on with the debate.

The Chairman

Order. It is the Amendment that we are discussing.

Mr. Clark

I am trying to establish the facts on which we are arguing. The case has been put forward from hon. Members below the Gangway opposite that the words "Ulster" and "Defence" are highly charged. I am asking on what evidence that is based.

I assure those hon. Member, if they accept the words of the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster and her associates, that they are not typical of the vast bulk of people in Northern Ireland, whether they be Catholic or Protestant.

For goodness' sake, let us try to get the matter straight. What are hon. Members opposite complaining about? What is the charge? What is so explosive? Is it the word "Ulster" or is it the word "Defence"—[An HON. MEMBER: "Ulster."] Some have one view and others another—[Interruption.] Some hon. Members have said that it was "Ulster", some have said it was "Defence", and yet others have said it was the combination of the two. Which is it?—[An HON. MEMBER: "The combination of the two."] Are there any other bids? Is it "Ulster", "Defence", or the combination of the two? We are dealing with a pedantic argument for the sake of argument. Various hon. Members below the Gangway are seeking to demonstrate their feelings by voting against the Government on a minor and unimportant point.

10.15 p.m.

The word "Ulster" is preferred because it is a far older word, with longer and greater associations than the words "Northern Ireland". The concept of Northern Ireland was never popular with the Unionists of that day. We have always been Ulstermen, we are proud to continue to be Ulstermen, and the country in which we live is Ulster.

We have had that wonderfully pedantic point put forward by the hon. and learned Member for Derby, North (Mr. MacDermot) and by the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) which comes at about class 2 in a primary school, namely, that soon after learning what is the longest river in the world, children are taught how many provinces there are in Ireland and how many counties there are in those provinces—[An HON. MEMBER: "How many?"] The division of Ireland into provinces has had no administrative or constitutional significance for over 100 years. The division, as it stands today, was a purely British institution established in Ireland about the mid-18th century. Certainly, before that Ulster ran down to the Boyne. There is no doubt that at some time Sligo was included in Ulster. Then, going back much further, there was the smaller area over which the writ of the Earl of Ulster ran. At times, the Earl of Ulster had no jurisdiction over Tyreconnell though he did over Tyrone, and it was doubtful whether he had much authority over County Antrim.

Frankly, the concept of Ulster is that area north of Lough Erne, the Carlingford Mountains and the Carlingford Lough, and its centre has always been somewhere near the Maghera or Dungannon, somewhere near the constituency of the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster.

To talk in a purely pedantic fashion about the English definition of the mid-18th century as to what Ulster consists of is paying scant tribute to a magnificent tradition which goes back much further indeed.

The Ulster Defence Regiment is entirely appropriate because it is about the area which has always been called Ulster and it is about defence. I will not go into the need for defence at length. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) quoted five attacks on pipelines going to Liverpool and said that they have not needed a defence regiment yet. I have seen 300 serious incidents in Northern Ireland and over 1,000 less serious incidents in five years. Putting that against the Liverpool incidents will perhaps cause the hon. Gentleman to think again. I know that there is every possibility that these attacks may go on, but I will not go into details.

The Bill is about Ulster and about defence and it will be a regiment. If we wanted to carry on an association with the B Specials, surely we could call them the Ulster Special Battalions. Then we could either call them the Specials or the Bs. It is clear that few hon. Members below the Gangway know Northern Ireland at all, because the one thing they are never called is the Ulster Special Constabulary. They are either the B men or the Specials, and occasionally in official documents the U.S.C. The word "Ulster" does not immediately connect them with the B Specials. Most of the arguments put from below the Gangway fall to the ground. They are either pedantic or baseless.

When the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) takes both hands out of his pockets, because he usually waves only one hand at any one time, the temperature is getting very high indeed over a minor point.

There is no question but that in Ireland we pay considerable attention to flags, emblems, symbols of various sorts, and names. Perhaps the oldest force with which we can connect the new Ulster Defence Regiment is that famous force which was based on my constituency, the Knights of the Red Branch. These symbols change their meaning as time goes on, Only a few years ago Drogheda Town Council passed a resolution saying that they were going to change their robes and wear green robes and give up England's cruel reign. Even names and symbols change from time to time, and if the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster likes to advise her friends that the word Ulster has a sinister significance for the people of Northern Ireland, that is purely her invention.

Mr. Fitt

I had almost despaired of being called to speak to the Amendment. I had visions of being lynched when I returned to my constituency, but now that I have been given the opportunity to speak I shall bring a few points to the attention of the Government.

In moving the Amendment my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) put forward an unanswerable case, and the Minister's attempted reply in no way allays our suspicions about this name and how it was arrived at. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster mentioned a number of organisations in Northern Ireland which arrogate to themselves the term Ulster, and she explained why this word is so offensive to the ears of the minority.

Perhaps I can tell my hon. Friend, and all those on this side of the Committee who support our views, that only last week letters were dropping through the letter boxes of Catholic homes in Belfast saying, "Get out or be burned out. Ulster Volunteer Force". That is one reason why we are so opposed to this term.

There are great precedents for the establishment of this regiment and attitude adopted by the Government. We recognise that Unionist Governments have attempted not merely since 1920, but since the partitioning of Ireland, to arrogate to themselves the term Ulster, and that for almost a century they have tried to claim that the part of Ireland where they are in the majority is Ulster, as they interpret the word.

I commend to the attention of the Committee the fact that in 1912, before Ireland was partitioned, and when people first began to talk about partitioning Ireland, Sir Edward Carson, later Lord Carson, leading the Ulster Unionists in an attack against this Government, said: We went into the figures of the population in every town, village and hamlet in Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan to ascertain if it would be possible to govern the Provinces of Ulster from Belfast. We found this to be impossible. They had to settle for six counties because they found it impossible to govern the Province of Ulster.

They then set about calling the small area, the six counties, Ulster, but since partition, since the Parliament of Northern Ireland was set up, every Bill which has been passed has referred to the Government of Northern Ireland to the State of Northern Ireland. Since I arrived in this House three years ago, and in fact long before that, every Bill that goes through this House has a Clause saying that the Bill applies to Northern Ireland, or that it does not. Thus, officially it is the Northern Ireland State. It has nothing to do with Ulster.

I wonder whether the Minister took into account the fact that another dangerous precedent has been created by the terminology and the nomenclature of the Bill. It has been called the Ulster Defence Regiment Bill. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. MacDermot) and some hon. Gentlemen opposite have spoken of their military associations. The Unionist Members, in particular, have said that the term Ulster has long and honourable associations in the annals of British military history with the Navy, the Army, and the Royal Air Force.

We have been told that under the Bill it will be a British regiment. It will be one of the forces of the Crown, and will be under the command of this House and subject to its opinions. But is it recognised that this is the first regiment in the annals of British history from which some Irishmen will be excluded? The men of this regiment must live in Northern Ireland. They must live within the six partitioned counties of Northern Ireland. Ulstermen from Cavan, Monaghan, Donegal, and the rest of the 26 counties will not be permitted to join. This has never happened before.

Mr. Henry Clark rose——

The Chairman

Order. The hon. Member is not giving way.

Mr. Fitt

All afternoon I have been reading the Ireland Act of 1949 under which dual nationality was given to the people of the Republic of Ireland. Under the British Nationality Act of the same year dual nationality was given to the people of the Irish Republic. It would seem that we are acting in contravention of both those Acts. People in the Irish Republic can claim British citizenship and the right to join a British regiment or any part of the Armed Forces—Army, Navy, or Air Force.

Mr. Henry Clark

The hon. Member is making a pendantic point. Has it struck him that there is a strong residential qualification in respect of all British regiments which Irishmen join? The Irishmen have to live with the regiment. In exactly the same way, there is a residential qualification for the new regiment. The men who join it will have to live with the regiment, because it will be in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Fitt

That is absolutely untrue. A man living in Dublin today can arrive in London tomorrow and join a British regiment. He can join the Navy or the Air Force as well. We are calling this force the Ulster Defence Regiment and we are told that it is a regiment of the British Army. The Secretary of State was not in the House to hear the cogent argument put forward by some hon. Members of his own party. As I have said, we would seem to be contravening the Ireland Act of 1949 and the British Nationality Act of the same year by effectively preventing Irishmen from joining a British regiment.

At the back of my mind I hear the words "The Connaught Rangers". I suggest that if people from the Republic of Ireland are not acceptable to this new regiment there is no reason why other people from the Republic of Ireland should serve in any other British regiment. I hope that they will take these words in the way in which I mean them this evening. If they are not allowed to join this new regiment, although they can claim dual citizenship—if men from Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal are effectively precluded from joining it—I suggest that others from the Republic of Ireland should consider the conditions under which they are now serving in other British forces.

The hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Pounder) said that he had no great objection to the Bill and that time alone would tell whether it would have an effect on recruitment. Time is the one thing that we have not got. Yesterday afternoon I was at a meeting of the Civil Rights Association in Belfast, which was attended by between 300 and 400 delegates representing people from all over Northern Ireland, who voiced the strongest objections to the Ulster Defence Regiment.

Mr. Stratton Mills

The hon. Member will recall that at any rate, when the new force was announced in Stormont on 24th November, nine Opposition Members took part in the debate and not a single Member objected to the name.

Mr. Fitt

I agree. I was in this House when that force was announced. But since then there have been prevarications. We have heard the saga of the application form. Was it sent out to let the B Specials enter the force? Was it not an application form but only a memorandum to the B Specials to get them into the force? These are the reasons that we are objecting. Those Opposition Members were so relieved, when they heard of the White Paper, that the B Specials were to be effectively disbanded, as they thought, that they gave the announcement a cautious welcome.

I recognise that the Unionist Party has a problem, that it must try to contain the backlash from its own extremists. In the corridors of this House, talking to my hon. Friends, I hear that there will not be 6,000 members of this force, that they can see the maximum number being 4,000, but, in Northern Ireland, the Prune Minister and his cohorts in the Cabinet there say that there will be 6,000, and possibly more if they have anything to do with it.

That is why we object not only to the name, but to many other points which have been mentioned here today. I have lodged the strongest objections, on behalf of my constituents and thousands of people in Northern Ireland to this further attempt by the Unionist Party to arrogate to itself the historical term of the Province of Ulster.

While listening to some hon. Members opposite, I thought that, for these past 12 months, at the minimum—the maximum is much longer—I have been asking this Parliament to allay some of the suspicions and dispel some of the fears of the minority in Ulster. After hearing the hon. Members for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) and Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) I am beginning to rethink that request. When they approach the problem of the minority in Ulster as they have tonight, I can foresee a great deal of trouble. Now that the Minister has been made aware of the strong objections of the Committee to the title of the regiment, he should resolve to take no decision, but should make further representations to the Northern Ireland Government to bring about a term less offensive to the people of Northern Ireland.

Mr. Stratton Mills

I wish merely to emphasise the point which I made just now, that the name has been blown up out of all proportion, and that, when the matter was debated at Stormont on 12th November, of the nine Opposition Members who commented on the force, some welcomed it and some did not: but no one objected to the name. So this is a rather shallow opposition point which has been drummed up here.

Mr. Delargy

The Committee will be relieved to hear that I shall take one minute only, for a word of personal explanation, which may, nevertheless, be of interest.

When the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) wound up for the Opposition, he repeated a remark which I had made, which he said was a jocular remark, and, quite honestly, put entirely the wrong interpretation on it. He has just told me so. But the Committee too might have put a wrong interpretation on it. This highlights the confusion about the word "Ulster".

I suggested that the Bill should be called the "Two-Thirds Ulster Defence Regiment Bill". The hon. Gentleman, and, no doubt, others, thought that I was referring to two-thirds of the people, that is, the Protestants, who live in Northern Ireland. I was not. I was referring to two-thirds of Ulster, that is, the Six Counties, as opposed to the three counties which are in the Republic.

I might add that it would have been greatly for the convenience of the Committee if the Secretary of State had been here earlier to hear the arguments. It would have been of still greater convenience if the Under-Secretary of State had taken the trouble to reply to at least one argument and had showed a little more modesty for a new junior Minister.

Miss Devlin

The hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) referred to the HANSARD for the Northern Ireland Parliament, which he probably studies closely. He will have read copies of HANSARD subsequent to that which he cited and he will know that the main reason why Opposition Members there agreed to and in part welcomed the Bill was, as they said later, that they had not read the White Paper itself, while even Unionist Members complained that Mr. Porter, the Minister of Home Affairs rambled, raved and stuttered his way through his presentation of the Bill to such an extent that no one in the House understood him. Opposition members, to their shame, did not ask him to repeat his explanation.

My hon. Friends say that it is not necessary for me to reply to hon. Members opposite, but if hon. Members opposite persist in attacking me, as they are perfectly entitled to do, I am entitled

to reply, and the attacks have been relevant to the title of this force.

The hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) said that what I said was disgusting and the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Mr. Henry Clark) said that my facts were doubtful because of my politics. My assertions of the facts were based not on my opinions, but on the opinions of Mr. Wallace Clark, the hon. Member's brother. Many were based on the opinions of the Rev. Dr. Ian Paisley of the constituent bodies which bore titles similar to that of the body which we are discussing.

Dr. M. S. Miller (Glasgow, Kelvin-grove)

The hon. Lady is referring to someone she calls the Rev. Dr. Ian Paisley. Am I to understand that this gentleman has now acquired a reputable reverence degree and a doctorate?

Miss Devlin

I always refer to the gentleman by his title.

I was interested in the Under-Secretary's "half a dozen differences". However, for all his talk he did not answer one of my questions. Until the Ministry of Defence sorts out who is blundering and who is lying, I shall continue to put the questions until I have them answered one way or the other.

Question put, That the Amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 36, Noes 163.

Division No. 21.] AYES [10.38 p.m.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak) Newens, Stan
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Judd, Frank Norwood, Christopher
Barnes, Michael Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham) Orme, Stanley
Bidwell, Sydney Kerr, Russell (Feltham) Park, Trevor
Booth, Albert Latham, Arthur Pavitt, Laurence
Brooks, Edwin Lee, John (Reading) Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Lubbock, Eric Roebuck, Roy
Delargy, Hugh MacDermot, Niall Rose, Paul
Dickens, James McGuire, Michael Ryan, John
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) McNamara, J. Kevin
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Mendelson, John TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Heffer, Eric S. Mikardo, Ian Miss Bernadette Devlin and
Hobden, Dennis Miller, Dr. M. S. Mr. Gerard Fitt.
Howie, W.
NOES
Alldritt, Walter Boston, Terence Concannon, J. D.
Anderson, Donald Bray, Dr. Jeremy Conlan, Bernard
Armstrong, Ernest Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony
Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice Buchan, Norman Currie, G. B. H.
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Carmichael, Neil Dalyell, Tam
Bence, Cyril Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Chapman, Donald Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)
Binns, John Chichester-Clark, R. Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek)
Blackburn, F. Clark, Henry Davies, Ifor (Gower)
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Coleman, Donald Dell, Edmund
Dewar, Donald Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Parker, John (Dagenham)
Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Kitson, Timothy Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Dobson, Ray Lawson, George Pentland, Norman
Doig, Peter Leadbitter, Ted Perry, Ernest G. (Bartersea, S.)
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock) Pounder, Rafton
Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) Lestor, Miss Joan Price, William (Rugby)
Eadie, Alex Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Pym, Francis
Eden, Sir John Lomas, Kenneth Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Ensor, David Luard, Evan Rees-Davies, W. R.
Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) McCann, John Richard, Ivor
Fernyhough, E. MacColl, James Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Finch, Harold McElhone, Frank Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) McKay, Mrs. Margaret Robertson, John (Paisley)
Fowler, Gerry Mackenzie, Alasdair(Ross & Crom'ty) Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Fraser, John (Norwood) Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen) Ross, Rt. Hn. William
Freeson, Reginald Mackie, John Rowlands, E.
Garrett, W. E. Maclennan, Robert Russell, Sir Ronald
Glover, Sir Douglas McMaster, Stanley Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Golding, John McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Skeffington, Arthur
Goodhart, Philip MacPherson, Malcolm Smith, John (London & W'minster)
Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Maginnis, John E. Spriggs, Leslie
Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Taverne, Dick
Hamilton, Lord (Fermanagh) Manuel, Archie Temple, John M,
Hamling, William Mapp, Charles Thomas, Rt. Hn. George
Hannan, William Marks, Kenneth Thomson, Rt. Hn. George
Harper, Joseph Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Thornton, Ernest
Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Tinn, James
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Millan, Bruce Urwin, T. W.
Hattersley, Roy Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.) Varley, Eric G.
Hazell, Bert Milne, Edward (Blyth) Waddington, David
Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test) Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Molloy, William Walden, Brian (All Saints)
Hooley, Frank More, Jasper Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Wallace, George
Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Watkins, David (Consett)
Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)
Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Wellbeloved, James
Hoy, Rt. Hn. James Morris, John (Aberavon) Whitaker, Ben
Huckfield, Leslie Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick White, Mrs. Eirene
Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Murray, Albert Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Hunter, Adam O'Malley, Brian Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Hynd, John Orbach, Maurice
Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh) Orr, Capt. L. P. S. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Janner, Sir Barnett Oswald, Thomas Mr. Neil McBride and
Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn) Mr. Ioan L. Evans.
Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Palmer, Arthur

10.45 p.m.

Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)

I beg to move Amendment No. 2, in page 1, line 8, leave out from beginning to 'such' in line 9 and insert 'no more than 4,000'.

The Temporary Chairman (Sir Alfred Broughton)

With this Amendment we shall take Amendment No. 20, in page 1, line 9, after 'Parliament', insert— 'up to a maximum of 4,000'. and Amendment No. 19, in page 1, line 10, at end insert— Provided that such number shall not exceed 4,000 all ranks on establishment and that such number may only be increased up to a maximum of 6,000 all ranks by order subject to approval of both Houses of Parliament.

Mr. Orme

Many of my hon. Friends and myself consider these to be the major Amendments which we shall debate. We feel that they are of such importance that we intend to make a case to which we hope the Minister will be able to give a more substantial reply than that which he gave on the last Amendment.

In considering the numbers in the proposed new regiment, we are dealing with what many people regard as the heart of the matter. If there is to be such a force, we want to see a democratic force on non-sectarian lines. May I have the attention of hon. Members——

The Temporary Charman

Order. I am finding it difficult to hear the words of the hon. Member.

Mr. Orme

Thank you, Sir Alfred. This is a matter of some substance, and I have the right to ask that all hon. Members listen to the case.

When we talk about the size of the regiment we are dealing with what many people feel goes to the core of the argument, because in many instances the size determines exactly its eventual effectiveness and deployment. I am glad to carry an hon. Gentleman opposite with me in this regard. Many of us cannot see the need for such a regiment, particularly as we have the British Army in Northern Ireland carrying out defence, and especially as we know that it could be called upon at any time to be deployed if there were any threat to the security of Northern Ireland. But if the Government consider that it is necessary that such a force be set up the numbers go to the heart of the question.

The first evidence in support of my argument on the numbers in paragraph 171(a) of the Hunt Committee's Report, which says: a locally recruited part-time force under the command of the G.O.C., Northern Ireland, should be raised as soon as possible for such duties as may be laid upon it. We consider that its strength need not be as high as that of the U.S.C. and suggest that about 4,000 should be sufficient;". Why is no total written into the Bill? Not only has the Hunt Committee recommendation not been accepted, but in the Bill there is no total. We were referred on Second Reading to the White Paper and a total possibly rising to 6,000. But within the Bill there is no reference to a total. It is precisely because we want to see a ceiling of 4,000 put on the proposed regiment that we are pressing the matter so hard tonight.

We would like to know from the Government the specific reason why they have moved away from the Hunt recommendation by a 50 per cent, increase. A total of 4,000 or 6,000 men under arms in Great Britain does not seem large. But proportionately to the population of the United Kingdom as a whole it would mean 240,000 men under arms, a large number under such circumstances, and not as an Army but as a para-military force for specific reasons.

The proposed rise of 2,000, from 4,000 to 6,000, is in itself a large increase above the Hunt recommendation. Why have the Government not seen fit to adhere to the Hunt recommendation? We heard on Second Reading what a welcome the Ulster Members gave to the Hunt Report, but they do not ask for implementation of the 4,000 figure.

Mr. Stratton Mills

The hon. Member will, of course, know that this figure was the result, I think, of a joint working party between the two Governments. I understand the position to be that the Hunt Committee did not go into detail on this matter, as will be seen from the introduction to its report, in which the Committee said that it wished it had had considerably more time to go into the details of the matter and that its suggested figure was a very approximate one.

Mr. Orme

I appreciate that this is, in effect, an agreement between the Stormont Government and the British Government. On the previous Amendment my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) rightly referred to such negotiations as took place.

What my hon. Friends and I are saying is that in view of the time which has passed since the Hunt Committee reported we see no reason why further consideration should not be given to this matter and why Amendments cannot be made to the Bill in the House of Commons, because the situation tonight is that we are going through the actions and we have little opportunity of amending the Bill because of prior negotiations with the Stormont Government.

Mr. Rose

My hon. Friend has referred frequently to a figure of 6,000 which appears to be an agreement between the two Governments. Would my hon. Friend note that no figure whatever is mentioned in the Bill? There is an open-ended commitment. Indeed, under the Bill, it would be possible to recruit as many as 10,000, 12,000 or 20,000.

Mr. Orme

I accept, as my hon. Friend says, that it could go the other way. We know that at different times in history, in different circumstances, this force has been as high as 25,000.

Mr. Richard

It is important to get this right at this stage. The ceiling of the force is controlled by Estimates. The Supplementary Estimate expressing the ceiling at 6,000 was laid before the House on 24th November. The Estimates have to come before the House each year and, therefore, the ceiling of the force is debatable each year, which it would not be if the figure appeared in the Bill.

Mr. Orme

I accept from my hon Friend that the matter is debatable, but he knows as well as I do that although his right hon. Friend explained the position in the White Paper and underwrote the figure of 6,000 on Second Reading, if we were faced with a certain situation and the Government came forward to say that they had taken action, the issue would be a fait accompli.

The figure must be fixed when the Bill is going through the House. We are now in Committee, and the principle is being established. We have to examine why the Government appear to have seen fit to reject the Hunt recommendation and have bowed to the pressures from the Northern Ireland. Speaking for myself, there is no doubt in my mind that the Government have conceded to the Ulster Unionist backlash that unless they accepted a volunteer force in the region of 6,000 the Westminster Government would be running into trouble in getting acceptance for the Bill. This is freely felt and has been expressed on this side of the House of Commons and inside the Labour Party. We feel that we must express this view freely and openly on the Floor.

I am completely opposed to our making concessions on these lines by increasing the size of the force and establishing a force of 6,000 to satisfy a feeling of backlash from the Ulster Unionists, and those sections of the Ulster Unionists who feel that they are having their power taken away from them because their private army is being disbanded and they are struggling to maintain a paramilitary force within the Six Counties. There could be all the reforms in matters of housing and civil rights, but if in that country there is not firm security on a non-sectarian basis, social justice will never be established in Northern Ireland.

11.0 p.m.

Fears have been expressed that the old B Specials will be pressed to join this regiment. We are very concerned that that might be made easy. If the force is only 4,000 it will be of manageable proportions and it could be on a non-sectarian basis. There will have to be positive discrimination towards Roman Catholics if the force is to be constructive. This goes to the centre of the argument.

Unless we have undertakings or acceptance of this Amendment, we shall have to force it to a Division. That would prove not only to people in this country, but in Northern Ireland, that we are concerned about establishing democracy there and that we are prepared to be counted and not to leave the issue only to my hon. Friends the Member for Mid Ulster (Miss Devlin) and the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt). Many of us have been fighting on this issue for years and we shall continue to do so until democracy is established in Northern Ireland. We are pleased to be associated with these hon. Friends in this fight.

Nothing on the Notice Paper is more important than this Amendment referring to the size of the force. I hope that a concession can be made, but I doubt whether my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary is in a position to make a concession, for there appears to be a closed book. If that is true it is a sad position. Although we may lose the fight tonight, we shall continue to fight so that the situation does not again arise in which a completely sectarian force such as the old B Specials, which excludes a large majority in Northern Ireland, is established.

My hon. Friend may worry about the Unionist backlash, but he will have to stand up to it eventually. It is better to stand up to it now in the name of a Labour Government in dignity and liberty.

Captain Orr

I agree with the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) in two matters. The first is that we now come to a matter of substance and what he described as the centre of the argument—the size, and to use his word, the effectiveness, of the force. I will base what I have to say on the word "effectiveness".

The hon. Gentleman asked why we should depart from the recommendations of the Hunt Committee, and my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) answered him partly by pointing out that the Hunt Committee made its recommendations quickly and said that the figure should be about 4,000. However, the ceiling of 6,000, which was suggested on Second Reading, flows from a different source, and there is nothing sinister about it.

It flows from a perfectly open agreement made between the two Governments, an agreement about which I heard no objection when it was first announced. In other words, it flows from the joint communiqué issued by the Home Secretary, accompanied by the Minister of State, after their meetings with the Northern Ireland Cabinet on 9th and 10th October. The communiqué said: In conveying these decisions, Northern Ireland Ministers said that they considered it essential"— and among the things they considered essential were— that the Ulster Special Constabulary as at present organised should remain in being until a fully effective security force was available to replace it. The Home Secretary, on behalf of the United Kingdom Government, gave assurances that these requirements should be fully met within those fields for which the United Kingdom Government were responsible". Thus, according to an agreement openly made between the two Governments, the Ulster Special Constabulary remains in being until an effective force is found to replace it.

Subsequent to that, a joint working party was set up by the two Governments to determine what an effective force would be. That is why it is correct to say that this is the centre of the argument, for unless it can be shown that the force which is about to be established is effective, as agreed between the two Governments, the U.S.C. remains in being. We are, therefore, deciding what is to be the effective force within the terms of that communiqué and on which the U.S.C. can vanish.

Mr. Michael Foot

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman saying that the Hunt Committee suggested that it was an effective force?

Captain Orr

The hon. Gentleman must not put words into my mouth. I did not say that, any more than the hon. Gentleman can bandy ancestors with me, a matter which, on another occasion, we may discuss.

The Hunt Committee made a cockshy at it in a hurry and suggested 4,000. But the joint working party, which set out to implement the joint communiqué and the agreement, recommended a force with a ceiling of something over 6,000. It is from that that this situation flows. And what is an effective force? The working party thought that it should have a ceiling of about 6,000, but I do not know the arguments on which it reached that decision.

Sir D. Glover

Who comprised the joint working party? Was it politicians or civil servants?

Captain Orr

Civil servants and soldiers. It was not at all a working party of politicians. No Unionist politician was represented on it. [Interruption.]

Mr. Lubbock

I hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman is not suggesting that Lord Hunt's Committee was motivated by party political considerations.

Captain Orr

Far from it. I have throughout accepted the recommendations of the Hunt Committee. It said that there should be an effective force. We are now discussing the size of what we mean by "effective". The working party of the two Governments to decide what was an effective force came to the conclusion that it should be about 6,000.

Mr. Russell Kerr

Would the hon. Gentleman suggest that any particular weight should be attached to the opinion of a group of civil servants of Northern Ireland and Westminster, and soldiers, as to what would constitute an effective force, to use his own language?

Captain Orr

It is extraordinary to suggest that a working party set up by two Governments, and upon which senior and responsible soldiers were represented and which had a considerable time in which to work, would be less likely to come to the right decision than the Hunt Committee, which was working very quickly over a wide range. I should have thought that the joint working party would be a much better judge of the matter.

I will tell the Committee why I think the working party was probably right. Everyone will hope that conditions in Northern Ireland will be such that in the long term we would not have to keep there a regiment of 6,000 men. But let me put some considerations to the hon. Member for Salford, West who may be seriously concerned about the arguments on size. Anybody with experience will know that in a part-time force a man cannot be asked to do more than one four-hour stint in a week.

Mr. Christopher Norwood (Norwich, South)

This is a total absurdity. During the war members of the Home Guard and its predecessor, the Local Defence Volunteers, gave 20, 30, 40 and 50 hours a week because they believed in what they were doing. By the hon. Gentleman's admission, they cannot be asked for more than four hours, because they do not.

Captain Orr

I cannot accept that the conditions of total warfare are applicable to the present situation.

Mr. Ryan

A large part of the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Antrim, North (Mr. Henry Clark) on Second Reading consisted of painting a lurid picture of the Six Counties being in imminent danger of attack by the Fenians and the I.R.A. Surely this is a very germane point.

11.15 p.m.

Captain Orr

I was saying that it is not reasonable to expect a man in going about his ordinary business to do a stint of more than about four hours a week. In a week there are 84 hours of darkness from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., making 21 four-hour stints in the week. Military experience shows that we require a cadre of about 25 men to guard any one point. About 6,000 men are, therefore, required if there are to be 240 men each doing a four-hour stint. The argument is whether that number of 240 men is necessary.

Mr. Fitt

No.

Captain Orr

The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) says "No". But the G.O.C. does not agree. He happens to think that at least that number is necessary. On the night of 19th–20th November the Ulster Special Constabulary had at least 500 men on duty, under the command of the G.O.C, 250 of them at key points. If the G.O.C. thinks that that force is necessary at present when one has a very large number of Regular troops on the ground, how much more will it be necessary if the Regular troops are relieved of their present function?

Mr. McNamara

Has the hon. Gentleman considered that this shows the wisdom of the G.O.C. in keeping the B Specials out of trouble?

Captain Orr

If the hon. Gentleman believes that, he will believe anything. Is he seriously saying that a G.O.C. of the Regular Army will keep men employed guarding key points simply to keep them out of mischief?

Mr. Russell Kerr

Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that all experience indicates that senior soldiers always try to over-insure a situation? Is that not the case in Northern Ireland?

Captain Orr

If the hon. Member for Feltham (Mr. Russell Kerr) seriously thinks that the G.O.C. is over-insuring, that is an argument he can make when he comes to make his speech in the debate. It may well be that in the deployment of Regular troops there should be an over-insurance. Even with the very large number of Regular troops deployed on the ground, the G.O.C. has thought fit to use sufficient of the Ulster Special Constabulary to guard 250 key points—a ceiling of 6,000 men.

Mr. Fitt

What are the "key points" in Northern Ireland? It might apply to every shop in certain areas.

Captain Orr

The hon. Gentleman may want to criticise the G.O.C. and his deployment, but I wish he would not do so by way of intervention in the middle of my remarks.

I should like to ask the Under Secretary of State one question about the size of the force. How does he arrive at a cost of £1 million? I am not sure why it should be so high. The deployment of the Special Constabulary that I have been describing, upon which I base my argument about the future size of the force, does not cost anything like that. I reckon that the Special Constabulary, as it is, will not cost more than £300,000 or £400,000. I cannot see how this will escalate to £1 million.

It would be interesting to know the argument. Presumably the arms held by the Special Constabulary and the huts, and so on, will be handed over to the new regiment when it is effective. I am wondering where all the extra expense is coming from. I think that this is the right point in our debate to ask the question, so perhaps the Under-Secretary will answer it now.

Sir D. Glover rose——

Mr. Roebuck rose——

Captain Orr

I give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover).

Sir D. Glover

I understand that the arms for the new force will be centralised. Will not a great deal of expense be incurred by a Regular contingent guarding those arms?

Captain Orr

My hon. Friend raises an important point which we can discuss on a later Amendment concerning armouries. I understand that the extra cost would not fall in respect of any Regular troops taken to guard the multiplicity of new armouries that might be required if the Amendment is accepted.

Mr. Richard

I can answer the hon. and gallant Gentleman now. The whole of the expense of the force is to be borne by the British taxpayer, not by the Northern Ireland Government.

Captain Orr

By the United Kingdom taxpayer.

Mr. Richard

By the United Kingdom taxpayer. The hon. and gallant Gentleman will appreciate that the emoluments proposed for the new force are substantially greater than for the Ulster Special Constabulary. There is a Regular remanet being attached to the new force. It will be better equipped and clothed. It will, indeed, have some better weapons. The best estimate that the Government can make is that the total cost will be about £1 million.

Captain Orr

I am grateful for the Minister's intervention. I should like to do the arithmetic before saying it was satisfactory. No doubt some of my hon. Friends will do that. I think that the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Roebuck) wished to raise a point.

Mr. Roebuck

I am grateful to the hon. and gallant Gentleman. This point also interests me. I put down a new Clause on this point, but it has not been selected. Has the hon. and gallant Gentleman any information about the transfer of accommodation and equipment? Is it proposed that the United Kingdom Government should pay the Northern Ireland Government for the accommodation and equipment which is being transferred?

Captain Orr

I cannot speak for the Northern Ireland Government, but my information is that as to arms and equipment and anything else that is required, no money would be passed.

The Temporary Chairman

Order. We are straying from the Amendment, which is about 4,000 men.

Captain Orr

The hon. Gentleman has got his answer, anyway.

I have nothing to add on the numbers, but if the hon. Gentleman will look at a reasoned argument he will see that the agreement between the Home Secretary and the Northern Ireland Government about the terms on which the Ulster Special Constabulary should be superseded demands that the force be effective and that approximately 6,000 men are required to make it effective. If that is not done, and a less effective force, or a force which cannot be made effective, comes into being, then the Ulster Special Constabulary, of whom we in Ulster are proud, will remain.

Mr. John Mendelson

I think that in discussing this important Amendment which, as my hon. Friend said, goes to the root of the matter, and in looking back at the Minister's reply to the previous debate, we may be able to return to a situation in which the Government are able to move closer to those who support the Amendment. I do not take the view that the Government have closed their mind to all the Amendments. I base that opinion on the speech made by the Government spokesman in reply to the Second Reading debate.

Moreover, I should like to remind the Committee that during these last few difficult weeks my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has conducted himself in such a way that he has received the support of hon. Members on both sides of the Committee and of the overwhelming majority of British public opinion. There is, therefore, something to be said for that kind of working together if we can achieve it. It is in the interests of everybody, not least the Government, and above all the people in Northern Ireland, that we should achieve such co-operation.

The burden of the Amendment is not technical, but political. That the Government accept that it is a political argument is shown by their reply to the Second Reading debate. This political argument is the result of debates which have taken place in Northern Ireland, and it is those debates which we must take into account before reaching a conclusion here.

What has always disturbed me most is the impression given by the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, and by others in commanding positions both in the B Special Force and in the Home Department in that country, that what was intended was a simple transfer of a large majority of the B Specials to this new force. During the Second Reading debate I demanded that the Government should countermand any such intention, and I should like now to supply a little further evidence to show why the suspicion that that is to happen is justified.

Mr. Porter admitted in Stormont that the forms sent out were headed "application forms". If words have any meaning, the B Specials who received the forms were entitled to think that the forms asked them to apply for enrolment, otherwise there was no point in putting those words at the top of the form. Moreover, at the same time the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland made a number of speeches in which he appealed to the B Specials to join up.

Therefore, nobody can blame any of the members of the B Specials if, being appealed to by people in such high authority, they assumed that what was meant was a simple transfer from one force to another. That would be highly dangerous if a balanced recruitment is sought to this force—balanced in the sense in which the details will be argued in a later Amendment.

11.30 p.m.

It was felt that the agreement between the Government and those concerned with these matters meant that the Government would countermand any such impression. That is the political basis of the Amendment. As a result of these appeals from on high, giving the impression that what was meant was a simple transfer from one force to another, a number of members of the B Specials made political statements which in my opinion should disqualify them from ever being recruited into the new force.

Here I can supply some new evidence. I want to quote from the Belfast Telegraph—a newspaper which is not unsympathetic to the Government in Northern Ireland, and one which believes in fair reporting. A news item from its issue of Monday, 24th November, is headed, "U.D.R 'must be seen to be effective'—Specials". That is a phrase that is now going to cover a multitude of sins. It goes on: The new Ulster Defence Regiment has won the support of Ulster Special Constabulary members—'with many reservations'—an unofficial committee of Specials said last night. I stop quoting there to comment that there obviously seems to be in existence in this force—which is supposed to be an auxiliary police force—an unofficial committee which assumes the political right to give directives to the members of the force.

This seems to be a highly dangerous kind of procedure, but it has been allowed under the commander of the force. I should have thought that a committee that tried to act in this way would have been immediately suspended from service and excluded from a force which prided itself on its discipline. But no such suspension has taken place.

I return to the report from the Belfast Telegraph: The committee of U.S.C. men organised a meeting of Specials in the Ulster Hall some weeks ago. Here we have an unofficial committee in what is supposed to be a disciplined auxiliary force, organising meetings of large numbers of the special force to discuss highly political questions. That is the background against which this debate must take place, and it is of the greatest seriousness. It is the kind of political atmosphere that has been built up in the special force over the years, and it is the kind of special attitude that made it the view of members of the minority group that here we were dealing not with an auxiliary police force but a party political police force—a private army of one party against the other.

Mr. Henry Clark

The hon. Member said that this kind of thing had been built up over the years in the Ulster Special Constabulary. We know that on the threat of disbandment many meetings were held by unofficial committees in most of the forces of the British Army in recent years. Can the hon. Member quote any instance of a meeting of the Ulster Special Constabulary being held before this year?

Mr. Mendelson

I am choosing my words carefully. I said that an atmosphere had been built up over the years and that members of this force regarded themselves as politically committed to one side. The evidence is now emerging.

If I am allowed to continue with my quotation, I will quote some other statements made at this meeting and by the committee. The quotation continues: The committee also accused Mr. Harold Wilson of wanting majority rule in Rhodesia, but on the other hand wanting minority rule in Northern Ireland. That is the sort of statement we might hear——

The Temporary Chairman

Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman is straying from the Amendments, which are concerned with figures up to 4,000.

Mr. Mendelson

But, Sir Alfred, I am dealing here with the danger which I am asking the Government to countermand—that the impression has been created among the B Special Constabulary that there will be a direct take-over of that force into the Ulster Defence Regiment. I am, therefore, pointing out the nature of some of the leading spirits in that force.

This sort of statement about what Mr. Harold Wilson may or may not want is the sort of thing we get from the benches opposite. But for members in a special force to make a statement in which they express their opinion publicly about the new Ulster Defence Regiment and their attitude towards that regiment——

Sir D. Glover

On a point of order. Is it in order for an hon. Gentleman in this Committee, to refer to Mr. Harold Wilson?

The Temporary Chairman

I think that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) was quoting from an article.

Mr. Mendelson

I was quite deliberately quoting from an article in the Belfast Telegraph. If one quotes one has to stick strictly to the quotation.

The Temporary Chairman

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will direct his remarks to the numbers.

Mr. John Lee

On a point of order. It may not be within your recollection, Sir Alfred but your predecessor in the Chair, in presiding over our debate on the previous Amendment, allowed it to range enormously wide, particularly the speech of the Minister. With respect, I hope that the same indulgence will be given to back benchers.

The Temporary Chairman

I have allowed the hon. Gentleman the Member for Penistone a great deal of latitude.

Mr. Mendelson

I am following your direction, Sir Alfred, and I also agree with your last comment. I wanted to put on record that there are some people operating in this force at the moment in a highly irregular manner, and that great care has to be taken so that we do not build up the new Ulster Defence Regiment to a figure that would allow all these people to be taken over automatically.

Mr. Henry Clark rose——

Mr. Mendelson

No, I want to get on, or I shall be speaking all night. [HON. MEMBERS: "Time wasting."] There is no question of time wasting. There are many more important Amendments to come and I want to be as brief as I can.

What I am saying to the Government is that having agreed at the end of the Second Reading debate that if there were a choice between building up the force to a figure that might be regarded as the larger figure of the two mentioned, and having a balanced force, the Government would make the latter choice rather than the former.

I return to what the hon. Gentleman opposite said about the opinions expressed by serving officers. It is most important to remember that we can only deal here with final conclusions, and the final conclusions are that the recommendation of the Hunt Committee has not been accepted. That is something which, in my opinion, must be explained on political grounds, not on technical grounds.

Mr. Orme

I thank my hon. Friend for giving way. I saw my hon. Friend on the Front Bench nodding when he talked about a balanced force and the higher figure, but the point we must not forget is that Hunt recommended a balanced force of not more than 4,000.

Mr. Mendelson

Yes, and many of us on this side of the House asked the Government not to rush ahead in building up the force too quickly because we feared that if a large number of B Specials are taken in in the first few weeks and months of recruitment that will actively discourage people in the minority, and people who are in opposition to the present régime, from joining this force.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) knows better than I do, there are many people in Northern Ireland with excellent military records. Members of both main religions have seen service in the Navy or in the Army. There are hopes that, if this matter is carefully handled and not turned into a political stampede by merely creating the B Specials under a different name, and if all these suspicions are removed, it will be possible to recruit people with a good deal of military experience. I am envisaging a situation in which members of the minority as well as members of the majority become commissioned officers and non-commissioned officers in the new force.

If the impression is widespread—an impression which it seemed that the Premier of Northern Ireland was anxious to create—that it is all cut and dried, that there will be a take-over, that the force will be built up as quickly as possible to 6,000 and then there will be no room for anybody else, that result will not be achieved.

Captain Orr

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's point that it is desirable to achieve a force which is eventually balanced. Does not the hon. Gentleman recognise that if there is too much delay and the new force is not built up to an effective strength in a reasonable time the Ulster Special Constabulary continues in the meantime?

Mr. Mendelson

That point and the the argument about having a balanced force within 4,000 rather than within 6,000 is my final point. I do not accept the alarmist rumours which are being spread about the urgent need to create new defensive forces. We shall return to this question when we discuss where the arms are to be stored, but all these rumours have been used over the years to create an atmosphere of political intimidation by one side against the other. I do not accept any of the arguments as real evidence.

We know that the real defence of Northern Ireland, where it matters today, is in the hands of the Regular British Army under the G.O.C. In previous debates hon. Members opposite have said, sometimes lightly, that the defence of the frontier of Northern Ireland might be involved. That is the business of the Regular British Army stationed there. That should be common ground if nothing else is common ground. The job of this auxiliary force should be very limited. The more that hon. Members try to create the impression that there are many things for the new force to attend to, the more that hon. Members spread alarmist impressions and opinion in Northern Ireland, the more they are going against the expressed wish of the G.O.C. and events as they now exist in Northern Ireland.

I come, finally, to the question whether there can be a balanced force in the lower numbers. I believe that this can be achieved. We want slow recruitment. We want no large influx of men who are committed to one side. It does not matter if recruitment goes slowly and if the target, even of 4,000, is not reached by 1st April and we have to go on to 1st May or 1st July. The Army is in control and is ensuring that there is fairness.

If the target is not achieved, I ask the Government not to aim at 6,000. Let the Government recruit people in small numbers and not make this force the preserve of the Special Constabulary. We must ensure that people from all quarters, minority as well as majority, are recruited in almost equal numbers. Then we can see where we are and make up our minds again. I ask the Government not to commit themselves to a large figure or to an influx from any one quarter.

11.45 p.m.

Mr. Lubbock

I am very glad to be called immediately after that concluding remark of the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson), because his remark is relevant to my Amendment, No. 19, which deals with a slightly different point to that of the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme). That is, whether or not, within a total ceiling of 6,000 men, as the White Paper proposes, we could not have an intermediate limit and see how we go on, as the hon. Member for Penistone put it—not to proceed at once to the 6,000 maximum, but to build up the force gradually and to ensure in this House that it is properly balanced in the process.

Then, if we are satisfied that the force is, as the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Capt. Orr) puts it, fully effective, we can decide whether it is necessary to increase it by the further 2,000. I absolutely agree that this is a condition of disbanding the U.S.C.—to make sure that the new regiment is fully effective, as it can only be if it is properly balanced.

Suppose that we had these 4,000 men and it became clear to the House that the overwhelming majority were recruited from the B Specials. No one would deem that an effective force. So we should be able to say to the Government, "We do not give you the right to increase the total to the 6,000 men"——

Mr. John Mendelson

It would be too late.

Mr. Lubbock

At least we should not have done so much damage. I agree that we would have spent all the money and the trouble on building up a force of 4,000 men—[Interruption.] I am supporting the hon. Member's Amendment. I am just putting forward mine as a compromise which the Government would find it much easier to accept.

Having built up the force of 4,000 men, we should then discover, if the hon. Member's suspicions are correct, that it was sectarian, and we should refuse permission to the affirmative Resolution which the Minister would have to introduce further to increase its size to 6,000—so at least we should have done only two-thirds of the damage which the Government are prepared to do, if the suspicions of some people in Northern Ireland are confirmed. That is why my proposal is a slight improvement on the hon. Member's. I am disappointed that it has not been selected for a Division, because I should have wanted to press it to one. In the absence of any right to do so, I will support the hon. Gentleman's proposals.

Another interesting point mentioned by the hon. Member for Penistone is the activities of this unofficial committee of B Specials. I am grateful to them for the publicity which they have given to their activities in the Belfast Telegraph. If it had not been for this meeting of which he told the Committee, we might not have had proper evidence of the plots going on in the B Specials to make sure that they dominate this new force. The more meetings of this kind that they have in the Ulster Hall, the better I will be pleased. I am delighted that they are exposing their intentions while there is good time for us to take note of them and make sure, in the Bill, that their foul machinations are catered for while the Bill is still before the House.

The hon. and gallant Member for Down, South and another hon. Member concentrated heavily on the fact that the Hunt Committee made its recommendations in something of a hurry, and that, therefore, we should not take a great deal of notice of the figure of 4,000 and should not puzzle ourselves unduly over the 50 per cent. increase proposed in the White Paper, or ask for an explanation from the Government of the reason for the difference in these figures.

The hon. and gallant Member is perfectly satisfied that this working party of impartial civil servants has come to a better conclusion than Lord Hunt. He points out that, since Lord Hunt had only a short time in which to make his recommendations, he is not to be blamed for any error in his estimates.

In support of this, this paragraph in the introduction to the Hunt Report has been quoted: Within the limited time available, it has not been possible to make as detailed an examination as we would have wished. But hon. Members who used that quotation did not go on to refer to the final sentence of the paragraph: We have, therefore, suggested procedures by which a number of matters which came to our notice and upon which we formed preliminary views may be resolved after further examination. Hon. Members will agree that this implied that wherever Lord Hunt has made a recommendation on the basis of partial evidence, he has accompanied it by recommending a further study by the Government. But in paragraph 171(a) Lord Hunt says: We consider that its strength need not be as high as that of the U.S.C. and suggest that about 4,000 should be sufficient. There is no suggestion that there should be further research to discover whether that figure is correct. There is no qualification of that statement. I do not think that any hon. Member can suggest that the words envisage a departure from that figure by as much as 50 per cent., as is envisaged in the White Paper.

Mr. Stratton Mills

The sentence reads: We consider that its strength need not be as high as that of the U.S.C. and suggest that about 4,000 should be sufficient. The hon. Member will agree that the wording is fairly weak and certainly does not seek to lay down a hard-and-fast number.

Mr. Lubbock

I do not agree with that interpretation. I do not see how the Government could go as wide of the number as 6,000 and still be within the recommendation. If that were Lord Hunt's intention, why did he not say, "We are not in a position to come to any definite conclusion on the matter, but we consider that a force of between 4,000 and 8,000 is probably right and we will leave it to the Government to determine where the ceiling should be within those limits"? If he had said that, we could have reconciled his findings with the figure of 6,000 in the White Paper.

Mr. John E. Maginnis (Armagh)

Lord Hunt suggested a figure of 4,000. He did not recommend a figure of 4,000.

Mr. Lubbock

In the sense that it is argued that, throughout, Lord Hunt made sugestions, the hon. Member is correct. I will not read the sentence again, because hon. Members are familiar with it, but it seems to me that we are arguing about semantics.

Mr. Stratton Mills

At the end of the report, starting on page 44, there are 47 recommendations. Nowhere in those recommendations does Lord Hunt give a specific figure for the size of the force.

Mr. Lubbock

I know that. I have read the whole report, as has the hon. Member. Lord Hunt did not repeat the figure of 4,000 given in paragraph 171. But if the hon. Member implies that Lord Hunt was not certain about the figure and left it vague, why did Lord Hunt not say so in paragraph 171? I do not believe that that is the case.

Lord Hunt made it clear that he had access to the same kind of military advice as was available to the Government. He spoke to the General Officer Commanding in Northern Ireland and he mentioned that his Committee had been able to bring to bear on the matters falling within our terms of reference a varied background of experience gained from military operations elsewhere in aid of the civil power.

I want to pin the Government down and to ask them exactly what was the difference between the evidence available to Lord Hunt, which appears to have been of a wide character, and the evidence available to the working party of civil servants and soldiers. Did they, for instance, obtain information from Cyprus that was not available to Lord Hunt? Since Lord Hunt mentions the background and experience gained through military operations elsewhere, what different advice did the G.O.C. give to Lord Hunt and the working party? Had he had further time for consideration and did he vary his figure in his evidence to the two bodies?

I am not prepared to accept the statement of the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South that, because a group of civil servants and eminent soldiers have had a little time to consider the matter, they have come to a conclusion so different from that of Lord Hunt. That is basically improbable and it is in the minds of some hon. Members that the difference does not arise from the recommendations of this impartial working party, but from some pressure brought to bear on the Government.

Mr. Richard indicated dissent.

Mr. Lubbock

The hon. Gentleman can deny it in his reply.

Nevertheless, there is that suspicion in people's minds. It is not in mine, but I am asking for clarification to deal with certain anxieties drawn to our attention by people we know in Northern Ireland and who are experienced in these problems. It is not just I. The hon. Member for Penistone has heard the same kind of thing—that this is a device in order to be able to get the maximum number of B Specials into the new force and to see that it merely replaces the U.S.C. under another name.

The hon. and gallant Member for Down, South put a good contrary argument—that, if there is a large force, there will be more room in it for the Catholics than there would be if we restricted its size to 4,000. What that implies is that one is to have these 4,000 people transferred immediately from the B Specials and that only if we increase the ceiling above that number will there be some room for the Catholics, that they will be a fag end proportion of the extra numbers which the Government are demanding over and above the figure recommended in the Hunt Report.

If that were so, it would be a serious matter. Immediately, one would be taking into the new regiment 4,000 out of the 8,500 people serving in the B Specials and only thereafter would one find room for the Catholics. That is another reason for restricting the size of the force to 4,000 in the initial stages and only increasing it to 6,000 by affirmative Resolution later on. We should see exactly what the recruiting situation is to be before giving approval to the higher figure.

The Minister of Defence for Administration, in his reply to the Second Reading debate, did not reply to a point I had raised. I appreciate that there is not time on such occasions to answer every point raised in the debate, but this is an important matter, so I raise it again in the hope that the Under-Secretary of State will reply to it tonight.

The Hunt Report says: Indeed everyone hopes that the reforms already in hand and those still being planned will, by removing the causes of discontent, make it less likely that in the future extremists will be able to provoke disorder and so bring about the conditions in which terrorism can be effective. Moreover a realistic assessment of the capacity of the I.R.A. to mount serious terrorist attacks would probably not rate it very high, particularly as the Government of the Irish Republic has stated publicly that it is opposed to the use of force on the border. This is the point I asked the Minister to deal with in my Second Reading speech.

12 m.

On Second Reading, I said that this seemed to demonstrate to me, quite apart from the military calculations and the differences of opinion between Lord Hunt and the working party, that there were political factors which had to enter into any assessment of the size of the proposed force. It is an admission that we do not expect much of the civil rights changes in Northern Ireland if we say that the force must be larger than Lord Hunt suggested. We are saying that, in spite of what he said about the tension being decreased as a result of the causes of discontent being removed, we need a larger force.

That depresses me intensely, because it shows that the Government do not have that faith in the determination of the Northern Ireland Government to carry these reforms to their conclusion which I personally have. I am certain that Major Chichester-Clark is absolutely genuine in his determination to press forward co-operating with the Government here, with his programme of civil rights. It would be an admission by the Government that the reforms cannot be carried forward to a peaceful conclusion if they insisted on a force of the size proposed.

Mr. Richard

I intervene at this stage not to stifle debate, but merely because, in view of the last two or three speeches, it may be helpful if I indicate some of the things which are in the Government's mind, particularly about recruiting.

On Second Reading, the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) asked my hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for Administration to deal with that part of the Hunt Report which the hon. Member has just quoted. It is dealt with almost in the next sentence of the report. Immediately after the passage which the hon. Member has quoted there occurs this sentence: Even so, it is necessary to consider the worst that might happen, so that proper precautions can be taken; and although the threat of terrorist attacks may not be great, the fear of them is very real, and public anxiety will not be allayed unless precautions are taken and are seen to be taken. Anybody reading that and the end of the preceding paragraph would come to the conclusion that Lord Hunt was saying that there was a threat to internal security in Northern Ireland, that he did not rate it highly, but that, nevertheless, it was something which must be taken seriously and guarded against and that provision therefore had to be made in respect of it.

I do not share the view of the hon. Member for Orpington that the figure of 4,000 as it appeared in the Hunt Report is anything like a firm figure. I refer the hon. Member to paragraphs 2 and 3, which say: The importance and urgency of this task was impressed upon us in view of the situation following the disorders earlier in the month. After a visit by the Home Secretary of the Government of the United Kingdom on 7th September the hope was expressed that our report might be available in time for it to be discussed with him early in October… Paragraph 3 said: Both on account of the speed with which so wide-ranging an enquiry had to be completed and of the nature of the task itself, we decided that our enquiries should be informal and confidential, that we should confine ourselves"—— and the next words are important when assessing whether the figure is militarily correct— mainly"— and I accept that it is "mainly"— to contacts and visits within the ambit of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Ulster Special Constabulary and that we should seek written evidence and opinion outside the police forces privately, rather than invite submissions from all sources. I am not in a position to tell the hon. Member the precise nature of the evidence which the G.O.C. gave, nor the way in which he gave it to the Hunt Committee. However, I can assure him that the figure of 6,000 is based upon a military operational requirement. It is arrived at by a process of mathematics, if I may use that phrase, somewhat similar to that used by the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr), although I do not accept his figures.

The operational requirement is based not on what happened in Cyprus, Aden or anywhere else but on a far simpler calculation. It is based on how many of the Royal Ulster Constabulary have been engaged on certain duties within the past six or nine months. At the height of the troubles in July and August this year, on the duty of guarding key points, which is the rôle the Hunt Committee, the White Paper and the Bill specifically give to the Ulster Defence Regiment, the number of men the R.U.C. employed was about 800 a night. The number is now about 500 a night. The regiment will be a part-time force, and I think that the hon. and gallant Gentleman's figure of the maximum one can ask of people in such a regiment was four hours a week.

The training obligations proposed are quite onerous for a part-time force, and I think that they will be employed for more than that. In the broadest terms, assuming that each man is on duty for one night a week, and that between 500 and 800 men are needed at a time of tension to guard key points, one needs between 4,000 and 6,500 to 7,000 men. I accept that the figure must be somewhat imprecise. That is a military and not a political calculation. I shall come to what my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) said about politics in a moment.

Faced with 4,000 as the lowest figure and about 6,500 to 7,000 at the highest figure, that Government said, "We will set what we regard as a ceiling". We regard it not as a target but a ceiling, to be adjusted, as my hon. Friend said on Second Reading, in the light of circumstances as one has experience with the operation of this new force. If tension eases in Northern Ireland in the next year, and, therefore, the necessity to guard key points again lessens, it is very unlikely that one will need to recruit up to the figure of 6,000. But if it does not, and perhaps goes back to what it was in July and August, there will be a requirement for the guarding of those key points at approaching the rate I gave a moment ago.

Mr. Stan Newens (Epping)

My arithmetic may be wrong, but my hon. Friend said that 800 men were required each night for seven nights a week, and according to my calculations, the number of troops required would be between 3,500 and 5,600. If that is correct, surely it undermines the case my hon. Friend is making. He is duty bound to explain how he arrives at the figures he gave.

Mr. Richard

First, I assume that each man will work only about one night a week. I am bound to assume that there will be a certain wastage because somebody is away on a training camp, or somebody is ill, and so a certain amount of leeway must be given when arriving at a figure. I emphasis that the 6,000 is a ceiling and not a figure that the Government are recruiting up to. It is a figure that the Government has said is the maximum they can foresee.

Mr. Lubbock

The Minister said that if, next summer, it is found that tension is so high that we have a recurrence of the situation that had to be dealt with recently we need to go to the 6,000 figure, but that if, as everybody hopes, we can keep it down to a low pitch the 4,000 would be enough. If we suffer that sort of situation we would need a debate on Northern Ireland, as I think the hon. Gentleman would agree. So why not accept my suggestion that we have a debate on an affirmative Resolution, instead of in Supply time, for instance?

Mr. Richard

There are technical objections to doing it by way of affirmative Resolution.

May I, however, illustrate again to the hon. Member what the Government are proposing. It is that the size of the force should be controlled by the ordinary mechanism by which the size of this country's forces have been, and are, controlled, namely, by Estimates. Therefore, once a year, the Government have to ask the House of Commons for its approval as to the ceiling for the force for the forthcoming year.

In addition, we will be in a totally different position concerning this force than we were with the Ulster Special Constabulary, in two important respects. The first is that the new force is part of the Regular Army and, therefore, its recruiting pace and policy is foreseeable by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and by other Ministers. Secondly, we are answerable in the House of Commons, as all Ministers must be, for the way in which the force is recruited, its size, logistics, pay, food, clothing and equipment, in exactly the same way as with any other part of the Regular Army. Therefore, the degree of democratic control, which seemed to be what my hon. Friends were worried about, over the new force will be infinitely greater than it was over the old force.

Mr. Orme

In view of what my hon. Friend says about democratic control, we cannot understand why the Government cannot accept the figure of 4,000 as proposed by the Hunt Report. If they wanted to do so at a later date, they could always come back to ask for a larger number. We are concerned about the figure of 4,000. The figures which my hon. Friend has just given about the deployment of the B Specials, for example, relate to a period in which they were engaged in activities which we hope never to see again in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Richard

My hon. Friend is not right about this. The activities in which the B Specials have been engaged and which I have been talking about were those of guarding key points and had nothing whatever to do with crowd or riot control. They are the numbers who have been guarding key and vulnerable points.

What Lord Hunt has said is that there will be a need for some type of force to carry out that sort of duty. The best military advice available to the Government is that a force possibly up to, but certainly in no circumstances exceeding, 6,000 would be appropriate.

I now turn to the second and, perhaps, more significant part of the debate. The hon. Member for Orpington and my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone have referred—

Mrs. Anne Kerr (Rochester and Chatham)

May I ask my hon. Friend what sort of equipment is intended?

The Deputy Chairman (Mr. Harry Gourlay)

The question is not in order.

Mr. Richard

That is dealt with on later Amendments. It is in the White Paper and it was dealt with at some length on Second Reading. Therefore, perhaps my hon. Friend will forgive me for not delving into that at the moment.

The real argument on the question of 4,000 or 6,000 is not, I apprehend, about numbers at all. The real argument, as my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone said—he is quite right about this—is about recruiting. No one, I suspect—no one, at any rate, who broadly takes the view of my hon. Friends below the Gangway—would be in the least worried at a force which was 6,000 strong, 7,000, or, indeed, 10,000 strong, if half the force could be guaranteed to be Catholics. I suspect that Amendments would not be put down to reduce the number from 6,000 to 4,000 if my hon. Friends could be satisfied as to the recruiting procedure for Catholics coming into the force.

It would be helpful to return to the method of recruitment, that in which it is hoped and anticipated that recruitment will take place.

12.15 a.m.

Mr. Rose

This is off the Amendment.

Mr. Richard

No, if my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) been present he would have known that my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone and the hon. Member for Orpington devoted the substance of their speeches to this.

Mr. McNamara

On a point of order. The actual terms of the Amendment refer to the number of people to be enrolled, not the methods of enrolling them. Later Amendments, which have been selected by the Chairman of Ways and Means, deal with methods of enrolling and hon. Members have not yet voiced their opinions on those.

The Deputy Chairman

I think that the hon. Member should leave points of order to the Chair. I heard the Minister make a remark and I was waiting to hear what he had to say before intervening.

Mr. McNamara

Further to that point of order. I am not seeking in any way to challenge what you said, Mr. Gourlay, but I thought that we should be allowed to raise points of order to draw attention to this.

The Deputy Chairman

It is quite in order to raise a point of order on a question before the Committee, but in this case the Chair was seized of the position and was waiting for the Minister to step out of order before pulling him up. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) was a little ahead of time.

Mrs. Anne Kerr

I thought that I was perfectly proper in inquiring what sort of equipment was required for the force.

The Deputy Chairman

No, not on this Amendment.

Mr. Richard

One of the main arguments advanced by the mover of the Amendment by my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone and the hon. Member for Orpington, was for a reduction from 6,000 to 4,000 because, they said, there was a great fear that at 6,000 there would be a great influx of B Specials to the force. As they were entitled to argue that as the basis of the Amendment, I am entitled to say that their fears are groundless and there is no need for the Amendment. To establish that their fears are groundless, I must be allowed to say one or two things about the method of recruitment.

I reiterate the point made on Second Reading by my hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for Administration a most important and specific statement to which perhaps my hon. Friends have not paid sufficient attention. It was that if there came a choice between the size and the balance of the force the Government would lean towards a well balanced force rather than a quickly recruited force. That remains the policy of the Government and it is right that I should reiterate it.

A number of questions have been asked about the sort of forms to be filled in and the vetting to take place. It has been suggested that all that will happen will be a mass transfer of B Specials on vesting day as it were from one force straight to another. That cannot happen. Anyone wishing to enrol in the Ulster Defence Regiment will have to fill in a form which will be nothing like any of the forms talked about that have been talked about in this House or elsewhere. That has then to be vetted by the Army authorities. On Second Reading on 19th November, the Minister of Defence for Administration assured my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) that the vetting for acceptance of applicants to join the Ulster Defence Regiment would be carried out entirely by the G.O.C., Northern Ireland, and in an objective manner. The suitability of applicants will be checked against that information.

Mr. Heffer

Utterly absurd.

Mr. Norwood

Surely this refers to an entirely different Amendment, which has been selected and is to be taken later. It has nothing to do with the numbers involved. It has a good deal to do with the composition, but nothing to do with the point of substance.

The Deputy Chairman

I understand that, in speaking to the Amendment, several hon. Members made incidental references to the composition of the force. The Minister is, therefore, allowed a certain latitude when replying.

Mr. Norwood

Further to my point of order. The fact that, inadvertently, there was a previous breach of order, should not mean our tolerating the present one.

The Deputy Chairman

The hon. Gentleman must leave the Chair to interpret the rules of order. I have ruled that since incidental references were previously made to this subject, the Minister has a right to reply.

Mr. Richard

At least one of my hon. Friends did not refer to the subject incidentally, but made it the substance of his argument. The statement I am about to make will be of interest to him and the Committee.

In the vetting and acceptance of people to join the Regiment, the suitability of any person will be checked against all information available to the G.O.C. Northern Ireland and this will include the taking up of references. There is provision in the application form for references to be provided, and the sort of persons who must be referees are much the same as appear in passport application forms.

There will be interviews by skilled investigators of the Army's own vetting unit who are usually stationed at Woolwich. They will do the job either here or in Northern Ireland, but I imagine that it will mainly be the latter. They are normally employed positively on vetting inquiries, and they will be so employed in this way. The object of the provision is to establish that an applicant is of good character, is not an active supporter of any organisation at one or other extreme of the political spectrum and is likely to act in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland as a whole.

My hon. Friend the Member for Penistone spoke of meetings of an organisation of U.S.C. members. The Government are obviously concerned to try to provide the necessary regulations which, it is hoped—if the Bill is passed—will be introduced for the purpose of giving effect to the new force. For example, it is hoped that eventually this will become part of the regulations of the Ulster Defence Regiment: Officers, warrant officers, N.C.O.s and men not training in camp, etc., will not take part in or attend any political meetings or demonstrations in uniform.

Hon. Members

In uniform?

Mr. Richard

Naturally. When in civilian clothes, they will be like any other United Kingdom citizens. It would be an extraordinary proposition to say that a member of any force should be prevented from attending a political meeting if he is in civilian clothes. [Interruption.] I heard one of my hon. Friends say that he would not be allowed to attend a trade union meeting. I know of no regulation which would prevent a member of the Ulster Defence Regiment or any other part of the Regular Army from attending such a meeting.

It is hoped that another regulation will say: Officers, warrant officers, N.C.O.s and men will not discuss political questions in speeches at military gatherings such as dinners, prize distributions, concerts, etc., whether attending them in uniform or not. Yet another will say: Meetings will not be held, or memorials drawn up, on any matter affecting discipline or the expenditure of monies received from public funds. No meetings, except those called together by or under the authority of the C.O. will be recognised. It is obviously not right for me now to go through too many regulations of the Ulster Defence Regiment. Many of my hon. Friends would say "Disgraceful" or "Out of order" if I did, but the effect of the regulations, which are in draft, is to convert a part-time auxiliary police force into a force which is part of the Regular Army and, therefore, subject to military regulation, military discipline and military law.

I hope that with those remarks, and the report of the Advisory Committee on Recruitment, which my hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for Administration mentioned on Second Reading and about which he hopes to say something later, the fears which have been felt as to the insertion of 6,000 in the Bill instead of 4,000 will be allayed, and that my hon. Friends will not think it necessary to divide the Committee.

Mr. Goodhart

I hope that the fact that the Under-Secretary of State referred at considerable length to the vetting procedure and the balance of the force will not prevent the Committee from dealing with these matters when we reach the Amendments which specifically refer to them.

I hope that I shall not bring a contentious English, Scottish or Welsh note into a Northern Ireland debate when I say that I am rather surprised to see that the hon. Members who have put their names to the Amendment put so much store on a single figure appearing in a report which was presented to the House of Commons. Those same hon. Members, night after night last year, objected to and argued against the reports of the National Board for Prices and Incomes which were laid before the House. They certainly did not feel that a report should be accepted without amendment. The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) argued most strongly that the House should reject the report of the Boundary Commission, which had spent five years on its preparation.

Mr. John Lee

On a point of order. Trying as I am with increasing wonderment to follow how rules of order are administered in this Committee, am I to understand that the same indulgence is to be granted to back benchers as has been granted to the Front Bench?

The Deputy Chairman

The hon. Gentleman should not cast reflections on the Chair. The same rules apply to all members of the Committee.

Mr. Goodhart

Whereas the Boundary Commission had five years to prepare its report, the Hunt Committee had only a bare five weeks in which to present its report to the House.

Mr. Michael Foot

This Measure was recommended to the House of Commons on the ground that it was carrying out in general the recommendations of the Hunt Committee, and we have been told that both Westminster and Stormont have accepted the Hunt Committee's Report. We are still waiting for a proper explanation of why there has been a further grave departure from the recommendations of the Hunt Committee.

Mr. Goodhart

The second paragraph of the letter of introduction to the Hunt Report states: Within the limited time available it has not been possible to make as detailed an examination as we would have wished. Indeed, in less serious circumstances we would have preferred to have several months at our disposal. We have, therefore, suggested procedures by which a number of matters which came to our notice and upon which we formed preliminary views may be resolved after further examination. It appears that the Hunt Committee has answered the hon. Gentleman's point.

12.30 a.m.

Mr. Lubbock

If the Hunt Committee had formed only preliminary views on the question of numbers, somewhere in its report one would expect to find a reference to the procedures by which these matters could be resolved. But I pointed out in my speech that the figure of 4,000 is given in one paragraph, but nowhere else in the report is there any reference to such procedures. Therefore, the views on this matter cannot have been of a preliminary nature.

Mr. Goodhbart

I would point out to the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) that paragraph 171(b), on page 42, says: the nature, establishment and equipment and all other conditions relating to it, including the timing of its formation— referring to the Ulster Defence Regiment— should be decided by Her Majesty's Government at Westminster, in consultation with the Government of Northern Ireland …". It is wrong to argue that the Hunt Committee did not turn to this point.

There is a discrepancy between the Bill and the speech made by the Secretary of State on Second Reading which I should like to take up. The Explanatory and Financial Memorandum to the Bill states, under the heading "Effects of the Bill on Public Service Manpower": About 100 civilians will be employed for clerical, storekeeping and general duties, and about 50 members of the force will serve as permanent staff, as well as up to 50 attached personnel of the Regular Army. Earlier, under the heading "Financial effects of the Bill", there appears a figure of £100,000, which would fit the figure of 50 Regular Army personnel seconded to the Ulster Defence Regiment. But in his Second Reading speech the Secretary of State referred to 200 personnel seconded to the regiment. A figure of 50 Regular Army personnel would be wholly consistent with the numbers of Regular Army personnel normally attached to a TAVR 11 unit. The figure now put forward by the Secretary of State is four times as high as that.

I hope that we shall be told what the extra personnel will do. Is it suggested that there should be two, three or four officers of field rank attached to every battalion, or in some instances will platoons be commanded by Regular Army personnel, or will the extra Regular Army personnel be drafted to headquarters with the force rather than sent to the battalions?

The Secretary of Slate for Defence (Mr. Denis Healey)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising the point. This was a slip of the tongue. We were intending to correct it. The right figure is the one given in the Preamble to the Bill. This occurred during the course of answering an interjection and I added together wrongly the civilians and the military. In fact, the figures are 50 and 100 as set out in the Memorandum.

Mr. Goodhart

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving that correction, since it clears up that matter.

I am in full agreement with the Under-Secretary of State—I hope that he will not find this embarrassing—in his analysis of how the strength of this regiment should be arrived at.

Mr. Rose

Will the hon. Gentleman explain one point? How does he arrive at the figure of 6,000, if not 4,000? What is so magical about the figure of 6,000 which leads him into this curious alliance with the Government Front Bench?

Mr. Goodhart

I hope that I shall make myself reasonably plain on this point before sitting down.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Capt. Orr), in his admirable speech, reminded us that on the night of 19/20th November there were more than 500 B Specials deployed, at the direction of the G.O.C., Northern Ireland, on guard duties at vulnerable points and on other duties wholly consistent with the rôle of the Ulster Defence Regiment when it is set up, and he pointed out that in normal circumstances it is unreasonable to expect that members of this regiment should spend more than one night a week doing these duties.

They have, after all, to fulfil their normal jobs in the course of a day. Therefore, even if we excluded training duties, which are onerous, we could reasonably expect, given the conditions that obtained on the night of 19/20th November, that 3,500 men would be on duty during any one week. That figure is made up of 500 men a night, seven nights a week.

But there is one special feature about the night of 19/20th November that we ought to bear in mind—that nothing of any importance happened. Unfortunately, such is the state of affairs in Northern Ireland at the moment that, whatever happens in Stormont and in debates in this House of Commons, we cannot count on nothing happening. To base a force on the assumption that we can get away with what happens on a night when there are no incidents is rash in the extreme. Therefore, I am particularly glad that the Government intend to resist the Amendment.

Mr. John Lee

I will not attempt to follow the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) in all that he has been saying, except to point out that he attacks from a different point of view—no doubt his own point of view—the Government's figure. But, after a long debate, we are still no nearer an explanation for the figure of 6,000 to which they adhere.

I do not often find myself able to agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Capt. Orr), but it was he who earlier said that it was a cockshy. He said that there was no more attempt to arrive at a reasonable estimate for this figure of 6,000 than there was for the Hunt Committee's figure of 4,000, except possibly that that committee had longer to consider before arriving at that figure.

I hope that we get more conciliatory replies from the Government than we have had so far tonight. If not, I warn them that they will not go to bed tonight, unless the Whips decide to call it a day a little later, with the Bill far from being completed. Here we are, at twenty minutes to one, on the Second Amendment. Plenty of us are warming up, and if we get the mixture of truculence and lack of conciliatory attitude that we had from my hon. Friend on the last Amendment, he will not get any sleep tonight.

My hon. Friend's interim reply ranged so wide that I take it that is in order to range over methods of recruitment and how this will be carried out, and that we shall not be called to order, even though some of us were a little surprised that the matter was allowed to come into the discussion at all. My hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) has done a good service in raising this matter, because by one means or another we have been enabled to enlarge the scope of the debate. We should enlarge the debate on this and every other Amendment throughout the night, and for however long the Bill is under discussion, until we get the Government Front Bench into a much more satisfactory frame of mind.

I support the Amendment. I should have supported it even if it had proposed a reduction to some derisory figure, because, unlike some of my hon. Friends, I am not in favour of this force at all. I take the view that at a time when we are cutting military expenditure in many ways it is absurd to take on an extra commitment of this kind. It is typical of Ministers of the Ministry of Defence that as a kind of throw-away line, in answer to a question by the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr), we are told that the British taxpayer is to pay for this force. As a taxpayer, apart from anything else, I am reluctant to pay for any further military expenditure, and I think that I am not alone in that view.

The Deputy Chairman

Order. The hon. Member may be reluctant, but the House has already decided the principle, and he must, therefore, come to the Amendment.

Mr. Lee

I favour the Amendment because it would reduce, albeit by a minute degree, the burden of expenditure which the Bill seeks to impose upon us. I think that it is in order to criticise the Amendment, not merely because it is not as specific as it might be and that it substitutes one arbitrary figure for another, but because it does not go far enough.

Mr. John Mendelson

It is the Hunt Committee's figure.

Mr. Lee

That is true, but, with the best will in the world, the Hunt Committee itself was bound to choose an arbitrary figure. Any military situation which is sufficiently serious to warrant the use of supplementary forces of this kind is bound to produce in Northern Ireland a situation in which local forces have to be supplemented by the Army.

The fact that the Army is there at a time of relative calm shows that both these figures can be regarded as arbitrary. They are attempts to prognosticate a situation which cannot really be anticipated. It is not easy to calculate these figures when one is faced with what one might at worst describe as the semi-guerrilla situation in Northern Ireland. I thought that my hon. Friend was a little on the defensive because he had been attacked over his choice of a figure. It would have been more reasonable to have said that it was impossible to arrive at a precise figure, and that there was bound to be an element of guesswork in it.

12.45 a.m.

We have had some quite amusing attempts to regulate the number of hours that persons would be employed on duty. Everybody knows that in an emergency it will not be limited to one night a week, or something of that kind; people will find themselves called upon to be on duty for far longer than that. Since the force is to deal with just that kind of emergency situation it make the idea of trying to calculate on the basis of a calm period quite ridiculous. I agree with the hon. Member for Beckenham that to base our calculations on what happened on a night when there were no incidents does not help.

I would rather have had no force at all, but if we are to have to use military force I would much prefer that it should be used by Regular troops. Our experience of quasi-military forces in various parts of the world is not encouraging. If we think of places like Palestine, Cyprus or Kenya, we are not encouraged to believe that even allowing for the fact that it is intended that this force should be restricted to duties which are not likely to bring it into contact with large numbers of the civil population it would be difficult to provide against that possibility occurring, and if it contains many of the former members of the B Specials it is right to take the view that it will start off on a poor basis.

Mr. Rose

Does my hon. Friend agree that this is a serious Amendment? Does he accept that many of us agree that there is a need for a force in Northern Ireland because of the situation there, and that we have arrived at a figure of 4,000 because that was the Hunt Report's figure? Does he accept that this is a reasonable figure, and that there is no need for any meandering in this way, and that some of us would like to vote on this matter and to decide on that figure and would ask my right hon. Friend to give way to those of us who would like to see the original figure recommended in the Hunt Report replace the figure which has succeeded it?

Mr. Lee

I accept those points. First, I agree that this is a serious Amendment and, secondly, that it is referable to the Hunt Committee's recommendation. So far, so good; my hon. Friend and I are ad idem. But we are not ad idem as to our reasons for supporting the Amendment. I support it—and I apprehend that my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) supports it—on the principle that half a loaf is better than no bread and that a force of 4,000 is less objectionable than one of 6,000, bearing in mind that it is based on a particular group of people who are bound to be regarded with suspicion by a large part of the community.

If my hon. Friends who are thinking in terms of selling this idea had given more thought to what was said at the Civil Rights meeting in Ulster they would have been less sanguine about this force being acceptable. I respect them for bringing forward their Amendment. Their figure is marginally more reasonable and sensible, in purely military terms, than the Government figure. I support the Amendment, because if I cannot get rid of the figure entirely and cannot prevent this force being introduced I shall do everything possible to whittle it down.

I think that it is in order for me to say that if one ever finds oneself in a position where military force has to be used, it is far better to use Regular forces, whether for garrisoning, guarding strategic points, or for active operations, because Regular forces have a much better tradition of discipline engrained in them, they are less likely to run amok, they are much more responsive to control and less likely to panic.

This has been borne out time and again in all kinds of situations in the last 20 years overseas, so I think that it would be far better for the Government to rely on using armed forces—if a situation arises when military forces of any kind have to be used—than to rely on these quasi-military forces, these peculiar hybrid forces. Short of that situation, it is far better to have ordinary civil police. I do not think that there can be any transitional state in between—

The Temporary Chairman (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)

Order. The hon. Gentleman is straying from the path of the Amendment, which we must adhere to quite strictly, namely, that it be 4,000 men.

Mr. Lee

I was just returning to the Amendment.

I support the Amendment. I wish that the Amendment had been cast in more drastic terms to cut the force by a very much larger amount so that it was a derisory figure. Since I cannot get that, I am prepared to support the Amendment on the basis that since 6,000 is obviously a concession of weakness on the part of the Government, and the figure of 4,000 is the one referred to in the Hunt recommendation, it would be far better to settle for the last of the two figures.

Mr. Heffer

I want to take up the point made by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary when he said that the figure of 6,000 was based upon a military operational requirement. If I remember rightly, those were his exact words.

My hon. Friend went on to say that at the height of the disturbances in August there were 800 of the B Specials on duty per night, and that at present there were 500. That, in my figures, makes it 5,600 during the period of intense disturbance and 3,500 at present.

Mr. Henry Clark rose

Mr. Heffer

No, I am not giving way. There have been far too many Members jumping up. I have sat here right through the whole of this debate and intervened only once, and, therefore, I am not giving way at the moment.

I want to develop the point about numbers. I understand that the whole argument of this Amendment is about the numbers of the force that is to be established. It seems to me rather important that we should get to this question of the numbers. Great play has been made here this evening by a number of hon. Members on the other side of the Committee that the Hunt Committee, in the early part of its report, stated that it did not have a great deal of time to go into all the details.

What actually happened was that the committee's first meeting was on 26th August, and it issued its report on 3rd October. The working party that we have been told about followed the actual publication of the committee's report, so the working party, therefore, must have met after 3rd October. The Bill was published on 12th November. Therefore, in view of the time factor, the argument that the working party examined the whole question in greater detail does not hold water.

There are 1½ million people in Northern Ireland. According to the Cameron Report, there are 8,285 B Specials. That is a high proportion of the total population. The Hunt Committee recommended that to replace the B Specials there should be a military force of about 4,000 and a reserve police force of 1,200. The total of 5,500 is still a considerable force and can be a very effective one.

The functions of the two forces were to change. The reserve police force was to take on the job of crowd control, policing spectators at football matches, and so on. The other force was to be concerned solely with the so-called defence problem. Defence against whom? Defence for what? Hon. Members from Northern Ireland tell us that there is a new type of Government there who are introducing various reforms. We have no confidence that the reforms will be implemented. If they are implemented, there is no reason for a defence force against the people of Northern Ireland or against the people of Southern Ireland.

Paragraph 27 of the Hunt Report says: Indeed, everyone hopes that the reforms already in hand and those still being planned will, by removing the causes of discontent, make it less likely that in the future extremists will be able to provoke disorder and so bring about the conditions in which terrorism can be effective. An essential part of the Committee's argument was that the reforms should eliminate the causes of discontent. If there were total reforms, giving the minority the kind of democratic rights that we have, there would be no need for such a force—

1.0 a.m.

Mr. Henry Clark

Nonsense.

Mr. Heffer

I know the hon. Member's point of view. He is like a dinosaur. When I hear it, it frightens me to death. The thinking of some hon. Members has never advanced and it never will.

Against whom will this be a "defence"? Would any hon. Member suggest that it is needed, with the reforms, as a defence against Southern Ireland?

The Temporary Chairman

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman. We are discussing not the need for the defence force, but whether it should be more than 4,000 men. There has been a long discussion of this Amendment. The Chair has been very fair to everyone, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman will try to keep strictly to the terms of the Amendment.

Mr. Heffer

With due respect, Sir Robert, I am keeping to the Amendment. I am arguing that we do not need a force of more than 4,000, and that even that could be lower. The Amendment would not commit us to 4,000. I am asking, against whom should this "effective force" be effective? If there is no threat from Southern Ireland—and there is none—we do not need a force of 6,000. The figure of 4,000 did not just come out of the heads of the Hunt Committee, but was based on the facts of the situation. If my hon. Friend's figure of 500 a night is right, there would be 3.500 B Specials on duty, and that would allow for a wastage of 500. And that is in an abnormal situation, such as still exists in Northern Ireland.

I could not vote for a force of more than 4,000. I would, indeed, vote against the whole thing, because the logic of forces of this kind is that they lead to a backlash on the other side and vice versa. I hope that the Committee will accept the Amendment. If not, I appeal to my hon. Friend. I take his point about steady recruitment instead of a big buildup. I hope that my hon. Friend will say that the figure will never reach anything like 6,000 and that it is much more likely to be about 4,000. If he gives that assurance, we shall not take the Amendment to a vote, but if he does not many of us will have to go into the Lobby against him.

Sir D. Glover

I shall be brief at this hour. I rise to make only two points, both made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr), and neither met in any of the other speeches. First, there was a declared intention that the B Specials will remain as an operational unit until another effective force has been created. I want a balanced force to be created in the Ulster Defence Regiment, but it seems to me that the opponents of the Measure have failed to appreciate the problem of time. Taking the population at the present level, a balanced force is about two-thirds of one section and one-third of the other section. The opponents of the Measure do not like the B Specials—

Mr. Rose

On a point of order. The next Amendment deals precisely with the question of a balanced force. This Amendment deals only with numbers.

The Temporary Chairman

I am waiting for the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Sir D. Glover) to come to the point of the Amendment. I know that he will not willingly stray out of order, but will keep strictly to the Amendment.

Sir D. Glover

You are right, Sir Robert. I will not stray out of order. I have said that I want a balanced force and, had I not been interrupted, I should have gone on to explain why I thought the size should be 6,000.

I believe that the G.O.C. Northern Ireland, who has gone into the matter in great detail, would probably accept as an interim measure that a force mostly of a selected segment from the B Specials, recruited into the new body up to perhaps 4,000, would be acceptable, if recruiting were going satisfactorily, would be the viable force to which my hon. and gallant Friend referred. The Committee has lost sight of the fact that even if it consisted mostly of B Specials, the new Defence Regiment would come under military discipline and would largely be controlled by Regular Army officers, so that the atmosphere would be quite different.

If, in these circumstances, we are to have a balanced force, we must then have a much slower recruitment of the minority group, who I admit will not join in a great flood. I believe that we shall get a balanced force by building the number up to 6,000.

Much comment has been made about the Hunt Committee recommending a figure of 4,000. The committee was a civilian body which said that basically that was the sort of figure it had in mind. The problem was then handed over to the G.O.C. Northern Ireland and his military advisers and a committee of civil servants who, I presume, approached the situation in a totally different way.

Probably the Commanding General asked how many vulnerable points he has to guard in the Six Counties and then calculated the force he would need. In a volunteer force one cannot expect a man to give more than one night a week for such duty. His calculation, therefore, and that of his Civil Service advisers, was 6,000 men to carry out the task laid upon him by the Westminster Parliament, not the Stormont Parliament. I am not speaking as an expert, but I have had military experience and have commanded a civilian volunteer force of part-timers, and, therefore, I hope that the Committee will understand me when I say that one cannot expect people to give up more than one night a week to carry out this sort of task.

This is purely a matter of logistics. There is surely no need for the Committee to get so heated as it has done tonight. The working party had no axe to grind and advised the G.O.C. on military lines what he needed to carry out the task laid upon him by the United Kingdom. He and they felt that he needed 6,000 and not 4,000.

I support the recommendation for a force of 6,000, the more so since I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South that we shall thereby get a minimum viable force under the command of Regular officers much more quickly. When the B Specials are disbanded, there will still be a margin of under-recruitment in the regiment and then there will be the opportunity to build up recruitment and finish up with a balanced force.

I believe the supporters of the Amendment are wrongly advised and guided on these grounds. If the Amendment were carried, we should not get a balanced force and this Committee, in its unwisdom, would be felt by the military command to have failed to provide a force capable of carrying out the task. I shall have no difficulty in opposing the Amendment.

1.15 a.m.

Miss Devlin

I support the Amendment. I make my position clear on this issue, as I have done before. I believe that the figure of 6,000 is too high. Nor do I see any justification for the force. It is not justified because the Government have failed to give good reasons for its creation.

The Temporary Chairman

Order. Before the hon. Lady gets too involved in an argument that will be out of order, I remind her that she must adhere strictly to the question whether or not this force should have a strength of 4,000. She cannot go into the merits of the general case, whether there should, in fact, be a force.

Miss Devlin

With respect, Sir Robert, I was trying to illustrate why I think 6,000 too many. I am supporting an Amendment calling for 4,000, but I consider that too many as well. Since the Amendment calls for a maximum of 4,000, presumably it is in order to argue that there should be less than 4,000. My choice of number would be nil, because that would be in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland. However, I accept that this force will exist whether I like it or not.

The Hunt Committee recommended a force of 4,000. The Government have decided to raise that figure to 6,000 I understand from the various statements from the Front Bench that the figure of 6,000 is a ceiling, but basically I am not interested in whether that figure is a minimum or a ceiling for some time in the future, or whether it will be recruited between now and April or between now and a year's time. The number of 6,000 requires justification.

It is not unknown or uncommon for a Government to deviate from the recommendation of an advisory committee which they themselves have set up, but it is common sense and common practice for such deviations to be explained in some detail. Normally, one would expect to be told and one would be told in what respects a recommendation conflicted with Government policy and why the Government remained unconvinced by a recommendation of an advisory body.

It must be remembered that this deviation is by no means minor. The Hunt Committee recommended 4,000 and the Ministry of Defence have seen fit to increase that figure by 50 per cent. No other Ministry could so blandly brush aside requests for an explanation of a 50 per cent, increase. If there were to be an increase of 50 per cent, in bank lending, in War Loan, or anything else, we would hear a lot about it in the House of Commons, but so far we have had no explanation of the abandonment of the Hunt figure.

On Second Reading, the Minister of Defence for Administration repeated again and again that the figure of 6,000 was an optimum figure, but he made no attempt to explain how it was reached. Again, I ask who decided on the figure of 6,000. We are told that it was the working party. That consisted of civil servants and soldiers. Although the Hunt Committee rightly complained about the shortage of time in which to report and said that its contacts were mainly the Royal Ulster Constabulary, it went on to say: Among our contacts outside the police force were the G.O.C., Northern Ireland, leaders of the Churches, the Lord Chief Justice and the Attorney General, representatives of the Bar Council and the Incorporated Law Society of Northern Ireland, chairmen and secretaries of the local authority associations, Chairmen of County Councils, Resident Magistrates, the Chairman and General Manager of the Londonderry Development Commission, representatives of the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, proprietors and editors of newspapers, repre- sentatives of the B.B.C. and Ulster Television, the Vice-Chancellors of both Universities and a number of other private citizens. That seems to have been a wide range of men and they were not all soldiers or civil servants. I do not think that one could get a wider panel or a more comprehensive list of Northern Ireland society. It would appear that having met all those people Lord Hunt still saw fit to say 4,000. [An HON. MEMBER: "About."] The hon. Gentleman will agree that "about" does not include an increase or decrease of 50 per cent. What a very big "about"!

Mr. Orme

My hon. Friend talks about the difference between the Hunt Committee and the Government working party. I think that the distinction to make is that it is obvious from what we have been told tonight that the Government working party consisted of members of the Northern Ireland Government as well as the British Government, and that is where the trouble lies.

Miss Devlin

I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. I shall develop that line of argument shortly.

We are dealing for the most part with unknown factors. There is a great deal of dispute about who was on the working party. If it made an investigation and produced evidence that it was better that there be 6,000 as opposed to 4,000 why have we been listening to arrogant remarks from the Government Front Bench? Why have we not received the results of the investigation and the working party's conclusions? Why can we not be told who its members contacted and where they obtained their information? There is only one answer, and that is that the Ministry of Defence is not quite sure.

Northern Ireland is an area with a violent and bloody history, an area in which people on a number of occasions, the last only a few months ago, have shot each other with no good reason. Yet in that kind of environment, an area where violence lies always just below the surface, and where any section of the community can almost at will drag it to the surface, we propose to create an armed para-military force 6,000 strong, and with it we have a police force of at least 3,000 and a police reserve of 1,500. There is no military justification for such action.

Over a number of years successive Governments have produced legislation for Ireland, and have been repeatedly warned on its passing of the mistakes they were making. They have repeatedly refused to listen. Right hon. Gentlemen on the Government Front Bench are making yet one more mistake in passing this legislation for Ireland. If I accept, as I do, that they will do it anyway, I want to know why they are doing it in the face of the opposition. It comes not only from people like myself, who I am given to understand by hon. Members opposite may be treated as irrelevant, extreme, inexperienced and biased. Hon. Members are entitled to think what they like, but I do not stand alone, nor do my hon. Friends, in opposing the Measure.

There are representative bodies whose opinions should be consulted and whose opinions I do not believe have been consulted. There are people like the Civil Rights Association in the North of Ireland, which is much more representative of fair-minded people who want to see reforms than is the Ulster Unionist Party. The Civil Rights Association held a meeting only yesterday and opposed in total the passing of the Bill—

The Temporary Chairman

Order. That will not do at all. The hon. Lady must confine her remarks to the question of the 4,000 men. The passing of the Bill is absolutely out of order on the Amendment. I must ask the hon. Lady to listen very carefully to what I am saying. I am not just standing here for talking's sake. I expect her to obey the Chair.

Mr. Michael Foot

On a point of order. I am not sure whether you were in the Chair, Sir Robert, when we had the speech on the Amendment from the Government Front Bench in which my hon. Friend the Minister went very wide in discussing a whole series of reasons why he believed that the Bill set up a force that was different from the earlier B Special force. He listed a whole number of items. I have listened to the whole debate, and it seems to me that my hon. Friend, even if she strayed out of order for a moment, was far more in order than the Minister was. The debate having been widened so far, I hope that my hon. Friend will be permitted to proceed with her speech.

The Temporary Chairman

The fact is that I am in the Chair now. I construe my duty to be to keep the Committee to the terms of the Amendment. What my predecessors in the Chair have done is no concern of mine. I know what the rules of order should be and that the hon. Lady—and, indeed, all right hon. and hon. Members—must keep to the terms of the Amendment.

Mr. McGuire

Further to the point of order. Are you aware, Sir Robert, that the back benchers—and I speak as one— are getting a little bit tired of the Chair constantly calling to order hon. Members on the back benches who appear to stray just a wee bit but allowing the greatest tolerance to Ministers to introduce into their arguments matters which certainly are irrelevant when we are discussing particular Amendments? If the Chair— this is a problem whoever is in the Chair—allows the greatest latitude to a Minister but is quick to jump on a back bencher, my view as a back bencher is that this is to be deplored.

The Temporary Chairman

I think that the Committee knows me well enough to know that I would, if necessary, jump on a Front Bencher, from either side, just as quickly as is necessary and as I would jump on a back bencher. I ask the Committee now to let the debate proceed. I am sure that I can rely on the good sense of the hon. Lady to keep strictly to the terms of the Amendment.

Miss Devlin

Thank you, Sir Robert. I assure you that you can always rely on me to say what I was going to say anyway.

The Civil Rights Association met in Belfast yesterday and, by the implications of its much-publicised statement, made it perfectly clear that that body was totally opposed to the force containing 6,000 men. The People's Democracy—hon. Members opposite will say that it is a much less respectable body; they do not like it because it knows too much about democracy—a body representative of youth opinion in Northern Ireland, is totally opposed to the existence of the force of 6,000 men.

The Campaign for Democracy in Ulster, a body not only within the confines of Northern Ireland, but a body which is very strong in this country and has 100 members inside this Parliament, has also stated its total opposition to a force containing 6,000 men. Therefore, those widely representative bodies of people who demand civil rights and reform have called into question the passing of a Bill which would have 6,000 armed men in Ulster, and yet we are still given no justification why 6,000 armed men should be trained at the expense of the British taxpayer and sent into Northern Ireland.

I know that Ministers do not simply suck numbers out of the top of their thumbs. I am quite sure that the Minister got the number of 6,000 from somewhere, and I would like to point out where I think he got it from. Some hon. Members will be aware of the consternation caused in certain quarters in Northern Ireland on publication of the Hunt Report. In the days and weeks after its publication, the most right-wing members of the Unionist Party and the Orange Order stomped the country threatening to call forth fire and brimstone if the recommendations of the Hunt Report were implemented. Mr. William Craig, former Minister of Home Affairs, led the campaign.

1.30 a.m.

Those elements were very disturbed about the disbandment of the B Specials. They showed considerable consternation about the recommended number of 4,000 in the Hunt Report. It was obvious, and remains obvious, that more than 4,000 members of the Ulster Special Constabulary would wish to retain their arms. Once again, the Ulster Special Constabulary were being assured that the force would be of such strength as to accommodate all who wished to remain.

Hon. Members will be acquainted with the application form sent out to Specials before the debate on Second Reading, again indicating that 4,000 would not stand. The last sentence on the form reads: I wish to join the Ulster Defence Regt/ Royal Ulster Constabulary Reserve. (Delete as necessary)". By this the Specials were given to understand that there was enough room for all of them in one or other force. Six thousand and 1,500 makes 7,500. If we remove the B Specials who do not fit the physical or educational requirements, such as they are—

Mr. McGuire

Very few.

Miss Devlin

Given that there are very few educational requirements, under the Bill—

Mr. Orme

They are extremely ignorant.

Miss Devlin

There would be very few. So one has 7,500 B Specials.

Why did the Government reject the Hunt recommendations? I still submit that this was done at the imperative instance of the Northern Ireland Government to make a body big enough to accommodate all the B Specials who wish to join. This Clause will go down in history as the "Save the Specials" Clause. It is significant to ask where we heard of 6,000 first. Where did we hear that the Hunt recommendation would not be implemented? Was it from members of the Government Front Bench? No.

Over a month ago, Mr. John Taylor, the well known right-winger of the Ulster Unionist Party—part and parcel of the Conservative Party—at a meeting in Rich Hill, County Armagh, said that the Hunt recommendations would not stand and that, apart from physical fitness and educational requirements, the B Specials could all get into the new force. This was long before the White Paper was published. It was backed up by people like Mr. William Craig and it was not contradicted by the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland or any other person.

There is further evidence. Lieutenant-Colonel Miscimmon, Staff Officer of the Ulster Special Constabulary, said some weeks before the White Paper was published: We can expect to be invited to join these forces whilst serving in the Ulster Special Constabulary, which is to remain in being and quite unaffected until the Defence Force comes into existence. He went on: In practice, I assume it will work out this way: up to a date and hour still to be decided, we will continue to be members of the Ulster Special Constabulary. We will then, those of us who apply and are active enough, will move across without any delay into the new defence force. The fact that in the future for rôle and training purposes we will be two forces, not one, should not cause us to oppose change for the sake of it". That does not come from me—from my inexperienced, biased evidence—but from the written word of a moderate, beloved, well-respected, totally honourable member of the U.S.C. He, not I, believes that the U.S.C. will more or less "move across" and "without any delay", into the new force.

This is why, once again the Ulster Government are holding the Government in London to ransom, saying, "We want 6,000 men or we will open our cage and let our backlash out". The basis of the Bill is, "6,000 men or else". It is time for Her Majesty's Government to take a long, hard look at the Ulster Unionist Party and to distinguish the dog from the tail. They will discover that it is one big backlash and that it is a mistake to deal with any part of it.

I support the Amendment because 4,000 is better than 6,000. However, 6,000 is only bowing down to the dictates of a Fascist party. For me, 4,000 is 4,000 too many.

Mr. Stratton Mills

The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) again enchanted us with a torrent of bitterness, but we are accustomed to that. [Interruption.] The Committee gave the hon. Lady a fair hearing. I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will extend the same courtesy to me.

The hon. Lady told us how the figure of 6,000 had been arrived at. The Minister pointed out that it was agreed by the joint working party, but presumably the hon. Lady will not accept that. She apparently believes that the working party of senior civil servants from Westminster and Stormont also military personnel were corrupted by the Unionist Party. I gather that that has been her view of the Stormont Government all along and that now she believes the same of the senior military personnel who were on the joint working party. [Interruption.] The hon. Lady gives the impression that it has all been a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. All the members of the working party were, she seems to allege, seduced by subtle Unionist politicians who transferred certain thoughts to their minds.

Hon. Members

Rubbish.

Mr. Stratton Mills

We must assume that that is what she is alleging. After all, she said that the figure was fixed. It can have been fixed only if she is alleging that all the civil servants and military personnel on the working party were joined in a giant conspiracy of fraud, and that is total nonsense.

The hon. Lady declared that no explanation had been given of why the Hunt Committee's figure of about 4,000 had been increased. Since she came into the Chamber half way through the Minister's speech, she could not have heard the hon. Gentleman's explanation, but she will be able to read it in the OFFICIAL REPORT. The Minister gave a full and adequate explanation, to which I shall refer later. She also argued that no force was required because there was no threat. I would refer her to paragraph 27 of the Hunt Report—[Interruption.]

The Temporary Chairman

It does not help the debate when hon. Members make asides which are not formally acceded to by the speaker.

Mr. Stratton Mills

The last sentence reads: Even so, it is necessary to consider the worst that might happen, so that proper precautions can be taken; and although the threat of terrorist attacks may not be great, the fear of them is very real, and public anxiety will not be allayed unless precautions are taken and are seen to be taken. I commend those words to the Committee.

Mr. Cathal Caulding who was to have shared the platform with the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster at a conference in New York earlier this month of the National Association for Irish Justice, said this: When the people of Ireland are prepared, united and conditioned to the principles of national freedom, we, in the forefront, are prepared to lead them in the final struggle and, even if that struggle demands the use of arms, the I.R.A. shall not be found wanting. I will accept that there is a certain amount of bravado in that speech. I am not saying that we should take too seriously everything that is said by the I.R.A., but there is a potential threat, great or small, about which the people of Northern Ireland are rightly worried.

This debate on whether the figure should be 4,000 or 6,000 has been a better and more constructive debate than the debate on the name of the force. I have referred on several occasions to the views of Opposition Members of the Stormont Parliament, and, to put matters into perspective, I should say that they indicated that they were disturbed by the figure of 6,000.

The Hunt Committee's figure of 4,000 was a vague figure which was not intended to be taken as holy writ. The report suggests that about 4,000 should be sufficient. The hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) referred to the point made by Lord Hunt that his committee had had to work in a rush and that, therefore, there was to be a procedure for examining in detail the points which he was unable to go into, one of which is referred to in paragraph 171: the nature, establishment and all other conditions relating to it, including the timing of its formation, should be decided by Her Majesty's Government at Westminster, in consultation with the Government of Northern Ireland. Surely that exactly envisages the working party that was set up. Lord Hunt's words referred particularly to the "establishment", which means the size of the force, and this shows conclusively that Lord Hunt had not gone into the point in detail, that he had not had time to examine it and was asking for some other procedure to examine the exact requirement as to the number of men needed in the force.

1.45 a.m.

Mr. Lubbock

Since the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) raised the point, I have been considering it. He pointed out that paragraph 171(b) could be taken as qualifying what Lord Hunt had said in the previous paragraph about the figure of 4,000. But the word "establishment" has two meanings. It can be taken in the military sense of numbers of personnel on the strength, or it could mean, as I believe Lord Hunt indicated in the context, the establishment of a force in the sense of how it is to be established jointly by the Government of Northern Ireland and the Government at Westminster.

Mr. Stratton Mills

I would refer the hon. Gentleman to the early part of the report, where the word "establishment" is used in relation to the size of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. It is undoubtedly proven that the point Lord Hunt was making was that this was something properly to be considered by a joint working party. He was suggesting that about 4,000 would be sufficient, but he was leaving it open for further consideration.

How carefuly did Lord Hunt examine the matter of the size of the force? I take it that it was done only on a rule-of-thumb basis. Furthermore, how carefully did the people who gave evidence, oral and written, to Lord Hunt have time to go into the size of the force that was needed? It may well be that some of those who were in a position to give evidence, because of their having to rush the matter and their being faced with other major problems at that particular time may well have wished to change their view from their earlier position. We should not take the Hunt Committee figure as altogether sacrosanct.

Mr. Rose

Although the hon. Gentleman seeks to demolish the figure of 4,000, not once has he or any of his hon. Friends yet given any evidence to show that the figure of 6,000, or the open-ended commitment in the Bill, is appropriate. Would he explain how he arrives at the figure of 6,000?

Mr. Stratton Mills

My hon. Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) went into that matter in detail. The Under-Secretary of State told us that a joint working party went into it.

Mr. Rose

Why?

Mr. Stratton Mills

I cannot speak for the joint working party. The Minister can speak for himself when he comes to reply. He gave a fair indication as to the way in which the working party approached the subject. If he wants to give further details, I am sure that would be acceptable to the Committee.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

Would my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) consider asking the Minister to tell us what we do not know, namely, exactly what the Hunt Committee recommended? Did it state a figure approaching 6,000, a round figure of 6,000, or slightly more, or slightly less?

Mr. Stratton Mills

I am obliged to my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark). I endorse what he said. In fact, I go further and say that I would welcome additional information from the Minister as to the joint working party. I have nothing to fear in the argument I am putting forward. This was an independent body which looked at the matter impartially at the highest level. If the Under-Secretary feels able to go further, I would welcome it.

I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) say that he had no objection to the force. I wish to refer to what was said by the leader of the Civil Rights Movement at Stormont, John Hume. He has said that he and a number of his colleagues want the minority to play their rôle in this force. Even after the rather heated debates in the following week he said that that was still his attitude.

The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster has a different purpose. She does not believe that the force should exist. She has put that very clearly to the Committee. She feels that there is no threat and no need for the force. But I believe that she is going a bit further than this. She is deliberately trying to discourage Roman Catholic members of the minority from joining the force. She has also built up such an atmosphere of fear and suspicion about it that any Roman Catholic who joins will be called a "Castle Catholic" by her and her friends.

This is reinforced by the fact that when John Hume called on members of the Catholic faith to join the force, she called him a recruiting sergeant for the Army. This is—

The Temporary Chairman (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)

Order. The hon. Gentleman is straying from the terms of the Amendment. I want to be extremely fair. I do not want either side to think that I am showing any favour to the other. Therefore, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will come to the terms of the Amendment strictly.

Mr. Stratton Mills

I am bringing my remarks to a close. I hope that members of the Labour Party who are interested in these matters and, from a different point of view, share concern about them, will realise that there are those who are deliberately trying to torpedo this force from the beginning. It would be utterly disastrous if this were to happen. I want the blinkers to be taken off so that all can see what is happening.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. John Mendelson

I should like—

The Temporary Chairman

Order.

Mr. Mendelson

I want to ask a question.

The Temporary Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman has not given way and the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) is not entitled to the Floor. Mr. Fitt.

Mr. Fitt

It will take me just a few minutes to support the Amendment, because I think that all hon. Members who have spoken have gone into it in great detail.

I have sat here into the early hours of the morning trying to gauge the atmosphere in which the debate is taking place. I can readily see why this country has made such mistakes in the past in its relations with Ireland and her affairs. It is obvious to me that the Government have made up their mind that they are not prepared to listen to reason. They have done a deal with the Northern Ireland Government over the 6,000, so the atmosphere in the Committee is completely divorced from the atmosphere in Northern Ireland. There could be real trouble in Northern Ireland over the formation and the constitution of this regiment.

We have been asked not to make inflammatory speeches. We have been asked not to say anything which may in any way exacerbate the tense situation in Northern Ireland. I remind the Government that there is a very tense situation in Northern Ireland, and that it has not been brought about—

The Temporary Chairman

Order. I cannot help whether there is a tense situation in Northern Ireland. The question is whether or not this regiment should consist of 4,000 men.

Mr. Fitt

I am saying that this situation has not been brought about by anything which has been said. It was brought about when we heard that there were to be 6,000 ex-B Specials taken into the force without any opinion having been expressed. It is the question of the 6,000 which has brought about the tense situation, and that is what we are discussing.

There can be no doubt that there is serious opposition to the figure of 6,000. The Government have not succeeded in justifying this maximum figure. Why should there be a maximum figure? Why should they say 6,000? If there is to be serious political unrest next year or the year after, it may take 7,000 or even 8,000. Therefore, no Government in their senses will limit themselves to a maximum figure. If more personnel are needed to cope with a given situation, the British Army should be capable of handling it.

About two hours ago I heard the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) trying to justify the minimum figure of 4,000. I think that he came out with the outlandish computation that there were 250 vital installations in Northern Ireland.

Captain Orr

That was not my computation. I merely said that the G.O.C. Northern Ireland had 250 points to guard on that night in November.

Mr. Fitt

I have lived for years in that little part of the United Kingdom, and I find it hard to visualise 250 vital installations. On the night in question 20 or 30 members of the Ulster Special Constabulary were guarding Paisley's home and his church. Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman regard those as vital installations, or does he regard Paisleyas a vital installation? It all

depends on which side one is on in this argument.

This is a ridiculous figure. I object even to the figure of 4,000. I object to it on the ground of cost. I do not believe that the taxpayers of this country should be forced to bear this burden to keep a force of between 4,000 and 6,000 men in operation in Northern Ireland when it is unnecessary.

The hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) quoted the Hunt Report and said that we do not really think that there will be any trouble, but the people think that there will be trouble and that, therefore, we must have these 6,000 men there. How silly can one get? If the military commanders, or the security commanders, do not believe that there will be any trouble, one does not create a force merely to please people who think that there might be trouble. There must be a real reason for keeping such a force in existence.

A great deal has been said tonight, but the Government remain completely unconvinced. I charge the Government with having done a deal with the Northern Ireland Government. They are not prepared to listen to reason. My hon. Friends have vehemently supported the arguments which have been put forward to show that a force of 6,000 men is unnecessary. If there is unrest about this maximum figure being put into operation, the blame for it will have to be borne by the guilty men on the Government Front Bench.

Question put, That the Amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 25, Noes 114.

Division No. 22.] AYES [1.59 p.m.
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Latham, Arthur Norwood, Christopher
Barnes, Michael Lee, John (Reading) Pavitt, Laurence
Bidwell, Sydney Lubbock, Eric Price, Christopher (Perry Bar)
Brooks, Edwin MacDermot, Niall Ryan, John
Devlin, Miss Bernadette McGuire, Michael Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Fitt, Gerard (Belfast, W.) McNamara, J. Kevin
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Mendelson, John TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Heffer, Eric S. Mikardo, Ian Mr. Paul B. Rose and
Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham) Miller, Dr. M. S. Mr. Stanley Orme.
Kerr, Russell (Feltham) Newens, Stan
NOES
Alldritt, Walter Boston, Terence Carmichael, Neil
Anderson, Donald Bray, Dr. Jeremy Chichestsr-Clark, R.
Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Clark, Henry
Bagler, Gordon A. T. Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.) Coleman, David
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Buchan, Norman Concannon, J. D.
Blackburn, F. Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony
Currie, G. B. H. Huckfield, Leslie Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Dalyell, Tom Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Pentland, Norman
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh) Pounder, Rafton
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Price, William (Rugby)
Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek) Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Richard, Ivor
Dell, Edmund Judd, Frank Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Diamond, Rt. Hn, John Leadbitter, Ted Ross, Rt. Hn. William
Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock) Rowlands, E.
Ennals, David Lestor, Miss Joan Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Luard, Evan Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) MacColl, James Skeffington, Arthur
Fernyhough, E. McElhone, Frank Speed, Keith
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Mackie, John Taverne, Dick
Fowler, Gerry Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen) Thomas, Rt. Hn. George
Fraser, John (Norwood) Mackie, John Thomson, Rt. Hn. George
Freeson, Reginald McMaster, Stanley Tinn, James
Glover, Sir Douglas Maginnis, John E, Urwin, T. W.
Golding, John Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Varley, Eric G.
Goodhart, Philip Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Manuel, Archie Walden, Brian (All Saints)
Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Marks, Kenneth Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Hamilton, Lord (Fermanagh) Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Wallace, George
Hamling, William Millan, Bruce Wellbeloved, James
Hannan, William Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.) Whitaker, Ben
Harper, Joseph Molloy, William White, Mrs. Eirene
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Hattersley, Roy Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Morris, John (Aberavon) Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Hooley, Frank Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Murray, Albert TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Mr. R. F. H. Dobson and
Howie, W. Oswald, Thomas Mr. Ernest Armstrong.
Hoy, Rt. Hn. James Palmer, Arthur
Mr. Rose

I beg to move Amendment No. 3, in page 1, line 10, at end insert— Provided that the composition of the force reflects a proper balance of the community in Northern Ireland.

The Temporary Chairman

I think that it would be for the convenience of the Committee if, with this Amendment, we discussed Amendment No, 5, in page 2, line 13, at end insert— Provided that any person wishing to enlist shall not be debarred either on grounds of religious or political opinions. New Clause 4—Recruitment:

  1. (1) The Secretary of State for Defence shall establish a recruitment panel to apply the enrolment criteria set out in this Act, and any orders made out thereunder, and to ensure that members of the force are not recruited in a discriminatory manner.
  2. (2) The Secretary of State for Defence shall stipulate by order minimum educational standards in entrants to the force and shall impose standards of physical and mental fitness.
  3. (3) All applicants for positions in the force shall sign a statutory declaration that they are not and have not been members of the Irish Republican Army, the Ulster Volunteer Force, or any associated or similar clandestine organisation.
New Clause 15—Recruitment Panel: The Secretary of State for Defence shall establish a recruitment panel to apply the enrollment criteria set out in this Act, and any orders made out thereunder, and to ensure that members of the force are not recruited in a discriminatory manner. New Clause 16—Entrance qualifications: The Secretary of State for Defence shall stipulate by order minimum educational standards for entrants to the force and shall impose standards of physical and mental fitness. and New Clause 17—Statutory declaration: All applicants for positions in the force shall sign a statutory declaration that they are not and have not been members of the Irish Republican Army, the Ulster Volunteer Force, or any associated or similar clandestine organisation.

Mr. Rose

I have sat here for seven hours and have not made a speech, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) for allowing me to move what I consider to be a particularly important Amendment dealing with the composition of the new force.

The requirement that the composition of the force shall reflect a proper balance of the community in Northern Ireland is, to my mind, quite fundamental to its acceptance by that section of the community which hitherto has been kept out of any influence or authority.

We are dealing here with a situation where there has been virtually a one-party State since the inception of Northern Ireland, and in which even now the majority party, together with the even more right-wing section, have 39 out of 52 seats in Stormont. The problem for my right hon. Friend is not to placate the Lardner Burkes of Northern Ireland, but rather to calm the very justified fears of the minority who have been oppressed for 50 years. That is not to say that one has not the equally important task of ensuring that the majority community will not be coerced into a union they do not want to join.

Every party in the Dail—and I was present at the debate there recently—which has a long-term aim of a united Ireland was united on the assumption that this could never be done by force or coercion, so there is only an argument for a small, non-sectarian force which would deal with those extremist sections of the community who would shed blood rather than let the fractured bone of Northern Ireland heal. It must be a non-sectarian force; it must not be a reconstitution of the B Specials under another name, a fear which has been expressed many times in this debate. It is vital, for example, that the battalion commanders of the new regiment are not the county members of the notorious B Specials.

Hon. Members opposite will say—rightly so—that many members of the B Specials are brave and honourable men who did their duty as they saw it. However, they are a relic of the past, just as the Black and Tans are a relic of the past, just as the Peep o' Day Boys are a relic of the past, and just as the Invincibles and the Molly Maguires are relics of the past. They have no relevance to an enlightened seventh decade of the 20th century.

During the debate on the Police Bill I referred to a statement by the then Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Captain Terence O'Neill, who said: Information which has come to hand … makes it clear that the safety of law-abiding citizens is threatened by a very dangerous conspiracy, prepared at any time to use murder as a weapoin. He referred to a sordid conspiracy of criminals ready to take up arms against unprotected fellow citizens. It is because there are such people—Captain O'Neill was referring to the Ulster Volunteer Force—that I differ from the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) and believe that there is an argument in favour of a force such as this in Northern Ireland.

The Minister has shrugged off all the warnings we have given him tonight, just as successive Ministers shrugged off warnings during the past five years when some of my hon. Friend's consistently warned them of the situation which was developing in Northern Ireland. If there is any blame to be attached for this, apart from that attaching to the Government of Northern Ireland, it should be laid at the door of the Government Front Bench who, in their obtuseness and arrogance, year after year refused to listen to and heed what we said.

I have great respect for my hon. Friend the Minister. If he compares what we wrote on 27th April, 1967, and then reads the Cameron Report, he will find that what we wrote on 27th April, 1967, to the then Home Secretary was virtually a condensed version of the Cameron report which had to be produced some years later. Let nobody laugh about the warnings given by hon. Members on this side and by one or two members of the Liberal Party about a situation which developed just as we forecast it would. We have a right to a hearing tonight.

The Government might also have heeded some words which were written long before that. We know a great deal about Irish history, which goes back a long time. One hundred and fifty years ago something was written which is just as appropriate tonight as it was then. Writing in 1807, Sidney Smith said: I admit that to a certain degree the Government will lose the affection of the Orangemen … but you must perceive that it is better to have four friends and one enemy than four enemies and one friend; and the more violent the hatred of the Orangemen the more certain the reconciliation of the Catholics. The disaffection of the Orangemen will be the Irish rainbow: when I see it I shall know the storm is over. When I see the disaffection of Mr. Craig and Mr. Paisley, I shall know that the storm is over. I greatly fear that what is intended here is to placate Mr. Paisley and Mr. Craig rather than to bring them out into the open and deal with them in the way in which they should be dealt with.

I want clearly to distinguish between what I call Orangemen and ordinary decent Protestant members the community, many of whom have given the greatest leadership to movements for freedom in Ireland. I was delighted to receive a letter the other day congratulating me on what the writer calls your fight for the intimidated decent Protestant Labour supporters and Socialists in Ireland. People like Mr. Norman Porter, the former Independent Member of Parliament for Clifton, have openly said that priority in jobs should go to Orangemen. Mr. Kilfedder, who sat in this House of Commons years ago and who is now a parliamentary candidate for the Unionist Party and, therefore, for the Conservative Party, was responsible for a leaflet which said: Do you want Roman Catholics in your street? 2.15 a.m.

I want to know, "Do you want Roman Catholics in your Ulster Defence Regiment?". I do; and in this, I differ from one or two of my hon. Friends. For years we have been alerting the Government to the imbalance in community relations in Northern Ireland. Some of us have published documents like "The Plain Truth" and "Fermanagh Facts", about the situation in Newry, Dungannon and Cookstown. What was worse was that blatant official discrimination, not only against Roman Catholics but against Labour Party members and trade unionists.

We must make it clear to Mr. Craig and his ilk that we do not accept what he says, that it would be wrong to think that anyone could legislate over the heads of that democratically elected Parliament of Northern Ireland. This is constitutionally, practically and morally wrong. Just as we sent troops over the heads of that Government, I believe that we have the right to pass this legislation, with severe Amendments. The troops were acceptable in the situation in Northern Ireland, except to a small group of people. Who were they? Not those who were waving the tricolour, but the fanatics of Shankill Road, who pumped bullets into British soldiers while waving Union Jacks. Those soldiers were acceptable because they were imported from Britain and were an integrated force. If 40 per cent, of the Irish Fusiliers can be Roman Catholics, why not 40 per cent, of the new force?

The minority population, who were the majority in Derry, cheered when British soldiers were rightly sent by this Government to that city. As I have said before, I believe that that area would have been burned to the ground if British soldiers had not intervened then. Therefore, an even more fundamental point than numbers or names is that this force must not be a repetition of the B Specials. This is why I am asking the Committee to support the Amendment—to say that we will not have another Ulster Volunteer Force or the B Specials in a different guise. We all know their origins in the 'twenties, and the number of Catholics who died at the hands of the Ulster Volunteer Force during those years. We know how the Catholics were forced off the dockside in Belfast by revolvers, and we know the source from which those guns came.

This is why this force is feared and detested in Northern Ireland. We all know what happened at Burntollet last year, that many members of the B Specials participated in what might have been a pogrom. These men must not be allowed in what must be a balanced force. If my right hon. Friend can give an assurance that those who transgressed on those occasions will not be allowed in this new force, it will relieve me of the obligation of pressing new Clause 1.

One reason that I am concerned is that a B Special officer was recently quoted as saying: Seventy-five per cent, of my men would never hand in their arms while the Constitution is in danger, and would fight the British Army if they had to. Is this why, tonight, we face the prospect of this new force of 6,000 men? If it is, I must demand that there be a safeguard, so that never again can there be a Curragh incident or threats of U.D.I, of the type that we have had from Mr. Craig.

What concerns me tonight—this is the underlying malaise of our long debate—is a report in The Guardian, following the meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party, which read: Mr. Roy Hattersley, the Minister of Defence for Administration, last night defended the Government's decision to form the new Ulster Defence Regiment in place of the notorious B Specials on the ground that any other course might have driven the force's predominantly Protestant members"— one might have said, "entirely Protestant members"— underground with their weapons. 'I am walking a tightrope', he said, 'but the Government is keeping well in balance in the centre. The question was asked earlier: where was this agreement made? It seems to me that it was made on a tightrope and that the Government have yielded quite unnecessarily to the Stormont Government. They have yielded in so many ways that I wonder whether they are to yield on the composition of the force. But my hon. Friend said something more hopeful, from which I draw comfort. He said that Great care would be taken to see that recruits were drawn from all sections of the community in Northern Ireland. He made no apologies to Miss Bernadette Devlin's protests about the new force; he still wanted her to see that some of her supporters joined the regiment. I welcome at least that section of the Minister's speech because, unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster, if we have to have the force, I want to see large numbers from the minority community, large numbers of the underprivileged and of those who have been kept unemployed in Derry and Newry, large numbers who have never been able to participate in a force of this kind or in public life, joining this force. I believe in a smaller force, but I appeal to members of the minority community to join and to try to produce a decent, sane, tolerant and generous society in which the dissensions of the past can be forgotten.

I am not arrogant enough to suggest to the people of Northern Ireland that we in this House should decide their constitutional future for them. I have always made my position clear: it is for the people of Northern Ireland to decide whether they want to remain part of the United Kingdom or to become part of the Republic of Ireland. But as long as this Parliament has sovereignty over part of the geographical entity which is known as Ireland, we must be particularly careful and generous in our treatment of the less privileged and we must create a balanced community.

If, therefore, we are to have a military force, the correct balance in that force is an essential prerequisite. Even if we have the reforms for which many of us have fought for years—and let us not forget that the struggle began much longer than five years ago—it is not enough to achieve civil rights in other fields. There must also be equality in this force—and not merely equality on the ground, but equality through all the ranks and particularly in the senior ranks of the force.

If that is my right hon. Friend's intention, then I hope that the minority community will respond. If my hon. Friend can give an assurance that this is no shabby deal to placate the orange at the expense of the green, but rather a force which will unite orange and green and which will help to bring to Northern Ireland the liberties which we possess on this side of the Irish Sea but which they have not possessed for 50 years in Northern Ireland, I shall feel happier. If some of my hon. Friends have been disturbed tonight, it is because we feel that a deal has been done with people who, on their record, cannot be trusted to carry out their side of the bargain. If my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster is more suspicious than I am, I understand that. If she feels, as she said on television, that she could not act as a recruiting sergeant and could not advise anyone to join the force, I understand that, because of all that has happened in the past weeks and because of what she was able to expose about the recruiting for the B Specials. I would rather, in a positive spirit, say, "This has happened, but it is now past".

If my hon. Friend the Minister could assure us that there will only be a force if that force is an integrated body, balancing the communities reasonably, then those of us concerned with good community relations should join with people like Mr. Hume and appeal for support from all sections of the community in forming such a force. I believe that would be the first step to the elimination of the need for the force.

As soon as the injustices have gone, as soon as a balanced force exists, I believe that it will be seen not to be needed, except perhaps to deal with Orange extremists. I believe that it would wither away. There is no threat from south of the border; the only threat is a backlash from the North. The creation of a balanced community in Northern Ireland will eventually eliminate the need for a force such as this.

I see no reason why the Government cannot make one gesture now towards members of their own party who have been appealing to them for some gesture. I see no reason why the Government should not concede that this Amendment is within the ambit of the Bill and accept it in the spirit in which it is moved.

Captain Orr

Perhaps I can help the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) and his hon. Friends. I recognise the difference of attitude between him and the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin), although it is perhaps odd to see her name to an Amendment which calls for the force to reflect a proper balance of the communities. I believe that by that she really means O-O.

Miss Devlin

indicated assent.

Captain Orr

I understand the object which the hon. Member for Blackley has in mind. It is one all of us have—that the regiment shall reflect the general membership of the community. We wish to see those who, in the past, for various reasons, have boycotted and refused to join the U.S.C., but who are willing to undertake a task for the security of the country, joining the new regiment. In so far as the spirit of the Amendment is concerned, therefore, my hon. Friends and I would be very willing to accept it. I do not know what technical arguments may be involved; that is a matter for the Minister.

There is only one proviso to be borne in mind. It concerns the timing of the coming into operation of the new regiment. If the hon. Lady had her way and succeeded in persuading the whole of the Roman Catholic community to boycott the new regiment one could not write into the Bill a provision which would prevent the new regiment from coming into being at all. One could not say that one section of the community should have an absolute veto upon the defence and security of the community.

But, subject to that very important consideration, my hon. Friends and I would accept the spirit of what I believe to be the hon. Gentleman's intention.

2.30 a.m.

Mr. John Mendelson

My right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) has asked me to apologise for his absence. He is unwell, but he continues his great interest in the Bill and wants it to be known that he would have been glad to be here and to take part in the debate. Amendment No. 3 contains the principles which those of us who suggested Amendment No. 5 had in mind.

One of the things in the mind of my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington, and why he took some initiative in suggesting Amendment No. 5, was political opinion. On a number of occasions, he has said to me and to others interested in this legislation that what he had in mind—he made a somewhat similar point on Second Reading—was that if someone in Northern Ireland believed as his profound conviction that there should ultimately be one united Ireland, and was on record as holding that opinion, he should not be excluded because of that political belief from volunteering for the force if he wished to do so. That is one of the points my right hon. Friend wished me to put forward.

Amendment No. 3 is particularly important. In Northern Ireland, during the last 40 years, there have been many instances when there has not been a balanced composition in the public service. I will give two examples which were brought to my notice when I was in Northern Ireland with a group of colleagues shortly after the incidents which led to the later developments. It was brought to my notice that in the placing section of the employment exchange in Belfast, the section responsible for allocating jobs to people and suggesting to them where they should go to find a job, until about five months ago there had not been one person from the religious minority in Northern Ireland on the staff for 23 years.

The second example concerns my interview with Commander Anderson, one of the Unionist Members at Stormont, when we visited Derry. He admitted that there was not a single member of the religious minority on the professional staff of the Derry City Council, and added that it had only one application from that minority in 9½ years for the post of deputy head of the educational services, and that applicant had not been appointed.

Therefore, this is a practical Amendment, not put down for propagandist purposes, and one that I very much hope that the Government will accept. They have moved in the direction of the Amendment in all their public pronouncements. We have now heard from an hon. and gallant Member opposite, and I believe that he said he was speaking for some of his colleagues as well, that it would be acceptable to him. It will be up to the Government and not the Opposition to implement the Amendment if they accept it.

But I must take issue with the hon. and gallant Gentleman on one point, and this is one of the reasons why I wished to interrupt one of his hon. Friends at the end of the last debate. It is illegitimate, when the House of Commons, either in Committee or as a House, is passing legislation and asking the Government to accept an important Amendment, to refer to an individual hon. Member and make acceptance of the Amendment dependent on what that hon. Member might or might not say. That is a wholly unreasonable way to proceed, and it is wholly propagandist. Obviously, it is not serious.

There can be no serious argument that if one hon. Member succeeds in her propaganda one cannot ask the Government to accept the Amendment and have a balanced force. We are talking about the way in which the G.O.C. and Secretary of State for Defence, under the scrutiny of this House, will build up the force. That is not dependent on expressions of view by one hon. Member on either side.

The Government should say in accepting the Amendment, first, that they accept its principles, and, secondly, that they are convinced that it is workable, because if they are not all their previous declarations and the policy behind their purpose in asking the House and Committee to accept the Bill would fall to the ground. The Government must be convinced that it is possible to have a properly balanced force. Otherwise, on their own declaration, they could not embark on this enterprise. Thirdly, they should say that they will not hurry with the building up of the force, that they will adopt a policy of phasing in, so that the principle of its being a balanced force takes precedence over any intended big build-up.

Here, I have only one comment to add to what has been said in previous debates, but it is equally relevant here, as to the expectations of the members of the B Specials that there will be a wholesale transfer into the new force. The political difficulties facing the Government at Stormont on this point are very great. I understand them and do not underestimate them. In view of the things they have done—the application forms they have wrongly sent out, the speeches they have made—those difficulties are very great. But it is no part of the business of the Government at Westminster, because of the difficulties facing Major Chichester-Clark and his colleagues, to abandon the major principles on what the legislation should be based. There should be—and I am not referring to nebulous agreements—some plain speaking on behalf of the Government here and the majority view in this House to the Government at Stormont. I do not joint the expressions of opinion that we have on our Front Bench a group who might be guilty men if, as a result of the wrong policy, this does not work as the Government would wish it to work. I am much more concerned not with future guilt, but with present action that will lead to the desired result.

I therefore ask my hon. Friend the Minister, on behalf of the Government, to say to the Committee that there is no need to be so secretive about that. One way of dispelling some of the allegations which have been made would be for my hon. Friend to take the Committee to some extent into his confidence concerning the discussions with the Government at Stormont, to say clearly that the Government stand by the principle involved in the Amendment and that they will be speaking frankly, as I am sure they have had to do on a number of occasions in the recent past, to the Government at Stormont to ensure that the principle involved in the Amendment becomes the overriding consideration in building up the force.

Mr. Pounder

One of the notable features of this evening's discussions has been that as the hour has drawn later, so emotion has tended to lessen and logic and reasoned argument have increased. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I do not mean that offensively. I think that the debate on this Amendment has been, without doubt, the most cogently argued case yet presented in this Committee stage. That is a personal view.

Certainly, like my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) I do not cavil at the spirit of Amendment No. 3 or Amendment No. 5. What I am slightly concerned about is whether it is practical to write into legislation either of those Amendments, because repeatedly the Government Front Bench spokesmen have said categorically what their intentions are: that they are determined—and I think that all my colleagues from Northern Ireland would go along with the Government's desire—to secure a balanced force. I would have thought that the Army screening procedure which has been referred to several times from the Treasury Bench more than adequately covers the sort of situation which is envisaged by Amendments Nos. 3 and 5.

I was, however, somewhat interested by the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) when he talked about a proper balance of 45 per cent.

Mr. Rose

I referred to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence, who had said that in the Irish Fusiliers there were 45 per cent. I threw out 40 per cent, as a possible figure with regard to a balance.

Mr. Pounder

I beg the hon. Member's pardon. I had assumed that one would have talked roughly of a two-thirds-one-third breakdown.

I would find it somewhat disturbing if the following eventuality were to develop. Earlier this evening, the Government spokesman told us that they were prepared, to secure a balance, to have a slower rate of recruitment than might otherwise happen to meet, say, a deadline of 1st April. I do not wish to make any more selective quotations from history and thereby follow some of the speeches which have been made by hon. Members opposite, because charge and countercharge is a wholly sterile operation, but the history of the last half century, particularly the 1920s, when the Royal Ulster Constabulary was being set up, shows that there was a disinclination by the minority to take up the places which had been reserve for them in that force, namely, the one-third.

One was then confronted with a situation that either one had a weaker force than was required for Northern Ireland or, alternatively, one had to make up the shortfall by any applicants who were prepared to come forward. Let us hope that a similar situation will not arise with the proposed Ulster Defence Regiment. I would be interested to know what would be the Treasury's thinking in the hypothetical situation which I have mentioned.

As I have said, I sincerely hope that circumstances will not require anyone to give thought to such a procedure, but when we are talking, as we have been doing all evening, about the new regiment, one has to think of possible eventualities, and this is certainly one in which we would be deluding ourselves if we ignored it completely. If there is a serious shortfall in the balance which both sides of the Committee earnestly seek, it augurs very ill indeed for the improvement in relations which we all seek.

2.45 a.m.

Mr. Orme

This point is crucial to the argument. This force will be an arm of the British Army. We have been told that the British Army today consists of about 40 per cent. Roman Catholics. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] Anyway there is a larger proportion than there is in the population as a whole. No one worries about this, because religion is not taken into account. It would be absolutely untenable for a force to be created in Northern Ireland which, once again, reflected the B Specials who had been disbanded. If the hon. Member is posing the same question as was posed by the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr), he should know that we cannot start on the basis of the B Specials.

Mr. Pounder

I am not necessarily following any argument which may have been advanced earlier. I accept, of course, that the new regiment will be an arm of the British Army, but it will have a slight difference because it will be a predominantly home force. Unlike the T.A., it will not have a N.A.T.O. commitment. There are differences—administrative differences. It is important that we have not to envisage 100 per cent., 99 per cent., or 98 per cent, coming from one religious denomination, but to try in a balanced force to secure proportions similar to those in the population as a whole. That and no more is the argument I seek to advance.

I thought the hon. Member for Blackley was falling into an error when he sought to confuse internal and external problems of Northern Ireland. This has been a recurring feature of our discussion tonight. It is all very well to talk about what will happen when from time to time Northern Ireland has certain problems, but this regiment will be dealing with external possibilities. It would be a great mistake to argue that when internal problems have been resolved this force will become unnecessary. It will be geared to external possibilities.

Mr. Rose

I tried to say that if Northern Ireland's internal problems were solved, there would not be people outside Northern Ireland who would want to make incursions into Northern Ireland because social justice would be prevailing there as it has not done during the period of Unionist rule.

Mr. Pounder

The hon. Member is confusing two issues. There is a group of people—its numbers are perhaps uncertain—which still have territorial interests there and this cannot be overlooked. This is the purpose of the regiment. I think the hon. Member is being a little disingenuous in following that line.

Mr. Newens

Is the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Pounder) saying that this regiment is designed purely to face a Catholic threat from the South and that it will not be concerned with controlling the other section in the community in Northern Ireland as well? If I followed his argument against that of my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) correctly, he suggested that the only thing the force will be concerned about will be external security, by which he means that it will be directed entirely to the South. If that is the sort of force he proposes, how does he expect the Catholic part of the community in Northern Ireland to be willing to join it?

Mr. Pounder

It is clear that I have allowed myself to fall victim to the hour. If I did not make myself clear, I will be more precise.

As I understand the function of the regiment, it will be guarding, for example, communications. That will be one of its internal rôles. It will also be guarding, for example, the border, and that will be one of its external rôles. If I have overemphasised the external angle, I apologise, for there is also an internal one. However, once the internal problems have been eliminated, external problems will remain. At present, there are internal and external problems, but as the situation changes, so the emphasis should change between the internal and external rôles.

I hope, therefore, that the balance which hon. Members on both sides seek for the new force can be achieved.

Mr. Michael Foot

The hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Pounder) pointed out that the debate on this Amendment had been cooler and more cogent than earlier debates. I hope not to interrupt that happy illusion under which he has been living.

While I do not want to raise the temperature, I suggest that a possible explanation why the hon. Gentleman and the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) are ready to show good will towards the Amendment is because they consider that it cannot be translated into legislative form. Because hon. Gentlemen opposite expect the Government to express platitudes about the difficulty of accepting a proposal of this kind, they are willing to show good will towards it. But they are not giving anything away.

While not wishing to be critical of my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose), since the discussion of the Amendment serves a useful purpose, he must be aware that the proposition "we want a good, balanced force" will be accepted in every quarter of the Committee. No hon. Member—I can say this freely in the absence of the hon. and learned Member for Antrim, South (Sir Knox Cunningham)—would say, "I want an unbalanced force".

It is worth remembering that in Northern Ireland a prominent part of the disease—not just the current one; there is a history of this—has been a hatred of the B Specials because it was, and still is, a 100 per cent, sectarian force. That is part of the disease which we must cure.

My inhibitions about supporting the Government even on this part of the Bill are because I do not believe that we are taking sufficient steps to cure the disease. A whole series of Amendments has been put forward to persuade the Government to achieve the end of abolishing the sectarian force, but nothing I have heard from the Government has convinced me that that will occur. It would be a disaster if at the end we still had a 100 per cent, sectarian force, and this could well happen even with all the safeguards that have been incorporated in the Bill.

Even with the G.O.C. in this country being in command, and all the other provisions which are supposed to safeguard the new force from the old B Specials, it is still possible and likely that the outcome will be a 100 per cent, sectarian force, or an overwhelmingly sectarian force.

Captain Orr

That is defeatist.

Mr. Foot

The hon. and gallant Gentleman says that is defeatist, but he also tried to present in advance an excuse, if this should happen, directed against my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin). The main part of the hon. and gallant Gentleman's argument was that my hon. Friend in one breath says that she has no influence and the next moment she is dictating what force it is to be, and a word from her will be sufficient to exclude all Catholics entering the force. The hon. and gallant Gentleman's argument was that my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster is sabotaging the possibility of making the new force non-sectarian.

Captain Orr

Attempting to.

Mr. Foot

The hon. and gallant Gentleman is already attempting to qualify his extravagant remarks, but there is a graver charge. If he is really opposed to a sectarian force, as he pretends, it is not a question of attempting to sabotage. Some people in Northern Ireland are already succeeding in sabotaging.

No answer has been given to the letter from a B Specials staff officer, which was read by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster and which said that those who apply and are active enough will move across without any delay into the new defence force, with the words "without any delay" underlined. That is the letter which has been sent to all B Specials from headquarters. That is certainly sabotage of a non-sectarian force because that is a statement made on behalf of one of the officers in the force, saying "If you all move in fast enough, I give you the assurance that you will all be taken into the new force."

3.0 a.m.

We are now told that everybody wants a balanced force. At the same time, those who hold official positions in the existing B Special force have sent out a letter to all B Specials saying that they will all be able to get into the new force. Instead of wasting their breath in accusing my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster of attempting sabotage, if hon. Gentlemen opposite want a non sectarian force they should deal with the people who are actually engaged in sabotage.

Everybody acknowledged the powerful speech made on Second Reading by my hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for Administration. The most impressive and acceptable part of it was that in which he gave the assurance that if it was a choice between filling up the numbers or securing a balanced force all his preference would go to ensuring that we got the balanced force first. It is all very well to say that to the House on Second Reading, since in this place we are all so agreeable to one another, but why does he not say it to the B Specials? Why does he not say it to the Government at Stormont?

I ask my hon. Friend—and I hope that on this matter at least we shall have a simple "Yes"—was the sentence in his speech about the preference for a balanced force in fixing the numbers part of the deal with the Stormont Government, about which he boasts so much on other occasions and which his hon. Friends have mentioned. Was that part of the agreement? We understand that there was a rough-and-ready agreement about the name of the force, and that there has been an understanding between them about the numbers. But I want a clear undertaking that in that document, if there is such a document, the matter of giving preference to a balanced force was included as part of the agreement with the Stormont Government. I hope that the answer is a simple "Yes".

If it was not included in the agreement with Stormont it is a fraud on this House. It would be a sad state of affairs, because Stormont would have been deceived. That part of his speech which comprised an undertaking essentially in those terms was agreed with the Stormont Government, and it is as much understood in Stormont as it was by those who will be giving directions to the G.O.C.

The second of my questions is more important because we want the people of Northern Ireland to know about this matter. The people who have to be persuaded to accept a balanced force are not primarily hon. Members in this House, but the people who will form the force in Northern Ireland. Since a letter has been sent out by the B Special officials in Northern Ireland, let another letter be sent out to all B Specials by the Ministry of Defence in this country. Let it be signed by the Defence Minister, who is responsible for the new force, telling them the truth about the new force. They have already been told lies about the force. Why should they not be told the truth?

That is a perfectly proper request. I ask the Government to give the assurance that a letter, signed by the Minister of Defence, will be sent out making clear to all B Specials that the new force will be properly balanced and that the Government will not fill up the figure of 6,000 with all the old B Specials because they have to make the force balanced. If they are not prepared to send out a letter of that kind, then they will be deceiving not merely the House of Commons but the people in Northern Ireland as well. I am making a perfectly reasonable request to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Maginnis

If the hon. Gentleman looks in paragraph 10 of the White Paper, Command 4188, he will get his answer.

Mr. Foot

I have paragraph 10 here, but it is improbable that I shall find the answer there. "Lord Hunt's Committee recommended"—we know that that is not a very powerful recommendation, because half of Lord Hunt's recommendations have gone out of the window. But I should not interrupt myself. Lord Hunt's Committee recommended that this new force should provide full opportunity for all citizens of Northern Ireland to serve the community as a whole. To this end, enrolment will be open to all male citizens of good character of the United Kingdom and Colonies, normally resident in Northern Ireland, whatever their denomination. All applications will be considered centrally by Headquarters, Northern Ireland, which will be the final authority for acceptance of recruits after strict security vetting. Like all entrants to the Army, recruits will be required to take the oath of allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen. The hon. Gentleman has not followed the point. I understood that the Government, and even Stormont, have agreed that they should say to the people of Northern Ireland that people of all denominations would be entitled to join the force. But that is not what we are arguing about. The Minister of State is committed to the proposition that he will hold back the entrance of old B Specials, the sectarian B Specials, into the force to ensure that there is a full opportunity for others to come in. To do that he has to repudiate the statement that has been sent out to all the B Specials that they can transfer en masse into the new force.

Mr. Maginnis

The hon. Gentleman must understand that the present B Specials are still in operation.

Mr. Foot

I understand it all too well.

Mr. Maginnis

And that if any member of the B Specials, who is acceptable, joins the new force he will immediately transfer from the old to the new force.

Mr. Foot

The hon. Gentleman must not come to the assistance of the Front Bench. They do not welcome it, because the Minister of State has made a proposition which would conflict with what the hon. Gentleman has said. He is describing what has happened and been promised to them. What has been promised is that all of them—not the cripples, of course—will be able to get into the new force. That is what they have been sold in Ireland, but that is not what the Government are selling to us. We welcome the hon. Gentleman's bluff honesty. We had all these smooth utterances from these sophisticated people from Northern Ireland before the hon. Gentleman came and "spilled the beans".

Mr. Maginnis

The hon. Gentleman must realise that I am the only man in the House of Commons with any experience of these matters.

Mr. Foot

I welcome the hon. Gentleman's "maiden" speech on these matters and look forward to hearing him on future occasions. His intervention has been of great assistance. However, I am serious in my demand that the Government must take steps to correct this absolutely false impression compared with their undertakings to the B Specials. If they do not take them, they will have no chance of building up any such balanced force. If the Government have already made these matters clear in letters to the B Specials—and I do not mean only in general undertakings—let us be told in what terms they have been clear.

I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee will agree with me when I say that with the best will in the world it will be extremely difficult to build a balanced force. Even with the efforts of the Government, united with the efforts of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and with the assistance of the Government at Stormont—though many of us are not convinced that the Stormont Government want a balanced force in this form—we think that it will be very difficult. It will be difficult because of the reputation of the B Specials, and because of some of the other provisions which still hem round this proposal.

That is why some of us have been arguing all night to try to get the Government to understand that if they are to get this new force off to a new start it has to be named differently, it has to be organised differently, and that it cannot be arranged and fixed on a basis which defies many of the recommendations made by the Hunt Committee precisely for this purpose.

It is not only that the Government have abandoned in the Bill some of the essential recommendations of the Hunt Committee. They are also abandoning the spirit of that committee's recommendations for a balanced force. The conclusion in the first section of the Hunt Report is that the great danger of violence in Northern Ireland arises not so much from terrorist acts at all. The Hunt Committee does not dismiss them altogether, but it puts them in the background. The great danger is the recrudescence of sectarian strife. That is why we on this side of the Committee argue, and we are united in this, that if the Government go ahead and re-create a new sectarian force, particularly if they are pretending that they are doing something different, they will only feed that sectarian strife. But, more than that, they will be putting the faggots on the bonfire. They will not be solving the problem.

This is the gulf between us and hon. Gentlemen opposite. However much they talk about a balanced force, they want to deal with what they describe as terrorist acts. They are a legacy of the I.R.A. They talk about people not thinking about the past. They think that the I.R.A. and terrorist threats are the real dangers with which they have to deal. That is the argument on which the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South bases his stories of people having to watch all these installations all the time. That is why he says that the force in Northern Ireland must be different from that in the rest of the United Kingdom. That is what he thinks the danger is in Northern Ireland, but that is all out of date. The Cameron Commission and the Hunt Committee came to a different conclusion. They concluded that the danger in Northern Ireland derives from the whole system, which breeds sectarian strife. That is the root evil on which they live, and which we have to root out.

I shall vote for the Amendments if they are pressed to a Division, but I do not believe that they will make any major difference. The Government must carry through a whole series of other alterations to the Bill, which they have so far shown no sign of doing. And, even if they accept the Amendment, or the spirit of it, they must translate that into practical action in Northern Ireland. They must make sure immediately that every B Special understands the undertakings which the Minister has given to this Committee.

3.15 a.m.

Mr. McMaster

The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) is as articulate and persuasive as ever in his argument. Unfortunately, he seems to contradict himself. On the last Amendment hon. Members opposite argued that the force should be restricted to 4,000 rather than 6,000. If we want a properly balanced force the bigger it is the better; the less likely it is that those members of the B Specials who want to remain part of the Defence Regiment can form the predominant part of it, and the more places there will be in it for the minority.

Miss Devlin

The hon. Member is arguing that to get a more balanced force more people are needed. Surely the validity of that argument is based on the existing number in any section being fixed. Even if there were only three people in a community it could be balanced if it were representative of everybody in the larger circle. Therefore, if we are talking about the proportional balance, to which I am opposed, it is as easy to have 40 per cent, of 400 or 4,000 as of 6,000. The hon. Member's argument betrays the fact that he is well aware that there is to be a fixed number in this regiment.

Mr. McMaster

That is so. It is as easy to get a certain proportion with a small as with a large force. But the whole burden of the argument put forward by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale was that all the B Specials were going to rush straight into the new force. If that is so a larger force is necessary.

I do not agree that this is the main problem or stumbling block to the creation of a properly balanced force; the main stumbling block is the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin). I have asked her before, and I ask her again: will not she encourage the people of her religion to join this force straight away? There is a proverb that is probably familiar to the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, about leading a horse to water. No matter how the Amendment is worded there will be a minority in Northern Ireland who will not be prepared to co-operate. Therefore, although I feel that the Amendment is a very worthy one——

Mr. Rose

Then support it.

Mr. McMaster

I am quite prepared to support it. My only worry is that it implies that there will be questions asked concerning the religion of persons who apply to join the new force. I should like to think that we will soon reach the position when nobody will be asked his religion when he applies to join a new force such as this one—when it will be as irrelevant as asking him what school he went to.

Mr. Norwood

That is the whole point. Is it not the custom in the Six Counties to ask people what school they went to, and is it not easy to deduce from that what faith or persuasion they follow? Will that be changed?

Mr. McMaster

It is for that reason, among others, that I suggest that questions as to religion or education should be regarded as totally irrelevant to any security vetting in such a force.

The difficulty is summarised in the Hunt Report. On page 13 it points out that: Following the passage of the Government of Ireland Act 1920 and the setting up of a separate Parliament for Northern Ireland, a Departmental Committee of Inquiry was set up by the then Minister of Home Affairs, Sir Dawson Bates, to inquire into the existing police organisation in Northern Ireland.

This committee, set up under the Minister of Home Affairs, then recommended that a police force be set up with a strength of 3,000, one-third of which was to be recruited from the Roman Catholic faith. Unfortunately, in practice, only 10 per cent, of the Roman Catholic faith came forward and applied for places in the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

My worry about this particular provision is not putting it into the Bill—I should like to see it put into the Bill—but the reluctance the minority might feel in joining the force. This is the stumbling block, and I feel that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) was perhaps under-emphasising the difficulties in Northern Ireland. Anyone who reads the Hunt Committee's Report—particularly the first two chapters—will know that the troubles in Northern Ireland stem from a republican minority which is determined to overthrow—

Mr. Rose

Is it not patently clear from the Cameron and the Hunt Reports that the troubles in Northern Ireland stem from social discrimination, job discrimination and housing discrimination against the minority of the community? That is why they did not join the Royal Ulster Constabulary. If the party opposite is going to bring in these sweeping reforms we shall get a new system, but everything which the hon. Member says leads me to believe that he is reluctant to have these reforms.

Mr. McMaster

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would do better if he would just listen a little more. He should have listened to any of the speeches made in the House by the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster. He should have referred to paragraph 22 of the Hunt Report and dealt with that—I will read one sentence: Historical factors are important. Soon after Northern Ireland came into being it had to deal with rioting, arson and brutal killing on a large scale. For example, in three weeks in February, 1922, 138 casualties were reported—96 among Catholics, 42 among Protestants.

Miss Devlin

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. May I point out to him that I was not born until 1947?

The Temporary Chairman (Sir Alfred Broughton)

Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman is straying somewhat from the Amendment.

Mr. McMaster

I will come back to it immediately. I am dealing with the proper balance in the community, and the point has been made by hon. Members opposite that the reason for the troubles in Northern Ireland is because there is not a proper balance kept in these bodies. I am trying to answer that, and to point out that the troubles in Northern Ireland stem from the subversive activities of the I.R.A.

The Temporary Chairman

Order. At present, we are less concerned with the troubles in Northern Ireland than we are with the composition of the force.

Mr. McNamara

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I am very interested in the points he is making about the proper proportions and balance in this force. As I understand, what he is asking for is roughly a basis of two to one, majority to minority. He cites as evidence for this incidents which happened earlier in the century. The interesting thing about the evidence he set out was that although the ratio he is looking for is two to one, Unionist to minority, the casualties he is citing as evidence against these extremists were two to one the other way.

Mr. McMaster

Yes, the casualties in that case in 1922 were a total of 232 people killed and over 1,000 wounded, and £3 million worth of damage. But to come up to date, the hon. Lady has referred to her own lifetime. It will be within her experience that there was a similar campaign of violence between 1956 and 1962. During that period there were 1,600 incidents of violence; six members of the security forces were killed; 32 were injured; and damage to property amounting to more than £1 million was sustained.

Figures like these, which are shocking, show that the problems in Northern Ireland do not stem from some internal grievances. There is a direct violent, armed attack from outside and from within by a subversive element who wish to upset the State. The facts speak for themselves.

I want to contradict some of the statements which have been made to the effect that the Roman Catholic minority is downtrodden in Northern Ireland. It is not.

The Temporary Chairman

Order, if the hon. Gentleman wishes to develop that theme he must relate it to the composition of the proposed force.

Mr. McMaster

I certainly shall, Sir Alfred. It has been suggested that the minority does not play its full part and, therefore, will not join the force and make it work. I will give some examples of the way in which the minority plays its part in the community. The hon. Lady may know that the President of Queen's University Association last year was a Roman Catholic woman doctor. The President of the Incorporated Law Society in Northern Ireland was a Roman Catholic Coleraine solicitor. The present President of the Ulster Chemists' Association is also a Catholic.

Miss Devlin

As the hon. Member addressed these remarks to me, I think that I should make my position clear. I do not care if everybody he has listed is Catholic, Protestant, Hindu, black or white. I am not basically interested in who, what or when in regard to the woman doctor from a university. I am worried about the average of 10 per cent, unemployed in Northern Ireland. I am not particularly interested in the religion of those who are unemployed, either. I am worried about those who are not president of anything. I am not worried about the religion of somebody who gets to be president of something.

Mr. McMaster

I see that the hon. Lady does not like having the facts stated. I have referred to a group of leading citizens in Northern Ireland who are Roman Catholics. In the police force, two of the Six Counties have Roman Catholic head constables Last year, four out of the Six Counties had Roman Catholic county inspectors. The Deputy Commissioner for Belfast is also Roman Catholic.

An Hon. Member

How does the hon. Gentleman know?

Mr. Rose

Order.

Mr. McMaster

The hon. Gentleman who shouts "Order" has not listened to the debate, otherwise he would have heard the point being made by the hon. Member for Blackley and others—

Mr. Rose

It was the hon. Member for Blackley who shouted "Order".

Mr. McMaster

—that the reason for the troubles in Northern Ireland was that the composition of public bodies was unbalanced. I have quoted a few facts to disprove that point.

I ask the hon. Members opposite, particularly the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale to use their influence to secure, not only that the words they wish to be incorporated into the Bill are so incorporated, but, also, that the minority is encouraged on every occasion and in every way to join the new force and make it work. Only in that way will we establish a progressive society in Northern Ireland and tackle some of the problems of poverty about which the hon. Lady is worried.

3.30 a.m.

The Minister of Defence for Administration (Mr. Roy Hattersley)

I rise before some of my hon. Friends who want to speak and who may continue to want to speak, because I suspect that some of the things I can say may change the course of the debate, if not fundamentally at least to a degree which both sides would welcome. I will try to do that by answering as best I can some of the direct questions put to me.

My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Paul B. Rose) asked for two specific assurances. The first was that the Government at Westminster had not yielded to the Government at Stormont. The second was that there was no shabby deal. I hope that we will not have to reiterate at the be-beginning of every debate that not only has there been no shabby deal: there has been no deal at all. I make that point very clear as, and with the authority of, the Minister of the Government who carried on most of the conversations with the Government at Stormont.

Of course, conversations there were. As I said on winding up the Second Reading debate, I take the view now, as I did then, that conversations between this Government and Stormont were absolutely appropriate and that to have refused to talk to Stormont would have been certainly irresponsible and probably unconstitutional. Of course there were attempts between this Government and the Government there to produce a formula for the force which was acceptable to both Governments.

But, as I said on Second Reading, there were occasions when that sort of agreement was just not possible. I said that it was not possible, for instance, in terms of the training obligation which we require members of the force to undergo—for us, a fundamental point of principle about the character of the force. When we believed that our principles could not be accommodated within the terms of reference which Stormont hoped to lay down for the force, we stood by our terms of reference and our principles. There was no deal of any sort, which implies that points were given and taken not on their merits, but in the simple hope of achieving some sort of agreement between the two parties.

We are utterly open, as is every Government, to the accusation of misjudgment about the White Paper and the proposals, but the accusation to which we cannot legitimately have to give answer is the accusation that it is not our own judgment. If there are errors in the White Paper and in the Bill, they are the errors of this Government and this Government alone. Although—I say again—it was our hope that we could take the Stormont Government with us entirely, it was our success that we could take them with us substantially, but the policy is ours and, of course, must remain ours.

My hon. Friend the Member for Blackley, expressed fears about the "shabby deal" in terms of a speech which I made about a fortnight ago. I said then—and what I say about the Amendment must be seen against the background of what The Guardian called "the fears in the minds of the majority"—that it would be irresponsible of this House not to realise that there are many people among the majority of the community in Northern Ireland who are fearful about the prospects for the future.

It would be irresponsible of us not to echo the words of my hon. Friend, whose phrase I fear I paraphrase, about a small force which would or might resort to violence and would not let Ireland's wounds heal. His phrase was slightly more metaphorical even than that, but he talked about the existence of these people, and our attempts to create an acceptable force must bear in mind that such people do exist, and to a degree we must take cognisance of their existence.

But to them and to the Committee and to my hon. Friend, when he asks the frank question, "Do you want Catholics in this regiment?", I answer, as I believe every hon. Member answers, "Of course I do." It is a fundamental part of the Bill and a fundamental part of the answer to that question that the question is being asked in the House and of the Government at Westminster. My hon. Friend asks what assurance we can give that Catholics will be recruited voluntarily. I go even further than to say that that is an assurance which we give. I believe that it is more than a matter of simply ensuring that the minority community is not kept out; we have an important job to do in ensuring that the minority community is encouraged to come in.

May I describe the ways in which we hope to achieve a balanced force? I accept entirely that there are a number of acid tests which are in the minds of hon. Members and of people in Northern Ireland by which they will judge whether we are sincere in that desire, and at least three of them have been put to me formally and forcefully tonight. The first is the issue whether there will be wholesale transfer of the Special Constabulary from that force into the new regiment.

If the answer to that question is one on which hon. Members will base their judgment of the desire to produce a properly balanced force, they can be absolutely reassured. There will not be wholesale transfer of Special Constables into the new force if by that my hon. Friends mean or imply that it will be an automatic process done in large numbers and in complete groups—something which Special Constables can take for granted. I regret burdening the Committee with details at this hour, but I must explain what will happen. Individuals will apply to join the new force by drawing application forms from such public centres as those at which forms for various purposes are to be obtained throughout the United Kingdom. They will post those forms to the G.O.C., Northern Ireland. That is what will happen if they are men who have no previous service in the Army or the police or if they are men presently serving in the Special Constabulary. They will apply individually and they will be judged on their individual merits. The question of wholesale or automatic transfer is very far from our minds and will not be operated.

The second issue which is a litmus test of our good intentions is that about which my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) warned me that he wanted to know and which my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson) has raised on his behalf—our attitude towards those who believe in a united Ireland. Our position on that is equally clear. There can be no place in the force for anyone who believes in an unconstitutional change in the relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Clearly, there can be no place in the force for anyone who does not accept the constitution of the United Kingdom and the sovereignty of Her Majesty the Queen and all that goes with it. But if there are people who say—and I take the example of one constitutional method—that if there were to be a plebiscite in Northern Ireland tomorrow they might vote for unity with the South; or if there are people who say, "If there were candidates in General Elections, properly nominated, who stood on the platform of unity, we should vote for them"?—that could not possibly be a reason for their exclusion from the force.

Miss Devlin

This is a serious problem. My hon. Friend says that one could vote for such a candidate and still be a member of the force. Could a person who stood as a candidate be a member of the force? If a person said, "I accept the existence of the constitution, but I will endeavour through peaceful means to change it", could he be a member of the force?

Mr. Hattersley

That is covered by a later Amendment but the regulations governing the force will prohibit members of it from issuing election addresses, and in their case, as in the case of other members of the Armed Forces, a candidate will not be eligible for membership of the force, or at least, at the point of his candidature, he will have to resign. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) will forgive me for citing him as an example. His beliefs will not prevent him from joining the force, but his membership of this House will.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) asked for a double assurance. He referred to the sentence in my speech on Second Reading when I said that, were I to choose, or were I to be forced into a choice, between a force which ran up to the maximum size at an early date or a force which was properly balanced, I would choose a balanced force.

My hon. Friend asked whether that was part of a deal with Stormont. I hope that he accepts from me, as he did from my hon. Friend, that it could not be part of a deal because there was no deal. I hope that he also accepts that the decision about the force levels and the choice between a large force and a balanced force is a decision for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. No doubt my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale will be here ensuring that my right hon. Friend's decision is carried out, although I am sure that he has no doubts about my right hon. Friend's integrity in this matter.

Mr. Michael Foot

I thank my hon. Friend for the clear way in which he has stated the answer. I certainly do not question that the Secretary of State will try and carry that out, but I want to know whether or not Stormont has agreed to his interpretation. My hon. Friend may say that there is no such thing as a deal, but I believe that it is a question of semantics, because I believe that there has been an understanding or conversation or discussion on this point and I presume that the conclusions are written. I want to know whether this undertaking on behalf of the Secretary of State has been accepted by the Stormont Government.

Mr. Hattersley

There is no question about this. I have no doubt that the Stormont Government are as anxious to obtain a properly balanced force as we are, but it is not possible for me constitutionally to commit Stormont to a specific point of view. I think that my hon. Friend will accept my judgment of their attitude towards this new force; which is an enthusiasm for a balanced force. That enthusiasm is shared between them, my hon. Friend and myself. Nothing I have heard or read or seen suggests that Stormont would stand in the way of a balanced force of the sort we all choose.

My hon. Friend also asked about advertising, the television programmes and the application forms. I believe, as I said on Second Reading, that it was a misguided but not dishonourable step. But we must think about the future rather than the past and the future will be more clear if the regulations governing the recruitment of the force are made clear to some members of the Special Constabulary who may now be confused as to what the recruitment obligations are.

While I do not wish to recriminate about the application forms, because that would be inappropriate, I am attracted by the suggestion that the proper and appropriate method of recruitment should be notified to the members of the B Specials. I reject the idea of writing to all the members of the B Specials, I shall look as sympathetically as I can at the idea of writing to the force outlining the appropriate methods of recruitment as I have given them to the Committee.

Mr. Michael Foot

Not only outlining to them the proper methods of recruitment, but also the meaning of my hon. Friend's undertaking, outlining to the B Specials that some of them, after applications go ahead, may be held back for the purpose of securing that there shall be a balanced force and that that takes priority. Then they would know that this is to be a quite different force from the B Specials.

[MR. HARRY GOURLAY in the Chair]

3.45 a.m.

Mr. Harttersley

My hon. Friend's suggestion is getting dangerously near the level of recrimination which I have rejected. However, I assure him that we shall certainly send a description, which is in no way polemical or contentious, of the proper method of recruitment. I hope that he will think that that is a proper step and a step which is absolutely on all fours with what we wish had been done four weeks ago.

I make two or three other points which, I hope, will be of some comfort to hon. Members. Understanding as we do the absolute necessity of promoting enthusiasm among the minority in Northern Ireland for membership of this force, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already asked the new colonel-commandant of the regiment, General Anderson, to take as a special and immediate charge the obligation of promoting it within the minority community and visiting the leaders of the minority community so that they should be encouraged to join.

One of his special tasks will be to recruit wherever possible Catholic ex-Service men, people who could join the force and become immediately effective. What one does not want is a force which is composed of Catholics who need to be trained over some period and Protestants who could go out into the country immediately. We will, therefore, be concentrating on ex-Service men who can fulfil an immediate part in the force so that there will be a balance of effective members as well as of members on the roll.

As the Committee knows, we have announced the setting up of an advisory council which will advise the G.O.C. on the composition of the force. Being well aware that the proper balance of the force is a matter not only of recruitment but of promotion within the force and who does what in the force, we have now constructed terms of reference for this advisory council which require it to advise the G.O.C, Northern Ireland, on the general policy for the administration of the Ulster Defence Regiment. These are all things which. I hope, my hon. Friend the Member for Blackley and the supporters of his initial Amendment will regard as encouraging.

I say that because I now have to say to him that regrettably—and I hope that he will understand that I mean regrettably—the Amendment is not in language which is capable of legal definition and, therefore, cannot be put on the Statute Book in the knowledge that its interpretation and operation might be challenged in the courts.

I accept the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone that the Government have an obligation to do more than say that an Amendment is technically incorrect, that they have an obligation to correct it if they believe in its spirit. I hope that what I have said now demonstrates that the Government do more than what my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale described as mouthing the usual platitudes. We have a cogent policy for putting the policy outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackley into operation. I hope that my hon. Friends, who share with me the desire to see the spirit of the Amendment incorporated into our policy, will believe that it is not only the Government's intention, but that we now have the wherewithall to do it.

Mr. Goodhart

Of course, we accept the assurances of the Minister of Defence for Administration. It would be desirable for the Minister's reply to that section of the debate which we have completed to be circulated as widely as possible in Northern Ireland. I therefore regret that the Government have compelled us to have this debate at a time when it will be impossible for those words to be reported in any of the Northern Irish newspapers. Still, that is a matter for the Government and not for the Opposition.

We know that the Government intend that there should be a proper balance in the force. We know that the Government intend that the whole recruiting and vetting procedure for the regiment will be in the hands of Regular soldiers answerable to the Ministry of Defence. It seems to me inconceivable that in the foreseeable future any Minister at the Department will not want the regiment to reflect a proper balance of the community in Northern Ireland. Any Government, both here and at Stormont, are bound to want to get a proper balance between the communities.

But the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) said that he feared there was a likelihood that the force would be 100 per cent, sectarian. I do not think that after the Hunt Report, the White Paper, the Second Reading speeches and the discussions we have had tonight one can say that the force will be 100 per cent, sectarian because of any recruiting or vetting procedures that the Government would introduce. If it is 100 per cent, sectarian, it can only be because one section of the community chooses not to come forward.

The Hunt Committee, in paragraphs 121 and 122 of its report, outlined some of the pressures that members of the Catholic community have been subjected to in the past to try to persuade them not to enlist in the Royal Ulster Constabulary. There is a danger that pressure will be put on some Catholics not to accept membership of this force. I hope that that will not be so, but if Amendment No. 3 were accepted the danger of that happening would perhaps increase, because people might think that they would then have a veto power on the establishment of the whole force.

The Minister referred in passing to Amendment No. 5, which says: Provided any person wishing to enlist shall not be debarred either on grounds of religious or political opinions. That is a perfectly reasonable point of view to hold in Penistone or, indeed, in Beckenham. But there are places where political views are stronger and more violent. I hope that the Government will accept the views expressed by the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland at the weekend, when he said: We cannot be expected to accept as a responsible member of our community someone who speaks peace today but who advocated or even used violence yesterday, and may do so again tomorrow.

Mr. McNamara

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that by that statement the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland is condemning the last Prime Minister but one of Northern Ireland, Lord Brooke-borough, and so many members of his own party who preached treason, sedition and criminal action against the Crown in 1912?

Mr. Goodhart

That is not one of the more sensible interventions we have had this evening.

We should bear in mind that the religious balance is not the only balance that matters in Northern Ireland. It is important for the success of the regiment that there should be a reasonable flow of recruits throughout Northern Ireland in both country and urban areas. The only guide that the Government can have as to whether recruits are likely to come forward in all parts of Northern Ireland comes from those much-maligned application forms which have been sent to all members of the Ulster Special Constabulary.

I do not know what the response to those application forms has been, but I would like the Minister to say what would happen if recruitment went very badly in one or two counties. Is it intended that, in that event, the vulnerable points in those counties should be guarded by members of the Ulster Defence Regiment drafted in from other counties, or will Regular soldiers be expected to undertake this rôle? Does the Minister intend to take any further soundings about recruiting intentions before the force is established?

Meanwhile, I am sure that the whole Committee, with almost no exceptions, will hope that a satisfactory balance in every respect will be achieved in recruiting for the regiment, and I hope that the leaders of all communities will encourage their followers to join.

Mr. Fitt

The speech by my hon. Friend the Minister has shortened my speech considerably and I am certain that I speak on behalf of many of my hon. Friends when I say that he has allayed a good deal of their suspicions.

I want to make clear, for the benefit of my constituents at home and for the minority in Northern Ireland, the undertakings which we have been given by the Minister in his remarks at the Dispatch Box. Can I tell my constituents that any of those people in Northern Ireland who believe in the peaceful reunification of the island of Ireland—the reunification being the joining of the six Northern Ireland counties into a republic where there would be one Government for the island of Ireland—provided that they set out to obtain this by peaceful methods, by the ballot box and by persuasion, will not be debarred from joining this force?

Mr. Hattersley

My hon. Friend can tell them that as long as they believe in the constitutional and peaceful process they will no more be debarred from joining the force or the British Army than would people who believed in the constitutional and peaceful process which might produce separate Parliaments for Scotland and Wales.

Mr. Fitt

I accept that. Those who may be opposed to the Unionist Party, the Government party in Northern Ireland, at present and for many years have been regarded as politically suspect and dangerous by the authorities in Northern Ireland. I accept what my hon. Friend has said that they will not be debarred from joining this force.

Before finally accepting my hon. Friend's assurances, however, I should like to put to him a few minor points which could be major points in Northern Ireland. My hon. Friend has told us that he is thinking on the lines of an advisory committee. Could he give any indication of the way in which that committee will be set up? Will it advise on recruiting or have any say in the intake or the personnel who are recruited for the regiment?

Here is a most important point. I take it, now that the Minister has almost accepted the Amendment, that he wants to have a balanced force in Northern Ireland in the regiment. How will we know, however, how recruitment for the force is going? Will we be advised by the advisory committee in Northern Ireland, or can we put down Questions in this House?

Mr. Hattersley

indicated assent.

Mr. Fitt

If I am not here, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) can put down Questions. In what way will we frame them? Will we ask whether there appears to be a balanced number of people from the community in general, or will we specify Catholics or Protestants outright, so that people in Northern Ireland will understand? If we asked Questions requesting the Minister to say how many Protestants and how many Catholics had joined the force at that time, would the Minister be able to answer? If it was found that in the weeks immediately following the setting up of the force that there seemed to be a representative body joining the force, that would encourage others and we would finally arrive at the ideal of a balanced force.

Can the Minister give undertakings on these points, for they are most important? They will determine to a great extent the efforts of the community in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Hattersley

My hon. Friend asked for two specific assurances. I can give him both. I can give him them because the application form—not the so-called application form, but the form not yet sent out, the official form—will require potential members of the force to stipulate their religion, which is a normal practice in the British Army and one which we must know in this context to make a judgment for which my hon. Friend asks. When we know that he will be entitled to put down Questions in a specific form and we shall be under obligation to give a mathematical answer.

4.0 a.m.

Mr. Rose

My hon. Friend the Minister has met most of the points I put forward when I moved the Amendment, and the points put forward by my hon. Friends. He will find that when the Front Bench is reasonable the back benches will be reasonable in response. On this occasion my hon. Friend has given an undertaking that there will be no massive transfer of B Specials to this new force. He accepts the need for positive steps to ensure a balanced force and not merely to acquiesce in getting on with the job of recruiting from the minority section of the population.

My hon. Friend said that the only reason he cannot accept the Amendment is the legal one of drafting, but he accepts its spirit. As he accepts the spirit, I shall ask leave to withdraw the Amendment, but in doing so I wish to emphasise that there are deep-seated fears on the part of the minority in Northern Ireland about the composition of the force, and it is its composition which is all important. Only a few hours ago I received a letter from the North Tyrone Association of the National Democratic Party. One important paragraph stated: The minority here welcomed the Hunt Report, not least for its recommendation to disband the 'B' Specials. Because of the way in which overtures are being made to the Specials to join the Ulster Defence Regiment, while, oddly enough, British ex-Service men are ignored, the minority has now the gravest misgivings about the composition and real purpose of this Regiment. It is fast becoming an irritant and jeopardising the willingness of the minority to play a full part in bringing about the reconciliation and reintegration so vital if there is to be any future for the people of Northern Ireland. That paragraph sums up my fears and the misgivings of myself and many hon. Friends. The Minister has gone a long way to allay fears in this respect. Obviously, he has not satisfied us in other respects. Perhaps this may be a lesson to the Front Bench. If it is forthcoming some of us will not have to press these matters, as we have had to press others, in the Division Lobby. I thank my hon. Friend for his undertakings. He certainly will be held to them. He has accepted responsibility on behalf of the Government. I am sure that my hon. Friends will ensure in the months to come that the Government will live up to those promises and obligations. If they do not, the Government will have to answer for that. On the basis of my hon. Friend's reply, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Heffer

I beg to move Amendment No. 4 in page 2, line 13, at end insert: 'and shall not have attained the age of fifty years on the date of such enrolment'. Because, when discussing the last Amendment, the Minister was reasonably forthcoming, we were able to make speedy progress. I hope that adequate assurances will be given on this occasion, so that my hon. Friends and I will not be obliged to press the Amendment to a Division.

If the Government are sincere in wishing to create a force which in no way resembles the B Specials, they should be prepared to accept an age limit, and the Amendment suggests 50. There is no such limit for entry into the B Specials and I understand that some of its members are well over 50.

Mr. Fitt

Some are 80.

Mr. Heffer

It cannot be described as the sort of force the Government wish to create. We must, therefore, consider the age limits which apply to enrolment to the Regular Army and the volunteer forces generally; that is, if we are to destroy the image of the B Specials once and for all.

The 1967 regulations applying to T.A.V.R. and recruitment show that for a series of regiments the entry age for a subaltern is 30; for a captain, 32; major, 37; lieutenant-colonel, 45; a colonel in one case up to 48 and in another case up to 50. But 50 is the limit. The officers' retiring age goes up to 57. For soldiers the upper age limit for enlistment, for the Army and the T.A.V.R. Group A, R.A.C., R.A., R.E., Royal Signals, Infantry, including the airborne forces and S.A.S. with no previous experience with the Armed Forces is 32; with previous experience with the armed forces it is 35. The upper age limit for discharge is 45.

Table 2 gives a series of other arms, including the R.E., R.C.T., R.A.M.C., R.O.C., R.E.M.E., R.M.P., M.P.S.C, with age limits for enlistment of 44, 40 and 40, with the lower age limits for discharge of 48, 45 and 45. The upper age limit for enlistment is 50 and the upper age limit for discharge is 54. There are exceptions—the bandsmen, who qualify at 56 and have an upper age limit for discharge of 60.

I expect that many of the B Specials were good bandsmen. In Liverpool, the members of the Orange Lodge were very good at playing the drums and fifes. I would not expect that all the B Specials would be bandsmen. In the TAVR nowhere is the age limit for recruitment more than 50, and only in exceptional cases is it 50, but with the B Specials it was quite different.

The Bill does not mention an age limit. On Second Reading my hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for Administration said: In fact, the fundamental proof is that the para-military force, the organisation to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington referred so often, is gone. There is no longer, or there will no longer be, subject to the wish of this House, a para-military force in Northern Ireland. There will be a military force, which will be part of the Army—not, I hasten to say, the British Army, if Britain does not include the entire United Kingdom, but an Army which is the Army of the people of Northern Ireland as well as the Army of the people of England, Scotland and Wales."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th November, 1969: Vol. 791, c. 1443.] It is part of the British Army. Although it is not the T.A.V.R., in reply to a question from the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Pounder), the Minister of Defence for Administration said that, nevertheless, there were certain similarities between the two forces but they should not be overestimated. One of the similarities that should clearly be written into the Bill, or should clearly be spelt out by the Government Front Bench today, is the matter of the age limit. Therefore, it is clear that Schedule 8 of the regulations covering the T.A.V.R. should apply, excluding bandsmen since we do not mind a few drum and fife players at the age of 60. But other than bandsmen, the personnel must conform to the regulations laid down in Schedule 8. That is what the Amendment is about.

4.15 a.m.

We do not want to push this matter to a Division. We are reasonable men and will act reasonably provided we receive proper assurances from the Government. We feel that there must equally be a balance in the matter of age so that the force will be brought into line with the T.A.V.R. If this is done, I am certain that the matter will be able to proceed without lengthy argument.

If, on the other hand, my hon. Friends are not prepared to accept this reasonable Amendment, it will indicate that they are giving way to the pressures to which they have been subjected from the Stormont Government. If the Stormont Government believed that there could be an almost automatic transference from the B Specials into the new force, that would mean they could not accept the age limit because it would eliminate a considerable section of the present B Specials.

I wish that my Front Bench would take note of what I am saying. I am not making a speech for the sake of hon. Members in the Committee. I am making it for the sake of the Front Bench.

Mr. Healey

We are listening very carefully.

Mr. Heffer

If my right hon. and hon. Friends are listening carefully, I hope that they will give us the assurances that we seek so that this part of our proceedings could move rapidly to an end.

Mr. Henry Clark

The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer), in proposing Amendment No. 4, went to some lengths to pretend that he was putting it forward purely for the purpose of conformity. He deceived nobody in the Committee. The Amendment is put down solely to try to affect the maximum number of the Ulster Special Constabulary who might wish to take up positions in the new regiment.

I would refer the hon. Member to paragraph 174 of the Hunt Report, which draws attention to … the excellent services rendered to the Ulster Special Constabulary and the community at large by the permanent and full-time officers and members of that Force and express the hope that they will find it possible to continue in office for as long as their services are required. This is directly relevant to the Amendment. Most people who have known the Ulster Special Constabulary over the years would agree that the sergeant instructors who are posted throughout the country are the backbone of the force.

Almost universally those sergeant instructors are ex-Regular battalion or regimental sergeant majors from the British Army. They are men of considerable calibre. They know the countryside, they know the right type of man to recruit for a new force, and they know a considerable amount about the purpose of the new force. I know that it is hard for hon. Members below the Gangway to admit it, but the purpose of the new regiment is the same as that of the Ulster Special Constabulary: to fight I.R.A. and other terrorist attacks on Northern Ireland.

Certainly, no one setting up a force with this objective, when there is another force which has carried out this function highly satisfactorily and successfully for a number of years, would want to throw expertise immediately out of the window——

Mr. Russell Kerr

It is to be the same.

Mr. Clark

The object of the force has always been the same: to fight terrorism in Northern Ireland. The hon. Gentleman would pretend that it will never happen again. We have heard it many times in Northern Ireland. Unfortunately, we are older and wiser. Power lines have been blown up, telephone poles have been sawn down and police barracks have been attacked again and again. If the hon. Gentleman has any reason to suppose that these attacks will not be repeated in future, I should be delighted if he would stand up and tell us why we should believe that the terrorist attacks which have continued almost without interval for 50 years will come to an end in this year of Grace——

The Deputy Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman is straying quite a bit from the Amendment.

Mr. Clark

I apologise. I was taken away. If the hon. Gentleman has reason to suppose that the purpose of the force will be changed from that of the Ulster Special Constabulary, we would be delighted to hear it.

The hon. Member for Walton suggested that the B Specials had no age limitation. That is untrue. When the B Specials were reduced from their normal level of 12,000 to 8,000 two years ago an age limit of 60 was introduced. It is worth noting that reduction which took place two years ago. There is no doubt that there has been long service in the Ulster Special Constabulary of reliable and sober men who are experienced at their jobs. Anyone forming a new regiment with the same purpose as the U.S.C. would want to draw a reasonable proportion of men from that force to train and to teach the new recruits the normal methods which have been found effective over the years of countering terrorist attacks.

I believe that the Government have been wise in making this provision that men, even slightly in excess of 55—

Mrs. Anne Kerr rose——

Mr. Clark

I will give way in a moment. I am in the middle of a sentence, or I was until I was interrupted.

Mrs. Anne Kerr

I should like——

Mr. Clark

I am not giving way.

The Deputy Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman has said that he will give way later.

Mr. Clark

The Ulster Special Constabulary is composed of a rather aged group of men because, on the whole, men tend to stay a long time and the numbers have been limited over the years. Therefore, any force being set up to replace it would be unwise not to draw on the experience of those men to teach the normal methods for dealing with terrorism.

We have heard a great deal of innuendo about the Ulster Special Constabulary, but we have heard remarkably little fact today. If the Amendment is designed, as I believe, strictly to exclude members of the U.S.C, I think that, before the debate is concluded, the hon. Member for Walton will be wise to try to add a little fact to the innuendo about the U.S.C. of which we have heard so much. With considerably more experience of the U.S.C. over the years——

Mrs. Anne Kerr

rose——

Mr. Clark

The hon. Lady always seems to rise when I am in full flight.

With considerably more experience of the U.S.C. than almost any Member of the House of Commons, and certainly more than the hon. Member for Walton has gained from his experience of Irish people in Liverpool, I can say that the U.S.C. can bear examination man for man in its prime function of defeating terrorism with any force in the world?

Mr. Heffer

What has that to do with the Amendment? The hon. Gentleman really is stupid.

The Deputy Chairman

Order.

Mr. Clark

We like to have efficient forces. The object of the new force is to defeat terrorism in Northern Ireland. If that is not its object, I do not know what is. I am sorry. I am being carried away from my point.

Mr. Ian Mikardo (Poplar)

Tedious repetition.

Mr. Clark

The suggestion is that the new regiment should be made to conform with the Territorial Army. There is no direct resemblance to the T.A. in this new force. It is for local employment only. It is not expected to go overseas. The main requirement of the men is local knowledge and experience of the kind of job which they will carry out.

I rate the security of Northern Ireland quite high, and I believe that it is important to recruit a reasonable proportion of men from the U.S.C. into the new force. I believe that it is important to recruit a number of the older age group, particularly sergeant instructors, adjutants, and some of the county commanders, many of whom are over the age limit which the hon. Gentleman suggests, to form the new Ulster Defence Regiment.

Mr. Richard

In accordance with the new-found atmosphere of good will that is existing in the Committee at twenty-five minutes past four perhaps I might at this stage say one or two things about the Amendment.

I should like, first, to take up the point about drawing a comparison with the TAVR. It is not quite accurate that the upper retiring age is as inflexible as my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) suggested. There is a general provision whereby the upper age limit for enlistment can be waived, and there is a further provision that the upper age limit for the ranks of warrant officer and senior N.C.O may be extended by one year at a time with the approval of the commanding officer, and provided the people concerned are within the medical retention standards of their corps. The analogy is not, therefore, totally exact. I have some sympathy with the merits of the Amendment, but I fear that I shall not be in a position to ask the Committee to accept it and write this provision into the Bill.

I should like to correct some of the statements made by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Mr. Henry Clark). The hon. Gentleman seemed to give the impression that the age limit for N.C.O.s and other ranks of the U.S.C. should be as high as 55 if a substantial proportion of them were to join the new force. The hon. Gentleman's figures are wrong. The position is that of the officers in the U.S.C, 55 per cent. are over 50, but only 15 per cent, of the N.C.O.s and other ranks are over 50.

Mr. Henry Clark

What is the figure for sergeant instructors?

Mr. Richard

I cannot give that figure without notice.

The disparity in the figures for officers and N.C.O.s and other ranks is remarkable. As I said, 55 per cent, of the officers are over 50, but only 15 per cent, of the N.C.O.s and men are over 50. Therefore, from the point of view of recruiting men in the older age bracket at present serving in the U.S.C, the problem is one of officers and not one of senior N.C.O.s and other ranks.

I think that my hon. Friend should see this Amendment and the Government's attitude to it against the background of the concessions which have been made in this debate, and particularly against the background of the Advisory Committee, the regulations which are to be introduced, which make it clear that this new force is to be part of the British Army, and also the assurances which have been given about the determination of the Government to produce a non-sectarian and well-balanced force.

My hon. Friend should also see it against the background of the additional training obligations which members of the new force will have to accept. The training obligations proposed for the Ulster Defence Regiment are much more onerous than those which it was necessary for the U.S.C. to undertake. It also follows that if they are to train harder they will have to be fitter. I understand that there have already been indications from certain members of the Ulster Special Constabulary that, irrespective of any other factors, the increased training obligation together with the increased health standards will make some of the older men think very hard about whether they would even wish to join the new force when it is set up.

In turn, it is bound to mean that in view of the fact that the size of the force will be substantially reduced from its present size, adding all these factors, a considerable proportion of the officers in the Ulster Special Constabulary who are in the older age groups will have to retire.

4.30 a.m.

The problem for the Government in accepting the Amendment is that in the initial administration of the new force we shall have to build upon some of the officers and senior N.C.O.s and men of the Ulster Special Constabulary who, so far as we can see, are over the age of 50 and, therefore, would be outside the scope of my hon. Friend's Amendment. I want to say two things about that: first, it would not be our intention—as best we can—that the age limit of 55 as set out in the White Paper should be wholly permanent. If we reach a situation in which people over 50 were neither coming forward nor were needed as part of the interim administrative measures the Government would be prepared to reconsider—at that stage—a reduction in the age limit from 55 to a lower figure. But I cannot give my hon. Friend an assurance that the Government will reduce the age limit from 55 to 50, at any rate within the period when the new force is being set up. When it has been set up and organised the Government will be prepared to consider the figure again.

If we found that the training demanded of the new force was clearly being too strenuous for people in the age bracket 50 to 55, rather than reduce the training obligation and the health standard that goes with it the Government would prefer to reconsider the age limit. Therefore, looking at what my hon. Friend is proposing against the background, first, of the fact that firm assurances have been given and that very comprehensive machinery is being set up to ensure that the new force is non-sectarian, and that only the right people will get into it; secondly, of the increased training obligations and, therefore, the required health standards; and, thirdly, of the fact that we would not necessarily see the age limit of 55 as a permanent one—although, as an interim measure, I cannot give my hon. Friend the assurance for which he asks I hope that he will not feel obliged to divide the Committee.

Mr. Lubbock

We seem to do better with the other Minister. Perhaps it is just his bad luck, but the Under-Secretary of State seems far less forthcoming than his colleague. I was very disapointed with his answer, because most of his arguments seemed to be in support of the Amendment.

The hon. Gentleman said that the force will be part of the British Army. Let us look at what Queen's Regulations say about the age limits for persons serving in the British Army. I refer the Minister to Regulation 377(b), which allows Service men to continue only until the age of 55 except under certain exceptional circumstances, as the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) outlined in relation to the TAVR.

Regulation 377(b) says: A soldier above the age of 45 years may be permitted to continue in service either:— (i) for a limited period; (ii) or for an extended career regimentally, extra-regimentally, or on the Long Service List, in which case every effort will be made to give him further periods of continuance in service up to his 55th birthday. As I remember my period of service the regulation was designed to cater for specialist tradesmen and not only for men in the band. In my regiment we had a tailor who was a great expert and could not be dispensed with. He continued to serve up to his 55th birthday. Apart from these specialist trades there was no question of permission being granted under Regulation 377(b). In most cases one finds that the Service man enlists up to the age of 25 for a period of 22 years' service, and, therefore, the maximum ordinary retirement age in the regular forces would be 47, which is even lower than the hon. Gentleman the Member for Walton has proposed in his Amendment.

If this force is to be an integral part of the British Army, I go further than the hon. Gentleman and say, "Let us apply the same age criteria to it as to all our other forces." I was much struck by what the hon. Gentleman said about the training obligations of this force—much more onerous, he said, than those applied to the Royal Ulster Constabulary. This meant, he said, that recruits to the new force would have to be that much fitter, and he said that we would have to review the upper age limits if we found that people were incapable of undertaking the work. If we heed hon. Gentlemen on this side of the Committee, who dealt with the threat of terrorist attacks, we would conclude that it would be a mistake to have anyone serving in the force over the age of 40.

Let us have a look at what the force is to be required to do, according to the White Paper. The liability for service, according to paragraph 8(i), relates to what Lord Hunt's Committee called 'the threat of armed guerilla-type attack' and will permit rapid reaction to meet any local emergency. For a start, these people will have to be so fit that if a power station or telegraph line is attacked, they can go out at the double and approach the site of the threatened action or the actual terrorist attack. To do this they will obviously have to be extremely fit, but this is only the first part of their possible duties. They even may have to be called out for whole-time service in defence of the United Kingdom against actual or apprehended attack or for whole-time service in circumstances of imminent national danger or great emergency. Frankly, I hope that this country does not have to depend for its security on relatively old men of 55 in circumstances of national danger or great emergency. I would not feel at all safe, if I were a citizen of Northern Ireland, in thinking that I was being protected by people of such advanced age in comparison with our Armed Forces as a whole. I am sure that we did not permit people to serve up to the age of 55 during the war.

We are considering, according to the circumstances envisaged in this White Paper, almost an extreme situation. The Secretary of State for Defence himself said in his speech on Second Reading: Hon. Members will appreciate that the threat is of an attack on key points and installations by armed bands and members of subversive organisations. And … the attacks do not necessarily come from terrorists on one side of the political spectrum in Northern Ireland. An armed band could originate within Ulster, or, as in the past, come across the border from the Irish Republic. Its objective could be sabotage, seizing arms, or undermining public morale."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th November, 1969, Vol. 791, c. 1322.] These are very serious threats indeed for old people to be coping with, and here again I am reinforced in the view that if anything the hon. Member for Walton has set the age limit too high.

Mr. McMaster

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. But does he not realise that in a case like this the auxiliary forces would quite often simply set up road barricades, and that many of these men are farmers who are fitter than townsmen half their age?

Mr. Lubbock

No, I do not see their duties as only setting up road blocks. If the hon. Gentleman had listened to what I read from the White Paper, and to what the Secretary of State said on Second Reading, he would see that their duties are much wider and that actual terrorist attacks which are hypothesised here.

Therefore, alternatives should be considered. My suggestion is that the hon. Gentleman should consider what was said on the last Amendment about obtaining ex-Regulars, wherever possible, to fill posts in the new force. This was said by the Minister of Defence for Administration to be one of the means of ensuring a proper balance of communities in Northern Ireland serving in the U.D.R.

There must be many thousands of ex-Regulars who are below the age limit of 50 and who could be brought in and who would have the background, experience, and knowledge of the Armed Forces to enable them to take up key posts in the new force. I cannot accept that it is essential to have this transitional provision for people to be recruited above the age of 50 when I am certain that a large reservoir of talent must exist within the Province of people who would be just as good as any serving in the Ulster Special Constabulary now.

The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Mr. Henry Clark) said that the intention of the Amendment was to eliminate the maximum possible number of the Ulster Special Constabulary. The Minister will have noted by my remarks that that is not my intention. I want to make the new force as efficient as it can be. I suspect from having listened to him that the intention of some hon. Members is to retain the maximum number of the U.S.C. in senior positions in the new force as they can.

Mr. Henry Clark

I should have thought that, if a force had fought over countryside against a particular enemy over a number of years, the experience it had gained in that form of fighting and of that countryside might be of value to a new force taking on a similar task.

Mr. Lubbock

I do not agree. Experience will be no substitute for fitness in operations of the kind I have described, otherwise why have an age limit at all? The older a man becomes, obviously the more experience he accumulates and the more knowledge he has of the local countryside. He could carry on until 75 if that argument were valid.

Mr. Richard

The hon. Gentleman realises, I take it, that whether the man is over 55, between 50 and 55, or under 50 he still has to pass the health examination. If he is not the required health standard, it does not matter what his age is—he will be out.

Mr. Lubbock

The hon. Gentleman is beginning to worry me even more, because he implies that the health standard will be set so low, initially at any rate, as to allow men over 55 to be included in the force during the transitional period. Then the crutches will be thrown away; after a time the health checks will be tightened and the force will be much more efficient.

The Government should get the more efficient force from the very start. We should start as we mean to go on—by having young, fit men in the force who will be fully capable of discharging the onerous duties which are being placed upon them and the high responsibilities which are outlined in the White Paper.

Mr. Howie

Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that the experienced men to whom the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Mr. Henry Clark) referred might have gained their experience by fighting the wrong people over the wrong piece of country and might be out of date?

Mr. Lubbock

I agree with the hon. Gentleman.

4.45 a.m.

Miss Devlin

I support the Amendment on a purely practical basis. I agree with what the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) has said. On later Amendments I shall show that the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Mr. Henry Clark) is being perfectly honest when he speaks of his experience with the Ulster Special Constabulary.

While accepting, as the Under-Secretary said, that this is not an exact analogy with the law in Britain, it is more the rule that men cannot remain in the British Army over the age of 55. While this force remains an integral part of the British Army, there will be a peculiar set of circumstances in Northern Ireland. Paragraph 12 of the White Paper says: The lower and upper age limits for services will be 18 and 55, but as a transitional measure persons with previous military or similar suitable service may be recruited or allowed to serve beyond age 55. The Minister of Defence for Administration said that the regiment will in the first instance be heavily dependent on the Ulster Special Constabulary and that this was the reason for this flexibility of age.

Now the Under-Secretary tells us that this is not true and that this transitional period has nothing to do with the fact that a number of B Specials are over 55, and says that this relates more to officers. I shall deal with this question on later Amendments, but I would ask the Government to look carefully into the record and background of officers before assuming that, simply because they are over 55 and officers in one force, that entitles them to serve in another force——

Mr. Richard

For once, that is an assurance which I can give and which I gladly give.

Miss Devlin

I thank the hon. Gentleman for the assurance which he gladly gives. I hope that he will see that it is particularly pointed out that officers in the U.S.C. will have their applications for enrolment in the new force treated on their merits and not on the basis of their standing in the existing force.

In his answer to the hon. Member for Orpington, the Under-Secretary repeated the peculiar state of affairs which we had on the Police Bill. Every one of his arguments was in favour of the Amendment, yet he said that he could give no assurances, so how can he convince us that the spirit of the Amendment will be implemented if we withdraw it? I asked on the Police Bill to have this explained to me: perhaps the Minister will explain it on this Bill. How can a Minister argue in favour of an Amendment yet refuse any assurances? Either he is prepared to accept the Amendment or he is not. Let him honestly say which. It is as simple as that. Let us stop beating around the bush. If the Minister can give an assurance, let him do so, and then we can move on to the next Amendment.

Mr. Fitt

My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) said that the B Special Constabulary— the Ulster Special Constabulary, as we have known it in Northern Ireland— has been the cause of community discontent in Northern Ireland. We have been promised that the new regiment will be based on British military lines, which is a complete departure from the Ulster Special Constabulary. Hon. Members opposite have argued for the retention of members of the Ulster Special Constabulary who are over 55 on the ground that they have had experience in dealing with subversive organisations over a particular part of the countryside of the six counties and, therefore, they could train recruits.

Mr. Richard

No one—certainly no one from this side of the Committee— said that he wanted to retain people over the age of 55. The argument is whether there should be an automatic disqualification at that age. All I am saying is that age in itself should not be a disqualification.

Mr. Fitt

I was apparently directing my remarks to the Minister instead of to the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Mr. Henry Clark).

How long would it take to train a person to guard an installation or a road block? Six months or a year or two years? I have no military experience, but I believe that such training could be carried out in a reasonably short time, particularly if the recruits are ex-Service men. Recruits could be trained by a member of the British forces stationed in Northern Ireland. There is no valid reason for the retention of these old men of the B Specials.

On Second Reading, the hon. Member for Antrim, North, who, I understand has a close family connection with this organisation, urged that they should all have telephones installed in their homes, that they should have a petrol allowance for their cars and that they should be given medals. I agree about the medals. Let us strike a medal for each and every one of them, say farewell to them and get them out of the force. That would be accepted by the whole community in Northern Ireland. But there is no need for the retention of any of the older members of the Ulster Special Constabulary.

Mr. Henry Clark

Is the hon. Member saying that the new regiment should not have the best communications available?

Mr. Fitt

The new regiment will have the best communications available, but it will owe nothing to the Ulster Special Constabulary in having them. The hon. Member, on occasions both in this House and in Northern Ireland, has expressed great sentimental concern for the Ulster Special Constabulary. He should show his concern now. I should not like to foist on a 55 or 56-year-old man the onerous responsibility of standing at crossroads in County Fermanagh on a wet, wintry night, or when snow was falling. When one is over 30 to 35 one is more susceptible to colds and influenza and lumbago. Asking these men to tramp through the snow in Fermanagh would not be my way of showing respect to them, for they have given loyal service to the State of Northern Ireland. We should get these medals struck as soon as possible. We could ask the hon. Member for Antrim, North what type of medal he has in mind.

Mr. McGuire

A leather medal.

Mr. Fitt

It was once suggested in Northern Ireland that a plaque should be erected to the Ulster Special Constabulary. The Member for East Tyrone, in the Northern Ireland Parliament, suggested that, if this were done, it should be in the form of a donkey which was shot by B Specials in their haste to catch a non-existent member of a subversive organisation.

The hon. Member for Antrim, North told us that, since the inception of the State of Northern Ireland, valiant members of the B Specials had ably met and defeated members of the I.R.A. in their attacks from the border on the constitution of Northern Ireland. As the hon. Gentleman knows so much about it, perhaps he can explain how it is that they were unable to catch those responsible for blowing up water mains and electricity pylons earlier this year. The perpetrators have since been caught by the British military forces. They proved to be members of the Ulster Volunteer Force, an extreme unionist Paisleyite organisation. It seems remarkable that the B Specials, with such a record of success of getting I.R.A. arsonists, should so signally have failed on this occasion when, just by chance, the perpetrators happened to be members of the Ulster Volunteer Force, an extreme right-wing organisation.

I hope that my hon. Friend will take this into consideration when asking for recruits for the new force. If they are to protect the border and the peace of Northern Ireland, their activities should be gauged to get all those engaged in acts of violence on the State of Northern Ireland.

I agree with Lord Hunt when he points out that the possibility of attack from the Republic of Ireland is extremely remote, so my right hon. Friend has no cause to act with haste in setting up the new force. I hope to hear again the undertaking that the force will not have its full complement by April Fool's Day. If there is no possibility of attack in the near future on Northern Ireland, I cannot understand the haste to enlist members of the B Specials who are in their 50s, some of them nearly 60. There is no necessity to enlist men of that age in the regiment.

Mr. John Mendelson

In the reply of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, there was one point which I found disturbing. Perhaps he can elaborate on it a little. I understood him to give, as the main reason for the Secretary of State saying on Second Reading that even men beyond the age of 55 might be kept on and certainly those between 50 and 55 in certain cases, the fact that he needed senior administrators. If that is the case, then my hon. Friend revealed a disturbing attitude on the part of the Government.

I could not but feel with my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) in the point he made about the hardships which elderly members of this force might be put to, but I think that he will agree that the really serious element in this argument does not lie there but in the reply given by the Under-Secretary of State, which seems to presuppose that the Government have accepted the argument, put forward at Stormont to my certain knowledge and that of many other hon. Members, that the senior administration will naturally be entirely composed of former officers and commanders in the Ulster Special Constabulary. It is important that the Committee should be told whether this is so before we decide our attitude to the Amendment.

5.0 a.m.

Captain Orr

The hon. Gentleman is suggesting that this is some sort of new revelation, but it is all in the White Paper which, on page 4, says: The battalion commanders will be local members of the force; during its early life these appointments may be filled by present County Commandants of the Ulster Special Constabulary, almost all of whom are ex-officers of the regular forces and who have had much experience in dealing with the tasks for which the new force is designed.

Mr. Mendelson

I am aware of that passage, as is every hon. Member. However, my hon. Friend went beyond that, because, in addition to these commanders mentioned in that passage, there is also to be a central administration of the new regiment, as the hon. and gallant Member, with his military experience, knows. It would be highly dangerous if we were to presuppose that in addition to these officers specifically mentioned part of the central administration was to be taken over by former B Specials.

Mr. Richard

If there is any confusion about this, let me clear it up now. It is certainly not the Government's intention that anything on the lines my hon. Friend suggests should occur. We have said, ad nauseam I would have thought, on Second Reading and today, that this force is to be part of the British Army and run under the direction of the G.O.C. There will be a small Regular staff to assist the G.O.C. and in addition there will be Regular officers at the level of each battalion. Certainly, nothing I have said tonight was designed to go further than my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State went on Second Reading.

Mr. Mendelson

But that still does not clear up the essential point whether, under the G.O.C. and perhaps one or two assistants, who will be taken from the Regular British Army, all effective posts of command will automatically go to former officers of the B Specials.

Mr. Maginnis

The Explanatory and Financial Memorandum to the Bill explains this under the heading, "Effects of the Bill on Public Service Manpower". when it says: About 100 civilians will be employed for clerical, storekeeping and general duties, and about 50 members of the force will serve as permanent staff, as well as up to 50 attached personnel of the Regular Army.

Mr. Mendelson

But the essential point with which we are concerned is recruitment. That has been the red line running through all these debates. We have received very reasonable assurances from the Government during previous debates, but if those assurances are to be meaningful, members of the minority must be encouraged to join the force so that it is well balanced.

Those members of the minority who have not yet made up their minds about joining the force will be profoundly affected if they see all the decisive positions below the G.O.C. and a small staff of Regular officers of the British Army going to the same commanding officers of the former B Specials. That is common sense, not the kind of propagandist argument that we have across the Floor of the Committee.

I ask my hon. Friend to look at this matter again and not commit the Government to allowing all these senior positions automatically to be taken up by former officers of the B Specials.

Mr. Richard

I thought that I had committed the Government in a direction exactly opposite to that to which the hon. Gentleman warns me not to commit the Government. In other words, I have given assurances that my hon. Friend's fears are groundless. What more can he expect the Government to do?

Mr. Mendelson

I am glad to have that assurance, but in that case I do not see how my hon. Friend's argument against the Amendment stands up. In view of that assurance, for what does he need these elderly gentlemen if he does not need them for the central administrative positions?

Mr. Lubbock

Does the hon. Gentleman know—and this may be very relevant to the questions he is asking—how many of the present county commandants of the U.S.C. who during the early life of the new force may be appointed as battalion commanders are over 55? If we knew the answer to this would it not give some indication why the Government are insisting on this temporary provision?

Mr. Mendelson

This may well be so. I hope that my hon. Friend will give a brief comprehensive reply in which he will respond to the hon. Gentleman's question.

This is a very serious matter. It would be harmful if any impression gained widespread acceptance among members of the minority in Northern Ireland that one reason for keeping the higher age limit is that automatically the vast majority of the administrative officers and senior commanders would be appointed. That is now contradicted by my hon. Friend's assurance. Anyone who has recently been to Northern Ireland will agree with me that any such suspicion would be actively hostile against the widest possible recruiting basis for the new force, which the Government say they require.

Mr. Howie

As I understand the White Paper, it said that during the early life of the battalions these appointments may be filled by present members of the Ulster Special Constabulary. I would have thought that the argument we have just heard was based on the notion that they shall be so filled. Am I in error? Is it "may" or "shall"?

Mr. Mendelson

I know very well that the word "may" is used, but I also know—and this is why I spent some time on this point—that in the circles now administering the B Specials in Northern Ireland the attitude is to say to the members, "You have nothing to worry about. We shall be the officers in command. Things will continue much as they have been before." That is why it is essential that we should get further clarification from the Government that "may" really means may and not shall.

Mr. Mikardo

The Committee will be relieved to learn that I rise at this advanced hour not to make a speech, but merely to ask a question. To explain the background I should say that, as the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) suggested in his last intervention, the difference between the supporters of the Amendment and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary is not qualitative but quantitative.

As I understand my hon. Friend, what he really says is that he entirely agrees with the ideas behind the Amendment, and that the Government, too, do not want a lot of old men administering the force. I must say that subjectively I winced when a couple of my hon. Friends described everybody over 55 as old gentlemen. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] That is the first time I have been cheered in this Chamber in 20 years. My hon. Friend says that he agrees with us that he does not want it administered by old gentlemen, that he does not want an assumption that an administrative officer of the B Specials will automatically get the same sort of job. But I understand that he is saying that in the early stages of formation if we had this blanket exclusion we might be hard up to find a few men for a few special jobs.

This is a question of quantity, and my hon. Friend has the advantage of information that we do not possess. Could he give us some sort of breakdown into age groups of the people at the various levels in the B Specials? I appreciate that he may not have that stuck on the end of his cuff, and may want to treat this as notice of a question rather than a question. If he regarded it in that light, I would not object. But if we are to make up our minds about the proposition he has put before us, that this is a marginal necessity for a short period and so on, we must be satisfied that the numbers are such that he cannot do without the provision. I would want to see some figures before I, for one, would be satisfied.

It might be said that I am being unduly suspicious in not taking my hon. Friend's word at its face value, but I have sat through many nights like this, moving and supporting Amendments, and hearing spokesmen for the Government say, "We entirely accept the principle behind the Amendment." Every time I hear that, my nostrils twitch with an odour reminiscent and redolent of a rodent. I smell a rat, because they always finish up by saying, "Nevertheless, we are not accepting it."

I am suspicious about it and I want some evidence—I hope that my hon. Friend will not mind my asking for it —that the numbers of people available are such that it is impossible to do without some of the present officers who are getting on a bit in years—I put it rather more charitably than my hon. Friends— and that for that reason my hon. Friend cannot accept the Amendment. Can we, please, have some quantitative evidence on this point?

Mr. McGuire

I, too, share the suspicions which have been voiced in this debate. When my hon. Friend the Minister has replied to clarify many of the points raised during the speeches of my hon. Friends, he has confused things a wee bit more for me.

I refer my hon. Friend to the debate on 19th November. This was what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence said: As my hon. Friend has informed the House, initially it will be necessary to draw substantially on the U.S.C. In the Committee debate so far my hon. Friend has said that no Member of the House of Commons, and certainly no member of the B Specials, must believe that there would be a substantial transfer. He said that some would transfer for the reason of maintaining continuity in establishing the new force on a sound, efficient basis.

My right hon. Friend went on to say, on 19th November: … as nearly 60 per cent, of the officers of the U.S.C. are over 50 and almost 40 per cent, are over 55 years old, we think that it is prudent as a transitional measure to be prepared to make a certain number of exceptions to the normal age limit of 55."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th November, 1969; Vol. 791, c. 1337.] I have listened to all the debate and I sat through Second Reading without being called—and this is the first time I have been called tonight, although I have risen many times. If I may be jocular for a moment, I am trying to slim but I did not think I had been that successful. Apparently, the occupants of the Chair cannot see me, although I have managed to catch your eye now, Sir Robert.

I am convinced that the Northern Ireland Government have been able to get from my right hon. Friends an important concession. In a way, the Bill has been introduced to create what is known as the balanced community principle and we will not have, as previously we have had, a wholly sectarian force. To create the right impression in the minds of the minority, it is necessary to say that the force will get off on the right foot. If substantial concessions are made to the people who are already operating the levers of power in the Special Constabulary, and take only a few into the senior commanding positions, they will establish a code and set the tone. It is all part and parcel of the attempt to create in the minds of the minority the idea that they are not wanted and that there is an unwillingness to have them.

5.15 a.m.

I do not see the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) present. I have never known an hon. Member who could stand so much punishment. I wish that he were a heavyweight. If he had been we would not have lost the heavyweight championship. He said that a force of 6,000 was not enough and suggested that age should be no barrier, nor education or medical fitness. I am reminded of the story about an occasion during the war when a man came before a selection board sitting in a wheel chair. He thought that he would get away with it, but the officer in charge said that he was wanted and added "Oil his wheels. He's A1."

I think that a deal has been done. I want my hon. Friend to clear up the point about an allowance being made for men over 50 or 55, for on Second Reading it was categorically stated that there would be a substantial transfer. I think that a shabby deal has been done which will make a laughing stock of the whole idea of a modern efficient defence unit which, we were told, would be modelled more on the lines of the British Army than in the past. I hope that my hon. Friend will give an assurance that the words spoken on Second Reading have been misquoted, or we will have to oppose the Government on this Amendment.

Mr. Richard

My hon. Friend the Member for Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) asked for certain assurances. I have made inquiries and those assurances are not at present available. I undertake, however to make available to my hon. Friend as soon as possible the information that we have. That, I am afraid, will not help him in deciding whether to support this Amendment or not. It should be said that membership of the Ulster Special Constabulary will not in itself be a disqualification for membership of the Ulster Defence Regiment. A tendency seemed to be creeping into some speeches which did not go wholly in that direction, but perhaps that ought to be said.

In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. McGuire), what the Secretary of State said on Second Reading represents the position of the Government. My right hon. Friend said that we think it: prudent as a transitional measure to be prepared to make a certain number of exceptions to the normal age limit of 55. To a lesser degree, the same applies to senior N.C.O.s. My hon. Friend also said: This transitional arrangement will permit the enlistment of experienced men who can contribute much to the success of the new force in its formative days and until younger men can be trained to the appropriate standards. My hon. Friend the Member for Sal-ford, East (Mr. Orme), perhaps not inappropriately, or unexpectedly, said: We will have to vote against this. The Secretary of State went on: The arrangements will also allow present county commandants of the U.S.C. to be considered for appointment as full time battalion commanders."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th November 1969; Vol. 791, c. 1337.] That remains the position of the Government.

Mr. McGuire

"Substantially."

Mr. Richard

I merely ask my hon. Friends to view that statement of what is seen as a military and administrative need in the early days of this force against the general background of recruiting as revealed in the assurances already given to the Committee today and at earlier stages of the Bill.

Mr. Heffer

I listened carefully to my hon. Friend's remarks, but they did not represent the assurances for which we asked. In view of the powerful points made by my hon. Friends, and particularly

5.30 a.m.

Miss Devlin

I beg to move Amendment No. 18, in page 2, line 34, leave out from 'members' to end of line 39 and insert: 'or empower members of the force:

  1. (a) to carry out duties in connection with an industrial dispute
  2. (b) to engage in crowd control or not duties
  3. (c) to carry out search of privately owned land or houses
  4. (d) to arrest or apprehend persons other than persons detected in actual commission of a criminal offence

by my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. McGuire), I have no alternative but to divide the Committee.

Question put, That the Amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 18, Noes 110.

Division No. 23.] AYES [5.20 a.m.
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Lee, John (Reading) Orme, Stanley
Barnes, Michael Lubbock, Eric Pavitt, Laurence
Bidwell, Sydney McGuire, Michael Ryan, John
Devlin, Miss Bernadette McNamara, J. Kevin
Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Mendelson, John TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Fitt, Gerard (Belfast, W.) Mikardo, Ian Mr. Eric S. Heffer and
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Newens, Stan Mr. Russell Kerr.
Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)
NOES
Anderson, Donald Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice Hattersley, Roy Morris, John (Aberavon)
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Blackburn, F. Hooley, Frank Murray, Albert
Boston, Terence Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Oswald, Thomas
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Howie, W. Palmer, Arthur
Buchan, Norman Hoy, Rt. Hn. James Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Huckfield, Leslie Pentland, Norman
Carmichael, Neil Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Pounder, Rafton
Chichester-Clark, R. Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh) Price, William (Rugby)
Clark, Henry Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Richard, Ivor
Coleman, Donald Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Concannon, J. D. Kitson, Timothy Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Conlan, Bernard Latham, Arthur Ross, Rt. Hn. William
Dalyell, Tam Leadbitter, Ted Rowlands, E.
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock) Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Davies, Dr. Emest (Stretford) Lestor, Miss Joan Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek) Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold (Cheetham) Skeffington, Arthur
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Luard, Evan Speed, Keith
Dell, Edmund MacColl, James Thomas, Rt. Hn. George
Diamond, Rt. Hn. John McElhone, Frank Thomson, Rt. Hn. George
Dobson, Ray McKay, Mrs. Margaret Tinn, James
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter) Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen) Urwin, T. W.
Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e) Mackie, John Varley, Eric G.
Ennals, David McMaster, Stanley Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Fernyhough, E. Maginnis, John E. Wallace, George
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Wellbeloved, James
Foley, Maurice Mallalieu,J.P.W.(Huddersfield,E.) Whitaker, Ben
Fraser, John (Norwood) Marks, Kenneth White, Mrs. Eirene
Freeson, Reginald Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Glover, Sir Douglas Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Golding, John Millan, Bruce Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Goodhart, Philip Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)
Griffiths, Eddie (Brightslde) Molloy, William TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hannan, William More, Jasper Mr. Ernest Armstrong and
Harper, Joseph Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Mr. William Handing.

  1. (e) to exercise any of the powers otherwise capable of delegation to military personnel under the provisions of the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Acts, 1922 and 1923
  2. (f)to engage in traffic direction or control'.

The Temporary Chairman

With this Amendment, it may be convenient for the Committee to take Amendment No. 21, in line 34, leave out from 'members' to end of line 39 and insert: 'or empower members of the force to carry out duties in connection with an industrial dispute'. Amendment No. 22, in line 34, leave out from 'members' to end of line 39 and insert: 'or empower members of the force to engage in crowd control or not duties'. Amendment No. 23, in line 34, leave out from 'members' to end of line 39 and insert: 'or empower members of the force to carry out search of privately owned land or houses'. Amendment No. 24, in line 34, leave out from 'members' to end of line 39 and insert: 'or empower members of the force to arrest or apprehend persons other than persons detected in actual commission of a criminal offence'. Amendment No. 25, in line 34, leave out from 'members' to end of line 39 and insert: or empower members of the force to exercise any of the powers otherwise capable of delegation to military personnel under the provisions of the Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act 1922 and 1923'. and Amendment No. 26, in line 34, leave out from 'members' to end of line 39 and insert: 'or empower members of the force to engage in traffic direction or control'

Miss Devlin

This is an important Amendment and I hope that the Committee will not feel that I am obstructing the business if I go into some detail.

The present wording of the Amendment is taken directly from Section l(4)(c) of the Home Guard Act, 1951, which applies to Northern Ireland. The Government have given no reason why the provisions in that Act have not been incorporated into this Bill. The more obvious sectarian activities of the B Specials, the terrorism of Catholics out of their homes, the breaking up of civil rights marches, and other well-publicised details, have received notable publicity but have overshadowed other vital functions of the force in Northern Ireland. At various times it has been involved in labour disputes and has played and active and reactionary réle in suppressing, either by open violence or the threat of violence, any challenge to the dominance of capital.

Northern Ireland is the most economically depressed area in the so-called United Kingdom. Naturally, considerable discontent arises from this fact. In the normal course of events such discontent might have been expected to manifest itself in the growth of mass radical movements, even in the development of a mass-based Labour Party able to challenge the whole Tory structure of the area. This has not happened. Part of the reason is provided by the role and function of the Ulster Special Constabulary, which, of necessity, will form a substantial basis for the new regiment.

The reason that it has not happened has been mainly due to the Unionist Party bringing about political polarisation along a religious rather than a class axis and thus ensuring that the discontented workers of Northern Ireland instinctively turn against their fellow-workers rather than against the root cause of their problems. This is crucial to any understanding of why the ruling clique of the Tory Party has managed to keep itself in continuous power for half a century, despite its lamentable inability to solve the economic problems of that area—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order."] What I am saying is in order, despite the calls by hon. Gentlemen opposite.

I am pointing out the reasons that the Amendment should be made since it would specifically prevent the new force from indulging in the activities of the original force in interfering in industrial disputes.

Mr. Henry Clark

On a point of order. Is somebody in the Committee whistling?

The Temporary Chairman

I do not think that any hon. Member is doing anything he should not be doing. The microphones are perhaps not quite feeling as fresh as we are.

Mr. Russell Kerr

Several hon. Members feel that one microphone on this side and possibly one on the other side are the culprits.

The Temporary Chairman

I will ask the Serjeant at Arms to have inquiries made.

Miss Devlin

To support the argument that I have put forward, I should like to quote from the National Council for Civil Liberties document on the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Special Powers Act in Northern Ireland. This Act has been carried out constantly by members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Ulster Special Constabulary. In page 33 it points out in a particular paragraph where the Special Powers Act has been used by members of the R.U.C. and the U.S.C. to prevent industrial action being taken. I will not delay the Committee by reading out the entire paragraph at this stage. If necessary, I will use it at a later stage of my argument to substantiate what I have said.

It is significant, for example, that in past times, when large-scale redundancies were threatened in the Belfast shipyard, the slogan "Sack the Catholics first" has always been successful in heading off any attempt to unite the work force in its own interests. In such circumstances the Special Constabulary has been necessary to make the threat of sectarian terror credible.

Hon. Members representing British constituencies may find it difficult to envisage a situation where, in a factory or other workplace, there are men who, in their leisure time, are members of an armed body and who, seeing any challenge to the status quo as a threat to the existence of the State, conceive it their duty to take up arms to suppress such imagined threats. But in Northern Ireland this is no fanciful idea.

During the depression of the late 1920s and the early 1930s, although in Northern Ireland depression is at any time a relative term, the B Specials were used to suppress by force—

The Temporary Chairman (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)

Order. The hon. Lady is doing rather more than refreshing her memory from copious notes, which is as far as the Chair is permitted to allow Members to go with reading a speech.

Miss Devlin

With due respect, the reason that I am using notes copiously is because I am trying to base my argument not on my opinions, which hon. Members take on occasion as being extreme or biased, but on quotations of facts. It is rather much to ask, at this hour of the morning, that I should memorise the quotations.

The Temporary Chairman

I am sorry, but the rules of the House take no account of the hour of the morning. The rule is that speeches must not be read, so I must ask the hon. Lady to pay attention to it.

Mr. Heffer

On a point of order. It is clear to me that my hon. Friend is not reading her speech. She is merely using notes in the same way that my hon. Friends on the Front Bench put a pile of notes on the Dispatch Box when they make speeches—[Interruption.] If not on this occasion, they make regular speeches from notes, and sometimes I think that they actually read their speeches.

Mr. Laurence Pavitt (Willesden, West)

Further to that point of order. May I direct your attention, Sir Robert, to a similar point of order which arose on Friday in the debate on overseas aid, when the Parliamentary Secretary was in a similar position and Mr. Speaker ruled that copious notes could be quickly used.

The Temporary Chairman

I was about to say virtually the same. There is a custom of the House that a Minister speaking officially from the Box is granted some latitude. But it is definitely the rule of the House that other hon. Members must not read their speeches. I appreciate that the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) was of opinion that the hon. Lady was not reading her speech, but I thought that she admitted to me that she was. In any case, I am sure that she will do her best to obey the rules of the House.

Miss Devlin

On a point of order. I did not say that I was reading my speech, which I was not. I was merely clarifying, for the benefit of the Chair, that, on the occasions when the Chair might have noticed me reading, I was reading a quotation. On other occasions I have made reference to and selected what was relevant from copious notes in my possession, which it is my intention to use throughout the debate. I do not think that this is reading. I think that hon. Members will agree that when I am referring to notes I take up less time than otherwise.

The Temporary Chairman

I accept what the hon. Lady says. She assures me that she is not reading her speech, and I accept that.

Mr. Stratton Mills rose——

The Temporary Chairman

Unless the hon. Member wishes to raise a further point of order, there seems to be no point on going on with it.

Mr. Stratton Mills

It has been obvious throughout the debate that the hon. Lady has been reading speeches prepared by Mr. Bowes Egan. Would it not be convenient for the Committee if that practice were to continue, so that we can get the benefit of the opinion of Mr. Bowes Egan on each of the Amendments?

The Temporary Chairman

That is not a point of order. The hon. Lady has assured me that she is not reading her speech. I accept that, and I think that we can now proceed with the debate.

Miss Devlin

In reference to the hon. Gentleman's commentߞߞ

The Temporary Chairman

Order. There is no call to refer to the hon. Gentleman's interjection, because I have ruled it out of order.

Miss Devlin

Thank you, Sir Robert. —[Interruption.]

Mr. Russell Kerr

On a point of order. Sir Robert, will you please once again direct the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) to shut up?

The Temporary Chairman

I think that the Committee can safely leave the conduct of affairs to me.

Miss Devlin

It does not worry me in the least that the debate is held up.

I was saying that during the depression in the late 'twenties and early 'thirties members of the U.S.C. played an active part in the forceful suppression of any attempt by the workers in Belfast to form any kind of working-class unity to improve their conditions. Public meetings called by trade unions were prohibited by the Minister for Home Affairs, under the Special Powers Act, and the U.S.C. was used to deter workers from collecting in groups in any district. Marches, protests to local councils, and indoor meetings were similarly prohibited under the Special Powers Act, and the ban was enforced by the U.S.C.

Hon. Gentlemen opposite may think that that happened only in the 'twenties and early 'thirties. I can tell them that in factories in Belfast during August and September of this year a slightly different but equally ugly phenomenon occurred. Posters were displayed warning Catholics to abandon their work. Catholics working in those factories were not inclined to take such warnings lightly. Many hon. Members will be aware of what happened in the Belfast shipyards over the years when employment was more scarce than it is now. Catholic workers ignoring such notices were most often to be found burned at the bottom of the docks. Nothing was done to prevent that. I assure hon. Gentlemen opposite that if the face is bitter is it because the tale is more bitter.

Mr. Heffer

Is my hon. Friend aware that my trade union expelled nearly half of its members in branches in Northern Ireland precisely because some members conducted religious discrimination? I am proud of what my union did. I make the point only because I am sick and tired of listening to some of the stuff that is being said by hon. Gentlemen opposite while they are seated. My hon. Friend is being accused of rabble rousing, but I know that what she is saying is true, because of my union's record in Northern Ireland.

Miss Devlin

I appreciate my hon. Friend's intervention, and I hope to elaborate his point about the action that can be taken by trade unions in this country and by those in Northern Ireland because of the laws of Northern Ireland and the body that is used to enforce them.

[Mr. SYDNEY IRVING in the Chair]

5.45 a.m.

Hon. Members may remember the May Day procession that took place in this country on 1st May. This procession was against the proposed anti-union legislation which was to go through the House. But how many hon. Members are aware that under Northern Ireland law such a march would be illegal in Northern Ireland?

An Hon. Member

Rubbish.

Miss Devlin

It is not rubbish. Certain laws relating to this factor which were repealed in Great Britain by the Labour Government of Clement Attlee in 1946 are still in force in Northern Ireland. Under the Trades Unions (Northern Ireland) Act, 1927, it is still illegal to go on strike for any object other than or in addition to the furtherance of a trade dispute. A strike is illegal if it is designed or calculated to coerce the Government either directly or by inflicting hardship on the community.

Hon. Members may ask what this has to do with the B Specials. It has everything to do with them, because in the past the B Specials have been used to prevent the formation of any trade activity or union activity. We have been told repeatedly by the Government Front Bench that the Ulster Special Constabulary will form a substantial part of the new force, but since these men have a long period of tradition and conditioned thinking it must be made clear to them that it will in no way be their function to engage in this kind of activity in the future.

Hon. Members should well understand if I do not accept assurances from the Front Bench on this point. The Government can with good faith give an assurance that the new Ulster Defence Regiment will not be used in any trade dispute. I ask the Minister to consider the horrific possibility at some time in the future, of the Government benches being filled by the Conservative and Unionist Party.

Mr. Russell Kerr

My hon. Friend is trying to frighten us.

Miss Devlin

Just imagine such a situation. Where would be the assurances in regard to the workers of Northern Ireland? Where would be the assurance that the Ulster Defence Regiment would not—as the old B Specials have done— interfere with the right of the working class to strike and get a better deal for themselves, and generally improve their conditions? We would have no such assurances from such a Government. Therefore, because the law will stand for much longer than any Government, it is necessary that from the outset there should be written into this Bill the provision that the Ulster Defence Regiment and its members will not be empowered to become involved in any action with regard to an industrial dispute.

Hon. Members may think that I am stressing a rather small point. I put forward one further possibility, which might be even more horrific. Hon. Members may say that I am trying to frighten them, but imagine the Conservative and Unionist Party in power and the Prime Minister of that party having as his Secretary of State for Defence a member of the Ulster Unionist Party. It might be thought that nobody would be so ridiculous—[Laughter.] Hon. Members may find that amusing, but a party which, in the past, had the hon. and learned Member for Antrim, South (Sir Knox Cunningham) as a Parliamentary Private Secretary is, in future, capable of any folly.

Therefore, I put to hon. Members the hypothetical situation of not only a Conservative and Unionist Party as the Government of this country, but of a member of the Ulster Unionist Party as Secretary of State for Defence, with complete control of the 6,000 men who form the Ulster Defence Regiment.

The hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) may well make grimaces. I am not totally unaware of the fact that my presence in this House has discredited his party and lessened his chances of having such a post, should there be a Conservative Government.

I will not deal much further with paragraph (a) of my Amendment, but I will come back to it later. I will move on to another important point, in paragraph (b) of the Amendment, that members of this force be not empowered—

Mr. Stratton Mills

The Committee would have been very grateful if the hon. Lady had asked Mr. Bowes Egan to abbreviate her speech.

Miss Devlin

I would remind hon. Gentlemen that the services of Mr. Bowes Egan are at their disposal any day. I assure the Committee that I am in no hurry. I consider these Amendments to be important, but if hon. Members think it amusing to continue to obstruct my proposal of them I am quite capable and willing to remain here discussing them until we interfere with tomorrow's business.

If I may continue with paragraph (b) of this Amendment, this is particularly important, because the Government have made it clear their intention—in a very weak fashion—that the Ulster Defence Regiment will not be used for crowd control. They have stated that it is not the intention of the Government to use the Ulster Defence Regiment for crowd control. This is a very weak statement, particularly on a matter as important as whether or not this particular force will be used for such a function. Time and time again the Cameron Report refers to the role played by the Ulster Special Constabulary in situations where peaceful demonstrators were attacked. We learn how the Rev. John Brown, District Commandant of the Ulster Special Constabulary in Londonderry, refused to meet the Commission, and at a later point, in paragraph 100, a hint is given why he may have proved reticent. He was prominent among a group of people standing on an area of raised ground who were throwing stones and bottles at a passing file of peaceful demonstrators.

This is only one example of how rank and file members of the Ulster Special Constabulary have been subject to the example of senior officers like the Rev. John Brown, and hon. Members would do well to consider the fact that I am talking about senior officers for whom it has been found necessary to make an age requirement.

Officers of the calibre of Mr. Brown have not contributed very much to changing the ideas of the force of B Specials. They have not been particularly noticeable in restraining rank and file members from exercising any function other than that of deliberately harassing people who have a legal right to be where they are.

In view of facts like these concerning not only rank and file members, but also senior officers, something much stronger than an assurance that it is not the Government's intention to use these people for crowd control is necessary. Paragraph 5 of the White Paper states that it is not the Government's intention to do so, but I hope that either the Minister of Defence or the Under-Secretary will be able to give us a much stronger assurance. The only assurance I shall be able to accept is the Government's acceptance of the Amendment.

If it is the Government's intention to ensure that this does not happen, the best way to do so is to write it into the Bill—by accepting the Amendment—so that, in the unlikely event of the Conservative and Unionist Party succeeding this Government at the next General Election the work done by this Government cannot be immediately undone.

Time and time again we have been given assurances by the Northern Ireland Government that the Special Constabulary will not engage in savagery. Until the present time the Government of the North of Ireland still insist that members of the Special Constabulary have not committed any atrocities. I want to outline why I shall not be satisfied with an assurance that regulations will be made, nor with the terms of the limitations set out in the White Paper.

During the first few days of January, 1969, I myself was one of a number of people in the civil rights march that passed through rural and urban areas of the North of Ireland. At various points we met hostile receptions from crowds organised by leading members of the Special Constabulary. I am trying to align the members of the Special Constabulary with the whole political system in Northern Ireland and explain my belief that there is nobody to be trusted. Among members of the Special Constabulary subsequently identified there was a very familiar face in one of the crowds at one particular point known as McVay's Corner. That was the face of the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clerk) and that of his brother, the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. We are not referring to Members of Parliament in this instance. [An HON. MEMBER: "What was the hon. Gentleman doing there?"] I believe that he was exercising his parliamentary duty over his constituents.

Mr. Russell Kerr

Slinging bottles about?

Miss Devlin

It must be pointed out that the hon. Gentleman was looking on. None the less, we are not at this point dealing with hon. Members whose parliamentary behaviour is undoubtedly beyond any kind of slighting. We are dealing with members of the Ulster Special Constabulary. These men and their rank and file followers engaged in the planning of an ambush and the carrying out of a savage wholesale assault at Burntollet Bridge.

This raises two matters with regard to Government assurances and the extent of these. First, from the outset of the demonstration the Government of the North of Ireland openly requested all those opposed to the march to restrain themselves from openly harassing or attacking the march. So much for Government assurances. The march took place. The attack at Burntollet took place. Government assurances were of no avail, because it was not in the minds of the ordinary people concerned to pay any attention to Government assurances. The Government had no existing power to prevent those people from assembling with the weapons they had assembled with.

Secondly, I draw the attention to the Committee to Chapter 9 of the Cameron Report and to the contents of the booklet "Burntollet", the sole work of Mr. Bowes Egan and which the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Mr. Henry Clark) will find very interesting if the works of Bowes Egan attract him. It is full of very interesting facts, facts which have been borne out, facts which have never been denied by any of those mentioned in the book or by the Minister of Home Affairs in Nrothern Ireland. The facts show that most of the people involved in the organisation and carrying out of this attack were members of the Ulster Special Constabulary.

6.0 a.m.

My second objection to the White Paper is that many of these incidents took place in rural areas, precisely where the White Paper envisages the Ulster Defence Regiment being most active in establishing road blocks and searching vehicles. If the proposed regiment contains the kind of membership whom we all expect, the presence of these people in positions of authority along a rural route of protest would be good reason for the gravest apprehension among the participants. In this instance, assurances in good faith from a Minister have no reference to reality unless written into the Bill, so that those who do not carry out the law can be treated accordingly.

My third point concerns urban workers. I have described the activities of the Ulster Special Constabulary when called upon to deal with industrial agitation, in circumstances in which, acting in accordance with their own training, they have spontaneously moved to oppose demonstrations of the deprived and unemployed. This was spontaneous— they were not called out or called up.

It is common ground that, in the 'twenties and' thirties, the activities of the Specials in Belfast played a large part in preventing the growth of a labour organisation in Northern Ireland and in polarising the attitudes of the religious communities. Therefore, it is very important that they are not allowed, under any circumstances, even to be under the impression that they may continue in a new force in the manner in which they behaved in the old force.

I could give further examples of the involvement of the Special Constabulary in not circumstances. No hon. Member should argue that this is irrelevant. Most of these incidents resulted in fatalities caused by the Ulster Special Constabulary. They show the necessity of writing into the Bill a rigid prohibition of any involvement by the U.S.C. in crowd control or any ancillary duties—and, I would say, of any contact with the general public.

But, first, let me point out again how the very existence of the regiment is likely to cause trouble. After reading the Cameron and Hunt Reports, the Government produced a White Paper in which they suggested, by implication, that the Ulster Defence Regiment would be maintained and retained to man road blocks and carry out searches and the like, and to be in a key position with regard to the participants in rural demonstrations. The Secretary of State proposes to create a crazy situation in which, given an episode like Burntoilet, the attackers would have come from among their members patrolling the area on the pretence of setting up road blocks and searching vehicles. Members taking part in the attack would have their vehicles searched by the Ulster Defence Regiment whose function would be to make sure, as was done at Burntollet, that the attackers were well enough armed.

The Minister will excuse me if I feel cynical about assurances in this regard, as one who has suffered at the hands of the Ulster Special Constabulary in their dealings with crowd control. In Belfast, the passing of the Government of Ireland Act was accompanied by widespread civil disturbances. In November, 1920, the recruiting of the special constables began. The setting up of this new police force invited widespread adverse comment.

The Daily Mail declared that it was the most outrageous thing that had been done. I quote from the Daily Mail, and I will show how relevant it is to the Ulster Defence Regiment Bill. The Daily Mail wrote at that time: These are the very people who have been looting Catholic shops and driving thousands of Catholic women and children from their homes That quotation is from the Daily Mail of November, 1920. That may seem a long time ago, but I ask the Minister to think closely of the exact words of that quotation: These are the very people who have been looting Catholic shops and driving thousands of Catholic women and children from their homes". That quotation could just as easily have been of the Ulster Special Constabulary, Belfast, August, 1969, as of Belfast, November, 1920. I put the same quotation to the Minister with reference to the Defence Regiment: these are the people he will have in it. By his own admission the Minister has agreed that in the beginning the members of the regiment will naturally come substantially from the Ulster Special Constabulary.

I am giving the Minister a description of the Ulster Special Constabulary of November, 1920. I have quoted the description, and I think that most hon. Members will agree that it still applies to the Ulster Special Constabulary of August, 1969. We have the same mentality and the same men in the force. Unless we face up to that fact, and unless the Government face up to that fact and recognise, for their own sake, that they cannot give assurances, because while they can vouch for their own good faith they cannot basically control a force the majority of whose members disagree with the Government's assurances, the situation will not be satisfactory.

I want to make one more quotation— from Andrew Boyd's "Holy War in Belfast": The Specials were former members of the Ulster Volunteers and mobsters recruited from the streets. Indeed, when it was proposed at Westminster to form these men into a Special Constabulary, amazement was expressed". That quotation, too, is relevant today. One might say, in reference to the new force, "The Defence Regiment were former members of the Ulster Special Constabulary and mobsters recruited from the streets. Indeed, when it was proposed at Westminster to form these men into a regiment amazement was expressed."

I am trying to point out to the Minister that over the years from 1920 until now, over 50 years, nothing has changed the basic mentality of these people. Therefore, no assurance of his will do. There must be written into the Bill specific proposals which make it perfectly clear for those of us in the House, and particularly for people who may join the Ulster Defence Regiment, exactly what the functions of that regiment will be. Stating clearly in a Section of the Act what will be the limitations on the powers of the regiment is the only way to get a balance in the force. If we state clearly what the functions of the force will be and what the limitations on those functions will be, it will not matter what religion or what politics any man joining the force professes, because it will be crystal clear what he can and what he cannot do. What he thinks he would like to do, therefore, becomes irrelevant.

But when we have only an assurance from the Minister, that man can do what he thinks he has a right to do. If we no longer had a Labour Government, we feel almost sure, a subsequent Government would allow the man that latitude to do what he thinks he ought to do, as the Unionist Government have done in the case of the Ulster Special Constabulary.

Mr. Lubbock

Not under a Liberal Government either.

Miss Devlin

There might even be a Liberal Government at some time. I apologise to the hon. Member for not having thought of that. If we had a Liberal Government I hope that that situation would not arise.

Perhaps my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State is not fully aware of how law and order, crowd control and the maintenance of the peace in Northern Ireland are handled by the U.S.C. I will show him how the B Specials control crowds. I have here an object belonging to a gentleman called Mr. Kenneth Moore, living in Irwin Crescent, Claudy. He is a constituent of the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark).

At Burntollet Bridge this gentleman in his own way enforced the law. He was a member of the U.S.C. If you will bear with me, Mr. Irving, I will show this object to the Committee. It has been shown to the Northern Ireland Minister of Home Affairs. I carried it in this paper bag lest a policeman in London arrested me for carrying an offensive weapon.

The Chairman

Order.

Miss Devlin

Hon. Members have seen it now.

The Chairman

Order. The usages of the House of Commons clearly prohibit bringing a weapon into the Chamber. I understand why the hon. Lady wished to bring it in, but I hope she will now allow one of her hon. Friends to take it away.

Miss Devlin

I would like someone to take it away, Mr. Irving, but I ask whoever takes it away to keep it safely for me until after the debate, because it gives me a kind of homely feeling. Hon. Members may now have some appreciation of the symbol of law and order and crowd control in Northern Ireland.

That weapon was used by no common hooligan. I repeat that it was used by Mr. Kenneth Moore, of Irwin Crescent, Claudy, who thought that he was carrying out his duties as a member of the U.S.C. If this gentleman were a member of the Ulster Defence Regiment and was called out on military duty, he would, I presume, behave as a soldier, but if he was not called out and the circumstances were the same as at Burntollet Bridge—no one officially called up the U.S.C. then, but members of it thought it their duty to be there—this same gentleman would undoubtedly take the same sort of action. It must, therefore, be carefully stated in the Bill that this kind of activity by members of the regiment will not be tolerated.

I want to draw the attention of the Committee to the role played by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Mr. Henry Clark) on Easter Sunday, 1957. I use this again as an illustration to point out the whole political tie-up between the Ulster Unionist Party and the U.S.C, which the Ministry of Defence hopes to use initially as a basis for the new force.

6.15 a.m.

The hon. Member looks puzzled; I will explain the reference. During the months before Easter Sunday 1957, numerous people from the Maghera area had been arrested. It will be understood that this was the time of the 1950s, the time of the beginning of what was known as the terrorist campaign of the I.R.A. During the months before, numerous people from Maghera had been rounded up, arrested and put in gaol without trial and had remained there interned in a gaol for criminals. It was planned to hold a protest demonstration outside the barracks in Maghera. I should like to quote a passage which described the hon. Member's actions on this occasion: It was always easy on these occasions when there was a chance of action to get extra help and Henry Clark, later M.P. for North Antrim, joined us. He was home on leave from Africa and, armed with a pick-shaft and wearing his green bush hat, looked like Sanders of the River. We got into position with stealth and lay there in great expectation"— apparently for the protestors coming into the town of Maghera. The narrator is Wallace Clark and the quotation comes from "Guns in Ulster". The list of acknowledgements in the book includes My brother Henry, who contributed much of the political background.

Mr. Henry Clark

Has the hon. Lady finished her story?

Miss Devlin

The hon. Member has finished that story.

Mr. Clark

It was rather a good story, but the hon. Lady told it rather inaccurately. We were not waiting for a political demonstration, and the hon. Lady must be well aware of it. It was in Easter 1958, towards the end of the I.R.A. terrorist campaign. There were not many political demonstrations in Maghera.

We were waiting because information had been received that there was to be an attack on Maghera police barracks and a party of people were hoping to ambush the I.R.A. which had a machine gun. I do not think that I was overarmed, but it was not a pick shaft but something very much shorter. I was carrying no more than the normal common law rights of an individual allow when he is trying to maintain the peace.

The hon. Lady can make a good story of it if she wants. If she likes, she can make an even better story. As we lay beneath the hedge waiting for the I.R.A. to come, a drunken man, who had wandered out of Maghera and who was quite unaware that we were sitting in the hedge, unfortunately relieved himself very near to my right hand.

If the hon. Lady is trying to make political capital by saying that we were waiting to beat up peaceful little demonstrators like herself, she is talking nonsense.

The Chairman

I hope the Committee will now return to the Amendment which is concerned with the powers of the new regiment.

Miss Devlin

The hon. Member's intervention was amusing. I shall not say much about it. In fairness, he should point out that there was no attack and that a very disillusioned Sanders dragged himself back to Africa without having caught anything, except possibly a chill.

Hon. Members will be aware that the hon. Member for Antrim, North is among the most liberal of Unionist M.P.s. [HON. MEMBERS: "You are joking."] It must be accepted that his position in his constituency is in danger because of his liberal position. I was using that amusing little story merely to illustrate that, even with the liberal Member, there is no difference in the political situation of the Ulster Unionist Party and the role that is necessarily imposed upon the Ulster Special Constabulary.

Mr. Henry Clark

With due respect to the hon. Lady, what connection is she suggesting I had with the Unionist Party in Easter, 1958?

An Hon. Member

Under a hedge.

The Chairman

Order. The Committee is discussing the Amendment, not the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Mr. Henry Clark).

Miss Devlin

I was trying to point out the necessity for the Defence Department to understand that one cannot isolate members of the Ulster Special Constabulary from the ideal for which the U.S.C. was created and the traditional functions it has carried out, those being the protection of the interests of the Ulster Unionist Party, and that the only way effectively to use the individual members of the U.S.C. in any kind of new force is to make it clear through legislation that the new force bears no similarity to the old.

This can be done and made clear only by the introduction of the Clause I propose, which would lay down the powers and limitations of the powers of the new regiment. Unlike the U.S.C, the regiment must by legislation be prevented from participation in crowd control.

I ask the Minister seriously to consider introducing such a change. The Hunt Report stated clearly the necessity to separate the military and the civil role in Northern Ireland. Steps have been taken to ensure a civil role for the police, but it is therefore necessary that we do away with the old tradition of the paramilitary B Specials assuming police functions. We must make sure that the Ulster Defence Regiment and its members do not labour under the impression that they can, officially or otherwise, do the same. Therefore, I ask the Minister to consider an Amendment which would limit the powers of the regiment and prevent it from engaging in crowd control.

We come to yet one more power. [Interruption.] If hon. Members would prefer to tell jokes across the Chamber, I have no objection. The third part of my Amendment deals with the search of private property. From here on all the Amendments embody a much more serious consideration, because the powers given to theߞ—

The Chairman

Order. The hon. Lady is deploying the same arguments, that B Specials are unsuited for this role, on each section of her Amendment. There must come a point when I must stop her doing this, because it would be either repetitious or irrelevant, or both.

Miss Devlin

I am grateful for that information, Mr. Irving.

I have come to the point of my Amendments where I am changing my argument, because we come to very serious difficulties in the Clauses I am now putting before the Committee. We come to the whole question of the much-debated Special Powers Act.

The Ulster Special Constabulary has, in the past, been able to search private property under the Special Powers Act. If that power of searching private property without warrant is to be given to the Ulster Defence Regiment, one must assume that it would be on the same basis as the Regular British Army has that power at present under the Special Powers Act.

Hon. Members have been well aware of opinions expressed in the House about the Special Powers Act. I ask the Minister, in all seriousness, to consider what he is doing by creating a body of 6,000 men and why the Government, who argue their abhorrence of the Special Powers Act, are creating a force which has, by its natural traditions in Northern Ireland, the right to use the Special Powers Act. Because it is under the direct rule of Westminster, because it is an integral part of the British Army, will it, in fact, use the Special Powers Act?

I will try to illustrate once again the methods of searching private property carried on in Northern Ireland in the past and I will try to show that the only way that the Ulster Defence Regiment can effectively be prevented from carrying out the same function is, again, by amendment of the Bill. The National Council for Civil Liberties, in 1936—which, I agree, was some time ago—made a report on the use of the Special Powers Act. With specific reference to the searching of private property, it had this to say: The method of 'rounding-up' practised in Northern Ireland under Special Powers does not greatly differ from similar practices carried out in countries under Fascist rule. Late at night or early in the hours of the morning, armed police in protected lorries swoop upon a selected district and there proceed to enter and search houses without a warrant, rousing the inhabitants of the area and frequently accompanying their search with brutality and damage to property. At the same time the occupants of the houses are interrogated and, if their replies fail to satisfy, are hauled off to police barracks for further questioning. Usually such searches, said to be 'for arms', and interrogations are equally barren of results. But often the objective of the raid is not to search for arms but to collect 'suspects'. On such occasions, as many as 50 and more men and youths have been carried off in lorries, without warrant, for detention at the pleasure of the Civil Authority, for a longer or shorter period. Most often these men are released, never having been charged and without reason, apology or excuse. I accept that that refers to a period many years ago, but if the Minister will investigate the position in the 1950s and the 1960s and the situation in August 1969, he will find that people were rounded up and taken to the Crumlin prison, the sole reason being that they were known to oppose the Northern Ireland constitution. Very little evidence—in fact, no evidence—was given that any of them faintly opposed itߞ—

The Chairman

Order. I think that the hon. Lady is going outside the scope of the Amendment, which concerns what will happen in the future and not making an investigation into the past.

Miss Devlin

We respect, Mr. Irving, I think it is necessary to mention the past by way of illustration, because I am trying to point out to the Minister that, despite the fact that he may be willing to given assurances, it is a much more difficult matter to change the pattern of what these men as a body have traditionally been accustomed to carry out.

We have been informed, and most of us have accepted the fact, that in the initial stages the Ulster Defence Regiment will be made up by the Ulster Special Constabulary on the basis that they have previous experience. I am trying to point out what their previous experience consists of. I am trying to point out to the Minister that, rather than it being beneficial, corrective treatment is needed of its past experience and formation. It is necessary for him to introduce legislation to make clear to the members of the new force exactly what their function is and how far they can go in keeping the old traditions of the Ulster defence forces of the past.

6.30 a.m.

The fourth part of the Amendment is of great importance to the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths). I am sorry that he cannot be present at this time for he has shown great interest in this matter. This part deals with demarcation between police and military activities. The primary recommendation of the Hunt Committee was that from the outset there should be for the first time in Northern Ireland a police force whose function would be wholly civilian. It is clear that a sharp distinction between military activity and law enforcement agencies will not exist when the military take to themselves the power of the civil authorities.

Paragraph 183 of the Report says: The R.U.C. should be relieved of all duties of a military nature as soon as possible and its contribution to the security of Northern Ireland from subversion should be limited to the gathering of intelligence, the protection of important persons and the enforcement of the relevant laws. As the Hunt Committee found it necessary to have this demarcation, the Minister should back it to the full. He should deal with some of the legal idiosyncrasies which give rise to administrative difficulties. He can do this effectively only by setting at the outset the demarcation and the functions and limitations of this force.

The most important part of the Amendment recognises the particular question which took up much of the time of the House on the Police Bill—the incidence of the Special Powers Act. The British Army stationed in Northern Ireland at present is there on the basis of that Act and members of the Regular forces are using the Special Powers Act in Northern Ireland. We must consider this whole question in relation to a force to be formed for the area of Northern Ireland. We must consider why it is necessary to write into this Bill that no member of the force will be empowered to use the Special Powers Act.

There are a number of very good reasons for this. I have disagreed that it is necessary to get anyone into the force. My attitude is not confined to saying that Catholics should not be in it; I do not think Protestants should be in it. We have heard a great deal from hon. Members about whether or not Catholics can be encouraged to join the force. There has been considerable controversy on this question. It should be thought out in depth. Why should members of the Catholic Church join, not because they are members of that Church, but because throughout the history of Northern Ireland they have become identified as the minority, the disloyal minority, the dissident minority, the non-participating minority, against whom the Special Powers Act Regulations have been used? Why should Catholics join a force which is empowered to use the Special Powers Act and which, although it has an entrance quota of 33 per cent. Roman Catholics, has never exceeded an intake of 11 per cent? Fair-minded people are reluctant to join an organisation which is required to enforce so repugnant a Measure.

When we consider the Special Powers Act in relation to Northern Ireland, we must look further afield; to, for example, similar legislation passed by the South African Government. When, in either country, a person is asked to join this sort of force, he is bound to question what sort of company with whom he will mix and the type of orders he will be expected to carry out. In South Africa he will be among members, as well as leaders, of that country's Nationalist Party.

In this connection, the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of South Africa published in April 1968 a book entitled "South Africa and the Rule of Law", a relevant document when one considers the public feeling in Britain towards the policies of the South African Government. It may help if I quote from this book.

The Chairman

Order. I am wondering how, even by example, this can be relevant to the Amendment. Perhaps the hon. Lady can help me.

Miss Devlin

The book attempts to justify South Africa's adoption of, for example, the Suppression of Communism Act and the Suppression of Terrorism Act. It is relevant to the Special Powers Act in Northern Ireland.

The Chairman

The hon. Lady cannot deal with the situation in South Africa. She must address her remarks to the Amendment.

Miss Devlin

I am, and a few quotations from the book——

The Chairman

Order. The Chair would not have called the hon. Lady to order if it did not think that she was getting out of order. I will allow the hon. Lady to quote a few sentences from the book, but she must come back to order quickly and leave the South African situation alone.

Miss Devlin

I am pointing out the thoughts that obviously go through the mind of a fair-minded person who is asked to become a member of such a force and implement legislation like the Special Powers Act. We are told that the new force will improve community relations and do away with terrorism. But will it protect the interests of the community as a whole and help to stabilise and unite the Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland?

I am trying to illustrate, by the use of similar legislation which was passed through Parliament on the basis of the existence of the Act to which I am opposed, that to allow the Defence Regiment to enforce the Special Powers Act would create a situation similar to that in the country I have cited and which most hon. Members will agree has resulted in anything but harmony and unity among the divided sections of that country. It is, therefore, relevant for me to describe in a few sentences, not South African legislation, but the Special Powers Act, which I am asking that members of the new Defence Regiment should not be empowered to use. The Civil Authorities (Special Powers) Act, 1922, of Northern Ireland. Originally this Act was extended from year to year until 1933 when it was extended 'until Parliament otherwise determines'. The provisions of the Act and its regulations are stated hereafter as they were in 1963, but as far as is known they are still in force. Section 1 of the Act gives the 'Civil Authority' the power to take all such steps and issue all such orders in respect of persons, matters and things within the jurisdiction of the Government of Northern Ireland as may be necessary for preserving the peace and maintaining order and according to and in execution of the Act and regulations. Regulation 11 of the regulations contained in S.R.O.1956 No. 191 provides that any authorised person or police constable may arrest without warrant … And this is relevant, because "authorised person" here could well mean a member of the Ulster Defence Regiment. … any person whom he suspects of acting in a manner prejudicial to the preservation of the peace or maintenance of order or upon whom may be found any article, book, etc. which gives ground for such a suspicion. Any person so arrested may be detained until he has been discharged by direction of the Attorney-General or is brought before a court of summary jurisdiction. Any detained person may apply to the 'Civil Authority' for release on bail, and if the 'Civil Authority' so directs a magistrate may discharge him. Regulation 12 provides that on the recommendation of a police officer not below the rank of County Inspector, or of an Advisory Committee, that if a person is suspected of acting in a manner prejudicial to the preservation of the peace and the maintenance of order, the Minister of Home Affairs may require that person forthwith, or from time to time, either to remain in or to proceed to and reside in, such place as may be specified and to comply with such directions as to reporting to the police, restriction of movement and otherwise as specified or to be interned as directed.

The Chairman

It would be out of order to repeat the whole of the Special Powers Act.

Miss Devlin

I was simply using that excellent description of the Special Powers Act to point out how it was used to justify the legislation of a country to which this Government is totally opposed, and it is relevant that this Government cannot consider itself in the slightest way consistent if it creates a force and authorises that force to carry out such powers as the Special Powers Act may give it and, at the same time, make any pretence to be opposed to the legislation of South Africa based on the justification of the Special Powers Act, which I am asking that no member of the Defence Regiment be allowed to enforce.

6.45 a.m.

The Chairman

Order. The hon. Lady appears to be discussing the relevance of South African legislation. Such matters seem to be a little wide of the Amendment.

Miss Devlin

I will try to leave the point as quickly as possible. I am not discussing the merits or otherwise of the Government's attitude to South Africa. I am simply pointing out a number of facts. Because the Government of this country will be totally responsible for this new force, their attitude to the Special Powers Act could afford to be slightly different. In the creation of the new force, the Government of their own free will are creating a body and empowering it to use legislation to which this Government state they are totally opposed——

The Chairman

Order. I am afraid the hon. Lady has made the point several times.

Miss Devlin

I am trying to point out that in making this point it is of relevance to use the legislation of South Africa. However, I will conclude by saying that the attitude of the Government of South Africa was that they had not yet considered anything by way of such reforms——

The Chairman

Order. The hon. Lady is pursuing a course which I have ruled out of order. She must not do so.

Miss Devlin

I have finished on that point. I apologise, Mr. Irving, if what I said was grossly out of order.

The answer by the Minister to the first point will probably be, as it was on the Police Bill, that it is improbable that the force will ever be ordered into such action as I have suggested. During the Committee stage of the Police Bill we were told that the Special Powers Act would be reviewed in future although some of its provisions would have to be met.

There are two points to be made. First, on the day in 1922 when the Special Powers Act was introduced in the Northern Ireland House of Commons it was promised that the position would be reviewed annually. Nobody, least of all the Unionist Party, wanted such legislation on the statute book. But still today, in 1969, it remains there.

Assurances that the Special Powers Act would be repealed have been repeated year after year. In November, 1968, we had a further assurance, and we have had assurances from right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench. We have also had assurances from hon. Gentlemen opposite that they are opposed to the existence of the Special Powers Act. Yet today two men are still in Belfast prison under this Act. Therefore the Committee will forgive me if I feel cynical about assurances. I must demand a repeal of this Act. But let us take it a bit further——

Mr. Stratton Mills

On a point of order. With respect, Mr. Irving, I would suggest that the scope of this debate apparently could go very wide indeed. It will be noted that paragraph (f) refers to engaging in traffic direction or control. If the hon. Lady is able to argue the whole case about every bit of the Special Powers Act, she will presumably be able to argue every point as to whether the law on each item of the traffic regulations is desirable or undesirable in Northern Ireland. By tacking a number of points together and going into detail, if it is to be allowed to continue, the width of debate would cover virtually any subject in the world.

The Chairman

The hon. Gentleman knows that I have intervened on numerous occasions to limit the remarks of the hon. Lady in terms of whether they are relevant or repetitious. I must allow the hon. Lady to continue.

Miss Devlin

Thank you, Mr. Irving. I should like to thank the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills). I had not thought of what he said.

Let us get down to the particular point. Let us accept the assurances and take it that the Special Powers Act will be repealed and that certain provisions will remain, as we have been told.

Let us get down to cases. I assume that the Government have studied the detailed provisions of the Act. Therefore, I want to ask some questions on which I want clear statements from the Minister.

Will members of the Ulster Defence Regiment be required or permitted to arrest without warrant? Will members of the Ulster Defence Regiment be required or permitted to imprison without charge or trial and to deny recourse to habeas corpus or a court of law? Will members of the Ulster Defence Regiment be required or permitted to enter and search homes without a warrant and with force at any hour of the day or night? Will members of the Ulster Defence Regiment be required or permitted to declare a curfew and to prohibit meetings, assemblies, including fairs and markets, and processions? Will members of the Ulster Defence Regiment be required or permitted to punish by flogging?

Will members of the Ulster Defence Regiment be required or permitted to deny a claim to trial by jury? Will members of the Ulster Defence Regiment be required or permitted to arrest persons whom it is desired to examine as witnesses, to forcibly detain them, and to compel them to answer questions under penalties, even if the answers may incriminate them? Will members of the Ulster Defence Regiment be required or permitted to charge such a person with an offence if he refuses to be sworn or to answer a question? Will members of the Ulster Defence Regiment be required or permitted to prevent access of relatives or legal advisers to a person imprisoned without trial? Will members of the Ulster Defence Regiment be required or permitted to prohibit the holding of an inquest after a prisoner's death? Will members of the Ulster Defence Regiment be required or permitted to arrest a person who, by word of mouth, spreads false reports or makes false statements?

The Chairman

Order. I think that now the hon. Lady, by elaboration, is going beyond the rules of order.

Miss Devlin

With due respect to the Chair, I cannot see how this is anything but totally relevant to the Amendment.I have accepted that the Government have assured us of the repeal of certain provisions of the Act. I first argued the case for total repeal of the Act. I am now asking, having accepted the Government's assurances, for a clear statement on which sections of the Act will remain. Therefore, I think that I am in order in asking such questions.

The Minister will excuse my cynicism on this point, but it is my view that any right hon. or hon. Member who says that he is opposed to the existence of the Special Powers Act, and yet is prepared to see the House of Commons create a force to use that Act, cannot expect me or anyone else to treat with much seriousness his claims to abhor the Act.

The Chairman

Order. The hon Lady has made this point on a number of occasions. This is becoming tedious repetition.

Miss Devlin

I will, therefore, sum up on that point. Despite the brilliant idea given to me by the hon. Member for Belfast, North, much as I should like to do so, it is not my intention at this stage to deal with every piece of traffic law that Northern Ireland can produce. I have included traffic duty as an illustration. I feel that members of the Ulster Defence Regiment should be strictly confined to the guarding of installations and that all possible contact with the general public should be avoided. I put that forward on the basis that this force will be comprised of members of the Ulster Special Constabulary who have no experience of dealing with the public, either in an individual or a crowd capacity, with any kind of military dexterity or capability.

I ask the Minister to consider seriously each of the points that I have put forward, and to accept that the only way to create a balanced and impartial force in Northern Ireland is to define clearly what its functions are and where those functions end. I must repeat that assurances given by the Minister are not enough to satisfy the urgency of the matter.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

What a relief it is that Mr. Bowes Egan did not have time to write a treatise on the traffic regulations as well.

I should not have intervened in the debate but for the mention by the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) of one of my constituents. In the normal course of events, I should have advised my hon. Friends to disregard most of the venomous nonsense which has come from the hon. Lady about the B Specials and the generalised sneer on a very fine force which consists in the main of ordinary decent people who have the right to have their case heard.

I intervene purely and simply because of something said by the hon. Lady about a constituent of mine. I should be lacking in my duty if I did not afford him some protection. The hon. Lady made an allegation about a constituent of mine at Burntollet. Has this allegation been made outside the House? If not, is the hon. Lady prepared to make it outside? The hon. Lady may say that the allegation has been made in a book. If it has, that is a different mater, but, in fairness to my constituent, the hon. Lady ought to answer my questions.

Miss Devlin

The allegation has been made repeatedly. The Minister for Home Affairs is aware of it, as is the gentleman concerned, and no steps have been taken, either by the gentleman concerned or by the Minister for Home Affairs, to investigate it.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

What I am asking is not as simple as that. Has the hon. Lady made this allegation in public? If not, is she prepared to do so? I do not know the gentleman in question, Mr. Kenneth Moor, except by name. I have no brief for him, and I know nothing about him, but—and I am sure that the hon. Lady would do this for one of her constituents—he ought to have the opportunity to answer the allegation. I hope that the hon. Lady will be prepared to make the allegation outside.

Hon. Members

It has been answered.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

It has not been anwered, and I think that some people will be surprised at the hon. Lady making an allegation in the House which she is not prepared to substantiate outside.

Miss Devlin

I have said that the gentleman referred to has had opportunities in the past to repudiate this allegation. In fact, the Minister for Home Affairs has been asked to inquire into this and a number of other allegations about people who were members of the U.S.C. The Minister has refrained from making such inquiries. It is therefore not my responsibility to repeat the allegation outside the House. The Minister for Home Affairs being aware of the allegation, it is his responsibility to investigate it.

Mr. Russell Kerr

The man in question is not a rich landowner like the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will keep his behaviour for the waterfront.

Mr. Newens

On a point of Order. Is it in order for this matter to be pursued while we are considering this Bill in Committee in the manner in which the hon. Gentleman is pursuing it in an endeavour to extort some statement which is irrelevant to our discussion?

The Temporary Chairman (Sir Alfred Broughton)

Order. I fear that the Committee has strayed from the terms of the Amendment. It is time to return to it.

7.0 a.m.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

That may be so, Sir Alfred, but it is a sad thing if the House cannot be used to defend a constituent who is attacked under privilege and when he has no opportunity to defend himself in public.

I did condemn the behaviour of the people at Burntollet, and I do so now, just as I condemn the folly of that march. I have not changed my view about that. [Interruption.] Everybody should be able to march everywhere, but it is not always possible. We do not have that kind of ideal world anywhere—not even in this country.

The Temporary Chairman

The hon. Member has again strayed from the terms of the Amendment.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

I entirely agree, Sir Alfred. I was provoked.

I want to touch on something that has been mentioned concerning a place called McVeagh's Corner. I was at McVeagh's Corner. I am glad that I was, because while I was there I managed to do a certain amount of restraining by holding back one gentleman by the scruff of the neck and so preventing his attacking the hon. Lady. Despite all that has happened since, I am not sure that I would not take that action again.

Mr. Hattersley

Those of us who have spent some time in trying to make our feeble and perhaps inadequate attempts to help solve the problems of Northern Ireland may be allowed a certain amount of regret that so often these debates when we have seemed to degenerate into a long series of recriminations. I say this at the risk of antagonising hon. Members on both sides of the Committee: we might begin to forget the personal past, the immediate past and, perhaps much more important, the long distance and, I hope, now long dead past.

My hon. Friend was chided by some of his hon. Friends for having, as an example of the need for the Ulster Defence Regiment, referred to incidents which took place between 1952 and 1962. We have now gone very much further back than that. I do not intend to pursue the points made about 1922 and 1936. I shall do only three things—deal as best I can with the three fundamental points which have been raised. The first subsection of the Amendment asks for a prohibition on members of the new regiment carrying out duties in connection with an industrial dispute. That is a prohibition that I regard as altogether proper, and which appeared in the Home Guard Act.

In view of the points made earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson), I think I should talk about the technical inadequacies of the Amendment. I must tell the House and the hon. Lady that the technical inadequacies of her Amendment in this regard are such that I must draw the attention of the Committee to them. Were we to accept her Amendment and remove a large part of Clause 1 (5), we should have to remove from the control of the force some of the main provisions about its not serving outside Northern Ireland and about the terms on which it is called out. For that specific technical reason, I am unable to do what I think she demanded to be done—which was to accept the Amendment, the whole Amendment and nothing but the Amendment. If that is her requirement, then I fear she must be disappointed. But if she is simply anxious that the obligation not to carry out duties in connection with industrial disputes should be specified in some official form, rather than to rely on the simple acceptance of my word, then she can have my assurance—and eventually have it in printed form—that the regulations covering the behaviour of this force in Section 1(5) will include a prohibition in terms as close to the Home Guard Act as are consistent with that document.

Secondly, the hon. Lady asked us to examine the obligations we have placed on the force not to engage in crowd control or riot duties. I cannot give an assurance that a provision of that sort will be written into the regulations for this reason. It is essentially the intention of the Secretary of State, and under him the G.O.C. and the commander of the force, that the regiment shall not be used for this purpose, but the regiment, like any other body, has in common law an obligation to protect life and property under certain circumstances. It would, in my view, be fantastic if we were to write out the regiment's common law obligation when it is an obligation which applies to every other body.

I would express the hope that soon the hon. Lady will come to accept the assurances of my right hon. Friend and myself. I do not chide her for feeling some cynicism about assurances received from others on other occasions, but I only hope that over many years of service in this House she will come to believe that when he, or I on his behalf, give assurances, they will be carried out. She has the assurance that we do not intend the force to be engaged on crowd control.

Mr. Michael Foot

Before my hon. Friend lectures the hon. Lady any further on accepting his assurances, will he not understand that on many occasions in this House it is required by hon. Members that if ways can be found of incorporating an intention in an Act of Parliament it is a very much better way of doing it? Though my hon. Friend has agreed to incorporate the first item in the regulations, would he not try to see whether this other assurance cannot be incorporated into the regulations, too, and not fall back on the resort of many an embarrassed Minister and say, "I hope the House will accept my assurance"? I accept my hon. Friend's assurances, but I would prefer to have them in the regulations, and even more to have them in the Act of Parliament.

Mr. Hattersley

I understand my hon. Friend's order of priorities, and I would share it if I were in his position. That is why, where it is possible to write it into a document, I have agreed to write it in. I have no wish to lecture the hon. Lady, but to hear her view, in a speech lasting one and a quarter hours, that the simple assurances of the Minister are not good enough——

Miss Devlin

I was not in any way casting any slight on the existing Government, or on the assurances of the existing Minister. I was merely pointing out that, whereas I did accept the assurances of the Minister in good faith, I felt that these were important matters which must outlast any Minister and any Government. That is why I wanted them in the Bill, not because I did not trust the existing Minister.

Mr. Hattersley

Then, as far as I see it, honour is entirely served, and I hope the hon. Lady will accept my assurance that our only wish is to convince her of our good intentions in this matter.

The third point she raised is the relationship of this force to the special powers. It is not appropriate or possible for me to deal at any length with the general issue of the special powers to which she referred. But I hope she will accept from me, as she did from the Minister of State for the Home Department, that there is in this Government the greatest reluctance to operate much of the Special Powers Act. We share her reservations about a great deal of it. I share the view of my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Home Office, that the assurances given by the Stormont Government, both in November, 1967, and more recently in October, 1968, that they wish to move to a situation in which the special powers are revised, is an honest and honourable assurance; and I have no doubt at all that movement in that direction will be encouraged and facilitated.

It is not possible for me—nor is it my responsibility—to say any more than that about the special powers in general. What I must tell the Committee and the hon. Lady is that, although it is certainly not our intention, nor will regulations permit, for inappropriate special powers to be used by the Regiment, there are some of the special powers which the regiment will need, if it is to carry out the duties which I believe the House of Commons in general wishes it to carry out.

I give an example. At the risk of detaining the Committee, I read No. 6 of the special powers in full: Any police officer or constable or member of any of Her Majesty's Forces on duty if he suspects that any person is carrying any firearms, ammunition, explosive substances or any article or document for any purpose or in any way prejudicial to the preservation of the peace or maintenance of order, may stop that person and search him and may seize any firearms, ammunition, explosive substances … I said that I would read it in full, but I do not need to continue. I am sure that the Committee understands perfectly well that this is exactly the sort of task which the Army is at present carrying out. It is exactly the sort of task which the new regiment should carry out. It is exactly the sort of task which I believe the hon. Lady and my hon. Friends would want it to carry out.

In this situation—a situation of tension and possibly danger in Northern Ireland—one of the things that the regiment would be doing would be stopping and searching for firearms when it was suspected that there was gun running—gun running in any direction, gun running by any extremist. At the moment, the powers the regiment would need to operate such a scheme would result from the Special Powers Act. Believing, as we do, that the Stormont Government will move to a revision of the Special Powers Act, we look forward to the day when we have only powers necessary for our task. Until that day we must rely on those parts of the Special Powers Act which make it possible for us to go on doing the job which is vitally necessary in the interests of the community as a whole.

Finally, again incurring the risk that my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) will accuse me of lecturing the hon. Lady, though it is not my intention to do so, I must say that all that she said in her most recent speech about our provisions for the regiment implied the belief that the provisions that we have discussed already in Committee and the provisions which we outlined on Second Reading will fail. Her fears about the regiment, as expressed in her speech on this Amendment, implied that she suspects that we will not get a decent balance in the force, that we will not vet the entrants adequately, that we will allow dangerous men to do dangerous things when the new regiment is formed.

I urge the hon. Lady and my hon. Friends to believe that, although dangerous men may have done dangerous things in the past, it is our intention that they should not appear in the force. I urge the hon. Lady to have more hope for the force than clearly she has and to have more faith in my right hon. Friend and the British Army, in that it is their intention—and their intention shall be carried out—that this shall be an entirely respectable and entirely honourable organisation.

Mr. Russell Kerr

My hon. Friend gave an example of the type of provision in the Special Powers Act which the Government may wish to retain in respect of the regiment. Is he able now—or, if not now, later—to be more specific on this point? The Committee wants to know precisely which Sections of the Special Powers Act my hon. Friend would see the regiment as needing for its operations.

Mr. Hattersley

I cannot go through it Section by Section now. As we keep reminding the Committee, as soon as the Regiment is formed it will be subject to the normal parliamentary control and, if my hon. Friend tables a Question then, I shall have to go through it Section by Section.

7.15 a.m.

Miss Devlin

Although I am still not satisfied that the Minister's reply will do anything to alleviate the fears which he described, he has said that a provision relating to industrial disputes will be written into the Regulations and, on that basis, I would ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. McMaster

On Second Reading, I mentioned the Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve. What are the Minister's intentions in the Regulations under Clause 1? The White Paper said that service with the B Specials and the Royal Ulster Constabulary would be taken into account in estimating bounty and special service medals. I suggested that service with the Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve should also be taken into account. I should be grateful for more information.

Mr. Hattersley

I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman much more than I hold him on Second Reading, which was that we were sympathetic to the idea of meritorious service with the Territorials counting in the aggregate bonus for the force. Not least of the complications, however, is our desire to put members with military experience into the new force. I cannot give a definitive answer on these matters, but perhaps the hon. Gentleman will leave it, in the knowledge that we are sympathetic, until the Regulations are published.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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