§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 10.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)
On a point of order. On Thursday during Business Questions I asked my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House whether it would be possible for copies of the proposed legislation which would be produced in the Stormont as a result of the enabling legislation which would come before the House today to be made available in the Vote Office or the Library. It is not. May we have an explanation?
§ Mr. Speaker
I cannot make any explanation of that. The appropriate Minister probably will explain it. There is no reason why we should not proceed with the Second Reading.
Mr. Eric S. Helfer (Liverpool, Walton)
Further to that point of order. I seek your guidance, Mr. Speaker. This afternoon we were told by the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) that certain advertisements were appearing before the House had taken a decision. Tonight my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) has stressed the importance of the House having documents to enable it to discuss the Bill in a more adequate way than it can in the absence of the documents.
I appreciate your point, Mr. Speaker, that you are not able to instruct a Minister to produce this material. I believe that we are getting into a very difficult situation where, first, decisions are being taken without reference to the House and, secondly, where the House is being asked to discuss a Bill without having all relevant material before it. Is not this a serious situation? What remedy do hon. Members have to ensure that such a thing does not happen again in the future?
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member will be aware—I think that he was in the Chamber—that this afternoon I dealt 990 with the first half of the point that he is raising. The other matter that he has raised was raised more concisely just now by his hon. Friend, and I have ruled that there is no reason why we should not proceed with the Second Reading.
§ Mr. Callaghan
With your leave, Mr. Speaker, I can explain the matter now, or deal with it during the course of my Second Reading Speech. I had intended to do it then.
§ Mr. Callaghan
The reason why no Northern Ireland Bill has been published yet is that they do not have the power to offer this kind of mutual aid until this House, under the 1920 Act, has given them such authority. It would therefore be improper for them to publish a Bill of this sort until we have put our Bill through the House of Commons.
Ours is an enabling Bill and will be brought into operation when I publish the commencement date, and clearly I do not intend to bring in a commencement date until we have seen the Northern Ireland legislation. It would be unconstitutional for the Northern Ireland Government to publish their Bill until our Bill has become law.
§ Mr. Heffer
I accept that completely, but if it is correct in this case, can my right hon. Friend say why, on the other hand, advertisements have been appearing in the Northern Ireland Press before we have taken a decision in relation to the other debate that took place on Wednesday? My right hon. Friend cannot have it both ways.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. With respect, that issue was raised this afternoon, and the Speaker is ruling on it tomorrow.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I think that my hon. Friend will agree that that is a different debate on a different force, and whether it is the same principle will, I understand, be dealt with tomorrow at some time after Questions.
If I might conclude my point, this is to be found in Clause 1(4), which says:An enactment of the Parliament of Northern Ireland … shall be deemed to be within the powers of that Parliament notwithstanding anything in the Government of Ireland Act, 1920.991 That will give the Northern Ireland Government power to publish their Bill, if the House of Commons and the other place agree to this Bill, after it has become law.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
We have discussed these matters on a number of occasions, including both the reorganisation of the police and the creation of special constables to support them, as well as on earlier occasions, and again on the establishment of the Ulster Defence Regiment.
The purpose of the Bill is to give effect to the proposals in relation to the police. The first thing that I should like to put to the House is that it was always our view that the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the British police forces should be brought more closely in touch with each other, but what made this difficult was the para-military duties of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
The Hunt Report recommended that the Royal Ulster Constabulary should be relieved of duties of a military nature, as it put it, saying that only in this way would it continue to be able to serve the whole community. This recommendation commended itself to the whole House the last time we discussed it. It commends itself also to the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Its representatives, whom I have seen on a number of informal occasions—most recently at a social engagement only three or four days ago—have told me in so many words that it is their desire not to represent 70 or 80 per cent. of the people but 100 per cent. of the people. They welcome, therefore, the splitting away of semi-military duties which they once had.
What has happened so far is that the Reserve Force, which was part of the Royal Ulster Constabulary has given up its automatic weapons, and the armoured cars which it had have been withdrawn and taken into store. The members of this force are now restricted to ordinary police duties. Another point is that the Northern Ireland Government have accepted the concept of a police authority, which we understand well in this House. They have accepted, also, the concept of inspection by Home Office 992 inspectors, and a recruitment campaign is already going on among all communities in Northern Ireland.
Taking these essential points and others, therefore, I think it fair to say that the Royal Ulster Constabulary is beginning to approximate more and more closely to a police force in Great Britain. For this purpose, the Bill is an enabling Bill which will be brought into force, as I said a few minutes ago, when it seems appropriate to do so and the type of duty required from the two forces is more equivalent than it has been hitherto. The Bill is mainly concerned with arrangements for closer association between the R.U.C. and British police forces, in matters such as training facilities, secondment of personnel, and the temporary reinforcement of the Royal Ulster Constabulary in emergencies. In addition, there is the proposal for the creation of a Police Council for the United Kingdom instead of a Police Council for Great Britain, such as we have had up to the moment.
In the past, of course, there have been contacts between the R.U.C. and British police forces on an informal basis, but the military rôle which the Royal Ulster Constabulary had—it did not particularly want it, but it was forced to assume it—has been an insurmountable obstacle in the past to full co-operation between a force of that kind and the fully civilian unarmed forces in the rest of the United Kingdom. Both sides realised this, and the R.U.C. has never been a full member of the family of police forces in the United Kingdom, and neither could it be so long as it carried arms in its day-to-day duties.
The Northern Ireland Government accepted that the disarming of the R.U.C. was essential, and over the past few weeks they have gone ahead vigorously with the civilianisation process. In general, I understand the position to be that all foot patrols are now going unarmed by day and by night, and, I may add, the Inspector-General has told me that this is by their own decision.
In some senses, the 11 th November was a historic day in the annals of the force because that was the first day in its history, I am told, when it went on duty entirely without arms. This is a remarkable change in the nature of the 993 R.U.C. in Northern Ireland. There are no arms now carried in vehicles, and very soon the only circumstances in which the force will carry arms will be those in which they would carry arms in Britain, namely, in dealing with suspects or escaped convicted persons who are themselves carrying arms and who, it is believed, would use them to resist arrest. Far the time being, a proportion of the R.U.C. will continue to carry arms, but not automatic weapons, when they are carrying out special duties in non-urban areas. But these arms also will be handed in when the proposed Ulster Defence Regiment is in being and able to take over the responsibility for the defence of the Province, which was previously shouldered by the R.U.C. So the R.U.C. is being transformed.
One of the first consequences of abandoning its military rôle is that its period of training has already been reduced from 18 to 12 weeks, the reduction being achieved because it is no longer necessary to instruct in a para-military rôle. This has increased the throughput of the training depôt.
I am glad to say that applications for recruiting are going well. One of the other changes being made is that would-be recruits are no longer accepted or rejected by their local sergeant or head constable—equivalent in British terms to an inspector. Applications are now sent to police headquarters for assessment. That is a change that I think will be welcome, because we must not overlook the suspicions that will continue to exist in this matter.
I believe that a number of these changes that have taken place and are taking place in the R.U.C., which is moving with remarkable speed, have helped to contribute towards the noticeable lessening of tension in the troubled areas, especially in Belfast and Londonderry. With the present exception of two areas of Belfast at night, joint patrols of Royal Ulster Constabulary and the military personnel are carried on for 24 hours every day.
Four police stations have recently been reopened in Belfast, and in almost every way there are clear indications that a good beginning has been made in implementing the recommendations in the Hunt Report. But, although a number of the Hunt recommendations are 994 administrative changes which are already being carried out, some of them—and these are the ones we are discussing—will require legislation. The main task of legislating for the reorganisation of the R.U.C. falls on the Northern Ireland Parliament. I understand that it is the Northern Ireland Government's intention to introduce a Bill as soon as this Bill becomes law, or at any rate very shortly afterwards.
Perhaps the most important provision of this Bill—at any rate, it is one to which I have always attached a great deal of constitutional importance—is the establishment of a police authority representing a variety of interests in the Northern Ireland community, so that the police will become responsible to a police authority and not to the Minister for Home Affairs. I regard this as a very important and welcome change. The result will be that the Constabulary will be administered by a body of citizens representing many different aspects of public life, instead of directly by the Minister.
I turn to the aspect of the reorganisation with which the Bill deals—the establishing of closer links betwéen the Constabulary and police forces in Great Britain. The Hunt Committee devoted quite a number of pages to this matter. It thought that this was important for a number of reasons. First, it said that it thought increased police efficiency would flow from such matters as inspection of the force by Her Majesty's Inspectorate. I believe that to be true. The Committee also thought that it would make possible more places on courses in Great Britain being made available at police training establishments here for members of the R.U.C., and a close association with the research being undertaken by the Home Office in the management services, development and planning branch of the Police Department, which, although it is maintained by the Home Office, already covers Scotland as well as England and Wales.
Besides these practical benefits, there are some other benefits. I do not think that it would be misunderstood in Northern Ireland if I staid that association with police forces in Great Britain may well widen the horizons of members of the Constabulary, enabling them to profit from the experience of forces in 995 Great Britain and to get wider experience. I think that there is something in the point that the Constabulary felt isolated from other police forces, and that very few people taking an unprejudiced view could be found who could deny that this kind of association and interchange between personnel will be of benefit to the Royal Ulster Constabulary and—who knows?—may be of benefit to British police forces as well, by introducing them to an entirely different range of experience—one that I hope they will not have to profit by in this country.
Some of the proposals are achieved by administrative means without legislation. This is because the arrangements for such matters as mutual aid and the facilitating of short-service engagements with the Constabulary require the conferment of powers and the imposition of obligations partly in Great Britain, which is the responsibility of the Westminster Parliament, and partly in Northern Ireland, which is the responsibility of the Stormont Parliament.
The plan, therefore, which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and I have made with the Northern Ireland Government, is that these arrangements should be made by means of provisions in this Bill enacting the British parts of the arrangements and in complementary provisions enacting the Irish parts, to be included in the broader legislation which the Northern Ireland Government intend to introduce in Stormont. I have already explained why we are dealing with the Bill before the Northern Ireland Government introduce their own Bill, and I shall not repeat it. I turn to the Clauses of the Bill.
Clause 1 provides for aid by way of temporary reinforcement to the R.U.C. by home police forces—that is to say, police forces in England and Wales and Scotland—and vice versa. There is already provision for mutual aid of this kind between forces in England and Wales in Section 14 of the Police Act, 1964, and between police forces in Scotland in Section 11 of the Police (Scotland) Act, 1967. The object is to assist a force whose manpower resources are insufficient to meet an extraordinary commitment of comparatively short duration. Under these provisions, aid may be provided by the 996 chief officer of one force at the request of the chief officer of another. If the Secretary of State regards aid as necessary, he has power to direct a chief officer to provide it.
There is provision for the police authority of the aided force to pay to the authority of the aiding force an agreed contribution in respect of the aid provided. Subsections (1) and (2) make corresponding provision for aid by a British police force to the R.U.C. The question of making a payment for the aid is for the Northern Ireland Government, since it will be necessary to confer a power of payment upon the Northern Ireland authorities. This will be a matter therefore for a complementary provision in the Northern Ireland Bill.
It would be right that arrangements should also be made for mutual aid to operate in the opposite direction, a conferment of power to enable the R.U.C. to aid a British police force. This is a matter for the Northern Ireland Bill. It is for the Northern Ireland Parliament to say that they will make it available for forces in this country if required. As the law stands, power to enact such an enabling power is not within the powers available to the Stormont Parliament under the Government of Ireland Act, 1920. That is another reason for widening their powers and is the purpose of subsection (4).
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)
Could the right hon. Gentleman clear up the financial aspect? How would a home police force recover its expenses from the Ulster Government? Would it simply be a matter for the Stormont Parliament to decide to pay? In the reverse direction, what would be the authority by which a receiving police force in this country would meet the expenses of the Ulster Constabulary?
§ Mr. Callaghan
The new legislation, I understand, would confer upon the Inspector-General and the police authority power to pay but it would then be a matter for negotiation between the two forces as to what payment should be made. The same applies already in this country as between neighbouring forces—when, for example, the Metropolitan Police is called upon to go to the aid of another force. Perhaps we can take this up in Committee if necessary 997 but I believe that a formula exists under which it is decided how much should be paid for these services.
Clause 3 deals with the British end of aid by the R.U.C. to a British force. Two provisions are required. The first is to enact that the aiding officers are under the direction of the chief officer of the aided force and have the powers of a constable in the aided area, as they have in the case of mutual aid within England and Wales or within Scotland. This is done by subsection (1). The second is to empower the police authority of the aided British force to make a payment for the aid to the Northern Ireland authorities. That is the purpose of subsection (2).
Having for the moment finished with the subject of aid, I come back to Clause 2 This makes provision for facilitating short-service engagements of members of British police forces with the Royal Ulster Constabulary. There is already provision under the existing law for a member of a British police force with consent to leave that force entirely and to join the R.U.C. with continuity of service for pension and where a member of the R.U.C. transfers to a British force, the Constabulary Pension Code provides for the payment of a transfer value and the previous service in Northern Ireland counts by virtue of our Police Pensions Regulations. It is thus already possible for a British police officer to leave his force and be accepted as a member of the R.U.C. without loss of pension rights and vice versa, but the present arrangements assume that the transfer will be permanent.
The Hunt Committee recommended that members of the Constabulary should be encouraged to apply for posts in Great Britain and vice versa. This involves permanent transfer and the legislative basis already exists for this, as I have said, but it went on to suggest the interchange of personnel between the Constabulary and forces on the mainland by means of attachments or secondments. In order to arrange short-service engagements of this kind, it seems right to make use of the existing provisions for transfer in either direction. All that needs to be added is a right of reversion at the conclusion of the agreed period of short service.
§ Dame Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)
Can the right hon. Gentleman say what "short service" means? How many years does he contemplate as being short service? Would families be able to accompany men so transferred?
§ Mr. Callaghan
I could not say that, but it will naturally be a matter for negotiation later to fix what is meant by a short-service engagement. It will be a purely voluntary matter and so, when the negotiations are concluded, people will be able to decide whether they wish to go.
I am sure that the hon. Lady will know that there is a certain amount of switching between forces in this country, especially when a man wants promotion and therefore wants to leave his force to go elsewhere. Indeed, in the past the Home Office has sometimes insisted that at the top level of chief constable a man should not be promoted if he has served all his time in one force, and therefore men move around. We want to make the arrangements between Northern Ireland and here easier. We believe that basically it will be to the advantage of R.U.C. men to have experience of how British forces work before returning to their own force, either in the same rank or, if a man is ambitious, in a promoted rank.
§ Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (Chelmsford)
If the right hon. Gentleman cannot say what period short service is, can he say whether there will be any time limit on meeting a special demand under the previous Clause? Is there not a danger that if members of a police force in Britain are provided to Northern Ireland for more than a very short period, that will disrupt their lives and be greatly resented?
§ Mr. Callaghan
There is no prospect of that. We are dealing with two entirely different matters and I am most anxious that they should not be confused. I am now dealing with an application by an individual officer who may be serving in the R.U.C. who thinks that for additional experience he would like to serve with a British force for a period of some years—that is a matter for negotiation and that is why I will not state a period; it is not for me to decide now what the police authorities would want to fix as an appropriate period of engagement; it is for them.
999 The other question, which I had already left, is that of mutual aid, which is literally for a weekend, or a football match, if I may venture to use that sort of phrase, or a procession when a police force which is normally sufficient to encompass the general arrangements might find itself heavily pressed, as it could in this country, by a particular procession or demonstration which, for a particular reason, decided to go to a particular area. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising this question, because I must make sure that this is absolutely clear. The whole purpose of the mutual aid scheme is not that, by misadventure or some hidden design, anybody in the British police forces should be sent to Northern Ireland for weeks and certainly not for months, but for a very short period, for a particular event. That is the purpose. It is not even days rather than weeks in this case; I would say weekends rather than anything else. I will come back to the point because, as it has been raised, it is important that there should not be any misunderstanding about this or it might foul the whole arrangement.
Clause 4 gives effect to a recommendation of Chapter 7 of the Hunt Report that the Central Representative Committee of the R.U.C. should be given a statutory right to take part in negotiations about conditions of service. There is already in existence the Police Council for Great Britain, established by Section 45 of the Police Act, 1964. I had something to do with its establishment before I was in Government. That is the negotiating body for the police service on specified matters, which cover pay, allowances and other conditions of service, and the advisory body on pensions matters. It consists of what is called an official side, which is, loosely speaking, the employers' side and it includes representatives of the local authority associations and the Secretary of State for Scotland and myself. It also includes a staff side, which includes representatives of the various bodies representing the police, such as the chief constables' and superintendents' associations and the two Police Federations, that of England and Wales and that of Scotland.
What we propose here, with the assent of the Police Council, although the assent 1000 has not been formally given—but consultations have taken place with the organisations making up the Council—is to enlarge the existing body for Great Britain into a Police Council for the United Kingdom by the addition on each side of representatives of the representative body of the R.U.C., on the one hand, and of the new Police Authority, when it is set up, on the other hand.
For technical reasons, it is, apparently, simpler and clearer to replace Section 45 of the Police Act, 1964, rather than amend it so as to extend it to the R.U.C. That is why Clause 4 is so lengthy, but its effect is confined to the change which I have just described.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
May I be clear what the representation of the R.U.C. on the Police Council of the United Kingdom will consist of? Is new legislation by the Northern Ireland Government required to make sure that the representative body of the men, the equivalent of the British Police Federation, is included in the United Kingdom Police Council?
§ Mr. Callaghan
I will, of course, check the point, but I would have thought not, because it is for this House to decide who serves on the Police Council for the United Kingdom. Provided, therefore, that this House says that it shall be the R.U.C. and the Police Authority, or whoever it is, that will be sufficient authority for that purpose and I doubt whether any other legislation is needed in Stormont to make that effective. We can look at this again in Committee if I find that I am wrong, but I would not have thought so.
Clause 6 is formal. Clause 7 cites the Short Title and provides for the fixing of appointed days for the coming into operation of various provisions of the Bill. I intend to consult the various police organisations, before fixing the dates for the appointed days. I have considered, and shall consider very carefully, the date of implementation of the Bill and the date of making a commencement order if the House gives me the Bill.
Mutual aid should not be brought into force until I am satisfied that the conditions of service would be fair to those who would be required to serve in each 1001 country. This arises from the possibility that police officers from Great Britain might otherwise be sent to Northern Ireland in circumstances in which they might have to serve alongside a constabulary whose relations with the public and methods of working might be very different. That would place an unfair strain on police forces in Great Britain. It is important, therefore, that the progress that has already begun towards bringing the methods of working of the Constabulary into line with British methods should continue if we are to make real use of the process of mutual aid.
I know that great value was attached to the idea of mutual aid by the Northern Ireland Government. I hope, therefore, that the R.U.C. will understand that if it is to receive this reinforcement, it is important that, as far as possible, the conditions of service and the methods of work should be standardised, with due attention, of course, to the different details.
§ Mr. McNamara
In explanation of what he has said, can my right hon. Friend say that members of British police forces seconded to Ulster will not be expected to enforce legislation which is not in force in the United Kingdom as a whole or arrest people for crimes which would not be crimes in any other part of the United Kingdom?
§ Mr. Callaghan
I am not sure what the technical meaning of the word "seconded" is, but let me put it in this way. If a man volunteers for a short-service engagement he is of course absolutely required to accept the law of Northern Ireland as it stands. He has joined the Royal Ulster Constabulary on a short-service engagement, and one cannot have two policemen in the same force, wearing the same uniform, side by side, operating different systems of law.
As regards mutual aid, the situation here is complicated by the existence of the special powers which exist in Northern Ireland, and it is not fair to ask a policeman to administer a system of law with which he is not familiar. This, therefore, is a difficulty which we had to consider in this question of mutual aid. I know that my hon. Friend is aware that a good deal of the work which goes on among police forces is not limited or bound by the Special Powers Act, that there is a 1002 good deal of other work which has to be done—in controlling a procession, or whatever it may be—which is quite outside the scope of the special powers.
I do not expect, nor would it be my intention, that any British policeman who went over on short term for mutual aid in the particular circumstances we were envisaging earlier, would operate the Special Powers Act. This is not something which should be required of him. It would be improper for us to expect it, because he would not fully understand the powers he would be operating. My hon. Friend says, "Abolish them". The Northern Ireland Government are most anxious to get rid of a number of these powers. They regard a number of them as otiose and see no very good reason for retaining them. I have not felt up to the moment, although I have raised the matter with them on several occasions, that I could press them to get rid of them all straight away, but I have no doubt that as the situation settles down, as I hope and believe it will, they will themselves wish to rid themselves of a great number of those powers.
§ Mr. Peter Mahon (Preston, South)
Would my right hon. Friend not agree that the dire necessity in Northern Ireland appears to be to establish the new police force on an ecumenical basis rather than to Anglicise it? The tone of his speech seems to denote a sort of infiltration of large numbers of people from England. Perhaps in the initial stages this would not be as good a thing as it sounds.
§ Mr. Callaghan
If I gave that impression I wish to remove it. It is not my view that large numbers of Englishmen are needed in the Royal Ulster Constabulary. We were talking—I emphasise again—about a particular occasion, a particular weekend, where the force in Northern Ireland, the R.U.C., needs strengthening. That is all we are talking about at the present. It has nothing to do with infiltration of a great many Englishmen into the R.U.C., but we have made provision for these exchanges.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for emphasising a point which I did mention in passing, and which I am very happy to emphasise again, and that is that I regard it as absolutely essential that one of the communities in Northern Ireland should come forward to the fullest extent 1003 to volunteer for service with this new police force. My hon. Friend has given me an opportunity of saying that, and I say it—as regards that sotto voce remark —in relation to any other force which may be set up in Northern Ireland. I should be out of order if I were to go further than that.
My hon. Friend the Minister of State will wind up the debate, and, as I have trespassed so much on the time of the House, I think I should leave it to her to deal with any other points that are raised.
I understand the misgivings of those who are concerned that Clause 1 should not be brought into force too soon. On the whole, it is not my hon. Friends but the police authorities in this country who are anxious about that. Apart from subsection (4), which I have already explained, Clause 1 gives the Parliament of Northern Ireland additional power, and I intend that the Clause shall be brought into force when conditions of police operations and service in Northern Ireland approximate more closely than they have done in the past with those in Great Britain. This, I think, is essential, and is the basis on which we must proceed.
§ 10.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Mark Carlisle (Runcorn)
The Home Secretary commented generally on the situation of the police in Northern Ireland, and it may be that we can return to that topic during the debate.
The Bill which is before us is, as I think the Home Secretary would agree, a fairly narrow Bill arising out of the recommendation of the Hunt Committee. The Opposition welcome the provisions of the Bill and the fact that the proposals of the Hunt Committee are being put into legislative form, and we support the general principle behind the Bill.
The Advisory Committee on the Police in Northern Ireland, or the Hunt Committee as it has come to be known, was set up by the Stormont Government and by the Minister of Home Affairs in the Northern Ireland Government. I appreciate that the Home Secretary did this in a previous debate, but on behalf of the Opposition I should like to congratulate Lord Hunt on his sensible, thorough and lucid report and for the speed with which 1004 it was produced. Mr. Gourlay, the Committee was set up on 26th August, it had reported by 3rd October, and here we are in the middle of November giving legislative effect to some of its suggested reforms.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)
I would remind the hon. Gentleman that we are sitting as the House.
§ Mr. Carlisle
Perhaps there is here a lesson to be learned by some other committees. The Northern Ireland Government should also be congratulated for so speedily accepting the major recommendations in the report.
The major part of the report dealt with the removal of the para-military role from the Royal Ulster Constabulary. We shall be debating that on Wednesday when the Ulster Defence Regiment Bill is before the House, and it would be out of order for me to make wide comments now, but the Opposition welcome that Bill, and the fact that the proposals have been accepted by Her Majesty's Government. I believe that it will ease the difficult situation in which the Royal Ulster Constabulary have found themselves in carrying out at the same time both a peace-keeping civilian police rôle and a military rôle. The Bill is related to the proposals in Chapter 7 of the report to allow for a closer link between the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the police forces in this country, and this is welcomed by the House.
I had the opportunity to go to Northern Ireland slightly in advance of the time when the Home Secretary was there. I was there, in company with three of my hon. Friends on 18th and 19th August, in the immediate aftermath of the troubles that had occurred. We had an opportunity to see the police in action in Northern Ireland, and the troops who had then taken over in the Falls Road area in Belfast and in Londonderry.
One could not but help being struck by the problems which were facing a police force of 3,000 in a country of that size, particularly as at that stage the police were carrying out a dual civil and military role. It was dramatically brought home to my hon. Friends and I that whereas the size of the police force in Northern Ireland at that stage was, I 1005 believe, despite what the Hunt Committee pointed out, adequate for normal policing duties such as traffic and crime patrol—the crime rate is lower in Northern Ireland and, happily, the detection rate is far higher than it is in this country—it was inadequate to deal with any special emergency that might occur because it had no spare capacity to deal with any civil disturbances of the kind that we saw.
In this country it is easy, if necessary, to move the police from other areas rapidly to London. It is possible, within the Metropolitan Police Force, to provide a substantial body of policemen to control any potentially dangerous situation. In Northern Ireland, however—with a country of that size and a police force limited to 3,000—those possibilities do riot exist.
The Bill enables the police from forces in England to go to the assistance of the Northern Ireland police. [Interruption.] Police stationed in England, Scotland and Wales will be able to go to the assistance of the police in Northern Ireland if a special demand is necessary, and I believe this to be a useful provision. While this power of mutual aid is valuable, I hope that it will not have to be used often.
I remind the House, however, that we are, by the Bill, imposing further duties on our present police forces and I remind the Home Secretary that the police are already very much under strength.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)
I have been listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman's remarks. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that he is speaking of a police force that has lost the confidence of one-third of the population of that part of Northern Ireland? That is why these reforms are being introduced. We want to see a strengthened police force, but the hon. Gentleman cannot sidestep the basic issue of why we are tonight clebating this subject.
§ Mr. Carlisle
If, as he said he had, the hon. Gentleman had been listening carefully to me, he would know that I a m not sidestepping any basic issues. When I was talking about the police force being under strength I was referring to the police forces in England and riot the police in Northern Ireland. I 1006 said that the Bill would enable us to assist by providing additional policemen in certain circumstances. As I repeat, it is a power which was recommended by the Hunt Committee, and one which we welcome.
Perhaps I may now return to what I was saying about the police forces of England, Scotland and Wales, which is that when we are passing legislation like this we should at the same time remember that we are imposing further duties on the police forces of this country which are, at the moment, substantially under strength. At the end of 1968, the police forces in the provincial areas were 11,000 under establishment, and that to the end of June of this year, the latest date for which figures are available, the police forces in the Metropolitan area and throughout England, Scotland and Wales were 19,000 under strength—
§ Mr. Paul B. Rose (Manchester, Blackley)
The hon. Gentleman is confusing two matters—being under strength and being under establishment. Would he not agree that the establishment has risen greatly, and that it can therefore be very misleading to talk of a police force being under strength when there are actually more police because the establishment has risen?
§ Mr. Carlisle
With respect, I think that it is the hon. Gentleman who is confused. I accept that the establishment figures have been raised, but he is implying that the establishment figures have risen above the strength necessary, and with that view I do not agree. Although the establishment figures have risen, if one says that the forces are 19,000 below establishment, it is the same as saying that they are 19,000 below strength, because the strength we wish to achieve is the establishment figure. The hon. Gentleman can only argue the opposite if he was arguing that the establishment is above the needed strength.
My reason for making this point, particularly against the background of the rise in crime figures, is to repeat to the Home Secretary that whenever we put a further burden on the police forces in this country we should always remember that there is a shortage of police, that there is need for more police, and that the more tasks we put upon them the greater that need becomes. I can only 1007 regret, as has been regretted from this side previously, that the Home Secretary saw fit in 1967 to "turn the tap off" I think that was the phrase used in regard to recruitment and the effect that that has since had on police recruitment.
Where will this police force come from? I understand that because of the time factor these men will come from the police forces in Liverpool, Bootle, Lancashire and the North-West—and I am glad to see the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Helfer) nodding his agreement. I am sure that he will agree that these forces, too, are under strength at the moment, and that that strength is something we must bear in mind when considering the burdens to be put on them by the Bill.
I want now to deal with the task in Northern Ireland which the Bill will impose. I notice that the Home Secretary says that the commencing date will have to be decided on in the light of the reorganisation of the police in Northern Ireland, and that is something with which we can all agree. May I take it that the task they will be asked to perform in Northern Ireland will be the normal police functions as we know them in this country—namely, assisting in the maintenance of law and order—in the country to which they go? The answer which the Home Secretary made to his hon. Friend in regard to the powers of the police in Northern Ireland rather surprised me.
§ Mr. Carlisle
I did not say that it was not a good answer, but that it rather surprised me. The right hon. Gentleman said that the police would be required to carry out duties or to support laws which were different from those which exist in this part of the United Kingdom. The arguments for this were in the Special Powers Act. It may be a more of a Committee point, but it is worth making at this stage if only to alert hon. Members to it. Clause 1 (3) says:A constable shall, during any period during which he is provided under this section for the assistance of the Royal Ulster Constabulary be under the like direction and control as a member of that force …I should have thought that it must follow that a member of the British police forces 1008 —this is the only way in which mutual aid can work—while having been seconded, if that is the right word, to the Royal Ulster Constabulary, would be under the orders of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and required to carry out the law there at that moment. I was therefore slightly surprised at the answer the Home Secretary gave.
§ Mr. Heffer
If that is the interpretation, it is quite clear that there will have to be an Amendment that in no circumstances will British police seconded to Northern Ireland be expected to act under the Special Powers Act.
§ Mr. Carlisle
I made the point because I thought it one which should be raised now. I had not intended to refer to Clause 1(3) until the Home Secretary gave that answer. It occurred to me that it was open to two interpretations in view of the wording of the subsection. This presumably is a matter which will have to be discussed. It is difficult to see how any form of mutual aid among police forces can act successfully unless those who go are under the duty while with this force to carry out the law as it exists in that part of the United Kingdom. It is difficult to see how anything that the hon. Member for Walton wants could be written into the Bill. I am not suggesting that it should be.
§ Mr. Niall MacDermot (Derby, North)
Would the hon. Member agree that there is something more than a Committee point involved here? There is a very important point of principle. Does the hon. Member agree with the statement of principle by the Home Secretary that it would be invidious if these powers under Clause 1(3) were used in such a way that a member of a British police force going to Northern Ireland to assist the Constabulary there would be called upon to enforce a system of law which is alien to the traditions of this country?
§ Mr. Carlisle
Obviously one would not wish members of the British police forces to be parties to imposing what the hon. and learned Member called "a system of law alien to this country". Speaking for myself, there seemed considerable force in what the hon and learned Member said, but that is not quite what the Home Secretary said. The Home Secretary said that this position could not arise. Clearly under the provisions of 1009 the Bill these police forces will presumably be required to carry out the law in that part of the United Kingdom to which they go. I do not know what the position is in regard to Scotland, where there are substantial differences as to the powers of arrest. What happens if mutual aid exists between England and Scotland, which has happened very seldom, if ever? It is a matter which must be thrashed out.
It is a principle which must be accepted that, if mutual aid is to be established. aid if the forces that go to Northern ireland are to be of use in enforcing law and order there, they must be under the control of the officers of that force for the time being and presumably, therefore, must carry out the laws that obtain there at that time. I see the Home Secrery nodding. I should have thought that that must be the position.
§ Mr. Heffer
The logic of the hon. Gentleman's case is that all of us should now be arguing for the repeal of the Special Powers Act.
§ Mr. Carlisle
If we did that, Mr. Speaker, I take it that we should be out of order, because I believe that that is legislation passed by the Northern Ireland Government over which the House has no control. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh.") Can I end this exchange by saying that I raised this subject in an attempt to alert the House to what I judged to be the meaning of Clause 1(3). Many of these critical questions should be related to the Home Secretary or the Minister of State as to what the passage means. I merely point out that it may not mean exactly what the Home Secretary has said.
I end this part of my speech by repeating that I assume that the task which such men would be required to do would be what we in this country look upon as the normal police function of maintaining law and order.
§ Mr. Callaghan
The Commencement Order must reflect the kind of situation to which the hon. Gentleman has been referring.
§ Mr. Carlisle
I started that part of my speech by referring to the Commencement Order and to the need to appreciate what the Home Secretary had said about it.
1010 I do not think that Clause 1(1)is likely to cause any trouble. It refers to a request made by the Inspector General of the Royal Ulster Constabulary to a chief officer of police to provide assistance.
I do not say that Clause 1(2) is contentious, but it is a matter that should be borne in mind by the House. It empowers the Home Secretary to direct chief officers of police to see that assistance is given to Northern Ireland on request, he having been satisfied by the Minister of Home Affairs for Northern Ireland, even against the wishes of the police authority or the chief officer of police in this country.
I appreciate that this is not a new power. I appreciate that the words are to all intents and purposes identical to those in Section 14 of the Police Act, 1964. The Home Secretary slightly underestimated the difference in circumstances that may exist between any mutual aid as envisaged under the Bill and mutual aid as it exists under the 1964 Act. Under the 1964 Act, a force from, say, the Midlands may come to London to assist on the day of a demonstration in Trafalgar Square or Grosvenor Square, but such mutual aid is short lived. It probably means a motor journey of an hour or so. The moment the incident, demonstration or procession is over, the force can re-embark in the buses and return to its town or county of origin.
The right hon. Gentleman envisaged throughout his speech that an identical situation will occur if a police force is required to go to Northern Ireland. I hope that Clause 1 will never have to be implemented, or certainly only occasionally. Equally, I hope that if it has to be implemented it will be implemented in that way, but I am not sure that one can say that with such confidence as the Home Secretary does.
I think that the time-scale is vital. How long is it envisaged that the police who go over to meet a special demand for which the resources of the Ulster Constabulary are unsatisfactory will stay? The right hon. Gentleman used the phrase "a comparatively short duration", and referred to weekends. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that at the time when I and some of my hon. Friends went to Northern Ireland, on 18th August, people were talking about British 1011 troops being there for a very short duration, and one cannot help feeling that if assistance is given in this way, admittedly to another part of the United Kingdom, and admittedly not a great distance away, even though it means crossing a sea to get to Northern Ireland, it may, regrettably, mean that those who go would have to stay for slightly longer periods than the Home Secretary envisages. I hope that if that situation arises those concerned will ensure that the men who go there are volunteers.
I appreciate that the power of the Home Secretary to direct such movements may he necessary, but I should like to keep the position open by saying that we may return to this in Committee. I was relieved by what the right hon. Gentleman said about Clause 1(2) and about the time-scale. That was not what one envisaged on first reading the Bill. I still, however, raise a cautionary note. I hope that it will be for as short a period as the right hon. Gentleman envisages, but one has to consider the possibility that it might be for longer than he suggests.
We welcome the provisions of Clause 2, and the power that it gives to allow members of British police forces to join the Northern Ireland force for a period of service. As the right hon. Gentleman said, the difference between Clauses 1 and 2 is that these people volunteer to go there for part of their service. This interchange is valuable, and I was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that similar arrangements are to be made by the Stormont Government. It was particularly in relation to the movement of members of the R.U.C. to the police forces in this country that the Hunt Committee laid such stress, because it believed that it would give them wide knowledge of police powers in this country.
The Hunt Committee suggested that the R.U.C. should be subject to inspection by Her Majesty's Inspectorate. I understand from the Home Secretary that this has been accepted by the Stormont Government. Does this need legislation?
The training recommendation in paragraph 128 of the Hunt Committee's Report is important. It says that members of the R.U.C. should have power to come here to train. I hope that the right hon. 1012 Gentleman is making sure that facilities for training are available, because we have an expertise in such matters as crowd control which we could usefully pass on to members of other police forces.
We welcome the principle of the Bill. It is obvious from some of the interjections from the benches opposite that there is likely to be a Committee stage of the Bill, but I hope that the valuable principle of mutual aid between the police forces will not be lost, and that it will be to the advantage both of the police forces in this country, and the R.U.C.
§ 11.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Paul B. Rose (Manchester, Blackley)
There are two popular views of policemen. One tends to regard them as ogres intent upon depriving the citizen of his individual rights. The other assumes that a blue or even a green uniform automatically endows its wearer with some sort of angelic qualities. But policemen, like all bodies of men, can be good or bad; they can be provoked, like all of us, and, when provoked, they can be nasty. For this reason, they must be subject to the control of the community, and, in this case, to the House of Commons.
What we have a right to expect of a police force in a democratic society is that they will respect equally all sections of the community with which they are dealing, and that their training and their demeanour in dealing with people will be such as to inspire confidence in their fairness and impartiality. One can be gentle while being firm, and, equally, one can be vicious while being lax. I believe that it is the feeling that some sections of the R.U.C., admittedly under great pressure in recent months, have not always lived up to this standard which makes this Bill necessary and generally welcome on this side.
In my view, the hon. Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle)—one is always pleased to follow him, and one has for him a great regard—entirely failed to deal with the background to the Bill. Without an understanding of that background, it is impossible to comment fairly on it. That the R.U.C. is no longer armed is a great tribute to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, for the manner in which he has up to now dealt with this very delicate and tense problem in Northern Ireland. 1013 It is sad that in any street in the United Kingdom people could be so incensed against a police force, as they were in the Falls Road, as to write, "RUC = child killers". That might be unfair, but it is no more unfair than the rather foolish allegation by one of the public relations officers for the police after the unpleasant incidents at Londonderry, when my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast. West (Mr. Fitt) was allegedly hit on the head not by a police baton of the R.U.C. but by a placard wielded by one of his own supporters, an allegation which was later refuted by the Cameron Commission.
What is happier, and what should encourage the House, is the second photograph in this same document which shows Falls Road being patrolled by an unarmed R.U.C. man, with a military policeman by his side, in an atmosphere of relative peace and tranquillity. This is why some of my hon. Friends who welcome the Bill in general terms have the gravest misgivings—it would be out of order to deal with it now—about its counterpart next Wednesday, which threatens us with yet another paramilitary and, perhaps, provocative force in this delicate area.
There is a great tribute to the Inspector-General in this paper, the Voice of the North—an Opposition paper with which I generally agree—for it describes him asin every respect a truly professional policeman with a keen regard for fair play and an international reputation which is impeccable".That is an expression of something for which some of us on this side have been asking for many years. The Stormont Government, which came in for some lavish praise, have suddenly accepted what we have asked for for a long time. The interchange provided for by the Bill ought to raise the standards of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. It ought to encourage professionalism. It ought to inject an element of outside impartiality, and—I appeal here to my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, South (Mr. Peter Mahon) and hope he will agree—some humanism within the force in relation to the numbers drawn from the different communities. This is so necessary in a Province which often harks back to 1690 rather than to an age when we are trying to break down the barriers
1014 between the nations of Europe. The proposal for a United Kingdom Police Council is welcome also inasmuch as it will bring in representatives from various sections of the community and from wide strata of the public.
I refer now to an interesting article written by Mr. Anthony Judge in the police magazine, in which he points out:For the first time, the force is to have a police authority with roughly the same responsibilities as those of a British one. Its constitution is different, but Hunt was right to include representatives from outside the local authorities; universities, trades unions, lawyers and business interests.He goes on to say:
The less that party politics and sectarian issues intrude, the better."
He goes on to say:It would be clear to any observer that for some years past attempts have been made to run the force on a shoe string. Items of equipment which most British forces now take for granted have yet to be intoduced into the R.U.C. Many of the buildings are old and totally unsuitable for police use.So let there be no mistake that I want to see a better equipped force, a better paid and better trained force; that is, a better type of police force than the type that has unfortunately lost the confidence of at least one-third of the population of Northern Ireland.
It lost that confidence because of incidents such as that described in a letter addressed to me, with a name and address, from a Protestant gentleman in Belfast who describes how 10 policemen stood by while citizens of the United Kingdom who pay their taxes were turned into the street in Belfast and haw thugs—as he describes them—arrived at a home and gave a lady one hour to get out, and they were accompanied by two policemen.
I do not say that in a spirit of antagonism, because I want to have a debate in which we look to the future, but it raises problems. One problem is that of those people who in the past, while members of the R.U.C., have transgressed, those who were responsible for the wild and vicious batoning which millions of us saw on our television screens; and one or two hon. Members were present at the time that my hon. Friend was struck on the head in that famous incident which led to the end of the so-called Convention of Westminster.
1015 Some of us would be interested to know whether the police photographs and the other photographs with regard to the incident well documented in the book "Bumtollet", by Bower Egar, are available so that these people who have transgressed in the past can be either punished or left out of the new force so as to inspire a new confidence on the part of the minority in Northern Ireland. Perhaps those who fired shots which they ought not to have done, which resulted in the fatality referred to in this unpleasant graffiti on the walls in Falls Road should also not properly be entitled to be members of a force which is to inspire confidence in Northern Ireland.
The question that I want to put to my right hon. and hon. Friends is: are such members of the R.U.C., the present R.U.C., automatically to become members of the new force? Following on that, I believe that the force—[Interruption.]—the force as reconstituted, if that satisfies hon. Gentlemen opposite, and as restructured—
Captain L. P. S. Off (Down, South)
§ Mr. Rose
Perhaps I might be allowed to finish. The Bill provides for changes in the force, and in essence, to my mind, provides essentially a new force intended to inspire confidence because of its impartiality. The point of mutual aid is to inject an element of impartiality by bringing people over, as we have done in the command structure, who cannot be accused of partiality with regard to the two communities.
I am not suggesting that the name has been changed or anything of that kind, but, in effect, we are trying to start the long haul to a situation where we have a police force which is widely respected. That is what I am trying to say. I hope that the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) will accept that that is what I am attempting to say.
Much will depend on the officer corps in the R.U.C. As it stands after the passing of this legislation, how can one expect to recruit the people that my right hon. Friend referred to before in large numbers if their promotion prospects are to be damaged because senior officers in the existing R.U.C. are politically moti- 1016 vated or partisan in their political or religious views? This is something that we have to look into very carefully.
Will the new Inspector-General, for example, be given a free hand if necessary—one has to go as far as this—to purge those elements that are guilty of partisanship or have been so in the past? Some of them are identifiable from photographs and films which are available to my right hon. Friend.
It will be a long, slow haul to gain the kind of respect from all sections of the community which the R.U.C. must have if it is to carry out its functions as a police force. This is why I would always have preferred Westminster control.
I am concerned that Clause 1 may mean that when British police are needed in Northern Ireland, and the British Home Secretary wishes them to be sent, they will not be sent unless the Northern Ireland Home Secretary also asks for them. Forgive me if I do not have the uttermost faith in all Home Secretaries in Northern Ireland. I remember a visit to the then Home Secretary, Mr. Brian Faulkner, who courteously received me about four years ago, immediately before the 50th anniversary of the Easter Risings, when he assured me that once all the trouble then was over they would be able to get rid of the Special Powers Act. Yet several years after we are still talking about whether we shall get rid of it. Let us not forget that a gentleman of the name of Mr. Craig was also a senior member of a Northern Ireland Government.
§ Mr. John E. Maginnis (Armagh)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that but for the existence of the special powers the Army could not operate in Belfast today?
§ Mr. Rose
There is no reason why the Army could not otherwise operate in Belfast today, because there happens to be an Act passed in 1920, Section 75 of which tends to be forgotten very often in this House, which gives ultimate control to the Government at Westminster. When one considers that a gentleman like Mr. Craig was once a Minister and could again be a Minister, and that he wants to see… a much stronger police force, aided by an armed auxiliary police force, and if there was further trouble the Amy would not be needed …one begins to worry a little.
1017 When one hears Captain R. J. Mitchell, the Member for North Armagh, asking for… a force similar to the National Guard in America which would ruthlessly and impartially deal with rioters ",and saying that he wants themarmed with tanks and flame-throwing bulldozers if necessaryone begins to worry about the possibility of a situation where the Home Secretary of Northern Ireland does not want the British police but we want them to go over there.
I should like my right hon. Friend to look at this aspect. Are we again giving way to the same people to whom time and time again we have given way, and are we trying to walk a tight-rope so as to create goodwill on all sides, but really being intimidated by the Craigs of Northern Ireland?
Are our policemen—and this is the crux of the matter—to be forced to operate under such obnoxious legislation as the Special Powers Act or the Flags and Emblems Act? I remember the most embarrassing time I spent at the Legal Committee of the Council of Europe having to defend our Government when we were unable to sign the European Convention on Human Rights in its entirety because of the Special Powers Act and our activities in Northern Ireland. I was in the rather invidious position of having to put our case.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
Am I not right in thinking that the public houses were closed in Belfast and Londonderry under the Special Powers Act, and was it not in the circumstances highly desirable that they should have been closed during recent weeks?
§ Mr. Rose
I think that the hon. Gentleman would agree that to close a few public houses it does not need an Act which refuses the right to an inquiry after the death of a person in a police station, which allows arrest and search without warrant, which prevents a person communicating with a solicitor, an Act which I think it was Dr. Vorster who said that he would give his right arm to have in South Africa. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman is using a sledge hammer to crack his Guinness bottle. His comment is not relevant.
1018 The logic of the argument of the hon. Member for Runcorn is that if the Bill is to operate successfully Northern Ireland must fall into line with the accepted standards of the rest of the United Kingdom, with the abolition of the Special Powers Act and Acts which prevent people from wearing emblems which somehow appear to be provocative in Northern Ireland but in my constituency are quite acceptable.
I welcome the Police Council for the United Kingdom but there is one provision above all that is abhorrent to me—subsection (4) of Clause 1. To me, the ultimate safeguard we have had in this House has been Section 75 of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister of State because I think that she will tonight make her first speech as a Home Office Minister. I regard the Home Office as the most important Ministry in the Government and I am delighted that she will be replying to the debate. Perhaps she will tell us whether the effect of this provision is once again to resurrect the convention that we thought we had destroyed by providing that the Northern Ireland Parliament may make provisions notwithstanding anything in the 1920 Act. I am greatly disturbed that we are delegating a power which then overrides the original Statute of 1920. If that is not so, I shall be delighted. If it is so, then it is a grave step and one which I would ask my hon. Friends in Committee to vote against. If my hon. Friend the Minister of State accepts that it overrides Section 75, then the subsection must he struck out.
Would it be an offence for an officer seconded, say, from the, excellent police forces we have in Manchester and Salford—many of whom I know personally and who do a good job there—to refuse to enforce a Section of one of these Acts. such as the Special Powers Act, which he found abhorrent to his conscience and which he would never be expected to enforce under the law as it stands in Manchester and Salford?
§ Mr. Rose
No doubt in Liverpool and Bootle as well but I have never had dealings with the police forces there.
The Bill has many good aspects and many good safeguards. Although I am 1019 not a Member for Northern Ireland, as the Leader of the Opposition suggested last week, we all in this House have an interest in that part of the United Kingdom, where grave events have occurred. Last week, the right hon. Gentleman, rather petulantly after that remark, refused to allow me the privilege of intervening, although my right hon. Friend had given way many times for interventions.
The Leader of the Opposition is not here. I wrote to him and asked him to be present because it seems to me that, whenever Northern Ireland is debated, he turns into a shy, retiring orange blossom and retires from the benches opposite. Yet he is able to make offensive remarks on his feet against back benchers who have not the privilege of being allowed to intervene. He has not come tonight. After his cheap gibes last week about Northern Ireland. he should realise that this Bill is being debated tonight because of the disregard of the situation in Northern Ireland by his party over a period of nearly half a century.
On 27th April, 1967, my hon. Friends the Members for Glasgow, Kelvingrove (Dr. Miller) and Salford, West (Mr. Orme) and I wrote a report which we submitted to the then Home Secretary. It was in a compressed form almost word for word what Lord Cameron was to discover two years later. It comes ill from right hon. Gentlemen who have ignored these warnings to act in the way the Leader of the Opposition acted. So far as I am concerned, that chapter is now closed.
This could be a good Bill. It depends on the context in which it is to work. It will not work as long as the Special Powers Act continues. It depends ultimately for its success on the answers which my hon. Friend will give tonight and upon some of the Amendments which I feel will be necessary in Committee in order to turn what is a good intentioned Bill into a really effective Measure which will restore the morale of the R.U.C. and give it the confidence of the whole of the people of Northern Ireland and not merely one section of them.
§ 11.45 p.m.1020
§ Mr. MacDermot
On a point of Order. Is it correct, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for hon. Members opposite to continue to address you as Mr. Gourlay?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)
I have already indicated to the House that we are meeting as a House and that I should therefore be addressed as Mr. Deputy Speaker.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
I did not intend, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to confuse your name and your office. Nor do I propose to comment on the speech of the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose), although I noted with some interest that the hon. Member spoke of his desire to improve the confidence and morale of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. In his words tonight he did nothing towards that end.
I welcome the Bill and I welcome as much as the Bill the way in which the Home Secretary introduced it and some of the things he had to say. He was able to paint on the whole a most encouraging picture of what is happening in the R.U.C. of the improvement in recruiting, the change in training methods, the move from a para-military towards a civilian role. To the extent that he has personally overseen this change, I pay my tribute to him. Similarly, I pay a tribute, in which I am sure the Home Secretary will join, to Sir Arthur Young. In so far as these changes have been brought about and brought about speedily, a large measure of the credit goes to Sir Arthur for the work which he has done.
I also think it right to recognise that it takes great courage and flexibility on the part of the men and officers of the R.U.C. to make these changes in so short a time. It is a force with a great tradition and with long and bitter memories, and the ability to accept change that these men and officers have shown is greatly to their credit.
It is only fair to add that the tributes which have come tonight and which I hope will continue to come to the R.U.C. are not couched in quite the same language as we were hearing some time ago. In paragraph 14 of its report, the Hunt Committee said:We feel bound to deplore the extent to which some press and television coverage of these events has resulted in magnifying, in the 1021 minds of readers and viewers, the actual extent of the disorders, in generalising the impression of misconduct by the police and of bad relations between police and public …The House should endorse that conclusion. While there may have been occasional incidents of which the R.U.C. is and was ashamed, the basic fact is that the great majority of officers and men of the R.U.C. comported themselves with dignity and calm. They deserve the confidence and the vote of confidence of the House.
I welcome the Bill. But we have to look at it with care. In particular, we should recognise the extremely wide powers that the Home Secretary will be taking under Clause 1(2). As my hon. Friend the Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) said, the language is basically the same as that of Section 14 of the Police Act, 1964. But there are some important differences. The Police Act, 1964, applies to mutual aid between forces in England and Wales or between the Scottish forces. This is perfectly reasonable because basically all the police forces of England and Wales and of Scotland are the same kind of forces. They wear the same uniform, they have the same standards of admission and of training. Their men join in the expectation of maintaining those conditions of employment throughout their service career, and they are trained to have an instinct to act as an unarmed civilian police force operating in the essentially and, I believe, uniquely peaceful conditions of this country.
Unfortunately, it is not like that in Ulster. Ulster has a border, and the border will not go away because this House passes the Bill tonight. Ulster has an internal security problem. It may be that the internal security problem is reduced, but it will not go away because this House passes the Bill tonight.
Ulster too has a number of people who do not accept the authority of the Government here or of this House. Ulster even has some representatives who have gone on record as saying that there is need for a revolution to destroy the union with England and to break up the Constitution as we know it. No one can describe these as comparable conditions.
§ Mr. Peter Mahon
If the hon. Member maintains that there are people who will not accept the authority of this Govern 1022 ment, does he not agree—[Interruption.] I am sorry, I have forgotten my point.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
I have no doubt that the hon. Member may come to it a little later and, of course, I will give way again. I am merely making the point that conditions in Ulster and conditions in England and Wales are not the same. It is because those conditions were not the same that we have the Bill tonight.
§ Mr. Peter Mahon
I am indebted to the hon. Member for his courtesy in giving way again. People refuse, and will continue to refuse, to accept the authority of this Parliament, perhaps wrongly in many instances, but because they recognise the border as an anachronism they can never accept it. The whole history of Ireland and what they have been through dictates that course as being the right one for them.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
That is another subject. It is for the House of Commons to decide these matters. But it is not for the police to be placed in a position where they are arguing the question of the border. The police must have objective conditions in which to work. That is the important point.
All I am seeking to demonstrate is that the circumstances in Ulster are not the same as the circumstances in which the police operate in this country. They are not the circumstances in which the police volunteered to serve when they joined the British police forces. That is the relevant point.
And it is because the conditions are so dissimilar that there was the revolutionary commune in Londonderry and, for a while, widespread fighting between what I am bound to call urban guerrillas and the police. [HON. MEMBERS: "Come off it."] Hon. Members opposite may not like my descripticn, but it is a perfectly objective description: urban guerrillas who were fighting the police. There was shooting, Caere was bombing,there was a state —
§ Miss Bernadette Devlin (Mid-Ulster)
The hon. Member has stated that there was shooting and that there was fighting by the urban guerrillas. I ask the hon. Member to accept that there were two sides fighting. The attack was guerrilla on both sides and in Londonderry all shots came from the Royal Ulster Constabulary and their supporters.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
It is immaterial where the shooting came from, for the purpose of this Bill. We are not fighting the battle of Londonderry all over again. What we are concerned with is the question whether or not British police are to be sent from this country into the different conditions of Northern Ireland. I say again, there was shooting, there was bombing, there was a condition of civil anarchy. These are objective facts, and these are the conditions into which this Bill, if it were to be implemented at once, would commit British policemen to go.
So I say simply, these are not conditions into which any British Government ought to send the civilian British police as they exist today. These are conditions for the Army, and it is precisely for that reason that the Government were compelled to send the Army.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
The hon. Lady will have her chance later.
The Home Secretary has said, and I think his words are extremely important, that he will not move the Commencement Order till he is satisfied that conditions in Ulster have more or less been equalised with those in the United Kingdom. For that assurance I, for one, am extremely grateful. The Home Secretary knows that that is the nub of the issue. I am bound to say, though, that he worried me just a little when he went on to define this as not till conditions in Ulster approximate more closely with British conditions than they have in the recent past. That was his phrase: not till conditions in Ulster approximate more closely with British conditions than they have in the recent past would he move the Commencement Order. I think he ought to be a little more precise. I think he ought to indicate a little more closely how and when he is to make that decision that conditions have been mutualised between Britain and Northern Ireland. Perhaps I can put it in a phrase to him. I am all for mutual aid when the conditions of service have been mutualised.
That means—I will define it—
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
My interest is well known to the House. I have a connection with the Police Federation. If that will satisfy the hon. Gentleman, bless him.
I go on to define the conditions on which the Home Secretary should satisfy himself. First, the political situation must be seen to be normalised; that is to say, that communal violence in Ulster must be brought under control. Police asked to go from this country must be able to see in advance that armed fighting is no longer going on. I am happy to recognise that this is gradually coming to be so.
The second condition the police are entitled to request is that the State security role which the Royal Ulster Constabulary have so long had to discharge is laid aside, so that no British policeman sent to Ulster need be expected to undertake anything even approximating to the para-military or internal security role. The British police must be assured that this is not the game into which they are being sent.
Thirdly, the situation under the Special Powers Act requires to be cleared up. I am not at this stage—because I hope there will be a Committee stage for the Bill—going to take any precise view on this matter, because it is complex. But I repeat what I said. The pubs could not have been closed in Ulster during recent weeks without the Special Powers Act.
There is a real problem here. The Home Secretary will recognise that a policeman on duty in Ulster, whether he comes from Liverpool or Londonderry, must obey orders. It is therefore essential to be clear whether or not orders arising under the Special Powers Act shall be binding upon him. This is a detailed point, but it is important that it should be clarified before any policemen are asked to move.
The fourth condition, and one which to a great extent the Home Secretary has already met, is that arms should be "out" for the purpose of Ulster policing. I was glad to hear the Home Secretary say that the Royal Ulster Constabulary is now patrolling without weapons, and I think it shows a great deal of courage to do this in some parts. Will the Minister say whether this is now the normal situation, or whether this is an experiment likely to last only a short time?
§ Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)
Is my hon. Friend aware that a year ago the decision was made that the police should patrol without arms, and six months before the trouble started they were patrolling without arms?
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
I am obliged to my hon. Friend for that information, which I did not know.
The fifth and last condition on which the police should be assured is that the whole question of the B Specials has been resolved. We need to see that the Ulster Regiment has been set up and that members of the B Specials have been entirely removed from normal policing. Normal policing is not their business, and the police are entitled to that assurance.
I turn now to detailed points on the Bill, one of which concerns the British police forces who may be asked to provide the mutual aid. This is an enabling power, and we all hope that the need for it will seldom, if ever, arise, but if police are sent from Britain to Northern Ireland—by agreement I hope—it is possible that they will have to come from those north-western forces which are closest to Northern Ireland. It would be administratively convenient for them to be taken from Lancashire, Liverpool and Bootle, Manchester or Glasgow. Now it is well known to the House that these forces are among the most severely undermanned in the Kingdom. I hope the Home Secretary will bear in mind the needs of those supplying forces before he asks them to move men to Ulster. I feel sure that the Minister will be able to give that assurance, but I believe she should put it on record.
The demands on the police forces in those areas are growing. With the growth of crime, traffic, drug-taking and demonstrations, and the enforcement of all the laws which we pass, how can we expect the police to cope without providing them with the means to do it? There is already a condition of overstretch of our domestic police services, and we should have an assurance that forces that are already overstretched will not be required to bear the brunt of reinforcements for Ulster.
My next point of detail concerns the number of British police officers—I think that there may be less than half a dozen already in Ulster, including Sir 1026 Arthur Young. What precisely is the status of those British policemen? Under what powers were they sent there—I cannot find any—and what are their conditions of service and salaries? I hope that the Minister will be able to regularise the position of these men.
How will our home authorities recover their costs, and how will the Northern Ireland Government, if we are to be asked to send help, recover their costs from the domestic police authorities? If the Minister cannot answer this question tonight, there will be ample opportunity in Committee to discuss the matter; but our home police authorities require to know the position.
I welcome what the Bill sets out for the Police Council. Indeed, I had the privilege of recommending this to the Hunt Committee. However, I wish to be clear on precisely who will represent the Royal Ulster Constabulary on the Police Council. On the staff side, British police forces are represented by a combination of chief police officers, superintendents and the Police Federation. It is important that the R.U.C. should have confidence that its representative body, representing the rank and file, will be physically there. It is not enough that they should be represented, as has happened too often in the past, by appointed senior officers. It is essential that the Council has the elected representatives of the men.
The representative body of the R.U.C. has done a good job. But it has not been allowed to grow in experience or authority to anything like the strength of the police federations of England, Wales and Scotland. It is, therefore, essential that the men's own representative body is assisted with, for example, office space and time off for its officers —particularly to enable its chairman and secretary to do their work competently —and it is vital that they should be represented on the Police Council along with the rest. This may require some action on the part of the Northern Ireland Government. If so, I hope that the Minister will give the Stormont authorities all possible encouragement to do this, as I have every reason to believe is their intention.
I draw attention too to the question of police pensions, about which there is an interesting little wrinkle in the Bill. 1027 Police pensions will, at least for 12 months, be subject only to the negative procedure in the House if new Orders have to be made. This is rather unusual. No doubt there is a special reason for this in Clause 5, and perhaps it is to achieve greater speed. I hope that the Minister will clear the matter up.
Finally, I welcome the Bill and I have not the slightest doubt that the British police will respond, as they always do and as they always have done, to any call that is made on them. I hope, however, that it will not be necessary to make that call very often.
To sum up the police must not be asked to go into a situation for which they have not been trained and of which neither they nor their families could have had any expectation when they first joined the service.
We must not, in helping Ulster—much as we wish to do that—weaken our home forces, and particularly those in the North-West which are at present severely under-manned.
We must also—and this is crucial—make it worth the policeman's while if he is asked to go to Ulster to undertake new duties in different circumstances. In many walks of life this might be described as a change in his contract of employment. In such circumstances he might expect a little something to compensate for the new duties. While this may be in general a subject for the Police Council, it is important, at a time when the police are in considerable difficulties, that it is made worth while for them to undertake new duties in these circumstances.
§ Mr. Eddie Griffiths (Sheffield, Brightside)
Is not the hon. Gentleman contradicting himself? He said that under no circumstances should policemen in England and Wales be asked to undertake duties in Northern Ireland for which they had not been trained and for which they had not enlisted. He went on to say that policemen called on to do such duties should be compensated for doing them.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
The hon. Gentleman makes a logical point but he will understand that even though the conditions be broadly mutualised in Northern Ireland, there will always remain a 1028 difference of circumstance, a condition, possibly, of tension. I mentioned some of the points: the open border, the fact that there is an extra-constitutional opposition, if that is the polite way to describe it, in Northern Ireland. Therefore, however much we seek—and, I think, will find—mutualisation of conditions, there will always be a little extra strain on the officers who go there. I think that the hon. Gentleman will accept that view.
If we ask our police to undertake new obligations to go to Ulster, where there has been storm and bitterness, it is even more crucial that the House should demonstrate its confidence in them. It should back them all the way. There will always be circumstances in which we shall wish to complain about the police, and it is right that we should. That is what Parliament is for, and I honour hon. Members who have complaints to make. But it is essential when we seek to change a police service with the tradition and pride of the R.U.C. and seek as well to send, occasionally, British forces to help it, that this House of Commons should show its confidence and support for the police.
I cannot end without saying that there are hon. Members who, in respect of the R.U.C., have done neither themselves nor the House of Commons any credit. I wish to read one sentence, and one sentence, only from a book shortly to be published on this subject. This was after the incident at Burntollet, where passions ran high. It reads:
There was only one way to deal with the police force, I said: give them three weeks for every honest man to get out, then systematically shoot the rest.That was said and written by the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin). It is no way to command the confidence and help the morale of the British police, whether Irish, Scottish, English or Welsh.
§ Miss Devlin
On the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for the hon. Gentleman to read out of context a number of statements which were, in fact, made to a police officer who had on that occasion struck me?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker(Mr. Harry Gourlay)
It is in order for the hon. 1029 Gentleman to quote. It is not a matter for the Chair whether it is in context Dr not.
§ 12.13 a.m.
§ Mr. Gerard Fitt (Belfast, West)
I am amazed at the low temperature of this debate so far. I can assure hon. Members that when the police force is discussed in Northern Ireland there will be many reasons for raised passions on both sides. I accept that this Bill is yet another measure in the reform which has been brought about at the insistence of the British Government and reluctantly accepted by the Northern Ireland Government.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) made great play of the fact that the Northern Ireland Government had accepted the recommendations of the Hunt Committee, and seemed to imply that they should be congratulated on it. I wonder whether he is aware that the Northern Ireland Government will tomorrow refuse to accept. in the most gracious way, those recommendations? Tomorrow, the Opposition Members there have a Motion on the Order Paper welcoming the conclusions of the Hunt Report, and the Unionist Government of Northern Ireland have gone out of their way to put down an Amendment taking note of the conclusions, and not welcoming them. I want to impress on the House that we had the Hunt Committee set up at the insistence of the British Government and any changes which have taken place in the police structure of Northern Ireland have been brought about through pressure by the Home Secretary.
During his recent visit to Northern Ireland, the Home Secretary said on many occasions—and I agree—that respect for the forces of law and order is the cement which hinds together the fabric of a democratic society. Yet, after almost 50 years of self-government in Northern Ireland it has taken an absolute convulsion in which many people lost their lives and many hundreds, of all ages, were injured to enable us to look forward to the day when we would have an impartial police force.
I welcome this Bill and I hope that it will set the standard for police activity in 1030 Northern Ireland for years ahead. Hon. Members in all parts of the House will have reason to support us when we say that we have had real suspicion that the Royal Ulster Constabulary has been acting as the political aim of the Government there. They have at all times administered the law in favour of the Unionist Government and not as an impartial police service. This has been brought out by an investigation by the Cameron Commission, which had absolutely no doubt of the infamous conduct of members of the R.U.C. in the last 12 months. Hon. Members watched their television in October, 1968, and saw District Inspector Ross McGimpsey, with a blackthorn stick, viciously beating an 18-year-old boy into the ground. Had that man been a member of the police forces of Scotland, England or Wales. would he not have been dismissed immediately?
§ Mr. Stratton Mills (Belfast, North)
To put into context the incidents of 5th October, will the hon. Member for Belfast. West (Mr. Fitt) comment on the views of the Cameron Commission in its Report, which says on page 27 that the hon. Member:sought publicity for himself and his political views, and must clearly have envisaged the possibility of a violent clash with the police as providing the publicity he so ardently sought. His conduct in our view was reckless and wholly irresponsible in a person occupying his public positions.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)
Order. I hope hon. Members will not depart too far from the contents of the Bill. While some background is obviously necessary in discussing the Bill, I hope that hon. Members will not stray too far.
§ Mr. Fitt
I have repeatedly said that I regard that particular section of the Cameron Report as rather a compliment than a criticism because it was only the events which happened in Derry on that day as referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) which brought the attention of the British public to what was happening in Northern Ireland. They were able to see on their television screens what was happening there when thousands of people were demanding the right to hold a peaceful protest.
§ Mr. Orme
It should be put on record that many of us in this House applaud what my hon. Friend did in attracting publicity which has brought condemnation by a section of the Cameron Report. I and many of my colleagues refute that section. We believe that my hon. Friend was bringing into the dispute publicity to prevent further disorders, which unfortunately arose in Northern Ireland. My hon. Friend has the support of a large section of hon. Members on this side of the House.
§ Mr. Fitt
The hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) has conveniently forgotten another paragraph in the Cameron Report, which states that the Commission was under absolutely no doubt that while I was walking in the parade unarmed and defenceless I was set upon by the police and battered to the ground.
§ Mr. Fitt
My hon. Friend was there with me on that occasion. For 50 years in Northern Ireland there has been no confidence by one-third of the community in the activities of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The R.U.C. has at all times acted as the militant arm of the Unionist Government and, on many occasions, of the Orange Order.
I am the first to say that there are many honourable men in the R.U.C. I have never gone on record as condemning in a wholesale way each and every individual member of the R.U.C. There are many honourable men in it. There are many members of the R.U.C. who did not want to be in Derry on 5th October or in Armagh or in Newry or in the other trouble spots in Northern Ireland recently. But they were forced to take part in those actions because of dictates by the Unionist Government.
I agree with the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths) that the Home Secretary may be arrogating to himself the right to send a policeman to a certain place in Northern Ireland without that British police officer having any say in whether he should be sent there. I agree with the hon. Gentleman there. If the Home Secretary does not have the fullest consultation with the authority and the police officers con 1032 cerned before he dispatches them to Northern Ireland, it should be fully resisted. That is what we have objected to in Northern Ireland over the past 50 years where the Home Secretary was able to tell ordinary members of the police force to act in a political way. I would support any hon. Member in whatever stand he may take to prevent the forces of law and order in this country from acting as a political arm of whatever party may be in power.
I welcome the Bill. Any criticism which I may have to make is made because I do not believe that the Bill goes far enough. Hon. Members opposite should take it as rather complimentary that I, an Irishman, am extending a welcome to British police forces to come to Northern Ireland. I have faith in that impartiality of the British police forces. I know that they do not act from any political motive or with any political bias. I am certain, after having watched members of the British police forces, particularly the Metropolitan Police Force on 27th October of last year in the Vietnam demonstration which took place in the heart of this city, that they would have been quite capable, and would be quite capable, of crowd control in Northern Ireland without the use of batons, water cannon, and undue violence.
The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds seemed to argue that British policemen should be seconded to Northern Ireland only when there is normality in the situation. When the situation is normal in Northern Ireland, there will be no need for British police forces to come there. I hope that it will be unnecessary in the future, but I want them to come there now so that, if there are further demonstrations, British police will be in the vicinity and will be able to influence their colleagues in the R.U.C. and show them that it is unnecessary to use brutality against people who are unarmed and defenceless.
I am sure that I shall have the support of the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds in the submissions I am about to make. Clause 1(2) obliges the Secretary of State to await a request from the Minister of Home Affairs in Northern Ireland or some senior police officer before dispatching British police officers. I should like the Home Secretary to be in the position of being able to ask a 1033 number of volunteers from British police forces to go to Northern Ireland if necessary, rather than having to force men to go there. I make that suggestion because in March and April of this year, just after the election, when the former Prime Minister, whom we all admired as a man who was trying to bring about a better community, fell from power, there were a number of explosions. These were no doubt the work of a subversive organisation. Water mains were blown up, and an electricity transformer was blown up. Members on the opposite side put forward the view that these attacks were carried out by members of the illegal extreme Protestant U.V.F. forces. We were repeatedly told from the Government side that suspicion also attached ID members of the I.R.A., but we now know that the I.R.A. was in no way involved.
From March and April until two or three weeks ago none of the people involved in those explosions was apprehended, and one wondered why there did not seem to be any great anxiety on the part of the police to apprehend those who were responsible. Then a new Inspector-General was seconded to Northern Ireland, Sir Arthur Young, and here I agree with those who have spoken about him. In my estimation, and in the estirnation of many people in Northern Ireland, Sir Arthur Young is a wonderful police officer. He has done a great deal to restore confidence in the R.U.C. even as it is at present constituted. He has worked wonders in the short time that he has been there, and we hope that he will be with us for many years to come.
What worries us is who will succeed him. He may leave Northern Ireland in two or three years' time. The officers under him have been members of the R.U.C. for many years. We have no faith in the county inspectors, the district inspectors, and the commissioners. We do not believe that any of them could compete with the efficiency and the impartiality which we are experiencing under Sir Arthur Young.
It appears to me, and to many others, that the R.U.C. was not terribly anxious to apprehend the perpetrators of the explosions in March and April, and I should like that to be confirmed or contradicted. It has been said in Northern Ireland in recent weeks that on taking 1034 up his post as Inspector-General Sir Arthur Young sent for the details of the explosions and the records of the men who were suspected of having been involved, and immediately gave orders to arrest certain persons, and those people are now awaiting trial. if Sir Arthur Young had not been made Inspector-General, would those arrests have taken place? I have a strong suspicion that they would not.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)
Order. I think that the hon. Member must relate his remarks a little more closely to the Bill. The background is interesting, but it is not relevant to the Bill.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
As I understand it, the Northern Ireland Government have accepted the principle of inspection by Her Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary. To that extent it is plain that the problem to which the hon. Gentleman alludes could not arise again if Her Majesty's inspectors are doing their job. This is a real safeguard which the Northern Ireland Government have accepted.
§ Mr. Fitt
Yes, I agree that the Northern Ireland Government have, albeit reluctantly, accepted many of the recommendations in both the Cameron and the Hunt Reports, but what I am urging upon my right lion. Friend is that he should have the right, when it appears to him, or if information is laid at his disposal, that the Northern Ireland Government are not acting or do not seem to be acting to detect certain criminals, to dispatch British police officers to Northern Ireland, after consultation with the United Kingdom force, so that they may inquire into crimes which have taken place. I believe that the R.U.C. have on occasion, perhaps reluctantly, been forced to act as a political arm of the Northern Ireland Government, and I hope that, in view of the Hunt Committee's proposals, that will never again happen.
What is to be the position of a British police officer in Northern Ireland who feels that he has to object to undertaking 1035 a certain duty, arrest or investigation because he believes that it would be repugnant to the standards of police service as he has known them in this country? There is the example of the Special Powers Act. My right hon. Friend said that he hoped that British police officers seconded to Northern Ireland would not have to be involved in the implementation of that Act. I should like to see that written into the Bill.
There is a law in Northern Ireland known as the Flags and Emblems Act, under which certain flags and emblems are prohibited, under severe penalties. In this country, in Hyde Park every Sunday, one can see the flags of many different nations as the protest meetings and other meetings take place at that well known assembly point. Many a time, I have seen flags of the Irish Republic being flown there. In Northern Ireland it is illegal to fly the flag of the Irish Republic. The flag of any other country in the world may be flown there without giving offence, but it is illegal to fly the flag of the Irish Republic.
One can readily envisage a situation in which a British police officer accompanied by a Northern Ireland police officer is on street patrol duty in any part of Northern Ireland, but particularly in some streets of Belfast, and he sees some individual wave the tricolour. This would not unduly concern the British police officer, especially if he was a member of the Metropolitan force, because he probably sees flags waved on all sorts of occasions and for all sorts of reasons. He would not be particularly annoyed. But his Northern Ireland colleague would say. "Is not that very provoking? I think we should arrest that fellow for contravening the Flags and Emblems Act". The British police officer would reply, "It is not provoking me. I do not see any harm in it". The other one would say, "I shall report you to our senior officer, to the district or county inspector", and the poor British police officer would find himself in serious trouble because he did not go out of his way to arrest someone who he did not believe was committing an offence anyhow.
That is the sort of situation in which British police officers could find themselves. When seconded to Northern 1036 Ireland, British police officers should not be forced to undertake duties which are repugnant to the service which they have known in this part of the United Kingdom.
My right hon. Friend referred to the Special Powers Act. The hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. Maginnis) tried to make an excuse for it this evening by saying that it was only by virtue of the Special Powers Act that the British military are now in Northern Ireland. That is utter nonsense, because the British military force—
§ Mr. Fitt
I just wanted to point out that they were there under other legislation, not because of the Special Powers Act. The Special Powers Act, one of the most draconian Acts that has ever existed on the Statute Book of Northern Ireland —it still exists there—has been condemned by all freedom-loving countries of the world. It would not be tolerated in any country outside the Iron Curtain. It is an acute embarrassment to all hon. Members in the House. Many of them are deeply concerned
§ Mr. Fitt
I agree with my hon. Friend. Except those who represent the Unionist Party in this House. They have tried at all times to find a justification for the existence of the Act.
My right hon. Friend said he hoped that British police officers seconded to Northern Ireland would not be placed in the position of having to enforce the provisions of the Act. I would have hoped that he would go much further in that direction and ensure that it was written into the Bill in Committee that in no circumstances will members of the British police forces be called upon to operate the provisions of that notorious Act.
§ Mr. McNamara
Does my hon. Friend, in the course of his speech, intend to ask the Minister of State whether there are any people at the moment in prison in Northern Ireland under the Special Powers Act, what is the nature of the complaints, and whether any of them are 1037 there for holding documents which may have been duplicated, editions of books and photostat copies, as an example of the situation?
§ Mr. Fitt
I am delighted that my hon. Friend has raised that point. In Northern Ireland there is something of a contradiction at the moment. As we understand it, in Northern Ireland—I know that my hon. Friend who is to reply will attempt to give the information for which I now ask—it is stated that two men are still detained under the provisions of the Special Powers Act. We have had statements made both in this House and in Northern Ireland that no one is in prison now because of the provisions of the Act. I should like to have the matter clarified once and for all so that we know exactly where we stand in relation to the implementation of the Act at present.
It is a question which should be answered so that the people of Northern Ireland will know whether to accept the remarks by spokesmen in the Northern Ireland Government and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary when he stated that it would be hoped that within the very near future the Act should be repealed or abolished.
If at the present moment when we are discussing reforms—and this is one of the measures of reform—there is any person in Northern Ireland detained under the Act, it makes nonsense of my right hon. Friend's pious hope this evening that British police officers seconded to Northern Ireland should not be asked to implement the provisions of the Act.
I find myself in the position of accepting the Bill as another instalment in the reform package which has been brought about at the insistence of this Government. But I welcome it more particularly—here I shall have the support of my right hon. Friends—because it is a further erosion of the ridiculous convention which existed for so many years and prevented us from discussing Northern Ireland matters in this House. We have now arrived at a position where we can discuss matters relating to Northern Ireland.
Because of the terrible price that we had to pay for this in the loss of lives and property and disruption in Northern Ireland we are in the position to do that if the House of Commons is going to accept its full authority over all matters, 1038 persons, places and things, according to the wording of Section 75 of the 1920 Act.
I think that the Home Secretary will see the seriousness of the positions as it exists in Northern Ireland. We want the Bill. We realise the importance of it. We realise that British police officers seconded to Northern Ireland will act in a very impartial way. We want now to set down the basis for an impartial police force in Northern Ireland which will act in the interests of all its citizens. That is the request I make on behalf of my constituents and an awful lot more people who do not live in my constituency. I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to accede to this request.
§ 12.40 a.m.
§ Captain L. P. S. Orr (Down, South)
My hon. Friends representing English and Scottish constituencies will be surprised to learn that the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) has made a moderate speech—moderate for him. We welcome that. The hon. Member welcomed the Bill, and we are glad that we have his support, as is the Home Secretary, no doubt. But on examination of what he said I do not think he has necessarily made a terribly good start. I think that he would accept from me that it is not the best way to bring about confidence in the police force to say that one-third of the population for 50 years has had no confidence in the impartiality of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. I repudiate that completely. I do not think it is true. It is no service to the cause the hon. Member has at heart, the restoration of the confidence in the police force of the whole community, of whatever class or creed, to say that he has no confidence in the present senior officers of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
§ Captain Orr
I am sure I am not misrepresenting the hon. Gentleman. If I am, I will withdraw. He said that if perchance Sir Arthur Young had to leave his office in the next two or three years he had no confidence, in any of the present officers as being fitted to be his successor. Perhaps the next time the hon. Gentleman is being moderate he would be more careful to avoid that kind of exaggeration and to weigh his words a little more carefully. I believe that 1039 at heart the hon. Gentleman wants to see what we all want to see, the Royal Ulster Constabulary in a position to command the respect of the entire community. This we have in common, and for this reason we both support the Bill.
The hon. Gentleman talked about the scenes on television as a result of which so many people lost confidence in the impartiality of the police.
§ Captain Orr
I would draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to what the Hunt Committee said, part of which has already been quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths). The hon. Gentleman has said that he welcomes the Hunt Report. One takes it that in welcoming it he accepts it. The Committee stated:We feel bound to deplore the extent to which some press and television coverage of these events has resulted in magnifying, in the minds of readers and viewers, the actual extent of the disorders, in generalising the impression of misconduct by the police and of bad relations between police and public, while sometimes failing correspondingly to illustrate the calm which has prevailed in most parts of Ulster, or the degree of deliberate provocation, the danger and the strain under which the police frequently and for long periods, tried to do their duty, as well as the fact that the great majority acted not only with courage but with restraint.I trust that the hon. Gentleman accepts that.
§ Captain Orr
But what he said is not consistent with that acceptance. However, I am glad to have his acceptance. It is a great step forward.
§ Mr. Heffer
I draw the hon. and gallant Gentleman's attention to page 28 of the Cameron Report, which deals with precisely the circumstances to which my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) referred. The report says:The procession marched straight up to the police, and it appears to us established on the evidence that at this stage batons were used by certain police officers without explicit order, although this is denied by the police. We regret to say that we have no doubt that both Mr. Fitt and Mr. McAteer were batoned by the police, at a time when no order to draw batons had been given and in circumstances in which the use of batons on these gentlemen was wholly without justification or excuse.1040 I saw that incident myself on television and I thought that it was most horrible.
§ Captain Orr
That is not the point of the hon. Member for Belfast, West, to which I was referring. I was referring to the generalisation he made, and I was adding that the Hunt Report is much more important in the context of this Bill, since it is upon chapter 7 of the report that the Bill is founded. The Hunt Report is more relevant to the Bill, therefore. That is why I emphasise page 14 of the report and I am glad to record that the hon. Member for Belfast, West accepts it. I think that is very good.
§ Mr. Rose
Would not the hon. and gallant Gentleman agree that there is no inconsistency between the fact that some incidents may well have been exaggerated in the public mind and the fact that one-third of the population lost confidence in the police? Does not he also agree that my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) is making precisely the point that because perhaps incidents of this very unpleasant kind, which we witnessed, do get out of proportion, one loses confidence, and that this is why the one-third of the population lost confidence?
§ Captain Orr
It may well be that one-third lost confidence but the hon. Member for Belfast, West exaggerated by suggesting that for 50 years one-third of the population had had no confidence in the R.U.C. These are two very different things. I certainly accept. as did the Hunt Committee, that television coverage, which it criticised, did have the effect of making one-third of the population, or certainly a large proportion, since that is perhaps putting the figure too high, lose confidence in the police. But the Hunt Report says clearly that this was not the fault of the police but the fault of quite a number of things.
§ Mr. Fitt
Coming from Northern Ireland, the hon. and gallant Gentleman will remember that, in 1953, an unjustified baton charge took place in Pomeroy. in County Tyrone, when hundreds of innocent people were beaten by the R.U.C. Unfortunately, at that time we did not have television so the British people did not get to know what was 1041 happening. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said in this House during a debate on Northern Ireland in a aswer to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, people here did not know what was happening because they used to have to rely on reports from people like the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but now there is British television.
§ Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)
On a point of order. May we have your guidance, Mr. Speaker, on the range of the debate? The Bill suggests various ways in which the police forces of England, Scotland and Wales may be called to assist the maintenance of law and order in Northern Ireland. It does not deal with the disturbances which have taken place in Northern Ireland and which have been the subject of various reports. Is it in order for us to discuss, apart from passing references, all those disturbances and the causes which no doubt led to the Bill?
§ Mr. Speaker
With respect, the right hon. and learned Gentleman should leave the Chair to rule what is in order. I gather than the present argument of the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) is whether there should be confidence in the new co-operation between the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the British police forces and the reasons why that confidence may or may not exist.
§ Captain Orr
In any case, I intended to leave the purely background situation, because what we are discussing is the necessity for ending the isolation in which the R.U.C. has stood and to which the Hunt Committee drew attention. It is difficult to discuss it without looking at the Hunt Report as a whole and realising that part of the operation is the removal from the R.U.C. of the para-military role which it has had for many years and which has been an exceedingly difficult role for it to fulfil.
I have said in the House before that the Royal Ulster Constabulary is probably one of the finest police forces in Western Europe. It is easy to be wise after the event, but, looking back, it has had to carry a task which it ought never to have had to carry. It has had to carry a role which ought properly to have been carried by the forces of the Crown. It 1042 has had to carry out military tasks which it ought never to have had to carry out for so long. Looking back at the burden which the R.U.C. and the Special Constabulary have had to carry ever since the I.R.A. troubles of a decade or so ago, the police forces in Ulster have had to do a job which they ought never to have had to do for so long, para-military functions which for a long time now should have been performed by the forces of the Crown.
What is being done now is right. Military operations are properly to be the responsibility of the military authorities which we are to debate on Wednesday. As a corollary, the Royal Ulster Constabulary is being civilianised, to use a term used by an hon. Member opposite, and as part of that it is being brought within the ambit of the rest of the United Kingdom police forces.
As it stands, the Bill is admirable and I agree with the hon. Member for Belfast, West that we must support it. I was interested in what the Home Secretary had to say about Clause 1 when he said that he did not envisage any movement of members of the forces in England and Wales for anything more than a weekend. The Bill does not say that, but I welcome that intention. None of us wants to be in a position in which we call upon police forces from England and Wales for any prolonged period of service in Ulster. If a situation developed which looked as if such a requirement might be needed, we would think that the right way in which it should be dealt with would be by the military forces. If a situation developed to that extent, it would obviously be a question of military force. We would, however, hope that such a situation would not arise.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I should like to repeat once again, as the hon. and gallant Member gives me the opportunity to do so, that the power now being sought in the Bill is the same power as is sought for the giving and receiving of mutual aid in England and Wales. I know of no example where a force is asked for help for longer than a day or two days for a weekend demonstration. I can do no more than re-emphasise that the policy will be to apply it in the same way as between English and Welsh 1043 forces and Scottish forces and Northern Ireland as it now applies between forces in Britain and in no different way. I am grateful to be able to say that again.
§ Captain Orr
I am grateful to the Home Secretary. That, we understand, is the position. So far as I know, in Northern Ireland we are perfectly happy with that. That is exactly what we would envisage.
It is a two-way traffic. I might with fairness make the point that there could be quite a lot of experience which the R.U.C. has had as a result of the difficult pressures to which it has been subjected in the operation of a police force heavily outnumbered, which perhaps has not happened in this country to anything like the same extent.
It is a fair point to make that in dealing with the situation in Grosvenor Square, the Home Secretary, or the Metropolitan Police, could call upon something like 3,000 police to deal with the situation, whereas at the height of the terrible troubles in Londonderry, I understand, the maximum that could be called upon by the Royal Ulster Constabulary to deal with something which was infinitely worse than Grosvenor Square, the Springboks or anything else could produce, was something like 700 at the very most. It may well be that this kind of experience might even be useful the other way, so I am sure that the Home Secretary will accept that this might be of mutual advantage.
To my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds who was worried about the denuding of certain of the home police forces, perhaps I could say that if things were settled and quiet, it may well be that that mutual arrangement might be of advantage when one had a football match in Bootle or Liverpool, or Walton-on-Thames, in which order might have to be kept. We would hope, therefore, that it would be a two-way traffic.
A good deal of discussion of, for example, the kind of point which hon. Members opposite have raised about the Special Powers Act and the kind of law which visiting policemen might be called upon to enforce might well arise in Committee, when we can go into the matter in more detail. It is a somewhat sus- 1044 tained argument which would be better put in the context than the context of Second Reading. I hope to deal with it when we come to it. I have no intention of dodging the point.
At this stage, I simply welcome the Bill and hope that the House generally, on Second Reading, will wish the Royal Ulster Constabulary every success in setting out to be the police force which, in the past, was far from being the military or political arm—I cannot remember precisely the words of the hon. Member for Belfast, West, but he said that it was expected to be the political arm of the Ulster Government. I would repudiate that completely. With very few exceptions—and, of course, there are exceptions, as there always are in any organisation like this—the record of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, from the top downwards, is that of a force which has always sought to enforce the law impartially and fairly. The hon. Gentleman opposite who is shaking his head really does the cause he wishes to see no good by suggesting that that is not true.
§ Mr. Rose
The hon. and gallant Gentleman knows only too well what happened at Burntollet. He knows what was said in the Cameron Report about Burntollet. He also knows what happened to my hon. Friend, which has been described in somewhat gruesome detail tonight. If those were impartial actions I am rather worried as to what would have happened if they had been partial.
§ Captain Orr
I said there may have been exceptions. There always are. One can find exceptions in any police force in the world; one could find individual members of any police force who had fallen short of the highest standards. What I am asserting now is the general proposition that the Royal Ulster Constabulary for 50 years have endeavoured to act with impartiality and fairness towards all sections of the community. The hon. Gentleman really does not do any good service to the cause which he himself professes to wish to see enhanced —the Royal Ulster Constabulary coming forward now to serve all classes of the community fairly and responsibly. The Hunt Committee would not have referred to the "distinguished history" of the R.U.C. if the hon. Gentleman's general 1045 thesis could be sustained. The Royal Ulster Constabulary have in the past been a great police force, and I believe they will be in the future, and I believe this Bill will help them to be so.
§ 1.2 a.m.
§ Miss Bernadette Devlin (Mid-Ulster)
I should like to join with previous speakers this evening in saying that the Bill is acceptable. It is to me and, I think, to most of the people in Northern Ireland. It is acceptable with a few reservations, most of which have been mentioned here already.
While all hon. Members will join with me in wishing to see decent standards of living and of law enforcement established in Northern Ireland, however much we may disagree on the best way to achieve those ends, I feel there are in the Bill several points which give rise to concern. The past record of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the peculiarities of the Northern Ireland legal system, and the differential rates of pay in that part of the country, are three points we must consider with all seriousness when trying to produce between the police forces in Northern Ireland and this country a kind of fluid mobility.
I should like to take up hon. Members opposite on a number of real points. They are, basically, confidence, and the past record of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. These are important, I feel, because we are not only trying to do something to end the situation which has developed over the years in Northern Ireland but also to improve matters. Therefore, we must not allow the individual members of the police forces in this country to have their own positions, or their own consciences, in their jobs prejudiced by the job they may be asked to do in Northern Ireland. This is why I wish to illustrate the past record of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. During the past year it has been subjected to sustained criticism. Those who have witnessed the conduct of the force when involved in crowd control have repeatedly remarked on its partisan nature and political orientation.
The report prepared by Lord Cameron contained repeated examples of the biased conduct of law enforcement officers. Thus, reference is made to the action of a county inspector who warned 1046 all women and children to leave a procession before he gave the order for a baton charge to commence. Other senior officers did not show this curious concern for potential victims. District Inspector Ross McGimpsey is reported as using his blackthorn stick with needless violence and behaving in a way which brought the force into disrepute. Other senior police officers, including County Inspector Cramsie and District Inspector Harrison, are criticised for failing to provide competent and impartial protection for peaceful protesters.
An hon. Gentleman quoted from my as yet unpublished book on my attitude to the Royal Ulster Constabulary. I would refer again to Burntollet and Irish Street to demonstrate why such men as County Inspectors Kerr and Corbett and District Inspector Harrison can never be regarded as impartial law enforcement officers in Northern Ireland. The findings of the Cameron Comm ission on the disturbances in Derry on 4th and 5th January and on 19th April show grave indiscipline and criminal activity on the part of policemen and reflect most harshly on the senior officers concerned. I ask the hon. Gentleman, in passing, if he considers all those a number of isolated incidents.
From the outset of the troubles these senior officers should have looked for guidance from the Inspector-General at the time, Mr. Anthony Peacocke. Mr. Anthony Peacocke, during the course of his career, engaged in continual political broadcasts designed to vilify those who protested against injustices, and this was later substantiated by Lord Cameron in subsequent injuries. Therefore, I would join with hon. Members in welcoming the appointment of Sir Arthur Young as Inspector-General of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
Hon. Members have referred to the change which this one action has made to the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and to the confidence which many people have managed to regain in at least the possibility of getting in Northern Ireland something like impartial law and justice. This has been achieved by one man, by Sir Arthur Young. If the Bill goes through, with the few Amendments which I and other hon. Members think necessary, the people of Northern Ireland will have a police force the members of which 1047 are enforcing law and order and not their own political opinions. Without doubt, the political conduct of several police officers has been largely responsible for the low reputation of the force.
I should like now to deal with the Bill and the points on which I disagree with the Home Secretary. First, on British police officers who would be called to serve in Northern Ireland, the Bill does not contain any clause of conscience for a police officer who joined the force in this country and was not expecting to enforce such laws as the Special Powers Act as applied to Northern Ireland. If he is seconded to Northern Ireland, he may be asked to enforce laws which are against his own conscience. The Home Secretary said that such a man would not be called upon to carry out this duty, but this is not stated in the Bill. Furthermore, the Bill states that if such a member is disciplined, as he would naturally be. by his senior officer for not carrying out the duty given to him, he would be likely to be disciplined as a member of his home force on returning to this country. The Special Powers Act is, therefore, not only a matter for this House but one concerning the career of every policeman in this country who volunteers for service or is directed to offer service in Northern Ireland.
In considering the question of seconding policemen from this country to Northern Ireland, we must not forget the differential pay rates which exist in the two countries. What rates will be received by English policemen in Northern Ireland and what rates will be received by policemen from Northern Ireland who come here?
§ Mr. Callaghan
They are the same. A constable, sergeant and head constable—that is, up to the rank of inspector—receive rates of pay that are exactly the same in both countries. Only above that rank—for example, at the superintendent and chief constable levels—do the rates vary, and then not greatly.
§ Miss Devlin
I am grateful for that information, of which I was not aware.
My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) mentioned the possibility of the Minister of Home Affairs not feeling inclined to call on the 1048 Home Secretary to take action under the Bill. I, too, advise the Home Secretary to make adequate provision to override, should he deem it necessary, such matters and direct police officers from this country to be seconded to Northern Ireland without a direction from the Minister of Home Affairs.
With these few reservations, I find the Bill wholly acceptable and I am sure that the people of Northern Ireland will find it equally acceptable. With the proposals being implemented by Sir Arthur Young, we hope to see the Royal Ulster Constabulary, under much more strict guidance from this Parliament, as a force which we, the people of Northern Ireland, can for once be satisfied has no function other than to maintain the law of the country. I ask that in future the law be such that we can respect it, for we can never respect the Special Powers Act.
I assure the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds—or should I say the Police Federation?—(Mr. Eldon Griffiths) that his argument completely collapsed when he said that the function of British policemen was not the same as the function of Northern Ireland policemen, because some people in Northern Ireland did not accept the authority of this House. I remind him that some people in Wales do not accept the authority of this House, but a Special Powers Act is not necessary to deal with them.
§ 1.14 a.m.
§ Mr. Norman Miscampbell (Blackpool, North)
I will not adopt the tone which has characterised the speeches of some hon. Members in this debate because I believe that the best service which this House can render to Ulster at present is to look on the hopeful side of the situation and not dwell on recriminations about the past and the fears which we know are felt in Northern Ireland. There will be enough of that in that country in the coming months.
A recriminating attitude has been the theme of a century of debates about Northern Ireland in this House, and that has provided some of the most unrewarding and unprofitable debates this Parliament has ever had. Thus, tonight I welcome the Bill for three briefly stated reasons. First, it will integrate the Northern Ireland force as never before with the forces in the other parts of the 1049 two islands. That is something that everyone who has the best interests of Ulster at heart can welcome.
I welcome it, secondly, because it will give help towards a force which, using as neutral a term as I can, certainly comes well out of the Hunt Report. We should give that force all the help we can at this time of difficulty. I know that it is said that one-third of the Ulster population does not have confidence in the Royal Ulster Constabulary, but that figure is produced by looking at the population figure as a whole and saying that one-third is Roman Catholic.
In some areas, it is true, there is hostility and perhaps even fear of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, but then one thinks of the quiet villages and the small towns in the counties where there has been no trouble, and where the Royal Ulster Constabulary carries on its police duty with great distinction. And let us remember that 90 per cent. or 95 per cent. of its duties are just the ordinary duties of the ordinary man on the beat such as we see here in London. I cannot accept that one-third of the population of Northern Ireland does not accept its main law enforcing force. Heaven help Ulster if it is true, but I refuse to believe it.
Above all, I welcome what the House is doing, because as integration goes on between the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the other forces a new horizon will be opened, as the Hunt Report and as the Home Secretary has said, for those in the smaller force, and a career will be offered that will make it the more possible for the minority to join the force and to increase the proportion, put by some at 11 per cent., of Roman Catholics at present in the force. That, again, is something we all want.
As, I hope, the force changes slowly in character, we will have to make preparations in this country to fulfil the obligations that we are undertaking by the Bill. I am sure that the Home Secretary will take the opportunity of using its powers to encourage a certain number of officers to go from the forces in this country for a short period of service in Northern Ireland. If, unfortunately, we ever have to reinforce the Northern Ireland force it will be of tremendous importance to have a number
1050 of officers with deeper experience than that provided by just a short stay there.
No one can pretend that the Northern Ireland problems are the same as those which the English policeman has to face, or that they are anything but unique in the British Isles. We all know of the deep sectarian divisions in society there. That is what the officers going from this country will have to meet. It is something which they may never have met before, and may never have understood before.
§ Mr. Peter Mahon
I think the hon. Member's assessment of the situation is far too easy. The difficulties which he has outlined as confronting the new police forces in regard to sectarian differences are a figment of the imagination. The real difficulties lie in the deep-rooted social inequalities which have existed in Ulster for a long time.
I wish to heaven that it was only social inequalities that was Northern Ireland's problem. If that problem had been social inequalities the history of our two islands would have been far different.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I now understand the point of order raised by the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton). We must not discuss the social structure and history of Northern Ireland.
Debates on Ireland and its background lead to very unrewarding culs-de-sac which I shall not stray down tonight, but I do not underestimate the problems which this country and the police forces will have to face if they have to do what: we seek to give them power to do under this Bill. A long experience of Ulster has taught me that there are no easy solutions to Ulster's problems.
I hope that not only will we provide a certain number of officers to go over there for longer periods, but that if we seriously hope to be able: in an emergency to provide a number of officers to go from here some preparation will be given to them and there will be some selection of them, some indication to them long before the day they are to go arrives. It will not do when trouble arises in Ireland simply to take a number of officers from Liverpool, Manchester or 1051 the Lancashire force. This is a problem which should be solved by the whole of the English force It can be solved best by picked men, perhaps volunteers, who have indicated their willingness to go, not just from the North-West, but from all over the country. Some help should be given them to understand the problems they will have to face.
I am not altogether clear about whether facilities will be given for those in the Royal Ulster Constabulary who wish to come here for a period of service. Perhaps we can be given a little guidance on whether this would come under legislation on the Northern Ireland problem. It is easy to see in the Bill how they are to come here for crowd control duties if necessary, in Lancashire. I suspect that it would be a very rare occurrence, but it is right that there should be a reciprocal arrangement. I imagine that a Stormont decision would have to be made. I hope to hear from the Minister who winds up the debate that some indication has been given by Stormont that that will be the case.
§ Mr. Eddie Griffiths
I am impressed by the point the hon. Member has made about an exchange of police forces. This evening plaudits have been awarded to the police forces of two cities. It would be right if those cities were the host forces for members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary who came here on such exchanges.
§ Mr. Miscampbell
I am grateful for that intervention, which perhaps reinforces what I have said. It again shows how the widening of horizons and the prospects of those serving in the Ulster force might make it more acceptable to those of every view and creed to join the force.
We should not forget why we may at some stage have to send men to Northern Ireland. We know perfectly well the kind of situation which is likely to arise and the kind of occasion on which it would arise. It is perhaps not inappropriate, at a time when the British Parliament is making provision to send law enforcement officers to Ulster, to say to both sides in Ulster that we know all too well when it will arise—the 12th, perhaps the Apprentice Boys parade and the parades of the other side, too. If 1052 Ulster could reach a compromise and say that for a year or two at least those parades will be limited, I believe that there would be good hopes that we should never have to send men from here to Ulster. It would be a sacrifice for both sides, and it would have to come from both sides, not just from one. It would be a sacrifice which would be infinitely to the benefit of Ulster and, I believe, of the whole of the United Kingdom.
§ 1.25 a.m.
§ Mr. R. Chichester-Clark (Londonderry)
It is not my wish at this very late hour to keep the House for more than a few minutes. In any case, I think that the Bill has now been so thoroughly examined and dissected that little remains of it but a few Committee points.
However, there are a few things which are still worth saying. I dislike as much as anyone else any form of recriminations, but things have been said tonight about the past which, for the sake of the morale of the R.U.C., cannot go unanswered. If it is necessary to delve into the past, it is done with some reluctance. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) and others have already answered some of the criticism. Things have been said which would have been better left out of the debate, but, as they have been said, they must, at least to some extent, be answered.
I do not want to tangle with the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) in his references to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. I thought that the hon. Gentleman's venting of personal spleen in that direction was well below his usual level, and it was very disappointing to hear it from him. The hon. Gentleman said—quite fairly, I suppose—that there had been a number of transgressions by the R.U.C. This is true. I said so in the last debate we had on Ulster. However, the transgressions were very few indeed —a mere handful. No matter whether it be Burntollet or any of the other places which have been mentioned, the number who transgressed and went beyond the bounds of good behaviour and decency was extremely few. I do not believe that any other force in the world would have had a better record. I share the view 1053 that the force itself will be ashamed of those few transgressions. Let us not forget how few they were.
I have some qualification to speak of the behaviour of the police, because I spent what seemed like night after night —it was, I suppose, only three nights—watching what was going on in Londonderry at the time of the worst riots there. If I have criticism to make of the police, it is certainly not on account of their valour, their discipline, or their restraint. Far from it. Much more, it would have been on the ground of their organisation. No arrangements were made that they should be fed, sometimes for 11 hours at a time. There seemed to be no machinery —no transport—to take them food. During one night I carried several tea urns and numbers of sandwiches to people in dark and distant corners of Londonderry, because there was no one else to do it and no one else who knew where they were.
The same was true of their sleeping accommodation. There was no sleeping accommodation for them in the middle of the night in the unexpected places m which they sometimes found themselves. So it is on the grounds of organisation, and not on grounds of their valour or behaviour, that I would criticise the R.U.C.
There has been much reference to the Special Powers Act. If I were in a position to do so I am sure that I would carry the Northern Ireland Government with me when I say that no one wants to see this Act or any part of it kept in being for a moment longer than is necessary. I share the realistic view of the Home Secretary that it cannot go just like that. The situation just does not permit of its removal at once. I can make only one other observation on the subject of the Special Powers Act. I wish that there was complete consistency among its critics. I wish that we heard the same stream of abuse whenever any power is enforced against extremist Protestants as there is when it is enforced against certain other people.
The Home Secretary referred at the beginning of his remarks to the subject of recruiting and said that he was pleased that the recruiting figures had been improving for the R.U.C. We are all very glad to hear that.
1054 The right hon. Gentleman said that 11 th November was a remarkable day, because on that day the police had gone out unarmed for the first time. As my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) said, it is true that they had on previous occasions been unarmed during the day time before the latest troubles broke out. I cannot say for what period, but no doubt the hon. Lady can tell us. In another respect that 1 1 th November was remarkable, because, unless my recollection is faulty, it was the anniversary of the day not long ago when one of their colleagues in. the R.U.C. was shot to death. It was a measure of their faith, trust, and courage that on such an anniversary they were prepared to go out unarmed for the first time.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Miscampbell), I want to see people recruited into the R.U.C. from all parts of the community. Let us not put it too thinly. We have got beyond that stage in this House. I want to see more Roman Catholics join the force in Northern:Ireland. I have always wanted that, but it has not been easy. It is true that advertising has been directed very largely, and particularly over the last year, to Roman Catholic newspapers. When I say that I mean newspapers read in particular by the Roman Catholic community.
There have, however, been difficulties about such recruitment, and I was glad to see that the Hunt Report paid tribute to the exemplary manner in which Roman Catholic policemen had performed their duties. It praised their valour, too, and it went on to say that these men felt no sense of discrimination against them within the force in relation to promotion or any other factor. It also mentioned that they felt a sense of comradeship within the force, and I was glad to see that.
But there is one matter—and here I defer to others who know more about this subject than I do—which has not been mentioned tonight in connection with recruiting. There is an organisation, powerful in the Republic of Ireland, but in pockets in Northern Ireland, known as the Gaelic Athletic Association. It is a remarkable association. It does not allow its members to watch hockey, rugby, or cricket, and I think that football, too, 1055 comes within this ban, because these are rather English or British games. As a matter of fact, it does not even allow its members to take part in ballroom dancing.
But, more important than that, it forbids its members to join the police. This seems very unfortunate, and I hope that some hon. Gentlemen opposite, who perhaps know more about the organisation than I do, will ascertain the true facts and then get in among that organisation and use their influence to overcome this problem, because here is another potential recruiting ground for the police, and one which ought not to be neglected.
§ Mr. McNamara
It will no doubt be within the hon. Gentleman's recollection that in certain parts of his constituency it was the habit of the police, so it was reported, to arrest people merely because they happened to be members of that association, and therefore this degree of suspicion, let us put it no higher than that, which may or may not exist is an understandable phenomenon. One should not, therefore, blame one side.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
I suppose that that intervention is in some way relevant, but its relevance escapes me for the moment. It is the project of a fertile imagination. I should like the hon. Gentleman to go further into that aid let me know exactly what happenol. I do not think that he can possibly be right, but it is a most interesting if irrelevant observation.
§ Mr. Peter Mahon
The hon. Gentleman seems to be impressed by this famous or infamous organisation. I can tell him that many of my friends in Northern Ireland pay very little regard to it. and there are a good many excellent Rugby Union players among them. I can speak with authority on that subject.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
In that case, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will use his influence upon the members of that remarkable organisation to break its rules further and to join the police force, as that would be a great help. I want to see every possible bar to joining this force removed and as many people as possible of all the different communities joining it.
1056 Now, although she has gone from the Chamber, I must refer to the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin). I wanted to ask her a question, which is closely relevant to the number of police which may be required at any time in Northern Ireland and to the question of reinforcements. It concerns her own activities. She will be able to read what I say in HANSARD, and in due course she can answer it.
Giving evidence to the Scarman Tribunal, having said that she was not discouraging people from throwing petrol bombs—indeed, she had organised the throwing of petrol bombs—she said that she had not thrown any herself, but she had thrown one stone. There seems to be considerable public doubt about whether it was, in fact, one stone, and I hope that the hon. Lady will clear it up. In cross-examination at the time, she made clear that she had not thrown any petrol bombs, but she said simply in answer to a question, "I threw one stone". Yet on page 205 of her recently written book—which, I understand, is on the bookstalls—she said, I have thrown stones at policemen ". Incidentally, this was after she had given her account of how she had "leafleted" the Eire Army and later campaigned the British Army urging soldiers to desert and join her cause. She said, I have thrown stones at policemen ", but then, presumably to illustrate her incompetence even in this field, she said, "Unfortunately, I cannot throw straight, and they missed".
I find that last sentence rather surprising, after all the practice which she told us she had had in April, but what concerns me is which version is correct. One of them must be incorrect: either she threw one stone or she threw a considerable number. Which is right, the statement on oath before the Scarman Tribunal or the one in her book? We are entitled to know.
§ Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)
I am following the hon. Gentleman's speech with interest and care, though somewhat as an outsider. but I confess that I do not think that such remarks are very helpful or throw any light on the principle of the Bill which we are supposed to be discussing.
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
I sympathise with the hon. Gentleman. I said at the 1057 beginning of my speech that I dislike recrimination, but he has not had the doubtful pleasure of listening to the remarks of the hon. Lady, either earlier this afternoon or, indeed, on any other occasion in the House. I make no apology for what I have said. The Royal Ulster Constabulary are entitled to have these things said on their behalf for a change. However, I am concluding now, which is just as well because I do not want to raise the temperature of the debate.
I strongly support the Bill. It seems to be very largely what the representative body of the force wanted. I agree with the Home Secretary that the R.U.C. will benefit from a closer association with other police forces, and, above all, I urge that all sections of the community will come forward—those who feel that they can and are admissible—and will join this force, as I hope they will join the other force which we are to discuss on Wednesday.
§ 1.34 a.m.
§ Mr. John E. Maginnis (Armagh)
Like many of my hon. Friends, I welcome the Bill, but I have wondered at times during our debate whether we were really discussing it, as so many hon. Members took the opportunity to criticise the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Most hon. Members here tonight know that I was a member of the R.U.C. On behalf of the R.U.C., I warmly welcome the provisions of the Bill.
It is not fully realised in this country that when a demonstration takes place in Northern Ireland, no matter what colour it may be, the maximum number of policemen to a demonstrator is very different from the number that can be fielded in this country. When there is a demonstration in London there is one policeman for every four demonstrators, whereas in Northern Ireland there is one policeman for every 10 demonstrators. So one can appreciate the difficulties with which the R.U.C. has been faced during the past 12 months.
I welcome the provisions of the Bill whereby the R.U.C. can be reinforced on special occasions. All concerned in Northern Ireland, especially the police force, have welcomed the giving up of the para-military role. This was not, as many have said tonight, forced on the R.U.C. by the Hunt Committee. It 1058 was the representative body of the R.U.C. that recommended it to that committee.
When the R.U.C. was being set up it was suggested that it should become a civilian police force. It is not fully understood in this country why it was set up as a para-military force. In the circumstances of 1921 Her Majesty's Government had not the military forces to send to Northern Ireland for the defence of the country. So the R.U.C. and the B Specials were embodied and empowered to carry out the defence of Northern Ireland. So, after all this time, I welcome the move of Her Majesty's Government to take over this role and relieve the police of their paramilitary duties.
I also welcome the setting up of a Police Council which will take in the representative body of the R.U.C., and the Police Authority which will be set up as well. By this means we shall have a Police Council for the whole of the United Kingdom and not for Great Britain only.
I am firmly convinced that, given the support and the good will of the majority of the people in Northern Ireland, the R.U.C. will continue to give good and impartial service in every part of the community. I refute very strongly suggestions made this evening that in the past the R.U.C. has been a partial body. I believe that when all the allegations that have been made have been fully sorted out it will be found that no police force in the world has given better service than the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
§ 1.43 a.m.
§ Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)
I shall not detain the House many minutes, but I want to join my hon. Friends and many hon. Members opposite who have spoken in welcoming the Bill. I want to put a couple of questions to the Minister which perhaps she will be able to deal with in her reply.
The Bill springs mainly from chapter 7 of the Hunt Committee's Report. The chapter suggests that it would be for the good of the R.U.C. that it should not be isolated, but should have greater interchange with the police forces in the rest of the United Kingdom. However, studying the Bill, one finds that it simply 1059 makes provision for emergency conditions; either when more police are necessary in Northern Ireland and are called for by the Inspector-General, or if more police are required to deal with demonstrations in Great Britain those in Northern Ireland can come to help.
I should like to know what the Government's intentions are on the broader aspect covered by chapter 7 for general exchange, whether there may be an exchange in ordinary circumstances for training, and so on, for short periods so that the two police forces can benefit from each other.
Arising immediately from that, I am not prepared to accept that the Bill or its introduction in any way implies any fault in the R.U.C. I, and I think the majority of people in Northern Ireland who know it, look upon the R.U.C. as a fine force with a proud history. Its detection rate is much higher than that in any other part of the United Kingdom, and the interchange I have just mentioned could be of mutual benefit. There is experience of crowd control, and so on, in Great Britain that could help in Northern Ireland and the detection methods used in Northern Ireland could be of some benefit in Great Britain in the face of the current crime wave. I hope that this advantage for police forces in Great Britain will not be missed.
During the debate, which I have followed carefully, much has been made of our Special Powers Act. The Hunt Committee deal at some length with the circumstances in Northern Ireland, and I would refer hon. Members to paragraph 26 of its report, which I think sums up the position realistically. After references in the preceding three or four paragraphs to the history of the I.R.A. and the campaigns of violence in the past in Northern Ireland, campaigns to which the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) also referred, the paragraph says:As to the future, the I.R.A. and the revolutionary socialists "—of whom the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) has often claimed to be one?using their position in the Civil Rights Association. seem likely to maintain civil rights pressure; and this will no doubt generate Protestant reaction. If the conflict between these forces, working upon the tensions in society, were again to re-create the explosive 1060 atmosphere of last August, and the I.R.A. terrorists were ready to take advantage of it, it is possible that they might resume attacks on police stations and customs posts, R.U.C. and British Army personnel, and key points where it is essential to protect buildings and other installations that are important for general welfare in heavily populated areas.Paragraph 28 concludes chapter 2 by saying:To sum up: precautions against possible terrorist attacks, for the reasons given in this Chapter, must be taken; but the greatest threat to order in Northern Ireland is more likely to be sectarian strife, stirred up by extremists on both sides.That is the unfortunate background in Northern Ireland. There has been strife, and there have been cases of policemen being shot while carrying out their duty. There have been vicious and violent attacks, as in Londonderry in the four days following 12th August and in Belfast on 14th and 15th August, savage attacks with petrol bombs in which policemen were set on fire. In Londonderry, 600 policemen were injured in three or four days, and in circumstances like that the special powers are necessary to keep the peace. It is to be regretted, but it would be unrealistic of the House not to face this.
It has been objected that members of the British police seconded to Northern Ireland would find it difficult to apply the emergency regulations. The hon. Member for Belfast, West spoke about flying a tricolour flag in Northern Ireland. This would obviously incite a riot or at least a breach of the peace in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Rafton Pounder (Belfast, South)
My hon. Friend will doubtless recall that the Prime Minister said at Question Time on, I think. 26th May that the Northern Ireland Government could not then be expected to repeal the Special Powers Act. How much more explosive the situation is now than it was in May!
§ Mr. McMaster
That underlines the point I am making. The duty of any policeman is to keep the peace. There are parts of Great Britain where a tricolour could not be flown without inciting a breach of the peace. In the present situation in Northern Ireland, this would incite at least a breach of the peace and maybe a riot.
Therefore, the answer to the hon. Member for Belfast, West, is that an English 1061 police officer would have no difficulty in dealing with this situation. His duty is to keep the peace and he would presumably ask anyone acting in this manner to desist and, if met with a refusal, would be likely to arrest the person.
With these qualifications, I join those who have welcomed the Bill, which I hope will lead to peace and quiet and to much better relations in Northern Ireland.
§ 1.51 a.m.
§ Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)
Thanks to the excellent speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle), I need not detain the House long, but I want to make some suggestions which I hope may be helpful in dealing with the difficulties to which hon. Members have drawn attention in this interesting debate.
One can summarise the debate by saying that it is one in which the Bill has been welcomed but in which two doubts have been expressed. The first is whether our police can be spared. Here I should perhaps, if not being too bold, remind hon. Members that the Bill will not affect the R.U.C., which has been the subject of so much investigation during the debate, nearly as much as it is going to affect the members of the police forces of England, Wales and Scotland. The second doubt is on the important matters of principle which will arise when our police go to Northern Ireland unless we put these matters right in Committee. I hope that it will be helpful if I give a little advance warning as to how we might deal with these matters in Committee.
First, I turn to the demand on the police. My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths), with his special knowledge, drew attention to this and described it as a heavy demand to meet. I think that there are at least three things we might do to help our police forces meet this demand more easily and, therefore, release men more easily to go to Northern Ireland in accordance with the Bill.
My first suggestion is that we should recruit many more special constables. I think that they could be recruited if there were a drive to recruit them. Secondly, I think that, under the arrangements made by the Government in the last two years, much too much of the time of the police is being taken up in advance planning for 1062 emergencies, co-ordination of the many bodies and authorities concerned in emergencies and in dealing with emergencies from the beginning to the end. If the hon. Lady will be so kind as to read something I published the other day, I think she would find it helpful in this context. I will send her a copy.
Thirdly, wastage, although not as bad as it was two years ago, is still running a bit high—I have had a letter about this from the Under-Secretary only today. There is one thing the Government could do to help to stop wastage in our police forces, and it might help recruiting as well. The hon. Lady could do it tonight if she is in a position to do so. It is to give an unqualified, categorical assurance that the Government's new State pension scheme will not in any way diminish the pensions which the police receive under the Police Pension Scheme. Those are three constructive suggestions, and I hope that they will receive a favourable reception.
Up to a point, the difficulty in which we find ourselves, and it is understandable, is that we are legislating in an unusual way about the police forces of England, Wales and Scotland. My first point concerns the phrase,
special demand on its resourceswhich appears several times in Clause 1. As the Home Secretary told us, that phrase comes, as I remember well, because I served on the Committee which considered it, from the Police Act, 1964, but it was never defined An that Act.
The Home Secretary attempted to give it some definition today, and we welcomed his intervention on that, indicating that he felt that the kind of special demand which would have to be met in Northern Ireland would be a weekend demand, and in that context he no doubt had in mind what the Hunt Committee said and he gave the example of "the occasion of a meeting or procession ", which is what Lord Hunt mentioned in his report.
That is splendid if we confine it in that way, but recent history in Northern Ireland should make us very cautious on this point. We should be prepared to consider exactly where the line should be drawn so that any police officer going from this country to Northern Ireland does not get over committed, whether unexpectedly or in a way which might have been anticipated.
1063 When disorder is in prospect, the idea will be to send for reinforcements of British police. But what happens when things get too hot for unarmed police? Obviously, one hopes that the Army would then be called in, as it was only a few weeks ago. But there should be some contingency planning to ensure that the Army will, if necessary, be alerted on just those occasions when police reinforcements from this country are considered necessary. I hope that we may have an assurance from the Home Secretary that the men who go out there unarmed and who unexpectedly find themselves in a dangerous, hot situation will not be expected to carry on without the support of the Army.
My second point arises from the intervention by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heller) in the Home Secretary's speech, and to which other hon. Members have referred. What is the position of officers from Great Britain who are required to carry out the Special Powers Act? There is no doubt that they may be required to do so. As my hon. Friend the Member for Runcorn pointed out so clearly, under Section 1(3), while a constable is in Northern Ireland, he will be under the direction and control of a senior officer of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. That officer may well find it necessary to ask his reinforcements to operate the Special Powers Act.
We must be extremely careful about this point. I do not wish to express a general view at this moment about the Special Powers Act, but we certainly should not overlook it. Neither should we overlook the fact that in Belfast, at least, lives of people of both communities, Roman Catholic and Protestant, were most probably protected by the power which was given to close the public houses at the week-end. I want to try to be helpful about this and I think that an Amendment in Committee can probably put the matter right.
There are special conditions in Northern Ireland. We should not blink our eyes to them. We should legislate on the basis of things as they are and not on the basis of things as we would like them to be or on the basis of things as they have been for a very long time 1064 in Great Britain and which we understand so well.
Next, I come to an interesting point which was raised by the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin), who has left her scarlet cloak to challenge us. I hope that for that reason, she may return at any moment. The hon. Lady said that a British police officer's contract does not entitle him to enforce the laws in Northern Ireland. As far as I recollect, a British police officer does not have a contract. He has to be attested under Section 18 of the Police Act. The form of the attestation is set out in the Second Schedule to the Act and is quite short, but it is so relevant that I propose to burden the House with it, even at this late hour.
The attestation is in the following form:I … of … do solemnly and sincerely declare and affirm that I will well and truly serve Our Sovereign Lady the Queen in the office of constable, without favour or affection, malice or ill will; and that I will to the best of my power cause the peace to be kept and preserved?so far, plain sailing, but it goes on?and prevent all offences against the persons and properties of Her Majesty's subjects; and that while I continue to hold the said office I will to the best of my skill and knowledge discharge all the duties thereof faithfully according to law.Naturally, one has to ask, "Which law"? To get guidance on this, we have to turn to Section 19, which deals with the jurisdiction of constables. Section 19 is in very limited terms. It states:
A member of a police force shall have all the powers and privileges of a constable throughout England and Wales.It seems to me that we must somehow link those provisions in the Police Act with the Bill, otherwise these constitutional doubts and difficulties will remain. I hope that this is not too heavy grinding for this time of the morning, but it seems to me to be of great importance.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds for drawing my attention to another point. The question arises whether the discipline regulations, which at present are different in Northern Ireland from what they are in Great Britain, will be assimilated, including the rights of appeal which police
1065 officers have and with which, no doubt, the Minister of State will soon be familiar, as I became. The Home Secretary is only too familiar with them, more than ever I was even. But it is an important point to be dealt with. There again, the Bill is silent.
§ Mr. Callaghan
The right hon. and learned Gentleman will understand that not all of these points will be settled before the Bill goes through, because there will have to be negotiations on them. This is an enabling Bill, as he understands, and the question is whether the House will give it me on certain assumptions of good faith, recognising that it will not be operated till these matters have been fully worked out between both sides.
§ Sir D. Renton
I quite understand that there may be some difficulty in tying up in the Bill the last point I mentioned. All that I say is that before any British police officers go to Northern Ireland it is a point which has got to be tied up somehow.
It may well be that the power which the Home Secretary has to make disciplinary regulations may be sufficient, but I was not aware that his power to make disciplinary regulations related in any way to Northern Ireland, and it may be that in this enabling Bill he should take power to make regulations which either give the Inspector-General of the Royal Ulster Constabulary the power to deal with disciplinary cases or which enable the Home Secretary to deal with disciplinary offences and chief officers in England to deal with disciplinary offences committed by British constables while serving in Northern Ireland. Somehow it should be done.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
Would my right hon. and learned Friend say that the ideal ought to be that the disciplinary regulations should become the same as the forces themselves become more and more assimilated—that that should be the objective?
§ Sir D. Renton
I quite agree, but there are two separate matters. It is one thing to say that each set of regulations should be the same, but we have got to have inter-reaction between them, and it was on that point that I was expressing some 1066 anxiety, because nothing seems to have been done about it so far. But now, as the Home Secretary has indicated, something, no doubt, will be done.
Quite frankly, the remaining points which I wish to make are relatively minor, but this is the time to make them.
I refer now to page 36, paragraph 149, of the Hunt Report, where it is recommended that
the Home Office should be invited to take the special needs of the R.U.C. into account when planning the work of the Police Research and Development Branch; and should invite the R.U.C. to second an officer to the Branch.It may be that this point was in the statement which the Home Secretary made earlier, but I do not think that it was. I think it is important because this question of research and development in police methods and equipment and so on is something which is of growing importance to all police forces, and the Royal Ulster Constabulary stands to gain very much from co-operating with that work which is going on here.
Referring still to the same paragraph of the Hunt Report, we were told some weeks ago by the Home Secretary that he accepted the principle of applying Her Majesty's Inspectorate, as recommended by Hunt, to the Royal Ulster Constabulary. I wonder what action has so far been taken in order to bring that about, and if there is anything we can be told. it would be helpful.
Finally, I wonder if I may, in the greatest spirit of concord, suggest that although the powers in Clause I are enabling powers from the Home Secretary's point of view they will in effect be powers of compulsion when they are carried out in practice. I have always thought that in the armed forces, in spite of the jokes sometimes made about it, the volunteer is better than the man who is detailed. It might be possible to call for volunteers from the English forces on the occasions, which perhaps will not be so very many, which arise. I would hope, for example, that some of the Catholic officers serving in English forces might feel that they could play a special part in helping the Royal Ulster Constabulary and both sections of the community in Northern Ireland. I hope that the Home Secretary will not lose sight of the possibility of
1067 making the best possible use of volunteers.
The debate has involved a postmortem on matters which we hope will be soon forgotten, if anything in Ireland can ever be forgotten, but there is plenty in the Bill to occupy us in Committee, which will enable us to lay constructive foundations for the future and, although the red cloak of the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster is still here and she is not, I hope that she may heed that humble advice.
§ 2.12 a.m.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mrs. Shirley Williams)
The debate has basically revolved round two points; first, the demands made upon the British police forces by the Bill; and, secondly, details about the way in which the Bill will operate in respect of support for the Royal Ulster Constabulary in Northern Ireland. I will deal, first, with the broad point about the effect on the police forces of this country, which was raised, amongst other things, by the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton), the hon. Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) and the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Eldon Griffiths).
Before doing so, may I say that not least in the light of his own distinguished tenure of the office which I now have the honour to hold, I will, of course, read any article which the right hon. and learned Gentleman cares to send me, and that I will trust his judgment in sending me only the articles which he thinks I should see.
I can see the point made by hon. Gentlemen opposite about the imposition of any additional burden upon the police force. The police force has a great many duties to undertake, but I hope that hon. Gentlemen will forgive me if I say that the situation is not as grim, relatively speaking, as it was painted by them. I could not help thinking that the hon. Member for Runcorn was weeping the occasional crocodile tear in this respect.
My information is that there are today 10,000 more policemen in the force than there were five years ago. On the basis of annual net increase in recruitment, compared with an average increase of 1068 1,300 policemen a year, since the present Government took over office there has been an increase of 2,300 a year. I would not for one moment suggest that the police forces in Britain can bear many additional burdens, nor is it the intention of the Bill that they should, but those figures put the matter in a slightly better perspective.
The right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire made a suggestion about special constables which I am sure my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will wish to look at. As he made clear, it has a relationship to what happens in Britain as well as to the Bill.
Before coming to the specifically Northern Ireland points that have been made, I will answer some of the questions posed by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds about police forces in this country. I remind him, and my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose), that the Bill must be seen in the context of the changes that are being made in Northern Ireland because this directly affects the use to be made of any British police officers who are seconded, temporarily or on a more permanent basis, to Northern Ireland.
The Northern Ireland Parliament intends to establish a new police authority. In doing so, we hope that not only will it be representative of all groups in the Northern Ireland community—it is important that this should happen—but that there will be a move to have a structure which is much closer to that which is commonplace on the mainland.
As my right hon. Friend pointed out, we understand that the arrangements for inspection will be similar to those now applying on the mainland, and we understand that this is acceptable to the Northern Ireland Government. In other words, Her Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary will have the duty to inspect the Royal Ulster Constabulary, with all that that implies in terms of the proper use of police powers.
Bound up with the Bill is the provision for training and mutual training, which means training on both sides of the Irish Channel. We hope that this training will result in a closer understanding of what we need in both police forces and of the role of a modern police force in the sort
1069 of society which is emerging both in Northern Ireland and here.
My hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for Administration made it clear in his statement that it was not the job of the Ulster Defence Regiment to engage in normal policing. I hope that the House will appreciate that one of the objects of the police reserve which the Northern Ireland Government are to establish shortly—indeed, one of the objects of this mutual assistance arrangement—is precisely to avoid a situation in which the military reserve or military forces must undertake normal policing duties. I wish to make that distinction clear. It is fundamental to the Hunt Report and to the steps which we and the Northern Ireland Government are trying to take with the successor bodies to the Ulster Special Constabulary.
I give the assurance that we will be very careful to avoid any additional strain on an already strained local police force. I therefore assure the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds and other hon. Members who have raised this point that in any arrangements for mutual aid that are made, we will bear in mind the fact that a particular police force in England, Wales, or Scotland may at any time be under pressure.
The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds raised a number of other points, including the question of costs. As he will know, under the present mutual aid arrangements, costs are met by mutual agreement between forces. Where mutual agreement is not able to be reached, a decision is then made by my right hon. Friend, who can determine the contribution, relating it to the occasion and the number of police officers involved.
Exactly the same sort of situation will apply in respect of Northern Ireland. In other words, we trust that it will be possible to reach agreement for a mutual aid arrangement, though this must be subject to the exact terms of the Northern Ireland Bill. If that is not possible, it will be for my right hon. Friend and the Minister of Home Affairs in Northern Ireland to reach a mutual agreement about the way in which the costs shall be met. The House will appreciate that I cannot go further until we have the full legislation through both Houses.
It is our intention that there shall be representatives of the new police autho- 1070 rity on the Police Council and, on the other side, representatives of the staff. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds will appreciate that it is not for Westminster to determine exactly how that representation should be chosen.
§ Mr. Eldon Griffiths
Will the hon. Lady also bear in mind the possibility at some future date of associating Ulster with the Police Advisory Board?
§ Mrs. Williams
That is a very useful point which we might wish to discuss with Northern Ireland, or find out whether they prefer a similar body of their own. It is wide open to further consultations on both sides.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Blackley for his wise words about the delicacy of the present situation. I thank him, too, and others of my hon. Friends and hon. Gentlemen opposite for what I think were richly deserved words about the Inspector-General of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
My hon. Friend referred back to a number of disciplinary offences, but he will appreciate that a number of his references were to the situation of August. As this is a matter which the Scarman Commission is investigating, it is in probably the best and most objective hands.
My hon. Friend referred to Clause 1(4) and the setting aside of the powers of the Government of Northern Ireland Act. He need not for a moment worry about that. The only way in which this provision alters that Act is to permit the Royal Ulster Constabulary to request a British force. That is not possible without this enabling provision, but I can assure him that in no way at all does it derogate from the powers of Westminster with regard to the Government of Northern Ireland. I hope he will recognise, therefore, that he does not have to ask his hon. Friends and mine to vote against the subsection.
It is true that where a mutual aid agreement is made any member of the constabulary involved in such arrangement is under a legal obligation by the making of that arrangement. That applies to any policeman. Further, if any policeman from a British force who had to serve in Northern Ireland were to find himself involved in a disciplinary offence on his return to his own force
1071 after secondment—and he would have the right of reversion to his own force—he would have the right of appeal to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. So if there were some division of opinion on the nature of a disciplinary offence, the British policeman would be covered, in effect, by the attitude taken by my right hon. Friend with regard to his appeal.
My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) asked for what purpose policemen sent there would be used. Even though, one day, a typical English calm may settle over Northern Ireland—although I am not certain when that day will come—there may be the occasional demonstration. We believe that any demonstration or riot, or any question of a crowd deciding to move together for some political or other purpose, should be left essentially to the police to deal with, and not to a military force. It is largely for that reason that we believe it important to have more than one line of defence within the police sector of law and order. I hope my hon. Friend will agree that this is the way to reassure both communities in Northern Ireland, rather than adding to their doubts.
§ Sir D. Renton
Could the hon. Lady deal with my point about reinforcements? If there is a possibility of disorder, what steps will be taken to ensure that the reinforcements are withdrawn before the disorder becomes so bad that the troops have to be called in? And what steps will be taken to ensure that the reinforcements do not get embroiled?
§ Mrs. Williams
If the right hon. and learned Gentleman will allow me, I will deal with that when I deal with the Special Powers Acts.
The hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) referred to the fact that we have unarmed patrols by the Royal Ulster Constabulary throughout most of Northern Ireland. I thank him for applauding this; it is a great step forward. He also said that he believed that Catholics as well as Protestants should be encouraged to join the Royal Ulster Constabulary and, I think, the police reserve. My right hon. Friend puts the greatest possible weight on having representatives of both communities 1072 in Northern Ireland as part of the forces of law and order there.
The hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) and the hon. Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Miscampbell) asked if there might be more exchange of forces on a temporary basis. I assure them that part of the objects of the Bill, as seen in Clause 1, is not simply to deal with short-term reinforcements but also temporary secondments on the basis of several months or even a couple of years. This is of the greatest importance. I underline the point made by the Hunt Committee Report that ideally one would like to have a situation in which police have experience of more than one force during their period of service.
The hon. Member for Belfast, East referred to the tragic shooting of a policeman. I think that it has perhaps been borne in on us all that when extremists of whatever party or colour get the upper hand policemen will be in danger and this does not come from one side only.
I turn to questions raised by the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire and other hon. Members about the Special Powers Acts and the circumstances in which mutual aid would take place. I draw attention to something said by my right hon. Friend which has been rather overlooked since he spoke. He made absolutely clear that Clause 1, under which mutual aid arrangements are to be made, will be subject to the date on which he makes it operative. He said it will be made operative when conditions of police service in Northern Ireland are more in line with those in Great Britain. Here we are not talking about the present emergency in which troops are being used, but of a situation in which we hope sufficient peace will have been restored for troops to be withdrawn—essentially a police situation.
It will be for the judgment of my right hon. Friend to decide whether the situation calls for police reinforcement or reinforcements on a much larger scale and for more serious action. Because we hope to reach the situation in which troops can be withdrawn, we believe this is an essential part of the restoration to the basis of a civilian situation. We bear in mind what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, but my right hon. Friend 1073 will have to take the decision in the light of all the circumstances and advice from those who wish to consult him in Northern Ireland.
A mutual agreement can be made only by a chief constable in this counry, or in certain circumstances, by my right hon. Friend. When that mutual agreement is made it will be for those responsible in Britain to decide whether a British policeman should be put in a situation which makes things particularly difficult for him. This relates back to the Special Powers Act, because, as my right hon. Friend said, he would not wish normally to put a British policeman in a situation in which he was obliged to carry out a law with which he was totally unfamiliar. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds will recognise that this would raise very great difficulties for the Police Federation as well.
Therefore, it is over the judgment about a situation in which that mutual arrangement is made that this issue will be decided, and it will be decided in the light of the fact that the police will he engaged in normal police duties and will not normally be expected to engage in duties which go beyond the interpretation of that phrase as understood on this side of the Irish Channel. We can explore this question at greater length in Committee.
As I listened to the debate I felt strongly that I had been raised in a tradition of politics that was both calmer and duller than that of Northern Ire-land or, for that matter, of Eire. I felt that it might have been more exciting to have been in the politics of the other side of the Irish Channel.
I also felt strongly that one of the things that we had to do—I say this with as much sincerity as I can possibly command—was to spend a little less time making selective quotations from the Cameron Report, pointing out that one side or the other had been guilty of this or that, because the Cameron Report shows that none of us can stand up in a white sheet, be we Nationalist, Unionist, Catholic, or Protestant, and say, "I am guiltless of any part of what has happened to Northern Ireland". I felt that we should now look forward to what can be constructed in Northern Ireland. Having listened to the quality, force and passion of the speeches made 1074 in this debate, I am sure that a great deal can be constructed there.
Those of us on both sides of the House who believe that it is possible to build a society in which neither race nor religion becomes the basis which determines what a man or woman is capable of has perhaps the greatest possible responsibility for demonstrating here in the British Isles that it is true. When we say that other countries have not succeeded in doing this, it becomes extremely incumbent upon us to do it, and to do it as soon as we can.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Hamling.]
§ Committee this day.