HC Deb 19 November 1969 vol 791 cc1453-67

Queen's Recommendation having been signified

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That, for the purposes of any Ad of the present Session to establish the Ulster Deface Regiment, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of any expenditure incurred by any Government department which is attributable to the provisions of that Act.—[Mr. Hattersley.]

10.1 p.m.

Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)

I will not detain the House for more than a few minutes, but I feel that we should have some statement from the Government about the Money Resolution. Normally, Money Resolutions are drawn in terms which make it difficult for any debate to take place upon them. No doubt they are drawn to achieve other results, too, but normally they are drawn so narrowly as to make debate almost impossible. But this Money Resolution is drawn in the widest possible terms, and I should like the Government to tell us whether there is a full precedent for a Money Resolution to be drawn in such wide terms and whether there has been recent examples of Resolutions of this character since Money Resolutions were first drawn in more restricted terms.

In my opinion it is all the more important that we should have a reply on this subject because during the debate today one of the questions uppermost in the minds of the House has been the paramountcy of this Parliament and whether this Parliament has fully established the authority over the Northern Ireland Parliament which most of us wish to see, in particular in the matters which we have been discussing today.

One of the most telling parts of the speech of my hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for Administration in winding up the debate was his emphasis on the authority of this House. But throughout the debate-and it affects the Money Resolution in particular-questions have been raised about actions being taken elsewhere, and it is still not known whether those actions were authorised by this House. My hon. Friend re- ferred to the matter specifically, because he said that he would make sure that what had occurred in the last few days was unlikely to occur again, which seems to indicate that he has authority in these matters.

If we are to ensure that such propaganda as has been issued is not issued again, we must know whether this Money Resolution authorises such action. As my hon. Friend emphasised in winding up the debate, under the Bill we are to have an arrangement whereby recruiting will not start before 1st January and the establishment of the force will not take place before 1st April. Does this Money Resolution authorise any money to be spent by this Parliament prior to this date? Secondly, is any money spent in Northern Ireland at all authorised under this Money Resolution? It is stated that the Resolution covers payments which may be made by any Government Department. Does it permit a single penny to be spent in connection with the force by the Northern Ireland Government? Does it permit the Northern Ireland Government to repeat what they have done in presenting their picture of what this force is supposed to mean?

I want to make quite sure that the transference of authority from the Northern Ireland Government to this House is complete, for that is the only way in which we shall get peace in Ireland. Indeed, that is why some of us supported the dispatch of British troops to Northern Ireland and why some of us, despite serious misgivings which still prevail and which we hope to allay in Committee, have agreed to give the Bill a Second Reading. But we want to make sure what is permitted under the Money Resolution. We are dealing with a novel situation. The debate we have had today is a symbol of the changed relationship between Stormont and Westminster. In my opinion, Stormont will never recover from what happened last year. That Humpty Dumpty will never be put back on the wall in precisely the same way. We want to ensure that the transference is absolutely clear, that the lines are defined, that we know exactly where the money is to be spent, what it is spent for and who is authorised under this Resolution to spend it.

If the situation arose that we had said in this House that authority had been transferred from Stormont to Westminster but in fact remnants of power were left at Stormont, many people in Northern Ireland would say that it was a trick. In order to assist peace there, we must ensure that the transference of power is known to everybody, even the Tory Members from Northern Ireland, even the hon. and learned backlash from Antrim, South (Sir Knox Cunningham). He must understand that power has been transferred.

There will be a lengthy Committee stage to try to improve the Bill. But historic change has taken place in the relationship between Westminster and Stormont, between this country and Northern Ireland. The old situation will never be restored. We want to make sure that in this Resolution we are not surrendering any control over the finances which are to be provided by the people of this country. Too many millions have been spent already in sustaining Conservatism in Northern Ireland, and we do not think that the British taxpayer should be called upon to spend any more for that purpose.

We want to ensure that no loophole is left in this Resolution for any such money to be provided. I hope that the Government will be able to give us assurances on this subject, as we have had assurances on the Bill, although in that respect we shall have the remedy of a Committee stage. Before proceeding to that stage, let us ensure that not a single penny raised by the taxpayers of this country, under the Bill, will be misspent by the people in Stormont.

10.7 p.m.

Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)

Much reference has been made to the similarity between the force we are discussing and the TAVR. I should like to make a serious suggestion to the Secretary of State for Defence. It would save money if members of the Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve could easily transfer to the new force. Hon. Members have much experience of the mass of documentation necessary when joining a force such as the T.A. The Secretary of State[Interruption.] I should like to be able to make myself heard at least to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Secretary of State, in opening the debate on the Second Reading, said that it would not be sufficient simply for people who were members of the Territorials to transfer directly to this force. He said that a similar type of vetting would be enforced by the new force as was done by the Territorials.

Would it not save money if, instead of handing in their kit when they resign or when a Territorial unit is disbanded, and then going through all the formality and hullabaloo of filling up forms, vetting and being accepted again and drawing more kit, they could transfer the uniform direct. There are already two categories in the Territorial Army. Would it not be possible to make the new regiment a third category of the Territorial Army? It is a military force and it must be closely akin to the Territorial Army. There would be considerable advantage, I suggest, for the regiment—

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)

I am interested in the hon. Member's line of argument, although I am not certain how relevant it is to the Money Resolution—but that, of course, is a matter for the Chair. If the hon. Member continues to draw these parallels with the TAVR, would he put the same responsibilities on the new regiment as on the TAVR—that is, emergency call, service anywhere and the like?

Mr. McMaster

The hon. Member has anticipated my remarks. I suggest that similar responsibilities are imposed by the Bill.

I should like to make some specific points concerning the White Paper and the Bill. Paragraph 16 of the White Paper provides that the bounty which is payable to members of the Ulster Special Constabulary will be taken into account when considering service with the regiment. If account is to be taken—

Mr. McNamara

On a point of order. Is what the hon. Member is saying relevant to the Money Resolution, Mr. Deputy Speaker?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)

If it had not been relevant, I would have intervened. I am listening carefully to the hon. Member.

Mr. McMaster

I wish to keep my remarks completely in order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. if before they interrupt hon. Members opposite take the trouble to follow what I say and refer to the White Paper, in particular paragraph 16, they will find that it deals with emoluments and bounties. If anything other than emoluments and bounties comes within the Money Resolution, I should like to know what it is. It is provided that bounties will take into account be Special service. I would like to know whether the Minister intends that Territorial Army service will also be taken into account in estimating bounties.

The provision of accommodation is another charge on the Revenue. I should like to know the Minister's intention concerning accommodation for the Ulster Regiment. As he will appreciate, it is a great advantage to a regiment to have its own accommodation. This was referred to in the Hunt Report. If at least the headquarters of the regiment could have its own separate accommodation, that would be of considerable advantage to the regiment.

Paragraph 17 of the White Paper refers to the dress and formal wear of the regiment. I can only imagine that whoever drafted it must have had his tongue in his cheek when he said that parade dress for formal wear may be subject to some delay.

On all these points, it would be of considerable advantage in the formation of the Ulster Defence Regiment, and in the interest of recruitment, if proper financial provision could be made, in particular concerning bounties, and that long-service awards, to which reference has been made in the debate, and previous service with the Territorial Army should be taken into account.

10.15 p.m.

Mr. W. Howie (Luton)

I have very little to say, and I shall say it as shortly as I possibly can. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be pleased to hear that I do not share the misgivings which my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) expressed about the Bill, but I must say that, apart from that, I agree with everything which he said in his remarks on the Money Resolution. My very short question is this. Regarding the question of moneys spent on recruiting this force, we have had occasion within the last day or two to notice that the authorities across the sea, if I may so call them, appear to be in the nature of a hair trigger: they seem to me to be recruiting with great rapidity and rather in advance of the due date on which they should do this.

Mr. James Dickens (Lewisham, West)

In advance of the money.

Mr. Howie

In advance of the money, and what I want to ask is this. Are we to assume that when the Government of Northern Ireland expend money on this force—which, I may say, I approve entirely—that will be entirely under the authority of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary? It is my opinion that it should be not only under the authority of the Home Secretary but under his approval, and not only in general terms but in particular terms, because in the last day or two we have seen that when we leave the recruiting of this force to the Government of Northern Ireland they go about it in what we may call their own way. I think that the recruitment of this force, of which I approve, should be gone about in our way, and the approval of the methods adopted by the Government of Northern Ireland and the approval of the moneys which they spend should be our approval.

That is the very simple question which I want to put to my hon. Friend

Mr. Roy Roebuck(Harrow, East)

I share the concern expressed—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)

Order. The hon. Member has not the Floor yet. Mr. Rafton Pounder.

10.17 p.m.

Mr. Rafton Pounder (Belfast, South)

I shall not detain the House for more than a few minutes, and not to make a speech but to ask direct and specific questions.

I notice in the part of the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum to the Bill relating to the financial effects thereof a certain sum allocated for uniform and equipment, and this is fair enough, but then there is the sentence further minor expenditure may be needed to adapt accommodation. What accommodation? Is one talking about adjuncts to existing barracks and such like? Is one assuming or not that the Ulster Defence Regiment will take over existing Special Constabulary drill halls? What are we talking about when we talk about expenditure on accommodation?

There is also one other point. I am slightly confused by this, because what I thought the Secretary of State for Defence said in his speech this afternoon does not appear to be quite on all fours with the observations in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum to the Bill that the cost so far estimated of £ 1 million includes 100,000 for attached personnel of the Regular Army. Perhaps the Minister who replies to this debate will be able specifically to reply to this point, namely, are we to understand, when the Secretary of State says—I think I took his words accurately" officers and senior n.c.o's will be interspersed with British forces," that these men will be on secondment from their existing units rather than necessarily full-time, full members of the new regiment when it is formed?

10.19 p.m.

Mr. Roy Roebuck (Harrow, East)

I share the concern of my hon. Friend the Member for Luton (Mr. Howie) and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) about this expenditure of the taxpayers' money, and I do not think we should let the legislation go forward without having the most specific and categoric assurance about how this money is to be spent.

What concerns me is that apparently, according to the Resolution, anything that is attributable to the provisions of the Act is covered. Who is to pay for these advertisements which have been published in the Northern Ireland Press and for the printing of the forms which purport to be application forms? Does that sort of activity come within the provision of the Money Resolution? If it does, would my hon. Friend explain why? If not, perhaps he would explain how the money is to be expended if action is to be taken within the province of the Secretary of State.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)

The hon. Gentleman can ask the first question but not the second one on this Money Resolution.

Mr. Roebuck

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for that guidance. But perhaps, with respect, I could put it this way. I am seeking to establish whether my hon. Friend regards those activities which have been taking place as an essential part of the pre-development of this regiment? I think, with respect, that I am entitled to pose certain questions which might arise out of that answer, whether it be in the affirmative or in the negative. I wanted to know what view is taken by my hon. Friend as to whether this activity is authorised by the G.O.C. in pursuit of instructions received from the Ministry of Defence as a result of the White Paper which has been presented to the House. If not, it might also be in order to inquire what action my hon. Friend proposes to take? It ought to be established on what Vote—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Gentleman cannot question on this Money Resolution money which has already been expended from whatever source on matters which have been the concern of the House today.

Mr. Roebuck

But with respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that is not the point I am trying to ask.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With respect, that is my Ruling.

Mr. Paul B. Rose(Manchester, Blackley)

On a point of order. Would it not be in order to decide whether we are to legitimise what was illegitimate activity in regard to the amount of money spent on that illegitimate activity?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Gentleman may ask that question but cannot elaborate further beyond what I have said to the House.

Mr. Howie

On a point of order. I am not sure if I have followed exactly what my hon. Friend the Member for Harow, East (Mr. Roebuck) was saying, but does not the Money Resolution refer to expenditure incurred by any Government Department? Was my hon. Friend not asking under which Vote the money was to be spent?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The money has not yet been voted until the Money Resolution has been passed.

Mr. Roebuck

Having established some of the points which are disturbing some of his hon. Friends, perhaps the Minister, if he cannot give attention to these points in this debate, will seek some other opportunity to pay proper attention to them.

I agree with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale that this Money Resolution firmly establishes the control of the House over certain activities in the United Kingdom. Perhaps my hon. Friend in winding up will reassert that point and make it clear, lest there be anybody in Northern Ireland who thinks they have a right to set up a standing army of their own, or that with regard to the Armed Forces of the Crown they have a right to impose their own antiquated, centuries-old versions as to the proper role of the Armed Forces. I hope my hon. Friend will not neglect the points which I have raised, those which were in order, and that we shall have a full explanation from him on these matters, which are extremely disturbing to many of my hon. Friends.

10.25 p.m.

Mr. Albert Booth (Barrow-in-Furness)

My hon. Friend, in winding up the Second Reading debate on the Bill to establish the Ulster Defence Regiment, went to great lengths to assure us that this House would have complete control over that body. It is, therefore, singularly inappropriate that we should now be asked to pass a Money Resolution which appears to give us no control whatsoever. The amount of money that can be spent under this Resolution is unlimited, and the Resolution is at variance with Money Resolutions connected with any military force under the control of this House.

It would be more appropriate that this Money Resolution should ask for a limited sum for the purpose of taking the preliminary steps necessary to the establishment of the regiment, prior to consideration by the House of the normal Defence Estimates. If we are to be able to control this force, as we are able to control any other unit of the British Army, a Defence Estimate must be brought before the House at the proper time, otherwise there is a suspicion that this force is to be controlled financially in a completely different way and, if that is so, the House should be told how it is to be controlled financially before the Money Resolution is passed.

No one wishes to make a great song and dance on a purely technical point, but it is our duty to ensure control by Parliament in financial terms, and in terms of the chain of command and all aspects of this operation. This cannot be so if we pass over the allocation of money to someone outwith the House. We are passing it to Departments, and we are placing no limitation on the amount. This is abnormal militarily and in terms of the powers of any Ministry, and I hope that my hon. Friend will assure us that there will be some limitation on the amount of money which may be spent and, if that limit is exceeded, he will come back to the House with explanations of how the money is to be spent. This would ensure the proper and normal control of the Ulster Defence Regiment by this House.

10.28 p.m.

Mr. John E. Maginnis (Armagh)

I think it was the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) who said that the British taxpayer would not be too happy about the expenditure on the Ulster Defence Regiment. May I remind the House that taxpayers in Northern Ireland are also British taxpayers and, if the Government are not able to raise the necessary funds to get the defence force off the ground, we should not be too proud to go to America to raise funds.

10.29 p.m.

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

My experience of the House of Commons is appreciably shorter than that of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), but this is the first time in my recollection, though perhaps not in his, that concern has been expressed about the width of a Money Resolution. I have been here on many occasions when there have been complaints about the narrowness of such instruments, but complaints of their width is a novel experience for me.

I hope to convince those of my hon. Friends who thought they saw in the width of the Money Resolution some possibility that the total control about which I spoke might be eroded that that is very far from the fact. Indeed that it is simply not true.

I will endeavour to put the position in perspective. We are asked tonight to authorise expenditure which will be the sole responsibility of this Parliament and of this Government, which will not be spent in any way or to any degree or to any amount before 1st January, which itself will need a Supplementary Estimate, the traditional method by which force levels and the conduct of the Army is controlled. The Supplementary Estimate I suspect, indeed fear, will be subject to debate in the House of Commons. We are in no way authorising expenditure by any authority outside this House and outside the Government Departments, and the terms of the Financial Resolution, and—if the description of my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth) is right—its width, should not be thought of as extending to any outside authority the powers which are properly and rightly ours and will remain ours.

A number of points have been raised on what I will describe with respect as on the margins of order, though within those margins, of course. I will try to answer them while remaining within the boundaries of your Rulings, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Some were specifically concerned with the expenditure for the force. Of course, there will be the need for premises in which and from which the force can operate. Some of them will be accommodation taken over from the U.S.C.; some may well have to be new installations of one sort or another. Certainly, if our undertakings—

Mr. Roebuck


Mr. Hattersley

No, I cannot give way. Certainly, if our undertakings that arms will be kept at home only in exceptional circumstances are honoured, we need to create some new arms stores in which they can be kept sufficiently securely. [Interruption.] It does not concern me whether I answer questions now or whether I read about it in the evening papers next week.

There will be an area of proper expenditure which is necessary if the force is to be organised in the way that this House wishes it to be, including the provision of proper barracks from which these men can operate effectively and seriously.

I was asked about the financial relationship between this unit and the TAVR and interchange between the two. The liabilities for service differ fundamentally between them and, therefore, the expenditure we hope to authorise under this Financial Resolution is different from that which we might hope to authorise in a Resolution concerned with the TAVR. We are asking the men to accept different forms of liability. We are consequentially asking them to accept different degrees of training because they are to do different things.

I do not think it possible to have an interchange between one force and another on a casual basis. Looking at the Resolution and talking about the liability, it may well be that some members of the TAVR in Northern Ireland will choose to leave their traditional force and move to the new force. I hope that will not happen in great numbers, because I do not wish to see the successful TAVR units there depleted. But because of the levels of bounty and the obligations involved, that may happen.

Mr. McMaster

Will the hon. Gentleman answer the point I made about taking account of the length of service already rendered to the TAVR when the bounty is being considered?

Mr. Hattersley

I hope that we can do that, because certain of the men who have given honourable service to the TAVR may want to go over and to he regarded as people who have given appropriate service. I cannot give an absolute assurance on this now, but I do want to achieve that.

Finally, I want to deal with the allegation that, by voting for the Money Resolution tonight. the House might be authorising expenditure which it would not wish to authorise. I think that I quote one of my hon. Friends exactly when I say that it would be legitimising otherwise illegitimate expenditure.

I think that, even in terms of the Money Resolution, I must explain the nature of the relationship between Stormont and this Government. Were advertisements to be published in future—the rules of order prevent me discussing advertisements which have been published—on the sole authority of the Northern Ireland Government and carrying the imprint of the Northern Ireland Government, clearly any money that we vote tonight could not be expended to defray that cost.

Mr. Rose

The question that I asked was whether we would be legitimising what has already been illegitimately spent in the past, not in future. This is what concerns us.

Mr. Hattersley

I understand my hon. Friend's point. But to remain within the rules of order, I was hypothesising a situation in future.

Mr. Roebuck

Will the Minister answer the question?

Mr. Hattersley

I will continue to talk about advertisements. if advertisements which have already appeared in newspapers were to be charged to this Vote, it would be entirely improper, because those advertisements are the responsibility —indeed, they were demonstrably the responsibility—of the Northern Ireland Government. Since that is the situation, there is no case for asking the question that was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), or another of my hon. Friends, namely, whether I could assure him that the effect of the Money Resolution would be that the transfer of authority was total. There is no question of transferring authority. The authority for this regiment is already total and is totally in our hands.

That does not mean that the Northern Ireland Government do not have the proper obligation from time to time to express their opinions to this Government on the use of the force. Nor does it mean that there can be any question of expenditure authorised by the Northern Ireland Government being paid for as a result of the Resolution that I commend to the House this evening.

The final question that I seek to answer is: if I am so sure about the authority remaining totally in the hands of this House, how have what I am alleged to have described as errors occurred in the past?

I can reassure the House in this way. The Northern Ireland Government have substantial powers of their own. The Northern Ireland Government did a number of things by their own authority. Whether it was proper to do so in terms of their own expenditure is not a question either for me or for the House to answer. It is a matter for them.

Mr. Fitt

I will ask l hem next week.

Mr. Hattersley

My hon. Friend may get an answer next week. He will not get an answer this evening, because it is not a question which can properly be addressed to me.

Concerning what my right hon. Friend and I have said about making sure that such embarrassments did not occur in future, that must be understood in the nature of the relationship between the two Governments.

To take one of the matters which it was feared might be legitimised by the Resolution—the advertisements which have appeared in newspapers—although the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Government and although this Government had no opportunity to do anything else than to draw the attention of Stormont to the views of this House, the Northern Ireland Government agreed, of their own volition, to suspend those advertisements immediately. It was not within my power or that of any of my right hon. Friends—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)

Order. The Minister is going beyond the terms of the Money Resolution on which I ruled against the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Roebuck).

Mr. Hattersley

The authorisation of improper expenditure, about which my right hon. and hon. Friends worry, could not be covered by this Resolution. Hon. Members will have opportunities to discuss the provision of funding for the regiment when the Supplementary Vote comes before the House, as it must, before the end of the present financial year.

Mr. Howie

Before my right hon. Friend sits down, can he reassure us on one point? I may be in error, but I understand that the Northern Ireland Government is short of money and is supported by substantial sums which are voted by this House. Am I to be assured—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We are discussing the Money Resolution. The money has not yet been voted. It cannot have been spent by the Government of Northern Ireland or any other Government.

Mr. Howie

Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am laying the ground for something which you will certainly see is in order. If the Government of Northern Ireland take it into their head—and our experience of the last day or two leads us to think that this is not unlikely—to indulge in expenditure on items like advertisements and recruitment appeals of various sorts, does the presence of a very high-up Minister from the Home Office—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Member is out or order.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to establish the Ulster Defence Regiment, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of any expenditure incurred by any Government department which is attributable to the provisions of that Act.