§ Mr. Speaker
May I make one observation. I may not be in the Chair when the general debate begins.
I have a very long list of those who wish to speak in this grave debate, all of whom have good reasons for doing so, and they include every hon. Member from Northern Ireland. It will be unfair to others who are anxious to speak if any speeches are too long. The length of a speech bears no mathematical relation to its depth.
I hope that hon. Members will co-operate so that I can get as balanced a debate as possible.
§ 4.6 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. James Callaghan)
Lord Cameron, in the Report that he made a short while ago, warned us against simplification of issues that underlie the violence, arson and murder that have taken place in Northern Ireland, but he and his colleagues gave their version in paragraph 6 of the Report—and I do not think I can do better than quote from it—as to the underlying causes. He said:'… on the one hand, a widespread sense of political and social grievance for long unadmitted and, therefore, unredressed by successive Governments of Northern Ireland, and, on the other, sentiments of fear and apprehension sincerely and tenaciously felt and believed, of risks to the integrity and indeed continued existence of the state.I do not think that it is possible to better that as a short description in one sentence of the causes which have underlain much of the disturbances and violence that we have seen in Northern Ireland during the summer months. I would add only one point, that if his own version means that among the minority there was a feeling of injustice and among the majority a feeling of fear, that sense of fear has subsequently spread to both communities, and both, alas, now share it fully.
But in the circumstances which he has outlined, and which I would accept, everyone of us here, as experienced politicians, can readily see what an unstable political situation exists and has existed in Northern Ireland itself, a situation in which small incidents can and 48 indeed did give rise to violence, arson, looting and now to killing.
In August, this led to a confrontation in which in Northern Ireland 572 houses were damaged, 174 of them totally destroyed, and many of the remainder suffering from very severe damage. Probably over 5,000 people lost their homes in the riots of August, and of those rather less than a half have been able to reoccupy their repaired houses.
It was at that stage that the Northern Ireland Government, on 14th August, decided that it was not possible for them with their resources to restore order, and troops were ordered in at that time to separate the communities. Our objectives were clearly stated then and still hold good today: first, to keep the peace between the communities; second, to ensure that there is in Northern Ireland, as in the rest of the United Kingdom, a common standard of citizenship; third, that the forces which sustained the State and which for a number of reasons had been unable at that time to maintain law and order should have their rôle examined in order that the reasons for the breakdown could be made clear and remedies proposed; fourth, that the Government of Northern Ireland should be given every help by Her Majesty's Government to make the necessary changes themselves and to carry on the task themselves.
It is to those objectives that policy has been directed during the last two months. Some of these things are being achieved, while others have been achieved. Let me make it clear, in relation to law and order, that what underlay the very strong conviction of both Governments that a committee should be set up under the chairmanship of Lord Hunt to review the rôle and structure of those forces was the belief that law and order cannot be maintained in isolation.
It is part of the totality of social, economic and political policies. In a democracy it must rest upon the consent of the general body of citizens, neither outraging the majority, not inflaming the minority. To those who suggested at one time that Westminster might confine itself to the problem of law and order and allow others, the elected Government, to carry on with the social, economic and political policies that they 49 thought appropriate, I say that it seemed to Her Majesty's Government that it was not possible, in a democratic State, to do this. The whole context must be considered together.
It is not my intention, Mr. Speaker, especially in the light of your request for short speeches, to take the House through the events since 14th August; they are well known to hon. Members and are on the record. But there has been, continuing, small-scale violence, sometimes growing larger, and at others dying away. Many areas have been unpoliced since that date in August, notably in Belfast and Londonderry. Some have said that the troops should have gone in and ensured that those areas were policed forthwith.
It is not a policy that I recommended to the General Officer Commanding and I would not recommend it to this House. It neglects the whole background of the situation. I must point out to some of those rather more militant gentlemen who are now anxious for British troops to go quickly into these areas, and who have been pressing for that since August, that the two major areas were unpoliced, in an effective sense, before 12th August. It was, alas, the case that, in the months preceding, as we have heard from the many experts who went over there, in parts of what became known as "No Go-Land" in Belfast, the police went only in response to the most urgent 999 call. They did not patrol at all during the night and, when they went, never less than two cars attended, with one to cover the other.
I am speaking, I want to emphasise, of the period prior to the time when the troops were asked to take over this situation. In my view, it would have been extremely irresponsible, in the face of, at that time, the unreformed political situation, with tensions as they were, to have expected the troops to have immediately gone in and restored order in a situation where the civilian forces, with their natural links with the population, had been unable to do so. Areas of the Bogside have been unpoliced for even longer, because the police were unacceptable. This was the situation in which the Army had to do a most difficult and thankless task and it has done that with exemplary courage, patience and diplomacy.
50 The House would want me, without taking them through all the events, to say a word about the rioting that took place on Saturday in Belfast. This has marked a most serious turning point because, for the first time, the rioters have used firearms freely and the troops were forced to return the fire.
The security forces, to my personal knowledge, acted with great gallantry and restraint. The House will know of the police constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, P.C. Arbuckle, who was murdered in the most cold-blooded manner. When the R.U.C. was linking arms in the manner that has become traditional in this country to repel crowds, and as it linked arms across the street, a shot rang out and the man fell to the ground. But even then, and I wish to praise the gallantry of the R.U.C., its line did not break. Their comrade was carried away, and the line reformed and stood there.
Alas, the situation got worse. I know that I speak for the whole House when I say that the sympathy of everyone will go out to the widow of P.C. Arbuckle and his young son. Late on Saturday evening, crowds gathered in three areas of Belfast, demonstrating, they said, against the decisions of the Northern Ireland Government, on the reorganisation of the R.U.C. It has, of course, become not without irony that the R.U.C.—and I speak from my personal talks with a great many of the men—welcomed the reforms and changes now being made. I was asked to bring that message back to this House; it is not that it acquiesces in the reforms and changes, or accepts them, it welcomes what is being done.
In the Shankill Road area the mob sought to attack a block of flats which mainly house Roman Catholic families. It was in this area that the most serious trouble occurred. First, the troops of the R.U.C. used tear gas in an effort to disperse the mob, but after due warning, as the mob came on, the troops were forced to return the fire. They fired five shots on four occasions. The fighting continued until nearly dawn and was marked by sniper attacks, in response to which the troops fired about 20 rounds.
I would like to make the point that is not perhaps always clear on the pictures we see on television, about how impossible it is to sort out these events. 51 The first shot which killed Police Constable Arbuckle undoubtedly came from the crowd, the mob there. What is also clear is that probably very few people in the crowd knew that a shot had been fired. Such is the general noise and atmosphere there, it is easy for hon. Members to understand this, that a shot may come from the middle of the crowd which would not be heard because of the din and the noise.
All that the crowd sees is the return fire and they say, "We have been fired on. They were the first to fire." In these circumstances, passions can easily be inflamed through a sheer failure to comprehend the situation on the streets. I must say they had been asked not to be on the streets, they were attempting to march, to create violence. This must be clear. Even so, this is a situation in which I can understand the response from some in the mob, even though I in no way condone it or am in the slightest degree in sympathy with it. This was senseless mob violence.
The result, apart from the death of P.C. Arbuckle, was that two civilians were killed, two soldiers were seriously injured, 19 slightly injured, three police slightly injured and 33 civilians were injured. The number of arrests totals 68. Some have appeared in court this morning. I welcome very much this new activity which is enabling the police and the R.U.C. to arrest some of the troublemakers on the spot and have them brought before the courts. It is very difficult to do it, but they are quite right to plunge into the crowd to get these ringleaders out. It is possible that some of the arrests may be quite significant.
In addition, yesterday a cordon was thrown around three streets in Belfast as a result of the information and knowledge about the situation there. After a search, with great inconvenience to the innocent citizens, valuable information and material came into the hands of the R.U.C. The situation at midday today is that in Belfast there are no significant barricades, but there are some piles of rubbish around. All the weekend Protestant barricades, if I may so describe them, were removed at 7.30 a.m. The Shankill Road is clear, but some barricades have appeared on the Catholic side of "No Go-land" in Grosvenor 52 Road. The Falls Road in the Catholic area is also clear. In Londonderry, there are no Catholic barricades today, but there are three Protestant barricades, which I hope will come down.
I say one other word, in view of what I have to say about the Ulster Special Constabulary. Last night, there was a full turn-out of the Ulster Special Constabulary throughout the Province; every one of them reported for duty.
I come back now to the position of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, because this and the position of the Ulster Special Constabulary is, if not the heart of the matter, certainly the matter which is causing the gravest concern among many people in Northern Ireland. Therefore, I start with that.
I thank Lord Hunt for taking on the responsibility as he did for the Report which he and his colleagues so quickly produced—men, I may say, who are among the best policemen in this country, and assisted by skilled assessors who also are well versed in both Northern Ireland and Great Britain police practice. They produced a unanimous Report. Their verdict was clear. It is that we have tried, over the last 50 years and with greater or lesser success, to saddle the Royal Ulster Constabulary with too many roles.
The constabulary was not only an English-type police force dealing with traffic and controlling crime; it was also a para-military force with responsibilities and blockhouses on the border between north and south. It was this mixture of rôles which, in some ways, separated the constabulary from the public and so prevented that free and relatively easy communication which prevails in this country between police and public and which makes the public feel that the police are part of the community.
The Hunt Committee was clear in its view that the rôle of the Royal Ulster Constabulary should be that of a civilian unarmed police and that its para-military rôle should be split away from it and be dealt with elsewhere. That clear view, argued in the Hunt Report. was accepted without question by Major Chichester-Clark and his colleagues in the Northern Ireland Government, and Her Majesty's Government believe that they were right in so doing.
Second, because of the difficulties in a country where there is a permanent 53 Government without opportunity or chance of replacement, it was thought necessary—again, this has been accepted by the Northern Ireland Government—that there should be interposed between the Minister of Home Affairs, who is responsible for the police, and the police themselves a separate independent police authority much on the lines which many of us know in this country. The Hunt Committee made some recommendations, which may or may not be fully acceptable, about the composition of the police authority—this is set out in paragraph 87 of its Report, suggesting that a number of authorities in Northern Ireland should have a statutory responsibility to nominate certain members to the new police authority.
The Committee was inspired to do this, I may say—as Lord Hunt has explained to me since—because it wished to see on the police authority representatives of the Catholic community as well as of the Protestant community, and it believed that this was the best way to do it. I have myself had the opportunity of talking to some of the prominent Catholics in the community. I am certain that they wish to take their full part in this new police authority, but they may, obviously, have their own ideas about the manner of nomination, and I am certain that the Government of Northern Ireland will wish to take that into account when they constitute by statute later on the new police authority.
Third, the Hunt Committee recommended very strongly that the R.U.C. should seek, even more dynamically than in the past, recruits from all classes and all parts of the community. I was glad to note Cardinal Conway, Primate of all Ireland, expressing his view publicly that Catholics should be encouraged to join the new unarmed civilian Royal Ulster Constabulary, and saying to me privately that he would discuss this matter with his priests so that they might give it encouragement, too. I am absolutely satisfied that it is his firm desire that this civilian unarmed force should be fully representative of all the community.
The next recommendation made was that the Inspectorate which now inspects the 47 police forces in England and Wales should have its responsibilities extended to Northern Ireland. This is a matter for the Government, but I believe that the 54 House would want us to do that so that the same interchange of information and of standards should be built up.
Next, there is a matter which affects the House even more than that. As this is an Adjournment debate, when we must not discuss legislation, I put it in the conditional sense since, if we were to pursue it, it would require legislation. I refer to the prospect of mutual aid between forces here and in Northern Ireland. At the moment, as is well known, if the Metropolitan Police wishes to call for help, it may go to the chief constable of, say, Birmingham, Hertfordshire, Kent or Surrey and ask, "Will you lend us some men?" The recommendation of the Hunt Committee is that the same system should apply between English forces and Northern Ireland, since it. is clear that circumstances can arise, particularly in Northern Ireland, in which even a larger police force than it has now could not possibly hold the situation in all areas.
Clearly, this is a matter which must be discussed with the representatives of the men in England and Wales as well as of the forces in England and Wales, and, therefore, I was not able to give a definite assurance to the Northern Ireland Government that it would be so. The House of Commons itself would have to adjudicate upon it. Nevertheless, I should myself strongly recommend to the House that we should enable that mutual aid to be freely made available when called for.
Finally—I am picking out the major matters—there was the decision by the former Inspector General that, to assist the reorganisation of the force, he would retire. As is well known, the Northern Ireland Government have appointed Sir Arthur Young in his place. I wish to thank Sir Arthur Young for the willingness and readiness with which he took up this responsibility. He did it, literally, at almost a moment's notice. While, naturally, he had his hesitations, he felt that it was a challenge, and, as he said, "If it is my duty, I must go and do it".
I can only say that Sir Arthur has embarked on his task in such a way during these 48 hours that his men feel that they have a real leader who will stand by them and one who will insist on the most rigorous and impartial methods of policemanship throughout the whole Province. That will percolate, quickly 55 or slowly, down through the Province, throughout all the communities living there. I am sure that we all wish Sir Arthur Young great success in the difficult task which he has taken on.
I come now to the B Specials, the new local reserve force, for it is this, certainly, which underlies a great deal of the uncertainty and fear among the majority of the population, as well as arousing fear among the minority. Once the Royal Ulster Constabulary is stripped of its para-military functions and its own squads which were formed and which number a few hundred men, for the purpose of defending the border, being armed with automatic weapons for that purpose, and once the R.U.C. ceases to have that rôle, it seems to me, as it seemed to the Hunt Committee, that the B Special police, also with a Para-military rôle, clearly have no logical part in such a force and, therefore, the split must be made.
If they are to become, or if, as Hunt recommends and as the Northern Ireland Government have agreed, there is to be, a local reserve defence force armed with equipment and trained in a military manner, it must be a force which is under military discipline, under military control and responsible to Her Majesty's Government. This is the basis of the Constitution. The Irish have fought many battles, and we, too, have fought battles for the control by Westminster of our armed forces. There simply cannot, in constitutional terms, be any argument about it.
Nevertheless, if I may say this to the House, Westminster must recognise the atmosphere in Northern Ireland because they have a land border and we do not. Therefore, the Northern Ireland Government are extremely sensitive, even more sensitive than we are, about having some say in the kind of military forces which are there to protect their border. That seems to me to be reasonable. For example, the General Officer Commanding, General Freeland, at the moment meets with the Security Committee under the Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Porter, every day.
This is a matter which clearly affects the Northern Ireland Government. If such a force is formed, as is the intention of the Northern Ireland Government—I 56 must put it in the conditional because this, again, would require legislation in this House—then it must come under the control of the military. It must be accountable to Westminster, but the Northern Ireland Government must have a very substantial say in what is to be its future rôle, although the decisions have to be taken here.
I believe that a great deal of the real fear in Northern Ireland among the Protestant population, and which to some extent was responsible for the outbreaks at the weekend, is based on a false appreciation of the situation and on rumours which have no relevance at all and no truth. Her Majesty's Government will recommend to the House in due course legislation to create such a force which will be responsible to Her Majesty's Government, and arrangements will be made for the fullest consultation with the Northern Ireland Government in view of their special responsibilities.
I made a statement yesterday, with the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, which was intended to help the situation and to set the matter in perspective. Its history has made it a source of very great controversy and fear. Its present rôle would be inappropriate in a changed R.U.C. The Army will defend the border. The Eire Government have given assurances that they do not intend any armed attack on the North. I am sure that everyone would accept those assurances. Nevertheless, it is not only from the Eire Government that attacks may come in this matter. There can be incidents. It is, therefore, important that the Northern Ireland Government Security Committee should have the fullest consultation on the composition of this force and upon the rôle which it will fulfil. That is the purpose of the working party which has been set up.
It would be less than realistic not to recognise the great fears that exist genuinely among some Protestants—though among some of the mob with much less genuine feeling—about the future of what they call "their force". I will come later to whether it is wise in a State for one part of a community, if they are to create a stable and democratic society, to rely on something which they call "their force". That is why I hope that this force will draw its members from all parts of the community. One Stormont Member of Parliament told me that 57 he himself would apply to join the new force under these conditions.
I move on to deal with what I regard as the other essential parts of this issue, the social and economic prospects. The two Governments have proposed very great changes in the house allocation and house building programme. Up to the moment 73 local authorities between them have built fewer houses than is the total stock in Birmingham. The Northern Ireland Government recognise that this was both a waste of resources and led to inefficiency, and they are proposing to reduce the number even further.
It is apparently the case that perhaps 10 per cent. of these local authorities have been allocating houses on a basis of discrimination. This certainly does not apply to the other 90 per cent. of local authorities, but it is probably true in relation to 10 per cent. of them. In the view of the Northern Ireland Government, and in my own view, it will not be possible to restore a belief in the fairness of housing allocation unless there is seen to be a body which allocates houses on a pure basis of need, made up of people who are professionals in housing matters and who represent both the communities.
The new central house authority will be both independent and impartial. It will control a stock of houses which is smaller in size than that of Birmingham and, therefore, it is by no means an impossible task. It can subsume the existing housing trust, which has a very good record indeed, and in due course it will do so, but not immediately because of the necessity for not interfering with the existing housing programme by altering the structure.
I am sure that it will not be too long. I can envisage its coming into being within a matter of 12 months. It will then be responsible both for building and allocating houses in Northern Ireland. I believe that this not only will demonstrate, as was our desire and intention, the complete impartiality of the house building and house allocating programme as between areas and as between individual citizens, but also will increase the efficiency of that programme.
Naturally, local authorities will regret the loss of their housing functions because under previous proposals they were due to lose other functions. Therefore, the Northern Ireland Government intend to set in hand a review of the whole of local 58 authority functions in order to see whether or not their proposed new shape for local authorities is the right one. This, also, will have a side effect, because complaints have been made about the boundaries of the proposed local authorities. But, since the Government now intend to set in hand a full review of the functions, that obviously will mean that they will want to see over what boundaries any new authorities they decide to set up should function. It therefore gives them a fresh opportunity to look at that important matter.
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
Could the Home Secretary tell the House how members of the central housing authority of which he has spoken are to be appointed?
§ Mr. Callaghan
No, Sir, I cannot say that. It is for the Northern Ireland Government to decide; they want to examine the matter rather more fully. Certainly, it would be the intention, as I understood from my discussions with them, that there should be professional housing managers, people expert in building and representatives of both the communities, but I cannot say how they will be drawn. Such is the determination of the Northern Ireland Government, that, when the exercise is over, I do not believe anybody—obviously there will be complaints because there always will be in such a situation—will be able to justify discrimination on a religious basis.
The Government have appointed a Minister for Community Relations, Dr. Simpson. I was much impressed by his energy, conviction and the way in which he is tackling his job. He obviously intends to try to bring the two communities as close together as possible. He is in close touch with the proposal to set up a Commissioner who will deal with complaints by persons who allege religious discrimination in local employment. This was a matter which was put to me strongly by the minority when I was in Ireland. It is a genuine and deeply-held conviction. Just as in this country we have an Ombudsman to investigate cases of maladministration in the central Civil Service, they will have, in addition to our own Ombudsman who will have his impact on the central Civil Service, a Commissioner for local complaints in matters of local employment.
§ Mrs. Anne Kerr (Rochester and Chatham)
Does my right hon. Friend not agree that the question of full employment for the minority is perhaps the most important question, overriding even the housing question?
§ Mr. Callaghan
I would not care to say whether housing or employment is the more important, but I am clear that the complaints on employment are not confined to the minority. Complaints about employment are heard just as much among the majority.
It is one of the sad features of the Irish situation that when I was over there I was called a "Fenian lover". I saw the hatred of poor Protestants, whose housing and whose lack of employment justify a better deal than they have had and they heap it all on the heads of the Catholics.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Let my hon. Friend make that point elsewhere. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is true."] There are many things that are true. If I were to say all the things that were true about this situation, I could easily provoke a blood bath. That is not my intention.
I want to say to my hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mrs. Anne Kerr), who, I know, is genuinely concerned about this matter, that there are social and economic problems that bestride the bigotry of the religious groups there. It is time that some of them turned away from mouthing their religious slogans and turned to these political and social issues.
A declaration will be required from all employers on the subject of no discrimination in their employment, because what we are proposing to apply to public employment cannot, for a number of reasons with which I will not detain the House at the moment, be applied also to private employment. The Government also propose to introduce an antidiscrimination clause in Government contracts.
I ought to say a word about the economic development situation. We were very glad indeed to see that the Northern Ireland Government propose to introduce an insurance scheme for 60 new investors that will enable them to feel more reassured about the prospects of their future in case of arson, riot or civil commotion. We certainly are ready to support that as the Northern Ireland Government propose.
The other proposals that we were able to put forward jointly were that there should be a 5 per cent. increase in investment grants and in the grants under the Industrial Development Act. It is hoped by a special grant from the Treasury to create 2,500 jobs this winter, especially, I would hope, to the west of the Bann where employment is at its worst.
This economic situation is one which I had to tell them they shared, but in a much greater degree, with development areas in this country. It is not as easy as they sometimes think to remove this situation. One has to get the kind of restructuring that is taking place in this country where, if I may make the point, it is quite clear that the running down of the coal and textile industries, and to some extent the steel industry, has been, and is being, matched in the development areas by the running up of the more technological and science-based industries. This is a long job with the Northern Irish, as it is with us, but it must be continued. The economic mission which went from Whitehall Departments has come back and we intend to continue our close interest in this.
I want before I finish to say one thing about what lies behind some of this, but I would like to thank hon. Members, on both sides, for the help they have given inc. A deputation comprising a group of my hon. Friends went to Northern Ireland. They were good enough to come back with a report which I very much welcomed. I was also grateful to the Opposition Members who went and who had no obligation to me, but gave me the benefit of their views. I would particularly like to thank the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone, who, thoughout the whole of this, has followed a course in which he has sought no party advantage but has endeavoured to put the situation as he saw it as fairly as he could, and, through him, the Opposition as a whole.
I should like to mention one other person who has been extremely helpful, because he is no longer with me, and 61 that is Lord Stonham, whose work for Northern Ireland has extended for the last five years, and whose work in the matter of distress and the relief of distress as well as in other directions, is well known. I shall certainly miss his very great help.
I conclude by saying this. We are faced with the misery of lives lost and the fears—some irrational, some rational—of change and, of course, the ever-brooding sense of history that hangs over everyone in Ireland. We are sometimes apt—I detect it even in myself—to have a feeling of smugness about the irrationality, and then I pause and say that there is no need and no occasion for us here to be smug. We do not have to dig far beneath the surface of our own problems to see much of the same irrationality coming to the surface. There is no need for any of us to feel superior about it.
I must say a word about the essence of Paisleyism. I wondered whether it was worth while to elevate this gentleman, but it is. He has a very considerable following and I feel that it is necessary to say something about this. By all means let us sweep it under the carpet if it will disappear, but we must drag out this spectre, face it and show it for what it is.
I would put it this way. Mr. Paisley always says that he does not attack the Catholics. What he does is to attack the Church of Rome. Of course, he condemned yesterday every single act of violence and of murder. Naturally, I found that a welcome expression, but the language that he uses otherwise is very strange language. It is the language of war, cast in a biblical mould. "Fight the good fight", sung in Belfast after a night of rioting, is very different from when it is sung in an English country chapel in a village. This is what the Reverend Paisley either fails to appreciate or deliberately plays on.
It is a very small jump from saying that everything is the responsibility of the Church of Rome—the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone has fallen foul of him; I am a "preacher of Rome"; the Leader of the Opposition has not escaped; we are all victims of the Church of Rome, this great publicity machine—it is an easy jump from that to saying that if one is a Protestant without a house it is because the 62 Catholics are getting all the houses, as was said to me in Wapping Lane, Londonderry, on Saturday morning, or that if one is a Protestant without a job it is because the Catholics are getting all the jobs, or, with supreme illogicality, that Protestants have to pay high taxes because the Catholics will not work and they breed like rabbits.
One finds all this great conglomeration and it is easy to extend this evil brew to almost every social, economic and political problem which exists in Northern Ireland. "No, I do not attack the Catholics", says Mr. Paisley, "I merely attack the Church of Rome". But the jump is a very little one. In my view, this devilish theme—and I believe that this is increasingly recognised in Northern Ireland—has to be attacked and driven out.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Not at the moment.
Let us be quite clear. The fears of the Protestants are very real and genuine. They are as real and genuine as the fears of the Catholics were, and their sense of injustice. These things must be understood and, I believe, are understood increasingly in this country.
It would be wrong to assume that the Reverend Paisley has a following only of wild men. He has a following of strict fundamentalists, too. Those of us who are older in this House were, perhaps, brought up in that vein. I was myself. I remember how my parents regarded the Catholics. The strict fundamental, narrow climate in which we were brought up is now no longer so common in England, although it is still to be found in certain parts of England and Wales today.
The Reverend Paisley has a following of good people, in the strict biblical sense of the word, who believe very passionately and firmly and with deep religious intensity that the Church of Rome is wrong, and he plays on that— [An HON. MEMBER: "It is inexcusable."]. I thought I was saying that it was not excusable—in order to ensure that the fears of these two groups, who should be devoted to improving their material and social conditions in which they have a 63 common interest, are not relegated to the background.
§ Mr. Peter Mahon (Preston, South)
Does my right hon. Friend really believe that deep down this is a problem of religion? Is it not really a problem of no votes, no homes, no jobs and no hope?
§ Mr. Callaghan
I thought that I had indicated something of that sort, but I have also said that it was not confined to one section of the population or one community. This is a common problem to both communities and, in my view, it should be tackled by Westminster, by the Government and the Opposition here, in that sense.
There will, of course, be other problems that will come up. I have had some brought to my notice already. To those who want to bring up other problems and who feel that there should be solutions—I will not enumerate the problems or their solutions this afternoon—I would say that I believe that the programme which has been set before the Northern Ireland Government and which they have taken on, of reforming the forces of law and order, introducing a new housing system and, therefore, revising the local authorities, and the work they are doing in public employment and discrimination, is a large meal to digest at present. I believe that it would be asking too much of them to take up some of the other problems which will come up in due course and will need to be discussed. We must give them time to digest what is being done. It will be a very big task for them indeed.
In a strange way I do not feel unhopeful about the situation, despite the misery of Saturday night, and, to a lesser extent, of last night. I do not feel unhopeful, for these reasons. First, we are now engaged in creating a single standard of citizenship throughout Northern Ireland. That is a solid foundation upon which to raise one State. Once that is there, everybody can go forward, and so we start from that point.
Second, I do not believe that the Northern Ireland Government intend to be deterred from the paths which they have willingly and voluntarily followed. They are determined to fight this thing through because they believe it to be 64 right, and I am convinced that they will use every effort to do so.
§ Mr. Callaghan
No. I am winding up my speech.
Third, I believe that the situation with regard to law and order will gradually improve once the ridiculous rumours about the so-called intention of the Westminster Government to destroy the security of Northern Ireland become understood for the false rumours they are.
There is now more working together amongst the leaders of the communities. The police and the Army are working together. The Ulster Unionists and the Opposition are meeting together in the Stormont and outside it. The Cardinal and the Prime Minister are meeting together. Here the Government and the Opposition are broadly working together, although I shall take any criticism and comments that the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) wishes to make. Thus, we are far from an unhopeful situation where divided counsels among major parties would destroy any prospect of settlement.
It is vital that Her Majesty's Government should back Stormont at the present time. They must carry this programme through. They cannot do so without our support and our help, and we intend to give them the fullest support and help that we can. The minority is beginning to work with the State much more than it has done hitherto. I need not go into the reasons for that, but I see it developing. I see the intention there, and to me that is a source of encouragement.
The right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone wound up his speech at the Conservative Party conference by saying what was needed. I must follow his example. The right hon. and learned Gentleman summed it up in three words. I do not put my view down to the exclusion of his, but what is needed is understanding, first, of the real fears and prejudices that exist there. Second, what is needed is patience to reassure those with fears—not to trample on them, but to try to understand them, to try to work with them to dispel those fears. Third, what is needed is imagination to put ourselves in the place of those who are our opponents over there.
65 The woman who shouted at me "Fenian lover" did so with deep intensity and passion because she was frightened about her future security. We have to try to work these fears out of the system. It will take time, but we must do so.
Finally, there must be firmness both in carrying through the reforms and in putting down those, whoever they may be, who have no desire and no intention to allow the people of Northern Ireland to lead a happy life.
§ 4.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (St. Marylebone)
We have much to discuss this afternoon. We have the Cameron Report, the Hunt Report, the most important White Paper now in the Vote Office, and the tragic events of the weekend, all of which must come into our debate.
I should like, first, and I feel that it would be right to do so, to welcome, I hope on behalf of the whole House, the return of the Home Secretary from what must have been an exhausting, and, in some way, a harrowing experience. I, who have been through very much less, know a little of how exhausting and how harrowing it must have been.
I was deeply touched by what the right hon. Gentleman said about me and about members of my party. We have tried to provide a constructive element in the situation, and we shall continue to do so. I have done so for many reasons, but particularly because we are now running up to a General Election, we do not know how long delayed. There will be many matters in bitter controversy between us, but I believe that this is a matter upon which the voice of Britain should be heard as a single voice, and not as a babel of discordant sound.
The right hon. Gentleman has made it easy for me to support him in what he has been saying to the House. I believe that our objectives at least are identical. I put them in my own words, but I am saying in different words the same thing as he is saying. I believe that we want to create a just and peaceful society in which all may participate on the basis of equal citizenship within the boundaries of the United Kingdom. It is because of both those ideals—the society that we want to create and the integrity of the United Kingdom—that I feel we can 66 stand together and reassure all the people of Northern Ireland that their fears are perhaps unjustified, and that the future holds a brighter prospect than the events of the weekend might suggest.
To the Protestants I would say that we are behind him in the integrity of the United Kingdom. To the Catholic—and I use that as a shorthand form for what I would otherwise call Roman Catholic—I would say that we intend that there should be an equal citizenship in which all can participate for the future.
I should like to confine myself to some extent to the immediate situation. I want to say something to the House about my own attitude and about the attitude of my party, which is to some extent misunderstood. We have been reproached on many occasions for not playing a more active part when things went wrong, or were thought to be wrong. It may be that the criticism is well-founded. It may be that it is ill-founded. I should simply like to tell the House how I, at any rate, was motivated in the matter.
I feared—and I do not think that recent events have proved me wrong—that an intrusion from outside might release forces too powerful to be contained. That may not be a very heroic attitude, but at least I believe it to have been an honourable one, and I do not know that the events of the last few days altogether disprove it. But now those forces have been released. It is not for me—perhaps it is for Mr. Justice Scarman—to say who was responsible, or how they came to be released, but now there are only two alternative policies for this House to pursue. We are involved, and we have a right to express our opinion. Ulster could go back to the status quo, or it could go forward to a different kind of society. Each choice has its dangers, as we have seen.
But I am sure that the Government at Westminster and the Government at Stormont are right, and I should like to support both of them, in their unequivocal choice of the forward-looking approach. We cannot go back, and I believe that it would be disastrous to attempt to do so. Apart from that, we should be betraying our trust to our own constituents in our country if we were to try to do so because the United Kingdom, of which Northern Ireland is 67 part, cannot afford two classes of citizen in any part of its borders. We are therefore driven to accept the forward-looking approach which involves, at any rate in broad principle, the kind of document now in the Vote Office and the kind of proposal about the police which the Secretary of State has outlined and which is contained in the Hunt Report.
That brings me to the problem of law and order—a phrase often used and not always understood. When I was over there, my Ulster Unionist friends insisted that this was the matter of first priority. I found no difficulty in agreeing with that. What they had foremost in mind was the existence of the enclaves in Derry and in Belfast where, as they put it, the Queen's writ did not run, and they insisted that these could not last. I think that I went along with that, too.
I turn to the military appreciation. May I say, in passing, that, although I did not see the General Officer Commanding, as he was in London, some of our officers there are among the most brilliant professional soldiers with whom I have come in contact in peace or war. I wish to say my word of support and praise for the exemplary conduct of the troops in the field under very strange and difficult conditions of service. The military appreciation was this—and I share it, not as a military appreciation, but as a political appreciation. There are two ways of getting into an enclave of this kind: one can shoot one's way in, or talk one's way in. The soldiers, as a matter of professional judgment, and I, as a matter of political judgment, had no doubt that the second way was the right way and that the first way was the wrong way, however naturally impatient other people might be.
The second point about law and order which I want to make is this. What is sauce for the Catholic goose is also sauce for the Protestant gander, and there is very much a Protestant gander at present. The recent troubles in Belfast—and it is not for me to inquire into the original trouble because that is sub judice—were not caused by the enclaves in No Go-Land or the Bogside. They were caused by a rampaging crowd, which was not a Catholic crowd, and the shots which were fired did not appear to come from Catholic hands.
68 If we claim to be loyal—and loyalty is a word which is frequently on people's lips in Northern Ireland—we must realise that this means being law abiding, and loyalty to the Queen means loyalty to the regimental standards of our troops in the field not less than wrapping a Union Jack around one's house. Loyalty must therefore mean support for the lawful authority of Stormont and consideration for the feelings of the people of Great Britain as well as for the composition of one's own political party or one's own religious denomination.
That brings me to the question of the police, who are central to the problem of law and order. I attach more importance, and I think that the Secretary of State attached more importance, to the police than to almost any other subject. If we were going backwards, the prescription would be to reinforce the Royal Ulster Constabulary and perhaps increase the numbers of the special constabulary behind it. But we are not going backwards. We are determined on a forward course. That makes us look at the Hunt recommendations which, broadly, are these. If we want effective policing and law enforcement, we must have a police force which is acceptable throughout the community.
I think that the situation is fraught with danger, but risks must be taken, whatever we do or refrain from doing. It is fraught with danger, but it is a risk which I wholeheartedly accept, namely, that we should go over to an unarmed civilian police force under a non-political police authority, divorcing it from its political functions in the way described and shearing off altogether the military function which I believe, with the qualification which the Secretary of State made about the desirability of Stormont being constantly in consultation, is fundamentally a Westminster responsibility. That means consequential changes in the special constabulary.
Let me say categorically that I regard the Royal Ulster Constabulary personnel as being among the finest people I have met recently. I was proud to shake the hands of some of their officers when I met them. But to saddle them with military responsibilities is to put upon them a burden which they should not be asked to bear. It is no criticism of their 69 past record, of their discipline, of their probity or even of their impartiality, which has been held in question, when we say that a gendarmerie, which is what they are, because they are not in the ordinary sense police, is inappropriate to our conception of civilian life in the United Kingdom.
Before I go on to speak about the specials, I should like to confirm what the Secretary of State said. I had my own private conversation with the Cardinal Archbishop, and we discussed the possibility of some response from the minority community to which the right hon. Gentleman alluded in his own party conference speech. Naturally, I asked him what would be the attitude of the Roman Catholic community to a police force of the kind about which the Hunt Committee subsequently reported, although at that time the Hunt Committee's Report was not out, so I had to make my own definition. He gave me to understand, as he gave the right hon. Gentleman to understand, that it would meet not merely with his tacit acquiescence, but with his positive help and approval. Without that, I do not believe that the risk could be taken. With that, I believe that it is exactly the right policy.
I have never joined in a generalised attack on the specials. No doubt evidence will be given before the Scarman Commission about individual delinquencies. But the people I met were ordinary people, the kind one would have met in the Territorial Army before the war. One I shook hands with, who was protecting the Prime Minister's house, had the hard hands of a farmer. He was up all night and was going to dig his potatoes in the morning.
It is not their fault individually that they are all Protestants. It is not their fault individually that they are not acceptable to Roman Catholics for that reason, and it is not their fault, either individually or collectively, that they are geared into a concept of the Ulster Constabulary which, if the Hunt Commission Report is accepted, must be divided into the military and the civilian. I should like them to feel that if drastic changes in their constitution are proposed and supported, which would make some of them, in effect, auxiliary soldiers and others reserve policemen, this is not intended, at any rate by any of us, as a 70 slight upon either their patriotism or their fundamental decency.
I should also like to report, because it is vital to the occasion, that I asked the enclave which I was able to visit—thanks to the courtesy of the military and of the organisation in control of the Bogside—whether they would accept such a police force, again using my own terms of definition, because I did not know the exact terms of the Hunt Report. They said that it would be acceptable. I put it to them that such a force cannot be created overnight—it does not grow under a gooseberry bush. I asked them whether they would co-operate with interim arrangements and they told me that they would. All this, I think, adds up to a satisfactory deal on law and order.
I turn now to the package in the White Paper. I say again, as I told my party conference—I hope I need say it only once—that, at any rate to the Opposition, as I know it is to the Labour Party, any form of religious discrimination is hateful and inconsistent both with our dignity as a nation and with our legal obligations under the various conventions of human rights which we have signed and intend to keep. I will not trouble the House with it, but I have always rather hankered after a Bill of Rights which would make this part of the constitution of the United Kingdom. We can debate that on another occasion. In the meantime, I should like to make one or two short points.
I welcome the local Ombudsman, to use that common expression. I am glad that there is now in it a clear statement to the effect that maladministration includes religious discrimination, since I know there were those who had doubts about it before it was made plain. I should like to feel that the Stormont Government considered at least the appointments situation in honorary and unpaid office. There are a great number of forms of public service which are not rewarded monetarily and where perhaps the minority community has not been fully considered, or perhaps has been unwilling to take part.
I should also like them to ponder the suggestion of the Irish trade unions that the Privy Council and the Senate membership might form a sphere in which wider types of appointment could be made.
71 I accept, though with the same degree of reluctance as the Government have expressed in their White Paper, their central housing authority as alone being capable of matching the needs and possibly providing some guarantee against discrimination. I understand that between 100,000 and 110,000 houses are required. I feel that this is an acceptable suggestion.
I should like to comment about the purely economic part of the White Paper. I was told that male unemployment in Londonderry was about 20 per cent., or possibly a point or two less. If we want to build a new age for Northern Ireland—I know that I am sometimes reproached, as are others on this side of the House, for encouraging Government expenditure and preaching Government economy, but I hope that this reproach will not be levelled at me now—we must treat Northern Ireland, particularly the part of it west of the River Bann, as a special case.
I ask the Defence Secretary, who is to reply, now that it is clear that British troops have an increased rôle to play in Northern Ireland, to consider the policy initiated by us, but followed on a greater scale by his own colleagues, of dismantling defence establishments generally in Northern Ireland, particularly in Londonderry where the "Sea Eagle" is under sentence of death. I think that thought should be given to permanent military establishments there for training which can sometimes more usefully be placed, from the point of view of land planning, in places where jobs are scarce than in Aldershot, where they are less scarce.
I suggest that the Government should look at rather big projects. For instance, I have never been satisfied that an atomic power station would be out of the question in Northern Ireland. This would lead to discussions with the Republic, too, because, as with France, power generation is something which can transcend national boundaries.
The only oil refinery in the island is in Cork. I wonder whether it could not stand another.
If 110,000 houses are to be built, what about a factory, or factories, building components?
§ Mr. Hogg
I am overcome. But there are advantages in industrial building.
I say, both to the Government and to the Stormont Government, that I was very much impressed, when I was there, with the responsible attitude taken by both the local Labour Party and the Irish trade unions. I think that they have a part to play. They have kept religion out of the top echelons, at any rate, and I am hopeful that they may play a bigger part.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the name, to borrow a phrase from "Old Mortality", of the Reverend Habbakuk Mucklewrath. He was charitable to him. I intend to be charitable, too, though I think that he criticised me rather more warmly than him. He said that I preferred to see the Cardinal than him—which indeed I did. But I address to him the prayer of Oliver Cromwell. The more numerous and more ancient Protestant denominations, with a tradition of Protestantism not less honourable than his own, have taken a markedly different line in their approach to their Roman Catholic brethren. Although he is entitled to his views, I feel that, in moments of social instability and inflammation, religious speeches should be couched as much in the desire of making peace as of rubbing salt into the wounds.
I have finished. I said when we last discussed this problem that the log jam had broken, and that is true. Northern Ireland always reminded me in one way of the Sleeping Beauty's house. When the Treaty was signed, everybody was frozen into an attitude from which he was incapable of moving. Obviously, the moment at which the log jam breaks or the frozen attitudes unfreeze is the moment at which bloody incidents and unedifying episodes take place, but, as the Home Secretary said, the very fact of the unfreezing is a moment of challenge and hope rather than of despair.
I have one last word, which I hope is not out of place and will not be misunderstood. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will think seriously about bridge building with the Republic to the South. They have their own lines of communication with the North which are not quite our own. Of course, we must settle this business ourselves, and, of course, it is true that talk of the border increases Protestant fears rather than diminishes them, but I have a vision too 73 about these islands, which I am told that I must not call the British Islands for fear of offending somebody.
I look forward to a time when our independent nations can have a relationship not less warm than those of Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, interpenetrating each other's culture, respecting each other's independence and borders, and with constant communication, without let or hindrance, between minds and personalities on both sides. I am sure that some of the bitterness which exists in the six counties of Northern Ireland has been the result of a coolness, an alienation, between our nation and the Republic. We are all of us the prisoners of our history. We must step out of it sooner or later. I hope that they, too, will respond to a gesture of friendship and to a suggestion from the Westminster Government that we may open a new page of happiness to us all.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Mr. H. J. Delargy (Thurrock)
As the first backbencher to be called, I hope to set an example to the others. I say this modestly but seriously. My speech will be brief and it will be without rancour. I suppose that I have listened to almost every debate about Northern Ireland during the last 24 years. The two speeches which I have just heard are by far—by very far—the two best Front Bench speeches on the subject which I have ever heard. Nevertheless, I hope that the two right hon. Gentlemen will not misunderstand when I say that a rather bitter price has been paid for the excellence of those speeches.
The Home Secretary has said more than once that, when we debate Northern Ireland, particularly at this time, there should be no recriminations. Usually, when I hear a man say, "Let there he no recrimination", I suspect that he has something to hide. I suspect that there is something in his past record which he does not wish to have mentioned again. I can very well understand why this Government and previous Governments, when talking about Northern Ireland today, should ask us to have no recriminations.
Nevertheless, I said that I would not be rancorous, and I agree with the Government that there should be no recriminations. I agree, not for the Gov- 74 ernment's sake, but for the sake of people who belong to areas like the Falls Road in Belfast, many of whom are homeless now, all of whom are suspicious, and most of whom are living in great fear. They will not be interested in the niceties of our debate. They will not be interested in the length of our speeches. Indeed, as Mr. Speaker has reminded us, the length of a speech is not indicative of its effectiveness. They will not be concerned either about who scores points off whom today. They are looking to us anxiously for help and for hope. Despite what we have heard, it will be desperately difficult to provide them with either.
On my last visit to Belfast, just over a fortnight ago, not as a member of any delegation, but all on my own, the Belfast which I used to know well and loved as a young man; the Falls Road, the Springfield, and Clonard; when I stood in streets where houses used to be, houses which I knew, tenanted by gentle people, but where houses stand no more, razed to the ground—Bombay Street off the Kashmir Road, Brookfield Street, off the Antrim Road, and other areas which I knew well—after I had spoken to people I knew, to relatives of mine who live in the area, after all this, when a newspaper asked me what solution there could be, I replied, "I do not know; at this moment, I am drained of all hope". I am terribly sorry to say that even after the two admirable speeches which have been made, I still have not much hope. I hope to God that the two right hon. Gentlemen are right and I am wrong, because we must find solutions: the alternative is so terrible.
I welcome the Hunt Report, which is admirable, and the Cameron Report, and I welcome all that my right lion. Friend the Home Secretary and the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) has said, but I have one suggestion. It is a favourite of mine, which I have mentioned arid written about before. There should be appointed to the British Cabinet a Secretary of State for Northern Ireland affairs. I say this in no criticism of my right hon. Friend—he knows that. He has behaved admirably. If it gives him any consolation, all those to whom I spoke when I was there spoke of him with affection. He often has respect, but not always 75 affection. However, in the foreseeable future, this will be a full-time job, requiring the services of a full-time Minister, who will have to spend much of his time there.
We need a Secretary of State responsible to this House, who will come here regularly and answer our questions and tell us what is going on in Northern Ireland, and what happens to the money which the British taxpayer is providing for Northern Ireland. When we have a separate Ministry of Overseas Development, which supervises the funds spent in under-developed countries, surely we should have a separate Ministry concerned with the money supplied overseas to Northern Ireland. The two sums are about the same. I shall not go into the details, though I can if I am challenged.
The British Parliament and people should be presented with a regular balance sheet of what is happening to our money, so that we can question it all. So far we have been left in the dark. Nobody knows what happens. The burden is all thrown back on the British taxpayer. The British taxpayer will have to pay for all the results of the arson which has gone on recently, and he does not know why. So I suggest that a separate Ministry be set up for Northern Ireland, responsible to us.
If the Northern Ireland Government cannot enforce all the proposed reforms, we must. We have the power to do so under Section 75 of the Government of Ireland Act. Under that Section we have the power to legislate for Northern Ireland at any time; the Crown, by Order in Council, can legislate for Northern Ireland to amend laws, abolish them or introduce new ones.
It would be a good idea if it were made known to the Government of Northern Ireland that if they cannot enforce these reforms we will. We could send them drafts of laws which we propose they should put on the Statute Book, with a warning that if they do not do so by a certain date we will put them into effect by Order in Council. I do not think that Stormont would object to this. It could not do so. I am merely invoking the very Act on which the Northern Ireland Government depend for their existence.
76 One last word to my hon. Friends on the back benches: we have some of the blame for this catastrophe. We did not insist on our rights under Section 75 of the Government of Ireland Act. We have not asserted the supremacy of this House over Northern Ireland. The final responsibility is here. We have accepted too meekly and for too long the rulings of people who said that we were out of order. We should have had a showdown long ago about our responsibilities and rights under the Government of Ireland Act. There is no excuse for our not demanding it now. I only hope to God that it is not too late.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Mr. R. Chichester-Clark (Londonderry)
Were I to take up the speech of the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy), I should, though it would be against my wishes, find myself becoming very provocative, and that is the last thing I wish to do this afternoon. But there are some things that should be said.
The Home Secretary this afternoon used the word "fear" many times. I think that he used it more than any other word in his speech, and this was not inappropriate, because we are dealing with a situation which is one of fear, a fear which is, as he rightly said, upon both sides. But it is perhaps right—and I do not think that I shall be considered one-sided in doing this—for me to dwell a little upon the Protestant fears, because they are dominant in the present situation. One must think back a little, and remember what has happened.
There has never been a sense of real security among Protestants in the North, and because it was not for nothing that Dr. Hillary, the Minister for External Affairs in the Republic, said in the Security Council in New York on 20th August that the Republic's claim to Northern Ireland… had been asserted and sustained without interruption up to the present day …That is true. Public policy in the Republic has been dominated for many years by Fianna Fail, the hardliners of the Irish civil war. They do not like to be reminded that in 1925 an Irish Government accepted the border and undertook to promote a friendly relationship with the Northern Ireland Government. This has been regarded for some 77 time as a scrap of paper, beneath contempt. It is strange that a country like the Republic, which has played a most creditable part in setting up international organisations and making them work, has such an astounding disregard for international obligations. This must be accepted, in fairness, by the House. [Interruption.] I said that I do not want to provoke. I have the friendliest feelings in other respects for the Republic of Ireland, but I am trying to explain how those fears started.
More than half a dozen people died violently on a night in August in Belfast. That followed a speech by Mr. Lynch, and one can ask oneself in the gentlest way—
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
I am not saying that it was the full reason for the tragic events, but how much would have happened if it had not been for the movement of Eire troops to the border, which had its effect on people in Northern Ireland, and if it had not been for the menacing words used by the Republican leader?
I did not expect the Home Secretary to be able to reveal this afternoon just how far diplomatic pressure has gone to bring some announcement of the recognition by the Republic of the Northern Ireland position, but I hope that the pressure is relentless and that it is maintained because, like my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), I see no reason in the world why there should not be the friendliest relations—he mentioned the analogy of Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland—between our countries. I welcomed the meeting between Captain O'Neill, then the Prime Minister, and Mr. Lemass. I have always believed that there should be the friendliest co-operation. But this one point, the constantly reiterated claim to territory north of the border, is one of the causes of the major fears among Protestants today, and it is one on which only Westminster can act.
What then is the second fear? It is this. Northern Ireland has the highest birth rate in the United Kingdom—and, incidentally, the lowest death rate. The great preponderance of that birth rate is, naturally, among the Roman Catholic 78 community, and for a very long time there, both justly and unjustly, Roman Catholicism has been equated with Irish Republicanism or with nationalism. The Ulster Protestants have over the past years looked apprehensively at the increasingly numbers of Roman Catholics in the schools. Their fear of being out-bred and ultimately taken over has been augmented by the numbers crossing the border from the South into the North. They have therefore in some cases—and this is Cameron's conclusion—acted repressively at a local Level. An hon. Friend of mine said recently that in Northern Ireland people were no less decent, kindly or honourable than anywhere else in the United Kingdom. This is true, and it is true of both communities. But they are motivated by fear, and living in a situation which has no parallel anywhere else in the United Kingdom.
Why does, say, a Unionist councillor on a local authority mis-allocate to a Protestant a house which should have gone to a Roman Catholic, as is said? Is it really because the Roman Catholic believes in the infallibility of the Pope and his Protestant counterpart does not? Is it really because the Roman Catholic believes in the Assumption of the Virgin Mary while his counterpart does not? Of course it is not, and I am convinced of that. If it were, I would be without hope of any kind in this situation.
The reason why he does it, with or without justification and with or without understanding, is purely and simply because he believes in his simple way, and sometimes he may be right, that, in the main, the Roman Catholic has the intention of overthrowing the State in which he lives. That may be hard for many hon. Members to accept, but I am stating the facts of the matter.
I am not asking anyone to condone cases where there has been discrimination. I am merely asking that hon. Members should understand; and it is at this point, when they understand, that we can go further. I know that there has been discrimination [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—and not by one side, either. I prefer to listen to Cameron rather than to that other champion of civil rights, Mrs. McCluskey, who, anxious to make a point about discrimination in Dungannon, wrote exclusively to Roman Catholic hon. Members at Westminster.
79 As Cameron said, discrimination is not at Government level, and it is nothing like as widespread as people in this country believe. I accept the Cameron Report, and I am sure that, in the main, my colleagues agree with me. I suspect, however, that had the Commission deliberated a little longer it might have put its conclusions in a different order, with Protestant fears emerging as the root cause of causes. One may be forgiven the reflection that six months is perhaps not an exhaustive time in which to analyse and unravel the consequences of 350 years of history. However, we must act wholeheartedly on the Report, and where discrimination exists it must stop.
To those at home who find it hard to accept that political discrimination in these cases is not justified—and there are such people—I say that they must try to accept that it is no longer expedient. [Interruption.] I see no reason why hon. Members should object to that statement. I am merely saying that I believe it to be wrong and I am reinforcing the argument on behalf of those who cannot accept it now, by saying that it is not expedient.
Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom will remain so in the face of an increasing Roman Catholic population only if some of that growing population is persuaded, fairly and beyond doubt, that the way of life which the link with Britain offers is the best way of life open to them. I say to the people at home that we can expect the religious minority to accept and vote for the British way of life only if they have a chance to sample what it is. Discrimination must stop on both sides.
It may not be necessary—they may realise it for themselves—for me to remind the leading figures on both sides in this House that at this stage to appear to be rubbing Protestant noses in the dust is unwise. There are no doubt certain things which had to be said to certain people. I accept that and, in the main, they have been said. However, to go further now would create the impression that the majority in Northern Ireland have no friends in this House. That would court the danger of them deciding to go it alone, and that would have the most dreadful consequences for every- 80 body. It would also betray and hopelessly erode the position of those who have fought over the years for progress and moderation.
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
While the hon. Gentleman is talking about people who have fought for progress and moderation, may I remind him that I recently met Mr. Ferguson, a member of the Conservative Unionist Party in Stormont? The hon. Gentleman will know—he must have read about it and I am referring to his party—that Mr. Ferguson has been driven out of public life by letters and threats to his family and his personal security. Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that Mr. Ferguson is a man who could be most helpful in co-operating to achieve the implementation of the very reforms that are necessary? What is the hon. Gentleman and his party doing to protect Mr. Ferguson and to invite him to remain a member of his party in Parliament, so preventing an outrage to public decency?
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
I must correct the hon. Gentleman. There is no need for Mr. Ferguson to be invited to remain a member of the party since he has not resigned from it. However, I am sorry about what appears to have happened in Mr. Ferguson's case. I do not believe that the facts in this case have been established, but if he was attacked in this way, then that is to be deplored. I would only add, however, that he is not the only man in public life in Northern Ireland or elsewhere who has had to put up with this sort of attack. Some of us have a good deal of personal experience of matters such as this.
I have, in the main, been speaking of Protestant fears. Perhaps that is because the fear, whether real or imaginary, of losing one's country, one's nationhood and one's flag, with all that goes with it, comes somewhere near to the zenith of human fears. The Roman Catholic fears are also real. I appreciate that. But, as The Times remarked in an editorial at the time of the publication of the Cameron Report:… the grievances, though real, are towards the bottom of the scale of human injustices.Those grievances are being eliminated.
While this may be taken as a partisan point, it is worth reminding the House that it has been only at local government 81 level that the franchise has not been based in Northern Ireland on the one man, one vote, concept. This has disfranchised almost twice as many Unionists as members of other parties. Further, the Northern Ireland Government—which, I agree, has not been accused of discrimination—has treated Roman Catholic schools with greater generosity than have Her Majesty's Government in England.
What can Britain do to help—and, incidentally, to salve her own conscience in this matter? It is not for me to suggest what the economic aid programme should be, though I approve of the matters which were thrashed out last weekend and the conclusions that have so far emerged. There is, however, one factor which my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone mentioned and which stands out a mile. To my regret, in recent years announcements have been made about the closing of Service establishments in Northern Ireland, notably H.M.S. "Sea Eagle" and the Ballykelly R.A.F. station.
These stations have been providing employment for a large number of civilians and a spending power of enormous proportions. This is important to the North-West, which has an acute economic problem. In one case, and possibly in both, the decision, on strategic grounds, was, to say the least, marginal, and I do not believe that we conceded then or concede now the arguments that were adduced.
In present circumstances the case for retaining these bases, certainly on social and economic grounds, must be absolutely overwhelming—[Interruption.]—and it is hard to believe that any hon. Member would quarrel with the Government if they were to come to a purely political decision to keep the bases there. Further, the Government should be considering the establishment of other defence establishments in Northern Ireland—[Interruption.]—along with other Government Departments; that is, as long as that would not be to the detriment of the security of the rest of the United Kingdom.
As my right hon. and learned Friend said, the new responsibilities of the Army will involve many more troops being in Northern Ireland. I am not thinking about now, but later. That could pro- 82 vide a source of employment there, possibly in the unskilled and over-forty categories, which are particularly important.
I cannot find words to express the horror I felt about what happened on Saturday night. We do not really even yet know what did happen and one may be perhaps prejudging the issue. All I can say is that if it had been the I.R.A. we would not have been surprised if they had opened fire on British troops—that has happened before. But when it comes to people who call themselves "loyalists"—and they would regard me as a loyalist—I can only say that I am filled with shame and, as far as I can muster it, a little pity for people who do this kind of thing.
I surrender to no one in my pride in British troops, and that goes for those serving in Ulster. Of course, one realises that going to the aid of the civil power is not a job that any soldier likes to do and that conditions are often extremely far from being easy. I recognise also that some units are more efficient than others, that some battalions are better commanded than others and that there are some men whose behaviour is better or worse than others.
My right hon. and learned Friend at Brighton deplored what he called the "odious things" insinuated about British troops. I echo what he said and I deplore those things as well. They are our own troops, too, and justice must be done to people who cannot answer back. Their morale must be maintained. I reiterate my pride in British troops.
But we also have in Northern Ireland a police force—a force no doubt wrongly—which has been operating in a paramilitary rôle for which a remedy is now being found. In other words, they have been operating in reality as troops. These are the realities of the situation. These police had to defend virtually the existence of the State. Some of them, I have no doubt, took actions which were in no circumstances justified; others probably went to the borders of justification. But these were only a handful.
Yet would any policeman from any part of the United Kingdom, or any hon. Member, indeed, who had been subjected to seven hours of merciless stoning and who had seen his companions struck and set alight by petrol bombs—some with 83 hooks in them so that they stuck—have behaved in any better way than a small handful perhaps of R.U.C. transgressors? I think that remarkably few lost control of themselves and I have yet to be convinced that British soldiers, proud as I am of them, would have behaved with any greater restraint than those police did in those days in August. That should be said.
On Friday morning one of the news bulletins reported that after British troops were fired upon they were very angry. It was reported that they became very rough. One report even suggested that they had gone down a street smashing windows. If they did so, of course it was wrong, but I cannot find it in my heart to get very angry with them for doing it. However, I cannot help reflecting what the headlines would have been in some newspapers if this smashing of windows had been done by the R.U.C. I resent these slurs on the names of both troops and police.
Most of us will welcome the Hunt Report's conclusions about the R.U.C. as a force. I am particularly glad—I know that it is still problematical but it looks as if they will be able to do so—that they will be able to call on police forces in the rest of Britain when they feel it necessary. I also welcome the appointment of that distinguished policeman, Sir Arthur Young, as the new Inspector-General.
The question of the B Specials brings us to very controversial ground. They are a fine force and have been subjected to far too many lies and calumnies over the last few years. I hope that very large numbers of them will join the new force which the Hunt Report puts forward. But, in the context of the present situation, there are several things which perhaps ought to be done quickly.
I welcome the working party which has been set up and I want to see its conclusions come about quickly. For a start, it seems to me that the figure of 4,000 suggested for the force is probably too small if an effective force is required.
Let us consider the question of the present B force. It has 8,000 members. I suspect that at any one time one will only be able to call out 6,000, because they are all part-timers. So I believe that 84 a force of 4,000 part-timers is probably too small to be effective and that a force of 6,000 or 7,000 is more realistic. I hope that the working party will look at this matter. It would be a commonsense policy, would do a great deal to reassure much of the population and ought to be implemented.
The Hunt Report says that the policy for the use of the force should be decided by the G.O.C. in close consultation with the Northern Ireland Government. This is something we need to define closely. But it should be made very clear from the beginning that this force, whatever size it may be, will not become a kind of irresistible target for pruning by the Chancellor of the Exchequer whenever economies come to be made. I believe that this would help decide people to join the force.
§ Mr. Orme
I am disturbed by the emphasis which the hon. Gentleman is putting on the recreation of the B Specials force. If we have the assurance that the Government at Westminster will guarantee the border and that there will be military guarantees of this subject, why do we need the creation of such a large para-military force again?
§ Mr. Chichester-Clark
The hon. Gentleman should read the Hunt Report. If he is not satisfied with it or with the reasoning behind it—with which I agree—he had better ask Lord Hunt about it. I do not want to delay the House too long in argument with the hon. Gentleman, who has been talking a great deal from a sitting position. I know that he feels strongly about this and I am trying hard not to be provoked by him, as I am sure he will try not to be provoked by me.
The end of all these troubles is not easy to see. I must say that I do not share fully the pessimism of the hon. Member for Thurrock. Nevertheless, it is difficult for anyone who has been in Ulster all through this long hot summer and has seen so many false dawns to be over-optimistic. Sean O'Faolain wrote of the plantation of Ireland by the Tudors—and he might have been speaking about today—Out of it emerges a kind of Siamese duality of mind just as indissoluble and just as incoherent. It neither can be dissolved nor can it hang together.85 However true that may be, it cannot be regarded as a recipe for tackling the situation. I think that both sides of this House accept that the situation cannot be dissolved, because there are more against its dissolution than there are for it and because dissolution would bring greater resentments and bloodshed on a scale as yet undreamed of. Therefore, it must hang together, and we must make it do so.
There is duality of mind at the individual level—on the one side, the Roman Catholic who may want a united Ireland but would resist to the last any attempt to reduce his present level of family allowances and sickness benefit, and on the other the extreme Protestant who chalks on the barricades, "Ulster is British, Army go home".
But, thank God, in the middle there is a single-mindedness on the part of the Northern Ireland Government—as the Home Secretary recognized—not only to be British but to attain British standards and to press ahead with changes, both legislative and mental, which began, albeit slowly, some years ago. I think that the British Government have made some mistakes in this situation and that one of them was serious. But I do not think that this is the time to analyse that sort of thing. Rather is this the time to place the united weight of all parties in this Parliament behind those who stand in Northern Ireland for law and order, justice and moderation. Whether we like it or not—and I like it—the Northern Ireland Government is the body which stands for those things.
I hope and believe that this House ought to make an effort—and for some it is perhaps a conscious and may be even a painful effort—to let it go out from this place that the United Kingdom Parliament believes three things. First, that law and order must be allowed to prevail in those enclaves where the Queen's Writ does not run. Secondly—the Home Secretary has said this—that it has absolute faith in the intention of the Northern Ireland Government's sincerity in pressing through its reforms. There have been ample pledges given to that end. Lastly, this House should say that, following the restoration of law and order together with the promised reforms, no man will be able reasonably to say that he does not enjoy full British civil rights 86 and that there should be now no justification whatever for rioting and disorder.
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)
The hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) started by trying not to be provocative. I too do not wish to be provocative, but the hon. Member spoke of fears by the majority in the North in terms of the birth-rate and in terms of trying to restore the economic prosperity west of Strabane. I wondered whether he and I were trying to present the same constructive attitude to the problems in Northern Ireland that we have had from the two Front Benches.
When he raised the bogy of the Border, the hon. Gentleman did more to support some of the unreasoning fears of the majority in the North than anything else that has been said recently. To have expected the Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland to have done other than put hospital field stations on the border when the troubles were taking place in Londonderry and Belfast was to suggest that he should sell his birthright and the ideals for which he and the parties in the south of Ireland have always stood in quite proper constitutional form and legitimate constitutional aspiration to see divided Ireland reunited as one country. To have expected him to have done less than send hospital aid to the frontier where people he knew looked to the south and rightly or wrongly were being injured and were in fear of going into hospitals in the north—for him to have denied the setting up of refugee bases would have been a complete negation of that man's political standing in the south.
The hon. Member has done a great disservice to the cause which both of us want to see prevail, peace in Northern Ireland, by raising some of these unreasonable bogies. We know that they exist on both sides. Fact has little place in the myth and legend in Northern Ireland at present. A relative of mine asked me as a criterion of General Freeland as a soldier what his religion is. When people in parts of Belfast complain because British soldiers go to mass the situation becomes unreasonable. It is something which we in this part of the United Kingdom find almost incomprehensible. There is fear, there are myths, 87 legends and tissues of lies and rumours which spread like wildfire. In all this it is very difficult to get at the basic truth.
I do not want to try to unravel all the history of the matter but to look as I see it at what can help in the north. I see as the key to this situation and the immediate problems rapid implementation of the Hunt Committee recommendations on the organisation of the police. There is no magic wand which will suddenly produce all the jobs needed by Catholic and Protestant alike. There is no magic wand which will get everyone properly rehoused and no magic wand which will get rid of all the prejudice which exists. But there is something which can be done. The police can be seen to be an impartial body standing between the political factions and administering the Queen's Writ and not the Writ as it has sometimes been interpreted in the Bogside.
The terrible thing to me when I was in Londonderry on the day on which the riots started was not the actual riots, which were sad and tragic, but the fear shown by the fact that ordinary people were in their homes with their windows boarded up and that they spoke in fear of what would happen if the police invaded their streets. The Queen's Writ would not be able to run because the police were not seen to be impartial. This may have been only isolated cases and a few "baddies". I am certain that the majority of the Royal Ulster Constabulary are there to do a decent, honest job and I am sure that in the main they succeed. I am also sure that the B Specials feel that they are doing a patriotic, conscientious and noble job. This may be true of 100 per cent. of them, but it would not alter the situation one little bit because the myth is there, the fear is there, the suspicion is there. Because of this suspicion and fear no police force could have been accepted in the Bogside without some sort of trouble on 12th August, and I regret this.
Therefore it is most important that the Hunt Committee's recommendations should be carried out speedily. I welcome the declared intention of the Government in Northern Ireland in co-operation with Her Majesty's Government here to see that these reforms are carried out, 88 because the sooner we get the Queen's Writ running impartially in all parts of the United Kingdom the sooner can we start to create situations which will enable a better future. This will not happen overnight. One cannot hope to see it happen overnight, but there are signs that a situation is being created in which one can see hope.
I do not wish to go through all the details of the various proposals which have been mentioned, but the suggestion of a Londonderry local liaison committee is perhaps one of the most helpful things that have come out of the Hunt Report It is essential that the suspicions which exist on both sides and the fears which exist on both sides should be removed. This perhaps will be the best instrument for removing them.
I was also happy when my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said that the original proposals in the Northern Ireland Government's plan for local government reform have now again gone into the melting pot. This was seen in many quarters as merely a more sophisticated Derrymander. There would be the inclusion of Fivemiletown in Tyrone and Fermanagh, the loss to Derry of its hinterland, the apparent choice of Coleraine as a new growth point to the exclusion of Derry. Strabane and Castlederg have a population of 32,000 compared with Coleraine with a population of 110,000. These are all indications of a sophisticated Derrymander. They were, with the best will in the world, interpreted as being just that.
One point which has not been touched upon at great length today is the Emergency Powers Act. This is an emotive issue. If the protection of the north of Ireland frontier is to be given to Free-land's frontier force when it is constituted, which is controlled from Westminster, as it has been said it will be, surely the control of the agencies against internal subversion should also be controlled from Westminster. There is no need for an Emergency Powers Act to contain the Welsh extremists, although I grant that they are not on the same scale as the I.R.A. in the past. But we do not need an Emergency Powers Act. If we are to have British standards in Northern Ireland, the Emergency Powers Act must go. In fact, the Hunt Committee recommended this most strongly.
89 I am trying not to take up too much time, but I should like to refer briefly to the point which the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) made about relations with the south of Ireland. The British Government have stated that they stand by the agreement contained in the Ireland Act, 1949, about the integrity of the north. The Prime Minister of the south has forgone the use of force in trying to unite Ireland. In those circumstances, surely it is possible for both sides to show generosity in bringing about positive worth-while co-operation, for two reasons. First, the more each side can be seen to be co-operating with the other, the more the fears and tensions which have existed and still exist can be diminished, and the more it can be seen that reasonable men exist on either side of that unnatural frontier.
But, second, it is tremendously important that this co-operation should come about soon because next year is celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the Northern Ireland State as part of the United Kingdom. It could be an occasion for the waving of Union Jacks and tricolours, and the problems which would almost immediately follow. There could be a tremendous resurgence of nationalism among the minority. There could be a tremendous resurgence of jingoism, minus the British Army, among the majority. This must be avoided. It is therefore most important that there is co-operation between the north and the south. The suspicions are there. They will not disappear immediately. But at least a positive effort can be made to overcome them. If they are not overcome, even further trouble could result.
My hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy) said that he felt there was very little hope but that he hoped he was wrong. I believe that there may well be a great deal of hope. I was brought up in Liverpool where there was a colour question far worse than anything which exists in Wolverhampton, where it was orange and green. For years we had bad housing and high unemployment. Now there are jobs. The ghettoes in Everton Road, Vauxhall Road and Scotland Road are gradually disappearing. There is mixed housing. The communities are able to have a 90 healthy relationship one with the other. This has taken time. It has come about because we had fair institutions, in which we could work and bring about the necessary remedies. Many of the extremists disappeared because it was seen that their remedies perpetuated an existing grievance and did nothing to improve the situation. We can get rid of the grievances if we show the necessary degree of good will and generosity.
Therefore, for people to be immediately suspicious of anything which is coming would be wrong. But it would also be wrong for people to say, "Everything has changed, but nothing is different. The new frontier force is the B Specials in a different guise". This is a real suspicion and fear, and I should not like to see it happen. But the opportunities are there. People can work to operate a State in Northern Ireland under the new dispensation when the new reforms come, as was promised, by Christmas. The Prime Minister of Northern Ireland is known occasionally as Father Christmas, and it would be nice if all those promised reforms appeared on the Christmas tree at Christmas. Within the institutions it will be possible for people to have honourable ideas and attitudes. Republicanism and a desire for a united Ireland is an honourable and creative thing. The desire among the majority to maintain links with the United Kingdom is also honourable. What has happened in the past has been that one side has felt deeply suspicious of the other side's aims and desires. Within the new State it should be possible for the aims and desires of both sides to be expressed.
I hope that we shall see the day when we have a united Ireland, under terms acceptable to both north and south, which maintains and increases its links with this island. The hope for the future lies with the middle men on each side. Courage will be demanded. People will have to ensure that there are no more Fergusons and no more Hassans. The voices of the moderates who came in such tremendous numbers to support Captain O'Neill after his famous television broadcast and then disappeared almost as quickly should be heard. The institutions are there. Let us work them fairly and let them be seen to be working fairly; and the last part of the sentence is the most important.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Sir Knox Cunningham (Antrim, South)
We are under the shadow of a tragic weekend. I am pessimistic about the future. I hope that nothing I say will increase the chance of violence or death in Ulster. I do not want to be provocative, and I hope that I shall not allow myself ever to be provoked. I want to make a short speech.
Her Majesty's Government have taken over security in Ulster. This means that from now on questions on security will appear on the Order Paper and debates will take place in the House. These matters are again back on the Floor of the House. After the 1918 Election and the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, everyone thought that the Irish question had ended at Westminster. It is salutary to read the HANSARDS of pre-1914–18 vintage. If anyone cares to refresh his memory by looking at columns 2272–8 of HANSARD for 19th March, 1914, he will see that Sir Edward Carson, as he then was, made the final speech about Northern Ireland, or, as in those days, about Ireland and Ulster, before the Great War broke.
What about the security that has been taken over by Her Majesty's Government? On 14th August the Army was called in to restore law and order. I personally regret that the Army did not come in to support the civil power as has been done previously in the United Kingdom. Instead, the Army is in control of security and directs the operations of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Ulster Special Constabulary?
What has been achieved in the past two months? I am not in any way blaming the troops but I do blame those who give them political direction from Westminster. The barricades have gone up and they have come down. The barricades have gone up again, and I trust that they will come down again. Most regrettably, lives have been lost. For the past two months an area in Londonderry has been under the rule of Mr. Paddy Doherty and his committee. No police are allowed in. There is no law and order. Citizens are being tried by private courts. The flag of the Republic flies there. The Queen's Writ does not run. The military stayed on guard outside that area until yesterday when it was announced that our patrols 92 would be allowed inside. This is in the United Kingdom.
§ Sir Knox Cunningham
I do not want to be drawn by provocative remarks. I want to make a very short speech.
I should like to ask the Home Secretary about a curious incident on 2nd October when Captain John Richardson, an Army doctor, who entered the Bogside to tend Mrs. Mollie Doherty, an elderly lady of 78, whose home had been damaged by a domestic gas explosion, was ordered to return to his own territory by an American citizen from Pennsylvania, a Mr. James O'Boyle, the chief security officer in Bogside. How does that come about in the United Kingdom? Who is responsible for security in the area? Is it the Army or Mr. O'Boyle? Is it in accordance with the Oath of Allegiance to the Crown taken before you, Mr. Speaker, for any Member to go into such an area and encourage the inhabitants to defy the Crown?
I want to say a few words about "discrimination"—and I put that word in inverted commas. I am speaking for a section of the community which, election after election, on the basis of one man, one vote, democratically return Unionist Members. I believe that religion is a matter for the person concerned. Whether a person is a Roman Catholic or a Protestant or a Jew or has no religion, that is a personal matter for him or her. Because I think that, I have never spoken about religion in any political speech that I have ever made until about a year ago. I do not believe it is possible, however, to talk about the present situation without referring to religion. I am doing it, I hope, without giving offence to any person. If I do give offence to anybody because of religious beliefs, I apologise now. I have never been given any instance of discrimination practised by the Northern Ireland Government against any Roman Catholic because of his or her religion. It simply does not exist. I hope, however, that there is discrimination against members of the Irish Republican Army and other terrorists who aim at overthrowing the Constitution. I should be horrified if such people were accepted as members of the security 93 forces, in the same way as I should be horrified if active Communists were not excluded from membership of the Special Branch in London.
Coupled with this reference to discrimination are references to segregation and sections of the community becoming—here again I use inverted commas—"second-class citizens". There is certainly a division in the Ulster community. Why is this so? May I give some instances? From the start of the Parliament of Northern Ireland 50 years ago, there was a provision for one of the chaplains at Stormont to be a Roman Catholic. That position has never been taken up by the Roman Catholic Church. The Head of the Roman Catholic Church does not afford the ordinary recognition to the Governor as the Queen's representative. Many Roman Catholics, but not all, will take part in any public function where the National Anthem is played or the Union Jack flown. All Roman Catholics go to their own schools and only mix with Protestant youth when they go to university. Is there any wonder that these attitudes make for segregation from the majority of the Ulster community who are intensely loyal to the Crown?
§ Sir Knox Cunningham
No, I could not say, but I can say that there are quite a few who are not. I could not, however, give the figures.
May I ask the Home Secretary a question? Mr. Doherty is reported as saying to people in Bogside that the Home Secretary, during his first visit to Ulster, had said that he wouldbind Stormont hand and foot to ensure that discrimination would never again take place.Did he say that, or words to that effect? If so, what did he mean? Was the Home Secretary referring to discrimination because of religion? If so, does he believe that he can ensure that Protestants will be happily welcomed as teachers in Roman Catholic schools or that Protestant nurses will be employed at the Mater Hospital in Belfast? Even if he meant some different kind of discrimination, was it a wise utterance to make when a democratically elected 94 Government were striving to maintain law and order during an armed uprising?
When the Home Secretary visited Bog-side at the weekend can he doubt that many regarded his action and reported jokes as appeasement to those who started the violence, who tried to burn the police with petrol bombs and have overridden all law and instituted mob rule? The danger is that other people begin to say that the only way to get one's views across and action taken is by violence. That is the terrible danger today.
§ Mr. Callaghan
The hon. and learned Gentleman asks me a question. I shall answer it. On my visits to Northern Ireland, in meeting a great many people, I have quite often found myself quoted and sometimes I have not recognised the quotations. I am sure that we have all had that experience. I do not, therefore, intend to comment on what people say about the way in which I phrased my remarks when I met them. But what I did say about discrimination—the hon. and learned Gentleman can be certain of this—was in line with what his Government in Stormont said in conjunction with the Prime Minister of this country in the declaration, which was that every citizen of Northern Ireland is entitled to the same equality of treatment and freedom from discrimination as obtains in the rest of the United Kingdom, irrespective of political views or religion. I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman supports that, too.
§ Sir Knox Cunningham
I am most grateful to the Home Secretary, and I appreciate that he did not make that remark about binding the Stormont Government hand and foot.
Now, a word about the Hunt Report. The Report has been accepted in principle, and, no doubt, the Home Secretary used his considerable influence to make sure that it was. I hope that the right decision has been taken. My personal view is that it has not. I am glad that Lord Hunt and his colleagues paid tribute to the Royal Ulster Constabulary and had this to say about the Ulster Special Constabulary, the B Specials:We know that, to a man, members of the Special Constabulary are devoted to the cause of Ulster and that they and their forebears have done gallant service, and we recognise the value of the anti-guerrilla patrols and95armed guard duties they have carried out, particularly in time of emergency".Then they recommend the abolition of the B Specials.
The Home Secretary does not recall the events of the early years in Northern Ireland when it came into being. I do. I was there. Gunmen came up from the south, which is now Eire, and the I.R.A. was in action in Ulster. Murder walked in daylight in the streets of Belfast. Twaddell, a Unionist Member of Parliament, was assassinated in the centre of the city and left dying on the pavement. Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson was assassinated in London.
The people who, over a long and difficult time, brought peace and restored law and order were the newly formed Royal Ulster Constabulary and the B Specials. The military certainly helped, but they could not have done it alone, and the Black and Tans had by that time been disbanded.
In the present position of appalling danger, the Hunt Committee recommends that the Royal Ulster Constabulary be disarmed. I hope that the Home Secretary realises that the army has been given an almost impossible task and will be engaged in that task for years, not months.
What is the root of the trouble? It is the aim of a minority to use force to disrupt government, and the fear of the majority for the constitutional position of Northern Ireland. The great majority of Ulster people are determined to remain part of the United Kingdom under the Crown.
§ Sir Knox Cunningham
I am just about to finish. The hon. Gentleman will have opportunity to make his own speech.
There are 3 million people in Eire and 1½ million in Ulster. The loyalists see Mr. Lynch moving troops to the border, and they hear him say,The reunification of Ireland is the ultimate solution".The loyalist people of Ulster are determined to remain British and will not go into a Republic. In conclusion, I quote the last four lines of some verses written by Kipling about Ulster in 1912 which have a relevance today: 96What answer from the North?One law, one land, one Throne.If England drive us forthWe shall not fall alone.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerard Fitt (Belfast, West)
The hon. and learned Member for Antrim, South (Sir Knox Cunningham) began by saying that he hoped that he would not provoke any other hon. Member. I cannot answer for that—I do not think that he provoked anyone here; it was more a matter of amusement than anything else—but in Northern Ireland his remarks this evening can certainly be calculated to inflame the so-called loyalist opinion the representatives of which are now rampant in and around the Shankill Road, shooting down British soldiers and members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. If that was not the hon. and learned Gentleman's intention, he should have had second thoughts about making such a speech as the one he has just made.
During the years that I have been in the House, the hon. and learned Member for Antrim, South has been regarded as one of the most extreme Unionists sitting here. It is his opinion and his mentality, ably supported by allies of the mentality of Craig and Paisley—he has repeatedly appeared on their platforms—which has brought about the terribly dangerous situation which has existed and still exists in Northern Ireland today.
We have heard of fears about the abolition of the Border and the fears of the Protestant community. I am ready to admit that there is a fear among the Protestant community at the present time. They feel that they will lose something; they feel that they have had something which, in fact, they have never had. The seven conclusions on this matter reached in the Cameron Report were clear and explicit. The Cameron Commission was in no doubt that there were very real fears—well documented, to use its own words—about discrimination in housing, in local Government appointments, in the manipulation of local government boundaries, a growing sense of frustration among the Roman Catholic minority about having their grievances redressed by the Stormont Government, and a fear of the B Specials and of the Special Powers Act. Those six fears were 97 very real. The Catholic minority in Northern Ireland have had to live with them over the past 50 years since the inception of that State.
There was then the seventh conclusion in the Cameron Report, that the Protestant majority in Northern Ireland are afraid that there may be, through an increase in the Roman Catholic birth rate, a Catholic take-over of Northern Ireland.
I ask every reasonable Member of the House to put those two situations together: on the one hand, six firm and real fears about discrimination in housing and in jobs, about gerrymandering, about the B Specials and about the Special Powers, and, on the other hand, a fear of something which has never been put into practice—in effect, that "Our justification for the six sins of which we have been found guilty by the Cameron Commission is that you will breed us out of existence and, perhaps, we shall have the same treatment that we have been giving you for the past 50 years". It cannot be accepted.
For many years, both while I have been in the House and for long before that, representatives of the minority in Northern Ireland have appealed to you, Mr. Speaker, and to your predecessors to get the House of Commons to take action. The fourth conclusion of the Cameron Report is that there was a powerful sense of frustration among the Catholic minority because the Northern Ireland Government would not listen to their legitimate grievances. I have been here since 1966, and I felt that same terrible sense of frustration, with many of my hon. Friends, when we attempted to raise the question at the Despatch Box and to go to the Table of the House to focus British public opinion on what was happening in Northern Ireland. We were told that because of the niceties of the Convention of 1920 there was a convention that the House was not prepared to question what was happening in Northern Ireland. That is why we find ourselves in the tragic position of today—because for 50 years we were not prepared to face up to what was happening under the aegis of the Government here in Northern Ireland.
As I said—and I said it last week in another place—I am now prepared to admit that there are very real Protestant fears. They are completely unthinking 98 fears. I have met these people in recent weeks, and their fears almost border on hysteria because of what they have been told throughout the years, in speeches such as that by the hon. and learned Member for Antrim, South, speeches in Northern Ireland by the Member for Larne, and the well-known clerical gentleman who has so disrupted Northern Irish life in the past 10 years. It is in this way that these fears have been instilled into that section of the Protestant community in Northern Ireland.
They have been told that if they do not vote Unionist, if they do not vote Tory, and if they dare to vote Labour, the border will disappear and all their rights will disappear with it. That is completely untrue. The Unionist Party has deliberately exploited sectarian differences. It has deliberately kept the two communities apart in Northern Ireland, with the intention of maintaining and perpetuating its political rule in Northern Ireland. If there is a sin to be answered for in political life, it now lies fairly and squarely with the Unionist Party.
I have always said that there was a great parallel to be drawn between the Unionist mentality in Northern Ireland and the mentality in Rhodesia today. This is true. The loyality of the Unionist Party in Northern Ireland, of the Unionist extremists, is conditional. They are ultra-loyalists. They will fly the Union Jack and sing the National Anthem of the United Kingdom—so long as Britain is prepared to accede to their demands and afford them privilege and favouritism. But let the British Government be deflected from that line and we see what we tragically saw on the streets of Belfast on Saturday night, which I regret as a Socialist. I never wanted to see, and hope to God never to see again, British soldiers firing on anyone in Northern Ireland, whether from the Falls Road or on the Shankill Road. These are ordinary Irish people, in such a hysteria on Saturday night that they fired on British troops and their own R.U.C., for whom they were allegedly campaigning. I do not blame them. They deserve the greatest pity and sympathy that we in this House can afford them. But that happening, that convulsion on Saturday night, was as a result of 50 years of listening to the propaganda which emanated from the Tory-Unionist Party in Northern Ireland.
99 I am not saying that the Unionist Party in Northern Ireland as it exists today is responsible for what happened on Saturday night. I am not saying that the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) is responsible, or any other hon. Member, except perhaps the hon. and learned Member for Antrim, South. What I think they will admit in their own conscience is that the situation has not been helped by what has been said by previous Administrations in Northern Ireland—previous Prime Ministers like Lord Brookeborough and Lord Craigavon, who said,This is a Protestant Parliament for Protestant people.How can he expect a Catholic minority not to be afraid? Lord Brookeborough, Prime Minister of Northern Ireland for 20 years, said,A Roman Catholic? I would not have one about my place.How can he expect the Roman Catholic minority to have any faith in the Administration he headed?
I do not completely absolve the present Unionist Administration in Northern Ireland, nor hon. Members here. They must bear some of the guilt for the indoctrination which has taken place over so many years and which has driven the poor, oppressed, working class Unionist majority into the same ghettoes and mentality as their Catholic brothers have had to live in.
I listened keenly to hear the hon. and learned Member for Antrim, South condemn the activities of the extremists which have taken place in Northern Ireland over recent months. I listened for him to condemn the people on the Shankill Road who fired machine guns at British troops and shot dead a young R.U.C. constable. He did not, and I do not really think we expected him to. I listened to him, and there was an interjection from this side of the House—
§ Sir Knox Cunningham
I would like just to make it plain to the House that of course I condemn violence and always have.
§ Mr. Fitt
That conversion will certainly make my day.
100 I listened to hear whether the hon. and learned Gentleman would condemn what happened in Bombay Street on 15th August, when 66 Catholic homes were burnt to the ground, as my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary was able to see. But this condemnation did not come, and unless there is a forthright, outright condemnation of such activities no one can be sure that they will not happen in the future.
The right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) made a very reasoned speech this afternoon, which was calculated to take the tension out of the atmosphere. I congratulate him, and only hope that his words are listened to with a great deal of interest in Northern Ireland. But he said that in his discussions with his Unionist colleagues in Northern Ireland he had found great resentment because the Queen's Writ did not run in the enclaves in the Bogside and Derry and certain areas of the Falls Road. I believe that there is bitter resentment there, but did they tell him why these enclaves came about? The barricades in the Bogside were erected against the incursion of a police force which the people, rightly or wrongly, believed would do injury to the men, women and children behind those barricades. They went up because of the bitter experience of what happened in Derry on 15th October, on 4th and 5th January, and 19th April, when a man died after having been visited by the police. There can be no contradiction. That was why the barricades went up in the Bogside.
Why did they go up in the Falls Road area? Because in the late hours of 14th August and early hours of 15th August a rampaging Protestant mob—and here I must make a qualification—
§ Mr. John E. Maginnis (Armagh)
On a point of order. The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) is making a judgment on what happened on 14th August. Surely, this should be left to the Scarman Tribunal?
§ Mr. Stratton Mills (Belfast, North)
The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) has referred to 14th August. Perhaps he would refresh the memory of the House about the evening of 13th August, because he admitted on television that the call went out from Londonderry for a diversionary attack on the Hastings Street police station in the Falls Road area, for people there to take the heat off Londonderry, and he condoned that in a subsequent television broadcast. Perhaps at the same time, as he has quoted the Cameron Report—[HON. MEMBERS "Speech."]—he might also refer to what the Cameron Report says about him.
§ Mr. Fitt
The hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) is trying to force me into the position of admitting that the people in Falls Road made a diversionary attack on Hastings Street police station. This is not true. A call went out from the chairman of the civil rights movement, on behalf of the people of Derry, after 48 hours of constant attacks by members of the R.U.C. when over 1,000 canisters of tear gas were thrown into their homes. They asked that something should be done about the situation and for the withdrawal of R.U.C. members. There was no question of an attack on the Hastings Street police station.
Hon. Members opposite would like to pose in the House as moderates. We are the in-betweens. The hon. and learned Member for Antrim, South is on the one side, Paisley is on the other, and we are the moderates. But once the true facts are told of how a mob of their supporters went into the Falls Road area, through Percy Street and Dover Street, and burned houses in that area, of how they shot up and killed innocent people, when a young boy of nine was killed by a bullet which went through two or three walls, they are not prepared to condemn those things. They jump to their feet and say "It is wrong and grossly exaggerated".
I do not ask anybody in this House just to accept my word. Many hon. Members have been able to go to those places and see the bullet holes. They have seen the rubble in Bombay Street, where before the attack stood 66 houses.
102 In this debate we must try to find out the reason for the trouble and see if we can take any steps to ease the tension which at present exists in Northern Ireland. At the moment there seems to be a blockage of communication between the two communities in Northern Ireland.
Yesterday afternoon I received a telephone call from an irate lady, who said that she did not support me politically but lived in my constituency, requesting me to take some action to get British troops out of Shankill Road. This was a request by a loyalist. I tried to reason with her, and asked her why she thought the British troops went to Shankill Road in the first place. I asked whether she agreed with what had happened on the Saturday night and whether she condemned the indiscriminate firing at British forces and the R.U.C. Eventually she began to see reason.
I asked her why she thought British troops were forced to fire on the mob in Shankill Road. The Home Secretary said in his speech this afternoon that a mob of 5,000 was marching down the Shankill Road to a Catholic ghetto in Unity Walk, a road which is completely isolated. Had the mob succeeded in reaching it, with their machine guns and the other arms they were carrying, there would have been an absolute holocaust, a massacre. Thank God, the British troops were there to prevent that.
I speak as an Irishman who believes in the eventual reunification of his country. I cannot find words of praise high enough to commend the actions of the British troops since they arrived in the streets of Belfast. Had they not arrived there on 14th and 15th August hundreds of people would have lost their lives. It was only through the presence of the British troops that many lives were saved.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has been criticised by the Unionists in Northern Ireland and by some of the more vociferous journalistic elements in Northern Ireland about the timing of the publication of the Hunt Committee proposals. It is said that they should not have been published on Friday morning because the weekend is a dangerous time in Northern Ireland. The truth is that at whatever time they had been published they would have brought about the same result. It was inevitable that there 103 would be a right-wing backlash as a result of the report of the Committee.
I realise that I may have said some very hard things during the course of this debate, but I have said them with complete honesty and conviction. I know what happened. My constituents in Belfast, West were burned out of their homes in Bombay Street. I know that there is a bitter and burning resentment among the Catholics of Northern Ireland that no steps were seen to be taken to apprehend the perpetrators of those dreadful outrages. The things that happened in the area which I have the honour to represent are symptomatic of all the evils which affect the whole community in Northern Ireland.
What does one do in this situation? Am I supposed to say that there are fears on both sides, that we should all live together and should all take steps to ease the tension and to create a better future for all? Of course I subscribe to those principles. But something must be said to the Protestant working class majority in Northern Ireland, who have been deluded for so long, to make them realise how long and how dangerously they have been deluded.
I ask hon. Members whether they can see any justification for the burning of homes and the distress and despair which has been caused in Northern Ireland over the past two or three months. As the representative of the Belfast, West constituency, I represent all my constituents irrespective of religion. I repeat that I do not believe in Protestants burning Catholic homes or in Catholics burning Protestant homes because it is un-Christian to involve oneself in such an act.
I conclude by saying, in the knowledge that in Northern Ireland politics I may be taking something of a political risk, that I hope I may live to see the day when we have a Socialist Government for the whole of Ireland. I remember saying in my maiden speech in this House that if I supported Socialism for England, Scotland and Wales, then I must be given the right to demand Socialism for my own country. I believe that my sincerity and bona fides were accepted on that occasion, and I believe that they are accepted today. I commend the Labour Government not only to the 104 people of Northern Ireland, whom they have helped recently by the decided stand which they have taken, but also to every Irishman in the United Kingdom as a Government worthy of support. I hope that that support will be forthcoming at the next election.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Captain L. P. S. Orr (Down, South)
In nearly 20 years in this House I have never found a debate more difficult to approach. I say this for two reasons. The first reason is that if ever objectivity and calm were required it is now, and it is difficult in present circumstances to speak without passion. The second reason is that every single word said in this House may affect human lives.
It would be easy on an occasion such as this to make the kind of speech which would be loudly applauded by the majority of one's supporters and constituents. It would be easy to say things that would make one very popular but it would not be in the best interests of those constituents so to do.
It is with that in mind that I find this debate exceedingly difficult to approach. It is for that reason that I shall not enter into the argument between my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Sir Knox Cunningham) and the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt). The hon. Member for Belfast, West was not out of order in seeking to conduct an inquest or in laying the blame upon his political opponents. That was a fair tactic.
The Scarman Tribunal was not set up by this House and, therefore, the hon. Member was not out of order, but I think that he was unwise to anticipate the Scarman Tribunal. I prefer inquests to be conducted when calm is restored. I prefer inquests to be conducted when the Scarman Tribunal has given us the facts as well as it can. Consequently, I do not propose, tempting though the hon. Member for Belfast, West well knows it would be, to join in the inquest.
I want to talk about the present situation and the future, because I respond to what was said by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara). The tone of the hon. Member's speech was reasonable and moderate, and I welcome that. I did not agree with what he said, but, none the less, I accept the tone of it.
105 The first subject with which I would like to deal—and this, in a way, is fundamental to the whole issue—is the question of the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Here, the hon. Member and I part company. We do not want to see a united Ireland. The hon. Member for Belfast, West and I part company as well on this. What we want to see preserved is the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland remaining part of the United Kingdom.
One of the things for which it would be totally ungenerous not to applaud the Home Secretary was that the first thing he did on coming to Northern Ireland was to re-emphasise his party's and his Government's support for the Union. He was right to do so, and I welcome what he said. It is a curious paradox that out of all that has happened, one of the great Protestant fears, which the hon. Member for Belfast, West recognised to exist, was the fear that they would be sold down the river to what they regard as a foreign State. The Home Secretary made it plain that this was not so. When it is realised that those who have those fears considered that the aim of the civil rights movement, the people's democracy and all the other organisations which appeared to be causing trouble was to destroy the Union, it is a paradox that out of everything that has happened there is one thing that is good: that is, that the Union with Great Britain is now safer than ever before. This is a gain for which we have to thank the Home Secretary.
It would have been easy for the Home Secretary, because of historic reasons and pressures in his party, to have been equivocal about this. Members of his party have been equivocal about it before. The right hon. Gentleman, however, was not equivocal. I for one respect what he did and I thank him for it.
So the Union is safer than ever before. This is not appreciated in Northern Ireland. It is remarkable that as a result of all that has happened the two great parties in Britain are now committed absolutely to the preservation of the Union. To a Unionist, that is a great gain. [Interruption.] Indeed it is. If it were thoroughly understood at home, it would do a great deal towards the reduction of tension.
106 May I say a word about Protestant apprehension. One of the oldest instincts of mankind—and it is not confined to man; it is found in practically the whole animal kingdom—is a desire to mark out and protect one's territory, the old territorial instinct. The ornithologists tell me that even the bird song of the blackbird is to mark out his territory. One of the oldest instincts of mankind is to say, "This is my land" or, "This is my house", and anyone who seeks to invade that territory is looked upon as an enemy.
In the case of the Ulster Protestant, one cannot really understand all that has happened unless one grasps the simple fact that after the Tudor wars, when Northern Ireland territory—the north-east corner of the island—lay derelict, there came, rightly or wrongly, English and Scottish colonists to settle in those northeastern counties. Unlike other people who had come before, that colony put its roots into the soil. They built the bridges and the roads. They cut down the forests and drained the fields. They made the agriculture and industry and, rightly or wrongly, they regarded the territory as theirs. When this is clearly understood, and if it is understood with compassion, all else becomes explicable. It may not necessarily be excusable but it is explicable. It is then understood why some councillors on a local authority allocating dwellings may say, "The people who are the enemies of our State—".
§ Captain Orr
I remember very well the occasion five years ago. The hon. Member said that there was discrimination. I said that there might very well be discrimination—
§ Captain Orr
If the hon. Member looks at the record, he will see that that was what I said. I also said to the hon. Member, however, that if he would let me have his dossier, I would see that every case in it was fairly and justly examined. I am still waiting for the dossier.
107 All that has happened is explicable if the territorial instinct is properly understood. The deep feeling of the Northern Ireland Protestant about the special constabulary is explicable—everything is explicable—if one clearly understands this.
§ Mr. Peter Mahon
Is it not explicable, too, that if ordinary justice had emanated from the Stormont Parliament its integrity would not be in question?
§ Captain Orr
I do not think that the integrity of the Parliament of Northern Ireland is in fact in question. I hope to come to that question, which is germane. It is easier in this context if an hon. Member can make a speech without interruption. I always readily give way, but this debate is one of great significance and I should prefer not to give way. In any case my speech will be shorter if I do not give way.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) said, the Army is our Army. It is doing an extraordinarily difficult job. I am glad that the hon. Member for Belfast, West paid tribute to what the Army is doing. It is very difficult to say that everything that every commander does, or even the overall military direction, has been right without doing something to undermine the authority of the troops on the ground. Consequently, this is not the time for inquests into the handling of affairs when troops are engaged in this extraordinarily difficult task.
The task of everyone of good will is to deplore attacks upon the Forces, to deplore anything which looks like resistance to their attempt to enforce law and order, and to sustain them in their difficult task. Impartiality is difficult to achieve. There may come a time when I shall have to say some things about the success in achieving it. I have certain views about certain things. I do not think that it is wise to say them now, because in anything that has to be done we must support the forces of security at this time.
On the question of the reorganisation of the police, the Royal Ulster Constabulary has accepted the Report of the Hunt Committee. Is the Home Secretary shaking his head?
§ Captain Orr
I accept from the Home Secretary that the R.U.C. has welcomed the Report of the Hunt Committee. The trouble about the Report is that it is not quite clear exactly what is to happen. We may need a little more enlightenment upon the details.
No one can complain at the fact that the R.U.C. is to become a completely civilian police force. This is right. It is sad that the force has had to carry the burden for so long in the way it has. I am glad that the Home Secretary paid tribute to its magnificent efforts over so long and in such a difficult situation. The force is held by all Ulstermen in esteem, verging in some cases upon idolatory.
It is difficult, in the context of reorganising a police force, to avoid giving the impression that the force has done something wrong, has committed a great crime against the State as a whole. It will be helpful if the Home Secretary can assist to prevent public opinion from reaching the view that the reorganisation of our police force is a reflection upon it. He has done something to bring this about, but it may not have been enough.
I accept that the special constabulary has been, to say the least of it, held in disfavour by certain sections. Hon. Members opposite must accept from me that the Special Constabulary has been held by the Ulster Protestant as one of the great guarantees of their liberty. I therefore think that it is wrong for hon. Members to suggest that what is happening is that this famous force is to be abolished, that these men are suddenly to be told that they are no longer wanted. It is not right to use the word "disband" when talking about this force. These men will be required for the defence of the State, if the Report of the Hunt Committee—
§ Captain Orr
If the Report of the Hunt Committee is accepted, men at present serving in the B Special Constabulary will be required in the security force under the General Officer Commanding. In other words, the House is making more clear than it ever did before, as it should have done long ago, that the 109 security of the State of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom is the responsibility of the House.
§ Captain Orr
Indeed not. The security of this State, the security of the frontier of the United Kingdom, should have been made clear long ago. The fact that these men are to be used in this way is a good thing. There should be no talk about "disbanding" the force. One can think of nothing more inflammatory than to talk in those terms.
§ Mr. Lubbock
The hon. and gallant Gentleman has not represented correctly what the Hunt Committee said. It said that an opportunity should be given for all members of the community to enter a new force, not least those former members of the B Specials who were educationally and otherwise qualified. The emphasis there is a little different from that put forward by the hon. and gallant Gentleman.
§ Captain Orr
The hon. Gentleman is entitled to put what interpretation he likes upon the Hunt Committee Report. He concludes that the definition excludes most of the members of the Special Constabulary. I say that it does not. I shall interpret this in my way, and the hon. Gentleman can interpret it in his way.
We ought to address ourselves to what should be done. I do not share the pessimism of the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Delargy). I am sorry that he is not present at the moment. I see a good deal of hope in the present situation. I see the possibility of much good coming out of evil.
There is one solution which would not work, and that is the concept advanced by the hon. Member for Thurrock, namely, that this Parliament and this Government should seek to rule Northern Ireland directly from here. That would not work. If government is made difficult with the support of a Parliament freely elected on the basis of universal adult suffrage, which is how the Parliament at Stormont is elected, how much more difficult things would be if administration were the responsibility of a Secretary of State at Westminster. There 110 could be no better recipe for civil war on a big scale—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—That is not intended to be inflammatory. I am surprised at the reaction of hon. Gentlemen opposite. There is no threat in that. I am merely saying that if things are difficult with a freely elected Government—and I am sure that the Home Secretary understands this—it might be impossible if government is carried on from here. I do not think that that is the solution to the problem.
That being so, one must consider the solution which does present itself. There is only one solution, and that is to sustain the Northern Ireland Government in the policies and plans which they have put forward. We can argue about the past if we want to. We can argue about whether it is too late to do anything, or about other matters which would not help the situation. The fact is that never before has there been a parliamentary democracy in which an Opposition have exerted pressure so effectively as to bring about so large an exercise of power, so comprehensive a system for protecting civil rights, and so elaborate a procedure of guarantees.
One must in fairness to the Ulster Government recognise the extent to which they have encountered difficulties and dangers—and not only political—in their efforts to bring about those changes. I think that hon. Gentlemen opposite should recognise how far this has gone. I welcome what Cardinal Conway said, but I think that there ought to be more expression now from the minority of the fact that they are not to be enemies of the State, that having achieved British standards they intend to be British and help us to maintain the integrity of the State. I do not doubt that everybody is trying to be objective and fair, and I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will recognise that that is necessary.
If the Home Secretary pursues the path broadly set out in his speech, he can expect no opposition from these benches.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
I am particularly glad of the opportunity to take part in this debate at this stage because the hon. and learned Member for Antrim, South (Sir Knox Cunningham) and the hon. and 111 gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) provided us with admirable exercises in parliamentary effort to prove the impossible. They tried to prove either that there was no discrimination in Northern Ireland, or, alternatively, that if there was it was justifiable and justified. The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), on the other hand, in an equally good parliamentary performance demolished both arguments and proved, first, that there was discrimination in Belfast, and, secondly, that it was not justifiable.
I am particularly suited to deal with those arguments, because I am an Irish Protestant. I have lived in Ireland. I was born and bred there. For many years I practised at the Irish Bar. I know Southern Ireland and I know Belfast. I have practised at the Bar in both places and on circuit in the rest of Ireland. I therefore humbly suggest that I am in a good position to deal with the elements of the three speeches to which I have referred.
The hon. and gallant Member for Down, South and the hon. and learned Member for Antrim, South tried to prove that there was no discrimination, or that if there was it was justifiable or justified. Unlike them, I want to sound a note of hope and to show that while there is this discrimination, and while it is not justifiable or justified, it can be cured. Past thinkers realised before partition that there was a danger, but that it could be avoided if suitable measures were taken.
The barriers which separate the Catholics from the Protestants in Northern Ireland are not merely the barriers to be found in the streets. They are barriers of mind and soul. They are barriers which prevent the citizens from realising that they are all brothers under the sun, and the sons of God.
The right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) said that these barriers were set up by a minority of evil persons in Northern Ireland. We all know that there is a certain gentleman who calls himself "Reverend" and who parades about Northern Ireland preaching anarchy and causing trouble and destruction.
The fact that the Government of Northern Ireland have allowed that kind 112 of thing to happen and to persist is evidence of their failure to govern properly. It is a tragic failure by the Ulster Government resulting from the artificial partition which disfigures Ireland.
I was charmed to see that the constructive thinkers in this sphere followed the admirable line of Her Majesty's Secretary of State for Home Affairs. When he visited Northern Ireland he gave a strong warning that Ulster's trouble makers must be brought to justice swiftly, and he acted accordingly with satisfactory results so far.
The right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone is reported in The Times as saying:The immense majority of people in Ulster are good men, but on both sides there are evil men in a very small minority.I agree with both those speakers. But the fact that the Government of Northern Ireland failed to preserve law and order, the rule of democracy and justice, is evidence of their failure. The cure for these troubles is the elimination of partition. That is supported by the contrast between the conduct of the citizens in Northern Ireland and those in Southern Ireland. In Southern Ireland there is no rioting and destruction. They are orderly citizens. Catholics and Protestants live in peace together. I know, because I was there during the Parliamentary Recess.
The question for the House to consider is: how and why did this evil minority inflict these troubles on what the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylehone calls the majority of good citizens? Why did not the Ulster Government prevent or stop it? What is the solution to the present troubles? Why is there such a contrast between the peace, order and good government in Belfast and Dublin respectively?
The answers are stated quite openly. I refer to the dicta of some of the great parliamentary and political thinkers of the past. They deprecated sectarian societies which were allowed to organise, develop and act provocatively in Northern Ireland.
One immediate instance that we all know is the march of the Apprentice Boys in Londonderry. The Stormont Government did not prevent it. They took no 113 steps to deal with it. Worse, a fortiori, they have discriminated in the giving of houses and employment and the other ordinary rights of citizenship.
There is no such provocation in Southern Ireland, which is not sectarian. It is democratic and practises the rule of law, equality of opportunity, fair play and democracy without religious prejudices.
Irish history supports what I have just said. I shall not go into historical reminiscence beyond referring to what was said when Home Rule was granted to Southern Ireland and partition was created. On that occasion, King George V, when opening the present Northern Ireland Parliament in Belfast in June, 1921, said:This is the prelude of the day in which the Irish people, North and South, under one parliament or two, as those parliaments may themselves decide, shall work together in common love for Ireland upon the sure foundation of mutual justice and respect.They have not done that. They have done it in Southern Ireland, but not in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) is seeking to intervene. I do not know whether the hon. and learned Gentleman is aware and wants her to intervene.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am sorry. An hon. Lady behind the hon. and learned Gentleman wishes to intervene. Does he give way to her or not?
§ Miss Devlin
Will the hon. and learned Gentleman accept that, in the first place, in this debate the behaviour of the Dublin Government is not in question? But, as the hon. and learned Gentleman has brought it into question, I, standing on this side of the House and being Irish, must point out that the illnesses which exist in the north of Ireland also exist in the south. The social and economic 114 troubles are not on a religious basis, but on the basis of the same troubles in the north in that the poor suffer while the rich do not. The south is not free from these problems any more than we are.
§ Mr. Hughes
I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention which, with respect, is not relevant to the argument I am presenting.
I was about to quote from Mr. Asquith, the Prime Minister of Britain at that time, who said:Ireland is a nation. Not two nations, but one nation. There are few cases in history—and as a student of history in a small way I know of none—of a nationality at once so distinct, so persistent and so assimilative as the Irish.Even Lord Craigavon, who at one time, as Mr. Craig, was Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, said:In this island we cannot live always separated from one another. We are too small to be apart and for the border to be there for all time.I now come to the last quotation with which I want to trouble the House. It is from probably the greatest man in Britain—perhaps in the world—over the last hundred years. I refer to Sir Winston Churchill, who said:Whatever Ulster's right may be, she cannot stand in the way of the whole of the rest of Ireland. Half a province cannot impose a permanent veto on the nation. Half a province cannot obstruct for ever the reconciliation between the British and Irish democracies and deny all satisfaction to the united wishes of the British Empire.I am sure that the House will agree that the British Commonwealth is built on brotherhood, on the co-operation of the nations which compose the British Commonwealth, and Ireland was part of it, is associated with it, and with Ireland the other nations are its main strength.
I said that I would not trouble the House with more quotations. I was mistaken. I must quote another. This is a current quotation from the Prime Minister of Southern Ireland, Mr. John Lynch, who, on 20th September, said:I need not explain or justify the fundamental desire of the overwhelming majority of the people of this island for the restoration in some form of its national unity. This desire is not confined to Irishmen of any particular creed or ancestry. I want to make it clear, however, once more, that we have no intention of using force to realise this desire. I said as recently as 28th August that it was and has been the Government's policy to seek the reunification of the country by peaceful means.115 I said at the beginning that these troubles are caused by the partition of Ireland. The terrible facts of trouble and discrimination have been adequately dealt with in the Cameron Report and the Hunt Report. They are beyond question.
The real solution of these problems is the elimination of the border. I have a Question down tomorrow to ask the Prime Minister to invite the Prime Ministers of Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland to London to confer with him with a view to seeking a means whereby the border can be eliminated. In my view, that is the way that peace can be achieved in Ireland.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
I hope that the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his historical excursions, except to say that, judging from the quotation which he gave from King George V, His Majesty was a great optimist and his hopes for the future of the Northern Ireland Government which he expressed at the opening of the first Parliament in 1921 certainly have not been justified.
But if I may come on from 1921 to 1969, which is the subject of this debate—with great respect to the hon. and learned Gentleman, I do not think that we have time to go over the past 50 years, although that would be interesting another time—everyone would want to echo the tributes paid to the Home Secretary for the very hard work which he has been doing over the summer—I know how much time he has been spending on it—and also to express his thanks to the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) not only for his excellent speech at the Tory Party conference but also for his outstanding contribution to the debate this afternoon.
I will try to keep the temperature down to the level which both right hon. Gentlemen set as their example and not say anything which might exacerbate the situation in Northern Ireland, which is still very tense after this weekend. As the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) said, we must remember that every word said in this Chamber could mean a danger to some- 116 body's life in Northern Ireland if construed in the wrong way. I shall bear in mind that wise advice.
I am surprised that the situation has changed so quickly in the last few months, so that we can debate here the subject of Northern Ireland, which we have never done in the past. I agree with the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) that if we had been able to go into this situation earlier, we should not have the difficulties and disasters which face us in Northern Ireland today. If in 1964, the last time that I can remember that we had a full-scale debate on every aspect of the Northern Ireland situation, speeches like those today from the two Front Benches could have been made, the disasters this summer could have been averted. But, of course, that was not possible then.
We have always been inhibited by the provisions of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, even though some people have argued that under Section 75, because this House is all-powerful, we could have been able to discuss questions of discrimination and so on. One result at least will have been achieved by the events of this summer. No longer can we be prevented from discussing those problems, if they are not cured, because Westminster has now spent money in Northern Ireland and Ministers are directly responsible for what happens there. Unlike the hon. and learned Member for Antrim, South (Sir Knox Cunningham), who deplored this as an undesirable tendency, I think that the best way of ensuring continued progress is if Westminster always has the power to overlook what happens in Northern Ireland.
This does not mean that I do not trust the Stormont Government. To take up another point made by the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South, I would express my wholehearted admiration of Major Chichester-Clark and his Government on what they have managed to achieve and on the tremendous change in the attitude of their own supporters, which is remarkable. Captain O'Neill was pushed out of office because some of the things which he tried to do were along the lines of the present reforms announced jointly by the Home Secretary and Major Chichester-Clark. One is delighted to see that Major Chichester-Clark has been able to persuade the Unionists in Stormont that these reforms 117 are absolutely necessary and to take his colleagues along with him.
The hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) said that fear was directly at the root of the present difficulties—for instance, the fear of the Protestants which underlies their thinking on the subject of the border—and others have mentioned the fears of the Catholics. The hon. Member for Belfast, West mentioned this. Therefore, whichever part of the community we are talking about, whether Catholics or Protestants, fear is at the root of the situation.
It was wise of the Home Secretary, on his first visit to Northern Ireland, to say that the border did not come into the discussion, that it was absolutely guaranteed, and that, unless there were any change of opinion in Stormont—which is, of course, most unlikely—the border would not be an issue. The right hon. Gentleman has done a lot there to set Protestant fears at rest.
Similarly, when Unionists speak in their constituencies, I hope that they will not mind my advising them that they should try to set at rest the fears of their Protestant supporters when talking about the speeches of Dr. Hillary and Mr. Lynch. Although they have said—we have known this for many years—that it is the policy of the Southern Ireland Government that Ireland should be totally reunited, they have reaffirmed clearly that they would do nothing to achieve this end by force. This should also be mentioned when discussing the speech of Dr. Hillary to the United Nations or the various remarks of Mr. Lynch over the last few months.
Also on the subject of fear, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) said that, if the threats to the security of Northern Ireland were to be the responsibility of the Westminster Government, as foreshadowed in the Hunt Report, that Government should also assume responsibility for dealing with an extraordinary situation which might arise, such as we had in 1956 in Northern Ireland, when otherwise the B Special would have been employed and the Special Powers Act invoked. But if the Westminster Government is taking over responsibility for the one, it should equally be in charge of the other. The Special Powers Act would no longer be needed and could therefore be rescinded. 118 So I would agree with the hon. Member that the time has now come to look again at the Special Powers Act.
I said that one should keep the border absolutely separate from any discussion of civil rights in Northern Ireland, and I welcomed what the Home Secretary said on his first visit, but, at the same time, it is impossible to leave it out of a discussion on Northern Ireland altogether. Practically every speaker has referred to the border. In fact, the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North made it the whole theme of his speech and was not concerned with any of the other problems which affect Northern Ireland at present.
My only comment on the border is to support the remarks of the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone about bridge building. Much has been done, and a great deal more could be done, to build bridges; for example, in tourism and electricity generation. The right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone mentioned a subject dear to my heart, the possibility of the Government of Northern Ireland and the Republic jointly considering the building of nuclear power stations. This subject was referred to in the recent Report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology when dealing with the nuclear reactor programme of the United Kingdom. The more that co-operative ventures of this kind could be launched between the Republic and Northern Ireland, the more we could reduce tension and assist in the economic development of both regions of the country.
On a personal note, and without speaking for my party, I believe that the long-term goal in people's minds could be a united Ireland within the framework of a united Europe. This could come about in 15 or 20 years' time, but whenever it occurs it must be done without compulsion and always at the wish of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland. As one who believes strongly in the principle of self-determination, I could not be a party to a decision which would be against the wishes of the majority.
I agree with virtually everything that has been said about our troops having done a magnificent job to preserve peace in Northern Ireland. While I have not 119 visited Northern Ireland personally, I have spoken with many people who have been there during the troubles, including some hon. Gentlemen opposite. All have been impressed with the efforts of the armed services and have spoken of the magnificent restraint which they have shown in a most provocative situation. The House should express its sincere thanks to our troops for what they have done, for they have prevented a far greater loss of life than would probably have occurred had their presence not been maintained.
While nobody can say with certainty how long the troops will have to remain if further loss and destruction is to be avoided, I hope that the Secretary of State will give an undertaking that the troops at present committed to Northern Ireland will remain there as long as their presence is necessary for the maintenance of peace and that forces will be committed in sufficient numbers and strength to ensure that order is maintained.
I am prompted to comment on Lord Hunt's Report and particularly the ending of the B Specials by the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South. When we reconstitute this force we must be careful to interpret correctly what has been said about members of the B Special force being eligible to join the reconstituted organisation in accordance with their educational and physical qualifications, just as other members of the community will be eligible. I intervened in the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South to make this point because I understood Lord Hunt's remarks to mean that he wants to see a more balanced type of force than we have had.
It is remarkable that there was not one Roman Catholic member of the B Specials. If we are to reconstitute this force in a way that will make it acceptable to all sections of the comunity, there will obviously be room for only some of the old B Specials to rejoin, bearing in mind that the force will be smaller—Lord Hunt recommended a maximum size of 4,000, meaning that there will not be room for all the old B Specials—and particularly if it is to contain some Catholics as well. This is bound to mean a smaller minority of the old B Specials being able to rejoin.
120 I have a positive suggestion to make to the Government, one which has not yet been considered but one which would do a great deal to reduce sectarian tension in Northern Ireland. I have written jointly with my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Liberal Party to the Home Secretary making this suggestion, and while I trust that the matter is receiving his urgent attention, I appreciate that we cannot expect a definite answer tonight. The suggestion is of such importance that it should be made known to the House so that others can also consider it.
If one considers Northern Ireland politics one finds that the most depressing feature is the close affiliation between one's religious adherence and one's political beliefs. If one happens to be a Unionist one is almost automatically a Protestant. If one is a member of the Opposition one is almost invariably a Catholic, although there is not quite the same correlation in the Opposition as in the Government party. Thus, religious prejudices are constantly fed into the political discussion and one cannot get away from them, and that will be the position as long as this close correlation persists.
We believe that the reason for the present state of affairs can be largely explained by the electoral system in Northern Ireland whereby since the parties can choose only one candidate for each constituency, they naturally choose a candidate whose religious view is likely to be acceptable to the majority of voters in that constituency. This is why one always finds a Protestant standing as a Unionist candidate.
In the south, on the other hand, a different situation applies because there one has the single transferable vote in a multi-member constituency so that it is possible for people of all religions to stand for different parties. We find Protestants and Catholics mixed up in the platform presented to the electorate, whether it is for the Fianna Fail, the Fine Gael or even the smaller parties. This does not occur in Northern Ireland, with the result that the moderate and progressive forces in the north, such as members of the Northern Ireland Labour and Liberal Parties as well as some sections of the Unionists, are not able to make progress.
121 I join with the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone in deploring the tragic departure of Mr. Ferguson from Northern Ireland politics. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Ferguson when we did a television programme together in Dublin. I felt that he was the kind of man who held out some hope for a change in the political outlook of the Province. It is almost impossible to envisage such a change coming over the political scene in Northern Ireland while the present electoral system persists. I therefore hope that the Home Secretary will give extremely careful consideration to the views which we have conveyed to him on this subject.
§ Mr. McGuire
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that the most serious indictment that can be made of politics in Northern Ireland is that the Unionist Party is tied to the Orange Order, that a Catholic is not encouraged to join the party, although the members of it do not mind Catholics voting for them, and that nowhere is it officially said that the party wants members of every and no religion to join and become active members?
§ Mr. Lubbock
Mr. Ferguson resigned from the Orange Order, and perhaps what the hon. Gentleman said was the reason why it became so intolerable to him. Mr. Ferguson received abusive letters, and threats were made against himself and his family to such an extent that his health suffered and he had to retire from politics. The close connection between the Orange Order and the Unionist Party in Northern Ireland was, I felt, a feature of his resignation and it is another defect in the system which would be corrected if we did not have this process of elections being tied so closely to religious groupings and sectarian organisations.
I am not trying to be provocative. I think that this is absolutely inseparable from the single-member constituency, with the first-past-the-post-system. If one has a multi-member constituency, as they have had in the Republic for 50 years, one entitrely avoids that kind of sectarian politics. Experience has shown that to be true.
To sum up, there are four things that I think must be done. First, we must remove fear, and we can do this with the Protestants partially, as the Home Secretary has, by saying that there will 122 be no alteration of the boundaries without the consent of Stormont. I would prefer to go further and say, "no alteration without the consent of the people". We can remove Catholic fears by taking the steps the right hon. Gentleman has taken jointly with Major Chichester-Clark to remove discrimination.
Second, we can aid Northern Ireland economically, and I am delighted with the progress that has been made on that front. There is the creation of new jobs, spoken of by the Home Secretary in his speech this afternoon. But I hope that this will not be through the maintenance of defence establishments which have passed their useful life, as suggested by two hon. Members on this side of the House. I hope that we shall create new jobs in new industries with a long-term future, and not prop up establishments with only a limited usefulness whose existence can be justified only on political considerations.
Third, we must keep the troops there as long as necessary. I was pleased to see the Secretary of State for Defence nodding as I made that point earlier.
Fourth, we as a House must resolve that this will not be the last time we discuss the problems of Northern Ireland. Now that the whole field has been opened up, Westminster has at long last recognised its responsibility. We shall continue to watch the situation there until the reforms have been implemented and peace has been restored.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ Miss Bernadette Devlin (Mid-Ulster)
Sitting here this afternoon listening to hon. Members discuss the Northern Ireland situation and their repeated pleas to have no recriminations and no provocative speeches, I was reminded of a simple sentence from a school Shakespeare:What! will these hands ne'er be clean?It is interesting that both sides of this honourable establishment try with fine words, with non-provocative speeches, with very responsible attitudes to the problems of Northern Ireland, to say nothing that might make them realise that the problem of Northern Ireland is not one which comes out of whether one believes in the virgin birth or whether or not one happens to go to a Roman 123 Catholic church. It started in this Parliament, in this building, and it was actively continued, actively supported, by the Members of this establishment, both Labour and Conservative, who may now talk about conventions that were not very wise, about things that were impossible not only five, 10, 20 years ago, but things that were impossible one year ago. Now they are all possible, but, "Let us have no recriminations. Let nobody, Labour or Conservative say here, 'We were wrong. We are the people—not the Rev. Ian Paisley and his hot Gospel, not the mobs in the Shankill Road or in the Bog-side, or any Queen's Writ anywhere—but we the people who deign to govern these islands, who think we are responsible to tell the people how they should run their lives, we are the people responsible for the death of Mr. King in Londonderry and Constable Arbuckle in Belfast.' "
It is your fault, your blame, and your shame, and I do not intend to stand here and make no recriminations and no provocative speeches.
§ Miss Devlin
It is not absolute rubbish. You have sat in this House a damn sight longer than I have. It was rubbish only a year ago. The people who did not have rights and votes and could not lead a decent life said "Rubbish" then. You said "rubbish" 25 years ago. And on 5th October, the Prime Minister as much as said "rubbish" when answering a question of my hon. Friend. You say "rubbish" when people are dead in Northern Ireland who will never vote, never have houses and never have jobs. Rubbish to you, sir. It is not your father, your mother or your child.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)
Order. The hon. Lady must use the conventional language when addressing the House.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Member for Rutland and Stamford (Mr. 124 Kenneth Lewis) must resume his seat if the hon. Lady will not give way.
§ Miss Devlin
I apologise for my lack of conventional behaviour in the House, and will attempt to be less provocative, more conventional and less recriminative. Nevertheless, when we return to the quiet, smug, self-satisfied attitude in which the rest of the debate was continued, let us look at the problem of Northern Ireland and what hon. Members have said. Let us forget that until today hon. Members were not very interested in saying, nor were the honourable Government very interested in doing, anything about Northern Ireland.
§ Miss Devlin
There are people who have worked hard, but to no avail, to try to get the House to listen. The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) has been here for years, and for the work he has done Lord Cameron said that he did nothing but seek publicity. Had it not been for the work he did that was not listened to, and but for the publicity he attracted to 5th October, the Home Secretary would not have bothered to go to Belfast to see what was happening, if the events which he deigns to call nonsense on the streets had not been forced to take place.
Those are the facts. They may be emotional, provocative and recriminatory, but they are the hard facts. I do not speak as a mature and esteemed politician but as an individual born and bred in the system that you actively supported in Northern Ireland, and someone who, like many others, has suffered under it.
What do we get today as solutions? We get everybody talking about Catholic and Protestant fears. Nobody asked why the Protestants are afraid. Nobody asked 125 why the people in the Shankill Road came down it armed, and shot what they call their police and their British Army. No reasonable man would do it. Hon. Members told us that it was because of Protestant fears of the Catholics out-breeding them.
I shall read something that is not emotional but is sheer statistical fact. The party which the people in the area known as Shankill support has been in government in Northern Ireland for 50 years. That Government's most adamant supporters are known to everybody to be the people of Shankill and Sandy Road area in Belfast. What have they done for the people who have supported them almost fanatically for 50 years? The conditions of the people who live in the Shankill in Northern Ireland's capital city are shown by the following figures. Those houses with no internal toilet—95 per cent. Those houses with no bath—96 per cent. Those houses with no hand basin—95 per cent. Those houses with no hot water supply—97 per cent.
Who are the people who follow the Rev. Ian Paisley? Are they fanatical Protestants who hate Catholics? No, they are not. They are a people, a people who have been led and betrayed by a Government who used their religion for that Government's own political ends, a Government who for 50 years led those people to believe that by virtue of their being Protestants they were superior beings. That was what that Government gave them for their superiority, but still they were led to believe that they were superior. They were told that to be Protestant was to be Unionist and to be Unionist was to be Protestant, that Ulster was British and was right. Suddenly, they were told that what was right as a way of life was now wicked and to be condemned, and they found the people they voted for on that basis totally disowning them, turning round to them saying, "What we told you was wrong. What we led you to believe, without giving you an economic basis of security, was wrong. It is better for us now because we can keep our power by following Mr. Callaghan and we do not need you."
That is why these people came down Shankill. That is why 6,300 people voted for the Rev. Ian Paisley in Bannside. That constituency is 83 per 126 cent. Protestant and 55 per cent. of the houses in it have no flush toilets, while 47 per cent. have no piped water at all. It is our ex-Prime Minister's constituency.
These few and simple facts are why we have a near-revolution in Northern Ireland. It is not because people are Roman Catholic or Protestant. It is because the people are too poor, because the Northern Ireland Government decided they could keep the working class divided on the basis of Catholicism and Protestantism, just as in this country people are kept divided on the basis of colour, black or white, Englishmen or immigrant. But they are kept divided.
But Northern Ireland was not living in isolation. There was the Government of Ireland Act, containing Section 75. Therefore, it is the responsibility of this Parliament, of those who sat here year after year and pretended that it was not happening until they could pretend no longer, until it came upon them and they could not ignore it any longer. But they always did the minimum. They took the least possible action at the latest possible date—indeed, only when it was almost too late to do anything.
Now we find that we have paid a bitter price for the little we have got, that still the Members of this Parliament, and still the Labour Government, do not understand our problems. A Socialist Government cannot see that the social ills of Northern Ireland are much more important than the question of law and order. Yet, without those social ills, the threat to law and order would not exist.
We are grateful to the Home Secretary for the new scheme of housing he is introducing. But there is one great problem, and it is a sad problem. Northern Ireland cannot afford to solve its problems financially. The Home Secretary's new housing scheme is about to be born with congenital paralysis. We have been told that 73 local authorities were building houses and now we are to have one outhority. Is the new housing authority to take over the debts of the Northern Ireland Housing Trust and of the local councils? If it is to take on the debt of the Northern Ireland Housing Trust it starts with a burden of almost £20 million which the Trust pays out—almost as much in interest every year as it collects in rents.
127 I demand that the Labour Government—because they and successive Governments at Westminster have been responsible for it—underwrite the debt of the Northern Ireland Housing Trust and give us an authority which can at least start building some houses. Let us have less of the poor law relief schemes, which are an insult to working men. Let us stop saying to them, "Get on to the roads and into the forests in the winter because that will keep you happy until we think of something else in summer."
Let us have State industries in Northern Ireland. It is surprising that it is not the Labour benches but the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) from the benches opposite who has said that we should not have relief schemes but should all start doing something about bringing real industry into Northern Ireland. [Interruption.] I am talking about what has been said today. I make it clear for the benefit of the irate hon. Members around me that I am not talking about those who have done their best to bring these things to the attention of the House. I am talking about the House, which did not listen, and the Government, who did not choose to act.
What we need is a guarantee of 3,000 permanent jobs for the people of Northern Ireland within a year and a housing authority which can start building houses—and then we shall begin to solve the problems of Northern Ireland. That is the way, and not playing about with gestures like sending Catholics to Protestants' houses and Protestants to Catholic houses and looking as if we are behaving ourselves. We want real, meaningful gestures which will make the people of Shankill and Bogside see that they have no reason to fear each other because there is enough to go round for the poor for a change.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Stratton Mills (Belfast, North)
The speech by the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) was negative in content—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—except for the one part which was Marxist in orientation—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] It should be viewed in the light of her remarks elsewhere that she was going to come here and make faces at the Prime 128 Minister and that she was also going to urge a boycott of British goods and British airlines. Whilst I do not want to refer to many more of her activities, I ask her one question, which she did not deal with.
The hon. Lady told us that she was going to America to raise one million dollars. She went to America and subsequently left having collected 92,000 dollars—9.2 per cent. of what she had aimed for. She left America in a great hurry, without a Press conference. She left at an hour or two's notice. I would like to know what purpose these funds are being put to. Has the hon. Lady given information to the Attorney-General of New York State as to the telephone conversation she is supposed to have overheard? I invite her to clear the matter up now.
§ Miss Devlin
I would like to take this opportunity of answering the three hon. Members who went to the United States. One of them said that I was such a silly little girl that I should not be paid attention to. However, I note that they all paid their own fares to New York.
It is true that I collected about 92,000 dollars. It is not surprising that apparently the hon. Gentleman knows exactly how much I collected. I had these people on my tail saying, "She is stealing all the money", "She is going to run away with it", or "She is going to put it to terrible purposes." I put that money into banks in the United States where I collected it—[HON. MEMBERS: "Do you know the names of them?"] Yes. I am not as stupid as some hon. Members opposite.
Nevertheless, I left America because I was sure that the money I had collected would be used for the purpose I intended, but I was not sure that any further money I collected, because of the strain on me of keeping up with that job, would be used for the purpose. So I decided to leave America. What I did was much more honourable than what the hon. Gentleman has done—and I seem to remember that I made a considerable fool of him on television.
§ Mr. Mills
The hon. Lady spoke at great length about everything except the point which I asked her about. A very big question mark must hang over her fund-raising activities and other activities in America. [An HON. MEMBER: "And in the Bogside."] I shall be coming to the hon. Lady's activities in the Bogside in a few moments and I hope that she will not run out of the Chamber as she ran out of America. I regret that I have to begin addressing the House in an atmosphere of some tension, tension which has been fanned by the hon. Lady and is not of my choosing.
Much has been said in the debate about British standards in Northern Ireland. Both Front Benches have referred to the Northern Ireland Government's programme of reform. I think it important to put on record that the programme of reform was started five years ago by Terence ONeill. Perhaps the pace was not great enough. Perhaps one could say that it is easy to be wise after the event, but I certainly think now that the programme of reform has gained momentum in Northern Ireland. It was started by Terence O'Neill and has been continued by Major Chichester-Clark. What is important is that the Government of Northern Ireland, the Cabinet of Northern Ireland, the Unionist Parliamentary Party and the Standing Committee of that party as a whole are all firmly committed to this programme.
§ Mr. Mills
I wish to make progress with my speech, if the hon. Lady will forgive me. Perhaps she will catch your eye later, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
I wish that there had been slightly more generosity of spirit among hon. Members opposite—I exclude the Home Secretary from this—in a recognition of the very real and sincerely meant programme of reform which is now under way in Northern Ireland. When one talks of British standards one also talks about economic standards. I welcome what the Home Secretary said about further assistance in economic development. I had hoped that he might have gone further. This is a modest programme, but it is welcome. I hope that the mind 130 of the right hon. Gentleman is open to other ideas and initiatives over British standards of employment so as to reduce unemployment in Northern Ireland and bring employment to the level existing in the rest of the United Kingdom.
Also when one talks of British standards one joins in welcoming the assistance given by the Civil Service. One welcomes the assistance and the interest taken by the Home Secretary and the pledges which he gave today. One welcomes the assistance of the Army, which is our Army too, in helping us during a very difficult period. When one talks of British standards this help from other parts of Britain is something which we feel is assistance we are entitled to. Throughout the debate hon. Members have made reference to the fears felt on both sides, by Protestants and Catholics. The Home Secretary and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) both emphasised this today.
I beg the House not only to see the fears of Roman Catholics but to try to understand the very real fears of Protestants in Northern Ireland, to try to understand those fears and the reasons behind them. My hon. Friends have gone into this in considerable detail. It is easy for us in this House to gloss over those fears or to listen to the superficial reference made by the hon. Lady, but they are very real fears. To get an understanding of the situation and to get the programme of reform, they must be borne continually in mind. I think that the Home Secretary from his visits to Northern Ireland understands this.
It is also one of the prerequisites to ask for a rigid enforcement of the law. We have a new Inspector General, a man of great experience, and one joins in welcoming him and wishing him well in his new post. He has behind hire experience in many parts of the world, including the City of London. I know that we can call on the assistance of other police forces in Britain. When one asks for a rigid enforcement of the law I fully accept that it must be applied to both sides. This was emphasised by the Home Secretary on his arrival in Belfast. As well as Shankill Road, this includes the Bogside and the enclave in the Falls Road area. There is no doubt that one of the factors contributing to the Protestant backlash on 131 Saturday night was the continued existence of areas where the Queen's Writ did not run, in Bogside and the Falls Road, and the existence of what many people believe to be a double standard.
§ Mr. Mills
Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to conclude my speech. The events on the Shankill Road on Saturday night must have put a chill of horror into all of us in this House. The police and the Army were fired upon in circumstances which no one could defend. I believe that the continued provocative nature of the enclaves in the Bogside and Falls Road has contributed greatly to the troubles of last Saturday night.
The Army has a very difficult job to do, and I join in no criticism of it, but I have heard many reports that the Army is now approaching everyone from the Shankill Road as a trouble-maker. If a person comes from the Shankill Road he is automatically viewed by soldiers as a trouble-maker. I think it will be borne out by more detailed examination that the overwhelming bulk of the people of the Shankill Road are decent, law-abiding citizens and it is a small, noisy, dangerous rabble who must be clamped down on, who are causing the trouble. It is of great importance that that should be understood.
The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) talked about the violence which had taken place in Belfast in August. He referred to Bombay Street. I have seen Bombay Street, and I have also seen Conway Street, and I was appalled by what I saw. I was sorry that he, as the Member for Belfast, West, did not take the opportunity, as I did, of going to the other side of barriers and—[Interruption.] I went to the Roman Catholic side of the barriers.
§ Mr. Rose
What is the hon. Gentleman frightened of? Does not he know that if my hon. Friend went into that area he would be gunned down immediately? Does not he know how many threats of death many of us have received from these people? Has he not, in an interview of 30 minutes on television with me, defended every one of the things which happened two years ago which were condemned in the Report? Is not this sheer hypocrisy on his part?
§ Mr. Mills
I have been on both sides of the barricades in the Falls Road. I went without a police patrol. I believe that there was no danger from anyone. I am sure that the Protestant people of the Shankill Road would welcome the opportunity of puting their point of view to the hon. Member for Belfast, West. But the hon. Gentleman did not go there. When he described the events which I have condemned, as he condemned them, he did not say that the first person who was intimidated and bombed out of her house was a Protestant of 80 years of age, Mrs. Gilmour of Hooker Street, in my constituency. He did not refer to the 70year-old blind Protestant man, Mr. Totten from Blackwater Street, who, as reported on 4th October, was chased out his house because of intimidation in the hon. Gentleman's constituency.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
If the hon. Gentleman does not give way, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) must remain seated.
§ Mr. McNamara
On a point of order. My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West called a meeting of his constituents in which he said that no person, Catholic or Protestant, would be bombed out of his constituency if he could help it, and he received the support of the meeting for that statement of policy before the troubles reached Belfast, West.
§ Mr. Mills
I referred to a blind man of 70 years of age, an ex-Service man, who was chased out of his house in Blackwater Street, in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, and the hon. Member did nothing about it.
I wish to refer to the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster, who always looks so sweet and smug.
§ Mr. Mills
I have here a picture showing her engaged in the peaceful pastime of breaking up bricks and missiles in Bogside. I want to refer the House to a Dublin magazine which shows her engaged in making petrol bombs. The significance of her activities in deliberately engaging in stirring up violence in Londonderry is such that I hope that both she and the hon. Member for Belfast, West will take an early opportunity of going to the Scarman Tribunal and making a full statement about what they were doing on these occasions.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
If the hon. Gentleman is not prepared to give way, hon. Members must remain seated.
§ Miss Devlin
The hon. Gentleman may not be aware that as he is not God Almighty he does not know everything that I intend to do. He may be aware of his own self-importance, but he does not know that I have already notified the Scarman Tribunal of my eagerness to assist and I shall be doing so. I shall give my evidence to a responsible body, to the Scarman Tribunal, and not to someone who changes his coat as he does his politics, like the hon. Gentleman. I am not answerable to him and therefore I will not make a statement to him.
§ Mr. McNamara
On a point of order. I do not wish to comment on the activities of the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin), but I was very grateful for the barricade which she helped to build behind me.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The hon. Gentleman should not make an intervention under the guise of a point of order.
§ Mr. McNamara
The hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. Maginnis) raised a point of order about evidence before the Scarman Tribunal. This is evidence which is to go before that tribunal and has not yet been heard. Surely this is sub judice and the hon. Gentleman should not be allowed to continue in this way.
§ Mr. Rose
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) has referred to the oath. I request that he be asked by you to withdraw any disreputable remarks of this kind which reflect upon hon. Members of this House. He has suggested that an hon. Member of this House—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) was interrupted in the course of a sentence. Mr. Stratton Mills.
§ Miss Devlin
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Gentleman has raised a very important 135 question. I wish to take up this matter very seriously with him. The hon. Member and his colleagues have seen fit to misrepresent quite a lot of what was said in America. Because I do not put very much faith in people like the hon. Member, I have a number of witnesses—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I am afraid the hon. Lady is not raising a point of order. She is trying to re-enter the debate.
§ Miss Devlin
Mr. Deputy Speaker, may I ask what protection I have against allegations made from the other side of the House?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Perhaps we can have one point of order at a time. Up to this point I have not seen fit to intervene in the speech of the hon. Member for Belfast, North.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The Ruling is quite clear. Personal attacks are certainly forbidden and are frowned upon in this House. I hope the hon. Member will not pursue any more personal attacks in the debate.
§ Mr. Newens
Mr. Deputy Speaker, is it not a fact that if an hon. Member makes statements in this House which reflect upon the integrity and truthfulness of another Member, those statements are out of order? Is it not a fact that the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) has made such statements and accordingly should withdraw them?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Attacks on the integrity of any hon. Members are certainly not in order. So far as I have heard up till now, no such attacks have been made.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lewis
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I draw your attention to the fact that the hon. Lady apparently seeks to intervene in every speech either by asking hon. Mem- 136 bers to give way or by raising points of order? Yet when she made some outrageous statements at the beginning of her speech she refused to give way.
§ Mr. Mills
Some hon. Members on the other side of the House appear to be unduly sensitive on this point, but the facts speak for themselves. I am not going to pursue the matter any further. I think the House will have noted that the hon. Lady gave no explanation at all about her missile-preparing and petrol-bomb-throwing activities in the City of Londonderry. When we hear what she has to say to the Scarman Tribunal, at least we shall have the benefit, first, that she will be under oath and, second, that she will be under cross-examination.
I move now to another point in conclusion—
§ Mr. McNamara
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] This is an important matter, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Belfast, North has made a statement again about missile throwing, about petrol bombs, and so on. It may or may not be true, but the point is that subpoenas have been served upon the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) to answer summonses on those matters. Therefore, the points raised by the hon. Gentleman are (a) sub judice and (b) would place the hon. Lady in a difficult position. Is it not, therefore, quite wrong and ungallant of him to say such things? In fact, they are out of order, and typical.
§ Mr. Hogg
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Before you occupied the Chair this evening, Mr. Speaker ruled that, whether it was desirable or not that the matter of the Scar-man Tribunal should be sub judice—as I endeavoured to treat it during my speech—technically speaking, it was held under the order of the Stormont Parliament and, therefore, it was in order to refer to it here without the sub judice rule being applicable. That is my understanding of the Ruling. I should be obliged if you would confirm it, or say that I am mistaken.
§ Mr. McNamara
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. With the greatest respect to the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), this point is different from the question of the Scarman Tribunal. These are criminal charges.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I am seized of the point of order. On the question raised by the hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone, I concur in and confirm the statement which he made. But I suggest that the hon. Member for Belfast, North might not pursue the point which he was making with reference to those charges.
§ Mr. Mills
I have been endeavouring to move to a conclusion, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in order to allow another hon. Member to take part. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] I have no intention of withdrawing. Let me make that clear. What I have said is entirely justified by the facts and by the photograph which I have produced.
I wish now to conclude on a different point, if the House will allow me. It has been said that behind this enormous programme of reform introduced by the Stormont Government, introduced in a short time and introduced in an atmosphere of violence in the streets, it is essential for there to he a great response from the minority in Northern Ireland to make the reforms work. I was glad that both the Home Secretary and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone emphasised that today.
§ Mr. Mills
I hope that other hon. Members opposite who have great influence in these matters and have many contacts with Northern Ireland, even though they represent constituencies away from it, will play their part in encouraging people to respond to the programme of reform and to remember that there must be a full Roman Catholic response to the privileges and the responsibilities of citizenship. I was glad that Cardinal Conway had joined in this process. I ask the Home Secretary to do everything he can to encourage the minority to play their full part in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Lady must resume her seat if the hon. Member for Belfast, North does not give way.
§ Mr. Henry Clark (Antrim, North)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is not the hon. Lady's insistence that she will not shut up a gross disrespect to the Chair?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I have already asked the hon. Lady to resume her seat. The hon. Member for Belfast, North is not giving way.
§ Mr. Mills
As I have said on about eight or nine occasions, I wish to conclude my speech. I have referred to the necessity for a response from the Roman Catholic community, which I hope will be forthcoming. I hope that the Home Secretary will be able to play a part here. That, combined with the programme of reform, is vitally necessary for Northern Ireland.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
This is the first occasion when I have spoken in the House on Northern Ireland. I want to say from the outset that I deprecate one or two speeches that have been made which have not been positive, and which have clouded the vital issues at stake. As a working-class person witnessing these events in Northern Ireland I have felt that it has been a tragedy that ordinary working class people, Catholic and Protestant, have been involved in a struggle against each 139 other when they should have been uniting their ranks to fight together for the elimination of poverty and unemployment in Northern Ireland.
That, to me, is the great tragedy. I know this deep down here, I know it because I come from a city which in many ways had the same difficulties and problems as Northern Ireland now has. In the main the people of my city have learned to live with one another, to unite in their interests as citizens, irrespective of whether they are Roman Catholic or Protestant.
For example, only two weeks ago I went into a small and mean street in my constituency—and there are a lot of them—precisely the sort of street that exists in Belfast and other parts of Northern Ireland. Every year the people of that street organise a day out to the seaside, at Southport, to which the whole street contributes. I went into the house of the man who is the secretary of this organisation, and on his wall was the Orange sash. I went into the chairman's house, and on the wall was the Sacred Heart. They had worked together for the benefit of the people in that street. What can be done in Liverpool today can also be done in Northern Ireland.
I want this lesson to go home today. We have had some extremely important speeches, and it has been said that the minority in Northern Ireland must make a response. They made their response in the Bogside a few days ago when they removed the barricades. They are now disbanding their committee.
We hear all about reforms, but these reforms should have been brought in a long time ago. The minority in Northern Ireland, since they are citizens of the United Kingdom in the same way as we all are, should have had those reforms as of right.
I hope that we will not keep raking over all these things as we have done in the past. The right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) quite rightly said that we are prisoners of the past. One still sees sometimes on the walls in Liverpool "No surrender. Down with the Pope." What a lot of nonsense it all is. The fight for Derry happened 400 years ago. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not quite."] Well, 300 years ago. I am a hundred years out. Any- 140 way, it is a very long time ago. Are we going to have that battle all over again? Is it not idiotic in this technological age?
Everybody has a right to full citizenship and to full democratic rights. I believe that in the ultimate it would be a good thing to have a united Ireland, but the best way to achieve such a goal is for the whole of the people in the north to have complete equality in rights with the people in the south and for them both to bring their social systems into line with each other. When they have eliminated the problems there will be no reason to have a border. But that is in the future. The real issue is not the border, but the right of people to have equality inside Northern Ireland.
I draw the attention of the House to the words on page 11 of the Cameron Report:It is plain from what we have heard, read and observed that the train of events and incidents which began in Londonderry on 5th October 1968 has had as its background, on the one hand a widespread sense of political and social grievance for long unadmitted and therefore unredressed by successive Governments of Northern Ireland, and on the other sentiments of fear and apprehension sincerely and tenaciously felt and believed, of risks to the integrity and indeed continued existence of the state.There lies the problem and it is the responsibility of this House to do everything possible in a positive way to solve it. That was the main point in the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone in regard to his positive suggestions which were in line with the proposals made by the Home Secretary.
I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will also tell the Conservative Party in Liverpool to put a stop to their agreement with the Protestant party and to start putting up Conservative candidates in the wards held by Protestants at present.
§ Mr. John Tilney (Liverpool, Wavertree)
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) must know that there is no agreement—there may have been in decades long past—between the Conservative Party on the local councils and Protestants in Liverpool. I have had a Catholic chairman, who is now a vice-chairman of the Liverpool Conservative Association.
§ Mr. Heffer
I am delighted to hear that there is no agreement. I ask the 141 hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney) to tell his party to put up candidates in the areas where these particular people hold seats. In parts of my constituency we are now finding Catholic candidates in the Conservative Party. This is something positive which has not occurred in the past. I want this to be extended.
I make this point only because the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone said that we have to go forward and not back. Because we have to go forward, I ask in all sincerity that the Conservative Party, which has, perhaps, gone a long way in the City of Liverpool, will go just that bit further and put up candidates in every ward in the city, as we do, so that we fight the elections on the basis of politics and not on the basis of religion, as has happened in the past.
I do not want to make a long speech. The arguments are known and have been reiterated time after time in this debate. We could go into the historical past. We could argue what we mean by freedom, which, after all, means different things to different people at different times. The Protestants rightly fought for freedom to express their opinions and their religion in the past. So often we find that the very thing one fights for becomes transformed into the opposite at a certain stage of development. Unfortunately, this is what has happened concerning Northern Ireland.
We could go into all those arguments and into the arguments of the struggles of the people of Ireland for their freedom against Britain. We could go into the fact that Protestants were alongside Catholics in that struggle. Some of the greatest leaders of the Irish people who fought for their independence were Protestants and not Catholics. That is the historic truth. At this stage, however, we do not wish to go into those arguments, not because they are sterile, but because they will not help us out of the situation that we are in.
Therefore, I appeal once again to hon. Members. What we have achieved after bitter struggles in my city, I hope that the people of Northern Ireland will achieve in their area as well, where Catholic and Protestant workers not only work alongside each other in the docks and in the factories. A beginning has 142 been made in Northern Ireland precisely because the workers in Harland and Wolff and in other factories now work alongside each other and the old antagonisms are not developing in the factories, because the trade union movement has given a positive lead in this direction. Let us extend that further. Let us not despair.
An hon. Member who spoke earlier said that he was full of despair and depression. I understand the bitterness of the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin), brought up in that environment. I understand only too well. In my family, for example, when a Catholic married a Protestant—I have both sides in my family—there was antagonism at one stage. We live with these problems, however, and we overcome them.
It is not a question of concentrating the whole time on the religious aspect. Let us unite our forces, both here in Britain and in Northern Ireland, and fight to eliminate the poverty, the unemployment, the slums and the bad, rotten, lousy conditions under which not only Catholics, but Protestant workers, live. If we make that serious contribution, we shall have made a contribution towards peace for ever in Northern Ireland.
§ 8.59 p.m.
§ Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)
I must confess to something of a fellow feeling with the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) when he described the religious conflict within his family. I am in the strange position of being an Anglican who had among his God-parents an Irish Roman Catholic priest, and a Scottish Presbyterian aunt. Therefore, on the religious issue, I hope that I can be said to be sitting squarely on the fence.
It may seem to be tempting Providence for you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to call the Member for Huntingdonshire to intervene in this debate, because Oliver Cromwell was one of the Knights of that Shire. I intervene on account of four and a half years in the Home Office during which, I assure the hon. Member for Walton, we did a great deal to inject capital into Ulster. We even went out of our way, somewhat uneconomically from the United Kingdom point of view, to arrange that several important defence 143 contracts should be placed in Ulster rather than in Britain. When considering what to do with present defence installations in Ulster, the Government could well follow that precedent.
I am possibly among the few Members of the House, perhaps the only Member, who has visited nearly all the police posts along the border. I have travelled, so far as one can travel, because it is very inaccessible in places, a great part of the border. Although I welcome practically every point in the Report of the Hunt Committee, it would be unrealistic to say that when the police have been civilianised the various police stations on the border could be eliminated. As a matter of practice those where there are highways crossing nearby will have to be retained.
The Home Secretary and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) have set us a splendid example. For once, I agree entirely with what the Home Secretary said. I pay tribute to his speech, as I do to the speech made by my right hon. and learned Friend. Tomorrow we shall be discussing civil rights, and we shall not then be in agreement with the Home Secretary.
I am thankful, in particular, that the Home Secretary stressed that responsibility for law and order must rest upon the Parliament and Government of Northern Ireland and that we must back Stormont. Northern Ireland cannot be controlled from Whitehall. Some people think that the situation might get worse and worse so that it will have to be controlled from Whitehall but the more difficult the situation becomes in Ulster, the more impossible it would be to exercise control from the Home Office. Therefore, it is right to support the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland in the decisions he has taken.
It was very wise to appoint Sir Arthur Young as Inspector General. From my contact with Sir Arthur in the past I am sure that he is the best man for the job.
I am also thankful that the Home Secretary made it clear that the Army would defend the border. The Hunt Report does not deal fully with this question. The Home Secretary very valuably filled in the gap today.
144 On the question of the border, much depends upon the attitude of the Government of Eire from time to time. When I went along the border in 1958 it was because of I.R.A. trouble which the Eire Government condemned. The defence of the border must be done in depth when the Army are doing it. However, the frontier posts would have to remain, whatever the attitude of the Irish Government, because they will not be held responsible for what the I.R.A. or others might do.
The Home Secretary warned us of oversimplification. He could also have warned many people against exaggeration. I am tempted to say that the real problem now is how to isolate the extremists on both sides from moderate, reasonable people whose genuine fears they exploit, whose grievances they exaggerate, and whose freedom they threaten by force and intimidation. I think it is fair to say that on the Catholic side the extremists who exploited the civil rights movement, which had a good case, and most of whose grievances have been met, or are being met, are now out on a limb, and hence the improvement in the Bogside.
But what about the extremists on the Protestant side? It is absurd to say that they have no following and no fears to exploit. They have the fear of one day being dominated politically by the Irish Catholics, whether the border remains or not, and it is no use saying to Protestants, "But democracy is just a matter of arithmetic. If one day you are outvoted, you will have to accept majority rule even though that majority might try to do a deal with Dublin". That is a genuine Protestant fear.
How do we set at rest that long-felt foreboding? This is where we at Westminster can help, and where we have a part to play. They look to us to defend their constitution and so, incidentally, do a proportion of Catholics, although, for reasons which I have mentioned, they have had to keep pretty quiet about it in recent times. Therefore, it greatly helps that we have had the kind of speeches that we have had from both Front Benches this afternoon. The best thing that we can do in this debate is to reaffirm in unmistakably clear terms that, whatever may happen in Ulster, the border will remain and be defended, and 145 that the constitution will be upheld. It would be a mighty helpful gesture if the Roman Catholic bishops and clergy would back us up in saying that. That might do more than anything else to draw support away from the Protestant extremists.
I promised to make a short speech, and I conclude by saying that the deep tragedy of Ulster—and this carries a stage further forward the argument used by the hon. Member for Walton—is that although different Christian sects, different members of the Christian communion, have fought each other hard in the past in various parts of the world, Northern Ireland is the only place today where Christians are attacking each other. The thought which we must plant in their minds is that this cannot go on, and that, above all, if they wish peace, if they wish freedom, they must begin to tolerate each other.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)
I agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) that this is not the easiest sort of debate to join in any capacity. Far too much may hang on what any one of us says Generally—I think the Home Secretary will agree—and making certain allowances, the debate has been characterised by restraint and good sense on both sides.
One conclusion borne in on me by this debate is that we have embarked on an exceedingly difficult and perhaps a very long task. I do not doubt for a moment—I accept all that the Home Secretary said—that it is right for us to do this. Indeed, we have no choice in the matter. The fact remains that the programme outlined by the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon, and further outlined in the White Paper, Cmnd. 4174, will take a very long time, longer perhaps than many people think, and longer perhaps than we hope. It may all come about peaceably. That is what we all pray for, but over that we have absolutely no control.
We share the Home Secretary's sense of profound disappointment over the events at the weekend. Naturally the right hon. Gentleman is disappointed. I do him the credit of thinking, since he has been there for longer than any of us on his two visits, that he cannot have been altogether surprised.
146 I confess that the poignantly penitential mood in which I found many in Belfast at the time of my visit in August did not wholly reassure me. The curse of the sort of violence which occurred there in the middle of August is that it does not, as some people think and hope it may, act as a catharsis. It acts quite otherwise. It may well simply provoke later acts of the same kind. The Home Secretary knows, without my dwelling on it, that we have embarked on a very long road which may still carry for us a good deal of trouble.
There remain factors here which will not readily respond to the best of motives, to the soundest of judgments, or to the wisest of actions. The savage mood which provoked the disorders, particularly in August, has not altogether been quelled, and the minority responsible for that mood are still there and still, as we have just seen, in action.
That said, it seems that the wisest course for me is not to dwell overmuch on the events of the weekend, nor to swell the drama of this subject, nor even to deal with its history; but, recognising our own limitations, to concentrate on those areas where we are trying to make distinct and perhaps eventually decisive contributions.
I do not dismiss the past, for that would be absurd, but, taking up a point made by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer)—I hope that we are not all prisoners of the past. The task of some of us is to try to enable some to escape from being prisoners of the past—I agree that we should now address ourselves to the present and the future tasks.
That takes me, naturally, to the subject of the Hunt Report, on which a certain amount has already been said. I should like to join those who have paid tribute to the work of this Committee. It has dealt with a contentious subject with astonishing expedition. I calculate that it is six weeks since the Home Secretary set the Committee's hand at this, and today we have the document in print.
§ Mr. Deedes
And accepted. Moreover, the main conclusions will coincide with some of the superficial impressions gained by those of us who paid visits to Northern Ireland.
147 Of all the impressions that I got there, none was more compelling than the need to end the para-military functions of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Not, as the Hunt Committee testified, because it has grossly abused its powers, but because it is an impossible and intolerable rôle for any civilian police force to be asked to undertake. Even for what my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) described as a gendarmerie, the establishment of machine guns, which existed for the Royal Ulster Constabulary, has no place at all. Not only was the rôle intolerable, but it was wholly inimical to the calmer mood which now everyone is trying to restore.
I should like to illustrate what I mean from a personal experience. As every hon. Member who visited Northern Ireland may have done, I spent the greater part of one night with the Royal Ulster Constabulary touring Belfast. I was afforded the protection of an armoured car—one of the "moth-ball" fleet. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman had the same experience. As we bounced round the streets, safeguarded by the strictest drill—steel shutters and the rest and flanked by men with arms—I confessed that a sense of profound insecurity began to asail me. I became more and more reluctant to dismount at the various road blocks and to chat with the agreeable people on both sides who were manning and surrounding them. The expedition seemed like some deepening nightmare, reviving at moments the ugly visceral sensations not experienced since the days in Europe 25 years ago. It reminded me of what it was like to stand on a shattered street corner and half expect a bullet to crash through one's back. If that is the sensation felt by one uncommitted and with some experience of other people's wars, how the world do those feel who are committed and are fearful? I carried this reflection away from my night's work—my very hospitable night's work—with the Royal Ulster Constabulary. This was surely part of the anatomy of fear which we have been discussing.
In a sentence, there is a paramount need to scale down the melodrama, and I see that as an essential prerequisite to reducing tension. That is at least one 148 outcome of the Hunt Report, and there are other excellent features. If I have a reservation, it is whether, ideally—I know that we are not dealing with ideals—this is the most propitious moment to try to build a new voluntary force under the G.O.C. I am sure that the Home Secretary perceives the difficulties for himself. Dual control will not be easy. It will be a very delicate business, and we cannot hope that it will be effective very quickly. No doubt the Secretary of State for Defence will add something to this.
Taking a relative detail, closer association between the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the British police, mutual assistance in particular and temporary reinforcement of the Royal Ulster Constabulary in emergencies, which is in the White Paper, will surely need very careful thought. Their men training here, our men working there, obviously has many attractions, but I sense that the implemention will take a little time and a lot more detailed consideration.
The idea of the Inspector-General that they should come under the umbrella of our Inspectorate-General for the police is obviously excellent. Whether he should be one of our Inspectors or an Inspector (Ulster) is obviously another detail which will be thought out. I am sure that those who know Sir Arthur Young will accept that we could have hardly contributed a better man to this task.
That said, it will also be accepted that the reorganisation of the Royal Ulster Constabulary will carry some very heavy implications for us. Lord Hunt and his Committee have done their work in two months. To put these proposals through, even the main proposals, will obviously take much longer. To do what is proposed to any police force in a normal climate would be hard enough. Much of this may have to be done, as it were, in the battle line, and we should be aware—no doubt the Secretary of State will mention this—of what this may entail by way of an irreducible military commitment, for some little time perhaps.
The sort of duties now being undertaken by our soldiers, it will be agreed, are prodigal of manpower. One man on a road block in the daylight hours calls for about 12 altogether in barracks if one doubles the guard. It is tiring, it 149 is dispiriting work, and I have no doubt that the G.O.C. will sooner or later seek to ring the changes. Moreover, this work may become more exacting and it is not likely to become less dangerous. A number of hon. Members have paid sincere tribute to the troops and I echo that, but I must add that that does not cost us very much. The right hon. Gentleman will, I hope, give us some clear idea of the extent of our commitment and how it will in future be administered.
I do not want to bandy complaints with the right hon. Gentleman about tea, rest or comforts. Our Regular Forces who enlist accept risks and rigours which we would find unacceptable. However, they like leave, and that is something which will not come readily for those who are now serving in Northern Ireland.
Morale will not of itself rise automatically with the job that they have on hand, and it is important that we keep morale up. This calls not just for comfort but for consideration. A lot will depend on the assessment we now make of the duration in which we are likely to be engaged in this sort of operation; that is, how thoroughly and extensively we prepare to provide the bases, from the long-term point of view, if that should become necessary.
The right hon. Gentleman is entitled to say, "I do not know and nobody can tell." That is to an extent true, but from the point of view of the bases from which these men must operate and in which they must live, we should not assume that we are dealing with the short term. Indeed, we could be dealing with the longer rather than the shorter term.
What is one's first reaction on seeing British troops in circumstances of this kind? Those of us who visited Northern Ireland were there long enough to experience the reassurance which the presence of British troops gives. Our Army is very good at this sort of thing and has enormous experience of it. Our troops have caused the violent minority of extremists, of terrorists, to take fresh measure. However, it would be rash to assume that they have been permanently subdued. Indeed, we have had a reminder that they have not, and in the period ahead we would be wise to reckon that the presence of British troops, their task to steady and pacify 150 first of all, may give rise to other reactions as time goes on.
That would not be peculiar to Northern Ireland, and for these reasons it seems that the intelligence set-up in Ulster is important. It has obvious advantages over the police intelligence, which, bluntly, struck me as a weak element.
Rumour plays a terrible part in this business. There was—I think there still is no more tragic sight in the blackened areas of Belfast than the factories which have been fired. People had burned themselves not only out of homes but out of jobs; and jobs are extremely precious in Belfast. Why did they do this? They did it because, as often as not, at the height of the disorders the factories were alleged to hold snipers; and what happened was the price of the compound of rumour and panic. The people in the streets were not the only victims of rumour. The police were caught up in it, and that is where a superior military intelligence system could in future render valued service.
Industrial investment is mentioned in the White Paper, although it has not figured large in this debate. This has always been crucial to Northern Ireland and it has never been mere crucial than it is now. What is said in the White Paper strikes me as important and not unhopeful. Obviously it is important that long-term industrial expansion should not be permanently damaged by fear of disturbance and further unrest.
The scheme adumbrated for compensation will help and so, no doubt, will the Government's proposals about investment grants. Together these may help to outweigh the fears, but I echo what was said by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone and repeated by the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock), that there may be a bigger future for Northern Ireland in long-term co-operative ventures.
I am thinking not only of the nuclear power station but of other things. Many of the things which require urgently to be done, such as housing, and many of the things about which the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) spoke, depend on a higher level of economic activity, to which one would like to think that others besides Government would contribute. I would like to see some 151 figure—and this is no reflection on what is being done by the Minister of Commerce in Northern Ireland—doing what Lord Chandos did not long ago, applying persuasion and vigour to industrial development in Northern Ireland. That is perhaps an additional contribution that we might make.
I hope that I shall not end on a note of dissension if I suggest that the prime need of the Ulster régime at this juncture is simply encouragement. They are not short of advice. They are not short of criticism. They have plenty of candid friends. They have put their hands to a course of action, and I am persuaded that we shall best serve Ulster's interests and our own by giving, in conjunction with our firm intentions, sympathetic encouragement. I do not hesitate to add that that is what the Home Secretary has seemed to me to do on both his recent visits. This was amply reflected in his speech today. I urge hon. Gentlemen who are perhaps more critically inclined, for perfectly natural historical reasons, to take a leaf out of the right hon. Gentleman's book.
However we contrive it, a good deal depends, and will depend, on the people at Stormont. Once we cease to believe that and act in that belief, we might find ourselves saddled with very serious responsibilities. The programme of changes set in hand by the Ulster Administration, of which most of us approve, will not secure universal approbation in Northern Ireland. It will be quite otherwise. The further and the faster they go, the greater the risk their leaders run of being repudiated.
The programme is being borne on a vehicle under very heavy strain. The Ulster Members know that, and the Home Secretary knows it, and we must act in that awareness. We must do all in our power to prevent it breaking down under the load. To change the analogy, I would echo the Home Secretary's words earlier today. The programme of reform is a large meal for them to digest at present, and they should be made free to digest it, as far as possible.
Hon. Members have their own views, and some have expressed them, on the history of all this. I have said that I am not entering into history. I would only venture to suggest that the history 152 of it all did not begin with the advent of Unionists at Stormont. I would say exactly the same if the Stormont Government were all Socialists. It goes back further than that, and runs much deeper.
The fact is that one way and another in recent weeks we have steadily increased our stake in Northern Ireland. We are no longer simply observers, critics or advisers. We are involved, in some ways deeply. The circumstances of today are no longer the circumstances of last April, or even of August.
In effect, the capacity of the present régime to survive its difficulties, to restore order, to remain an effective Government—because that is what they must do—is now more crucial not simply to Ulster but to us than at any time since the Act. In all we say here, in all that the Government do in our name, that consideration should be uppermost in our minds.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Denis Healey)
This has been, in one sense at any rate, a remarkable debate. It follows immediately after party conferences whose function, as one saw them, was to mobilise opposing forces for an election battle. Yet today the leaders of those parties are united in total solidarity on the most explosive political issue facing Britain at the present time. It is also an issue which, in the last century, has divided political life more deeply in Britain than any other. There is not one word in the moving and generous speech by the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) with which I could possibly disagree, and I particularly welcome the vision he displayed in his closing remarks about relations between the United Kingdom and the Irish Republic. I was also very impressed by the excellent speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) in this respect.
I also agree with almost everything said by the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), although I would wish to qualify somewhat the pessimism he expressed. I shall seek to do so later in my speech. Indeed, I think that the unity was broken only by some speeches from the back benches, but these did at least serve to illustrate the nature and virulence of the disease we are trying to cure.
153 I shall try to deal with some of the other points raised in the debate but the House will expect me to concentrate on the security aspects of the problem, for which I am now directly responsible as a Minister in the United Kingdom Government; and to talk about the unique rôle of our forces in Northern Ireland, the unique problems created by that rôle and how we hope to surmount them.
As the right hon. Member for Ashford said, security and the acceptance of a feeling of security by all sections of the people of Northern Ireland is the foundation for any solution of the Province's political problems. And, as many hon. Members have said, society in Northern Ireland has been riven for many years by fears, part rational, mainly irrational and sometimes worse than irrational. Last August, that fear exploded into large-scale violence in two of Northern Ireland's largest cities and it added to the vague irrational fears of the past a new factor which those of us who have visited the Province in the last two months have had cause to feel. That is an immediate terror of personal attack, panic at the thought that one's home might be burnt and one's wife and children beaten up.
This fear is a physical and horrible thing and I was very impressed by what the right hon. Member for Ashford said about the way he himself came to feel during his visit. It is a fear that is real and physical in both communities. Nothing struck me in my visit, when I was walking, particularly at night, around the various barricades, more than the utter bewilderment and shock of the British soldiers, who found themselves, in the United Kingdom, up against the sort of problems which previously they had found only in the Middle East or even further afield.
As the House knows, it was this situation which led the Northern Ireland Government, on 19th August, to ask Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom to agree that the General Officer Commanding, Northern Ireland, should assume overall responsibility for security in the Province; and that is a responsibility for which he is ultimately accountable to me as Secretary of State for Defence in the United Kingdom. As the House knows, Her Majesty's Government agreed to this request; and the 154 immediate deployment of the Army not only put an end to the riots but also enabled the G.O.C. to relieve the Ulster Special Constabulary of all operational tasks in connection with riots, for which they had been employed by the Northern Ireland Government purely as a temporary measure. The U.S.C. has since been employed only on guarding vulnerable points and police barracks, and on patrol and road check duties mainly in border and country areas.
The G.O.C. also instituted more stringent measures for the control of the arms issued to the U.S.C. so that, beginning in Belfast and Londonderry, he started placing arms in armouries under central control, to be issued only when in his view the Special Constabulary's duties required them.
I know that all right hon. and hon. Members will agree when I say that General Freeland and all those under his command have acted with exemplary skill and restraint, and as Secretary of State I am very grateful for the tributes paid to the forces in Northern Ireland from both sides of the House. They are all faced with unique problems in a unique situation.
No one ever likes the internal security task. It imposes a very severe strain on all troops from the highest commander down to the N.C.O.s and private soldiers manning a checkpoint. But add to all this the fact that their task is to keep apart warring factions of their fellow countrymen and the strain on each individual is immeasurably increased. If one is doing internal security overseas one cannot understand the insults hurled in Chinese, or Greek, or Turkish, but it is a very different matter when they are hurled by one's countrymen.
As the House knows, last weekend the trouble reached a new level of seriousness. The Home Secretary gave an account of this and I will not seek to repeat what he said. The casualties among our troops, heavy and tragic as they were, would have been much higher if those in exposed positions had not been wearing bullet-proof vests. Incidentally I gather that the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) asked if it were true that the Forces in the Shankill Road area were treating all the inhabitants of the area as hostile. This 155 of course is not true. [Interruption.] I am sorry, but that is what I understood the hon. Member to say.
§ Mr. Stratton Mills
For the record, may I repeat that that was the feeling of people on the Shankill Road? I merely repeated that the feeling was that everyone in the Shankill Road area was being treated as an enemy, but this was only a small group of trouble makers.
§ Mr. Healey
There were many hundreds, at times even thousands, of people milling around the Shankill Road, despite warnings from the security forces and initially from the Royal Ulster Constabulary, to keep away. I do not think that in the circumstances when an enormous mass of people were moving around, the R.U.C. initially and later the troops could be expected to discriminate between ordinary residents and rioters in the crowds facing them. I would be surprised that the hon. Member could do so.
§ Mr. Healey
The Army is of course fully stretched. I am very well aware of that. Men have on average been working a 12 to 15 hour day over the past six weeks and there have been very few days off. Over last week-end more than half the troops in Belfast were fully committed and the men were on duty for 40 hours out of 48. But I am confident that in spite of this strain the Army will continue to react as splendidly and with such outstanding success in their very difficult rôle as everyone who has visited the Province has seen them act in the last few months. They have learnt to listen to the views of people with strong and bitter feelings about the situation in which they find themselves and to negotiate to reach agreement between these peoples. They have indeed been acting not only as soldiers but as conciliators and ambassadors; and they have done these jobs superbly well.
They have had to ensure that law and order and stability is restored, but also to use minimum force. I was grateful to the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone for making the point that it was infinitely better if they talked their way into difficult areas than fought 156 their way into difficult areas. Of course this is a difficult balance to maintain. One is always liable to criticism from one side or the other, and sometimes from both; but the fact that the Forces have incurred so little criticism, except from extremists on one side or the other, is a tremendous tribute to their leadership and to their qualities as soldiers.
As Secretary of State for Defence I welcome the fact that on this occasion the British soldier has once more displayed his supreme qualities as a peace-keeper—in maintaining order—in the eyes of !he British people and throughout the world through television and the Press—although this has brought its own problems. I should like to remind the House and the British public that the forces have been displaying these sorts of qualities in many situations all over the world for the last 20 years; and this has been far too little realised by the population of this country.
I pass to some of the points made by the right hon. Member for Ashford. Internal security is very expensive in manpower. It takes 25 men, a platoon of infantry, to keep three men permanently manning a barrier, and there are at present 10 battalions, including a Royal Marine Commando unit, together with two armoured reconnaissance squadrons and supporting units in Northern Ireland. This is nearly four times the normal garrison force. The right hon. Gentleman asked how long this would last and, rightly, he guessed that I would say that it was impossible to say. I made a stab when I talked to the Press at Aldergrove Airport a month ago and said that it would last until the people of Northern Ireland as a whole had learnt to accept an alternative basis for security, and that we hoped this would arise out of the Hunt Report. I also made it clear that it was a question, not just of legislating to carry out the decisions of the Hunt Report, but of implementing them on the ground and convincing people that they were being implemented honestly. This, I fear, will take a good deal longer than next winter.
I cannot say whether they will need even further reinforcement, although, like everybody else in the House, I hope that they will not. So far we have not had to call on forces assigned to N.A.T.O. or on forces in overseas theatres, but if, 157 as seems likely, the present force levels have to be maintained for a long time, or if the situation gets worse, we might have to withdraw temporarily troops assigned to N.A.T.O. I know that in that case our allies would understand our difficulties, as they have done on earlier occasions—for example, during the confrontation or during the emergency in Malaya.
The reinforcements have so far come from within our overall capability in the United Kingdom and there has been some disruption of our planned training programmes and normal duties. They therefore represent a considerable diversion of military capability from its normal rôle, and our overriding aim therefore must be, on the military side, to gain the confidence of all the inhabitants of Northern Ireland in the ability of the troops to guarantee their security against extremists on both sides which would enable us to reduce the number of troops there. Although there will be a progressive reduction as the Hunt recommendations are put into effect on the ground, we must see this as a long-term problem—perhaps years rather than months. So we cannot allow some of the exceptional hardships which were inevitable in the first few months to last a moment longer than necessary.
May I say a few words about how we are trying to improve the conditions of the forces.
§ Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that what he has just told the House is a self-confession that he has allowed the Army to run down too much?
§ Mr. Healey
That statement is very unworthy of a member of a party which did exactly what I fear we might have to do but have not yet had to do, because of commitments in the Far East and elsewhere in the world when it was in power. The hon. Gentleman's party ran down the units inside B.A.O.R. to 3,000 below the present manning level and took units out of B.A.O.R. to serve in the Middle East and the Far East during the period that it was in power. However, I do not think that an exchange of party banter of this nature is helpful to the spirit of this debate.
I should like to say a few words about how we are trying to improve the con- 158 ditions of the forces. First—and I think that this will meet many of the worries which hon. Members have expressed—in view of the great strain imposed by emergency conditions, each reinforcement battalion in Northern Ireland will serve for only about four months in the Province before being relieved by a new battalion or its equivalent. The biggest immediate problem is to improve accommodation for the forces, because accommodation for the troops in Northern Ireland was built for three accompanied major units, and the increase to a total of about eleven major units within little more than a month has inevitably posed very serious accommodation problems. The forces themselves have done miracles and they have had a great deal of help both from the Ministry of Public Building and Works and from the local population. But, as I saw for myself a few weeks ago, a great deal of the accommodation in which the troops are living is extremely poor, and we are taking urgent action to improve it as quickly as possible. In particular, we want to get it right before the onset of the bad weather and the winter.
The first accommodation problem has been to provide what I might call operational accommodation for the troops. They are on continuous guard duty, strung out over a very large area, and they need, first of all, some protection while they are actually on guard duty. Their conditions can be improved by providing sentry boxes, small four-man shelters, and, in isolated areas, caravans either from Army stocks or by hiring from civilian firms. Action on all these points is well under way and I have no doubt that the bulk of the problems will be solved this month.
But when the men come off duty they need somewhere to eat and sleep comfortably before going back on duty, and that is the next problem. We have had a great deal of help from the Northern Ireland Government in obtaining premises suitable for these "company bases". A great deal has been done towards solving the problem, but more needs to be done. The problem is not eased, particularly in Belfast, by the fluidity and unpredictability of the security situation. The company bases need to be near the source of likely trouble; and, as we saw so recently, the source of trouble can 159 quickly switch from one part of Belfast to another. Areas which one thought were stable can suddenly flare up. But we are giving a very high priority to providing the best possible accommodation for this purpose. I spoke to the Northern Ireland Minister of Home Affairs about this problem when I was in Northern Ireland and I have written to him since. I feel sure that with help from the Northern Ireland Government we shall be able to beat this problem before the onset of winter.
Next we come to the battalion base camps to which our troops can return for rest when they are withdrawn into reserve away from the troubled areas. At the moment we are finding our battalion base camps from some permanent barracks in which we are doubling up whenever we can, in two weekend training centres which have hutted accommodation, and so on. At my request the Northern Ireland Minister of Home Affairs is now releasing to us the former fusilier depot at Armagh. I am also asking for security of tenure at Antrim and Belfast. If he can help us in these ways I do not think we shall have any difficulty in providing battalion base camps this winter which will be adequate. Therefore, I think there is a good chance of solving the accommodation programme and seeing its back broken before winter really sets in this year.
There is finally the problem of additional married accommodation, because it would be highly desirable to have more of the battalions in Northern Ireland on an accompanied basis serving on a two-year tour of duty. The four-month emergency tour of duty is not desirable. This is a slightly longer-term problem, although we are tackling it with the same vigour as our other accommodation problems. It will take us some time to produce a satisfactory solution in this field, although we hope to have it greatly improved by the winter.
When I visited Northern Ireland two weeks ago I recognised that there was a case for giving some special form of compensation to the services there for the unique conditions in which they are serving during the early months of the emergency. I have since been considering this question in more detail and I have decided that there is a good case for 160 some temporary special payment to those serving in Northern Ireland in the present emergency. Internal security is an unpleasant and nerve-racking task at the best of times. One error of judgment can have immediate serious consequences for the man concerned.
But the strain is peculiarly severe when the burden of maintaining law and order falls upon the Service man among his own countrymen. Moreover, the troops in Northern Ireland have been operating in the full glare of publicity and in the face of provocation and hostile criticism. They have been working very long hours. Their accommodation in some cases is appalling. They have been separated from their wives and families. All leave, except that for compassionate reasons, is being interrupted. All previous internal security operations since the war have taken place overseas where there have at least been the incidental advantages of duty-free cigarettes and other goods. But these compensations cannot be given to the Services in Northern Ireland. Indeed, the conditions of service in Northern Ireland are wholly exceptional by any normal United Kingdom peace-time standards. When serving in the United Kingdom, Service men have every right to expect reasonable amenities, stability and security.
No single one of these exceptional conditions, taken by itself, would, in my view, justify the payment of a special allowance, but when they are all taken together in these unique circumstances, I am confident that some recognition in money terms is justified. In recognition of these conditions and the responsibilities borne by Service officers and men, we propose to pay a small allowance of 7s. 6d. a day for lieutenant-colonels and above, 6s. a day for other officers, 5s. a day for warrant officers and senior N.C.O.s, and 3s. 6d. a day for corporals and below, to all Service men and women stationed in Northern Ireland, with effect from 1st August this year.
To qualify for the allowance, Service men and women will have to have served for at least 14 days in Northern Ireland, though they will be paid the allowance from the first day of their service there. The allowance will be temporary. We intend that it shall come to an end on the introduction next year of the new 161 pay code for the forces based on last June's recommendations from the National Board for Prices and Incomes. The Services will then benefit from a new deal over pay which is designed to take account specifically of such exceptional circumstances as those obtaining in Northern Ireland at present, in addition to a large number of other factors arising from the special features of Service life.
The overriding need, as all hon. Members have recognised, has been to find some better long-term solution to the security problem as a basis for a better long-term solution of the economic and political problems.
§ Mr. Edward Heath (Bexley)
We welcome the announcement which the Secretary of State has made about action which he is taking to deal with particular problems, including the financial arrangements. Can he help us on one matter which is, I think, concerning practically everyone in the country? The right hon. Gentleman has described the heavy burdens falling on the forces at the moment, including, as he said, sometimes 40 out of 48 hours on continuous duty, and no leave at all. If the normal tour of duty is to be four months, what will the present deployment allow these troops from the point of view of having some time off duty? It is obviously impossible to carry on in conditions of this sort over a tour of four months. What does the right hon. Gentleman think it will be possible to arrange for the troops with the present deployment?
§ Mr. Healey
With respect, 40 out of 48 hours on duty was an absolutely exceptional state of affairs last weekend when the problem in Belfast was one on a far greater scale than anyone had anticipated. Perhaps we were wrong not to have anticipated it—that is another matter—but normally the men are working on what one might call normal guard hours. The big problem has not been the hours on duty but the difficulty of allowing leave because units as a wolhe are overstretched. I hope that we shall be able to begin to allow leave, and the unit which has been worst affected by this problem has, I believe, just begun sending some men on leave. But I recognise very well the problem raised by the Leader of the Opposition, and I am seeking to reduce its scale.
§ Mr. Healey
With respect, I must press on. There are some important questions to be dealt with regarding the future of the Special Constabulary.
§ Mr. Healey
With respect, if my hon. Friend will put a Question down, I shall answer it. I must get on with these other questions now.
The Hunt Report is the key to the problem of finding a better long-term basis for security in Northern Ireland and the permanent presence of a large number of British troops. I must say a word here on the proposals for a local defence force. As the Home Secretary announced, we agree, and the Stormont Government agree, that there should be a new part-time locally recruited force to replace the Ulster Special Constabulary. There is a real security problem here, and I think that some hon. Members who spoke in the debate do not fully understand its nature. The problem is not all-out invasion. The problem is raids by small bodies of irregulars, probably members of an illegal army, perhaps on a frontier post, perhaps on a power station, perhaps on a bank—raids which may take place at intervals of years or may take place several in one day.
We had examples of this over a period of years, about a decade ago. At that time the Ulster Special Constabulary with its local knowledge and its ability to turn out at a moment's notice, played an invaluable rôle in supporting the British Army and in creating a deterrent against a very large number of these incidents. It would be absurdly wasteful to use for this function a permanent deployment of units of the Regular Army, because there are hundreds of miles of frontier to cover to a depth of 50 miles, perhaps 100 miles, behind the frontier.
The answer is some sort of local force. Our view, which is accepted by the Stormont Government, is that this job would be far better performed by a military force under military discipline and control. That is why the Northern Ireland Government have agreed that the Ulster Special Constabulary should be replaced by two new forces, one a volunteer reserve for routine police duties such as 163 traffic control, and the other a locally recruited military force to protect key installations and to undertake such other tasks as might be necessary.
The Home Secretary gave some indication of the nature of this force but as he made clear in the statement he issued in Northern Ireland last night, the G.O.C., my own Ministry of Defence in London and the Northern Ireland Government, are consulting about the pay and conditions, the precise rôle, the appropriate equipment for the rôle, and all the innumerable problems which would arise. Probably the best model would be the local defence volunteers of the 1939–45 war. I can certainly say that the force will not be part of the normal Army Reserve. Its size has yet to be determined, after a careful evaluation of the military tasks it has to perform. Once some of these issues have been resolved I will make a further announcement to the House.
A word now about the contributions defence can make to the economic problems in Northern Ireland. I noted with great care what the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone and the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) said about the contributions which defence establishments can make. One or two hon. Members suggested that we ought to place a lot more defence contracts in Northern Ireland. We spend £3 million a year in Northern Ireland on defence contracts now, for various forms of equipment. I do not think that we could make an exception for Northern Ireland and buy equipment which we could have made cheaper in other parts of the country, perhaps in development areas on this side of the Irish Sea.
The problem of the establishments is quite a different one. I am quite prepared to have another look at the decisions we have already taken, but I can give no assurance that we are likely to change them. Here I agree very much with the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock), that the worst basis for a stable economy in Northern Ireland would be doling out money on defence establishments which are either not needed at all or would be better placed elsewhere, because such establishments would always be vulnerable to closure 164 by any Government anxious to cut taxes or Government expenditure.
On the other hand, the long term garrison will be substantially higher than it was before the recent troubles. This in itself will bring money and employment to Northern Ireland and it may enable us to make use, as a Ministry of Defence, of some of the facilities and establishments which we are giving up in their present rôle. I will examine the possibility of doing more training in Northern Ireland, although there are special problems here, which any hon. Member who has served there will recognise—for example the difficulty of the territory for tracked vehicle training. I only hope that those who have asked me if I will use Northern Ireland for training will support me if I ask for facilities to which there is local opposition.
I believe that British troops are making a vital contribution towards a solution of the problem. They are helping to create a climate of security, without which political and economic action is futile. Their presence has already strengthened the moderates, at any rate in the Catholic community, as we saw in the Bogside last weekend. There are limits to what the forces can do. It has been said that one can do anything with bayonets except sit on them. Forces can gain time for a solution but they cannot provide the solution themselves. They are now gaining time, at a very heavy cost in personal danger and discomfort. All are now working a seven day week. Their sacrifice will only be worthwhile if the political and social leaders in both communities in Northern Ireland work equally hard—
§ It being Ten o'clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.