HC Deb 05 February 1970 vol 795 cc622-4
Q9. Mr. Roebuck

asked the Prime Minister what further consultations he proposes to have with the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland in the light of the present situation.

The Prime Minister

I would refer my hon. Friend to my reply earlier today to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Accrington (Mr. Arthur Davidson).

Mr. Roebuck

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the most disorderly and lawless part of the United Kingdom is Northern Ireland, which has been ruled for decades by representatives of the Party opposite? Is he further aware that no proposals for dealing with the situation emerged from a recent "powwow" in a Surrey hotel? Will he therefore summon the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland to No. 10 Downing Street and revise the agreement made last August so as to ensure that the people in that part of the United Kingdom have the same rights as those elsewhere?

The Prime Minister

First, I apologise to my hon. Friend for not coupling his Question with No. Q3, but his Question was put down some time later. I always have this problem whether to bring in Questions which are very low on the Order Paper.

Now that my hon. Friend has put the Question, may I say that he should feel some satisfaction that the meeting was held in Surrey, not in Harrow.

On the general question of law and order, which right hon. Gentlemen opposite have put forward as a political issue—a decision which we accept and very much welcome—the situation in Northern Ireland, for which they and their colleagues have had responsibility for 50 years, is an important aspect—if they want it injected into public debate—because there is no part of the United Kingdom where we have seen law and order break down in a more horrifying way than was the case in Northern Ireland last year.

The question of equal rights for the citizens of Northern Ireland in relation to equal rights enjoyed everywhere else was studied in the Downing Street Declaration signed by Major Chichester-Clark and myself at our emergency meeting last August—[HON. MEMBERS: "Too long."] I note that hon. Gentlemen opposite always say "Too long" when we are talking about human rights for people of whom they do not approve. The Downing Street—[Interruption.] Four questions were asked by my hon. Friend and I propose to answer each one. If hon. Gentlemen opposite do not like it, they can do whatever they wish. It is right for the House to take note of the fact that Major Chichester-Clark and I signed a Declaration last August—a critical time—in which we said that every citizen in Northern Ireland, whether hon. Gentlemen opposite approve of them or not, shall have equal rights just as they have in the rest of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

Is the Prime Minister aware that such descriptions as are contained in the supplementary question which he has just answered are neither true nor conducive to bringing new industries to Northern Ireland, thus providing the jobs so badly needed above everything else?

The Prime Minister

I know that the hon. Gentleman is doing his best in this matter and that he is showing considerable courage in doing it. We are all conscious that many hon. Gentlemen opposite, with whom some of us have profoundly disagreed in past years, are showing great courage against a different and more menacing type of skinheadism in Northern Ireland, and we congratulate them on their stand.