HC Deb 26 November 1970 vol 807 cc605-6
47. Mr. Kilfedder

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is satisfied that the exercise by Her Majesty's Government of control over security matters in Northern Ireland has in no way conflicted with the powers transferred to the Government of Northern Ireland under the Government of Ireland Act 1920; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Carlisle

The existing arrangements for the control of security operations in Northern Ireland were reached by agreement between the previous Government and the Government of Northern Ireland. My right hon. Friend approves them and is satisfied that they do not conflict with anything in the Government of Ireland Act, 1920.

Mr. Kilfedder

Would my hon. Friend not agree that this matter raises the wider issue of the power of the military authorities to intervene in what is essentially a civil function, the maintenance of law and order? How far is the G.O.C. for Northern Ireland justified in assuming responsibilities which normally reside in Parliament, either here at Westminster or at Stormont.

Mr. Carlisle

The position is that the United Kingdom Government have ultimate responsibility for the protection of those who live in Northern Ireland. When a breakdown of law and order has occurred a request is made—and a request was made—for the use of troops to be made available. That request was met by the Government of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Moyle

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Answer to this Question will be welcome on this side of the House, in view of the fact that his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Army has just said that his Government are not bound by previous legislation in these matters in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Carlisle

I did not hear what my hon. Friend said, but I am sure that what we are doing to assist in Northern Ireland in no way conflicts with the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, and will be welcomed by hon. Members on both sides.