§ Question again proposed.
§ 2.20 p.m.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North) rose——
§ Mr. Hugh D. Brown (Glasgow, Provan)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I do not wish to interrupt the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), but I appreciate that you Sir, are in a little difficulty. This debate is not taking the normal form, and many of us who are anxious to raise the question of Upper Clyde Shipbuilders and who appreciate the concern of Northern Ireland have been reluctant to intervene in the debate on Northern Ireland. Could you, Sir, in these unusual circumstances give some guidance on the timetable of the debate?
§ Mr. Bob Brown (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I should like to pursue the point raised by my hon. Friend since I have been waiting to raise the situation in North-East England. I, too, would like you to give guidance as to when we might have an opportunity to participate in the debate?
§ Mr. Speaker
I assure hon. Members that I have a long list of hon. Members who wish to raise a considerable variety of issues. I intend to call a limited number of Members. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition wishes to intervene in the debate. I will do the best I can. As always, I shall be immensely assisted if right hon. and hon. Gentlemen will be brief.
§ Mr. Clinton Davis (Hackney, Central)
Could you, Mr. Speaker, give some guidance as to the length of this particular debate?
§ Mr. Speaker
No. I can give no indication about the length of debates on the Question now before the House.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Since I am aware that other hon. Members wish to speak in this debate, including hon. Members from Northern Ireland, I shall seek to be as brief as possible.
The first matter I wish to underline is the fact that the vast majority of people in Ulster—and I refer not only to the Protestants but also to a large section of the Roman Catholic community—are concerned about the escalation of bombing in the City of Belfast and in other areas of Northern Ireland. When the people of Northern Ireland switch on their radios in the morning they know they will hear of another round of bombing and violence. Those people look back to January when there were 16 bomb outrages, and to February when some 43 such outrages were recorded. In March the figure was 31; in April, 38; in May, 43; in June, 46; and in the month that has just passed there was a total of 94 outrages.
Let me make it clear that the Irish Republican Army is out for the very objective that was mentioned by the right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Michael Stewart): it is out for a united Ireland. Nothing will give its members more succour and strength in their attacks in Northern Ireland at present than the suggestion that if they keep up the pressure, if they keep the bombing going, if they resist the acts of the Army to bring them under control, they will achieve the object on which they are set. The vast majority of people in Northern Ireland will not have a united Ireland.
The one matter that goes right down into their hearts is the fact that they are part and parcel of the United Kingdom and want to remain so.
We heard the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. McManus) attack the Unionist people who, he said, were the people of the gun, violence and murder. He went on to speak about other people concerned in violence. He then launched an attack upon the British Army which, he said, was carrying 1903 out a campaign of murder. I want the House to mark the fact that he said there was a campaign of murder at the present time in Northern Ireland. I wonder whether some of the hon. Members who sit alongside the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, and who appeared to assert to many of his remarks, repudiate that accusation against members of the British Army. It appears to be a popular exercise to denounce the members of the Ulster Special Constabulary, and indeed the very same accusations which are now being made against the British Army have already been made against members of that Constabulary.
The Ulster people are not asking the British people to carry this burden. The people of Ulster are prepared to defend with their own lives, and nobody else's, their right to remain an integral part of the United Kingdom. It is absolutely wrong to suggest that the people of Ulster would ask British soldiers to carry out something which the people of Ulster are not allowed to understake on their own.
I am sure that as reports of this debate go out today the Irish Republican Army will gain great succour from the type of speech we have heard that there will be some sort of political deal and that the Protestants of the North of Ireland must reconcile themselves to become part and parcel of a united Ireland.
I turn to matters raised by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan). I want to deal with the subject of intimidation. I can go some of the way with the right hon. Gentleman on that subject, but today in the present situation it would be very hard to prove that there was mass intimidation by the majority of the minority. That could not be proved. I have always denounced intimidation from whatever source and in relation to whoever engages in it. If Protestants threaten Roman Catholics they are wrong and are to be condemned, and if Roman Catholics threaten Protestants they are wrong and are equally to be condemned.
Let us make no mistake about it. There are areas of Northern Ireland where the Irish Republican Army is well dug in and has tremendous strength. It has been said that the police and army have been fighting with their hands behind their backs.
1904 In Moltke Street and in other areas the past few days have seen the intimidation of Protestants by Roman Catholics who are in strength in those areas where the I.R.A. is in strength. Protestant people have had to leave their homes and at present are living in a community centre in the Sandy Row area. There is also intimidation of Roman Catholic people by the Irish Republican Army. In Belfast, there are protection rackets run by the I.R.A. Those who want to keep themselves in business have to pay for the right to do business. These rackets must be stopped. Roman Catholics have complained to me about them. I had a Roman Catholic business woman with me last night. She told me that she could not carry on her business unless she was prepared to accept the rule of the I.R.A.
It is not in the interests of any section of the community, whether it be Protestant or Roman Catholic, that the armed thugs of the I.R.A. should not be brought before our courts of law and tried for their crimes. That must happen, and it must happen immediately.
The Irish Republican Army has always been with us. It has been with us since the Northern Ireland State was first set up. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) said that the I.R.A. was not there. The I.R.A. has been there all the time, and the whole campaign is aimed at the end which is now being achieved. Any weakness on the part of this Government in not facing up to the rebellion will succour the I.R.A. and give it more support.
Today, we have heard about a united Ireland and all that will take place in it. We have been told that Protestants will have every right guaranteed. But let us consider the present situation in the City of Londonderry, where objections are being made to a Protestant march, ignoring completely the fact that there have been Roman Catholic marches in the city during the past few weeks without objection being taken. The route that is to be taken by the Apprentice Boys of Derry this year is one that leads through the Waterside, which is a Protestant area of the City of Londonderry. How in the name of goodness can Protestants think that they would have civil and religious liberty in a united Ireland when the majority are not allowed to demonstrate or go to their places of worship in the 1905 City of Londonderry? We could not accept any assurances from a united Ireland.
There are other matters concerning the Republic which the right hon. Member for Fulham did not mention. I am sure that he is aware that Mr. Lynch and his Government, under their constitution, claim that they control the North of Ireland. They claim that they are the legal Government of the North of Ireland. They claim that they have jurisdiction over the North of Ireland. Until Mr. Lynch is prepared to accept that the people of Northern Ireland have their own constitution and their own Parliament, what decent-minded person could negotiate on those terms? It cannot be done. The Republic of Ireland must recognise the right of the majority in the north to decide their own destiny. We feel that our destiny is linked with the United Kingdom.
Another matter which I must mention concerns this council of Ireland. Such a council was proposed in the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, as I am sure that the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East is aware. That Act envisaged a different type of Government in Dublin from that which exists at present. The circumstances that suggested the setting up of a council of Ireland at that time were entirely different from those which prevail today. The vast majority of the people of Northern Ireland would look at any suggestion to set up a council of Ireland as the beginning of a sell-out of their constitutional position.
I am sorry to detain the House so long. I know that many other hon. Members wish to speak. I have come to this House on many occasions intending to speak and I have not had the opportunity to do so. I appreciate the sense of frustration which is felt by hon. Members.
It must be made perfectly clear that no policy can succeed until the rebellion is put down. It is impossible to parley with rebels. It is impossible to negotiate with those whose hands are stained with innocent blood. It cannot be done. There can be no let-up in the campaign against the Irish Republic Army. Of course its members do not want to be interned. They want to be loose to do 1906 their bombings, their blastings, their shootings and their murders. Those in opposition do not want internment. However, I want to see them tried properly in our courts. I want to see their guilt proved, and I want to see them put away.
It must be remembered that it is the lives of people which are now at stake. The Home Secretary has told us that we are at war. I am not a prophet, nor am I the son of a prophet, but I know that the coming days in Northern Ireland will be very serious. They will be days of bloodshed and violence. I appeal to the Government to see that every step is taken to detain, even by imprisonment, those who are carrying out this campaign of bloodshed and violence. It must stop. No country can exist in the present conditions of Northern Ireland.
There is a serious unemployment situation in Northern Ireland. Everyone, be he Roman Catholic or Protestant, is suffering. People need employment. But what is happening in Londonderry, where the Republic movement is actually burning factories which have been erected, cannot lead to more employment. It can lead only to a worsening of the situation.
Every citizen of the land has the right to work and the right to worship God as he wants. He also has a responsibility to the Government to respect the basic principle of the law. That is all that the Protestants ask of their Roman Catholic fellow countrymen, many of whom respect the law. We ask them to respect the Government and the Parliament under which they were born by the providence of God.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lewis (Rutland and Stamford)
On a point of order. I do not wish to speak in this debate, but we are considering the Motion for the Summer Adjournment which, by tradition, is a debate in which hon. Members raise a number of subjects——
§ Mr. John Gorst (Hendon, North)
On a further point of order. Is it possible for the Chamber's amplification system to be checked? During the last speech, the sound produced was somewhat 1907 strident and too loud. Can something be done about it?
§ 2.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerard Fitt (Belfast, West)
In years to come, when we have an opportunity to look back at this debate, I believe that it will be regarded as a watershed in relations between the two islands. Speeches have been made today from this side of the House, especially by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Michael Stewart) which at last indicate that there is a clear recognition that the partition experiment in Ireland has failed. We have had 50 years of one-party Government in that part which is allegedly an integral part of the United Kingdom. There is no possibility by democratic franchise of changing that one-party government system. Yet, Britain throughout the years has had changes of government, and the voice of democracy has always been heard at successive elections.
In the unique conditions prevailing in Northern Ireland, right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House must clearly see that partition as a solution has not solved Ireland's problems. Indeed, partition, wherever it has been tried—in Vietnam, Korea, East and West Germany, Pakistan and India—has not proved a signal success. But in Ireland, 50 years after the formation of the first Unionist Government, we find it necessary in 1971 to again appeal to this House of Commons, which was the architect of partition, to realise that what happened on that occasion is no longer the solution to the problems which beset Ireland today.
I listened to the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) when he adopted the rôle of self-appointed spokesman for the British Army. He has defended the British Army in every action which it has taken since being brought into Northern Ireland in 1969. Yet I recall the same hon. Gentleman at Stormont only a few months ago vehemently and vociferously condemning the activities of the British Army because it did not on that occasion fall into line with what he said then. The hon. Gentleman in another capacity in Northern Ireland has consistently levelled criticism at the 1908 activities of the British Army. Yet he comes to this House and tries to speak with the voice of reason, believing that people on this side of the Irish Sea do not read the Irish newspapers or watch Irish television. The sheer hypocrisy of his attitude today will not go unnoticed by the constituents he claims to represent both here and in Northern Ireland.
I believe that my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East made a most important announcement when he suggested that the Council of Ireland should be brought into existence. His remarks have been reinforced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham. I believe that in the next few months this could lead to a positive change of attitude and of policy on the part of hon. Members on this side of the House. If that is the ultimate effect of what is said today, I believe that it can only lead to future happiness and progress for all the people of Britain and Ireland.
The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) seemed to hinge his argument on the inviolability of the United Kingdom as at present constituted. He said that we cannot tolerate any section of those who are now United Kingdom citizens rebelling against the State. But he is old enough to remember that in 1916 there was a United Kingdom not of Great Britain and Northern Ireland but of Great Britain and Ireland. The majority of the people of Ireland set out to achieve self-government for their country. When the British Government found it impossible to beat that section of citizens of the United Kingdom, as it then was, they had to talk to them. They had to talk to rebels.
The attitude expressed by some right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite is that it is a sin to talk to those whom they term as rebels. But, throughout the history of the British Empire and Commonwealth, the British Government have found it necessary to talk to people whom formerly they were inclined to call rebels and who are now, by self-government of their own countries, most respectable citizens.
I turn to the immediate effects of what is happening in Northern Ireland. What started the Protestant backlash in 1969? It was not brought about by the activities of the I.R.A. That backlash was 1909 brought about because the then Labour Government had pressurised the Northern Ireland Government to introduce the most elementary reforms which would ensure civil rights and social justice for everyone in Northern Ireland. The extremists within the Unionist Party in Northern Ireland recognised that if civil rights were to be made available to everyone it would lead to the destruction of their party.
That is what brought about the backlash. That is what brought the Unionist extremist gunmen on to the streets with their petrol bombs, rifles, and other arms. That is why Catholics throughout Northern Ireland faced a holocaust which they have not faced since partition. That is why many people of the minority section in Northern Ireland have had to look elsewhere for protection. That is why many of them sought to give their allegiance to anyone who would afford them protection if similar circumstances were to arise. The backlash was brought about because of the reluctance and intransigence of the Unionist Party to initiate reforms which would ensure civil rights and social justice for everyone.
This afternoon, yesterday and last week we had the representatives of the Unionist Party blackmailing the Home Secretary. They have told him that if he does not take steps to introduce more repression on the minority in Northern Ireland they will call for his removal. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not true."]
The hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills), who is not present, has repeatedly said on Northern Ireland television and radio that the reason that they have been engaging in all this representation to the Home Secretary was to inject some steel into his back so that he would know how to deal with the minority in Northern Ireland. I advise the Home Secretary to watch the form in which that steel may come. I predict that it will come in the form of a knife.
The Unionist Party claims to be British and to accept British standards, but in Northern Ireland, when asked to implement British standards, it has signally failed to do so.
When we analyse what was said by the hon. Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) we clearly discern the voice of the Unionist extremist gunman. He has clearly said—when his speech is analysed 1910 there will be no doubt—that if we seek to change the present constitutional position of Northern Ireland there will be a vicious Protestant backlash. He has said that a million Protestants in Northern Ireland cannot be coerced; that every Protestant will come into the Unionist camp. That is not in accordance with the facts. There are many Protestants in Northern Ireland who believe in the eventual reunification of that country.
Irrespective of what was said by the hon. Member for Antrim, North, I wonder whether he will accept a little lesson in history. The founders of the Irish Republicanism were Protestants—Wolfe Tone, Henry Joy McCracken, William Orr, and others. I could go on ad infinitum. The whole concept of Irish Republicanism came from non-Catholics. So let us not lump the whole million Protestants into the category of those who will go out and murder their Catholic brothers if there is any talk of a Republic.
I concede that at the present time there is a dangerous situation there. It has been brought about by the intransigence of the Right-wing of the Unionist Party, which in turn has led to a counter-movement. That is why the Irish Republican Army has become respectable in certain districts of Northern Ireland. People recognise that even though reforms are on the Statute Book they are there because of action by this House, and not by the Stormont Government. I was there when the reforms were debated and went through Parliament, but the Unionist back benches were empty. That is why there has been violence and counter-violence in Northern Ireland.
In Northern Ireland there is a sadly and tragically polarised community. One section of the community believes that the answer to all Northern Ireland's problems is to introduce internment, to recall the B-Specials, to rearm the police force, and to heap further repression on those who would be opposed to the Unionist philosophy. Another section believes that the answer to Ireland's problem is to abolish Stormont and get the British Army out of Northern Ireland tomorrow. I have no hesitation in saying that those attitudes would lead to ultimate disaster not only for the people of Northern 1911 Ireland, but for the island of Ireland and the people in these islands.
Today it has been recognised that there must be a rapprochement. This is because of the attitude adopted by Unionist Members from Northern Ireland last week, when they said that in the coming meeting between the Taoiseach of the Republic and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Mr. Lynch should be told that sanctions will be imposed unless he interns the Irish Republican Army, and that unless he co-operates with the Right-wing of the Unionist Party all trade between the two islands will be cut off.
How stupid can they get? How can there be peace in Ireland when they are saying that the British Government should attempt to dictate, by means of sanctions or otherwise, what the Government of the Republic should do? They are, by their own logic, admitting that there can never be peace in Northern Ireland until a fairer attitude is adopted by the Government there with the support of a friendly Republic.
It must be recognised that all the solutions suggested during the last 50 years have failed to solve the problem. I have condemned violence from the day and hour I entered into political life. I do not believe that unity in Ireland will be achieved one second sooner by the killing of a British soldier, or by the letting-off of any kind of explosives. I have continually condemned that kind of action, but I recognise the frustration that there is among those in Northern Ireland who feel that they have been oppressed by the Right-wing Unionist Party since the inception of that State.
The Council of Ireland idea advocated by my right hon. Friend has considerable merit. As the leader of a political party in Northern Ireland I have said that we have withdrawn from that House, that we shall have no further say in the deliberations of that House, because throughout the years we have realised that our pleas are not listened to. We cannot act as a parliamentary Opposition in the way that would be accepted in this House. I believe that if the Council of Ireland is resurrected my own party and all opposition Members from Stormont should have some say in the deliberations that take 1912 place. One can readily see what would happen if a completely Unionist Government in Stormont were asked to have discussions with the Republic. The situation that would result would be that envisaged by the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South, the hon. Member for Antrim, North, and others.
I think that enough has been said in this debate to make the Government realise that some new initiative is demanded to improve relationships between the two countries, but the minimum demand must be to the effect that this Government must act through the G.O.C. in Northern Ireland who has said that there can be no military solution to the Northern Ireland problem. He must be in a position to say that there will be no march in Derry on 12th August. He must be in a position to say that, because many thousands of decent people, including Protestants, know that the march is being held as a sectarian provocation to the vast majority of the people in Derry. The hon. Member for Antrim, North ran away last week and had himself initiated as an Apprentice Boy so that he could march in Derry on 12th August.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for an hon. Member to make a statement which is completely and absolutely without foundation? I have been an Apprentice Boy of Derry for almost 20 years.
§ Mr. Fitt
I am sure the House will agree with me when I say that the hon. Gentleman is the queerest looking Apprentice Boy I have seen.
I do not lightly condemn the British Army in Northern Ireland because I recognise the impossible task which has been foisted on to the shoulders of young boys from Birmingham, Coventry, Glasgow and Wales. They are trying to carry out an impossible job, in an impossible situation, without the help of their own Government, who should take steps to make sure that their stay in Northern Ireland is not for a moment longer than is necessary. As a representative of the working class, I have every sympathy with the relatives of the young Army boys who have lost their lives, just as I have every sympathy for the relatives of the young boys in my area who have been killed during the last 50 years.
1913 It appears to me that during the past few months the Army has adopted a more belligerent attitude to the Roman Catholic minority than was ever the case before. I question whether this is a policy change, whether the Army has been told to act in this way. I know that a handbook is being issued to Army personnel in Northern Ireland giving them a short summary of Northern Ireland's history and telling them of the various attitudes to be expected.
I have no doubt that that handbook was not in existence under the previous Administration. I believe that it has been issued by the present Tory Government. It has been quoted copiously at Stormont, and some of the weird utterances in it could not do other than impress the young British soldier and make him think that in a Catholic minority district he is dealing with a lot of savages. I am certain that this handbook was not in the hands of the Army under the previous Labour Government. One cannot but expect a young British soldier brought into the area in such circumstances to react to what he is told.
The Government may not be able to admit this in the House, but the searches which have taken place during the last three or four weeks have proved to be an abject failure. Nothing has been found in 96 per cent. of the houses that have been ransacked at 5 or 6 o'clock in the morning. The only effect of the dawn raids has been to isolate and polarise the two communities in Northern Ireland. Professional people—people who had previously had no involvement in the trouble, such as doctors, solicitors and business people, who had a stake in the community—are now freely associating themselves with those who have condemned the activities of the British Army in these dawn raids.
There are 103,000 unlicensed guns in Northern Ireland, the vast majority of which are in the hands of the Unionist supporters. How can any member of the minority feel that he is being given just treatment when his whole district has been ransacked in the early hours of the morning in an effort to find arms and when no attempt is made to disarm other people who could bring about a holocaust similar to that which took place in 1969?
1914 I have taken more time than usual, but this situation must concern everyone in Northern Ireland. I hope that during the recess Ministers will pay close attention to everything that happens in Northern Ireland and to any representations that are made, and that if necessary there will be an immediate recall of the House.
§ Mr. Speaker
Before I call the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) I should like to indicate the intentions of the Chair, as far as it is permitted to do so. After the right hon. Member for Ashford I shall call the Leader of the Opposition. It is quite clear that we must continue this debate, on the Question of the House's rising this day and adjourning until Monday 18th October, for the rest of today's sitting until Five o'clock. I apologise to those hon. Members whose topics were selected for the Adjournment debate. It is better that I should say now that I see no prospect of any of their subjects being reached, and therefore they and their advisers can stand down.
§ 3.2 p.m.
§ Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)
I shall seek to make only one point. This is neither the day nor the hour to rehearse one's deeper feelings about Ireland's destiny. My point is that to which the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) has referred, namely, the Derry March today week.
A crucial decision must be taken about that march—either by the Northern Ireland Government or by Her Majesty's Government. It will be a crucial decision. I want to put one consideration into the minds of hon. Members opposite. I beg them to accept that this decision is not as easy to make as it might appear. I was in Derry last year, when the march did not take place. I go there as an eye-witness fairly often, and I saw the Orange march the other day. I should like to think that when the decision is taken about the Derry march it will be based on military advice, because whatever happens the soldiers will have the most difficult part of the contract to fulfil. The decision should be taken on military advice, and with as few political considerations as possible.
Hon. Members opposite may feel that it would be an act of total irresponsibility to allow the march to go forward, but 1915 there are circumstances in which the cancellation of these marches can give rise to more trouble than allowing them to proceed. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) was not quite right in his history of last year's events. The march was called off, but assembly was permitted. After assembly had taken place in Derry a march was attempted, and at its conclusion tear gas was used, the troops were brought in, and the day ended with, perhaps, more difficulties than would have been the case had the march been permitted.
Other hon. Members have referred to crises arising in Northern Ireland through the violence of the minority. We know about that. I want to say a word about the other crisis, which arises more and more as a crisis of confidence among the majority—a crisis of confidence in themselves. I know that what I am about to say is not acceptable in all quarters of the House, but my view is that confidence is failing because the majority feel that they are not trusted to carry on their own affairs and to be responsible for their own security. They are not trusted on occasions like today week to act in a manner that is other than damaging.
I believe that the Derry boys could be persuaded to march in a responsible fashion if they were asked to co-operate and avoid provocation. That sort of act of confidence would have a better effect on the affairs on Northern Ireland that some hon. Members believe.
I hope that the decision will be based on military advice, and that it will be accepted that we ought not to regard it as an act of dereliction of responsibility if the march is allowed to proceed. This is a very evenly balanced decision.
§ Mr. Harold Wilson (Huyton) rose——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)
Before I call the right hon. Member the Leader of the Opposition I should point out that many hon. Members still wish to speak on various matters, and it will help if speeches are short.
§ The Lord President of the Council and the Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. William Whitelaw)
On a point of order. It may help the House if I say that in order to allow as many right hon. and hon. Members as possible to speak it 1916 is my intention to rise as late as I can before the deadline at five o'clock. I shall do my best to allow as many Members as possible to speak before I rise.
§ 3.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Wilson (Huyton)
I intend to be brief. It is unusual, but not unprecedented, for the Leader of the Opposition to intervene in debates on the Adjournment of the House. Indeed, in the recent period of office of the Labour Government the Leader of the Opposition occasionally spoke in these debates. I should not have done so had it not been for the real urgency that I felt—following my visit to Scotland yesterday—about an issue in respect of which I feel further assurances are required from the Government before the House rises this afternoon.
On both personal and constituency grounds I should be the last person to underrate the importance of the debate that has been taking place on Northern Ireland. I very much hope that Her Majesty's Ministers this August will not have to face the situation that we had to face two years ago, and that they will be able to have an uninterrupted rest during that period. Within the limited rules of order which must apply in Adjournment debates our position on Northern Ireland has been stated by my right hon. Friend, the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), who carried with such distinction and coolness the position of Home Secretary at a most difficult and critical time, when we were not merely following a policy—as the present Government have been doing, in following a policy largely laid down by ourselves—but were having to create a policy at a time of great risk and uncertainty as to how this affair would turn out.
If, for a moment, I turn away from the Apprentice Boys of Derry—including the wholly unqualified apprentice who has addressed the House this afternoon—to the apprentice boys of the Clyde and other threatened areas, I know that the House will not misunderstand. Yesterday I saw the urgency of this problem in a way that is very difficult to appreciate through debates in this House, and still more through the debates that must have taken place in the Cabinet Room.
This subject was debated in the House on Monday, and I do not intend to go 1917 over all the arguments. There was a vote, and 280 hon. Members opposite voted in support of the proposition put before the House by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. But I feel that it would be wrong for the House now to go off for so long as is proposed in the Motion without clear assurances from the Government about their future course of action in this matter.
It will be generally agreed—I am trying to be as uncontroversial as I can—that the visit of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to Glasgow on Tuesday was not an unqualified success. Nobody who attended his meeting, from any point of view—as a member of the Scottish T.U.C., a shop steward, a member of the chamber of commerce, a member of the C.B.I, or any other grouping, including civic heads—could have felt for a moment that that exercise of the right hon. Gentleman, undertaken far too late—it should have been undertaken before a decision was arrived at—was a success, from the point of view of helping to find a solution to the problem or even as a public relations exercise.
But one thing that the right hon. Gentleman said in Glasgow I took at face value, as I think the House is entitled to take it. I have read the newspaper reports. They record him as having said that he was ready to think again—that therefore, presumably, the Government and the Prime Minister are ready to think again on this question—that he was ready to study alternatives. These were the impressions which he left behind him in Glasgow and which where reported, with singular unanimity, in the Press of every political shade and opinion.
Of course, he has had proposals put before him which it is right that the House should expect him now to be considering. I should like assurances about this before the House rises. There was one proposal, an ingenious one, which was published in the Press, from a representative of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce—Mr. McMichael, who was expressing a personal view and not speaking officially for the Chamber of Commerce. He was also a member of the original working party set up by Mr. Hepper, which led to the establishment of Upper Clyde Shipuilders.
This proposal—I will not weary the House with all the details—is not one that I would support, because, in so far as 1918 he proposes that the Government should take over responsibility for the yards for five years in order to facilitate a rundown at the rate of 500 workers every six months, that is not a proposal that we could support, because we take a different view about the viability of these yards.
But on the other hand is the idea—itself a variant of a proposal made some weeks ago by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn)—that the Government should take over the financial responsibility and advance the necessary finance for a long enough period. It might be five years or some other period: let us not argue about what the period should be, because we take the view, of which I am more than ever convinced after yesterday and my detailed discussions with management and the T.U.C. and the rest, that this is a viable institution—made less viable, perhaps, by certain artificial restrictions imposed by the Government last winter on the placing of orders, but it is a viable institution.
Its problem is one of acute cash flow, of cash to deal with the situation in which there was a tremendous transformation of the yards, where through the degree of co-operation by the unions and their members in working and making a success of reorganisation such as has never been seen on the Clyde or in these yards in the past, the prospect is held out of viability; it would be a crime to strike it down, to disintegrate it, without giving it a chance. One might be wrong: at the end of the day, one might find that it could not become viable, but all the evidence that I heard yesterday suggests that it is likely to be viable and that it is being squeezed, it is being strangled, because of the financial grip rather than because of any regard to the efficiency of the yards.
That is one proposal, a variant of the McMichael proposal—that, for a period of five years or any period that we might agree, the Government should provide finance to help these processes of reorganisation and workers' participation, which are welcomed by the management, and see what results can be produced.
The second proposal is to even out the cyclical variations, great as they are, in ordering. Now that these yards are pioneering new standards of vessels, like the Clyde, the projected super-Clyde, and the 1919 bulk carriers on a specialised basis—they should turn them out one after another all over the world. The Government should even out the flow of orders by means of pre-production orders: perhaps six of the Clyde, six of the super-Clyde and six of the bulk-carriers.
There are precedents. We ourselves, as a Government, helped to even out the violent fluctuations in orders for machine tools by placing pre-production orders. All Governments have done it by producing advance factories, which are a form of pre-production order, instead of waiting for the detailed specifications. And of course we did it in respect of computers. It is interesting that, the very day after the Government's decision on Upper Clyde, they announced further pre-production orders in respect of computers.
Before the House rises, therefore, I should like an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and the Government wil consider those proposals—those which were put before him in Glasgow on Tuesday and those which I put yesterday, being to some extent a variant from them, and that the Government should consider these proposals with an open mind. I assure him that there will be no criticism of the Secretary of State or of the Government if the Government do change course on this, even thought it has been submitted to the House on a major vote of importance and carried by the House.
The Secretary of State—I understand why he cannot be here today—must have returned from the Glasgow visit pretty shattered by his experience. But however that may be, I take him at his word, what he is reported as saying about being willing to think again and to consider alternatives.
I have one other suggestion. If I refer to the Prime Minister, despite our little misunderstanding last night, which I think was totally sincere and genuine—he clearly felt that he was not paired and I was clearly informed that I was: indeed, I was here in the House when many of the Divisions took place; but let us sweep all these little accidents of parliamentary activity on one side—I do not suggest that he should now leave everything and go up to the Clyde to see 1920 things for himself. He, like all other hon. Members, is entitled to a holiday. That is what this Motion is about. If it is carried, we shall perhaps get one.
The Leader of the House is entitled to a holiday as well: I think he has earned it, despite occasional vagaries, mainly in defending colleagues he knew to be indefensible. Of course the Prime Minister has earned it and I hope that he will have a happy holiday and a successful one. So in referring to him in this context, I am not suggesting any immediate action on his part.
But the Prime Minister is going to visit Scotland, I think early next month, to make public speeches—about the Common Market or whatever it may be. When he is there, I would suggest that he should make it his business to see all those who can help him in taking the right decision, whatever that may be, on Upper Clyde—management, unions, shop stewards, civic heads, representing all parties in Glasgow and Clydebank. I hope that he will listen to them and then form his own view of what the right policy should be.
My main reason for intervening today is to suggest that, if he does that, or if the Secretary of State will go back and listen to the evidence more carefully than he could do in his rather rushed and difficult visit on Tuesday, an assurance should be given to the House that no action will be taken in this matter in furtherance of the closure programme announced in the White Paper and approved by the House on Monday until the Prime Minister and others have seen the problem on the ground.
I was in no doubt last week that this was the wrong decision. I am much more convinced now, because when one sees it on the ground and gets the facts and the statistics and the financial position, the arguments are much strengthened. One sees these proposals in the three dimensions of reality, rather than the two dimensions of a Cabinet document.
If the Prime Minister himself will go and look at these problems and talk to these people with a genuine open mind, as I am sure he will, next month, he will get a very different impression from that which he may have got from reading—this is perhaps inevitable in Cabinet Government—rather hurriedly, against other 1921 pressures, documents which have been produced in the recesses of Whitehall. They bear only a partial relationship to the real facts to be found on the ground, or, in this case, by the riverside.
I do not have to say that my hon. Friends, and equally Scottish hon. Gentlemen opposite, appreciate that this problem is occurring against a background of almost daily redundancies. There are now probably the worst prospects for school-leavers, not just on Clydeside but throughout the country, as this morning's Question Time made clear, since the war.
Both yesterday and today I was visited by representatives of former employees of a Government factory which the Labour Government converted to a private enterprise factory. Now, after vast expediture of taxpayers' money, it is being closed down and the work transferred to the Home Counties. This is a serious case and my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Ian Campbell) who raised this matter at Question Time, has every right to be concerned about it.
I ask for an assurance that, despite Monday's debate and the vote which took place, no action will be taken until at any rate the Prime Minister has had a chance to consider what he can do, so that on his visit in September he will be able to look at the matter again with an open mind.
§ 3.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Bernard Braine (Essex, South-East)
I, too, rise to oppose the Motion and if I do so on a subject which is different from those which have been discussed so far, I assure the House that I do not underrate their importance. Indeed, there cannot be an hon. Member who is not filled with anxiety and foreboding about the Irish question.
However, another situation has arisen which is of great importance both to this country and to the world community and is also of the utmost gravity. In my view it would be utterly wrong for this House to go into the long recess without assurances concerning what the international community and Her Majesty's Government are doing about the tragic situation in Bengal and the even more terrifying prospects that lie ahead.
There now seems little doubt that, in addition to the present miseries of the Bengali people, a major famine will strike by the autumn and possibly before we 1922 return from the Summer Recess. Anxiety about the scale and speed of relief has been repeatedly expressed by hon. Members on both sides, it has found expression in the Press and it is acutely felt throughout the country.
This feeling was summed up by U Thant when he told the United Nations Economic and Social Council at its meeting last month that recent disasters had revealed a growing sense of frustration on the part of people who were anxious to help but who were only too conscious that the response is falling far short of the needs.
By all means let us give credit where it is due. Our own Government have taken a lead in calling for better coordination of international relief in times of disaster. They have made specific proposals.
U Thant has proposed the setting up of a permanent organisation within the United Nations system to cope with disasters and to co-ordinate the efforts of voluntary agencies and Governments. I understand that his proposal is likely to be endorsed by the General Assembly in October, and effective machinery should be established by the end of the year. This, too, is excellent.
What will happen in the meantime, however, in the period before this House reassembles? As we debate this Motion the refugee situation in India, a friendly Commonwealth country closely linked to Britain over a long period, has reached terrible proportions. There are now about 7 millon refugees from East Pakistan over the Indian border. It is a conservative estimate to say that about 30,000 to 40,000 people are still crossing over daily. If the present trend continues while the House is in recess, it is not unlikely that the number of refugees will reach 10 million by the time we return.
As are many other hon. Members, I am in close touch with some of the international voluntary agencies. Oxfam field workers have reported that thousands of children are dying of malnutrition in the refugee camps. Of what use was it, one might ask in despair, to save the lives of these children from death by cholera if they are to be condemned to die by starvation? Then, there is the situation in East Pakistan itself, where the tragic happenings of the past year have dislocated normal life, 1923 disrupted communications, ruined agriculture and left over 70 million human beings on the very edge of catastrophe.
I am aware, of course, that the United Nations has taken certain actions to determine the relief needs of East Pakistan, that U Thant made a powerful appeal for international humanitarian assistance and that a communications link between him, his representative on the spot in Dacca, and the voluntary agencies in Geneva has been established. I am aware also that arrangements are being made by the Food and Agriculture Organisation to ship food supplies, some of which may now be arriving, and that a number of Governments, including our own, have offered cash or its equivalent in food, equipment, medical aid, and transport.
Will this be in time? Will it be enough? I ask these questions for four reasons. First, there is mounting evidence that Pakistan and India are drifting towards open conflict—a situation which would ruin both countries and add immeasurably to the misery of the inhabitants of Bengal. Secondly, it is utterly unrealistic to expect that the refugees will return to East Pakistan unless there is a political settlement that restores their confidence. Yet, if they stay in India, that country, through no fault of its own, will have to shoulder a burden which is manifestly too vast for it to carry. Thirdly, in any event, unless there is a political settlement which produces a framework of order in East Pakistan, it will be difficult if not impossible to distribute international aid to the people there if a famine situation arises.
Fourthly, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has reported that so far only 90 million dollars of financial aid has been made available to India to help cope with the refugee problem out of an estimated need of 400,000,000 dollars. Thus, only about one-quarter of what is required seems to far to have been pledged. In the case of food supplies, 160,000 tons of rice is available to meet an estimated need of 500,000 tons.
Against this background, I submit that we should not accept the Motion unless and until the Government are able to give us at least two assurances. The first is that they are doing all they can behind the 1924 scenes to persuade the friends of India and Pakistan in Washington, in Moscow, and perhaps even in Peking, to use their influence to get a dialogue going between the Government of Pakistan and some representative body in East Pakistan. I say this because we are in grave danger of viewing the situation as being a purely India-Pakistan confrontation, a sort of modern edition of the old Hindu-Moslem conflict, whereas we are dealing with a civil war inside Pakistan. Indeed, the key to the whole situation lies in the creation of conditions in East Pakistan which will enable the refugees to go back to their own homes. It also seems to me that the friends of India and Pakistan—two of the most important populous countries in the world—should prevail upon the two governments to enter into some sort of discussion over these matters.
The second assurance which I seek from my right hon. Friend concerns the fact that refugees are dying now in their thousands and many more will die in the weeks ahead. Are the Government satisfied that the international contingency planning is adequate to cope both with the present situation and with the onset of a fresh disaster in Bengal should that overtake us before the autumn? I ask for that assurance because all the evidence which we have at the moment indicates that the contingency planning so far is inadequate and that we are moving remorselessly towards a disaster of the first magnitude.
If the Government are not satisfied on that point we are surely entitled to know what independent initiatives they themselves are taking. There is little time left, but I hope that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will be able to give us assurance that the Government not merely care about this situation but are continuing to take the initiative and provide the leadership it requires.
§ 3.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Reg. Prentice (East Ham, North)
I begin by putting to the Leader of the House a procedural point, which I shall not develop because of the time. The fact that we are falling over one another in an effort to try to raise large and complex matters in the short time remaining to us shows that the House really needs a fresh kind of procedure, a sort of end-of-term debate, perhaps lasting a few 1925 days, before the Summer Recess during which right hon. and hon. Members may question Ministers on matters of continuing anxiety in the period of recess ahead. I shall not enlarge on that now, but I think that the point is well illustrated by our proceedings today.
I hope that what I say will complement many of the observations of the hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine). In my view, we have not sufficiently debated the situation in Bengal. We ought to have had, before the recess, a full-scale debate on the subject, and, certainly, I do not consider that we should pass the Motion without asking certain questions of the Government and receiving certain assurances about the weeks ahead.
A few weeks ago, I was a member of a parliamentary mission, with three other hon. Members, which had, I suppose, the unique opportunity of visiting West Pakistan, East Bengal and India and seeing this appalling tragedy from each of those angles. Plainly, it is one of the greatest human tragedies of this century. The point which I emphasise is that everything in this situation seems to show that in the coming weeks and months it will become worse.
The guerrilla activity in East Bengal is being intensified, as one would expect from the basic political facts of the situation. There are many reports in the Press in the past few days—the report from Clare Hollingworth in today's Daily Telegraph is an example—showing the growing activity and the growing success of the guerrillas, who can train in border areas, who are drawing their recruits from among the refugees, and who have the bulk of the population on their side. I suggest to the House that they will win in the end. The only question is how many deaths and how much suffering will take place before that happens.
Meanwhile, it seems to be, as a corollary of that, the oppressive measures of the West Pakistan Army will become worse in the period ahead. It is an army outnumbered by about 1,000 to one, in a hostile territory, with lines of communication running 3,000 miles round the South of India, unable to maintain itself and unable to survive, let alone subdue the country, without an escalating policy of terror.
1926 The total of refugees, now over 7 million, is growing all the time. Many thousands are coming across every day. In many ways, as the hon. Member for Essex, South-East reminded us, their condition is becoming more and more desperate. Yesterday there was a report from U.N.I.C.E.F. suggesting that in the coming weeks 300,000 children were in imminent danger of death from malnutrition and associated causes. The sheer size and scale of this is impossible to envisage simply by talking of facts and figures. Having seen a tiny fraction of it at first hand I can say that I have never had such a terrible experience and I hope never again to have anything comparable. At the same time, there is an ever-growing burden upon India. Most of us who have visited the camps and hospitals in India find it difficult to express too highly our praise for the local officials, doctors and others who are working round the clock to keep these people alive.
They are doing a job on behalf of the rest of the human race which is beyond praise but they are doing it at enormous costs. Over 5 million of these refugees are in West Bengal, one of the poorest and most over-crowded parts of the world. The whole area is packed with people, not merely in the camps but in the villages. There are refugees living in the schools so that the children cannot go to school, there are refugees in the offices so that normal office activities cannot continue. Local officials must overcome this problem so that local activity can go ahead. There is a price being paid in India way above the cost of keeping these people alive, a price impossible to compute and one which may increase in the period ahead when all kinds of political trouble, racial and religious tension may arise.
Superimposed on all of this is the threat to peace, the fact that this situation could deteriorate into war between the two countries. The way in which I relate this to the Adjournment Motion is that many people in the sub-continent are looking to Britain for a clearer lead. I said to many people that they must not expect too much of us, that they must recognise that no outside country could solve this problem. Nevertheless, the world has to do more about it and we ought to be playing a more positive rôle than we are. I seek assurances from the Lord President. First I should like to ask 1927 him about the kind of political work going on so that we do what we can to help bring about a peaceful political situation acceptable to the people of East Bengal.
I ask for assurances under four headings. First of all, many of us want from the Government an assurance that they do not contemplate any change in their announced policy of not making any fresh pledges of economic aid to West Pakistan with effect from the beginning of the Pakistan financial year which was 1st July. In 99 cases out of 100 I would be the first to resist the suggestion that the flow of economic aid should be turned on and off for reasons of political pressure. I say that this is the 100th case. In talking of economic aid I am not talking about relief either in East Pakistan or in India.
The main aid programme for West Pakistan is running down because of the decision of the aid consortium of which we are a member. I believe that is absolutely right, and I seek an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that there will be no reversal of the policy until there is a peaceful political solution, until there are as a result conditions in which development can take place in East Bengal, whether it is still part of Pakistan or an independent country. This is certainly not the case at present.
Many of us hope that the British Government are putting all the pressure they can upon the United States Government to cease sending arms to the Pakistan régime. It is an extraordinary situation which would have an element of comedy in it if it were not so tragic that the armies of Yahya Khan are using weapons and equipment which come, in the main, from China and the United States. A message should go out from this House in support of the Senators and Congressmen in Washington who have asked for a change in American policy.
Thirdly, I hope that the Government will try to seek, with other countries, ways of getting this matter raised in the United Nations in the hope that some kind of world strategy will emerge. I know that this is difficult. It is difficult for the United Nations to operate in a situation when neither of the two countries immediately concerned wants the matter to be raised in the United Nations. But this 1928 is a threat to peace which could have the most appalling consequences for mankind. It is extraordinary that the United Nations has not been able to discuss the matter and to try to find a solution.
Fourthly, I refer to what the Foreign Secretary referred to on Monday at Question Time as the quiet talks he is having behind the scenes. I ask that these be continued, particularly in relation to the situation of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. I hope that we shall make inquiries about his safety, which is in grave doubt. I hope that we shall urge his release and will continue to impress on the Government of West Pakistan that the only way in which this problem can be solved is to make an arrangement which is acceptable to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the Awami League, which won an overwhelming victory in the elections a few months ago.
I turn to the relief situation, which I put under two headings. First, the hon. Member for Essex, South-East talked about the developing food crisis in East Bengal, which seems to me to have two elements in it. One is that the aman crop, the main rice crop of the year which is due to be harvested in the next month or two, clearly will be under par because of the disruption of the sowing and transplanting of the crop. Therefore, there will be an overall grain shortage. Secondly, the transport crisis, which will get worse because of guerrilla activity, will disrupt supplies.
The British Government and others have pledged large sums of money for a relief operation based on the condition that relief is fairly and equitably distributed and not simply used by the Army as a weapon with which it can reward docile villages and punish fractious villages. Observers must be present in sufficient numbers to ensure that that is done fairly and properly. Mr. El-Tawil is in Dacca as the representative of the United Nations trying to negotiate the arrangements. In view of all the criticism of the United Nations, is is worth putting on record that the United Nations is in the field in advance of the crisis, trying to make plans with local people for dealing with it. This deserves every encouragement from us. Has the Leader of the House anything to add to what we know? Can he give any assurances about how the Government will deal in the recess with this developing situation?
1929 Finally, I wish to comment on the enormous problem of relief for India. Can the Leader of the House add to the reply given to me on Monday by the Minister for Overseas Development which was in written form because the Question was not reached orally. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the fact that we had offered £2 million to the High Commissioner for Refugees and £5 million bilaterally to India. He said that of the £5 million£2.8 million of this offer is committed to the purchase and shipment of rice and shelter materials, and £1.75 million is set aside for an emergency airlift of rice and for transport vehicles Some of the promised funds are therefore still available ".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd August, 1971; Vol. 822, c. 208.]Not much of the promised funds is still available. The figures which I have given amount to over £4½ million. Therefore, the greater part of the £5 million is already committed to specific programmes. Clearly Britain and every other country should be making new pledges to India.
As the hon. Gentleman said, the Indians have calculated that the cost of keeping refugees alive for six months from the end of March to the end of September is about 400 million dollars. They made that calculation when there were fewer refugees than there are now, and, therefore, the up-to-date figure is probably greater than that. I think the hon. Gentleman did not quote the total figure of pledges; he gave the figure pledged by the United Nations; but if one adds together all the pledges, of the United Nations, of the tremendous efforts of private organisations in this country and in other countries, as well as of the efforts of Governments, the figure I get, which is now a week or two old and may be a little out of date, is that the total global pledge is about 177 million dollars. That is still less than half India's calculation of what is needed for a six months' operation. And this is not a six months' operation. This is going on, so far as one at present can see, for much longer.
Therefore there seems urgent need for fresh pledges to be made, and, I repeat, not just by Britain but from all over the world. I simply ask the right hon. Gentleman if this is contemplated, and, if not, that he will consult his colleagues 1930 and with a sense of urgency, for India needs help in this situation, firstly, for the obvious humanitarian reasons, and secondly, for this reason, that voices are raised in India in favour of a military solution, and one reason why those voices are being raised is that without aid the burden upon the Indian economy will become intolerable and become unmanageable. I think it wrong, but it can be argued, in the circumstances, that a military solution would be the right one for India, and if the world wants to prevent war there the world has to shoulder a larger share of the burden, and in these circumstances I think the British Government should now be prepared to assist further. I make no criticism of what has been pledged in relation to its proportion of the gross domestic product, but they were pledges for a limited duration, and this situation requires aid in circumstances of longer duration, because this is a unique disaster and one to which the world must respond adequately.
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ Mr. John Wilkinson (Bradford, West)
I am particularly glad that this exceptionally crucial subject should have been brought up at this time by my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) who has such expertise in these matters. I, too, share his deep concern, and I seek some assurance from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House before we rise this afternoon.
The magnitude of the humanitarian problem has probably only to be seen to be fully comprehended, and in so far as that is so I shall not particularly enlarge upon it. All I would say is that so far this country has shouldered a bigger share of the burden of humanitarian relief than any other, and our Government deserves credit for that, but I do not believe that we can be anywhere near satisfied yet, particularly when the problem is one of long-term food shortage or famine. The problem has been likened to the very serious famine which there was in 1942 in part of Bengal which was subsequently partitioned and I support the concern which was expressed by my hon. Friend on that matter. I would, just briefly, go further, because this is a matter which, as so many hon. and right hon. Members 1931 have emphasised, could affect world peace.
In the post-imperial era I am not fully convinced, if the House is to act responsibly and wisely to calm passions and to prevent age-old animosities being exacerbated to the point of war, that it befits the House to pronounce upon the internal affairs of independent countries, particularly Commonwealth countries with which we are friendly. I believe that our best interest is served by being truly objective, because our historic, unique position in Southern Asia fits us perhaps better than any other Power for mediation in this area.
The right hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) in saying that this was perhaps the greatest human tragedy in this century went further and commented upon the military situation in East Pakistan. While I understand the bearing this has on the humanitarian situation, I ask him and his hon. Friends to be exceptionally careful. There have been Motions on the Order Paper of this House which make it no easier for us to act as conciliator and mediator, which is what we hope this country may do. One such Motion signed by 211 right hon. and hon. Members opposite concerning the situation in East Pakistan not only appeared on the Order Paper but was spread across whole pages of newspapers in the form of an advertisement.
I ask the House to remember that these age-old animosities are not confined to the sub-continent; they are also not without ramification within these Islands. It ill becomes us to use our privileged position in this House to inflame passions and to set people marching, with ultimate results that can lead to violence, as was shown at the culmination of a demonstration in London last weekend. I urge the House to be exceedingly careful in that regard.
I always listen with special attentive-ness to the right hon. Member for East Ham, North, because I know his great expertise and the high regard in which he is held in the House. None the less, when, in a situation of such extremity, he calls for the cessation of aid to a nation—and I speak of a nation and not of a secessionist movement that might lead to anything else—which is faced with 1932 virtually total dislocation of its economy, with all the serious implications that this must have for millions of people, many of whom live in a destitution unknown and uncomprehended by hon. Members, he should remember that it is a serious matter to stop aid, whatever the actions of that country's Government. This may have appalling effects upon the population of the country.
The right hon. Gentleman also talked about the United Nations. I am glad that the Government of Pakistan have accepted the presence of 60 observers from the United Nations to facilitate the movement of refugees back from India to Pakistan. It would be much preferable if the Indian Government would accept, if only as a token, observers on her soil in West Bengal. If this were the case, I feel that some of the understandably predominant fears about infiltration from India into Pakistan by hostile elements could be assuaged. Those are not just fears. In many cases they are substantiated by evidence on the spot. This has gravely exacerbated the problems and I should like my right hon. Friend to comment on this matter.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the leader of the Awami League, who is now in custody in East Pakistan. I should like to draw the attention of the House to the Early Day Motion on this matter. I do not believe that this House or the country would welcome it if this House, if the Lok Sabha, had tabled a resolution suggesting that certain Members who were themselves in custody—let us say, the hon. Members for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. McManus) and for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin)—should be released. We should be exceedingly careful in these matters because they may have the reverse effect to what right hon. and hon. Members opposite desire. It is an extremely delicate situation and is escalating fast.
I ask my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to give assurances on this matter. It is very like 1965 when there were the incidents on the border between Pakistan and India at Dhagram. That military incident precipitated the escalation towards conflict in the West. The situation is not a dissimilar pattern from that which might emerge at present. There has been too much provocative material in the Press which can only do harm.
1933 I ask the House to pour oil on these troubled waters and I ask the Press in its turn to do the same because much of this material can do incalculable damage. I should like to quote a short extract from one or two pieces of Press comment which have done so much damage. Mr. Murray Sayle in last week's Sunday Times refers to the Pakistan special forces as "an American réchauffée of John Wayne in Curry Sauce". He goes on to allege that they were responsible for beginning the India-Pakistan conflict. That sort of statement is simplistic, false and utterly harmful. He goes on to attack the United States Special Forces and Pakistan's alignment with the Western bloc. That sort of incitement arouses ill feeling and can do only harm.
I ask my right hon. Friend to say with what degree the Government regard this matter. I want to know whether they would be prepared if necessary to recall the House if matters came to a head in the course of the summer.
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Raphael Tuck (Watford)
I submit that this House should not adjourn until it has had a debate or definite statement from the Home Secretary on a subject which for some time has stuck out like a sore toe, namely, the salaries of probation officers.
The probation service has been taken for granted by the public as a whole, yet too great praise cannot be given to probation officers' experiences, knowledge, professional competence, fairness and objectivity as well as the great and increasing load of work they bear all the time. Recognition should be given to the fact that they form an essential part of the court's system. We often talk with pride about the quality of British justice, and the probation service contributes in no small way to the high regard in which our courts are held. In my view the standards that we have set will not be maintained or improved unless we can continue to attract to the service men and women of intelligence and integrity in competition with other developing social services.
That is not happening. Although the Government have said that the after-care service and the probation service are to 1934 be expanded, anyone looking at the figures will find that the losses to the probation service in 1968 were 181, that in 1969 they were 217, and that in 1970 they were 250. Far from expanding, the service cannot even meet its present commitments.
The facts are that case loads have risen nationally by 20 per cent. over the five-year period ending December, 1968, and that, over the two years ending December, 1970, there has been a further rise in case loads of 9.5 per cent. and court inquiries of all kinds have risen by a total of 44 per cent. Working time spent on social inquiry reports varies between six and 15 hours. Divorce work is generally much longer.
In Hertfordshire, where my constituency is, the use of volunteers has increased considerably. Their numbers have nearly doubled in the last two years. But they require supervision. Often they make extra demands on officers' time. In addition, probation orders, supervision orders and statutory after care are all increasing, some more noticeably than others.
Despite the ever-increasing load which we place on the shoulders of probation officers, the starting basic salary for the probation service is £975, whereas the starting salary in our social welfare departments is about £1,515. Probation service salaries are fixed largely on a national scale, while the salaries of welfare officers are negotiated locally.
If one compares the basic scales, the probation service salaries are so low that the result to be expected, which is happening, is a drift to other welfare departments and social welfare agencies from the probation service and the strong probability of the probation service being hit by resignations.
I am sure that the House will appreciate that the functions of the probation service are expected to expand to deal with more and more young offenders and to alleviate the serious overcrowding in our prisons. We must do something about this in order to reverse the losses of personnel to other services, to raise the standard of entrants and thereby to improve the service's strength and effectiveness. I ask the Minister to make a statement very soon. This House should not adjourn until that statement is made 1935 or until we have had an opportunity to discuss this very serious question which affects us and will affect us even more in the years to come.
There is one other point on which I do not intend to dwell but which I must mention. I believe that this House should not adjourn until we have had either a debate or a reassuring statement from the Minister concerned about the Government's rather doubtful practice, to put it at its very lowest, of using public money for propaganda purposes in their advocacy of entry into the Common Market, but I expect that others of my hon. Friends will deal with this subject during this debate.
§ 4.4 p.m.
§ Mrs. Judith Hart (Lanark)
I wish to intervene for only three or four minutes and, if I may, I shall return to the subject of East Bengal, beginning with a reference to the speech that we have just heard from the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson). I trust that the Lord President will regard the views which have been expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) as much more representing the views of this House in general than do the views expressed by the hon. Member for Bradford, West. Beyond making that comment, I shall not go into what he said in detail.
The most dangerous thing of all—I am quite certain that the Foreign Secretary and the Government in general will wish to avoid doing this—would be to regard the present tragedy of the refugees in India and within East Bengal as in any way involving some kind of conflict between India and Pakistan. Indeed, I recognise that one of India's great difficulties in this matter is her reluctance to have United Nations involvement because she fears that this is how such involvement might be interpreted.
I endorse everything said by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North, but I wish to add one other point. It represents, so to speak, a fifth point on which the House should have some reasssurance from the Lord President. The right hon. Gentleman knows that, in addition to the relief to India and to the U Thant Fund for 1936 the refugees, the Government have made money available for the voluntary agencies in Britain to exercise their rôle in helping in any way that they can in this tragic situation. Indeed, confronted by all the international problems of this great crisis, we are glad that our own voluntary organisations are doing such a magnificent job in India.
But I understand that the £250,000 which was made available by the Government some months ago has now been spent. I also understand that there is a possibility that some of our voluntary agencies may no longer be able to carry out their work unless further funds are made available by the Government at once. It may be that this is due to some process of bureaucratic delay which is taking place in the Commonwealth and Foreign Office. It may be—indeed, I am sure that this is so—that there is no intention on the part of the Government to deprive the voluntary agencies of any funds which will enable them to make their maximum contribution in West Bengal.
I ask the Lord President to assure the House before we rise today that, in addition to the points mentioned by my right hon. Friend, he will urgently look into the question and will ensure that the Government's intention, that the voluntary agencies should be able to make the maximum possible contribution within the limits of their manpower resources and of the situation in India, is not frustrated by any delay in providing more financial assistance. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will wish to give that assurance and that, having looked into the matter—I appreciate that he cannot look into it today—he will want to make public the fact that the Government will not in any way restrain the amount of financial assistance which will enable a good job to be done.
I hope that before the right hon. Gentleman replies to the debate my hon. Friends will make it clear that there is a united view in this House about the urgency of dealing with the situation and about the desire of hon. Members that Britain should play her maximum rôle in maintaining the peace and helping the people who are suffering from the tragedy which has resulted in India and West Bengal.
§ 4.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)
I should like to thank you, Mr. Speaker, for giving me an opportunity to speak in the debate. Strange as it may seem to some hon. Members, whilst I often take part at Question time, I do not often take part in debates.
I gave notice some days ago that I hoped to catch Mr. Speaker's eye, and I took the opportunity of informing the Leader of the House that there were a number of points I wished to raise. Of necessity, I must be brief. But I wish to raise the matter mentioned in passing by my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Raphael Tuck) about the scandal and, indeed, the racket which is going on at the behest and on the initiative of the Government regarding their E.E.C. policy in their use of taxpayers' money, without the approval of the House, to propagate party political propaganda.
Not only are we faced with the use of State funds and taxpayers' money to propagate Tory propaganda, but the Government are deliberately concealing from the House facts and figures which are available to them. They are concealing information which should be made available, and they are spending large sums of money in sending out false information to the country.
We have been told by the Prime Minister that we shall not go into the Common Market unless the overwhelming majority of people in the country are in favour of doing so, but he has dodged giving them the opportunity of expressing their views. I want to give the House some facts and figures that are available on this issue, and then to touch on a constitutional matter which is related to this whole question.
The hon. and learned Member for Buckingham, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) asked a very interesting Question, which has not been taken up by the Press. In a Written Question on 26th July, at column 32, the hon. and learned Gentleman asked the Leader of the House how many of these propaganda sheets had been issued to the major political parties, and what the cost was, A fantastic and astounding reply was given by the Leader of the House. He said that 837,910 copies of the so-called Factsheets were sent to the Conservative Party at a cost 1938 of £25,137. This has been at a time when the Government are cutting down on school meals, school milk and the social services. They cannot find money for essential purposes, but here we see them issuing copies of propaganda leaflets to the Conservative Party, which does not have the support of the country or of the House on this issue. Neither the White Paper nor the Factsheets have been agreed to or passed by this House, and yet this is happening.
In case anybody wants to consider how fair and democratic the Government are, let me make it clear that although they have sent nearly one million copies of this document to the Tory Party, they have sent only 5,000 to the Labour Party, at a cost of £152, while the Liberals—who are never here—have received about 3,000 copies, at a cost of £95. There have been a number of Motions calling the attention of the House to the need for justice not only to be done, but to be seen to be done. To give 800,000 copies to the Tory Party, as a cost of £25,000, but only 3,000 copies, at a cost of £95, to the Liberal Party does not seem to be in accordance with our normal democratic procedure.
But worse than that is the Government's attempt to bamboozle the public by using the services of the Post Office. We are told that about £1 million is being spent on this effort. This is a dangerous precedent, because the Leader of the House must be forewarned that when the Labour Party gets back into office, as it will at the next General Election, it will be able to prepare a lot of pro-nationalisation literature and have it circulated by the Post Office.
I was pleased to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer)—who sometimes participates in debates in the House!—saying only-yesterday that when we got back to power we would introduce legislation to do away with the Industrial Relations Act. I hope that our Front Bench will go one step further, and not only do away with that Measure but introduce a White Paper—which will not be debated in the House—and then have Factsheets drawn up and issued to the Post Office with the request that they be circulated at taxpayer's expense. I hope that all documents relating to Labour Party policies and programmes will be circulated in that way 1939 as soon as they are formulated. The precedent has been set. I hope that our party will do just that.
There has been another waste of money. I asked a Question of the appropriate Minister about a film that was made to publicise these so-called Factsheets. That film cost £2,500 and was to be shown on television. Having made the firm, the Government negotiated with the I.T.A. and were told that the I.T.A. could not show the firm because it was a propaganda film, and that it was forbidden to show it under the terms of the Act. I would have thought that before the Government spent £2,500 making a film they would have ascertained whether it could be shown on television, as they intended.
There has been a deliberate attempt on the part of the Government to conceal facts, figures and information that is available. I must not say that they have given lying replies, because that would not be parliamentary language, but they have given replies knowing that they represented no attempt to answer the questions, although the information to answer them was readily available.
Yesterday I asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industryto what extent he estimates, on Great Britain's entry into the Economic Community—the price rises which will result therefrom will affect the £2 million to £3 million per annum of goods purchased by residents of the Six who come to Great Britain to purchase retail goods from British shops due to their cheapness in comparison with the cost of such items in the countries of the Six."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th August, 1971; Vol. 822, c. 313.]That was a simple Question. I had got the facts from the Department. There was no attempt to answer the Question. The answer was "No", which was not an answer, although an answer could easily have been given. The Government do not want to give the true facts to the people, even with the £1 million or thereabouts that they are spending on propaganda.
I know that in the House it is customary to say that if The Times says something it must be right. I have no time to go into the matter in detail, but if the Leader of the House will refer to The Times of 2nd August he will see an article under the signature of David Wood, headedCabinet Plans for Entry to the Market1940 The following day the Financial Times carried a similar article to the effect that the Government had already agreed and had plans already in being to guillotine all the procedural points with regard to our entry into the Common Market.
This is a very serious matter. Whatever may be our views for or against the Common Market—and I have declared from the start that I am very much against it—we all agree that it is a great constitutional issue. If we go in it will vitally affect Members of Parliament for the rest of their days, and for the rest of the time that Parliament is in existence. We know that when constitutional matters are raised they are taken on the Floor of the House. Last week we discussed the Industrial Relations Bill on the Floor of the House.
This is a case of inspired leaks, handouts, angling, trying it on, detailed lobby information from the Government. Matters will be so arranged that what is necessary will be introduced on Second Reading in the House and then the orders will go to a Select Committee——
§ Mr. Whitelaw
Will the hon. Gentleman allow some other hon. Members to speak in this debate if I categorically state that I have no knowledge of these plans? Presumably I would have knowledge if they existed, but I totally repudiate any suggestion of any plans. If I do that, perhaps he will allow other hon. Members to get into the debate.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will be fair to me; I think not deliberately, he is questioning my word. I am saying that there are no plans. I can make the categorical assurance that at this stage there are no such plans as those to which the hon. Gentleman is referring. If that is the case, surely he will allow others to come into the debate, because I am honestly telling him the truth.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
In order to try to help the progress of the debate, if I make it clear to the hon. Gentleman that I have no knowledge of the matters which I read in the newspaper—it is fair and reasonable to suggest that if they were true, they would be in my mind if they are in anyone's, and they are not in my mind—does that help him?
§ Mr. Lewis
Up to a point, yes. I am obliged. Would the right hon. Gentleman go one step further and give a definite assurance that the Government will make no attempt to restrict, by means of the guillotine or anything else, the usual custom of hon. Members having the same rights to discuss matters pertaining to entry of the E.E.C. as they have in other respects? If he can, I will sit down immediately.
But there are some 2,500 orders and directives which have been passed by the Council of Ministers and which this House, according to the Chancellor of the Duchy, would have to agree in toto. We cannot amend or reject. If he can assure me that we shall be able to do so, that will be contrary to the assurance of the Chancellor of the Duchy, who said in answer to a Question that we cannot even take any action which might be an attempt to frustrate the will of the Council of Ministers.
If he can assure me that hon. Members will have as much time for debate as they like, I shall be happy to accept that assurance. He will find it hard to do that because he would have to get the Chancellor of the Duchy to alter his answer, which he would find difficult to do because if we enter the E.E.C. we shall be committed to the Rome Treaty, which will mean our being bound automatically to implement that Treaty and all the directives contained in it. That is why I say that we shall be faced with a fait accompli.
On the eve of the General Election the present Prime Minister gave his solemn pledge that the people of Britain would have an opportunity to express their will about our entering the Common Market. Did he mean what he said? If so, and as he has rejected the idea of a referendum, he should accept the Official Opposition's suggestion and call a General Election.
1942 Let the Government beware of the fact—and it is a fact—that the T.U.C., which represents the majority of industrial workers, and the Labour Party, which represents 50 per cent. of the electorate, are against our entry into the E.E.C. on the present terms. It is not often that I agree with the right hon. Member for Wolverhampon, South-West (Mr. Powell), but he is right to say that if the Government intend to carry our entry through this House, there must be agreement between the two major parties, because the Liberals do not count.
If I am given that assurance, I will go away on my holidays happy in the knowledge that in the long days and nights to come when we may have to discuss the Treaty of Rome and its implications, we shall have an opportunity not only to debate but to alter and reject any of the directives in that Treaty that should not apply to this country.
§ Several Hon. Members rose——
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I think it will be reasonable for me to allow the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House to catch my eye shortly after 4.45 p.m. I hope that hon. Members who catch my eye between now and then will bear that in mind and will, therefore, be brief. Mr. Stonehouse.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ Mr. John Stonehouse (Wednesbury)
I am sure that he House will forgive me if I refer again to the subject of Bengal. I sought to raise this matter and to refer to the crime of genocide and the threat to peace when we debated the Consolidated Fund Bill, but the debate closed before my subject was reached.
I am glad that the matter has been raised today, because it would be intolerable if we were to go away for the long recess without referring to the worsening situation in Bengal and considering what we in Britain can do about it.
I entirely disagree with hon. Members who say that this is an internal affair for Pakistan and that we in Britain, and particularly we in this House, should take no interest in it. It is not an internal affair. The world community is concerned about the crime of genocide, the worst crime the world has known since 1943 the days of Hitler. We recall how concerned we were about Hitler's extermination of the Jews. What is going on in East Bengal today is every bit as evil, in kind and degree as that. We must raise protest against that.
The world community is concerned about evacuees. Seven million of them have had to flee for their lives and others are still fleeing—fleeing in a way which constitutes an invasion of India by Pakistan, because these people are being forced out and are proving to be an immense problem to India and an attempt to undermine the Indian economy by the Pakistan military rulers.
Furthermore, the world community is concerned about the threat of mass famine. The hon. Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Braine) referred to this matter. We recognise his humanitarian concern. What he said is true. Tens of millions of people in East Bengal face real danger of starvation within the next few months. If this is not a problem for the world community, I do not know what is. It is not an internal matter any more. Furthermore, there is this threat of outbreak of widespread war between India and Pakistan, which could bring in other Powers, in particular China, and could trigger off a major war in that part of the world. It is therefore not an internal affair and those who suggest that it is are completely misjudging the situation.
Much reference has been made to the effects of this disaster—the situation of the refugees, the fact that hundreds of thousands are going to die in the next few weeks and that there will be starvation. If I had had time, I should like to have referred to these effects. I shall, instead, refer to the causes. The causes are clearly understood, on both sides of the House, to be the military repression by the Pakistan Army of the democratic will of the people of East Bengal as expressed in the elections last December.
I do not accept the stories that there were atrocities against minorities before 25th March and that this was why the Army had to strike.
§ Mr. Wilkinson rose——
§ Mr. Stonehouse
There may have been examples of unrest, but it is not the case that the Awami League or anyone else in 1944 political leadership was inciting the communal riots which took place in one or two towns. What the Awami League and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in particular did was to try to prevent any communal unrest.
The Pakistan Army since 25th March has been engaged in one of the most brutal repressions of a population the world has ever see. I do not want to detain the House with too many quotations. I gave some when we debated the matter on 9th June. There was then a certain note of disagreement among some hon. Members opposite. Within a few days, The Sunday Times, in a very long report, had confirmed what I said—namely, that there was genocide in East Bengal. I want to read two extracts from Newsweek to confirm what has been going on and what is going on now. The first is:It seemed a routine enough request. Assembling the young men of the village of Haluaghat in East Pakistan, a Pakistani Army major informed them that his wounded soldiers urgently needed blood. Would they be donors? The young men lay down on makeshift cots, needles were inserted in their veins—and then slowly the blood was drained from their bodies until they died.The Second is:Govinda Chandramandl forgets who told him first, but when he heard that an amnesty had been pledged to all refugees, he immediately set off on the long walk home. With his two teenage daughters by his side, Chandramandl trudged through monsoon-drenched swamplands and passed burned-out villages. When he neared his scrap of land, soldiers stopped him. As he watch in helpless anguish, his daughters were raped—again and again and again.These are just two incidents from a whole welter of stories that continue to come out of that troubled country. These incidents are not incidents brought about as a result of uncontrolled communal violence. They are perpetrated by the Pakistan army. I suggest in all seriousness that, when events reach this point of disaster, and it is the calculated policy of a Government, through their army, to engage in such repression, it is necessary for the world community to act to bring it to an end, as the world community should have acted to bring Hitler's activities to an end before the last war broke out.
The United Nations should take heed, should activiate the Genocide Convention, 1945 and, if necessary use United Nations forces, with the agreement of the big Powers—obviously, they would have to agree—to take in some armed forces to bring this disaster to an early end. I suggest that that be done, and I only wish that the House of Commons had had more time to debate the subject.
If we are to avoid a continuing disaster, it is necessary for us to turn our attention to a particular aspect of the problem, namely, the position of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The House has already taken notice of a Motion on this matter, now signed by over 250 right hon. Members. It has had remarkable support from both sides. Why does the House of Commons take an interest in this man's plight?—because it recognises that, if there is to be a political agreement, it can be only with the democratically elected leaders in East Pakistan and with Sheikh Mujib, in particular. He is the key to this situation.
The sooner Yahya Khan and the others realise this, the sooner will it be possible to reach some sort of agreement on the position in East Bengal. I have no doubt what that agreement will be; it will be the emergence of the independent State of Bangla Desh, because that, obviously, will reflect the interests of the population there.
However, I do not want, and I am sure that the House does not want, to dictate to the people of East Bengal what the political solution should be. All I am saying is that, if this world problem is to be brought to an end and lives are to be saved in the refugee camps and in East Bengal itself, it is essential that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman should be released. It is not an internal problem. It is necessary for the world community, and for our Government in particular, to bring all possible pressure on Yahya Khan to find a way out of the terrible situation he has allowed himself to get into and to allow Sheikh Mujib to be released and negotiations to proceed to put an end to this disaster.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)
I, also, consider that it would be wrong for us to adjourn without a meaningful statement from the Government on the two dangers of starvation and war in 1946 East Pakistan. I agree strongly with the speeches made this afternoon, particularly those of my right hon. Friends the Members for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) and for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse).
The misery is occurring thousands of miles away, and to people with coloured skins, but it is just as great a misery as if it were nearer home and occurring to people of white skins. It hurts a Pakistani mother to see her child die in her arms just as much as it would hurt an English mother. This issue deserves far greater attention than some of the other issues which have taken more of the time of the House and greater space in the newspapers.
Like my hon. Friends, I utterly condemn the West Pakistan Government's actions. Seven million people, men, women and children, do not flee without reason. When we go to see the High Commissioner, he says, "Well, they panicked". Of course they panicked. They panicked for good reason. The removal of the West Pakistan Army from East Pakistan is the essential factor necessary to end suffering.
I want to say something now about the Indian Government. Most of us are lost in admiration over what it has done to succour the wounded and the hungry despite the colossal problems it faces, particularly in this area. But there is a growing clamour inside India, unfortunately, for military action. At first it was a few extremists but my right hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) tells me that when he was there this view was shared by a large number of Parliamentarians.
In yesterday's Guardian, a man of peace, its former cartoonist Abu, writing from India, said things which shocked me. He said:Until recently I had believed that India should try and come to terms with Pakistan, though its political system is different from ours. I no longer think it is desirable, even if it is possible.I understand this feeling but I think it is tragically mistaken. The Pakistan propagandist hand-outs which some of us get every day record firing across the frontier and Pakistan villages being set on fire. I raised this with the Indian authorities and they said, "Well, it is retaliation". I think there is a little more 1947 than this in it because there is this regrettable pressure on the Indian Government from people who should know better than to have recourse to military action. There is tremendous pressure on Mrs. Gandhi and the Foreign Secretary, which they have so far resisted, to take military action.
I ask this question, through the House to the Indian people: would war help the refugees and those inside West Pakistan? Everyone knows that they are suffering from the monsoon, living in the open, homeless, wounded, hungry and diseased. If, to all of this, war was added in which they would be the victims—Pakistanis on both sides of the frontier—it would be the greatest calamity of our time.
Will the Foreign Secretary appeal to Mrs. Gandhi to resist this clamour and will he raise at the United Nations the question of supplying observers on both sides so that this war does not take place?
On the question of relief, Oxfam had a brilliant field director out there, Mr. Alan Leather. He concluded his report with these words:Without a massive relief operation financed and assisted by the United Nations through the Indian Government, the world is facing one of the most tragic disasters of all ime.I hope that both on the war danger and on the starvation issue we shall have some valuable pronouncement from the Government.
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I submit to you the very serious fact that there are a considerable number of hon. Members who have sat here all day with various problems to raise in the traditional manner, but who will, if the present procedure is adhered to, have no opportunity of raising these matters. Why is it that this debate must finish at five o'clock when normally, on a day other than the day of the Adjournment, when the debate begins at 3.30 p.m. it proceeds without limit or until such time as the Government Chief Whip tries to move the Closure? Even then he can only attempt to move it and it is in the hands of the Chair whether the Motion shall be accepted. Why should the procedure be different today? Is there any justification for it——
§ Mr. Speaker
I think I can help the hon. Gentleman. It is not my fault; it is because the House decided last Friday that this should be the procedure.
§ Mr. Mendelson
That was my second point of order. We cannot let this matter pass without protest. There are many hon. Members who will not in future allow the executive to move the Motion so that the debate takes place only on the last day. There should be an extension of the debate even today. The Leader of the House should co-operate with hon. Members who have been here all day. The debates should be continued beyond five o'clock by agreement so that every hon. Member who has been here all day and who has important representations to make in the time-honoured way guaranteed to back-bench Members can make them.
§ Mr. Speaker
I have great sympathy with the hon. Gentleman, but this is not a matter of order. The matter has been decided by the House. I do not, however, think that the form of this debate should be regarded as a precedent. Because this Motion was taken today, there has been a certain untidiness in the debate, but there is nothing that we can do about it now within the rules of order.
§ 3.46 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. William Whitelaw)
The decision to take the Motion today was welcomed and accepted last week by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, who pointed out the precedents for this course, which was taken by his own Government. I recognise that it is an exceptional process, and I would not wish it to be repeated. I point out to the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. John Mendelson), for whom I have great sympathy, that this debate has continued for much longer than perhaps any other debate on a similar Motion that we have had for a long time. I have, quite deliberately, sat here throughout every speech. I have allowed myself the minimum amount of time in which to reply in order to allow as many hon. Members as possible to speak. I think that it is reasonable for me to point out those facts.
I have allowed myself so little time in which to reply that perhaps I shall not answer some points as fully as I should 1949 have done. If so, I undertake to look at them myself, and they will be referred to my right hon. Friends concerned. I will do my best to reply to the major points which have been made.
I wish first to deal with the points raised by the Leader of the Opposition. He explained that he might not be able to be present to hear my reply, and I fully accept that. He asked me for an assurance that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry would be ready to consider alternative proposals, which he made clear when he was in Glasgow he was ready to do. I can readily give the right hon. Gentleman that assurance. My right hon. Friend will be ready to consider any proposals put to him.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to a visit by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to Scotland. I shall ensure that his remarks are passed to my right hon. Friend, who I know will carefully consider what was said.
I turn to that part of the debate which occupied the most time—and one can fully understand why—namely, the situation in Northern Ireland. We have heard important speeches from my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude), the right hon. Members for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) and Fulham (Mr. Michael Stewart), my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr), the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull (Mr. McNamara), and the hon. Members for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. McManus), Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) and Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt).
I have, in basic terms of anything new to say, obviously nothing to add to what my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said, but I think I am entitled as a member of the Cabinet who have to look at this desperately difficult situation simply to put to the House my own personal reflections on some of the things said in the debate and how the Government and I personally see this very grave problem. No one will deny how grave it is.
No one, I think it fair to say, can produce a perfect solution which does not pose many other grave difficulties, 1950 whichever way one looks at it. I was very glad, however, to note points of agreement amongst many disagreements in this House. There was an almost unanimous desire to condemn violence from wherever it came. It was not wholly unanimous, and that I regret, but it was almost unanimous, and I believe that that was very important. There were also widespread tributes to the good work of our British troops in Northern Ireland. I thought them very good.
I also noted what I think was an important point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon when he said that the people of Northern Ireland—indeed, of all communities there—are entitled to some message from the Government in London and from this House since having our troops there in Northern Ireland is our responsibility. I feel so strongly about this that I would like to say this personally: let there be no doubt at all by anyone in Northern Ireland that the British Government, working with the Government of Stormont, will do everything in their power to root out terrorism and stop violence from wherever it may come. Our clear, plain objective, as it must be for the Government and this House, is to do everything in our power to ensure that the people of all communities in Northern Ireland can go about their normal lives and their normal business in peace and without fear. I think that that is a reasonable statement to make from this House and from the Government at this time.
Perhaps I may now turn to the very important problem of the situation in East Pakistan.
§ Mr. John Mendelson
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the question of Northern Ireland, I would refer to the demonstration on 12th August. Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to convey to the Prime Minister the very strong feelings expressed on this subject so that a decision may be made through the Security Committee that this demonstration, which would be provocative, does not take place? He has said nothing about it.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
No, and the hon. Gentleman has used up time I wanted to apply to other hon. Gentlemen's questions. He knows well that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary heard perfectly 1951 clearly the views expressed on both sides of the House on this very important matter, including some very important points by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary heard these matters—all of them—and they will be taken into very careful consideration, I say advisedly, by all those concerned.
Now perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to turn to the important matter of East Pakistan, which causes very great anxiety, and rightly and properly—and I rather sympathise with the views on this matter of the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun). This matter was first raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Essex, South-East (Mr. Brain). He was supported by the right hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice), the right hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse), the right hon. Lady the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson), and the hon. Member for Salford, East. They asked, all of them, for various assurances, first of all, from the Government on the question of what were the opportunities for a political settlement and, secondly, on aid.
Perhaps I should say first of all that certainly there is no change as far as aid policy is concerned from what my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development said recently. I give that assurance. It is, of course, always difficult in this matter to state publicly, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs has made so clear, exactly what action may be taken by the Government in the direction which I believe everyone in this House, and, indeed, in this country, would wish to see.
I take fully the point made by the right hon. Member for Wednesbury that there are many people in the world who expect Britain to do its utmost in this matter, and who rely on what Britain can do. We are in close contact with the United Nations, the Governments of India and Pakistan and other Governments on many of the difficult issues that are raised. I give an absolute assurance that the fact that Parliament is in the Summer Recess, provided this Motion is passed, will in no way diminish the efforts of Her Majesty's Government to work for and to support any 1952 efforts towards a political settlement which would make possible the return of the refugees. Indeed, the Government are perfectly prepared to consider requests for further aid relief and to play their full part in any aid work that is carried out through the United Nations organisations.
The right hon. Member for Lanark asked about money for the voluntary organisations. I have done my best in the short time available to get her the answer, and I understand that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development saw Mr. Kirkley of Oxfam yesterday and is in touch with the charities. He appreciates the point made by the right hon. Lady and will seek to pursue it.
I hope that these, inevitably rather general, assurances on a very difficult issue, will do much to make the House as a whole feel that the Government will continue to do everything in their power to play the part which this House would expect of a British Government both in the matter of aid and towards a political settlement of this difficult and dangerous situation.
The hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Raphael Tuck) mentioned the probation service. I have noted what he said, but he would not expect me to say anything further when negotiations are continuing. I have already tried to help the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) on his various points.
I will turn to a more general matter, which is important in the context of the different questions which have been put to me—the possible recall of the House. I give exactly the same assurances as have always been given by Governments in the past. The provisions for the recall of the House at short notice, should the public interest so require, are clearly embodied in Standing Order No. 122. Under that Standing Order the Government have the duty of advising Mr. Speaker if they feel that the House should be recalled. I give an absolute undertaking that the Government will, of course, be prepared to consider all the representations which may be made to them on any of the matters which have been raised. These are assurances which have always been given by all Governments, and I gladly repeat them today.
1953 In answer to those who feel that this Motion should not have been taken today, this is, as I said, exceptional procedure on this occasion, and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition accepted that it was. I would not wish it to be regarded as a precedent, and I will try to make different arrangements on other occasions. I note the feelings of the House on that subject. It is fair to point out that there has been a longer period on this occasion.
If in what I have said in answer to the long debate on Northern Ireland I have shown that perhaps I, too, have some feelings on this important matter, then at
That the House at its rising this day do adjourn till Monday 18th October.
§ Mr. SPEAKER thereupon adjourned the House till Monday, 18th October, without 1954 least it will show that sometimes the Leader of the House has an opportunity to make clear the sort of feelings he is entitled to have. People sometimes feel that inside this large frame nothing else exists at all, and therefore it is reasonable to point out at this time, before we rise for the Summer Recess, that perhaps there is something up above and down below.
§ It being Five o'clock, Mr. SPEAKER pursuant to the Resolution [30th July], proceeded to put the Question necessary to dispose of the Motion relating to Adjournment (Summer) :—
§ The House divided: Ayes 64, Noes 23.1953
|Division No. 476.]
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)
|Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.)
|Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
|Hill, James (Southampton, Test)
|Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
|Berry, Hn. Anthony
|Russell, Sir Ronald
|Homsby-Smith, Rt.Hn.Dame Patricia
|Howell, David (Guildford)
|Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)
|Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret
|Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine
|Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)
|Corfield Rt. Hn. Frederick
|Langford-Holt, Sir John
|Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)
|Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry
|van Straubenzee, W. R.
|Le Marchant, Spencer
|Vaughan, Dr. Gerard
|Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
|Drayson, G. B.
|White, Roger (Gravesend)
|Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
|Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)
|Meyer, Sir Anthony
|Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
|Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)
|Page, Graham (Crosby)
|Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis
|TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
|Mr. Victor Goodhew and Mr. Bernard Weatherill.
|Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley)
|Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)
|Higgins, Terence L.
|Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)
|Garrett, W. E.
|Stallard, A. W.
|Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)
|Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)
|Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)
|Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
|Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund
|TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
|Mr. Bruce Douglas-Mann and Mr. Arthur Lewis.
|Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.
§ putting any further Question, pursuant to the Resolution of 30th July.
§ Adjourned at eight minutes past Five o'clock.