HC Deb 18 February 1971 vol 811 cc2103-4
13. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will make a statement of Government policy concerning Northern Ireland, in the light of recent developments in Ulster.

Mr. Maudling

I would refer my hon. Friend to what I said in the debate on Monday, 15th February.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Will my right hon. Friend make it plain to the House and to the country that the violence practised by the I.R.A. in Northern Ireland in no way discredits the reform programme there and that it is still Her Majesty's Government's intention to give all moral and material support to the Northern Ireland Prime Minister in his efforts to reconcile the two communities?

Mr. Maudling

I should be very happy to give that assurance.

Mr. Kaufman

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that, whatever necessary action is taken by British troops in this very serious situation, there will be no infringement of the rule of law and the rights and liberties of the subject, as took place during the weekend of 3rd to 5th July last year?

Mr. Maudling

I do not necessarily accept the premise on which that supplementary question was based. But let us be clear: the rule of law is threatened by the gunmen.

Captain Orr

Is the intention to uphold the rule of law helped by the appalling irresponsibility of the British Broadcasting Corporation? On the very day on which it was announced that a soldier lost his life, two gunmen were interviewed, with their backs to the camera, protected by anonymity. Can my right hon. Friend imagine anything more inflammatory or more damaging to the task which our troops have to do?

Mr. Maudling

I do not want to comment on a programme which I did not see, but it is fair to say that in general it is not possible to be impartial between those who die in protecting the law and those who kill to destroy it.

Mr. Callaghan

While the Home Secretary may not want to comment on a programme, is he inquiring of the Commissioner whether he has asked the B.B.C. for information about these men so that, if the allegations are correct, they can be brought to justice?

Mr. Maudling

I have myself instituted those inquiries, as I have done on previous occasions.

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