HC Deb 28 October 1971 vol 823 cc2052-8
5. Mr. Wall

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on Northern Ireland.

Mr. Maudling

It is the continuing policy of Her Majesty's Government to defeat terrorism and to ensure for all communities in Northern Ireland an active, permanent and guaranteed rôle in the life and public affairs of the Province.

Mr. Wall

What is the Home Secretary doing to disseminate and make understood the important new proposals to give better political representation to the minorities in Ulster? Would he agree that, unfortunately, they have little chance of widespread acceptance until the urban guerrillas have been defeated?

Mr. Maudling

I would not accept the second part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question. The proposals put forward in the Green Paper by the Northern Ireland Government are very important. I have no doubt at all that anybody concerned with the long-term health of Northern Ireland will study them very seriously indeed.

Mr. Fitt

Would the Home Secretary not agree that he and his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister have expressed sentiments in recent months to the effect that a place will be found for the minority to have an active permanent and guaranteed rôle in Northern Ireland, and that this seems to have been brutally rejected by the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, who has clearly stated that he will not sit in any Cabinet with any person who even expresses a long-term ideal of bringing about the unity of Ireland? Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that at present we have an active, permanent and guaranteed rôle for the minority in Northern Ireland—we have actively opposed Unionism, we have been permanent second-class citizens and we have been guaranteed by the Unionist Prime Minister that this is to be the position in the future? Would the Home Secretary keep in touch with the Government of Northern Ireland so that we may have clarified once and for all what is meant by an active, permanent and guaranteed rôle for both communities in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Maudling

I have been seeking discussions with all concerned whereby we can reach by agreement an active, permanent and guaranteed rôle", and I have seen representatives of the Northern Ireland trade unions and the Northern Ireland Labour Party. We now have the proposals of the Northern Ireland Government in the same context, but we cannot reach agreement unless we talk. Those who are not prepared to talk about these things are postponing agreement.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

In view of the ungenerous, destructive and fairly easily anticipated approach by certain people to the new appointment of a member of the minority to the Northern Ireland Government yesterday, will the Home Secretary welcome that appointee's sensible statement that he does not intend to indulge in widely publicised interviews and speeches but to work quietly and sensibly for improvement in community relations among men of true good will in the minority?

Mr. Maudling

I am quite certain that hon. Members on both sides of the House will welcome that very sensible statement.

Mr. McNamara

To turn from these new proposals, which I regard as perfectly useless, could I ask the Home Secretary about the position of the Compton inquiry? Would he be kind enough to clear up the confusion arising from a statement made about the terms of reference of that inquiry with regard to people lifted after the action by the security forces on 9th August? If the Compton inquiry is not to cover people lifted after 9th August, what firm proposals has he to look into allegations which are being made? Is it not in the interest of everybody that they should not be allowed to continue and that we should avoid exaggeration and not have the British Army being referred to as the Black and Tans, which none of us wants?

Mr. Maudling

I am sorry that there should be any confusion. Having studied carefully what I said, I do not see why there should be cause for confusion. I said that the Compton inquiry was in the context of people taken in on 9th August. I had asked it to look into allegations published inter alia in the Sunday Times about what happened to people under interrogation who had been taken in on the 9th. It has always been understood that the Compton inquiry cannot be a continuing or standing inquiry. I have in mind the hon. Gentleman's point, and I will consider it.

Rev. Ian Paisley

In view of the fact that an R.U.C. sergeant in my constituency was brutally murdered last night, what definite steps does the Home Secretary intend to take for the protection of members of the R.U.C. and their wives and families and their police stations? Will he now, at this late juncture, reverse the foolish policies of the Hunt proposals and allow the R.U.C. to be equipped with such fire power as to be able to resist those who would murder them? Would he also make provision for the arming of the police reserve?

Mr. Maudling

I do not think it would be wise to go back on the principles of the Hunt Report. As for the protection of the police, everybody in the House recognises the appalling burden carried by the R.U.C., which is composed of men who do not merely go there for a few months to serve but who live there with their families. We recognise this factor very much indeed. The security forces are well aware of the need to give the maximum protection to the R.U.C. In particular, I hope to see a large expansion of the U.D.R. I am sure that the hon. Member will help in this way.

Mr. McManus

Is the Home Secretary aware that I have in my possession a telegram stating that an interned person named Mallon from Newry is critically ill as a result of a disturbance in Long Kesh and that his relatives have been called to his bedside and that it is evident from that telegram that his life is in danger? Will not the right hon. Gentleman agree that this is a direct and inevitable result of his disastrous policy of internment? Will he now change his mind before further tragedy and loss of life occur? Will he instead take some positive political steps to clear up the damnable mess which his Government have made of Northern Ireland?

Mr. Maudling

Of course I am always ready to look into any individual case brought to my attention by hon. Mem- bers. It is my duty, and I am certainly prepared to do so. But I do not believe that it would be wise or in anyone's interest to release upon the streets of Belfast people who would joint the ranks of the murderers.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

In view of the outbreak of violence at Long Kesh and the hunger strike now going on there, could the Home Secretary tell the House whether any action has been taken on the recommendations for changes in conditions made by various hon. Members from the all-party Parliamentary delegation which visited Long Kesh?

Mr. Maudling

Their recommendations have been carefully studied. I think I am right in saying that the administration of the camp is a matter for the Northern Ireland Government, but I will certainly consider what hon. Members have suggested.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

May I support what has been said by the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas)? Apart from the probably far more important political arguments about internment, many of us felt that there were changes which it would be sensible to make. Is the Home Secretary saying that, although in good faith we passed on these recommendations, having spoken to internees in a way which was not open to others, and having been told particularly about wives and families who were afraid to pass through certain areas near the camp because of religious affiliations, this problem has not been looked into two or three weeks ago?

Mr. Maudling

Of course not. It has certainly been looked at and action has been taken, but the detail of the action is a matter for the Northern Ireland Government. Watching the situation closely as I do, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that many changes and improvements are being made, in many cases as a result of the visits of hon. Members.

22. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Secretary of State for the Home department what further consultations he has had with the Northern Ireland Government about the enforcement of law and order.

Mr. Maudling

My right hon. Friends the Prime Minister, the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, the Secretary of State for Defence, the Lord President of the Council and I had discussions with the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland on 7th October, during which we reviewed the security situation.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

In view of the outrages against R.U.C. families, is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the Constabulary's arms are sufficient? Second, is not the appointment of Dr. Newe highly relevant and highly welcome in relation to this problem, and do not those politicians at Stormont and here, who crab his appointment and fail to welcome it, although making long speeches at Question Time, condemn themselves?

Mr. Maudling

I know that the G.O.C. is well aware of the danger to which the police are exposed. On the second point which my hon. Friend raises, I think it a pity that this appointment should have been received in some quarters a little churlishly.

Mr. Loughlin

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of us welcome the appointment of Dr. Newe, even though he is described as a "Castle Catholic" by some people? But may I ask him to make absolutely clear that, in his reply to his hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark), the right hon. Gentleman was not himself attempting to inhibit Dr. Newe in any statement which he makes in regard to the maintenance of law and order and the creation of better relations?

Mr. Maudling

Certainly not. I referred to a statement made by Dr. Newe, which I said I regarded as a very wise statement on a principle which all would wish to follow, namely, the need to do everything possible to achieve harmony between the communities.

Mr. Kilfedder

Has any request been made by the Stormont Government to this Government to bring pressure on the Dublin Government to extradite people who are responsible for the murders of policemen and soldiers and who, at this moment, are hiding in the Free State?

Mr. Maudling

In keeping with our responsibilities in this matter, I am always prepared to consider a proposition of that kind put to us by the Northern Ireland Government. If my hon. Friend has any particular case in mind, perhaps he will let me know.

Mr. Stallard

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that his constant emphasis on law and order is, in the view of many of us, only making the situation worse and is leading to more and more repression? If he would only begin to speak about a permanent political solution, he would have much more support from many people in the country.

Mr. Maudling

That is not entirely fair. I and my colleagues, in the speeches we have made, have always said that there are two problems, the security situation and the political situation. Both are equally important, both must be resolved, but so long as murder continues the security situation must be in the forefront of our minds.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

First, may I make perfectly clear that nothing I said was intended to inhibit Dr. Newe in any way, and ought not to have been taken as such. As regards law and order, will my right hon. Friend condemn the appalling performance directed against the troops and against policemen in Northern Ireland yesterday, and will he use every opportunity open to him, and ask every other member of the Government to use every opportunity, to show that we are now dealing with a band of men whose cowardice and ferocity probably exceeds that even of the E.O.K.A. and the Viet Cong? Will he ensure that the British public are not in danger of being brainwashed by Republican propaganda to a much greater degree than any internee, according to any of the allegations, was in danger of being brainwashed by British soldiers or policemen?

Mr. Maudling

I am sure that all right hon. and hon. Members would unite in condemning violence, murder and terrorism and in supporting the security forces in putting them down.