§ 3.12 p.m.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
Those of us who listened to the debate yesterday went home with feelings of relief that the speeches, perhaps with the exception of one from an Ulster Unionist, had been uncontaminated by bitterness, that they had presented a moderate and sensible analysis of the situation, and that a great many solutions had been put forward. Because the atmosphere in the Chamber had not erupted, there was a feeling that perhaps it was not so bad after all.
Those feelings must be tempered by the knowledge that yesterday's debate failed entirely—and perhaps one should not altogether complain—to reflect the rawness of the situation in Northern Ireland, 185 the bitterness, the tautness of people's nerves, the tenseness with which every action is scrutinised and the fact that what people believe is more important than the truth. None of these things emerged in our debate yesterday, and although I hope that we shall not erupt too much today, I think that these things must be stated, even though they were implicit as the background to yesterday.
It is a terrifying situation that Protestants should leave their own homes, burning them behind them as they go; that Catholics should be called upon by other Catholics to leave areas in Protestant neighbourhoods and withdraw into their own ghettoes; that, whether by coincidence or design, the burning down of some of the houses will leave a clear field of fire to be presented if the situation deteriorates and people decide to shoot it out—as was experienced by a friend of mine who told me on the telephone from Belfast yesterday, "Last night I lay in my bed and heard five explosions before there came quietness."
It is against this background that we have to consider the situation in Northern Ireland and try to understand it. Amid all the analyses that we make, I think that one of the feelings of the people in Northern Ireland, especially the Protestants, is that somehow they are beleaguered, that they are friendless, that they are misunderstood, while the Catholics feel that they are oppressed, that they are discriminated against, and that we on this side of the water look on both as though they are some kind of creatures in a goldfish bowl, interesting exhibits which are rather troublesome, that it is a "we" and "they" situation. I believe that the people of Northern Ireland feel this very much.
One hon. Member from Belfast asked yesterday whether a word of hope could not go to the people of Northern Ireland, but I fear that different words of hope are expected by different groups. Nevertheless, I believe that our identification of the troubles of the ordinary men and women of Northern Ireland, people of flesh and blood like ourselves, should not be that of separation, but that there should be an identity of interest and concern with fellow human beings.
The problem has been analysed, but it has not changed since 1969, not since 1959, 1949, or 1939. I should like to 186 say why. The problem is one of dual loyalty. This was mentioned by the Leader of the Liberal Party yesterday. There is—and it cannot be shot out of their hearts—in the minds and hearts of the minority in Northern Ireland a dual loyalty, a loyalty to the area, to the town, to the community, in which they live, and the loyalty to another concept of a united Ireland.
What we were doing in 1969—it is what the Prime Minister's conference, which I regard as the most important and hopeful development that we have yet seen, must focus its attention on next week—was seeing whether it was possible to accommodate the dual loyalty of the minority within the system of government and the institutions of Northern Ireland without at the same time hopelessly alienating the majority. This has always been the problem, and the civil rights protests were a manifestation in 1969. The basic problem is to try to accommodate the dual loyalty which underlies the whole approach to the question of civil rights.
It underlies the problem that has now come to the surface—whether the Border is being called into question, despite what the parties here may say about it. I believe that this is the fundamental issue, and it is basically to that that I want to direct my attention this afternoon.
As are all of us, I am deeply concerned that next week's talks should be a success. That is one of the major factors influencing our attitude about whether to divide the House tonight, and I shall come back to that. Nevertheles, we have criticisms of the way in which the matter has been handled and I feel that those criticisms must be expressed. I express them against the background of what I have said.
Although it was flattering for the Home Secretary to say, "We are carrying on the policy of reform", I profoundly feel that, in fact, he regarded it as though it were frozen in aspic: there were a series of measures; they had to be put through; he did not attempt to withdraw from them; the Northern Ireland Government did not attempt to withdraw from them; they were there; they were the First Epistle to the Romans. But the 1969 package was not final and it certainly was not complete.
Let me give an illustration. Because of the lack of time and the inherent difficulties of the situation, we did not pursue 187 the matter further, but in 1969 I tried to deal with discrimination in private employment. This was discussed between the Stormont Government and myself in two discussions in August and October and we felt that we had made progress. But no progress has been made since and yet discrimination in private employment is one of the underlying causes of bitterness.
When in August trade union representatives came to see me, after some had seen the Home Secretary, shortly after a factory had been burned down, we remonstrated with the Catholics who burned down that factory—perhaps I should say the minority—and asked, "Do you not realise that you are putting men and women out of jobs?" The trade union representatives said to us, "We shall never be allowed to work in that factory. Why should we care if it is burnt down?" Imagine a situation like that. To talk as though the programme of reforms in 1969 had to be enshrined in the tablets and that was the end of it was one of the mistakes made by this Government.
There are firms owned by Catholics who will not employ Protestants. Just before the Orange Day celebrations every year some firms in Belfast levy money from their employees in order that the machinery should be decorated with the Orange colours for the great day, irrespective of the religious complexion of their employees. I say this with understanding; I am not sneering at what happens. But it is this deeply-felt belief and these deep prejudices which lie at the root of so much of the trouble, and the Home Secretary should have pursued with much more vigour and energy the residual problems, which goodness knows were big enough, instead of indulging, in a Northern Ireland sense, in a policy of disengagement which has so disfigured the Government in other ways.
There was a withdrawal from government and a feeling, "Let Brian Faulkner get on with it". I know that Mr. Faulkner genuinely wants the co-operation of the minority in Northern Ireland, but, because he is dependent for his support on a Government which must include people who do not take his approach, to allow him to make the running and to take the initiative, as the Government 188 have done, has automatically forced the minority into a more extreme position.
The Government bear a responsibility for the deterioration in the relationship, despite the fact, which I acknowledge—and the House knows my views on this matter—that it was the I.R.A. which said in its own terms, that it was declaring war on the British Army. The Government had the power to take the initiative and make the running, and, in my view, they failed to do it.
§ Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to mislead the House. Will he accept from me that I have made inquiries of several big companies in my constituency, including Harland and Wolff, Short Bros, and Gallaher—and the same applies to 99 per cent, of the companies in Northern Ireland—and I have been told that they do not inquire what the religion of a man is before employing him? The chairmen of such companies, like Lord Rochdale and Sir Edouard Grundy, and the American Tobacco Company, which runs Gallaher, know what they are talking about.
§ Mr. Callaghan
There are some firms in Northern Ireland which have stood out against religious prejudice and some firms which refuse to accept the demand of the Orange lodges that they should levy in order to decorate the machinery. I could give names. But to pretend that in a great company like Harland and Wolff, employing 8,500 people, nobody knows the religion of the people employed is not doing the House a service. One has merely to know where a man went to school or to know his name—although that can be misleading because over there I might be assumed to be a Catholic. I do not think the hon. Gentleman has added to our consideration of this problem.
It is essential that the programme of reforms should be pursued much more vigorously.
I come to the question of internment. I have always felt, and have frequently said, that people who unprovoked shoot at the British Army have no right to be at liberty, and I have no hesitation in saying it now. But the evidence which we can glean is that the people who have been interned cover a far wider spectrum 189 than that. It is worth noting that of those who were originally detained—kept in restraint—one-third have been released. Whatever may have been the merits or demerits of that policy—I described it as a gamble—I said in the speech which I made in the House before we went into recess that if we were to detain men who were known to be gunmen it must be accompanied at the same time by political advance.
At the moment that I was saying that the Government were taking a completely different view. They have now come round. On the morning of internment they said, "We cannot have talks until there is peace." Those words were used by the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. Now there are to be talks, although there is no peace. When we said that the Apprentice Boys' march should be cancelled, we were told that the march was traditional and could not be cancelled. But it was cancelled. When we said that Mr. Lynch should be invited to come here, we were told that no request had been received from Mr. Lynch and that October was the appropriate month. But, without a request from Mr. Lynch, the invitation was issued and he has been here.
There has been a change of policy in a number of ways. In my view, the Government are partially responsible for the deterioration in the situation because they would not accept that, in the context of Northern Ireland, the measures that a Government must take to preserve security cannot be taken without at the same time taking a political initiative. When I last spoke in the House on this subject I emphasised that one could not take one step without taking the other. I did not think it possible to undertake a political initiative without doing something more to reassure the majority. I did not think it possible to undertake internment without taking a political initiative. The Government did the second; they have yet to come round to doing the first.
I have heard the solutions which have been advanced over many weeks and months. One of them is that we should pull out and let the people of Northern Ireland fight it out for themselves. Another is that we should abolish Stormont. Some people say, "If you will pull out they will come to their senses 190 and realise that they must live and work together." I do not believe that. That is a rational judgment. The trouble with Northern Ireland is not that there are too many people willing to live there but that there are too many people willing to die there—to shoot it out. The only consequence of withdrawing from Northern Ireland would be to promote and provoke a conflagration and civil war of the worst dimensions. While we have tenuous hopes to cling to, I could not believe that it would be right even to begin to consider such a course, and I would throw such influence as I might have against it.
We need to know the policy in relation to internment. If we are to make political advance it is essential that some answers should be given. I should be grateful if the Prime Minister, when he replies to the questions put by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition—and he has undertaken to reply to them—would say whether the relatives have been told who are being interned and where. Has the list been published? I am told that a number of relatives still do not know where their menfolk are being detained. It is important that this matter should be cleared up. I hope that every relative will be informed.
If we are to make progress on the political front and get the minority to join the majority, if it is posible in the existing institutional system of Northern Ireland, we must know where we are going on the problem of internment. I read with great interest the document on internment prepared by the Social Democratic and Labour Party research group. My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) is present, and I should like to address a question to him for answer either now or later.
The conclusion of the document is this:Our view is that the problem in our society is a political one—how to ensure effective participation in the system of government by a minority "—that could be a very helpful expression—and it is to that problem that the United Kingdom Government must now address itself. Its task in tackling that problem has been rendered incredibly more difficult by the internment decision.I state the problem: is it possible to accommodate this dual loyalty of the minority—inside the Northern Ireland 191 community, but with the concept of a united Ireland, without changing it totally?
§ Mr. Callaghan
I should like to address to my hon. Friend a specific question which perhaps he can answer, though I do not want to press him, on whether it is possible to accommodate this dual loyalty. What I should like to put to my hon. Friend is this. Suppose there were a solution of the problem of internment. I would not ask him to give up his long-term desire for reunification, but suppose there were a solution of the problem of internment. Does this phrase here mean that the Social Democratic and Labour Party would be willing to participate in a Northern Ireland Government, which would obviously include Unionists, in order to bring Northern Ireland itself and its people back from the edge of anarchy and perhaps of civil war?
§ Mr. Fitt
Without hesitation, I can tell the House that if there is a satisfactory solution of the problem of internment which at present besets Northern Ireland the S.D.L.P., being the largest opposition party, would in company with other members who have withdrawn from the Stormont Government be willing and anxious indeed to enter into negotiations to bring about a satisfactory solution in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I think that this is a great advance, but I want to press my hon. Friend further. What I want to ask him is this. It seems to me—and the Northern Ireland Labour Party has put the same point of view—that if there fore what it called a community Government it means a Government which must include both the majority and the minority, must include both Protestants and Catholics. If the conditions of internment were satisfactorily settled if adequate guarantees were given to the minority, can he conceive of circumstances in which the minority would be willing, if the majority were willing to concede it, taking part in the Government?
§ Mr. Callaghan
The answer is, "Yes"? Well, if that is so, and my hon. 192 Friend has said so, then I believe this must give a point of entry for the discussions next week, because then it seems to me that there is an onus upon the Ulster Unionist Government to give their answer to that question, too. Would they be willing to assure such a sharing? Because they cannot have it all ways. Either they are going to rely on the phrase which we have not heard for many years, because it was the most miserable phrase, "Protestant Government for a Protestant people", which has such constant repercussions at 10-year intervals. Internment is nothing new in Northern Ireland. Four times at least in the history of this province, which is only 50 years old, there has been internment for a number of years. So either they must reply upon maintaining that position, or they must say, "We are willing to share our authority with them."
Now I come—
§ Mr. Callaghan
Well, I think, if I may say so to my hon. Friend, that I would gladly give way to her, but I think that I ought also then to give way to the hon. Gentleman opposite as well. Perhaps I may be allowed to make a little more of my own speech for the moment and then I will give way to both.
This is a most important point. The Government of Northern Ireland put out a statement yesterday in which they say that they propose a Green Paper which willdiscuss objectively the basis of Cabinet Government in Northern Ireland in the context of the principle of collective responsibility and the need for an identity of interest on vital principles.I want to suggest to the Prime Minister that, while collective responsibility naturally should obtain in normal Cabinet 193 Government, the Northern Ireland Government is a subordinate Government, which I would not say is a county council—that would be denigrating it too far—but a Government between a county council at one extreme and Her Majesty's Government here at the other, and I do not believe, in the circumstances in which we are near civil war in Northern Ireland, that the doctrine of collective responsibility should necessarily be expected to apply, and I would hope that the Prime Minister would ask the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland what he means by that particular phrase.
Then there is the other phrase.
the need for an identity of interest on vital principles.What are vital principles would be a question for discussion, but the most vital principal of all is that everyone should be united against the rule of the gunman, because no community can exist in these conditions. My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West has, as the Home Secretary said yesterday, spoken out with very great courage, and he, probably more than most people, has a gun at his back and has to live with it. So my hon. Friend has not hesitated to condemn that. If this is the sort of vital principle which the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland has in mind I would say, "Right". Of course they can co-operate on that.
I do not ask the minority to give up the idea of reunification as a political end, because, as I say, we cannot shoot it out of existence, but what we are considering is whether life in Northern Ireland dwindles into anarchy. That is what we are talking about. It is this which calls for community Government.
Now I will give way to the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills).
§ Mr. Speaker
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will help. He did give way. The right hon. Gentleman does not like the nature of the intervention. I hope that the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) will be speedy about it.
§ Mr. Callaghan
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am in possession of the Floor. I gave way, but that does not put the hon. Member opposite in possession of the Floor, and in view of the way he began his question I do not intend to give way.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. With great respect, I think that if the right hon. Gentleman gives way he does temporarily yield up the Floor of the House. [HON. MEMBERS : "No."] Order. However, if the right hon. Gentleman gives way, then it is most unwise for the hon. Member to whom he gives way to make a provocative interjection. Therefore I hope that the hon. Member has a genuine point to make. Will he please make it?
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
On a point of order. I wonder if you could give the House guidance, Mr. Speaker. It is accepted that whether or not any hon. or right hon. Member gives way is a matter of discretion, and the implication is that he gives way on the basis that someone wishes to address an interrogatory to him and not to abuse that opportunity either by making a speech or making a tendentious comment. Surely, that is precisely what the hon. Member was trying to do, and abusing the opportunity which was afforded to him?
§ Mr. Stratton Mills
On a point of order. Would you make it clear, Mr. Speaker, that if an hon. Member gives way to another Member to let him intervene there is no censorship by the hon. Member who gives way, and that there 195 is no way in which he can withdraw the opportunity he gives of an intervention on a point he was speaking to?
§ Mr. Callaghan
I have no wish to follow up this as a matter of personal punctilio, but I was making a serious contribution to the debate. If the hon. Member will rephrase his interjection and withdraw his first remark I shall be very happy indeed to let him proceed with a question.
§ Mr. Speaker
I hope very much indeed that the hon. Member will do that, because there must be certain rules about these interruptions.
§ Mr. R. Chichester-Clark (Londonderry)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Whether or not one agrees with the intervention made by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mill), the fact is that the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) gave way, and since my hon. Friend had begun his intervention he had possession of the Floor. Whether or not one agrees with what he said, I feel we are entitled to ask for your protection of a minority?
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Yesterday we had a very serious debate which was conducted on a high level and with good temper, although very strong feelings are held on this subject. I believe everybody in the House realises the depth of the feelings held and the seriousness of the situation. Technically, if a right hon. or hon. Gentleman gives way he does not yield up the Floor of the House. I think, however, that it is a convention, and I put it as that, that the Member intervening should be allowed to put his point even if the right hon. or hon. Member who is giving way does not like the way in which such remarks are introduced. However, I hope that the House will revert to the atmosphere in which we have debated this matter up 1o now. If the hon. Member for Belfast, North puts a simple question, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will allow him to do so.
§ Mr. Stratton Mills
Does the right hon. Gentleman feel that the Social Democratic and Labour Party has demonstrated its responsibility to the democratic State of Northern Ireland, and does he believe that it can deliver the goods on any agreement it enters into?
§ Mr. Callaghan
I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for supporting my view that when an hon. Member resumes his seat in response to an attempt to interrupt him, he does not yield up the Floor. That has always been my understanding of the situation. I should not have dreamt of rising again to my feet had it not been for the nature of the hon. Gentleman's introductory remarks. I am trying to get the Social Democratic and Labour Party, which comprises the opposition which has withdrawn from Stormont, to state its position. I did not want my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West necessarily to state this in the course of my speech, but he has done so. [An HON. MEMBER: "He was asked to do so."] I asked him to make it in his own speech. Try to grow up.
I wish to say this to the Prime Minister. If the problem of internment can be settled it might be possible for the first time in 50 years' history of Northern Ireland to get the minority to say that they would be willing to take part. In the past the minority have not indicated that they would be willing to take part in such a Government; they have never done so in my experience or knowledge. I have always been aware of the difficulty of that problem.
What is it that the Ulster Unionists and the extreme Protestants in Northern Ireland want? Do they want repression? Do they want to put down the gunmen and at the same time know that they have failed to capture the support and assent of the minority? Or do they want that assent, and do they wish to take part in the institutions of Northern Ireland?
I remember on one of the simplest issues of all how I was asked by the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland at the time whether we could persuade Cardinal Conway, after years of failing to recognise Stormont, to appoint a Catholic priest to Stormont, and Cardinal Conway eventually did so. At that stage on that 197 matter there was a desire by the majority that the minority should recognise the institutions. Do the majority want this now or do they want to keep unadulterated power? If they do not want unadulterated power, then what has been said, though tentatively, may mean one way forward for the people of Belfast to live in peace over the next 20 or 30 years instead of descending to civil war.
§ Miss Devlin
I thank my hon. Friend for giving way. I am not going to ask him a provocative question. I simply want clarification of his rather hazy wording about a satisfactory settlement of internment. Is he aware that the Social Democratic and Labour Party has clearly stated it would consider a satisfactory settlement as nothing short of the release of all internees and an end to the system of maintaining the Northern Ireland State by internment? That is the only satisfactory solution.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I am aware of that, and that is why we should not try to do the negotiating across the Floor of the House. What is important is that we should try to find out the parameters within which people are willing to move. This is one of the important matters which will need a great deal of attention when the three Prime Ministers meet next week if we are to ensure that people are tried, that those detained are only the ones who need be detained, and that there is political advance.
§ Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)
Would my right hon. Friend allow me to say this on the question of internment? Some may not want this said in the House, but I intend to say it. I want to draw to my right hon. Friend's attention the fact that on 1st September our Labour Party officially issued the following statement:It was agreed that the introduction of internment in Northern Ireland had alienated wide sections of the community, was unacceptable and that no realistic solution could even be envisaged without an end of internment and release of detainees held without trial.Is my right hon. Friend aware that that is the view of the Labour Party following its meeting on 1st September? Therefore, the question of internment is a matter of deep concern to the whole of the Labour Party in this country.
§ Mr. Callaghan
It ought to be of concern to everybody whether or not they belong to the Labour Party. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was agreed in 1948, says in Article 9:No one shall be subject to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile … everyone is entitled to full equality, to a fair and public hearing in the determination of his rights and obligations …".There are other articles which apply equally to other people. Article 29 says:…everyone has duties to the Community.If we are to pick and choose between these general principles which have been laid down, we shall not find ourselves advancing the case, which I want to advance; namely, that people in Ireland should be able to live freely among each other.
The question to which I was addressing myself was: what is the nature of the duties they owe and how can they best be met? On the question of internment, I have made my view clear time and again.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Since the right hon. Gentleman is opposed to internment, does he not think he would make a contribution to the House by saying that a large proportion of Unionists are opposed to internment, that I am opposed to internment, that my friend Mr. Boal is opposed to internment, as are many others. Will the right hon. Gentleman say that to the House?
§ Mr. Callaghan
Yes; I was aware that the hon. Gentleman was opposed to internment. I never ventured to comment on the reason why this should be so.
§ Mr. Callaghan
No. I must be allowed to continue my remarks. I do not want to be too long. I think the Government are aware that the problem of internment is one on which the whole House is rightly sensitive. The suggestion made by the Northern Ireland Labour Party should be followed up. What that party has put 199 forward is the importance of the immediate release of those held without charge against whom there is no evidence of direct involvement in violent activities. That was its first principle.
The second principle is that charges should be preferred against all others against whom evidence of involvement in violence exists. The third is that there should be established a legal security Commission of eminent lawyers in Northern Ireland, preferably under the chairmanship of a Commonwealth judge of eminence, to assess the case against each of those presently held. I want to emphasise the point about assessing the case against them, not only if they appeal, but whether they appeal or not. That is the point. Some of them will not recognise the jurisdiction of the tribunal. But every case, and the evidence available to every case, should be made available to such a Commission. I think that it should make recommendations as to prosecutions, that it should make recommendations to provide security to witnesses, and that the Government should undertake to abide by the findings of that tribunal. I believe that this would be a way of meeting objections in principle which are held against internment, which the whole House ought to share, and the practical need which exists today, because it is known that some people would immediately begin their activities again if released. I do not believe that many in this House or outside would stand for that.
I come now to the proposal that there should be proportional representation. There are a number of systems of proportional representation. I do not propose to go into the details this afternoon. But proportional representation has existed in Northern Ireland before. It would not help if the only result was to confirm the existing position with the impossibility of ever replacing the present Government which has lasted for 50 years.
Proposals have been put forward. There are two main forms. One is the single transferable vote, which existed before 1929, and the other is the list system, which is practised in most Western democracies.
In passing, I say to the Leader of the Liberal Party that as long as we can change our Government—as, thank God, 200 we can and, I hope, shortly shall—I shall not be converted to the idea of proportional representation here. But in a country in which the Government cannot be changed and in which we want real representation, I put it to the Prime Minister—I hope that he and the Home Secretary will have time to look at this suggestion—that we need a system, and that the list system might provide it, as opposed to the single transferable vote, which would enable real representation to take place within the basis of enlarged contituencies both inside and outside Belfast. I believe that this is necessary if we are to achieve some advance which will enable any person taking part in political life to think that he is likely to survive. I believe that a system of proportional representation of the kind which I have described—I am not adhering to this—would be political death to almost anybody who took part in it.
These are the kind of matters which I hope that the Prime Minister will be talking about: the question of internment, how we can involve the minority with dual loyalty in the Government, and what kind of electoral system there should be. Some of these will, of course, not be in Mr. Lynch's province. There will be resentment, and I am sure that he will know at what point he does not take part in such discussions. But at a time when nerves are stretched in the way that they are at the moment, this is no time to stick on punctilio.
The House has a responsibility to try to help people in Northern Ireland to save themselves from the anarchy into which the country has drifted, in which the authority of the Government is flouted, and in which there is no consent by a large number of peole to what is being done in their name. At the moment I think that a great many things must go by the board. Provided that we recognise the essential conditions, I do not think that anything should be outside the bounds of discussion. The House will know what I mean by "the essential conditions".
I have one other small proposal to make which the House may feel is laughable. Yet I do not think that in the long run it is, because I am trying to look ahead. It is extraordinary to look at the history books in the Catholic schools and to contrast them with the 201 history books in the Protestant schools. When I see how we are attempting to rewrite the history of only two years ago, I begin to wonder what value the history books are anyway. [Laughter.] What I am referring to, before the House is entirely convulsed with mirth, is the fact that there are some people who seem to believe that if only the "B" Specials had not been disbanded there would be no trouble in Northern Ireland and that if it had been left to the R.U.C. we would not have had to have the Army in. That is the kind of rewriting of history, the myth, which is being created about which I am talking.
Coming back to the history books, it surely ought to be possible for these children to have some common basis for learning about their country instead of having two entirely different versions such as exist now. I am not talking about any impact in the next two or even ten years hence. There are children growing up today who are learning two entirely different versions of their country. This is a small problem, but in many ways in the long run it will be very important and large.
I believe that if the situation in Northern Ireland had been different, if we had been discussing a purely domestic question, I should certainly, and so would my right hon. Friends, have recommended that the Government's inept handling of the situation should have attracted a vote tonight. [An HON. MEMBER: "It will."] It will not attract a vote on the recommendation of my right hon. Friends and myself. What other hon. Members do is, of course, a matter for them, but that is not the recommendation of my right hon. Friends and myself. We are not recommending it, not because we do not believe that the Government should be censured—we believe that they should be.
§ Mr. Callaghan
We shall want to return to this matter when the House resumes and on the occasion of the Queen's Speech. But the talks next week may present a last opportunity for saving Northern Ireland from civil war. It is because of that, because we do not want to take any step by the registering of a 202 vote in this House which will be construed by the extremists on both sides as either one of encouragement or discouragement, that we do not recommend our right hon. and hon. Friends on this side to vote against the Government when in other circumstances we certainly would have done. We shall want to return to this question, but we do not want any extremist, wherever he stands, to get any encouragement from the debate which is taking place in this House today. We do not want any extremist to feel that he can rely on any major party in this House. I should hope that that would apply to the Ulster Unionists and to other parties. It is because of that, and only because of that, because we desperately want the talks next week to succeed, that we shall not vote against the Government.
I hope that the three Prime Ministers will have a great success. It is not their reputations or futures which are at stake. We are talking about thousands of decent, hard-working people, Protestant and Catholic, who want nothing more than to live their lives decently and to work and live with their neighbours. Those are the people about whom they will be talking. For that reason, we shall not seek to divide the House tonight.
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ The Minister of State for Defence (Lord Balniel)
The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), who once had the heavy responsibility of the conduct of affairs in Northern Ireland, made a speech in which he put forward ideas which I think certainly merit the most careful and thoughtful consideration in all parts of the House. Like my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, the right hon. Gentleman emphasised the gravity of the situation in Northern Ireland today. My right hon. Friend outlined to the House the dangers which exist, the loss of life which has already occurred, and the effects on the economy, on the jobs and on the living conditions of all the people of Northern Ireland.
The right hon. Gentleman had as the central theme of his speech the subject of internment. He spoke both about the principle of internment and about the practical consequences which could flow from releasing certain men involved in that internment.
203 The right hon. Gentleman, in his remarks, had to contend with thunderous interjections from some parts of the House and lightning, as he described them, from other sections. But this matter will be dealt with by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in winding up the debate.
The Home Secretary yesterday outlined the dangers of the situation, but he spoke also of the hopes that will be in the Prime Minister's mind in his discussions shortly with the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic and the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. Crucially important, also, are the talks which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is having with the representatives of various groups of all sections of the community in Northern Ireland- I believe that the whole House will hope that all elected leaders of all different political views will find it possible to take part in the discussions.
The right hon. Gentleman suggested some kind of compromise by which discussions could be opened. He outlined some kind of parameters which could possibly lead to discussions taking place. I think that negotiations to outline the parameters within which discussions can take place are better conducted privately, rather than across the Floor of the House. Although I do not diminish in any way the right hon. Gentleman's good intentions, it seems to me that what is needed now is not the laying down of prior conditions, not flag-wagging, not barricading, not intransigence, not demonstration. What is needed is simply that all men and women who condemn violence, who are concerned about the quality of life in Northern Ireland, and who are concerned that their children should be brought up in decency and not have to live in a violent situation should get down to serious discussions about reconciliation and about developing a society which can live at peace within itself.
These discussions will, of course, be concerned with a search for a political solution. It is only in the political sphere that a solution will be found to the troubles in Northern Ireland. Military measures alone can never solve the problem. It has never been contended that there can be a military solution but, 204 equally, there is no intention of allowing the Northern Ireland Government to be paralysed by guerrilla warfare. We must face the fact that the more any band of terrorists gains ascendancy, or intimidates a community, the more difficult it will be to secure a political solution. The prevailing climate in certain areas in Northern Ireland is one of fear and violence. The task of the security forces is to restore law and order because, without it, there is very little hope, indeed, of obtaining a successful political solution.
Unless we achieve that, innocent people will continue to be killed, whole streets will continue to live in fear, passions will become more inflamed, restraint and moderation will break down, and the danger is that violent extremism on one side will quickly be matched by violent extremism on the other. I think, therefore, that the House will expect to hear from me something about the security aspects of the situation, and the part that is played by the Army. But before I deal with those I should like to say something about the theme of the speeches that have been made by the Leader of the Opposition, by many hon. Gentlemen opposite and, indeed, by the right lion. Member for Cardiff, South-East.
I think the House agrees that there is much common ground between both sides in dealing with the situation. We, like right hon. Gentlemen opposite, stand by the Downing Street Declaration of August, 1969. I believe we all agree that a substantial, useful advance has been made in the carrying out of the reform programme since that date, as outlined in Mr. Faulkner's recent White Paper.
The crux is now not only the passing of legislation, much of which has been passed, but the implementation of the legislation on the ground, in the towns, in the villages, and in the rural communities and also, as my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said yesterday, to find agreed ways whereby both communities in Northern Ireland—the minority and the majority—can be given an active, permanent and guaranteed part in the public life and affairs of their country. That, I am sure, is an objective which commands the support of everybody in the House.
The Leader of the Opposition recently announced in my constituency to a small,
205 but highly honoured, and, I think, slightly bemused audience of my constituents, 12 specific proposals. These, and other proposals, such as those that have been put forward by my hon. Friends—for instance, the enlargement of the Northern Ireland Senate—are the kind of proposals that will be considered in the discussions which the Home Secretary is having with representative groups of the Northern Ireland community.
§ Mr. Thorpe
The hon. Gentleman said he felt that it was the hope and wish of the whole House that there would be participation by the majority and the minority. As the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) elicited a reply from the minority, which the House may think was very helpful, that they were prepared, under certain circumstances, to participate, would it not be helpful if the hon. Gentleman were to put a similar question to the representatives in this House of the majority in Northern Ireland, so that we know from them whether they are prepared for an equal participation and sharing of responsibilities?
§ Lord Balniel
I said in my earlier remarks that in trying to establish the parameters within which discussions of this kind could take place the more productive way to do it was for discussions to take place privately between the Government of this country and the Government of Northern Ireland. I think that that is a more likely way of making progress, rather than having an interchange of question and answer across the Floor of the House.
§ Mr. Harold Wilson (Huyton)
The hon. Gentleman referred to what I said in his constituency to what he called a "bemused audience". I am pleased that the Government's reaction is different from the first printed Conservative reaction. We accept from the hon. Gentleman that these negotiations cannot be carried out in full in public. When my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) put his question to my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), he was talking to the leader of the relevant party in Northern Ireland.
It is recognised—and I think that this answers the right hon. Gentleman the 206 Leader of the Liberal Party—that the noble Lord could not put a similar question to the other extremists behind him because they do not represent the leadership of the Ulster Unionist Party. Will the noble Lord make it clear that, this point having been raised, we expect a similar answer, at the right time, from the elected leaders of the Ulster Unionist Party? It is vital, as I said yesterday, that they should first withdraw any preconditions for the meeting of the three Prime Ministers, such as those included in the broadcast by Mr. Faulkner in "The World This Weekend" a week last Sunday.
§ Lord Balniel
I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has taken note of the right hon. Gentleman's comments. One of the dangers of discussing this kind of issue across the Floor of the House without prior consultation is that the leader of the party did not, so far as I could make out, command the unanimous support of the followers behind him. That is precisely the kind of danger that arises.
§ Lord Balniel
The Leader of the Opposition has made his point, and it will be borne in mind by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. It is more suitable that these negotiations—
§ Miss Devlin
On a point of order. I was not originally quite sure whether the noble Lord had seen me—but is it in order for Ministers to mislead the House? I am not, never have been and never will be a member of the Social Democratic and Labour Party.
§ Mr. Molloy
That is why you do not understand the situation. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] He did not know it. That is why he confuses the situation.
§ Lord Balniel
The security aspect, which I primarily wish to discuss, is only part of the picture which makes up the Northern Ireland scene, but the restoration of order in the streets and the elimination of fear in the homes of people is vital. It is on these two pillars that my right hon. Friend's policy is based—the elimination of terrorism and the reconciliation of the two communities.
The security situation has gone through several phases since the Army was first called in, in August, 1969, to assist the police. In the early days of the emergency, the starkest feature was the sectarian conflict and large-scale rioting in the streets. The very scale of the communal rioting was something which had not been witnessed in the United Kingdom, I believe, in the lifetime of any hon. Member.
The job of the forces was to keep the warring factions apart, to protect life and property and to restore law and order. In short, their job was to preserve the framework of ordinary, everyday life. Everybody, including the right hon. Gentleman, knew that it would be a long haul and that there would be many setbacks. But in spite of the setbacks, fairly long periods of calm were maintained.
The task of the forces—by which I mean the security forces, both the police and the Army—was appallingly difficult. By their skill, patience and good humour, it was paying off. I doubt whether any one, at any time, would have placed a heavy bet, but there were gradually growing up reasonable grounds for hoping that the Army was winning a breathing space, that there would be a reduction of sectarian strife as the reform programme initiated by the Northern Ireland Government gathered momentum and passed through its various stages of legislation—
§ Lord Balniel
There have been so many interruptions in the two preliminary speeches in this debate and I know that so many hon. Members wish to take part 208 that it would be for the convenience of the House, I believe, if we proceeded without giving way too often.
The very progress which was being made, the growing reluctance of the majority of people to become involved in riots, the continuous advance which was being made in the reform legislation, did not suit the books of the extremists. Indeed, anything which brings the two communities together is, by very definition, encouraging understanding, sympathy and moderation and weakening the extremist position. Any advance in civil rights, any amelioration of housing conditions or opportunities for jobs, any redress of genuine grievance is the exact opposite of what the extremists wish to see.
So they changed their tactics—from stirring up communal riots to tactics of terror. They have done so with a total disregard of the interests of the community that they pretended to protect.
There is, for many Irishmen, a romance about the historical struggles of long ago, and they exploited this.
They hope to conceal that their real aim in Northern Ireland is to overthrow any ordered society upon which peace and prosperity for the whole community must depend. They hope to conceal that the overall aim of the I.R.A. is to create and win a civil war in Ireland—a civil war which makes them as much an enemy to the Republic of Ireland as to the Stormont Government. They are the enemy not only of Stormont but of anyone who wishes to achieve a peaceful unification of Ireland.
In order to enlist wider support, they disguise the fact that their objective is the overthrow of any democratic government in Northern Ireland and they create violent situations in which they know that the security forces will have to act in order to save lives—and so they generate a situation in which they can pretend that their cause is an idealistic communal uprising against an oppressive British Army.
In the months leading up to August, a new security situation emerged. There was a mounting campaign of terror and destruction. There were brutal and cowardly murders, there was a great increase in the use of guns, fired from fast-moving cars and often from behind a screen of hooligans or children.
209 By the forces, all gunmen are treated alike. Gunmen are gunmen and all of them are enemies of society. There is no wish to point a finger of condemnation against any particular section of the community. But only in very few cases did investigations suggest that any but I.R.A. terrorists were concerned—and terrorism has been carried out by both factions of the I.R.A.
The terrorism is totally indiscriminate. They are gunmen from whom neither age nor misfortune nor innocence of any evil intention is any protection at all. Their character, I think, can be judged just by recent examples—by the bomb outrage at the office of the Electricity Board of Northern Ireland, which caused the death of a man and the maiming and scarring for life of several young girls, or the bomb blast quite recently at the Community Relations Office, or at the pub only a day or two ago.
This kind of thing is quite a contrast with the conduct of Sergeant Willets of the Parachute Regiment, who gave his life saving a civilian family from a bomb explosion. It is quite a contrast with the conduct of Corporal Herrington, who was shot from a hiding place while keeping innocent crowds out of harm's way of a bomb. As the Leader of the Opposition said yesterday, he was lured so that he should present himself as a sitting target to a hidden gunman. It is also quite a contrast with the day-to-day conduct of the security forces through these recent months, when 22 of their colleagues have been killed, when many hundreds have been hurt and several of them are very seriously wounded.
The actions of the terrorists inspire among ordinary men and women fear, disgust and revulsion—and that is exactly what they intend. They aim to provoke a violent reaction in return. The growing campaign of attacks on civilians, on their homes, on their places of employment, in the public houses, has just this objective in mind. It is to the credit of the great majority of the people of Northern Ireland that they have not played into the hands of the terrorists by seeking to take the law into their own hands.
However, there are some who talk in terms of creating a kind of self-generated defence force—separate entirely from the military and police forces. Were such action to be taken, it could lead to a 210 situation more disastrous for Northern Ireland than she has seen so tar. It would be a step towards the civil war which the extremists are so anxious to generate. There is no place in the United Kingdom for any armed force other than the Forces of the Crown. Anyone who belongs to such a force, such as the I.R.A., or who introduces such a force, will be resisted by the security forces of the Crown.
Terrorism of the kind that I have described is very difficult to deal with by forces exercising restraint and anxious to avoid hurting the innocent. It is very difficult to deal with by the normal processes of law. Guilty and evil men hide themselves among the innocent and behind the foolish. Even when they are caught it is hard to secure a conviction in a court of law, because there is no doubt that massive intimidation of potential witnesses takes place.
The campaign of terrorism was bringing about a situation in Northern Ireland in which the Northern Ireland Government feared that a loss of confidence in the social and economic structure of society could threaten the very disintegration of society.
There are arguments about whether internment was right or whether it was wrong, but the House should know the background against which the decision was taken. I hope that hon. Members will excuse a few figures. One pound of gelignite can easily kill a man, a woman or a child. In January of this year, the weight of explosives was 150 1b.; in February, 380 lb.; in March, 231 lb.; in April. 265 lb.; in May, 365 lb.; in June, 519 lb., and in July the weight of explosives was 1,400 lb. In July, also, three soldiers were killed. In the week before internment, two more soldiers were killed. In the single week from 2nd August to 9th August, the day of internment, 972 single shots were fired in Northern Ireland and 28 bursts of automatic fire were recorded.
It was against this background that, after weighing all these relevant factors, the Government of Northern Ireland decided, after consultation with the Government of the United Kingdom, to arrest a large number of men on 9th August, and to detain them under the Special Powers Act.
211 Detention without trial is a distasteful step, and it was taken with the utmost reluctance. Detention deprives a man of his normal rights in a free society. But society also was being deprived of its normal rights—the freedom to live without fear, the freedom to live without intimidation, the right to live without being shot at and gunned down, the freedom to live without being bombed out. Those are elementary rights.
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) yesterday asked why these men could not be tried by the normal course of law. I will tell him. The reason is that a few witnesses might have the courage to give evidence, it is true, but the probability is that they would be found dead in the gutter the next day.
Let me give a personal example just to give some kind of indication of the intimidation, fear and tension that exist. When I was last in Northern Ireland, shortly before internment, I met a young man, vigorous and certainly able to look after himself. His house had been bombed the day before. He was still shaking from shock, so that when he shook hands he had to hold his right hand with his left. By a miracle, his children and his wife were not killed. In the garden, he and his family were entertaining a woman, a friend of the family, whose husband had been murdered a fortnight before. That man's father, also, had been murdered by the I.R.A. This is just an example of one man whom I happened to meet when I was in Northern Ireland. It gives some kind of indication of what courage it must require to give evidence in the courts of law when the probability is that the witness will be gunned down by the I.R.A. for doing so.
The arrests by the Army had to take place in the early morning, when the terrorists—
§ Mr. Dick Douglas (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
There is very clearly a political case for internment, but would the noble Lord make quite clear, as he is the Minister responsible for the Army, the view of the Chief of Staff in relation to internment? I ask because my recent visits to the Army and discussions with the men involved have indicated fairly 212 clearly to me that the Army was not in favour of internment.
§ Lord Balniel
The hon. Member should understand that a decision for internment is a decision taken by the Northern Ireland Government after consultation with the Government of the United Kingdom. This was a point put to me by the hon. Member for Sparkbrook, who asked me to indicate to the House what had been the advice of the Army authorities. But, in the very same breath, he said:Mr. Faulkner has the dangerous habit of quoting his professional advisers' opinions."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd September, 1971; Vol. 823, c. 145.]It is not right for a Minister, who takes on his own shoulders the responsibility of a decision, it is not right for the Government, who take the responsibility of a decision, to indicate the professional advice which has been given. The Government have to take into account many relevant factors.
§ Mr. Roy Hattersley (Birmingham. Sparkbrook)
I think that, on reflection, the Minister will understand that the question I asked and the quotation he read from my last night's speech are directly related. I would not have dreamt of asking him what professional advice he had received had not the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland said on television that he had received professional advice to begin internment. This is the problem, as my right hon. Friend explained. It involves the suggestion, which I must put to him, that what the Prime Minister said about the Army on television was absolutely wrong.
§ Lord Balniel
I know nothing about the television programme to which the hon. Gentleman refers; but whatever was said in that programme, I adhere to my view that it is the responsibility of Ministers and of Governments to reach decisions, and it is not our task to indicate the professional advice which is given to us.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to say that I entirely concur with the constitutional view he has expressed; but that the Government themselves have slipped from this standard, especially in relation to calling in aid the military in connection with marches—for example, the march of the Apprentice Boys. They told us whether or not the Army was in favour of the 213 marches. This is obviously wrong, and if they now propose to return to the original standards, all of us will be very grateful. But they must accept full responsibility.
§ Lord Balniel
I doubt whether any of my right hon. Friends have slipped from the highest standards, but were it to be true I would accept the right hon. Gentleman's congratulations on adhering to a constitutional position which he and I share.
The arrests by the Army had to take place in the early morning, when the terrorists were likely to be at home. The operation had to be carefully synchronised to secure surprise everywhere, and had to be carried out with great speed. The security forces were dealing with violent men, who had arms at their disposal. Any delay at any house would have risked the gathering of crowds. Also, the security forces were well aware that their intelligence was incomplete; that further gunmen could emerge close by and trap them. Many of the arrests took place in areas where ambush was a constant possibility—indeed, in one area a soldier only in the previous 24 hours had been killed.
As allegations of brutality were made against the security forces, the Army itself at once asked for an immediate and impartial inquiry into those allegations. This step has been welcomed by the Leader of the Opposition and by the Leader of the Liberal Party. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has invited Sir Edmund Compton, Dr. Ronald Gibson and Mr. Edgar Fay to conduct the inquiry, and we are indebted to them for undertaking this task.
I do not want in any way to prejudge the inquiry—we must now await the report—but I am bound to say that it is not credible to me, nor is it credible to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Toxteth (Mr. Crawshaw), that troops whose conduct had been exemplary for so long, and still is—as we see regularly on the television screen day after day—would suddenly have behaved with widespread brutality and unnecessary force.
I now turn to the other expected reaction to the detention of large numbers of wanted men, the outburst of rioting in the streets. We had to expect that the terrorists had a contingency plan, and we knew that many of them would still be 214 at large. We had to expect, too, that the swoop would solidify support for them in certain areas, that crowds would appear, that barricades would be thrown up, and so on. The security forces expected that the interment operations would be followed by several days of bitter and vicious fighting. There were burnings and shootings over large areas of Belfast, coupled with outbreaks of sectarian violence.
The security forces had to curb these outbreaks where the two communities occupy adjacent areas, and they had steadily to clear the barricades to restore full control. This was a major undertaking. It took four days, and at its height 11 battalions were engaged. Each of these undertakings of removing a barricade was a military operation. The barricades were covered by gunmen, many of them with automatic weapons, who fought a rearguard action from barricade to barricade. The troops had to use covering fire while sections and platoons entered the buildings from which fire was coming. On occasion they had to fight from floor to floor.
The precise number of gunmen killed and wounded we shall never know because the I.R.A., as the House is well aware, make every effort to hide their losses. But they were very substantial losses. Army casualties over the four days were four dead and 27 wounded.
The Army cleared the debris and barricades. This was necessary from every point of view, as part of the process of restoring an orderly situation. Just in removing the barricades, 4,000 tons of debris and 200 vehicles, many of them buses, were removed.
The immediate result of the battle was that the security forces were able to move again freely through all areas of Belfast. I suppose that only history will show whether internment has achieved the objective which was set. But in practice it is not possible to gauge, even in military terms, the degree of success until at least two or three months have passed. The House should know—as contrary claims have been made—that a high proportion of those whom the security forces knew to be active members of the I.R.A. were arrested, and day by day more of them on the wanted list are being arrested. The terrorists have not yet been defeated, and the freedom they have to pursue their 215 training and to escape from the pressure in Northern Ireland into the Irish Republic is a real handicap for the security forces. The terrorists will continue their activities because they must desperately demonstrate that they are still in business. But they have had a very hard knock indeed. Many of the gunmen have been removed from the streets, and over 80 of their leaders have been interned.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)
The noble Lord said that over 80 of the leaders of the gunmen have been interned. But there are over 219 people interned. Who are, and what explains, the other 120?
§ Lord Balniel
I said 80 of the leaders, that is, the so-called officers of the I.R.A. The others are the rank and file of the I.R.A. If there is doubt, they all have the right of appeal to the Advisory Board.
I want to say a brief word about the valuable task being undertaken by the Ulster Defence Regiment and to announce some changes that are to be made. The Ulster Defence Regiment was called out for full-time service on 9th August. There was a wholehearted response, and during the following five weeks the regiment gave over 43,000 man-days of service. Their operational rôle is the guarding of key points and patrolling, with 700 to 1,000 men on duty at any one time. They have come under fire and have now suffered their first casualties from terrorist attacks. Two soldiers of the regiment have been killed. In the sombre situation in which they find themselves they can be very proud of their morale, strict discipline and devotion to duty. The strength of the Ulster Defence Regiment stands at 4,200 against its ceiling of 6,000. There is an urgent need for more recruits, Roman Catholic and Protestant, for, like other regiments in the Army, this is a non-sectarian regiment. The opportunity for those who would like to make a personal contribution to the maintenance of peace exists here. Clearly there are many people who are prepared to stand up against intimidation, and recruiting now is at five or six times its normal level.
Last week the Ministry of Defence announced its decision to establish a number of additional units to widen the geographical spread. This will make it much easier than at present for men to serve closer to their homes, especially guarding 216 vital installations.—[HON. MEMBERS : "B Specials."]—This is part of the British Army, and that kind of interjection, directly against a non-sectarian organisation designed to defend the freedom of people in Northern Ireland, is a most unworthy contribution.
The locations of these new units will be announced soon. But I can give an example of the kind of thing we intend to do. The County Tyrone battalion, the 6th Battalion U.D.R., covers an immense area including two important stretches of the Border. In order to improve command and control of the U.D.R. in this area, to increase its flexibility of deployment, and to allow for further expansion, we have decided to split this battalion of about 1,000 men strong into two, creating a new battalion, the 8th Battalion U.D.R. This will enable us to form additional sub-units in each of these two battalions as the officers and men become available. I can also announce today that we have decided to raise the age limit from 40 to 50 years at which men without previous military experience can be enlisted into the Regiment. The reason is that this will release younger men for the more active tasks undertaken by the U.D.R.
I hope that these measures will encourage yet more recruits to come forward. I can assure them that if they do so, the strength of the Regiment will not be inhibited by the present ceiling of 6,000.
Mr. Richard Grossman (Coventry, East)
Would the noble Lord give one further figure? He mentioned that the increase had been fivefold recently. What proportion of the increase was Protestant and what proportion was Catholic?
§ Lord Balniel
I am speaking entirely off the cuff. The proportion of Catholic recruitment is, I believe, very similar to, although it might be slightly lower than, the proportion in the early days of the Ulster Defence Regiment. That is my impression, but if I am wrong I will certainly write to the right hon. Gentleman and correct it.
There must be no misunderstanding. This is where I disagree with the hon. Gentlemen who interjected. The new units of the U.D.R. will be established within the framework of military command. They will remain firmly under the control of the G.O.C. Northern Ireland 217 and, through him, the Government at Westminster. Secondly, there is no question of changing the basic rôle of the U.D.R.
§ Lord Balniel
Yes. There are some British officers from the regular British Army in these units at present, and there is no reason for changing that procedure.
Suggestions have also been made in the debate about using the Territorial Army to assist in maintaining order. In practice, the T.A.V.R. has not been trained for internal security duties, nor have its members joined for such duties. Nor can the T.A.V.R. be called out for part-time duty. None the less, the kind of men who have volunteered for the T.A.V.R.—anxious to play a part in the defence of their country against external attack—are the kind of men who might well be anxious to play a part in defending society against this guerrilla warfare that now exists.
So far as individual members of the T.A.V.R. in Northern Ireland are concerned, the law does not allow a man to serve in both forces at the same time. But the Government do not wish in any way to discourage any member of the T.A.V.R. who may feel that he can best render service by resigning from the T.A.V.R. in order to join the U.D.R.
Special arrangements will apply to such people while they are in the U.D.R. and when they wish in due course to rejoin the T.A.V.R. For example, their T.A.V.R. service will count as qualifying for U.D.R. pay and bounty increments. Equally, their U.D.R. service will count towards eligibility for T.A.V.R. decorations and awards.
During the course of the debate we have heard many varied views and deep passions and emotions have been expressed. I have tried in the course of my remarks to report on the security aspects.
I would, though, like to end my remarks on a note which I am sure will command the support of the whole House. I have already said that it is not the rôle of the security forces to solve the problems of Northern Ireland. Ours in Parliament is the ultimate responsibility.
218 We have asked them, though, in incredibly difficult circumstances, to restore and maintain the stability we need for political advance. They are shot at and bombed by petrol bombs, acid bombs and nail bombs. They hold back violent, hostile, jeering crowds of hooligans. Their work is exhausting. Their living conditions are very bad indeed in some circumstances, and they see all too little of their families.
But they are doing their job, as they have done over the past two years, in my opinion, which I believe is shared by the whole House, superbly well. Their morale is astonishingly high. They will continue to do their job with complete impartiality. They need no so-called "help" from anybody who may seek to take the law into their own hands.
It is very sad and worrying that many of the decent, law-abiding, Roman Catholics, who of course constitute the vast majority of their community, have come to believe that the Army is their enemy. But if they look through the barrage of propaganda, if they study the situation, do they honestly think that they would be any safer and that their communities would be happier, if no British soldier was in Northern Ireland? I cannot believe that in their hearts they would feel that.
The troops will show restraint so as to avoid hurting the innocent. But they will seek out violence from wherever if comes.
Many of us earlier this week attended the Battle of Britain service for the Servicemen who died then. We heard again of their courage and skill. Perhaps the young men in Northern Ireland would laugh it aside and say that it is of no consequence, but I think this new generation of Servicemen in Northern Ireland today should know how proud we are that they also display those rare qualities of courage and skill.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerard Fitt (Belfast, West)
I believe that the debate can be helpful if every hon. Member applies his mind to seeking a solution to the dreadful tragedy now facing Northern Ireland.
I thought that there was an attempt by some speakers yesterday to question the attitude of the party which I have the honour to represent in Northern Ireland 219 and, indeed, in this House—the S.D.L.P. The question was posed many times yesteday: were we in a position to deliver? I regard that as a particularly offensive term. To me it is the terminology of a Chicago gangster. We are talking about the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in Northern Ireland. I do not think that anyone should seek to gain any personal political advantage from the debate.
I want, first, to establish my credentials. I repeat that I have the honour to lead the S.D.L.P. in Stormont, and I represent it in my own way in this House for the constituency of Belfast, West. The S.D.L.P. is a Socialist Party. It is committed in the long-term to bringing about by peaceful, non-violent means the reunification of Ireland with a Socialist society.
At present we are acting in concert with other public representatives in Northern Ireland, and indeed in this House, who perhaps would not subscribe to our Socialist political philosophy. They have their own political philosophy. However, in the situation which prevails in Northern Ireland, where there is the possibility of a very tragic loss of life occurring, we have for the moment decided to unite to do everything we can to ensure that there is no further bloodshed in Northern Ireland.
Some of my hon. Friends will know that over the past three weeks I have been ill in a Dublin hospital. I read the Press every morning and I watched the television pictures and saw the northern part of my country bleeding to death. That is the attitude I take in this debate.
I believe that both sides of the House should turn themselves into an emergency first-aid team to see what we can do, to race to Northern Ireland to stop the flow of blood that is taking place there. This is no time for party politics.
Before we are able to do that we must diagnose the illness. We must diagnose what has brought about this terrible haemorrhage in our society in Northern Ireland. Unless we correctly diagnose what has been happening over the last 50 years we shall be unable to effect a cure.
It must be recognised that the partition of Ireland was unjust. It took 220 place against the wishes of the vast majority of the Irish people. I can remember members of this Government, when they were in opposition, levelling charges at my colleagues in the Labour Government that they were gerrymandering local government constituencies in London, by delaying elections. The original gerrymandering in Europe took place in my country. This was admitted by the Home Secretary yesterday when he said that there was no possibility of ever bringing about an alternative Government under the structure of Unionism which exists in Northern Ireland.
In 1920 the Westminster Parliament by a majority pushed through the Government of Ireland Act. It was supported by the whip of British military might. Under the terms of that Act steps were taken to set up a permanent one-party Government in Northern Ireland and a permanently frustrated and humiliated minority within the context of the Stormont Parliament.
It is absolutely unrealistic now to expect that democratic conditions should prevail in Northern Ireland. If we accept that a terribly tragic mistake was made 50 years ago we can ask ourselves individually and collectively what we can do to remedy the wrong that was perpetrated upon the whole island and all the people of Ireland.
This is the time for Unionists in Northern Ireland, for nationalists and for Republicans in Northern Ireland, to recognise the differences which exist and to recognise all the attitudes which divide them, but, more importantly, to recognise that there are countless thousands of lives at stake if we do not arrive at a solution to the problem. The least this Government can do is to help the different sections of the community in Northern Ireland to learn to live together, to make sure that equal citizenship is given to every man, woman and child in the Six Counties. That is the least that we should ask of the present Government who have left us with a terrible legacy and a terrible past.
Most hon. Members have addressed themselves at some length to the question of internment. I quite agree that internment has been the one single issue which has so alienated and polarised 40 per cent. of the community in Northern Ireland. There must be a clear recognition 221 at this time that that 40 per cent. will no longer allow themselves to be coerced or humiliated by the old traditional Unionism as we have known it for 50 years. That is the first thing we must recognise if we are to stop the haemorrhage that is now taking place in Northern Ireland. By the single act of internment every member of the minority has been alienated from the Unionist Government in Northern Ireland. There can be no going back. There can be no involvement under any circumstances with the Unionist structure as it at present exists in Northern Ireland. That is one recognition that we must abide by.
I believe that I have the right to speak on behalf of the minority population in Northern Ireland. I and the majority of my colleagues, and, indeed, those who have been associated with me in representing the minority of Northern Ireland in this House, have been batoned; we have been doused with purple dye and we have been dragged before the courts. We have suffered all sorts of humiliations. Yet we have had the courage over the past three years to stand up and defy the gunmen in Northern Ireland. If we now deserted the people who have placed their trust in us we would not be living up to our responsibilities. We would be showing moral cowardice, and I do not think there is any Member in this House who would thank us for doing so.
That is why I say that irrespective of the deputations which have been received by the Home Secretary from people who have not been alienated in Northern Ireland, who represent no one but them selves, who will have a different solution for every problem which besets Northern Ireland, the only people who can speak with the authentic voice of Northern Ireland are those who have withdrawn from the system of co-operating: with the Unionist Government. The obstacle of internment must be removed. Every single internee must be released or brought before the courts and tried under due process of the law and either convicted or found not guilty.
I have heard the noble Lord say that this act of internment was initiated by the Northern Ireland Government. But we are repeatedly told, day in and day out, that we are citizens of the United Kingdom, that Northern Ireland is an in- 222 tegral part of the United Kingdom. I ask any hon. Member, be he Labour, Liberal or Conservative, what would happen if the Chairman of the Lancashire County Council or the Yorkshire County Council interned his political opponents? That is exactly what Stormont has done— a small parish council, which has been given a lot of authority which it should never have been given.
I know that it is hard for Englishmen, Scotsmen and Welshmen to understand the very deep emotions which are at present running through Northern Ireland society, both on the Protestant side and on the Catholic side. I am not here to condemn people because they do not agree with me because of my religion or my politics. I recognise the very real tragedy which has struck many homes on my political opponents' side of the fence. Many innocent Protestants have been killed. Many innocent Catholics have been killed. I share with the hon. Members for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) and for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) horror and revulsion at the murderous attacks which have taken place on innocent people. So here there is no divergence. What we must do is take steps to make certain that a political solution is evolved which will prevent other innocent persons losing their lives.
On the question of internment the Home Secretary said yesterday that it was a hideous weapon. He has said to me privately in the past that he thought it would be an appalling measure. I accept that the Home Secretary is a civilised person. I accept that he is appalled by internment in Northern Ireland. Internment was accompanied by the use of British military force. People were arrested in the City of Belfast, and one-third of them had to be released in two or three days. Many are incarcerated in prisons in Northern Ireland. They are people who have proclaimed their vehement opposition to the Unionist Party, as I have done throughout my political life. Certainly in this democratic society in Britain one would not expect to be interned for expressing opposition to a political philosophy. But in the City of Belfast 512 men and boys were arrested in the early hours of the morning of 9th August, not because their names were on the wanted list, but because they happened to have a brother 223 or a father or a cousin whose names were on the wanted list. When the Army went into their homes, they could not find the men they were seeking, so they arrested any male who happened to be present at that time. There can be absolutely no doubt about the facts and the figures which I am quoting.
Again, if one were to examine the figures of males between the ages of 15 and 77 in Northern Ireland—the minority figures and the majority figures—one would find that one man out of every 500 in the minority population in Northern Ireland is at present interned. There are 560 members of the Catholic community—professional people including doctors, solicitors and school teachers, men who have no involvement and never would have any involvement with violence—who have banded together and allied themselves with us in their expression of abhorrence and demanded the release of those internees or else that charges should be brought against them. Every member of the minority in Northern Ireland is either related to or knows intimately someone who is at present interned without trial or charge.
It is all very well for the noble Lord to say that there is evidence that these men have been involved in some section of the I.R.A. or that they are suspected of having been involved. But I would have thought that the Home Secretary, who said that this is a hideous and appalling matter, when he realised that this would cause such tragedy in Northern Ireland—and I regard him as having a good deal more intelligence than the Unionist politicians in Northern Ireland—would have said "Let me see the evidence that you have for interning those men." If the Home Secretary regards this weapon as being so hideous, was it not possible for him to say "Let me see the evidence that you have against these British subjects and I will decide whether or not they should be interned"? But he did not. He listened to the little men of Stormont and he acceded to their every wish.
I have something to say now to the Prime Minister. I say it in no sense of animosity or hostility, but I must say it so that he will understand. I am a member of the minority in Northern Ireland. I was born and bred there. I believe 224 that I reflect pretty accurately the emotions and the frustrations which beset that section of the community. I must tell the Prime Minister that the minority in Northern Ireland were bitterly resentful of the attitude which he adopted during the hours and days of 9th, 10th and 11th August, when 30 of my constituents lost their lives, when a Catholic priest lost his life as he was giving the last rites of the Church to a boy who had been wounded, when a young boy was shot as he came out of a grocery shop.
Where was the Prime Minister? If this tragedy had been taking place in Birmingham, Glasgow, Cardiff or some part of London, I am sure that he would have been at his desk. I am not condemning the Prime Minister for taking a holiday during the recess. I only wish that the politicians of Northern Ireland on both sides of the fence had more time to take holidays. But over the past three years we have found it almost impossible to sleep in our beds at night.
The Prime Minister should have shown more concern and less callousness towards what was happening in Northern Ireland at that time. I put it even in this way. I am bitterly opposed to internment in principle and in every way, but if the British Government had decided that there had to be internment, if they had taken the decision, why would it not have been possible either to bring the date forward or to put it off so that the Prime Minister could have been in London when such actions were taking place in my constituency? It may be that the activities in which he was engaged could not easily be postponed. But at such a time what was happening in my constituency was of far greater importance, I am sure, than the activities in which the right hon. Gentleman was engaged.
We have now reached a point at which there has been complete alienation of one section of the community in Northern Ireland. I listened yesterday when my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) spoke about the reform programme which was initiated by the Labour Government and pushed down the throats of the Unionist Government in 1969. In deference to the hon. Member for Londonderry, I say this, too. I regard his brother as having been a courageous and honourable man 225 in Northern Ireland. Indeed, that is why he is not Prime Minister today. But those reforms, after 50 years, brought only a minimum measure of the social justice which has prevailed in this island for over a century.
We had to take to the streets, people had to be batoned, people had to lose their lives, before these reforms could even be initiated by the Northern Ireland Government. Casting one's mind back, one realises that if the reforms or guarantees of equality of citizenship which we are now trying to win, and which the extreme Right wing of the Unionist Party are trying to hold back from us, had been offered to the Unionist minority in Ireland in 1920—they would have been readily and graciously given by the people of the island of Ireland—Partition itself would have been unnecessary and we should not have had the trouble which we have today.
The House of Commons must recognise the real tragedy which faces Northern Ireland. I understand that the Prime Minister is to deal with the question of internment. I ask him to tell us exactly on what grounds internment was introduced. Did the G.O.C. in Northern Ireland look at the file of every man who was to be arrested? Is it a fact that the files relating to Protestant extremists disappeared mysteriously from the police files three or four weeks before internment was introduced? As many of my hon. Friends will remember, we have had occasion in the past to recognise, and to recognise most acutely, that there were Protestant extremists in Northern Ireland—men who were responsible for the unseating of Lord O'Neill, men who were responsible in a different way for the unseating of Major Chichester-Clark.
Every explosion which has taken place over the past year in Northern Ireland cannot be laid at the door of either the Provisionals or the official I.R.A. Many of those explosions took place in areas into which no member of the minority would dare to travel. I have no hesitation in saying that there are extreme forces at work on the Unionist majority side of the fence, and they are intent at all costs on keeping their stranglehold on all the power which they have had in Northern Ireland over the past 50 years.
There must be a clear recognition that the old-type Unionism has gone. Nothing 226 —no repression, no number of British military forces—can ever be used to prop up again that corrupt and discredited regime. There must be recognition that there are two communities in Northern Ireland, and we have to attempt, however difficult it may be, to reconcile the irreconcilable. I do not believe that it is impossible, for there are many people in both communities who, while still clinging tenaciously to their political beliefs, want no more today than to live in peace.
No one will ever take from me the aspiration that some day I shall live to see a united Ireland, a united Ireland living in the greatest amity and concord with the people of Britain. These two islands are so situated geographically that they must live in friendly relations. Moreover, with the advent of the European Common Market and other international developments it is impossible for these two islands to live without each other's help.
I look forward also to the talks which are to take place between the three Prime Ministers. At the same time, however, I must state plainly that Mr. Brian Faulkner, the present Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, cannot at that conference table say, "I am speaking for the people of Northern Ireland." He cannot even say that he is speaking for the Unionist people of Northern Ireland, for there are as many splinters on the Unionist side of the political spectrum as there have ever been among their political opponents over a number of years. So the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, when he is talking and listening to the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, must recognise that he is taking part in discussions with a man who represents one section of Unionism.
The only people who can bring any lasting peace out of what is happening in Northern Ireland today will be those representatives who have at present withdrawn from the system. We cannot participate in any discussions until the terrible road blocks are removed and the terrible impediment of partition has been withdrawn—[HON. MEMBERS : "Internment."]—the terrible impediment of internment has been withdrawn.
If we were to engage in discussions while men were interned, we should immediately lose the faith of those who have placed their trust in us. Where 227 else would those people go but into the arms of the gunmen? This is what we are determined to prevent. If we let those people down now, there is only one road along which they can travel, the road to further violence, tragedy and bloodshed in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. James Molyneaux (Antrim, South)
I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman could help the House, because in his earlier answers to his right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff. South-East (Mr. Callaghan) he seemed to say that he was prepared to resume his place at Stormont once internment was done away with. But as he originally withdrew from Stormont because of the refusal of Her Majesty's Government here to grant an inquiry into two deaths in Londonderry, and therefore it was a strike against Westminster and not Stormont, is he prepared to drop his demand for that inquiry also?
§ Mr. Fitt
The demand for that inquiry was legitimate, because people in Northern Ireland, particularly in the city of Derry, will not be convinced other than that those two men were innocent. Can anyone give any valid reason why a deaf mute boy should have been shot in Strabane, together with all the other innocent people who have lost their lives?
I realise that every hon. Member is proud of the British Army. That is only to be expected. Every Government must be proud of its Army. The Irish Government is certainly proud of its Army. Every other Government in the world is proud of its army. It is very unpopular for anyone to say anything against the British Army. But I should be showing cowardice if I did not say that there were some members of the British Army who have acted in a very brutal way towards my constituents. I should be telling lies if I said anything less, because not every member of the British Army is an angel. Its soldiers are only human beings, and when they are caught up in the emotions that now exist throughout Northern Ireland mistakes are bound to be made.
It has been said that since the election of the Tory Government the British Army is acting under different directives. I hope that that will be contradicted, but I believe it to be so. My hon. Friend the 228 Member for Sparkbrook said yesterday that in the formation of the Ulster Defence Regiment he found that he had to restrict the membership of persons who were formerly members of extreme Unionist organisations, and now we find that those members are being admitted to the U.D.R. That can be proved conclusively.
Yesterday afternoon a question was asked on the judiciary and the courts in Northern Ireland. If we get rid of the internment obstacle we shall have quite a lot of things to say to the British Government. For example, we shall tell them that we believe that the whole judiciary and the whole process of law and order should be taken from the realm of Stormont, that in Northern Ireland the minority does not have faith in the courts, because many strange decisions have been made, some of them only within recent days. The noble Lord spoke of the British Army's impartiality in carrying out searches. The British Army and the R.U.C. searched a certain garage in Dungannon a number of months ago. The owner of the garage was a man named Burnside, an ex-'B' Special who had been charged with having a revolver in his hand in Armagh when a civil rights demonstration was taking place. In the garage was found almost a complete arsenal—machine guns, rifles and thousands of rounds of ammunition. The man was brought before the courts within only 72 hours and was found not guilty. He said that he had not been in the basement of his garage for the past 10 years, and a Northern Ireland jury believed him. Yet there are 219 men in interment in the only concentration camp in existence in Western Europe today, and it happens to be within the borders of the United Kingdom. They have never been brought before a court or charged. Here I see the malign influence of the Ministry of Home Affairs, which is such a sensitive Ministry in Northern Ireland.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), the former Home Secretary, has said many times that unless the vast majority of the people in any democratic society have respect for the forces of law and order that whole society must disintegrate. That is exactly what has happened in Northern Ireland, because the minority does not have faith in the impartiality 229 of the courts or the forces of law and order.
I am saying that, given that the roadblock of internment is taken away, we will be prepared to enter into discussions. We have said that one of our demands would be the suspension of Stormont. Many people have put their own construction on that. What we mean is the disbandment of Stormont as it has existed for 50 years; that the old-type Unionism has gone; that there must be a new system of Government which will allow both the new majority and the minority communities in Northern Ireland to participate at all levels in the administration of that country; that we are not prepared to accept anything by grace and favour of a Unionist Prime Minister. If a Unionist Prime Minister were to offer me a certain Government post, whether at Cabinet level or Parliamentary Secretary level, I should be unable to take it, because my own people would be immediately suspicious of me. They would believe that I had been doing a deal, that I had been selling out my loyalty, that I was gaining personal advantage from co-operating with a Unionist Prime Minister. So I accept the words used by the Home Secretary, that a means must be devised to bring about an involvement of the two communities. We want an involvement that is active, permanent and guaranteed, written into the Constitution of Northern Ireland. We say that the 1920 Act is no longer sacrosanct; that there must be a sharing of power; that that section of the community which has been so cruelly excluded from all forms of participation over the past 50 years must be brought in to take some part in the administration of the community in which they live. Given those circumstances, we will co-operate with the majority.
We recognise that the majority population in Northern Ireland, which is a minority in the island of Ireland as a whole, has its aspirations, which are orientated towards remaining part of the United Kingdom. I can quite understand that, though I disagree. I believe that its future is completely linked with a United Ireland. At present we are not arguing about that. I realise that one cannot shoot or bomb one million Protestant people into a Republic of Ireland tomorrow. I would not attempt to do 230 so, because what sort of an Ireland would it be? What sort of an Ireland would it be if the gunmen were successful in bringing about the abolition of the Border overnight? The problem we have had for 50 years, when we have been humiliated and coerced, would be transferred to another section of the population in Northern Ireland. As a Socialist, I certainly would never subscribe to that happening to any human being or any political philosophy. There must be a natural evolution.
But I am a little worried at the one-upmanship of Brian Faulkner within the past 48 hours, when he announced that he would introduce certain reforms. I do not believe that he was going to introduce them. I believe that he was told either by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom or by the Home Secretary that he would have to introduce reforms, but that he pleaded once again, "Let me get a little political advantage from this. Let me make the announcement on Northern Ireland radio, because there are no newspapers in circulation in the United Kingdom, and perhaps this may stave off the threat of a backlash", a backlash with which he had to contend as Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.
Many people have spoken about the backlash. I hope sincerely that if a backlash exists it never comes, because a backlash can only mean that innocent people will lose their lives. I do not say that it is as dangerous as has been suggested. I do not say that it is of either major or minor importance. But I hope that it is unnecessary for this Government ever again to allow themselves to be blackmailed by the threat of a backlash, because that has been happening for the last 50 years. The Government must not consistently allow themselves to be so blackmailed by being told, as we were yesterday, "Do not take away 100,000 guns because it would create difficulties"—in other words, that it might create a backlash—when the very essence of the problem is that the 100,000 guns are part of the backlash and if those guns were no longer there there would be less possibility of people losing their lives.
The only sensible thing for the Government to do is to force the Northern Ireland Government to call in all legally held arms and to search out and bring in illegal arms on both sides of the fence. 231 There must be many illegal arms not only in the Falls Road but in the Shankill Road and other Unionist areas as well. I would like to see every single firearm collected and taken in.
I was appalled to read today that another two of my constituents were shot last night—a little girl of six and a little girl of 3—and I understand from the Press that the 6-year-old girl is seriously ill. A man aged 22 is also seriously ill. I do not want to see anyone losing their lives in this situation. That is why this debate is so important.
This House has been recalled for the first time in 50 years to discuss Northern Ireland. I remember trying, with other hon. Members, including the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe), to break through the conventions in 1966 in order to get Northern Ireland discussed. We were told repeatedly by the Speaker and the Table Office that we could not discuss it, that everything was a matter for Stormont, that everything was all right and that we should not interfere in the affairs of Stormont. One can see just how foolish that position was because, however much we may like to get away from it, Stormont is the responsibility of this House. The monster of Stormont was created by this House, and it is only by action taken by this House that we can attempt to allay the fears which so beset both sections of the community in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Orme
My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) is putting a courageous point of view. Would not a vote this evening against the Government, particularly on the question of internment, assist the democratically elected people and the minority in Northern Ireland to show that they have not been left alone, particularly by the Labour Opposition, on this issue? Would not this refute the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan)?
§ Mr. Fitt
To some extent I accept the argument put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East when he said that he does not want to do anything to jeopardise the situation. But if there were no vote in the House tonight the 40 per cent. minority 232 in Northern Ireland would feel that they had been let down. They would feel that we had betrayed them. They would feel that the Labour Party, to whose Government they gave such respect in the person of my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East, for whom they had the greatest respect, had betrayed them and let them down. I believe that on the one vital issue of internment, the one issue which has so alienated the minority community and brought us to the edge of the abyss, a vote must take place tonight. That is why I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to accompany me into the Lobby at the end of the debate.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (Chelmsford)
The course which the debate has taken so far has abundantly justified the recall of Parliament. Indeed, even if this had been a very poor debate it would have been right to have recalled Parliament because we still enjoy in Britain Government by discussion, and on an issue as vital as this to the United Kingdom it is fitting and right that the voice of Parliament should be heard. Parliament can make the situation better or it can make it worse, and that depends on the restraint and the sense of responsibility shown by hon. Members. Everyone who has spoken has been conscious of the fact that it is not only abstract principles which are at stake but that the words uttered in this House can affect people's lives, their whole way of life and their future and may have a direct effect on what is going on in Northern Ireland.
This is a debate, and therefore I want to look at some of the contributions that have been made. I want particularly to comment on the speech we have just heard from the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt). While prescinding from his rhetoric about Stormont and the Border, with which I certainly would not wish to be associated but about which I understand why he feels he must speak in that manner, I would like to congratulate him on his contribution. His speech is probably the most important contribution that has been made in this debate, because the future of Northern Ireland will not depend on the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) nor on the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), however many headlines they 233 may gain for their utterances. The future of Northern Ireland depends on the attitude of hon. Members like the hon. Member for Belfast, West and the degree with which they can feel that they can cooperate to bring about peaceful and parliamentary solutions to the difficulties there.
The exchange which took place earlier between the hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) was extremely important and extremely encouraging. I disagree with the hon. Gentleman on two points. The first is on the judgment that he passes on members of the British Army. I think that any judgment must be provisional, and a tribunal is looking into these allegations. No one in this House is in a position to pass final judgment; only that tribunal is.
Secondly, I think that the hon. Gentleman was unfair and unjust in his reference to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, to whom he referred as being callous with regard to the situation in Northern Ireland. That simply is not true. In my right hon. Friend the Catholic community in Northern Ireland has a Prime Minister who is sensitive to the grievances of that minority, who is in fact sympathetic to its claims for justice and fair treatment and is perhaps more sympathetic to the minority in Northern Ireland than any previous Leader of the Tory Party has been.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
It may not be saying much, but it is saying something, and it is unjust in these circumstances to attribute callousness to my right hon. Friend when it simply is not true.
I turn to the Leader of the Opposition and his contribution yesterday. I was relieved to hear it. It was a much more helpful contribution than one might have expected from some of his utterances outside the House. I welcome the fact that, though shaken, the bipartisan policy on Northern Ireland is still in existence, because the maintenance of that bipartisanship measurably increases the chance of a successful and peaceful solution there; under strain perhaps, but not demolished.
I cannot think that the right hon. Gentleman's contributions were particularly 234 helpful, particularly in the latter part of his speech and especially about the subject of internment. What can one think of a Leader of the Opposition who is afraid to bring out his own criticisms of the internment policy but must shelter behind the findings of the "Insight" team of the Sunday Times? That team, as everyone knows, masquerades as being an objective team inquiring impartially into situations, but in every situation which that team has investigated it has shown, without exception, prejudice and partiality, inaccuracy and a desire to shape the facts to suit its own predetermined views. To snipe from behind the barricades of "Insight" was an act of cowardice which the Leader of the Opposition went out of his way to condemn in other circumstances.
I now turn to the contribution of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). The military advice which he gave to the House was sound, but his political counsel was both irrelevant and dangerous, because the major part of that counsel consisted of telling us that we should treat members of the Republic as foreigners, and his reason for that was that it was the aim of the Republic to incorporate the Six Counties in a united Ireland. There is nothing new about that; it has always been the aim of the Republic of Ireland.
My right hon. Friend gave as his justification for this proposed constitutional change the violence taking place in the North. But, as the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon) pointed out, the violence in the North has been condemned by the Republic, both by the Prime Minister of the Republic and by all the party leaders there. What possible justification can there be for advocating a major change of policy which would affect the rights of every citizen of the Republic of Ireland and materially harm relations between Great Britain and Ireland? The truth about violence in Ireland is that if Stormont is the first victim, the Republic will be the second victim. What is under threat in Ireland today is parliamentary government throughout the whole of the island.
The second point made by my right hon. Friend was equally flawed. He argued that the reform programme would not end terrorism. Nobody has pretended 235 that it would. The reform programme has not been directed against the terrorists. It has been directed to the peaceful, law-abiding minority in Northern Ireland, and it has been intended to create a situation in which they would not be driven by despair to make common cause with the gunmen and terrorists of the I.R.A. This policy has not been wholly successful, but it has been partially successful, and the only reasonable line to take is to press on with this policy and to carry it through to its logical conclusions, some of which have been outlined today.
The third point my right hon. Friend made was that the guilt for the shedding of innocent blood in Northern Ireland ultimately rested upon the House in general and the Government in particular. That is the sort of cloudy rhetoric which one might expect from the far Left, but which one does not expect from the representative of the logical Right. The guilt for the spilling of blood in Northern Ireland rests on one set of people alone—the terrorists and the gunmen of the I.R.A. That is where the guilt and responsibility rest, and the House must make it clear that it recognises that and will do all in its power to see that that responsibility is brought home where it belongs.
Finally I turn to deal with my hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison), who has criticised the Pope's statement on internment outside the House and within it and asked him to modify it. What the Pope said about internment was that it increased distrust in Northern Ireland. That is a fact, and no one can deny it. It is a matter of judgment and policy whether it was necessary to incur that distrust in order to guarantee the security of the realm, or whether it was justified for political reasons. But the Pope did not pronounce on this. My hon. Friend should distinguish between analytical and condemnatory statements.
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Chigwell)
What I did was to write to the Apostolic Delegate representing His Holiness in this country imploring the Holy See to reflect on the effect on loyal British subjects who were Catholics if the Holy See appeared to condemn steps taken in good 236 faith for the protection of the United Kingdom and its people. Whatever my hon. Friend may say, the effect of that statement was bound to be to suggest both to the I.R.A. and to the Press of the world that there had been a condemnation of a measure which, however regrettable, was absolutely necessary, a measure frequently employed in the Republic in the South without any condemnation by hon. Members and without any condemnation I know of from the hierarchy or the Holy See.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
Naturally I accept the sincerity of my hon. Friend's explanation. I merely say that while I am always prepared to criticise the Pope where necessary, I am certainly not prepared to tolerate it from anyone else.
Many people take a desparing view of the situation in Northern Ireland. They think that there is no solution to Ulster's problems. That was the note sounded yesterday by the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh). They feel that it is fruitless that British troops should be killed in a struggle which is so remote from the sentiments and aspirations of the majority of people of Great Britain. They are affronted by the religious and sectarian undertones of this trouble at a time when everywhere in the world there is such a growth in Christian tolerance. They conclude from this that we should withdraw British troops from the situation. This is a policy which the right hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) has advocated in another capacity in another medium.
That is not, in fact, a policy. It is an emotional reaction. It is not a policy because it has no logic to commend it, and it would not bring the violence to an end as it purports it would do. Even if we withdrew our troops from Northern Ireland tomorrow violence would break out between the communities on a scale which would make the present violence seem small. Inevitably the Republic of Ireland would be involved and we would be reinvolved in the situation, and this policy would have achieved nothing but to make the situation worse.
On the whole, the Government's policy has been right. They have tried to discharge their duties in a frightfully difficult situation. Of course mistakes have 237 been made. Who would not make mistakes in a situation as fraught with difficulty as this one? But the Government have been right to refuse to give way to violence and to be steadfast against the violence and the intimidation of the I.R.A. It is disgraceful that British troops should be murdered in Ireland, and Parliament has said so. That alone has justified its recall. We should give every backing to the Army in its thankless task of attempting to maintain a minimum of order there.
I come to the vexed question of internment. I listened very carefully to the argument of my noble Friend the Minister of State. Clearly in the Government's judgment it was necessary on the information available to them but not available to us. I can do no more than suspend judgment about it. My noble Friend was right when he said that the ultimate judgment will be given by history.
§ Mr. Molloy
The hon. Gentleman has outlined some of the terrible things which might happen if the British Army were withdrawn and referred to the need for sensible discussions among all people. My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) gave an unequivocal answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), that he and his colleagues were prepared to have discussions. The only thing which is stopping the sensible, intelligent collaboration which the hon. Gentleman and I would like to see is the Government's insistence on supporting Mr. Faulkner's policy of internment. Would it not be worth while to abolish internment and give these sensible discussions an opportunity to fructify?
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
The important point is not the diagnosis and looking back to see whether internment was justified but to look forward and see how this obstacle—and, clearly, it is an obstacle—can be removed. I would not venture to say how it can be removed, and I do not agreed that the total abolition of internment is necessarily the answer. But internment constitutes the obstacle and we should explore the question of how it can be cleared out of the way so that the co-operation which the hon. Member for Belfast, West is willing to give may take place.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles (Winchester)
Would not my hon. Friend clear his mind and thinking on the question of internment a good deal if he asked hon. Members opposite how many gunmen would be immediately released into the streets to fire on the British Army if the policy of internment was ended?
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
Since my hon. and gallant Friend has put the question to the Opposition it is not necessary for me to repeat it. The Government are right to insist on maintaining the distinction between the I.R.A. and the Catholic community. It is a vital distinction which must be maintained. The I.R.A. is supported by some of the minority in Northern Ireland, but its activities are condemned by the majority of people who support their bishops in their condemnation of violence and murder. The Government are also right to press ahead with the reform programme, however few immediate returns it seems to show.
What of the future? I do not share the gloom and pessimism of some speakers in this debate. In fact, I share the note of optimism sounded at the opening of the debate by the Home Secretary and echoed today by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East. I cannot believe that in the second part of the twentieth century a State made up of civilised men and women is resolved to destroy itself over the issue of partition. I do not believe that the obsession with ordinary people on both sides of the Border has reached that point and that all other considerations of life, happiness, property and stability must be subordinated to that issue. There are lines of policy which, if pursued resolutely, can bring peace even to Northern Ireland.
First, there is the question of the reunification of Ireland. That must be left over for the moment—I say "for he moment". I do not doubt that at some stage in future the reunification of Ireland will come about. But it can come about only with the free consent of the majority in Northern Ireland. If the Border were formally abolished tomorrow it would not end the violence and bloodshed in Northern Ireland; it would merely transfer it to a different setting. As Cardinal Conway has said, can anyone in his right senses imagine that it is right to bomb 1 million Protestants into the unity of one Ireland against their will? If that 239 were to happen, can anyone be so lunatic as to think that it would be a foundation for a peaceful State? This is the tragedy of the situation. The I.R.A., which believes that it is hastening the reunification of Ireland, is only driving the concept further away from realisation.
I say to the Government of the Republic that if they really and seriously want one Ireland they must start changing those laws of the Republic which are an obstacle to bringing it about. They will have to look at their laws on contraception, on divorce and on censorship because those laws could not survive in an enlarged and united Ireland; they would have to be changed. The Protestants in Northern Ireland are afraid that they would lose their liberties in a united Ireland. Furthermore, one looks to the Republic to restrain the I.R.A., because nothing would do more to persuade moderate Protestants in the North that their liberties would be defended and safeguarded in a united Ireland than if they saw the Republic taking vigorous action against those who are the enemies of all parliamentary rule.
§ Mr. St. John-Stevas
That is true, and they enjoy every liberty. That is a credit to the Republic. But the situation is quite different because they are a tiny minority and it is much easier to be tolerant towards a minority which is small than it is to be tolerant towards a minority which is large and constitutes a threat.
We must press on with the political, civil and constitutional changes which are implicit in the policies on which we have embarked. I support the suggestion for proportional representation. The suggestion for an enlarged legislature in Northern Ireland is also important. But, above all, it is vital to include members of the minority in the executive Government. If that could be brought about it would transform the situation in Northern Ireland in a way in which no other constitutional change could. AH these changes must be guaranteed by Westminster as part of the constitution of the United Kingdom.
I believe, therefore, that if we act determinedly and swiftly all is not lost 240 in Northern Ireland. This recall of Parliament is justified because it will create a situation in which action is taken more swiftly. There are some situations where it is better not to act but this is one where delay is the worst possible course. Swift action is needed.
I am sure this House, I myself and every other Member in it, invokes success on the two conferences which are to take place, the tripartite conference at the international level and the quadripartite conference to take place internally. If those participating in those conferences can show a degree of tolerance, common sense and statesmanship, then the long history of the tragic Anglo-Irish relationship may at last enter a happier chapter.
§ 5.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Crossman (Coventry, East)
The last speech we have just heard is a very good example—I hope the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) will excuse me for saying so— of the blinkered optimism which has been one side of the debate. The House has been divided not so much across the Floor but really much more between people on either side of the House who sincerely and blindly believe that we can within the existing structure of Northern Ireland and within the existing system actually achieve peace and understanding and those of us who now feel that it is proven beyond any doubt that if we go on merely trying to tinker with the system the situation will get worse and worse, and that, therefore, far more drastic remedies must be applied if the crisis is to be overcome. That seems to me to be the real division, and it raises, very appropriately, the issue of internment, as I hope to show, because internment really is the final parting of the ways.
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) that, whatever the formalities about the Whips, it would be gravely misunderstood outside this House if some of us who feel this division did not record it in the Lobby tonight.
I thought that, on either side, the Leader of the Opposition and the Home Secretary were completely united. They had some small bickers about the proprieties, but basically, on policy, they showed, both of them, what I thought was 241 a dangerous complacency, complacency in the way which the Labour Government started in July, 1969, with the Declaration of Downing Street, the thought that if we go on repeating that and saying that it is unchanged then that will somehow resolve the situation.
The more I listened to the Home Secretary, and to the Leader of the Opposition, whose speech was, as usual, extremely able and persuasive, the more I felt that even they must realise that what they said is a kind of incantation which bears virtually no relation to the actual tragedy which is going on. They talked as though proportional representation and social reform are actually going to stop the I.R.A. from increasing its strength, but to talk thus is to show absolute blindness.
Had such reforms been pressed on with some years ago they might have changed the situation; the minority might have worked more with the Stormont Government; and reforms might, in the last two years, have prevailed. However, the situation is that the decline has gone far faster than reform, with the result that in every way everything we seek to achieve by reforms is being forced in the opposite direction. Everything is designed to create a consensus in the middle, for Catholics and Protestants to meet together as citizens of one country to seek to make it a better, a finer country, but the communities are now infinitely further apart than they were even two years ago—infinitely. The ghetto is an actual ghetto; the houses are burned or blocked up; the communities are separated so as more easily to shoot at each other; people live on the edge of communities to shoot one another the more easily.
This is the reality of events. This is what my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West meant when he said. "Do you not understand? Do you think that even these proposed remedies match up to this crisis? Do you think that just by pushing on with these reforms or by increasing the number of policemen there will be a happy ending to the crisis?"
The Government say they must go on with these proposals and with these talks. Mr. Lynch will be saying that he believes passionately in the end of the boundary, but we tell him that the boundary cannot be discussed and that that is a condition of the forthcoming discussions—no discussion of the boundary. That means no 242 effectual discussions. The basis of the discussions must be the end of the boundary. The talks can go on solidly but nothing will come out of the talks on the basis which we have laid down for them. Each man will make a speech, and then they will all go away and say that they hope things are better.
The situation is as serious as my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West and the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) said. The right hon. Gentleman is always clear and he is always logical and the one thing he was absolutely right about was that the justification of internment is that there is a war on. One does not use internment in a modern democracy unless it is that internment is justified by war. The Minister of State gave it the description of a battle, and he said that 4,000 tons of debris had to be removed after a battle.
That is very striking. If we decide that there is a war between us and the I.R.A., a war which justifies internment, then we have a policy to justify internment, but then we cannot still talk of reform or proportional representation as though that will lead to the end of the war against the terrorists. [Interruption.] I ask the House to be kind to me and I ask hon. Members not to intervene because I have a number of things to say which I know will shock and even disgust some people. I am going to break the command of the Leader of the Opposition that no word should be said in justification of terrorists. I am going to talk about my experiences.
There were men who, before they became Ministers, and Prime Ministers, were terrorists. There were the Haganah in Palestine. I went there on a commission. There are now highly respected members of the Israeli Government who at that time were red terrorists. In July. 1946, the Labour Government decided to lock them up, to intern them. The King David Hotel was blown up six weeks later and the war actually got going, a war between the British Army and the Jewish terrorists. And we got out. That war ended with our ejection from Palestine. We had there a huge army, much bigger than our army in Northern Ireland, and it was ejected unceremoniously, by a few thousand people, who won. The terrible tragedy of their 243 winning was that they were not loved by the Jews. They were hated by all the Jews. The Jewish constitutionalists said, "Please, Mr. Bevin, will you see we get justice?".
The British Government conceded to the terrorists what it had denied to Dr. Weitzman, with the result that the whole tradition of Israeli politics is now based on the assumption that in international affairs words are not listened to. It is action on which States are founded and action is what leads to beginnings. They have never got away from that understanding of a reliance on force.
Let me remind the House that the ordinary Jews do not like the terrorists. They were terrified by terrorists and blackmailed by them, because terrorists know how to handle these things. It might be asked why they did not give up the terrorists to the British Army. This was due to the fact they were suffering a basic political injustice. That injustice was sufficient to make them feel they were on the side of the terrorists, even if they disapproved of them. They could not hand them over; they could not give evidence against them. They, like many other people, are not very brave in the face of terrorism. I suggest to the Minister of State that in dealing with terrorists there is something to learn from the history of Palestine, and certainly from the history of the Canal where Colonel Nasser and Sadat were organising terrorism which led to our getting out.
Then there was Cyprus. I watched three countries where my friends became the masters because they knew how to put the heat on the British Army. They knew the British Government never conceded to reasonable sensible people but conceded only when the heat was put on. It is a terrible thing to say, but the Jews would not have got their State without the terrorists murdering. If Weitzman had had his way and pleaded and pleaded, they would have been overrun. Cyprus would not have got as far as it did if it had not been for the terrorists. I remember the time in the House when the then Colonial Secretary said, "Never". That was nine months before we gave way.
It is no good people here saying that we can smash the I.R.A. May I respect- 244 fully give the Minister of State one piece of advice? If he wants to help the terrorists, then he should go on saying that the subject of the boundary is not to be discussed. If the boundary is not up for discussion, then the terrorists are justified in getting it changed by force. If the alternative to force is no change in the boundary, if it is this confounded Declaration from Downing Street that nothing will happen without the consent of the Parliament of Northern Ireland, then that means nothing at all. If that is the last word by Britain, the I.R.A. will grow stronger and stronger. The people of Ireland believe they are doing the right thing in the wrong way. But unfortunately they are doing the right thing in the only way anybody has ever got anything out of the British Government in the history of British Colonial rule.
§ Lord Balniel
The right hon. Member said that I should not make interjections, but I would remind him that I was at the receiving end of the Haganah and the Irgun Zvai Leumi, and I was in Palestine when the right hon. Gentleman was there. However, there is a big difference in that in those countries there was not a democratically-elected Government. There are faults in Northern Ireland, but at least one can say it is a democratically-elected Government with a universal suffrage.
§ Mr. Crossman
Then let us get right down to it. This is not a natural State of any kind at all. It is an artificial political product created to destroy political rights and to maintain one group of people in permanent power. By its very essence it denies every principle of democracy and always has from the time this House of Commons created it. If we use our troops and say that it is our duty to defend to the last breath the boundary, then in my view we are fighting an unjust war. I am against using British troops to defend the Border. I am against saying, "We ought to have an Army to prevent the possibility of a rational solution in Ireland being discussed".
I thought it was right some two years ago to make one last effort to see if we could get anywhere. I thought that there was a thin chance of that measure of reform succeeding. But when we sent the troops to Northern Ireland, we sent 245 them as peace keepers. They are now an accupying Army, waging war. They are certainly not fulfilling the function we sent them to fulfil.
There has been mention of troop withdrawals. Let me tell the hon. Member for Chelmsford what I think about the position of the troops. First of all, if one builds in the British Army as part of the police force to maintain law and order and says that the Ulster Regiment will be an essential part of the policing of law and order permanently, then one is in an awful fix. Any solution that requires the British Army to be permanently "on the go" makes Ulster into a permanent police state.
Secondly, the longer the Army stays the more impossible the position of neutrality becomes. Anybody who was in Palestine knows that. The British Army was not impartial in Palestine. It was passionately anti-Jewish. The British Army in Cyprus could not be said to be very pro-Greek. Do not let us talk too much about the Army being impartial. Let us look at the realities of the situation.
At present the Army is fighting the I.R.A. with the full support of the Protestants of Ulster and is being driven into a position where, emotionally, it is with the Protestants against the Catholics. The Catholics are conniving with the I.R.A., as they always will because the I.R.A. stands for what they believe in. The longer this goes on the worse the position of the Army will become; the more intolerable the situation will be and the more unjust will be their rôle
§ Mr. Carol Mather (Esher)
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but I wish to point out that I was in Palestine at that time and can testify that the Army was impartial. The fact was that the Army was being attacked by the Haganah and the I.Z.L. and had to defend itself. That was the situation.
§ Mr. Crossman
That is exactly what I was saying. I remember General Barker showing complete impartiality in his attitude to Jews by issuing an anti-Semitic order of the day. But I never blamed him. The Jewish terrorists were extremely unpleasant. They killed many people. They hanged one man and when the body was cut down there was a bomb attached which blew up the person who was cutting 246 it down. They were first rate and they learned it from us. We had taught them how to fight against the Germans in the war. It is old history, but this is done when necessary.
If we think we can keep British troops year after year in Ulster in an Olympian, neutral, neat and tidy capacity, then we must realise that no human being can do such a job in the intolerable conditions which war can produce. I feel that the Army has behaved as well as anybody could possibly behave. Had they been National Servicemen, we would have brought them back to this country a year ago. The British people would not have had conscripted sons and daughters sent to Ireland. It is only when we have a paid Army that there is not a public demand to get the boys home. One advantage of a professional Army is that it can be sent out to do a dirty job because it is paid to do it.
It was the same in Aden and Cyprus. They were told, "You are used to this sort of thing, it is one of the jobs you are required to do but you must exercise self-control". It is unrealistic to talk about the British Army staying in a country for two or three years more without creating an intolerable situation, namely, a complete severance of the community and the Army discredited.
What is my solution? First, we have to be prepared to put forward proposals to deal with the boundary. Let us be candid. The moment a British Government are known by Stormont to be putting forward a proposal to deal with the boundary in any way, there will be grave danger of a civil war in Ireland from the other side. We shall have two armies against us, the I.R.A. on one side and the Loyalists on the other. There will not be pacifists in Northern Ireland if we seek to do what is called "selling them out". They will do what they always do—they will fight and fight and there will be far more people at it. So our Army will be fighting on two fronts, the Protestants on one side and the Catholics on the other.
All I am saying is that if we are to put forward proposals—we must, because we have to get some solution—we must first take direct rule and put forward those proposals on the basis of running the country, but not for longer than is necessary to get the proposals out and 247 to see them put into operation, and then get out as fast as we can. The only justification for keeping the troops in Ireland is to give us time to make, and to push through, the proposals in an attempt to reach an ultimate settlement. It will be tremendously risky.
The alternative is terrorism. If we continue our present policy and do what the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West wants—to defend Ulster for ever—if we create the boundary, we shall have to maintain naval patrols and 10,000 troops on the frontier and we shall have a permanent fight in our own back yard. But the British people do not feel that Ulster is any more or any less part of the United Kingdom than Southern Ireland. They are both mixed up with us. One is technically independent and the other has people who are technically British citizens, but they are both involved with us.
We have to find a solution in which we all work together. The sooner we give up the pretence that the way v/e are now going has any prospect of success, the sooner we have the courage to get into the difficult position of putting forward a solution on the boundary and knowing how to handle the difficulties, the sooner I shall take seriously our efforts to solve this problem.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Sir Robin Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) for having brought the debate back to reality.
We are facing terrorism. I find it hard to understand how the right hon. Gentleman remained a Member of the Cabinet holding those views of sympathy with terrorism when he sent our soldiers out to fight under such difficult circumstances.
§ Mr. Crossman
I was extremely dubious whether we should send the troops. However, I became persuaded, I think rightly, that we should make one effort to resolve the problem without letting it go into the deep end. So we went ahead with a package of reform backed by the Army. I do not think that anybody believed that we could do it for more than a year without it either succeeding or failing. It has now clearly failed and we are entitled to draw conclusions from that failure.
§ Sir Robin Turton
I do not want to deny the right hon. Gentleman his point of view. However, I find it hard to understand his remaining a Member of the Cabinet in those circumstances.
I do not want to talk about the political side. I do not believe that minor political reforms can make any difference to the state of escalating terrorism in Northern Ireland. The only point I will make on the political side is that I find it almost unbelievable that in the nineteenth century after the birth of Christ two lots of people holding different approaches to the worship of Christ should have such bitterness, hatred and provocation between themselves as neighbours.
My interpretation of the present situation—I say this to help the right hon. Gentleman—is that there has been a great change since February, 1971. There are now organised terrorists from outside Northern Ireland backed by big money from outside Southern Ireland who are turning this into a gangsters' war. If I am right, then it is as much in the interests of Mr. Lynch, for whom I have great respect, as it is of Mr. Faulkner that those men who are supplying murderers with weapons should be apprehended.
It is of little value when we hear the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) say that all will be well if internment is withdrawn. I do not doubt the hon. Gentleman's sincerity, but I doubt whether he has responsibility for the murders and the acts of terrorism which are taking place in Northern Ireland. Therefore, the only justification for this clumsy and inadequate weapon of internment is that we have reached a stage where terrorism is escalating and judicial processes are of no avail. On all occasions when terrorism gets out of hand, those in charge have to apply this clumsy weapon of internment.
My concern is with the position of the troops in Ireland. Since the autumn of 1969, 23 soldiers have been murdered— four recently from my own regiment. I am far from satisfied that soldiers in Ireland today have the co-operation, the support, and the equipment which they require to carry out the job of stamping out terrorism.
I listened to my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West 249 (Mr. Powell) and to my hon. Friend the Member for Esher (Mr. Mather) and I heard the Minister of State's speech. The first point with which we have to deal is the question of the frontier. So long as criminals can escape across that frontier without let or hindrance, no army can deal with the problem. It is no use having an additional 1,000 men in Fermanagh and Tyrone. This will not deal with the problem. The only way to have the frontier properly policed is by the use of men with local intimate knowledge of the personalities of those who are lawfully crossing the frontier and of the geographical situation.
Clearly the best way would be if Mr. Lynch could employ the Irish Army to prevent criminals crossing the border. That is by far the easiest way and it would be in his interests. But if he has not got the political strength, with the small minority which he has at the moment, then the only way to deal with the frontier problem is for locally enlisted forces to be raised in Northern Ireland to defend, protect and patrol the 300 miles of frontier on the northern side. That would require a large number of men—not the expansion of the Ulster Defence Force by a couple of thousand. It means the creation of a large territorial frontier force. I believe that is absolutely indispensable at the present time.
I turn now to the co-operation with and the equipment of our soldiers. We read of rubber bullets on one side and these devilish nail bombs, explosives, and the sniper's bullets on the other. It does not seem an equal exchange of weaponry. I should like the Prime Minister in winding up tonight to reassure us that our troops are adequately equipped for this job.
The Leader of the Opposition mentioned the murder of Lance Corporal Herrington of the Green Howards, my regiment, by the insidious ruse of a woman ringing up and saying that there was a bomb in a tyre in the middle of the street and, when the sappers came to defuse the bomb, they were fired upon when trying to save lives in that neighbourhood. Why in cases like that was not the whole area cleared? Is there sufficient co-operation between the police and the Army in Belfast and other centres?
I ask the Government to think again on this, because the feeling amongst the 250 troops is that they are not getting the support that they could have in these matters. I know that it is difficult, but I beg the Government to give them that support because, as we all realise, they are doing a wonderful job under extremely difficult circumstances. There is nothing more difficult for an Army to do than to give aid in support of the civil power, but our troops in Northern Ireland are not even in that rôle. They are really acting in replacement of the civil power, which is an impossible job for any Army to do.
§ Lord Balniel
We shall consider carefully my right hon. Friend's tactical suggestions about how to deal with the kind of problem which affected his regiment and resulted in the appalling tragedy to which he referred. My right hon. Friend referred to co-operation between the Government and the Army. I must make it clear that no item of equipment which the Army has requested has been refused. We have provided all the different types of equipment which the Army has requested. I hope that that is some reassurance to my right hon. Friend.
§ Sir Robin Turton
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Troops go to Northern Ireland on a four-months' tour of duty, but they are not getting the necessary military intelligence from the local people. There must be more intelligence co-operation, and I feel that this is the primary subject to be debated today. We in Parliament have ordered our men to go there to stamp out terrorism, and I do not believe that a political solution should be the primary purpose of our debate today.
A political solution is important, but we have to wipe out the terrorists before we can get the right situation for a political solution. All my experience is that political concessions to terrorists tend to whet their appetite. They make further demands, and that is the danger of some of the valuable speeches that have been made during this debate.
When we have dealt with the foreign gangsters and terrorists, then will come the time to sit round the table and find a solution. We have first to deal with the wave of terrorism which is endangering not only Northern Ireland, but also the Irish Republic, and in time may well endanger certain centres of this country.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I must take up the time of the House for a moment. I am not quite satisfied with what I said earlier about the position when an hon. Member gives way. I said at first, "If the right hon. Gentleman gives way he does temporarily yield up the Floor of the House". After further argument, and some hasty consultation, I rather changed that view and said, "Technically, if a right hon. or hon. Gentleman gives way, he does not yield up the Floor of the House. I think, however, that it is a convention—and I put it as that—that the hon. Member intervening should be allowed to put his point even if the right hon. or hon. Gentlemen who is giving way does not like the way in which such remarks are introduced".
It is an interesting point but of great practical importance. I had never heard it raised before. I can find no authority. Therefore I must warn the House that I do not consider myself bound by what I said on the spur of a rather heated moment. I want further opportunity to consider and reflect upon the matter.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Maurice Foley (West Bromwich)
In following the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir Robin Turton) I am reminded that just before the debate started I spoke to a Unionist Member of Parliament who said that here in Westminster we shall be talking about political solutions, whereas in Northern Ireland they are talking about dealing with violence, and that is where the real debate will be. I think that this debate has to be about both things, and I want to try to develop them as I proceed.
First, I think that we are meeting not before time to discuss a situation the like of which I have not seen in the 20 years during which I have been visiting Northern Ireland. One now sees extreme polarisation of the community, and perhaps I may give an example of that. A woman phones for the plumber because she needs his help. He replies that he cannot help her because he is dealing with his own community. She is a Protestant, and he is a Catholic. Another example is that of the man who has retired from the shipyard. He has been a trade unionist all his life, and has always voted for the Northern Ireland Labour Party. He has always condemned 252 Orange Unionism, though never in an aggressive manner, but he is now backing Faulkner because, as he says, "I was pushed this way because of the situation".
I do not want to go back to the Boyne, to Carson, or to Lloyd George. I want to start from 1967, and to consider the motivation for the reforms. In some respects the reforms were imposed from here because, through the Civil Rights movement, and by other means, we discovered for the first time the realities of the situation in Northern Ireland. It was demonstrated that the minority were deprived of many of their basic fundamental rights, and that they were being discriminated against. That is why the reforms were introduced. That is why this House decided to discard tradition and discuss Northern Ireland. That is why this House accepted responsibility for affairs in Northern Ireland.
One has to look at what has happened since the reforms were introduced to understand better the extent of the violence and the increase in frustration. Yesterday, when the Home Secretary was dealing with these reforms, I asked him whether both the letter and the spirit of the reforms were being pursued. I instanced the Hunt Committee's recommendations for the police. The Hunt Committee proposed the establishment of a police authority consisting of two-thirds of the majority, and one-third of the minority. I asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he thought it right that the Unionist Government should appoint not merely the majority personnel but also those of the minority. I asked whether that was the way in which one involved the minority in a responsible way.
The same sort of thing can be said about the Housing Authority. Whatever consultation there was, my information is that only one of the names suggested by the minority was accepted, and none of the people on the Authority can be said to represent the aspirations of the minority in Northern Ireland.
Let us consider the recent proposal by Mr. Faulkner to appoint two Members of the Opposition in Stormont as Chairmen of Committees. The first time that the Opposition even heard of that proposal was when he announced it in Stormont. There was no consultation, no 253 dialogue and no discussion. One is therefore led to ask to what extent, since the reforms were introduced following the Downing Street Declaration, the majority have shown a sense of urgency to ensure that in a real sense the minority belong.
That is part of the alienation that has occurred. The presence of British troops in Northern Ireland in August, 1969 represented security for the minority. We must remember that 600 Catholic families were burned out in mid-August, 1969—not Protestants—and the minority welcomed the British troops because they provided, the security which they so desperately needed.
Why have things changed? With respect to the right hon. Gentleman, one has to look at two things—the violence, and the alienation of the minority. What has happened is that the minority who once felt that the reforms were real have discovered that they are a sham. They feel that nobody wants the minority to belong. The only difference is that once in a while a few nosey-parkers from Westminster ask awkward questions. Apart from that, life goes on the same as before.
What changes have there been in the Civil Service in Northern Ireland? Who were the people who, over all these years, have deceived successive British Home Secretaries about the state of affairs in Northern Ireland? They are still there, doing their job and perpetuating all that they believe in. This is part of the reason why the minority have become disillusioned and have contracted out. This is how, in a situation of violence, protection is offered in the minority community for the I.R.A. and some of their activities.
Indeed, there was a moment when it seemed that the leadership of the minority might be taken over by the I.R.A., who would articulate the aspirations of the minority. I do not think that that is so—because of people like my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) and his colleagues, who, despite all the pressures on them, have stood up to condemn violence and who, along with their families, have been threatened in their own homes for doing so.
I believe that the position of the British troops and the political approach 254 are intermingled. Inevitably, in a situation of shooting and demonstrations, innocent people will be hurt and there will be a reaction against the military. We should be utterly foolish if we imagined that there was a military solution to this problem. What is so desperately needed is some political initiative.
In the first place, when one talks to people who have withdrawn from public positions in Derry, Belfast and Newry, one finds that it is not the Border which concerns them but the question of effective participation in government. What do we mean by this, and how can we make it work? Proportional representation might have some minimal effect, but the minority will still be there in its ghettos. If we are to built on the middle ground, these people must belong as of right in the executive and administrative organs of government, and they must be seen to be there. That is the first thing.
Without any further waste of time, conferences or discussions, if the Home Secretary or the Prime Minister would announce that it is the Government's firm intention to find effective means for the minority's leaders, at all levels of society, to take their place in the executive and administrative organs, this debate will have suceeded in doing something.
In order for that to work, we must look again at the powers resident in the Northern Ireland Government, the powers which are divisive in character and which would make some kind of community or coalition government unworkable. I suggest that the powers of the Home Office in Northern Ireland should be taken away from Stormont and placed back here. Responsibility for the police, the judiciary and security should reside here. This is the way in which we can then move ahead to reassure, first, the majority that the Border is not an issue and, second, the minority that they belong, in a real and effective way, for the first time for 50 years.
One thinks particularly here of the economic plight of the North. In the Bog-side and Derry, one-third of the male population are unemployed—one-third. One meets hundreds of young men in their late teens who have not had a job since they left school. This kind of situation can and does account for some people's irrational behaviour. Bearing in 255 mind the cost of maintaining an army, a great effort should be made in reconstruction and public works to provide in a short time about 20,000 or 30,000 jobs. If people have the normality of going to a job and coming home every day, they can discover their self-respect; we would be starting to build on the middle ground and helping towards peace.
I would also suggest that, as when we faced an intractable and deteriorating situation in the Central African Federation, a senior Minister should be given the task of following the day-to-day events and evolving policies with all Government Departments. I have no complaints whatever to make of the Home Secretary. I have found him a remarkably humane man, willing to discuss this sort of matter. But I believe that this situation and the consequent presentation of Britain around the world—the fact that our troops are committed in such a way and that this will continue, along with the absence of political initiative—makes it necessary for a senior Minister to pull together the best abilities in Government and in the Civil Services, to follow the day-to-day events and to ensure in detail that the minority are given the hope and the chance of belonging in a responsible way in Government. This, I believe, is the message that we should hear tonight from the Prime Minister.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Stratton Mills (Belfast, North)
I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for your ruling before the previous speech. I certainly would not wish to be a party to raising the temperature in this debate, and I hope that the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) will take that from me in the spirit in which it is meant.
§ Mr. Mills
I represent an area—Shanhill Road, Crumlin Road, the Ardoyne, Shore Road and Antrim Road—names of which are well known in this House and which have had more than their fair share of trouble. Probably I am the only M.P. who has, at election time, had to face up to and fight such a variety of different opponents. I have fought and beaten Republicans, I have fought and beaten the Paisleyites, as they are called, I have fought and beaten the 256 Northern Ireland Labour Party, and I have fought and beaten the Shanhill Road Defence Committee's representative, John McKeague.
So I believe that I have the right to speak in this House for a fairly broad-cross-section of people in my constituency—both Protestant and Catholic—since I represent a very substantial middle ground. This is what I hope the House will take from me tonight. I certainly have no wish to be intransigent or difficult in this debate, but there are facts which must be put before the House which are real and important. I hope that the House listened yesterday to the most responsible speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) and that it will bear in mind many of the things that both of us have to say.
One hon. Member referred to the collective wisdom of the House being turned to the affairs of Northern Ireland. I agree with the right hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman) that this debate is a horribly unreal occasion. I ask myself to what extent it measures up to the situation that one sees on the ground in Northern Ireland. It is as unreal as a child trying to empty the sea with a plastic bucket.
I have here a list of the events of the last 24 hours, since the debate started. These have happened while the House has been debating Northern Ireland. There have been three bomb attacks on Army patrols, four bomb attacks on R.U.C. and Army stations, two searches for arms, followed by stone-throwing at soldiers, one soldier injured, two bomb attacks on R.U.C. and Army vehicles, five civilians injured, including six- and 13-year old girls, six explosions, including destruction of the expensive home of a Belfast businessman, two armed robberies and the destruction of a fishery conservancy boat. That is a normal 24 hours in the life of Northern Ireland: that is the background to our debate.
One must realise very clearly that the aim of the I.R.A. is not only to destroy, to kill and to injure but, and I underline this very strongly, to spread terror through the community. I have seen this escalating: the attacks in the city centre; the bomb blasts through the night, some of them outside hospitals; the indiscriminate hurling of bombs regardless of 257 where they are thrown—as, for instance, in the electricity offices, injuring over 30 people; the burning of factories in order to destroy the economy; the deliberate killing of troops by the use of snipers often using dum-dum bullets; the spreading out from the Republican areas such as, in my own constituency, part of the Ardoyne, part of the Old Park Road, and creating terror and gradually driving back ordinary peaceable Protestants from the fringes of those areas—an escalation outwards.
But, most sinister of all, we have the deliberate attacking and stoning—and this is where youths are used, probably organised by the Provisionals—of children coming from school. Every day in the Crumlin Road, where this has been happening for over a year, and in the Old Park Road and Cliftonville Road more recently, school children are attacked, and it must leave a permanent scar on the memory of young children to go from school under a hail of stones. These attacks are deliberately aimed at the parents, because such conduct will create a further generation of bitterness which is the I.R.A. aim. It is problems of this kind that we are now talking about, and which I ask the House to face.
I shall deal a little later with the speech made by the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), but I say now that although I was glad to hear him condemn violence, as he has most forthrightly done on other occasions, I did not feel that he was facing up to the problem which I have just described: he was looking at a different problem.
I do not want to add to what has been said about the security situation by my hon. Friends other than to say that it is perfectly clear to me that, while I pay the highest tribute to our troops—and, God knows, my own constituency could not do without them—the security situation is still not improving. Very few people in Belfast will believe that it is improving. The truth is that it is on the decline. What one wants from Her Majesty's Government is a clear statement of their policy, and I find the shifts and lurches in security and diplomatic initiative just that little bit baffling to follow.
One has also to look at the whole question of the relationship between Stormont and Westminster. I rather liked 258 the remarks made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cardiff, South-East on 15th February last. He put his finger on the point of the relationship between Stormont and Westminster. He said:…what I found in Northern Ireland time after time was that, if things were allowed to go for a week, the channels of communication silted up. One painfully opened them up and established communication, and within a week the whole thing had gone sour—unless one kept at it the whole time. This is a job which demands consistent attack and effort …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th February, 1971; Vol. 811, c. 1283.]It is in the interests of both the Protestant and Catholic communities—and we Unionists have nothing to fear from it—that those communications which the right hon. Gentleman described as silting up should be kept fluid and moving, because it is in the interests of both civil rights and security that it should be so.
But I wonder, and this is something about which someone outside the Government cannot be sure, whether there is not a lack of speed and response on the part of Her Majesty's Government in dealing with Northern Ireland's situation? Is the Security Committee the ideal body, or is it not just too slow and cumbersome? Is it possible to speed up at the Westminster end the vetting of Stormont initiatives?
I say to my right hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench, "You must either have faith and trust in Stormont, or abolish it. If you have trust and faith in Stormont, you must support it, back it and help it, recognising that in that Government there are men who are sincere in their aim to bring our community back to normal." This is what I ask.
§ Mr. Mills
Those are interesting matters, but that is not the point. The hon. Gentleman knows my personal position and my personal record, so I hope that I shall not have to weary the House by dealing with his intervention.
I turn now to the subject of the tripartite talks and diplomatic initiatives. How very glad I am that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is personally involved in the Northern Ireland situation. I hope that when he winds up the debate this evening he will, as head 259 of the United Kingdom Government, reply to the remarks which Mr. Hillery, the Foreign Secretary of the Republic of Ireland, made yesterday. I also hope that in his capacity as a former Chief Whip he will make some reference to the remarks about the voting position of Ulster Members in this House which were made yesterday afternoon by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham (Mr. Michael Stewart), a former Foreign Secretary.
My right hon. Friend is a determined man. I hope that he will realise that, as has been said, many of the problems in Ireland are not rational, and that that realisation will not cloud his understanding of Ireland. I hope that he will not be put off by remarks that have been made already on this score, and I say to him this evening that he will be most welcome indeed if he pays a visit to Belfast, because that will be taken as a sign of commitment by the people of the United Kingdom to the people of that city. I would greatly welcome such a visit.
In holding tripartite talks my right hon. Friend is, I suppose, looking for solutions. One does not want to be unhelpful, but I find it a little difficult to reconcile tripartite talks with his telegram to Mr. Lynch: one can have one or the other, but one cannot have both. I hope that I may be wrong, but my fear is that this is a blind alley which may do more harm than good. I am not encouraged by the attitude of Mr. Lynch who, in private briefings to journalists in Dublin, made it quite clear that he was holding off having tripartite talks until after this debate in the House of Commons, on the basis of "softening up" Her Majesty's Government.
The Home Secretary has announced that he is holding discussions with a wide range of people, organisations and bodies in Northern Ireland to see whether he can establish a basis for discussion. To do this is right, and I wish him well in that work.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Belfast, West is not now present, but I shall not be saying anything particularly unkind. His speech was, I suppose, on a slightly superficial level, sweet and reasonable. He was asking merely three things. He asked firstly for 260 the removal of internment. He asked secondly for what amounted to the abolition of Stormont and then to return in a little while and to create a new Stormont. He said thirdly that in the new Stormont one would have a new Cabinet in which, although he did not specify himself, some of those in his party or from the minority would have a rôle presumably as of right.
My view is that this is not realistic. Is it possible to have in Government a party which wishes the abolition of Northern Ireland? This seems to me a total delusion. I am sorry to say that I find it difficult to find common ground with him on his three proposals.
I think he would accept from me with sincerity that if a genuine olive branch is offered to the Unionists of Northern Ireland they will not be slow in their response, but the House must understand a little more of our positions and problems. For our part, we must ask for a recognition of the constructive rôle of Unionist Government in trying genuinely to meet community problems over the last couple of years. I do not wish to raise the temperature, but one must ask—as people are asking—to what extent some members or parts of the Social Democratic and Labour Party are riding along on the coat-tails of the gunmen—[HON. MEMBERS: "0h."] This is a real question.
§ Mr. Mills
One must ask, who is it that one can negotiate with as a Unionist? Is it the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin), or the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. McManus), or the hon. Member for Belfast, West? Is it John Hume? Is it Mr. Lynch? Or is the truth that perhaps none of them has any great relevance and that it is the people behind them that hold the real power? They must demonstrate their capacity for leadership. This would help.
As a Unionist I am also looking for ways to get our community back to normal. The campaign of civil disobedience is against the basis of normal society. The Catholic community must again look for structure and organisation to beat the gunmen. An opportunity is certainly available for the Catholic community to play a full part in the life of Northern 261 Ireland. One wants to see an Opposition which is playing its part inside Northern Ireland rather than running backwards and forwards to Mr. Lynch. I ask my right hon. Friend to consider just how real is the offer of the hon. Member for Belfast, West.
At the beginning of my speech I said that I can claim to speak for a very wide cross-section of people in my constituency, perhaps more than any other Ulster Member in the House. My political life does not matter to me because I do and say what I believe to be right for Northern Ireland, regardless of the consequences. This is what all politicians ought to do. I am happy that as recently as last week I had the unanimous support of my constituency association, which has been a great help to me in recent difficult times.
In the situation we have today in Northern Ireland, I cannot help ending on a slight note of despair. One wonders whether this House is facing in the right direction, looking at the problems we face. Ending on this personal note, one wonders how long one should stay in this House, how long one is playing a relevant role, or to what extent should one go back to one's electorate and say that Westminster cannot face up to our problems. The problem of security is the dominant worry of the majority of people in Northern Ireland, and that must be dealt with first.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. A. E. P. Duffy (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
As the record of the debate will show, and as the report of the speech yesterday of the Leader of the Opposition will amply confirm, there are absolutely no grounds for the allegation of the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) that the attitude of any Member of this side of the House towards the gunmen in Northern Ireland has been vicarious. If this has not been apparent in the condemnation that they quite properly received from that side of the House, it is not want of concern on this side but rather that hon. Members think that the position is indeed so serious that all of us should try to make varying contributions.
Some of us should perhaps concern ourselves with the short term and others with the long term. Others, perhaps, should be even more imaginative in their approach and even audacious, perhaps. 262 But presumably, running throughout the whole debate, there is the same basic concern on the part of everyone. There are no grounds for the kind of allegation that was made.
On the other hand, it is very easy for someone in my position to charge that there are still too many hon. Members opposite who believe that the normal condition of Northern Ireland will be restored only by the continued assertion of British military might, and that too many hon. Members opposite, with the greatest respect to the hon. and gallant Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Lieut.-Colonel Colin Mitchell), believe that the spirit of Mad Mitch still lives on.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Colin Mitchell (Aberdeenshire, West)
As I have not been given a chance to talk in the debate it is really pointless to make comments like that.
§ Mr. Duffy
The hon. and gallant Member's views are well known. He has written about them. Moreover, he has expressed them regarding this situation in the House.
Yesterday afternoon we heard a speech from the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), who seemed to endorse those views completely. I do not see why the hon. and gallant Member should be so astonished. Perhaps hon. Members on this side of the House have other, more specific views. That does not mean that I am as willing to endorse them as I am to deplore other views.
Hon. Members must not delude themselves into thinking that it will be enough to rescind the internment order or to disarm completely the entire population, or even to introduce a massive crash programme of social measures that we all want to see, in order to restore peace. No doubt all these will be helpful. They will set the stage for what more and more of us are beginning to recognise as a long-term solution. But something further will be required, something more than the talks on which the Home Secretary is obviously placing such reliance, and more than the introduction of proportional representation, which my hon. Friends have called for, notably my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), or even a Bill of Rights, an enlarged Stormont or an enlarged Senate.
263 After all, how far does the necessary basis of consent run in Northern Ireland? Is there an adequate political infrastructure? Have hon. Members considered how far the political instrumentation that they are now rightly considering accords with underlying principles of parliamentary Government, notably collective responsibility?
A recent study of Northern Ireland"—Governing without Consensus"—by Professor Richard Rose of Strathclyde University is a warning against too much reliance on any such answers. This survey suggests that Ulster lacks a stable majority which either supports or rejects its government. It appears that Ulster lacks a middle-of-the-road majority on which moderate men can build a conciliatory coalition. In other words, this crisis revolves around the very existence of the State itself.
The survey was completed a month before the present strife began with the civil rights march in Derry in 1968. How much more deep-rooted, then, must Ulster's divisions be today? Therefore, let us not delude ourselves. Certainly that was my impression last month when I was in the North of Ireland. When citizens representing a variety of occupations and roles in society told me that they would have nothing further to do with Mr. Faulkner or with Stormont, it was not very difficult for me not to form the impression of a total collapse of confidence in the system.
When housewives, of all people, told me during the course of their shopping that they are now fighting for their lives and that they would not be cowed by military repression, however destructive it may be of human dignity, and even of life, as my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) said an hour ago, and they asked me to take the message back to Westminster, it was not difficult, indeed, to form the impression that in some parts of Northern Ireland authority has indeed passed to the people. "Free Derry" at the entrance to the Bogside is probably more than a piece of meaningless assertiveness. Certainly the people there believe that they have proclaimed their freedom from, as they put it. Orange Unionist overlordship.
It will be more and more difficult for the House of Commons to dissuade them 264 from asserting their rights, as they see it, to determine the destiny of their own city. If this is so, it means that Derry is already lost to Northern Ireland, not least because representative members of all sections of the majority of the people of that city now completely lack trust and credibility in the system.
Clearly, the Government's concern has been to keep the system going—rightly so—almost at any price, again rightly so. That meant agreeing to virtually anything that a Northern Ireland Prime Minister who happened to be there at the moment might ask as the means of political survival—until early August that is. Who would now say that that cost is bearable? Some, yes, but it is already clear from the debate that not all hon. Members would do so. To quote last week's Sunday Times, for example—No nation can make systematic large-scale use of imprisonment without trial and expect its moral health to survive unimpaired.To take one instance, I cannot believe from my own meetings in Belfast and my interviews, even in hospital, with the first released detainees that the list was in fact drawn up by the Army commander, much less by the Home Secretary. Why, then, was the Army used? If this was unavoidable, why was it not checked and supervised by an English judge?
To take a second instance—one raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West—we now have within the confines of the United Kingdom a concentration camp. This puts us, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposion said yesterday afternoon, in very strange company.
I was not the only observer in Northern Ireland last month. The world's Press was represented. The result was that Britain has in recent weeks received its worst world's Press since Suez. This is just part of the price we are paying for an ill-judged, scarcely-thought-out involvement that will surely become deeper and more corrupting, unless we change our policies in dramatic fashion.
Some hon. Members and some journalists think that Dublin can be pressurised, economically or politically, and that in this way relief can be sought. I invite those who think in that way to study the terms of my Early Day Motion No. 686 and also to remember that the old 265 days when Dublin had no bargaining strength have gone. So have the days when large nations could bully small ones.
Other hon. Members think that, if the worst comes to the worst, we can invoke direct rule. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Michael Stewart) said yesterday afternoon when speaking on behalf of many of his colleagues, Labour Members are far from happy about their past and present experience of Ulster Tory representation, much less its augmentation.
Moreover, direct rule would be a tacit acknowledgement that Partition had failed, that the experiment in devolution had failed and, furthermore, that 50 years of massive support by Britain of successive Unionist Governments had produced an evil system. What, then, would be the point of Westminster risking further sacrifice of life and property in a bad cause and, above all, accepting direct responsibility for it?
Finally, the Prime Minister presumably thinks that he can enter into still another arrangement that would secure Unionist rule at Stormont and also shore up Mr. Faulkner's position. Has not the Prime Minister considered that the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) will get Mr. Faulkner, anyway? For, if Mr. Faulkner earnestly seeks rapprochement with the alienated minority, as I sincerely hope that he does and that he succeeds, in so far as he succeeds some Ulster Unionist Members who are now present give all the signs that they will not accept that position.
What the great majority of Catholics in Northern Ireland are asking for, and surely have the right to expect, is full implementation of their present status as British citizens. Yet it is their religion that has the effect of penalising them in so many spheres. It disbars them from holding any office in the constituency associations of any of the Unionist Members who represent Ulster. By contrast, in all the other parties in Ireland, North and South, there is a long tradition of non-Catholic membership and, indeed, non-Catholic elected representatives.
Yet, if Unionism in partnership with the Orange Order is to maintain its ascendancy, equal citizenship and equal opportunity for Catholic and Protestant are 266 impossible, because by its nature "Protestant Ulster" must be a fortress State. If equal citizenship and equal opportunity for Catholic and Protestant are to become a reality, Northern Ireland loses the reason for its existence.
Does this mean that the vicious circle of repression and reaction and yet more repression can be squared in the long run only by some form of closer association between Ulster and the rest of Ireland and that any association will call for a greater deal of commonsense compromise on the part of London, Belfast and Dublin than has yet been shown?
The Prime Minister will doubtless reply that he would not stand in the way of a United Ireland. We all know the conditions. As far as I know, no one in the House queries the conditions for one moment.
I suggest that what is required of those in power is to say that they positively desire Irish unity. Once the will is present on the part of Her Majesty's Government, then the necessary conditions will be promoted and an appropriate timetable emerge. More important in the short run, once Britain favours Irish unity the whole psychology in Northern Ireland may alter.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East said earlier today, what is especially disturbing to those of us who know Northern Ireland, who are concerned about it, and who have visited it regularly, is the evidence we find there of its being beleaguered, this siege mentality which needs to be jolted. Moreover, we cannot afford simply to go on supporting an open-ended commitment in Northern Ireland.
The position in parts of Northern Ireland is very serious. So it is in many parts of Britain. The social state in parts of Northern Ireland is very low. That describes the condition of my own constituency in the east end of Sheffield. We do not get any development aid, and, although my constituency wants it, it has little prospect of getting it.
§ Mr. John Gorst (Hendon, North)
I have followed the hon. Gentleman's argument as carefully as I can, but it seems to me that he comes to this dramatic conclusion as a result of the activities of the terrorist gunmen. Have I got this wrong or is it because of the 267 extremity which is now resulting from I.R.A. terrorism that he is putting forward this conclusion?
§ Mr. Duffy
Neither. If the hon. Gentleman reads my speech he will see that I have dissociated myself from the rôle of the gunmen or from any suspicion of being any less concerned than any other Member of this House about the gunmen and the state to which Northern Ireland has been reduced. I am trying to find ways out of this impasse. Unity is an entirely respectable political ambition. In no sense does it involve the incorporation of the Six Counties into the existing political structure of the South. In any event, it could not come about without the consent of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland, and without every safeguard being provided. But that prerequisite must not he used as an evasion by Her Majesty's Government or the need to promote policies which are conducive to the fulfilment of this aim. I do not know of any group in Ireland, including the I.R.A. Provisionals, who are not putting forward possible arrangements for the reunification of Ireland that will not go some way, and in most instances most of the way, towards the provision of such safeguards. The I.R.A. Provisionals actually suggest four regional assemblies one of which would be a nine-county Ulster which, it seems to me, would give conditions of greater security, mentally and physically, than that Province enjoys today.
The minority in the North, as well as those in the South, are not looking now to London for any more than they suspect London are insisting that the majority of Rhodesians shall enjoy in the determinate future. An increasing number of Members in this House have expressed the view that sooner or later the two parts of Ireland will join up again. This will not mean one part being put at a profound disadvantage. On the contrary, the Irish Republic would undoubtedly be stimulated by the North; and the Ulster Unionists, freed from the cramped conditions of the North, would have an opportunity to exercise their talents throughout the whole country. There will be difficulties, of course, including religious difficulties, but once the Border went I cannot see that they would become more difficult. I am optimistic enough 268 to believe that they would become a good deal less difficult. Protestants in the South have never been persecuted. With the advent of their powerful Northern fellow Christians, the non-Catholic element of the Irish society would be reinforced. Is there an hon. Member who does not wish to see a plural society in Ireland, South as well as North?
The second difficulty is nationality. I suggest that the Leader of the Liberal Party put forward a possible and helpful recommendation last Saturday.
Finally, there are the economic difficulties. The Southern economy, has now taken off. The economic potential is there for all to see. Differentials in social benefits will narrow. Growth trends in the Southern economy suggest that they will help towards a reduction of those differentials. Her Majesty's Government can help to bridge them now. It will be cheaper for Her Majesty's Government in the long run to make such a financial contribution. Moreover, membership of the E.E.C. will enhance and rationalise all these incipient developments. Why do we not begin to act on the logic of this overall situation? I suggest that we shall have to do so sooner or later.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)
I will come later to the main burden of the remarks of the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy). First, I should like to say that nothing of what he said in a very restrained speech relieves the dilemma which some of us are in.
I accept that the message going out from this House, as the Home Secretary said yesterday, and as the right lion. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) echoed today, should if possible be one of hope. I can only say that in the present circumstances of what is going on in Northern Ireland it is not an emotion which is uppermost in my mind. What immediately confronts us is the appalling efficacy of modern urban terrorism. When the charges and countercharges have been made, the fact is that that is what has brought us to this pass and that is what has brought us here for these two days—methods which are not very efficient but methods employed by those who are ready to gain with ruthlessness their ends, using guns and using gelignite; methods—no disrespect to the 269 military—to which we have no effective answer.
As was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell)—I do not agree with him on some things but I agree with him on this—we are losing this contest. No recent observer of the Belfast scene could reach any other conclusion. We are losing, in part, because this goes a lot further than even some who are familiar with the Northern Irish scene are aware.
There are several consequences of the sort of campaign which the I.R.A. have been waging. The direct are familiar. The most obvious is the presence of 12,000 soldiers there engaged in hazardous, unrewarding and at times inappropriate duties. The indirect consequences are only now beginning to be felt, and they are more subtle. They are not the harm done to business and commerce in the central area of Belfast, grievous though it is. Nor are they the damage being done to children, movingly described by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills). They are, in the main, to my mind the terrible fears which ruthlessness engenders—in a word, intimidation. This kind of fear—and Ireland is not the only example of it—can destroy a civilised community, and that, from my recent observations—and I observe the North as often as I can—is only starting in Northern Ireland. The lines between the communities are now straightening out, and that is a very ominous development indeed.
Very well, we have said, we must isolate the authors of this violence and intimidation. We must deprive them of the sympathy and the support of law-abiding citizens. This has been the tenor of the debate, and I accept all that has been said on this score. If we can offer these citizens—the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland—a hopeful course and a fairer deal, they will cease to assist, shelter and support the gunmen. That sounds a very reasonable argument. We have been pursuing this course since 1969. First, we had to get rid of those "odious" B Specials. Then we made military support a condition for reforms. That was no good. Then we thought we should widen the régime and give the Opposition a rôle, that we should held summit talks, form an Irish Council and 270 now hold tripartite talks. We have not been idle in political initiatives, and, to do him justice, neither has Mr. Faulkner. But all the while we have been scurrying from one initiative to the next, the explosions in Belfast have grown louder and more numerous. As my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North told the House a few minutes ago, there have been 23 separate incidents since the House began this debate.
It will be said by some, in all sincerity, that this is because people have been provoked into reprisals. Reference has been made to internment. But for the decision on internment it is said things would be different. As regards internment, I can only say that, to my mind, this is yet another consequence of the I.R.A. campaign. It is abhorrent, and it is inevitable. The villainy of violence lies not only in what it does but in the reprisals which it draws. The sad truth about internment is that we have no other answer to this kind of urban terrorism.
There is another consequence of this campaign. In some minds, at least—they have expressed themselves in this debate; the hon. Member for Attercliffe has just voiced it—it has destroyed all confidence in the Stormont régime. Speech after speech, particularly from the Opposition benches but one or two from this side, have demonstrated that. The speeches from the Opposition Front Bench, at least, have stopped short of saying that we must have direct rule. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite—this is what the Leader of the Opposition called for during the recess—want, in effect, a halfway house to direct rule. In my view, there can be no halfway house. To accept the proposals put forward in all sincerity by the Leader of the Opposition would be the end of Stormont. The last vestige or credibility would go and we would take charge.
Very well. Some hon. Members would say, "Let it be direct rule". That was the message of the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) in his speech yesterday. But, before we are driven to that, we should weigh the consequences, and in weighing them we should understand one thing which, perhaps, has been underrated in this debate so far. In a sense, I am glad that I am speaking after the hon. Member for Attercliffe. There is a main force 271 behind all this, inside and outside Northern Ireland, a main political force. It has activists but it has also many innocent pacifists. It wants, and it will settle for nothing less than, the unification of Ireland. That is the goal, however it be disguised. This force does not want a settlement on any other lines. The right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Foley) said that all that these people wanted was active participation. I wish with all my heart that I could believe him right, but I do not believe that that is the main objective. Furthermore, they will take active steps, and have taken active steps, to prevent any such settlement. They will discourage, actively and passively, any co-operation which might lead to any such settlement, and they will dissuade otherwise reasonable people from engaging in such co-operation.
I may be wrong, but that, to my mind, is the reality. Fundamentally, that is why Mr. Faulkner's early initiatives to broaden the Administration, his offer in the Queen's Speech of 22nd June—we should give credit for it—his attempt to restore confidence with a new balance at Stormont, have failed.
So many of those whose co-operation we seek do not want a compromise solution, and this, if I may say so, points to the peril of direct rule or any pale imitation of it. As some realise very well, if we come to that, the door to unification is open. The pressure would fall directly on us. At least one obstacle to a united Ireland, our pledge in the 1949 Act not to change the Border without the consent of the Ulster Parliament, would be removed. In my view, the campaign would shift from Stormont directly to Westminster. It is not for me to say that we would give way. I believe that we would resist, but we would be in difficulties.
The former Foreign Secretary, the right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Michael Stewart), said yesterday, and others have echoed him. "Why not a reunified Ireland?". At least the former Foreign Secretary was honest about it and the reasons he gave for it. But those who support his view must make up their minds on one point. Is it unification or pacification that they seek? I do not think that they can have both.
272 It is vain to suggest that the potential for violence lies only on one side. I have never pretended that, and I do not believe it: though, in fairness—I do not believe that any hon. Member who wants to be fair could contradict it—we should recognise that the Protestant extremists, so called, have exercised extraordinary restraint. It is plain nonsense to suggest that this can be regarded in respect of violence as six of one and half dozen of the other. There has been restraint. But I am talking of the potential. If we attempt, by front door, by back door or by side door, the unification of Ireland, we shall, I believe, have civil war.
We have got one thing wrong after another in Northern Ireland over the years, and we should not compound our errors by misjudging this question, by deceiving ourselves, as some would have us believe, that Ulster's bluff could be called. What was seen to have been won, apparently, by force would be contested by force.
That leaves me with an unpalatable and, in the view of some hon. Members, wholly unacceptable conclusion. Whatever we do politically now, short of reunification, however hopeful we may be that the tripartite talks go well and that further initiatives may help us on our way, we shall certainly find ourselves deeply engaged in this business for a long time to come. I agree that that is a dismaying conclusion and a daunting prospect. Are we ready to face it?
Yesterday, the Home Secretary said that there will be no going back on our pledge on the Border. This was qualified I thought, a shade dangerously, from the Opposition Front Bench with the words "at present". But if we stand by either of those undertakings, then, whatever initiatives we take, whatever we do, the pressures will be on and, in my view, it will intensify. I think it better to face that now and to prepare the country to face it.
The bank manager who sent a message to my hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) did not want to speak about his overdraft. He wanted to tell my hon. Friend, "We should pull out and let them fight it out". I can tell my hon. Friend and others that his bank manager is not an 273 English eccentric. He is legion. There are many who think like that.
We dwell on the fragility of Stormont. I do not myself overrate the willpower here to see this business through. I am sorry to say that, but I believe it. We shall in no way strengthen that will by pretending now that political solutions lie round the corner. The truth is quite otherwise. We must not try to fool people at this stage.
Our best service to Northern Ireland, and to ourselves, is not to send out from this debate a fatuous message of hope which those of us with recent experience of Northern Ireland cannot genuinely feel or express. We should warn the people of this country that whatever we do, however hard we try—and, heaven knows, we shall try—there may lie before us and our army a long and painful ordeal. We should ask them—I beg my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to ask them when he winds up—to steel themselves for it.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)
I cannot echo the spirit, let alone the tone, of the speech of the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes). That it will not be an easy task in the Six Counties is undeniable. It will be a difficult and long haul, and dangerous for all who take part in it. But if we adopt the ideas and policies outlined by the right hon. Gentleman, another Parliament in 10 or 15 years will find itself discussing the same question: What to do about Ulster?
We are going through a cycle of events which has repeated itself in the Six Counties since the partition of Ireland: repression and after a time an easing up, then repression and after a time an easing up, then repression and after a time an easing up, then repression, coinciding very often with periods of high unemployment and I.R.A. activity.
If we accept the ideas put forward by the right hon. Gentleman we shall do it again, and more troops will lose their lives and more of us will be agitated about the situation. On every one of those occasions internment has been tried as the solution to the problem and has failed. The Prime Minister shakes his head; he says that it has not failed. What are we fighting about now? If it has 274 been successful in the past, why is there shooting now? Why are our constituents in the British Army being shot at over there? It has failed as a policy in cycle after cycle, and we have had no initiative or any real look at the problem.
The first reason why we are dividing the House tonight is that we are against internment in principle. It is wrong, and it cannot hope to succeed. It will not succeed. If we uphold the rule of law, we cannot suspend it when the situation becomes a little bit ugly. We have to go through with it. We are against internment in principle whether on this side of the Irish Sea or in Northern Ireland, or if it exists in Southern Ireland. It is no part of our attitude to support the actions of the Southern Irish Government as though they were lily-white and pure. We have no support for internment over there, and the fact that it was "Dev" who originally introduced it into the South in no ways gives it canonisation or beatification. It is wrong, and must be regarded as such.
Not only is it wrong, but it has failed in practice. The birds have flown. We had what was tantamount to an admission of failure from the Minister of State for Defence when he said that we shall not know for three months whether internment has been successful. I thought that the object of the exercise was to stop the shooting, the bombing, the intimidation. Since internment was introduced that has increased and increased, as have the casualties.
I am very disappointed at the decision of my Front Bench not to divide officially tonight, because as a party we are against internment. We issued the following statement:It was agreed that the introduction of internment in Northern Ireland had alienated wide sections of the community, was unacceptable, and that no realistic solution could even be envisaged without an end of internment and the release of detainees held without trial.That was a statement of Labour Party policy. Internment is unacceptable. We want the release of the detainees and an end of the facade of a bipartisan policy. That is why we are dividing.
The second reason is that we object to the political direction which is being given to our troops. We feel that the Stormont tail is wagging Westminster, that there 275 has been an abdication of the authority which was taken by this Parliament after the events in Derry and Belfast in 1969 and that it has gone back to Stormont. In whose camps are the detainees being held? Are they the responsibility of the British Government in Westminster or of the Northern Ireland Government? Are we using the British Army as a great big trawl and, when we have the fish, shoving them into somebody else's pond? We are responsible for catching them, but not for answering any questions about them afterwards. Who are they? Why are they there? What is the evidence? Our troops are being put in an impossible position, because they do not know the point of the exercise. They went to Northern Ireland to keep the peace and now seem to be being used as the tools of a political organisation which has been politically discredited.
I feel bitter and harsh about this, because 25 per cent. or more of the casualties come from Yorkshire—one from my city of Hull, one from Rotherham, one from Barnsley, one from Grimethorpe.
§ Mr. McNamara
I could go on; they come from all around me. They are our constituents, our boys, and the Government are not giving them proper support because they are allowing their policy to be dictated from the other side. Therefore we are entitled to ask them, "Will you let us know why these people are interned? Will you produce evidence?".
Too often, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said, there was the feeling that old scores were being settled by internment. Too often we had examples like that of the old man which my right hon. Friend gave yesterday. Too often people were taken in for what they felt was guilt by association, to go by the figures given by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt).
Those are two of the reasons why we are dividing. The third is the treatment of the leaders of the S.D.L.P. in Northern Ireland. They, more than anyone else, are the last barrier against the gunmen's having complete control of the minority in Northern Ireland. The Government may not like that idea and may not think that they are particularly good representatives. I do. I think that they are courageous, 276 and I am pleased to hope that they regard me as a friend, as I regard them. They are the last barricade the Government have, and if the Government persist in insulting them and turning down all their offers they make a great mistake.
My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West has shown great courage during his illness. From his hospital bed he moved his ground considerably, so that there was only one point at issue before he would come to talks, and then he had the door slammed in his face with the 219 internment orders. Do the Government think that in such circumstances the minority leaders can take part in discussions?
The Prime Minister looks puzzled. He should know that the S.D.L.P. made four demands which they wanted to be met before they would enter into discussions. They dropped one after another, and only the question of internment remained. Their dropping of the other demands took tremendous courage, because of the suspicion they have to fight. They are under powerful pressures, feeling that they may be called "Castle Catholics" at any time or that it would be said that they are selling out or seeking power.
At the back of their minds always there is the thought of Michael Collins although he, too, perhaps was a great man. They are not worried about meeting his fate, but fear that they might be regarded as selling the pass. Their campaign for civil disobedience to draw attention to their legitimate grievances and aspirations demonstrates that they are people who can lead, who can tell their people, "Give us a chance on this" But they can do that only if the Government can be seen to be conceding something important to them, and that is that detainees should be released or have specific charges brought against them.
I asked yesterday whether we could have some of the evidence. I do not particularly want names, but I want to know of events and why the detainees are associated with them. I understand the problems about giving the names of those who have given evidence, but I want to know what the alleged incidents are. We feel that the pressure for internment came before the escalation. It was there all the time. We remember the marches of the shipyard workers demanding internment for the I.R.A. We have 277 seen all this happening within the past year. The pressure has been built up, and as a quid pro quo for banning the Orange march there was internment.
We were present in the House on the last day before the Adjournment for the Summer Recess when Member after Member on this side told the Government, "Whatever you do, do not introduce internment, because you will push the gunman into the minority and give him a haven, a place of safety." While the Home Secretary sat there quietly, never saying a word, he had already decided what was to happen. That was the first way in which the minority leaders felt themselves slapped in the face.
The second way concerns the forthcoming talks. The Prime Minister of the Republic is coming here to talk with the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister and with Mr. Faulkner, who is Prime Minister of the Six Counties. Who is speaking for the minority in the Six Counties? It is certainly not Mr. Faulkner. Are we to say that Mr. Lynch is going to speak for them? If we do, that is a concession-and-a-half! We should be accepting Mr. Lynch as second guarantor. Why do we not have appropriate and adequate representation of the minority groups at these meetings? If that is not done, we are simply elevating the position of Mr. Faulkner to far more than it is in fact. If Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, then it is really no more than a glorified county council.
These are the three principal issues on which my hon. Friends will be dividing the House tonight—internment, the way in which the minority leaders have been treated and the party political direction given to our troops. I now give my own fourth reason. We have been told from both Front Benches that the Border is not an issue. It must be preying on someone's mind if it is not an issue because we have had it in every single statement that has been issued on the subject. The fact is that it is an issue. It is no good behaving like ostriches with our heads in the sand. We have to take the issue up because it is there; we have to look at it and consider it. The Border cannot be treated as an issue which no one is prepared to talk about but which is nevertheless still an issue which is 278 always there at the back of everyone's mind, Unionist or Republican, Protestant or Catholic, majority or minority.
Let us give the issue of the Border a healthy airing. Let us discuss it. Let us be honest about it. Do not just say that it is not an issue and make references to the Government of Ireland Act and the Downing Street Declaration. It is an issue, and it is an issue that everyone is bothered about. Whether people want to joint the Republic or whether they want to remain with Britain, the Border is an issue and we should treat it as such.
Earlier, the Minister of State for Defence made an important announcement about the Ulster Defence Regiment. He criticised my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. Stallard). I say to the hon. Gentleman that he has convinced us that this is a way of resurrecting the B-Specials and the demands for a third force, because that is what he is creating. A number of British officers are serving with the U.D.R.—that was one of the conditions the Labour Government made at the time. Now, the Government are splitting the county battalions in very sensitive areas like Tyrone where, although it is sensitive, there has not been all that much trouble. The Government are enlarging the recruitment; they are increasing the number of troops; they are depending on local knowledge and are encouraging transfers from the Territorial Army. They are raising the age limit to 50. They are going to have local officers in local command. Whether the Government like it or not, this is seen as the B-Specials in another guise—[HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."]—That is what it is seen as. Whether hon. Members opposite call it nonsense or not, that is how it is seen.
The rôle of these men will be to guard special strategic points. They will be guarding the frontier. They will have night patrols—just like the old B-Specials. Why is the age limit being raised to 50? The raising of the age limit has been one of the foremost demands of the Unionists; it came from hon. Members opposite when they were the Opposition. Raising the limit enables middle-aged men who were B-Specials to join the U.D.R. They were good fellows—except when they went to places 279 like Bombay Street and elsewhere. By raising the age limit for the regiment, the Government are allowing into it a generation of men who have known all the troubles since before the war and after it. The result is that the force will be seen as the B-Specials again and people in the minority will not join it. I say that with sorrow because we have urged people in the minority to join the U.D.R., to play their part. But how they are seeing the situation used against them and they will not join. No one can blame them. I will not urge them to play a part.
We should have had from the Government more details about the extremists on the other side—about the manufacture, for example, of light machine guns at the Sirrocco Works, Mackie's Foundry. We have heard what my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West has had to say about the arms haul in Dungannon and about the collections made among business men in the Shankill Road and elsewhere in order to finance these operations. We have heard about the manufacture of pipe bombs in areas where the I.R.A. is not active. We should have heard from the Government about what is being done about the extremists on the other side.
Too many questions have been left unanswered. There are too many signs that the Government have acted with partiality against people who are simply opponents of Stormont but are not necessarily people who are on the side of violence. For all these reasons we shall be dividing the House tonight. The Government's policy is bankrupt. It is a return to force and to fear. Until we bring in responsible people who are able to represent the minority, we shall get nowhere.
§ 7.46 p.m.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)
In our debate of 5th August I said that the coming days in Northern Ireland would be very serious, that they would be days of bloodshed and violence. We know, alas, that this has been proved only too true. They have been days of bloodshed and violence and the first thing I want to do tonight is to express to those relatives of innocent victims and to those members of the security forces who 280 mourn their dead the deep sympathy that is felt throughout Northern Ireland.
There are many hon. Members who are far removed from the Northern Ireland scene. They do not stand in the homes of those who have been bereaved, as I have to stand. They do not have to try and restrain communities like those in the Sandy Row the other night when 27 people were injured, when the whole of Hurst Street was practically wrecked and when feelings were high and people wanted to take the law into their own hands.
What we really need in this debate, we all know the feelings that there may be on both sides of this question, is a sense of reality, because we are dealing with a very serious situation. We are, indeed, dealing with the most serious situation that ever confronted this House in regard to the Irish question. Even in the worst days when the Irish problem was being hammered out in this House, there never was such a terrible situation as we face now.
There was a great cry against those who forecast and prophesied that this type of thing would certainly come about. In the early days of the civil rights movement, I and others who think with me said that it was a dangerous movement because it was being manipulated by the Irish Republican Army. I am not alone in that. In a book published some time ago, "The I.R.A.", Tim Pat Coogan, the editor of the Irish Press, known in Ireland as "de Valera's paper" said:But the I.R.A.'s most significant initiative was its behind the scenes involvement in the Northern civil rights movement.There is someone who is thinking not along traditional Unionist lines, but on the lines of republicanism and freely acknowledging that the I.R.A. was deeply involved in the beginnings of the civil rights movement. I am prepared to admit that there are those originally in the civil rights movement who did not appreciate its real aims and objectives, but it must be put on record that the first chairman of the Civil Rights Association was a card-carrying Communist, Miss Betty Sinclair, who was well known for her views on the problems of Ireland.
In the House ever since I have been a Member there has repeatedly been great reluctance by the Government and the Opposition to acknowledge that there was 281 a definite I.R.A. threat in Northern Ireland. Over and over again the Home Secretary has failed to name the people responsible for certain crimes. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) is not in the Chamber—
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
I should like to reciprocate and say that I hope that the hon. Gentleman will soon be better. He and I have crossed swords in another place. Unfortunately, he is not to return to that other place. I hope that he will change his mind and come back again. I should like to say sincerely that I hope that he will soon be feeling his old self again.
He made certain statements about the Irish Republican Army. In September, 1969, commenting on a speech by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), then Home Secretary, who had said that there were extremists on both sides, he said:I sat there absolutely sickened and heard that there were extremists on both sides. It has never been explained to me who are the extremists on the anti-Unionist side of the fence.When interviewed on the programme, "24 Hours", he said:There are no I.R.A. in Belfast. The myth of the I.R.A. was created by the Unionist Party to collect votes.I welcome—and I say this as sincerely as I can—the hon. Gentleman's outright condemnation of present I.R.A. activity. As a person moving in Northern Ireland, I know what it has cost him to make such a statement, and I welcome it as we all do. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about you?"] I have always condemned violence and will condemn it utterly, no matter from what side of the fence it comes.
I want to make it clear that it was completely wrong of hon. Members to pretend that there was no I.R.A. menace. We are now learning, and we are learning from the lives that are lost and from the terrible problem now on our hands that there is an Irish Republican Army, that there are two wings of that army and that it is determined, come what may, to bring about the reunification of Ireland.
282 But there are people in the North of Ireland who are determined that Ireland shall not be reunified but shall remain part and parcel of the United Kingdom. As voices have been raised to say that it is a legitimate aim to look for a United Ireland, I say that it is more legitimate to retain the status quo and to maintain Northern Ireland as part and parcel of the United Kingdom.
Why is the Irish Republican Army always taking the initiative and winning the battle in Northern Ireland today'? There are two reasons. The Irish Republican Army was defeated in the past because there was an armed police force equipped to meet the snipers and equipped to meet those who would attack it. There was also the Ulster Special Constabulary, that most maligned body of men who have come in for some of the worst slanders in the present situation. [HON. MEMBERS: "Well deserved."] I remind those who say "Well deserved" that they have only to look at the official I.R.A. histories, that which I have mentioned and another called "The Secret Army" by Professor Bowyer Pell, who said:The B Specials, however, were a potent force, loyal, already armed and capable of filling in at once all those chinks in a society's armour through which subversion may seep.Here is someone indicating the vital rôle of the Ulster Special Constabulary in the days when it was in action in Ulster. The writer I mentioned earlier had this to say:The B Specials were the rock on which any mass movement by the I.R.A. in the North of Ireland has inevitably foundered.Today the police have been disarmed and and the Ulster Special Constabulary have been disbanded and the Government tell us that they are to continue this policy. There is, therefore, a duty on the Government to put in the place of the armed police and the Ulster Special Constabulary something to do the job, and that something is not forthcoming.
It is impossible for the Army to do the job because the soldiers do not know Ulster; they do not know the roads; they do not know the areas; they do not know the villages; they do not know the land which needs to be guarded. We have had a series of incidents on the very border. Because soldiers have not been properly briefed, they have gone 283 into Southern Ireland, not being cogniscant of the location of the border of Northern Ireland. There must be something to take the place of these forces which the House of Commons, by accepting the Hunt Report, disbanded.
The Home Secretary says that we are working strictly within the Hunt proposals. I remind the House of those proposals. They were that the automatic weapons and self-loading rifles and revolvers of a calibre larger than .38 should cease to be part of the equipment in the R.U.T. and the only firearms to be retained should be rifles of a calibre no larger than .303, revolvers of a calibre no larger than .38, and gas pistols or gas grenades. These were to beavailable under strict security conditions at selected police stations for issue as required.Every police station in Northern Ireland could come under I.R.A. attack tonight, and yet the military personnel have been removed from some of them. Take the instance of Queen Street where there was a bomb explosion. The miltary were on guard there. Two days ago they were removed and the police station was attacked. How do the families of these policemen feel when this House votes to take security from them? If this House is not prepared to put military personnel in charge of the security of police stations it must be honourable enough to say that the police must have weapons strong enough and sufficient enough to resist any I.R.A. attack.
The Ulster Defence Regiment is not able, under its present terms of reference. to do the job envisaged for it. What is more, there are those in Northern Ireland who, for various reasons, have no confidence in the Ulster Defence Regiment. I give one reason. In Ballymena, in my constituency, the man who administers the oath to the recruits to the Regiment has a tricolour tatooed on his arm. What confidence can Ulster loyalists have when they are sworn into a British regiment by a man who probably has the Republic as his country? I have brought this fact to the attention of the Minister of State for Defence, and he admitted to me personally that it was true.
§ Lord Balniel
The police have arms loaned to them from the Army for the protection of their police stations. This 284 was recognised as a possibility under the recommendations of the Hunt Report.
§ Rev. Paisley
The Home Secretary said yesterday that the Government were working completely within the terms of the Hunt Report. Is the Minister now saying that they are going outside the Hunt Report? If the police are to be armed, they should be armed, not in a clandestine manner, but openly and publicly.
§ Lord Balniel
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman again, but the report of the police advisory committee in Northern Ireland—the Hunt Report—specifically recognised the need for exceptions to the general rule when it said that…they"—that is, firearms—should ordinarily be restricted to personnel on mobile or detective duties or the protection of police stations.Therefore, the statement of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary was absolutely correct. We are working within the remit of the Hunt Report.
§ Rev. Paisley
Let us get down to the facts of the situation. The other day, the police in Northern Ireland were offered shotguns with which to protect the police stations. How can a man with a shotgun effectively protect a station attacked by men with machine guns? Will the Minister answer that question? Men's lives depend on this. As I said at the beginning of my speech, it is time that the reality of the situation was brought clearly before us.
I wish now to talk about internment. I am sure that hon. Members on this side of the House will entirely disagree with me—and I do not relish the support of right hon. and hon. Members opposite. There is a large body of loyalist opinion in Northern Ireland which is completely and absolutely opposed to internment. Although the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East did not like my intervention, I think that in all fairness to that body of opinion he should have referred to it. He said that he would like to know my reasons for being against internment. I will give them now.
First, I believe that it is a cardinal principal of British justice that a man is innocent until he is proved guilty. That 285 important principle was departed from by the introduction of internment. Secondly, the comments about internment made by the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Mr. Brian Faulkner, could not lead anyone to think that it was introduced but for a political purpose.
Hon. Members opposite opposed a traditional parade. They did not want the Protestants of Londonderry to exercise their rights, and they called for the banning of that parade. I am convinced—and I am sure that what I say is right—that Mr. Faulkner said, "I will ban the Apprentice Boys' march and bring in internment". I should like the Prime Minister to answer this question at the Dispatch Box tonight: Did the G.O.C. in Northern Ireland say, "The time has come for internment"? Mr. Faulkner has told Stormont over and over again that the time had not come. When did it come? Who said that it had come? That is an important question which needs to be answered.
Some hon. Members opposite have said that they are against internment. It seemed to me that they were being hypocritical because they were worried that the people to whom they were opposed were not interned. My name has been mentioned. It is totally dishonest for anyone to say that he is against internment if he is against it only because his political opponents have not been interned. I am against internment because it is completely wrong in principle.
Mr. Faulkner said, "The processes of the law have been tried and they have totally failed." I want to give the lie to that statement. The processes of the law in Northern Ireland have not been tried against the Irish Republican Army, whose members were able to march in our streets and fire volleys over the graves of those who had been shot by the security forces and no effort was made to bring them to book.
Secondly, we were told that if we had internment all the troubles would be over Mr. Faulkner said that the Government were on top of the situation, and it was the last desperate fling of desperate men. We have never had trouble like the trouble we have had since the introduction of internment. We have had murders, shooting, arson, blastings and bombings night after night. Then Mr. Faulkner said, "Internment is not to stop the trouble but to force the gunmen into the 286 streets". This was his last comment on the situation.
Internment is wrong. It has not worked, and it will not work. Internment, if one believes in it, can work only at the beginning of a serious situation. It is useless to bring in internment when the situation has deteriorated the way it has.
I differ from a large body of Protestant and loyalist people in Northern Ireland when I say tonight that if Mr. Faulkner is convinced—and he keeps saying, "I have the strongest possible evidence. I would not sign an internment notice," he says, "except I had this evidence"—he should charge these men with their crimes, bring them to the court of law, and show what evidence he has.
Let us hear no more of this talk, "You cannot get the witnesses because they would be intimidated." If the law were doing its job it could protect witnesses, and it is the worse comment on the Northern Ireland situation that has ever come from the Front Bench in this House that there is now a situation in Northern Ireland where Crown witnesses cannot be protected by the forces of the Crown. Such a situation is a disgrace and it should be remedied.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)
I am sure the hon. Member will not mind if I remind him that he gave an undertaking that he would not make a very long speech. I have listened to him for some 20 minutes. I cannot bring his speech to an end, but I think he must remember that there are many other hon. Members who wish to speak.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I, with the greatest possible respect, suggest to you that it is contrary to the practice of this House for the Chair to interrupt an hon. Member and warn him to bring his speech to an end solely on the ground of its length?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
What I have to say is this. It is the custom of hon. Members generally, when they consult the Chair about speaking, and undertake not to speak at great length, that they keep to their undertakings.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
I will do my best to be as brief as possible, but I remind 287 you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that in the last debate I had only three minutes to put my case to this House, and surely in this important debate my voice, on behalf of the people I represent, should be heard. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] There is another serious situation which this House needs to take cognisance of and that is the campaign of civil disobedience, because I believe this campaign is complementary to the campaign of the Irish Republican Army. I know that those who control this campaign, who have set this campaign afoot, say they want nothing to do with the gunmen, nothing to do with violence, and have nothing to do with the present outbreak of violence in Northern Ireland. I have heard that, but this is a campaign of civil disobedience which is led by the S.D.L.P. and I should like to say a word about that party.
Some people are apt to think that the Social Democratic and Labour Party is the official Opposition at Stormont. This is not true, because the S.D.L.P. would not take the title of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. So it refused to be the official Opposition.
There is also a report circulating around that all the official Opposition Members at Stormont except the Northern Ireland Labour Party M.P. have boycotted Stormont. There are two O'Neillite Unionists who are not members of the official Unionist Party. They are Members of Stormont. My colleague and I are Members of Stormont. There are two independent Unionist Members at Stormont. There is another who does not take the Whip of the Unionist Party. These Members have never been approached by the Home Office to talk about the situation.
I agree with what the hon. Member for Belfast, West said, that the Home Secretary has been talking to people who have not even one elected representative in either House. He has had consultations with them. I think he should hold consultations with the elected representatives. The Unionist Alliance, of which I am a member, has given out to the public and to the members of the S.D.L.P. and to the members of the Nationalist Party and to the members of the Northern Ireland Labour Party that we are prepared as members opposed to Mr. 288 Faulkner to sit round a table with them, and with no conditions whatever we are prepared to meet and talk with them and with other members of the Opposition at Stormont. While their politics and the brand of politics I believe in are absolutely divorced, I say that the only people who can talk for the people of Northern Ireland are those elected either to Stormont or to this House, and these are the people with whom the Home Secretary should be getting round the table as soon as possible.
As to this campaign of civil disobedience, I have here a paper issued by John Hume, who is a S.D.L.P. member, and it says:What is the purpose of the campaign of civil disobedience? To protest against internment and to withdraw consent from the system of Government in Northern Ireland. When will it end? When the last internee has been released.It also says about payments of rent and rates which are being withheld,Will those payments be collected by anyone else?This is a most serious statement. This is what it says:No. Citizens are asked to hold them themselves. No arrears will be payable when the campaign has ended.So the S.D.L.P. and those associated with the campaign of civil disobedience are making a promise that those people who refuse to pay their rents and rates will never be asked to pay the arrears. That is a contribution to anarchy; it is a contribution to the absolute destruction of society; and if that is continued that, in my opinion, will be a far more serious thing than the bomb and the bullet and the gun, for it will destroy the whole structure of society; and those who have initiated it will not then he able to say "You must pay up", for they have promised that no arrears will ever be asked for.
As to the tripartite talks, the Leader of the Liberal Party made a comment about this yesterday when he said:The fact that the meeting of the three Prime Ministers is being held is significant and not without difficulty. Already two Unionist M.P.s have resigned from the party for no other reason than that Mr. Faulkner is to sit round a table with the Prime Minister of the Republic. It is an extraordinary thought that, although across another part of the Channel it is possible for France, the Netherlands. Luxembourg and Belgium to sit down 289 with Germany and Italy—their erstwhile conquerors—it is much more difficult for the North to sit down with the South in Ireland."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd September, 1971: Vol. 823, c. 49.]Commenting on that I take the constitution of the Irish Republic of which Mr. Lynch is the Prime Minister. In its second article it has this to say:The national territory consists of the whole island of Ireland, its islands, and the territorial seas.The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) said we should bring the Border question into the open. So we should, and there should be no bluffing and fooling about this matter. The Border, if it is to be discussed, should be discussed openly and publicly, and the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland should not make statements deceiving people and saying that it will not be discussed, for we very well know that everything to do with the problem of Northern Ireland will be discussed at this meeting, and it is dishonesty—a new dimension of dishonesty—which is taking place when we have the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland saying to his people, "It is quite all right—the Border and the Constitution will not be discussed".
Every Member of this House, if honest, knows that the Border and the Constitution will be discussed. The setting up of any new powers for Stormont is part of the Constitution. We must not delude ourselves by thinking we can isolate the Border and the Constitution and talk about the problems of Northern Ireland. These matters are all linked.
One final word, as I am sure, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you will be relieved to hear me say. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition is not present. I was going to make a comment, but since he is not here I will not do so. But this I will say. There are many things said about the Right-wing Unionists. One is that the Right-wing Unionists are against proportional representation. I know many Unionists who are for P.R. I recently had an interview with Her Majesty's Government's representative in Northern Ireland and he said to me that a Roman Catholic deputy had told him, "For God's sake don't bring in P.R. or Paisley will be Prime Minister". If the House thinks that a P.R. system will solve the problem, then let us have P.R. But it 290 will not solve the problem. I am not opposed to such a system, and if they want it let them have it.
We are then told that Right-wing Unionists are opposed to the abolition of the Special Powers Act, that the military could not be in Northern Ireland today doing their job but for the Special Powers Act. Let us be honest. If it were not for the Special Powers Act, the military would only have powers under the common law. This matter has been hammered out by the legal authorities. It is due to the strength of the Special Powers Act that the military are in Northern Ireland today. The common law gives the military only the same rights as anybody else.
I should like to see the Special Powers Act abolished because parts of it are not even put in operation. It declares certain organisations such as the republican clubs illegal. Therefore, when the members of the clubs picket the Prime Minister publicly this brings the law into utter and absolute contempt.
I conclude this debate on Northern Ireland by saying this in all solemnity. Let those Members who have been elected —and they are here tonight—consider the fact that those people who have been called extremists from the Unionist side are prepared to talk to them. We are prepared to talk to them without making any prior conditions. We will sit down and talk to any representative who has been elected either to this House or the other parliamentary body. But we are not prepared to sit round a table with people who have no stake whatever, who have never been elected to office, and whose only history is a train of lost deposits.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Miss Bernadette Devlin (Mid-Ulster)
Although I do not agree with a great deal of the remarks of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), there are a number of points on which I find myself in agreement with him. The first was his reference to the air of unreality in which this debate has taken place. There is not much point in going over the old ground which has been mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. When we left the House on 5th August the Home Secretary, in a speech lasting only four minutes, talked about peace and progress. While 291 he was here, deliberately lying and misleading the House, he was perfectly aware—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The hon. Lady inadvertently made use of an unparliamentary phrase. She must not accuse an hon. Member of lying.
§ Miss Devlin
With great respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I keep forgetting that, although it is a practice for Ministers to lie, one is not allowed to refer to the fact. None the less, the right hon. Gentleman, the Home Secretary, stood in this House with the full knowledge that on that very afternoon at 10 Downing Street the Ministry of Defence, Mr. Brian Faulkner, General Harry Tuzo and the Home Secretary himself had agreed upon internment. They had been warned, not only by hon. Members on this side of the House and by elected leaders in Northern Ireland, but by that vast body of opinion represented in the mass movement in Northern Ireland, about the consequences of internment, the inevitable bloodshed and strife it would cause, and about the fact that it would simply not work. They chose to ignore those warnings and continued to talk about progress, optimism and peace in Northern Ireland and of solutions being found, while at the same time they took a step which made it impossible for there to be either peace or progress.
That is not out of keeping with the whole attitude of the Government to the situation in Northern Ireland. Not since the days of the much-greeted, much-heralded Downing Street Declaration, which was nothing other than a Magna Carta for the middle classes, has there been any real progress in Northern Ireland. The reason is that the Downing Street agreement, as many of us said at the time, just would not work. It offered no real solution to the problems of Northern Ireland, it was irrelevant to the needs of the people of Northern Ireland. It contained what were accurately described as gestures—a number of paper reforms.
I should like to take a brief look at some of these paper reforms. The Downing Street agreement offered universal franchise. There has not been an election in Northern Ireland since. They have changed the boundaries of local govern- 292 ment and have not yet held an election. We then had an Ombudsman or commissioner to look into complaints. The people of Dungannon had for years been saying they have a corrupt and sectarian council. The Ombudsman came along and said, "You are quite right; you have a corrupt and sectarian council." What could the people of Dungannon have done about it? Absolutely nothing. What could the Ombudsman have done about it? Absolutely nothing.
Then we had the Derry Commission. That replaced a corrupt and sectarian council elected by a minority. What did the Derry Commission do? It broke its neck to provide quickly houses for the people of Derry. It also, incidentally, broke some of the rules of the building trade to provide houses there. But because of the system which was operated, the houses were provided at rents which people could not afford to pay. Therefore, it did not solve the problem but changed an area of slums into an area of high-rent houses in which people could not afford to live. The only thing it did was to attempt to pacify the minority. It was an attempt to pacify the Catholics by taking away some of the marginal privileges which for 30 years had bought the loyalty of the Protestant working class— and very marginal privileges they were.
The Downing Street agreement, while not offering any pacification to working-class Catholics because it offers them nothing real, has certainly succeeded in weakening the support of the Protestant working-class for the Unionist Party, for the whole Unionist Administration and for Westminster, because it offered them nothing but the threat of having to step down the ladder. Yet both sides of this House stick to the Downing Street agreement as if it were some new progress and as if it were the solution to all our problems.
The situation which has developed in Northern Ireland from 1969 has been such that nobody in his right mind in this House would continue to talk about democratically-elected Governments and democratic systems. We have had three changes of Prime Minister, but the Unionist Party moves on for ever.
We had a gentleman, now known as Lord O'Neill of the Maine, who was our white hope of liberalism. The Press 293 represented him as our white hope of liberalism. Over his shoulder there came a right-winger, a dark shadow of a man, who was going to lead us all essentially on the path towards Paisleyism. Who was that gentleman? None other than Major James Dawson Chichester-Clark. Who, very shortly after the fall of Lord O'Neill of the Maine, emerged as the white hope of liberalism? The same Major James Dawson Chichester-Clark. He, in turn, by one vote in the Parliamentary party, saved us from the shrewd Right-wing politics of Mr. Brian Faulkner.
When Major James Dawson Chichester-Clark was promoted to his Lordship, Lord Moyona of Castledawson, the next white hope of Ulster liberalism was Brian Faulkner.
I ask the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, by what distortion of fact will they represent the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) as our next white hope?
The relevant facts of the situation in Ulster have been distorted in this House and in the Press when, if I may use the word without referring particularly to Ministers or this House, lies were being told, and well told, and, when lies were not being told, people were mistaken as to what was happening.
We have heard about the escalation of violence and the change in the situation from community strife to the war against terrorism. Let us go back. Yesterday the Home Secretary said that violence began to escalate on the new scale in the first week of February. It was long before the first week of February that General Tuzo, in the North of Ireland, issued the directive that people participating in riots ran the risk of losing their lives by being shot by the British Army.
On 6th February Mr. Bernard Watt was shot by the British Army and he died in the street. Nobody has condemned that violence. Mr. Bernard Watt was posthumously co-opted into the I.R.A. Every British newspaper carried the fact that he was a terrorist. Subsequently, of course, it was discovered that he was not. There was no screaming headlines of apology. Mr. Bernard Watt goes down in history as a terrorist along with Dessie O'Hagan, Eamonn McDevitt, Harry Thornton, whose crime was going to work in a van past an Army post, and 294 Angela McGavigan, a 14-year-old girl in Derry, whose terrorist activities amounted to souvenir hunting in the street.
I, like every hon. Member in this House, have condemned the wanton violence. I regret the loss of life. But am I the only Member who stands in this House and regrets the loss of life of those people who, by virtue of the fact that they are dead, are called terrorists? Or is there no violence perpetrated by the British Army? Is it a myth, a lie, and a campaign by so-called terrorists that people claim to have been brutalised by the British Army? Perhaps the only realistic assessment of the situation of armies, terrorist or imperialist, was given by the right hon. Member for Coventry, East (Mr. Crossman). We cannot expect the British Army to stand in the North of Ireland and imagine or convince ourselves that butter would not melt in the mouths of the soldiers. It is simply not true. It is not true, because they have no right to be there; they have no solution to offer. They cannot even offer the solution that they have been taught.
We have a situation where violence will continue to escalate, where people will continue to die, and where explosions will continue to take place, because nobody in this House, no Minister, has yet addressed himself to the real problem.
Very little has been said in this House about the civil resistance campaign. It is better known as the Civil Disobedience Campaign. We are told that the trouble in Northern Ireland is the result of the activities of a small body of armed terrorists. If we believe all that we are told in the Press and by politicians, they are intimidating people into refusing to give evidence of their whereabouts. They are intimidating people into allowing them to exist in the community.
To date, £65,000 to £70,000 per week is being withheld from the Unionist Government. If they are a small body of people, they must be very rich. A large body of ordinary working people is withholding money on council rents. More than £200,000 is currently owed to the Government by ordinary council tenants, and they are not intimidated by terrorists. They are not intimidated by these mystery men who go around at night and whom nobody ever sees to catch. They are intimidated by the fact that they no longer want to live under the Northern Ireland 295 system as it has been constituted for 50 years.
When we come to the position of talking about how to solve that problem, we can talk about talking, we can have talks before talks, in-between talks, and after-talks, but we have to reckon with the people of Northern Ireland. Hon. Members may not like what I have to say. They may not like what the hon. Member for Antrim, North has to say. But whether the House can dismiss both of us, or dismiss other hon. Members, as not speaking for the people, or as having to give in eventually, the people who really have to be dealt with are those who make up the population of Northern Ireland, and the people of Northern Ireland are currently opting out of the Northern Ireland Government Administration and their system. These are the people who have to be talked to. They are not essentially a minority in the sense in which the House refers to them. They may all be Catholics.
They certainly do not all agree on a political settlement. Members of the S.D.L.P. may say that they speak for the Catholic minority, but they speak only for those of the Catholic minority who agree with their politics, and there are those who do not.
One can talk about terrorists, and about the I.R.A. Reference is always made to the I.R.A., and that is all, but every now and again the House admits to there being two wings, as though somehow or other they were going to fly somewhere. There are two wings of the I.R.A., and each is affiliated to two political organisations. In support of his theory that the Civil Rights movement should never have been allowed to exist the hon. Member for Antrim, North said that there were I.R.A. men in it. If there is a body of people in Northern Ireland today who believe that they have no means of obtaining their political objectives, except by using arms, as there is, and if they are to be prevented from using arms, are they not to be allowed to work politically? Because a person is a member of Sinn Fein, is he not allowed to be a member of the Civil Rights movement? Because he is a member of Sinn Fein, is he not allowed any justice? If that is the attitude of the House, it is small wonder that he may take up the gun.
296 The House continues to talk in the realms of fancy. Whether the House likes it or not, there are not going to be any relevant talks while people are interned. The Home Secretary can ask anybody he likes to sit down with him. He can tell him that he is prepared to talk, to discuss, to find settlements, to write them down, and to put them through Parliament. People can nod and vote the measures through Parliament, but they will not have any effect. Mr. Napier of the Alliance Party can promise that there will not be any rioting in the golf club of Northern Ireland, but there never has been any. What he cannot promise is a change in the situation.
Again, whether the House likes it or not, the people involved are in Republican Clubs and in the Sinn Fein. They are involved in the Civil Rights Association. They are part of all the other groups involved in what is going on. They have said, and they mean it, that there will not be any talks, or any settlement, while 219 people are interned. There is no need to justify the fact that internment is wrong and it does not work.
I should like to make more specific the questions which have been asked of the Government from this side. We have been told that the people interned are actively involved in violence to overthrow the State. I have here a list of a number of people and I challenge the Minister of State to tell me whether I am wrong, or whether he has a clue, whether he has in his possession enough evidence to say whether I am telling the truth. The reason that I read out only a number of people is that I have been able personally to go into these cases and to find out to my own satisfaction whether what I have been told is true.
There is first the case of Mr. Paddy Joe Maclaine. This case I know best because he is not only a constituent of mine but also a constituency organiser of mine. If I have been a little less moderate since his internment it may be because one of my advisers in my constituency happens to be in the Crumlin Road Prison and now in the Long Kesh concentration camp.
His crime against society is that he is a member of the organisation known as the Graves Association. The function of this association, which may seem ridiculous to some people in this House, is 297 to go around the graves of those people who gave their lives in various struggles in Ireland's history to see that they are well maintained and that, when commemoration parties are being held on their anniversaries, the place is properly looked after. That is all they do— [An HON. MEMBER: "Rubbish."] Anyone who says that it is rubbish should provide alternative evidence.
Mr. Maclaine is also a member of the Civil Rights Association. He was interned the last time that internment was introduced and is interned this time, possibly because he is quite a clever gentleman. When they interned him last time, he tried to dig his way out. They caught him but they did not forgive him, so they interned him again.
Oliver Kelly is interned. He is politically inactive, but he is the brother of Billy Kelly, who is well known in Belfast as a Republican. He is well known to the Army, but they cannot find him, so his brother will evidently do until he turns up.
Charles Clements is aged 65, hardly the best age for terrorist activities or for running away from British soldiers, but his son is wanted for questioning by the British Army. Joseph McFall is 16. He was taken in mistake for his brother and could not and still cannot convince them that he is himself and not his brother.
We have the case of Mr. Terry Hannaway, the only member of his family who is not a member of the Republican Club, the only member of his family whose name was not on the list when the British Army came and kicked his door in—but he was the only member of his family who was in the house, because all the others knew that they were on the list and were not there. He was not on the list and the Army told him that he was not, but there was no one else, so he now resides in Long Kesh.
Liam Mulholland is a self-confessed Republican. He has always been a Republican, and every time internment has been introduced in the North of Ireland he has been interned. He is 78 years old. I should like to ask the Minister of State what kind of brave professional Army he has that is terrified of an old man who still holds on to his ideas at 78. He will not do the Minister or his Army very much harm.
298 These are the kind of cases which we are told do not exist. These are the kind of I.R.A. gunmen who are inside the Crumlin Road Prison and these are the kind of people that we are talking about. There is talk of bringing evidence before the courts. Let us discuss another gentleman, who is not interned but who was detained—Mr. Michael Farrell of the People's Democracy. He was well known to the Press and public, so people asked why he had been detained. Mr. Brian Faulkner appeared on television and said that there had been a lot of complaints about a well-known Left-wing activist, leader of a small Left-wing organisation, who was a lecturer in Belfast, and that he had been detained. People, said Mr. Brian Faulkner, believed this man to be a pacifist: that showed how clever he was.
Mr. Brian Faulkner claimed on that television programme that they had strong evidence that this well-known lecturer the leader of a Left-wing organisation—and Michael Farrell is the only person who fits that description—was in fact the leader of a crack commando unit of the I.R.A. in Belfast, but so clever was he about his activities that none of his political friends knew about this, though Mr. Brian Faulkner did.
Nevertheless, Michael Farrell is not interned—Mr. Brian Faulkner let him out again. What happened? Did Mr. Michael Farrell, who is so clever that even his wife did not know that he was a terrorist—though Mr. Brian Faulkner did —so terrorise and intimidate the Minister for Home Affairs that he was afraid to produce the evidence he said he had? Mr. Brian Faulkner forgot about the lies he told on television, and had to release the members of the People's Democracy before internment was introduced in the hope that no one would remember what he said. Yet we are asked to talk. How can we believe a word that Mr. Brian Faulkner has to say? How can anyone talk to him?
Then we have these tripartite talks with all these reasonable gentlemen, but Mr. Brian Faulkner does not speak for us. The lion. Member for Antrim, North makes it quite clear that Mr. Faulkner does not speak for the people he represents, for whom so does he speak? The Alliance Party has been here to speak for itself, and no doubt the industrialists have been speaking non-stop to the Home Secretary, 299 Mr. Brian Faulkner does not represent anyone or anything in Northern Ireland, so let him agree to anything he likes. He can agree to changing the constitution, but that will not have much effect on the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite.
Mr. Jack Lynch is coming to the tripartite talks and may discuss the constitution, but he does not speak for us. We did not elect Mr. Jack Lynch. He does not speak for the people of Northern Ireland or for the minority in Northern Ireland. We certainly have no faith in Mr. Jack Lynch.
I am opposed to internment, and so is Mr. Jack Lynch—but what is he doing about it in terms of the Statute Book? It makes very little difference to the people of Northern Ireland whether they be interned north or south of the Border. If Mr. Jack Lynch is really talking about peace and progress in Northern Ireland, why does he undertake his present offensive? He has enacted a repressive Measure unequalled in the British Isles. He has introduced the Forcible Entry Act which makes it a crime for our homeless too squat in vacant property. If that were the position in Northern Ireland today, many people whose only crime is to be homeless, and who go into vacant property would now be suffering the six months mandatory sentence.
We are people with a problem, not just a chunk of land for politicians to discuss. We have problems that have to be solved. We have a divided community, but basically the problems that have to be solved are those that divide the working class. We cannot talk among divided people through the very organs that divide us. We cannot talk about the joint interests of Protestant and Catholic people through the Orange Order or Stormont, because these are what have divided us. Therefore, like it or not, the people will not talk until internment is ended and the Stormont Government is ended. There is no point in hon. Members speaking about talking with elected leaders when the very means of electing leaders cannot operate. They cannot say, "We will talk only to elected leaders." The people who have to be talked to are those now on rent strike, those on rates strike and those who have opted out of the system, and not just their elected leaders. One 300 has to talk to all the people who have different political opinions.
It is time that this House woke up and that the Government realised that they may have a Parliamentary majority here or there but that there will be no talking in the North of Ireland without talking to the members of Sinn Fein, because they are people with political ideas and a right to hold those ideas. It is the very setting up of the Northern Ireland State that has made it a necessary condition of their organisation that some of them know how to shoot.
Regarding the wanton violence against the civilian population of Northern Ireland, I endorse the statement of the official Sinn Fein on that matter. Hon. Members can read it for themselves. They ought to acquaint themselves with the literature of Sinn Fein. It would do them a power of good.
Whether we talk all night or whether right hon. Gentlemen opposite talk all year to Prime Ministers and to leaders of parties, let it be perfectly clear to them that they can talk until they are red, white, and blue in the face. Nothing that they decide will be binding on the people of Northern Ireland and nothing that they decide will commit the people of Northern Ireland to agree to it. The fundamental basis of talking—never mind agreeing— is, "End internment, end it now, change the Stormont Administration, and let the people speak for themselves for a change." Otherwise they may as well not waste time talking because no one is listening and no one is talking to them.
§ 8.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)
The speech of the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) has behind it the strong feeling of herself and her supporters in Northern Ireland. For the few moments which remain to me, I should like to turn to the more general question before I return to the speech of the hon. Lady and that of the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley).
The time now before us is short but, alas, the time for Ulster is beginning to run out. That is a fact that the House now has to face. On my last visit to Northern Ireland three days ago, I found a situation which had greatly deteriorated over the last few months. It is fair to 301 say that the Catholic community now regard the British Armed Forces with dislike and even loathing. It is fair to say that the Protestant community regard Westminster with dislike and fear. It is fair to say that most of the centres of established power in Northern Ireland are in disarray, and that for the ordinary citizen law and order has almost broken down. One of my hon. Friends this evening recorded some of the events, not just of assasination but also of the breakdown of law and order in the simple sense that an individual cannot be protected in the normal course of his duties. This is a most serious situation which this Government have to face.
We know that the 1969 Downing Street agreement was a good agreement. We know that it led to reform. We also know that some of the reforms may not have been fulfilled. But the fact remains that what we have to face in Northern Ireland is, first, that Stormont itself is no longer the centre of power. In the words of one of my hon. Friends, it has become almost a Vichy administration Secondly, we have to face the fact that some of the lines laid down in the 1969 agreement are no longer functioning properly and that controls and guidelines set out by this Government are no longer valid.
Third, we must face the fact that the present thought running through the minds of both Governments that the military authorities can be substituted for the police is a concept which just cannot work for ever. The Army is being asked to do tasks which it cannot possibly perform. It is being asked to perform tasks which merely exacerbate the population. It is being asked to pursue tasks without the benefit of martial law.
Therefore, I ask the Government to look seriously again at the whole question of the Army not being the civil power but being a power in support of the civil power. Until that happens, the lawlessness and the problems which are almost intolerable for the ordinary citizen will continue.
We are now getting to the stage where it is no longer valid for a variety of British Ministers to be responsible for what goes on in Northern Ireland. We are approaching the stage where it would be better to appoint one man in 302 the Cabinet, be it the Lord President or someone of his status, to be responsible for British policy in that area.
There is a confusion of guidelines. We have seen confusion over the question of detention. We see confusion over the use of the Armed Forces, however gallant they may be. These things must be considered by a Government who see before them a situation which is crumbling in Northern Ireland. If the situation crumbles, it will do so with terrible results for the whole of Ireland and also for (he people of this country.
Up to today, certainly up to yesterday, there was not a sufficient feeling of urgency in the House about the dangers which lie ahead. Those dangers are very real. Today we have had two speeches of great importance—those of the hon. Members for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) and for Antrim, North. These people, with respect to other elected Members here, represent the feelings of many people in Northern Ireland—the feelings of the Roman Catholic community and the feelings of the majority who are Protestant.
It has emerged that people who are not Members of Parliament in the North are prepared to talk. An offer has been made by both sides. The offer should be taken up. It should be pushed. There can be some form of reconciliation and of sharing of power in Northern Ireland. As the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster said, the question of how this sharing of power shall come about can be decided, not by Dublin or by Westminster, but only by the people of Northern Ireland.
Perhaps the only fruitful thing that has come out of the debate has been those two speeches, the speeches of strong men who have restrained their communities from taking to violence, men who have been in the front line of the problem of Northern Ireland. If they can be made to talk and brought to talk and encouraged to talk, I believe that there is some faint glimmer of hope that something of value will emerge from the debate.
The Government and the Opposition Front Bench must face the fact that the organisation of society in Ireland is crumbling, that the police force has gone and that something must be placed in its stead to take the strain of normal civil order in the streets. It is no good saying 303 that the promise of 1969 that there were to be police sent from this country has not been fulfilled. It is no good saying that we cannot do anything about it and that we must leave it to the military. There should be far more emphasis placed by the Government on getting their lines of communication right with Northern Ireland, on getting a sense of urgency into the job of administration and making certain that the citizen is protected not only by military forces but by a police force, based if need be on the communities themselves.
This debate has been of some value, but of one thing I am certain. It is only through the talking of those who really represent the mass of the people in the great communities of Northern Ireland that there is any hope of peace today.
§ Mr. John E. Maginnis (Armagh)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wish to raise a point of order on behalf of the minority in this House who have not been called to take part in this debate —members of the Unionist Party of Northern Ireland and some of the independent Members present in this House. I wish to protest at the fact that accommodation could not be provided for those who should have been called to speak in this debate.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The hon. Member knows as well as any other hon. Member that the Chair does its best to spread the debate as fairly over the House as possible. It is impossible to call all those who wish to speak. Indeed, it is impossible to call all those from Ulster, even. On the whole, I think the Chair has done its best to produce a fair debate.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. George Thomson (Dundee, East)
This has been a sombre debate on a desperately serious subject. I did not agree with some of the diagnoses of the right hon. Member for Stafford and Stone (Mr. Hugh Fraser), but I agree with him in this sense that we are on the brink in Northern Ireland and that unless there is great statesmanship immediately ahead there may be a situation which is very much worse than we have known so far.
304 I begin by echoing what I thought was a moving speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Bootle (Mr. Simon Mahon) yesterday in saying that most of us in the House have been particularly conscious of the need to say nothing that will make the lives of anybody in Northern Ireland, whether they be soldiers or civilians or of whatever community, more dangerous or the task more difficult for those in both communities in Northern Ireland who genuinely seek reconciliation of the deep differences which exist.
For far too long the Government deduced from this common premise the uncommon conclusion that it would be better for the House of Commons to say nothing at all. Three times the Opposition had to request the recall of Parliament before it was finally accepted. I cannot accept that it is right that the House of Commons should not declare itself on issues like this. It is not in the interests of our Servicemen or anyone else that an uncanny silence should lie across the Palace of Westminster, and it is very much in their interests that constructive and reconciliatory ideas should come from Parliament. This debate has justified itself in that sense and there have been a number of useful ideas expressed which I hope will be helpful to the Government in the various discussions which are being initiated.
It has been a remarkable coincidence how Stormont and Whitehall, sterile of any positive ideas throughout August, have been stirred into activity by the recall of Parliament. The hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) generously but rather unsuccessfully tried to help the Minister of State last night by claiming that Stormont's latest proposals for constitutional change were not last-minute concessions but had been in preparation in the pipeline for a long time. No doubt. But for how much longer might they have remained in the pipeline if there had not been the deadline of this debate? To paraphrase Dr. Johnson, the knowledge that it faces debate in Parliament is a very powerful concentration to the mind of a Government.
One of the penalties that an Opposition faces in forcing a debate on a subject like this and exposing the Government to the searchlight of criticism is that its position is subject to misrepresentation.
305 We have had some share of this—I do not complain unduly—in this debate. The hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills) made the disgraceful assertion that hon. Members on this side of the House had been riding on the coat-tails of the gunmen; I think that was the provocative phrase that he used. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] He did indeed; I made a note of it. Therefore, before I go further, and before the Prime Minister winds up this important debate, perhaps I should reiterate for the record where the Opposition stand.
Our position was set out clearly by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition at the beginning of the debate, and I wish simply to remind the House of where the Opposition occupy common ground with the Government and where we believe the Government have departed during the summer from what, during our period of office and afterwards, had remained common ground.
First, we are at one in denouncing and condemning unequivocally violence and threats of violence from whatever quarter they come. Second, as my right hon. Friend said yesterday, the Border is not an issue. I know that a number of my hon. Friends disagreed with this proposition during the debate, but I should like to persuade them that the Downing Street Declaration set out the present position not only with legal clarity but, I believe, with political wisdom. I quote from it:Northern Ireland should not cease to be a part of the United Kingdom without the consent of the people of Northern Ireland.This does not, as some hon. Members opposite seem to believe, make the Border permanent in perpetuity. It says simply that change can come only through consent. I should have thought that most people, on reflection, would agree that that is the only way it can come. It echoes the words used by Cardinal Conway which the Home Secretary quoted yesterday. Whatever views one may have about the unity of Ireland, I am sure that everyone who is concerned about this problem recognises that a solution to it can come only through time and with the consent of the people of Northern Ireland.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles
But will not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is at least confusing for the House 306 when the former Foreign Secretary makes a speech in the Chamber which is directly contrary to what he has just quoted as part of the Downing Street Declaration?
§ Mr. Thomson
This is a great issue on which legitimate differences of view are proper. I think it no more confusing for the House that my right hon. Friend the Member for Dunham (Mr. Michael Stewart), for whose distinction I have the highest regard, should have his view than that the hon. and gallant Gentleman's right hon. Friend sitting next to him, the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), who has decorated a Conservative Cabinet, should have a view very different from that of the Conservative Front Bench.
Third, there is no dispute about the need to establish for the minority in Northern Ireland not only equal rights, important as these are, but a fair share of political power. I was glad to hear the Home Secretary say unequivocally yesterday that the Downing Street Declaration, drafted personally, I think, by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition when Prime Minister, represented a historic point of development and that the Government remain committed to it. But law and order are not enough in Northern Ireland. There must be law and justice.
Where we consider that the Government have gone badly astray has been in maintaining the balance between these three elements, the fight against terrorism, the search for political equality, and diplomatic activity with the Irish Republic.
The Downing Street Declaration, important and historic though it is, is only a starting point. As my right hon. Friend the former Home Secretary said, it must be seen in dynamic terms and as a point for further development. This is the real task of statesmanship. I do not underestimate the difficulty or delicacy of it, or the degree to which the Government may be the victims of events quite outside their control. But what I do say is that the Government have contributed some serious errors of judgment over matters which were within their control.
One serving soldier in Northern Ireland put it to me simply the other day in these terms: "We soldiers can provide no solution in Northern Ireland. The 307 only useful purpose we can serve is to provide a breathing space for politicians to find political solutions"—and he added that the ordinary soldier was beginning to question whether enough effort was being made by the politicians.
Lest that is taken as an unrepresentative example of barrack-room grumbling, I quote for hon. Members opposite the views of the military correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, who may be more persuasive to them and who, after visiting Belfast a week or two ago, said:Successive G.O.Cs. have stressed that the only rôle the Army can accomplish is to neutralise the I.R.A. while political initiatives are taken to place law and order on a firm basis.He added:Internment is seen by the Army as a very valuable one shot weapon to be used if possible in conjunction with a major political initiative. No such initiative is yet apparent ….That is precisely the criticism we make of Her Majesty's Government in this debate. Indefinite imprisonment without trial is the most serious step a democratic Government can take. I know that the Home Secretary recognises that. It has not been used in peace time on the mainland of the United Kingdom for centuries. When it was used sparingly in wartime, in the face of physical invasion, it was done under the most painstaking and reluctant scrutiny of the House. Apart from any other consideration, the recall of Parliament was fully justified to discuss this exceptional suspension of individual liberty within the United Kingdom.
The Government's behaviour towards Parliament in this respect has been indefensible. They carefully waited until Parliament adjourned for the long Summer Recess before carrying out internment. As a result, the Home Secretary was put in the position of being blatantly less than frank to the House in the debate on the day we rose. Everybody recognises that a decision of such gravity, if the Government decide to take the responsibility of carrying it out, must be made in absolute secrecy, and no hint of it can be given until the action is wholly completed. But if the Government had really cared about the rights of Parliament they would have ensured— they had the time to ensure, as they 308 know—that the timing of that fateful decision was such that it allowed Parliament to consider their action before we adjourned for the Summer Recess.
In the debate on the day when we rose my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) was as constructive as the Home Secretary was reticent. My right hon. Friend put the proposition that if further restriction were necessary for the safety of our soldiers it would have no hope of succeeding unless it was accompanied by a major political initiative. But what happened? We have had no evidence that the effectiveness of the peace keeping of our soldiers was the paramount consideration in the internment decision.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition asked yesterday, among a number of other very searching questions to which we await answers from the Prime Minister, whether the military authorities recommended internment on military grounds. The Prime Minister was not able to be here throughout the debate today—[Interruption.]—I accept that. The matter was raised in this context: the Government were reminded that again and again Ministers have called in aid the advice of the military authorities over Northern Ireland when that advice has coincided with the decision they have been announcing in the House. Now they have suddenly coyly discovered constitutional propriety. We had this from the Minister of State for Defence today. The Government say that the advice given by the military advisers must remain confidential, and that Ministers must take the proper responsibility. They have not done that on many previous occasions over Northern Ireland. We on this side can only see their persistent refusal to say whether the Army authorities approved of internment as the strongest possible evidence that the decision was taken without the supporting recommendation of the Army authorities, if not against their positive advice.
We have always stood ready to support any measures that were necessary for the safety of our soldiers and the effectiveness of their peace keeping, but there is a widespread suspicion that internment was introduced to protect not the soldiers but the Stormont politicians. This suspicion is reinforced by the curious package the Government produced. They 309 defended it as being fair on the ground that an all-Catholic internment was "balanced" by a ban on Orange marches. That means that the indefinite deprivation of liberty is being equated with the deprivation of the right to wave a banner in the streets on a Saturday afternoon. It was an error of judgment of the first magnitude, and it can be corrected only by working hard for a major and imaginative political breakthrough.
Because of the Government's failure in this respect, there is no getting away from what my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) said in a remarkable speech this afternoon, that the practical result of internment, however unpalatable it may be to all of us in the House, has been an increased loss of life and a profound alienation and polarisation of the communities inside Northern Ireland.
We hope that we will have some answers from the Prime Minister to the questions my right hon. Friend asked. For example, we were puzzled by the figure which the Minister of State for Defence gave us. He said that of 219 people remaining in internment 80 were officers of the I.R.A. We wish to know who the others consist of. The hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin), with much of whose speech I disagreed, gave some devastating descriptions of some of the internees which demand an answer. I hope that we shall get frank answers from the Prime Minister.
One of the gimmicks of the Conservative Government has been to make a great play of what they profess to call their "style of Government". Normally, my view is that it is the substance of policy rather than the manner of presentation that matters, but Northern Ireland is one area where style is important along with content. There are many people outside the political parties who will concede that the style adopted by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East when he carried this heavy responsibility was a good deal more appropriate and more effective than the style adopted by the present Home Secretary. My right hon. Friend worked continuously and skilfully in private and in public to keep the temperature down, to ensure a proper balance between necessary restrictions and reform, to cajole those fearful of change on both sides to 310 go along with his reforms, and to try to persuade people on both sides to break out of the cage of their own past hatreds. It was his major and constant preoccupation, and he treated it as such, to strengthen the influence of Whitehall.
The impression we have is that the situation has been very different since the present Home Secretary assumed office. We have learned in this House to have an affectionate regard for his easy-going temperament and no one doubts his liberal instincts. But we doubt his liberal energies over many months now. It is true that he does not disappear into the sunny Solent when a crisis is at its height, but he gives the impression that even if he did take up sailing he never would be missed. In all affection, I say to him that he now has a second chance, arising from the debate, and that it may well be the last chance in Northern Ireland.
I beg the Home Secretary to take a grip on things. Above all, I beg of him to take a grip on the situation in Stormont, where the British Government ought to be exercising a continuous influence in right direction. I ask him particularly, in the very critical days and weeks that lie ahead, to give his priority at all times to political reconciliation.
§ Mr. Thomson
The right hon. Gentleman says, "Of course", and I welcome that, but I was given rather startling information today about the new Housing Authority which was set up as one of the reforms put in hand by my right hon. Friend and which will, on 1st October, be taking over the Northern Ireland Housing Trust. I understand that suggestions have been made to the new authority that it should respond to the present campaign of civil disobedience involving non-payment of rents by considering mass evictions. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will take early action to prevent any kind of precipitate action of that kind.
Again, the Minister of Commerce of Northern Ireland, Mr. Bradford, is reported as suggesting that the civil disobedience campaign should be dealt with by stopping family allowances. There is 311 a genuine problem in the civil disobedience campaign—I do not deny that—but at this stage all efforts should be made in the direction of political reconciliation, and it is vitally important that nothing should be done by the authorities in Northern Ireland which would exacerbate the situation and make the possibility of reconciliation more difficult still. In this, the Home Secretary's rôle is crucial.
I come now to the rôle of the Forces in Northern Ireland, for which I share responsibility on this side of the House, and I want to deal with some of the points made by the Minister of State for Defence. I think that the hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster will find that hon. Members in all parts of the House deeply mourn the loss of life in Northern Ireland wherever it occurs, whether among civilians or men in the British Services. I should have preferred it if, in deploring particular deaths, she had paid some tribute to the sheer heroism of a number of British Servicemen who lost their lives deliberately and consciously trying to save the lives of others. It ought to be put in that way.
I can understand—at least I think I can—the deep feelings which are aroused in some quarters in Ireland over these issues, but I say to those who are tempted to take these feelings out on British soldiers that by doing so they arouse deep anger among the great mass of ordinary people in this country. The soldiers are doing the most distastefrul job which the British Army has been asked to do in modern times. They are doing it superbly and they are our constituents. Many of us have had the experience of constituents who have suffered bereavement during the period of the conflict in Northern Ireland.
They are soldiers; they are not saints. Goodness knows they would need to be saints to put up with some of the insults and abuse hurled at them. But, perhaps even more important, they are not even policemen, and part of the trouble is that they are being asked to do a policeman's job, a job for which they are not professionally trained.
They are highly skilled in their own job, which is the minimum use of force in an internal security situation, but when it comes to conducting house searches or dealing with crowds and so on they are not 312 professionally trained as policemen are. They have a particularly difficult job to do and it looks as though they will have to go on doing that task for a considerable time. They deserve the support, understanding and sympathy of the House in facing these problems.
There are bound to be individual cases of the excessive use of force by soldiers and the Army is absolutely right to have set up a committee of inquiry, for it is important not only that it should use the minimum force, but be seen at all times to use the minimum force. But I repeat that the outstanding feature is the restraint and the sheer self-discipline of the soldiers in conditions of great hardship. Those in Ireland who are sometimes inclined to feel critical of what the soldiers have to do would do well to remember the words of Conor Cruse O'Brien writing in a newspaper the other day putting forward his own views for a political settlement, for he made it abundantly clear that in his view if the British Forces were to be withdrawn from Northern Ireland, there would inevitably be a blood bath in which both communities would suffer equally.
I turn to one or two questions which I should like to put quickly to the Minister of State and which are not unimportant. He reported the arrangements for what is a very rapid expansion of the Ulster Defence Regiment. We welcome his clear repudiation—and the Home Secretary's unequivocal repudiation—of any idea of a third force in Northern Ireland. I ask my hon. Friends, whose anxieties about the expansion of the Ulster Defence Regiment I understand, to recognise that it is distinctively different from any revival of the B Specials. It is distinctively different because this is part of the Forces of the Crown coming under the Ministry of Defence and directly answerable for in this House.
However, we have legitimate anxieties. The Prime Minister cannot be expected to answer at the end of this debate, but I should like the Minister of State in due course to guarantee that in seeking to expand the force there will be no question of lowering standards of recruiting. When we were responsible, we found that a number of former B Specials, including a number of well known ultras, were seeking to join the force, and we had 313 careful screening and vetting procedures to prevent that from happening. It took five weeks between somebody applying and being accepted into the Ulster Defence Regiment when it was set up. We want an assurance that standards are not being lowered.
I should like one other assurance. The new forces will, I understand, be more localised than the present Ulster Defence Regiment. We want to know what will happen to these more localised forces regarding the arms that they bear. We seek an assurance that those arms will remain under the control of the military authorities and that they will not be taken to the homes of the Ulster Defence Regiment personnel as occurred in the case of the old B Specials and which formed one of the fertile sources of fear and tension.
I come finally to the more general situation. I wish to refer to the speech of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West. He urged the Government, in effect, with his characteristic forcefulness, to seek to treat the Irish Republic as if it were a hostile foreign country.
§ Mr. Thomson
I think that the right hon. Gentleman argued that it was a foreign country seeking to annex a part of the United Kingdom. If that is not a description of hostility, I do not know what is. The reality—to use a favourite word of his—of the relationship between Britain and the Irish Republic is that Britain and Ireland are inextricably mixed and have been so for centuries. Our history, economics and human relations are inextricably mixed. It is difficult to apply any of the right hon. Gentleman's cold and rational categorising to this relationship.
The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) complained bitterly that somebody wishing to join the Ulster Defence Regiment had been put off by the fact that the recruiting sergeant had a Southern Irish tattoo on his arm. I recall serving during the war with a number of Southern Irishmen, of whom there 314 were many in His Majesty's Forces at that time. I recollect a barrack-room argument in which they were arguing about politics, as Irishmen will. Half were pro-de Valera and half were anti-de Valera. One of them said, "There is at least one thing that we can agree about: old ' Dev' has kept Ireland out of the war."
I tell that story because it perhaps illustrates to the right hon. Gentleman that the truth about the Irish problem is much more complex and many sided than he has dreamt of in his apocalyptic philosophy. The tangled problems of centuries and the half century of political repression which has recently ended in Northern Ireland have created a situation which will not be solved quickly or easily. I agreed with the rather gloomy diagnosis made by the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), although I did not agree with the remedies he put forward. We must not feel that, despite all the talk of solutions, there is an easy solution round the corner. However, Northern Ireland is undoubtedly near the brink and time is short to start the process of political reconciliation.
My right hon. Friend the former Prime Minister gave the Government a whole series of fertile and constructive ideas, and we have heard some from the Government benches. The essential is to ensure that political power is shared between the majority and minority communities. Civil rights are important, but they do not go to the heart of the matter. The important point is the sharing of political power, and the Government must direct all their energies towards overcoming the difficulties in the way of that.
The most important sentence in the Home Secretary's speech was that in which he said that he sought to give the minority a proper, permanent, active and guaranteed part in the public life and affairs of their country. The hon. Member for Belfast, West made a positive response in his speech which showed both courage and generosity. My right hon. Friend the former Home Secretary indicated one way in which the internment blunder might be put right without known gunmen going back on the streets.
I think the truth of the matter at the end of this debate is that a significant shift has come about in Government 315 policy since this recall of the House of Commons was announced. If there had been no meeting arranged between the Prime Ministers next week, if there had been no offer by the Home Secretary to bring people round the table to put forward propositions for sharing political power, if there had been no offer by Mr. Faulkner of constructive constitutional changes, if there had been no positive response from the leaders of the minority political group in Northern Ireland—if that had been the situation—tonight we would have been voting censure on the Government's mistakes during the summer and their failure to learn from these mistakes. But with these developments we feel that it is right not to vote at this stage on the eve of these talks.
We are bound to hope that next week's talks will go well and produce fruitful results. We will be watching the progress of those talks vigilantly, and particularly as they affect the issue of internment. We shall be ready to treat of these matters again during the debate on the Address in reply to the Queen's Speech after the House next returns, and, if necessary, then take the matter to a Division. Meantime, for the sake of the ordinary people of Northern Irefland, Protestants and Catholics, for the sake of our soldiers, their wives and families, we can only pray that, before it is too late, ways will be found to restore peace in Northern Ireland and to give to Northern Ireland justice between the communities for the first time this century.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Edward Heath)
Parliament is debating the situation in Northern Ireland at a time when both the Government and the Opposition felt that they had a contribution to make towards a solution of the grave problems which confronts us all, and I think the House will agree that the contribution has been on the whole a constructive one. There has been a genuine sense of endeavour in analysing the situation and in putting forward ideas which would be helpful in finding solutions. Yet I must confess, as perhaps others would, that the depths of suspicion which exist—and they have sometimes been expressed in these last days even in this House—almost drive one to the 316 depths of despair when trying to find solutions which would be acceptable to all those who are concerned.
We must not allow ourselves—indeed, we will not allow ourselves—to be daunted by the ominous task of working through these clouds of suspicion to a solution which can be accepted, but I must say that I recognise full well what the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) meant when he spoke of the rawness of the situation which exists today, a rawness which cuts right through to the bones of anyone who has any part whatever in directly handling this situation.
It is a situation of violence and bloodshed which we must recognise has shocked the world, which fails to understand how it could happen anywhere in Britain, which they respect and regard for its stability. It is a situation which horrifies all moderate people of these islands, including those in the Republic. It is a situation which affronts our British pride, our pride in the maintenance of the right of every citizen to go about his lawful occasions freely in peace and in security.
I agree with what has been said by hon. Members on both sides of the House— but I think it needs emphasising—about the restraint shown by the people of Northern Ireland of both communities. It is truly remarkable and highly commendable. We have only to visualise what our own attitude would be if any similar, comparable situation should arise in any of our cities—whether Birmingham, Newcastle or Glasgow—comparable to what is going on in Belfast or Derry and what their citizens are undergoing. They are manfully going to work in their factories, in their fields, in their businesses, in the face of a determined attempt to paralyse the life of the community. We pay them this tribute to their steadfastness, and I have told those from Northern Ireland who have spoken to me that we in Britain have the utmost admiration for the ordinary people of Northern Ireland, whatever their religious beliefs may be, in the ordeal which they are undergoing.
Many hon. Members have rightly expressed their admiration for the security forces. I wish to make one thing plain with my authority as Prime Minister, since this matter has been touched upon. There is no difference in the attitude or 317 approach of Her Majesty's Forces in Northern Ireland under this Government from the attitude under the previous Government. Indeed, it would be a reflection on those commanding those Forces if such a thing were to be said. There is no difference in the instructions which have been issued to Her Majesty's Forces under this Government from those under the previous Government.
Her Majesty's Forces are neutral and impartial as far as all citizens in Northern Ireland are concerned, as they are indeed elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Where they cannot be neutral is towards the gunmen and those who are using force to try to achieve their aims. This situation represents a challenge of a different type and attitude from anything we in these islands have hitherto experienced. This was emphasised in a most notable speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes). We have to deal with a modern, up-to-date type of urban guerrilla warfare against the background of a major problem of community relations.
There were some of us who hoped in the mid-1960s, after the troubles of 1956 and 1962, that these community problems were being resolved, but our expectations were disappointed in August, 1969. Again, in the second half of 1970, we thought after the programmes announced by the previous Administration and then being carried through at Stormont, that community conflict was being diminished. Again our hopes were dashed when the I.R.A. started its present campaign in February of this year.
In this speech winding up the debate I should like to deal with the main threads which have run through the debate and to answer the major questions which have been put to me. I begin by stating as clearly as I can the broad principle of the Government's policy. The principle is to work for the same standards in Northern Ireland as in the rest of the United Kingdom in community relations, in economic and social progress and in the maintenance of law and order. This Government have never wavered in this objective and we shall not do so.
I regret the accusation that we have abandoned this path. Such an accusation is absolutely unjustified and not a scrap of evidence has ben produced to substantiate it. It cannot be produced because 318 there is none. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition was generous enough to say this when I made my statement in the House on 22nd March last, following the resignation of Major Chichester-Clark:Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he is entitled to the full support of the House in his insistence on maintaining the policies which two successive Governments and two successive Oppositions have maintained, in seeking reconciliation between the communities and the outlawing of violence, from wherever it may come.…."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd March, 1971; Vol. 814, c. 35.]That remains our position today. Indeed in some respects we have gone further.
We recognise the point which was made absolutely validly by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East, who opened the debate this afternoon, that the Downing Street Declaration was not the be-all and end-all. It was part of a continuing process.
Perhaps I may remind the House of the initiative taken by the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland in a speech from the Throne on 22nd June, a comparatively short time after he became Prime Minister, in which he agreed to offer to the Opposition that there should be set up three Parliamentary Committees for policy formulation before legislation was introduced. I believe this to have been an offer of major importance. It is something we have not got in this House at Westminster. Moreover, of the four major committees at Stormont he offered the chairmanship of two to the Opposition. Neither the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition nor myself when in Opposition ever had 50 per cent. of the chairmanships of Committees of this House. The most we ever had was three out of ten, and the same applies to the right hon. Gentleman.
This offer, which was discussed with the Opposition on 7th July was important, and it was offered in the middle of a period about which there has been criticism.
It was to my regret, and very much to Mr. Faulkner's, that, after the discussions on 7th July, and for a matter which was in no way connected with the offer, nor, indeed, the responsibility of Stormont because it was a request by the G.O.C. which affected Westminster, the Opposition left Stormont. This must 319 surely daunt a Prime Minister in Mr. Faulkner's position who was making a serious endeavour to improve constitutional arrangements and to give the Opposition a genuine participation in Government—to an extent which even in this Parliament the Opposition have not got.
So I would hope, if I may express a hope—some have said that we should not express hopes here but this I genuinely express—that the message will go out from this House to the S.D.L.P. that it should be willing to discuss arrangements of this kind, indeed of any kind, which it wishes to put forward, some of which have been mentioned by the leader of that party in this House today, under the suggestion put forward by the Home Secretary. There are no pre-conditions, except that they should be proposals within a democratic framework. I do not believe that anybody in this House would wish to reject that proposition. The proposals which have been put forward by the Leader of the Opposition and by others in this House have been in the framework of a democratic constitution.
I should like to mention the second point—economic and social progress. Here, too, this Government have continued the policy of their predecessors. We readily backed the proposals which had been almost entirely worked out under the previous Government for the £75 million development programme. Indeed, it was a new proposal which we supported for the inquiry into the economic and social development of Northern Ireland. We immediately provided £500,000 for a fund for immediate relief and reconstruction after the outbreak of damage in Belfast. In this sphere we have also maintained the policy and developed it still further.
I hope, therefore, that it may be accepted that the objective of Her Majesty's Government remains as I have outlined it. We shall not waver from it and we shall do all that we can to seek to achieve it.
I wish now to deal with a matter which has occupied a great deal of the debate, the question of internment. I will endeavour to answer the question put by the Leader of the Opposition as well 320 as those put by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East.
The Leader of the Opposition asked whether I would consider answering his questions, in so far as I could do so, for reasons which he fully understands, with the proviso concerning any question of security which may be involved; but that, I think, will not deter me from answering them.
First, I wish to emphasise what was said by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary—this has been constantly stated —about the abhorrence of all free men in a democratic society of detention without trial. I emphasise that we have been extraordinarily loth and reluctant to see it introduced. This abhorrence means that it must be postponed until the last possible moment until one has to come to a decision, and that it be used only in the last resort.
The powers exist on the Statute Book of Stormont under the Special Powers Act. They remained there under both Labour and Conservative Administrations over many years. Those powers have been a recognition that, however distasteful and abhorrent they are, in certain circumstances they could be, and in the past have been, used. As was rightly pointed out by the Leader of the Liberal Party, it required a derogation from the Human Rights Convention which was made in 1957, and the Secretary-General was immediately notified of the decision of the Government of Northern Ireland. My hon. Friend the Minister of State, Home Office, winding up for the Government last night, emphasised that he opposed this as a matter of principle, as indeed have other hon. Members. This, I think, is not the view which was taken by the Leader of the Opposition, by the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East or, indeed, by the Labour Administrations of the last 25 years when they have been in power.
What I wish to emphasise, which was very vividly brought out this afternoon by my noble Friend the Minister of State, but which perhaps escaped the notice of many right hon. and hon. Gentlemen, is the serious escalation of violence in July, which was on a very big scale. Perhaps I can summarise the figures by saying that the weight of explosives used in explosions in July was nearly three times that of June and that this had been a 321 steady escalation from the Spring onwards. What is more, there was an even greater escalation in the first week of August.
The Leader of the Opposition asked me on whose initiative a decision was taken to intern. It was made clear in the statement of the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland on 9th August that the decision to introduce internment was taken by the Northern Ireland Government after weighing all the relevant considerations, including the views of the security forces, and after consultation with the United Kingdom Government.
I should like to tell the House what happened. The Prime Minister of Northern Ireland came to London on 5th August, having asked to come on 4th August. It is not correct to say that Her Majesty's Government had been constantly pressed by the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland to introduce internment. That is not the case. There was not constant pressure before hand. The Prime Minister of Northern Ireland gave us his views about the situation and about the need for internment.
§ The Prime Minister
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would wait a moment. It does not make it worse. My colleagues and I heard the views of those concerned with security, both here and in Northern Ireland, and it was as a result of those consultations that Mr. Faulkner and his Cabinet took their decision. The statutory power is a power of the Parliament of Northern Ireland and the Government of Northern Ireland, and the Prime Minister himself is responsible for the operation of any orders made under it. It was therefore essential that the Prime Minister and his Government should take that action.
It was suggested by the Leader of the Opposition—and it has been mentioned by others and was hinted at just now— that we ought to have brought forward the discussion in order to announce the decision to the House before it rose. I do not think that the Leader of the Opposition has taken sufficient account of the reluctance of any Government to take action under this power. It was, as I have said, on Thursday, 5th August that the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland asked for this action to be taken.
322 It was right that we, as a Government, should consider it and give him our views upon it. No one wanted this action to be taken a moment earlier than was necessary, and even when it is taken it is action which, by its very nature, must be taken and only afterwards reported.
There is the point that people ought to have been tried. This has been very fully discussed in the House. The intimidation, not of judges, but of witnesses and of juries makes much of this impossible in the situation in Northern Ireland today. But this is not a situation which is limited to Northern Ireland, and many commentators have made the point that it is a situation which affects both sides of the border as far as the urban guerrilla is concerned.
The second question was whether the criteria for the list were endorsed by the United Kingdom Government. The criteria for the making of an internment order were set out in Mr. Faulkner's statement, in which he said that he made no orderwithout being satisfied on evidence placed before him that the person concerned—and these are the criteria—was and still is an active member of the Official or Provisional wing of the I.R.A., or has been closely implicated in the recent I.R.A. campaign.I was asked whether those were agreed with Her Majesty's Government. They were, and I am sure that they are the right criteria—and I emphasise "criteria".
The criteria are concerned not with whether a person is a Catholic or a Protestant. What they are concerned with is whether he is a member of an organisation openly engaging in a campaign of violence, and which has openly claimed responsibility for the acts of terrorism which have cost the lives not only of soldiers and policemen, but also of civilians.
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) referred last night to desperate potential criminals on both sides of the argument. That may be so. He said that he had evidence of such. But internment is not concerned with potential violence. It is concerned with an organisation and its members engaging in actual violence. That is the criterion. If another organisation were to become engaged in a similar campaign 323 of violence, it is without question that the powers now being used would also be used against that organisation's active members, irrespective of their political or religious affiliations. I wish that to be quite plain.
The next question that I was asked was, who was involved in drawing up the list? The decision whom to intern, in individual cases, is by law the decision of Mr. Faulkner, in his capacity as Minister for Home Affairs.
I was asked why internment orders were issued. I should have thought that, if the Northern Ireland Prime Minister had not carried through the customary procedure in the customary time of issuing internment orders, he would have been vigorously criticised from both sides of the House, because the powers make available an appeal to the advisory tribunal, which is a right which the detainee should have. Therefore, I believe that he was right to do it.
The next question was, have the right people been interned? My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said that the I.R.A. itself has let it be known—this is in answer to the right hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. George Thomson)— that they admit that 160 activists of one or other wing are being held. My noble Friend the Minister of State for Defence said that 80 of them are leaders and that the rest are 80 activist supporters—
§ The Prime Minister
If the hon. Member will wait a moment, I wish to deal with many other matters connected with internment. I will come to the question of any cases which have been raised. I will not deal with them individually: I wish to deal with the machinery.
I want to say one word about the Compton inquiry. The Leader of the Liberal Party used an expression yesterday which I do not think he intended, when he said that Sir Edmund Compton was an employee of the Northern Ireland Government. Sir Edmund considers this a very damaging statement, because his position is the same as the Ombudsman here. He is not in the employment of either the United Kingdom or the Northern Ireland Govern- 324 ment, His status as a Parliamentary Commissioner is similar to that of a judge. I think that the House will agree that his capacity is that of a judge—[An HON. MEMBER: "He is paid."] Of course he is paid, in the same way as the judges or the Leader of the Opposition, or the Opposition Chief Whip—that is, out of the Consolidated Fund. But they are not payees of the Government.
§ Mr. Harold Wilson
If the right hon. Gentleman has now completed his answer to my five questions on internment—I am grateful for the trouble he has taken and for the fact that he has gone as far as he feels he can in this situation—may I put to him two questions which he has not yet answered?
In relation to the Army, he said that he took into account their views. Did the Army ask for it? It is the Army who have had to bear the brunt of the reaction to internment. Second, he referred to activists, to those practising violence. Is he really satisfied, in view of the growing evidence which is being produced—much of which has been sent to me—that some of these are not cases of people who are sympathisers with the anti-partition movement but who have no record of or association with violence? Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied, on really careful evidence supplied to him, that those concerned have been confined to activists and violent men?
§ The Prime Minister
I said that we listened to the views of all the security forces on this matter. I will not divulge official views, whether of the military or of other security advisers—
§ The Prime Minister
What I will say is that those who say that this action was taken against the advice of the Services are wrong and cannot substantiate that accusation.
It is right that the conditions of internment should be dealt with. The Northern Ireland Government will welcome a visit from the International Red Cross. They expect to visit the internment camp at the end of this month. In answer to the right hon. Gentleman, it is customary for their reports to be published, subject to the agreement of the Government. It would naturally depend on anything 325 which affected security, but this matter can be dealt with.
Many hon. Members have asked to visit the internment camp. I suggest that the best way of handling this is for an all-party parliamentary delegation to go to the camp. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will discuss this with the Leader of the Opposition through the usual channels.
I was asked by the right hon. Gentleman whether friends and relations knew about this. Internees are being visited by friends and relations, by parish priests and ministers and, in many cases, by Members of Stormont. I have asked for an immediate inquiry to be made to see whether every relative has been informed.
The discretion of the Advisory Committee is wide enough for it to consider all cases of internees whether or not they themselves appeal. I am quite prepared to indicate to that appeals committee that this should be a policy it should follow: indeed, I believe that it will wish to follow that policy. I therefore suggest that individual questions, whether raised from the Front Bench or from elsewhere, should be left to the appeals tribunal which I believe is distinguished and impartial, to deal with.
I respect those who reject internment on principle, but I would say that they must put to themselves individually the question that I and my colleagues must put: are we prepared to see those who are now interned as I.R.A. activists immediately released? That is the question which we have to put to ourselves. Those cases where there is doubt can be dealt with by the Advisory Committee—that is its task. For the rest, the question is: if they cannot be tried because of conditions there, are they to be released?
There is much that I should like to say about security, but I want now to deal, very briefly, in the all-too-short time left to me, with political initiatives. I respect the opinion of the former Home Secretary that political initiatives should be taken at the same time as internment, but there are other considerations which are important. One of them is that the timing of a political initiative should be when it will be most effective, and I do 326 not believe that this was the case on internment.
As to Mr. Lynch's visit, I had long felt, before I became Prime Minister, that we needed closer relations between our two countries. Soon after taking up my office, in October last year, I had two meetings with Mr. Lynch in New York and we agreed to meet again. Mr. Lynch knew throughout July that I was willing and able to meet earlier at any time if he were able to do so. It was finally on 6th and 7th September that we were able to meet. It was, therefore, not an initiative taken as a result of this meeting of Parliament or of any other earlier pressure.
I believe that that was a valuable meeting, and as a result we can have a further meeting of the three Prime Ministers. Mr. Faulkner asked my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to initiate the discussions, and these are now being carried on. In fairness to Mr. Faulkner, the proposals he mentioned yesterday had been worked on for a long time, not at the request of Her Majesty's Government, but we have naturally been involved. We have not expressed our view, because we believe that they are proposals that ought to be discussed at Stormont and elsewhere with those carrying on the discussions.
Let me refer briefly to next week's meeting. In our discussions, which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary carries on, the proposals made by the Leader of the Opposition can be carefully considered. Of course, they raise difficult constitutional points. First, there is the question of the power of a committee of both Houses, which at present does not exist. A major point and a major constitutional problem is how much Stormont should have.
I believe that the peoples of our countries would never have forgiven us if in Northern Ireland violence had been allowed to go on increasing and slide into civil war which could not have been limited to one side of the Border. Unless the three Prime Ministers had—
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.327
§ Question put accordingly, That this House do now adjourn:—328
§ The House divided: Ayes 74 Noes 203.329
|Division No. 477.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Atkinson, Norman||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Molloy, William|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Fraser, John (Norwood)||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Garrett, W. E.||O'Malley, Brian|
|Booth, Albert||Gilbert, Dr. John||Pardoe, John|
|Brewis, John||Grant, John D. (Islington, E.)||Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Carmichael, Nell||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Pendry, Tom|
|Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield)||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Prescott, John|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles)||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Rose, Paul B.|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)||Heffer, Eric S.||Sandelson, Neville|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Huckfield, Leslie||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.)||Sillars, James|
|Dalyell, Tarn||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Silverman, Julius|
|Davidson, Arthur||Kaufman, Gerald||Skinner, Dennis|
|Davies, S.O. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Kerr, Russell||Spearing, Nigel|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)||Kinnock, Neil||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)||Lambie, David||Stallard, A. W.|
|Delargy, H. J.||Latham, Arthur||Stoddart, David (Swindon)|
|Devlin, Miss Bernadette||Leonard, Dick||Strang, Gavin|
|Driberg, Tom||Lestor, Miss Joan||Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Lipton, Marcus||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||McCartney, Hugh||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Evans, Fred||McEihone, Frank||Woof, Robert|
|Ewing, Henry||McManus, Frank||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E.||Meacher, Michael||Mr. Kevin McNamara and|
|Fitt, Gerard (Belfast, W.)||Mikardo, Ian||Mr. Stanley Orme.|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Miller Dr. M. S.|
|Adley, Robert||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid.Maj.-Gen.James||Hornby, Richard|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Dean, Paul||Hornsby-Smith,Rt.Hn.Dame Patricia|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate)|
|Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Astor, John||Dixon, Piers||James, David|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)|
|Awdry, Daniel||Drayson, G. B.||Jessel, Toby|
|Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)||Dykes, Hugh||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)|
|Balniel, Lord||Emery, Peter||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith|
|Batsford, Brian||Farr, John||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Fell, Anthony||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Kilfedder, James|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)|
|Biffen, John||Fookes, Miss Janet||King, Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Fortescue, Tim||Kinsey, J. R.|
|Blaker, Peter||Foster, Sir John||Kirk, Peter|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Fowler, Norman||Knight, Mrs. Jill|
|Bowden, Andrew||Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh (St'fford & Stone)||Knox, David|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|Braine, Bernard||Gibson-Watt, David||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Bray, Ronald||Glyn, Dr. Alan||Le Merchant, Spencer|
|Brewis, John||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Lloyd, Rt.Hn.Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Goodhew, Victor||Loveridge, John|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher||Gorst, John||MacArthur, Ian|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Gower, Raymond||McCrindle, R. A.|
|Buck, Antony||Green, Alan||McLaren, Martin|
|Bullus, Sir Erlc||Grieve, Percy||McMaster, Stanley|
|Burden, F. A.||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Grylls, Michael||McNair-Wilson, Michael|
|Carlisle, Mark||Gummer, Selwyn||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Maddan, Martin|
|Channon, Paul||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Madel, David|
|Chapman, Sydney||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Maginnis, John E.|
|Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Marten, Neil|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Haselhurst, Alan||Mather, Carol|
|Churchill, W. S.||Havers, Michael||Maudling, Rt. Kn. Reginald|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Hawkins, Paul||Mawby, Ray|
|Cooke, Robert||Hayhoe, Barney||Mills, Peter (Torrington)|
|Coombs, Derek||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)|
|Cooper, A. E.||Heseltine, Michael||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Cormack, Patrick||Hicks, Robert||Mitchell, Lt. -Col. C.(Aberdeenshire,W)|
|Costain, A. P.||Hiley, Joseph||Moate, Roger|
|Crowder, F. P.||Hill, James (Southampton, Test)||Molyneaux, James|
|Curran, Charles||Holland, Philip||Money, Ernie|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford)||Holt, Miss Mary||Monks, Mrs. Connie|
|d'Avigdor-Guldsmid, Sir Henry||Hordern, Peter||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)|
|Morrison, Charles||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Murton, Oscar||Rost, Peter||Tilney, John|
|Nabarro, Sir Gerald||St. John-Stevas, Norman||Trafford, Dr. Anthony|
|Neave, Airey||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.||Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin|
|Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Scott, Nicholas||Vaughan, Dr. Gerard|
|Onslow, Cranley||Scott-Hopkins, James||Waddington, David|
|Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)||Sharpies, Richard||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Page, Graham (Crosby)||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)||Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)|
|Paisley, Rev. Ian||Shelton, William (Clapham)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Parkinson, Cecil||Skeet, T. H. H.||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Pike, Miss Mervyn||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)||Warren, Kenneth|
|Pounder, Rafton||Soret, Harold||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Speed, Keith||White, Roger (Gravesend)|
|Proudfoot, Wilfred||Spence, John||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis||Sproat, Iain||Wilkinson, John|
|Quennell, Miss J. M.||Stanbrook, Ivor||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter||Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)||Younger, Hn. George|
|Redmond, Robert||Stokes, John|
|Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)||Stuttaford, Dr. Tom||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Rees-Davies, W. R.||Tapsell. Peter||Mr. Bernard Weatherill and|
|Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Taylor, Robert (Croydon. N.W.)||Mr. Walter Clegg.|
|Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Tebbit, Norman|
§ Mr. Harold Wilson
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I make a request in view of the circumstances in which the Closure was moved? I think it was moved a minute before what would have been the end of the Prime Minister's speech. I think it was clear that the right hon. Gentleman was going on to say something further about the talks which have been arranged for next week and other issues. In those circumstances, I should like to ask, with your agreement, Mr. Deputy Speaker. whether the right hon. Gentleman would consider circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT—this is nothing new; it has been done before—the last passage of his speech so that the House may be able to read the end of this important debate. Since there is an Adjournment debate to follow, it might be possible for the right hon. Gentleman to make the passage available so that it can appear in tomorrow morning's HANSARD.
§ The Prime Minister
I am perfectly prepared to consider the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion. No doubt, the Clerks will be able to advise us about the precedents. I should not like to be responsible for every Member in this House who wishes to circulate his speeches in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether we could seek your guidance. The Leader of the Opposition has expressed the view of right hon. and hon. Members in all quarters of the House that on this very important issue the Prime Minister should be able to complete what he intended to say. I think it is correct to 330 say that an Adjournment debate is to follow. I do not know who is the hon. Gentleman involved, nor the subject; I am sure it is of very great importance, but I am sure that it is not as of great importance as the subject of Northern Ireland. I am therefore wondering whether it is possible to follow a procedure which has often been followed before whereby the Adjournment could either be shortened or, perhaps, the Adjournment could formally be moved and the Prime Minister could use the time available.