HC Deb 27 April 1972 vol 835 cc1765-7
Q2. Mr. St. John-Stevas

asked the Prime Minister whether he is satisfied with the co-ordination of the responsibilities of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Secretary of State for Defence in relation to Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. The two Departments work very closely together, at both Ministerial and official level.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Would my right hon. Friend agree that while in principle it is highly undesirable to have no-go areas in any British city, in practice these have existed for months, and that nothing should be done at the moment to jeopardise the peace initiatives of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, which are now beginning to produce encouraging results?

The Prime Minister

In answering a supplementary question last Tuesday I said that of course it is desirable that the whole of the United Kingdom should be policed in exactly the same way. That must be our purpose. Since we took over direct responsibility in Northern Ireland, no-go areas have not been allowed to be set up in Belfast. This has been the policy of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. It is well known—although it is regrettable—that there have been areas in Londonderry which have been to all intents and purposes no-go areas for more than a year now, probably for two years. It is also true that those same areas were not policed in any normal way for many years before that. We believe that the way to obtain a solution is by a combination of political moves, which we are now making, and of efficient policing.

Mr. Orme

Is the Prime Minister aware that many of us expected a statement today from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland about the lifting of the ban on marches and the possibility of a political amnesty for those who have taken part in recent marches? When will such a statement be made to the House?

The Prime Minister

As the hon. Gentleman knows, my right hon. Friend has been having discussions with all those concerned about the question of marches, and is giving urgent consideration to it. My right hon. Friend hopes to be able to make a statement in the very near future.

Captain Orr

On the question of co-ordination, whatever may be the coordination between the Ministers, will my right hon. Friend examine the conflicting statements that sometimes come from the Army and the police? In particular, will my right hon. Friend personally look at the questions surrounding the obscene torture and murder of my constituent, Corporal Elliott, and the differing statements that have been made about this? Will my right hon. Friend think carefully about the desirability of ordering an inquiry into this matter?

The Prime Minister

Yes. I am perfectly prepared to consider any conflicting statements to which my hon. and gallant Friend draws my attention. If he would like to let me have that information, I can arrange to have it examined at once.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

When the Prime Minister answered a Question about the no-go areas last week, it seemed to some of us that there was a slight but important difference of emphasis on whether troops should go into the Bogside from the forthright statement made by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Will the Prime Minister assure the House that he is wholeheartedly behind the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in his statement that it is not the Government's policy to send the Army into the no-go areas?

The Prime Minister

A statement to this effect was made in an article in the Press last Sunday which misquoted the reply which I had given to the House. There is absolutely no difference between my right hon. Friend and the rest of my colleagues in the Cabinet on this question. Our attitude is at one.