HC Deb 24 February 1972 vol 831 cc1470-3
8. Mr. Duffy

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will make a statement on his latest discussions with the Northern Ireland Government on internment policy.

12. Mr. Clinton Davis

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will now make a statement on the discussions he has undertaken to hold with the Northern Ireland Government concerning internment.

Mr. Maudling

My discussions with the Northern Ireland Government are not yet completed.

Mr. Duffy

Is the Home Secretary aware that it is being reported that internees are conducting classes in guerrilla tactics, revolutionary warfare, weaponry, Marxist idealogy and other germane topics and that although not all may have been hard-core I.R.A. men on entry the probability is that most of them will be after a few months' internment? In view of the many unkind remarks being directed towards him, does the right hon. Gentleman also wish it to be said with a good deal more truth that he is now providing the I.R.A., however unwittingly, with the best officer training camps it could wish to have?

Mr. Maudling

The administration of internment camps is entirely a matter for the Government of Northern Ireland, not me. I am getting used to unkind remarks about myself.

Mr. Davis

Has the Home Secretary's attention been drawn to the article by Mr. Marcel Berlins in The Times of 9th February in which he expressed the views about internment of Protestant and Roman Catholic lawyers, many of whom had serious doubts about the powers being taken under the Special Powers Act? A number of people acquitted by courts have been arrested immediately afterwards under the Act. Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention also been drawn to the remarks and reflections made by a judge in Northern Ireland in the case of Moore v. the Chief Constable of Ulster concerning the tactics adopted in that case by the Crown? Are not these matters which induce contempt for the legal process of that country?

Mr. Maudling

There is no question of contempt for the legal process. I try to study all the many things said about the position in Northern Ireland. I do not agree with a large number of them. I must stress that the Northern Ireland Government are constitutionally responsible for law and order and the conduct of the internment camps.

Mr. Stratton Mills

Has my right hon. Friend noted the recent tragic assassination of a Crown witness? Will he bear in mind the very real problem of protecting witnesses?

Mr. Maudling

Yes, Sir. This is a very important factor of which the House is well aware.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

Bearing in mind a problem which hon. Members from Northern Ireland see at first hand, will the Home Secretary look again at the possibility of having a judicial review, because internment outside the law is offensive and damaging to the good name of this country in many parts of the world?

Mr. Maudling

Yes, Sir, but the advisory committee that examines every case is already presided over by a judge.

Mr. McMaster

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the amount of explosives used and the number of incidents and attempted assassinations in Northern Ireland has fallen since internment was introduced?

Mr. Maudling

I heard something about this in yesterday's debate. I could not give the figures without notice, and they would need a certain amount of interpretation, because it is not easy to draw deductions from simple statistics on these matters.

16. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the nature of the new political initiatives he intends to take on the Northern Ireland problem.

30. Mr. Cronin

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on what further pro gress he has made with the Northern Ireland Government towards achieving a permanent and guaranteed share of political authority for the Catholic minority in Ulster.

Mr. Maudling

I am not in a position to add to what I said in the debate on 1st February.

Mr. Hamilton

Although the House would not expect the right hon. Gentleman either to confirm or deny rumours in the Press on these matters, will he give a straight "Yes" or "No" to the question whether a new political initiative is imminent?

Mr. Maudling

The hon. Gentleman is right in saying that I cannot confirm or deny rumours in the Press. I should have a very busy life if I tried to do so. The Government are clearly considering all possible courses of action. Beyond that it would be unwise for me to go.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Do I take it from that reply that my right hon. Friend and the Home Office are considering my Private Member's Bill?

Mr. Maudling

I assure my hon. Friend that we are considering all courses of action, but I cannot comment on the detail.

Mr. Heffer

Will the right hon. Gentleman give us an assurance that the dreadful events which took place at Aldershot this week and in Derry recently will not lead to initiatives not being taken because of a feeling of revulsion to such events? Is it not clear that these events emphasise that the time has arrived for the Government to take a definite political initiative?

Mr. Maudling

The timing and content, which are equally important in many ways, of any political initiative, should it be made, should not depend on particular incidents.

Mr. Buck

Is my right hon. Friend aware that most of us hope that the recent and awful atrocities will not put back the possibility of a political initiative which will be acceptable to the majority as well as to the minority in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Maudling

Every atrocity that is perpetrated stresses the need for a settlement. I say again, as I have said so often, that the best and only lasting settlement must come by agreement.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

Although timing is of the essence, will the Home Secretary bear in mind the helpful initiative taken by the Eirean Prime Minister at his party conference last weekend?

Mr. Maudling

I think we all read with great interest what was said by Mr. Lynch on that occasion, and appreciate the difficulties which he is facing.

Mr. Cronin


Mr. Speaker

Mrs. Butler, next Question.

Mr. Cronin

On a point of order—

Mr. Speaker

I cannot allow an hon. Member to ask a supplementary question on an answer which he has not heard.