§ 3.32 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. David Howell)
I beg to move.That the Appropriation (No. 2) (Northern Ireland) Order 1972, a draft of which was laid before this House on 30th June, be approved.This is the second occasion on which the House has been able to discuss the supply requirements for Northern Ireland in 1972–73. On 12th June, when we approved an order covering an amount on account for each Vote, hon. Members were kind enough to accept that I should reply by letter to those points that I was unable to cover in the time left to me in the winding-up of that debate, taking up a number of very interesting and constructive points they raised. That process is now going on, and I hope that hon. Members will bear with me if in some cases they have not yet received letters, although I have written to a number of hon. Members about the points they raised.
Today we have another opportunity to range over the activities of all the Northern Ireland Departments. The order before us covers the remaining amounts detailed in the original Estimates less the £26.3 million deduction which was explained in the White Paper published earlier this year, and which I touched on in our last debate on appropriation. Although these Estimates were, of course, prepared some months back, they do provide a detailed account of the services for which my right hon. Friend is responsible. It would probably be most convenient at this hour, if I made only a short introductory speech and then left the stage clear for hon. Members.
The very size of the sum covered by this order, nearly £253 million, serves to remind us that my right hon. Friend is responsible not only for the political and security problems of Northern Ireland which, alas, catch the headlines so often, but also for a great mass of bread-and-butter administration which attracts less attention but which closely affects the lives of everyone in Northern Ireland and will do so in the future. For instance, total public expenditure—which includes more than supply expenditure—on social 2122 security is running at the rate of £150 million a year, on education at over £100 million a year and on health and welfare at £88 million a year.
Northern Ireland Departments have continued, under my right hon. Friend, to administer these basic and necessary services. They have often had to meet special difficulties arising from violence, disruption and civil disobedience; and, at the higher levels, they have had to absorb new administrative procedures following the arrival of "direct rule" and the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act. In addition to all this, Departments have been working under heavy pressure on the re-organisation of local government—one aspect of which we have discussed today—which goes much further than any re-organisation contemplated for Great Britain. This represents a really major administrative task, and that fact should be recognised.
When I spoke on 12th June I said that the Northern Ireland economy had stood up surprisingly well in 1971 to the difficult times, but that there was cause for anxiety. Since then evidence has appeared to justify our anxiety; the provisional production figures for the first quarter of 1972 show a fall—not a large one, but a distinct fall—so that industrial production is contracting.
As hon. Members are aware, the Government have been examining what further new measures are needed to help tackle the economic problems of Northern Ireland, and particularly the employment problems. It is hoped to make a statement in the next week or so but, meanwhile, the House may like to note, in connection with this order, that the measures to be proposed will inevitably require extra expenditure over and above that covered in this order.
In a sense, therefore, the order provides a further sum on account, since it covers only expenditure foreseen by the former Northern Ireland Government early this year when the Estimates were prepared. Since then there have been pay and price increases, a greatly expanded cost of compensation, a number of measures already introduced by my right hon. Friend and, as I say, there will shortly be a further list of measures. All these will require extra expenditure, and at least one further order.
2123 In commending the order for the approval of the House, I should like to say that I shall take careful note of the points which hon. Members may raise and I shall attempt to answer them either this afternoon, if time permits, or by letter at a later date.
§ 3.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees (Leeds, South)
I shall not detain the House for long. There are a number of general questions and one particular question which I should like to ask the Minister.
On the matter of procedure for dealing with Northern Ireland affairs, I am beginning to think that a White Paper explaining in simple terms the different types of orders with which we have to deal, might be valuable. The first appropriations order was S.I 1972, No. 671. Today we have a draft order. Why was it necessary to adopt a different procedure on the last occasion? It may, of course, have been a matter of urgency to adopt that procedure. I have been looking at the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act,1972, to try to get the matter clear. I presume that because the order is in draft it will have to go to the other place before becoming law.
§ Mr. David Howell
The last appropriations order was introduced under the urgent procedure, that is to say the order was made and carried into effect, and was then subject to the negative Resolution procedure in the House. This order has been introduced under the normal procedure, and the hon. Gentleman is right in thinking that it will have to go to the other place and be passed before becoming law.
This is not the Finance Bill or the equivalent of the Finance Bill. There will be an order covering the items raised in the Northern Ireland Budget to give effect to those in law. That will come later.
§ Mr. Rees
Despite the fact that the order has to go to another place it comes into operation straight away, and I am wondering whether, if it comes into operation forthwith—which is the correct term—that means forthwith having been through the other place.
I understand that it is usual for an Order in Council to come into operation 2124 two or three weeks after its making. It has been put to me in this case that because the order relates only to the Ministry of Finance and the Northern Ireland Comptroller and Auditor General there is no need for the public to be informed. I should be grateful if the Minister would clear up these matters, because the various orders being brought before us are being dealt with under different procedures, and it is important that we should get things right.
I understand that the issue is about £250 million, and that the order authorises the temporary borrowing of half that sum. But I gather that a very small sum, only about £20 million, is to be borrowed. There is such great difference between £250 million and £20 million that I should like the Minister to explain why it has been thought necessary to use this procedure.
The hon. Gentleman has explained that the first order was a matter of urgency, and was therefore brought forward under the urgency procedure. The fact that the order before us is brought forward under different procedure presumably means that there is not the same urgency. Therefore, has it been examined by the advisory commission? Was it envisaged that the advisory commission should look at this type of order? To what degree is it looking at the various orders that come out of the Department?
I understand that one of the reasons for the order coming forward now, although not under the urgency procedure, is that there is a need for money to deal with aid for criminal injury and damage, as the existing money is running out.
I turn to the question of accountability. There is still a Comptroller and Auditor General for Northern Ireland, and I see that in the appropriation accounts moneys are voted to keep him going. Who will he now report to? If we are providing money for his work to continue, he should report to someone. There may be some merit of itself in the Comptroller and Auditor General looking at accounts, but if his work is not reported to anyone it will be done in a sort of limbo.
The Minister has made the point that the moneys raised under the draft orders were originally asked for by the Northern Ireland Government, not by the Secretary 2125 of State. I note in page 3 the following item of £12,000:For the charge in respect of secret services".We all know that there are secret services, but secret services for the Government of Northern Ireland seem rather curious.
Normally this sort of procedure for our appropriation accounts in our Parliament leads to a wide-ranging debate, as it should. This is the second such account we have had for Northern Ireland. It would be inappropriate that this method should continue next Session. That is not the right way of going about it. I put no blame on the Government. It arose out of direct rule, but it is certainly something that we shall have to look at. Whether it is appropriate that it should be done by the new committee which is being talked about, although not yet in great depth, I do not know. In general, we shall support the Minister.
§ 3.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Walthamstow, East)
I apologise for missing the opening of the debate on this order. The item in the appropriations to which I address my remarks is at Class 3, item 2, police services. The sum granted is £11,754,000 and appropriations in aid is £9,000. At a time when Ulster is going through one of its gravest hours, we should all be asking ourselves whether the method which is being used to restore law and order and maintain a state of peacefulness in the Province is the right organisation for that purpose. At a time when so much seems to be placed on the Army and so little is heard of the Royal Ulster Constabulary or the Ulster Defence Regiment, I find myself obliged to ask, "What is this £11 million for?" After all, it follows so soon after we sanctioned another large sum in this House for police services. What is it going on?
My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State kindly took up the remarks in my last speech and sent me a letter, which I received yesterday in which he answers some of the questions which I raised. He knows that I am going to ask him some further questions about that letter.
It is difficult to grasp the gravity of what is going on in Ulster when one is 2126 in London in a cool calm place like the House of Commons. It is difficult to realise that the centre of Londonderry, so I am told, has been devastated. It is unbelievable to any of us to think that blood is running freely so often in so many parts of Northern Ireland. To think that a major military operation has had to be conducted perhaps emphasises the tragic and, one hopes not but fears, the deteriorating situation in the Province.
Therefore, one asks, "What are the security forces doing? Are they the right forces to be doing it?" These are urgent questions and necessitate an answer. I know that the House wants to end its business as soon as possible, but it is relevant for me to quote a leading article which I read in the Daily Telegraph this morning by Mr. T. E. Utley, who is, we would all agree, not only something of an expert on Ulster but takes such an un-jaundiced view because, as we know, his dear wife is a Roman Catholic. He said:To say that Ulster is moving, at an ever-accelerating pace, towards anarchy is emphatically not to indulge in alarmism. It is to express a literal truth …That is a grave statement. We have approximately 30,000 men engaged in security operations in the Province, composed of 18,000 soldiers in the Regular Army, more than 8,000 members of the Ulster Defence Regiment, about 4,000 or 5,000 members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, with a further 1,500 in the Ulster Constabulary Reserve. What part is the police being asked to play? Are we seeking, as my hon. Friend the Undersecretary of State seemed to suggest from his letter, the Hunt Report's concept of a civilianised police force or, in other words, put to me by a leading officer of the Ulster Constabulary quite recently, the concept of an English "bobby" in a peaceful English county? Or are we aware that just as there are horses for courses, so there are police forces for provinces, and that the police surely must be structured and organised to meet the problems which are relevant to that area and not to some mythical county which those who drew up the Hunt Report saw Ulster to be?
Therefore, my first question is whether the Ulster Constabulary as now constituted is able to do the job which it is required to do. Indeed, I would like my hon. Friend to be kind enough to 2127 explain what that task is. I remind him of a second quotation from Mr. Utley:It is basic to the concept of civil society, for example, that the authorities can be supposed to be at least trying to catch and convict those who break the law. But this is no longer true in Ulster, except in some remote and metaphysical sense. … The notion of impartial law has not been abandoned, but there is scarcely any possible police action in current circumstances which does not appear to somebody to be grossly partial.Mr. Utley used the words "police action" I shall suppose for a moment that he meant that and no more.
I think I table am right in saying that the difference between a police force and security forces in a community is that the police operate with the consent of the community and, therefore, have the trust of the community, whereas military security forces are under no such inhibition. They are asked to obey the orders of the Government whether or not they have the consent of the community in which they are operating. We know that they do have that consent in this case because we know that the bulk of Ulster men want to stay in association with this country. But there does seem to be this very important distinction.
It therefore follows that unless one argues that what is going on in Northern Ireland is war—and I dispute that word because it dignifies the terrorists—one has to argue that this is civil disobedience on a grand scale and that we should never have resorted, at least not until we were placed in the most extreme situation, to military force to cope with such disobedience but should have relied on those forces which had the consent and confidence of the community.
Those of us who have lived and worked in Northern Ireland—I count myself fortunate to have been one of them—remember a time when the Province was as peaceful as any other part of the United Kingdom. The police force there operated with very small forces indeed. I remind the House that the figure in 1922 for the establishment of the RUC was to be 3,500, of which, according to Sir Dawson Bates, 1,000 should be Roman Catholic. That force was adequate to maintain a peaceful province.
When I suggested to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State during our 2128 debate on the appropriations that perhaps we should be considering the establishment size of the Ulster Constabulary, he told me that a figure of 5,000 was now being thought of. The Hunt Report seemed to feel that 3,500 was too small but expressed no view about what size the force should be. The figure of 5,000 is not new. It has been around for at least 12 months, if not longer, in Northern Ireland. Therefore my second question, having asked about the rôle of the police, is what is the basis on which it has been decided that the establishment should be 5,000 and what would be the rôle of a police force extended to 5,000 men. After all, we have nearer 30,000 men engaged in security in the Province at the moment. I think I remember hearing it said that more soldiers could have been used to carry out last night's operation than were available. There seems to be a discrepancy and—more serious than that—clearly the emphasis is on soldiers and not on restoring the community's own force to bring law and order back.
There may be some who think that I am being insensitive to what is going on and that to talk about a police force coping with an IRA that has bazookas is ridiculous, but I still hold a faint hope that one day peace will return to Northern Ireland and the Army will not be required to be on the streets and the community will have had its confidence in the police force restored. My remarks are therefore aimed at both the present and future requirements. So I ask how we can know that 5,000 will be enough at a time when we are having to employ nearer 30,000 and not being all that successful.
I do not want to pour scorn on Lord Hunt, because that would be wrong and there is much in his report to commend, but because he saw the situation as he did, he believed in the concept of an unarmed civilianised police force. We know that the police have had to be rearmed to a certain extent since the Hunt Report which was written in 1969 when the sort of situation that we now have could not have been imagined.
But is my hon. Friend satisfied that .38 pistols and even Walther automatics are of a sufficiently heavy calibre for the police to do the job that they are being asked to do, or even to defend themselves against the sort of attacks that 2129 have been made on them on several occasions? My hon. Friend wrote to me that the Royal Ulster Constabulary had no Shorland armoured cars, although hon. Members will remember that there was an instance when they used at least one, perhaps wrongly—I am not here to judge, but now they have none. I am not sure whether I should be pleased to hear that.
One weekend earlier this year, I went out with one of the RUC special patrols in the streets of Belfast. We used a Land Rover, which is not an armoured car, although it was armoured with that strange plastic netting that is used and we were all rather glad that there was a certain amount of armour. After all, if one meets someone with a self loading rifle or an armolite rifle, one knows that the bullets he fires will go through the ordinary skin of a Land Rover. Are we wise not to let the Royal Ulster Constabulary have some Shorland armoured cars? Perhaps my hon. Friend will say that some of the £11 million is going in these directions, for it is certain that a police force cannot operate within the communty if it does not itself feel secure. Nor is it reasonable for us to put the police at risk unless we have given them adequate protection to feel that they can perform their job no matter what sort of problems they may meet.
The subject of pay was an extraordinary omission from Lord Hunt's Report. It contains not a word about the ordinary pay of the constable in the RUC. Perhaps Lord Hunt was not asked to comment on it. So I will ask: Is a constable in the RUC paid the same as an ordinary police constable in this country, or is he paid more? If he is paid less, is some of this £11 million to be used to improve pay scales? In view of the considerable danger in being in that police force, could we not consider some special form of payment for those in this service in an endeavour to encourage recruits to bring it up to the 5,000 minimum strength? I hope that as a result of my words someone will wonder whether the present establishment is right, or whether the police force should be considerably stronger.
When I went out with the special patrol in Belfast, it was about 10 days before we had direct rule. We went into 2130 the Mountpottinger area of Belfast. I was very impressed by the policemen who looked after me, including an inspector. One of the things that he bemoaned was the fact that in those parts of Belfast, from which the IRA had been pushed out the British Government, or Stormont, were unwilling to allow the civil police to take over control and instead continued to give the Army the predominant position. I brought his query back and asked some of my hon. and right hon. Friends about it but I did not receive an adequate answer.
I cling to the belief, tattered and shattered though it may be, that the Army is still acting in aid of the civil power. It therefore seems strange to me that we do not restore such areas to the civil authority, namely the police force.
I am bound to ask about the effectiveness of the Police Authority. I was reading one of the last debates at Stormont on the Ulster Constabulary and was horrified at the doubts cast from all parts of the Chamber on the effectiveness of this Authority set up under the Hunt Report and in particular on those who constitute it and on just how much contact it had with the ordinary constable on the beat. After all, he is the man who is risking his life.
Is my hon. Friend satisfied that the Police Authority is really sufficiently in touch with the police and the problems of the community to be able to make the policeman feel that when it says something it speaks with the feelings of the constable and all those in the Royal Ulster Constabulary behind it?
The police must be put in a position whereby they can quickly take over the dominant rôle in law enforcement whenever that rôle is open to them. They have come in for a great deal of criticism in this House and elsewhere. They have been "reorganised, reshaped and continually pushed around". Those words come from a speech in Stormont. They have suffered considerably in their morale and few high-ranking officers attempt to hide this. If we really believe that Ulster shall remain a part of the United Kingdom until the majority of its people decide that they wish another destiny then we must always be working towards the recapturing of peace and with that the handing back to the civil forces of their task of looking after the community.
2131 This £11 million may already have been earmarked but I hope that my hon. Friend will not just let my remarks blow away on the wind because it is crucial that the Ulster Constabulary should realise that we in this House who are now in supreme authority are aware of the rôle it has played and can play in future and that we are not relegating it to a reserve position with the Army alone expected to do the police job, the security job, the job of peacemaker, of impartial assessor and of controlling a community, which is dangerously near anarchy.
§ 4.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Maurice Foley (West Bromwich)
I address my remarks to the first paragraph of Clause IX of the Schedule relating to the work in community relations. Inevitably in our debates on Northern Ireland we deal with the immediate effects. Once in a while, we should look back to the cause, and look forward to the means of eliminating causes of conflict. This paragraph is of profound importance in recognising that there is communal strife in the north and that there is an absence of dialogue at the level of what was political leadership in the north at a grass roots level. In this spirit we should consider closely the work which is being done in this respect and look at experiences elsewhere.
Some years ago, at the time of the influx of Commonwealth immigrants into this country, it was felt necessary to establish some kind of machinery to promote community relations, so we established the Community Relations Commission as a separate body in receipt of aid from the Government but with the ability to dispense aid and to support local groups. Throughout England, and in parts of Scotland and Wales, there are local community relations commissions with full time staff whose salaries are partially paid through the national commission and partially through local authorities, which receive financial assistance for their activities. Their job is to create good relations among the diverse elements making up the community.
It is difficult to assess the value of those bodies, but, in the light of experience here, I ask the Under-Secretary why it was found necessary to establish both a Community Relations Commission and 2132 a Ministry of Community Relations in Northern Ireland. What is the difference between them? Do they overlap, or are they meant to do different things? If the Ministry is meant to do something different, may we be told what it is? If legislation passing through Stormont was examined by the Ministry of Community Relations, did it improve community relations or did it maintain and solidify the present intractable situation? If improvement was its rôle and its voice was listened to, I would welcome it. But was it, and is it? The legislation on education was the result of arguments and discussions in the run-up to the preparation of legislation for Stormont. But do we not see the old divisions reflected in the Bill, with no give and no take?
If the Ministry of Community Relations had looked at matters from the point of view of whether what was proposed would help to improve the situation, would it not, as it did in the decision recently taken about nursery schools, have said, "We want schools to be sited, not on a sectarian basis, but in areas where there is a means of creating, not simply for the children, but for their parents, a place for them to meet and talk?" Should not the Ministry of Community Relations be urging common teacher training at primary or secondary school level? Is not this of vital and profound importance in terms of effecting dialogue? It is these modest and small things which make contributions to the long term future of Northern Ireland. I ask these questions with a view to finding out the extent to which this Ministry has a real job to do or whether it is a phantom.
How far can the Community Relations Commission make its proposals for what work should be done through the various Government Departments and for legislation, and does it do so? For instance, the hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) asked in the previous debate about the extent to which the area boards being established would be seen and would be used as instruments for promoting community relations. Is not this something of profound significance on which one should seize to make sure that this should happen? If we look at the forthcoming legislation, the proposals for the reorganising of local government and 2133 the establishment of 26 local councils, we see that they have very limited powers indeed, but might they not be instruments of profound significance for community relations activities?
In this respect, it is not so much a matter of the volume of money available. It is under £600,000. But comparing that sort of sum provided for consciously building good community relations with that available for dealing with violence, if the Minister considers this work to be of profound importance surely he will see that in the legislation emerging both for the establishment of these area boards and for the reform of local government and local councils, community relations is seen as certainly a major part of the work of area boards, and possibly the dominant part in the activities of the local councils, so that the means will be there to make it possible.
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Stratton Mills (Belfast, North)
My hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson) mentioned an article in the Daily Telegraph this morning referring to the growth of anarchy in Northern Ireland. I wish to touch on a number of detailed individual points which arise under this appropriation order and pinpoint some, and I look forward to a ministerial reply.
Before I do that I want to refer particularly to the reply of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to a question this morning on the referendum. I would remind the House that on 29th June my right hon. Friend said thatit was Her Majesty's Government's intention to invite Parliament to institute a plebiscite on the Border as soon as possible, but which could not be before September."—[Official Report, 29th June, 1972; Vol. 839, c. 1685.]That was the impression which was left on that occasion, but today I felt my right hon. Friend was saying that conditions were not right in Northern Ireland to proceed with the referendum and that he was basing his argument on the troubled condition of the countryside. If any right hon. Friend is to use that argument I think it would equally apply to the local government elections, but I did not hear him use that argument about them.
My suspicion—I hope I am wrong in this—is that the idea of a plebiscite has 2134 run into opposition in this House from the Labour Party, from the Social and Democratic Labour Party in Northern Ireland and from Mr. Lynch, and that that is the reason which has caused the Government to wobble on the timing of the referendum. I think it would be a very great mistake indeed to go back on what was seen as a firm commitment, and I hope that the Government will think again on this. I do not think they have finally made up their mind and I hope that one's remarks will have some effect in making them think again on it.
I come, as I said I would to a number of detailed points. The appropriation order deals with tourism. I want to ask my hon. Friend about the Bill which is due on tourism. I was told in reply to a Parliamentary Question that a Bill was due on tourism. It is vitally necessary for the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and those engaged in the tourist industry who are working towards getting the ground prepared for the time when there are more peaceful conditions in Northern Ireland that they should know where they stand, and this legislation is therefore vital to them. It would be immensely helpful if my hon. Friend were able to make a statement of intent on the items to be included in the tourist legislation and to make a statement in advance of the legislation so that plans may proceed.
A constituent of mine, Norman McGrath, was shot by the Army on 11th June in the Manor Street area of Old Park. In a reply my hon. Friend said that the police were investigating the incident and that an inquest was to be held. Has he any further statement to make and can he give me any information on when the inquest is to be held?
The IRA is operating a propaganda campaign both in America and in Great Britain, not just against the former Stormont Government and the police but against any form of authority in Northern Ireland. It has made attacks on the Army and on the British Government and their rôle. In reply to a Question on 24th May my hon. Friend the Minister of State said that the Government were well aware of the need to counter this type of activity. I hope we shall hear more about that from my hon. Friend.
I turn to the forfeiture of bail when a person does not turn up at his trial. According to a Parliamentary Answer on 2135 15th June, the amount of money liable to forfeiture at that stage was £12,435. None of that money had been collected. About £12,000 of bail money had been forfeited in respect of 46 people who had failed to attend for trial, none of which had been collected. The Government should press on with the collection of that money. People who have entered into bail bonds should not be allowed to evade their responsibility. I am sure the Government will deal with this matter, and I hope we shall hear more about it today.
Many hon. Members representing Belfast constituencies know the distress that has been caused to their constituents by the hooliganism which has occurred in the area of the Belfast City Cemetery. There have been attacks on and damage to gravestones and graves, damage to flowers and the hurling of stones and missiles at mourners at funerals. In reply to a question on 9th June I was assured that security forces were patrolling the area, but my information is that the hooliganism is continuing. I hope that effective measures will be taken to deal with it.
I come to several points relating to my constituency which are covered by the order. My constituency is an area between Shankill Road and Shore Road, the Ardoyne, Crumlin Road, Cliftonville Road and Ligoniel, areas which have had more than their fair share of trouble. These are areas which have become famous, or infamous, over the last couple of years. Yet when the Republicans in 1959 ran a candidate he got only 5,000 votes out of over 70,00. In 1964 the Republicans ran another candidate who received 2,400 votes. My point is that although this is an area which has seen an immense amount of trouble the number of people who were prepared to support the Republican cause in the ballot box on those two occasions was comparatively small.
I emphasise that the rôle of the IRA is first to control and dominate the Catholic areas and secondly to spread from those areas and impose a ring of terror. I have seen this ring of terror spreading in many pars of my constituency, such as in Oldpark Road, Crumlin Road and the Ardoyne, coming from the Old Ardoyne which is a centre 2136 of terrorist activity. Then there is Duncairn Gardens and the terrorist activity coming from the New Lodge Road area. I know how difficult is the task but I ask the Government to bear in mind the problems of these areas which have had very much more than their fair share of trouble.
Directly related to the problem of terrorism is the problem of housing in my constituency. This problem is somewhat different from the housing problems faced by other hon. Members in this House. One big problem which applies equally to Protestants and Catholics is that if they own houses in or near trouble areas they find it difficult and in some cases impossible to sell their houses into which they have put their life savings. I have pressed the Government on other occasions about this matter and I feel that they should look at it more sympathetically. There is an urgent need for the Government to survey the extent of the problem that is faced by people who are unable to sell their houses as a direct result of living in or close to an area of terror.
There are two ways in which the Government could help. The building societies either refuse to give loans in these areas or require the purchaser to put up a very substantial deposit. Therefore, in these special circumstances it would be helpful if the Government could guarantee the building society against loss on a forced resale. I hope the Government will take this suggestion seriously because this is a great problem. The Government could also help by launching a massive programe through the Housing Executive whereby the Housing Executive would be enabled to buy more houses. There has already been some activity by the executive and several hundred houses have been bought in the last few years, but this is nothing compared with the size of the whole problem. The Housing Eexecutive should be encouraged to buy houses and to put tenants into them and thus prevent the problems caused by squatters who take over empty houses. This is something constructive and useful which could be done.
Perhaps I may mention the problem of squatters. As soon as somebody, whether a Protestant or a Catholic, decides to leave an area, because of intimidation or whatever it may be, a squatter breaks 2137 down the door and goes to live in that house. I have one case in my constituency involving a man in his seventies who had a heart attack and eventually obtained a Housing Executive house. He paid the first week's rent but by the time he was ready to move into the house it had been occupied by a squatter. The Minister knows all about this case and there are many similar sad cases.
In a Question on 11th July I asked about Government policy in respect of squatters and I was told by the Undersecretary of State:Eviction is neither a practicable nor a desirable solution."—[Official Report, 11th July, 1972; Vol. 840, c. 327.]I know all the difficulties, but the present situation is extremely unsatisfactory and I hope that the Government will make a statement on what they intend to do about squatters. It comes back basically to my original point, which is to hope that the Government will grasp the housing nettle and make more houses available through the Housing Executive and in some way guarantee building society loans. Action along these lines would help to short-circuit the problem. When a person is intimidated out of his house and then finds it almost impossible to sell, under present legislation he appears to have no claim. I hope that this will be looked at in any review of the legislation.
Finally I refer to the Malicious Damage Act and the position where damage is caused to property or persons. We must recognise the immense generosity of the Treasury and of this House in footing the bill for the vast damage which has been done as a result of terrorist activity in Northern Ireland and for making compensation available to those whose person or property has been damaged.
There are two points in this connection that I wish to put to my hon. Friend. The first relates to cash robberies which are not covered by this legislation. There have been a vast number of these robberies and they have occurred at places where cash is accumulated—the bookmaker's shop, the pub, the shop, the garage and the bank. At all places of that sort ready cash is likely to be available. It may be said that insurance policies should cover losses. However, a great many traders have been hit on so many occasions that their insurance com- 2138 panies refuse to cover them any more for cash. I can give examples of bookmakers and publicans who are in this position. I appreciate the difficulties in relation to fraud, for example, but I ask the Government to look at the matter as sympathetically as possible.
The other aspect of this concerns the necessity to speed up and simplify compensation claims under the Malicious Damage Act. Recently I heard about a young boy in my constituency who was beaten up. His glasses were broken and they cost £8 to repair. What is required is a simple procedure by which anyone in that position could have the money refunded without having to go to a solicitor to lodge a claim. In the case to which I have referred, I was in correspondence with Ministers who told me that the only way to deal with a claim for £8 was to go to a solicitor and lodge a claim. In my view, that is not the way to deal with very small claims of this sort.
In reply to a Parliamentary Question on 27th June, my hon. Friend the Minister was extremely helpful about possible methods to speed up and simplify other claims. He referred to the 70 per cent. payment on account in relation to compensation claims. I know that that practice has been adopted in Belfast, and I pay tribute to the legal representatives of local authorities who have had to carry a vast burden as a result. I know the burden that Belfast's town solicitor has had to bear and the way his department has had to be extended. But there are I think other areas of Northern Ireland where the 70 per cent. advance procedure is not operating. I hope that the practice will be introduced more widely.
However, even where the 70 per cent. procedure operates, local authority committees have to meet in order nominally to approve settlements. Their recommendations then have to go before their councils, where the settlements have again to be approved. All this is unnecessary, and everything that can be done to simplify the procedure is to be welcomed.
These are but some of the problems, but they are real problems which the ordinary man in the street faces in Northern Ireland. I hope that the Government will look sympathetically at them.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Gerard Fitt (Belfast, West)
Much as I may have disagreed in the past with the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills), and still do disagree with him on matters of political philosophy, he has drawn attention to the very human problems which beset both communities in Northern Ireland, and he has pointed out the great distress and despair throughout Northern Ireland at present. To that extent I agree with him.
I have long and poignant memories of being elected to this House in 1966, when I sat on the Government side. I tried desperatelythen—this must be agreed by hon. Members now on the Government side of the House—to bring before the House the situation in Northern Ireland as it then was. I was repeatedly told by Mr. Speaker, by the Table Office and by the Officers of the House that Northern Ireland then had a problem, that it was a matter for the Northern Ireland Government to resolve that problem, and that it was not a matter for this House. I knew then quite clearly, and sadly—and, tragically, I have been provedright—that if the House paid more attention to what was happening in Northern Ireland then the position in which we find ourselves today in that part of the United Kingdom would never have developed.
The hon. Member for Belfast, North, with his Unionist colleagues and certainly with the Unionist Party in Northern Ireland, bitterly resented the fact that early in 1967 I took to Northern Ireland three of my hon. Friends—my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose), my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) and my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Kelvingrove (Dr. Miller)—to see for themselves what I considered to be a serious problem and one which would probably erupt into violence. The Prime Ministers of Northern Ireland, Captain Terence O'Neill at that time, followed by Major Chichester-Clark and, latterly, Mr. Brian Faulkner, bitterly resented this House in any way inquiring into what was happening there. That is why we are here today discussing this appropriations order.
If, during 50 years of self-government in Northern Ireland this House had been able to break down the convention, so 2140 assiduously built up by the Unionist Party in Northern Ireland, which precluded this House from looking into what was happening in what was allegedly an integral part of the United Kingdom, I have no hesitation in saying that both communities in Northern Ireland, Catholic and Protestant, Unionists and Nationalists, would not have had to live through the terrible tragedy of the past three or four yearse or face the possible tragedy which may again engulf them.
When the Stormont House of Commons discussed appropriation orders there was no restriction on time. We could have sat there day after day. There was no guillotine. But whatever one said at Stormont in relation to what was happening, one could be certain that the Government there would not change their attitude.
We have had 50 years of one-party Government in Northern Ireland. I remember standing at the Dispatch Box at the Stormont House of Commons trying desperately to put forward the views, hopes, ideals and aspirations of my constituents. But they were all met with the typical attitude of the Unionist Party—arrogance and contempt. It is because of this continued frustration which has been heaped upon the minority community and its representatives year after year, that we have reached the dreadful situation in which we find ourselves.
I recognise that, this being Friday afternoon, of the 630 members of the House there are perhaps 615 who regard the debate as a nuisance. They want to go to their constituencies, and I understand that. They are not very concerned about what is happening in Northern Ireland, but they may be concerned—and if they are I shall find myself in agreement with them—about the number of young British soldiers losing their lives in Northern Ireland. This is a real tragedy that has been heaped upon this House. Since the day when I was first elected to this House I have condemned violence in Northern Ireland, whether it was perpetrated by the IRA, by the British Army, or, as we can now foresee, by the UDA. I have been quite clear in my denunciation of the use of arms.
In 1967 my hon. Friends the Members for Manchester, Blackley, and Salford, West drew up a memorandum for the 2141 then Home Secretary. They predicted almost word by word what would happen in Northern Ireland, and that prediction was subsequently confirmed by the findings of the Cameron Report. It is with no great credit to myself that I stand here. I wish that I could have been proved wrong.
The order covers a period from 1972 to 1973. In page 2, Class I, we read:For the salaries of the department of the Prime Minister, the salaries of the Cabinet Secretariat …and so on. I understood that the Prime Minister's office ceased to exist in March of this year, and that consequently the Secretariat, too, ceased to exist as from then. May we take it that there is still somewhere in the offing in the mind of the Government the faint hope that the former Prime Minister of Northern Ireland will be brought back to office at the end of one year, and that he and his Cabinet Secretariat are being kept in existence at the enormous cost of £534,700?
I ask the Government to be realistic. I do not think that there is anyone in Northern Ireland or on this side of the House who honestly believes that the former Prime Minister of Northern Ireland will ever be returned to office. At the moment the Unionist Party is leaderless. I have sympathy with the Unionist Party and the Unionist population, particularly the working-class people, who find themselves in such a situation, but I cannot see why this Estimate, which covers 1972–73, should keep in existence the office of the Prime Minister and his Secretariat.
Class I also providesFor a grant in aid of the Government Hospitality Fund.One can readily understand to what effect that money will be put. Following the statement today by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, I said that he must have been made aware of the speeches made at the 12th July demonstrations, which were ably led by the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr), and the attacks, both personal and political against him. For what purpose will this money be used? The sum involved is £5,700. Will it be used by the Unionist Party in Northern Ireland? If it is so used, it will not be 2142 in furtherance of the Secretary of State's initiative in Northern Ireland.
The hon. Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson), who is no longer present, made great play of the RUC's being under strength. He said that its strength was about 3,500, and that he hoped that it would be brought up to 5,000 or 6,000. But even if it is increased to 10,000, 20,000 or 30,000, unless it is acceptable to the community in Northern Ireland its numbers are of no account. I understood that he felt the British Government had let down the members of the RUC when they sent the British Army into Northern Ireland in 1969. The fact is that the RUC was not: then acceptable, particularly in the City of Derry and many parts of Belfast. It was obvious that some other force had to be used if there was not to be a descent into community chaos.
Therefore, I blame not the small numbers of the RUC but its composition, and particularly its overall command, which was in the hands of the Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Craig, subsequently demoted and discredited. He, more than anyone else in Northern Ireland, led to the discrediting of the RUC.
Whether or not we increase the numbers of that force, it will have to be radically changed to prove acceptable not just to those in Unionist or Nationalist areas but, as an impartial police force, to the whole community. Whatever expenditure may be involved, whatever public relations exercise is indulged in by the Government or their cohorts in Northern Ireland, it will all prove to no avail unless and until that happens.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) rightly questioned the charge under Class II in respect of secret services. Over the 10 to 15 years when I was a Member of the Stormont Parliament I questioned the Minister of Finance year after year as to what exactly the charge meant, and how it came about. Great hilarity used to be occasioned each time the question was posed. The Minister would say that the Government were not prepared to answer; that there was no obligation on them to do so. The normal charge until last year was about £8,000. It had remained static over the previous 10 years. I remember telling him then that 2143 with the rise in the cost of living over that period the cost of information must also have increased, and that if we had informers in Northern Ireland, however much we opposed them and their nefarious activities, they were entitled to the rate for the job.
The UDA, the latest illegal force, which seems to have such powers to pressurise and intimidate Ministers, has in its control a dossier of 400 or 500 names of people whom it believes to be Republicans or enemies of the State. It is generally believed in Northern Ireland that members of the Special Branch of the RUC have given information to this illegal association. I can speak with a good deal of certainty, because I know the person who saw the dossier. The feeling in Northern Ireland is that members of the Special Branch have given this information to an illegal force.
The next item is salaries and expenses of the Ministry of Home Affairs. That is one of the most contentious Ministries which has ever existed in Northern Ireland. It is the Ministry which promulgated the notorious Special Powers Act. It was this Ministry which, under Mr. William Craig, Mr. Brian Faulkner and various others, brought about such discontent and disruption within the community in Northern Ireland.
I will not mention any names, but there are still civil servants within the Ministry of Home Affairs in Northern Ireland whose whole political philosophy has been orientated to keeping the Unionist party in power. They can only see those who are not supporters of the Unionist Party as being enemies of the State. I urge the Minister to give a careful and close look at the civil servants in the Ministry of Home Affairs in Northern Ireland, to see that they are acting as civil servants and not as agents of the Orange Order, the UDA or some other extremist Unionist association.
Class IV deals with hospital services, general health services and expenditure on pensions and allowances. I believe that we have the best hospital service in the United Kingdom. I have said so repeatedly at local government level and at Stormont level. We have a dedicated band of people in Northern Ireland which bears comparison with any other 2144 region in the United Kingdom or the world. I should be reluctant to see any cutback in the financial resources which are given to the hospital services and the welfare services in Northern Ireland.
Turning to Class VIII, the Ministry of Development, I find myself in complete agreement with the hon. Member for Belfast, North. It is now generally recognised that housing is a great problem in Northern Ireland for both Catholics and Protestants. The majority of people who have been intimidated out of their homes are Catholic—perhaps 80 per cent. I do not agree with anyone being intimidated out of his home. I hope that will be taken as an honest expression.
There is, however, a great problem among Catholics and Protestants who have left their homes but who have to pay mortgage instalments to building societies for 10, 15 or 20 years. They are finding themselves in extreme financial difficulty. There must be at least 1,000 families, if one includes Catholics and Protestants, in such a position. If they cannot get some form of financial assistance from the Government their houses will be wrecked or vandalised, and they will no longer be units of accommodation. Not only are the former occupants of those houses distressed and in despair, but we may lose units of accommodation which we cannot afford to lose.
§ Mr. Evelyn King (Dorset, South)
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that this debate stops at half-past Five, and that there are three other speakers, including Front Bench speakers, who want to make their contributions? It would be enormously helpful if the hon. Gentleman brought his speech to a conclusion.
§ Mr. McMaster
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I have been led to believe that one and a half hours has been allowed on each order. As this is the second order, it does not run out until 7 o'clock.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Robert Grant-Ferris)
This order runs out at half-past Five. I propose to suspend the House after that, if the other orders are proceeded with, for as long as I see fit when the time comes.
§ Mr. McMaster
On a further point of order. I do not wish to delay the House, but on the last occasion when we debated into the night, there were three orders before the House. We disposed of the first two quickly and we were allowed to accumulate the time. That is the precedent which has been set. I should like further advice.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
It is clear that each order can run for an hour and a half after five o'clock. But there is a limit to what the Chair can put up with in physical endurance, and, therefore, I propose at the end of this order to suspend the House if it is desired to have debate on the following orders. If not, we go on.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Opposition are quite prepared, because of the nature of the last two orders, to give them to the Government, and I hope that this may be taken into account as long as we can get the business done in a proper manner.
§ Mr. James Molyneaux (Antrim, South)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It was because of the view explained by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) that some of us did not attempt to embarrass the Chair by prolonging the debate on the education order. I was under the impression that time could be accumulated and that we would have to stay over and perhaps not get home to our constituencies until tomorrow.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I must apologise to the House. I understand that I said "five o'clock" when I should have said four o'clock. The timing for the orders starts at four o'clock. Therefore, the time for the present order is one and a half hours from four o'clock—that is, until 5.30.
§ Mr. Molyneaux
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We were led to believe by those who arrange he business of the House that time could be accumulated, and now we are in this difficulty.
§ Mr. Fitt
I understand the anxiety of hon. Members from Northern Ireland to take part in the debate, which is of great 2146 moment to our constituents. In view of the disquiet which has been voiced, I shall take only another 30 seconds.
Not only is there intimidation in housing in Northen Ireland but there is intimidation in employment as well. We are thus in a very difficult situation, in which people are not only being ordered out of their houses but ordered out of their jobs. This brings great despair to them.
There are many other matters which I had hoped to raise, but in deference to the concern expressed about the time I will now sit down.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ Captain L. P. S. Orr (Down, South)
I recognise the unusual restraint of the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), but what my hon. Friends have just underlined in their points of order is without doubt a fact. I am saying this with no criticism of the Chair because I am certain that your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is correct. But the Ulster Unionists in the House—I do not know about other hon. Members—were quite definitely led to believe that it would be possible to accumulate time today.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House made it plain on 6th July, when he said:I confirm that we intend to table the orders in such a way as to allow maximum time for debate for the particularly important order on education to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. He is also right to say that the House could go on until 5.30 p.m. on that day, and, in certain circumstances, the House could go on later."—[Official Report, 6th July, 1972: Vol. 840, c. 750.]We took from that statement that if we restrained ourselves on the earlier orders we would have an opportunity for a full debate on the later orders. In other words, it was said to us—if not absolutely publicly, then intimated to us in private—that this would be an open-ended debate.
Therefore, I most strongly protest to the Government and those who manage the Government's business that this is an appalling way to treat the representatives of Northern Ireland at a time when our Province is breaking down into such anarchy and disorder, and when there is no local Parliament in which we can debate these great issues. To be treated with such gross contempt is difficult for 2147 us to stomach. Because time must be left for the Minister to wind up, we now have only a few minutes left. Many of my hon. Friends are still waiting to speak in this debate, but they will not have a chance to do so.
I am not proposing to do what I would normally do, to address myself as constructively as possible to the debate, following the pattern of my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills). I can only say to the House that what we are doing in the House of Commons today is totally irrelevant to what is happening on the ground in Northern Ireland.
Today we have debated an order on education. Normally, it would have been a Bill at Stormont, where it would have had full parliamentary discussion. It would have been dealt with in a calm and orderly manner. Now the people at home in Ulster treat it as a total irrelevance. They ask "What is the use of passing laws in the House of Commons if the Government fail to produce the one requirement upon which all law rests; namely, that the Queen's peace shall be established in the land?". That is not being done.
My hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson) talked about the pleasant days to come, perhaps, when the police would be reintroduced in a proper police rôle on the streets. Everyone hopes that that "some time" will come about. It is not the situation now. The situation now is one of almost total anarchy. It is a situation in which nobody has any confidence whatever in Her Majesty's Government and the representatives of Her Majesty's Government, the Secretary of State.
The reason is that last Friday the Secretary of State sat down with the murderers and the gunmen. One can understand the desire of a humane and decent man to do anything to save human life. But the total incomprehension displayed by that action is difficult to explain. The fact that the thing was concealed and came out only because the others disclosed the facts—because the IRA let him down—is one factor, but the very fact that he had said in advance that he did not intend to treat with gunmen and that he then sat down with gunmen means that the Secretary of State 2148 himself, upon whom the whole edifice now depends, has lost any possibility whatever that I can find of regaining the confidence of the majority of people in Northern Ireland. That is a terrible state of affairs to have come about. I would most willingly set about trying to restore the confidence of the majority if I thought that there was the slightest hope, but at present there is not.
That is why these debates on these orders strike the people in Ulster as absolutely and totally unrealistic. They will not become realistic, and no question of sitting to discuss legislation will become realistic, until order is restored along with some kind of respect of the law. If respect for the basic law has disappeared, respect for all other law is at a discount. There is not the least bit of use this House, quietly, in this calm atmosphere, debating laws for Northern Ireland if the basic law is not there in the first place. If Her Majesty's writ does not run, nothing that Her Majesty's Parliament can do in enacting laws will have the slightest effect on Northern Ireland.
That is really all I have to say to the House on this order. The problem is one of restoring confidence. I have said in the House that I thought the new initiative was an act of folly. I thought the removal of the Parliament of Northern Ireland for the time being was a recipe for disaster, and I said so at the time. I have pointed to the fact that the Government's policy, well-meaning though it may have been, was based upon a delusion. I said that it would be bound to cause a slide into anarchy and disaster.
I am in no way pleased that events are showing that I was right. I would dearly like to find some way out of the present difficulty without more bloodshed and violence but I cannot see a way. The problem is to judge what is the wisest course at any time in history. There sometimes comes a time when there is a simple choice between enforcing law by using the forces of the Crown or not doing so.
If the latter course is taken, then more lives will be lost in the long run, there will be more agony and misery, more homelessness will be created, more bereavement. We have already seen something approaching 450 people killed since all this started. A few casualties at the beginning would have prevented all that loss 2149 of life and these three years of misery—if someone had grasped the nettle at the right time. I am terribly afraid that it is almost too late. This is the only message I can give to the House today.
§ Mr. Evelyn King
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I ask your guidance. We have, naturally, had eloquent speeches from Irish Members today but I want to submit to you that this is not only an Irish dispute and that English soldiers are dying every day. Representatives of English soldiers, of the Dorset Regiment, who have given their lives in this dispute, should also have a right to be heard.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ Mr. James Molyneaux (Antrim, South)
Because of the severe limitation of time I want to raise only one point. I cannot understand why any mention of electricity has been omitted from the order, under the head "Ministry of Development." In the past few weeks many of my constituents have received quarterly bills from the Northern Ireland Electricity Board containing a surcharge of around 5 per cent. They have made inquiries but have not had satisfactory replies. In one case they were told by a local office that the surcharge was necessary because of the loss of revenue incurred in the "no-go" areas. Many of my constituents are, naturally, withholding payment until they have a satisfactory explanation, and it is important that that explanation should be given to this House.
If I appeared a little impatient earlier today it may possibly result from having had the experience of being shot at, without any ill-effects, earlier in the week. It may also result from the knowledge that many people will die in Northern Ireland before this House meets again on Monday. It probably also results from the knowledge that there will not be any great change in attitude in this House when we do meet again on Monday. I do not belittle the efforts of my hon. Friend on the Front Bench to preserve what is termed in the Government of Ireland Act "the peace, order and the 2150 good government of Northern Ireland" but all of us in touch with reality know perfectly well that Government in Northern Ireland is rapidly breaking down, not only in the no-go areas but in piecemeal fashion throughout the Province. As I travel back to my constituency tonight and consider what has been said and done, or not done, here in this House, I shall be trying to decide whether there is any point in my returning.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Mr. David Howell
I think that in the minutes which remain it would be convenient for the House if I were to attempt to answer as many as possible of the points which have been raised on the order. As I said at the beginning, I will gladly answer by letter at a later date those points which I am not able to take up or to which I cannot provide sufficiently full answers.
First, I wish to clear up a point raised by the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees). The order becomes effective the moment that it is approved by the other place. It is a draft order which must be approved by this House and the other place. It has been possible to do it without invoking the urgent procedure in the sense that the money is not needed for appropriation for the Northern Ireland Exchequer and for the business of government to be carried on. It has been possible to do it on this timetable. It was necessary to deal with the earlier appropriation order under the urgent procedure because the money was needed there and then in the Northern Ireland Exchequer for the business of carrying on government. In this case, we have had some weeks' breathing space, and, provided that the order is approved tonight in this House and in another place, we can manage through the normal procedure.
This order has not been before the Advisory Commission because it does not raise questions of policy. In a sense, it is the end product of a variety of policy questions. It is the purpose and hope of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to seek the advice and wisdom of the Advisory Commission on major policy issues and legislation which raises major policy issues, such as parts of the local government reform. This order does not raise broad questions of policy; it raises the question of appropriating 2151 the money to implement policies already decided.
The hon. Member for Leeds, South raised the question of criminal injuries and compensation. It was also referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills). We have attempted to do a great deal in recent weeks to speed up the procedures and machinery within the existing law, and in order to do so we have brought in more staff. We have brought forward a system of paying 70 per cent. on account as soon as the total is settled. We have gone further and proposed systems whereby, before even the settlement is reached or the amount of damage is finally agreed, the Ministry of Finance runs an emergency finance scheme and the Ministry of Commerce runs an emergency help scheme—in the former case for traders, shopkeepers, and so on, and in the latter case for firms and businesses put out of business. In these ways we have been able to get money quickly to people and firms and organisations which have been hit.
The system can always be improved, but there has been a speeding up of the procedure. We keep the matter under constant review. My hon. Friend and I and officials of the Northern Ireland Government are constantly considering ways of speeding it up further. We have made substantial improvements, particularly in some of the more complicated procedures which we found to be unnecessary or burdensome.
I wish to say a few words on the question of accountability, which has been raised in previous debates and today. It is important that we should get it straight. The matters which give concern in the House relate to the annual accounts which have been drawn up, audited and reported on by the Northern Ireland Comptroller and Auditor General. With regard to the period for which my right hon. Friend is responsible, it will not be until the late autumn of 1973—that is, four or five months after the end of the financial year 1972–73—that the accounts for 1972–73 and the Comptroller and Auditor General's report will be published.
As to what is happening now, a decision on how to handle these accounts is not immediate, although it is highly 2152 important, and there may well be something to be said for waiting so that the necessary decision is the right one, taken in the light of all the circumstances. Hon. Members can be assured that my right hon. Friend will look for proper arrangements as to how these accounts in future should be dealt with. That assurance can be given.
Obviously, rather different problems arise over the accounts for the period before my right hon. Friend became responsible: the accounts for 1970–71, for instance, which were presented last November and were before the Public Accounts Committee when the Northern Ireland Parliament was prorogued. It did not complete its examination of those accounts and did not produce a report, but in order that matters raised in the Comptroller and Auditor General's report should receive due attention the Ministry of Finance in Northern Ireland, in exercise of its normal Treasury function, will pursue the various points with the Departments concerned and will keep the Comptroller and Auditor General fully informed of any decision taken.
That leaves the accounts for 1971–72 which are now being prepared, again relating to the period before my right hon. Friend had responsibility. The Comptroller and Auditor General will carry out his audit and make his report in the normal way. The accounts and the report on them will not be published till well into the autumn. One can give the assurance that my right hon. Friend will make a further statement before that on the handling of those accounts.
I think that disposes of the precise problems which I know have rightly and properly concerned hon. Members.
The hon. Member for Leeds, South raised, as also did the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), who is no longer here, a point on the secret services. I am afraid that the hon. Member for Belfast, West did prophesy all too accurately the kind of ministerial answer he would get, because, although I do not wish to be unhelpful, it really would be completely against the public interest to disclose the purposes for which this money is required. I do not think I can usefully say more than that this evening. It is a modest sum. We believe that the 2153 nomenclature is the appropriate one, and I cannot say more on that matter. I am sorry about that.
On the very important question of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson) was good enough to give me warning in advance that he wanted to raise this matter under the police Vote, asking first of all about the rôle of the police force. The answer to his question, as I indicated, I think, in my letter, although I am quite happy to give it again, is that the police force is governed by the recommendations of the Hunt Committee and the security of Northern Ireland from subversion is limited to the coverage of intelligence, protection of important persons, and the enforcement of the relevant laws. This was accepted at the time by the Northern Ireland Government and it is the principle on which the division of the responsibility between the police and the Army in Northern Ireland is based. I think that makes clear—although I suspect from my hon. Friend's remarks he will not think it so—the answer to his question. That is the policy view taken on this matter.
It is true that during the present state of unrest it is necessary to provide additional arms and equipment to the Royal Ulster Constabulary for the protection of individuals, protective clothing, armoured vehicles, and the issue of more weapons for protection, outside the limitations imposed by the Hunt Committee.
Whenever equipment is obtained other than through Army channels or channels equivalent to Army channels it is in no way inferior. There have been delays in some cases, but these have been due to the supply position. Everything is done to avoid delay. It is right that the police no longer have armoured cars; they have only some vehicles which are being fitted for protection of the occupants. What the Royal Ulster Constabulary may require for the future it will be for the Chief Constable and the police authorities to determine. There is no question in present thinking, I should make it clear, about the return to the Hunt Committee recommendations as soon as circumstances permit, but we must appreciate how large a job is being done by thousands of soldiers, by the Ulster De- 2154 fence Regiment, and so on. The answer is that they cannot do that job and, as my hon. Friend says, we fervently hope peace will return, but until it does major security forces will be required. The Government do not believe, and it would not be right to suggest, that the major tasks which fall upon our security forces, which they discharge so excellently and which excite the admiration of all in the House and outside, should ever be devolved back upon the police force.
§ Mr. Molyneaux
My hon. Friend has said that in matters of equipment and tactics the police are largely governed by the Hunt Committee proposals. Although I accept that this is so in respect of arms, there is a marked departure from the recommendations of the Hunt Report that police stations in Northern Ireland should become community and general information centres where people may ask questions. That was an admirable recommendation. As the Member of Parliament for Antrim, South, however, I would not even be admitted to the police station, and if I were admitted I doubt that I should be able to get out over the defences.
§ Mr. Howell
That was one of the proposals put forward by the Hunt Committee but, as the list of equipment involves a departure from the Hunt Committee recommendations, so also with the horrific crimes which Northern Ireland has had to suffer, the needs and demands of security and protection have made it impossible in some circumstances to go along with all the proposals. I recognise the departure. The fact remains that the general hope and view of those in authority is to move back again towards the recommendations of the Hunt Committee.
Police pay, which was specifically referred to by my hon. Friend, is broadly equivalent to police pay in the rest of the United Kingdom although there may be variations in specific cases. If my hon. Friend would like to pursue that further. I shall be glad to give him the details.
The hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Foley) spoke with a great deal of authority on community relations, of which he has had considerable experience. He raised the question which others have raised about the difference between the Ministry and the commission. Although 2155 the hon. Member is not now present, I will make clear the difference for the record.
The Ministry is concerned with policy within the Government and with the influencing and direction of community relations in relation to other aspects of Government policy and the work of other Departments. The Ministry is also concerned directly with a number of community relations projects throughout Northern Ireland. Its main concern is with questions of community relations as they affect Government policy and the work of Government Departments. By contrast, the commission is concerned with practical work on the ground and with the fostering of harmonious relations outside the Government and throughout the Province. There is, therefore, a difference. The two bodies work closely together and there has to be a certain degree of dovetailing which means that in one sense they overlap, although each performs a different and vitally important function.
My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North asked whether it would be possible to make a statement of intention on tourism if legislation cannot be brought forward at any early date. My hope is that legislation will be brought forward before long. If it is not, I undertake to make a statement fairly soon to set out the Government's intention. On the question of Mr. McGrath, my hon. Friend's constituent, I will write in detail on this matter because that is the way of handling it.
My hon. Friend referred to American propaganda. This is a serious and difficult matter and, as I think he has been told in answer to a Question, the British Government's views have been made known to the American authorities very explicitly. We regret that this distortion—because that is what this kind of propaganda is—should continue. These feelings have been made clearly known to the United States authorities.
I was also asked about the Belfast City cemetery. We recognise that the vandalism which has taken place has been particularly vicious and unpleasant. In cases of spasmodic and unplanned vandalism, it is difficult to catch the culprits and protect the community against such outrages. However, we are aware of the 2156 problem, and the security forces do their utmost to prevent this kind of thing happening.
The hon. Gentleman then made a number of points about housing, which I note. I will take up with him the point about squatters in more detail in a letter. In regard to housing policy I should like to put on record that the Housing Executive is carrying out a superb job in appallingly difficult circumstances. It is operating in conditions and situations in which the tragic events of Sunday were a good example, and it is constantly finding itself caught up in the pressures of attacks and counter-attacks. Despite this situation, it is doing an excellent job in housing and rehousing people and in providing emergency accommodation for those who are thrown out of their homes by violence, fear and intimidation.
The question of providing cover in respect of cash robberies is a very tricky problem. There are all sorts of aspects which are almost impossible to safeguard against. I am willing to look at the matter again, but I feel that the possibilities of fraud are too great to make any scheme a practicable proposition.
The hon. Member for Belfast, West spoke about the Cabinet Secretariat in Stormont Castle. There is no salary for the Prime Minister since there is no Prime Minister, but there is an administration. If there is an administration there has to be a secretariat. In present circumstances the administration has a very heavy load to carry. Therefore, the budget for the cabinet secretariat will continue. As an administration continues—and my right hon. Friend and the other Ministers in our Department are part of this process—it has to fulfil the duties of administration. The hon. Gentleman mentioned hospitality. Even I and my colleagues, in intervals following our various aircraft trips and other ministerial duties, find it is our duty as members of an administration to offer hospitality. This accounts for the hospitality budget. The administration of Northern Ireland exists and continues. Not all hon. Members realise that this is the situation.
I deplored the hon. Gentleman's general attack on civil servants with unspecific charges and allegations. If charges and allegations are to be made about civil servants in Northern Ireland, let names 2157 be put forward and specific allegations be made and they will be investigated, but general allegations are not helpful. They are the kind of generalities which in the present atmosphere tend to increase fear and to make for difficulties.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) spoke of the problems arising because of the shortage of time. There are only two minutes left for me to deal with this point since we have 1½ hours in which to deal with this order and the time is fast running out. My hon. Friend made an attack on my right hon. Friend's policy in fair and open terms. I believe that attack to be misplaced, and the future will show that this is so. This is a fundamental difference of view, and nothing can be said by me other than that I believe my hon. Friend to be profoundly wrong.
My hon. Friend the Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) mentioned electricity surcharges. I shall look into the matter and see what has arisen and write to him.
I believe that that completes nearly all the points which have been put to me. If there are any others I will take them up. I ask the House to approve the order.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That the Appropriation (No. 2) (Northern Ireland) Order 1972, a draft of which was laid before this House on 30th June, be approved.
Before I call the Under-Secretary of State to propose the next order, I should like to know whether any hon. Member other than Front Bench spokesmen wishes to raise any debate upon it.
§ Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East) rose——
I am obliged to the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster). The sitting is suspended for 15 minutes.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Sitting suspended.
§ On resuming—