HC Deb 05 June 1972 vol 838 cc156-72

9.28 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. David Howell)

I beg to move, That the Explosives (Northern Ireland) Order 1972 (S.I., 1972, No. 730), a copy of which was laid before this House on 12th May, be approved. This is the second Order in Council relating to Northern Ireland to come before the House and, like its predecessor, it falls into the urgent category and has been dealt with under the special provision made in paragraph 4(1) of the Schedule to the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act. The order was made on 11th May.

The purpose of this order is to prevent the use by terrorists in Northern Ireland of certain substances which, while not explosives in the usual sense of the word, can be used effectively in the causing of explosions. About 19,000-lbs. of explosive material has been used so far this year by terrorist organisations, of which about two-thirds consisted of either ammonium nitrate or sodium chlorate. These substances are increasingly used in lieu of, or in combination with, gelignite, and it is possible that other substances will also be introduced when a supply of these is denied to the terrorists.

Section 3 of the Explosives Act (Northern Ireland), 1970, enables regulations to be made controlling the manufacture, sale, acquisition, transfer, storing, transportation, handling, use or disposal of explosives. The definition of explosives is that set out in the Explosives Act, 1875, and includes any substance used or manufactured with a view to produce a practical effect by explosion". Ammonium nitrate is used very largely as a fertilizer and sodium chlorate as a weed-killer; neither is manufactured with a view to its use primarily as an explosive. It is, therefore, necessary to extend the definition of explosive for the purpose of the 1970 Act.

The order does this by adding the words: any substance (including any liquid article or thing) which is capable of being used whether by itself or in combination with anything else, as an explosive and which appears to the Minister of Home Affairs likely to be so used for unlawful purposes". Regulations have already been made under the order for the control of ammonium nitrate and sodium chlorate, and these came into effect as from 1st June, 1972. The regulations ban from that date the manufacture, sale, purchase or acquisition of either substance as defined except under a licence issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs. But since there are stocks of the two substances already in the hands of farmers and other purchasers it is considered reasonable to allow time for these stocks to be used or withdrawn.

Accordingly, after 30th June of this year it will be an offence for any person to have in his possession or under his control, or to use, the substances mentioned. I should perhaps make it clear that the ban applies not only to ammonium nitrate but also to mixtures containing more than 79 per cent. ammonium nitrate, since mixtures above this concentration can also be readily used as explosives.

As I have said, the substances covered by the regulations made under the order are ammonium nitrate and sodium chlorate only, but it is possible that other substances will be used for unlawful purposes as an alternative to these. If this should prove to be the case, then we shall have to consider bringing these substances also under control by way of further regulations.

Before the regulations were made, full consultation took place with the Northern Ireland Ministry of Agriculture and the various trade interests involved. As a result of these consultations I am satisfied that suitable alternatives are available to legitimate users and that at most inconvenience rather than hardship will result from the control of these substances.

I should be happy to go into much more detail but the House may find it convenient if I halt at this point so that more time is available for debate. Per- haps I might later on, with the permission of the House, answer as fully as possible the questions which are raised.

9.34 p.m.

Mr. Merlyn Rees (Leeds, South)

We on this side welcome the order. I have no doubt that the reason for the small attendance is that there is general acceptance of the arguments put forward two weeks ago by the Government when they told the House that this was their intention. As I said then, one wonders why such a Measure was not introduced before. It is our view that it fits the procedure under the Northern Ireland legislation of a few weeks ago. There is an aspect of emergency, and for this matter anyway we think that it is appropriate that it should be done in this way.

Bombing is an easy way of conducting guerrilla warfare particularly in circumstances where society is not controlled to a degree where all life stops and the Services have complete control of what is going on. It would be far more difficult for those who indulge in guerrilla warfare with explosives if they were involved in real civil war. They would then find that the practice which they have followed in guerrilla warfare of this type would not stand them in very good stead when engaged in a different form of warfare.

It also is counter-productive, as witness those, whether Protestant or Catholic, who have been blown up. The letters which I received from people now legless and armless make me realise that for decades ahead the hatred will continue, and the problem of bringing peace to Northern Ireland is not helped by those who believe in getting their way with this sort of warfare

The Minister has explained that the powers in the orders are extended to the substances which he has named but which are not in themselves explosives. I should be grateful if he would explain a little more how this power will operate. The parent Act contains the phrase where it appears to be used for unlawful purposes". Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will explain how the order will operate in practice for the farmer. Did I understand him to say that there was to be a complete ban on the use of these materials, or will they still be available? What I question is whether it will not be possible for people to get these materials and use them in explosives. Perhaps the Minister will explain the situation for the benefit of those engaged in agriculture.

If there is not overall control of these substances, as well as of explosives themselves, in this country, will it not be relatively easy to get these materials into the North of Ireland? If there is no reciprocal action by the Government in the South of Ireland, will it not be easy to get these substances into the North from the South? This is something which ought to be discussed by the Government with the Government of Eire. I sometimes become perturbed at the thought that explosives, gelignite and now these substances can be taken into the North of Ireland from this country. Is there sufficient control over explosives this side of the water?

Now that we have direct responsibility for the legislation of Northern Ireland, two other matters become relevant. In this country it is the Explosives Act, 1875, which gives the Home Office control over explosives. I notice that there is an Explosives Act (Northern Ireland), 1970. Why is it thought appropriate, other than perhaps for technical reasons, to have a different Act applying to Northern Ireland? Would it not be possible to say that the Explosives Act which applies this side of the water shall now apply in Northern Ireland and to make any necessary Amendments to that Measure?

I have looked carefully at the Schedule to the Northern Ireland Act of 1970. There are penalties in that Act which cover a wide variety of actions. What is the penalty for people who break the law as amended by the order with which we are dealing?

Given the nature of explosives in general, and bearing in mind the vast amount of explosives used in Northern Ireland over the last year—the Minister mentioned a figure of 19,000 lb.—it is likely that this order will have a very small effect. But whatever effect it has, the order has the support of this side of the House. Anything that can deal with the bombing that takes place in Northern Ireland, not just because of the effect that it will have in the years to come but because of the effect that it is having on people in the North of Ireland who want to talk peace, whether they are in the majority or the minority, is sufficient reason for this House doing all it can, if only marginally, to deal with the problem of explosions.

9.40 p.m.

Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)

I also welcome the order, which has been made under the Explosives Act. It is to be noted that the order amends the Explosives Act as opposed to being made under the Special Powers Act, which could have been done. It is in line with the policy of the Unionist Government in Northern Ireland that orders and changes of this nature should be made by way of an amendment of the 1970 Act rather than under the civil authorities special powers legislation.

I particularly welcome the order because of the figures which my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary quoted in introducing it. He stated that 19,000 lb. of explosives had already been used this year. That makes the last answer to Parliamentary Questions stand out when it was disclosed that some 6,000 lb. of explosives had been used in the six weeks between the beginning of April and the middle of May. That means that some 1,000 lb. of explosives were being used every week. That is a colossal amount of illegal explosives being used for illegal purposes. As the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) said, anything which can cut down the amount of chemicals available to the public is to be welcomed. When one considers the awful death and injury rate in Northern Ireland, one sees that some 350 people have been killed in the last three years and over 5,000 have been admitted to hospital with serious injuries, many of them as a result of explosions caused by the Republican terrorists by the use of gelignite and, more recently, gelignite mixed with explosives made from these substances.

One feature of the order which concerns me is that there is no control over similar substances being used elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Will there be any control of substances such as those covered by the order to prevent them being brought into Northern Ireland from other parts of the United Kingdom or being used illegally elsewhere in the United Kingdom?

I should also like to know what action will be taken in respect of stocks which are still held by farmers and others on the vital date of 30th June. There are large stocks available to farmers in the ordinary course of their business. If chemicals such as sodium chlorate and ammonium nitrate are not to be used in future for farming purposes, what alternatives are available? What publicity is the Department giving to alternative chemicals to be used for farming purposes? I am told that there is a considerable difference in price between alternative commodities, such as nitro chalk, which is about £2 a ton more expensive than ammonium nitrate. What is to happen to Ulster's farmers if they are forced to use more expensive substitutes?

Farming is a competitive business, like any other business. Are any steps to be taken by the Government to compensate those who have to use more expensive substitutes for ordinary farming purposes in Northern Ireland?

Another point which arises from a study of the order is the responsibility for checking that the regulations will be observed. In view of the quantities of such substances used in a community such as that in Northern Ireland where a great deal of farming is carried on, the job of checking the use of these substances will be considerable. Whose task will it be, and what will be the cost of checking that these substances are used in accordance with the provisions of the order?

My hon. Friend said that two-thirds of the 19,000 lb. of explosive used this year was made up out of chemicals produced from those covered by the order. This is an alarming figure. We know the terrible toll which has resulted from the use of these substances. If the substances have been used for some time, why have not steps been taken sooner to control their use?

I once again welcome the order.

9.46 p.m.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)

I am sure that no one will wish to oppose the order. Nevertheless, I feel that someone should say that it is a pathetic order and is unlikely to correspond with any of the hopes expressed in connection with it.

The hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) referred to it under the heading of anything that can deal with the bombing. There are circumstances in which the means to do ill-deeds makes ill-deeds done, but that is not the case in Northern Ireland. It is not because of the availability of ammonium nitrate and sodium chlorate that dozens and hundreds of people are being killed and maimed by attack with explosives. We should be deluding ourselves if we thought that that would be sensibly affected by this attempt to cut off in Northern Ireland the supply of these ordinary substances.

Immediately, as soon as the order is put forward, questions are raised from both sides of the House—what about the rest of the United Kingdom; what about the rest of the island of Ireland? My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) asked: how are the large quantities which are in existence to be controlled? How are we to know when we have made the order that those who wish to get hold of these substances for malevolent purposes will not have the opportunity to do so?

The notion that we can combat the violence in Northern Ireland by rushing from one to another of the instruments which it uses and attempting to impede or cut off access to substances such as these is foredoomed. The reason why these and other substances are not used here where they are available, or elsewhere where they are available, for the purposes for which they are used in Northern Ireland is not the absence or presence of control. It goes back, as everything else goes back in Northern Ireland at present, to the fundamental cause—the fact that confidence has been lost that the union will be maintained and that, consequently, a premium is placed upon every action which can exploit the fear and doubt that the union will not be maintained. We should be deluding ourselves if we thought that any order of this kind could be a substitute in any way for political measures which will obliterate the hope which at present those who engage in violence have, that one way or another violence will be successful.

I thought that it would be wrong that the House should part with the order without at least someone pointing to the vanity of dealing with the minor or even trivial intruments and shutting our eyes, as I feel that Her Majesty's Government still are doing, to the underlying causes and realities.

9.50 p.m.

Mr. James Kilfedder (Down, North)

I regret to say that I came into the Chamber after my hon. Friend the Undersecretary of State had begun speaking, but I wonder why this measure was not discussed with representatives of the Ulster farmers. Being the only Ulster Member present representing a farming constituency, I feel that it is right that the farmers' voice should be heard. Farmers understand the need for this measure and they support it. Indeed, I voice the wonder which has already been expressed as to why this measure was not introduced long ago, because this terrible devastation has been going on for years. I wonder whether the order will bring that terrible devastation, mutilation and death to an end.

As has been said, it will be possible to obtain these substances from this country and from the Republic of Eire. That is not surprising because already gelignite is coming across from the Free State into Northern Ireland and, as far as I can see, very little, if anything, has been done by the Eire authorities to stop it. I know—and it is the experience of many people in NorthernIreland—that it is possible for cars, even today, to cross the border without being stopped by the police, the military, or the customs. If people are crossing in vehicles and bringing gelignite across by this means, I wonder to what extent the measure will help in this situation, although I welcome anything that would save one human life and protect life and limb from all sorts of dangers and injuries.

There must be quite a number of farmers with large stocks of these substances. What compensation will be offered to them? I hope that enough compensation will be offered to enable them to buy a suitable alternative; and not only that, but also to compensate for the labour involved in handling a bulkier amount of fertilizer. The main substitute for ammonium nitrate is nitro chalk. It is more expensive because more is needed to provide the same nutrient value to the land; and this will cost about £2 more per ton than the fertilizer which the farmer has been used to using.

What will happen if the order precipitates a rise in price of the alternative fertiliser? Can my hon. Friend give some assurance to the farmers of Northern Ireland that they will not be burdened with more costs, which would make their life more difficult than it is at present?

9.54 p.m.

Mr. John E. Maginnis (Armagh)

I shall not delay the House for very long. My hon. Friend the Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) made a slight mistake in saying that he was the only Ulster Member representing an agricultural constituency, and I know that he will apologise for that.

Mr. Kilfedder

I said that, because I was the only Ulster Member who had risen to speak. I did not know that my hon. Friend would speak.

Mr. Maginnis

As has been said, the order is coming rather late in the day. Most of us have known for a long time that these substances have been used in conjunction with gelignite in causing explosions in Northern Ireland. The main reason why sodium chlorate was used was that, when used in conjunction with gelignite, it was easy to start a fire with it.

I ask the Minister whether he has any plans to put advertisements in the local newspapers throughout Northern Ireland about these substances. Is he aware that practically every householder in the area in which I live and represent has supplies of sodium chlorate for weed killing? Farmers will have to pay a little extra to substitute the other fertiliser known as ammonium nitrate. Many chemists' shops have large stocks of sodium chlorate and they advertise them in the local Press every week for use as weed killers. The order states that after a certain date it will be illegal to have such stocks and one must notify them to the authorities. What penalties will be imposed if someone does not know about this and is found with these stocks?

The order will not have the slightest effect on the bombing campaign in Northern Ireland. It is like having a closing time for pubs: if a man wants a drink, he will get a drink whether or not the pubs are closed. If the bombers in Northern Ireland want to obtain these substances they will obtain them whether or not the order is made. They will bring them in from this side of the water or across the border. To use an Irish expression, this is just painting the lily; it is only part of the campaign. I should like to see more security on the border and even at the airports and ports throughout the United Kingdom, so that these substances cannot be brought in. I should like a strict security check to be kept on these substances; otherwise the order will be meaningless.

I welcome this belated attempt to try to do something to stop the bombing campaign in Northern Ireland, and I hope that it will in part be successful.

9.58 p.m.

Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)

There is something unreal about a debate when reasonable men and women in a quiet Chamber at ten o'clock at night can talk about ways of trying to limit means by which ordinary men and women across the water blow each other to pieces. I do not think that the Government or the Opposition believe that this order is a way of stopping the reason for the bombings. I am sure that the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) does not believe that this is the way to solve the problem in Northern Ireland. It is simply a way by which it may be possible to deny some of the means of those who are misusing power and authority and lawful substances for a nightmarish purpose.

The urgent matter is not an increase in the price of fertiliser. The problem is not how the chemist will dispose of his surplus stocks. I have information fairly regularly from across the water, so I am not wholly ignorant of events there. Those who are bombing unfortunate working people are using much more sophisticated methods than agricultural chemicals.

Like others, I should like to know what other proposals there are outside the order for controlling the acquisition of explosives in this country. Although these substances are not so much used now in the coal mines because of mechanical cutting, I know from my background in the mines that it was not difficult for miners to bring out of the mines every day a few sticks of powder in their pockets. There was no difficulty in obtaining the supplies which could easily get across the water and be used for wrong purposes.

I ask the Under-Secretary to have a word with the National Coal Board, because in the past a great deal of trust has been placed in the miners that they should use powder correctly. I misused it at times in the old days when we had long wall working and we bored holes in the coal face. The easiest way to get rid of one's stint of coal was to use double the amount of powder and blow it into someone else's stint.

But explosives are counted by the tin and as far as I know there now is no count of the number of sticks of "jelly" which go into a tin or of the number of sticks used. This is a fairly easy source for anyone who wishes to misuse that trust. It might serve some small purpose to have a word with the NCB and those who control mining and construction in this country about this aspect of the matter.

This is not an order which will solve the problem of Northern Ireland, and no one is intending that it should. But it is a little more important than the price of agricultural fertilisers or the way in which a chemist will dispose of his outdated stock. The order may do a little good and it will do no harm.

10.2 p.m.

Mr. Carol Mather (Esher)

I add my voice to those who have welcomed the Measure.

One of the difficulties is that these materials will be able to move across from the Republic as freely as one of my hon. Friends has said that explosives move at the moment. The difficulty, which I am sure my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary appreciates, is one of controlling the movement of any substance coming across from south of the border. The customs system does not work all that effectively because most of the customs posts close down at about 6 o'clock at night and the men go home. I understand that many of the principal roads are unguarded by the customs during the hours of darkness. I would like to hear what means will be used to try to control the passage of these materials from the south at many of these points. Would my hon. Friend perhaps give an assurance that representations will be made to the Government of the Republic that they should introduce similar legislation controlling the use of these materials?

10.4 p.m.

Mr. Evelyn King (Dorset, South)

It is almost universally agreed that the effect of the order, if passed, would be marginal. Such explosives as we have been discussing clearly will be obtainable from the South. They already exist in the no-go areas and they are so widely obtainable that it is almost true to say that we are being asked to pass a measure upon the ground that its effect will be incredibly small. That is no reason for opposing it. Of course, we support the order; I do not think we have heard anyone who is not willing to support it.

Time is running on and while we shall willingly support such measures as are being introduced tonight, we are rapidly approaching the point when Her Majesty's Government ought to present to us some more finite policy, some indication of an ultimate political solution, and I hope that may come, rather than many more orders like this one, which is welcome none the less.

10.5 p.m.

Mr. David Howell

I am grateful to hon. Members on both sides of the House for, in most cases, welcoming the order, although some rather damning reservations have been made on it. However, we believe that the order will play a part, albeit a small part, in the overall situation in reducing tension and bringing peace to the province of Ulster.

I turn to the points which were raised by the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees), particularly about the practical way in which the order will work. Perhaps it will be useful to explain in some detail the principles. As I said in opening the debate, for those who find it necessary to continue to use or handle large quantities of these chemical fertilisers and weed killers, a system of licensing is being brought into operation. Those who need to hold or use large quantities of these materials should, if they require a licence, contact the Ministry of Home Affairs. Notices to this effect have been inserted in a number of Northern Ireland daily and Sunday newspapers, farming journals, farming supplements and on news and television transmissions. As a result of that publicity 300 application forms have already been sent to inquirers and about 65 completed forms have been returned.

The process works in the following way. On receipt of an application form inquiries will be made into the bona fides of the person concerned and efforts will be made to see whether there are suitable alternatives. The police, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Department of Forensic and Industrial Science are consulted and, provided that the Ministry is satisfied there is a need and there is unlikely to be any danger to the public, a licence will be issued. Wholesalers and retailers will be required to keep a register showing the receipt of sale of the substance concerned. There will be additional powers under part eight of the licence. It will state the licence number of the purchaser, together with his name and address and the quantity purchased, and other details will have to be entered. As regards receipt of the substance, the date of receipt together with the quantity and name and address of the supplier will be shown. Local inspectors will inspect registers from time to time. That is the system which will meet the needs of those who under this arrangement find that they have to continue to sell, handle or use very large quantities of these chemicals and who can find no alternative.

A number of hon. Members have raised questions about those who have to find alternatives and the cost involved in going over to alternatives. I shall try to answer them. If farmers find that they cannot use stocks of prohibited ammonium nitrate fertilisers or other materials by 30th June, they will be advised through the Press to get in touch with the Ministry of Home Affairs in good time. The Ministry will then consider issuing the farmer with a licence, or alternatively will buy the stocks from him. The purchase price will be related to the cost of buying alternatives and will take account of any change in subsidy rates.

Arrangements were made with the wholesale suppliers of sodium chlorate for the disposal to the trade in Great Britain and elsewhere of all existing stocks held in Northern Ireland. Suppliers will be recouped any loss they suffer as a result of resale. I hope that this meets the worry about compensation which was raised by a number of hon. Members.

Mr. Kilfedder

What about the handling of this material?

Mr. Howell

Handling is also included.

The hon. Member for Leeds, East and other hon. Members raised the obvious point about what can be done in terms of control in the Republic or in the United Kingdom. The present position in the United Kingdom is that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture is looking into the question of control in the United Kingdom. The position is somewhat different this side of the water in Great Britain since the volume is far greater. The question of manufacture has to be taken into account since the main manufacturers are in this country and larger problems of scale are involved. But, as I say, the matter is at the stage where it is being discussed by my right hon. Friend.

As far as the Republic of Ireland is concerned, this is a matter for its internal legislation, and I understand that there are no controls there at present. The matter relates to the security situation, and on such matters the exchanges between the United Kingdom Government and the Government of the Republic are confidential. But I have noted the points made tonight.

The hon. Member for Leeds, South referred to the original Explosives Act, 1875, and to the Explosives Act (Northern Ireland), 1970, asking why we could not simply have amended the 1970 Act. The main difficulty is that the 1970 Act gives Ministers greater powers than the 1875 Act, so it would have been difficult to follow the line he suggested. That is why a separate order springing from the 1970 Act was necessary.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for informing the House that there are greater powers under the Explosives Act (Northern Ireland), 1970. It is likely that explosives are getting from this country over to Northern Ireland by devious routes. Would it not be appropriate for the Home Secretary to consider at least strengthening the Explosives Act, 1875, and any minor changes made in it so that there was greater control of explosives in this country?

Mr. Howell

No doubt this is a matter that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture is looking at in considering the application of greater controls here. I note what the hon. Gentleman has said and will see that it is brought to the attention of my right hon. Friend.

The penalties for offences against the new regulations are contained in Section 3(4) of the 1970 Act—on summary conviction, a fine not exceeding £300 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months, or both. My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) referred to the question of stocks. I think I have answered that in dealing with the question of licences to hold or attempting to turn in existing stocks and be adequately compensated. I have also mentioned the publicity which has gone on so far. We will naturally try to do more. We are getting a good response and we will push ahead with the publicity programme.

My hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East and a number of others asked why this order was not introduced sooner after the coming into force of the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act. There were difficulties of timing The Act has been in force about 10 weeks. There is bound to be difficulty in bringing forward legislation of this kind in that one does not want to create a lot of instant criminals, as it were—people who find themselves overnight, in a way they never wished or intended, on the wrong side of the law. We felt it necessary to give some kind of time break.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) said he thought the order was pathetic and a manifestation of vanity. I do not know whether it is fruitful for me to pursue these thoughts with him. They spring from the fact that he and I take fundamentally different views, both on what is going on in Ulster and on the analysis of the situation and the prospects for the future.

Mr. Powell

Hear, hear.

Mr. Howell

As my right hon. Friend says "Hear, hear", for once we find ourselves at some point of agreement, so I will diplomatically leave it there

My hon. Friend the Member for Esher (Mr. Mather) raised again the question of the amounts of explosives which have been found and the measures taken to find explosives on the border and elsewhere. This is a central part of the whole security operation. I would not like him to think that there have been no successes. There have been some very substantial catches indeed.

Only last week there was an enormous take of almost 600 lb. of sodium chlorate. All the time these catches are taking place on the border and near it.

I cannot at this moment go into details of how the security forces wish to operate this order. They do not necessarily take the view that at the border is the best place to catch explosives. My hon. Friend knows very well, I am sure, having visited the border, that it does not necessarily provide the ideal point at which to crack down on movements of explosives. It is not necessarily the kind of border where once one has guarded the main roads one has done all that is required. I am sure that my hon. Friend and others know very well that this is no more than a token guarding of the border because it is the hundreds of minor roads and minor footpaths which provide opportunity for movements across the border. So I take fully my hon. Friend's point about the need for very strong, continuous security operations to catch the movement of explosives.

In a sense, of course, this very order arises from a situation which reflects, in some ways at any rate, a change in the security situation. It arises from the fact that it has been necessary for terrorists to use more chemicals; it has been found that they are less able to get gelignite, and the reason for that is that the control of movement, and on the sale and on the handling and on the smuggling of gelignite, has become very much tougher and is forcing them to use these chemicals, and creating a situation in which an order of this kind, although it may only appear a small order, and although it is only part of the overall programme, will, we believe, have some effect in improving the security situation, in reducing the chances that the terrorists can go out and continue their campaign of maiming and assassination. That is the purpose of bringing forward the order.

I am sorry that it should have been condemned by some as not being the final answer. Of course it is not the final answer. It is only a small part of the overall efforts by the Government to improve the situation in Ulster, but we believe that it is worth while bringing it forward; we believe it makes some small contribution, and it is, of course, by this collection of small contributions, rather than some magnificent and sweeping gesture, that a steady improvement in the situation can be effected and that steady progress towards a better future in Ulster can be achieved.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Explosives (Northern Ireland) Order 1972 (S.I., 1972, No. 730), a copy of which was laid before this House on 12th May, be approved.