§ 10.35 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. David Howell)
I beg to move,That the Appropriation (Northern Ireland) Order, 1972 (S.I., 1972, No. 671) a copy of which was laid before this House on 1st May, be approved.This order, which will perhaps engage a little more of our time this evening, unlike the other two orders comes under the urgent procedure. That is to say, the order has already been made and now comes before the House for approval having been made.
The House will realise that this is the first opportunity that we have had to discuss Northern Ireland financial affairs in detail since the coming into force of the Temporary Provisions Act, and with your permission Mr. Speaker perhaps the House would wish me to set the order in a wider context.
The order is required to regularise the position which arose on the prorogation of the Stormont Parliament. When the Northern Ireland Parliament was prorogued it had already passed a Consolidated Fund Act providing for Consolidated Fund issues in respect of an Excess Vote for 1970–71, the Spring Supplementary Estimates for 1971–72 and the Vote on Account of 1972–73. In the normal way these grants would have been appropriated to individual services in an Appropriation Act later in the Session in accordance with the long-standing constitutional convention that supply must be appropriated in the Session in which it is granted. On this occasion, however, there was no time to comply with this convention to appropriate the grants before the Session was brought rapidly to an end by the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1972.
As the Northern Ireland Parliament had not appropriated and could not now appropriate the grants within the Session doubt was cast on whether moneys could be issued from the Consolidated Fund even though the issues were exactly in accordance with the Consolidated Fund Act. The problem was most acute in relation to the Vote on Account for 1972–73 without which Northern Ireland 1149 Departments would have been unable to function after 1st April.
In this unprecedented situation the Northern Ireland Comptroller and Auditor General considered that the continued functioning of Government must be an overriding consideration. He asked for and was given an assurance that the necessary measures would be taken at an early date under the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act to appropriate the moneys released by the Consolidated Fund Act (Northern Ireland), 1972. On the basis of this assurance he agreed that he would continue to authorise issues from the Northern Ireland Consolidated Fund within the limits laid down in that Act.
The order now before the House honours that assurance by making the usual Appropriation Act provisions in respect of the sum covered by the Consolidated Fund Act with retrospective effect where necessary.
It will be appreciated that the need for the order is technical and procedural in the circumstances that the Northern Ireland Parliament was prorogued, by an Act of this Parliament, before it had completed its normal financial business. But the order is also necessary and urgent as it is concerned with regularising financial transactions which have already taken place, and which are currently taking place. My right hon. Friend therefore decided that it should come into force immediately rather than follow the other procedure provided in the Temporary Provisions Act under which an order is laid in draft and not made until it has been approved. That is the procedure which we were following earlier this evening.
However, we did not think it right to bring this matter to the House without a general and fuller explanation of the financial arrangements. My right hon. Friends therefore presented to the House on 5th June a White Paper, entitled "Financial Arrangements and Legislation" which describes Northern Ireland finances, gives an outline of the Budget for 1972–73, and sets in their context the parliamentary measures which are required if public financial business in Northern Ireland is to proceed.
The order before the House tonight is the first of them and the most urgent 1150 since it principally authorises the £140 million Vote on Account for 1972–73. My right hon. Friends did not wish to ask the House to approve the Appropriation Order until the overall revenue and expenditure figures had been made available. With permission, I should like to take this opportunity to comment briefly on some of the main items in the Northern Ireland Budget as it now stands.
The Northern Ireland economy has stood up surprisingly well to the difficulties of the recent past. In 1971 production rose substantially compared with a very small increase over the whole United Kingdom. Productivity increased by well over double the national increase. More houses were completed than in any previous year and, a hopeful sign for the future, negotiations were completed for industrial developments promising over 7,200 new jobs.
It is right that these achievements should be recorded in order to correct any impression that Northern Ireland is in a state of complete breakdown. They are a tribute to the vast majority of ordinary citizens, and particularly management and workers, who have gone about their business with steadfastness and energy always in the face of difficulties and often in the face of real danger.
These satisfactory signs do not, however, obscure the fact that the current situation gives cause for anxiety. It is important that projects now being discussed should be translated speedily into actual investment and new jobs. It is important, too, that valuable employment should not be lost because firms close as a result of present difficulties.
Only an end to unrest and a return to order can give any real hope for the future, and the Government's main purpose is to secure those ends. In the meanwhile help will be given wherever possible to preserve industry and employment and to encourage new investment to the maximum possible extent.
Already, in the 2½ months since my right hon. Friend has been responsible for the government of Northern Ireland a number of Measures have been announced and programmers launched, including massive assistance to the Belfast shipyard, a programme to help hard-hit 1151 city centres, confirmation for the Londonderry Development Plan and the go-ahead for a major new bridge there, announcement of the Belfast urban motorway and a large new power station, the establishment of the Finance Corporation, and the financial reconstruction of the former ICL factory at Castlereagh. Overall we shall continue the well-balanced Northern Ireland Development Programme, which runs for 1970–75 and which provides the framework for all our activities.
But we are aware that serious problems remain. Urgent study is now being given to new measures to preserve jobs, create immediate new employment and help establish employment for the future particularly in areas to the west and south of the Province where opportunities have been low in the past. Amongst other things, we are considering the level of investment incentives following the changes in depreciation for tax purposes, announced in the Budget and in the light of the incentives announced for Great Britain and of the special situation in Northern Ireland. I can say no more about these matters today but as soon as I am in a position to do so I shall make further statements.
I make no apology for laying so much emphasis on enjoyment. Anyone at all familiar with Northern Ireland must be aware of the human and social problems arising from a level of unemployment which, over a long number of years, has been unacceptably high—not only in relation to the national average but also in comparison with the level in assisted areas of Great Britain. Anything we can do to improve the employment situation will contribute to the creation of a better background for peace.
I turn briefly to the tax changes which are proposed in the limited field of transferred taxation which are set out in the White Paper. The House will have an opportunity to consider them in detail at a later stage. They all represent parity with changes already announced in Great Britain.
In estate duty, the exemption limit will be raised from £12,500 to £15,000, and a revised scale introduced. Property as follows will be left out of account for estate duty: up to £15,000 if left to a surviving spouse; up to £50,000 if left to charities; and without limit, if left 1152 to certain bodies concerned with the conservation of the national heritage, including the Ulster Museum and the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. The charges will apply for deaths occurring after 21st March, 1972; their estimated effect will be to reduce estate duty by £900,000 in a full year.
There is one change of significance under stamp duty, which will operate from 1st August. The limits for exemption and half-rate duty on the transfer of property other than stocks and shares will be increased, from £5,000 to £10,000 and from £7,000 to £15,000 respectively.
Turning to the expenditure side of the Budget, the Supply Estimates totalling £418 milion, £32 million more than actual expenditure last year, have been published and are available in the Vote Office. These Estimates were prepared by the former Northern Ireland Government. Tonight's order authorises the £140 million out of this total which had already been voted on account. An Appropriation (No. 2) Order will be laid shortly so that my right hon. Friend can seek approval for the remaining supply requirements arising from those Estimates. As explained in the White Paper, the total covered by these two orders will be less than the total of the Estimates by some £26.3 million. The provision is reduced by £68,500 for ministerial salaries and certain other expenses not required because of the operation of the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act, leaving approximately £26.2 million to be found from the capital purposes fund or from borrowing rather than from Votes. In this context, and as paragraph 3 of the White Paper explains, we are reviewing the adequacy of the arrangements for financing Northern Ireland in the future.
Public service pay increases, and accelerated compensation pay out and other new measures which my right hon. Friend has taken and will take will involve expenditure over and above that forecast in the Estimates. Later in the year, therefore, we shall require to publish Supplementary Estimates and lay a further Appropriation Order or Orders. It is not possible at this stage to forecast what these requirements will be.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
May I put a question to 1153 my hon. Friend about the capital purposes fund to which he has just referred? I take it that these are represented, nominally, by some kind of Government securities, so that the use of this balance would involve the sale of those securities to the public and that, therefore, both the sources of finance are essentially borrowed. Would that be correct?
§ Mr. Howell
That is not my understanding of the position precisely. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will allow me to clarify it later this evening. As I understand it, as he probably knows, the capital purposes fund is, in effect, a reservoir, an accumulation of excess voted moneys that have not been used in previous years. I believe that it now contains about £13 million. To draw on that would be the aim behind the proposal that the £26.2 million should be found from the capital purposes fund or from borrowing. So it is not strictly the same as borrowing in the orthodox sense my right hon. Friend describes. The White Paper provides an outline of the Northern Ireland Budget. But it cannot be compared with budgets as we understand them in the United Kingdom context. Its function is largely procedural and designed to take Northern Ireland financial business one step further by foreshadowing future Orders in Council on the subject of expenditure and in the very limited field of transferred taxation. What it does not do, in the present context, is to deal with the detail or the cost of the measures which my right hon. Friend will undertake over the year.
§ Mr. Dick Douglas (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
Will the hon. Gentleman make clear the Government's intention as to how the House will have the opportunity of debating Northern Ireland Estimates for 1972–73.
§ Mr. Howell
Financial Orders in Council, replacing, as it were, the procedure of the Finance Bill, will come forward to deal with the tax changes. As for the question of supply, that will be debated under the Appropriation Orders, as they come forward. Tonight gives the opportunity for the hon. Member to raise a number of matters under the Estimates if he wishes, or he can do so at other times when Appropriation Orders are put forward. That is the present position.
1154 Our programmers are under urgent and continuous development and cannot be judged merely on what has been finalised in time for the White Paper. I hope that the House will understand that, given the time factor and the10 weeks since the introduction of the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act, it has been useful to range a little widely and set (the White Paper and the developing situation in context.
§ 10.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees (Leeds, South)
Normally, under the Supply procedure in the House just before the recess, there is wide discussion on a wide variety of issues. In that spirit there are one or two questions I shall put to the Minister in a moment.
Reverting to the question of procedure, and despite the way the Minister has clearly explained the procedures that are to be followed in this matter in the ensuing months, it seems more and more to many hon. Members on both sides of the House that, although the Act that was passed some weeks ago was a temporary measure, it is most unlikely that we shall be through with that temporary measure in the short period. I hope that before the "next time round" we are able to evolve a more workmanlike procedure for dealing with large sums of money. Tonight we are dealing with £150 million.
Some of my questions, I fully understand, are not capable of answer tonight. However, all of us have to build up a fund of knowledge about Northern Ireland. I certainly fit into the category of those who do. It may be that some of my questions are a little pernickety, but when we deal with our own appropriation orders in the House of Commons we are aware of the procedures that apply, according to the working of the various Government Departments. But that is not the case with many of us in the House regarding Northern Ireland because of the way the situation has developed over the years. By giving us information the Minister will be making us all more valuable Members because of the way in which we shall be able to deal with the detail of Northern Ireland Government. Although over the months and in recent years many hon. Members have become experts on various major 1155 problems, we are now getting down to the nuts and bolts.
There is reference, on page 3, to £438,000, which is for the miscellaneous services for the year ended 31st March, 1971. Is the Minister able to give me some idea of what that relatively small sum adds up to in the total of £150 million? On page 4, under Class III, there is the figure for police services of £709,000. On page 9 there is the further figure of nearly £6 million for police services. I have no doubt that the police are mentioned as well in other parts of the order.
Now that there is direct rule, bearing in mind all that has gone on in recent years and the developments in the R.U.C. and the various reports, could the Minister indicate what control of the R.U.C. in Northern Ireland is now exercised by the Secretary of State, and how? We are all used to the system in this country of the Metropolitan Police and the various constabularies, county and county borough, in different parts of the country. Most of us are aware of the rôle of chief constables and watch committees in the boroughs and the police committees in the counties. We have lived with them and watched them develop.
Given this sum for which the Secretary of State is responsible, given the changes in the R.U.C. and given the fact we have a Secretary of State now working from Stormont, could the Minister indicate the form of control, if that is the right word, that he has over the R.U.C. and whether the relationship is similar to that between the Home Secretary and the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis?
On page 5, and again in later parts of the Appropriation Order, we have salaries and expenses of the Ministry of Education. First, is control, if that is the right word, by the Ministry of Education in Northern, Ireland over educational facilities there similar to that of the Department of Education and Science at Westminster?
Since the Education Act, 1872, we have been clear in this country that the Board of Education and then the Ministry of Education had no control over the form of education in the schools. It is a matter of which we are very proud and at which 1156 people from other parts of the Western World are surprised. The Education Act, 1944, clearly states the functions of the Secretary of State for Education and Science.
Therefore, now that we have a Secretary of State who is responsible for the Ministry of Education in Northern Ireland, may I ask whether he is responsible for a Department which operates in the same way as the Department of Education and Science in this country, working through local authorities with no control over the syllabus, with the teachers free to teach what they like in the context of the schools with no control from above?
I think my second question on this topic will interest many hon. Members because I suspect that developments in Northern Ireland over recent years are different from the way we do things here. I refer to the way that grants are given to Catholic schools. Over the years there have increasingly been discussions about Catholic and Church of England schools in this respect, but decreasingly regarding non-conformist schools. In the days of Lloyd George in 1906 there would be great political arguments in this country about the methods of giving money to religious schools. It was a great political issue in the Education Act, 1944. How and by what method is money given to religious schools, if that is the right expression, in Northern Ireland, and has there been a growth in the percentage of grants given in this respect over recent years?
Thirdly, on education—I know that many of my hon. Friends are concerned about the problem of Magee College, which I do not wish to raise—may we be given information whether the university grants system in Northern Ireland is similar to that which we have in this country with no control over the education given in the universities from above?
I now turn to page 8, Class II, No. 6,For the charge in respect of Secret Services £5,000.I should have been surprised if, even under the Stormont Government, moneys should have been raised for that purpose. All national Governments have Secret Services. But why, in heaven's name, a Secret Service—in the context of international relations, I presume—for Northern Ireland, and for the very small 1157 sum of £5,000? Bearing in mind that international relations and international finance—in fact, international anything—are under the control of the Government at Westminster, perhaps we could be given some idea of the reason for that nomenclature.
The Under-Secretary gave us a situation report on the economy of Northern Ireland. It was of great interest. Though I visit Northern Ireland frequently now, given all the problems there—particularly in Belfast—I have been surprised at the resilient way in which industry keeps going. It is a remarkable thing in view of the image we have of what is going on in the country.
I reiterate the hope expressed in the debate we had a week ago that, in addition to political co-operation with the Republic, desirable though that may be, there will be far more economic co-operation. I have learned with surprise, from my talks with people in the North and in the South, that, whatever their views on the political issue, everybody accepts that there must be economic co-operation. The Republic's institutions for economic development mirror closely what is done in the North. There could be much more cross-Border co-operation. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) raised this question in a Select Committee with Professor Cairncross.
The Under-Secretary told us that there will be an opportunity to discuss the tax changes in the transferred area at a later stage. It is appropriate that we should do so. I will content myself with asking one question, and I am glad that the Chief Secretary is present. The Chief Secretary knows that I have been intrigued by the relationships that existed between the Treasury and Stormont and the way in which money was raised from the money market. Given direct rule and the fact that the Secretary of State has responsibility and an office here, what form does co-operation now take with the Treasury? Is the matter handed over entirely to the Treasury, or is a separate division maintained in the Secretary of State's office that carries on as if it were Stormont?
Ulster's economic problem is a real one, and nowhere is that more obvious than 1158 in the matter of unemployment. When we discussed this matter last week, the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) said that he thought that the suggestion that the economic problem of Northern Ireland impinged on the political one was overdone. There may be a difference of opinion about the relativity, but I cannot help feeling that the economic problem in the North, although separate from the political one—incidentally, even a well-off person can feel strongly about the Border question—is a real one.
I have learned from my visits to Northern Ireland that the problem west of the Bann is the one we must consider and that it is similar to the problems in the West of Wales and in the West of Scotland. It is common to the whole of the United Kingdom and to the Republic. In a small way we are discussing the problem tonight. In the months and years ahead it is the major problem other than that of the political solution to which we must turn our minds. Tonight we have put our minds to this problem for the second time in a fortnight. It is important that we find the right solution.
§ 11.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Rafton Pounder (Belfast, South)
I am very glad that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, in referring to the financial arrangements embodied in Cmnd. 4998, paid tribute to the infrastructural developments which have taken place in Northern Ireland and highlighted the considerable generosity which the Government have shown towards Northern Ireland both before and after direct rule.
There cannot be too much emphasis placed on the almost over-riding necessity for more employment and more investment in Northern Ireland. One of the most tragic comments in the White Paper is in paragraph 13 which states:The level of incomes and family structure combined to produce a tax yield per head lower than the national average.It is indeed unfortunate that for a variety of economic reasons Northern Ireland is still falling behind the national average of wages and, therefore, taxation. We obviously look to the day when that differential will no longer exist.
One special point comes to mind, specifically and directly from the White 1159 Paper in paragraph 27 relating to the estate duty provisions. May I assume that the estate duty levels, exemptions and so forth in Northern Ireland are identical in all respects to those applying in the rest of the United Kingdom? I have a hazy recollection from my student days that in agriculture Northern Ireland operated a slightly different estate duty structure from that applying in the rest of the country. In view of the minor changes in the White Paper does the agricultural benefit remain as hitherto?
I find one financial point disturbing. The Northern Ireland budget for this year would appear to be subscribing, perhaps more than in the past, to the concept of deficit financing and inevitably when there is a fairly wide use of loan facilities, it is tempting to ask how and when the loans are to be repaid. Will the Under-Secretary give some guidance on this point?
One fact which is so often overlooked in the Northern Ireland economy is the way in which over the last three years, in spite of the problems, hazards and anxieties which have beset our community, our gross national product has risen quite dramatically, particularly when compared with the rest of the United Kingdom.
My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary referred in his opening remarks to the economic report produced by the Ministry of Finance in Northern Ireland and on page 10 can be found the most significant figures in the whole of that explanatory document. It says that the gross national product of Northern Ireland in 1971, which by any standards was a year of substantial terrorist activity, went up 6.7 per cent. compared with the United Kingdom figure of 0.9 per cent. This is a tribute to the grit and determination of everyone engaged in industry, in manufacturing, in farming and so forth in Northern Ireland.
I hope that as it develops over the next few hours the debate will not get bogged down in trying to make sneering references to the indebtedness of Northern Ireland to the British Treasury. I doubt if, apart from the South-East of England and the Midlands, there are many regions of Great Britain which are financially buoyant in that they contribute 1160 more to the national Exchequer than they take from it. It is because Northern Ireland figures are presented separately that it is easy to seize on them and draw conclusions that we are the poor relation. I would suggest that we are no poorer than many other parts of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)
No one will make sneering references, and the hon. Member is the first to mention this. Would he agree that the substantial amount paid by the Exchequer to Northern Ireland only confirms that the suggestion of UDI is utter nonsense in the circumstances.
§ Mr. Pounder
It is not often I agree with the hon. Gentleman, but I wholeheartedly agree with him on this occasion. That is the very point I was leading on to.
I have been interested in my years in the House in trying to unravel the financial arrangements that existed between Stormont and this House. I regret to say that even the White Paper offers little guidance on the exact make-up of the figures. It is all very well to talk in paragraph 11 about the amount of income tax, surtax and capital gains tax collected from Northern Ireland residents, and the corporation tax.
The hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) made the point about an independent British Ulster, UDI or whatever. Although I disagree with the concept of UDI in Northern Ireland for many reasons, I think the economic argument is one that people ignore at their peril. The case is overwhelming against any talk of a viable independent Northern Ireland in economic terms. The danger is that although we believe that to be the case the figures we should very much like to have access to appear often not to be available. I should like to see them set out exactly. Revenue in Northern Ireland is raised under all manner of headings, and when they are set out we can see the validity or otherwise of comments about UDI.
An over-riding sense of gloom was bound to emanate from any Northern Ireland Member taking part in the debate earlier tonight. It is agreeable, to say the least, that within a couple of hours we can turn our attention to a 1161 financial field where the picture is much brighter.
Class III, No. 2 in Part III the order deals with the police services. I hope my hon. Friend can give a statement of reassurance to the members of that dedicated and excellent force, the Royal Ulster Constabulary. There is far too much uncertainty in its ranks about its future. There is loose talk about reorganisation and restructuring, and rumours about a change in the colour of uniform. Most people would pay little attention to them, but the RUC has been kicked and hacked around by the Hunt Report and thereafter by Sir Arthur Young. Since we are looking to the day when the RUC can resume its rightful rôleand the Army can return to barracks, as an army should in peacetime in any part of the United Kingdom, the morale of the RUC must be raised to a much higher level. To remove uncertainties about its future, and about the idea that it will be taken out of a uniform the colour and tailoring of which it values, would he do something to reassure the RUC?
I refer next to Class II, No. 5—Part III. I am thinking particularly of the publications part of the Northern Ireland Government Information Service that was. My hon. Friend will realise, because of questions he has received from some of my hon. Friends and me, that I am referring to the publication "The Terror and the Tears". Perhaps he could clear up tonight some of the confusion about it. Some 80,000 copies of the document are lying about somewhere in a store, gathering dust. Why has distribution been withheld since 24th March, the more so since one understands that it is available, although one does not know where? This was a factual statement of the agony and the turmoil through which Northern Ireland was passing, and it was graphic in text and illustration. It was a Government, not a party, publication. Since my right hon. Friend has taken over the Government of Northern Ireland, it is fair to ask what has happened to this publication, why it has been withheld and whether efforts will be made to unscramble the confusion which has taken place over it.
§ 11.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)
I wish to widen the debate somewhat and look at some of the other 1162 categories included in this very wide appropriation. In particular, I wish to talk about the position of those who claim to be political prisoners and of the internees before I turn to discussing industrial development and the economy.
A number of men are on hunger and clothing strike in the Crumlin Road jail, as are some women prisoners in Armagh jail, together with a number of prisoners—detainees or internees, they are still prisoners—in Long Kesh. The latter are on strike in sympathy with those who began the hunger strike.
In the strange, legalistic way in which we try to work, we would claim that there is no distinction between the men in Crumlin Road and the women in Armagh jail, who have been tried and convicted on offences they claim to have been committed for political purposes, and persons convicted on similar offences, perhaps committed for private gain. But peculiar circumstances surround these people which make it important that their case should be heard and that the Secretary of State should give urgent consideration to a review.
The first point to be made is that the people who claim that they committed these offences for political motives do not come from just one side of the sectarian divide or of the political divide in Northern Ireland. They represent both Unionists and non-Unionists. Secondly, when many of these people were put on trial, they refused to recognise, for political reasons, the jurisdiction of the court and therefore they were convicted and sentenced without their case, if they had a case, being heard and without there being any appeal. This point is further emphasised by the fact that some of the prisoners when they had completed their sentences were detained in internment camps because, in some strange way while in the custody of Her Majesty's prison governors, they had engaged in some sort of subversive activity.
I accept that people in this country can see no distinction, but these people regard themselves as a special case and of a particular significance. What is perhaps more important, and a point we should not fail to consider, is that their own communities regard them as such. Some of them are held in great affection by their own communities, and some are 1163 regarded as having been tried and convicted on trumped-up charges before the Westminster initiative was taken. Therefore it is important that their rôle and place in the present situation should be carefully and thoroughly examined. When I raised this question last week the Secretary of State said he would not give way to blackmail. I can appreciate the point. He feels he cannot allow his hand to be forced in this way.
I want to put another proposition, which many people will not readily accept, and one which I do not hold, but which is nevertheless regarded as being of importance. I say that it is one which I do not hold and that is because I am against internment per se. It is that the Secretary of State is using internment for blackmail—"If you desist in your violence we will let more men out." Many of these men have been incarcerated for so long that they could not have been responsible for any of the violence at the moment. To hold one man in custody on the ground that he is hostage for the good conduct of another person not in prison is quite reprehensible and against our idea of the rule of law in this country.
It is something about which we should be concerned. However, there is the argument of the two blackmails and it is something which we should consider because, whether or not we like it, it is part of the equation, part of the flux and if we want to try to find some sort of temporary peace we have to have regard to the arguments that the other side are putting forward even if the Government and the Establishment do not accept them.
I turn to the question of the internees and I want to ask a number of questions of the hon. Gentleman, to some of which he may not be able to reply immediately. How many of these people now interned have been interned since 9th August? What is the average length of detention? Can we have percentages, absolute numbers? Secondly: following internment, rehabilitation? What is being done by the Department of Health and Social Welfare, the prison welfare service and the other welfare services for the rehabilitation of these men? What is being done to ensure that these men can go smoothly back into the jobs they held before? We 1164 must always remember that these men have not been accused or convicted of anything. Nevertheless, they have lost their jobs, their families have lost income. Their children, while they have suffered the emotional deprivation of the loss of the head of the family, have also suffered considerable financial hardship as a result of the wage-earner being absent.
What are the social welfare departments doing about these families? In particular, if one is to believe the accounts in the newspapers, what is being done by the welfare services to follow up what happens to these men after they have come from their strange environment? What is being done in all sorts of ways to help them? In making these points I am keeping faith, together with my other colleagues who were in Northern Ireland, with the people who made these points to us, particularly the relatives of those on hunger strike. I must say how terribly impressed we were by the attitude which they took over the sufferings of those who were in jail, by their steadfastness and loyalty to these people and their awareness of the relevance of it all to the political situation. It was quite a moving experience to be with them and certainly an emotional one, irrespective of whether one agrees with the conduct of their relatives.
I come to another point about the prison and police services and the relationship between the Army and the police in the exercise of police duties, and that is the relationship between the arrest stage and the interrogation stage and the position of juveniles and young people. As I understand the law, questions are not to be put to persons under 14 without their parents or guardians being present. If that is the case, is the Minister satisfied that on every occasion a person who may be thought to be a juvenile is asked his age and where his parents are? Presumably, if they are not in Long Kesh they can be got round quickly enough to answer questions. The attitude to young people is important, when young people are being questioned, and it is important to take a hard, cold look at the activities of the security forces and of the police in particular. It is important that the police and other bodies follow the rule of law, where it exists, to ensure that young people's rights are defended.
1165 I turn now to the question of the collection of debts. I think my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) and his party have shown the proper way of dealing with this problem, and have a right to say that when internment ceases they can talk about it. They have agreed that there are problems which have to be discussed at Civil Service level and they are extremely important. How will sums be deducted from social security payments in order to pay rents? How will the system work for someone who has incurred very great debts? How will they be deducted, if deducted at all? What discussions will take place on the question of unfair administration of the whole of this vicious system? These are matters on which the Government should be prepared to show their hand.
As to industrial development, it seems to me that a tremendous amount of British treasure has been devoted to Harland and Wolff, and more than anything else has shown the Unionists to be underwriting their position and the preserving of their jobs. It is important for the economic well being of the Province, and it gives them what they want. I know this grant will make the firm viable, but there is also the social and political as well as the economic context in which the grant is being given, namely, the redressing of the balance between the communities in employment. I accept that the balance cannot be redressed overnight. I accept that positive discrimination in favour of the minority might cause a lot of trouble, but in terms of the dilutees for training and of the people taken into apprenticeships we need to have a clear declaration that it is the Government's intention to redress the balance in this industry, and that the money being released, and the spin off to other and small firms, will create job opportunities for all.
What attention, for instance, are the Government giving in Northern Ireland to "operation eyesore" to enable a good deal of urban redevelopment to take place, and which can take up a fair amount of unemployment while longer term plans and strategies for employment are being prepared? In particular, what does he see as the rôle of the small company in developing and diversifying the economy of Northern Ireland?
1166 The Minister will be aware of the proposed development plan for Newry which Mr. Paddy O'Hanlon of the SDLP has been pushing. What are the Department's reactions, and to what extent is the feasibility of the plan being examined?
I turn to Derry and the vexed question of Magee College. If Magee College had been allowed to develop as the University of Derry instead of being run down until it hardly exists, perhaps many of Derry's problems would never have arisen. But now Magee is on its last legs, it is tottering and at best it might be a small outpost of the new University of Ulster. Has the Minister any positive plan to reverse that decline and to look again at Magee? It is too late to upset the development that has taken place in Coleraine and elsewhere, but is there not still a job for Magee which would bring back employment and status to that cultured city of Derry and show a bit of positive discrimination to an area which badly needs it. There could be a polytechnic perhaps, Magee College and redevelopment of the Derry area. Other trade development, with the disappearance of tariffs between the Republic and the six counties, could make a positive increase in the economic life and viability of Derry City and bring badly needed employment to the town.
§ 11.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Walthamstow, East)
I should like first to ask my hon. Friend to give me an idea of the historic background to these appropriations, which we are being asked to sanction. How long ago were they originally drawn up by the Government of Stormont, for clearly how relevant they are to the expenses of the Province depends upon when they were drawn up.
I find this method of raising finance for the Province unsatisfactory and the way in which it is brought before the House extraordinarily arbitrary. I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State likes to impress upon us all that responsibility for what goes on in Northern Ireland is his, but in a democracy that cannot be so. He is part of a Government and we are supporters of that Government. Therefore, I shall in my speech seek information about how the money is to be spent, bearing in mind that there is clearly an historic context 1167 to these expenses about which I know very little. I am aware that my hon. Friend said that other Appropriation Orders would be brought forward as money was required. But that again seems to be a very arbitrary approach to trying to work out the Province's budget, particularly when we think how we in Westminster handle the budgets for the rest of the United Kingdom.
I turn to the appropriations, in particular the appropriations for 1972–73. They have about them an air of unreality because the inclusion in Part III, Class I, of expenses for the disbanded Parliament of Northern Ireland underlines the atmosphere of suspended animation that colours the politics of Ulster.
We in Westminster tonight are seeking to interpret the expenses of a Province with a population of 1½ million without most of us having constituencies in that Province and therefore without being in the daily touch with what goes on there that we claim for our own constituencies in other parts of the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
I am sure the hon. Gentleman will know that few hon. Members, especially on this side of the House, care to get themselves into Scottish or Welsh debates because hon. Members representing constituencies in those areas of the United Kingdom deeply resent all attempts to get in on the debates. I speak here only for myself and for no one else. However, 1½ million people living in the United Kingdom are not democratically represented in this Parliament at Westminster and I gather that they are under-represented to the extent of four or five Members of Parliament. We do not know on which side of the House those four or five Members would sit if they were returned for Northern Ireland, and, without our knowing that, our deliberations are that much more unbalanced than would otherwise be the case. What they might or might not say would clearly affect the whole tenor of this debate.
If the missing Members cannot be with us because they do not exist at this point in time, we have, because of their absence, a greater responsibility to probe 1168 the legislation which is brought before us on behalf of the 1½ million people of Northern Ireland, and, in particular, since we are dealing with money raised from the British taxpayer throughout the United Kingdom—[Interruption.]—to ask how that money is being spent. [Interruption.]
Clearly, my remarks are raising some sort of objection on the Opposition benches. I do not understand it, since it seems to me clear, in the light of the way that constituencies are represented in the rest of the United Kingdom, that Northern Ireland is under-represented by four or five Members of Parliament. If hon. Members opposite do not believe in democracy, let them say so. [Hon. Members: "Rubbish."] If they believe in democracy, why should they object to my making a statement of fact which is as clear as the light in this Chamber?
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
No, I refuse to give way. The hon. Member has been making noises and trying to interrupt my speech. If he does that from a sedentary position, I do not see why I should now give way to him in the course of a speech in which I am raising important matters relevant to the subject under debate. [An Hon. Member: "Time wasting."] Having made that point about the under-representation of Northern Ireland in the House—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)
Order. The hon. Member is not giving way, so the hon. Lady must resume her seat.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
I take, first, the item in Class III of £5,877,000 for police services. That is all we are told—"For police services". To be told as little as that leaves one with a thousand-and-one 1169 questions unanswered. Is that money to be spent on the expansion of the Royal Ulster Constabulary? We know that it is under strength to the extent of 296 men. I should be glad to know that the money will be spent to do just that.
Or—this seems more important—is it not time we considered whether the establishment of the Royal Ulster Constabulary of 4,396 men bears much relevance to the security problems which it may be asked to handle if we do not have 17—or 18 now, is it?—battalions of British soldiers in Northern Ireland, plus 8,000 men in the Ulster Defence Regiment?
If we hope, as I have hoped ever since I became concerned in the troubles in Northern Ireland, that the Army will one day be able to leave the streets, by the same token, the Royal Ulster Constabulary or some other force must be expanded to take up the slack and to be able to handle the sort of circumstances which are likely to prevail in the Province for many years to come, even assuming that peace were to come within the next few months.
What about equipment for the Royal Ulster Constabulary? We have seen it as an armed force, as a disarmed force, and then as an armed force once again. I wonder whether we are looking sufficiently to the future, and whether the present armament of the Royal Ulster Constabulary will be adequate for the sort of task which it will probably be asked to handle. For instance I do not think they possess rubber bullets or weapons with which to fire them, and I doubt whether they have CS gas. Have they adequate Shorland armoured cars which they have used on occasion and which they have found useful in mob control?
Though the size and task of the RUC should be exercising our minds, it does not seem to get much time for discussion in this House. Yet we are being asked to approve expenditure of nearly £6 million for police services without any attempt to say what the expenditure is for.
Next I turn to item 8, Class III, which involves a sum of £2,062,000 for the Ministry of Home Affairs and refers to "certain miscellaneous services". I would ask my hon. Friend whether this covers compensation for damage. 1170 I was interested to hear him say that my right hon. Friend is likely to bring forward a further appropriation to cover this item, but as I understand the situation at this moment of time, after three years of the troubles, there are 26,000 claims in the pipeline valued at £30 to £40 million. I understand that even up to the time of direct rule the Ministry of Home Affairs has been providing discretionary payments for up to 70 per cent. of the damage estimates. If this is so, may I ask from where the finance for these payments came, and where the money is coming from now? If my hon. Friend refers to another appropriation to be brought in by my right hon. Friend later this year, what is it meant to cover that is not already being covered?
What steps are being taken to speed up the payment of compensation? Is the Ministry of Home Affairs in Northern Ireland prepared to defray the interest on bridging loans which have to be made to people whose premises are destroyed? Does my hon. Friend consider that there is a sufficient number of staff handling compensation claims to provide speedy payment to those whose premises have been damaged?
I believe that compensation is crucially important, for if we cannot guarantee law and order in Ulster we can at least make good material loss. This is within the bounds of us all in this House and I hope we shall do something about it.
Furthermore, may I ask who is financing the Ministry of Commerce's special scheme to underwrite business enterprises arriving in the Province? If we care about more employment in Northern Ireland and want to attract more investment, we must give those who seek to bring in industry a measure of assurance that if their factory is damaged they will be covered for its loss.
I wish to ask about the long delayed financial reconstruction of Short Brothers and Harland. I am not now sure whether the financial arrangements are a matter for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland or for the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. I used to work at Short Brothers and it is the second largest employer of labour in Northern Ireland and is important to the economy of that country. Short Brothers is involved in 1171 the Tri-Star project, and if that aircraft is successful it will bring more jobs to Short Brothers in Belfast. Who is responsible for the future of Short Brothers, and if the financial reconstruction is to happen, which Government Minister will be responsible?
I turn to a more politically contentious point, and this involves the question of who is to pay for the plebiscite on the border. It is beyond doubt that what the provisional IRA is seeking to create is a situation in Northern Ireland of such damage and bloodshed that all of us, whether we are Ulstermen or whether we live in other parts of the United Kingdom, will say, "Let us have done with the situation. What do you want?" They hope that out of that weariness and out of the trail of havoc and bloodletting which they have perpetrated they can blast their way to a conference table and ultimately blast the Border out of existence.
Therefore I find it strange that the plebiscite which was announced in March is taking such a long time to come, because it seems to me that when the people of Northern Ireland—not the Government, not Stormont, not the people here in Westminster, but the people being shot at and whose houses are being destroyed—can say what they want, whether they want to be linked with Dublin or with London, we shall know the reality of Northern Ireland and what its people want.
When I heard about the plebiscite last March, I thought that at last the people of Northern Ireland would have their say, but, alas, I have not heard from my hon. Friend, from my right hon. Friend or from the Prime Minister any further mention of when that plebiscite is to come. I want it to come, because I want the terrorists to realise that their campaign is in vain, and that if they continue with their violence they will be old men before the people of Northern Ireland will be ready to say that they want to be one community. Indeed, the longer the terrorism goes on the more poisoned will be the attitude they will create among the million Protestants who one day, I believe, will be part of a united Ireland. If the terrorists create these poisoned people, people whose hatred is every bit as deep as theirs, there will be no hope for 1172 a united Ireland, no hope for one community, no hope for the whole island of Ireland to have a future which anybody would wish to share.
When is this plebiscite coming? And if it is coming, who will pay for it? Can my hon. Friend assure me that in these appropriations which we are approving tonight there is a sum of money set aside to make that plebiscite a reality?
§ 11.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Dick Douglas (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
I do not want to follow the hon. Member for Waltham-stow, East(Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson) in the broad compass of his remarks, but it seems a little strange to raise at this time of the night the issue of the Border in terms of a plebiscite.
As many hon. Members know, I am an ardent supporter of Britain's entry into the EEC. One reason for my view is that if both the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland were in the EEC the economic significance of the Border would go. I therefore urge the Governments of the two countries to consider holding joint studies urgently to look at the way in which the regional problems of the whole of Ireland will have to be tackled when we become members of the EEC. That strikes me as the most fruitful method of approaching this problem.
I know that statements have been made about a plebiscite, or referendum, call it what one will, but that would have only one result at the moment. The broad mass of the people of Northern Ireland would elect to remain part of the United Kingdom. There is no doubt about that, and the fact that we are discussing these appropriations reinforces the statement made earlier today by the Secretary of State that the Government and people of this country would not betray the people of Northern Ireland in terms of breaking their link with the United Kingdom unless and until the majority of the people there voted to relinquish it.
I accept what was said by the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) about one of my right hon. Friends broadcasting on Irish Television. I deeply deplore the remark that we ought to be engineering or cajoling the people of Northern Ireland into a united Ireland. That is not a posture that I adopt, and it is not the posture of my 1173 party, as has been made clear from the Front Bench this evening.
My interest in Northern Ireland is not ephemeral. I have known the country for over 20 years. The remarkable thing is that both communities there, when one meets them separately, are among the friendliest and hardest working of any people in the world.
After having studied the shipbuilding industry, I disagree very much with some of the remarks of my colleagues. I do not think—coming from Clydeside, I say this with feeling—that what is happening in Harland and Wolff is underpinning the Unionist régime. I may be naive, but it seems a contribution to the nation's shipbuilding to have a yard capable of building the largest ships likely to be demanded. I should like it to take place elsewhere. Having met Mr. Hoppe and studied his plans, I hope that they achieve viability, so far as any yard anywhere in the world, including Japan, can do so.
I agree with what my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) said about trying to get a balanced labour force. I was heartened by the experiment in training, particularly of apprentices. Any balancing of employment starts with the intake of apprentices. From the employers in the yard we got the favourable view that they looked on the whole of Ireland as their catchment area, and, so far as humanly possible, with the apprentices they would consider ability to do a job and not the age-old barriers of religion and education. I am hopeful, but I understand that this will take a deal of time.
On the Class 4 Vote, for hospital services, I pay a tribute to the people in the hospital services in Northern Ireland and what they have done during the present unrest. In the short time at our disposal, I and my colleagues visited only one hospital, but we were impressed by the work of the nurses, and other members of the medical staff in treating patients generally and especially some of the victims of atrocities. One memory that I carried away from my recent visit was of a young woman, herself a medical social worker, lying in a hospital ward in the Royal Victoria, having lost a leg and suffered considerable damage to one eye as a result of the Abercorn Restaurant explosion. In this state, and bearing in mind what may be happening in Belfast 1174 and other parts of Northern Ireland, when she was asked a question about bitterness she said, "No, no bitterness; only pity." She had no bitterness towards those who had perpetrated this crime on her and on others.
When looking at these appropriations, I hope that we ensure that the Northern Ireland hospital services are maintained and enhanced for the future.
I turn to Class IX on community relations. Mr. David Bleakley, who was a member of the former Northern Ireland Cabinet, did a remarkable job in trying to bring the communities together. One of the amazing things about the situation is that when we take the Northern Ireland politicians out of the Northern Ireland picture, we have politicians of considerable stature. Unfortunately, in the Northern Ireland scene, they do not play a political rôle. We heard about this earlier this evening. The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt), who, unfortunately, is no longer present in the Chamber, and the hon. Member for Antrim, North took a very important part in the debate. But they attacked other politicians, or, rather, another politician in Northern Ireland. That is all very well and it is part of the game. But if we are to reach a political solution they must recognise that they have to sit down with other politicians in Northern Ireland. We can discuss appropriations and votes in the House of Commons, but ultimately the problems of Northern Ireland will have to be solved by the elected representatives of Northern Ireland.
In the United Kingdom's political atmosphere, when people are on a political hook, when opponents are on a political hook, somehow or other the smoke signals go up, and we realise the futility of driving our political points of view, which may be prejudiced, to the Nth degree. We realise that if we do that we shall be on a hook and someone else may not want to let us off it.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the members of my party have made it perfectly clear that at any time they are prepared to sit down with the elected representatives of all other parties, including that of the right hon. Gentleman whom I attacked tonight, to discuss the future of Northern Ireland, recognising that 1175 every elected representative must be at the table and must put forward his views and that those views should be freely and adequately discussed?
§ Mr. Douglas
I accept what the hon. Gentleman has said, but he ought to be cautioned. He ought to realise that his remarks this evening would not make it easier for the right hon. Gentleman whom he mentioned to sit down with him. That is all that I am saying. If the hon. Gentleman does not recognise that, there is little that I can do. Unfortunately, the same applies to my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West.
One often wants to get into a political context, but all the time one is driving the other man on to his particular hook. The politicians should get off their hooks. But they do not want to give anything because, in the Northern Ireland context, they think that in doing so they will be conceding ground. This will not do. If the problems are to be solved, they will have to be solved by Northern Ireland politicians, in the manner stated by the hon. Member for Antrim, North. I welcome his statement that he is willing to sit down with elected politicians of all parties in Northern Ireland. I suggest that the Secretary of State immediately takes up that offer and puts the challenge.
When people speak about a political solution to the problems of the Bogside and the Creggan, of Belfast and Northern Ireland as a whole, and say that the "no-go" areas can be removed only by a political solution and cannot be removed by force, I accept that. The politicians in Northern Ireland must show their mettle.
One of the best politicians that I have met anywhere—I say this with respect to hon. Members of this House—is Mr. John Hume. He is a big man in any context. He is living under extreme difficulties in his area of Londonderry. If John Hume put to the test what the hon. Member for North Antrim said, he would not fail. We all know that John Hume and his family are living in terror and under threat.
§ Mr. Maurice Foley (West Bromwich)
Would my hon. Friend agree that although John Hume is living under extreme difficulties in Derry nevertheless he 1176 could not engage in political talks unless something was done about the internment policy?
§ Mr. Douglas
I agree. However, I would indicate the position of the Secretary of State. It has been said that the Secretary of State is using internment in terms of blackmail. Be that as it may, he is using internment as a political weapon, but he has little more to go. There are few people at the end of the day to let out.
§ Mr. Douglas
I hope that he will not be long in getting down to eliminating internment completely. However, he will have to have regard to the strategic position and to law and order. I am not doing the Secretary of State's job.
§ Mr. Douglas
No, I am not. I appreciate his position. The position is appreciated by right hon. and hon. Members who realise he has little more to go. He has walked the tight rope. He has sailed close to the Protestant wind. Unless he gets some "concession" in terms of abandonment or a toning down of the civil disobedience, or elimination of the concession relating to the "no-go" areas, he will be in great political difficulty. We have to recognise that.
§ Mr. David Howell
The hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Foley) said that 400 are still interned. The fact is that at 9th June 288 are still interned.
§ Mr. Douglas
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for underlining my point. If we are getting down to 200 odd, we are quickly getting down to having little more with which to bargain. Unless, in terms of community relations and in terms of the good of the community as a whole, the Secretary of State gets some concession—I put that as widely as I can—he will be in difficulty.
I welcome the statement made the other week by the SDLP. It was making public that it was already using the Civil Service, rightly in my view.
I urge the hon. Member for Belfast, West and Mr. John Hume to think of going a little further. It is the dangers and the difficulties. It is a difficult situation, but if one argues the case one 1177 has to give a political solution to the problem and show one's political metal. I fully appreciate the dangers involved in that situation, particularly for people like John Hume, who, I have indicated as clearly as I can, is a big man in any political circumstances.
My next point concerns Mr. Faulkner. I am not here to go in to bat for Mr. Faulkner, but some of the things we are talking about in terms of the industrial fabric of Northern Ireland are the direct result of the work he did, particularly as Minister of Commerce. Indeed, the Industry Bill is largely modelled on the Measures that the Northern Ireland Government introduced in the 1950s.
The remarkable work done by the Northern Ireland Government in devolutionary terms of regional policy is indicated by the economic report before us. The Northern Ireland economy, with all its deficiencies in terms of the high level of unemployment there, has stood up to this situation because of the forward-looking regional policy which has been adopted over the years, albeit on the basis of United Kingdom money.
We must recognise that part of the division in Northern Ireland has always been related to who gets the fruits. One thing which I deplore about the Unionist Party is that it has used and abused my class. Every time it has got into difficulties in terms of power, it has played the Orange card. We are seeing it conjured up again now. It has also used the fear weapon. All this talk of "them" and "us" must stop. The sooner the politicians in Northern Ireland cease using the terms "them" and "us" and trying to play the fear cards the better.
My last point relates to compensation. One of the saddest things which I saw on my visit to Belfast was the destruction of the Co-operative Society store. It was shocking. Why was it destroyed? Because it was a horrible capitalist organisation? No. As far as I can gather, the 180,000 membership of that society was comprised of all denominations. When the society paid a dividend—not as large as it used to be—it paid it indiscriminately to all sections of the population. That store, representing £5 million of trade, a third of the society's trade there, and, perhaps more important, 800 jobs have gone. That organisation 1178 has already had some assistance from the Government. The society's representatives expressed their gratitude to me for the speedy way it has been done. But the society still has a tremendous problem. If rebuilding has to be carried out, a new building will be necessary. That will cost the society a considerable amount and may endanger the trade.
In the society's predicament I see the predicament of the whole of Northern Ireland. Men are engaged in destruction for the sake of it. We in the rest of the United Kingdom will be foolish if we think that by shutting our eyes to the position in Northern Ireland we can prevent that type of conflict coming here. I pray and trust that good sense will prevail in Northern Ireland in the coming weeks, because what I have seen there gives me little ground for hope. I see a Province, tottering on the verge of civil war, where honest men and women want to live in peace, but are prevented because they are prisoners of the fears of the past, of the present and of the future.
§ 12.9 a.m.
§ Mr. Carol Mather (Esher)
We have a confusing array of documents to deal with—the Appropriation Order, the Estimates for 1972–73, the Financial Statement for 1972–73, and the White Paper "Financial Arrangements and Legislation", quite apart from the Economic Report for Northern Ireland which gives an encouraging picture for 1971. That document shows that the index of industrial production was up, more cars were on the road than in the previous year, hire purchase credit was up, and unemployment was not increasing to the extent it was in the rest of the United Kingdom. The Administration during that period deserved credit for the resilience of the economy against all sorts of difficulties.
As the Economic Report says, the paradox is that the bombings and general disruption during 1971 were not reflected in the report. To what extent does my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary expect these incidents to be reflected in the coming year?
Neither the Vote Office nor the Library has any copies of any annual report of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, nor any report by the Commissioner for Complaints.
1179 The sum of £709,500 granted in Schedule (B), Part II, Class III, to the police services, is a fairly modest sum in comparison with the task that the police perform. The complaints I hear from members of the police and from the Police Committee on my visits to Ulster are that the police equipment is poor in comparison with that of the security forces. The police deserve from us as good equipment as that of the Army, particularly in the matter of armoured vehicles, bullet-proof clothing, and weapons to defend their own stations. The police complain of the great delays they experience in getting this equipment. This matter should be rectified if morale is to remain high.
Do the provisions of the order provide scope for the police fulfilling a greater rôle when it is possible for the Army to disengage? Does my hon. Friend envisage enabling the police shortly to play a greater rôle and to be properly equipped to enter some of the areas which they do not enter at present unescorted by the Army?
To what extent do the police come under the direct control of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland? To what extent does the Home Office have any authority over the police through the Police Committee? In the present situation it is desirable that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland should have direct control.
On the item for miscellaneous services, the total granted in the Estimates for 1972–73 of £6 million for criminal injury and damage is staggering. This represents the physical toll, but there is also the psychological toll. I hope that both these factors are taken into account when immediate policy is being planned.
§ 12.15 a.m.
§ Miss Bernadette Devlin (Mid-Ulster)
I was quite surprised to hear a number of hon. Members suggest earlier that because the debate related to economics it dealt with matters separate from the political realities of Northern Ireland. Nothing could be further from the truth. The House could sit all night debating where to spend its £150 million or £250 million, but unless the political situation changes rapidly and radically in Northern 1180 Ireland all that money will go where previous money has gone—down the drain and never even noticed by the people of Northern Ireland.
I should like to deal with three political considerations in Northern Ireland on which the whole relevance of the debate depends. The first is internment. Over the last week there was the release of first 50 internees, then 75 internees and detainees and a small number of internees immediately after that. Somehow, the Secretary of State seemed to be of the opinion that the anti-Unionist population, the Catholic population or the republican population, however it is termed, should have fallen about as if in adulation and gratitude for the fact that he had conceded the freedom of these men.
Let it be quite clear that we do not consider the liberty of men who have the right to be free to be a concession. For the Secretary of State to continue in his present manner, releasing internees, as he terms it, "in batches", as if they were carcases leaving after slaughter, will do nothing to endear him to the Catholic or Protestant populations. We are now in the situation we last faced in the days of Captain Terence O'Neill who thought that by wearing his carpet slippers and pussyfooting all over the Six Counties no one would notice that he was annoying both sides of the population at once. That is exactly what the Secretary of State is doing.
The release of the internees is not a concession or a negotiable factor. These men have the right to be free. They are innocent and have never been charged. To those who at this late day say, "Charge the remainder of the internees or release them", let it be clear that charging the internees will solve nothing. It will not end the rent and rate strike, or bring about co-operation by the mass of the people involved in the passive resistance campaign. On August 9th when the internment policy was introduced, not only myself anomy hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. McManus), but the Social Democratic Labour Party, the anti-Unionist councils in Northern Ireland and the mass of the Catholic population, made an unconditional pledge, not to the first internee, not to the latest batch of carcases to 1181 be released, but to the last man to walk out of an internment camp, that there would be no co-operation with the forces of the State until the last man walked free from the Long Kesh and Magilligan camps.
Any man who wants to go back on his word of August 9th cannot be stopped. He can make up his own mind about that and that is his problem. But let not the Secretary of State be misled into thinking that one person going back on that pledge represents the feelings of those who made the pledge with him. The Secretary of State can make what deals he likes and sit at the table with whoever he likes. But until the last man is unconditionally released, whoever sits at that table will not represent the mass of the people.
The Secretary of State is equally confused about the longing and desire of the people in Northern Ireland for peace. It seems to the Government as if it is a new phenomenon that suddenly the constitutional savages of Northern Ireland woke up about two and a half months ago and said, "What about peace for an idea?". We have wanted peace for 50 long, miser able years in Northern Ireland. In fact, we have wanted peace in Ireland for 800 long, miserable years, and the main factor opposing real peace in our community was the British military intervention. We have wanted peace for probably the longest four years in the lives of people in Northern Ireland. It is no new phenomenon to us.
But let not the Secretary of State and the Government mistake peace for surrender. I learned to walk when I was about a year old. The people of Northern Ireland politically learnt to walk about four years ago. Neither I nor the people I represent are about to start crawling now. What we mean by peace is not only the ability to walk through the streets of Belfast with no fear of the bomb or the bullet but the ability to walk through the streets of Northern Ireland on our two feet like a man, with human dignity. A man wants the ability to walk through the streets of Northern Ireland without the fear that, because his father was interned before him, he might be, without the knowledge that he does not have any liberty because the only liberties that exist are those spelt out by the law, and that they can be taken away by the 1182 same law at any time. The same people who talk of peace cannot fail to understand why nobody believes them.
How can the Secretary of State talk peace to the House and the mass media? Because of what is happening in the Crumlin Road prison, people make up their own minds about what he means by peace. Does peace mean that because nobody can see Billy McKee die of hunger, that because he does it slowly, quietly and painfully, believing in a principle and his right to be treated as a political prisoner, it is a peaceful way to die?
I have a straight question which I hope the Minister who winds up the debate will answer. It is not a question of blackmail or initiatives. It is: "Are you going to let Bill McKee die? You have about four days to make up your mind." If Billy McKee dies, peace initiatives will be for nothing, because the understanding of peace will be that it will be the pre-1968 peace. It will not be justice but the concept that peace exists when nobody complains.
All of this must be relevant to the whole question of Northern Ireland. The House can discuss endlessly what it will do with the finances of Northern Ireland, but it cannot do anything with them without the people of Northern Ireland, and at present it does not have the people—not the Catholic people, not the Protestant people.
§ Mr. Orme
Would not the hon. Lady agree that the demonstrations for peace by the Catholic women both in Anderson-town and Bogside are evidence not of a demand for peace at any price but of a desire for peace? Is she aware that the wives of the internees that were leaving to go to Long Kesh expressed this point of view to us? That shows that there is an earnest desire for peace.
§ Miss Devlin
That is exactly what I have been saying. There has always been an earnest desire for peace. But also be it known that the four points of the peace plan of the women of the Bogside, of the women of Belfast, of the wives of the internees are exactly the same four points as those of the Civil Rights Association, the Official Sinn Fein, the Provisional Sinn Fein and the Northern Resistance Movement.
§ Miss Devlin
It is true, with respect to the hon. Gentleman. I live in Northern Ireland, and I know it is true. These women have stated that it is true.
§ Miss Devlin
Unless the Secretary of State and the Government are prepared to consider the political matters, the financial matters do not count. We have not got to the next Supply Estimates. The Minister of State must realise that he has until next Friday night to make up his mind what he will do about Northern Ireland. The problem will not be solved by trying to put one side against the other and then move in in a peacekeeping rôle.
Let it also be understood that if the House thinks it will ever see a solitary penny of the money that has been withheld in the rent and rates strike it has another think coming. It is not going to get it. On 9th August, the people of Northern Ireland went on rent and rate strike in passive protest against the policy of internment. Some of our people say, "Stop the violence", but while there is an earnest and genuine move for peace, the authorities try at the same time both to stop the violence and to take away the passive means of resistance. The people do want peace but they also want an end to internment, to the Special Powers Act, to the brutalities and to the tortures in Northern Ireland.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)
Order. Can the hon. Lady tell me under which appropriation she is speaking?
§ Miss Devlin
Under the appropriations for prison services and community relations, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Although presumably the prison service is not paying for McKee's food at the present moment, these matters come under Part III, Class III and Class IX
The passive resistance campaign of the rent and rate strike is not just a matter of money owing to the State. A lot of suffering has been borne by the women involved because their men folk have been taken away and interned. Because they went on rent and rate strike, their social security benefits were taken from them.
1184 The Government have been asked about what was to be done for internees as they came out and what the welfare services would do. What happened while the internees were in camp? The community in which they had lived kept their families. They were looked after by ordinary people who themselves were on rent strike and were suffering from the deprivation of their social security benefits. They kept not only the families of internees but the families of men still on the run and who are in need of amnesty before there will be peace in Northern Ireland. If hon. Members want to count these things in financial terms, then we in Northern Ireland have paid for internment. The people have paid with their liberty and at the cost of paying to keep the families of these men.
§ Miss Devlin
The taxpayers of this country have also paid, but Stormont took it. The price has been paid in £s, in fear and in bloodshed, and it has been paid ten times over. The rent strike will end only when the last man walks free and when a rent amnesty is declared for all those forced into the strike because of Stormont's policy. No matter what anyone says, the Government are not now going to get that money. It would not be fair if they did so, and no one wants to pay it back.
Several hon. Members have raised the question of a breakdown of the money flowing into Northern Ireland. To begin with, £27,000 is paid to the representatives in the Northern Ireland Parliament. Some say that we are under-represented in Northern Ireland. Britain must be the only country in the world paying £27,000 to members of a representative assembly which does not exist any more. We could have six more representatives of Northern Ireland here for that money—representatives who are not able to speak in a representative assembly in Northern Ireland.
We are continually hearing about how we in Northern Ireland are living off the backs of the British taxpayers. But when Britain is putting money into investment and incentives and the rest, perhaps we should take a look at the outflow from Northern Ireland—the outflow of profits to such firms as Dupont, 1185 ICI and British Enkalon. Let us also consider how the money flows from the people of Northern Ireland when we talk about resilience.
We have also heard a good deal tonight about the blight west of the Bann, and it is time that the House woke up to it. A plan was put through by Stormont and I ask the Secretary of State to reconsider it. In my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone the mining and exploration rights have been let by the Stormont Government to every two penny-halfpenny American or Canadian company which wanted to buy them. If we need money and development west of the Bann, if we need jobs west of the Bann, will the Minister consider giving us back our mining and exploration rights? We will work the mines and we will keep the profits for a change.
§ Mr. Norman Miscampbell (Blackpool, North)
I am emboldened by the speech of the hon. Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) to make a speech which would much more appropriately have been made earlier in the evening. If the views we have heard are representative of the attitude taken by the minority towards the initiative of the Secretary of State then I can only say that the outlook for Ireland is much worse than I thought it was and worse than I had feared. If one thing is clear it is that there has been a hardening of attitudes on both sides, particularly over the last six or nine weeks and particularly on the majority side. As we have heard all too clearly from the hon. Lady there has been a hardening on the minority side.
The sad fact is that there is now no longer any middle opinion left in the North of Ireland. The majority is reaching the point where it acquiesces in or even condones the answering of force by force. It may well be that in doing that it does itself the greatest disservice. In discussion of the situation in the North of Ireland with those on the majority side, with one's friends and family, the first thing that will be said is, "You betrayed us, you let us down. You took away Stormont, you took away a Government which, by any electoral means, would have returned a Unionist majority and you will go on thereafter to betray us on the Border." I believe that this 1186 is nonsense. It has been said to be so by the Secretary of State and the Government. It has been denied strenuously tonight and in the past, but I hope that it is accepted from what has been said tonight that the truth is that it is not accepted by the majority in the community.
The hon. Lady had her list of priorities but she did not say anything about the Border. I have heard it said in this House that what is happening in the North of Ireland has nothing to do with the Border. That is quite untrue because a million Protestants believe it is about the Border and have always believed that. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) is not present now, although he was present earlier and intervened in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton (Mr. Nigel Fisher) to explain what he had to say at Banbridge over the weekend, when he raised the whole question of the bona fides of the British Government and their intentions and the intentions of the Secretary of State as to preserving the Border. What he said, to paraphrase was that "Willy" was to go off and get shot of the problem as quickly as possible. That may not have been a direct incitement to violence but they are words which I am sure will lead to grave trouble in the North of Ireland and could well lead to greater violence.
I want to consider whether there is any reality behind the fears of the majority that the Border is in danger. If there is then we cannot ask the majority to exercise the kind of moderation I want it to exercise. I am not going into the many reasons why they should think the Border is not in danger. I would not ask them to accept the word of the British Government about that because many of them do not do so, but there are facts which make it clear that the Border is in no way in danger, and I will enumerate one or two of them.
First of all, as has been said by hon. Members opposite, and as was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West in Ireland over the weekend, it is perfectly clear that in the North of Ireland no democratic majority can conceivably be found to change the Border at the 1187 moment, so long as the vote is confined to the Six Counties. Indeed, if it came to a vote, I have no doubt that there would be a sizeable vote among the minority for the Border as it is.
The second reason is clear from every newspaper report, clear from this debate, clear from all we know, that every bomb and every murder puts the question of a change in the Border further and further away. There can be no reunification of Ireland while the bombs go off, as they are going off at the moment.
I am choosing only three reasons, and my last is one which many people who would disagree with my views might accept as being a valid one, and it is that the South itself over 50 years has done nothing to make reconciliation possible. Every step it has taken, in its own constitution and in many, many ways, has drawn it away from the possibility of providing a happy united Ireland.
The hon. Lady the Member for Mid-Ulster was raising an important point, although I do not want to follow her remarks upon it and go into the whole question of the financial relationship between this country and Northern Ireland and such benefits as may or may not go to it—
§ Mr. Miscampbell
—although it is a factor affecting people's pockets. Does the hon. Member want to interrupt?
§ Mr. Miscampbell
Fortunately, we do not always have to discuss only the terms of the business before the House. Had that been so, perhaps I should have been out of order a long time ago. All I would say is that I do not want to urge that reason, the financial reason, upon the House.
My last point why the Border is not in issue is simply this. Ireland is full of dreams, but nobody in Ireland ever takes the smallest step to make dreams come true—unless they think that bombs can 1188 make dreams come true. Has anyone there, even in the North, ever given any thought to what Ireland would be like if it were united with a million disaffected Protestants in the north?
For these reasons I would urge that in practical terms one does not have to rely, though I would hope people would, upon the word of the British Government. The fact is that there is no possibility in the near future, or, indeed, in the foreseeable future, of the Border being a serious question. That is important, because, once that is established, it is possible to ask the Northern Protestants and the Northern majority to think again of what is happening at this moment in Northern Ireland.
If the Border were in jeopardy it would be very difficult to ask. In asking them to be moderate we are asking for patience in a situation that has become unbearable and where it is strongly suspected, for good reason, that if these conditions were prevalent on this side of the water they would not be tolerated for one moment. Nevertheless, there are good, practical reasons why the majority should eschew violence. I list the three most important reasons as these.
If the maintenance of a connection with this country is of importance to them, as it clearly is, the one certain way in which it can be broken is for the electorate on this side of the water to become disenchanted. If the electorate begin to say, "A plague on both your houses", and that view becomes widely held, then the link might be endangered.
Secondly, violence and the building of barricades give to those who are indulging in terrorism the opportunity to say to their own community, "We have to continue to use these methods; they are essential for your sake."
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the physical barricades, whether erected by the minority or the majority, are physical barricades across the streets but are also barricades against the hearts and minds of men and women who live together. Whether or not there is a border the two communities must live together as they have done for hundreds of years. If both sides turn towards violence now the outlook is very grave.
What is needed is support for the initiative. How can that be given? I can 1189 speak only from one side of the fence, but the lessons can be learnt on the other side as well. The need is for public help, public acknowledgment of what is happening and public discussion. By public discussions, I do not mean simply making demands for the unattainable. We shall solve our problems only if the public discussions are commenced and are fruitful. I fully understand the difficulties. I fully appreciate that Ulster politicians may feel that a too close embrace with the Government will do themselves and Ireland no good and that all that will happen is that they will be outflanked by those who are more extreme than themselves.
I am not asking for anything more than public recognition of the work that the Secretary of State is doing, a willingness in public to recognise that work and for people to begin to work with him rather than always against him. If that is done great things will be achieved. To those in the north who find it difficult to take that step I say what is the use of preserving personal political decisions if the Province tears itself to bits? The position is perfectly clear. The initiative has to succeed. If it fails, then after Whitelaw there will be civil war.
§ 12.45 a.m.
§ Mr. A. E. P. Duffy (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Clearly, we have just listened to a speech from the hon. Member for Black-pool, North (Mr. Miscampbell) which was intended for the debate which ended at 10 o'clock. I can well understand the hon. Gentleman's anxiety to deliver it, nevertheless. I was tempted to do the same, but I have redrafted what I have in mind to say, and I shall address myself to the White Paper on Financial Arrangements and Legislation, with particular reference to the moneys to be granted to the Harland and Wolff shipyard and to Classes III, IV, V and IX in the Appropriation Order, taking a final look at the matter from the standpoint of the English taxpayer.
I make my observations on the financial arrangements for the coming year from the standpoint of one who was in Northern Ireland last week, on a deputation with some of my hon. Friends. Our first visit, at the commencement of our journey through Northern Ireland, was to the Harland and Wolff shipyard. It was not my first visit. My first visits 1190 to Harland and Wolff were to join an aircraft carrier at the Victoria Wharf during the war and to return with it to the yard subsequently.
I was much interested in the changes, and much impressed by the layout. I wish the yard well, though when I look at the plight of shipbuilding in the United Kingdom I cannot muster much confidence. I cannot subscribe, for example, to the confidence which Mr. Hoppe expressed to us that the yard will be viable in 1975. I note, for instance, that it will pay a dividend by 1975, though Mr. Hoppe is confident that it will otherwise be viable.
When I consider the present level of productivity of Harland and Wolff and compare it with productivity levels at other yards in Europe which might be regarded as competitive, again, I cannot muster much confidence. When I look at the cost structure of Harland and Wolff and compare it with what I know about Japanese yards and recall evidence given to Select Committees of the House by representatives of British shipbuilding that, in their judgment, no yard now in the Western world is likely to be able to compete in future with Japanese yards in the construction of tankers above 100,000 tons, again, I cannot, with the best will in the world, subscribe to the confidence of Mr. Hoppe. But I wish the yard well.
In view of the public moneys involved, not merely in the present but in the past, and especially given the recent vast injection, one must ask what equity the British taxpayer will have in exchange. That is my first question to the Minister. What public equity are we to see provided in Harland and Wolff?
My second question relates to the point already raised by my hon. Friends about a balanced work force at Harland and Wolff. Again, I do not doubt the intentions of Mr. Hoppe and senior management, but I am mindful of the difficulties. Given the present distribution of jobs between Protestants and Catholics, if I may use euphemisms, and the proportion of 16 to one, even if the 4,000 new jobs are provided on a 50–50 basis, that will still only reduce the ratio to eight to one.
Given the symbolic character of the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Northern Ireland society, does the Minister think 1191 that much more dramatic policies of recruitment will have to be pursued if Harland and Wolff is not to continue to be seen by the minority as a symbol of job discrimination? I appreciate all the difficulties which may be insuperable in the short term, but we must have these matters constantly in mind if only to meet the complaints that will come.
I turn to Class III, the Votes on Account for the year ending March, 1973, and wish to draw attention to page 9 which refers to prison services. I emphasise what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) about the desire for peace, even among the wives and sisters of those who are still interned. Despite the deeply felt grievances which are still all too easily discernible among Catholics, despite their smouldering resentment, there have been important and vital responses to the Secretary of State's initiative.
My hon. Friends and I were impressed by what we saw in Northern Ireland, and on our visit we did not encounter a smarter or more attractive body of women than the 40 or 50 wives and sisters of the men who are still interned. We found among them the same desire for peace—provided that it is peace with justice and provided that their husbands and brothers are treated as political prisoners with a prospect of early release.
We did not just sit there and listen to their representations; we tried to explain the situation to them. Certainly my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) told them the realities of the situation in terms with which I am sure no hon. Member in this House would quarrel. It is only fair to record my impression that the men on whose behalf they were speaking—the present hunger strikers in the Crumlin Road gaol, men like Billy McKee about whom my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) was so concerned—are the men who could provide the leadership that is needed in response to the Secretary of State's initiative.
I do not underestimate the difficulties but, when the issue is so grave, it is inevitable that the stakes will be high. One approach could be an amnesty for all imprisoned as a result of the troubles 1192 —Protestant and Catholic. That would have the effect not only of releasing stabilising influences into areas that are in critical need of them, but of restoring a sense of equity and fair play to the community.
I now turn to Class IV, which deals with employment. Last Thursday in the House I raised the question of the distribution of job opportunities in Northern Ireland. The Minister informed me that 7,200 jobs were created in Northern Ireland in 1971, and that of those 35 per cent. were in projects west of the Bann. I expressed concern about the obvious imbalance of job opportunities on either side of the Bann between Belfast and the Derry hinterland and reminded the Minister that this constituted a major source of discontent on the part of the minority. I asked him to provide a more balanced distribution of jobs in future and to pursue more vigorous and dramatic policies of redress, and he reminded me that 35 per cent. of the jobs being provided west of the Bann would meet the needs of a population that amounted to only 27 per cent. of the whole.
There was not the opportunity then to remind the Minister, as I now wish to tell his hon. Friend, that I was well aware of that, and that what I wished to draw his attention to was the much greater leeway that had to be made up west of the Bann and the higher levels of unemployment there which would require much energetic job creation or a different distribution of jobs. I am sure that I do not have to say any more about that, especially in view of what has been said about it by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster.
I now turn to Class V, and I want to refer especially to Magee College and the setting up of the new university at Coleraine. It must now be evident to all hon. Members that this was a lunatic decision. It is presumably irreversible, but I sometimes wonder at the indignation of some of those who must have had a part in this decision about the position in Derry and especially the "no-go" area. I do not see how they can be so concerned about the "no-go" area of Derry when, by their action in siting this new university at Coleraine when it ought to have gone to Derry, they gave the impression that they regarded Derry as expendable anyway.
1193 I now propose to say something about the "no-go" area of Derry under Class IX which deals with community relations. Though I understand the sense of outrage on the part of people in Northern Ireland at the spectacle of the "no-go" area in the Bogside, I want to record my impression of it last week. It is not an enclave of lawlessness in the way in which I could have seen it when I was there last August. It is difficult now not to see it as a much smarter, tidied-up area and also a spontaneously organised area of safety for a community which has rejected what it had come to view as a system of one-sided law and order. They are in no doubt that there is ample evidence of police partiality and brutality in the records as well as in their own minds and personal experience. That impression is based on personal visits that I made to homes, a school and boys' club and shops. I also visited the Rosemount Army Post and spoke to the soldiers.
The newsagent's shop claimed much higher sales of newspapers and increased turnover during the last year. Presumably the Bogsiders like reading about themselves. But I wonder whether this is not a partial explanation. Perhaps the correct treatment is to remove the spotlight of public attention. Even the money involved in the rates and rent strike does not justify the indignation that it engenders in some circles. Perhaps the Minister could confirm that there is only a little over £1 million owing in any event, and that more than half that sum has been withheld in social security payments.
I also had the pleasure of discussing the position with Ulster Unionists and appealing to them to support the initiative of the Secretary of State, expressing my confidence that they had had no part in the demonstration in Derry on Saturday week, but asking them what they were doing to prevent it being repeated. I was told that they did not intend to take any steps to prevent such demonstrations, which they regarded as necessary. They were prepared to accept the possibility of violence and of that violence involving the demonstrators and the Army. When I asked whether this would not strain the tolerance of the British citizen and taxpayer, they said that they were ready to go independent and dispense with financial aid.
1194 I do not want to do what the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Pounder) was anxious that none of us should do, and sneer at the financial dependence of the North of Ireland on the English people. The only sneering of this kind that I have encountered in recent years has usually, I am sorry to say, come from some ungenerous Ulster people, about the differences between their own living standards and welfare benefits and those in the South—overlooking, as the Belfast Telegraph said, though not in the context, on 7th June last, the extent to which all these financial arrangements contribute.
I want to deal with the UDI mood which exists in some Unionist circles and circles further to the right in Northern Ireland. Last week the Belfast Telegraph asked those who still nurtured such UDI beliefs to look at the Appropriation Order and the White Paper, substituting, as it does, for a Northern Ireland budget. It stated:It shows that in 1971–72, despite surprising growth in the economy, we were still £133 million short of meeting our bills out of tax revenue raised in Northern Ireland. In other words, Westminster hands over about £90 for every man, woman and child here, to maintain British standards of payments and subsidies, not counting the cost of national services like defence, to which we contribute a token £½ million.When I went to Rosemount Army Post last week, I was enquiring for Yorkshire soldiers, preferably South Yorkshire and, if possible, Sheffield soldiers. I met soldiers from Huddersfield and Leeds, but they might have been lads from any other part of England. I was impressed by their coolness, even though, while I was there with them, we came under rifle fire. In my eyes they were only children, in their late teens. They are under tremendous strain. I hope that they will not come under even greater pressure in the days to come than that to which they have already been subject.
In the debate we have heard similar appeals. I echo them now. I ask those who might be considering coming into conflict with the Army to bear in mind the extent to which they are being helped, through their economy and social security, by the British taxpayer. Paraphrasing my question to Ulster Unionists in Londonderry last Friday, I asked these people whether they do not consider that they 1195 are in grave danger of straining the limits of tolerance of the British taxpayer if they enter into or otherwise encourage activities in the days ahead that will bring them into conflict with British soldiers.
§ 1.7 a.m.
§ Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)
I shall be as brief as possible because the hour is very late.
In his final remarks, the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy), underlined the total unreality of the debate. I have returned from my constituency after seeing rioting, shooting and burning in the streets, all within the last two or three days. From both sides of the House appeals are made to citizens not to contemplate anything that will bring them into conflict with the soldiers. Speaking on behalf of the Unionists, the loyalist part of the population, I remind the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe, that we have been the subject of the most violent and vicious attack over the last three years that has ever been seen anywhere in the world. This has not been limited to an attack on police officers or soldiers but has extended to citizens going about their ordinary work, shopping, and so on, and even to children. Young girls have been seized in the street and have had their heads shaven and tar poured over them. Others have been shot in the back of the leg—though very often they are Catholics—by republicans, members of the IRA. The Army is incapable of doing anything to help or to save them.
My right hon. Friend appeals to us not to demonstrate. How can he appeal thus when only a few weeks ago in the Bally-murphy area a gun battle went on for hours? Twenty-four hours after the shooting had stopped some soldiers came and searched two houses and one school. They found nothing. Yet many hon. Members have said throughout this debate that this is not a "no-go" area. Repeatedly young soldiers such as those described by the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe, are being shot at in the Taggart Memorial hall area. Often the fire is not returned. Certainly the gunmen are never pursued and houses are not searched immediately. Is this a law-abiding area where the rule of law 1196 applies, or is it a "no-go" area in Belfast?
We are dealing with the estimates which among other topics cover excise duties. I have been across the Border twice within the past two weeks and I was not stopped once by an excise officer. There were several men in the car with me. We could have been carrying anything in that car. I was going across a part of the Border where I am not known. The car was not known. Going across with me were a lot of other cars. I noticed not one car in front or behind me that was stopped. No one that I noticed was even asked for a driving licence. Yet we hear this weekend about arms from Libya being sent into Northern Ireland.
What is the Under-Secretary doing to tighten up Border control? At the end of his speech the hon. Member for Attercliffe dealt with Londonderry. There is a strip of land several miles wide separating the Bogside and Creggan districts from the Border. Yet terrorists come across with impunity in and out of the "no-go" areas of Derry. Why is not this section of the Border properly controlled? What is the Minister going to do to establish proper control of the Border as a way of stopping the tremendous flow of illegal arms and more particularly explosives into Northern Ireland?
Speaking as a representative of the majority party in Northern Ireland, I can understand why members of the UDA demonstrate in Belfast. The Minister said that he is not going to sell out Northern Ireland, that he is determined the will of the majority shall be the final arbiter. Indeed, the Prime Minister sent a message to the last Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Mr. Brian Faulkner, promising him support at the time of the last Unionist Party Conference. A few months later he was sacked. The Minister took over the political initiative promising resolute action against the terrorists. He said he would be ruthless and determined. He has been following a softly, softly policy, the exact opposite of what he said.
Be that as it may, many hon. Members have referred to the fact that the British public may become tired of the Ulster commitment. Ulstermen are not fools. They are aware of this weariness in 1197 Britain, of this wave of criticism. They foresee pressure in Britain which may lead to some type of move to disengage. Are these people wrong in preparing to defend themselves against such an eventuality? In any event, Front Bench speakers on both sides know as well as I do that no Parliament can bind its successors. A statement of intent can be made on the Floor of this House and can be reversed in the next Parliament a few years, months or weeks later. There is no assurance in politics.
here fore, a population which has been subject to the type of attacks to which the Ulster population has been subjected over the past three years, attacks which have intensified since the political initiative, has little ground for confidence. Therefore, at last, by way of protest both over the continuation of the "no-go" areas some 10 weeks after the political initiative was taken and, more especially, at the continuing and escalating violence, the 350 more dead, the 6,000 or 7,000 seriously injured in Northern Ireland, and in the knowledge that this cannot go on and that the Army is doing very little at the moment to bring it to a speedy conclusion, these men are preparing to create a state of law and order for themselves.
After all, what is the first responsibility of the Government? I read in the weekend speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that he thought the main problem in Northern Ireland was fear. I tell him sincerely that the main problem in Northern Ireland is not fear. The problem is the existence of the Irish Republican Army, a body which is ruthless, vicious and savage and determined to go on shooting and murdering to achieve a political end. This is the only problem in Northern Ireland. This is the problem that the people of Northern Ireland call upon the Government to deal with resolutely, firmly and strongly. The Government have produced no evidence of their determination to tackle the problem at its root. That is the reason I find a general feeling of despair and disillusion in Northern Ireland.
I agree with much of what has been said in the debate on the Appropriation Order. I agree about the necessity to help our industries, such as the hon. Member for Attercliffe mentioned—the shipyards and the aircraft industry in my 1198 constituency—but these are long term measures and we have not got a long time in Northern Ireland.
The public will not put up with one or two men being shot dead every day on the streets in a small Province like Ulster and the tens, even hundreds, injured each week. This is the toll, and it cannot go on.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite have pressed for an end of internment. My right hon. Friend, in an effort to win the confidence of the minority, has released many men from internment. What has been the result? There has been no result. The violence continues and increases.
I should like my hon. Friend, either in reply or later in considering the debate, to consider seriously the points which I have put forward, particularly about the restoration of law and order. It is essential that these "no-go" areas be brought to an end. It it is essential that regular police patrols should get back into every part of Northern Ireland; not just an Army Ferret or armoured car driving quickly through an area, but a regular foot patrol of men who are able to identify those who live in the area, to identify the trouble makers and to know where to go when there is violence or some other breach of the law.
The Government's first job is to establish and maintain law and order. Their failure in this is precisely where they are betraying Northern Ireland at the moment.
§ 1.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank McManus (Fermanagh & South Tyrone)
The hon. Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson) dwelt at length on the question of a plebiscite. If I were a Unionist, which I am not, I should be disquieted at the prospect of a plebiscite. In an earlier debate the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) said that the constant repetition of a guarantee diminishes the value of the guarantee. Yet assurances have been constantly sought, and the Government have constantly given them. At the same time, the Unionists ask for or have been offered a plebiscite. Some people ask—"Why not have a plebiscite?". The Government seem to be saying to the Unionists, "We are prepared to keep asking you until you say, 'Yes' ".
§ Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson
I am not concerned about a plebiscite for Unionists. I am concerned about a plebiscite for all the people of Northern Ireland who are, after all, the people whom we are governing.
§ Mr. McManus
I was speaking specifically about the Unionist population, because the whole population breaks down fairly evenly into those who want union and those who do not want union. I have said what the Government seem to be saying. In addition, frequent statements are made from the Front Bench to the effect—"Let the majority population be assured that nothing will change". If I were a Unionist, on hearing that over and over again I should begin to wonder, especially as there appears to be a commitment in the other direction on this side.
All this money which is being voted must be seen against the background of violence. I want to inject some realism into the remarks which have been made about violence. There is undoubtedly violence in the Province. There are now two types of violence. Over the last two weeks there has been violence directed against the authority of the Westminster Government. A new type of violence which has been emerging over the last few weekends is purely sectarian: Catholics are being shot because they are Catholics. It may be that Protestants are being shot just because they are Protestants. Politics do not appear to enter into it.
It is no good people simply calling for peace and for the violence to stop. If calls for peace and condemnations of violence worked, Northern Ireland would be the most violence-free society in the world. From every quarter there are condemnations of violence and calls for peace. It does not appear to be worth while to keep doing that. It is much more important to ask: why does violence continue; why has violence continued on an ever-increasing scale over three years?
If this were a moral problem, it would be proper to condemn violence and to wish and to pray for peace. This is not essentially or intrinsically a moral problem. It is a political problem. A political problem must be handled in a political 1200 fashion. The face of violence may change: it may intensify; it may lessen. The roots of violence remain the same. It does nobody much good to call names. There has been much name calling. Members of one section are called terrorists; they are inhuman animals; they are this, that and the other. Somebody else calls the other side other names. Every man who is prepared to risk his life or to lay it down is not likely to be deterred by being called a few names. We have assaying in Northern Ireland, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names may never harm me". I therefore say: stop the name calling.
It is poisoning the atmosphere and is unlikely to deter any man who is determined to follow the course he has adopted. I want to deal with the cause of the violence which has remained steady for the last 50 years. One of my hon. Friends said that we have wanted peace for 50 years and an hon. Member on the Government side spent most of his speech describing why the Border was not an issue and why the problem had nothing to do with the Border. I agree with that to the extent that it is nothing to do with a line on a map. A red line round the Six Counties does not cause the trouble, it is the system existing within the Six Counties which has been the cause of the violence.
At school my history teacher always taught me to look for the immediate causes and the remote causes of a situation. The immediate cause of the violence was the maladministration, the injustice, the discrimination, the institutionalised violence of the Stormont state. Stormont has evidently collapsed now, and according to the hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley), has gone for ever. I agree with that point of view entirely.
The remote cause and the real cause of the violence rests fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the Minister and the hundreds of Ministers who have preceded him. The domination by the British Government of a whole country followed by artificial partition and the domination of a certain section within that partition, has been the root cause of the trouble. Hon Members will say in all sincerity that this is not so. They will call for peace and advise the people 1201 in Northern Ireland to get together and talk about their problem. That is very fine and very noble but, alas, it is unrealistic. The minority and the majority populations have been talking together for 50 years in the institution which used to be known as Stormont, and they did not get very far. So, if there is to be dialogue, it must be meaningful so that it will achieve something. The rules of the game must be changed. The problems of Ulster will be solved only by the people of the Six Counties, but the British Government have an important role to play. There are certain conditions which Britain can impose and unless the changes are made there is no point in sitting down to talk on the basis of what happened pre-1968.
There is no point in sitting down to talk unless the talks are likely to lead somewhere, because the end result will be that everyone will be even more frusstrated at the end. The British Government have a solemn duty to perform, therefore, if they will perform it. Everyone in Northern Ireland agrees that the Whitelaw initiative has not much of a chance, mainly because British Ministers, no matter how well-intentioned or how intelligent, will never solve Irish problems because they do not fully understand them. They cannot understand them. Northern Irish problems are understood by the Northern Irish people, but certain things must be done. Only the British Government, for instance, can release the internees. Only the British Government can grant amnesties, because only they have the power.
The British Government should not continued with the hand-to-mouth policy they have appeared to adopt over the past week or two. Next weekend bodes ill for us all, and we are all afraid of what might happen after next weekend. But it will not do, and it will not save anybody any headaches or heartaches, if the British Government look no further than next weekend, if the Ministers responsible occupy their minds all this week with how to avoid anything that might happen next weekend. They must make up their minds at some stage that there is a policy behind all this, that there is the future—not next weekend or the week after, which might be very bad. We hope it will not be.
1202 The British Government should now do what they should have done originally, when the so-called initiative happened. Had the Secretary of State released all the internees on the first day he took office there would obviously have been discontent in the majority population, but by letting them out in batches he has each time given offence. If he is committed, as he says he is, to releasing them all eventually, why did he not do it at once and let the discontent all be contained in one expression, instead of stretching it out and adding fuel to the flames?
If the British Government are serious about solving the problem they will confront the basic issues. The State of Northern Ireland by its very nature, by its very existence, produced the conditions we have known for the past three years. Any attempt to continue within that system, any attempt made without a serious effort to change the system, will have no better results. People cannot be changed. It is not possible to teach an old dog new tricks, to persuade Brian Faulkner suddenly to become a fair-minded man and want to share power. Nor will Mr. Craig wish to share power with anybody. Why should they want to, when they have had all the power for themselves for 50 years? If I had had power for that long I am sure I should have been a bit reluctant to share it with anybody, too. It is quite a human failing. To say to people, "Forget your differences. We will start all over again with a system basically the same, and we will talk about it", is no good. It gets nobody anywhere.
I hope the British Government will produce the conditions whereby all the people involved in the situation in the North of Ireland can sit down and talk about their problems—and I mean all the people. I am talking about the men of violence, the so-called terrorists, the so-called inhuman animals. The man who attempts to set up a peace conference and deliberately excludes the people without whom peace cannot be possible does not really want peace; he is seeking some sort of political power for himself. Any peace conference that does not include the IRA on the one hand and whatever dominant militant group that will arise in the confusion in the majority, any conference that does not 1203 take their point of view into account and at which they are not present, is not worth bothering with, because they will not be bound by any decisions reached in their absence.
The British Government should do the just thing and accede to the basic and reasonable demands of the minority. We are not looking for concessions. We are merely asking for basic, ordinary justice. To release the internees is not to concede us anything. It is merely to restore to freedom men who should never have lost freedom in the first place. To announce an amnesty for political prisoners is not to concede anything. It is to admit the wrong of the past.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
While I go with the hon. Gentleman on the internment question, we are now dealing with an amnesty, and the prisoners he has in mind are people who have been tried in a court of law, found guilty by a jury of crimes against the State. These people now claim that they should be let off the crimes they have committed. Surely that is something that in the present situation no reasonable person could ask for. Those prisoners have been found guilty and put away by the ordinary processes of the law. Therefore, to ask that they be let out is to ask for a concession.
§ Mr. McManus
I do not follow the hon. Gentleman's remarks, but I will come to that aspect later on the allocations of money to the judicial system. However, his remarks come a little odd from one who was himself the subject of an amnesty. He was released from prison under an amnesty and he did not then object and say, "No, no. Keep me in jail. I do not want your amnesty."
The basic and just demands of the minority are the demands of the entire minority, who are completely united on them because they are visibly just and basic. If these conditions are created, I believe that a meaningful reconciliation conference of all the people involved can take place and only then can progress be made. The conference might meet, might disagree on many basic issues, but at least it might agree to meet again and that in itself would be a step forward.
We say all this against a background of the danger of dealing with things to 1204 come, and if I were a Protestant working man I would be confused; I would feel betrayed, most of all confused, by the things my leaders are saying. Some are telling the Protestant working man, "We will go it alone." Others are saying, "Official Unionism is the thing." Yet others are saying, "Full integration is the answer." They have all been proved wrong. The Protestant working people have been brought up to believe that Stormont is the guardian of their rights and privileges. But it was taken away from them hours after their leaders had been telling them that no such thing could happen. The confusion and frustration of the Protestant working class are being played upon by their so-called leaders, ably assisted on this side of the Channel by men who have recently interfered. Just as so many famous statesmen of the past have done, they are attempting to play once again the Orange card.
The Protestant working class, like ourselves, is, I believe, becoming more and more politically aware, because out of the intensive political agitation of the last three years at least one good thing has come—a new generation of politically aware people who will not be taken in by spurious leadership or by cant and slogans which have come to mean nothing. I hope they will see through the fallacies of their leaders, such as the fallacies of Mr. Craig, who says "We will defend your rights". In such people they have an enemy which is perhaps not yet distinguishable to them. They have been told "You have an enemy", but they have not been told who or what the enemy is. There is the British Army and there is the Catholic population. The choice is easy because evidently the British Army would offer more resistance than the Catholic minority. So, if the British Government are really serious about solving the problem in Northern Ireland that is the contribution they can make. They can create the conditions whereby a real conference can be arranged with some hope of reconciliation and of moving forward. That conference, I would suggest, should not be attended by them, for a change. They should leave it to the people there to sort out their own problems.
I turn to page 4 of the Appropriations and the police service. I say this about the police. I will not go into their long 1205 and chequered and dishonourable record now. That has been chronicled well enough and often enough. I could never be convinced that any group of people are well qualified to investigate complaints about themselves. As my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt) said earlier, "Ask my brother: 'Am I a liar?' "
We are led to believe that the RUC is a splendid body of men, that there is a feeling of comradeship and discipline in the force. If all these things are true then it is even more obvious that policemen are not well equipped to investigate complaints against policemen. The Police Committee was set up, maybe with the best of intentions, to take charge of police affairs under the Hunt proposals. Can the Minister tell me what significant thing the Committee has done? Has it been responsible for anything significant at all or has it just done as other bodies have done before and continued to take the dictation from the Ministry of Home Affairs? On countless occasions I have written to the Inspector-General of the RUC about legitimate complaints, for which I could not offer evidence. I wrote in good faith asking him to investigate the complaints. Weeks, sometimes months, later a reply would be received to the effect that I was telling a whole lot of lies and it would be far better if I did not write and take up his valuable time making these allegations.
I do not blame him for not conducting an impartial investigation against his own men because then he would be damaging the structure of the force. What I am asking is: will the Minister ensure, now that direct rule has come, that not only is justice done but that it is seen to be done? Will he institute as quickly as possible some impartial means by which complaints against the police can be investigated so that it will not be left to the police to investigate these matters?
The Secretary of State has had drawn to his attention the serious situation existing in Portadown. For this the police are certainly being blamed by the inhabitants. For those who do not know Portadown I would inform them that it is a largely Unionist town, but there is a pocket of Catholics living mainly in an area called 1206 the Tunnel. They are almost naked. They are under attack from tartan gangs, the UDA or whatever. There is testimony of this in the signed statements made to the Secretary of State. The police have refused to do anything or, when a raid is going on, will simply come in and arrest and charge all the public who happen to live in the area. This was the subject of a Question. The Minister said that a number of minor matters had arisen and all had been dealt with. That sort of Answer is not very helpful. I know for a fact that serious things are happening nightly and dozens of people, maybe hundreds, have been simply intimidated out of their houses. The popular rumour in Portadown is that there are certain areas of that town that simply have to be wiped out. It is the intention that before 12th July these areas of resistance will be eliminated so that the big parade can go through unaffected. I hope that the Minister, in replying to the debate, can assure me that something will be done about that.
On the question of the courts I would say this much, and in answer to the point raised by the hon. Member for Antrim, North. Much is made of law and order; the most famous slogan of the Tory Government is law and order. Law and order, surely, in essence depend upon respect for the law. Unless people respect the law they are not likely to obey it. Whether hon. Members opposite like it or not, the situation is that the minority have simply lost respect for the courts of Northern Ireland, and for very good reason. There is a long, long history of biased judgments, of biased prosecutions, and of long sentences.
Even recently, last year, a well-known lady in Belfast got six months for appear-ink outside the court and wearing a combat jacket. It was a matter of protest even by the lawyers. I am not suggesting that gentlemen who have appeared in combat jackets every weekend should be sent to gaol; I would not like to see anybody sent to gaol. However, the minority community draws aparallel. They see Mrs. McGuigan getting six months while they see on the television thousands of people fraternising with the police and soldiers and not a word said about it. These are the sorts of things which undermine the confidence of the minority in the judicial system in the North.
1207 I ask the Minister what guarantees he has to give us that these sorts of things will not continue in future. I am not suggesting that he sacks the entire judiciary—no, but I am asking him at least to say to this House that no longer will judicial appointments be made on a party basis, no longer will appointments to the bench be rewards for good service to the party, no longer ever will the situation arise where a former Minister of Home Affairs appoints himself Recorder of Belfast. The present Recorder of Belfast, Mr. George Topping, appointed himself Recorder of Belfast. He was Attorney-General at the time.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Would the hon. Gentleman make clear to the House that it is an impossibility for a Minister of Home Affairs to appoint himself to judicial office and that it was his successor who appointed him—not he himself?
§ Mr. McManus
I am sorry to disagree with the hon. Member, but I have seen a copy of the law Gazette and at the top and bottom of the announcement appears the name of Mr. Topping, and what strikes me as important are such words as, "There is a vacancy for the Recordership of Belfast; Mr. Topping has been appointed, and I am pleased to sanction the appointment." And it is signed by Mr. Topping. It is a remarkable fact, and it can be checked any day of the week. That is the sort of damnable thing which is bound to sap confidence.
That brings me to the question of political prisoners. Strangely enough, while this House will recognise political prisoners in any part of the world, it will not recognise them in what is called part of its own country. I have myself seen Motions in the House pressing for the release of political prisoners in Brazil and other South American countries, and the House talks of political prisoners in Greece and Portugal. But not in Britain. Oh, no. In Britain people are put in prison through due process of law and they are not political prisoners. What is an internee? He is a political prisoner, because he was involved in activities against the State, for which he could not be charged, but they are inside because they engaged in activities against the State. So to say that in Britain there 1208 is no category of political prisoner is simply nonsense.
Twenty-eight days ago Billy McKee and five other men went on hunger strike. The best medical evidence is that after 30 days of hunger strike a man's condition will probably never be the same again, and after 40 days there is little hope for him. I repeat the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Ulster (Miss Devlin) and which I have asked before in the House—is the Secretary of State prepared to allow Billy McKee and 20, 30 or 40 others to die by hunger strike?
We have heard a lot about the right of protest, and England prides itself on the right of non-violent protest. Billy McKee and the other men and women on hunger strike are making the most non-violent protest it is possible to make. A non-violent protest does not just avoid obvious manifestations of violence; it is an active protest; and the highest form of non-violent protest is the hunger strike. That is all that is left to do. "The only protest they can make is to abstain from food even unto death to get across their point of view, and that is a responsible and noble action. Will the Minister say whether or not he is prepared to let these men die?
§ Mr. James Kilfedder (Down, North)
The hon. Gentleman states that persons convicted of IRA crimes such as murder are political prisoners and that the British do not treat them as political prisoners. Furthermore, he suggests that the British system is forcing people to continue on hunger strike. Does he not agree with me that in the 26 counties of which he is so fond there are IRA men who have been convicted and imprisoned and men who are on hunger strike, and that the Dublin Government do not treat them as leniently and as decently as the British Government treat prisoners in Ulster?
§ Mr. McManus
The hon. Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) asks whether I agree with him. It is most unlikely that I would ever agree with anything he says. He is wrong in saying that I have a great love for Dublin. If he has read the newspapers recently he will know that I am not at all fond of it. His is a poor argument, because two wrongs have never made a right.
1209 Under Class IV there is an item for employment, training, rehabilitation and resettlement services. In Enniskillen several well-intentioned people on a non-sectarian all-denominational committee are making strenuous voluntary effects to establish a rehabilitation centre for retarded persons. Is the Minister prepared to assist that effort in every way possible?
I dislike continuing to use the word "discrimination", but in Enniskillen, which is one of the two major towns in my constituency, there is a technical college at which 70 per cent. of the pupil population is anti-Unionist or Catholic, yet not a single teaching post is held by a Catholic. That is discrimination if ever I saw it.
We are often lectured by Englishmen and told that the Irish have a long memory, that they never forget their past, and they are too fond of their history. In fact, we get the wrong view of history. The history is taught in the home, not where it should be taught, in the schools, by people qualified and trained to teach it. When I was a teacher teaching history, I had the utmost difficulty in getting books on Irish history. The local education authority simply would not sanction the sort of books which I wanted.
§ Mr. McManus
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to explain. It was my intention—I had gone a good deal of the way in fighting the local education authority—to build up a library on every conceivable aspect of history. I believe that if every school in the North, whether State or religious school, were supplied with a proper selection of the many excellent textbooks which are becoming available, part of our problem might be solved at an early stage, and people would, perhaps, gain a balanced view for once of their history. As things are, Protestants come out of Protestant schools regarding King William as some sort of saint, and Catholics come out of Catholic schools regarding him as some kind of devil. Not that it matters two hoots in the first place whether he was saint or devil; he is so long gone that it ought to be irrelevant.
Now, the question of drainage. Here, I make a plea on behalf of my constituency. The Minister may not know that 1210 my constituency embraces Lough Erne. The land is low-lying, and drainage is greatly needed there, more than in any other part of the country. A certain amount of drainage work has been carried out, and a great deal more has still to be done. Will the Minister look urgently into the problem and see whether the drainage schemes already under way can be expedited?
Next, inland navigation. I remind the Minister of the scheme proposed—again, proposed on a voluntary basis—to link the Erne waterway with the Shannon waterway, thus giving Ireland the finest inland waterway system in these islands, and perhaps even in Europe. It would be a tremendous tourist amenity. There is nothing sectarian in that. Certain people in the South are attempting to open an old canal or waterway. It is a costly business, and I am sure that this Government, who seem to have so much money, could devote at least some of it to that scheme.
As regards employment, I welcome any effort which can be made to improve prospects. I only ask that clear evidence be given at all stages that the practices which prevailed in the past will no longer be followed, and that the discrimination which is so infamous in, for example, Harland and Wolff will not be continued. The argument has been put about by the former Prime Minister that the hinterland or immediate area surrounding Harland and Wolff has always been staunchly Protestant and that there is a strong tradition of Protestantism there. That may be an argument, but it does not stand up. The firm of Mackie in the Springfield Road has always had a hinterland strongly and traditionally Catholic and Republican, yet there are a mere handful of Catholics in that factory.
Now, the Commissioner for Complaints. As a responsible journalist wrote in a recent book called, "How Stormont Fell", the idea of the Commissioner for Complaints, like the Community Relations Commission, was well intentioned but ended up as a gimmick. Hon. Members opposite have made much play of the fact that the Commissioner for Complaints was not able to put a conclusive report on discrimination before Stormont. The reason is simply that when appointed he was put in a strait-jacket and had no real 1211 powers. Would the Minister look again at this situation? Is a Commissioner for Complaints necessary and, if so, can he be given some meaningful powers so that he can investigate a complaint when it is made?
There is an item in Class II which refers toadditional allowances, gratuities, compassionate allowances…I do not pretend to know what that means, but it should surely cover the point I am about to make. To my knowledge no compensation has yet been paid to the internees who have been released from the concentration camps. I believe that there is an absolute case for compensation. If a man against whom no charges are laid is taken away for nine months and is then released, he has been deprived for nine months from his family, his work and his environment. The least the Government can do is to offer him some compensation. May we be told what arrangements exist for compensating internees?
Finally, I wish to refer to the rent and rates strike and the civil disobedience campaign. The day before yesterday I had the unpleasant experience of being called to a public house. Its owner had discovered that a gentleman from Belfast had arrived, complete with a furniture van, to seize his property—in other words, goods to the value of his rates. In the end the man went away, no doubt disappointed, but empty-handed. If the Government wish to pursue that sort of policy and are insensitive enough to send out men from Belfast to seize property to the amount of rates owing, then I believe that the final cost will far outweigh the amount of money they would take in and that the effect on the community will be traumatic.
There are still in Ireland people who are old enough to remember being thrown out of their houses when their property was seized in lieu of rent. Those memories still remain. If the present Government seek out people and send men to seize property, I shall not give much for the success of any initiative, and I would not give much hope for the building up of any sort of credibility with the minority. If the Minister is able to say that this is not the policy 1212 of the Secretary of State and that this sort of thing will not be indulged in, I believe that that would show a greater sense of priorities and would be a step in the right direction.
§ 2.4 a.m.
§ Mr. James Molyneaux (Antrim, South)
On previous occasions Northern Ireland Members have been regarded as prophets of doom. We are probably just as unpopular tonight when we assume a rather different rôle and report on the facts as they are and not as we would like them to be.
Three months ago we as the elected representatives tried to point to the dangers involved in the course on which the Government had embarked and on which we thought we might be able to throw some light. However, it must be said that scant attention was paid to our views and many claimed to know better than we did. Up until about a week ago we were all prepared to hope against hope that the initiative would succeed, but tonight in Northern Ireland nobody anywhere can bring himself to hope.
Look, for example, at what happened last night in the Ardoyne Old Park area. At the end of March, when the initiative was taken, the controlling battalion of the Provisional IRA had been almost decimated by the security forces. Last night it was operating at full strength. I make no wild allegations about the reason for that. It might be rather too much of a coincidence that it has followed on the release of internees.
On the other side, on the Protestant side, there has been a most significant development. Thousands of young men, taught by Westminster that violence does pay and that force has replaced the ballot box, have organised themselves into a para-military organisation with its own anonymous command structure and completely devoid of political leadership and responsible to no political leadership. In their view the Parliament at Westminster has rewarded past restraint with treachery and they have drawn their own conclusions. In the past few weekends they have shown their strength and. what is more important, they have felt their strength.
I listened with some astonishment to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of 1213 State appealing to the elected representatives in Northern Ireland to urge restraint on their followers. Does he not realise that the setting aside of parliamentary democracy in Northern Ireland has completely destroyed the influence of the elected representatives? Does he not realise that power has passed out of their hands or, perhaps more correctly, has been taken out of our hands?
The hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) struck the most realistic note when he said that it was difficult for people in Northern Ireland to believe anyone any longer. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Down, North (Mr. Kilfedder) I should willingly join in any campaign to advocate restraint, but the difficulty is who would listen to us?
My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Miscampbell) made the point that the constitution of Northern Ireland was safe because it depended on the expressed wish of the majority, but what has happened to the expressed wish of the majority in recent months? Can the idea that the majority must give its verdict before a change can be made be sustained any longer? What advice can we give from this place to people who are now taking to the streets? As my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North(Mr. Stratton Mills) said on the Second Reading of the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Bill in March, the so-called initiative has swept away completely the middle ground in Ulster politics, and if we preach restraint will we be heeded by those who believe that past restraint has been a factor in their undoing? Will any words from any quarter allay the fears of those who see themselves being betrayed to no purpose, for bitter experience has caused them to disbelieve even the most solemn guarantee and assurance?
I shall have to skim over some important matters contained in this order, because Northern Ireland Members have extraordinary difficulty in competing for time in a way that Scottish and Welsh Members do not. It leads me to suggest that in future Ulster Members, and particularly Ulster Unionist Members, might participate a little more fully in Scottish and Welsh debates.
The House will have noticed that the hon. Member who represents Newton Abbey at Stormont has indicated his 1214 intention to resign his seat. May 1, as the Westminster Member representing the whole area, suggest that the Secretary of State should use the power conferred on him and issue a writ in order to have that vacancy filled? This is a developing area, and the lack of a Member to look after local interests will be felt very much.
Under the heading of the police, would my hon. Friend consider this crazy order that drivers of all vehicles should in future carry their tax books in the vehicles? There could be no more certain recipe for disaster. Anyone who hi-jacked a vehicle could produce the book to prove that he was the legal owner. This will add to the black market in vehicles going across the Border and coming back in a slightly different form to be sold at a profit for the IRA.
On Class 8, Vote 5, would the Minister consider a question which has been brought to the attention of the Secretary of State? This is the question of the by-pass road leading to Aldergrove Airport. Only last week, a child of 10 was killed on this new by-pass. There must have been some negligence in planning that did not provide for a crossing.
Under public building and works, we get the impression that there will be some unused funds as a result of Stormont's prorogation. Could some of these funds be allocated to the BBC to provide the long-promised television transmitter to serve the White well area of Newton Abbey? This has not been given a particularly high priority.
Would my hon. Friend proceed urgently with the publication of maps of the new boundaries? The political parties in Northern Ireland are already working under a great handicap because democracy seems to have been set aside. If we delay these arrangements until the very eve of the new council elections, we will put them in an impossible position.
Under hospital services, there are special problems for the special care service for handicapped children. There is a need for expansion to provide additional accommodation, particularly in hostels. I know that the Minister of State has been looking at this problem. Would both Ministers see that there is no fragmentation of the special care service, and that we retain the unified structure which has so benefited these unfortunate people?
1215 Passing from these bread and butter matters, I feel that many will regard our words tonight as absolutely irrelevant. We have been made impotent and we have not the power to stop the avalanche. The Government have the power but seem to be very reluctant to use it. People at home have the impression that the Government have blundered into this disaster. No one in the House will share that view. We should not imagine that any British Government, whatever their complexion, would embark upon such a hideous gamble without having some alternative policy waiting.
Tonight, with perhaps only five or six days left before the crisis is upon us, I beg my right hon. and hon. Friends, and even the Prime Minister himself, to take the House into their confidence and explain what this new policy is to be.
§ Mr. John E. Maginnis (Armagh)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have sat in the Chamber since the start of the debate, and since exactly 7 p.m. I have tried to catch the eye of Mr. Speaker on every occasion, except when having a cup of tea or coffee—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman knows that that is not a point of order, nor, indeed, an unusual occurrence.
§ Mr. Kilfedder
Further to that point of order. I spoke earlier in the main debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I also wish to speak on the Appropriation Order.
§ Mr. Kilfedder rose—
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I hope that my point will be in order. Is it in order for hon. Members who are not particularly interested in the matters before the House to take precedence over hon. Members from Northern Ireland who are at present working under great difficulty on matters relevant to their constituencies?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I am sure that the whole House has great sympathy with the points of view expressed, but they are not points of order. Mr. Howell.
§ Mr. Stratton Mills (Belfast, North)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I appreciate that a very serious difficulty arises in having a wide-ranging debate in which many hon. Members wish to take part. There have been several speeches—
§ 2.16 a.m.
§ Mr. David Howell
There is little enough time left for answering the enormous number of issues and points raised in the debate. I appreciate the feelings of hon. Members who have not been called to speak. This is usually the way in our debates. Usually there are many who still wish to speak when there is no time available.
On this occasion we have covered an enormous amount of ground and have had a very long run on Northern Ireland affairs. I congratulate hon. Members who are still present with me at the finish of the debate so that we may go over some of the points raised.
Many of the points touched on raise much wider issues than anything to do with economics. There are wide issues of security and military operations. A general case can be made that, broadly, they come under expenditure headings of one kind or another and are relative to the overall economic situation, and that is true.
We have had a very full debate on the broader issues of the security situation, the civil disturbances and the violence. In the last 10 minutes, I shall try to 1217 concentrate on the economic and industrial issues raised. I shall not succeed in covering them all because I am left no time to do so.
§ Mr. McNamara
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that some of us deliberately waited for the Appropriation Order to raise nitty-gritty points and points of detail and, therefore, we were hoping to receive answers. If we are not to get answers to the general points raised, perhaps the Minister will look at them and write to us about them.
§ Mr. Howell
Most certainly. I fully accept that. The only restraint upon me is the physical one of time. Every point made will be looked at most carefully and examined in detail. I appreciate the point that this was the opportunity to raise small points arising out of the order.
I start with a small point but a very important one, as many of these small points are. The hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees) raised at the beginning of the evening the question of the control of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and its relationship with my right hon. Friend. The precise position is that the Police Act (Northern Ireland), 1970, established a police authority for Northern Ireland. That Act placed on the police authority the duty of securing the maintenance of an adequate and efficient police force. In effect, it made the Royal Ulster Constabulary independent of ministerial control, although the Minister for Home Affairs still retains some function in relation to police matters. For instance, the Minister may appoint inspectors of constabulary. My right hon. Friend has vested in him the powers of the Minister of Home Affairs, so that is the position vis-à-vis the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
At the beginning of the debate the hon. Member for Leeds, South raised a number of other detailed points. He was kind enough to suggest that it may not be possible to answer them all in detail. One matter that he raised, which I regard as important and which he does, is economic co-operation between the north and south. I answered a question in the House of Commons the other day when I mentioned that discussions on co-operation had gone on last year under the previous Stormont Government covering a wide range of issues such as 1218 tourism, energy, reclamation schemes for lochs and regional development plans of various kinds. That is an important area which should and must be developed further. It is a matter we are looking at.
As the hon. Member rightly said, we will have opportunities to discuss tax changes further under the finance Order in Council. Relations with the Treasury in London are as before. The Ministry of Finance remains as it was under the previous Government. As I said in my opening speech, my right hon. Friends are reviewing the adequacy of the arrangements for financing Northern Ireland. This is a slightly different issue. The arrangements which exist between the Ministry of Finance and the Treasury exist still and are broadly the same.
The hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Pounder) then spoke. He follows these matters closely and has great experience in them. He talked about estate duties and said he had a hazy recollection that there was some difference between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. I thought he was wrong at first, but he is right in the sense that gifts before death become liable for estate duty in Northern Ireland if made within four years of death, compared with seven years in the rest of the United Kingdom. In that sense there is a difference, but otherwise the levels of estate duty are the same throughout the United Kingdom.
The hon. Member talked about loans being repaid and the question of borrowing. Loans raised by the Northern Ireland Exchequer are part of the overall borrowing policy of the United Kingdom Government. Repayments would be part of the overall borrowing policy of the Government. There would not be a specific and separate operation.
Hon. Members talked about subsidies to Northern Ireland and quantifying the amount of money. The White Paper goes as far as it is possible to go, and for a good reason. It describes the moneys which go to Northern Ireland both as part of the overall deal, of parity of taxation and share of revenue, and the additional sums which go under various heads. Over and above that there are all sorts of revenues and expenditures which are United Kingdom-wide and for 1219 which a separate calculation for Northern Ireland no more exists than for any other slice of the United Kingdom.
That is why there is always some complication in making hard and fast assertions about what goes and does not go to Northern Ireland. The figures that can be given relate to the powers that were transferred and to the separate operations of the Northern Ireland Exchequer. They do not cover all the economic activities of Northern Ireland, many of which are incorporated and part of the economic activities of the whole of the United Kingdom.
I must say a word on "Terror and Tears". There is no confusion on this matter. The pamphlet is available and obtainable in large quantities. I was asked why the Government do not distribute the pamphlet. This is simply because Her Majesty's Government take the view that the message of the terror and atrocities that have continued in Northern Ireland is got over in a number of effective ways and is widely distributed throughout the world Press. My right hon. Friend believes that is the best way to get over the message. If others wish to call for copies of "Terror and Tears". they may do so. They are available in large numbers.
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) referred to internment. I have not time to go into that matter in detail. The hon. Gentleman also referred to the collection of debts. This matter was mentioned earlier, and I said that my right hon. Friend would listen to Professor Townsend's views on it. I must tell the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members who touched on the whole question of the rent and rates strike that, whatever their views may be, they must accept that a whole community must pay for a whole community's services.
Whenever I hear hon. Members taking an intransigent view about that matter, first, I do not believe that they represent the views of everybody and, secondly, if their view is one of total intransigence, it is another aspect of the tragic one-sided-ness which seems to have bedevilled the politics of Ulster in the past, and they must accept that is my view. We must take a less than totally intransigent view. 1220 I believe that is the view that more and more people in Northern Ireland have come to recognise and accept.
Harland and Wolff was touched on by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North and other hon. Members, particularly the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy). A number of points were made about the Government's holding and how it will be affected by the new arrangements, part of which have been announced. This matter is still under discussion. We cannot make an assessment until a final assessment has been made of exactly how much help will go into the new Harland and Wolff expansion scheme.
The hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Douglas), who unfortunately cannot be with us at this time, made an excellent point on discrimination in employment. I was grateful for his remarks. The hon. Gentleman reminded us that while this is not a matter which can be solved overnight—the hon. Member for Attercliffe made the same sound point—training schemes for the future and the disposition of the management are heavily set in the direction of a more balanced work force. I believe this is the intention of everyone.
When I hear the remarks made by some people dismissing the help to Harland and Wolff, whose prospects are excellent, as entirely one-sided and not helping this or that community, I feel that they ought to know better. The help will be widespread throughout the Belfast area, and there will be considerable secondary effects in a number of areas. This is of assistance to the Ulster community. Those who believe in the future of that community should welcome this assistance and perhaps do a little less griping.
Many other points were made in the debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson) said that the Estimates were a little out of date, and so on. In the circumstances they are bound to be out of date, because we are dealing with Estimates which were formulated and drawn up towards the end of last year and the first part of this year and the Appropriation Order is to legalise the Vote on Account to authorise those Estimates. The further Supplementary Estimates arising 1221 from the actions and adjustments which my right hon. Friend has proposed, is proposing, and will propose will follow. However, we are dealing with matters which existed and had to be dealt with as of the day that the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Bill became an Act.
My hon. Friend also mentioned compensation and many other matters, but there is not time to answer them at the moment. Has compensation been speeded up? Yes, it has. Will more money be required? Certainly it will. Will that involve Supplementary Estimates? Almost certainly. Compensation payments come out of the Ministry of Home Affairs Vote. Those which have been or are liable to be paid in this year are, as far as can be forecast, to some extent covered in the estimates, but more money will undoubtedly be required.
There have been some big needs for compensation. The hon. Member for East Stirlingshire mentioned the Co-operative Society disaster. That involved and will probably involve more big payments. We are doing all we can to help, and we shall be ready to do more.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) mentioned the capital purposes fund. I said I would look into that matter and talk about it at the end of the evening when I wound up the debate. My right hon. Friend's point was: is this not another form of borrowing? He is quite right. If funds are withdrawn, as is proposed, from the capital purposes fund, the existing purposes for which the fund is used—namely, to lend to local and public authorities—will have to be met in other ways, and this necessitates further borrowing. My hon. Friend was right that this method eventually leads to more borrowing.
My time is running out. Many more interesting matters have been raised. My right hon. Friend and I will consider them. Many more questions have been asked. The hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. McManus) touched on the Loch Erne drainage scheme. We can help with this. The hon. Gentleman talked about various other issues which there is not time to deal with. The hour is late. The debate has come to an end—
§ It being half-past Two o'clock, Mr. Deputy Speaker put the Question necessary to dispose of the proceedings, pursuant to the Order of the House this day.
§ Question agreed to.
That the Appropriation (Northern Ireland) Order, 1972 (S.I., 1972, No. 671), a copy of which was laid before this House on 1st May, be approved.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr.Jopling.]