HC Deb 23 March 1972 vol 833 cc1652-5
5. Mr. Bidwell

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he now has to bring in legislation to amend the Ireland Act, 1949.

6. Mr. Duffy

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has now completed talks with the Northern Ireland Government on internment.

14. Mr. Biggs-Davison

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will make a statement about the situation in Northern Ireland as it affects his ministerial responsibilities.

Mr. Maudling

As the House will be aware, my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister, the Defence Secretary and the Lord President and I had discussions yesterday with the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.

I am not yet in a position to report on these talks.

Mr. Bidwell

Would the Home Secretary agree that any change in the autonomy of the Northern Irish Parliament would necessitate amendment of the Act to which I have referred? Consequently, would he agree with me and deplore any tendency on the mainland to take away the spirit of that Act, that is, not to treat Irish people—from either the North or the South—in this country as foreigners? There is a tendency in some scurrilous sections of the Press to do precisely that, especially arising out of the outrage and madness of Aldershot.

Mr. Maudling

I do not accept the premises on which that supplementary question is based, but certainly the hon. Member is right in saying that any change in the statutory powers of the Northern Ireland Government would involve a change in the constitution.

Mr. Duffy

Does not the Home Secretary recall that on 7th March he said in the House that the Government would make a statement on the future of Northern Ireland when he judged it to be in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland? Would not he agree that the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland would be served if the British Conservative Government made up their minds about the future of Northern Ireland and then had the courage to act and say, for the first time in history, that a British Conservative Government would not be deflected by either the hawkishness of some of their own back benchers or by undue pressure from Ulster Unionists?

Mr. Maudling

The answer that I gave previously about the timing of a statement remains valid today.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

Does my right hon. Friend consider that my Bill to amend the Ireland Act so as to provide for a referendum on the Border is, perhaps, enough political initiative to be getting on with? Is not a military initiative called for in order to break the I.R.A. terror and the I.R.A. police State in the virtual "no-go" areas, so that the minority can co-operate?

Mr. Maudling

My hon. Friend's suggestion is extremely interesting, but the Government have always made it clear that they do not believe that this problem can be solved by either military or political initiative alone; both are needed.

Mr. McMaster

Where a number of known psychopathic killers and those even more evil persons who have helped them plan and carry out their hideous acts have been detained, what duty does my right hon. Friend owe to society with respect to their continued restraint?

Mr. Maudling

The duty that the Government owe to society is to do everything possible to protect law and order and to try to achieve a reconciliation between the communities, by which alone the future of Northern Ireland can be assured.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

Although we cannot expect a report on the current negotiations whilst they are in progress, can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that it will be the first to hear the results of the conclusion of the negotiations, and that we will not read what purports to be the result of them in the Sunday Press?

Mr. Maudling

I cannot be responsible for reports that purport to give what is happening. But certainly the Government are well aware of the grave issues involved in this matter. It is our desire to make a statement to the House as soon as possible.

Mr. Kilfedder

Following what was said by the hon. Member for Southall (Mr. Bidwell) in his supplementary question, is it not an extraordinary situation that we greatly restrict the entry of citizens of the Commonwealth into this country yet there is no restriction whatever on anyone coming to Britain from the Irish Republic, which prides itself on being a foreign country? Would not the security situation be improved by requiring citizens of Eire to produce passports before entering this country?

Mr. Maudling

This is a unique situation, which has existed for a long time. Any proposed for changing it should be studied with great care.

Mr. Foley

Will the Home Secretary undertake to make a statement and to provide for a debate on the proposals relating to Northern Ireland before the Easter Recess?

Mr. Maudling

That is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. The Government are fully aware of the gravity of the situation and will make a statement at the earliest possible moment.

Mr. Tilney

Is it not time that the people of Ulster were asked, polling district by polling district, whether they prefer government by Stormont or by Dublin?

Mr. Maudling

I rather doubt if that step would commend itself to any party in this tangled situation.

27. Mr. Peter Archer

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has considered the Report of Amnesty International on allegations of ill-treatment in Northern Ireland, a copy of which has been sent to him; what action he proposes to take; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Maudling

I have read the report. Five of the cases considered in it were fully examined by Sir Edmund Compton last year; others are being investigated by the police with the co-operation of the Army or are the subject of legal action by the complainants.

Mr. Archer

Will the right hon. Gentleman order an impartial investigation into the other cases? No one would seek to condone indiscriminate violence, in whatever cause, but does not the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that if the Government appear indifferent to substantial evidence of illegalities perpetrated by their own authorities that is more likely to exacerbate than minimise violence?

Mr. Maudling

These allegations are being properly investigated. We must see the result of the investigation.

Mr. McMaster

Is there not clear evidence that there is a seditious force at work in Northern Ireland, and is it not the Government's responsibility in those circumstances to back up the police and the security forces?

Mr. Maudling

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. The priority in Northern Ireland is to deal with the men of terror and violence. At the same time, I am sure that the security forces themselves would want any complaint against them to be investigated, because they are confident that on investigation it will be shown not to be well-founded.

Mr. George Cunningham

Has the right hon. Gentleman received from the G.O.C. Northern Ireland a response to the reference to him of allegations about the activities of the military in Northern Ireland, referred to him on 17th January and since then investigated by the R.U.C.?

Mr. Maudling

I should require notice of that question, which is a little detailed.