HC Deb 29 March 1972 vol 834 cc625-34
The Chairman

Clause 2. The Question is, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill".

Mr. Pardoe

On a point of order, Sir Robert. Are we not going to discuss new Clause 1?

The Chairman

We have finished with Clause 1.

Mr. Maude

On a further point of order, Sir Robert. Do I understand you are not allowing debate on the Question, "That Clause 1 stand part of the Bill"?

The Chairman

Of course I would have, if anybody had risen.

Mr. Maude

On a point of order. I rose to my feet the moment you put the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill", Sir Robert.

Mr. McMaster

Further to that point of order. My hon. Friend and I both stood up.

The Chairman

I looked round the Committee most carefully to see whether anybody rose, and I certainly did not see anybody rise. We have passed Clause 1 now. If anyone had been quick enough the Chair would have taken notice of anyone rising. I did not see anyone rise and I did the only thing the Chair can do in that situation. I am sorry, but we have passed Clause 1 now, and we come to Clause 2.

Mr. Arthur Latham (Paddington, North)

I understand—I was not in the Chamber, so I cannot vouch for this, but from hon. Members who were in the Chamber I understand—that, whoever was the occupant of the Chair at the time Amendment No. 10 was debated, along with other Amendments and new Clause 1, there was an understanding that the Question on new Clause 1 would be put separately.

Hon. Members

Not yet.

Mr. Whitelaw

New Clause 1. Later.

The Chairman

Order. May I hear the hon. Member?

Mr. Latham

Many hon. Members are trying to assist me, but I think the Chair can do so best, and the point I was trying to pursue was that I understood there was to be a separate decision on new Clause 1. I understand that the vote on it cannot taken place till Clause 1 has been dealt with, and that it will be dealt with later. At what stage will that be, Sir Robert?

The Chairman

We have not reached new Clause 1 yet. When I put the Question, "That Clause 1 stand part of the Bill", as I judged at the time, no one rose, and so I collected the voices, and I had no difficulty in collecting the voices. No one rose while I was collecting the voices. No one rose at all, and so I did the only thing the Chair can do in that situation, which was to declare, according to my collecting the voices, that the Ayes had it. I then went on to propose the Question on Clause 2. I was in the middle of doing so when the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe) rose on a point of order, which we disposed of, and then, quite properly, the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maude) rose and claimed to take part in debate on Clause 2. I was about to call him to do that. That is how I see the situation.

Mr. Maude

On a point of order, Sir Robert. It may have been that you did not see either me or my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) rise on the Question, "That Clause 1 stand part of the Bill", but in fact the moment you uttered the words of that Question we rose to our feet. [Hon. Members: "No."] You swept on with commendable speed, no doubt to expedite Government business, but I feel bound, with the deepest respect, to suggest to you that since Clause 1 is the whole Bill, and since the Bill changes the constitution of the United Kingdom, and since only a limited number of Members were able to speak on Second Reading yesterday, it is only reasonable that there should be a debate on the Question. "That Clause 1 stand part of the Bill". My hon. Friend and I rose at the earliest possible moment to try to take part in that debate.

Several Hon. Members


The Chairman

May I hear the right hon. Gentleman first?

Mr. Powell

Further to that point of order, Sir Robert. I wonder whether I may, with great respect, put this to you, that it not infrequently occurs that, in the very proper desire of the Chair to dispose of Questions as expeditiously as possible, a Question may be apparently disposed of and then it subsequently appears that hon. Members were desirous of speaking to it. Had the subsequent Question "That Clause 2 stand part of the Bill", been put and disposed of, then it would indeed be impossible for you to take note of a claim to speak on Clause 1, but you are, in accordance with practice, still free to take note of a fact which has been brought to your attention, that there were in reality a number of hon. Members desirous of speaking on the Question, "That Clause 1 stand part of the Bill."

1.30 a.m.

Rev. Ian Paisley

On a further point of order, Sir Robert. Are you aware that in Northern Ireland at present there is deep feeling about what we are discussing tonight? Surely it is better that the Committee give full expression to its views than that the debate should be conducted on the streets of Belfast? Surely it is better that every hon. Member from Northern Ireland should have the time to discuss the Bill fully, because the more fully it is discussed and ventilated here the better it will be for the people of Northern Ireland? I admit freely that you did put the Question, but it was in a very rushed manner, and it was swept through very quickly. Certainly I wanted to exercise my lungs, but you had the vote taken before I had the opportunity.

The Chairman

I was surprised when I saw no hon. Member rise, because I was convinced that hon. Members would want to discuss the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill". I had had a discussion with the Clerk about what would be in order upon it, but I saw no one. I ask the Committee to believe me. Unfortunately, I cannot go back now. Once I have declared that the Ayes have it, I cannot go back. Right up to that moment I can go back, but I was in the act of putting the Question on Clause 2 when hon. Members rose. I must allow a debate in the ordinary way on Clause 2, but I am bound by the rules; I did not see anyone rise on the Question, "That Clause I stand part of the Bill", and therefore there is nothing I can do about the matter.

Mr. McMaster

Further to that point or order, Sir Robert. On a very important Bill, which this one is, because it brings to an end a Parliament within the United Kingdom, is it not the custom of the Chair when proposing the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill" to pause for a second or two to give Members an opportunity to rise to speak? I had a number of comments to make. I deliberately did not intervene on the second group of Amendments because I thought I would keep my comments for the Clause stand part debate. I rose as quickly as I could, because I was most anxious to speak in that debate.

The Chairman

It now appears that quite a number of Members wanted to speak on Clause 1. I should have thought that, many of them being old parliamentary hands, they must know that when the Chair says, "The Question is, That the Clause stand part of the Bill—", they must be sufficiently with it to be up on their feet to take part in the debate. I saw no one rise. Therefore, I had no option but to put the Question, which I did, and I reached the end of the Question before anyone rose. Indeed, no one rose until I was in the middle of proposing the next Question, which was "That Clause 2 stand part of the Bill."

Therefore, I must ask hon. Members not to raise further points of order upon this matter, because I cannot help them in any way. I am tied. I want to propose the Question, "That Clause 2 stand part of the Bill". If anyone wishes to speak to that, of course he may do so.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

I regret what has happened, because we are dealing with a Bill of fundamental constitutional importance. Therefore, it must be seen to be dealt with fairly. I in no way challenge your ruling, Sir Robert, but it is obvious to me that certain of my hon. Friends rose, notwithstanding the declaration from below the Gangway, from those unable to see—[Interruption.]—I consider myself on this matter at least as clear sighted as the hon. Member. This is a matter of immense importance, Sir Robert, and I hope it may be possible to reconsider your decision.

At the same time, I should like to make it clear to you that my hon. Friends and I—sI think I can speak for them on this—have no wish in any way to delay the Secretary of State-designate, who I understand has important business in Northern Ireland which may well involve security matters, including the vital matter of seeking out and destroying the Irish Republican Army.

If my right hon. Friend sought at this point or fairly soon to leave the debate I am sure that neither I nor any of my hon. Friends would wish to keep him here. Subject to that, I should be grateful, in the light of this enormously important constitutional point, if you would reconsider your ruling, Sir Robert. It was obvious to me that several hon. Members rose.

Mr. Kilfedder

Further to that point of order—

The Chairman

Order. If I may answer the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) I may be able to help him. I see the real difficulty that hon. Members are in, and I will try to allow a wider debate than I otherwise would on the Question, "That Clause 2 stand part of the Bill".

Mr. Whitelaw

Further to that point of order. My hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Chichester-Clark) has made a generous suggestion. I obviously have some very important things to do, but they are subject to the House of Commons, and I am answerable to the House of Commons. There are important Amendments still to come with which I am particularly anxious to deal myself. I hope to deal at least with the Amendment which concerns the Border. As the Committee has been so generous to me and so many hon. and right hon. Members have offered me their help I should like to leave if it is at all possible. I have a duty both to this country and to Northern Ireland which I should not like to fail.

Equally, I am most anxious to be courteous to the House of Commons from which it all springs and from which any authority I have springs. I hope, therefore, that it will be possible to get on fairly quickly, because I think I shall be able to be very helpful on the new Clause which deals with the Border. If that could be done I would ask the Committee if I might be excused later, but not until I have done what I believe to be my absolute and total duty.

Mr. McMaster

There are several matters which have arisen during the debate and which arise on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill" on which I should like to say a few words. A great deal of our debate has turned on the existence and continuation of special powers in Northern Ireland.

I see the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) in his seat. He dealt with the powers of the police in Northern Ireland. We should not finish this part of the debate without my saying that the innuendo and slur contained in his speech when he was dealing with the action of the R.U.C. in Northern Ireland do not represent the views of my hon. Friends and myself. If the hon. Gentle man will reflect for a moment he will realise that the police throughout the troubles have acted with the greatest restraint. The whole policy—

Mr. Thorpe

On a point of order, Sir Robert. You have said that because of the events which have occurred you will be as flexible as possible in the debate on the Question, "That Clause 2 stand part of the Bill." Clause 2 states: This Act may be cited as the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act 1972. With the best imagination in the world all that is debatable is that it should be or should not be so and/or it should be called something else. There is not even an Amendment in that tenor. I cannot, therefore, see how the matters which the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) is raising, which may well be relevant on the Schedule, can be relevant to a debate on Clause 2 stand part. If you establish a precedent by which those who wished to debate Clause 1 stand part but failed to be able to do so are enabled to raise those matters on Clause 2 stand part, the Committee will be standing on its head.

The Chairman

The right hon. Gentleman has a point. I was trying, so far as I could, to help hon. Members who felt, not unnaturally, somewhat aggrieved that we could not really have a full discussion about these things on the Question "That Clause 1 stand part of the Bill". If hon. Members like to make a passing reference, or keep their comments for the Schedule, I will try to be as helpful as I can, but I hope they will not tax me too far.

Mr. McMaster

I will respect your ruling, Sir Robert, and I will not endeavour to complete the remarks I was making about the police.

Mr. Duffy

The hon. Gentleman rejects my suggestion earlier that one reason for the disability of the police—I regret it and was at pains to point out my regret—was that they were no longer acceptable in areas of Northern Ireland such as the Falls Road in Belfast and the Creggan and Bogside areas of Deny. I said that it was not their fault but the brutalising effects of the Special Powers Act, because they had been rendered by the Act unfit to carry out the policing duties in these areas. That was my sole point. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to address himself to that point perhaps he would—

The Chairman


Mr. McMaster

I do not want to go on about this but I cannot allow the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe's remarks to appear on the record without a denial. The police in Northern Ireland have, among other things, the best detection rate of any police force in the United Kingdom or anywhere else.

The Chairman

Order. I fully realise that one of the worst things that can happen in the Committee is for the Chair to change its mind. But I am going to change mine. I am not, after all, going to allow a debate on the substance of Clause 1 on this Clause, otherwise we shall get into a terrible tangle. What I did, I did on the spur of the moment to try to help hon. Members. After some thought upon the matter, I feel it only right to say that I think the best interests of the Committee will be served if we do not enter into debates of that kind now but reserve them for when they might be apposite at a later stage of the Bill. I apologise for having to change my mind, which is a bad thing for the Chair to have to do, but I ask hon. Members now to adhere to the terms of Clause 2.

Mr. Gorst

On a point of order, Sir Robert. I understand your ruling but it places one in slight difficulty. I wished to raise a point of order earlier but refrained from doing so, in particular after what my right hon. Friend said with regard to what might be raised on Clause 1. It appears now that one cannot raise these matters on Clause 2 on the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." Would you give guidance as to whether what I have in mind—the open-ended payment of Members of Stormont—can be raised at a later stage?

The Chairman

Order. I cannot give the hon. Gentleman instant guidance on that. If he will come to see me shortly, I shall see what I can do to help him.

1.45 a.m.

Mr. McMaster

I was saying, Sir Robert, that I accepted your ruling and would direct my attention to Clause 2. Foolishly, I gave way to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy). Perhaps I might be allowed to say that I do net accept anything of what he said. I leave it at that.

Clause 2 says: This Act may be cited as the Northern Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act 1972. That Title is entirely misleading. It is a misnomer in that it refers to temporary provisions. In Northern Ireland there has been a sustained campaign mounted by the I.R.A. It did not start in 1969. It has been carried on since 1920. It has the purpose, first, of discrediting the police and, secondly, of discrediting the Government in Northern Ireland.

The Bill purports to deal with civil rights. If it is taken with the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on Friday and with the statements which have been made during these proceedings that some political solution is being sought in Northern Ireland, I feel that one must come to the clear conclusion that the Clause is totally misconceived.

The Bill has been introduced to suspend the Parliament of Northern Ire land. Clearly the I.R.A. has achieved the first two of its objectives. It has discredited the police, as the Report of the Hunt Committee shows, and it has discredited the Government of Northern Ireland—[Interruption.] It has discredited the Government of Northern Ireland in a way that has led to the introduction—

Mr. Thorpe

On a point of order, Sir Robert. I am sure that the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) wishes to remain in order. For the convenience of the Committee, perhaps he will address himself to the Clause and say why he thinks it is wrongly drafted. With respect, he is completely out of order.

The Chairman

Of course, it is obvious to the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) that the Clause is

very narrowly drawn. He must keep strictly to its terms.

Mr. McMaster

I am attempting to argue that the Title is a complete misnomer and I am giving my reasons for thinking that. The Bill cannot be a temporary provision—[Interruption.] I hear the Patronage Secretary intervening. Perhaps he will do me the courtesy of referring to Hansard tomorrow, and he will see that I have referred to "temporary provisions" and made some point about it.

"Temporary provisions" is a complete misnomer because the campaign which has been waged in Northern Ireland will now continue to be waged not only in Northern Ireland but in this country. The result of this Bill is clear to anyone looking at the actions in Belfast in the last two or three days. It has done nothing but exacerbate the situation there. When one looks at the anger being felt on both sides and realises that the situation in Northern Ireland is tinder dry, I suggest that a Bill of this nature will not turn out to be a temporary provisions Act. It will turn out to be permanent legislation for the replacement of the Parliament of Northern Ireland.

For these reasons, I believe that the Clause is misconceived and should not be agreed to by the Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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